In basketball, the GOAT debate is between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. In movies, Citizen Kane and The Godfather typically duke it out for the top spot. In MTV’s The Challenge, there is only one GOAT and his name is Johnny Bananas.
Last night, Johnny Bananas and Jenny West won Total Madness, the 35th season of The Challenge. The duo split the $1 million prize down the middle so $500 thousand a piece is a nice chunk of change. The final challenge was all about endurance as the 9 competitors hiked up a snow-covered mountain in freezing cold temperatures, completing tasks along the way. If I’m being honest, this wasn’t my favorite final challenge. I enjoy it when the final challenge consists of solving puzzles, eating disgusting animals, and puking at every corner. The mountain is tough for competitors, but the entertainment value suffers to a degree. Despite the disappointing final, the season as a whole was a return to prominence for the MTV reality show.
Finals are hard to win and what Jenny and Bananas did was beyond impressive. Jenny is my favorite female competitor and Bananas is my favorite male competitor so it was a good night in the Girolamo household. Jenny will be a beast for seasons to come and I look forward to her evolution as a competitor. However, last night was about a king cementing himself as the greatest player in Challenge history.
There is no argument as to who the top dog is anymore. Johnny Bananas is the greatest competitor in the show’s history. In 20 seasons, Bananas has won 7 times, which is the most for an individual player in the show’s history. After last night’s 500K purse, Bananas is now the all-time money earner on the show with $1,184,720.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Bananas early on. Before Johnny Bananas became a star, he was simply “John Devenanzio.” In his first season of The Challenge, The Duel, Devenanzio was embarrassed as the first contestant eliminated and sent home. After The Duel, John Devenanzio evolved into Johnny Bananas and unleashed his dominance. In his next nine appearances, Bananas reached seven finals, winning five of them.
How did Bananas become the greatest competitor in the show’s history? In simplest terms, Bananas “gets it.” The Challenge is not just about being the most physically gifted athlete. CT, Landon, Laurel, and Alton would have won every challenge if it was all about physicality. The smartest players do not always win as well. Sarah Rice and Mark Long played great political and social games, but that didn’t always lead to victory. In order to win The Challenge, you need a combination of brains, brawn, and strategy. You need to pick your battles, stay out of early eliminations, and make sure the majority of the house vote is on your side. No one plays a better game than Bananas. He’s the strongest political force in the game, flipping votes in the house at the drop of a hat and brokering side deals with players to ensure his victory. When it comes to physical eliminations, Bananas can keep up with the best of them. Just ask Jordan.
Bananas did suffer a few hiccups on the road to greatness in the form of the CT Backpack, which is a top-five moment in the show’s history.
Sarah Rice also turned on Bananas before the final of Battle of the Exes II.
However, Bananas had the last laugh when he pulled the biggest villain move in the show’s history by keeping all of the prize money instead of splitting it with Sarah.
Some, including Bananas himself, cited that moment as a curse since Bananas hadn’t been to a final since that moment. It’s safe to say that the curse is over. This season was no walk in the park. Bananas had to defeat both Wes and Rogan in eliminations as well as come from behind to win the final.
Johnny Bananas is the GOAT of The Challenge, but there is a case to be made that he’s the GOAT competitor throughout all of reality game shows. I’m not a huge Survivor fan, but I know only two competitors won the game twice: Sandra Diaz-Twine and Tony Vlachos. American Ninja Warrior and The Amazing Race are similar in nature to The Challenge, but no one has ever won seven times. Singing competitions like American Idol and food competitions like Top Chef are almost in their own section of reality game shows. If Bananas is not the GOAT of reality game shows, he’s at least on Mount Rushmore.
Bananas hinted at taking a break, although it’s not an official retirement. Bananas will be back in the future at some point. However, if this was the last time we see Bananas, then let’s toast to the king.
P.S. I don’t think it was rigged.
Is Johnny Bananas the GOAT? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.