Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Challenge: Total Madness finale.
When T.J. Lavin said that season 35 of The Challenge was Total Madness, the finale was what he was referring to. The group had to trek 12 miles through the snow and up multiple mountains during the Wednesday, July 15, but Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio pulled it off, solidifying his first win since 2016.
“I feel like if anything, I’ve just proven to myself and everyone else out there that I still have exactly what it takes to compete at an incredibly high level,” the First Look host, 38, exclusively said on the latest episode of the “Watch With Us” podcast. “I don’t see how, from here on out, anybody ever lets me even make it to a final again, but I’m OK with that.”
During the interview, Bananas detailed the “brutal” finale, revealing just how difficult it was — despite growing up skiing and loving the snow. First, the group was taken out of the bunker and transported to a mountain. However, just how far away was that?
“It was about a nine-hour bus ride. We drove from the Czech Republic to Austria,” the reality star told Us Weekly. “Everything was pretty flat. We were on this freeway which just seemed like forever and then all sudden, we look out the window and off in the distance we just see these snow-capped peaks. And I know just from being on past challenges, that’s where we’re going.”
He noted that the altitude was also a huge factor, and he thought it would play to his advantage.
“I’ve won every high altitude challenge that I’ve been on,” the seven-time champ told Us. “I also spent a lot of time living at altitude so I was hoping that this was going to be something that would play in my favor. … You’re supposed to spend a few days allowing your body to like adjust to the fact that you are now 11,000 feet higher than you were, like parachuting height. You don’t realize getting up at night to go to the bathroom, you have to brace yourself against the wall because you’re out of breath.”
The altitude didn’t just affect the cast, though. When the group had to go up the side of the mountain to where they slept, a cameraman had a bad fall.
“One of our cameramen almost died,” Bananas said. “It was brutal. We were on this little tiny path and the morning of the second day of the final, this crazy blizzard blew in overnight that they hadn’t expected and it made visibility just absolutely terrible. One of the camera guys fell off of the trail and the snow was so deep that he literally sunk up to his neck in the snow and they had to like use tripods and camera equipment to pull this guy out, so he didn’t bury himself in an avalanche.”
Luckily, everyone made it safely to the top of the mountain, where Bananas was thrown into the final elimination against Rogan O’Connor.
“What kind of screwed it up was the fact that Rogan nominated himself. Had that not happened, I think someone else would have been voted in and then Rogan would have been voted against them,” the Real World alum shared, noting that while being thrown in “sucked in the moment,” it was worth it in the end, because it made his win that much better.
“There’s going to be a lot of naysayers coming out of the woodwork after the season’s over, trying to invalidate everything that I did, but by being the only one to go in and win an elimination in the final, I think is just going to just add one more conspiracy that people are going to have to try and unwind in order to discredit what I did this season.”
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