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.
Rational 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:
KNIGHT CLEANS NANY’S CLOTHES
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.
THE “DON’T WEIGH ME DOWN” CHALLENGE
As 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.”). The 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.
THE BIZARRE POST CHALLENGE ALLIANCE “GATHERING”
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.
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. 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.
DEVYN AND ERIC: A LOVE STORY
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).
Like 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.
FRESH MEAT VERSUS BROOKLYN PREVIEW
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…
WEEKLY CHALLENGE 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.
ELIMINATED: NO ELIMINATION
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.”
ELIMINATED: NO ELIMINATION
Biggest Rise: Marie (Team St. Thomas)
Biggest Fall: Laura (Team St. Thomas), Ashley (Team San Diego)
FULL TEAM RANKINGS
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.
TOP 10 PAIR RANKINGS:
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.