A 'Challenge' Insider Weighs In on 'Free Agents'

by Tyler Duckworth

Greetings Bustle readers! It's Tyler Duckworth, you know, from the Real World: Key West and subsequent Challenges. I figured I’d catch you up with what I’ve been up to in life before I start dishing the dirt on this season’s Challenge: Free Agents, because trust me, there's a lot about this new season that we have to discuss.

But first, me: I currently live in Los Angeles with my Partner, an eccentric artist and designer from Germany…shocker! I manage and develop all digital content for his design and architecture firm while also managing his art collection. Sadly, this has ushered me into the world of Gallery Girls kicking and screaming. More embarrassingly though, I spend WAY too much time at BRICK, my crossfit gym. Don’t worry, I’m not THAT guy though. No Paleo for me, I will never give up my Dominos pizza obsession.

Though I’m retired from Challenges after my wins on Rivals and Cutthroat, expect to see me here and there co-hosting this season’s Challenge: Aftershow. Plus, I still pal around with a lot of the Challengers as they ALWAYS seem to need a couch to crash on when they’re in LA. The only rule is: They get to stay in my guest room if they give me the gossip! It’s a win/win for everyone really.

And with that, I shall pay it forward and share all the best Challenge insider info with you. Let's see how these Free Agents stack up, shall we? Here's a ranking of how I think each of these kiddos will do this season.

Cheers to a new season of tears, beers and brawls! Let's do this:



“Romantic entanglements derail her plans…” or so says her bio on MTV.com. Since when have emotions EVER derailed Laurel from steamrolling her competitors? Along with Emily Schromm (co-champion of Rivals 2) she is part of the “Untouchables.” Most of the male cast members would be afraid to go against either of these girls, in an elimination round or in some poorly lit back alley. This makes Laurel the Katarina Witt of the Challenge. Beautiful, yet most likely a communist spy plotting your demise, all the while taunting you with a gleeful smile. I’d be FLOORED if she doesn’t make the finals. Unless the communists call her back to the Motherland, this is her Challenge to lose.

Score: Perfect 10! Stuck Landing Laurel


This new Free Agents format could really benefit Theresa. She comes back to the Challenge world looking confident, rather corporate, and ready to suggest some cuts to the HR department. Her cute new haircut indicates that although she may not be as physically imposing like other cast members she’s competing against, with a little luck, and her signature guile, Theresa could be a sleeper to make to the end.

Score: 8

Cara Maria

She’s the Challenge’s version of “The Girl Who Didn’t Go to Paris.” Except, unlike LC in The Hills, who learned her lesson, Cara Maria keeps on putting men in front of finish line. Whether this is an issue of co-dependency or her way of coping with the absolute MADNESS that takes place in these houses, one thing is for sure, Cara Maria, pound for pound, can hang with the best of the best. Maybe, without the distraction of all those menacing boys, she’ll grow into the Xena Warrior Princess we all know she can become. Though, I’m hoping the whole Pirates of the Caribbean look will go into retirement. She’s so beautiful, I’d like to see her in some autumnal tones, and maybe switch it up with an up-do here and there. But, now we’re just splitting hairs.

Score: 7.5

Jessica (Real World: Portland)

Truth be told, all I really know about this chick is that she’s the only person on her season NOT to get beat up by Nia. So, I guess that means she’s a contender? However, in this game, playing coy, cute and quiet can get you very, VERY far! #SleeperAlert. Also, with all that luxurious hair, I’m hoping for some serious game time ponytail action. I see her as a high pony kind of gal. Cut to her in the first elimination round, flipping over her opponent in slow-motion, her perfect, Pantene Pro-V Pony accentuating the victory similar to that of a Spartan, driving his sword into the sand after a kill. Who has she slept with though? Isn’t that always the question!? That could be her only real kryptonite. Otherwise, get it girl!!

