I was going to save my first The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons running diary for a season finale recap (epic, groundbreaking, and one of a kind athletic competitions demand such attention), but this week’s episode arena battle between Team Cancun’s CJ and Team San Diego’s Zach (both one-time NFL aspiring uber-athletes) was so phenomenal (and according Sarah on twitter: “that elimination between @ZachMTV & @CJKoegelMTV was a MILLION times more intense in real life vs how it looked on TV”) that a running retro diary is the only way to appropriately depict the glory in prose. If you re-watch or have not watched yet, I am indicating the time on the EST telecast that each moment went down if you want to follow along.
Let the games begin!
10:00 – The opening recap reminds us of Jonna’s season premiere phone dumping of her GBH (Guy Back Home). GBH – in case you wanted to be reminded of this humiliation on national television again, MTV has got you covered.
10:00 – Reminders of last week’s Frank and Zach team implosion feel even more uncomfortable in retrospect.
10:01 – What is Lacey doing in the opening credits? I think she was asked to raise her hand and make a “come and get it gesture.” It looks more like she is giving the finger with four fingers. Poor Lacey may not have been right for the Challenge.
10:02 – Zach informs us that his “only goal here is to make Frank’s life miserable.” Trishelle “swears to God” that she thinks Frank and Zach need therapy. I swear to God, this is a great idea.
10:02 – Jonna: “With Zach I think it is like a weird situation. It’s fantasyland. It’s Challengeland. This is The Challenge world. This isn’t real life.” Can this quotation be reinforced daily for Challenge competitors who take the interpersonal interplay on a Challenge a little too seriously. Who can we get on this?
10:03 – It seems like Jonna needs to be on the Challenge more than anyone else because she was blackmailed by an ex-boyfriend two years ago (who even stole her dog!). She does not want to be homeless ever again. This is a reasonable desire.
10:04 – Welcome to the “Hunger Games,” a “70s game show gone bad” according to Dustin. Things are not looking good (puke buckets?) until TJ enters in a vintage suit, sans cap, with slicked back hair and a Bob Barker micropohone. Killing it just found a entirely new level of excellence.
10:05 – TJ: “You guys are going to be having a good, old-fashioned eating contest!” Chet’s expression says, “I would rather stab myself in the eye with a machete.”
10:05 – The rules are a wee-bit complicated and teams seem as perplexed and bewildered as viewers when Shauvon popped an implant on The Ruins.
10:06 – Team San Diego cannot even help themselves. We are about to eat disgusting food, so let’s have another embarrassing talk about how much we don’t get along. Trishelle: “I love to sit back and watch San Diego sometimes. They just never ever stop fighting, these people. It is sort of like a television show, it’s great.” Preach, Trishelle. Zach does a spot-on impression of Frank.
10:06 – TJ’s assistant “Bunny” brings out the first item. In a comical turn from either TJ or some hysterical producer, “Bunny” will be called the following names over the course of the “Hunger Games” (I kid you not): Bambi, Diamond, Candy, Daisy, Chastity, Passion, Sapphire, Mercedes, Diamond, Cinnamon, Raquel
10:07 – TJ lets everyone know that when making a prediction of how many items a team can eat, we only round up. Thank you, he appreciates it, though.
10:08 – Team Cancun is challenged to eat fifty-one baklava (a palette cleanser according to Alton) in four minutes. MTV plays the song “Moderation” to underscore the moment.
10:09 – The horn sounds (literally freaking out Sarah and Chet) and Diamond determines that Team Cancun ate…Let’s go to a commercial.
10:11 – I am not going to lie. When a dude from Halo tells me to drink the Dew, I am going to drink the Dew.
10:13 – Back to the show, Team Cancun misses out on the fifty-one baklava threshold by two and has a one-way ticket to the loser’s round. Jonna is concerned that Jasmine didn’t “eat her share” and that it is a good thing that CJ and Derek are seated between them. Jonna – have you seen Jasmine? Her share may be a little smaller than yours.
