“The Confessioner” and the THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Weekly Power Rankings – Week 1

The Challenge has returned (and what a glorious thing it is!).  For details on all of the key events from the epic 90 minute season premiere episode, check out my retro running diary.

Before we hit up this week’s power rankings, there are two important topics that must be discussed…

“The Confessioner”

In this week’s jubilant GRTFL column from Czar David Jacoby over at Grantland, he played back the exchange between Leroy and CT after CT’s pool fight with Marlon in which CT goes from rabid beast to “I love you, man” within moments.  To best express Leroy’s uncanny ability to tame the mighty CT, Jacoby named Leroy “The CT Whisperer.”

I was inspired.  Now beginning my 24th season of The Challenge as a viewer, I have often wanted to knock some sense into competitors about how to play a strategic move, delicately handle an ex, motivate a teammate, or, as was the case this past week, talk some sense into Anastasia about how hooking up with CT may not be the wisest of moves.  The Challenge house is a pressure cooker of competitive insanity, 24/7 intrusive observation, and deeply emotional personal relationships set against the prospect of winning a substantial sum of money.  Who do you turn to in a time of need?  There have often been Challenge competitors throughout the years who can provide counsel or a calming influence on the proceedings (Mark Long, at times, Auntie Trishelle last year until she and Dustin imploded), but frequently for many, The Challenge experience can be a wasteland of paranoia, loneliness, and tension that is most often alleviated through consumption of alcohol (of which production supplies in abundance).  What if there was a person, removed from the action of the game, that could be an island of sanity within the walls of the asylum?

Let me introduce you to…THE CONFESSIONER.

The Confessioner would be an outsider, never before on a Real WorldRoad Rules, Spring Break Challenge, Fresh Meat, or let alone, The Challenge season.  Armed with skills in conflict resolution, psychology, strategy, and wisdom, the Confessioner would live in a private room in a private house separate from the cast.  The Confessioner would serve the following roles:

  • Strategic Advisor – Let’s say you want to make a big game play like CT tried to do Week 1.  Go see the Confessioner.  After CT presents his idea, the Confessioner would have told CT that blindsiding Johnny and Frank is not a bad direction to take eventually, but putting them against Dunbar and Tyrie in the first Jungle elimination is an automatic win for them and you don’t want an angry Johnny and especially an angry Frank coming back to the house filled with a vengeful rage.  Bad move, CT, says the Confessioner.
  • House Therapist – There are so many occasions on The Challenge where the machinations of personal relationships force competitors to make decisions that they ultimately regret.  Anastasia – you are interested in embarking on a Challenge fling with CT?  Go see if it is a good idea with the Confessioner.  Alton, you are having trouble relating to “these new kids?” The Confessioner will give you some strategies on how to make it work.  Nany – you just want to go home?  See the Confessioner first in order to explore if it is really the right move for you.  Wes – you are wondering why no one ever seems to like you?  Talk to the Confessioner about ways to improve your personality in the perception of others.
  • Personal Trainer – You are concerned about your cardio vascular endurance on the final challenge or how smoking may be affecting your lung support.  Go see the Confessioner to develop a workout plan or some meditative strategies on how to quit.  You’re telling me CT couldn’t have used regular Confessioner training sessions on Exes to help him succeed on an Iceland mountain slope?
  • Creative Consultant – When you are bored and having trouble coming up with fun ideas to pass the time, go see the Confessioner who has many party games, role-playing scenarios, costumes to provide, and themed nights to suggest.
  • Mediator – There is a major dispute between two parties at night that gets physical or verbally abusive.  The next morning, you receive a mandatory summons to go see the Confessioner.  Marlon and CT, what was this pool fight really about?  CT, the next time Marlon knocks glass in the pool, can you think of better way to handle it?
  • House Judge – I recognize that production has served this role for years, but wouldn’t it be that much more compelling if a decision whether someone had to leave the house was made by the Confessioner?  Like the surreal scene on Hard Knocks showing Joe Philbin cut Chad Troubled Johnson Ochocino last summer, wouldn’t you have wanted to see a Confessioner conversation with Adam Royer about how he let down his teammate Leroy with his reckless and violent behavior on Rivals?  The Confessioner delivers the news and we get to watch.

