'The Challenge' Recap: Free Agents 'A Walk In The Clouds'
“Free Agents” is all about the power of the individual competitor. Although the players were paired up and put in groups during many of the challenges, in the end it was really up to each person to make their way to the final through skill, politics, and strength. In most other seasons, you have to depend on the same team throughout the whole season to get you to the end. However, in this last final the competitors have to depend on three different teammates to make it through some of the toughest challenges. When we last saw the challengers, they were kayaking down a rough river with their first teams. Here’s a rundown of how each player managed individually during the final:
If there was a prize for funniest player, Devyn would win hands down. Her commentary was one of the highlights of the season. Her strength as a political player helped her get to the end. But as a competitor, she could never compare to her rivals. The question wasn’t whether she’d win, but rather if she’d finish at all.
Partnered with Zach, Devyn recovers quickly from her fall in the river. They predictably are in last place. Zach is practically in tears when they reach the finish line. “The next challenges could be eating and sleeping. Devyn’s really good at those,” he says. It’s not exactly fair to blame her for the boat tipping over. Devyn survived partnering up with Crybaby Zach without getting pushed or cruelly berated, so she has a leg up on some of his other partners.
It’s clear that all the men see partnering up with her as the ultimate obstacle to their big win, but she exceeds most expectations. For somebody with so little athletic skill, Devyn spent very little time complaining or threatening to quit (unlike Zach.) As Bananas partner, her puzzle-solving skills allow them to be the only team to finish the puzzle before the time running out. With Johnny, she trudges up a difficult mountain with tenacity.
When it gets time for the individual sections of the final, neither of the girls see Devyn as a remote threat. On the stationary bike, she’s left alone to finish her 25 miles, taking an hour longer than everybody else. Unlike Nany, she never threatened to quit, even though she clearly wanted to. It takes a cold heart not to feel for her when she sobbed on the bike, as her competitors all laughed about her from their tent.
The next morning, TJ announced that if the players didn’t reach the finish line, they wouldn’t make a penny, which may be a first. The final task was to climb a snowy, active volcano. Again, Devyn felt like quitting, but pushed through. Her persistence throughout the final was impressive. How many non-athletic people can say they climbed a volcano in less than 5 hours? Even TJ—who probably hates quitters more than anything in this universe—couldn’t help but be impressed.
Has any competitor ever fallen apart more dramatically at the final challenge than Zach? Although the Thor-lookalike has never been known for his level-head, his meltdown on this challenge reached epic proportions. He wasn’t off to a good start when he had to be rescued from drowning in the river. This set back may have put him on course to breakdown, especially since he snaps at Johnny and Nany when they congratulate his team for finishing.
For the second part, Zach is teamed with Nany. They finish right behind Laurel and Johnny, unable to finish the puzzle. It isn’t until he’s partnered with Laurel that his epic tantrums begin. Laurel begins very encouraging with Zach, telling him he can do it, he’s got this, etc. “I gotta quit….You don’t understand Laurel. I’m gonna die,” he tells her. His entire body has cramped up. It doesn’t help that he’s 200 pounds of pure muscle and the air up on the mountain is thin. Laurel tries her best to assist him, as he helps destroy her lead.
When he starts to get testy with Laurel, she reminds him of Sam from Battle of the Seasons. Zach was all too eager to yell abusive insults at his partner two seasons ago and now here he is acting worse than she ever did. The fact that his glorious tantrum—set with loud, pained whines—is airing for all to see is all the karma he ever needed. Hopefully, Sam DVRed this episode so she can watch it over and over again.
Zach calls Laurel a dumb, stupid bitch a couple of times. “My only motivation was to get away from Laurel.” Clearly, Zach has problems with women. Here’s to hoping that he’s never invited to a season where he has to have a female partner the whole time. His third place finish is a done deal before they ever get to the individual tasks. His body is spent on the second day, so he isn’t even sure if he’ll survive the horrendous trek. But he does and wins $15k for the trouble. Zach claims the challenge taught him some humility, but probably not.
Even though Nany has done really well on the challenges this season, she’s never really seemed like a credible threat to the bigger competitors like Laurel and Cara Maria. She never had to prove herself in the eliminations. That’s why it was so strange when she began her obnoxious “how can Laurel think she’s going to win?” spiel. It seemed like Laurel would easily squash all of her competition. However, Nany more than held her own, even if she did so in an unremarkable way.
