The Challenge: USA season 1 — winners episode recaps, and everything we know about the competition series

(L-R): Tiffany Mitchell, Sarah Lacina, Leo Temory, Enzo Palumbo, and Desi Williams.
The Challenge: USA season 1 cast (Image credit: Laura Barisonzi/Paramount)

The Challenge: USA officially made its debut on broadcast television early this summer. The longtime reality series that was once synonymous with MTV aired on CBS, pulling contestants from the CBS reality world. This world of course includes shows like Big Brother, Survivor, Love Island USA (seasons 1-3) and The Amazing Race

After a grueling summer of strenuous challenges and manipulative mind games, two winners were finally crowned. 

Here’s everything we know about The Challenge: USA.  

Who won The Challenge: USA season 1?

In perhaps a twist no one saw coming at the beginning of the season, Survivors’ Danny and Sarah win the grand prize. They're actually the only ones that finish the final challenge. 

 The Challenge: USA season 1 cast

The Challenge: USA starts off with 28 contestants. Check out those brave enough to take on the demanding competition this year. 

The Challenge: USA episode recaps

Episode 1
Right out of the gate, host T.J. Lavin stresses to the players the difficulty of the competition that lays ahead (which sounds ominous considering some of the contestants come from Survivor). He also informs them that they’ll each receive  $1,000 in his/her personal Challenge bank account, and they’ll need to accumulate at least $5,000 to qualify for the final, which they can do by winning challenges and/or eliminations. 

For the first challenge, the players are fortunate enough to choose their own partners. Each pair then must solve a series of equations while repelling down a 22-story building. Once they make it to the ground, they have to place their answer in the answer key. If their math is incorrect, then they have to climb back to the top of the building and start again, and pairs are only allowed three attempts. (We’re exhausted thinking about it.) The winning team will save themselves from facing elimination and earn $5,000. Tyson (Survivor)  and Angela (Big Brother) turn out to be the winners.

After Tyson and Angela took time to deliberate, they decide to send Cely (Love Island) and Javonny (Love Island) to compete against this week’s challenge losers Kyland (Big Brother) and Azah (Big Brother) in the arena. In the end, Kyland and Azah send the Love Island castmates home and win $1,000. The episode ends with T.J. letting the remaining contestants know the Algorithm will be selecting their next partners. 

Episode 2
After the Algorithm randomly selects partners, the pairings for the week are as follows: Xavier and Azah; Cashel and Tiffany; Domenick and Shannon; Ben and Shan; Cinco and Cashay; Enzo and Alyssa; Danny and Desi; Kyland and Sarah; Derek and Tasha; Cayla and James; Tyson and Justine; Leo and Angela; and David and Kyra.

The challenge for the day is pretty much a complex version of Scrabble. Each team has to race into the water, climb up a ladder and jump onto moving buoys suspended in the air all in an effort to collect letters from the buoys to form as many words as they can. After 20 mins go by, the team that’s formed the most words wins. In the end, Tyson wins his second straight challenge with his new partner Justine. 

Tyson and Justine then have the difficult task of nominating a pair for elimination. After some conversations with James and Cayla, who are already going into the elimination round after losing the challenge, Tyson and Justine nominate Cashel and Tiffany for elimination. In the end, Cashel and Tiffany are the pair sent home. The episode again ends with T.J. firing up the Algorithm to assign new partners. 

Episode 3
Once again, the Algorithm does its job and assigns the following pairings: Derek and Shan; Ben and Kyra; Enzo and Desi; David and Shannon; Kyland and Angela; Domenick and Cashay; Danny and Azah; Xavier and Cayla; Tyson and Alyssa; Cinco and Sarah; Leo and Justine; and James and Tasha. 

The challenge for the day is a complicated version of hangman. Essentially, the pairs have to build a staircase. Once that’s complete, one partner stands with a rod on their back while the other one runs up the staircase to retrieve letters to complete a mystery phrase. However, for each letter retrieved that’s not in the team’s mystery phrase, 10 pounds are added to the rod on the other partner’s back. Whichever team guesses the phrase correctly first wins (by the way, if the partner holding the rod drops under the weight, the pair is automatically eliminated). In the end, Kyland and Angela win, and this serves as Angela’s second win of the competition. 

As the official losers of the challenge, James and Tasha head into the elimination games with Domenick and Cashay (Angela and Kyland’s choice for the week). Although it was a close battle, James and Tasha are eliminated. 