10:13 – Marie crosses her fingers in hope of cheeseburgers. Girl, you are in the wrong reality inspiration (i.e. this is not Surivivor and very much Fear Factor) eating contest, although I love your innocent earnestness.
10:14 – Team Brooklyn must eat thirty-five grape leaves. Sarah (“I love grape leaves” and “don’t get scared about the amount that is on the plate”) is in “pump up her team” mode as always.
10:14 – Zach is turned on by the way Devyn is eating the strangely phallic grape leaves. He can’t even describe and we can’t even understand it.
10:14 – According to Sarah, Chet looks like he is “being polite at his grandmother’s kitchen table.” Sarah is in the zone. Nany gives her props, even if watching Sarah makes Nany want to vomit.
10:15 – Chet winks at Daisy and tells her she looks beautiful. JD almost loses his leaves, but holds strong. A Chastity announcement later, Brooklyn’s total grape leave consumption is at forty-seven. Sorry, Team San Diego – Loser’s round destination chosen.
10:16 – Team Las Vegas rocks some strategy and bets low on the hot chili plate, forcing Team St. Thomas to eat eighteen. TJ appreciates Sapphire’s plate delivery. Dustin appreciates Mr. Lavin (seriously killing it like no time before).
10:18 – Marie eats hot peppers in her sleep and pulls her Robb twosome to the winner’s round, eliminating Team Las Vegas (they are thrilled to have missed out on the Turkish cuisine) from the winner’s round.
10:18 – Diamond, without further ado, what do Brooklyn and St. Thomas have to eat as much of as they can in two minutes? Cow liver! TJ: “Just think of it as steak.”
10:19 – Marie, after her pepper eating clinic, cannot hold down the cow liver (really though, who can?) and for the first time in TV history, is “disqualified for vomiting.” Listen, in the scheme of disqualification reasons, vomiting is far superior to Big Easy’s way of “can’t climb the ladder.” Poor Marie does not get along with cow liver (JD seems to dig it).
10:20 – For the loser’s round, San Diego and Cancun must compete in a cow intestine/testicle eating battle. Ashley and Frank have a sexual innuendoed inside joke about going for the testicles. Stay classy, San Diego.
10:21 – During the commercial break, I like how Trojan Charged: Orgasmic Pleasure sponsors The Challenge: “charged moment of the week.” The selected moment was from last week’s episode in which Frank and Zach orally obliterate Sam as she struggles up the log jam hill. This bit of linkage to “orgasmic pleasure” is a bit of a stretch.
10:26 – Beyond Ashley, who seems primed to eat cow testicles all day, both San Diego and Cancun are STRUGGLING. Poetic justice for alliance bullying earlier in the game? The ravishing Raquel reveals that San Diego is the big loser (beyond the cow innards consumption) and has an arena date.
10:28 – A San Diego team pow-wow does not go so well. Zach walks off in disgust and Frank blows low with the “I fucking hate all three of you” routine. To their credit, Ashley and Sam are calm, seem sane, and, like the rest of us, don’t really know what to do with San Diego’s men.
10:28 – Back in the bedroom, Frank releases his frustration to Marie and Robb (credit to Team St. Thomas survivors for riding the Frank superstorm). In a fit that contradicts his words, Frank is “not going to be made to look like a fucking crazy person.”
10:29 – Devyn made a bet with her team that if they won two challenges in a row, she would take off her wig(s) and “rock an afro.” As TJ says, “Looking good.”
10:33 – Team Brooklyn sends Team Cancun in to the arena so they can experience “the love of” it. Devyn is brilliant.
10:34 – CJ holds a Team San Diego meeting and is ready to go in to the arena, but wants to go with Jonna, the strongest female player. Jonna reminds everyone that she may be homeless and storms out of the room. CJ’s endearing reaction: “Character is first and money should be second in this game.”
10:35 – Zach and Jonna have an emotional moment together about the realization that one of them could be going home. The song underscoring this moment? “Glorious” by Stephanie Mabey. Download it to have a good cry.