Nany barely made a mark on the episode, as she spent most of the time trailing behind Laurel. The highlights from her part of the episode included being so afraid of a spider that she screamed and almost quitting on the stationary bike section because her feet were cold. “I think I’m at the point where I don’t give a fuck anymore,” she says.
Surprisingly, she finishes on the volcano seconds after Laurel. She ends up in second place, with just nine minutes separating her and Laurel. The time probably wouldn’t have been that close if Zach hadn’t had his meltdown on the mountain while partnered with Laurel, but it’s still impressive.
Speaking of unremarkable players, Johnny spent most of the season in the shadow of bigger personalities. His season highlight was sleeping with Nany and being too lucky to pull the kill card. Yet, Johnny’s final trek was probably the most notable. He’s, by far, the best person to be partnered with. As Devyn’s partner, he offers only support, telling her that she has nothing to be sorry about, and pushing her without being rude about it. He is constantly on the trail of challenge beast Bananas, either right in front of him or right behind. He even beats Bananas up the volcano. Unfortunately for him, his cumulative time doesn’t beat Bananas, but that’s not a bad finish for a rookie. It seems like the olden days of The Challenge when rookies were destined to leave in the early episodes is gone.
“Second place is always so disappointing,” Laurel says near the end of the episode. After three second place finishes, it would almost be too cruel for fate to give Laurel anything but first. She’s definitely one of the most formidable opponents and not just because her robot heart makes it all too easy to crush her rivals.
Laurel begins off in good spirits, clearly believing that she’s on the road to her first easy win. When she and Bananas finish kayaking, she’s smiling and jumping around in happiness. She keeps her lead while partnered with Johnny. It seems like nothing will get in the way of her win. That is until she’s partnered with Zach at his worst. After complaining about his partners for three seasons, Zach is finally given the best possible partner and he mucks it up. Laurel begins her partnership with the big baby with her good spirits intact, encouraging him to continue.
Still, Laurel’s good mood doesn’t last as Zach threatens to quit. “He’s acting like a three year old. I didn’t sign up for babysitting.” Laurel won a million points by bringing up Sam and how badly Zach treated her. More points for not slapping him when he called her a stupid bitch. Zach’s meltdown was the singular cause of concern for Laurel during the whole final. She got first place in every single section except for climbing the mountain with Zach. If he cost her the win, you know she would have crushed him like he was a soda can.
Laurel may not have earned many fans this season, especially after she severed her friendship with fan favorite Cara Maria, but she’s by far one of the top female competitors this show has ever seen. All you can do is accept that she’s going to be needlessly mean at times and realize that The Challenge needs more people like Laurel. She was always there for the competitions, which is rare on the female side of the show. Hopefully her win doesn’t also mean her retirement.
Oy. Did Bananas need a 5th win? His presence on almost every season is a certainty. Death, taxes, and Johnny Bananas worming his way into The Challenge finals. Although his attendance on the show has grown thin, this was probably his least obnoxious season in a long while. He wielded very little power and even had to see an elimination.
As a partner, he was pretty great. Although he was seething to have to work with Devyn, he sang military songs with her and gently pushed her on their hike. Eventually, he carried her on his back. True to Bananas form, he left all his insults to his confessionals, but it was great to see him be a good sport and not yell at Devyn. As Nany’s partner, he kept his exacerbation, especially at her spider-related freak out, to a minimum. He is also the only person to figure out that the puzzle was cut straight from a tree so he wouldn’t have to know the answers, just put it together. Throughout this season he proved to be smart, savvy, and strong. He’s a great player, even if her personality is severely lacking in anything redeemable.
When will it be time Bananas to hang up his peel, move on with his life, and let others have the spotlight? Probably never, but we can dream.
• Devyn about the puzzle section: “We have a shot at winning this because the other two are…not that smart.”
• Even though it was kind of mean, Bananas’s complimenting the Chilean scenery’s ability to keep him from killing Devyn was pretty funny.
• 100 yards into the second part, Devyn gasses out. This is REALLY not the show for her.
• Zach: “If the first day was this tough, there’s no way I’m gonna finish the second day.”
• Nany’s meltdown on the bike lasted maybe a minute, but could have killed her momentum on the bike. Since she was only nine minutes behind Laurel, that could have definitely been the cause.
• It may have been the first time that TJ had to announce that competitors would only win if they got to the finish line. Zach and Devyn probably threatened to quit. And who could blame them? They were already guaranteed last place.
• Laurel: “I might have to punch Zach in the face because he’s lost this challenge for me,”
• Zach: “I’m not gonna quit. But I do feel like I’m gonna wake up in a hospital and not know how I got there.”