30 Reasons: A Big Old NBA Preview

Tonight marks the 30th time I have lived through an opening night to the NBA season. (I am aware that the first few years I may not have been totally aware of what was going on – The Fo Fo Fo Sixers, rampant cocaine use, Jack Sikma’s hair – but do have real memories that beautifully begin with the 1986 “greatest NBA team of all-time” Celtics.) In honor of this triple decade milestone and the number of important ways the number 30 seems to play in NBA life (30 NBA teams, the number Olden Polynice wore as a member of the 1994 Los Angeles Clippers), I will numerically countdown the major stories, players, subplots, and trends in my most beloved professional sport.

30 – The number of years of David Stern’s tenure as NBA commissioner when he retires in February of 2014

Deputy Adam Silver and Retirement Tour David Stern

As announced last week, David’s Stern’s 16 month retirement tour has begun. In delaying his exit for over a year, Stern will pass Pete Rozelle as the longest serving commissioner in American professional sports history (it does seem like Bud Selig has been around a longer time). Although often criticized for his Machiavellian control and ruthless tactics, Mr. Stern has guided a league that showed NBA Finals games on tape delay to an international juggernaut whose signature players represent some of the most recognized personalities in the world. Although his tenure timing was impeccably placed with the rise of Magic, Larry, and MJ in the 80s, Stern’s creative initiatives, marketing brilliance, media-savvy decision-making (the NBA continues to be ahead of its time with on-line access), and guiding problem-solving skills during crises (two major labor disputes, the fact that Jamal Magloire was an all-star) have fostered the Association’s remarkable rise to preeminence. David Stern will be missed (and we have over a year and half to reminisce as successor Adam Silver waits in the “I have to handle second round of draft duty booing again?” wings).

29 – The number of NBA teams chasing the Miami Heat

For the foreseeable future (and not since Shaqobe’s 2000 Lakers behemoth), there is the Miami Heat and then everyone else (especially after the OKC/James Harden breakup this weekend). The Heat are the definitive league alpha dog and as chants at Sunday’s Celtics open practice can attest, it is all about “beat[ing] the Heat.”

27 – 28 – The ages of NBA royalty

In the year 2013, the following is a list of just some of the players who will at some point be either 27 or 28 years old: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Igoudala, Rajon Rondo, Zaza Pachulia, and Dwight Howard. Beyond Zaza (who feels like he has been around longer than 28 years), this is a healthy portion of the leagues elite, Olympic Gold Medal-winning, modern superstar class. 27-28 also marks the years in which many of the best all-time have made the ultimate leap. Jordan won his first of six championships at 28. Bird was in the middle of three consecutive MVPs. Magic’s Lakers won back to back championships, the first team to do so since Russell’s Celtics. LeBron has already reached the mountaintop (more on this later). How will Rajon Rondo and his Olympic brothers fare?

26 – The number of points per game that Kevin Love averaged in 2011-2012

Considering that the NBA’s best classic power forward has seen his points per game average rise an incredible average of 5 points per game over his first four seasons (a truly amazing statistic, albeit with relative minute per game increases), what is in store for Mr. Love and his Timberwolves this year? A recent push-up accident has sidelined Love for several weeks to start the season and with Ricky Rubio’s offensive wizardry expected to miss some early season time as well, the T-Wolves have their work cut out for them early on. In an injury-less world (especially one that features the potential of a 2009 Brandon Roy), they are a playoff basketball team. Due to injuries, I see Minnesota as the least predictive preseason pick.

25 – The legacy of Benji Wilson

Benji Wilson

30 for 30’s awesome recent documentary, “Benji,” chronicled the life and tragic shooting death of early 80s Chicago High School hoops star, Benji Wilson. In the fall of 1984, Benji and his Simeon Vocational High School team were coming off an Illinois Basketball State Championship and Benji was ranked first among all prep players in the country. According to Nike guru, Sonny Vaccaro, Benji was destined to be a surefire NBA star. Although I had heard of him, I knew very little before watching the doc. I was moved by his story and was surprised by the scope of his basketball influence and legacy. Adorning the number 25 for Simeon, Wilson inspired future Simeon star Derrick Rose and current high school phenom (if you have not heard of him, you will by 2014) Jabari Parker to wear number 25 in Benji’s honor. Mr. Rose will spend most (if not all) of the 2012-2013 recovering from last spring’s nasty ACL injury (a major NBA story that did tip the Eastern Conference balance of power) and Parker (a high school senior) is still a few years away, but the NBA “what could have been” story of Benji will not soon leave my mind.

24 – Kobe Bryant’s number

The Black Mamba, now entering his seventeenth season in the Association, has his best supporting cast since 2002. (Speaking of 2002, I was watching an episode of Alias that originally aired in 2002. Sydney’s friend Francie was all excited about going to a Laker game to see Kobe. If you had told me that the least dated thing about an Alias episode from ten years ago was seeing Kobe, then a six year veteran, play for the Lakers, I would have believed you not.) Much of league banter (and a portion of this column) centers on LeBron James and his ascension to the league throne. What is often lost (although Laker hype has been real) is just how amazing Kobe’s career has been (to the point that outside of LA, he may be a little underrated). He is currently fourth all-time in points and will, barring injury, probably pass Wilt sometime after the All-Star game and pass MJ early next year. He has five rings and the best chance for a sixth this year (an even better team than when he won in 2009 and 2010). Let’s say (gulp, god forbid) the Lakers put it all together and win it all in June. Kobe is inarguably moved ahead of Jerry West and Oscar Robertson as the third best guard of all-time (behind MJ and Magic), but I could argue that with six rings (stretched over 13 seasons to Magic’s 5 in 12 seasons), he has to be strongly considered as the best Laker of all-time (and subsequently only behind Michael for guards). Considering his suffering through the wasteful Smush Parker/Chris Mihm/Kwame Brown years, Kobe’s career (at age 34) is already transcendent, but could even have more life in it yet (thank you to German modern medicine!) and if the game’s best center and top 3 player loves LA (as I think Dwight will), crafty veteran Bryant could win more than just one more (LeBron will have a lot to say about this) and then how do we see him historically? Kobe Bryant may never be considered the best player of all-time (Jordan sneers in disgust of the mere thought), but his ceiling could be the best career of all-time.

23 – The average Brooklyn Nets win totals from the last two seasons

In case you hadn’t heard (wait really? Are you sure?), Brooklyn has a new basketball team. They are really from Brooklyn (like the Dodgers, Jay-Z, or Streisand) and are ready to dominate the NBA apparel market (if you have been a media cocoon and haven’t noticed, trust me – you will). Despite the Barclays Center/”welcome home”/best borough/monochromatic onslaught, there is still basketball to be played and the Nets have averaged 22 wins over the last two seasons (and I know last year was only 65 games, but they had only 12 wins the year before so it all evens out). After losing out on the media catastrophe that was the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, they acquired Joe “something is suspicious when your old team rejoices in unloading their supposed best player” Johnson, resigned the rebounding-deficient Brook “not your most eloquent public speaker” Lopez and Kris “I am so excited to be another year removed from the whole 72 day marriage to Kim Kardashian” Humphries, and were able to keep Deron “has yet to have a significant NBA moment” Williams only because Mark Cuban was absent from the Dallas Mavericks’ sales pitch on account of Shark Tank filming obligations (an amazing program) in LA. Throw in some journeyman bench veterans (Reggie Evans, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans, Josh Childress), some foreign players (Teletovic, Shengelia), one savvy move (C.J. Watson, a steal from Chicago), serviceable returnees (Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks), and the NBA’s great enigma (Andrae Blatche), and you have yourself a professional basketball team! On paper, they are certainly intriguing, but in actuality, I question their defense, their ability to find chemistry, and the potential for their best player to be a best player on a contending team. Could the Brooklyn goodwill and honestly positive franchise momentum (the New Jersey Nets, besides a brief Jason Kidd glory period in the early 2000s, were a eastern conference trouble spot) lead them to a 3 or 4 seed in the conference? Possibly. Let’s just not raise the banner yet, people.

22 – The number of games over .500 the Knicks will be (and the Eastern Conference 3 seed at 52-30)

One of my big bold 2012-2013 predictions is that the Knicks are going to be good (I mean really good). With Jason Kidd’s steadying force (more on that in a bit), the Brooklyn over-hype as motivation, an amazing collection of the leagues oldest veterans, some defensive possibilities with Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert, and Tyson Chandler all playing at the same time, and Carmelo Anthony ready to make the ultimate leap (this is going to be most important), I think the Knicks will finally get over the underachieving regular season hump be a force to be reckoned with. Carmelo is the obvious key and if his permanent move to the 4 (Amare must accept a role off the bench, they simply cannot play Melo, Chandler, and Amare at the same time) works for all parties, watch out. I remember his three-point barrage game in London against Nigeria when on this night, Carmelo was the best player in the world. He has this in him and now that LeBron has reached the NBA land of glory, his old rival Melo wants a piece. Knicks will be the three seed in the East. You read it here (and probably only here, tough) first.

21 – Seasons since Larry Bird last played

There is not an NBA moment that goes by that I don’t miss watching the Legend play. For the first time in my lifetime, Larry Bird will not be an active member of the NBA (stepping down last July as Pacers general manager). I already feel the loss. We miss you, Larry.

20 – The age Anthony Davis turns in March

Anthony Davis

Believe the hype. Anthony Davis is a legit physical specimen, gained essential knowledge (especially in work ethic and game preparation) and confidence playing with Team USA this summer (thank you Blake Griffin injury), and is primed to be a star in this league. I love the New Orleans situation for him – great, young player’s coach in Monty Williams, a stud scorer on the wing (Eric Gordon), some promising young character guys to grow with (Austin Rivers), and some freedom to find his game in a low pressure, high upside team. He will win the 2012-2013 rookie of the year (he is going to get major minutes – often a necessity for ROY, Portland’s Damian Lillard will be the runner-up) and will be a highlight machine for doing things that no one else can (“run the floor, big man!”, the Western Conference version of Rajon Rondo). Welcome to the league, big fella.

19 – Current over/under on Bobcats wins going in to the season

I will take the under. Despite my genuine enjoyment of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s everything and my adoration for Gerald Henderson’s dad’s Celtic years (“Henderson stole the ball”), this is a painful team to be any part of who need to get even worse (is it possible?) before they can get better. For 41 nights during the year, season ticket holders in NBA arenas across the country will be looking for seat takers when the Bobcats come to town. The idea that Michael Jordan (the NBA’s ultimate modern era winner) has anything to do (he has everything to do with this team) makes me feel a little sick.

18 – The number of seasons played by Grant Hill (in fairness he was injured for one) and Jason Kidd entering 2012-2013

It is incredible that the two co-rookie of the year winners from 1995 are still here and almost twenty years later, will continue to be key contributors to their respective (and new) teams. Both are noteworthy for their “U2 in their first twenty years like” reinvention and subsequent preservation. Hill went from being the heir to the Michael/Scottie wing player throne to a devastating and potentially career ending injury-plagued stretch in Orlando to become a stalwart and efficient scorer and great on ball defender in his recent Steve Nash Phoenix years. Now, as a wing off the bench in LA for the Clippers,

he will be a major piece in the defend Kevin Durant/Kobe Bryant/LeBron James sweepstakes (something they severely lacked) and will likely play crunch time minutes next to CP3 and Blake. Jason Kidd was the league’s best point guard for many years (especially in his back-to-back Finals runs with the Nets), but was able to reinvent himself as smart distributor who can shoot wide open threes (he is third all-time!!!) with the Mavericks (finally winning a championship in 2011). Now as the Knicks backup point guard (backing up Ray “I have only been out of shape once in my career” Felton), he will play manageable minutes for a 39 year old, but could see lots of crunch time as the calming energy next to Carmelo, Amare, and JR Smith (especially in need of a calming force). My hat goes off to both of these two.

17 – The number of championships won by the Boston Celtics all-time

16 – The number of championships won by the Los Angeles Lakers franchise all-time

Although an admitted and unabashed loyal Celtics follower, I think this is a legitimate competition despite Laker naysayers always pointing out that five Laker trophies were handed out in Minneapolis before 1955. In Lakers defense (or no offense to the Celtics), since Bill Russell’s retirement in 1969, the Celtics have won six championships and the Lakers have won eleven. The competition for all-time NBA team supremacy heats up even more this year with a both teams doing some essential retooling in the world of LeBron and everyone else that place them both in the title contender conversation. The way I look at it? In a current league in which one team careers are more rare than a Andris Biedrins made free throw, I know how lucky I have been to watch Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce represent these two storied franchises since 1998 (Kobe arrived in 1996). Other players have come and gone, but Pierce and Bryant have managed to survive their own trade demands, lousy teams (although Kwame Brown is one thing, Pierce has had his own slew of awful teammates), and life-altering moments to become the signature players of the post Magic and Larry eras of their respective clubs. It continues to be a privilege to enter an NBA season with a Kobe-led Lakers team and a Pierce-led Celtics team competing for an NBA title and historical bragging rights. May the best (Celtics) team win.

15 – My take: Kyrie Irving will be one of the top 15 players in the NBA this year

Here are my picks for the All-NBA Teams for 2012-2013 (and since the all-star voting now is sensitive to the movement away from true centers toward “bigs”, I will follow suit):

All NBA First Team – LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo

All NBA Second Team – Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh

All NBA Third Team – Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Deron Williams, Andre Igoudala, Kevin Garnett

14 – The teams that are not making the playoffs

The following teams will not be making the 2013 NBA playoffs:

East – Bobcats (awful), Magic, Raptors (close, but not yet), Wizards (more professional, equally bad), Cavaliers (Kyrie is a lone bright spot in this group), Bucks, Pistons (a valiant effort)

West – Blazers, Kings (the NBA’s most combustible team), Jazz, Suns, Hornets (one of the most fun teams to watch), Rockets (ditto), Mavericks

13 – James Harden’s number, the new Houston Rocket alpha-dog

I think I have a pretty good handle of the NBA and certainly revere its history, but to say I understand the machinations of its economic system would be a gross overstatement (I leave this to the experts – I am looking at you Zach Lowe, Adrian Wojnarowski, Bill Simmons, and competent NBA GMs). My understanding is that James Harden is a Houston Rocket (and is about to sign max deal extension) because the Harden wanted max money and the Thunder did not want to pay a higher luxury tax. This forced the team with most credible threat to LeBron’s kingdom (more on this later) to send their 23-year-old budding star packing. What does this mean for oh great bearded one, Mr. Harden? I am of the camp that thinks Harden is legit and will be a top fifteen player in the league as soon as this year (see my All-NBA selections above, making the Thunder decision to trade all the more baffling). The Rockets went from a bunch of weird parts plus Jeremy Lin and Omer “defensive genius” Asik to a very intriguing team (especially if Royce White gains some NBA comfort) that will have cap flexibility down the line and a star player in Harden. Despite some win-loss induced growing pains, Harden could very well lead the Rockets toward the mix for the 7-8 seeds in the Western Conference playoff picture. I wish Coach McHale the best of luck.

