When people are locked in a house or trapped on an island together for the sake of reality TV show, it’s inevitable that hook ups or romantic partnerships will begin. In most cases, those relationships fizzle out soon after the cameras turn off, but for some couples a legitimate relationship forms.
Such is the case for “The Challenge” veterans Chris “CT” Tamburello and Diem Brown. The two lovebirds have been an on and off item for over eight years having first met in 2006 on “The Challenge: The Duel.” In every season the couple has participated in since a brief recap of their romantic relationship is played before audiences. However, those new to the show don’t realize how inspiring their love story has been. As their relationship will play a huge part in Diem’s final season of “The Challenge: Battle of the Exes II” it’s important for viewers to understand the legacy the couple has created for the show.
In 2006, Diem was in remission from her first battle with ovarian cancer. Throughout “The Duel” she sported various wigs because she was self-conscious about her short hair post-chemotherapy. CT convinced her she looked more beautiful as her natural self. When she finally took her wig off, CT kissed her in one of the most memorable and romantic moments in “The Challenge” history.
They date off-camera for over a year and a half once “The Duel” ended and are still together when the “The Gauntlet III” films in 2008. They compete on the same veteran team, but a few fights started to show cracks in the relationship. They finish the season as runner ups, but they are both missing from the reunion and Katie tells everyone that they had broken up.
The two don’t unite again on camera until “The Duel II” in 2009. The first episode of the season was also a landmark moment for the show, but in the opposite way their first kiss was. When the two arrive at “The Challenge” house it’s clear that the break-up did not go well. Having beat cancer, Diem wanted a chance to explore a new career and have fun being single. Meanwhile, CT’s brother had tragically been murdered and he felt that Diem wasn’t there for him in a time of need.
When Diem is informed that CT has hooked up with Shauvon on the first night, he erupts into rage and takes it out on Adam. It takes several producers to calm CT down, and both he and Adam are ejected from the house. CT repeats Diem’s comments about wanting her career first as he’s driven away from the house. Due to the violent nature of the fight, Rachel suggests at the reunion special that CT not be allowed on “The Challenge” anymore.
MTV heeds that warning for a while, but CT and Diem are finally reunited on the first iteration of “Battle of the Exes” in 2012. It was Diem’s first “Challenge” since “Duel II” and not only would she have to be in the same house with CT, they were partners. That season of “The Challenge” forced the two to talk out a lot of issues in their relationship. They ended up coming in second place, but more importantly it seemed that the two had reconciled — and so began another round of “are they or aren’t they?” rumors.
Neither CT or Diem would confirm if they hooked up during “Battle of the Exes,” and it was clear when they return again on “Rivals II” in 2013 that they were currently in the “off” cycle of their relationship. However, that changed throughout the season. On “Rivals II” Diem was in remission from her second round of ovarian cancer and once again had short hair. One night in the pool CT said he wouldn’t kiss her unless she took her wig off — recreating their first kiss from seven years prior.
Despite their chemistry throughout the season, CT throws Diem under the bus at the last elimination deliberation and it looked as if he had been manipulating her feelings for him to help gain leverage in the game. When they were questioned about it on the reunion special, CT was weirdly evasive about the status of their relationship.
For new viewers that don’t follow CT on social media or haven’t seen the news, that’s where their relationship will pick up on “Battle of the Exes II” on Jan. 6, where they are once again paired together. Unfortunately, fans will have to watch with a heavy heart knowing that Diem will not be able to complete the season. She collapsed during filming in August and was flown to a New York hospital where she was diagnosed with a third and final round of cancer. She died in November at age 34.
CT was at the hospital during Diem’s final days. He posted several Instagram photos of the two together, asking fans to donate to Diem’s company MedGift, which helps cancer patients and their families raise money to manage their expenses.
After Diem passed away CT posted another Instagram of a prayer card from her funeral with a rosary and ring. It was reported that he proposed to her a few days before she died, but she turned him down. The note talks about their journey together as a couple and that he believes they’ll still find a way to be together forever.
Diem’s passing is a tragedy and it is heartbreaking to know that a person who worked so hard to make the world around her a better place. She wasn’t just a reality star. She used her profile from the show to raise awareness for the causes she believed in and to help others.
By allowing cameras to follow her journey, and see her relationship develop with CT she showed the world that having cancer doesn’t mean that you’re weak and that your beauty grows from the inside out. Their heartfelt connection made them household names amongst the MTV audience, but their genuine kindness and love off camera are what make them truly memorable.