This article contains spoilers for The Challenge: USA season 2.
It’s already an impressive feat to win a major reality competition show like Survivor or The Challenge. But to be triumphant on two different franchises is a level of accomplishment few have obtained.
And we just watched Chris Underwood do that on Oct. 19.
Chris is the winner of Survivor: Edge of Extinction, and as he did in season 38, he dealt with setback after setback and rose to the occasion to become the champion of The Challenge: USA season 2.
Looking at the Roledex of Survivor winners, many view Chris as the most undeserving out of the bunch — and that’s something Chris used as fuel during USA 2. He’s the only player to win Survivor after being voted out that same season. Chris had his torch snuffed on day 8 and lived on the Edge of Extinction alongside his fellow outcasts for weeks, but he battled his way back into the game and ultimately snagged the $1 million check.
He was never eliminated during his run on USA 2, but his journey to the Final Challenge was as arduous as it was to get to the final Tribal Council. In my estimation, it was the greatest rookie run in the franchise’s history.
So, how did Chris become a two-franchise king?
Chris sent 4 men packing and beat three Challenge veterans in The Final Challenge to win $250,000
Chris joined the cast of USA 2 to compete on a reality competition show for the first time since he filmed Edge of Extinction in 2018. The 31-year-old joined several other former Survivor players, Big Brother houseguests, and MTV’s The Challenge veterans on the second season of the CBS property.
Although the men and women frequently worked together during Daily Challenges, the sexes were split into two brackets, meaning Chris had 11 other reality competition stars standing in the way of another grand prize ($250,000).
He was joined by one former male Survivor castaway, season 36 Ghost Island’s Sebastian Noel. The female side had five ex-survivors, including, season 35’s Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers alum Desi Williams, two-time player and season 32’s Kaôh Rōng winner Michele Fitzgerald, Survivor 42′s Chanelle Howell, two-time Survivor alum Michaela Bradshaw, and Survivor 43’s Cassidy Clark.
The game started with three teams, and Chris was the second last male chosen in the schoolyard pick.
He had a fairly quiet start in terms of the edit although he and his Blue team won two of the first three Daily Challenges. However, Chris received the first opportunity to earn his Challenge stripes when the Hopper randomly selected his ball to face off against The Amazing Race 34’s Luis Colón in the Arena.
Chris met Luis in the sand — somewhere he’d find himself three more times. The Edge of Extinction champ defeated Luis in a loser-go-home game that had them wrestling a disk out of each other’s hands.
He was then nominated for another possible date with the Arena, but the Hopper took mercy on him and Big Brother 23’s Alyssa Lopez was chosen instead, making it a female-only elimination. Chris’ Blue crew won the following Daily Challenge, but his game still took a hit. After The Challenge legend Wes Bergmann took out The Amazing Race 33’s Dusty Harris, he defected to Blue and swapped places with Chris, sending him to Green.
Chris survived the final round of play featuring teams, and in episode 8, USA 2 became an individual-based game. And this is when Chris made a name for himself in the Challenge world.
With how the social politics shook out in the game after the first individual round, Chris became the main scapegoat for the larger male alliance, which featured Challenge vets Johnny Bananas, Cory Wharton, and Big Brother’s Josh Martinez and Faysal Shafaat (who also appeared on several prior Challenge seasons).
Working with key female figures, the four men staved off elimination at the cost of Chris. So, whether it was through a direct nomination or the Hopper sealing his fate, the husband and father-of-one fought for his life in the game during the next three Arenas.
Although it’s something competitors want to avoid, finding success in elimination games builds resumes and bolsters legacies. That’s exactly what Chris did, and he evolved from being an underdog to a legitimate threat.
He sent home his fellow Survivor, Sebastian, then he bested Wes, and lastly, he ended the game of Big Brother 20’s Tyler Crispen.
Winning four eliminations was the best Arena record of USA 2, and what followed for Chris was back-to-back individual Daily Challenge wins. Victory meant he didn’t have to see an Arena, which led to the four-man alliance turning on itself with Josh eventually being sent home courtesy of Faysal.
Chris, the remaining three men, and four women punched their tickets to the Final Challenge.
And as history has it, Chris dominated the final portion of the finale when they had to race 10 miles up a mountain in Croatia. He was perfect in all of the checkpoints and created a lead that appeared untouchable.
The man who entered USA 2 as a dark-horse contestant crossed the finish line before anyone else and became a Challenge champion.
Desi won on the female side, which means every winner from The Challenge: USA series has been a Survivor alum — three-time Survivor and one-time winner Sarah Lacina and Survivor 41’s Danny McCray triumphed in season 1.