12 – The 12th man, the chemist

All things NBA master Bill Simmons recently developed the idea of the NBA chemist (detailed here) that depicts the importance of that glue guy at the end of an NBA bench whose intangible contributions (quality of handshake and towel wave, card playing prowess) and energy on the court (in limited minutes) and off the court help to create a winning NBA team environment. Some of these all-time chemists (Jack Haley, M.L. Carr in later years) and more recent chemists (Brian Scalabrine) foster success and can be indispensable on winning teams. From my sixteen playoff team picks, I selected the most likely chemist (had to be out of the probable top 9 rotation) on each and ranked them for who will create the most chemistry.

East – 1. Nate Robinson (Bulls, when DRose comes back), 2. DeShawn Stevenson (Hawks), 3. Mike Miller (Heat), 4. Jerry Stackhouse (Nets), 5. Rasheed Wallace (Knicks), 6. Leandro Barbosa (Celtics), 7. Miles Plumlee (Pacers), 8. Arnett Moultrie (Sixers)

West – Chris Duhon (Lakers), Jose Barea (TWolves), Patty Mills (Spurs), Ronny Turiaf (Clippers), Josh Selby (Grizzlies), Reggie Jackson (Thunder), Timofey Mozgov (Nuggets), Jeremy Tyler (Warriors)

11 – This year is the eleventh season of the Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili era and San Antonio

It has hard to believe that these three NBA warrior winners have been together this long. It is now almost six years since their last championship and I am not sure if they have the defenders to stop the neo power 4s (LeBron, Durant) or more athletic guards (Westbrook, Rose, Rondo) in a playoff series, but after two straight seasons atop or tied for most regular season wins, we can not count out the Spurs as long as Misters Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili remain healthy and Greg Popovich commands the sidelines. The goal for them must be to find ways to neutralize the Lakers and Thunder defensively and this could require some of R.C. Buford’s midseason trash heap acquisition magic (last year Stephen Jackson and Boris “I ate too much during the lockout” Diaw were a credible solution). With players like Rudy Gay and teams like Sacramento (all players) likely to be available, let’s see if the Spurs brain trust can strike gold one last time. Again, never underestimate the heart of this champion.

10 – Steve Nash’s new number on the Lakers

The Suns got close (and were kind of robbed by some bad luck and bad officiating), but the 2012-2013 Lakers are the Steve Nash team that has the best shot at a title. Is it hard for Suns fans to see this NBA Peter Pan still dominating as he approaches 40 for the Lakers? Absolutely, but like the great Raymond Bourque for the Avalanche in 2001, no one was more loyal to a team and no one in the league deserves a championship more than Steve Nash. If he gets one as a Laker (as long as it is not at the behest of the Celtics), so be it.

9 – Rajon Rondo’s number and basement for his ranking of the best players in the game

I intentionally slipped in my Rajon Rondo selection for All NBA First Team several numbers ago (did you notice?), but can no longer pass up what becomes more and more clear season by season (and may have reached its most overt apex during the Miami series last spring). Rajon Rondo is an incredible basketball player that does things on the court that have never been done before. He is an original, a unique blend of freakish athleticism and freakishly high basketball i.q., a player who can picks his spots night by night to find exactly what his team needs, and a growing leader who is ready to take the leap as the de facto motor of the only Eastern Conference team that can beat the Heat in a seven game series. A US Olympic team outcast (he had some personality clashes in the 2010 worlds and may not be well-suited for the international game), the most underrated story of basketball in London may have been that one of the ten best American players was healthy and not in uniform. So, what is his Rajon’s 2012-2013 ceiling and how can he reach it? Rajon Rondo can be a top 3 MVP candidate and the best point guard in the game. Three things are paramount in order for this to happen: 1) He must be assertive on offense, unafraid to take it to the basket and score. He is a weapon on his own and although he can lead the league in assists in his sleep, his ability to take over games as a scorer must come out more. 2. Along those lines, Rajon must shoot effectively from 15 feet and beyond. This includes the foul line (he must get there at least 6 times a game, last year he was often afraid to create free throw opportunities) and must excel at that nifty elbow sweet spot (that will be his to have) that looks like he worked on while his NBA peers were in London. 3) He has to improve his on the ball defense. When playing the elite points in the game, Rondo shows too much off the ball aggressiveness and his gambles result in too many easy buckets. I have read some Jason Kidd/Rondo comparisons this offseason and I can dig it. Rondo can be the best point guard in the game and is already a top-nine player. (Indisputably, LeBron, Durant, Dwight, Kobe, and Chris Paul are in the mix. The next group features Wade, Love, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo, Dirk, Blake Griffin. Rondo is at least better than 3-4 of these guys). What is my “ok, I will suck it up and go out on a limb” homer prediction? Rajon Rondo will be the runner-up for the 2012-2013 NBA MVP.

8 – Jeff Green’s number

Welcome back, Jeff Green! Although the preseason is not always the best indicator of future success (I love when Laker haters think there is something to their 0-8 record this year), I think Jeff Green gave a representative preview of what is yet to come. When Celtics nation (and Rajon Rondo I might add) overly mourned the loss of Perk after the 2011 deadline deal, Jeff Green was in a tough situation and may have balked under this initial pressure. Last year’s very serious heart situation (and the Celtics admirable and loyal handling of it), may have shown new employee number 8 that he belongs, that the Celtics brass do want him, and that his time is now. James Worthy comparisons aside (and admittedly, I can see it), the aggressive, lane runner, slasher, driver, three-point specialist, high energy Rondo running mate was a revelation this October and could be the elixir of hope that the Celtics desperately need going into their likely future Miami playoff battles. Consider that at a minimum, Jeff Green is a MAJOR upgrade over Mikael Pietrus (who played serious minutes in the Heat series and is now no longer in the league) and is smart enough to know that he will flourish offensively playing with the league’s “best point guard.” He creates match-up problems for opponents (as a true 3/4 tweener) and will give Doc some incredible versatility from night to night. Welcome back, Jeff Green.

7 – New Celtics in their potential main rotation (Jeff Green Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jared Sullinger are locks. The Jason Collins, Darko Milicic, and Leandro Barbosa group will get minutes)

Add this group to a returning bunch of KG, Pierce, Rondo, Bradley (back by January), Brandon Bass, and a healthy Chris Wilcox and you have your deepest, most versatile, most talented Celtics team of the KG era. If all can buy in to the winning culture (when KG is around, this seems to be seamless), the Celtics are going to cause serious issues for the rest of the league. Danny Ainge (a shoe-in for 2012-2013 executive of the year) was not going to allow the Pietruses, Marquis Daniels, Keyon (his amazing locker room presence will be missed), and Greg Stiemsmas to ever be on the floor in a big playoff game again. Think about Courtney Lee (maybe Danny’s shrewdest find, Celtics fans are going to love him) and Avery Bradley matching DWade or Jeff Green spelling PP on LeBron. Defensively, these are some real upgrades and offensively, all of these guys can score better than last year’s pu pu platter. Jason Collins was a tough defender last year in the Atlanta series and he is the kind of six foul monster that will be essential against someone like Roy Hibbert and Andrew Bynum in the East. Darko is amazingly only 27 and we can all entrust his game’s improvement to KG and the motivational factory that he is. Finally, there is a Jason Terry who will be discussed at no. 4 along with the Ray “elephant in the room” Allen situation. This is an excellent Celtics team and is primed to attempt a full dethronement of the Heat next May/June. Look for the Celtics to win over 55 games in the regular season and lock up the no. 2 seed (behind the Heat) in the Eastern Conference by the end of March.

6 – How many deep the Lakers can reliably go

The Lakers can count on the starting five of Kobe, Dwight, Nash, Pau, Metta World “I focused on basketball for the first time in eight years this offseason” Peace, and Antawn “wildly historically underrated” Jamison off the bench. Two to three in the mix of Steve “how he had an NBA career and Bobby Hurley didn’t is beyond me” Blake, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark, Devin Ebanks (nothing notable to say about his game), Robert Sacre (had never heard of him before he began starting at center for Dwight in the 0-8 preseason), Jordan Hill (the most likely contributor, a rebounding/defense energy guy), and Chris Duhon (I think he will be in the rotation before the season’s end) must contribute and must do so consistently in order to spell some of the older (Nash, Kobe, Jamison), recovering from an injury (Dwight), and insane (Metta World Peace) top six. Like many championship teams discover, sometimes it is the Steve Kerrs, Robert Horrys, and Shane Battiers that are the difference to winning and losing championships. The Lakers, in order to get to the Finals, must find these guys from this bunch or through future trades. I fear (and the league should as well) that they will.

5 – Legitimate contenders to win the 2013 NBA Championship

They are: Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, and San Antonio Spurs. Going into the season, there is not another team that comes close to cracking this group. My two most likely candidates: the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets.

4 – Jason Terry’s number and where he ranks all-time in career 3 point shots made

Yep, Jason Terry makes three pointers. For anyone who for a second was worried about how the Celtics were ever going to replace Ray Allen’s historical three point prowess, think again. Jason Terry is a glue guy, a Heat hater, an indispensable shot creator, competitive as they come, a fun-loving presence on and off the court, a sixth man who takes pride in the role, and perhaps most importantly, is so excited to be a Boston Celtic. The Jet is going to infuse the Celtics locker room with the leadership and team-building of a Keyon Dooling, but has the on court game (at this stage of his career) to back it up (the last time the Celtics had this mix was in 2008 chemist pioneer, James Posey). Likely to fill most Celtic crunch time lineups (depending on situations and defensive needs along with KG, Pierce, Green, and Rondo), Jet knows how to play the game of basketball (to Ray, basketball is a job that requires meticulous attention, mind you of which he is super-skilled) and the Celtics need someone who is this combination of fun-loving and competitive. And again, Jason Terry will make three pointers (and lots of them).

3 – New playoff teams in 2012-2013

The Magic (an ugly roster with Dwight gone), the Jazz (competitive, but make some cap related deadline moves that hurt their second half success), and Mavericks (Dirk’s injury lasts longer than expected and they consequently dig too much of a hole to crawl out of) will be out of the playoff picture. In as replacements are the Brooklyn Nets (just not as good as expectations seem to dictate), the Minnesota Timberwolves (the whitest team since mid 80s Celtics), and Mark Jackson’s Golden State Warriors! The Warriors are surprisingly well-constructed, will be very fun to watch, have great depth at most positions, can shoot the basketball (Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are two of the league’s best), have a good mix of veterans (Richard Jefferson, Jarrett Jack, David Lee) and younger players (Thompson, Curry, Harrison Barnes), and could be very good defensively (Andrew Bogut’s health remains the biggest if). It could be a transition year in the Western Conference (especially with playoff stalwarts Jazz, Mavericks, Rockets, Suns, and Blazers likely out of the mix) and look for the T-Wolves and Warriors to make the leap.

Eastern Conference Playoff Teams: 1. Miami 2. Boston 3. New York 4. Atlanta 5. Indiana 6. Brooklyn 7. Chicago 8. Philadelphia

Western Conference Playoff Teams: 1. San Antonio 2. Oklahoma City 3. LA Lakers 4. LA Clippers 5. Denver 6. Minnesota 7. Memphis 8. Golden State

2 – The two best players on the second best team: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

Although I can grasp the financial benefit, it is hard to remove myself from the fact that a 2012-2013 Oklahoma City Thunder team with James Harden is significantly better than a 2012-2013 Oklahoma City Thunder team without James Harden. It is equally hard to comprehend that Sam Presti and the OKC brain trust could possibly (and unnecessarily) break apart a team that was primed to compete for league supremacy for many years to come, especially when Harden was under contract and would have been a restricted free agent next summer. Why help the financials of the 2014 or 2015 Thunder when the 2013-2016 is a LeBron James away from being the league’s best team (and mind you their best four players are all 24 and under!!!)? If the skill replication (and actual defensive liability when the big three were on the floor at once last season) was the issue, find a taller wing player or a stud and inexpensive big to take Harden’s place. The Kevin Martin (a great scorer but bad on defense), Jeremy Lamb (unknown commodity rookie), and Toronto 2013 first rounder that came back to OKC at best do Harden not as well as Harden. This leaves OKC with the Durant/Westbrook tandem (not a bad place to be in, just better with Harden as the third amigo) as the make or break duo (Serge Ibaka is going to have to raise his game too) of the franchise. Durant is at worst the third best player in the league and Westbrook is at worst the tenth best player in the league. How these two at times Stringer Bell/Avon Barksdale metaphoric models continue to grow together (so far so brilliant) will determine if LeBron’s arch rival has a real chance. The new Thunder team is going to be one of the most interesting subplots in the Association.

1 – LeBron James, the one to rule them all

This week LeBron James let his true motivation out of the bag, “I plan to be the best player of all-time.” The scary thing – after the Year of LeBron 2012 (NBA Championship, NBA Finals MVP, Olympic Gold Medalist), the destruction of past doubts, and the discovery of how to consistently dominate (something that had before only come out in shorter spurts and inconsistently in the playoffs), let it be known that LeBron James could become the best player ever. His journey continues in 2012-2013. My predictions: He will win his third straight MVP (4 out of the last 5), will lead the Heat past the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, and will defeat the Lakers (who beat the surprise Nuggets in the WCF) to win the NBA Championship in six games. A storm is coming, NBA, and you are all in the destructive path of King James.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His weekly X Factor column appears on Afterbuzztv.com and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

5 Things You Need to Know: CLOUD ATLAS

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry from CLOUD ATLAS

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1. Cloud Atlas is an ambitious picture that spends almost all of its 172 minute screen symphony as a constant series of crescendos that all never seem to reach full fortissimo.  It is more about the connectivity between movements than about the sanctity of the movements themselves.  As usual, cinemetrician Zach Baron nails it here.

2. If you have read the book, listen to book critic, Kathryn Schulz: “Unlike the book, Cloud Atlas, the movie, is not groundbreaking and dazzling and brilliant and epic and all the rest of those other over-the-top reviewer words. But I also didn’t find it dreadful, or dumb. I’m glad I saw it. I’m inclined to tell other people they should go see it.”  If you have not read the book like me (my Nook Color has been housing the idle e-book of Cloud Atlas for several months now), Schulz contends there is “one massive, all important caveat. You know what that is. Go read the book first.”  Oops.   Prior to reading the book (I am definitely inspired to embark on the journey now), I have a feeling the following will be true: Often thought to be unfilmable, Cloud Atlas is all the better with both mediums in play, the movie would be better without the book as a comparison, and the book is likely even better now that there is a movie.

