MTV's The Challenge is heading into Season 32, but there's still plenty of fresh drama for the reality franchise. And no one knows this better than veteran competitor Cara Maria Sorbello, who appears on The Challenge: The Final Reckoning (premiering Tuesday, July 10 at 9 p.m. ET), and tells Bustle all about it in a recent phone interview. This season is being touted as "the end of an era," but the loyal fans shouldn't fret — Cara Maria thinks this could actually be a very good thing.
While she admits the phrase "the end of an era" is still a mystery, she does share some insight on what it could mean: "Here's how I read into it. Number one, it's the end of a trilogy." In the trailer for the season, host T.J. Lavin remarks that The Final Reckoning completes the trilogy that started with Dirty Thirty and Vendettas, so that checks out.
"Number two, it probably really is the end of an era, but not The Challenge," Cara Maria continues. (Thank goodness.) "I feel that The Challenge is about to be reborn and it's what I'm looking forward to. It's just going to be a whole new Challenge."
In all honesty, it feels like "the end of an era" happened a few seasons ago when the show branched out from solely casting Real World and Road Rules alums. Cara Maria echoes that sentiment: "Now, we've got people from Big Brother, Are You the One?, Ex on the Beach, people from other freaking countries. We've got so many people. Olympic athletes are probably now going to get incorporated in from Champs vs. Stars. There is no definitive Real World and Road Rules anymore."
Fans have no need to worry — a "new era" doesn't mean that The Final Reckoning is the last time you'll see Cara Maria either. She says, "I feel like I'm not going anywhere. I'm still going to be a part of it, for sure. Unless they stop calling me." And why would they ever stop calling her? She brings it athletically during competitions and socially in the house. She will always get a call.
Even though Cara Maria is excited to see where The Challenge goes, she confesses, "I used to be the biggest one that would be against that... I remember being a little b*tch about it." Her tune has definitely changed. Now she says, "I love the new blood because there's new people to hook up with" — which is arguably more entertaining than most of the physical challenges.
She continues, "There's new drama. I look at it as an opportunity to get new game play and spice things up and bring a different audience in. I am happy to share The Challenge with anybody and everybody — unless they can beat me, because f*ck those people."
At this point, the future of the series boils down to pure speculation, but Cara Maria hints at what to expect from the newest season. She says, "I know people say this all the time, but this is the most insane season I've ever done. Not for the challenges, but for the drama in the house. It is un-f*cking-believable. There are so many stories to follow. You're going to lose your sh*t. This should be a longer season just to cover everything that's happened."
Every season of The Challenge is chock-full of drama, but the format of this one guarantees even more than usual. Each competitor is paired with one of their enemies as their sole teammate. The first challenge is half the contestants digging out their partners who are buried underneath the dirt. Obviously, everyone wants to win, but they're literally racing to unearth the last person that they want to see, let alone work with.
This season, Cara Maria is partnered with Marie Roda. Regarding this decision, she remarks, "They f*cking nailed it with me and Marie, I'll tell you that much, because we definitely hate each other. It's no secret. We genuinely dislike each other — a lot." Still, they'll have to put their differences aside if they want to win.
It's clear the pairing will make for some great TV, but how did Cara Maria feel when she found out that they'd have to work together? "That I wasn't going to win a million dollars. That I was probably going to go home Week 1," she recalls. At this point in the series, most Challenge competitors would rather work with their absolute worst enemy who's a solid competitor than someone they get along with who just isn't going to put their all into the game.
The three-time winner explains, "Is there ever going to be a point where we have to see eye-to-eye? At the end of the day, we are competing for a million dollars and I don't care if you cut off one of my legs and blindfold me, I'm going to have to find a way to get over it and win that money."
On the bright side, working with a less-seasoned competitor will bring out a different side of Cara Maria. She shares, "I think with this season, it's going to be really, really hard for me. I think that my biggest challenge is gonna be learning how to put pride aside and how to be the best kind of a coach that I can be."
