It's a sad truth that one of the easiest to watch shows on television — they have competitive spelling bees, for goodness' sake — is going to be much tougher to watch come Tuesday night. Within just weeks of each other, The Challenge: Battle of the Exes stars Diem Brown & Ryan Knight died in November. Shortly after both of their passings, it was revealed that the new Challenge season is dedicated to Knight and Diem, and MTV also honored Diem with the We <3 Diem special that aired Dec 9. And hopefully, this means the show will handle the sad news with as much respect as possible.
And luckily, so far, so good. After Diem and Knight's deaths, thanks to many kind words from their peers and their MTV family, fans can remember them both for the competitors and people that they were. The slight tinge of fear comes, however, with the knowledge that both will still very much be a part the narrative of this season of The Challenge; and not just any narrative, but one that has Brown and Knight paired off with their respective longtime "Exes," Chris “CT” Tamburello and Jemmye Carroll. While CT and Diem expressed their excitement to try and win together to MTV, and Diem said she was glad to have CT "in [her] corner" before filming, Caroll and Knight were more apprehensive about their ability to get along, and Knight reminded MTV that even with Carroll, he could be "a habitual line crosser."
And starting tonight, it will be MTV's responsibility to honor two of its own in a series that generally prides itself on drama and competition more than anything else. This will be a very different season of The Challenge, no doubt. So, how will Bunim/Murray and MTV handle airing a season of The Challenge dedicated to Diem Brown and Ryan Knight that also features them as contestants?
As Sparingly as Possible
Their are 13 former couples competing in Battle of the Exes. That's 26 people, meaning it would be very possible to avoid any storylines focusing on Diem or Knight specifically; but that's unlikely and would ring a little false. Diem and Knight were both huge parts of the Challenge franchise, and no less so after their deaths. When Real World/Challenge creator Jonathan Murray spoke to E! recently, he revealed that Diem had to leave Battle of the Exes early due to her ongoing battle with cancer. That's sure to be a focal point of the season, as Murray said it was also very difficult on the cast and crew following Diem's departure, knowing what she was going through back home while they were still filming in Panama.
As Positively as Possible
A more likely approach will be to feature Diem and Knight as their best selves. Murray told E! that producers "just focused on editing the shows to make sure that we do justice to both these people in making sure that we send them out in a good way." Murray said it never occurred to anyone not to air the season. He said Diem especially was a great competitor who saw each Challenge as an "opportunity to get away from her cancer," and Murray is, "pretty convinced that Diem and Knight would want this season to air." With that, the best thing MTV and the show can do is honor their memories.
As Truthfully as Possible
For fans, the hopeful result of this season is just to get a little more time with the two competitors they originally got to know on The Challenge. There's no denying that Knight was, in his own words, a button-pusher, and to deny that would be to miss Knight's legacy on the series; but Murray also told E! that in this final season, "he got to that point where he was really loved by the other cast members." Brown's legacy, though — an eight-time competitor who loved winning more than she feared anything — is likely to come into focus in Exes more than ever before. Even in second-place finishes and early exits, Diem never really lost on a Challenge because she was always fighting through to the end, and that's a truth that will be easy to remember with joy even in the sadness of Diem and Knight's tragic deaths.
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