3. The directing units of Andy and Lana (née Larry) Wachowski (behind The Matrix, it’s troubled sequels, and the catastrophe that was Speed Racer) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, a one-hit wonder), each responsible for independently filming (completely separate crews, cinematographers, production designers) three of the movie’s six time period settings, make significant structural (telling all six stories simultaneously) and casting decisions (a company of actors playing different loosely connected roles in each setting) that will define the movie and it’s subsequent success.  Although I think they do successfully execute these decisions into a viable, beautifully shot and scored cinema experience, by taking this distinctive storytelling path, the final work is condemned to something less than the potential the broad scope of its source material valiantly suggests.

4. Despite some arguable truth to a few of the soul journeys in the actor/character connections (Jim “perhaps the film’s hero” Sturgess and Hugo “the frustratingly clear villain” Weaving’s through lines do succeed), the decision to cast the main cast in multiple roles was a forced convention that acted more as a hindrance, red herring, and distraction to continuity and connectivity than as an asset.  It was more about Tom Hanks (Look he is a cockney murderer from present day England!  Now he speaks an almost indecipherable language as a post-apocalyptic goat herder!) or Halle Berry’s (particularly super swag in her 1973 get-up, mostly forgettable otherwise) journeys as actors than about the journey of the soul.  By making these casting choices, team Wachowski and Tykwer lead the viewer down rabbit holes of inconsequence that are more about the wonders of modern-day makeup than about a well executed character through story.  In a movie in which the tagline is “everything is connected,” it is a cool effect (and do stay a few more minutes for the retrospective actor/character journey in the end credits that is a worthy summation of this convention) that is without real substance.

5. Cloud Atlas is unequivocally a movie (a pretty long one, at that, but worthwhile and enjoyable) that would have worked better as a linear, six part mini-series.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on Afterbuzztv.com and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

The X Factor Top 16 and Why Simon Hates Baseball

ImageCredit must be given where credit is due.  In a stretch of time in which X Factor was supposed to hibernate for a few weeks while no one watches the 2012 World Series, Simon Cowell’s crown jewel has managed to stay very much in the pulse of the pop culture nation (although at first for a major mistake).

When the “Judge’s House No. 2” episode of The X Factor aired on Thursday, October 11, there was to be one more airing (originally scheduled for Wednesday, October 17) followed by a fifteen day hiatus (an eternity in a momentum reliant reality program like The X Factor) to make room for America’s former pastime (do not get me started on why Major League Baseball is near irrelevant) in its annual October Fox primetime takeover.  The buzz and drive that the reformatted and reinvigorated (I am looking at you Demi Lovato) reality competition talent program had accrued thus far was in danger of being lost to this unnecessary scheduling conflict.

Baseball couldn’t wait another week to be a nuisance when a rain delay during an NLCS game last Wednesday forced Fox scheduling executives to ere on the side of awful.  The East coast X Factor was supposed to air a two hour episode from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM.  While waiting (a theme of the baseball viewing experience) for the Cardinals/Giants game to begin again, Fox’s (less than) finest decided to show a Ben and Kate rerun, go back go the game for a hot second break from the rain, inexplicably begin The X Factor at exactly 8:40 PM (I checked my dvr to be official) and then even more inexplicably, cut away a little more than half way through the planned two hours (with no warning) for a The Mindy Project rerun (another show undeservedly negatively affected by baseball).  The viewer was left confused and Simon was not pleased, giving this take on twitter: “Have no idea what is happening to the schedule tonight. Have heard the whole episode will be shown next Tuesday. Sorry. It what’s known as a total F-up.”  Fast forward to Tuesday, October 24.  Fox graciously adds a half hour to regular primetime programming (thanks so much) and re-airs only the second hour of last week’s episode.  If you usually do X Factor live, this disjointed viewing process could be a major turnoff. (This was not the first time that something like this has happened)

ImageDespite these higher-up hiccups, this is still X Factor news during a time when the show is supposed to be mostly off the radar.  In addition, two major announcements hit the airwaves.  X Factor was picked up for a third US season and even more relevant to season 2, Khloe Kardashian and Mario Lopez were officially named hosts for the live shows beginning on November 1 (I have decided to hold my opinions until I have seen them in action…in Simon we trust).

So, what happened in these unfortunately scheduled two hours of programming over the past two weeks?  Judges (it feels like finally) made their selections for the top 16 acts for the live shows.  Let’s do a brief breakdown of the top 16.

TEAM BRITNEY SPEARS – TEENS – “They just have no idea what’s coming their way.” 



Britney’s take: “Carly Rose Sonenclar is like an angel.  Her voice is completely flawless.  She’s a true star.”

My take: I concur.  Carly Rose has a unique talent and is already, at thirteen, a seasoned veteran in the performing arts business.  I think she is the one to beat in this category and maybe in this competition.



Britney’s take: “Beatrice Miller has the look, she has the personality, and she has the voice which I think is going to be very intimidating to the other teens.”

My take: I am not sure if she will be intimidating anyone, although I think she may have the most game in the teens category.  She will find a way to differentiate herself musically from the other teens through song selection and/or style choices.



Britney’s take: “Arin Ray is the whole package.  I feel like his voice has so much personality into it and when he performs, it shines through.”

My take: I am not sure what this means.  I have yet to see the spark, the “X” if you will, from Mr. Ray, although I have a feeling that the tween and teen audiences will make a strong connection.



Britney’s take: “Diamond White is a spitfire.  I think she is really funky and spunky and I think she is going to really surprise us.”

My take: I won’t be surprised if Diamond does very well in this competition.  Her voice is incredible and I think she has a lot of the Rachel Crow charisma from last season.

How did my predictions go?  Britney chose 4 of 4 shoulds and 3 of 4 woulds.

TEAM DEMI LOVATO – YOUNG ADULTS – “The battle is officially on.” 



Demi’s take: “Willie Jones is so original and incredibly unique.  There is absolutely nothing like him in this competition.”

My take: There may not be anything like him in this competition and for that, America may connect.  As a singer, I think he may be more gimmick than substance.



Demi’s take: “Paige Thomas – no doubt – she’s a superstar.  You can tell when she walks in a room; everything about her is a star.  She has what it takes to win.”

My take: I have doubts, Demi, and do not think she should be here (at least over Jillian).  If anything, Paige may lack “what it takes to win” and has shown this emotional volatility since her first audition.



Demi’s take: “Jennel – she’s got the attitude and she’s got one of the best voices in this entire competition.  I’m so excited that she’s in my group.”

My take: I am so excited too.  Considering what we have seen so far, Jennel has a whole lot of “X” in her factor.  I am thrilled she has made it this far and look for her to be an easy sell to American audiences.



Demi’s take: “CeCe has the stage presence.  She may not be the most likable person in the competition, but I believe that I can get America to fall in love with her.”

My take: This backhanded compliment (if you can even call it that), says it all.  I love Demi, but as an inexperienced, first time judge, I just don’t see us making the CeCe connection early enough in the live shows to keep her around.

How did my predictions go?  Demi chose 3 of 4 shoulds and 2 of 4 woulds.

TEAM L.A. REID – OVER 25s – “This is where it gets competitive.”



L.A.’s take: “David Correy is a great voice, and talent, and charm so I expect big things from David Correy.”

My take: I like David Correy, but he may have already had his moment on this show.  The Vino comparison is inevitable (the tattoos will do that), but Vino more easily differentiates himself vocally.



L.A.’s take: “Jason Brock’s voice is angelic.  This is a very tough category, but this is flamboyance at its finest.”

My take: L.A. is not sure what to do with Jason Brock at this point.  I do think that Jason Brock knows what to do with Jason Brock.  If he can come out strong in the first few live shows and survive, L.A. will get on board.



L.A.’s take: “Tate Stevens is someone that you have to take seriously.  He’s the real deal.  He is an American classic.”

My take: An American classic like baseball?  (Too soon?)  I like Tate’s story and his drive, but I feel like a middle-aged country singer is a bit cliché.



L.A.’s take: “Vino Alan may have the strongest voice in the entire competition.  He’s the greatest example of don’t judge a book by its cover.”

My take: Yes and yes.  Vino has a gifted voice and I think with some correct marketing, could win over America’s hearts.  He has L.A.’s full support.

How did my predictions go?  L.A. chose 3 of 4 shoulds and 3 of 4 woulds.

TEAM SIMON COWELL – GROUPS – “Now it gets serious.” 



Simon’s take: “I love this group of girls.  I see massive, massive potential here.”

My take: As do I.  I was very impressed with their audition at Simon’s “house.”  They are relatable and their “have your pick” diversity (vocally and in terms of looks) will connect with various musical tastes.



Simon’s take: “They look great.  They have great voices.  I think they’re professional.  I think they sound great and you just don’t ignore talent.”

My take: Yep, they are great, Simon.  It will be interesting to see how America responds.



Simon’s take: “I like this combination.  The two guys needed her and she needed the two guys.  They’re different.”

My take: They really worked in Miami.  I am not sure they have a particularly high ceiling, but as the only rap artist remaining, they will likely find a loyal audience.



Simon’s take: “I think they could be the surprise in this competition.  I think they’re funny, difficult, trouble, but everything I like in a boy band.”

My take: I am not a fan and don’t get why they are at all innovative or interesting musically.

How did my predictions go?  Simon chose 3 of 4 shoulds and 3 of 4 woulds.

What did you all think?  Who are your favorite contestants?  Is baseball really this annoying?

Next week: the first X Factor power rankings leading into the live shows, November 1.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings appears every Monday on Derrick Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.


ImageWe are now five episodes, two full team eliminations, countless Camila meltdowns and T.J. “we killed its,” three Big Easy induced disqualifications, one GBH (guy back home) breakup over the phone, one messy drunk Frank night, one troublesome instance of Knight helping Nany with her laundry, several episodes in which JD and Robb did not make the edit, and a few sketchy rumors about why certain teams (Real World: Sydney) and players (Johanna from Real World: Austin) did not participate (it may have had something to do with not wanting to be around a certain ginger-haired ex-boyfriend) into this “living up to the hype” season of The Challenge.  So far, the “Battle of the Seasons” format has provided a worthy framework for some unexpected power grabs, either seemingly unbreakable team unity or habitual team dysfunction, and a likely fabricated but relevant influx of Real World season pride.  To the credit of Bunim-Murray/MTV producers, this season’s The Challenge feels both fresh (game format innovation, some worthy new blood) and familiar (some “ready to the take the leap” competitors, reliably dramatic and entertaining).

Before we take stock of this week’s episode (featuring the outcome of two arena eliminations and the continuation of a major power shift), it is important to take a moment for a brief big picture assessment.  Now that Team Fresh Meat (just a brutal showing all around) and Team Austin (targeted and executed early by the ruling alliance) are no more, we are down to six teams and twenty-two competitors (Knight and Jemmye are all that is left of Team New Orleans after perennial power rankings bottom feeders, Preston and McKenzie, made an admirable, but inevitable exit this week).

The ruling alliance that had prescribed the first four arena eliminations is finally showing some cracks.  Not only did they face their first communal elimination this week (albeit Preston and McKenzie), Imageonce loyal Team Las Vegas has clearly moved on (although I am not sure how well they have aligned with Team Brooklyn or Team St. Thomas).  This much is clear: there is a clean line between San Diego, Cancun, and New Orleans and the other three teams.  If Brooklyn and Las Vegas can start to dominate together, bring in Trey’s St. Thomas faction as an additional ally, and begin to route out some of the Cancun/San Diego power players, they have a real shot at changing the course of this game.

A few other observations:

  • After three consecutive arena wins, Team Brooklyn is not afraid and is growing stronger by the week (even JD and Devyn are making real contributions).
  • Team Las Vegas has to reunify after their dissension a few weeks back.  How well they work together from this point forward will determine their ultimate success.
  • I am baffled by the good fortune of Team St. Thomas.  We are five eliminations in to the game, and they have yet to come close to participating in an arena.  On every previous season of The Challenge, they would have been gone by now (or at least would have had to prove themselves in some way).  If Frank, CJ, and Jonna are controlling their alliance (as it continues to appear they are), this St. Thomas situation may be the greatest manifestation of how well the Cancun/San Diegoers have controlled the game up to this point.  The rookiest of Challenge rookies are still alive and well and this is a completely underrated and under the radar fact.

Before we hit the rankings, let’s digest the key moments and machinations of this week’s episode:


ImageIn the dysfunctional unreality that is Team Fresh Meat, it was inevitable that their final farewell would go down with somewhat of a bang.  I did not expect that this bang would make those watching at home (I can only imagine what it was like to be there in person, some shots of facial expressions capture this idea) feel so uncomfortable.

In the understatement of the decade, Camila deduced that “communication isn’t our biggest strength as a team.”  This was before the “Water Torture” arena battle that required a human pulley system coordination between she and Eric.  Easy had to spend some time holding his breath upside down under water while she played a cruel game of hanging monkey concentration.  To Camila’s credit, she had the right intentions: “All I am going to do up there is keep calm and if he needs to tell me anything, he just needs to voice it.”  Sadly, Big (never) Easy was struggling and decided to voice it by quitting (TJ Lavin is pissed off alert!).

ImageWhat came next was a level eight (of ten) on the “squirm in your seat” uncomfortable scale.  The transcript of Camila’s monologue of uncontrollable despair went something like this:

“You are not done.  You are not done.  You are not done.  No, you are not done, Easy.  You are not done.  You are not done.  This is not fair.  He’s quitting, not me.  I am climbing this motherfucker if I have to, you son of a bitch.  I am not giving up because of him.  I am not losing because of him.  It’s not fair.  He’s done.  I’m not, so what do we do now?  Cause I’ll go in the fucking water.  You want me to go in the water?  I’ll go in the water.”

There was one point where Camila actually started to climb her wooden concentration board tower.  She was not going to give up (commendable) under on anyone else‘s terms.

Then she took it a little too far (you could see this one coming).  Eric’s raised his middle fingers while passing the distraught Camila, inciting this almost unspeakable reaction in his Brazilian anti-partner:

Image“You ruined our team.  You are a disgrace to the human kind.  You are a loser.  You are selfish little fuck.  You are a selfish motherfucker piece of shit.  Fuck you, dude.  Go to fucking hell.”

Wise big sister, Trishelle put it best: “Camila says the most horrible degrading things to Big Easy.  I don’t think that anyone deserves that, no matter what happens.  No one deserves to be spoken to that way.”  No one deserves to be spoken to that way, and unfortunately for Easy, this is not the first time he has had to endure such verbal bashing on The Challenge.

What can we make of all this?  I feel for both Camila and Big Easy.  Camila is a winner who will fight to win no matter what the personal cost or personal attack (she may have spent a little too much time last season learning the Johnny Bananas ways).  Easy did quit on her (and was central to her team’s troubles in the first place), so I get it when she says, “I have no desire to ever talk to him again.”  It was her tough luck (and maybe the reason the savvier Laurels and Evs stayed away from the doomed Fresh Meat team) to be with a player that was just unable to compete at the necessary level.  As for Easy, I think he gave every thing he had, and it just may be that what he has does not amount to all that much in the uber-competitive athletic/social gladiator pit known as the Challenge.  Thankfully, it does seem like he found love in a hopeless place with Devyn and can look back on his Turkey experience with a worthy consolation prize.

