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American Ninja Warrior season 12 recap: Night three of Qualifiers

The episode featured a Power Tower match up we never saw coming, but it was perfect.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

American Ninja Warrior’s third night of Qualifiers contained SO MUCH ACTION. The list of competitors featured names fans have been anxiously awaiting, like Najee Richardson, Michelle Warnky Buurma and... Jessie Graff!

But the episode contained so many intriguing and exciting moments that we didn’t even realize we needed to see. The new Beehive obstacle, an OG’s trip up the Mega Wall, and a Power Tower match up we’d never have thought of on our own. But once we saw it, we realized it was the perfect pairing.

Read on for the full recap! The leaderboard and advancing Ninjas can be found here. A full list of competitors and results can be found here.

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps
  • Lunatic Ledges
  • Beehive
    New obstacle that consists of three honeycombs the Ninjas must traverse. The middle honeycomb must be rotated 270 degrees and locked into place before the Ninja can advance.
  • Spinning Bridge
  • Ferris Wheels
  • Warped Wall/Mega Wall
  • Power Tower
  • Bootie Cothran:
    Bootie was part of a group of Southern gents including Devin Harrelson and Ben Whitlow. After making a connection between paper products made from trees on his farm and toilet paper, Bootie was out on Lunatic Ledges. The moment gave birth to Matt’s finest pun work so far this season when he said Bootie was, “flushed on number two.”
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Devin Harrelson:
    Devin shared that after his gym and tattoo studio were horribly vandalized, the Ninja community pulled him out of a dark place. He gave us a nervous moment on the Lunatic Ledges. After having no trouble with the Beehive, and taking a hard hit off the Spinning Bridge, it was the Ferris Wheels that took him out once again.
    Result: Out on Ferris Wheels
  • Rachael Goldstein:
    Rachael led a group of new parents. She sat out of season 11 while pregnant with her daughter, Finley. Back on the course, she was out on Beehive.
    Result: Out on Beehive
  • Sean Darling-Hammond:
    Sean has a beautiful little boy named Kofi. His run ended on the Ferris Wheels.
    Result: Out on Ferris Wheels
  • Whitney Sigler:
    Whitney is mom to five kids. Her sister-in-law, actor Jamie-Lynn Sigler was on the virtual sideline. Whitney struggled on the Shrinking Steps and hit the water on Lunatic Ledges.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Sem Garay:
    After an intense entrance, the professional wrestler danced and dominated on the course. It looked like his energy was running out on the Ferris Wheels. The final drop of the wheel peeled his hands off the obstacle.
    Result: Out on Ferris Wheels
  • Eli Lovelady:
    The 20-year-old trains with Thomas Stillings. He also ended his run on the Ferris Wheels.
    Result: Out on Ferris Wheels
  • Quest O’Neal:
    We have a soft spot for the eternally inspiring Quest. Her season ended on the Lunatic Ledges.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Thomas Stillings:
    Thomas returned to the course after an incredibly emotional year. Thomas’ wife, Zoe, discovered she had a large brain tumor after a series of painful migraines. The surgery terrified Thomas, who was worried he would lose Zoe. On the obstacles, Thomas zipped through the course. He did a front roll off the Spinning Bridge. On the Ferris Wheels, Thomas worried us when his arms were straight out, signaling possible exhaustion. But suddenly he was at the top of the Warped Wall, sharing what this buzzer meant to him.
    Result: Complete
  • Zhanique Lovett:
    Zhanique made it through the Beehive but then tripped up on the Spinning Bridge.
    Result: Out on the Spinning Bridge
  • Brandon Dodson:
    Brandon trains with Zhanique. The fourth grade teacher gave it his all on the Lunatic Ledges, even after hitting his head on the obstacle and bleeding. But in the end, he wasn’t able to save the run.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • DC Banks:
    The final member of Zhanique’s group has a background in college football. He was also out on Lunatic Ledges.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Kyle Wheeler:
    Kyle grew up as a “chunky kid” and was bullied for it. He decided to make a change and ended up in Michelle Warnky Buurma’s gym. Now he’s the head trainer there and competed on this season as part of her group. He had a good run to Beehive, but was out on the last honeycomb.
    Result: Out on Beehive
  • Tage Harrington:
    Part of Adam Rayl’s group, this 19-year-old has 12 siblings and is a longtime fan of the show. In local competitions, he’s placed among the greats like Flip Rodriguez and Adam. On the course, he breezed through the obstacles. The Spinning Bridge barely moved. On the Ferris Wheels, he was a bit wild, swinging around and at one point having his arms crossed. But he was able to keep it together and finish the run.
    Result: Complete
  • Brandon Mears:
    The first of the “Towers of Power” knew that balance has been an issue in the past. And it still is. He was out on the Spinning Bridge.
    Result: Out on Spinning Bridge
  • Dan Polizzi:
    Brandon’s bro had a great run. He tried for the Mega Wall but finished atop the Warped Wall.
    Result: Complete
  • Ezra Rivera:
    Ezra led off Najee Richardson’s group. Ezra had a very special virtual sideline. His father was a firefighter who passed away. His firehouse was watching on. Ezra was the second Ninja to hit his head on the Lunatic Ledges and end his run there.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Najee Richardson:
    Najee was back after hitting zero buzzers in season 11. Najee has spent his off season working with Ninjas For Black Lives and the American Lung Association. Hungry to find his groove on the course again, Najee worked all the obstacles to his advantage and even tried for the Mega Wall. He was SO close but he did break his buzzer drought on the 14.5 foot Warped Wall.
