And we loved every. single. one. of. them.
The shortest path between two points may be a straight line, but every Challenge fan knows that the route from the first day to the final mission hardly follows the rules of geometry.
While earlier seasons of the series adopted pretty cut-and-dry gameplay, the rulebook since been tossed to the wayside, giving way to curveballs that could render any homerun derby silent. Whether host TJ Lavin’s carting off a crew of finalists to a completely different corner of the earth or shaking up the game with some unexpected (and mostly unwelcome) guests, The Challenge has become the master of ceremonies’ own breeding ground for unbelievable twists.
And we love it.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the shifts and shakeups we could never forget. Check out seven of the most unbelievable twists the Challenge manual has spelled out so far and share what you consider most memorable in the comments!
A Faraway Finish Line
Nowadays, it’s totally common for TJ to uproot any Challenge season’s collection of finalists and fly them somewhere thousands of miles away to reach the finish line. But the Season 21 cast, who expected to finish out the game where it had begun in Costa Rica, were totally thrown for a loop when TJ delivered the news that if they wanted to be champions, they’d have to first make the lengthy trip to Argentina.
Arrival of the Champions
The Season 29 victory-less competitors were feeling confident that one of them would go home with the gold and break the streak of legacy winning contenders. That is, until eight Champs showed up out of nowhere with an unexpected reality check.
King (or Queen) of the Mountain
Before Season 31, there had been tandem one-man and one-woman winners but never an exclusive King or Queen above the rest. All of that charged when Cara secured a W, making her the first of only two solo winners ever (Turbo nabbed the title during Season 33).
Being a captain comes at a price
Everyone wants to be a team captain, right? Well, maybe not. If you lead the team to victory, you’ll bask in the glory of a job well done. But coming up short inevitably means that someone has to face the music. Cut to the faces of Jo, Alton, Ruthie and Adam on Season 11 when TJ told the foursome that they’d earned the title of captain and the burden of being automatically sent into the Gauntlet any time their teams lost (Alton was the only original captain who survived the game).
Hi, CT and Tina
With the finish line of the 20th season’s game in sight, both the Red and Blue teams decided to send heavy-hitters into the penultimate elimination to secure definite wins. But when Johnny, Tyler, Theresa and Tori stepped into the win-or-go-home round expecting to battle each other, they discovered some strangers — Tina and CT — were ready to serve as their opponents instead.
Veterans and prospects team combos were disbanded nearly 75% of the way through Season 33. Some competitors were okay with this change-up (like Paulie and Nany), while others weren’t happy campers (looking at Wes and Hunter).
Out on Day 1
Being the first one out is never easy, but it’s even tougher if you can’t compete for your spot to remain in the game against an opponent in an elimination. And, unfortunately for Rogan and Nicole, they were immediately sent home after the inaugural overnight Season 31 mission.