When The Challenge: USA was first ordered, there was an element of ambiguity about it.
Would it follow in the footsteps of the MTV series, or would it forge its own path?
After watching The Challenge: USA Season 1 Episode 1, the format is very much the same, but it’s clear some contestants have no idea what they signed up for.
The good news off the bat is that the casting is perfect. Every single person on the show was a great personality on their respective original series, and there are some powerhouses thrown in for good measure.
Finding the right cast for a series like this is crucial because viewers need personalities they can connect with, and there are many great people on this show from The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Love Island, and Survivor.
It’s a shame the Love Island contestants are underestimated because that show didn’t have the physical aspect of the other three shows.
Shannon’s concern about being unprepared for a show like The Challenge was unfortunate, but it highlighted the toll the series can have on someone.
Love Island might be deemed the people that will be easier to beat, but something tells me they will be biding their time until the time is right to fight back against these other shows.
The algorithm choosing partners has got to be one of the stupidest aspects of the series. It sets itself apart from the main series in a big way and completely and utterly destroys any potential for alliances.
A part of the allure of the original series is when these personalities make alliances to weigh up their options heading into a challenge. Honestly, taking that part away is like Big Brother throwing in an algorithm to say which two houseguests would be on the block each week.
I could be proven wrong in the episodes ahead, but the algorithm has got to go for now.
The monetary aspect of the format was executed well. I like that anyone who wins an elimination takes the money of the person they take out.
That adds an exciting element to the strategy. People like Angela and Tyson will probably dominate, depending on who that pesky computer pairs them with, but maybe people will be more inclined to take a shot at them if they’re paired with a weaker player.
CBS wanted to set this iteration apart from its predecessor, and it makes sense when you add in the global element.
In recent years, The Challenge has effectively had a veteran alliance running the game, picking the rookies off individually.
It was refreshing here that everyone was rookies, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some big connections in the house.
Xavier, Tiffany, Azah, and Kyland were part of the most dominant alliance in Big Brother history, so they will undoubtedly stick together for the near future.
Tiffany is excellent at manipulating, so seeing her find the best solution to keep Kyland and Azah in the game was exciting.
Despite their issues in Big Brother, Kyland and Azah worked reasonably well together, and when you consider that Azah is afraid of heights, she pushed herself to the limit during the daily challenge.
People often come on these shows and don’t face their fears. Watching that raw emotion on the competitors as they push themselves is probably the most satisfying part of watching these shows.
It was a real shame Azah and Kyland had to venture back up those stairs, but at least they finished the challenge and didn’t time out.
Angela and Tyson are a match made in Challenge heaven. They are excellent at competitions and politicking and are as cutthroat as they come.
I’ll never forget Angela’s goodbye message to Rachel on Big Brother 20. That was top-tier TV, and I hope she continues to be that cutthroat for the entire season.
You could see Angela and Tyson’s despair when TJ introduced the algorithm twist. They thought they were golden and would get to run the game to the end.
The only thing going for them right now is that they have the money to run TJ’s final, but knowing that someone can eliminate them and steal it means that someone might pop up and take a shot at them.
Cely and Javonny being the first people eliminated was a surprise, primarily because they didn’t get much of a presence in the edit. Typically, the people in the final elimination get a lot of screen time.
Then again, this being the series premiere, there was a lot to show off to viewers.
“The United States of Challenge” introduced viewers to a friendlier iteration of The Challenge.
Whether that will connect with longtime viewers of the franchise, I don’t know, but I’ll reserve more judgment until the series is in full swing.
I’ll be chatting with Cely and Javonny on Thursday morning!
Hit the comments if there’s anything you want me to ask them.
Don’t forget to watch The Challenge: USA every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBS.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.