Score: 6 (with a Jhirmack Bounce Back .5 Hair Bonus)

Devyn (Real World: Brooklyn)

What I love MOST about Devyn is that everyone, herself included, are in on the joke. Let’s face it, she has ZERO ambitions to win. Her continued appearance on these Challenges is simply to further her imaginary Beauty Queen career. I think she needs to enlist in Joyce’s Beauty Queen School over on Planet Bravo. She knows it, we know, MTV knows it… they’re simply vetting Devyn for The Real Housewives when she hits her thirties. Additionally, bonus points for admitting on public television to hooking up with Eric “Big Easy” Banks. Talk about taking one for the team! When she engaged in a showmance with that beast of a man, she even threw producers for a loop. She will literally do ANYTHING to get camera time; meanwhile winning MVP for the Laziest Challenger Ever to make it to a final. Also of interest: her FLAWLESS weave! She’ll jump of waterfalls, into mud pits, into overweight red headed jerks. But somehow, she continually defies physics and the laws of the universe and always looks AMAZING doing it. Cheers Devyn!

Score: 0 — She can’t be bothered by such trifles.

Jonna (Real World: Cancun)

So, Jonna is totally that girl who secretly sneaked out of one of the American Horror Story seasons and has been lost in Challenge-land ever since. I mean, according to her, one day she’s dating a racecar driver, the next an Arab poker champion. Is she real? Or, is she simply an illusion? I’d bargain that even those who were on her Real World: Cancun season couldn’t really give you a straight story on her. But, that’s what is kind of fun about her. One season she’s bisexual, the next she’s a sober born again Christian. I’m placing bets on her showing up this season having spent the past month at an Ashram in India learning how to fight like Dhalsim from Street Fighter 2. Throw in a schizophrenic hairdo and an even more erratic personality, her loose grasp of reality should add loads of drama. Minus points for not fixing the whole weave issue. We get it, it got yanked off on the first season of Rivals. I was there. But c’mon, that was 3 years ago., can we get a hot oil treatment ASAP!

Score: 5

Jasmine (Real World: Cancun)

One-half of the best frenemies the Challenge has seen in a decade, Jasmine and Jonna hate each other more than Lindsay Lohan and her former sobriety coach. They can’t technically exist without each other, but can’t live with each other. I’m all about Jaz! She’s spunky, from Houston, refreshingly smart, fun, and agile. Only problem: She weighs about as much as a large Dominos pizza. If this game were based on heart, she’d have 3-4 victories already. Unless lady luck shines on her and she can stay out of any elimination rounds where body weight comes into play, this sassy Miss 3rd Ward could sneak her way to the final.

Score: 6.5 (and a side of breadsticks)

Jemmye (Real World: Back to New Orleans)

Having finally divorced herself from Knight, you can look to Jemmye to a) start a fight with someone completely random b) discuss the nuanced election strategies for the upcoming mid-term elections and c) turn The Challenge into the Bad Girls Club with the snap of a finger. Despite her small size, she’s a fighter. We’re talking Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. I wouldn’t start shit with her. But I don’t have to worry about that because we share 3 things in common: an undying love for Hillary Clinton, nachos, and dark chocolate.

Score: 7.5

Latoya (Real World: St. Thomas)

You know what, I don’t know much about this girl, though, what I can say is that this girl is a survivor. St. Thomas is generally considered to be the worst Real World ever (alongside the D.C. season). Nonetheless, she was always sweet, sassy and had great one-liners. I’m excited to see her back in the mix. She has 50 percent of the Jasmine’s moxie and 50 percent of Devyn’s athletic build (all that pageant hand waving is amazing for your triceps). If the three of them were in a 90’s R&B/Hip-Hop group, don’t doubt for one second that Latoya wouldn’t Beyonce her way to lead vocals and ultimately leave said group to embark on a solo career making her a worldwide celebrity. The most important question in this totally hypothetical tangent would be this: who would be Kelly and who would be Michelle? I dare you to ask Jasmine and Devyn…

Score: 7.5 — My gut is telling me to watch this one. She has that side-eye glare that can compete with some of the greatest divas, we’re talking Diana Ross, Naomi Campbell, Mo’nique.