She teases, "I'm only as good as [Marie] can be with me. I would say that we are the one team that you are really going to want to watch." Last season, Cara Maria beat every competitor (male and female) on The Challenge: Vendettas. If she and Marie win The Final Reckoning, Cara Maria would have back-to-back first-place wins. Unfortunately, the vet cast member can't spill any spoilers, but it's clear that she and Marie will be very interesting to watch — at the very least.
Even though Cara Maria is the reigning champion, she's not caught up in all the glory. She's always focused on the task at hand and achieving her next win. She shares, "To me, I look at it as you're only as good as the last thing that you've done... I'm always fighting. It's never enough. That was an amazing moment because I worked so hard, not only to win, but to completely destroy the competition."
Cara Maria realizes that having a reputation as a solid competitor can be a hindrance sometimes, admitting, "I'm proud of it for sure, but I'm always working harder. It just puts a lot more pressure on me and a bigger target on my back for the next time to still work harder."
"Live your life for those who love you and support you rather those are dying to see you fail."
Yes, the show's premise is to make it through challenges and ultimately win, but that's not the only reason people tune in. The relationships within the cast are constantly shifting. After years of rivalry, Cara Maria is finally on good terms with Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio — the Challenge competitor with the most first place wins. She teases, "Look out for me and Bananas this season, for sure... It wasn't until Vendettas that we started getting OK with each other. This season, definitely look out for that."
After years of heated arguments, Cara Maria striking up a friendship with Bananas is honestly pretty shocking. Then again, they're two of the few remaining from their "generation" of Challenge competitors. It makes sense to stick together with so many new people joining the show. Plus, they're two of the most dominant players in the show's history, so it's a mutually beneficial pairing.
Nevertheless, Cara Maria is not shutting out "new" competitors. She thinks a lot of them have potential to make a great impact on the franchise. Two of those people are from Big Brother Season 18. Cara Maria shares, "I feel like Natalie [Negrotti], athletic-wise in challenges, she's like a Camila [Nakagawa]... She has a lot of doubts in herself, but I feel like that's how I used to be. Once she gets over that, she can be the total package that she is." She adds, "I would definitely look out for Paulie [Calafiore]. He's kind of a loose cannon."
She also sees potential in two British competitors from the U.K. version of Ex on The Beach. "Melissa [Reeves] is always fun," Cara Maria says, "I do like that girl." The other Brit she points out is Melissa's Ex on the Beach costar Kayleigh Morris. Cara Maria says, "I'm gonna say look out for Kayleigh for sure, because we saw her quit the last time because girls were ganging up on her and being mean to her. I would have put my mattress in the freaking bathroom, stayed, and said 'f*ck that.'"
Still, she admits, "It hurts and it sucks, but you're there for a reason. Don't let anybody win over you. I think that this season we're going to see a different Kayleigh." Everyone loves a comeback story, right?
Tying into that theme, Cara Maria opens up about bullying on the show and beyond. "People's problem with you is not you. It's their problem," she theorizes. "I don't care about what anybody says about me on Twitter. Whatever, yeah that did hurt, you don't want to have that big thing thrown at you, but I just really want people watching to know that the way I react to things and the way that things happen on the season... it's not you, it's them."
She declares, "Live your life for those who love you and support you rather those are dying to see you fail... You can't explain yourself to everybody, so you just have to let it roll."
Joining the cast of The Challenge has truly changed Cara Maria's life for the better. It's given her more than screen time, social media followers, and prize money. She confesses, "I am who I am because of my experience on The Challenge. I grew up nonathletic, never did sports, rode my horse, only child, weird little kid, and doing the challenges outside of my comfort zone shows that I can accomplish things that I never thought possible."
Yes, the viewers tune into The Challenge for the house drama and suspenseful eliminations, but the show is so much more than that. It's about pushing limits and succeeding in ways no one thought possible. Cara Maria has become a staple on this franchise and a true embodiment of what The Challenge really stands for.