Nowadays, in the reality TV world, occasions are few and far between for viewers to see a real, genuine moment. If anything is contrived, you can just feel it — but on Tuesday night’s “The Challenge,” the love triangle between Laurel, Cara Maria and newbie competitor Nicole is anything but. Nor does the drama play out as you’d normally expect on an MTV competition series.
First of all, while Laurel and Cara Maria have been at odds in the past, they’ve been friends now for quite some time, and display a high level of respect for one another. While two lesser women would start fighting over Nicole, Laurel and Cara Maria are not about that life.
Each of them has been on reality TV for quite some time, and they’re immune to becoming the worst version of themselves , in the high-pressure and alcohol-soaked situations MTV loves to create for their casts. (Can’t say the same for Amanda or Camila, but we’re not talking about them right now.)
While Cara Maris is having fun, and flirting with Nicole because, why not? Laurel feels something very real for her, and is scared by it. You can see the confusion and apprehension in Laurel’s face when she talks out her feelings with Camila. She admits to having moments in the past in which she’s been attracted to women, but has never actually acted on them because of “the pressure from the outside, and [feeling] restricted by the social norm… what’s my Dad going to think? He’s very traditional… but I feel like I shouldn’t be afraid.”
Laurel’s always been such a fierce competitor, this vulnerable side is something viewers of “The Challenge” have never seen. And while Nicole seems somewhat aware that this might be the first time Laurel’s openly liked another woman, she’s too busy enjoying the game of deciding which veteran player she can lasso. Nicole says to camera, “Laurel, you look good.. But Cara, you look better!,” and continues to flirt with both of them. The Underdog competitor is quite confident in herself, and is toying with the idea that if she plays her cards right, she doesn’t have to choose.
How the situation plays out, then, is quite amazing. It’s like we’re watching these veteran competitors grow up into mature adults right before our eyes. While Cara Maria is loud and proud about her sexual fluidity, she has no idea that Laurel is coming to terms with her own. Laurel explains to Cara Maria that she’s not upset that Nicole likes her more, she’s just trying to figure out her own feelings in general.
And in response, Cara Maria is so not concerned with Nicole. She is bursting with joy that her friend is allowing herself to open up, and finally embracing who she really is. It’s nothing but love and support. The opposite of what viewers typically see between two women on a reality TV show, but exactly what someone in Laurel’s position needs to hear. And it’s a beautiful moment.
In regards to Nicole, Cara honestly has no real feelings for her. She tells Laurel that she’s just flirting for fun and can easily stop if it upsets her. But that was not Laurel’s intention in having this heart-to-heart with Cara: If the two of them are happy together, she ships it. But Cara again insists that she’s genuinely not interested in Nicole, and encourages Laurel to talk to Nicole about what’s really going on. Moving up even further on the bravery scale, Laurel actually does.
Viewers can tell Nicole is deflated to find out that her immature game-playing is causing her to lose both Laurel and Cara Maria as possible romantic partners — but you can also see that she’s just in a totally different mindset from Laurel. Nicole came on this game show to prove she’s a fierce competitor, try to win some money, and if a hook up or two happens? Cool. After a particularly bad breakup right before filming started, she’s newly single and wants to have some fun.
While this episode ends in a cliffhanger — indeed a devil move by MTV to make us wait an entire week, after watching what is perhaps the best men’s elimination challenge in the history of the series — we’re elated by how Laurel and Cara Maria handled things tonight.
And if you take a peak at Laurel or Nicole’s Instagram, it’s clear that these two have since stayed connected: They’ve been dating since November.
We ship them so much.
And just one more, because they’re the cutest.
“The Challenge: Invasion” airs on MTV on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.