Nia (Real World: Portland)

Nia is the millennial generation’s version of Coral. Scary, weirdly believable even though she’s clearly less trustworthy than even Maleficent. Both beautiful and seemingly cool, this is all contingent upon being on her good side. When you’re good with Nia, it is like sitting with Regina George and the plastics at lunch. Everyone is looking at you, with a strange combination of awe and fear. When you’re on Nia’s bad side and give her any pushback, well… there’s a good possibility you could end up in Caracas, Venezuela, penniless, heavily sedated with a note attached to your torn sweater with the words, “I guess this will teach you a lesson in RESPECT! xo, Nia”. I think CT would even know better than to cross paths with this Category 5.

Score: Due to legal and security reasons, I’m not at liberty to comment on things of such nature regarding Ms. Nia Moore.

As for Nany, Emilee, and Aneesa, I don't really care about them, so let's move on to the men, K? K.


Preston (Real World: Back to New Orleans)

I know that you’re all thinking it. Why is he here, again!? The first challenge Preston did was cute enough. Lots of glitter, throws shade like Mary J, and looks remarkably similar to Rajon Rondo, point guard for the Boston Celtics. Seriously, it's uncanny. Past that, he’s the male version of Shauvon. (Remember her? Big Boobs, even bigger hair.) They both just sort of just, show up. Sometimes they’ll say something utterly moronic but for the most part, when Preston is being interviewed or competing, I take it as an opportunity to get up and check on my Digiorno cooking in the oven. #TotalSnoozeFest

Score: 0 — Quitters don't even try.

Leroy (Real World: Back to Las Vegas)

So, I shared a bunk bed with “Roylee” as his boys have christened him, during the original Challenge: Rivals. He LOVES Oreo cookies and snores extremely loud. His body was most likely chiseled from stone and with a sultry swagger, which honestly, can be a bit much sometimes, he has the ability to win any Challenge he appears on. But that’s the problem. I don’t really know if he’s there to win money or just get laid, or both? That being said, his chill attitude makes it hard for his fellow cast members to vote him into any elimination round. Plus, since he’s sleeping with half the female challengers, none of them want there love machine to go home too soon.

Score: 8.5

Zach Nichols (Real World: Back to San Diego)

Well, I think we all are winners when Zach is cast on a Challenge. Thankfully, Zach was lucky enough to get time off between filming his blockbuster film series, THOR. In all seriousness, he’s a great guy. We were lifting buddies for 6 months and at his core, he’s a nice Midwestern dude who looks like a Greek god. His hair… gotta see it in real life. You’ll probably find yourself accidentally petting it. It sort of shimmers in the sunlight… as I digress, he’s too pretty for me, but I’ve happily been his wingman many an evening out. Athletically, he’s almost built too big for the Challenge. I imagine he simply uses the Challenge to train for the NFL combine or to combat the forces of evil threatening Planet Earth. He won the first Challenge he appeared on which is nothing to scoff at. Either way, he’s always a contender and a cool dude.

Score: 9 — Could be real hard to beat.

SWIFT (Real World: St. Thomas)

Any analysis that could have possibly taken place was thrown out the window immediately when a) I saw his cast photo and b) I realized he still calls himself SWIFT (all in CAPS. He literally demands MTV to use all CAPS when referencing his name). I get it. He does have sick abs. But he’s also 5’6'. Humility goes a long way in my book and the rumor mill hasn’t been kind to this one. But, then again, who am I to listen to gossip? I listen to the TRUTH! (Or the most fun version of it.)

Perhaps I’ve been a little tough on this guy and honestly, he deserves a fair shake. I’m hoping he proves me wrong. Perhaps he’s the dark chocolate Jemmye and I have been waiting for!

Score: 5.6

Dustin Zito (Real World: Back to Las Vegas)

At this point, you can’t just reference him as Dustin, he must officially be known only as "DustinZito – that guy who______!!!" Throw in pretty much anything at the end of that sentence and DustinZito has done it, tried it and denied it, or was arrested for it. I want to root for him but he acts and talks like NELL. You know, that early 90’s movie with Jodie Foster about some feral southern girl who wanders around Appalachia? I know DustinZito is from Louisiana, but he teeters right on the edge of crazy and makes me uncomfortable in Britney Spears breakdown kind of way. He was allegedly a competitive wrestler in high school or am I confusing that with his stint on FratPad.com?

