Warning: This article contains spoilers about episode 3 of The Challenge: All Stars 3, now streaming on Paramount+.
There must be something in the water because vets keep leaving The Challenge: All Stars 3 at record pace without being eliminated. Last week we saw Melinda realize her injury from the All Stars 2 final hadn't healed enough so she chose to leave rather than battle Tina in elimination, and this week saw another two women exit the game before anything could do down in the arena. We haven't seen a female elimination since the premiere! But over on the men's side of the game, the rivalries and matchups keep heating up. Let's get to recapping!
All seems peaceful the morning after Mark sent Laterrian home and Melinda gave Tina a free pass in the elimination ring. Mark is high-fiving his little Mark Long puppet, Kendal and KellyAnne are doing yoga together (fun fact: they started their own yoga company together, the appropriately named "Yoga B----es"), and Veronica is changing her tune about wanting to help Tina "get as far as possible in this game" after sending her into elimination last week. Maybe don't send your No. 1 ally into an elimination if you want them to go far in the game, Queen V.
But the most important update is all the alliances that have been forming now that the game is really underway. There's The Treehouse alliance which is Kailah's room with Sylvia, Jemmye, Veronica, Tina, Roni, and, somehow, Derrick (even Derrick doesn't know how he ended up in this all women's room/alliance, but he's not fighting it, which is even more hilarious). They're currently against KellyAnne and Kendal. Then Nehemiah is feeling uneasy about how his two biggest allies in the game, Melinda and Laterrian, are now gone. Wes is still there and he's one of Nehemiah's best friends, but Wes is public enemy number one and Nehemiah knows if he's seen even talking to Wes, he'll be targeted, so he's a little adrift right now. MJ, on the other hand, thinks he and Jonna should make a soft deal with Wes because Wes doesn't really have anyone else in his corner. It's two sides of the same "Wes is the devil" coin.
Meanwhile Yes isn't happy that he has to sabotage someone after winning the last challenge, so he asks Wes … if he wants it. Wes is like, "Uh, no?" The conversation gets intense and Wes essentially threatens Yes that if he gets sabotaged, it's game on. I expect big things from the Yes vs. Wes rivalry, mostly because their names match just so perfectly.
And then Syrus almost chokes to death on his breakfast. Just another morning in the Challenge house!
The Challenge: Playing Dirty
It's a good old fashioned game of musical chairs … except in a giant mud pit! Played in two heats, with three rounds each, it's essentially the last man and woman standing. Whoever doesn't make it out of the mud pit with a ball is out, and in the first round, that means they're going straight into elimination. Things are going to get messy — literally and figuratively. These are my favorite kinds of challenges since alliances get exposed and no one can hide.
As for the sabotage, the unlucky chosen two players have to wear a 35 lb. weighted vest, which is a lot more difficult to endure than a one-minute delay on last week's star puzzle. If all the sabotages are going to be this inconsistent, I hate how luck is going to play a huge factor in who gets really sabotaged vs. who can successfully work around it.
Yes goes through with his earlier threat and sabotages Wes, and then Kendal shocks everyone and asks TJ if she can use hers on a guy, to which he matter of factly drops the bomb that "of course" she can. This might prove to be the wrong move, however, because by definition, Kendal is in competition with the women, not the men. And most of the men want to keep her in the game because she's a great partner to have if they need to pair up in a challenge or the final. But by making enemies out of the men, she might find herself without any allies. Jordan makes an honorable move by telling Kendal to give it to him, which would be an easy out, but she keeps thinking on it. Then she asks if she can use it on herself, and TJ says she can but she shouldn't since there's a million dollars on the line. So then she decides to throw it on … MJ?! Where did that come from?
Kendal's explanation is that she's trying to help out all the women by not throwing it on any of them, and she's trying to help Wes by putting it on MJ, and trying to minimize the punishment by putting it on a bigger guy. That's a lot of reasons, and I guess they all make sense? But there's definitely something else going on here. I feel like we're missing a big piece of the story or some pivotal conversation that happened to explain this strategy better because right now, it feels random and hurting her own allies. Now MJ's pissed that Kendal didn't target The Treehouse and put the weighted vest on him, and everyone is shocked that she targeted Jonna's ally. Jonna is ready to put the hurt on Kendal too. Yikes. This could not have gone any worse for Kendal.
