'The Challenge: USA': Shannon and Derek Clear up Cookout Drama, Talk a Possible Return to the Franchise (Exclusive)

The Challenge: USA broke fans' hearts everywhere when two fan favorites were sent home in the latest elimination. Big Brother's Derek Xiao and Love Island USA's Shannon St. Clair pushed forward in the elimination against Enzo Palumbo and Justine Ndiba. Despite a nail-biter finish, they weren't able to get it done. After dealing with an injury and being involved in some major Cookout drama, Derek and Shannon took some time to chat with PopCulture.com about everything that they experienced while on The Challenge: USA(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

PopCulture.com: You two came off of a very intense elimination there. I have to say I've watched every season of The Challenge. I don't think I've ever seen TJ [Lavin] get so hyped as he did for watching you guys both transfer tires back and forth. It was wild to watch. And I commend you both for doing it, especially Shannon with a torn hamstring, how are you doing after that injury there?

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(Photo: Jonne Roriz)

Shannon: I mean, it was not ideal to be injured during the daily and then needing to go into a limb. It really furthered my injury just pushing myself because running in the sand with a hamstring injury is horrible to do. So I was definitely healing and recovering for a few weeks, if not that whole month after leaving filming. So it was rough.

PC: And you guys both had very different exit confessionals there, two very different narratives there. I want to start with Derek. I got a chance to see some of the exit interviews from earlier in the day that have already come out and you've touched upon you and Alyssa versus the Cookout. And you mentioned that it wasn't so much of a revenge thing. So, I want to know in your words, what was going on there with the Cookout? Because I did want to note that in your exit confessional, you pulled off "exactly what you wanted to," so I want to know what you were referring to there.

Derek: Oh interesting. That's a good question. So, for the first part — it was definitely not a revenge thing. It was more just around who I could trust in that house. And I felt like I was very wary of trusting these people who had broken my trust. So, I was very careful around that. And then on the doing exactly what I came for, that's interesting that was interpreted that way. So what I meant, I guess from that was the things I want to do were around representation for Asian Americans. And then secondly, I wanted to see if I could compete as hard as I felt like I could in my head. And in that interview, I guess I thought I competed way harder than me now watching it then. So, I wouldn't even say I was super proud of how hard I was competing and I wish I was able to do more. But, I guess in that moment I was really proud of myself or even agreeing to come onto The Challenge.

PC: Oh, I love to hear that. And I love that you cleared that up there because I feel like there's been a lot of talk even on Twitter and stuff about that specific moment there and what that meant. So, I'm glad that you're clearing that one up and I wanted to know too, it did seem, I don't want to put words into your mouth ... but it did seem like almost a little personal with the Cookout there. So I wanted to know was it a personal thing? You mentioned that it wasn't revenge, but was it a personal thing to maybe get back at them?

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(Photo: Jonne Roriz)

Derek: No, it really wasn't. It was just, these games are built around trust. I want to call on these games, win this game. If I'm going to dedicate my time to it. And in order to win this game, you have to go to the end with an alliance of people that you feel are going to have your back going to the end. And I came into that house and I saw X [Xavier Prather] talking to people that weren't me. I saw Tiffany [Mitchell] talking to other people that weren't me. And I was like, 'Okay, I'm at the bottom of both of their alliances. So, I need to form something else and then try to get my own thing going.' And that's exactly what I was trying to do with Alyssa [Lopez]. And then we pulled in Angela [Rummans] and then eventually Kyland [Young].

PC: It's so funny because I've gotten to talk with Tiffany and Xavier and obviously there are some different narratives going on there and I wanted to know too ... I know that you've been in a relationship with Claire [Rehfuss] for like a year now. So, I wanted to know too, what was her take on all of this in-fighting between her former castmates and her boyfriend?

Derek: Well, Claire actually got asked to do The Challenge and she turned it down and so did Angela's fiance, Tyler [Crispen]. And me and Angela, both trying to convince both of them to do it. And I was like, 'Come on, we could go in as a strong foursome.' Which would be so good, but both of them didn't want to do it. Her take on it, dude, she has the best of both worlds. She's friends with everyone. She has no drama. She's like, 'None of this impacts me.' I wish I could be in her shoes.

PC: Oh my gosh, that's so funny. And Shannon, I want to transition over to you there. Your exit confessional was very emotional. I loved seeing your journey throughout The Challenge. So, I wanted to see what you had to say about your journey, what you learned about yourself. Could you touch upon that a little bit more?

