The Challenge All Stars 3: Midseason Review & Superlatives
We are already at the halfway point of the season of All Stars 3 and it has been flying by (probably due to the fact that we got two episodes in week one). This season has had a few standout moments, but I am not as over the moon as I was for the previous iterations in the All Stars franchise.
Right off the bat, this season has felt significantly disjointed from the vibe given off by All Stars 1 & 2. Instead, it feels more similar to how modern normal Challenge seasons have felt. There has been less emphasis on catching up with the players that we have not seen in a while, which makes sense as there were only two contestants this season that we have not seen in a while. Nonetheless, I am still a bit disappointed. Catching up with OGs was an aspect of the first two All Stars which I really enjoyed.
Moving on from that, though, let's move. In comparing this season to any baseline Challenge season there have definitely been some obvious strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s start with the cast. The men of this cast make up one of the most stacked groups ever seen together, in terms of top competitors. The cast is headlined by both winners of the prior All Stars seasons back in Yes & MJ and four of the consensus top ten all-time competitors including Jordan, Wes, Derrick & Darrell. Following up there are two other people with strong arguments to also be in the top ten, Tyler & Mark, and two very strong competitors each with only one win but hungry for more, Nehemiah & Brad. The men are rounded out with Syrus & Laterrian, two OGs that have proved themselves no slouches either. Although I do like all these choices, I wish we had gotten at least a couple old school competitors that we have not heard from in a while (like Dan Renzi who was relegated to being an alternate).
I am significantly less impressed by the women’s side of this cast. However a big positive for me was the return of Cynthia & Roni who are definitely in the mold of old school competitors that I like to see back. In my opinion, there are way too many people that could easily be doing modern Challenge seasons, including Jemmye, Nia, Kailah & Sylvia. They all have stronger relationships with modern contestants outside of All Stars. The most egregious example to me is Kailah, who was on as recently as Total Madness and is younger than people who are debuting as rookies on The Challenge. From a competition standpoint, I wish it was more consistent with the men’s field. This cast is sorely missing people like Jodi, Evelyn, Coral, Rachel, Susie, Ellen, Ruthie, Emily (RR2) or Holly (RR: Latin America). I am very glad though to see that Veronica, Tina & Beth were brought back as they are icons, of the show.
The structure of the season has been something that has been strong, with the Authority working well over the beginning of the season and the winner still getting some additional power. I like seeing consequences for finishing last in daily challenges. They have also transitioned away to consolidate power at the right time. I think that it worked for this past episode, but time will tell if it works for the rest of the season.
Another positive aspect of this season has been the strategy and alliances. Continuing from the All Stars 2, the competitors truly came to play the game and are not simply there for the free vacation. I have really enjoyed seeing the new rivalries like “The Treehouse” vs Kendal & KellyAnne, Beth vs Jonna, Wes vs Yes and Brad vs MJ. Speaking of “The Treehouse,” it has been a fun alliance to see come together with really old school players and new blood joining forces as well as seeing the group of Mark, Derrick, Brad, Wes & Nehemiah coming together.
In terms of the competitions so far things have been average. The daily challenges have been a good mix so far, testing a variety of skills needed regularly on the show. The eliminations have been fine so far, although for a few of them I think the execution was somewhat lacking. For example, I wish the first elimination had a smaller tunnel to force the competitors to get more physical when trying to pass each other. Additionally, there was too much room on the platform for this most recent elimination. I would say overall the competitions have been on par with any season.
One negative aspect has been a few of the production decisions which I felt hurt the season. The fact that Melinda was brought on to the cast when she was clearly not medically ready to participate after hurting herself in the All Stars 2 final was a very poor casting decision. I blame that DQ on the producers since she should not have been cleared. Additionally, due to Melinda and Tina’s injuries and Jemmye needing to leave with her father sick that left us with two weeks in a row with no women’s elimination. I wish they had still run the elimination between Veronica & Kendal and brought in two alternates when they brought in Beth.
Overall, I have enjoyed this season but it has felt less special than All Stars 1 did and had less explosive of a start as All Stars 2.