    Result: Complete
  • Elizabeth Leslie:
    You’ll notice a trend for the next few competitors. They were montaged together to illustrated that the Lunatic Ledges were the Ninja-killer of the night.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Dom Thompson:
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Devante Phillips:
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Michelle Warnky Buurma:
    Michelle was back after an incredible season 11 where she finished both the Cincinnati Qualifiers and City Finals. In the off season, she married her husband, Joel, and they’re discussing having a family. That could make this Michelle’s last season for awhile - which made it that much more difficult to see her fall attempting to dismount from the Lunatic Ledges.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Adam Rayl:
    Adam returns after making it deep into Stage Three last year. With his mother watching nervously, Adam moved well through the course, right to the Ferris Wheels. We felt totally calm while he maneuvered his way through and shrieked as he fell on the final drop. We’d have to wait to see if his time would allow him to advance.
    Result: Out on the Ferris Wheels
  • Father Stephen Gadberry:
    The first of Sean Bryan’s group was out on Lunatic Ledges.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • David Womelsdorf:
    The pastor was out on Beehive.
    Result: Out on Beehive
  • Sean Bryan:
    In season 11, Sean dislocated his shoulder on Stage One resulting in his fourth shoulder surgery. The delay in production on the show actually gave Sean the time he needed to recuperate and take part. The Beehive and Ferris Wheels must have been brutal on his shoulder but he was flying through them. Sean bypassed the Mega Wall to opt for a fast finish, setting him up with the fastest time of the night to this point.
    Result: Complete
  • Austin Gray:
    The very single Austin was part of Lorin Ball’s Colorado group. He skipped and hopped through the course to a strong completion time.
    Result: Complete
  • Lorin Ball:
    Lorin is now the opposite of Austin, in that he’s an engaged man. The OG Ninja was out on the Ferris Wheels.
    Result: Out on Ferris Wheels
  • Brittney Durant:
    Brittney was a member of David Campbell’s NorCal group. She was one of Lunatic Ledges’ many victims.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Matt Scott:
    The opera singing lawyer was out on, you guessed it, Lunatic Ledges.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • David Campbell:
    David is another of the show’s OGs, having taken part in all 12 seasons of the show. A pizza delivery man by trade, he’s been quite busy with work during the pandemic. We stared in confusion when David was stuck on the Lunatic Ledges. It didn’t seem possible. But the resourceful David climbed UP the obstacle, and jumped to the landing pad with more height. He snapped his run from the jaws of defeat and found himself standing at the bottom of the Mega Wall. He closed his run with $10,000.
    Result: Complete with Mega Wall
  • Jenn DeBellis:
    Jenn was part of Jessie Graff’s group and another victim of the Lunatic Ledges.
    Result: Out on Lunatic Ledges
  • Davyon Hancox:
    Davyon is an EMT and his group gave him a proud send off. His run ended on the Spinning Bridge.
    Result: Out on Spinning Bridge
  • Jessie Graff:
    Jessie earned a buzzer in the Seattle/Tacoma Qualifiers and spent her off season competing on The Titan Games. Jessie gave us a heck of a scare when she jumped from the Lunatic Ledges. After passing the Beehive, she was safely in the women’s top three. At the Ferris Wheels, she opted to stay low and reached the landing pad unscathed. Jessie erupted with joy as she reached the buzzer on top of the Warped Wall. This gave her five career buzzers.
    Result: Complete
  • Amber Dawkins:
    Amber used her run to raise awareness for Cystic fibrosis. Her season ended on the Shrinking Steps.
    Result: Out on the Shrinking Steps
  • Ben Whitlow:
    The frog-catching Ninja wasn’t able to jump past the Shrinking Steps.
    Result: Out on the Shrinking Steps
  • Jessica Helmer:
    Jessica was the first of R.J. Roman’s group from Florida. She slipped up on the Shrinking Steps.
    Result: Out on the Shrinking Steps
  • Ben Melick:
    Ben previously competed on the show as a bit of a “Tarzan” character. He took some time away to return to his family’s ranch outside Orlando. Back on the course, he ditched the loincloth and made it to the Ferris Wheel. Once he confused his hand placement, his run came to an end.
    Result: Out on the Ferris Wheels
  • R.J. Roman:
    The bass player rocker is also a two-time National Finalist who hit Stage Three last year. Once we saw his face at the start line, we knew this course was in trouble. He ripped his way to the Ferris Wheels in about 40 seconds and bolted right for the Warped Wall. It handed him the top time and the pass to the Power Tower. He made it clear he had every intention of bringing his group members, Jessica and Ben, to the Semi-Finals.
    Result: Complete

Power Tower

  • R.J. Roman vs Sean Bryan

Oh, we love this unexpected match up! There’s definitely a little “angel vs demon” vibe going on, but Sean and R.J. have nothing but respect for one another. They are both SO skilled. We were so unsure of the outcome that we felt a little nervous as they lined up to start.

When the start buzzer sounded, they ran for the steps. Sean had a lead into the poles sliding down. On the shelf grabs, they were neck and neck. R.J. knew he needed to do something big to win and that’s what he did. He took a huge leap to the landing platform and almost tumbled backwards. He pitched himself forward and slapped the buzzer, bringing both his team members back to life.