Episode 4
Another week of random pairings takes place, and the new partners are as follows: Danny and Kyra; Derek and Sarah; Tyson and Cayla; Domenick and Angela; Leo and Desi; Kyland and Alyssa; Ben and Azah; Enzo and Cashay; David and Justine; Xavier and Shan and Cinco and Shannon. Before the challenge kicks off, there is a bit of scheming going on as Alyssa is trying to formulate a plan to exact revenge against Xavier for their time in the Big Brother house where she was eliminated in part due to his secret "Cookout Alliance." She pulls Derek into her plan, as he has a major issue with Xavier’s partner for the week, Shan. Let’s revisit all of this in just a moment. 

The challenge for the day is trivia. Not just boring trivia, as wrong answers will cause teams to drop to a 150 feet freefall. Alyssa and Kyland wind up being victorious in this competition as David and Justine lose and are headed straight to elimination. 

Following the challenge, there is some more heavy strategizing taking place. The Survivor alum get wind of Alyssa’s plan to get rid of Xavier. While shocked, most of them are on board with the plan. Alyssa later sends Xavier and Shan to elimination to faceoff against David and Justine. 

Although Xavier is usually a great player when it comes to puzzles, which the elimination game winds up being, he and Shan lose to David and Justine. 

Episode 5
The new pairings for this week were revealed to be Danny and Angela, Derek and Cayla, David and Alyssa, Tyson and Cashay, Enzo and Kyra, Kyland and Shannon, Domenick and Desi, Cinco and Azah, Ben and Justine and Leo and Sarah. But behind the scenes machinations continue as Survivor alums Ben and Sarah attempted to enlist Tyson as an ally.

In the challenge, the new teams must swim to a buoy, memorize a code, then swim to a cargo ship and find a barrel with that same code and put together a puzzle, all while making sure they don't open the wrong barrel or be forced to swim back to the buoy and start again. Tyson and Cashay have some big time struggles, which made Tyson furious, but even so they weren't bringing up the rear, as Azah, Leo and Enzo can't swim, which put them at a major disadvantage.

Despite their struggles, Tyson and Cashay actually finish first. It's Cinco and Azah who end up in last place and found themselves in elimination. Tyson and Cashay now must pick who faces Cinco and Azah in elimination and they opt for Sarah and Leo.

The elimination challenge saw the teammates tied together and tasked with stacking different size film reels in order on two poles, one in the light and the other in the dark. Sarah and Leo have a sound strategy of trying to memorize the film reels' size in the light before going into the dark, while Cinco and Azah go straight into the dark room. Sarah and Leo's plan paid off, as they easily handle the task and eliminate Cinco and Azah.

Episode 6
The Algorithm kicks out a brand new set of pairings, and they are as follows: Danny and Alyssa; Derek and Shannon; Kyland and Cashay; Tyson and Kyra; Ben and Sarah; David and Desi; Leo and Cayla; Domenick and Angela; and Enzo and Justine. The pairing of Ben and Sarah isn’t great news for Tyson, as they both have a bone to pick with him and are gunning for revenge. Also, heading into the week’s challenge, Tyson’s partner Kyra isn’t in the best shape having thrown up the night before. 

The challenge for the day calls for the teams to jump into the water and swim to ladders attached to four containers suspended 25 feet above the water. Once they climb their way to the containers, they must then go through each container in an effort to find all the different colored symbols painted on top and inside of them. Then, the contestants have to swing to grab a key and swim back to shore. Finally, they’ll use the key and the number of symbols they counted to solve a math problem. The pair that solves their problem the fastest wins. 

After a grueling competition for all the contestants, Desi and David wind up coming out on top as the victors for the day. They choose Derek and Shannon to go up against the day’s losers Enzo and Justine in the Elimination Challenge. 

Following a twisted spelling bee of sorts that saw the two teams trying to stack 60 tires, Enzo and Justine win, effectively sending Derek and Shannon home.

Episode 7
After the Algorithm does its thing, the new pairings for the week are as follows: David and Cashay; Kyland and Kyra; Leo and Alyssa; Domenick and Cayla; Tyson and Sarah; Enzo and Angela; Danny and Justine; and Ben and Desi. Given the tension that exists between Sarah and Tyson at the moment, it’s almost comical that they’ve been paired together. But as the phrase goes, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

The challenge for this episode is an intense game of bumper cars. Each team must drive around in a vehicle with four large balls attached to the outside. They must try their best to avoid getting hit by their competitors because the goal is to be the team with the most remaining balls attached to the car, or an operational car if no team has any balls left. The catch to the challenge, the teammate driving each car is blindfolded while the other partner must communicate effective directions. This interesting game produces a winning team in Cayla and Domenick, and a losing team in Alyssa and Leo. 