Finally, I think there is some real truth to when Eric says, “we didn’t have that Real World season to get to know each other.”  Easy may be an overall weak competitor, but he is (by all accounts) a good dude, and a hypothetical Real World roommate would know Easy (beyond his athletic failings on the competition geared Challenges) well enough to more graciously forgive him for his failings.  He and Camila have only done Challenges together and may not have had the opportunity in a more controlled social environment to make those vital connections.


Exchanges like this both confirm the greatness of TJ Lavin and explain why he is essential to creating and maintaining the competitive environment of the Challenges:

TJ: “That’s one thing I hate worse than anything else in the world – and that’s quitters.  Big Easy, man, why did you quit?”

Big Easy: “We were fighting an upward battle, man, it wasn’t going our way, and it didn’t look like anything was going to change.”

TJ: “Yeah, but when the chips are down bro, don’t you just think you should give it to them?”

Big Easy: “I’ve been giving it to ‘em since I got here, I am over it.”

TJ: “You want to let your teammate down like that?”

Big Easy: “She’s not my teammate, we’ve been playing a single person’s game since our team walked into the house.  It is what it is.  Words are words.”

TJ: “Alright…(slow pause, obviously not agreeing), Camila, what do you think about that?”

Camila: “Exactly, we are not teammates because I am not a quitter and I don’t align myself with quitters like you.  JD did it.  He never let Devyn down, so you know what, once a quitter, always a quitter my friend, there is no excuse for that.”

Above all else, TJ hates quitters.  You can be un-athletic, awkward, boring, or largely disliked, but if you give it your all in front of TJ, you are killing it on The Challenge.

If you quit or give up, well, there is no excuse for that.  If TJ has any say (and if he doesn’t he should), I think we have seen the last of Big Easy on The Challenge.


Before this week’s “Chairman of the Board” trivia contest, TJ declared it his “favorite” challenge.  Similar to past spelling/trivia competitions in recent challenges, competitors were asked questions in various categories and of varied obscurity.  If you get a question wrong, you are not only out, but TJ gets to pull a lever that connects to your chair, propelling you uncontrollably too many feet into the raging Mediterranean waters below.  The last team standing (or sitting in this case) wins and the first team to have all team members miss a question lose and must fight for life in the arena.  The intentional comedy of watching our favorite competitors struggle mightily on easy answers only to be sent flying at the hands of TJ into the sea is complete joy (and understandably TJ’s favorite challenge).

ImagePower team Cancun set the strategic order (Brooklyn, St. Thomas, Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Diego, Cancun – also revealing their own status rankings), but not before Team Las Vegas suffered a one person deduction when Trishelle’s dehydration forced her to sit this one out (to the chagrin of Alton and Dustin).  Here is the order of elimination, including some wrong answer high(low)lights:

Marie, Dustin, McKenzie (In what country was the very first Fresh Meat filmed? Europe.), Jasmine (What is the capitol of England? Liverpool.), Sarah, Laura, Alton (Who was Kim Kardashian married to before filing for divorce after 72 days? Kris Duncan.), Knight (Who did Prince William marry in 2011? No clue. Jemmye: We watched it!), Preston (In basketball, what city are the Suns from? Utah), JD, Robb, Jemmye (making Team New Orleans the first team eliminated), Frank, Jonna, Devyn, Trey, Nany (she was clutch on two answers, saving Team Las Vegas), Ashley (The Challenge has been produced on how many continents? 21), Derek, and finally Chet who incorrectly spelled “narcissistic” (Chet: “I wish he had given me “whiny bitch” because that is an easy one to spell.  F-R-A-N-K.” Brilliant.)

Thanks to Frank’s correct answer domination (he stayed on so long that Zach and Sam never had to answer a single question) and no thanks to Ashley’s answer of “21” to a question about the number of continents (tough moment), Team San Diego won and reclaimed power team status.


ImageI have said it before and I will say it again, there is something about this group and although it does seem to originate with Sarah and Chet, both Devyn and JD made key contributions this week.  Team Brooklyn has now won three straight arena eliminations and if anything, they seem to be only getting stronger.  As the anti-Fresh Meat, the following are several instances and statements that help explain why Team Brooklyn is all over what it means to be the good guys in this game and how they could carve a very real pathway to victory:


  • Before the first arena elimination, TJ: “I sense some team unity.  I like that.” Yep.
  • After the Camila/Easy meltdown, Sarah and Chet cheer on Devyn and JD to finish.  It is such a contrast.
  • When Camila uses Brooklyn’s example to show Eric his deficiencies, Devyn does not accept Camila’s comparison: “But we talk to our teammates with respect, always.”


  • Sarah: “Brooklyn ain’t going anywhere.  We are like the cockroaches you can’t kill.  No problem.”
  • In the second arena elimination, Sarah and Chet are so ready to compete for their team.  It leads to this classic exchange: Sarah: “It always comes down to who wants to be here more, and I want to be here, real bad.”  Chet: “Yeah it comes down to who wants to be here more, but it also comes down to Preston is a terrible competitor, and he ain’t sending me home.” There is no way, Chet.
  • Sarah: “The best thing about this Brooklyn Team is our team unity…I am ready to go in and I can’t wait.”


  • Devyn: “We are like that toe fungus that you had.  You are just going to have to wait it out.  You are not going to get rid of us this fast.”

Beware Cancun and San Diego higherups.  The lovable “toe fungus” is growing and it may not be extinguishable.


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/sabermetrics method known as “My experience and observations” (See: Marc Stein’s great NBA weekly power rankings).  Weight will be given to how well teams and individuals do on competitions, in the social game, and whether he or she is a “good competitor.”



1. Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 1 of 13

2. Frank (Team San Diego) – Last week: 5 of 13

3. Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 4 of 13

4. CJ (Team Cancun) – Last week: 2 of 13

5. Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 3 of 13

ImageAlthough there was some major movement this week in this group (both CJ and Alton dropped, Chet and Frank moved up), it is clear who the top five male competitors are in this game.  I must continue to give Frank credit.  He singlehandedly secured victory for his team and is the champion of maintaining alliance supremacy.  It will be very interesting to see (as teased in the “Next Week on”) how the male San Diego versus male Las Vegas off court battle plays out.  In many ways, this could be the pivotal moment for the power structure of this game.

Chet continues to man up in the arena with athletic execution and inescapable wit.  He has now orally bested CJ (live) and Frank (during his must watch interviews) in successive weeks.


6. Zach (Team San Diego) – Last week: 7 of 13

Zach and Frank both pointed out their perceived irony of Chet struggling to spell the word “narcissistic.”  After Chet’s anti-Frank quip, the battle lines have been drawn.

7. Derek (Team Cancun) – Last week: 6 of 13


8. Knight (Team New Orleans) – Last week 10 of 13

Last week’s power rankings may have gone after Knight a little too harshly (although I did not go as far to call him a sociopath, Jacoby).  To his credit, he is playing this game to win and for a first timer, is admittedly doing really well (good initial alignment, controls the machinations of his own team, has a good sense of humor, getting along with Jemmye).  Additionally, he was responsible for my favorite moment of this week’s episode.  As the recipient of the t-mobile text message pre-challenge, he opened the message report with his own hilarious faux-intro, “Thank god the wicked witch from Brazil is gone.”  Well played, Knight, Ryan Knight.

9. JD (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 13 of 13

In a pleasant surprise, we finally heard something from JD this week before he faced elimination in the arena:  “I am ready for this.  This is what I was born to do.  I am a water person.  I have trained whales and dolphins in the past.  I am a competitive swimmer.  You can’t win something you have already won, so let’s just get this over with.”  Yes you can, JD.


10. Trey (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 13

11. Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 13

I continue to struggle placing Team St. Thomas in this game.  Do I think they have power?  Most of the time, no.  However, if I put my Survivor hat on, one could argue that they have much power because if they ever settle their inconclusive alignment, they could serve as the majority determinant.  Although team votes are not a part of the deliberation process, it would be a moral victory for Vegas and Brooklyn if they developed some real bond with this rookie rookie team.

ELIMINATED: Eric (Team Fresh Meat), Preston (Team New Orleans)

Biggest Rise: JD (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: 3 tied



1. Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 1 of 13

Sarah had another one of those weeks where she flexed her personal and competitive greatness.

Sarah, how do you feel about a trivia challenge? “I love trivia.  It is even on my business card.  It says speaker, artist, trivia master, right under my name.  I can’t wait to do this Challenge.”

Sarah, how do you feel about getting a question wrong? “No worries.  Instead of painfully flopping, I will just have to do an awe-inspiring flip dive.  I love this game!” (I made this quotation up, but the dive was really cool)

From her self-described “nervous pees” before her arena battle, to her checking out a working out Alton, to her “see you next time” comment to TJ after winning, she is incredible and infectious to watch.  Fearless, but never overconfident, and having so much fun in the process, she is in a very good place to continue her game domination.

2. Jonna (Team Cancun) – Last week: 2 of 13

There was a telling moment this week when Jonna and Frank had a disagreement (Frank: “I saw you rolling your eyes”) at the alliance gathering.  Although Frank’s choice to send Brooklyn in won out, Jonna’s awareness that Las Vegas is a formidable opponent that must be addressed at some point did not go unnoticed.  She is playing this game and continues to be a force.

3. Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 4 of 13

Nany ended up being super clutch for Team Vegas in the challenge (thank goodness she knew what city the Red Sox are from and what person is on the quarter), saving her team from their first arena appearance.  Although her questions were handed to her, she did execute when her team needed her to and represented for Vegas woman (in light of Trishelle’s dehydration issues).  Dustin “couldn’t be more proud of Nany if [he] was her father.”

4. Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Last week: 3 of 13

Poor Jasmine.  She may be a hero to Liverpool FC and Beatles fans everywhere, but your mom is a geography teacher!  C’mon.


5. Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 5 of 13

Fact: Trishelle almost cost her team the challenge due to an awful bout of dehydration (Alton: “What is up with her?”).  Notwithstanding, her place in the fifth spot in the rankings is quite secure (low competition behind her) this week, but will be tested when the Vegas and San Diego men come to blows next week.


6. Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 10 of 13

Devyn is a rising commodity on this list.  Her interview sound bites are go-to and she is a big proponent and provider of the Brooklyn Team Unity.  With her heart torn asunder after Big Easy’s departure, she will have extra motivation to fight for her man and her game will only benefit with the removal of a potential tense relationship distraction.

7. Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 6 of 13

Marie is a struggle in challenges, although her answer of “TJ Lavin” was a reasonable one.  If she were smart, she would sit down with Sarah, Chet, and Team Vegas and make the St. Thomas connection.  I have a feeling her relationship with Frank could be her game demise.

8. Jemmye (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 12 of 13

Jemmye had some great moments this episode (When discussing the “identify the man on currency” category: “Everyone uses debit cards, let’s be real, this category sucks” and when asked why Team New Orleans is in the bottom this week, her response, “We lost.”) and feels like a burden has been lifted now that Preston and McKenzie were forced to say their inevitable goodbyes.  I think she and Knight always do better when it is just them and I would not be surprised if we see a more feisty and subsequently successful Jemmye/Knight tandem in future challenges and arenas.


9. Sam (Team San Diego) – Last week: 8 of 13

10. Laura (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 13

11. Ashley (Team San Diego) – Last week: 7 of 13

Sorry, Ashley.  You share the award this week for “worst answer to an easy question” with McKenzie (Europe is not a country).  In what pressured universe is any answer to “how many continents?” ever “21”?  This was an automatic demotion to the bottom of the rankings.

ELIMINATED: McKenzie (Team New Orleans), Camila (Team Fresh Meat) 

Biggest Rise: Devyn (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: Ashley (Team San Diego)


Note:  Team rankings are compiled by adding up the individual rankings and dividing by number of players remaining.  Teams with the lowest total average ranking are ranked better than the highest (i.e. you want as few points as possible)

1. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 3.5, last week: 3.25 (T-1)

Alton (5), Dustin (1), Trishelle (5), Nany (3)

Vegas is back on top after many weeks away.  Next week they will face their truest test yet when Alton and Dustin face the wrath of Frank and Zach.

2. TEAM CANCUN Average: 4.25, last week: 3.25 (T-1)

CJ (4), Jonna (2), Jasmine (4), Derek (7)

A brief slip pushes them from the top for the first time in a while.

3. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 4.75, last week: 7 (4)

Sarah (1), Chet (3), JD (9), Devyn (6)

Here comes Brooklyn!  JD and Devyn are starting to show some fire and Chet and Sarah seem to be unbeatable in the arena.

4. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 7, last week: 6.75 (3)

Zach (6), Sam (9), Ashley (11), Frank (2)

Frank is doing incredible work, but increasingly, seems to be carrying this group.  Will his early season impenetrable pairing with Zach become relevant again?

5. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 8, last week: 12 (7)

Knight (8), Jemmye (8), Eliminated: McKenzie, Preston

With Preston and McKenzie gone, Team New Orleans jumps to fifth place in the team rankings.  I credit them for making the right initial alliance.

6. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 9.5, last week: 9 (5)

Laura (10), Trey (10), Robb (11), Marie (7)

Although still in the dark about what to do with them, I have a feeling that we are going to learn more in the coming weeks.


Based on this fail-safe system that I created, these are the best top ten pair combinations for this week.  At this point, all are hypothetical (the only actually current pair were not close to the top), but you can definitely get a sense of what intra-team strategy may need to be employed.

T-1. Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 2, Dustin and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 2

T-3. CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 3, Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3

T-5. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 4, Alton and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4,

T-7. Chet and Devyn (Team Brooklyn) Average 4.5Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 4.5

9. Alton and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 5

10. Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 5.5

And finally, during the “NEXT WEEK ON” preview, this is what I saw:

  • At the challenge, somebody smells disgusting and CJ vomits
  • Frank and Alton scuffle, Zach and Alton scuffle
  • Frank tells Dustin that he dying to get his hands on a man again…

Until we all meet again, watch the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons at 10 PM on Wednesday night on MTV.

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out every Monday on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com.  The Week 7 power rankings will be available on October 29.



This week’s episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons was titled The Dark Knight.  MTV – easy (and probably cliché) pun aside – I am offended.  To associate Knight (first name Ryan), Team New Orleans’ over confident, obnoxious, offensive, at times genuinely kindhearted, pain in the neck, and Jemmye on again off again ex in any way to the real Dark Knight or the Christopher Nolan masterpiece, is irresponsible and beguiling.  Knight’s actions in this week’s “let’s cliffhang the elimination to accentuate the Devyn/Easy romantic drama” episode were the opposite of heroic, really turned me off, and made me yearn for the menace of the Joker (at least his chaos was thoughtful and clever) to put this gutless and dark less than Knight in his place.

