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After a summer of epic competitions and dramatic blindsides, the inaugural season of The Challenge: USA has come to an end, crowning Survivor’s Danny McCray and Sarah Lacina as the series’ first-ever champions. Aside from splitting the hefty $500,000 grand prize and holding the title of Challenge champions, the pair have also punched their ticket to compete in the upcoming ‘Global Championship’ season on Paramount+.  

The final proved to be equally as controversial as it was grueling, as eight of the ten finalists were either disqualified or quit altogether, a franchise first. But, in the end, McCray and Lacina were able to do what eight others couldn’t, and they should be commended for that. In a season dominated by the players of Survivor, this pair taking home the win makes for a perfect bookend to the season.

Pop Crave spoke with Danny and Sarah about their win, competing in the final, their thoughts on Angela’s disqualification, and more. Keep reading for the full interview!

Courtesy of Jonne Roriz/Paramount

Before we get into the final, Sarah, we saw a confessional from you saying that Alyssa and Angela’s elimination was one of the shortest you’ve ever seen. Just how short was it? The fans are wondering!

Sarah: I would say the first round that was shown was probably in real time. I don’t know if they slow-moe’d the second round or what, but it was over very quickly [laughs]! What they didn’t show is that Angela had put her knee on Alyssa’s ribs, and Alyssa kind of barked back at her. I think at that point, it’s like getting into a fight and getting punched in the face. You’re like, “Okay, I don’t want it anymore!” Alyssa didn’t want it anymore.

Danny, what was the process like to jump into another show so soon after your Survivor season aired? Do you feel almost redeemed after coming so close to the Final 3 on Survivor?

Danny: Yeah, it was actually difficult because I have a young daughter. She was six months when I went on Survivor, so having to leave her again and decide to make that move was difficult – but I had to support my wife and my family, so that made it a little easier. And yes, this is very redeeming! I felt like I was one move or one conversation away from making it to the Final 3 on Survivor, so this did make me feel good about my social game and my ability to play these types of games!

Courtesy of Jonne Roriz/Paramount

Sarah, you’re now the first player to ever win Survivor AND The Challenge! How does it feel, and now that you’re CBS royalty, do you have your sights set on competing on any of CBS’ other reality shows?

Sarah: Oh, man… It’s great. I’m truly blessed to even have the opportunities that I’ve had. I don’t deserve them, but they keep calling me. If CBS wants to call me with a show, let’s do it [laughs]!

Danny, we saw a confessional from Domenick where he claimed you haven’t done much throughout the season and were holding back for the final. Was underplaying your physical abilities an actual strategy of yours?

Danny: I think he was just saying that. If you look back at it, I actually placed in the Top 3 five times. I was very close to winning a few of those challenges. I was trying my hardest. I think when it came down to it, when it’s really time for you to prove what you can do, that’s when I did it. When I won the ‘Collect Four’ challenge, it was because I needed my money. It was a women’s elimination, so I could risk it as much as I wanted to. With the final, you just gotta show what you got, and I know what I can do. I just needed to make it to the final and needed one win, so that’s what I was focused on.

Sarah, when reaching the Sudoku puzzle, was there any indication to you that people quit? Puzzle pieces on the ground… anything?

Sarah: No! None! I had no idea. I got there and everyone’s gone, so I assumed that everybody has already moved on. I didn’t know that that was gonna be the last puzzle. I didn’t know if we still had another one to do, or two more, so I got done with that and just kept plugging away. I was like, “No way is that the finish! Nobody’s there!” I get to the top and I’m like, “Wait a minute? This is the finish line?” You watch a race, and people stand around and clap for you as you finish. Nobody was clapping [laughs]! T.J. wasn’t up there clapping. I’m like, “Oh, okay…”

Courtesy of Jonne Roriz/Paramount

Angela’s disqualification was pretty shocking to viewers but still a bit unclear. Were the rules explicitly explained to everyone, or do fans have the wrong idea in thinking that Angela was not aware she would be disqualified?

Sarah: I definitely think the fans have the wrong idea. There’s a sign that tells you what the task is at hand. It says on there that you have to move this dirt to reveal a code at the bottom of this pole, put the dirt back, and then if you see on the poles, they have these two black bags hanging. You have to undo the lock to get those, and you needed those bags to move onto the next stage. It literally says that in the thing. When Angela goes into the tent and says, “I quit,” everybody’s like, “Wait… This isn’t really fair.” After I came out of the tent the first time, Dom and I never went back in until the end. We stayed outside completing it. I went back over and read the sign to make sure I’m reading this correctly. Danny and I said before, I’m not gonna wake you up and tell you, “Hey, you don’t get to move on.” That’s on you. It was clear. It said you had to do this in order to advance. Cayla, she was getting last in the eating [challenge] yet she still had to eat it all. She didn’t get to opt out and take last. Enzo and Desi, I’m sure if opting out is an option, then they would’ve loved to opt out of the swim. I mean, come on. We’ve all watched The Challenge… There’s no opting out.

Danny: Yeah, I’m a Challenge fan and have watched it for years and years. Timing out is a thing, but I really haven’t seen opting out. I don’t think there’s anything for the fans to be confused about. I think it was a miscalculation on her part. I don’t think she wanted to quit, but that’s just not how the game works. Fans should not be confused. Go watch other seasons of The Challenge. If you don’t time out, and you say that you’re done… You’re done!

Sarah: She didn’t even try. That’s the thing. Just try! Why don’t you rest when I rest if that’s what you need to make it fair, but there’s so many things in the game that aren’t fair. She wasn’t faced with any adversity all season, she was on the right side of the cards, and you see what happens when she is faced with adversity. Going into that elimination and then in the deliberation, she’s like, “Ah, there’s nothing I can do to change their minds,” so she gets up and walks out. To me, this is a pattern. When the going gets tough, get up and walk out! That’s fine to handle it that way, but know that you won’t be successful… and don’t wonder why, and don’t think that you’re being punished.

Danny: No more confusion from fans!

Sarah: No more confusion [laughs]!