Score: 8

Chet (Real World: Brooklyn)

Chet replaced Julie (Real World: New Orleans) in the Challenge world as the oddly likeable but still puzzling Mormon friend we all have. He’s totally down to go to the bars and party, but then, when you’re about to pass out, you see him reading scripture and you start asking yourself existential questions about why you drank to much, who are you, is there a god and then all of a sudden Laurel is holding your hair back while you cry about the stress of the game! Chet is smart as shit and knows how to play a good game. The ladies love his old-world charm and colorful dress. Not afraid to flout stereotypes, I’m excited to see a mature Chet compete again and see what he can do. If you go against him in a puzzle or endurance race, good luck!

Score: 7.5

Cohutta (Real World: Sydney)

What isn’t to love about this Southern charmer. I’ve never actually met or done a show with him, but he seems like a guy you’d meet on your semester abroad and become lifelong friends with, despite the fact he’s from wherever Duck Dynasty is filmed. He’s strong, has the heart of a champion but weighs roughly the same weight as Laurel’s ego. Consequently, this hurts him in elimination rounds. I’m officially #TeamCohutta Listen, this is a new format, so anything is possible, right MTV?! (Note sarcasm.)

Score: 7.5

Frank (Real World: Back to San Diego)

What I love about Frank is that you get everything and more than you could bargain for when you’re friends with him. You are TOTALLY missing out by not being friend’s with him, but there’s a caveat. This also means you’re in for a lot of crazy! Then again, who am I to talk? Nah, Frank is a great friend of mine and fellow crossfit junkie. An insane athlete, he schools pro-crossfitters all the time, but the best part is watching how intense he is about it. I’m usually dancing to Beyonce when the going gets tough during workouts so I respect the guy tons. If he could just let his athleticism shine, and learn how to shut his mouth during conflicts, there is no reason why he couldn’t win this Challenge!

The key to victory for him is to utilize his former partner, and Challenge Guru, Johnny Bananas as an ally. Despite all the traditional rules being thrown out the window, I have no doubt Johnny will figure out a way to create an alliance to create a path for him and his minions to the final. He’ll kill me for saying this, but I’m BEYOND excited for his now signature drunken Mariah Meltdowns. He’s an emotional, passionate guy but owns it. He can laugh at himself (albeit 2-4 weeks later) but when he does, it’s the best. He’s a fantastic competitor and makes for enthralling TV! Love him or hate him, he’s positioning himself to win it all. He won his first Challenge he appeared on so look out.

Score: 9

Brandon (Fresh Meat: 2)

I’m just realizing this now, but Brandon is totally the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Goofy, great with the ladies and always up for a good time, I’m curious to see him step up his game. He’s actually an amazing athlete and has seen his fair share of elimination rounds. I was lucky to call him a team member on The Challenge: Cutthroat, and have nothing but awesome things to say about the guy. The real question is, however, can the party king put down the pimp cup and lift up the winner’s check this season?

Score: 6.5 ... if sober, 8.0

Isaac (Real World: Sydney)

So, when I saw his cast photo and heard he was doing this Challenge, I secretly swooned. I know it sounds weird, but he’s a complete stud, would be a perfect candidate for The Bachelor and is getting sexier with age. The bad news is that he’s sexy in a “I have street cred in Cleveland” sort of way. But, I don’t care, still works for me. He’s probably the funniest guys to ever do a Challenge and deserves more camera time, shirt on or off. Everyone loves the kid as he lightens the often tense mood around the house. But don’t get it twisted folks, this guy is still a beast competitor. If he shows up in great shape and actually tries, even if its only 75 percent, he could win it. That’s a big IF though. He’ll be amazing TV though regardless. #TeamIsaac

Score: 8.5

Jordan (Real World: Portland)

