THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Trailer – A Zapruder Analysis

A few days ago, MTV released the trailer for the 24th season of The Challenge on mtv.com.  In this second iteration of the Rivals format, eight male partner teams and eight female partner teams compete against each other in what is now commonly referred to as the fifth major American professional sport.  Mysteriously, the mtv.com trailer has been taken down and subsequent versions on other websites have been pulled as well (it is quite possible that sometime in the run of this post, the bootleg and unfortunately low-quality youtube version that I found will also be redacted).  In a race against the clock of destruction (or until mtv eventually reposts – UPDATE: MTV reposted), I wanted to provide my frame by frame analysis (a Zapruder treatment so to speak) of the two minute run-time of this historical piece of footage.

0:01 – The opening shot is eerily reminiscent of the classic helicopter shot going over Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park. Any time The Challenge makes you think about Jurassic Park, this must be a good thing. 

0:05 – TJ begins his voice0ver with “I want you guys to picture a very large sum of money…money so big, it could change your life forever.”  This is the kind of sum that warrants foreboding underscoring.

0:09 – In some very expected news, Tyrie (according to the back of helmet name tag) appears to be in an elimination.  The Tyrie/Dunbar pairing could be prdouction’s attempt to make this ultra-dramatic, hyper intense Challenge viewing experience just a little more comedic.  Has there ever been a combination in these past 24 seasons that has less of a chance of winning?

0:22 – TJ continues: “What if that one person is your worst enemy?” – This second rodeo of this premise (Rivals was particularly enjoyable – especially Wes and Kenny’s implosion in the finale) is a wonderful conceit on the surface, but if you look a little closer at the actual pairings, in almost every case, “rival” is a lot a bit of an overstatement.  Johnny and Frank’s entire relationship up until now has been a twitter back and forth.  I have watched every second of Marlon and Jordan on Real World Portland, and besides some extreme competitiveness from Jordan in the Dustin Real World Las Vegas mold, I would hardly call their relationship a battle between two enemies.  There may be some strained blood here and there among most of these pairing, but enemies? I am afraid not.  The one glaring exception is Team Wes and CT whose potential for greatness (in a great reality TV kind of way) more than makes up for an otherwise loose interpretation of the word “rival.”

0:28 – Zach’s voiceover: “I hate this kid…I hate the ground he walks on.”  Is he referring to partner Trey, or, more likely, is he referring to Wes?  Wes has faced quite a few “I hate this kids” in his long Challenge career.

0:37 – The “TRUST NO ONE BUT YOUR WORST ENEMY” mashup is apparently directed by the great master of frenetic cutting himself, Baz Luhrmann (see: all of his movies).  I have to hand it to production though – if you have a shaky premise, you might as well present it in this “the world is ending/impending doom” fashion.  It is admittedly effective.

0:41 – Bird tells us that “some of these people here are like absolutely pure evil.”  After this past week’s Real World in which Hurricane Nia attempts murder with a hair dryer, she should know.  On another note, I can not foresee The Challenge and Jessica being a successful pairing.  It’s just a hunch.

0:44 – Emily tells us that this game is going to get “so nasty.”  Is she referring to the kind of nasty of her blackface incident from Exes?  Too soon?

0:47 – People are “looking for love wherever they can get it” and apparently for Sarah, this is with Jordan.  With full comprehension that Challenge love teases are almost always grossly exaggerated, I strangely dig this possibility.

0:53 – “All is fair in love, war, and Challenges.”  Welcome back, Johnny Bananas!

0:55 – Diem trusts Wes more than she trusts CT.  It is like preferring to put your hand in an open flame versus in a pot of boiling water.  They are both going to leave you burned.

0:57 – CT is “being nice” but Diem’s “not playing fair.”  The Challenge legend may have a point.  This gentler version of CT has been alive and well over the past few Challenges and is a far cry from the monster that broke Diem’s heart or Johnny’s will here:

1:00 – We are one minute into the trailer and we have our first sight of Paula crying!  In fairness, in a brief size-up of the female teams, despite emotional roller coaster riding, I am not sure who beats Paula and Emily.

1:04 – There is some water poured, heads butted, arms swung, and barrels thrown.  This is par for the Challenge course, but, after the aforementioned Hurricane Nia maelstrom on The Real World this week, it all seems so tame.

1:11 – “Welcome to the scariest elimination round we have ever had.”  Not one to emphatically hyperbolize, TJ means business.  In the trailer’s second clear (only in my mind) allusion to Jurassic Park, the electric cables and caging reminds me of a raptor paddock.  Safety is not guaranteed.

1:21 – Cooke (a strong addition to this franchise – it never hurts to have a professional athlete competing) tells us that “good people in this game do not get far.”  Did you forget about Sarah making it to last year’s finals?

1:26 – This shot of Marlon working out and companion voiceover of “You wanna get me up out of here, you’re gonna have to kick my ass” speaks to some shotgun preseason analysis – Marlon and Jordan, if they can figure out the social game and align with the right power players, are going to be a formidable rookie combination.  Both are elite athletes, super competitive, and seem to compliment each others strengths.  They are a team to watch out for.

1:34 – In an even deeper confirmation of his godfather role in this game, Johnny lays it straight with Knight: “You have got yourself linked up a a sinking ship, dude.”  Is he talking about partner Preston?  Old flame Jemmye?  Sage Aunt figure Trishelle?  This is followed by a shot of Knight engaging in some extracurricular activity of the physical fighting kind.  There may not be too much to read into all of this, but I hope that Knight has been pulled under Johnny’s strategic organization.  He showed some game mastermind promise on Battle of the Seasons that was extinguished too soon in the fiery remains of a team featuring Preston and Mackenzie.  Knight deserves another go round.

1:39 – What a pleasure it is to see old enemies, Aneesa and Trishelle, still going at it, now a full decade later.  Aneesa’s nomination for best line of the trailer (“You are the Tra-shelle you were and you are always going to be trash”) is followed by a push “punch” to Trishelle’s face.  You can begin to feel the momentum of the July 10 season premiere.

1:43 – What The Challenge trailer would be complete without some time devoted to Frank yelling?  “Let him shake!”  Oh, don’t worry.  We will.

1:44 – A new rule to live by – Any time The Challenge incorporates a light saber battle into the festivities, it is a good thing.

1:48 – Does Bird just slap CT in the face?  Welcome to the big leagues Real World: Portland!

1:50 – These fleeting images of the challenges within The Challenge show shot after shot of people falling in water.  People falling in water is kind of a win.

1:53 – The trailer ends with Zach yelling, “I want who’s next!” and then cuts to the show titles (set against an unexpected purple misty swirl).  If this ending montage doesn’t encourage excitement and anticipation, you may need to reevaluate your own understanding of dramatic tension.

My season preview column will be out later this month.  The Challenge: Rivals 2 debuts on MTV on July 10, 2013 at 10:00 PM EST.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.

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