10:36 – On to the main arena event (earlier in the episode than ever before)! This is what we have been waiting for.
10:37 – Sam goes into the arena because Ashley may not be mean enough from this. If Sam comes back, she will get a rankings bump for winning her second straight arena, but Ashley may as well for characterizing “not being mean enough” as an asset in this competition.
10:40 – Jasmine steps up for Cancun, acknowledging her protective role as Jonna’s sister. No one has grown more than Jasmine on this challenge. Her days of wine glass toss with Tyrie and Johnny Bananas seem like decades ago.
10:40 – Frank, Professor of Hypocrisy 101: “Sam and Zach going in is the best thing for San Diego and I am just so happy that Zach knows how to man up when he has to.”
10:40 – In the understatement of the season, when learning of CJ’s arena involvement, TJ says, “Oh, this is going to be a good match.” You have no idea.
10:41 – For the first time since the season premiere when the Big Easy Stampede ran over Wes, the arena event is “Hall Brawl.”
10:41 – The audience chatter is all about Jonna. Sarah: “If Jonna sneaks by without ever having to see one of these Arenas…” Trishelle: “She’s the trashiest person I’ve ever met.” Devyn: “She’s homeless because she’s hoetic.” (whatever that means) Trishelle: “Jonna is a greedy bitch. She wanted to manipulate Jasmine into going in so that she can stay and get a piece of the pie.” The verdict is that Jonna should have stepped up and that poor, little Jasmine doesn’t have a chance.
10:42 – Girl’s heat 2 of Sam v. Jasmine begins with a Sam tackle in the tunnel and an easy stroll to the ring the bell. San Diego 1. Cancun 0. Girls’s Heat 2 is more of the same. Jasmine manages to stay standing this time, but Sam’s strength is too much for the petite Jasmine. San Diego 2. Cancun 0. Frank, in an unexpected move, is supportive on the sidelines. It is now all up to CJ to keep Cancun in this thing. Meanwhile, poor Jasmine can’t breath and feels like she has completely let her team down. Jasmine, if you heard the girl chatter before the arena, you may realize how far this is from the truth.
10:43 – Sarah’s pre-game analysis is not about whether Zach will win, but rather how many CJ bones he will break. This should be interesting.
10:44 – Boy’s Heat 1 of Zach v. CJ: After a mid-tunnel stalemate that lasts for an eternity, Zach starts to walk his way to the end of the tunnel. Suddenly, in a moment of athletic and adrenaline perseverance, CJ doubles back and drags Zach’s legs toward CJ’s side just long enough to trip Zach up for an instance, allowing CJ’s sprint to the bell to barely beat Zach’s diving jump. Team Cancun 1. Team San Diego 0. A stunned, but exuberant audience shot must mean a momentum building commercial break.
10:48 – Back to the action, Zach is not too pressed about his initial loss. CJ is an MMA fighter, four years older, and smart, by the way.
10:49 – Boy’s Heat 2 of Zach vs. CJ: This time the two competitors approach each other at full speed, largely avoid each other, and sprint/dive to the bell. CJ’s quickness outpaces Zach’s bigger frame to their respective bells. Team Cancun 2. Team San Diego 0. CJ wins the boys heat and the mighty Zach has fallen, for now.
10:49 – The tiebreaker coin toss selects the boys to compete to break the tie. Considering the results of the Boy’s Heat, advantage Team Cancun. Jasmine can be seen taking a major sigh. The best of three now wins. The loser of three goes home.
10:50 – Boy’s Heat 1: CJ goes low again and literally flips Zach over. Zach recovers and grabs ahold of CJ’s crawling feet. The audience goes wild. CJ drags Zach to the edge of the tunnel (closest to his bell), manages to free himself, and has an easy trot to the bell. CJ 1 (and three in a row!). Zach 0. Meanwhile, Jonna is torn because she wants to root for her team, but Zach is her man. Devyn amazing take: “Zach’s got to be pretty embarrassed. I mean, you are seven foot thirteen and you just got your ass beat by the same dude chasing your ex-girlfriend? You cannot be happy.”