I’ve heard a lot of “stuff” about this guy. So, when I met him recently at an event, I was pleased to meet a confident, handsome, well-spoken guy. I mean, he knows he’s all of the above, but in a disarming Zac Efron way that kinda works… for now at least. He did really well on the last challenge, but his temper and libido could be his undoing. Handsome and athletic are a dangerous mix in this game. Guys don’t like you getting all the attention from the ladies and the girls don’t like getting plaid by some smooth-talking rookie. Oddly enough, all of this could also work in his favor! Stranger things have happened in the Challenge universe. Tonya Cooley won Inferno III so, by that logic, anything is possible. Either way, he’s there to win. He could be a contender, if he uses the right head…

Score: 8.5

Johnny Bananas (Real World: Key West)

Officially the new Old Man River along with Mark Long, Bananas is the Godfather of the Challenge franchise. Four wins, including one very emotional victory with me in Rivals: Season 1. Listen, he was on my original Real World cast so he’s like a brother. We’ve been great friends over the years so it is impossible for me to be impartial. When he says or does dumb shit, I just let it pass in the way you’d let your younger brother get away with doing something obnoxiously stupid. Whether its putting Wasabi in my Taco Bell or lighting his farts on fire, he’s a textbook frat boy who will never grow up and I think we can all agree that we’re fine with that.

Just keep on casting him on these Challenges. He usually pisses off at least half the females on the show, yet they still follow him like lemmings. I’m pumped to see him team up with Isaac. These two are a great comedic team and I’m sure made everyone laugh enough to forget that Johnny orchestrated them being voted into the elimination round. But, that’s why he’s sort of a genius (in a reality TV way of course). He’s some sort of wizard. He’ll vote you in to elimination and simultaneously make you think that, “you know what, I deserve this.” Let’s all just be glad he’s used his powers of manipulation for entertainment purposes. Otherwise, I could see him taking over the world! (Well, that’s a stretch, more accurately conquering mid-level management at Banana Republic.) I have him as the #1 seed along with C.T. to win this Challenge. But, will the new rules spoil his usual waltz to the final?

Score: 9.5

Johnny 2.0 (Real World: Portland)

There seems to be a lot of Portland kids on this season’s Challenge. I’m apathetic to this as the only episode of that season I bothered watching was the one where Nia beat Johnny 2.0 up with a hair-dryer then her fist. Literally BEAT HIM UP! Which, essentially explains why he was cast for this season. America gets to see Nia throw down on a guy and win again. Other than that, he’s a total snoozefest. Athletically, I guess he could possibly be a factor, but given his rookie status and the fact that he got beat up by a girl on his RW season (and rightfully so- he was a punk) I’m not to sure how much fear he’ll instill into the eyes of his competitors.

Score: 6

CT (Real World: Paris)

What I love MOST about this guy is that, nobody actually remembers if the Real World: Paris actually happened, all we do know is that some furry beast from Boston was introduced to the world and we’re all better for it. He finally won a Challenge after what seemed like 20 attempts (actually only 10, but still, figure it out guy). He loves cigarettes, red meat and instilling fear into the hearts of men. I’ve had plenty of first hand experiences, so I know this to be true. I’ve beaten him twice in elimination rounds, so let me be clear, he is a big, scary, angry man. Most women swoon over him, but I just don’t get it. Let’s put it this way, If you knew him in real life, you’d understand, we’ll just leave it at that…

But this is a new Challenge, and CT has shown up with a beard. In the ten years I’ve known him, he’s never had facial hair, so this has really thrown me and the other challengers for a loop. Why now? Is he trying to tell us something? Did he find god? Or is he just actually homeless? One never knows what kind of shape he’s going to be in when he comes to the challenges and this time, it looks like he’s been leaning a little heavy on the steak and cigarettes and less on the barbells at the local Gold’s Gym. However, I would be remiss to underestimate the man that literally turned Johnny Bananas into a backpack. So, we’ll give him a break, look at his track record and give him the co-#1 ranking with Johnny Bananas for this season. Can he make it two in a row? Only two Challengers have ever done it (I was one of them). It is extremely difficult to sustain the magic so time will tell! Dollars to donuts he makes it to the finals, out shear fear factor alone.

Score: 9.5

Can't wait to see how this season turns out!

Images: MTV