Challenge Corpse Theory: Making the Leap From ‘Top Tier’ to ‘Elite’ as a Challenger


There’s a famous line from the First World War wherein various German officers (generally attributed to Erich Von Ludendorff) are said to have described their dismal position in the war in regards to their allies was akin to being “shackled to a corpse.” The idea here was that Germany, by all accounts an economically and militarily powerful nation, was being dragged down toward defeat by her decrepit allies (particularly the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but also the Ottoman Empire of the Turks). Ok, so I’ll stop with the history lesson, but the idea is that in any intense competition, you generally don’t want a worthless competitor around, unless they’re dragging your opponent down.

The Challenge, however, has developed a culture over the years that views “corpses” a little differently. Somewhere around the rise to power of Kenny/Evan/Bananas a theory of Challenge strategy began to solidify. This strategy centers around the idea that top tier competitors should do their best to ensure that one of the worst competitors in the field makes it to a final so that the top competitors have at least 1 push over competitor who they can beat in said final, thus ensuring themselves a greater portion of the winner’s purse.



Now, often this involved a late game back-stab. This strategy was put into practice by who else but Kenny and Evan. And hilariously enough they would use it more often than not to backstab Bananas at the last second. They would form a 4 man alliance of Kenny, Evan, Bananas, and Adam King (he of the “I will eat your face” fame).


Kenny, Evan, and Bananas would form a practically unbeatable alliance of powerful contenders, then drag Adam along for the ride, telling him it was because they liked him (obvious lie) and telling each other it was so that in case one of them messed up and got thrown into elimination, they could challenge Adam instead of an actual contender, and ensure that they would be able to come back to the house. What they would actually do, however, is bring Adam along to the finals, and find a way to back-stab Bananas right at the end. That was the plan anyway. And that stuff worked more or less. One of those 3 would at least be in a position where they could win a final thanks to their skillful dragging along of their token corpse.

This strategy is also present on this season. Perhaps you’ve been asking yourselves, “man… how the heck are Jay and Jenna still on this season? They’re TERRIBLE! They haven’t done anything well all season outside of that trivia win last week, and that one time Jenna started inexplicably doing bikini cartwheels by the pool.” Well, my friends, this is your answer. Jay and Jenna are being dragged along by any one of the top contenders. At first it was Wes (who always surrounds himself with a human shield of rookies) then it was Zach (because he was banging Jenna) and finally [shockingly enough] Leroy.

Leroy Rising


Everyone on this show who is worth their salt understands that this is a top level strategy. When executed correctly it can help you pocket an extra ten grand here and there, so clearly its something that should be kept in mind, even though it means pushing an undeserving team through to a Final and hurts the overall viewing product for fans. But playing the game this way (with your head) rather than irrationally, emotionally, and without strategy, is the sign of a real winner and a real top contender, and I believe we are watching Leroy’s birth into the vaunted heights of Challenge Valhalla.

The Challenge: Rivals

Leroy has been an obvious physical specimen since day one of his rookie season on The Challenge: Rivals where he dragged Michael Ross all the way to a Final in their Rookie season. Not a bad start to a career.


From the very start Leroy understood that when you had a weak partner you needed to build up their confidence and carry them through the competition. This is a must, and every great team Challenger has understood this, so the fact that Leroy understood that at the start (with Michael) and kept it up to this day (with Nia) was an obvious sign of his promise. His biggest failing, however, was always his inability, or refusal to play Politicks. He does everything else right. He builds up his partners. He understands who to keep around and how to seize an opportunity to eliminate a strong contender. He didn’t allow emotion to cloud his judgement with Jay and Jenna when they are so much more valuable to him as a corpse than gone. Heck, he even trains with Bananas in the off-season for these things (and really, it has been so obvious to see that he comes from the Bananas School in this season… but I digress). So Nia was right to congratulate him during their Power Couple dinner (also, lol fried chicken) for finally learning to play Politicks, because that very well could have been the last piece of the puzzle needed for Leroy to begin a reign of absolute dominance and terror on these shows.

Leroy Fried Chicken

But for all Leroy has achieved, and all the progress he has made from a Challenge with supreme promise and natural gifts, to a real member of Challenge Valhalla, may very well have been overshadowed by the Ginger-Haired Genious Wes Bergmann. Wes proved during this episode that he is hands down the greatest villain this show has ever seen, maybe even ever. Forget Sauron, forget Voldemort, forget Hannibal Lector, Darth Vader, and the freaking Terminator himself. Wes is scarier than any of those guys in his element, and the way he maneuvered Leroy into a win win situation for himself was absolutely masterful. The man is an evil genius.  The best Villain of all time.

Wes and Leroy

While Wes was solidifying his position and Leroy’s star continues to ascend as he puts more and more pieces of the picture together, however, there has been another “top tier” competitor plummeting further and further from “elite” status all season long… Zach Nichols.