10:51 – Boy’s Heat 2: In a move reminiscent of the leap/trot from Madden video games, Zach, in full stride, steps over CJ and easily reaches the bell before his opponent, evening the score. CJ 1. Zach 1. The crowd has a eerie silence. Sam, simply: “Do it again.” It’s time for another commercial break…
10:55 -TJ sets the scene as only he can: “Alright guys. The score is 1-1. This is the final round – the final heat. Whoever wins this round, stays in the game. Whoever loses goes home. You guys ready? Go!”
10:55 – Boy’s Heat 3:Like the first heat in the initial round, there is a collision mid-tunnel, but this time, Zach just keeps moving forward, pushing CJ out the other side of the tunnel. CJ tries to find a way to wrestle his opponent back, but Zach’s (“seven foot thirteen” according to Devyn) frame is just too big and strong. Zach wins (and has an unintentionally comedic celebration burst) one of the best Challenge battles of all-time and the most entertaining since surprise guest CT’s demolition of Johnny Bananas in the Gulag on Cutthroat. San Diego remains intact. CJ and Jasmine, two of the finest competitors this season, are going home. On that note, CJ carved out some Landon/Derrick territory on this challenge. He is a great competitor, a superior athlete, and good dude. He could definitely win one of these in the future.
10:58 – CJ and Jasmine leave like winners, praising the team success of Cancun. The irony of the episode is that it is Jonna’s self-centered move (and I am not qualifying this as a negative thing – her situation back home seems to be universally accepted as not too good) may have been the downfall of her team.
10:59 – Zach and Frank bond again over the win and slightly at the expense of Sam (they may not have ever expected her to do so well). Frank: “Let’s move on. It’s over now.” We will see, Mr. Sweeney. Retro-diary out.
After this epic battle, we are down to 3 teams of 4, two teams of 2, and 16 people left in this game. The rankings are getting even tighter as the power balance has officially shifted…here we go…
WEEKLY CHALLENGE INDIVIDUAL 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 (1) Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Dustin’s team strategy in The Hunger Games was flawless and another week out of the spotlight maintains his positioning.
2 (2) Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Despite his meal at grandma’s house, Chet’s team keeps winning and the viewer keeps benefiting from his verbal wit.
3 (8) Zach (Team San Diego) – He gains major points by overcoming CJ’s incredible arena assault and by differentiating himself from Frank’s “I’m not a crazy person” rant. Don’t mess with Zach athletically or he will crush you.
4 (5) Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Alton seemed to play a key role in Vegas’ great challenge strategy and what is more important, he seemed to have a good time doing it.
5 (6) Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Robb cracks the top 5 for the first time with some quality eating during The Hunger Games and a deserved acknowledgment for his longevity as the rookiest of rookies.
6 (7) JD (Team Brooklyn) – JD’s team keeps winning and this week, his eating skills played a key role (“Hold it down, JD!”).
7 (9) Frank (Team San Diego) – The end of the episode reconciliation with Zach avoided the bottom spot in the rankings, but going forward, Frank has got to keep his stuff to together.
8 (4) Derek (Team Cancun) – Although CJ and Jasmine went out as unified pair, Derek is right to worry about how he and Jasmine will fair alone.
ELIMINATED: CJ (Team Cancun) – CJ gave everything he had and then some this Challenge. I give him complete respect.
Biggest Rise: Zach (Team San Diego)
Biggest Fall: Derek (Team Cancun)
1 (1) Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Once again, Sarah was instrumental in the Team Brooklyn win, going at those grape leaves and cow liver with an incredible confidence.
2 (2) Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Team Vegas played the Hunger Games just right and Nany is building her strength each week.
3 (4) Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Trishelle’s analysis of the both challenge and arena events was spot on.