ImageRational ranting aside, a Dark Knight he was not, but in his defense, Knight, did act with strategy in mind (it just wasn’t very good strategy) and time will tell if the other teams identify why this kind of behavior just cannot be tolerated.  (Looking back now on the Real World: New Orleans experience, what is the deal with that group?  From Preston’s unconventional toothbrush usage, to the experience of witnessing the life and times of Ryan, to Knight’s clothes cleaning tactics, something went terribly wrong).  Knight’s after show (brought to you by Jonny Moseley’s interesting hairstyle) hubris showed how somebody (Jemmye certainly tried, credit must be given) has yet to adequately paint this gentleman the picture of just how immature and uncool his behavior (and the bar is set low on this show, people!) actually was.  My hope is that the game will speak for itself and Knight and Team New Orleans will have to pay in the arena for his stupidity.  Until that time, here’s what must be discussed (including the details of these aforementioned Knight incidents) in this week’s episode:


Although according to Knight on Challenge Legend Derrick’s fantastic weekly podcast at ultimatechallengeradio.com, the clothes incident occurred after the Nany/Knight post bar blowout (discussed later), be we begin here where the episode begins.  To summarize, someone (a Turkish laundry service?) does Challenge cast members laundry and sends it back in neatly folded in plastic bag covered package.  After all the laundry had been returned, Nany wondered, “Hmm…where is mine?”  As we soon learn, Knight decided to throw Nany’s laundry in the pool because after all, Knight believes that “laundry in Turkey is not done very well” so “he thought he would help [Nany] out.”  After Nany makes this discovery, Knight decides to (and according to Knight on D. Kosinski’s pod, he was aided by Zach, seriously dude?) deliver the rest of Nany clothes to the pool floor for cleaning.  Jemmye – take it away: “What grown man throws another person’s clothes in a pool?”  Although the right sentiment, the fallacy in the question surrounds the “grown man” portion.  Grown men do not throw another person’s clothes in a pool.  As Camila says, “I don’t even think fifth graders do this.”  (She also went on to say that Knight is “dirt” and she wishes she could “step on” him.  The moral of this is do not mess with Camila).

So, why is Knight lacking the maturity to act as man in this case?  His rationale for this unconscionable behavior is that “[Nany] is not all there, stable” and that “this is a game” and if he can “mentally break someone, they shouldn’t be here.”  I agree with a portion of this to a point.  You succeed in The Challenge only if you are mentally there.  Look at Paula as a prime example.  Her success in recent years was directly corralated to her ability to put some of her insecurities and past issues behind her and find the proper mental focus and confidence to rise to the top.  CT has always been a nasty athlete, but he has only been able to do so well in recent seasons because of a accentuation of the kinder, more introspective parts of himself.  The Derricks, Landons, and Darells of Challenge lore have always had physical toughness matched with mental toughness.  Darrell’s one misstep was the regretable boxing match between he and Brad on The Ruins and represents the only time in my memory that his mental toughness was less than stellar.  It is acceptable for Knight to identify mental toughness weakenesses in other competitors, he just didn’t have to do it in such a nasty way.

The fallout of the clothes cleaning incident speaks to just how unsuccessful Knight was at achieving his goals.  Nany’s ability to fuel her anger and recognize that this was clearly a bush league move by Knight (and did not demand anything more than condescending to its stupidity) was simply remarkable.  She showed this questioned mental toughness in recognizing that her payback can and will occur in the actual gameplay.

The kindness of Big Easy, Camila, and especially Dustin must not go unnoticed.  Dustin says it best (although we get what he means, at the same time, we not all that sure what he means): “You know we are going to do…we are going to turn those lemons into watermelons.”  Watermelons are delicious and Team Nany ate them up, exposing Knight as a real aggressor and subsequent game enemy, and galvanized the Team Las Vegas juggernaut.  Nany knew that by taking this highest road, it “kills them (Knight and friends) that much more.”  Good for Nany.

How do the alliance powers feel about this tomfoolery?  Frank, one of two clear alliance male alphas (along with CJ) is right on point:  “It’s not smart Knight.  It puts a target on their back and all they did was rally behind it.  They’re just out there celebrating that fact that they now have a common enemy.”  The Team Brooklyn, Team St. Thomas, and Team Fresh Meat islands now may have an evolving ally in Team Las Vegas who hopefully will now see Knight and Team New Orleans as prime target number one.  Frank continues, “Knight you are douche.  The alliance is carrying around a big painted target and we do not need to make it even bigger.”  Knight’s target enhancement should at least push Frank (because he knows it is a bad look) and CJ (because he professes to adhere to a higher moral code) to cut their New Orleans losses.


ImageAs has happened with many challenges this season (last week’s “Hook, Line, and Sinker” being the aberration), the “Don’t Weigh Me Down” competition is geared toward collaboration among teams and gives clear advantage to the ruling alliance.  In this challenge, half of each team stands on the platform holding up the rock basket for as long as humanly (or superhumanly in Big Easy’s case) possible and half the team puts rocks in the baskets of their choosing.  Although Easy (the basket holder) and Camila (the rock distributor) were a team of two, Easy showed up.  As he triumphantly declares in the heat of battle, “I would rather have the basket rip my arms off my complete body before I let that thing go.”  This feat of strength yielded a totally smitten Devyn (more on this later) to have “never been more turned on in her entire life.”

Sarah’s perfectly put “assassination of Brooklyn” has begun and they were the first team out after having been prime targeted by everyone, but Fresh Meat (This is despite some great mental imagery from Devyn: “Ok, Devyn, pretend you are carrying 100 pounds of shoes, high heels, beautiful heels, we can throw in some cosmetics…you can do this, you wouldn’t want them to drop.”).  ImageThe Easy strong man competition eventually ends (TJ gives a beautiful post challenge shout out, he certainly killed it), leaving alliance members to fight amongst themselves for power team status.  The cracks in the armor begin to fall.  Frank and Trishelle have a spat (Frank is working “his ass off” to keep this alliance together).  Nany recognizes that “this alliance has gone to crap” and makes clear to CJ and Jonna, the only other team left besides Vegas, that she knows that Cancun and San Diego are calling the alliance shots.

Credit has to be given where credit is due and Team Cancun rightfully wins this challenge with a great showing by Jonna and CJ (who seem to be perfectly in line), but also from Derek (starting to rise in the rankings this week) and Jasmine who worked their rock distribution to a tee.


What was up with this?  Invitations were sent out to Teams Cancun, San Diego, Vegas (I didn’t see Alton in attendance), and New Orleans.  Marie and Robb (with two b’s) were invited, but Trey and Laura were intentionally excluded.  The alliance powers wanted to discuss sending Trey and Laura in to the arena, but Marie would have N O N E of it.  She made sure that they all knew that her team was four strong and she would not accept the alliance attempt to push off Trey and Laura.  What became clear in this moment (besides Knight’s impression that Marie was acting “like a wild wildebeest”) is that Marie is running the St. Thomas team (and better than I realized) and will stand up for her castmates (despite the continual bridges that Trey seems to keep blowing up, circa Bane 100 minutes into the Dark Knight Rises).  The pullout from this conversation is that St. Thomas is back in play (Marie: “Cancun, I am coming for you”) and it appears (albeit from the edit) that CJ, Jonna, and Frank are running the show and Knight thinks he is running the show.


My favorite moment of this week’s episode went something like this: CJ was chatting it up with Alton and Chet about why Team Brooklyn’s heads of state keep getting James Garfielded.

CJ: “It’s not about you Chet, you know how I feel about you…I tell you I am proud of you as a competitor.”

CHET: “What does that mean?  You are proud of me as a competitor.  You are a fake and a phony.  Don’t tell me I am a good competitor and then throw me in…you are a phony.”

CJ: (walking away) “Now your true colors come out.”

CHET: “I wear them on my shoulder, I don’t try to pretend to be something I am not.”


Booyah.  Chet wants nothing to do with the “fake Malibu Ken doll” and will not be condescended to.  Chet’s fight, Sarah’s drive and passion, an alliance that is “now crap” and a potential rogue Team Vegas, Marie’s game entrance, Knight’s prime target inducing stupidity, and the prospect of a Devyn-less Big Easy returning for vengeance from the arena next to the ever dangerous Camila could shakeup the makeup of this game’s power structure.  Nany and Dustin’s watermelons, Easy’s strong man impression, and Chet here could be the beginnings of this revolution.

NANY VERSUS KNIGHT – PART II (that was actually part I)

“I don’t know if there are full moons in Turkey or what’s going on, but people are completely insane.”  Trishelle’s wise words are all over the bus fight that became a house fight battle among Nany, her mental toughness, and Knight.  It all started with a hard to keep up with back and forth between first Camila and Jemmye, then Devyn and the bus, then Knight and Camila, then Robb and Nany trying to restrain Knight and Jemmye respectively, and finally just Knight versus Nany.   Camila reasoned that “Knight’s just got poor character and it is time we stand up and do something about it.”  This is fair.Image

Things escalated when the bus returned to the house and Nany had an emotional episode after Knight’s verbal assault took it so many steps too far.  It was an amazing role reversal to watch Frank (great work by the way), Trishelle, and the super cool Jasmine acting as sane restrainers.  Nights (and not Knights) like this do happen on challenges, so I felt for Nany in this moment.  My biggest pull away was in the way Dustin again got behind a Vegas teammate.  There was an amazing moment when Dustin sent everyone else away and said to Nany, “It’s me and you.  We stay right here…Who’s got your back?  You let it out. Knight has continued to mess with our team.  Don’t let him do it again.”  This was a huge moment (and the impetus for Dustin’s rise to the top of the men rankings this week) for Team Las Vegas going forward.  He was not going to let Nany fall apart and in this knowledge, Nany was able to pounce back vengeful and even stronger.  Can you imagine if Paula had received the same support from a Johnny (as he gave to Camila last season) on one of her first challenges?  Above all else, providing what your teammate needs (Laurel taught a master class on this with Cara Maria during Rivals) when they are at their lowest differentiates the winners and the losers. Image Dustin gets it, Sarah and Chet get it, and this is why my preseason favorites remain viable forces in this game.

In the end, where the light Knight’s head was at after the second Nany battle says it all:  “In the end this is a fucking game…ask McKenzie, I am the best manipulator here.”  Knight wants us to verify something with McKenzie whereas Dustin shows us what it means to be a true teammate.


Oh we got here.  This unexpected challenge romance took center stage this week (and will even punctuate the beginning of next week’s “to be continued” conclusion) and brought some really endearing moments.  Devyn rightfully knows that “coming here and dating someone is equivalent of going to a fast food restaurant chain and ordering a vegan omolette,” but she can’t help herself:  “I am smitten with Eric.  It kind of blindsided me because I wasn’t looking for it.  I usually date people who are collecting their social security checks. So, to date someone who is under that age is sort of a shock, but it works.”  This self-described “long date with really bad food” is at times cute (their romantic kiss on the “double date” with Sarah and Alton), sexually aroused (Devyn watching Easy beast at the challenge), facing normal insecurities (the whole past relationship/age difference blip), and so sweet (their eventual “come together” moment pre-arena).

ImageLike Easy says (“I came here to win 250,000, and this is the last thing I thought would happen”), I didn’t see this one coming (nor did Devyn who apparently only dates men twice Easy’s age).  These two Turkey night star crossed lovers who will be torn asunder in next week’s first segment arena battle, appear to be doing just fine according to the Jonny Moseley hair clinic.  Good for both of them.


Next week the conclusion of the arena battle pits Team Fresh Meat’s Eric and Camilia (TJ would be lonely in the arena without them) against Team Brooklyn’s Devyn and JD (we can see that Chet is not participating in the preview) in a mental strategy game.  If Camila and Eric come back, they are going to be ready to mix up this game.  If Devyn and JD return, Brooklyn remains four (a bit of a mixed bag) and reduces the alliance opposition ratio by another team (bye bye already beaten Austin and now Fresh Meat).  Although I was just beginning to like her (the shoe comment at the challenge was genius), I hope that Devyn and JD go home, hopefully releasing Chet and Sarah a little bit in challenges and unleashing the beasts within Easy and Camila.

Without further adieu, onward to the first non-elimination weekly power rankings…


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/sabermetrics method known as “My experience and observations” (See: Marc Stein’s great NBA weekly power rankings).  Weight will be given to how well teams and individuals do on competitions, in the social game, and whether he or she is a “good competitor.”


1. Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 2 of 13

Dustin’s move to number 1 this week is so well deserved.  Although he may not have tapped into the strategy killing end of this game, his route so far has been part Landon, part Derek, and the best parts of Kenny.  He is likable, loyal, great at challenges, super competitive, a good dancer (we saw that clip), and a healthy social leader (we saw his leading of the “wish I could have participated) boat jump.  Nany’s description of him as “big brother’ on the Jonny Moseley Hair Experiment aftershow warmed many a heart.  His next job – get Vegas back together and start carving out some strategic connections to Brooklyn, St. Thomas, and Fresh Meat (if they come back).

2. CJ (Team Cancun) – Last week: 1 of 13

CJ’s Chet conversation and Dustin’s rise pushed him down one spot this week.  One thing is clear – he is one of three players who are running the ruling party this season and has shown up at every challenge.  His win with Jonna was very impressive (beating an indestructible Alton and a fiery Nany).  How he deals with the ensuing alliance testing storm will determine how Cancun fairs.  The target is partly on his head and it is time to see his stealth strategic maneuvering abilities.

3. Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 3 of 13

Alton laid low this week (at least in the edit), did well in the challenge (although not well enough) and is primed for a major comeback next week.

4. Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 4 of 13

Thank you to Chet for providing real humor in this uber competitive fish bowl.  He calls it like he sees it and showed amazing fortitude against CJ this week.  Ironically, his continued rise in this game may take more steps forward if JD and Devyn go home.

5. Frank (Team San Diego) – Last week: 5 of 13

Frank may be ranked a little low at number 5.  He has been consistent, continues to have a handle on the structure of the game (aligning with Knight and New Orleans may have been a major misstep), and was simply incredible trying to help the Nany explosion.  The next few weeks are going to be huge for Frank – will he maintain the status quo or will he adapt to the ever evolving and emotionally driven power structure of this game?

6. Derek (Team Cancun) – Last week: 7 of 13

Derek rightfully deserves to move up this week past Zach.  He was dynamic in the challenge (he and Jasmine deserve Turkey street cred for dumping those rocks so well) and was a natural at representing his team’s arena pick to TJ and the group.  Still Cancun’s weakest player, Derek is no slouch and is a major reason why they are as successful as they are.

7. Zach (Team San Diego) – Last week: 6 of 13

In the challenge, Zach struggled to work with Sam, concerned his intestines were going to shoot out of his anus.  His comment and crediting to Knight (“He calls it like it is”) after the Nany clothes cleaning incident did not sit well, and, if he participated, what are you doing, brother?  He has been slipping for several weeks now.