Justin Booth and Jon Murray, take note.  The Challenge needs to implement the Confessioner next season (In case you are looking for people, I nominate myself).

What are some of the effects of the surprise gender separated voting system?

T.J.’s surprise reveal after Week 1’s women vote (well executed delivery, Mr. Lavin) sent shockwaves through the collective establishment (and especially through Derek and Robb who were somewhat blindsided by the women’s relative apathy toward them and more acutely, because they were counting on an unrealized and frankly, unrealistic coup d’état against Johnny Bananas.  As everyone, including partner Wes seemed to say, CT – What are you doing?).  Teams are no longer voting against other teams that they are directly competing against and instead must now rely on an outside (the other gender) party to control their fate.  Here are some breakdowns of what this means for the men’s teams (women next week) with the knowledge of how the women voted this week:

Derek and Robb (received 5 votes) – Derek and Robb were sent into the first elimination with five out of a possible eight votes.  Although there may be some reticence to vote them in again right away (the “they proved themselves in the Jungle, let’s give them a break this week” philosophy), the comments made by the women why were most damning to this largely unproven tandem.  Diem and Aneesa haven’t had any “real conversations yet” and Camila and Jemmye like them, but “right now there is no loyalty” between them.  Besides the Cancun connections with Derek for Jonna and Jasmine, Derek and Robb have no other women team in their corner.  Cooke and Naomi were the other team to vote for someone else (Jordan and Marlon “just because”) and Cooke’s new partner could have had little to no contact with Derek and Robb up to this point that would warrant any protection.  Unless Derek and Robb do some serious social playing or win the next challenge, it is hard to envision a scenario in which they avoid the Jungle.

Jordan and Marlon (received 2 votes) – They received two votes (Jasmine and Theresa, Cooke and Naomi) and would have probably received one more if Nany did not have a reason to go after Knight (and she has a whole wet wardrobe of reasons).  As rookies new to the game, it is significant that they seemed to have more women support than Derek and Robb who have been on The Challenge before.  Unless manipulated by the powers that be, Ana and Jessica are a solid vote that will never come Marlon and Jordan’s way.  In the meantime, they have to make some other strong connections that put them in a better social position than Knight and Preston or Zach and Trey (Unexpected? More on this in a bit.)

Knight and Preston (received 1 vote) – Besides the Nany revenge vote, this less established The Challenge team has a leg up on both Derek and Robb and Marlon and Jordan.  Jemmye will not vote for Knight (unless he really pisses her off, a common occurrence) and Trishelle’s Knight bond may prevent her from giving him an early vote, but otherwise, it is unclear how much women support Knight and Preston will have.  They must target the Jasmine and Theresa and Cooke and her new partner (relatively unaligned teams) as potential teams to work with going forward.

Zach and Trey – They will likely be competing to win challenges throughout this season, but the new voting system may negatively affect their ultimate success.  Zach and Trey have strong alliances in the men, but their women relationships are less established, and, in Zach’s case with Jonna, he may be targeted.  Like Knight and Preston, they must go after Cooke and her new partner (a little of a wildcard at this point) and some of the top teams (Sarah and Trishelle, the latter of whom has some ties to Zach, and Paula and Emily).  They may not rise to the top of the women voting chart, but they must work to keep themselves as far away from the bottom as possible.

Ty and Leroy – Ty and Leroy may have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new voting system.  Ty’s Paula and Emily connection is solid (they would probably protect them second to only Johnny and Frank) and Leroy has strong support in Nany and Jonna and in Cooke and her partner-to-be besides the fact that he seem to be universally (and rightfully so) well-liked by all the women.  Aneesa and Diem could be another potential area of support for these two.  If Ty keeps his past shenanigans in check, teams will have little reason to vote against them.