In a shocker, Cayla and Domenick choose Kyland and Kyra to go into the elimination challenge to face off against Leo and Alyssa. After a hard-fought battle that required intelligence for the trivia questions and strength to lift heavy medicine balls, Leo and Alyssa come out victorious, sending Kyland and Kyra home. 

Looking ahead to next week, it’s been announced that the Algorithm system is over. We aren’t quite sure what that means for partnerships going forward. 

Episode 8
The Algorithm is out the window this week, and now the contestants are forced to compete as individuals. Tyson isn’t as thrilled by this news because he feels he now has moved to enemy number one and has a target on his back. Oddly enough for him, Ben seeks to work with Tyson to help ensure they both make it to the final. We’ll see how this alliance of sorts works out. 

This week’s challenge requires the players to run across a slippery runway being pulled by a speedboat in an attempt to retrieve four keys to unlock a safe. The individual with the fastest time in unlocking the safe wins. The plot twist is one, the girls are safe this week from elimination, and two, as players are running the other contestants are spraying water at them. The fastest man and woman will work together in selecting who competes against the male challenge loser. The winner for the week is Ben, and the guy automatically going into the elimination round is Enzo. Angela is the woman with the fastest time. 

Ben and Angela decide to send Leo into the challenge to face Enzo. Enzo completely overpowers Leo, and Leo is sent home. 

Episode 9
Going into today’s challenge, there is one thing crystal clear. Both Sarah and Danny don’t actually have the money to qualify for the finale, so every remaining challenge is a must-win for them. 

As the challenge proceeds, the contestants are at a football stadium and must comb through the seats to find their colored tokens and place four of them in a row on a board. However, any player can stop another player from getting four in a row by placing a black token on their opponent's board to block the connection. The fastest guy and girl to complete the challenge win, and the last girl to complete the challenge is heading to the elimination round. It’s basically Connect Four. Thankfully for Danny, he claims his first win while Desi is the first to win amongst the ladies. 

The losing woman for the week, Sarah, heads into the elimination challenge with Danny and Desi’s pick, Cashay. This is a selection that Sarah is certainly not happy about as she wanted to battle it out with Alyssa or Angela. Sarah goes on to win the elimination challenge but certainly added an annoying flare while doing so. 

Episode 10
It looks like Sarah is done with the Fab Five alliance, and only has plans of looking out for Cayla, Justine and herself. At this point, only those three may care about the dissolution of the Fab Five. In other news, Ben and Enzo seem to be moving right along in their unconventional partnership. We’ll see how that continues to proceed. 

In the week’s challenge, the contestants must face off with one another as they each use pegs to climb the length of a wall that’s attached to a moving semi-truck. They continue climbing until they reach a cord to pull to indicate that they’ve completed the challenge. The fastest time from the women and the fastest time from the men wins. However, if no one completes the challenge in three minutes, then the two that get the furthest win. The winners for the week wind up being Angela and Ben. Since it’s time for a guy to go home this week, David is deemed this week’s loser and heads straight to the elimination game. 

In a shocker, Ben sends Enzo to the elimination round because Angela can’t be swayed into choosing another male contestant. This can’t be good for the Ben and Enzo alliance. Thankfully for fans, they’ll get to see how Ben and Enzo interact next week as the latter is able to defeat David to stay in the competition. Oddly enough, Enzo has actually racked up the most money in the house. 

Episode 11
In an epic two-hour finale, the first challenge for the night calls for contestants to swim across a lake in the dark to an abandoned town. While in the town, they must then solve puzzles so they can collect tokens and tires that are worth points. Whoever earns the most points wins, and the losing woman heads straight into an elimination round. 

The winning two guys of the challenge are Tyson and Dom (they tied for first), while the winning woman is Sarah. Despite Tyson voting to send Cayla into the elimination game to face off with the challenge’s loser Angela, he’s overruled by Dom and Sarah who choose Alyssa instead. Alyssa loses and is sent home. 

Before the next stage of the finale takes place, Ben is medically disqualified for an injury he suffered he received previously. As the other contestants head into the next challenge, they're paired up by the Algorithm to compete in a strenuous game that requires teams to make it to checkpoints along the way. The initial teams are Danny/Cayla, Dom/Angela, Tyson/Justine, Enzo/Desi and Sarah goes it alone up until the first checkpoint. 

