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American Ninja Warrior Kansas City Finals recap: A sobering night for the Ninja Warriors

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While the Ninja Warriors gave it their all, the Kansas City Finals course proved to be unrelenting.

Fernando Leon/NBC

That was a little hard to watch... For only the second time in American Ninja Warrior history, no one was able to beat the City Finals course and the whole episode was stacked with falls we didn’t want to see.

An early obstacle, the Broken Pipes, was busy breaking dreams. A daunting new obstacle, the Iron Maiden, wouldn’t even be truly put to the test, because only two Ninjas would even make it that far.

But there were some bright spots in evening. Maggi Thorne pulled off an impressive display of strength, and Mitch Vedepo battled to just inches away from the buzzer. Tyler Yamauchi had an incredible run all the way to the Iron Maiden.

Here’s what you missed:

Course completions: 0 :(

Ninjas taken out by the Broken Pipes: 7

Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Iron Maiden: 1

The Course:

  • Floating Steps
  • Hang Glider
  • Broken Pipes
  • Crank It Up
  • Bar Hop
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Floating Monkey Bars
  • Iron Maiden
  • Elevator Climb

Quick Highlights:

  • Morgan “Moose” Wright kicked things off with a cringe-worthy fall on the Broken Pipes. He recovered and held out until the Salmon Ladder.
  • Jelani Allen, a break out rookie in the Qualifying round, made it all the way to the Floating Monkey Bars.
  • Sara Heesen powered her way to Crank It Up.
  • In one of the first shocks of the night, Ethan Swanson fell very early at the Broken Pipes.
  • Dan Polizzi, the first of the Towers of Power to run, tripped up at the Broken Pipes.
  • Mitch Vedepo had a stand out run. He was the first to pass the Floating Monkey Bars, and handled the Iron Maiden with ease. He was only feet away from the top of the Elevator Climb when he fell.
  • Maggi Thorne became the first woman to pass Crank It Up. She gritted through to the Bar Hop before falling. But it was a thrilling run that left her first in line for Vegas for the women.
  • Tyler Yamauchi live up to his nickname of the muscle ball. He was a powerhouse on the course and he had fun doing it. He fell on the Iron Maiden, but still would have the second best run of the night.
  • Sarah Schoback made it to Crank It Up, but her time to the obstacle meant her friend Sara Heesen would be going to Vegas, not her.
  • Brandon Mears seemed livid when he too became a victim of the Broken Pipes.
  • Lance Pekus was the last run of the night, leading fans to expect big things from the Cowboy Ninja. While he is heading to Vegas, he fell at the Floating Monkey Bars, meaning no one would complete this course.

Heart-Pounding Moment:

By the time Mitch Vedepo took to the course, we were already feeling a little down about the night. Only four Ninjas had even made it to the back half of the course.

This is Mitch’s third season on the show, and he’s been to the National Finals before. But tonight, he needed to be a standout star. Watching Mitch make his way down the course re-energized the crowd. He was calm, smiling, and confident. He wasn’t particularly flashy, but that’s not what we needed to see.

When Mitch made it to the Elevator Climb, things were back in full swing. This is what Ninja Warrior felt like. The hope, the struggle, the idea that the Ninjas need our screams of encouragement to survive. Mitch grappled his way to just feet from the top of the climb. It’s always tough to watch the buzzer slip away like that, but Mitch reminded us that we were still in the game against the course.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

The shocking falls of Ethan Swanson, Dan Polizzi and Brandon Mears were jaw-dropping. Ethan is a daredevil who loves to challenge his balance in dangerous places. Dan and Brandon make up the Towers of Power, two best friends who have been trying for years to make the National Finals together. All of them fell at the third obstacle, the Broken Pipes.

But the really heart-breaking part was the look on their faces when it happened. Knowing that a little mistake they never imagined making had wrenched this year’s National Finals away from them. Ethan looked stunned. Dan was crest-fallen. Brandon seemed outright mad at first.

All of them will recover from the incident, but they’ll have to do it off camera for the rest of the season.

Lesson of the Night:

Never forget, it’s Ninjas against the course, and sometimes, the course wins.

The Ninjas aren’t competing against each other. They’re a collective force trying to topple a series of courses designed to convince them it can’t be done. Tonight in Kansas City, the course won the battle.

But the war is far from over. The Ninjas constantly adapt, learn and grow from every fall. Which, in turn, leaves the course at the disadvantage. While tonight no one reached the buzzer, the Ninjas are undeterred in their quest for Mount Midoriyama.

Up Next:

On August 28, American Ninja Warrior returns to Denver for the last of the City Finals. Ninjas like Brian Arnold, Meagan Martin and Lorin Ball will try for the last slots in the National Finals.