Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Challenge 39 Is Not The Cara Maria Return Fans Deserve

After a five-season hiatus, fan-favorite Cara Maria Sorbello is back on "The Challenge" — but her triumphant return to the franchise that launched her career is diminished by the fact that she can't win this season.

"Challenge" viewers last saw Cara on Season 34, titled "War of the Worlds 2," which aired in 2019. And since she left, fans have clamored for her return — but not like this. Cara is set to appear on Season 39 of "The Challenge," also known as "Battle for a New Champion." But according to MTV, she's returning not as a regular competitor, but as one of 10 champions whose sole purpose is to cause chaos and serve as hurdles for the players who are actually competing. 

In this game, 24 contenders will compete for the season's cash prize and the title of "Challenge" champion. As the show's trailer makes clear, the returning players aren't strangers to the franchise, but none of them have won yet. The 10 champions invited back to stand in their way are not only not eligible to compete for the grand prize, but they won't even be entering the house. 

The idea that if contenders want to become champions, they first have to beat a champion in an elimination is an interesting premise. But it means players like Cara will enjoy far less screen time, fewer opportunities to compete, and will have no reason to politic or employ any kind of social game. That's not quite the homecoming she deserves.     

Cara Maria's Challenge return isn't quite what we hoped for

Cara Maria Sorbello's "Challenge" resume represents something of a Cinderella story. After she and her partner Darrell Taylor were sent home first on Cara's debut season, "Fresh Meat 2," she proceeded to return and appear in 14 more seasons of the show. Over the course of nine years, she participated in 19 eliminations, ran 10 finals, and took home the title in three seasons: "Battle of the Bloodlines," "Champs vs. Pros," and "Vendettas."

Cara Maria's "Challenge" stats qualify her as a franchise legend, but she stepped away from the show for valid reasons. After making her debut at 23-years-old, she became a fixture on MTV for almost a decade — and by the end, both viewers and fellow competitors worried her entire personality and perspective had become enmeshed with the show.

In the almost five years since Cara left "The Challenge", the show has changed significantly. MTV made it a mission to introduce new talent and to try to diversify its pool of winners (much as we love the veterans, CT Tamburello and Johnny Bananas can't win every time). While that's not a bad idea in theory, in this particular instance, this push limits Cara Maria's ability to remind people of her "Challenge" legacy and the strength of her abilities. But perhaps she's viewing it as a warm up: She's also slated to participate in Season 4 of "The Challenge: All Stars," where she'll actually get to play the game. 

Now that Cara Maria is back on "The Challenge," tune into "Battle for a New Champion" on MTV on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST to see how she fares.