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Why Johnny Bananas took a break from 'The Challenge' franchise?

Johnny became the most notorious contestant and the only one who was essentially certain to return each season and cause mayhem
Johnny Bananas (Instagram/@johnnybananas)
Johnny Bananas (Instagram/@johnnybananas)

ARGENTINA, SOUTH AMERICA: Johnny Bananas has not been on 'The Challenge' since Season 35, "Total Madness," despite appearing in 20 seasons and winning seven times. Let's look at what has stopped the series royalty from competing until now.

When Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio participated in MTV's 'The Challenge', he endured the most humiliating experience of his life. The boisterous 25-year-old was still on a high following his previous appearance on 'The Real World: Key West'. On the show, he was just obliged to flirt with his housemates during the day and get into drunken fights with them at night. But suddenly he was at a massive seaside home in Buzios, Brazil, surrounded by seasoned cast members from 'The Real World' and 'Road Rules' engaged in a Machiavellian power struggle for the top prize of $150,000.


'The Challenge: Double Agents': Johnny 'Bananas' Devenanzio to skip Season 36, fans say 'it won't be the same'

'The Challenge' winners Johnny and Jenny take home $500,000 but upset fans call it 'most boring final ever'

'The Challenge' debuted in 1998 as the 'Real World/Road Rules Challenge', in which former cast members from both reality programs battled in Survivor-style elimination events ranging from hanging off a skyscraper to scarfing down bull testicles until an individual, pair, or small team won. And the most successful player in that period is Johnny Bananas, who won seven of his 20 seasons and earned $1,184,720 throughout his almost two-decade career. He's also become the most infamous competitor in the huge 'Challenge' world — and the only one who is practically sure to return every season and wreak havoc, regardless of whether he really makes it to the finish. However, Johnny hasn't returned to the series since his 'Total Madness' victory (2020), and he confessed in an Oct. 2021 interview with US Weekly that he "missed" it.

In April, the official cast list for 'All Stars' Season 3 was announced. Derrick Kosinski, a three-time champion, subsequently verified that one past champ, whom many fans regard to be the GOAT, backed out of 'All Stars' Season 3 at the last minute. Derrick said that Johnny Bananas was originally cast in the 'All Stars' spinoff, which would have been his first appearance on the show. But, for unclear reasons, he opted to leave before filming began. Derrick's remarks back up what the spoiler account GamerVev stated last fall.

Why did Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio not appear in previous seasons of the series?

When 'The Challenge: Double Agents' began on December 8, 2020, many familiar faces returned, but one fan favorite was missing. Despite winning the previous season, Jenny West and Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio did not return to 'Double Agents'. Some fans started questioning why Johnny didn't return after being a mainstay in the franchise. Despite having competed on 20 seasons of 'The Challenge', including the previous 12 seasons in a row, Johnny Bananas elected to sit out the 36th season. Johnny had a string of bad luck before winning Season 35. He last won 'Rivals III' in 2016 and stole the winnings from Sarah Rice, his teammate. Following that, several cast members suspected Johnny of being cursed. Fortunately, he redeemed himself by becoming a champion on 'Total Madness'.

Johnny got into great physical form after failing on his first season of 'The Challenge', and he learned how to use the show to his advantage. He had a reputation as a great manipulator — the one who could see the full chessboard of the game and planned brutally against his opponents. The most controversial incident of his career occurred in August 2016, when he won 'The Challenge: Rivals III' and was offered the option of keeping the full $275,000 prize for himself or splitting it with his teammate, Sarah Patterson. He kept it. Sarah had deceived him in a previous season, and the move was his long-awaited retaliation, however many viewers believed Sarah was unworthy of such a blatant act.

Johnny has a lengthy history of abuse on television, and fans banded together a few years ago to stop the network from providing him a platform. According to fans, he mercilessly mocked and harassed a gay roommate on 'Real World Key West', before moving on to every season of 'The Challenge', where he repeatedly used the R-word, derided women for their looks and physical abilities, and bullied innumerable costars for sexual orientation, gender, race, and so on. Fans accused him of being consistently shielded and hoisted up by Bunim-Murray, who cast him in every season despite his heinous actions.

The following Twitter thread by fans is a collection of many of the obscenities John has spoken when appearing on Bunim-Murray shows:


It's unclear whether his unexpected unpopularity with viewers kept him away from the franchise for two years or his willingness to take a sabbatical, but the hiatus has finally ended. Following a remarkable 20-season career, Johnny Bananas was expected to retire as the winningest contestant on MTV's flagship show, 'Total Madness', which he won. He did, however, opt to return for Season 38 with "ride or die" Nany. The forthcoming season will feature recognizable personalities fighting against close friends, family members, or significant others for a million dollars in cash.


'The Challenge' Season 38 starts on MTV on Wednesday, October 12 at 8 pm ET/PT.