My grade for the season so far: B
Season MVP: Wes Bergmann
Honorable Mentions: Kailah & Jordan
The All Stars 3 cast full of many legends of the show and big personalities, and it takes quite a lot to be the biggest personality on such a season. It is not terribly surprising for the star to have been Wes so far. Wes, of course, is one of the biggest personalities that has ever been on the regular Challenge and he is also a major shit-stirrer. He has brought that same type of energy to this season of All Stars, between winning both a daily & an elimination, forming alliances, continuing his rivalry with Jordan, starting a rivalry with Yes and throwing himself into the elimination round to protect Brad. He has gotten a lot of content, especially with the scenes we have gotten of him giving long confessionals about his thoughts and strategy while on the exercise bike. Wes has been the MVP for me at the midpoint of the season.
Biggest Surprise: Veronica Portillo
Honorable Mention: Syrus
Veronica is one of the biggest personalities and stars from the early days of the show and has made a few returns over the years to the normal Challenge including her appearance on The Ruins and on the “Revenge Trilogy” (XXX: Dirty 30, Vendettas & Final Reckoning). On those returns, she was quite unimpressive from a competitive standpoint and had seemed to have significantly less success in the social game. For those reasons I had really tempered expectations and was not expecting much from her this season. However, Veronica has come into this season and recaptured some of her old magic, improving physically and making two Authorities so far and forming the current dominating alliance “The Treehouse” by bringing together old school and new school players.
Biggest Disappointment: Kendal Sheppard
Honorable Mentions: Tyler Duckworth & Nia Moore
Kendal was one of the bigger question marks coming into the first All Stars season, but she quickly proved herself to be an extremely capable physical competitor. However, it became quickly clear that from a social and political perspective she was an absolute mess. Her return on All Stars 2 was less successful physically, but she was able to avoid being a house pariah like she was the previous season. Without someone dominant like Jodi on the cast for this season, Kendal looked like one of the favorites to win. But her terrible social game again got in her way and she lost in an elimination to Beth pretty early in the game.
Best Daily: Playing Dirty
Honorable Mention: Side Tracked
The daily challenges for this season have overall been pretty average, but the stand out for me was definitely “Playing Dirty.” It is similar to many other challenges they have done over the years, but there is a reason that they go back to this often. I like that it is a great opportunity to see the competitors get physical with each other. Another positive of this type of challenge is that it can expose which players are working together. It’s a that can be won in a number of different ways, which is fun to watch. You can win by strategically working together or by using pure physical strength and fighting the ball away from other competitors or even by using speed and athleticism by getting to the ball first and outrunning/outmaneuvering others. Thus, it lets the competitors' personalities shine.
Best Fight of the Season: Beth vs Jonna
Beth was on this season and if there is ever someone to be a good bet to be a part of the best fight of the season it is her. She starts drama seemingly for the sheer enjoyment of it and that is why she is one of the greatest reality tv villains of all time. This fight in particular is very reminiscent of another classic Beth fight from The Inferno II where she instigated drama in the Robin/Jodi/Mark triangle. But this time it is even more serious (and to this point unfounded) as it involves cheating with two married people. Add to that the fact that the fight this season was with Jonna who has been a sensation across the All Stars seasons growing in to the hero role since she is both so likable and has proven herself a strong competitor to boot. None of the other fights came close for me.
Best Elimination:* Wes vs Yes in Knock Off
Honorable Mention: Laterrian vs. Mark in Lights Out
I honestly do not like the design of this elimination that much, but the battle between Yes & Wes overcame the less than ideal elimination game. Both of them are strong competitors and anytime we get to see former champions go face to face is exciting. Then there’s fact that there was animosity between the two of them, which raised the stakes and made the elimination feel more intense. On top of that, the way that the two of them battled it out, going back and forth for nearly an hour was exciting. Finally, the differences in approach with the normally boisterous Wes being the silent assassin and normally calm & cool Yes being loud and emotional made this elimination dramatic and exciting and … almost the top elimination of the season.
The Real top Elimination of the season I upgraded because it was also the…
Best Moment: Jordan vs Darrell in Steam Roller
I am cheating a bit here since this elimination also deserves to be the top elimination of the season but talking about the same moment in two places seemed pointless.
As much as seeing Wes & Yes go at it, seeing Darrell against Jordan was even better. Darrell and Jordan are two of the top five all-time challengers, and getting to see legends like that going at it in a tough physical elimination is must-see tv. On top of the match-up being two of the best, they both played like it to the fullest. Darrell gave it his all until his body gave up on him. Jordan used his ingenuity and creativity to make something that was meant to be a raw physical elimination into an endurance competition and swung the game in his favor. Jordan also took it to another level by talking shit the whole time. This was a moment that was incredibly exciting, and it earns the title of the best moment of the season so far.