The scene opens to the northern lights shining down on Iceland then cut to TJ in his preppiest P coat lounging in a spy lair with a ticker of the contestants running across the screen. Various challenges from the past are featured and scenes from previous challenges pictured: New Zealand in 1998, Argentina in 2016, Germany 2016. He seems to make some kind of decision, gathers himself, throws on his shades, and purposefully struts, in slow motion of course, out of the spy lair across the Icelandic scenery and into a helicopter. SUVs with white skulls that match the skull on the helicopter drive off beneath the helicopter and the challengers make their way to the first Challenge. The contestants line up in front of the traditional CHALLENGE sign as the tension mounts. We see both rookies and seasoned vets check out their competition as well as the tundra around them, some chatting nervously amongst themselves. Cory looking fresh to death starts discussing his competition, LoLo Jones of Olympic fame, Natalie Anderson, previous Survivor winner and Amazing Race contestant to name a few. He throws some shade at Josh of course, but who doesn’t really.
TJ’s helicopter lands and he makes his way to the contestants who could not be more thrilled to see him. The veneers are blinding. This cast sure knows how to prepare for being on television. They must have each brought their glam squad to Iceland with them because so many of our favorites are looking killer in their interviews this season. As everyone cheers for TJ, Cory even wipes away a tear, Nam seems unaware of who TJ is which is confusing. Did you not know what show you were going on? Did no research whatsoever? Seems like an odd choice but hopefully he performs better than he prepares.
TJ describes the first challenge, Mission Decryption. There are two heats, one male, one female. At the top of what TJ refers to as the “volcanic mountain” there is hidden a capsule. Encrypted on the capsule is a code. Memorize that code then come down to your puzzle station and duplicate it exactly. First person to decrypt their code and detonate their station will win the challenge which he promises comes with power. He encourages the players to get physical with each other as they race to be first. Kaycee reminds us she played full on professional tackle football for 9 years before becoming a television superstar and is prepared to take some folks OUT. Looks like she didn’t see LoLo run by her because that female is FAST. She easily pulls ahead of the other women and starts climbing up that volcano. No fear whatsoever. That actually may have been a problem because while she was trying to take a leisurely look at the capsule, Tori comes from behind her and simply plucks the capsule from her hands. LoLo attacks, gets the code and gets to her puzzle first reminding us that she was in multiple Olympics for track and field and at one point was the fastest American hurdler in history.
The women run back and forth from their puzzles to the code, trying to be the first to transmit the code correctly. Nicole starts screaming at LoLo and we realize they are working together. Too bad Nicole sounds more like a drowning cat than an actual human and LoLo seems like she cant really hear her. Kam appears unbothered by their working together. I believe that is the last we see of Nicole this episode so clearly Kam was right here.
CT starts narrating the girls challenge to his buddy Wes who was kind enough to give the Buzz an exclusive video interview just last night. These two are long time fan favorites and extremely skilled players, both athletically and mentally. Intense build up ensues and Aneesa wins! Everyone cheers, what a time to be alive!
The fellas line up and rush toward the capsule. CT inexplicably grabs someone’s shoe, realizes it is not the capsule and then launches it behind him. The camera switches to slow motion and dramatic opera music begins to play as we watch the shoe CT launches behind him drive directly into Wes’ face. Pause for laughs. No really. Everyone laughs. TJ gives one of the greatest belly laughs I’ve ever seen him do on the show, and you KNOW it’s a GREAT moment when TJ genuinely laughs.
The other guys are oblivious and continue to tangle in what can only be described as a scrum of rugby fame. Cory grabs the canister and sprints, memorizes the code and drops it. Fessy picks it up, memorizes the code and manages to beat out Cory in finishing the puzzle. Cory tries to convince himself that it is still good for him that Fessy has power right now but it sounds more like a question than a statement. TJ announces that this game, Double Agents will be played in pairs. THEN he announces Aneesa is the actual winner of the competition because her time was over a full minute faster than Fessy’s. She WINS! Aneesa is by far one of the greats and I was thrilled to see her get the W. Year after year she kills it in eliminations, sending woman after woman home, makes it all the way to JUST before the final only to be sent home herself. I am really rooting for Aneesa this season. TJ tells Aneesa to go ahead and pick whomever she wants to be her partner for the season. After much deliberation, she picks Fessy who had just announced he did not want to be her partner due to her problematic history with endurance. Much like honey badger, she don’t care. She’s here to win this year and Fessy is going to get her there, whether he likes it or not. TJ then tells the rest of the cast to go ahead and pick their partners. Madness ensues, and CT full on walks away when Kam approaches him to be her partner, but we are left with the following pairs:
Tori and Cory
Theresa and Jay
Nany and Kyle
Nicole and Devin
Natalie and Wes
Darrell and Amber B
Gabby and Lio
Josh and Kam
Leroy and Kaycee
Ashley and CT
Big T and Joseph
LoLo and Nam
Amber M and Nelson
Mechie and Liv
TJ announces that as the challenge winners, for this elimination, Fessy and Aneesa are the “double agents.” The rest of the cast members will each vote individually and in secret for the pair they want to go into elimination. Fessy and Aneesa will then pick the pair that goes against the pair that got the popular vote. The loser goes home and the winner gets a gold skull which renders them eligible to run the final. There are 10 skulls available this season but the challenger must win an elimination to get a skull.