CT and Wes – CT and Wes may face an upward battle in persuading women teams to protect them.  Besides Diem and Aneesa who you could not picture ever going against CT and the slew of women who have a CT “crush of the moment,” who else is going to have their back?  With Nany’s tenuous relationship with Frank, Nany and Jonna could be a potential area of support.  Cooke and her partner-to-be are for now an open team to persuade, and, if Cooke’s partner has not been on The Challenge with Wes before, she may not have developed the anti-Wes sentiments that many of the past competitors feel toward him.  CT’s early erratic behavior coupled with Wes being Wes (although his week 1 self was a calm and collected wonderful iteration) will immediately put the target on their backs.  Additionally, CT’s attempt to force Johnny and Frank into an early elimination will force Johnny and Frank into “attack CT and Wes” mode (as if they weren’t already living there).  They will do all in their power to persuade more flexible women teams to target CT and Wes.  Although they would have faced similar issues in an open voting system between both genders, this new system presents CT and Wes with many a problem to solve.

Johnny and Frank – Johnny and Frank were in a better position when the guys voted for them too (Zach and Trey were to be a locked ally), but they are still sitting in the best guy strategic position after the women only vote reveal.  From past ties to and successes with Johnny Bananas, Paula, Sarah, and Camila will remain a loyal vote.  Nany’s past troubles with Frank are not in their favor, but most of the other women players are less apt to rustle any feathers with two players (in Johnny and Frank) that they know will come after them if they vote against them.

This new voting system has spiced up a Rivals 2 season that was probably better served as a veteran versus next generation showdown.  It has created a strategic direction that we have yet to see in past Challenges.  It will be most revealing to see how the men vote for the women this week and could give further insight into how all of this will play out.

 

On to the rankings…

As became tradition last year during Battle of the Seasons, the individual competitor power rankings and team power rankings will be released weekly sometime shortly after each new episode airing.  Here are the individual and team rankings after week 1…

PRESEASON RIVALS 2 INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS

 NOTE: the rankings will again be based on my un Zach Lowe-like analysis/sabermetrics method known as “My subjective experience and observations watching all 24 seasons of the show.”  Weight will be given to how well teams and individuals do on competitions, on strategy and in the social game, and whether he or she is a “good competitor.”  Green = increased ranking.  Red = dropped ranking.

THE MEN

1. Johnny Bananas (9th season, last week: 1)

Week 1 Tweet: The Challenge King has returned!  Early positive returns on Frank partnership.  Staved off potential (wasn’t really going to happen) coup.

Preseason Tweet: Legendary and undisputed Challenge king primed to make triumphant return.  Found the perfect balance between strategy and athleticism.

2. CT (9th season, last week: 2)

Week 1 Tweet: “Lady Heart Killer/Mess with me at your own peril” version of CT unleashed.  Early victims: Ana, Marlon, Diem, Wes’s strategic game

Preseason Tweet: Perennial #1 Challenge intimidator, recently mellowed.  Must find way to manage collective animus toward Wes, fight off lady distractions.

3. Zach (2nd season, last week: 4)

Week 1 Tweet: He may hate Trey, but self-congratulatory pronouncements of athletic prowess have some substance.  Statement making early challenge win.

Tweet comment: “Thor” is physical beast, gave mostly (Sam may object) calming force on Team San Diego BoS win.  Must find way to get along with enemy Trey.

4. Frank (2nd season, last week: 3)

Week 1 Tweet: “Let him shake!  Let him shake!” Frank & Johnny is lethal pair.  Combining these two consummate strategy elites = bad news for competition.

Preseason Tweet: Temperamental Extracurricular Nighttime Activity wild card, but strategic mastermind of BoS win.  A Johnny Bananas in training.

5. Wes (8th season, last week: 5)

Week 1 Tweet: Wes just trying to ride out this early CT monster storm.  He must utilize Leroy as the “CT Whisperer” or he will find his team on an island.