8. Trey (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 13

I continue to give Trey credit.  Even though it seems to him (and the viewer) that no one seems to like him all too much, his decisions seem driven by integrity and a desire to compete to win.  In the challenge he refused to agree with the alliance plan because he likes Brooklyn and thinks they deserve to be here, cheered on Easy’s feat of incredible strength, and seems to have developed a connection with Alton (only a good thing).  CJ probably accurately thinks that Trey needs to meet people halfway, but this may not be the time.  If he and Marie are able to lead St. Thomas toward Vegas and Brooklyn, they can take down the ruling alliance.

9. Eric (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 13 of 13

Easy had a big week and would rise even higher if her were not one of two teams that could be going home.  My prediction: he comes back and driven by love, will keep fighting much longer than we originally thought.

10. Knight (Team New Orleans) – Last week 11 of 13

This week’s costar and central focus (along with Nany, as unofficially chosen by MTV producers) was my hardest guy to rank this week (as discussed ad nauseum above).  Hearing him on Derek’s podcast (particularly his connection to Chet – unexpected) gave me the impression that he recognizes he is stuck with dead weight (McKenzie and Preston), has some strategic chops, and is playing to win it.  Sadly, he is acting like the naughtiest of young boys and has ostracized himself from many a competitor (and this viewer).  I have trouble imagining a scenario where his team is not in the arena next week.

11. Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 10 of 13

Robb did speak up in the Alliance conference meeting, but it continues to show how he is following Marie’s orders (like usual) and is less aggressive than Trey in gameplay.  Notwithstanding, no one seems to want to mess with Marie and Robb may have outsmarted us all by following her currently indestructible influence (it still blows my mind that St. Thomas, after four weeks, has yet to see an arena elimination).

12. Preston (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 12 of 13

The only moment I recall of Preston from this challenge was when he directed St. Thomas what to do in the challenge.  What was this?

13. JD (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 9 of 13

JD is at the bottom this week because I think he is about to go home.  If he does go home, tough moment for JD who did not have one moment on screen this week that we saw him speak.  I am not sure the producers will be bringing him back for a third go round.


Biggest Rise: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)

Biggest Fall: JD (Team Brooklyn)


1. Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 1 of 13

Sarah may survive the Team Brooklyn assassination attempt even stronger (the elimination of Devyn and Jasmine could be a good thing for her game).  If she and Chet can pull the numbers back in their favor (she must have a hungry Fresh Meat, Vegas, and St. Thomas on board), the road to victory is back on the table.

2. Jonna (Team Cancun) – Last week: 2 of 13

3. Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Last week: 3 of 13

These two keep doing their thing and keep doing their thing oh so well.  After a few weeks in virtual power (but out of power team status), the frontrunners came back to decision making bench (and Jasmine sported an unruly afro).  Jonna showed that she is an active orchestrator of strategic action and that she can bring it when it comes to strength.

4. Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 5 of 13

Nany analysis has been done above.  I will leave you with these two quotations that best display the story:

1. “There is no alliance now, there is San Diego and Cancun.  I am so over it.”

2. “If you are going to throw me in I am going to kick ass…and then I am going to come back and fuck you up.”

Don’t mess with Nany (cue Kelly Clarkson).

5. Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 6 of 13

I want to take this moment to say that The Challenge has missed Trishelle.  She is a great competitor, mixes it up with everyone, and has a den older sister quality going this season.  Her next strategic move (align away from the alliance in my opinion) will be her most important.

6. Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 13

Marie!!!  She was finally able to fuel her self-professed “bitchiness” into an indestructible life force.  Now, you have already made it this far.  Get your team some friends (Brooklyn, Vegas) and make this thing happen.  Her loyalty to Trey and Laura went a long way in her rise to the top tier.

7. Ashley (Team San Diego) – Last week: 4 of 13

8. Sam (Team San Diego) – Last week: 7 of 13

Eh.  At some point, will we get a better sense of what is going on with these two?

9. Camila (Team Fresh Meat)Last week: 10 of 13

10. Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 9 of 13

One of these woman is going home.  One of these woman is coming back.  Both will have something to prove (Camila will be as feisty as ever.  Devyn will be doing it for Eric) and both will come back stronger than when they left.

11. Laura (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 13

It was very sweet when she was commending Easy during the challenge.  She is sweet.

12. Jemmye (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 13 of 13

I must give Jemmye credit.  Jemmye had one of those “I kind of really like her” weeks (she had a few on the Real World).  I am SO glad she has come to this understanding: “Knight’s actions toward Nany solidify that I made the right decision by breaking up with him.”  Sadly, on a team with Preston and McKenzie, working with Knight is her best hope.

13. McKenzie (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 12 of 13

“The rocks are strange shapes.  Carrying them that distance is a bit of a struggle.”


Biggest Rise: Marie (Team St. Thomas)

Biggest Fall: Laura (Team St. Thomas), Ashley (Team San Diego)


Note:  Team rankings are compiled by adding up the individual rankings and dividing by number of players remaining.  Teams with the lowest total average ranking are ranked better than the highest (i.e. you want as few points as possible)

T-1. TEAM CANCUN Average: 3.25, last week: 3.25 (1)

CJ (2), Jonna (2), Jasmine (3), Derek (6)

Another challenge win and another power team position.  Some feathers were knocked off their frock with Chet being awesome.

T-1. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 3.25, last week: 4 (2)

Alton (3), Dustin (1), Trishelle (5), Nany (4)

They keep on moving up in the ranks (finally tying Team Cancun).  Next week they must get on the same page as a team.

3. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 6.75, last week: 5.5 (3)

Zach (7), Sam (8), Ashley (7), Frank (5)

Team Brooklyn is closing in and Frank seems to be the only one holding it all together.

4. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 7, last week: 6 (4)

Sarah (1), Chet (4), JD (13), Devyn (10)

Sarah and Chet could be alone by ten minutes into the episode.  If they were this week, their team would be ranked first.

5. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 9, last week: 9.25 (5)

Laura (11), Trey (8), Robb (11), Marie (6)

The Marie rise plus some positive talk from Trey could be the fuel they need to make their move.

6. TEAM FRESH MEAT Average: 9, last week: 11.5 (6)

Camila (9), Eric (9), Eliminated: Cara Maria, Brandon

If they come back (a real if), look for a new life for Camila and Easy.

7. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 12, last week: 12 (7)

Knight (11), Jemmye (12), McKenzie (13), Preston (12)

Knight and his unmanly ways could put them on the block of chop next week.


Based on this fail-safe system that I created, these are the best top ten pair combinations for this week.  At this point, all are hypothetical (the only actually current pair were not close to the top), but you can definitely get a sense of what intra-team strategy may need to be employed.

1. CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 2

T- 4. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 2.5, Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 2.5, Dustin and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 2.5

5. Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3

6. Alton and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3.5,

T – 8. – Alton and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4, Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 4

9. Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 4.5

10. Frank and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 6

And finally, during the “NEXT WEEK ON” preview, this is what I saw:

  • It will be JD and Devyn versus Big Easy and Camila in the arena.
  • Today is TJ’s favorite challenge.  Is it because he is torturing Mckenzie’s soul?
  • It doesn’t sound good to TJ when Jasmine falls in the water.  Jasmine appears flummoxed.

Until we all meet again, watch the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons at 10 PM on Wednesday night on MTV.

Dr. Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  He writes about Pop Culture and the NBA for bishopandcomp.com.  His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out every Monday.  The Week 6 power rankings will be available on October 22. 


5 Things You Need To Know: ARGO


When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1. Argo will be adorned with many Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.

2. Ben Affleck just took THE LEAP as a filmmaker.  After the two Boston/crime-centered definite successes of Gone Baby Gone (slightly underrated) and The Town (it may be slightly overrated), Argo is a high caliber movie that delivers in every scene, every detail, every performance, every nuance, every beat, every 1980s period hair piece and costume, and every shot of original Kenner Star Wars figures.  My fast-becoming go to film purveyor (and rightly self-professed movie cinematrician) Zach Baron, chronicles a career comeback for Mr. Affleck who has been to the bottom of a fiery pit (GigliDaredevil) and has come out as a filmmaker of skill, artistry, and unquestionable talent.  Argo is a crowning achievement and, unlike the distance that Paul Thomas Anderson creates between most viewers and The MasterAffleck gives the masses a front row seat to a movie of both unquestionable weight and brilliant execution. 

3. There are a staggering number of great film and television actors in small supporting roles in this movie that amount to consistent scene stealing and unheard of structural support.  The list includes Victor Garber (Alias as Mr. Affleck’s beautiful wife’s television dad), Bryan Cranston (the breath of this man’s ability ceases to amaze), Titus Welliver (who I remember fondly as the Man in Black on Lost), Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor is a television icon), Zeljko Ivanek (always good for some intense power sneering), Chris Messina (a scene stealer from Fox’s ready for primetime new comedy, The Mindy Project), John Goodman (having a blast), Alan Arkin (having even more of a blast), Christopher Stanley (freed from the marital hell that is Betty Draper), and Bob Gunton (the warden from Shawshank who I have yet to have forgiven).

4. When a movie is “based on a true story” that is both actually worth telling and not so ubiquitous that it feels fresh, I am elated.  Argo is an incredible tale that fits the cinematic medium oh so well.  Declassified by President Clinton in 1997 almost twenty years after the actual events, this lost CIA triumph resonates in 2012 with vitality and ease.  It works for those who lived through the 444 day Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-1981, or, if you are like me and were not yet born during the late Carter administration, Argo is a most effective way to experience this essential modern American history.

5. Argo is a movie (disguised as a film), but, if the Academy Awards bring more than just nominations for this “based on a true story” work of genius, Argo could become a motion picture by February/March of 2013.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on the Afterblog at Afterbuzztv.com.

THE X FACTOR – Season 2 Introduction and a Closer Look at the Top 24

The UK version of The X Factor debuted in September of 2004 and has run every fall since.   Created by Simon Cowell, an original Pop Idol judge and burgeoning (and often notoriously mean honest) music producer icon, X Factor gave Simon complete control (something he did not have on Pop Idol) to steer the ever popular reality performance competition juggernaut.  His offseason side job was a little program called American Idol, a more successful version of the UK counterpart that only lasted two seasons (or series, as they call them in Britain), and Simon became an even bigger star in the States and internationally than the talent he was trying to cultivate.

The UK X Factor has spawned the careers of some major acts (Leona Lewis, One Direction) and some acts that have only seemed to make an audible dent in Europe (No, I have never heard of Matt Cardle or Alexandra Burke either).  With the Idol brand on a downward trend (beyond an Olympic miracle, last season’s winner, Philip Phillipps, was going to go down as the least memorable Idol champion since Taylor Hicks), Simon knew that it was time to make a change and bring the X Factor to the United States.

Last season’s American version debut had some successful components (music mogul LA Reid as a judge, live prelim auditions), but failed to reach Simon’s lofty preseason ratings predictions and failed to find its own, dare I say, “x factor” as a television program.  You could see the kernels of something great, but there was something wrong in the overall mix.  Changes had to be made.  Simon said “thank you, but don’t come again” to judges Nicole Scherzinger (a little bit out of her league and ostracized for her terrible decision to send the incredible Rachel Crow home) and Simon old-faithful Paula Abdul (whose career second act may have peaked in 2003).  The unintentionally comedic host Steve Jones (who spent the season as a befuddled, awkward, and hilarious Welsh import) was also given his metaphoric pink slip (I do miss his tomfoolery).

With Simon and LA Reid remaining on the judges panel, Simon wanted to find two new woman judges who could provide more of the buzz and vitality that the program strives to achieve.  In Britney Spears (not a girl, not yet a thirty-one year old woman), The X Factor has a megastar judge (she received top billing even over Mr. Cowell) who is still relevant (although I think her singing abilities have always been a little more “oops” than “hit me baby one more time”) and deserves credit for her longevity in the industry amidst some career-defining tough moments.  Demi Lovato, the twenty-year-old Disney factory pop/actor starlet, is a more unconventional choice as the second judge, but she brings with her a connection to younger fans who have been reared on her tween focused performance projects.  No stranger to some personal (and sadly public) problems, Demi has lived her twenty years, but has risen above these struggles.  Both Britney and Demi are at a pivotal point in their careers as they embark on the X Factor judge/mentor circuit this fall and both seem hungry for a career win.

In a stroke of unexpected genius, Simon removed the host from the audition/boot camp portion of the show allowing for more contestant intimacy and access throughout the many nights of audition coverage.  It is rumored that the always professional Mario Lopez and potentially underrated Khloe Kardashian will be stepping in for the live shows, but so far it has been a pleasure to be freed from the clumsiness of Steve Jones during these early stages.

This week, X Factor finished the emotional roller coaster known as boot camp (to the delight of tissue companies everywhere who are sure to capitalize on the sudden rise of tear shedding) and chose the top twenty-four acts in four major categories.  Last season, the categories were Girls, Boys, Groups, and Over 30s.  Complacent he is not in season 2 and Simon’s desire to make positive changes shook up this expected format.

This year, the four categories are Teens (under 17), Young Adults (17-24), Over 25s, and Groups.  The older group last season felt like it never had a shot, there was too broad an age, stylistic, and maturity (remember poor Astro’s attitude about being in the bottom two) difference between the older “girls” and “boys” and the youngest competitors, and the whole group idea felt forced (and straight up struggled under the leadership of Ms. Abdul).  These redefined categories and mentor assignments (Simon attached to the groups is brilliant, Britney is adorable with the little ones) should provide a more palatable formula for season two success.

Let us breakdown the final 24 acts and how they did at the mentor’s houses:


Mentored by Demi Lovato and assisted by Nick “I like your new clean cut look” Jonas brother.

Location: Demi’s noveau chic LA pad

Jennel Garcia, 18, student, Rochester, MA – She is a sweetheart in life, but has this tremendous sexy fire when she performs.  Her “I Kissed a Girl” was not her best work and may have been overly affected by Demi’s pre-performance chat.  Jennel: “I thought we would kind of chat before I started singing, but we didn’t and I thought they would say something after I sang, but they didn’t.  It was really nerve-wracking – I lost so much confidence, but I did everything I could possibly do.”  Demi was “bummed” that her “light was a little dimmed” after giving Jennel advice.  Jennel has the it, but with a very talented group, is not a lock for one of the four spots for the live shows.

Willie Jones, 17, student, Shreveport, LA – Willie, the unexpected country crooner, took a risk singing “Nobody Knows” again after a self-professed “bombed” performance at boot camp.  Although a much improved rendition here (especially in the eyes of Demi and Nick), Nick is correct to point out that he needs to define his particular genre.

Jillian Jensen, 19, part-time piano teacher, Rochester, MA – Known for her emotional first audition that highlighted her unfortunate shared history of bulling with Demi, producers have not shown us a ton of Jillian singing since.  Her “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles was “kind of sexy” Nick Jonas and was a pleasant surprise.  Like Jennel, her confidence and emotions may be a future consideration further in this competition.

