MTV’s hit reality show “The Challenge” is back for its 36th season (“Double Agents”) on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. ET, and this season will be unlike any of the previous 12. For the first time since 2012, all-time Challenge wins leader and defending male champion Johnny Bananas won’t be in the cast. Can the franchise survive without its biggest star? With fan favorites like CT, Leroy, Wes, Darrell, Cory, Ashley, Nany, Kam, and Tori back, as well as 10 rookies from reality shows like “Big Brother,” “Survivor,” “Are You The One?,” “Ex on the Beach,” and the Olympics (not some reality show on ESPN+ called “The Olympics” — the actual Olympics), chances are “The Challenge” will continue its rise as “America’s fifth major sport.”
Of course, no season of “The Challenge” would be complete without host/handler T.J. Lavin, who’s back for his 26th season. The professional BMX rider is the glue that holds everything together, and he doesn’t hold back when someone doesn’t give full effort or commits the ultimate Challenge sin of quitting.
Unlike the actual live sports that are going on right now, there are no worries about whether “The Challenge” will have to pause the season or postpone games. The entire season has already been shot, so we’re guaranteed new episodes every week. If you’re a long-time viewer or plan on watching for the first time, here’s everything you need to know about “The Challenge: Double Agents,” including the entire cast and what we know about the format for Season 36.
What is the ‘The Challenge’?
This season of “The Challenge” will be a pairs competition, which was last done three seasons ago during “War of the Worlds 1.” It’s worth noting that a little over midway through that season, the duos dissolved and everyone competed individually, so just because this season starts with teams of two doesn’t mean it will end that way. Moreover, the name “Double Agents” implies that there will be backstabbing (duh) and perhaps the ability to change partners.
We don’t yet know how players will be paired up or picked for elimination rounds. The past several seasons have featured some sort of “tribunal” that chooses at least one of the elimination-round competitors, with the other competitor going in based on performance or voting. Last season, competitors were required to win at least one elimination in order to qualify for T.J.’s final, and that will be the case again this year. A total of 10 competitors will be eligible for T.J.’s final.
According to the MTV press release, the 19-episode season was shot entirely in Iceland, and there’s $1 million in total prize money up for grabs. The competitors will be staying in a luxurious “headquarters” as opposed to the less-than-luxurious “bunker” they were forced to live in last season.
What time is ‘The Challenge’ on MTV?
The first episode for Season 36 of MTV’s “The Challenge” (“Double Agents”) debuts on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m. ET. Each episode will last 90 minutes. It’s preceded by six-and-a-half hours of “Ridiculousness” and followed by 15-and-a-half hours of “Ridiculousness” (not a joke).
How to watch ‘The Challenge: Double Agents’
You can watch MTV through your cable provider or on channel 331 on DirecTV. You can also watch live on the MTV app (available on Roku, Fire Stick, Chromecast, AppleTV, etc.) or MTV.com with a valid cable/satellite log-in.
MTV’s ‘The Challenge: Double Agents’ cast
Aneesa Ferreira (14th Challenge)
Aneesa holds the record for most Challenge appearances without a win and hasn’t been to a final since 2009’s “Duel 2.” So, one one hand, you could say she’s “due;” on the other, more accurate hand, you could say she has no chance in hell of winning.
While Aneesa hasn’t been on the most “Challenges” in this cast, she has been appearing on them the longest, with her first appearance coming on 2003’s “Battle of the Sexes 1.” All that experience makes her one of the most trusted narrators in the diary room, and you can bet MTV will continue to use her heavily in that role. As far as the actual competitions, Aneesa has a size advantage on most of the other females, so that helps her avoid/win some early eliminations, but eventually she has to face one of the stronger competitors and it usually doesn’t end well. Perhaps with a partner she can hang around longer, like she did on “Rivals 2” when she made it to the last elimination before the final with Diem Brown, but there’s a reason Aneesa has a wealth of Challenge experience and not a lot of Challenge wealth.