After checking into four checkpoints, each time the players drawing a new partner, the last leg of the game requires each player compete as an individual. This is where things get interesting. The only two able to actually complete the course are shockingly Danny and (not frontrunner Tyson) and Sarah. The two not only win the $500,000 to share, but they also win all of the other quitting competitors' cash. 

The Challenge: USA eliminations

Week 1
Cely (Love Island) and Javonny (Love Island)  

Week 2
Cashel (Love Island)  and Tiffany (Big Brother)

Week 3
James (The Amazing Race) and Tasha (Survivor

Week 4
Xavier (Big Brother)  and Shan (Survivor

Week 5
Cinco (Love Island) and Azah (Big Brother)

Week 6
Derek (Big Brother) and Shannon ( Love Island)

Week 7
Kyland (Big Brother) and Kyra (Love Island

Week 8
Leo (The Amazing Race

Week 9
Cashay (Love Island

Week 10
David (Big Brother

The Challenge: USA premise 

Paramount describes the brand new iteration of The Challenge: USA as the following: 

"The all-star group of players who will take on the new challenge includes Survivor winners Tyson Apostol, Ben Driebergen and Sarah Lacina, Big Brother winner Xavier Prather, The Amazing Race winner James Wallington and Love Island winner Justine Ndiba. Players have proven they can 'outwit, outlast and outplay' their competition and 'expect the unexpected,' but now, for the first time in The Challenge history, they will compete in the most grueling mental and physical competitions they have ever faced.

"Upon arrival, the CBS reality titans are given $1,000 to start their individual challenge accounts, and they quickly discover they must battle to keep and increase their handsome reward. In each episode, an algorithm pairs contestants who will face off to earn money for their accounts by winning challenges or eliminating their opponents. This will not be an easy task, as they will be paired with a randomly selected competitor every episode, making alliances and strategies more difficult than ever. Players must adapt to survive the game and protect their challenge accounts. With the $500,000 grand prize and title of Challenge Champion on the line, players will be in a constant state of paranoia, unable to trust anyone but themselves.

"Plus, in addition to the prize money, the cast of The Challenge: USA will be competing for a spot on The Challenge: Global Championship (working title) that will stream exclusively on Paramount Plus."

The Challenge: USA season 1 host 

Hosting The Challenge: USA is T.J. Lavin. Believe it or not, Lavin hosted The Challenge on MTV for almost 20 years, starting in 2005. With that said, it seems only right that he now hosts the new broadcast version of the series. 

The Challenge: USA trailer

Looking at the grueling battles ahead for The Challenge: USA contestants, we have to wonder if the Survivor alums don’t have a bit of a competitive edge here. Check out the trailer.

Now if former cast members of Big Brother are to be believed, they are the ones to watch out for in the new season according to an Entertainment Weekly interview. A few of them think they have what it takes to win. Also, read on the site what some of their strengths and pet peeves are ahead of the new season.  

How to watch The Challenge: USA  

The Challenge: USA airs live in the US on CBS. For those that have cut traditional cable/satellite television, CBS is a network that can be viewed on live-streaming platforms such as FuboTV, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV. Additionally, Paramount Plus is also airing live episodes of The Challenge: USA. 

Are you someone who prefers to watch a series at your leisure? Paramount Plus will also allow subscribers to watch the series on demand.

If you live in the UK and hope to watch the series, we presume it will become available to watch on Paramount Plus as the streaming service launches in the country on June 22.

Additionally, another proven method for watching CBS reality shows in the UK has been using a VPN, or virtual private network.

A VPN lets you get around the usual frustrating digital barriers by changing your IP address, meaning you can watch your favorite TV shows even if you're going to be away from home. 

Our favorite is ExpressVPN, which lets you change your IP address on whichever device you want to watch your new favorite show on.

From laptops to smart TVs, Amazon Fire Sticks, games consoles, and even mobile phones, you can change the address to make your device think it's in a different location to enable you to watch the things you love around the world. 

ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs out there. Not only because it is straightforward and easy to use, but it also has great security and, best of all, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Terrell Smith

Terrell Smith has a diverse writing background having penned material for a wide array of clients including the federal government and Bravo television personalities.  When he’s not writing as Terrell, he’s writing under his pseudonym Tavion Scott, creating scripts for his audio drama podcasts. Terrell is a huge fan of great storytelling when it comes to television and film. Some of his favorite shows include The CrownWandaVision, Abbot Elementary and Godfather of HarlemAnd a fun fact is he's completely dialed into the TLC 90 Day Fiancé universe.