Preseason Tweet: Arrogance & self-proclaimed brilliance aside, has had amazing Challenge resiliency amidst slew of enemies.  Must find a way to work with CT.

6. Leroy (3rd season, last week: 8)

Week 1 Tweet: As @Jacoby_ coined, Leroy is the “CT Whisperer.”  His strong relationships with women are going to be essential to voting success.

Preseason Tweet: Most welcome return after 1 season off, has to excel in social game & manage potential Ty outbursts.  Takes care of business in challenges.

7. Ty (4th season, last week: 7)

Week 1 Tweet: Not much play from Ty in Week 1, but any night that ends w/o blowup or upheaval = good night.  Has maybe the most reliable partner in Leroy.

Preseason Tweet: Coming off great performance on BoE, must continue to ride that momentum, stay out of conflict.  Leroy is ideal partner to keep Ty in check.

8. Trey (2nd season, last week: 12, biggest rise)

Week 1 Tweet: Huge first week for Trey.  Challenge win and gained some respect to his much larger (in size, close in athletic ego) partner.

Preseason Tweet: Unexpected major feud (at least in social media) with Zach.  Athleticism and drive to be great will supersede bad blood.  Could go far.

9. Knight (2nd season, last week: 11)

Week 1 Tweet: Got somewhat expected vote against him (Nany), but avoided elimination round – first week success.  Must keep Preston confidence rising.

Preseason Tweet: Left BoS riding a little momentum, primed to be strategy power player in future.  Can he motivate Preston and keep things positive?

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

10. Marlon (Rookie season, last week: 13)

Week 1 Tweet: Week 1 fight with CT risky business, but earned him some cred.  Did not lose any votes.  No elimination round week 1 is a good sign.

Preseason Tweet: Great addition to The Challenge.  Ready to have a big rookie campaign.  Well-matched with Jordan athletically.  Will surprise people.

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Naomi, Jasmine/Theresa)

11. Jordan (Rookie season, last week: 14)

Week 1 Tweet: Underrated moment of Week 1: Jordan jumping in the pool and going to Marlon’s defense.  Rivals? No longer.  Great convo w/Johnny in edit.

Tweet comment: Fulfilling Challenge destiny, will be perfect fit as freak athlete.  Must tweak social game.  Partnership w/ Marlon: Leroy/Mike in Rivals I?

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Naomi, Jasmine/Theresa)

12. Derek (3rd season, last week: 9, largest drop [tie])

Week 1 Tweet: Despite big win in elimination (albeit against Tyrie’s team), must sure up women relationships.  He and Robb have few connections coming in.

Preseason Tweet: Had very successful run on Team Cancun on BoS, great team player.  Will work well in social game, but impressive in challenges too.

VOTES AGAINST: 5 (Emily/Paula, Ana/Jess, Camila/Jemmye, Sarah/Trishelle, Diem/Aneesa)

13. Robb (2nd season, last week: 10, largest drop [tie])

Week 1 Tweet: Besides maybe Trey, does not have many friends in Phuket and must make them fast.  Landslide vote into elimination may not change next time.

Preseason Tweet: Bulked up in offseason, already huge dude.  Derek fight non-factor.  Could break out this season w/o Marie.  Social game prowess is unknown.

VOTES AGAINST: 5 (Emily/Paula, Ana/Jess, Camila/Jemmye, Sarah/Trishelle, Diem/Aneesa)

14. Preston (2nd season, last week: 16)

Week 1 Tweet: Preston gained some confidence in challenge.  Very interesting attire throughout.  Must work the women’s room and gain some allies.

Preseason Tweet: Not quintessential Challenge material, but apparently, he can run!  Mostly poor showing on BoS.  Gained some confidence toward the end.

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

ELIMINATED

 

Dunbar (6 season, last week: 6)

Week 1 Tweet: Dunbar knew he was screwed and unfortunately for him, he was right.  Early exit a byproduct of unfortunate partnership.