Ashley Mitchell (8th Challenge)
If you don’t like competitors like Ashley, then you probably don’t like this show period. She could just as easily turn in an all-time great individual season, like she did on “Invasion of the Champions,” as she could quit on the first day, like she did on “Dirty 30.” She could tank competitions on purpose (check), scream and cry with the best of them (double check), hook up with multiple guys (triple, maybe even quadruple, check), or take $500,000 from a partner she just won a final with (checkmate). Everything is on the table with “Millionaire Mitchell.”
Ultimately, Ashley has won two finals, made a third, and has won the second-most prize money in show history ($1,121,250). She wants to win and will do so by any means necessary. Life won’t be easy for her partner — especially with the constant worries that she’ll stab them in the back — but that just makes Ashley all the more compelling. If you don’t like that, then go watch “Ridiculousness.” You’ll have plenty of chances.
Chris “CT” Tamburello (18th Challenge)
Only Johnny Bananas has appeared on more Challenges than CT, and while the 40-year-old vet has been sporting a “dad bawd” in recent seasons, the newly single CT is back to more of a slimmed-down, intimidating presence this year. Of course, his aura lost a little luster last season after he suffered a week-two elimination at the hands of rookie Jay Starrett — who definitely made it weird — but CT is friendly with all the vets and an idol of all the rookies, so it’s unlikely he gets called out early by anyone.
CT has three titles on his resume, including a team win on “War of the Worlds 2” two seasons ago, but partner competitions haven’t worked out well for him lately. He was dragged down by Veronica Portillo on “Final Reckoning” (weren’t we all?), then got no help from Julia Nolan (who?) on “War of the Worlds 1.” Let’s hope MTV does him a solid and pairs him with someone strong so he sticks around as long as possible. We probably don’t have many Challenges left with CT, so let’s enjoy one of the best reality stars ever while we can.
Cory Wharton (8th Challenge)
If you only watched one episode last season — or, really, 30 seconds of any episode — then you probably know Cory has a daughter named Ryder. He very much wanted to win for Ryder. He did not win for Ryder. Now, Cory has another daughter named Mila Mae. We’ll go out on a limb and guess Cory wants to win for Ryder and Mila Mae this year.
Will Cory finally take home his first Challenge title? He has plenty of allies in this cast (Nelson, Fessy, Jay) and showed some serious growth last year. There were no fights, no calling out veterans on Day 1, no volunteering for unnecessary eliminations, and no hooking up with everything that moves — just solid game play. Cory has made three finals in his previous seven seasons, so we know a deep run is in him if he gets the right partner. Even if he doesn’t get the right partner he could make a deep run, which he proved during “Battle of the Bloodlines” when teamed up with his athletically challenged cousin Mitch Reid.
Darrell Taylor (9th Challenge)
Darrell’s first Challenge was 2003’s “Gauntlet 1,” so he’s seen it all when it comes to this game. He won his first four seasons (and almost certainly would’ve won his fifth if not for getting kicked off after punching Brad Fiorenza right before the “Ruins” final). After a shocking first-round elimination on “Fresh Meat 2,” Darrell took nine seasons off before returning for ‘Invasion of the Champions” and “Dirty 30” in 2017. This will be his first appearance as a regular cast member since then.
Darrell still looks the part at age 41, but his lack of recent appearances could hurt his social game. Just who are his allies? You need people watching your back on “The Challenge,” so Darrell has to hope his partner can help him in that regard. He has some past beef with Cory, promising to “get his curly-headed ass” after Cory sent him to the redemption house on “Dirty 30,” but that seems like forever ago, so who even knows if they remember. Ultimately, Darrell is not a competitor anyone wants to see in a final, so he’ll likely be targeted early. As one of the few cast members with a legitimate case for G.O.A.T. status, we expect Darrell will be ready for battle.
Devin Walker-Molaghan (5th Challenge)
Well, I guess we’ll finally find out whether Devin exists without Johnny Bananas. Devin hasn’t been on a Challenge since 2018’s “Final Reckoning,” when he was originally supposed to be Bananas’s partner but had to leave before taping began because of his father’s passing. He returned later that season as a Mercenary with Cory, stayed in the game, and eventually was kicked off after Cory got in a physical altercation with Tony Raines. Got all that?
