Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio talks ‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’ final

Johnny ‘Bananas’ Devenanzio talks ‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’ final

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the finale of The Challenge: Ride or Dies.

“Winning pretty much would have been the fairy-tale ending to Nany and I coming into this season,” the seven-time champ tells EW. “But what’s unfortunate is we made a really silly unforced error, and that ended up costing us the entire final. I just felt like it was ours to lose, and we did. I’m not taking anything away from Devin and Tori because they 100 percent showed up and they did what they had to do — they finished the task that we didn’t — but I will say that I honestly feel like it was an error in our judgment and it was a mistake on our behalf that lost it.”

Below, Devenanzio breaks down what went wrong at the end of that 100-hour final and more.

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

| Credit: MTV

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You showed more raw emotion than we usually see from you in your last confessionals this season. What was it about this loss that hit you harder than normal?

JOHNNY “BANANAS” DEVENANZIO: Listen, I’ve lost enough times, I’m very familiar with how that feels. A lot of that wasn’t even necessarily for me losing — I felt like I had lost for Nany. As much as she wants to take responsibility and say that we lost as a team, whether she wants to admit it or not, she really was counting on me and relying on me to help get her through the final. In the moment where she needed me the most, it was where I also had a momentary lapse of judgment. That’s the way that I feel, and she’ll probably deny that’s the case, but Nany’s been to multiple finals before and she has all the heart and all the grit and all the determination to win, but there are certain things that you need another person who’s good at those things. Thinking under pressure and putting puzzles together and critical thinking, that’s what she really needed in that moment from me.

So what happened in that moment for you?

What worked against us was just how agitated we had gotten with each other going into that final stretch — we got under each other’s skin quite a few times, and I didn’t want that to then affect the final portion. I also didn’t want that to become the storyline, like we were fighting all the time like an old married couple. I really should have taken the reins and put my foot down and done more of what Devin and Tori did, which was “You’re going to move the blocks and I’m going to put them together,” to avoid having another fight. Instead of being methodical about it we just left each other to our own devices, and unfortunately, that was the absolute wrong moment to do that in. Because one tiny mistake was unfixable. Once we realized the mistake that we had made, it was too late and there was no catching up at that point.

I know Horacio wants to sit over here like a f—ing superhero, like, “You messed up, just deconstruct it and put it back together.” That would’ve taken another two hours, and it would’ve just been pointless. The hardest part is, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a position in The Challenge where you have a feeling of hopelessness because there was literally nothing that we could’ve done. Having to sit there and watch Devin and Tori win and watch our final in our fairy-tale season go up in smoke was probably one of the most gut-wrenching moments for me on The Challenge. I’ve replayed that moment over and over and over in my head since then, and had we just taken a little more time, taken a one-minute breather and reset to do this the right way… but we didn’t. Watching Nany in that moment have to come to terms with the reality was just a really difficult thing. And to lose in the 97th hour of a 100-hour final, to be that close to my eighth win, to be that close to $1 million, to be that close to Nany having her first win… it would’ve just been a really amazing way to wrap it up.

I will say, there is one thing I’ve been a little bit confused about: In previous finals, generally you get timed out if you’re at a station for too long. I also thought it was pretty weird that when we were there, there was no timeout option. I think that would have been better. Had we won? Probably not, still, but it would’ve been better for the show at least.

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

| Credit: MTV

What did you think of the new Balls In rules for the last elimination, where once you got inside the rope ring it was a free shot at the basket?

[[Laughs]It was a free shot unless you’re Nany. I’ve done both versions, the old-school version where you can wrestle all the way to the basket, and I’ve done this one. I think it’s a safety issue because they don’t want people tackling each other into a sharp metal cylinder, so I’m okay with it. Could have used a little bit bigger of a ring, though. The difference in the elimination was the ring was half the size that it was when we were in the arena, so you didn’t have as much room to maneuver or get your speed up or use any sort of agility; it was just who could muscle their way through. I’m just happy we won, I’m not going to lie.

You joke about Nany missing two baskets despite those new rules, but what was that really like in the moment, watching her almost end your season right there?

Dude. Jordan is a load to handle, and I knew it was going to be pretty even and one of us might be able to keep the other one out once, and I managed to do that. But Nany missed two baskets. With Nany, it’s the details and it’s the critical thinking, the small things sometimes that just doesn’t track. She was just so hyped up in the moment, and so much adrenaline, that she just didn’t realize that once she had passed the rope you could just basically walk in and take 10 minutes to put the ball in. That was really was difficult to watch. And this is after a very frustrating day. My frustration level was at an all-time high, and then a very silly mistake ended up costing us the final.