 

Preseason Tweet: Often on wrong alliance, faces upward battle with yet to prove himself, Tyrie, as partner.  Must rely on experience and strength to succeed.

Tyrie (6th season, last week: 15)

Week 1 Tweet: Oops.  Tough times on The Challenge for Tyrie.  I feel badly for the guy.  As predicted, lost first challenge.  Lost first elimination.

Preseason Tweet: Yet to prove much in 6 seasons, strange partnership w/ Dunbar. Although overdue for success, still likely early exit.  Weak in social game.

THE WOMEN

1. Paula (10th season, last week: 1)

Week 1 Tweet: Challenge win with Emily made statement about being the strongest women’s team.  The target is there, but few men will vote against them.

Preseason Tweet: Longest tenure in Challenge history, much wiser & stronger now.  Great w/ strategy, amazing partner in Emily.  Close ties to Johnny Bananas.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

2. Emily (3rd season, last week: 2)

Week 1 Tweet: Emily strutted her stuff in first challenge.  1 of 2 members of the women’s team to beat and definitively the most feared female competitor.

Preseason Tweet: Yet to win a finals, best position yet with Paula as partner.  Most athletic women this season (no Laurel!).  Rivalry with Paula non-issue.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

3. Sarah (7th season, last week: 2)

Week 1 Tweet: Sarah’s body language and astonishment every time T.J. revealed new game surprise was worth the price of admission.

Preseason Tweet: Just an amazing person. 7 straight Challenges, due for a win.  Trivia master and has great relationships. Will partner well with Trishelle.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

4. Nany (2nd season, last week: 4)

Week 1 Tweet: Not unexpected strong showing in the first challenge.  Will surprise a lot of people this season. Love that she voted for Knight.

Tweet comment: Resilient, strong, willing to step up for her team.  Well-matched w/ Jonna.  Left BoS too soon.  Must stay grounded, esp. while intoxicated.

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

5. Jonna (3rd season, last week: 5)

Week 1 Tweet: Jonna seems to work better with women, as shown in strong first challenge.  Must be careful of ties to Derek’s likely sinking ship.

Preseason Tweet: Out of Zach romance, can have more focus on Rivals 2.  Will partner well w/ Nany.  Must exhibit next level strategy.  Strong in challenges.

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

6. Camila (5th season, last week: 6)

Week 1 Tweet: Uneventful first week for Camila not a bad thing.  After embarrassing BoS experience, she and Jemmye remain a team to watch.

Preseason Tweet: Ready for comeback season after Big Easy debacle on BoS. Killer instinct, drive like no other but must be corralled. Jemmye as partner? Yes!

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

7. Trishelle (4th season, last week: 7)

Week 1 Tweet: Mostly stayed in the background in Week 1.  With new voting format, must ride Sarah’s men ties.  Relationship with Knight could be key.

Preseason Tweet: Made strong comeback on BoS after many years away.  Wants to win – rivalry will be non-issue with Sarah.  Must push herself a little harder.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

8. Jemmye (2nd season, last week: 9)

Week 1 Tweet: Double fisting wine aside, Jemmye’s sophomore campaign has only just begun.  Her athleticism is going to come out soon in a challenge.

Preseason Tweet: Predict a breakout season.  Sneakily good athlete, committed, well-liked, will get along with Camila.  #Team subtitles could be surprise.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

9. Aneesa (9 seasons, last week: 10)

Week 1 Tweet: Forgot how much Aneesa has been to a few of these rodeos before and gets it – great awareness of Diem’s CT issues affecting her team.

Preseason Tweet: Challenge veteran back for an 8th season.  Hasn’t been in finals in some time.  Endurance has always been an issue, but in best shape ever.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

10. Diem (7th season, last week: 8, largest drop)

Week 1 Tweet: Any CT entanglements are not good for her game.  He and Wes only carry one vote.  Worried that things are going to go bad very quickly.