As a competitor, Devin has always been an also-ran, though he somehow managed to make the “Rivals 3” final with partner Cheyenne Floyd (who, coincidentally, is the mother of Cory’s daughter Ryder. This show, right?). Devin fancies himself a master manipulator and s*** stirrer, but, again, with no Bananas in the woods, does Devin make a sound? We expect Devin to get called out early, and unless he has a partner who can help him, it could be a short stay in Iceland. At least he’ll always have the time he beat Bananas in an elimination.
Faysal “Fessy” Shafaat (2nd Challenge)
Based on size, strength, and speed, the former Division 1 All-American tight end (well, FCS Division 1 All-American…sorry, we’re sticklers for accuracy around here) has to be considered one of the favorites this season. Last year, he made it to the finals and finished fourth, seemingly gassing out after a strong start. With a season of experience under his belt, Fessy should only be more formidable this time around.
It would be nice if he wasn’t so boring, though, right? We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he got a bad edit last year, but that would also mean giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying he got a bad edit on his “Big Brother” season. Either way, what Fess lacks in on-screen drama and scheming, he makes up for with athleticism, and he should continue to be one of the most feared males in the game. His alliance with Nelson and Cory in conjunction with his “Big Brother” alliance means he’s covered from all angles, and being single going into this season should help him step up his social game.
Jay Starrett (2nd Challenge)
Hey, it’s Jay Starrett everyone. Jay will always be able to say he beat CT in an elimination, which is really cool, but he’ll also always be able to say he got knocked the f*** out in an elimination by Rogan O’Connor because he flirted with She Who Shall Not Be Named (screw it, we’ll say it — Dee Nguyen…re-edit that, MTV), which really sucks.
Jay isn’t the most physically intimidating of the guys, but like a team manager on a high school basketball team that hits a three-pointer in garbage time on Senior night, he seems to have a good head on his shoulders and a lot of enthusiasm, so we’re all right with him being back. We don’t expect much from him this season, but with another “Survivor” contestant in the cast (Natalie) and some alliances formed last year, maybe Jay will surprise us again.
Josh Martinez (4th Challenge)
Things you’re guaranteed to get from Josh every season: Tears, screaming, getting friend-zoned by a female, pretending he wants to fight someone while waiting for production to break it up, and more tears. Yes, that sounds annoying, but it’s surprisingly not as bad as it used to be, which is also an apt description of Josh’s game play. He has a lot of heart and he’s never boring, which is really all you can ask for from a middle-of-the-pack player.
It will be interesting to see how Josh handles having a partner, as his lone experience with one on “War of the Worlds 1” didn’t go well. Of course, he was partners with Amanda Garcia, who was once referred to as “Satan’s A**hole” by Zach Nichols, so we’ll give him a pass. He’s in a strong alliance with the other “Big Brother” cast members, so that should help him get through the first few weeks unless he volunteers to go into elimination, which he likely won’t. Ultimately, after winning his season of “Big Brother,” Josh is playing with house money on “The Challenge,” so expect more of his usual antics.
Kam Williams (5th Challenge)
Kam is back after a season off, and considering the premiere episode is named after her (“License to Killer Kam”), she figures to be prominently involved. Then again, she always makes herself prominently involved, whether it’s through legitimately doing well in eliminations or by overselling one of the most ultimately pointless bits of strategy in show history. Either way, Queen/Killa Kam is gonna get her camera time, and with two finals under her belt, she’s not someone anyone can take lightly in competitions.
Kam’s relationship with Leroy will be a big storyline this season, and she’s bound to get in at least a few fights (possibly with her teammate). Breaking through and winning her first final will be tough, but with the right partner — and perhaps a master plan that involves more than one early week of safety for her alliance — Kam could stick around for a while.
Kaycee Clark (2nd Challenge)
Kaycee has a lot in common with her “Big Brother 20” castmate Fess — she was also a star football player and is one of the best physical competitors for her gender. However, unlike Fess, she had a late-season surge in drama last year, hooking up with Nany, fighting with Bayleigh, and generally killin’ it on her way to a second-place finish.
Kaycee’s even-keeled temperament and ability to get along with everyone is a big reason why she was so successful on both “Big Brother” and her rookie season of “The Challenge.” Almost any team with Kaycee has to be considered a favorite, as few females can match up with her all-around athleticism.