The first heat is played by the women, and Kailah grabs two balls — one for herself and one for Sylvia. Of course they're working together. Roni gets some nice checks in as she sprints with her ball. Then Veronica tackles Kendal as they fight for the final ball. Kendal's got it in her arms but Veronica is not letting her go. It doesn't matter though, because Kendal slowly inches her way across the finish line with the ball in her arms, dragging Veronica the whole way, sending Veronica into elimination. Tough loss for Veronica but amazing performance by Kendal. This woman is strong AF!
As the second round begins, I get momentarily distracted by the Veronica Mars theme song. Anyone else? It's a great throwback jam but I can't not think of Veronica Mars when I hear it! Okay, back to the action ...
Pretty soon, Kendal is once again fighting for her life, defending her ball against two attackers: Sylvia and Tina. Eventually Tina gets the ball and runs with it, and Kailah also gets one across the finish line. With only one ball left, Kendal, Sylvia, Roni, and Jemmye get into a dog pile for it. Jemmye eventually gets it and throws it to Sylvia, who makes it to the finish line.
At this point, it's clear to everyone that The Treehouse is a major alliance that will do anything it takes to make sure people from their group are in the power position. It's eye-opening for a lot of women, especially as the final round of Sylvia, Tina, Kailah, Jonna, and KellyAnne begins, since there are three balls left and three members of The Treehouse still in. Sylvia and Kailah tag team one ball, making sure Kailah is the first one to finish. Jonna finishes second, and then Tina and KellyAnne get into a really physical wrestling match, allowing Sylvia to get the third ball. Tina also has to pop her finger back into place once the round ends, but no other major injuries were sustained, which is surprising because this was one of the more physically aggressive women's rounds I've seen in a long time.
In the men's heat, both Wes and MJ are fitted with their vests, and MJ also has his knee in a pretty serious brace, so he's not feeling optimistic about his chances. And he was right to worry, since he doesn't even make it a third of the way through the mud as the rest of the guys cross the finish line, sending him straight into elimination. It looked like the mud was too thick and deep for him to manage with his injured knee, so he really didn't have a shot even without the weighted vest.
In the second round, Brad and Mark make it across the finish line with no issues, but Wes, Derrick, and Syrus get into a wrestling match on the side. Yes tries to steal Nehemiah's ball but actually sends it closer to Darrell, and Nehemiah and Yes just start wrestling without a ball. Syrus eventually gets that last ball, eliminating Yes, Nehemiah, Wes, and Darrell. On the sidelines, Nehemiah starts yelling about wanting to "beat someone's ass," and Yes is just like, "Oh, you never wrestled before? You're welcome." I'm laughing — it's such an effective cut because Nehemiah's practically boiling over with rage and Yes isn't sweating it at all.
In the final round, it's Brad, Mark, Jordan, Syrus, and Derrick. Brad once again grabs a ball immediately and flies through the mud, and (accidentally? On purpose?) knocks Jordan's out of his hand. Brad crosses the finish first, seconds before Derrick, and then Jordan reclaims his ball and finishes third, proving once again just how impressive of a competitor he is, because any other player wouldn't have been able to recover so quickly.
That means Veronica and MJ are going into elimination, and The Authority of Kailah, Jonna, Sylvia, Brad, Derrick, and Jordan will pick their opponents. Plus, Kailah and Brad will sabotage two people at the next challenge.
Back at the house, MJ asks Kendal to explain why she sabotaged him, and Jonna listens in as Kendal says it wasn't premeditated at all and she didn't think it would mean his demise. Jonna says she'd have rather Kendal sabotaged her than MJ, and the fact that Kendal went after her number one ally pisses her off. A clearly distraught Kendal apologizes and now she knows she's going to be targeted. She's regretting that move immensely.
That night, the cast tries to blow off steam with a '70s-themed party and some of the outfits are fantastic. But Kailah hilariously quips that she has no idea what went on in the '70s since she wasn't born for another 20 years, so she needs to ask her parents. It really shows the generational gap between the younger, newer players like Kailah and the older OG's like Mark, who was actually born in the early '70s.
But the party isn't all fun and dancing — of course Wes gets to politicking, and everyone can see it. Wes tells Jordan to vote for Yes because "he needs to get checked," and Jordan agrees because Yes hasn't been in an elimination yet — ever (it's true!). Wes feels "gross" working with Jordan but his hatred for Yes is even stronger than his feelings about Jordan. The enemy of his enemy, and all that.