So, kids out there who are future Challengers, the devil is always in the details. It’s not the obvious thing where you lose. Like Balls In, for example, you knock the other person out, you muscle your way to the thing. Cool, we got that. It’s the easy part where you put the ball in the basket. That’s the same thing with the puzzle: You accidentally miss one and you’re dead. What I feel like I needed to do and what Nany needed me to do is take more of a leadership role and come up a formulated game plan. Had we just taken a little bit more time to divide the strategy instead of just going into this thing willy-nilly — measure twice, cut once — it might have had a different outcome.

How bad was Nany’s injury during the final? When did she hurt her knee, and how badly did that slow you both down?

I don’t know exactly when she injured it. I know she was complaining about it on the first day, with all the running that we had to do. I think she reaggravated it when we were running through the corncob maze because it was muddy and dark and the footing wasn’t great. At that point everybody was the walking dead, man. Everybody was really battered and bruised at that point.

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

| Credit: MTV

Looking back now, how did you feel about your overall performance in the final?

I would have preferred to not have the first day go to Tori and Devin, but we ended up winning day 2. I didn’t think it was going to be on an eating challenge, but I thought we did really well. I’m really annoyed at the helicopter bomb-dropping mission considering that determined a lot for the final with eliminations, but everything happens for a reason. In the moment it sucked to have to go into that elimination and it sucked to have to go into the final elimination against Fessy and Moriah, but those were two huge moments for us that made the season that much more satisfying.

Were you surprised by Tori and Devin’s performance, how they won every checkpoint except one?

There were some things that happened that they were penalized for, which weren’t shown, so I was not happy about that part. But the problem with this Challenge is, other than the first day with the tires, the checkpoints were so quick that it was really difficult to make up time. And day 2, there was a lot more that took place that wasn’t shown. Once they had a lead, it was really difficult to make up that amount of time. But no, I’m not surprised. They had a great season and they weren’t in the final by accident.

And listen, it’s not that I don’t want to win my eighth Challenge and pad my stat book and make a bunch of money, but for someone like me who has had the success that I’ve had and has won the amount of times that I have, it’s really difficult to match the intensity and the motivation and the drive and the fire competing against people who haven’t won yet and who are fighting for their first one. That’s why this season I found that motivation in trying to win for Nany. But you see Tori and Devin, who have both been on the show for a long time, have put a lot of mental and emotional energy into the game, fighting for their first win and that first title. I’m not saying that I wasn’t hungry and I wasn’t there to win, I just don’t know if I even would’ve been able to want it as much as the two of them did.

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

‘The Challenge: Ride or Dies’

| Credit: MTV

Can you elaborate on the things you say Tori and Devin were “penalized” for that weren’t shown?

Well, Tori and Devin, in the very first bola/fish-cup-drinking challenge, they found a really sneaky way to take their glasses and put them on other people’s barrels, which was against the rules. That allowed them to take off a lot sooner than they should have been able to, which is why they established such a huge lead out of the gate.

What was your reaction when Devin and Tori announced they were giving some of their winnings to all the finalists?

It’s pretty amazing. They didn’t have to do that. They won that money fair and square, but I think their logic and their rationale for why they did was sound. They said, “We’re in this position, but we basically could not have made it here with the ease that we did if it wasn’t for the way that everyone here helped us out and get to the end.” I thought it was very selfless and very nice. I think it’s a disturbing new trend —

Yeah, it’s the exact opposite of what you’ve done.

[[Laughs]I think now it’s like you’re going to be pressured if you win a final to split your winnings. You’re going to have to keep on upstaging the team that did it before. What’s the next step? “I’m just going to donate all of my winnings to the second-place team?”[[Laughs]But it was really cool in that moment.

After this season, what does your future on the Challenge flagship look like?

“I’ll be back,” in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. Yeah, I’ll definitely be back. I don’t necessarily think I’ve learned anything new, it’s just hammered home the point that in games like this, people are so focused on the overarching task at hand when really I’ve seen more people lose on just messing up really simple aspects. That’s what we did — we were so locked in and focused all season and we lost that focus at the worst possible time and it ended up costing us my eighth win, Nany’s first win, and $1 million. And that’s what I’ll replay in my head over and over and over again. But this was a therapeutic experience, so thanks for helping me talk through this.

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