Jonna Mannion’s time on The Challenge: USA was cut short after she was eliminated by fellow veteran competitor, Tori Deal, during the show’s Aug. 13 episode. Jonna came onto the show as a hot commodity and was even selected first in the draft for teams. It was the second season in a row — following The Challenge: World Championship — that Jonna was first pick, and she admitted that it put a fast target on her back.
“That surprised me both times, to be honest with you,” Jonna told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “It was cool. Now that I’m thinking it through, though, next time I don’t want to be picked first. First round draft pick has not turned out great for me. It’s too much pressure. And not only that, but [the veterans] entered the game and it’s 18 [CBS players] vs. 6 [veterans]. The 18 people already want us out and then they make them carry a statue of us up a mountain [in the first challenge]. We came in on a jet ski crashing their party and I’m the first round draft pick. I mean, if there were any other ways to paint a huge target on my back…”
Before The Challenge: USA, Jonna won back-to-back seasons of The Challenge: All-Stars. Unfortunately, she was sent home during episode 6 of World Championship due to her partner getting injured and needing to leave the game. Coming into season 2 of USA, Jonna knew she had to make some “risky moves” in order to further herself in the competition. She decided to do just that on the first elimination vote, nominating her own teammate, Michele Fitzgerald into elimination. This put even more heat on Jonna. Check out more of our interview with Jonna for scoop on that decision and more:
On voting Michele into elimination: I knew the thing that these 18 players had in common was that they wanted the six of us out. When I found out the game rules, I realized everyone was thinking in terms of teams. But I know from past Challenge experiences that we’re not going to stay in teams forever. At some point it’s going to be individual. I was all in my head from the jump. I feel like when I’m under fire, I immediately think of how I can get out of it.
I figured that Michele and I were aligned with similar people, and she’s the only woman there who had won her Survivor season. I know how smart she was. She tries to play it off like she’s just social and friendly, but she is so smart. So I knew that she was the only obstacle standing in my way or someone that could be a problem down the line. She was connected to the same people I was. So when it comes further down the line, when your allies are faced with, ‘Who do I pick, Jonna or Michele?’, you want them to pick you. I just knew in that moment that my only chance to better my game was getting her out of there.
On where she stands with Michele today: The crazy thing is that her and I are friends now. We’ve talked about everything and we’re like, ‘Next time, let’s just be on the same page.’ When I put the ball in there [and voted for her], I also didn’t know they were going to show at elimination who voted for who. They kept saying it was a secret vote. So, if my plan had worked, it would have helped me down the line, but that’s just the tricky spot you’re in. I was playing chess while everyone else was still playing checkers, and if you don’t get to the point where the move will help you, then it doesn’t help anyone at all. It didn’t work out this time for me.
On going against Tori in a physical elimination: The reason why I thrived in All-Stars is because I’m good at eliminations that involve endurance and have a puzzle equalizer. I have to give credit to Tori because she’s a beast. She is not someone you want to see in a physical elimination. Had it been someone else, maybe I could have stood a chance. This just wasn’t my game. I wish it was anything BUT Ball’s Out against Tori.
The funny thing is, the rest of the house was hoping the same thing. I think eveyrone’s goal and intention was getting Tori out because she was reigning champ [on Ride or Dies]. I was like, ‘Hey guys, next time you want me to take out the reigning champ, just give me a heads up!’ Just make me a little more prepared. But even more preparation in this game wouldn’t have helped.
On whether she plans to return to ‘The Challenge’ if asked: I feel like my target is so big right now. If every house is going to be lik this, it’s going to be so hard. I need to start training more. For me, personally, the opportunity to do USA was a big deal. I feel like I’ve finally stepped into my own as a competitor and challenge I am and I wanted to prove to myself and to everybody that I didn’t just win All-Stars because it was against older people. I did because I deserved to. So I just can’t end on going home second. I’d love to do the main show just one more time and then I think I’ll just focus on the family. We’ll see. I say that, but we’ll see when they call.