Kyle Christie (6th Challenge)
With Bananas gone, Kyle should see a serious uptick in camera time. Arguably the funniest cast member now that fellow British funnyman Bear is gone, Kyle is great at calling out other competitors while also turning things back on himself with the perfect amount of self-deprecation. He’s also proven to be a fierce competitor, finishing second last season when few expected it.
Kyle will never be the most physically intimidating competitor — and it’s unclear who will be in his alliance with Bananas gone — but he won’t go down without a fight. He’s also a world-class canoodler when he wants to be, so that’s another wrinkle to his game to watch out for. It’s easy to root for Kyle, especially since we know how badly he wants to win.
Leroy Garrett (12th Challenge)
Almost everything we just said about Kyle can be applied to Leroy, who’s appeared on the second-most Challenges without winning a title. One of the most beloved cast members of all-time, Leroy’s career has featured a number of close calls and even more bad breaks, as he’s been eliminated twice because of injury/partner injury and had a partner quit in a final.
All told, Leroy has made four finals, including the “War of the Worlds 2” final in his last appearance. Leroy has already said this will be final season, so if anyone “deserves to win” this year, it’s him. Let’s just hope his relationship with Kam doesn’t make him a target, he gets a good partner, and there isn’t much swimming (though he did improve after watching Youtube videos…somehow).
Nany Gonzalez (10th Challenge)
This might surprise even long-time viewers, but Nany has made just one final in her Challenge career. She badly wants to win, but she just as badly needs to improve her athleticism, strategy, and social game in order to do so.
That’s not to say Nany doesn’t have a place on the show. She’s liable to fight and hook up with anyone at any time (which remains none of our business, as she pointed out to nemesis Theresa on “Battle of the Exes 2″), and her baffling game play is often a source of amusement. Nany probably doesn’t have many Challenges left, so maybe there’s a redemption story here that will warm all of our hearts. Probably not, though.
Nelson Thomas (7th Challenge)
Nelly T won over a lot of fans last year when he volunteered to go into the last elimination before the final so Cory wouldn’t have to. He’s come a long way since his reckless early days, and while he still isn’t, shall we say, the “smartest” of players, he can go toe to toe with virtually anyone in an elimination…unless it’s a puzzle or involves math or swimming. Or stunt driving.
Yeah, Nelson has his faults as a competitor, but he has a strong group of allies in the house and has proven he can get along with any potential partner. He will also assuredly piss off said partner, but he’s always quick to apologize. Regardless, Nelson will be entertaining, so he’s a winner in our book.
Nicole Zanatta (3rd Challenge)
Nicole, or, as Bananas once said, “the girl who looks like Andy Dick,” returns after a four-season hiatus. The last time we saw her, she was unable to finish the “Final Reckoning” final for medical reasons. Prior to that, he was intellectually unable to finish the first leg of the “Invasion of the Champions” final because she and Cory couldn’t count triangles (and, sadly, couldn’t take the entire post the key they needed to unlock was attached to).
Nonetheless, we have to give the peanut butter-loving New York City firefighter credit for making the final in each of her two seasons. She’s a strong physical competitor and has a way with the ladies, winning the hearts of Laurel Stucky and Melissa Reeves in previous seasons. She doesn’t have many obvious allies — and her blunt approach doesn’t necessarily lend itself to making friends — so she’ll need a strong partner to help protect her early on…and do math for her. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope she doesn’t get paired with Cory again.
Theresa Gonzalez-Jones (7th Challenge)
Back for the first time since 2015’s “Battle of the Exes 2,” Theresa has since gotten married to former NFL player T.J. Jones and had two children. The track record of moms on “The Challenge” isn’t a strong one (though Melissa Reeves did make the final last season while pregnant, unbeknownst to her at the time), so Theresa will be looking to make history.
Always a good-but-not-great competitor, Theresa ran one final during his six seasons (though she had already been eliminated that season and re-entered after Nia was kicked off). After such a long layoff, it’s unclear what she has left in the tank, but she was never afraid to mix it up during her initial run, so she’s unlikely to bite her tongue just because she’s been away for a while. (Just ask Nany.) She has past ties to Wes, Leroy and CT, so she’ll likely try to form a veteran’s alliance and hope for protection.
