For the first time in its 22-year history, The Challenge required its players to win an elimination in order to be able to run the final. For years, players tried to figure out how to avoid eliminations to prevent an early departure, but everything was turned on its head for Total Madness.
What started out as an intriguing twist turned out to be a letdown for some viewers. Showrunner Emer Harkin sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss the twist and if it will be used in Season 36 and beyond.
Some fans felt that the twist was pointless, given that everyone on the season was given an opportunity to play for a Red Skull. This was largely in part due to the cast giving co-stars what they wanted in the loser nomination ceremony each week, essentially letting one player nominate themselves instead of putting it to a vote.
This eliminated a lot of plotting and backstabbing from the show’s storyline, something a lot of people tune in for. The cast also passed on opportunities on multiple occasions to let someone with a Red Skull go back down into an elimination. Doing this would heighten the chances of a stronger player going home, instead of letting them skate to the final.
Harkin heard what fans were saying about the twist, and revealed (kind of) what to expect from here on out.
“We think [the Red Skull twist] largely worked. There’s always things that we could do to take it to the next level and things that I don’t want to get into too much because I don’t want to give away too many spoilers for season 36. We got a lot of input from fans and [host] T.J. Lavin himself about how we can reimagine the red skull and how we can escalate it and just even kick it up another notch. That’s certainly that we’re looking at for this coming season, so stay tuned.”
On The Challenge subreddit, fans have debated the twist since Total Madness premiered. Some viewers like the twist, but think it needed to be tweaked a little bit, given how some of the show’s stars found a way around it. Others joked that they were just tired of hearing “Red Skull” over and over again in talking-head interviews each week.
Season 36 of The Challenge has officially been greenlit, although hardcore fans knew it was in the works for some time. According to rumors, the show was either finished or nearing its end of filming, but was pushed back due to COVID-19.