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Wrap Time For The Challenge: All-Stars 3 — Winners and Losers

Taking stock as the series crowns its latest champions.
  • Photo: Laura Barisonzi/Paramount+
    Photo: Laura Barisonzi/Paramount+

    The sthird season of The Challenge: All-Stars wrapped up Thursday, so if you haven't watched and don't want to be spoiled, now's your chance to bail.

    The Challenge: All Stars 3 is the third such challenge to drop on Paramount+ a 15-month span, and it concludes just as CBS is premiering The Challenge: USA and a new flagship season of The Challenge is in production. The Challenge universe is as robust as it's ever been, and this latest All-Stars outing was yet another chance to watch some of the show's most beloved veterans return for another chance at competitive glory and — for two of them, at least — a quarter of a million dollars.

    With the winners decided, we're once again in a position to evaluate the season and hand out winner and loser citations to various cast members. You didn't necessarily have to win to come out looking good this season. Conversely, there were plenty of ways to emerge as a loser.

    Winner: Jonna

    Over the entire history of The Challenge, only six people (CT, Johnny Bananas, Tyler Duckworth, Evan Starkman, Darrell Taylor, and Veronica Portillo) have ever won back-to-back seasons. With her win this season, Jonna joins that very select club, defending her All-Stars 2 title and proving herself to be one of the all-time most successful Challenge competitors. She's owned the All-Stars format (before her back-to-back wins she also made the finals in All-Stars 1), and after winning in tandem with MJ last season, Jonna proved she could do it all by herself this time.

    While there was no kind of asterisk next to her AS2 win, Jonna said that it was important to her to prove this time that she can do more than just ace the political game. And so this season she won in eliminations, head-to-head showdowns, and daily challenges. She had a target on her head from day one and she still managed come out on top. And if she comes back for All-Stars 4, she just might win that, too.

    Winner: Wes

    Wes's participation in All-Stars 3 was cause for concern. The All-Stars format was meant to be an old-schoolers' game, and Wes — along with others like Kailah, Jordan, and Sylvia — had all recently played regular Challenge seasons. Would Wes muck up the vibes of this new show with his take-no-prisoners ways?

    The good news is Wes was able to bring his brand of ultra-strategic, ultra-cocky Challenge play to All-Stars while still remaining mostly lighthearted in his playful villainy. Wes really has evolved from the man you love to hate to the man you love to love to hate, and he played that role to perfection this season. By his own admission, Wes played a very carefully calibrated game, amassing idols, striking when he needed to (like when he volunteered to go into elimination to get rid of Yes), and making it to the finals. And then he slayed the finals, winning his first Challenge since Rivals II in 2013.

    Loser: Mark

    It wasn't just that Mark lost in the finals for the second time in three seasons. It wasn't just that he's cultivated this Godfather of The Challenge vibe throughout All-Stars, after long lobbying behind the scenes to get this show produced so he could look like a monster among the dads and moms who now make up the ranks of Challenge alumni. But it was the way Mark went out: losing a crossword puzzle challenge to Brad. Brad who thought "Thailand" was spelled with a "y." It's gonna take a while to shake that one off.

    Loser: Kailah

    Technically Kailah finished as the season's runner up, in her first run as an "All-Star" (she's reported to already be headed back to the mainline Challenge for next season). But mostly she's the girl who cheated off of Nia's board in the Arena in order to finish second and gain an advantage that ultimately didn't mean much. Not a great look!

    Winner: Nia

    Nia did not have a very good Challenge reputation going in, and only qualified to compete in this season — which was composed only of players who'd previously made it to a final — on a technicality. But the years have been kind to Nia, and she seems to have emerged as a person better in control of her impulses.

    This season presented a few moments where the old Nia might have popped off, or even where the new Nia might have fallen apart without her support system in Jordan. But at each turn she turned external frustration into internal motivation, and in so doing came incredibly close to winning. Even in losing, she delivered her best Challenge season. It would be great to see her back, possibly partnered up with…

    Winner: Nehemiah

    How many times is Nehemiah going to have to be content with a moral victory instead of an actual victory? Last season, he built a rare thing on The Challenge — a successful counter-alliance — and now this season he finally made good on all that boasting by beating Derrick in a head-to-head elimination bout. And beat him handily, too. He's getting closer and closer to that brass ring, but in the meantime he's really burnishing a once-shaky Challenge reputation.

    Loser: Kellyanne

    Similar to Mark, Kellyanne not only has to live with a fourth-place finish, but with the knowledge that, after studying the map of locations of former Challenge finals, she got beat in a crossword puzzle on those very locations by Kailah, who by her own admission never looked at the map and only knows the location of three countries in the whole world. It would have been sweet revenge for Kellyanne, after having been terrorized and targeted by Kailah's "Treehouse" alliance all season, but alas, sometimes these things don't work out the way they should.

    Winner: Veronica

    Even though Veronica had to leave the competition right before the finals due to a broken toe, she had a great showing in ther first All-Stars season. She quickly resumed her old ways, forming an exclusionary alliance (the aforementioned "Treehouse") and performing well enough in the competitions to stay safe for most of the season. As a result, Veronica never saw an elimination and seemed destined to make the finals until that toe did her in.

    Loser: Sylvia

    Another member of the Treehouse, Sylvia dominated the first half of the game on the women's side, earning placement in the Authority three times in the first five weeks. But Sylvia went out pretty unimpressively, losing an elimination to Nia and becoming inexplicably vehement in her hatred of Kellyanne. In the end, Sylvia went from contender to win to whining loser in the span of one episode.

    Winner: Roni

    Roni hadn't been on a Challenge since 2003's The Gauntlet, the longest time away from the show for any of this season's contestants. That kind of estrangement rarely leads to a long stay on The Challenge, but Roni defied the odds. She showed a smart instinct for politics, ingratiating herself into the Treehouse, yet she made few enemies. And while she started off slowly, her performance in the daily challenges got better and better. She expressed doubt whether her life would allow her to make time for another Challenge, but here's hoping she'll manage it, because she was an exciting presence this year.

    Loser: Beth

    Always Beth. After Jemmye and Tina had to depart the competition due to family issues and injury, respectively, Beth came in as the replacement nobody wanted to see. She immediately starting a whisper campaign against Jonna — accusing her of cheating on her husband with MJ — and after using her size to win an elimination against Kendal, she quit the very next week in the middle of an elimination bout against Jonna. For never being able to put her money where her mouth is after decades on reality TV, Beth will forever be a loser.

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: The Challenge: All Stars, Paramount+