Recent Challenge Rookies that Need to get a Second Chance

Henry L DiMaria
11 min readSep 14, 2023

Back in the early days of The Challenge cast members would regularly get opportunities to compete for at least a few seasons, even if they were not necessarily a huge star. With some people like Johnny Bananas, Evelyn & Cara Maria who became faces of the franchise, needed that second or third chance to showcase their talents. In comparison other players appeared in two or three seasons and were quickly forgotten about once it was clear that they were not going to big part of the show's future.

In recent seasons, The Challenge has brought back far fewer contestants for a second season, even though there have been contestants who showed significant promise in their rookie season. Within the last four years, The Challenge USA, The Challenge UK, The Challenge Argentina & The Challenge Australia, and four flagship Challenge seasons all premiered and contained rookie debuts. Among all those seasons, there are so many players who showed promise and should be brought back for a second chance.

A bunch of players that fit this category make up the recently announced cast of season 39, The Challenge Battle for a New Champion. But there are many more of these other ‘Recent Rookies’ I think could be great given the opportunity. Here are the contestants I want to see back on a Challenge season.

But first some Honorable Mentions:

Emy Alupei, Cayla Platt, Bayleigh Dayton, Cinco Holand Jr, Sam Bird and Logan Sampedro

From Double Agents:

Natalie Anderson

Natalie is reality TV royalty in her own right, having competed on two seasons of The Amazing Race with her sister Nadiya and two seasons of Survivor (including a win on Survivor San Juan del Sur). She is an incredible physical competitor, a major strategic player and she has an explosive personality.

Many fans of her previous shows were incredibly excited to see her on the Double Agents cast and through the first few episodes she was doing pretty well particularly with her elimination win against Ashley. However, Natalie’s Challenge season was cut short when she was medically disqualified (later revealed to be due to a pregnancy).

There have now been four more opportunities to bring her back and she has not returned. There was a small amount of controversy when insensitive tweets resurfaced from ten years ago which may explain her absence. However, she seems like such a great fit for The Challenge and I am really hoping she gets a second opportunity.

From Spies, Lies & Allies:

Kelz Dyke

Kelz was another player that I saw as a big win coming over to The Challenge, in his case from Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle. He is a physical marvel, intelligent, and also very down for the hook-up messiness that is part of The Challenge world.

He came on to Spies, Lies & Allies and only lasted two episodes, but in that time he left a mark. He did well in the dailies, got into a short-lived showmance with his initial partner Tori Deal, and was in a blow-up fight with the veterans. He got Tori stolen from him by the end of the first episode and ended up stuck with Tracey as a much weaker partner. Since he was seen as a huge threat, Kelz was targeted by the vets and voted in against Ed & Emy, another strong team, where having Tracey as his partner cost them the elimination.

He is still in amazing shape and I don’t understand how he hasn’t been asked back. I’m hoping there is another chance for him on The Challenge but I fear the show may have moved on from him.

Esther Agunbiade

Esther came on to Spies, Lies & Allies with Tacha as a competitor from Big Brother Nigeria, making the show an even more international affair. Prior to The Challenge she worked as a lawyer and had a strong Big Brother run, winning two HOHs.

She made a really strong first impression by winning two of the first four daily challenges with Faysal. She also got into an out of nowhere showmance with Josh and started a major fight, talking shit with the best of them and even throwing a drink at Amber. After her partner Faysal got DQed for fighting, Esther’s position in the game took a big hit and she was thrown into the next elimination by the veteran alliance. There she ran into trouble with Emy Alupei, who beat Esther in a hall brawl despite her putting up a good fight.

Esther played an impressive social game which had her in a good spot before Faysal’s DQ. She was a tough competitor who was very smart and good at puzzles. Her feud with Amber and showmance with Josh are storylines that would be fun to revisit. She has not made a return since Spies, Lies & Allies and really should have gotten the call to come back by now.

From The Challenge USA Season 1:

Angela Rummans

I’ll admit, after watching Angela on Big Brother I was not a fan. Although she was a strong competitor with three HOH wins and two veto wins, in terms of entertainment she was a complete bore to the point where fans online referred to her as “furniture.”

Boy, did she ever change that perception on The Challenge USA. Angela was a physically dominant player. She won four daily challenges (the most of anyone that season), demolished Alyssa in pole wrestle, and won two of the legs in the final. She was also a cutthroat strategist throughout the season and got into a ton of fights and drama.

Her disqualification from the final was bullshit and I wouldn’t be surprised if she does not want to come back after that. However, she was one of the absolute stars of The Challenge USA and the top woman of the season. The show should definitely try to repair that relationship since she was an awesome part of the season (especially since they then brought her ex Tyler onto The Challenge USA 2). I am crossing my fingers that she will be back for another season.

From The Challenge Australia:

Conor Curran

I knew absolutely nothing about Conor going into The Challenge Australia, and I had low expectations with him coming from MasterChef of all places and appearing significantly less physically fit than some of the other men.

Conor was a pleasant surprise as an athlete on The Challenge Australia, where he won three daily challenges and two eliminations. He also had an impressively strong social game which allowed him to build bonds with players from all different shows. Most notably he was a manipulative game player who made big, selfish moves in order to further his game. On top of that strong gameplay, Conor was also one of the biggest personalities both in the house and in confessionals.