Meanwhile for the women, Kailah has immediately swapped her "we're not rewarding bad behavior" attitude and now wants to give Veronica her choice of opponent for elimination. That was fast! Guess once her friend was in trouble, the rules change, huh? And KellyAnne knows that because she and Kendal are playing nice when the other women are playing smart, they're going to be the ones to suffer. It's time to start playing dirty.
Back on the guys' side of things, Wes tries to convince Jonna to vote for Yes but as a new power player, Jonna's like, "You have to win to make those kinds of decisions." Yes, Jonna! Mark tries to pick MJ's brain about who he wants to go against, and he knows that outweighing Yes means that is his best shot, but he thinks Syrus is the best guy to compete against. I'm not sure I agree with that assessment. I mean, have you seen the shape Syrus got in for All Stars 3?!
Outside by the pool, while Derrick plays around with Brad's '70s glasses like a kid with a brand new toy, Brad has a meeting with Jonna, Kailah, and Sylvia. Brad says the only guy he wants to send in is Yes because he's never been in an elimination and "he's very beatable," but Jonna points out that's only playing Wes' game, and they need to play their own game. Man, Jonna wins one season and it's like she's a whole new player — this is exactly the kind of talk you'd expect to hear from a seasoned champ. I love this for her.
The next morning, it looks like Tina is helping Veronica pack up her things to prepare for her elimination, but then we see … a cast on Tina's arm. Turns out she went to the hospital to get her finger checked out, and she didn't just dislocate a knuckle — she actually broke her hand! Even though she earned the most stars so far and was in a solid alliance, her game is ending regardless. Injuries are the worst thing that can happen on this show. And that's now the second woman to leave this season because of an injury. They're dropping like flies! It probably means we won't see a women's elimination again, so Veronica is getting off easy.
Jordan kicks off the conversation by laying it all out there: there's two names that have been thrown out for the guys, because MJ wants Syrus and Wes wants Yes thrown in. And Kailah says for the women, there are also two names to consider: KellyAnne or Kendal. They end up picking Syrus because that was MJ's wish (although Jordan burned a vote on Nehemiah and Brad burned a vote on Wes), and then it's Kendal for the women (with Jordan once again burning a vote on Nia and Brad once again burning a vote on Roni).
Then Jemmye gets word that she needs to call her mom because her dad's health has taken a turn. She ends up deciding that she has to go home and packs and says her goodbye in tears. There's nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a Challenger have to leave for such a tragic reason outside of the game and beyond their control. And that makes two women already gone this episode, and we haven't even gotten to the elimination yet! There's absolutely no way there's going to be a female matchup now.
As TJ points out, "a lot has happened since the challenge," so Kendal and Veronica are both off the hook and there will be no women's elimination tonight. Once again, there's only a male elimination, so MJ and Syrus step down into the sand.
Elimination challenge: Weight Up. Players start off in a locked cage and must throw enough sand bags up into a hanging bucket to lift a wall, revealing a window they have to smash with a hammer. The first player to free himself from the cage through the window and ring the bell wins. This takes mostly endurance and remaining calm under pressure, which we've seen Syrus struggle with in the past, but I think this is a pretty evenly matched elimination. I think MJ chose wrong in wanting Syrus over Yes for this one, but let's see how it plays out.
In the beginning, MJ and Syrus are throwing the sandbags at the same pace, but Syrus keeps missing the bucket and you can tell he's already getting tired after only a few. Maybe I was wrong and Syrus actually was the better choice of opponent?
MJ is throwing shot after shot and making every single one, and pretty soon, his wall lifts and he starts breaking his window. Finally Syrus catches up and his wall lifts, and while MJ has been hitting his window in small, precise places, Syrus just starts smashing through his with bigger hits. It looks like Syrus is actually going to beat MJ in the comeback of the season, but MJ picks up the pace and literally throws himself through the window and runs to ring the bell, beating Syrus and sending him home.
Syrus is fuming that this is how his game ends, especially so early in the season after all his hard work he put in to get in great shape for this season. But at least he gets a standing ovation from everyone, including TJ, for being the best he's ever been. Hopefully this isn't the last we'll see from him on The Challenge because Syrus 5.0 is a great competitor and great TV.
Challenger of the week: Jordan for not only offering to compete with the weighted vest (to make Kendal's sabotage decision easier) but also proving that he's one of the best in the game for how quickly he recovered after Brad knocked his ball away. That should have been the kiss of death for Jordan but he still managed to kick ass and get in The Authority. This guy can do anything!
The Challenge: All Stars 3 debuts new episodes on Wednesdays on Paramount+.
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