The cast go back to the house and the tea starts to spill. Wes is chatting with his partner Natalie and announces he has an alliance with every guy in the house. States he wants to put in Lio since he is in a rookie-rookie pair with Gabby, and see how the game is played before making any big moves. Lio and Gabby seem very aware that they are on the chopping block for this week and start to do some politicking of their own. LoLo openly admits she is falling for her partner, Nam who seems to be more interested in discussing game. CT is single this season and makes it clear why he picked Ashley, he wants to get it. Ashley realizes a bit too late that they are two champions paired together and that may not have been a good game move.
Since this was filmed during the COVID pandemic, the cast can not go out to a bar or a club as they would in any other season. Instead, MTV pitches an igloo so everyone can still go out and blow off some steam. Everyone is dressed in their nightclub finest and is ready for a fun night out with maybe some politicking on the side. Joseph in napping in the corner. He announces he doesn’t take anything seriously so that’s a terrible sign for Big T who was actually making a real effort to politic. Kaycee announces a Big Brother alliance of Fessy, Kaycee, Amber B, and Josh which frankly comes as a surprise to no one. Darrell fears he can’t trust his partner as Big Brother people know how to lie and deceive to win the game. It’s too bad, I really like to root for Darrell and I would hate for him to not even have a shot at bringing the W home to his family.
An emotional moment came the next morning as Kam shared her story of her grandmother struggling when she originally came to this country and how she ended up getting deported because she had to shoplift to survive. Aneesa and Kam get emotional as the women discuss how they are exhausted from having to be strong for others. The pressure they each feel to be a successful Black woman is immense but they have each other to lean on this season, and we literally watch one of the stronger alliances in this game form.
The challengers continue to politic within the house and Kam starts going after CT and Ashley. She is sore that CT rejected her when it came to picking partners and while it’s a big move, and the OGs are visibly hesitant, Kam is on a mission. Wes brings this topic up to Cory who actually thinks it’s a great idea. CT unfortunately hears them talking and starts grilling various challengers to find out who is going to say his name.
The Challengers get together for their deliberation to decide which pair will be voted into elimination. CT steps up and essentially tries to intimate everyone into not voting for him. Seems like an odd choice since one actually needs a skull to run the final. If he knows he is going in, he could start politicking for who he wants to go against. Instead, CT lets everyone know if they take a shot at him he will make things more difficult for them. The rookies start coming for him one by one, actually standing together for once. It’s amazing it’s taken this long, but good for them for getting it together. CT announces he is going to vote for Lio who doesn’t take it well. In fact, he proclaims that he often flips guys twice CTs size for a living as he was in the WWE. Kam eventually puts a stop to all discussions when she calls CT out on trying to intimidate everyone just before the vote and suddenly he realizes Kam is the reason he is even on the chopping block in the first place. It was a perfect karma moment for Kam, very well played.
Aneesa and Fessy separate from the group to go inside a chamber to get the classified information that Ashley and CT were selected to go into elimination. What is even more exciting is Aneesa and Fessy also got to see exactly who voted for them, revealing exactly who can be trusted, and who can’t. Aneesa suggests they keep this information to themselves and see where the game goes.
A siren roars and a flashing green light goes off within the house and the challengers know it’s go time. Another great season for music, and The Smiths play as the cast enter “The Crater” where the elimination rounds will take place. TJ asks Aneesa and Fessy if they want to go against CT and Ashley to compete for their own skulls but as Devin very correctly predicts, they decline. Instead, Aneesa makes a speech about how she had felt used by friends in past seasons so she was no longer concerned with loyalty and is instead going big. Aneesa announces that Wes and Natalie will be fighting against CT and Ashley to stay in the game and get their skulls for the final.
A very annoyed and angry Wes, Natalie, CT, and Ashley all stand in The Crater, basically fuming. Then TJ announces it is a women’s elimination night. Wes and CT breathe a sigh of relief and start hatching their revenge plots as they make their way back up to view the women’s match with the spectators. We watch as the realization of the consequences of his actions washes over Fessy and his anxiety soars. Ashley starts freaking out and rightly so, as Natalie looks like she knows she isn’t going home.
The challenge is called Operation Fire Escape. The competitors arms and feet will be tethered and they will hang under a beam where they will have to use their bodies to move their way down the beam. They have to do whatever it takes to make it to the other end while their beam is set on fire. The ladies start to try to make their way across the beam. MTV tries to make it seem like it’s a close race and despite being the cast’s clear favorite, Ashley does not quite appear to be moving. Devin reminds us that Ashley is a two time champion and you can’t count her out but her ropes get caught on a bump in the middle of the beam and Natalie speeds ahead securing her victory. A 2-time challenge champion has lost to a rookie. All that politicking and flirting won’t save Ashley now. She does say a word or two about how she feels betrayed but I am not entirely sure who she thought she was friends with. There were no lavender ladies on the season, and being voted into the elimination by her fellow challengers is a pretty strong message.
As we say goodbye to Ashley, who is a bit of a sore loser, grumbling as she storms off the set, TJ announces the twist. As the winner of the elimination Natalie gets the skull and to decide if she wants to stay with her current partner Wes, or switch to the loser’s partner, CT. She also has the chance to steal anyone else’s partner. The crowd goes wild, and so will we when we find out next week who Natalie chooses.
Keep it here with The Buzz as we recap the episodes week after week for The Challenge Double Agents. Wednesdays at 8pm on MTV.