After the Speed Dating ends, it’s time for Strategy Session #2. This one is the brainchild of Cali. She wants to recreate the pairings of all of the Ceremonies to see where they maybe went right and where they probably went wrong. Each pair is asked if they think they’re actually supposed to be together; if they don’t, it’s time to split those people up for good. Jasmine and Tomas decide they should never sit together again, but Samantha seems to be screwing up the process because she doesn’t think it makes any sense for her to stand next to Lewis. She’s sure she belongs with Daniel. Just watching the hesitation causes Asia to declare that Samantha is the biggest liability for the house because Samantha is determined to play with her feelings instead of with her mind. Asia isn’t the only one who feels that way. Kwasi and Jasmine head over to Samantha that night and implore her to pick Lewis at the next Ceremony. Even Lewis, while admitting they don’t share a romantic connection, still sees the wisdom in Samantha choosing him as her official match, but Formerly Independent Sam has hearts in her eyes and sh*tty song lyrics dancing through her brain and all of them are telling her that choosing Daniel at the next Ceremony is far more of a meaningful gesture than it actually needs to be.
You didn’t think Asia was about to let the approximately forty thousand dollars she’s hoping to walk away with slide out of her fingers just because of a little something like feelings, did you? Please. She knows Lewis and Samantha are supposed to sit together, so if Samantha won’t comply with the plan because of her rampant case of lovesickness, Asia will just have to destroy whatever love is there by planting a seed of suspicion in Samantha’s mind. She decides to start a rumor that Daniel kissed Cali. You recall that at the idiotic theme party (for a theme that doesn’t actually exist) there was an almost-brawl between Cali and Samantha because Cali rubbed her vagina across Daniel’s scrotum and then had the nerve to call it dancing? Yeah, Asia remembers that, too. She also remembers the little parable she once heard about how ends can sometimes justify all means. It’s a wicked plan she’s brewing in that cauldron-shaped mind of hers and this scene very nicely illustrates that some people will always value money more than they do decency. And speaking of having no dignity, Republican Bria is Asia’s sidekick for spreading the lie. They start with Moe and Kayla, easy marks both of them. These two immediately believe Cali and Daniel kissed and Bria and Asia swear they saw the dirty deed go down with their very own demonic eyes. Needs Moe Game Moe is the one dispatched to tell Samantha a lie that will crush her, but Samantha sees right through the deception. Still, I give your plan a B-, Asia. It was a good idea, but you unfortunately chose a walking horror show of a human being to help you execute it and you waged it against one of the only people in the house who prides herself on having several working brain cells.
And now it’s time for the final Ceremony of the season and Samantha celebrates the momentous occasion by wearing a red bra as a shirt. Who amongst us has not done the very same thing? Terrence greets everyone, makes sure to remind them of how serious this moment is, and then it’s time for the women to make their selections for the very last time:
Cali picks Andrew. My guess is he’s thrilled that the black bandeau top she’s wearing can be used as a makeshift blindfold because he once read in Dominance for Dummies that blindfolding someone is all kinds of kinky.
Kayla chooses Moe. The two of them together are as dynamic and exciting as watching light beige paint dry.
Also: Isn’t there something kind of perverse and sad about Kayla saying, “Moe has taught me there’s more to me than what other people see” because isn’t she basically saying that she’s now defining herself by how Moe sees her? Have we as a society devolved so deeply that we’re supposed to see this sh*t as progress?
Morgan selects Zack. Bria rolls her eyes. I puked up my spleen.
Samantha, who it turns out did not fall for Asia and Bria’s lie, still decides to pick Lewis for strategy’s sake. Everyone around her celebrates with collective sighs of relief, though I think maybe they should celebrate by giving Samantha an on-the-spot makeover.
Jasmine is up next and she picks Daniel. I don’t really see these two as soulmates, but neither is innately hateful and I have never once wished impotence or required sterilization on either of them. Maybe they are f*cking perfect for one another.
And now it’s time for Lauren to come up and she informs us she’s “bad, bossy, and classy.” (No, you are not the only person asking yourself why we’ve yet to see any of these qualities radiating from this onscreen stranger. I, too, have no idea what she’s talking about.) In any event, she chooses Kwasi and I am already weeping for any patio furniture the girl’s got at home because Sweet Kwasi will destroy those f*ckers next time he feels a little bit sad.
Asia selects Tomas. Her reasons for believing he is her perfect match make about the same amount of sense as the terrible scooped neckline of his shirt, but there aren’t too many people left to choose from anymore.
Finally it’s time for Bria and Cam to lock in and this pairing is almost too ridiculous for words. Allow me to say this: maybe they are a match. Maybe the matchmakers did put them together and they work on paper. But now admit just how easy it is for you to imagine Bria flinging someone through a plate glass window at the political fundraiser Cam brings her to because she wasn’t served shrimp cocktail with a napkin by a waiter and such a slight means she’s being disrespected and maybe then we can talk about what how skilled these matchmakers really are.
Watching the selections with their mouths open, Tevin and Kenya cannot believe what they’re seeing. Bria and Cam? Asia and Tomas? But their shock is put on hold because it’s time to find out if this group is walking away with enough money to hopefully work as a symbolic salve that will maybe repair whatever is left of their fractured dignities. So what’s the verdict? Well, there are really two verdicts here. Verdict #1: they nail all needed matches and can now split one million dollars. Verdict #2: these matchmakers are even worse sadists than Andrew, King of the Sadists. But win the game they did, so here comes the celebration. There are hugs, there are screams, there are slow-motion shots of Zack being lifted high into the air, and there is chatter from Kenya and Tevin about their upcoming wedding. I think I’ll buy them either a toaster or a round of therapy the second they get engaged.
Back at the house, debauchery reigns – and that’s a relief, considering how restrained this group’s behavior has been all season long.
(Also: I cannot stop laughing each and every time one of these people bleats out that they’re leaving with one million dollars, because no, you are not. You’re leaving with maybe forty grand, but I suppose that number just doesn’t have the same grand ring to it.)
While Bria gyrates against anyone who will let her, Lewis and Asia have a nice little chat about how much they have grown from being on this show. Lewis rode a horse! Asia started being more affectionate! It’s a conversation that eventually leads to Lewis revealing that, later in the night, they “enjoyed one another’s company,” which is Mature Lewis’ way of saying that they writhed around together under a white comforter. Morgan and Zack are way less fortunate. See, Morgan is not fortunate because her match was Zack and Zack is not fortunate because he is Zack. Continuing his run at being the least sincere prick on the planet, Zack fires off some rehearsed apologies to Morgan, but she just rolls her eyes. “Are we gonna hang out outside of this house?” Zack asks, to which Morgan – who I now officially love – answers, “I just think you’re a terrible person.” And through all of it, Bria watches the proceedings, plots her next move to win over a tragic sociopath, and kisses Zack goodbye on the lips when it’s time to leave while chortling that if she wants Zack in the future, she can have him. You mean she can land a man-child who acts like an expired and toxic douchebag who carts around empty apologies the way I cart around almost-empty packs of gum? Score!
And just like that, the season is over. The cast says goodbye and they leave swearing they’ll stay in touch, that they are and will always be a family. Who knows? Maybe they’ll all reconvene at Tevin and Kenya’s possible wedding! We know some will run into one another when they appear on the next nineteen seasons of The Challenge, but should that not happen, I think we can all feel comforted by the notion that a few of them will probably keep each other company during all those future bail hearings. And if that’s not an indication of family, I don’t know what is.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com. Her twitter is @nell_kalter.