4 (5) Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Marie may have been disqualified for vomiting, but her pepper domination, Frank listening performance, and St. Thomas survival skills move her to a fourth place ranking (her highest yet!).
5 (7) Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Devyn justly deserves a spot in the top 5 for going along with the wig removal bet and for her continued sound bite excellence.
6 (8) Ashley (Team San Diego) – Ashley seemed to be the only eater performing in the challenge and has managed to stay out of much of the Team San Diego drama.
7 (9) Sam (Team San Diego) – Sam won her second straight arena and this time dominated her opponent. Frank and Zach have begun to believe in her.
8 (3) Jonna (Team Cancun) – Now vulnerable as a twosome, at this point in the game losing quality teammates is going to cause a rankings dip, but with as bad as Jonna needs to win the money, I would not be surprised if she can rise again.
ELIMINATED: Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Jasmine 2.0 is a mellow, loyal, and enjoyable individual who will be missed.
Biggest Rise: Sam (Team San Diego), Ashley (Team San Diego), Devyn (Team Brooklyn)
Biggest Fall: Jonna (Team Cancun)
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)
1 (1) TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 2.5, last week: 3
Alton (4), Dustin (1), Trishelle (3), Nany (2)
Can they win as foursome? Yes, this remains the strongest, top to bottom 4 in The Challenge. Another week of no drama is only a good thing for this group. As previewed for next week, it will be interesting to see if Alton and Trishelle can support Nany and Dustin through the house drama.
What pairings can win? At this point, any pairing combination has a chance, though both ladies are likely to work better with Dustin.
2 (3) TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 3.5, last week: 5.25
Sarah (1), Chet (2), JD (6), Devyn (5)
Can they win as foursome? Devyn’s endurance is still going to be a question mark, but I am starting to believe in Team Brooklyn as a foursome. Their team camaraderie is unmatched and if their ability to work together plays a part in the final challenge, they may have a shot.
What pairings can win? Sarah and Chet can still win The Challenge. Sarah could probably get JD to the finish line as well. I am not sure Devyn would be able to finish with either Chet or Sarah and will be better within a foursome.
3 (4) TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 4.5, last week: 5.5
Robb (5), Marie (4), Eliminated: Laura, Trey
Can they win as a pair? Wow. To even be here at this point in the game is a major accomplishment. They are enough below the radar (and have been all game) where I could foresee a series of events in a final challenge leading them to have a chance. We are at a place where it has to be considered.
4 (5) TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 6.75, last week: 8.5
Zach (3), Sam (7), Ashley (6), Frank (7)
Can they win as foursome? Who knows. Sam’s endurance liability remains an issue and despite the brief détente at the end of the episode, they are a Frank breath away from a team implosion. I still think that Frank is better without Zach and Zach is better when he has something to prove to Frank.
What pairings can win? Both guys could compete with Ashley against the other strong teams (Vegas, Sarah/Chet), but the Zach/Sam pairing seems to have a dynamic, winning quality (at least in arenas).
5 (2) TEAM CANCUN Average: 8, last week: 4
Jonna (8), Derek (8), Eliminated: CJ, Jasmine
Can they win as a pair? Jonna is tough and Derek has proven himself to be a strong competitor, but without CJ, a heady and instrumental leader, I am not sure that this pairing has alone to be successful. Jonna’s drive to have a place to live must not be underestimated.
And finally, during the “NEXT ON THE CHALLENGE” preview, this is what I saw:
- Robb struggles to “make it” in a water challenge.
- Chet: “There is a fight in every corner of the house.” We see at least Nany, Marie, Frank, Dustin, Derek, Zach, and Robb involved (pretty much everyone).
- Marie pushes Derek over into Sam and into some plant pots. Frank checks on Sam. This just appears to be the toughest of moments.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! There is no episode this week, so tune in on Wednesday, November 28 at 10 PM on MTV for the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons.
David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7. His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out weekly on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com (listen to the incredible podcast featuring CJ and Zach this week). The Week 10 power rankings will be available sometime after November 29.