For its 37th season, The Challenge is continuing its spy games with Spies, Lies and Allies. And this time, there are 17 International Operatives competing alongside the elite U.S. Agents in Croatia in the hope of walking away with their share of $1 million.
TJ Lavin has been the host of the MTV competition series since Season 11 (in 2005), and the rookies — who came from shows like Survivor, Big Brother, 12 Dates of Christmas, and Love Island — impressed him. “It’s a really, really good season for rookies,” he tells TV Insider. (Anyone who’s done even one season of The Challenge is considered a veteran.)
Lavin teases what else to expect this season and shares how he thinks he’d do as a challenger.
What about the Spies, Lies and Allies format excites you after being part of the show for as long as you have been?
TJ Lavin: I really loved the international cast. Having so many countries represented and having them be so good at what they do is what really makes me happy. It’s almost as if there’s an all-star game of baseball or something. Everybody was badass.
It seems like ever since the international players have started doing The Challenge, it’s breathed new life into the franchise and we see the veterans having to step up because of that.
Yeah, it’s crazy. Everybody does have to do their thing, but there’s always going to be the staples and the starters on the team.
And bringing in people from other shows and expanding that pool, you really see the difference between the vets and rookies in terms of gameplay, right? Because even just doing one of these gives a player an advantage in terms of what to expect.
Yes. 100 percent. If you’ve never done a challenge, then you’re at an extreme disadvantage. But you can get up to speed pretty quick, depending on who you befriend in the house.
Veterans have been there before, they know what to expect and it’s not as shocking when something crazy happens. Whereas with rookies, what they think is going to happen doesn’t happen and what they think will never happen happens to them. It’s something they need to realize real, real quick, and some of them do. It’s a very interesting dynamic — when you’re a rookie and you have the right friends, you can get up to speed pretty quick.
A disadvantage for veterans is the excitement. You have to have a certain level of excitement to be stuck in this house with these people 24/7. The hardest part of The Challenge is the living situation. When you’re living with the people that you’re competing with and against, it’s a very hard situation when you’re not excited about being there. Whereas when you’re a rookie, you just got there and you can’t believe that you even got invited. It’s 100 percent new and they love it. But when you’re a veteran, it’s a little harder to stay amped and stay excited like that.
Is that newness for rookies an advantage in a way because they’re more open to things?
Yes, like the new girlfriend, right? They’re like, “I’ll do anything to please her.”
What can you say about which veterans still impressed you and which rookie surprised you this season?
Some of the rookies that I saw compete in eliminations — I’m trying not to say too much — let’s just say that when I saw rookies competing in eliminations, I was very pleased with what I saw. They put it down and they very much surprised me. I saw beautiful people that looked like there was no way in hell that they would do really well in physical competition and they just killed it. I loved it. I was very impressed. Let’s just say that it’s a really, really good season for rookies.
What’s been your favorite twist to announce to the players in any season?
I liked the skulls on the helmet. You had to have a skull to run my final. I loved that twist a lot. I thought that was the coolest twist, a great idea because they had to get a skull and the only way to get a skull is to get into an elimination. So they were vying for those elimination spots, and that was really cool because we were having a problem with people avoiding elimination altogether.
What’s been the most shocking moment for you to witness?
The Leroy slam was pretty hard. When he was going from car to car and he slipped and hit his head pretty hard and he crashed into the water, that was pretty scary. But we have the best training people in the world out there, and they got him and got him handled and got him taken care of, and he was fine, but it was shocking for sure. One of the coolest things that ever happened was when Diem took her hair off and she played in her natural hair and she was so beautiful and everybody was like, “Wow, that is really cool.” I thought that was also shocking, but it was in the right way. It was really, really cool, beautiful, and awesome.
Daily challenges, eliminations, and finals have gotten crazier and crazier over recent years. Is there anything that you thought was too difficult?
No. I think they’re all to the limit. We try to make them to the limit, but I don’t think anything was too, too difficult that they couldn’t get it done. There’s been a little bit of stuff that we’ve done, I’m like, “Maybe we shouldn’t do that or this,” but not very often. That doesn’t happen. It’s all very calculated and very tested.
I remember the first challenge for the daily challenge for the All Stars. I felt like that really threw everyone right into the middle of it.
Yeah. That’s All Stars for sure. We might’ve overshot the age situation, but I don’t think so. I think they could have and should have been better.
As we know, the mental and political game is so important on The Challenge. How would yours be?
Mine would be terrible. I don’t think I would be very good. That’s why I host it. I would never be good at The Challenge. Plus I can’t eat the grossest things ever. I couldn’t do that part. But as far as The Challenge goes and the challenges, I think I’d be okay. I think I’d be alright. But the political game, I don’t know how good I would be with that.
Everyone knows how much you hate quitters. If you were a player on here, what would it take for you to quit?
It’s impossible. There’s nothing that’s going to happen that would make me quit.
Is there anything else you can tease about the season?
The rookies are there to play. They’re there to play and there to compete and they have done their homework. So I am very, very impressed with the whole band of rookies that we got.
Is there anything that you’re hoping to see in a future season of the show, whether it’s the format or a challenge of some kind?
I always love action sports, so I would love to actually involve a little more action sports at some point. And then I would also love to involve some of the UFC fighters, maybe, some action sports Olympic medalists, or maybe some X Games gold medalists, different kinds of people like that. That would be really cool and fun to see how they would do in a challenge because I hear athletes and entertainers all the time saying how they want to be on, they want to do it. And they hit me up all the time and it would be really cool to actually get to invite some of them.
The elimination rounds would be insane.
The Challenge: Spies, Lies and Allies, Season Premiere, Wednesday, August 11, 8/7c, MTV