Zach Voted In

Leroy and Zach entered this season in the same place in my eyes. Both were young stars with tons of potential. Both had made Finals appearances, but fallen short of ultimate victory thus far in their young careers. However, from there things couldn’t have diverged more for these two. Zach has allowed his fits of roid rage to get the best of him time and again as he berated and criticized Jonna (who is honestly not the worst partner. She’s solidly middle class). His Politickal bungling got Bananas eliminated and got him ostracized from his former alliance (an act that in all likelihood will even have negative repercussions for Thor in future seasons). And now he got himself knocked off the show in a Dome that involved swinging a sledgehammer against an opponent with one hand… His career and reputation may have been irreparably damaged here. He has never bothered to learn from Challenge History like Leroy, and tries to brute force his way to victory, which hasn’t worked yet, and likely never will.

Kenny and Evan may be gone from the Challenge forever, but their legacies and strategies still live on in both the Old Guard (Wes, Bananas) and the New Generation (Leroy). This game is hard, but its not difficult to understand. The perfect winning strategies are already known. The playbook is written. Its just a matter of getting your head straight, and following the plays, something that Leroy has apparently figured out, and Zach evidently never will.

So with that said, let’s get to some Power Rankings.


Thomas and Hailey

Final Rank: 13

Preseason Rank:11

Dustin and Jessica

Final Rank: 12

Preseason Rank: 9

Disqualified: CT and Diem

Final Rank: 11

Preseason Rank: 5

Knight and Jemmye

Final Rank: 10

Preseason Rank: 10

JJ and Simone

Final Rank: 9

Preseason Rank: 13

Adam and Brittany

Final Rank: 8

Preseason Rank: 4

Johnny and Averey

Final Rank: 7

Preseason Rank: 8


zach and jonna

Zach and Jonna aren’t gone yet, and they provide the first real test Bananas and Nany will have to face in exile, but at this point I have no confidence in them. I can’t imagine them being the ones to prevent Bananas from reclaiming his birthright.

Current Rank: 6

Change From Last Week: -3

Preseason Rank: 6

bananas and nany

They destroyed Boston Johnny and Averey at digging balls out of graves, so that was cool I guess. But I think we can all agree that the we’re just waiting to see Bananas eviscerate the paper tiger that is Zach Nichols, and make his triumphant return to the Challenge House next week.

Current Rank: 5

Change From Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 1

Live and Kickin’

jay and jenna

As much as I may hate it Jay and Jenna have won the “corpse lottery” and will likely be competing in a Finals regardless of whether or not they deserve it. I have nothing else to say here. I am disgusted to put them in the Top 4. They’re terrible, but they’re going to the Final…

Current Rank: 4

Change From Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 12

jordan and sarah

A miserable Challenge performance for these two, but they more than redeemed themselves with that Dome showing. Zach and Jonna may have been in a long, painful meltdown for several episodes now, but they are still and incredibly strong team, and the fact that Jordan beat Thor at hammer swinging with only one hand? Spectacular. I still hate Jordan and wish him nothing but ill will. And I still want to see Sarah win one of these, but I’m starting to lose faith. They’re not peaking at the right time, and Sarah has been showing signs of mental fatigue for along time. We’ll see if they recover here for the final stretch, but for now I can’t jump them any higher than #3.

Current Rank: 3

Change From Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 3

leroy and nia

I won’t bore you with any more Leroy stuff, but I really think he’s about to make the leap, and Nia is by no means dead weight like I feared. They’re peaking at the perfect time, and I would take them against anyone in a final at this point.

Current Rank: 2

Change From Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 7


wes and theresa

That Politickal mastery was just too much. Wes somehow convinced Leroy (who hates him by the way) to back-stab Zach (who Wes was supposed to be protecting), but also convinced him to take 100% of the blame on himself (even when directly confronted about it by Zach) in order to protect Wes WHILE LEROY AND NIA WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE POWER COUPLE!!!! What?!?!?!?! Pure mastery. I have no idea how he pulled this off. PLUS Leroy even knew Wes was playing him and said so to Wes’s face BUT DID IT ANYWAY!!! AND WES LAUGHED IN LEROYS FACE ABOUT IT AND. HE. STILL. DID. IT. I’ve just never seen something like this before. It’s absolutely astounding. I always thought Evan had the best Politicks in Challenge history, but after that clinic Wes put on I can’t see how you could put anyone ahead of him at this point. It’s just a shame that Bananas is likely coming back to throw a wrench in Wes’s plans to achieve ultimate victory. He has the best female partner this season with Theresa, but Wes isn’t anywhere near his physical peak from a few seasons ago. They’re the front runners for now, but in a Final anything can happen. We’ll just have to wait and see if he can put up the physical game to match his expert Politicks and close this thing out.

Current Rank: 1

Change From Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2


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