Conor played a great all-around game on The Challenge Australia and is a great personality. He is also a queer man which is a group that is often underrepresented on the show. All of those reasons together make it obvious to me that Conor would be an excellent player to bring to the flagship series.

Brooke Jowett

Brooke is someone that I have been advocating for being brought on to The Challenge for years (I even included her on a few mock casts I made). She was one of my favorites on both of her Australian Survivor seasons and proved to be a physical beast winning 2 individual immunities on her first season and 5 on All Stars. She got into a showmance on Survivor and had a major rivalry after being betrayed by her friend Flick, all of which was very entertaining to watch.

On The Challenge Australia, she won two daily challenges and played a strong social game which enabled her to make the final without having to go into an elimination. She also ran a very strong final where she finished just behind Kiki for second place.

The Australian contestants on The Challenge World Championship were a huge hit for me and I think Brooke (and Conor) joining them would be a great addition to the flagship show. She is a big physical threat, plays a great social game, and has the potential for both drama and hookups. Bring her back Bunim/Murray!

From The Challenge UK:

AJ Pritchard

Going into The Challenge UK AJ had a ton of experience on Reality TV in the UK, starting from his experience as a dancer and later appearing on Celebrity MasterChef and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! AJ also came on to The Challenge with his brother Curtis and together they had a huge target on their backs since they were an unbreakable duo on a smaller cast of only eight men.

Despite being by far one of the smallest men on the season he performed well. Out of the four daily challenges he was in he won one and got second place in the other three. He also won two elimination rounds. On top of his physical performance, he was also a big personality who didn’t go down without a fight. Unfortunately, AJ’s color blindness put him at a big disadvantage in a colored puzzle during the final and resulted in him and his partner getting purged after the first checkpoint.

I would be thrilled to see him be brought up to the flagship alone due to him being a great competitor and a fun personality. As a bisexual man, AJ also brings the potential for showmances or hookups with both men & women. He also has great options for other relationships to be brought on with him including his brother Curtis, ex-girlfriend Zara (from Challenge UK & World Championship), or his The Challenge UK main rival, Ashely. AJ should absolutely be very high on the list of contestants that should get the call for a flagship Challenge season.

From The Challenge Argentina:

Sol Pérez

The Challenge World Championship was filmed very soon after The Challenge Argentina and therefore made it so that the actual winner was not able to compete. The Challenge Argentina also only had a singular winner instead of both a man and a woman, and Sol was that solo winner. Throughout the whole season, she was a strong competitor winning one daily challenge, but where she really proved herself, was in the final. In the final, she was fantastic beating second place by over 20 minutes.

Sol was a strong physical competitor, particularly with her dominant final performance. I found her relatively entertaining, granted I watched the season with subtitles since I do not understand Spanish, and from what I understand reading what Argentine fans have said she seems to be a popular competitor. In addition, The Challenge Argentina was a huge hit, and bringing in players from that season to the flagship show is a great way to get those fans excited to watch the MTV seasons as well. She earned the chance to compete on a bigger stage by winning that final in a dominant fashion, and due to circumstances was not able to be there. I think she deserves a spot on a flagship MTV season.

Oky Appo

Like Sol, I am not as familiar with Oky, compared to the competitors from English-speaking seasons. But the Challenge Argentina was extremely popular, and Oky has an engaging personality on the season and has his own audience to bring in as a popular streamer. His physical performance on the show also speaks for itself, as he won two daily challenges, two elimination rounds, and finished second in the final. Like Sol, due to the quick turnaround, he was not able to compete on The Challenge World Championship. With all that in mind and considering how well he did on The Challenge Argentina I think Oky should also get a shot on a flagship MTV season.

From Ride or Dies:

Johnny Middlebrooks

The Challenge has tried repeatedly to make Love Island a place to find talent to bring on the show. On The Challenge USA season one, for example, there was a large group of Love Islanders. Although they looked physically capable of being good competitors, they were almost entirely demolished by the contestants from more strategic shows. Given those other examples, I did not have a lot of faith in Johnny coming into Ride or Dies, despite his background as a college athlete and the fact that he clearly looked the part.

Johnny only had a short stint on Ride or Dies but he made a huge impact in the three episodes he was on. From a physical standpoint, Johnny won the opening challenge and lost a close elimination round to rookie-of-the-season Horacio. In terms of strategy, Johnny came into the game swinging, targeting the vets after winning and building a coalition with his buddy Jay and other strong Challenge newcomers. In comparison, many rookies play the vets' game only to be strung along and cut when they are no longer useful. Finally, Johnny was extremely messy in the house, hooking up with Nurys immediately when there was unresolved stuff with his partner, Ravyn.

Yet with all of that going for him, Johnny was not on the cast for The Challenge USA 2 and more egregiously not on season 39. He is a good competitor, brings drama to the show, and has enormous potential for getting into more showmances in the future. Johnny also is friends with Jay and could potentially give numbers to get a more split house in a season which makes it a far more interesting show. MTV, Did you lose his phone number or something? I mean come on!



Henry L DiMaria

I blog primarily about The Challenge but occasionally stretch into other reality TV @HenryLDiMaria