Nick Youngerman, 21, janitor, Tipp City, OH – The exuberant (“I love this song”) young MC “sang” “Tick-Tock” by Keshia.  Although not able to sing (the “oh oh oh” choruses were monotoned), he has definite stage charisma, but I am not sure his performance ceiling is that high.  Demi: “I couldn’t tell if I was like loving it or super annoyed by it.”  Yep.

Paige Thomas, 21, nursing student, San Antonio, TX – The mom of a lovely little three-year old has been an emotional theme park ride since going head to head with CeCe Fry at boot camp.  Bizarre outfit aside, I didn’t get her “Turn up the music” by Chris Brown.  Demi may be right that her best moment may have been in her first audition.  As she exposes more insecurities, Nick is right to ask if Demi can get her “back to that girl” that the judges fell in love with.

CeCe Fry, 21, mail clerk, Decatur, IL – CeCe is a bit of a head case (what’s up with the leopard spots that she paints all over her face and leg?) and must fight what Demi described to her as being sometimes “unlikeable.”  Her “I’m Sexy and I Know It” did take Demi’s direction and she certainly wants this thing badly.  Will America like her?  She will certainly fight to the limit to find out.

The four who should go on to the live shows: Jennel, Jillian, Willie, CeCe

The four who will (Demi’s selections) go on to the live shows: Jennel, Jillian, Nick, Cece


Mentored by Simon Cowell and assisted by Marc “smart to end up with Simon on X Factor, sorry Jennifer” Anthony.

Location: Simon’s Miami palace (although apparently it isn’t even his pad)

Playback, teens – This charming group of five young (and super happy to be here after all being eliminated as individuals at boot camp) lads turned on Simon (“there is a something naive and kind of likable about them”), but Marc did not get it (“I was looking at an airplane”).  Lead lad Owen’s intense long-distance relationship with Tori (“this is all for you, Tori”) is…something.

Emblem3, 16-19, Huntington Beach, CA – Sorry, boys.  I don’t get it.  Their awkward “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” reggae pop rendition stumbled when the dude who never wears a shirt got lost looking at the beautiful sky.  Simon says that “they lost their way” and I am just not sure they ever found it.

Sister C, 17-21, Mount Belvieu, TX – These three sisters from a small Texas town have a killer blend and tight harmonies.  Their performance sizzled and each solo would compete in the young adults category.  They could be the one to beat in this category if America can get them (as Britney at their boot camp performance did not).

Lyric 145, 19-23 – The combination of two brothers plus effortless rapper Lyric (another post boot camp creation) made “Party in the USA” come alive in ways I did not think were possible.  Marc and Simon agree that Lyric is a “superstar.” (Although, what is up with covering her eye like a pirate?)

Dope Crisis, 25 & 30, Philadelphia, PA – This duo has been together seven years and both Simon and Marc think they had a good audition, but aren’t sure there is any further they can go.

Lylas, 15-19 – This boot camp reject combination of five girls are all really good singers as individuals and kind of worked together singing Shontelle’s “Impossible.”  Simon thought they were “unbelievable” and I definitely could feel something when they sang together.  They could be one to watch in this category.

The four who should go on to the live shows: Playback, Lyric 145, Lylas, Sister C

The four who will (Simon’s selections) go on to the live shows: Playback, Lyric 145, Lylas, Sister C


Mentored by LA “I am not happy about this category, but I want to win” Reid and assisted by Justin Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun (still not sure why he plays such a key role)

Location: at LA’s actual home in Beverly Hills, an absolutely gorgeous view

Jason Brock, 34, computer tech, San Francisco, CA  – After a vocally impressive first audition, Mr. Brock belted a clean and clear performance of “I hope you know” by Fergie.  The judge/mentor response says it all: LA: “That was a strong…(pause)vocal.”  Justin asked, “Is that the one?” and Scooter reminded us that the winner wins “a big contract” (thanks Scooter).  I am not sure they are high on Jason.

David Correy, 26, musician, Riva, MD – The tattooed, vocally strong guy told us at his first auditions that he is different because he is adopted and hoping to reconnect with his birth mother.  His slow, California skyline adoring version of “Domino” by Jesse J. gave LA “chill pumps,” but he believes that “viability in the marketplace is the question.”  He can definitely sing.

Daryl Black, 37, musician, Elk Grove, CA – Daryl felt his performance of “She’s Gone” and put his heart and soul out there.  Although Scooter believed “he’s got a special voice, and with a band behind him…” (what could possibly happen, Scooter?), LA just thought it was “singing.”  I think he was more successful in his first audition.

Tate Stevens, 37, road worker, Belton, MO – This “only dude in the hat” (what about Vino’s beanie?) does not want to go back to asphalt work (who does?).  His countrified “Back at One” by Brian McKnight was well-received by LA as a song choice.  Scooter thinks “there is something about him that makes you want to root for him,” but Justin is “not sure about giving him the 5 million.”  Agreed.

Vino Alan, 40, musician, Waynesville, MO – Adorned with tattoos covering his head, Vino admirably wants to provide for his son.  His rendition of “Sober” by Pink hits some of the same emotional peaks and makes some of the emotional connections as the original (high praise from me).  Scooter’s take, “The dude is petrified, he’s nervous, he’s scuffing up your shoes, but he stepped up.”  LA “likes the soul but is worried about the package…the package.” (whatever that means)

Tara Simon, 27, vocal coach, Atlanta, GA – She feels like she is going to win the whole thing (and actually believes it) and is super lucky with the new format (she would be destroyed by the girls if this were last year).  It seems like the men in her category are not enthralled to spend time with this vocal coach who may want to think about a new profession.  Tara thanked Jesus and thinks she gave “a near perfect performance” of “The Reason” by Hoobastank.  Justin thinks “she should make sure to have more sweet moments with her voice” and in life (I added the second part).

The four who should go on to the live shows: David, Vino, Jason, Daryl

The four who will (LA’s selections) go on to the live shows: David, Vino, Daryl, Tara

TEENS (13-17)

 Mentored by Britney Spears and assisted by will.i.am who, according to Britney, “knows what kids are listening to.”

Location: at Britney’s LA home which apparently is not her actual home

Diamond White, 13, student, Los Angeles, CA – Diamond White is a star.  Her performance of “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne was a definitive better vocal than the original.  She may be in a different league than most other performers.  Will.i.am thought she was “amazing,” but that she “cares about her moves too much.”  I am unimpressed with will.i.am’s overall appearance.

Reed Deming, 13, student, San Antonio, TX – This Justin Bieber-lite believes that his “entire life has been in preparation for this moment.”  Reed’s almost undistinguishable slow version of “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s (in retrospect, all of the teen performances were super slow.  Did Britney ask for this?) left Britney thinking “he was nervous” and “can deliver better than he did, “  Will.i.am compares Reed to “a little emperor, like a little emperor kid.” (Joffrey from Game of Thrones? Oh boy.)

James Tanner, 15, student, Groveport, OH – As the only teen rapper in the competition, Mr. Tanner has his work cut out for him against some great singers.  Britney and will.i.am seemed to agree.

Arin Ray, 17, student, Cincinnati, OH – Mr. Ray competed last year as member of the group Intensity (one of the many groups that Paula mentored and America never seemed to figure out last season).  His version of Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” was a competent, if safe performance.  However, both Britney and will.i.am saw something special.

Beatrice Miller, 13, student, Maplewood, NJ – After showing some nerves before her performance, she rocked a plodding version of “Titanium.”  Will.i.am considered her performance “fresh.”  I think she has a little fire inside of her and may be able to compete in close to the league of some of her best teen competition.

Carly Rose Sonenclar, 13, student, Westchester, NY – After her incredible first audition, it was clear that this girl has a killer voice.  Her “Broken Hearted” by Karmin was a soulful work of art.  In the understatement of the year, Britney said, “she is a very talented young girl.”  She could very well be the winner of this season’s The X Factor.

The four who should go on to the live shows: Carly Rose, Beatrice, Diamond,  Arin

The four who will (Britney’s selections) go on to the live shows: Carly Rose, Reed, Diamond, Arin

What did you all think?  Which contestants will go to the live shows?  How long before Scooter Braun has his own reality show?

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  His weekly X Factor column appears on the Afterblog at Afterbuzztv.com. 



For several weeks now, I have been singing the praises of several Challenge competitors (Team Las Vegas, Sarah and Chet from Team Brooklyn) and destroying several others (Team New Orleans) without having any real statistical data from this season as support.  Past Challenge and Real World seasons have provided useful insight, but on paper is one thing – you still have to play the games.  For better or worse, this week’s aptly titled “What Happens in Vegas…” episode tested the fortitude of a preseason favorite team, further confirmed the comical futility of another, and presented the rise of a Challenge veteran who may have just made the leap and is now definitively the one to beat on Battle of the Seasons.

A chronological recap does not seem to fit the makeup of what was an insightful and informative hour of classic Challenge action.  Last week, we discussed the rise of an alliance spearheaded by Frank connecting Teams Cancun and San Diego with (and to a lesser extent) Las Vegas and New Orleans.  This week, as Team Fresh Meat continues to be marinated, Las Vegas’ internal makeup was put to the test and Sarah, aided by the (fast-becoming) perfect sidekick Chet, was given an early season exam.  Her score was off the charts and it feels like the game has finally begun.

Here is what must be discussed:


Last season on Exes, MTV producers unjustly sent Sarah home because her Exes partner (and this was a liberal use of ex and partner – I am not sure there was much to their relationship past a one night hookup on Fresh Meat II) Vinny, not known for his common sense, decided to pull off Mandy’s top and you just can’t do that.  Partners have been replaced in the past (Mike, Leroy’s bro, replaced Adam “Crazy” Royer on Rivals), but for some reason last season, Sarah was forced to pay for her partner’s idiocy.  I remember watching the moment from my uncomfortable living room futon empathizing with the visible disappointment and devastation on Sarah’s face. (There must be a story as to why Mr. Beautiful was not flown in.  And, Bunim-Murray, if Nate and Priscilla were considered exes for their awkward bed cuddling in San Diego, then the Kenny and Sarah flirtation on The Ruins must count).


I came in to Battle of the Seasons hoping that Sarah would not only have the opportunity to compete again without facing silly producer decisions, but would (now on her sixth challenge) possibly find a way to put it all together and reach her ultimate goal (think LeBron in 2012).  There is something about her that makes you want to root for her and this made the Trishelle assault in this episode seem like it was coming from out of left field.  I recognize that I know her through a produced reality competition television program lens (and I know, the Challenge is so much more than that), but I really think Sarah is genuinely one of the good people in this world (and certainly on this show).  We will get to her competitive dominance in a moment, but the instance that struck me the most on this episode was unexpected.  It was her response to a perhaps too-off colored joke by Chet about selling her body to Alton for game benefits.  Sarah is tough and no one can deny that, but she was sensitive and hurt by Chet’s comment and was forthright in telling him so.  This moment of vulnerability (or the moment she broke down and cried when T.J. told her the bad news last season) is the essence of Sarah’s greatness.  She is strong, she is competitive, she will fight to win at all costs, she cares more than anyone, but she is also a human that feels.  These few cracks in her often impenetrable armor may make her the most relatable and genuine person that The Challenge has ever known.

Beyond her more affable traits, Sarah is a warrior.  Her decision to go into the arena, the admirable confidence and joy she had in the “Knot So Fast” strategy game, and the way she worked with Chet to find a way to win, were out of a chapter from the How To Win the Challenge textbook (with other chapters by the Miz, Kenny, Laurel, Derrick, and Johnny Bananas among others).  She was in complete emotional control, had keen and focused understanding of what to do, and had a incredible humility about the decision to be sent in to the arena in the first place.  “I’ll tell you the truth, I think people are starting to see that I am not a girl that they want to mess with and yeah, I’d want to get rid of me too.”  She gets a game that is played fairly and strategically, knows her place within it, and has the utmost confidence in herself (and now I think Chet) that she can win.  For all the other teams, Sarah (if she is with Chet) is the one to beat.


For the first time this season, Team Las Vegas was tested.  In the “Hook, Line, and Sinker” challenge, they narrowly beat out Team Cancun (it was the opposite outcome in week 1) and fulfilled their destiny as the dominant challenge force.  This part was easy.  Now, as the power team, deciding who to throw in the arena proved to be the real challenge.


Alton wanted to throw in alliance member Team New Orleans because of consistent poor performance (and captain obviously, because of his burgeoning relationship with Sarah).  Trishelle wanted to throw in Team Brooklyn because she thinks they are a threat to Las Vegas and teammate Alton because of some pre-challenge intel on Sarah (more on that later).  This pitted a Team Las Vegas internal battle between Alton and Trishelle and Nany that forced Dustin into a bit of a conundrum.  Nany’s take: “Team Vegas is in shambles.”

The potential problems are clear.  If Alton’s heart is too much of a driving force and is causing him to reason something that “is not the plan,” this is an issue.  Trishelle also thinks that “Alton will say anything to save Sarah” and that this “relationship is taking his head out the game.”  If Vegas is going to win, they need Alton to be focused and away from distractions.  Additionally, Trishelle went right to CJ and Knight (what up with that?) about her team issues.  She has got to keep family business in the family.

ImageAll of this could be bad news for Team Las Vegas, but my take is a little different.  Yes, when it was said and done, Dustin sided with the ladies and voted 3 to 1 to send Brooklyn into the arena, potentially further isolating and offending his Alton running mate, but what he said on the way back from the challenge may be more important.  When Alton and Trishelle first go at it, Dustin knows that “things are going to get heated and that’s ok.”  The most successful teams in all major sports (of which The Challenge is clearly one) are going to have these moments when they tested.  How they deal with this adversity will ultimately determine whether they have it in them to be a champion or not.  This is such a moment for Las Vegas and although some resentment may linger for a time, they must now move forward.  Dustin is going to be the key.  He called it straight with Alton and told him he was power tripping (wow, that was an incredible moment from Mr. Zito) and Alton took it.  He was able to hear from Nany and Trishelle without being steamrolled.  The question remains: can he bring the factions back together and will he be able to continue to independently (as I believe he did in this case) make the call?

Finally, this may have been editing, but it appeared that Vegas gave Alton the say of who to pick from the Fresh Meat team to go against Sarah in the arena.  This power consolation shows a functioning team who dealt with conflict, but can still operate as a compromising unit.  This was a test.  The results are pending, but I have a feeling they passed.



Every time a professional poker player is pitted against a warrior sweetheart, there are going to be some issues.  Here are some quotations highlights:

Trishelle on Sarah: “Before I came on this Challenge, I was told my multiple people, Sarah is extremely manipulative.  She might be manipulating Alton and he is an easy target.”

Trishelle to Devyn: “He (Alton) is picking vagina over his own teammates.”

