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Los Angeles City Finals recap: Blind faith and a bit of blood

With the Safety Pass on the line, the Ninjas went all out against a new obstacle.

Lara Solanki/NBC

American Ninja Warrior circled back to Los Angeles for the first of the City Finals rounds! This gave viewers an updated version of the Power Tower that would led to the very, very valuable Safety Pass, that allows a do-over on Stages One or Two of the National Finals.

The extended course featured a new obstacle with a new move for the Ninjas. The Leaps of Faith caused a lot of splashes and a little bit of blood on this night. Hunter Guerard was the only Ninja who could relax for this round, as he already had a Speed Pass to the National Finals. But that didn’t mean he’d stay down, and it didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a long line of Ninjas all running for the chance to attend the National Finals with an insurance policy.

Let’s get into it!

By the numbers:

  • Course completions: 2
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Leaps of Faith: 10
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, The Hinge: 7

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps
  • Walk the Plank
  • Spring Forward
  • Diamond Dash
  • Spin Hopper
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • The Hinge
  • Leaps of Faith - New
  • Spider Trap
  • Power Tower for Safety Pass

The highlights:

  • Brian Burk, the Burkinator, inspired everyone with his Qualifying run. Brian has high-functioning autism and he enjoyed every moment on his way to the buzzer. His parents have been blown away by Brian’s ability to break out and show his personality on the course. Once more, Brian put up a run worth remembering. The rookie made it deep into the back half of the course, completing the Salmon Ladder. He tried to pull off the splits on The Hinge, thought better of it, and made a successful leap instead. Brian was the first to show us the new Leaps of Faith and finally hit the water while attempting the final transfer, which involves a blind reversal of grip.
  • Former NFL player Anthony Trucks was almost out on Diamond Dash, but it was the Spin Hopper that did him in.
  • Firefighter Thomas Kofron ended his run on Spring Forward.
  • Rebekah Bonilla missed last season due to an injury. She ended this season on Walk the Plank.
  • Verdale Benson is an Army veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star after his time in Afghanistan. At 210 lbs, Spring Forward dipped very low for Verdale, but he made it through. It wasn’t a pretty run across Diamond Dash but he was also safe there. After his first time up the Warped Wall, Verdale saved some uneven moves on the Salmon Ladder, but he’d need to start conserving energy if he wanted to go much farther. He looked gassed after The Hinge and ended his run on Leaps of Faith.
  • Anna Shumaker took a hard landing on her back from Walk the Plank. She shook it off and kept going. Anna looked much more confident with the balance obstacle behind her and was strong through the Spin Hopper. The Warped Wall proved to be her nemesis. Anna missed her first attempt, and touched the top on her second. She touched it again on her third try but the run ended right then.
  • Kevin Bull had the third fastest course completion time in the Qualifiers and he wanted a shot to play on the Power Tower this time around. Kevin plowed through the course, only taking about 30 seconds to reach the first obstacle. He took a little extra time on the Spin Hopper, easily getting through. On the back half of the course, Kevin didn’t seem bothered at all by The Hinge. At just over 2.5 minutes to that point, he was well positioned for a top time. Kevin still looked strong on Leaps of Faith, but the blind catch of the last transfer ended his bid for the buzzer.
  • Gondolier Jonah Bonner doesn’t have much formal Ninja training, but that didn’t keep him from the buzzer in Qualifiers. He did well again on the front part of the course. On the Salmon Ladder, however, he looked stretched out and landed an uneven move. He was able to correct it and finish the obstacle, ending his run one obstacle later on The Hinge.
  • Deputy Sheriff Emmy Rose was out on Walk the Plank.
  • Westley Silvestri made it up the Warped Wall for his very first time, but then fell on The Hinge.
  • Adam Rayl is definitely one of Ninja Warrior’s top competitors, and he’s finished the City Finals course the past two season. Seeing him go out on the final move of Leaps of Faith illustrated how hard that transfer was.
  • Brian Kretsch is one of only four Ninjas who’ve competed on all 11 seasons of the show. This year, he was doing it for his dad. Recent health issues have meant Brian became his dad’s caretaker. It required him to pull back on his training but now he’s back with more motivation than ever. We joined Brian while he was on the Spin Hopper and then the back half of the course. It all came down to those final moments on Leaps of Faith. Brian squared up for the blind transfer, went for it... and landed it! He couldn’t celebrate the moment for long as there was still work to do on the Spider Trap. Things got a little hairy at the very top, but Brian was able to keep it together and become the first Ninja of the night to reach the buzzer!
  • Corey McCoy failed the Warped Wall in Qualifying. In the City Finals, The Hinge took him out.
  • Danell Leyva is a gymnast with three Olympic medals to his name from the 2012 and the 2016 games. He’s more focused on acting now. Well, acting and Ninja Warrior. He completed the Qualifying course. In the City Finals, he pulled a move of turning his back to the Warped Wall before scrambling up it. He didn’t look comfortable on the Salmon Ladder, but was through to The Hinge. He also fell on the final portion of Leaps of Faith.
  • Lee Cates had a send off from his six-year-old daughter Jaelynn, who danced it out on the course. He fell on The Hinge.
  • Scott Willson snagged the Mega Wall in round one. In round two, he was out on Leaps of Faith like so many others.
  • Samantha Bush topped the women’s leaderboard from Qualifying and then ended her season on Walk the Plank.
  • The final female runner of the night was Tiana Webberley. Tiana made the National Finals in season 10, but broke her leg while stunt training and was unable to compete. All told, her rehab and recovery was about nine months long. Walk the Plank ended her run in Qualifying and she put that obstacle behind her in the City Finals. Tiana took charge on the Spin Hopper and the Warped Wall. She was very controlled on the Salmon Ladder. The Hinge looked like it was going to be a success for her, but she tumbled suddenly on the final transfer.
  • David Alvarez moved the viewers with his mission to find his sister, Wallyssa. As of the City Finals, he hadn’t found her yet. His run ended on the Spin Hopper.
  • Ben Udy, well, really, his Ninja persona Chad Flexington, put up a strong run. He defeated the Spin Hopper that had previously taken him out. Chad elbow-dropped his way into the back half after his first trip up the Warped Wall. He clambered through The Hinge and hit the water on the Leaps of Faith.
  • Kyle Soderman got stuck at the Mega Wall in Qualifying. Surprisingly, he was out on the Salmon Ladder for the City Finals.
  • Marine Kevin Fisch took a second stumble on the Diamond Dash but it didn’t end his run this time. He hit the water from The Hinge.
  • Flip Rodriguez has recently spent time in Hawaii speaking with the military about sexual assault and encouraging others to open up about their experiences. We joined his run while he was on the Spin Hopper and Flip was quickly to the back portion of the course. He was safely through The Hinge, but was behind Kevin Bull’s time if he was thinking about placing in the top two. However, when Flip was able to navigate Leaps of Faith’s blind catch he put himself in second place. When he hit the buzzer with the fastest finishing time, he’d almost ensured he’d be on the Power Tower.