Shannon: I mean, I definitely didn't like the ugly crying at the end, but it was very emotional throughout my whole entire journey going in and being intimidated and not knowing anything about any of these challengers or their shows. I think I asked Sarah [Lacina] like three times, 'Hey, what show were you on again?' And people hate you for that because she's like, 'I was on Survivor a million times.' So, I think just my journey from the beginning to the end is just a complete 180. I came in kind of like a scared little puppy in the shadows, crying for mommy, because I didn't know what to do in this type of scenario. And then I remembered who the F I was and how if I didn't have anything, I had a social game.

And so I just started literally building relationships and friendships with people and letting them know how genuine I was and how I wasn't really out to get anybody. I wasn't even in a lot of the drama because I was just an unproblematic queen. I felt like if I were to start drama and like my previous show and open my mouth, I would be thrown into a hall brawl with Xavier. I wasn't trying to die. So, for me, people were like, 'Oh, you didn't really get your air time.' I'm like, 'That's okay.' Because I wasn't in drama and I just stuck to my guns and I proved to myself how far physically and mentally I could push myself. So, it was super rewarding and super emotional at the end. But I'm definitely proud of myself. Proud of us.

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(Photo: Jonne Roriz)

PC: Yeah, you guys killed it and you were so close there. I was rooting for you guys. It was just such an intense elimination. I loved watching it. And Shannon, you mentioned your journey there. I was wondering, I feel like I might know the answer, but do you have any regrets about even joining The Challenge?

Shannon: I don't have any regrets now that I am done it all and what I've learned and things along those lines. But, it wasn't a show I signed up to do because I was supposed to be an alternate, what you might have heard in other exit interviews. So, I wasn't knocking the door down, trying to get on The Challenge, but now that I've done it and I got a taste of it, it was fun. It was a good experience, I'm glad that I did it, but there's so many times when I wanted to just go home because I wasn't physically or mentally fit for this kind of thing. So no, it was a journey for sure.

PC: Yeah, for sure. And this is for the both of you, I was so excited to get to see you guys as a partnership. I wish we could have seen more of it. So, hypothetically, maybe if they had a second season of The Challenge USA, would I get to see both of you back there? 

Derek: Me and Shannon stand United in our answer. We are a hard maybe. We are a hard maybe depending on different things with the show.

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(Photo: Jonne Roriz)

Shannon: Like living conditions maybe, depends on the cast. The food, please. We don't want to get sick from the food. It impacts our challenges, but the door's always cracked. You never know.

PC: So what were some of those living condition conditions? Because we didn't get to see too much of actually you guys at the compound. So what was it like living there in that experience with all these other people from these other shows? 

Derek: It was like Shawshank Redemption. I walked into the bathroom and was like, 'Oh I'm dead. I hope I have no open wounds. I'm wearing shower shoes every single day.' So when you first move in, you go into a big compound, you see a hot tub, you see a fireplace like, 'Oh this place is dope.' But then you look up and it says literally Staples. And they took off the letters. So, it's this abandoned warehouse and they rebuilt all of it into something that's livable. But the bathrooms were very, very rough.

Shannon: They were really bad. It was cold showers, only a few showers. So, after you're in brown Argentina water, you have to sit there and wait until there's a shower open. And then even then it's most likely going to be cold by the time you get to it and sharing the toilets with the boys. They had separate urinals, but I'm talking sharing toilets.

Derek: Oh man. I forgot about those toilets.

Shannon: Absolutely disgusting.

PC: I'm understanding, I'm getting the maybe there. So, I don't blame you guys at all ... A lot was going on in the compound there. Oh my God. And maybe not USA, I have a maybe on that one. What about the MTV version? That seems like an even more intense experience.

Derek: That's a no for me. That's just straight up a no.

Shannon: I don't know because that one has a lot more drama and I feel like if someone said something to me, I would snap and it would be good TV, but I don't know if that's good for my mental. But, it's maybe, but if I go through this, I feel like I could just get through anything. So, we'll see.

PC: A hundred percent and as we're winding down here, my last question, you both have had such an amazing fan base behind you while you're competing on The Challenge, coming off of your other shows there. So, I wanted to know if you had a message for your fans who have supported you throughout this journey.

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Derek: Aw, I appreciate that. I guess I'll say thank you to all of everyone, if you've been supporting me, sorry if I let you down. Not once, but twice. Hopefully, there is a third time at redemption here. I appreciate you guys. I didn't come into reality TV for any type of fandom and I really enjoy all the support. And I think that keeps me happy. Especially the professors I get around representation for Asian Americans. I really love it.

Shannon: And for me, I just want to say shout out to everybody that showed love and supported me all season. We do it for all of them because honestly, like Derek said, we're not there for fame. You usually already have a little bit before you come on. We do it for what we can prove and we would be nothing without the support of all the fans out there. So you guys are amazing. You guys rock and who knows, maybe you'll see us on your TV screen again in the future.