Claim to Fame just crowned another successful winner.
Gabriel Cannon walked away with $100,000, the title of the second Claim to Fame winner of the series, and as part of the most buzzed-about season yet.
The charismatic player was fun to watch all season and was such a deceptively good player that one of the most satisfying moments of the finale was knowing that first-boot Carly had to eat her words about the man she assumed was “too dumb” to figure anything out actually outplayed them all well.
Of course, the road to this point was unpredictable, and the two-hour finale made it unclear who would walk away with the win.
The finale delivered some twists, turns, and potentially damaging flaws in this game setup that must be rectified.
Everything about Claim to Fame Season 2 was juicy. And the series has managed to have just as much compelling and flat-out diabolic strategic gameplay as the likes of Survivor or Big Brother.
Hell, it may even exceed the latter.
And if there was ever the potential for some crossover action in some capacity, Claim to Fame contestants would be absolutely hilarious to watch on a reality competition like The Challenge, and not just because of the concept of putting celebrity-adjacent contestants with fan favorites or villains from at times physically grueling reality series.
The top three contestants, Monay, Gabriel, and Chris, spent the entire season trying to collect a series of clues and suss out from conversations and speculation about the other contestants as to who each person was related to. By the finale, all three came to a disadvantage in various ways.
One of the most confounding aspects of the season was how none of the other contestants had seemingly come close to guessing who Chris was related to despite sharing Donnie Osmond’s entire face.
And we could chalk it up to most contestants not being in the age range to instantly guess the 70’s icon and The Masked Singer contestant.
And despite the host of clues, some of which seemed quite obvious to viewers, like the multiple babies, Gabriel managed to deftly navigate the rest of the season, leaning into the idea that he was related to an athlete, not Nick Cannon.
Meanwhile, Monay seemed to elude everyone.
Not only was she the most strategic and great at gathering up clues, analyzing them, playing a strong social game, and picking people off adeptly, but most of, if not all, the contestants were utterly in the dark about her connection.
Until the announcement that the previous contestants would be returning, Gabriel felt he was at risk of exposure and that NASCAR racer niece, Karsyn, had figured out who he was and he was in danger of going home.
But Chris was mostly still a puzzle for everyone, as we were led to believe, and no one still had a grasp on Monae’s identity coming up with some off-the-wall speculation like that she was related to SNL‘s Jay Pharoah or perhaps Terry Crews.
There is some juicy drama in adding the kicked-off contestants into the mix at the end and watching everyone interact, especially with the initial hook of the season being Tom Hank’s niece’s outrageous exit that should put her in line to be on a Real Housewives franchise or some other outlandish, pulpy, soapy reality series.
But, the final competition allowed previous contestants to serve as teammates for the last three, and it led to some outright cheating.
What were the clear-cut rules for what the former contestants could and couldn’t say to the final three during their interactions?
It felt too much like the tip of the scale that what could make or break someone’s ability to win this game despite everything they did was cliquish behavior, petty grudges, and influence by the former contestants.
Initially, we had Eddie Murphy‘s daughter, Shayne, playing coy and teasing theories about Monay without outright telling Gabriel who she was.
While debatable, that felt within reason of what would have been expected with these interactions versus Jade outright telling Chris who Monay was while refusing to tell Gabriel who Chris was and leading him down the wrong path.
Listen, The Resident did a whole tribute episode to Dolly Parton; she’s revered so much. But with that move, Jane has certainly solidified herself as a reality series villain, not America’s sweetheart, even if she’s still revered, rightfully so, for being a master player.
Without Jane telling Chris specifically who Monay was related to, it’s doubtful he’d have even come close to guessing.
While one of the most popular contestants of the season, it became abundantly clear that while manipulative and sneaky as a player, Chris’ weakness was in his shocking ignorance of most pop culture or celebrities outside of whatever bubble he’s in.
You can tell that through the editing; they tried to clean things up by having Chris consult with Karsyn about her theories and, puzzlingly enough, Carly. Their frontrunning thought headed into the final guess-off was that Monay was related to Terry Crews.
But it didn’t matter. It was already too obvious that the return of the other houseguests influenced the final guesses too much.
From the viewer’s perspective, heading into the finale, it seemed like Monay had the advantage of finally knowing who Chris Osmond was, and Chris, thanks exclusively to Jane outright telling him about J.B. Smoove, knew who Monay was, and Gabriel was seemingly in the dark.
Of course, we learn eventually that wasn’t the case, but we can easily guess that J.R. told Gabriel who Monay was, and that was the only way Gabe knew her identity and had a shot at winning it all with his guess.
It would make for a more interesting final round if the final contestants could stand on their season-long work, clues, analytical skills, and strategy to clench the win.
The return of the contestants is too unpredictable and too influential to factor into the game for the final moments.
What good is the return of previous contestants if some of them hold their theories and conclusions close to the vest and only provide hints, if anything, but you have others outright giving people answers?
The mixer party with the past contestants is far too influential on the game’s outcome, giving some final contestants an unfair advantage over others. It felt badly orchestrated, like something from the late great UnReal series.
Ultimately, it doesn’t even come down to their social game per se. It relies almost exclusively on who the previous contestants want to see win over others, the cliquish behavior and segregation that cropped up this season, and vendettas.
And there didn’t seem to be a clear-cut notion of what some previous contestants could or couldn’t say, which is why Hugo was decidedly the MVP of the return by casually floating in the pool and minding his business like a king.
But another issue that comes into question this season is the nature of the clues and how overt they are.
The controversy from the finale is that the season that had seemingly set Chris up to be the winner abruptly turned on him when the final competition had a clue of a lunchbox of Marie and Donnie Osmond with their faces scratched out.
Let’s be real; the entire season seemed to set Chris up as the possible villain and mastermind destined to take it all home. But that bubble burst by the final competition.
As much as the Chris fans are calling foul and irate about the nature of that clue being too revealing and screwing his game, it isn’t something exclusive to Chris. The entire season has had an issue with some contestants having more overt clues than others.
One of the reasons it’s so shocking that it took this long for anyone to figure out Gabriel was connected to Nick Cannon was that his clues were quite glaring all season.
The ten babies clue and “Dad” to 11 kids would’ve been apparent to anyone with a passing knowledge of pop culture and the current controversy of Nick Cannon’s paternity madness. And the Mariah Carey mention was as plain as day.
And just as the lunch box was a dead giveaway that confirmed all the other clues were valid, that turban was a clencher, too.
Monay’s clues were elusive all season; even the final one would still have people in the dark.
But outside of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s son having his entire face, the space and bowtie clues were painfully obvious, making it easy for him not to stand a chance.
Karsyn’s clues with the number eight, race cars, and even car wheels were also on the nose for the season.
Hugo’s big “D” for the Democratic Party and the peanuts and Nobel Peace Prize were also more overt than not compared to others.
At the very least, he was obviously connected to a U.S. president.
During the entire season, it was evident that clues were a bit lopsided across the board, with some being more glaring than others, so that’s another controversy that the series may need to rectify come next season.
After the first season, the series has adjusted things where the viewers have been in the dark about the contestants’ identities and playing the game along with everyone else.
If the series, in good faith, learns to tweak things that aren’t working, perhaps putting the clues on an even ground and rectifying the party with former contestants blabbing things will be on the agenda for changes.
What are your thoughts?
Do you think they still need to work out some kinks for this series? Were you pleased with who won? Did you make all the right guesses? Let’s hear it below!
You can stream the entire second season of Claim to Fame on Hulu!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.