Tori Deal (5th Challenge)
Tori talks a big game but has yet to break through with a win. While two finals in four seasons is impressive, it always seems like she should do better.
Competing without ex-fiance Jordan Wiseley in the cast could actually help her, as she’ll be less of a target and should be able to focus more on game play, but she also won’t have any obvious alliances.
Tula “Big T” Fazakerley (3rd Challenge)
Big T is enjoyable to have around, as she tries hard and brings some much needed levity to the proceedings. But she hasn’t been a serious contender in her first two seasons, and that doesn’t figure to change this year, regardless of her partner.
That said, we hope she gets a chance to actually finish this season on her own terms, as last year’s medical DQ for a cut on her foot is not the way we want to see her go out. Getting crushed by someone like Lolo Jones in a Hall Brawl would be much funnier, just so we could admire the sheer absurdity of a show that has a diminutive wig maker like Tula “Big T” Fazakerley squaring off in an athletic competition against a three-time Olympian.
Wes Bergmann (14th Challenge)
Wes is one of the best schemers in Challenge history, and last year’s turn as an ally of long-time rival Johnny Bananas was perhaps his shrewdest move yet (going up against Bananas in an elimination, though…not so shrewd). His best days as a competitor are behind him, but that’s not going to stop Wes from thinking he can outsmart everyone and strategize his way to the final.
Maybe he can. A lot will depend on his partner. Wes’s problem is very few people trust him, so he’s an immediate target almost every season. He managed to fly under the radar a bit last year, but with no Bananas this season, Wes will feel a lot of heat from the first competition on. Expect him to form an alliance with the rookies, which he does every year, while simultaneously having an alliance with the vets. It never really works, but Wes just keeps on doing it.
Who are the rookies on ‘The Challenge: Double Agents’?
Amber Borzotra (Original Show: “Big Brother 16”)
Amber was fifth person voted out during her season of “Big Brother,” as she ultimately got sacrificed because of castmate Caleb Reynolds’ unhealthy infatuation with her. To be fair, she did smile at him once, so you can understand why he thought they were destined to be together forever. The model and actress showed a strong social game that season and shouldn’t have a problem making friends on “The Challenge.”
Even though Amber is the only person from her season of “Big Brother,” it’s likely she’ll be in a BB alliance with Josh, Fess, and Kaycee. However, with a slight frame, she might not fare the best in competitions. Let’s just hope for her sake she doesn’t have to deal with a delusional stalker this time around. Heard dat.
Amber Martinez (“Are You the One?”)
According to Amber’s “AYTO?” wiki page, which is a thing that exists on the internet, “When Amber is in, she’s all the way in, and she expects the same blind-faith commitment from her partner, but when she suspects her partner isn’t on the up-and-up, her communication skills go out the window.” So, this won’t end well.
Amber doesn’t look particularly physically imposing, but she’s a near lock to bring drama and has the potential to hook up with every other cast member, which makes her a rookie to watch — not so much pay attention to, but definitely watch.
Gabby Allen (“Love Island” and “Celebrity Big Brother UK”)
Gabby finished fourth on her season of “Love Island UK,” which raises the question: “Love Island” is a competition show? Apparently it is, and apparently Gabby is decent at it. So, feather in her bikini.
A personal trainer and dancer, Gabby could be a good physical competitor. She’s also had a checkered relationship history, which could lead to some, well, checkered relationships in the Challenge house. Considering she’s a blonde British beauty, there’s a good chance unsavvy American viewers will confuse her with past cast members Georgia Harrison and Melissa Reeves, which also means Josh is likely to make a move and be subsequently rejected by her.
Joseph Allen (“America’s Got Talent”)
Joseph made it to the quarterfinals of “America’s Got Talent” in 2019, but he wound up losing to a guy who stands on a Coke bottle and balances ladders on his chin while a ferret runs around on his body. That isn’t true, but admit it — you thought it might be.
