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The Challenge: USA aired its second episode of the season Wednesday night, and it was nothing short of drama-filled and action-packed. The spinoff’s algorithm twist especially sets the series apart from others in the franchise, as it forces players to actively shift their allegiances from week-to-week. 

The twist paired together Big Brother 23’s Tiffany Mitchell and Love Island S1’s Cashel Barnett, who have both proven themselves as formidable strategic and physical players early in the game. The pair was unfortunately put into elimination by Survivor: Blood vs. Water winner Tyson Apostol and Love Island S2 winner Justine Nbiba. 

In the end, Mitchell and Barnett were defeated in a grueling elimination challenge of memory against The Amazing Race’s Cayla Lee and James Wallington. 

Pop Crave chatted with this week’s eliminated contestants, Tiffany Mitchell and Cashel Barnett, about their time on the show and what their strategy would have looked like had they remained in the game.

Courtesy of Laura Barisonzi/Paramount

Pop Crave: On a mental and emotional level, how does the difficulty of The Challenge compare to your previous experiences on Big Brother and Love Island?

Tiffany: Still stressed [laughs]… Socially, it was hard because people have actually watched you and know you, so they’ve already assessed you. Big Brother was kind of a little easier to fly underneath the radar because people don’t know you. They’re just still trying to figure you out.

Cashel: On an emotional level, this was way better for me. I mean, when they were asking me about doing this show, I said, “Look, if this is another dating show, you gotta find somebody else because my heart can’t take that again,” so that was much easier. Similarly to Tiffany with what she was saying, the Love Island folk were slept on. Cinco walks in and he’s a unit, and you’re just like, “Oh, that’s a threat!” I think I was kind of slept on. People weren’t realizing how much of a threat I was until we jumped in the water, and then they realized, “Oh, those aren’t model muscles. Those are real muscles!”

Did you both come into the game expecting to be thrown under the bus by players from your respective shows, or do you think it was more situational due to the pairings of the algorithm?

Tiffany: I don’t know. I was kind of talking to people prior like, “Oh my gosh, what do I do? Who do I trust?,” and a lot of people were like, “You don’t trust the people that you already played with,” and I was like, “Oh.”

Cashel: I mean, I went in open and receptive to seeing what happened, and then to be quite frank, I felt disrespected by the Love Island girls and they did not show any real effort to try and work together, and when I saw that and felt that animosity almost from them, I was just like, “I’m doing me.” I feel no reason to try and help you if you’re gonna just sit around and talk shit about me all day. So, I wasn’t surprised.

Tiffany: Not you getting the tea!

Tiffany, a lot of your fellow cast members considered you as the leader or glue to the Big Brother players. Shan even said that you have connections to many of the other players this season, including Cinco, which was shown in the episode. What gave people these impressions coming into the game?

Tiffany: Okay, let me say this. I’m one of the older women. I am a socializer, I come from a huge family, I think that people just naturally gravitate toward me. Not just men, women too, and I don’t mean that in an intimate or sexual kind of way. I am a mother; I’m very nurturing. I try to be calm and, I mean, I’ve got a great sense of humor. I’m very light and easygoing. So, I think people recognize that in that social atmosphere and environment where we’re competing, and it can be a threat. 

Cashel, in Episode 1 we saw you and Kyra bond as teammates, but after your elimination in this week’s episode, her confessional made it seem like she wasn’t so sad to see you go. What was your dynamic like in the game, and did seeing this surprise you?

Cashel: Our interactions on the show were very cordial and amicable. I have no beef with Kyra, and she made it seem that she had no beef with me, and then obviously the way she left all of the viewers last night was unfortunate in my mind. And you know, what happened between Kyra and I is between Kyra and I. That’s how I feel about that.

What was the approach to your gameplay? Were you looking to play a more loyal and honest game, or were you willing to backstab and lie the way Tyson did to you?

Tiffany: It’s kinda hard for me because now I know, looking back, I’ve got this vision in my head of how everybody is playing. I am not naturally just a backstabber. I am more of a loyal person. But I realized that this is a ruthless game, so I probably have to get me some knives out of my back to give it to somebody else!

Cashel: Where they’re housed! Where they’re lodged!

Tiffany: There’s a lot of them back here, and I just have to grab one now that I know that’s what we were doing, and now I wanna give it back.

Cashel: I felt like for myself, especially with kinda the way the Love Island thing shook out, I was really trying to keep in the shadows, let things play out, keep my ear to the ground, and kinda feel out… As soon as the game started, I realized that in terms of my show’s party lines, they were not there. So, I was trying to sus out other people and not go by party lines, but to see who I can work with. Like, show loyalty in a game where you’re out for number one, why am I worrying about trying to stay loyal to my show when I’m trying to win, you know? I felt that I didn’t get the time to do that, to let the cards play out.

Courtesy of CBS/Paramount

New episodes of The Challenge: USA air Wednesday nights at 9/8c on CBS.