Preseason Tweet: Courageous and incredible in real life – fought cancer twice.  Struggled at time on Challenges.  Relationship with CT can be a distraction.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

11. Cooke (Rookie season, last week: 13, largest rise)

Week 1 Tweet: Naomi’s exit was real – reasons for it, tragic.  In Challenge world, Cooke is big beneficiary of a new partner, whomever it is.

Preseason Tweet: Professional Filipino soccer player, how long will she be partnered w/ Naomi?  Must make good alliance decisions or face early elimination.

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

12. Jasmine (4th season, last week: 11)

Week 1 Tweet: Concerned about overall support from guy teams.  Must keep out of bottom in elimination – she and Theresa could be physically overmatched.

Preseason Tweet: Took major positive steps on BoS.  Valuable member of Team Cancun.  Still must fight against small frame.  A calmer version of former self.

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

13. Theresa (4th season, last week: 12)

Week 1 Tweet: Had the longest hiatus between challenges, could affect her connections to the men who decide her vote. Must avoid bottom next challenge.

Preseason Tweet: Took past 2 seasons off, must build up some new relationships.  She and Jasmine will be physical underdogs – good to be under the radar.

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

14. Jessica (Rookie season, last week: 14)

Week 1 Tweet: Loved her week 1!  Must stay close to Marlon throughout.  Not afraid to mingle w/ CT – great straight talk on Bird going down wrong CT path.

Preseason Tweet: Should be a classic rookie – happy to be there, but early elimination.  Counting on dirt biking (her forte) in one of the challenges.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

15. Anastasia (Rookie season, last week: 16)

Week 1 Tweet: Has no idea what she is getting herself into with CT.  Tough route to take in long-term game planning.  Can she recover?

Preseason Tweet: Breakout star of Rivals 2 trailer w/ CT slap. Could put target on back.  Not someone you would expect to bring much to table athletically.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

LEFT THE SHOW:

Naomi (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Week 1 Tweet: My heart goes out to Naomi and her family.  I am glad she was able to have a positive reconciliation with Cooke.  All the best.

Tweet comment: Rumored to leave early, nothing to do with game.  Unproven.  Challenge may not be best forum for her.

 

RIVALS 2 TEAM RANKINGS

Note: Team rankings are compiled by averaging the two individual rankings.  Teams with the lowest total average rankings are ranked better than the highest (i.e. you want as few points as possible).  First tiebreaker goes to number of total past wins.  Second tiebreaker goes to years of experience. Green = increased ranking.  Red = dropped ranking.

  1. Paula and Emily – Team Average: 1.5, last week: 2
  2. Johnny and Frank – Team Average: 2.5, last week: 2
  3. CT and Wes – Team Average: 3.5, last week: 3.5
  4. Nany and Jonna – Team Average: 4.5, last week: 4.5
  5. Sarah and Trishelle – Team Average: 5, last week: 4.5
  6. Zach and Trey – Team Average: 5.5, last week: 8
  7. Ty and Leroy – Team Average: 6.5, last week: 7.5
  8. Camila and Jemmye – Team Average: 7, last week: 7.5
  9. Diem and Aneesa – Team Average: 9.5, last week: 9
  10. Marlon and Jordan – Team Average: 10.5, last week: 13.5
  11. Cooke and ? – Team Average: 11, last week: 14
  12. Knight and Preston – Team Average: 11.5, last week: 13.5
  13. Jasmine and Theresa – Team Average: 12.5, last week: 11.5
  14. Derek and Robb – Team Average: 12.5, last week: 9.5
  15. Anastasia and Jessica – Team Average: 14.5, last week: 15
  16. ELIMINATED: Dunbar and Tyrie

LEFT THE SHOW: Naomi

Next week is a women’s elimination week and will reveal a new partner for Cooke.  The anticipation is real.  Until next time…

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about MTV’s “The Challenge,” pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ power rankings will post weekly starting on July 10.

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