Allen’s rap skills probably won’t help him much on “The Challenge,” but he also has a history of racing motorcycles, which should give him a level of fearlessness and endurance that many rookies don’t have. Also, it might endear him to T.J. Lavin, which should really be the goal of any rookie.
Lio Rush (former WWE wrestler)
At just 5-6, 160 pounds, Rush will be at a size disadvantage despite being a former pro wrestler, so he might get called out early by some of the bigger competitors. And while you might think wrestlers would have a flare for the dramatic, Rush is a married father of two, so it’s tough to say what kind of personality he’ll bring to the Challenge house. He does have an OnlyFans account, though, so he’s probably not very shy.
Like Joseph, Rush is an aspiring rapper, so perhaps we’ll get a freestyle battle at some point between the two. Dare to dream, Challenge fans.
Lolo Jones (former Olympian, “The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros,” and “Celebrity Big Brother”)
Lolo might be listed as a “rookie,” but she’s no stranger to “The Challenge” world. She appeared on spinoff “Champs vs. Pros” in 2017 and immediately mixed it up with the regular cast members. CT, Darrell, Ashley, and Wes were on that season, so perhaps she will have a bit of a built-in alliance.
Of course, everyone should want to be in an alliance with her considering she’s a two-time U.S. Olympic qualifier in the hurdles and one-time qualifier in bobsled. Even at 38, she has to be considered one of the top female competitors — you know, because she’s an Olympic athlete — and as long as her personality doesn’t grate too much on the rest of the cast like it did on “Champs vs. Pros,” her and her partner will be tough outs.
Mechie Harris (Musician and “Ex on the Beach”)
Mechie loves the ladies, and ladies seem to love him. He also has a six-degrees-of-separation-like link to the Kardashians. That bodes well for his chances at some early screen time, but as far as his chances in the game, the jury’s still out.
Yet another rapper, Mechie might be better off using his time to form a group with Lio and Joseph. Maybe like a Migos or something? Call me cynical, but I’m starting to think some of these cast members are just on the show to further their careers and get more followers on social media. Just a theory. At the very least, all the musical talent in the house should keep the cast entertained during a season in which they can’t really go out and socialize at the one designated local bar they’re allowed to go to every season.
Nam Vo (“Ultimate Beastmaster”)
As a fitness model, Nam looks the part, and as a mechanical engineering student, he should be able to handle the puzzles that so frequently befuddle Challenge competitors. Of course, most people who can operate a mechanical pencil could do better at the puzzles than most Challengers, but they’re under a lot of pressure, so we’ll give them a break. No, actually, we won’t — pressure shouldn’t make you forget how to count.
Nam has all the tools to be a fierce competitor, but his lack of TV experience might catch up with him, as the Challenge house can break down even the most hardened of reality show vets. There’s a good chance Nam kicks ass in competitions and is rarely seen or heard from otherwise (think Turbo, but with less superhero special effects and odd Turkish quotes), but he has the potential for a deep run. Plus, who doesn’t like a German accent?
Natalie Anderson (“Survivor” and “Amazing Race”)
Natalie won her first season of “Survivor” and finished second during an All-Stars season despite being targeted early on, so that lets you know just how skilled and competitive she is. She won’t be intimidated by being on “The Challenge,” and her experience on “Amazing Race” should also help her handle the stress “The Challenge” throws her way.
Natalie is a candidate to be targeted early this season, too, so she’ll need to either lay low (which should be easy given her strong social game) or make immediate alliances. If she can get through the first few eliminations, she could be primed for a deep run, though it’s easy to imagine her suffering the same fate as Kaycee last year and barely getting any screen time until the end of the season.
Olivia “Liv” Jawando (“Shipwrecked”)
At just 21, Liv is the youngest competitor this season, and she’s the first cast member in show history to be younger than the show itself. Did Mr. and Mrs. Jawando dream of their little girl one day growing up to be on “The Challenge” when she was born? No, they didn’t.
Liv might be the rookie most likely to proclaim “I’m not here to make friends” this season (though, to be fair, they’re all likely to say that at some point), which is another way of saying she’ll bring plenty of drama. That could get her targeted early, but at least she’ll be entertaining while she’s around.