Trishelle, on her prediction that Sarah would try to avoid the arena: “She should really just be a woman and go in.”

This all led to an AMAZING exchange between Trishelle and Sarah.  The confrontation went something like this:

Trishelle: “Trust me, I’m a poker player.”

Sarah: “I think you are not as good as a bluffer as you think you are.”

When Sarah won the arena strategy competition, “Knot So Fast,” Trishelle conceded defeat:

“I am the person that had to eat my words…it’s embarassing, I hate to eat my words, but I had to.”

In this Fresh Meat defeat and in this defeat conceit, we learned much about these two woman.  In Trishelle’s defense, she probably had bad intel about Sarah’s true intentions going into The Challenge, but if she believed what she heard, eliminating Sarah from the game makes sense.  I am impressed with both her vigilance in trying to do so and in her acknowledgement that she may have been wrong.  Sarah, on the other hand, showed tremendous fortitude by confronting Trishelle, speaking truth, and proving herself worthy in her arena performance.  I predict that mutual respect may arise from this early escalation and I think it is in the best interest of both parties (especially with Alton in the middle) to align.


The Challenge has sprouted many a romantic connection and most are slightly curious (Paula and Ty, Evan and Veronica), too easy (Wes and Mandy), violent (Tyrie and Jasmine), beautiful and bizarre (Cara Maria and Abram), or horrifying and on a roof (CT and Shauvon).  There are not many Brad and Tori success stories (I so rooted for CT and Diem!), and more often than not, a Challenge romance is a challenge.

Alton and Sarah are great people and for those hopeless romantics out there (of which I am one), I wish them nothing but the best.  In the interim, I will leave you with some of Alton’s best verbal discoveries:

“You are like me only like a white girl.  But I’m like you, but only like a bald black guy that is much older.”

“Sarah completes a picture for me…”

“What I like most about Sarah – she reminds me of home.  She could be my best friend in real life.”



Battle of the Seasons is a team game and you are only as good as your partner.  Poor Fresh Meat is learning that most Big Easy scenarios are not going to be easy.  As much as Sarah’s star shined brightly this episode, it is even more pronounced in light of the fact that her final partner could be Chet.  From a comedic (“It’s all your fault JD.  Would it kill you to get in Frank’s bed?”), strategic (he has been ready to play since day one), and “who do I want to hang out with” perspective (Chet seems super chill), Sarah is doing really well.  Chet rocked the arena and “wanted to be the ones (he and Sarah) to set the example for [his] team,” leaving every inch of himself in the sandy pit (including the hard work, high exertion vomit emmission)  Sarah said it simply, “Chet’s got my back and I’ve got his.”

Chet’s best moment (and perhaps the episode’s as well) came when Trishelle was talking some Alton-Sarah unrest.  Chet went right at Trishelle: “Have you heard their conversations? They talk about stars and wind….You are delusional.  You are a conspiracy theorist.”

Trishelle retorts, “She is going to try to save herself…she is selfish,” Chet’s response: “That is where you are wrong.”  Chet and Sarah are the team to beat.


Lost in the Vegas deliberation over “Team Brooklyn or Team New Orleans in the arena” was the question: what about Team St. Thomas?  Apply this take by Knight about New Orleans to St. Thomas: “I think we are probably looked at as the weakest team but could actually be beneficial to us because they want to keep the weakest teams around until the end.  Hey, I’ll take that.”  The reality?  Knight may have been right.

The “HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER” challenge


The “Hook, Line, and Sinker” challenge was “one of the most difficult five legged races you have ever seen” according to T.J. “the great one” Lavin.  Having seen so many, I totally get it.  Chet’s take:  “Devyn doesn’t want to get her weave wet and I don’t want to fall and like skewer my penis.”  Perfect segway to…


…on the challenge Big Easy “needed a break” and then fell (his second disqualification causality) and the third straight Fresh Meat arena appearance.  Camila said it best: “We’ve been given this burden called Eric.”


Meanwhile, Easy was romancing the Devyn stone and thinks “Devyn likes having a good time with Eric.”  This led to Devyn’s in your face wine drinking confrontation, “What is exactly going through your mind?”  At the same time, Brandon and Camila had their previewed blowout fight, Chet laughs, Brandon thinks Camila needs therapy, and Camila yells, “I’m done.  I’m done.  I want to leave.  I’m going home.  I’m leaving.”  The next morning, all was well and Camila got after Cara Maria for not wanting to volunteer an arena appearance (especially since Camila was trying to keep the team together).


Can you understand why Fresh Meat suffered its first elimination?  Poor Brandon and Cara Maria were victims of another tough showing for Big Easy, an inexplicable refusal from Easy to volunteer, some bad luck, and the juggernaut that was Sarah and Chet in the “Knot So Fast” arena battle.  I will miss them both, especially Cara who deserved a more stable team makeup.  I have said it before – Team Fresh Meat had the worst possible combination of players (although three were strong as individuals) and needed an alpha (Laurel, Johnny) to lead them away from their dysfunctional ways.  As for Cara “I’ve hung on a few ropes in my day, so I will see what I can do” Maria, I hope that Abram’s arrival in Boston brings beautiful possibilities to her real life and that on the next challenge, she and Laurel can once again partner together to even greater heights.

Onward to the weekly power rankings…


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/sabermetrics method known as “My experience and observations” (See: Marc Stein’s great NBA weekly power rankings).  Weight will be given to how well teams and individuals do on competitions, in the social game, and whether he or she is a “good competitor.”


1. CJ (Team Cancun) – Last week: 3 of 14

CJ is top dog for the first time this week.  His Jonna-like insight cannot go unnoticed: “Las Vegas wins.  It’s a win-win for our alliance.  I don’t have to sweat anything.  You guys make the decision.”  Vegas sweated, CJ relaxed, and Cancun remains as strong as ever.  Also of note, it appears that Trishelle has a clear connection to CJ (she conversed with him about strategy on a view included segments).  Since his Wes overthrow in week one, he has uncontested control of this game and will continue to assert it if Teams like Vegas remain loyal.

2. Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 2 of 14

3. Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 1 of 14

Although Nany did describe Alton as a “thirty-two-year old man having a temper tantrum,” (not a good look and the reason for a slight drop in the rankings), he dealt with a difficult situation with as much poise as you could expect (as in he showed the anger but did not go all ballistic).  As Trishelle noted, he is a feeler and leads with his heart (I remember you Irulan, don’t worry).  It is part of why he wins and what makes him great, he just needs to reign it in a little bit (especially with the momentum of a Sarah arena victory).  Despite some above the surface emotions, his game analysis is spot on: “New Orleans is weak.  It is so obvious that for Preston and McKenzie, it is time for you to go home.”  Obviously.

As mentioned before, Dustin was faced with a tough situation, and I think his handling of it showed true character.  In this weathering of the storm (“There is a part of me that believes Alton, but I am not sure where to way to go.  I am being tugged from so many different angles, I am about to rip apart.”), Dustin continues to rise.

4. Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 6 of 14

See above.  Chet is a player in this game.

5. Frank (Team San Diego) – Last week: 5 of 14

6. Zach (Team San Diego) – Last week: 4 of 14

Frank was on the sidelines (not a bad thing with his alcohol track record), but did not lose momentum.  He was calm and cool when Ashley faced fear in “Hook, Line, and Sinker” and showed strategic awareness with his “two teams at once?” rule clarification.  He is still in it; he just took a short breather.

It was not the best week for Zach.  He had this moment: “Brooklyn is just all around softer than puppy turds.  Obviously we are going to send them in first.”  Wrong.  Even Knight highlighted something problematic: “Zach, you’re a monster.  We need a steroid test.”  Tough.

7. Derek (Team Cancun) – Last week: 7 of 14

Although his team came in second in the challenge, he remains mostly a silent partner (he did have some on point Sarah/Chet insight).  In the part of the episode that is not really part of the episode (I still don’t get it), Derek got naked, so there is that.

8. Trey (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 10 of 14

9. JD (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 13 of 14

10. Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 14

Once again, Chet, take it away: “It’s all your fault JD.  Would it kill you to get in Frank’s bed?”  Brilliant.  JD also managed to not compete in the arena.  Brilliant.

11. Knight (Team New Orleans) Last week 14 of 14

Knight knew this: “All I have to do is get past where Big Easy fell.”  That’s it big, man.  Way to set the bar high.

12. Preston (Team New Orleans) Last week: 12 of 14

Alton openly identified him as a weak player adding him to a list of Knight, myself, and Preston who have acknowledged his Challenge challenge.

13. Eric (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 8 of 14

He may have found love with Devyn (and I am happy for him), but Easy is struggling in challenges.  The Fresh Meat elimination this week is squarely on his shoulders.

ELIMINATED: Brandon (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 9 of 14

Biggest Rise: JD (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)


1. Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 3 of 14

See above.  After a week away, Sarah is back at the top.  Her attitude, her enthusiasm, her tenacity, her drive, and her coolness under pressure may keep her there for some time.

2. Jonna (Team Cancun) – Last week: 1 of 14

3. Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Last week: 2 of 14

4. Ashley (Team San Diego) – Last week: 5 of 14

They continue to do what they need to do in challenges to avoid the arena.  Yet to be fully tested, will they have the same fight as Sarah or the Vegas girls?  The answer to this question could be the ultimate answer in determining who wins this season.

5. Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 10 of 14

6. Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 9 of 14

Finally!  Nany and Trishelle were given some opportunity to show their stuff and they brought it.  They receive high praise for convincing Dustin to vote for Team Brooklyn (and against Alton) and showed some strategic chops.  Putting an Alton/Sarah relationship aside, Brooklyn was a threat and they were right to try to force an elimination.  Trishelle’s first two comments post challenge were: “I would like for Chet and Sarah to get Camille (tough) and freakin one of the Fresh Meat guys out” and “we need to keep New Orleans around because they are weak.”  The poker player is here to play.  Although Nany may be “just letting Dustin and Alton guide [her] through this entire challenge,” she and Trishelle are performing and have a voice.  Their best next move?  Reconcile with Alton and consider a new alliance (Brooklyn, St. Thomas, and the carcass of fresh meat) that lets them get out from under the San Diego and Cancun shadow.

7. Sam (Team San Diego) – Last week: 6 of 14

8. Laura (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 14

9. Devyn (Team Brooklyn) Last week: 13 of 14

Devyn may have found love in a hopeless place. – and she has Chet and Sarah as teammates.  Two wins for her.  Each week we peel back the onion under threat of weave destruction, we may learn more about Devyn’s ceiling in this game (not too high, easily persuaded by others – see Trishelle Sarah bashing), but she is certainly not anonymous.  And, if you are going to choose a person on another team to canoodle with that no will be threatened by, Big Easy is your man.

10. Camila (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 4 of 14

Camila is having a tough time on Battle of the Seasons.  Her slight victory in avoiding an arena is offset by having to continue to team with Big Easy in challenges.  This is not her year.  Like David Robinson in 1997, hang it up early this year and come back next year with a high draft pick (the return of Evan perhaps?).

11. Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 14

12. McKenzie (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 12 of 14

13. Jemmye (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 14 of 14

Marie is “petrified.”  McKenzie says, “Don’t fall.  Don’t fall.  Don’t fall.”  Jemmye literally disappears.  With Devyn gone, the bottom three are intact.  It looks like Marie Marie comes out next week.  The Battle of the Seasons cast can now commiserate with Swifty and the St. Thomas viewing audience.

ELIMINATED: Cara Maria (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 7 of 14 

Biggest Rise: Nany (Team Las Vegas)

Biggest Fall: Camila (Team Fresh Meat)


Note:  Team rankings are compiled by adding up the individual rankings and dividing by number of players remaining.  Teams with the lowest total average ranking are ranked better than the highest (i.e. you want as few points as possible)

1. TEAM CANCUN Average: 3.25, last week: 3.25 (1)

CJ (1), Jonna (2), Jasmine (3), Derek (7)

They finished strong in “Hook, Line, and Sinker” and remain on top of the standings.

2. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 4, last week: 5.5 (3)

Alton (3), Dustin (2), Trishelle (6), Nany (5)

Last week: It feels like we are still in the preseason for Team Las Vegas.  They have yet to be adequately tested.  This week they learned that “winning the challenge is the easy part…making the decision on who we are going to send in is the tough part.”  They dealt with this adversity and in light of Sarah and Chet’s arena win, Trishelle ate her words, and Alton will be complete again.

3. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 5.5, last week: 5 (2)

Zach (6), Sam (7), Ashley (4), Frank (5)

It was a slow, uninteresting week for San Diego, reminiscent of many Real World: San Diego episodes that featured Zach and Ashley GTSing (Gym, Talking, Subway).  Look for them to be back in the mix next week.

4. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 6, last week: 8.75 (5)

Sarah (1), Chet (5), JD (9), Devyn (9)

Last week I said: Look for a comeback week from Team Brooklyn in episode 3.  Success.  Derek kills it: “Sarah and Chet aren’t on the strongest team, but together, they are definitely a strong duo.”  Yes they are.

5. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 9.25, last week: 10 (6)

Laura (8), Trey (8), Robb (10), Marie (11)

Fresh Meat’s fall is their gain.  They have definitely had the easiest time as straight off the boat rookies in Challenge history.

6. TEAM FRESH MEAT Average: 11.5, last week: 7 (4)

Camila (10), Eric (13), Eliminated: Cara Maria, Brandon

Last week Frank called Team Fresh Meat this season’s “most dysfunctional team” and wonders since “they don’t have any loyalties, why would they come together?” This week, something had to give.  I feel for Cara Maria, Camila, and Brandon as competitors and am certainly happy for Big Easy in the land of love, but criticize producers for allowing such clear dysfunction on screen.  They never had a chance.

7. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 12, last week: 13 (7)

Knight (11), Jemmye (13), McKenzie (12), Preston (12)

Their weakness (as Knight pointed out) is becoming their strength.  I, like Alton, don’t think there is a place for this in The Challenge (whereas in Survivor it makes sense) when the final is about beating the best.  Oh well.


Based on this fail-safe system that I created, these are the best top ten pair combinations for this week.  At this point, all are hypothetical (the only actually current pair were not close to the top), but you can definitely get a sense of what intra-team strategy may need to be employed.

1.CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 1.5

2. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 2

3. Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 2.5

4. Dustin and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3.5

T – 5. Alton and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4, Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4

T – 8 – Alton and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4.5, Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 4.5, Frank and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 4.5

T- 10 – Zach and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 5, Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 5

And finally, during the “NEXT WEEK ON” preview, this is what I saw:

  • Zach is “dying up here” during the challenge
  • Marie is not “keeping her voice down” and “doesn’t give a fuck who hears me now.”  Jonna is astonished.
  • Nany has one of those nights and wants to go home (see Dustin taking care of things, once again)…

Until we all meet again, watch the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons at 10 PM on Wednesday night on MTV.

Dr. Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  THE CHALLENGE: WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS comes out every Monday.  Check back here on October 15.