We’re almost a quarter of the way through 2020, which means it has been more than enough time between seasons of The Challenge. MTV granted those thirsty for grueling physical challenges, vicious betrayals, and elimination drama with the formal announcement of Season 35, titled Total Madness Wednesday morning. Not only did we get a trailer, which teases Total Madness as “the most dangerous season ever,” we also got the full cast list, which means analysis needs to be done so we know who to root for.
As with every season of The Challenge, there’s a group of vets that have “proven their stripes” on the show and a crop of newbies that are trying to make their mark on the show’s legacy. This season brings in another big group of Big Brother alums, as well as a Survivor person and an Amazing Race contender joining the mix. While both of those shows won’t prepare any rookie for the intense physical challenges of The Challenge, both Survivor and Amazing Race would give someone the stamina and patience they need to perform well in a final. We’ll see how that goes.
Let’s break it all down.
MTV was kind of skimpy on the details about Total Madness, but the network did reveal that it would be an individual season instead of everyone being forced into teams. That makes everything extremely interesting when it comes to alliances, and will allow for more backstabbing instead of everyone trying to get a massive team on the same page.
Once again, competitors will compete for a $1 million prize, but a shocking twist will bring on “mental warfare like never before.” The extended trailer reveals that no one will make it to the final unless they survive an elimination, meaning no one will take the top prize in a “perfect season.” Bring on the tears!
Vets (In alphabetical order): Ashley Mitchell, Aneesa Ferreira, Cory Wharton, CT Tamburello, Dee Nguyen, Kyle Christie, Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio, Jenna Compono, Jennifer West, Josh Martinez, Jordan Wisely, Kailah Casillas, Mattie Breaux, Melissa Reeves, Nelson Thomas, Nany Gonzalez, Rogan O’Connor, Stephen Bear, Tori Deal, Tula “Big T” Fazakerley, and Wes Bergmann.
Notable reappearances: Aneesa is coming back into the fold after several seasons off. Will she and Cory strike things up again, or will that be off-limits since he has a baby mama back home? Kailah also comes back, and we’ll have to see if that temper of hers has been reigned in, especially with hotheads like Ashley in the mix. It also looks like Jenna and Zach are continuing their strategy of competing on alternating seasons of the show — is there a method to that madness or would they do better having each other’s backs in the house?
Rookies: (In alphabetical order): Asaf Goren (Big Brother Israel, So You Think You Can Dance), Bayleigh Dayton (Big Brother), Christopher Jordan “Swaggy C” Williams (Big Brother), Kaycee Clark (Big Brother), Faysal Shawn “Fessy” Shafaat (Big Brother, American Ninja Warrior) Jay Starrett (Survivor), and Jennifer Lee (Amazing Race).
The noticeable absences: If you’re following The Challenge alumni on social media, then you were probably already well aware that Cara Maria and Paulie are sitting this season out. It’s probably for the best as Cara Maria had a pretty crap season on War of the Worlds 2 and could use the time off to give fans a break and do some image rehab. We are still side-eyeing her over that reaction to Jordan and Tori‘s engagement.
It’s really sad to see Georgia missing from the cast list after she was massively screwed over by the Paulie/Cara/UK alliance on War of the Worlds 2. Leroy is also missing, probably taking some time to lick his wounds after failing to secure a win yet again.
Mercenary wish list: Just because someone isn’t on the initial cast list doesn’t mean they can’t show up at some point later in the season. Host TJ Lavin teases in the trailer that the biggest twist in Challenge history is coming up this season, which means we could see some other vets come back to steal some shine from the competitors. If there’s room for mercenaries to come join the game, please give us Laurel, Joss, and I’d take some Sarah Rice just to see Bananas‘ jaw hit the floor!
Team Bananas or Team Wes: Just one look at this list and you know that it is going to be Team Bananas vs Team Wes for at least part of the season. Nany is automatically in Bananas’ corner, but who will power couple Jordan and Tori align themselves with? Ashley is also homeless on the alliance front without Cara and Paulie or the Lavender Ladies showing up for the roll call. Will she join a side in this age-old rivalry or strike out on her own while they destroy each other?
Team Young Buck: Hunter may be sitting this season out, but Cory and Nelson could bring some respect back to the Team Young Buck name, and there’s plenty of fresh blood in this crew that could join in an effort to unseat the veterans who will seek control of the game from the get-go. Their success depends entirely on Cory and Nelson being able to play smart and not with their egos, which have gotten them in trouble multiple times before.
Team UK: There may not be any formal teams this season, but the UK has some pretty strong representatives again. Kyle, Bear, Melissa, and Rogan could make a pretty formidable final line-up if they could agree on a single strategy and avoid fighting over who is in control of the alliance. OK, looking at this group, there’s no chance of that, but it seems like a nice idea, right?
Team Big Brother: At the end of the day, a successful Challenge political game relies on the numbers. Big Brother alums make up a large number of this cast — and not for the first time. The issue is that the vast majority of them are rookies with Josh having the most Challenge experience. The issue is that Josh is too easily manipulated by the veteran players and may not have the backbone to lead a group of his own. A smart person would bet on Wes going after Josh and the Big Brother rookies to bolster his numbers against Bananas.
Dee and Rogan: Dee and Rogan were hot and heavy in War of the Worlds 2 until Rogan tried to throw her into elimination. After the season was over, Dee got to see the playbacks and witness Rogan talking some serious s— about her. There’s a clip of her losing her mind at him in the trailer — but does that mean they’re working together or what?
Bananas and Wes: We can’t even remember why these two hate each other, but it’s always the central rivalry of a season.
Bananas and Ashley: The trailer starts with Bananas saying he’s back for revenge, and it was Ashley (as part of the Paulie/Cara alliance) that got Bananas sent home early on War of the Worlds 2.
Kailah and Melissa: These two were sent home extremely early at the beginning of Final Reckoning for getting into a physical altercation. Are they looking for Round 2 coming into this new season?
Who do you think is going to rule Total Madness?
The Challenge: Total Madness premieres Wednesday, April 1 at 8/7c on MTV and will run 90-minute episodes all season.