Did you know Flip was THIS close to not returning to Ninja Warrior this season? He talks about what was holding him back on the new American Ninja Warrior podcast.

  • Davyon Hancox ended his bid for the National Finals after a fall on The Hinge.
  • 19-year-old rookie Seth Rogers secured his trip to Vegas with a run to Leaps of Faith.
  • David Campbell was very close to winning the Power Tower in the Qualifiers. He also ended his run on Leaps of Faith this time around, but he’s still heading back to Vegas for the ninth time.
  • As the Speed Pass winner, Hunter Guerard didn’t even need to run the course, but he wanted to win that Safety Pass. Hunter ripped through the course with no rest between obstacles. His time was only 2:24 before starting Leaps of Faith. He was in a position to bump Brian out of the Power Tower until he tried to get creative on Leaps of Faith. Opting to skip the final blind catch, he tried to jump past it. However, he had too much height and whacked his head so hard on the obstacle that he plummeted into the water while bleeding. He was okay, but there was no return trip to the Power Tower for him.

Power Tower

  • Flip Rodriguez vs Brian Kretsch

This was a new version of the Power Tower. Now, the Ninjas needed to traverse seven square handles and then four atomic cones before crossing two, seven-foot long ladders hung from bungee cords. On the line was the Safety Pass, which allows for a re-do on Stages One or Two of the National Finals.

Flip and Brian switched shirts to show support for one another ahead of the race. But once they had the green light, it was Flip’s game. He gained a lead coming off the cones to the ladders and never looked back. He now has an insurance policy for the National Finals.

Safety Pass winner: Flip Rodriguez

We won’t forget...

Brian Burk, once again, blowing us all away with his run! It’s not only a joy to watch him find his place in the Ninja Warrior community, but it’s a sheer delight to revel in his well-earned success with him.

We didn’t see that coming...

Literally! You can’t see that last transfer on Leaps of Faith coming! In theory, it seems like something that would be in the Ninjas’ wheelhouse of skills. It’s a reverse catch that’s been practiced before. But the fact that the Ninjas couldn’t see it to plan their landing changed everything. It played a huge role in keeping the number of finishers low.

Shout out to...

Brian Kretsch for making his 11th season one to remember. Committing that much time to American Ninja Warrior takes a toll. It especially takes time, which Brian is already sharing with his family obligations. It’s uplifting to see hard work reap rewards as his season continues.

Next episode:

  • Atlanta City Finals, Monday, July 22 at 8/7c on NBC