RIVALS 2 – Episode 2 – The Confessioner’s Rules

In last week’s weekly power rankings, I introduced the decidedly half-baked (some of my friends questioned the name, but I stand by it!) idea of “The Confessioner.”  Explored more in depth in my week 1 power rankings opus, “The Confessioner” would be a neutral figure that competitors could meet with (both through appointment and through an office hours like system) to seek out strategy tips, relationship advice, workout regimens, group activity ideas to fight against boredom, and conflict resolution for alcohol infused and infested extracurricular nighttime activities.  The Challenge house is one step closer to Arkham Asylum than to the Fortress of Solitude (cross DC Comics metaphors are allowed), so the addition of a such an invaluable resource could be of great sustenance to many a participant.

Coming off of tonight’s wildly entertaining (although devoid of a Johnny Bananas twitter teased and probable father disowned unnamed act) second episode of The Challenge: Rivals 2 season, here are 16 rules (with no discernible method to the order) from the hypothetical Confessioner:

Rule #1 – Before an elimination round in the Jungle, eat more than watermelon and cigarettes.

We all know it can be terribly hot and humid in Thailand and a healthy dose of rookie nerves in your first elimination (or for Tyrie, it appears to be in all six of his) is to be expected, but Anastasia’s nausea delay pre-elimination and full-blown nausea attack post-elimination (Jessica’s solo mission on the “you’ve been eliminated, so TJ is going to make a final speech” podium was a significant moment in her “we’ve only just begun” The Challenge career.  Much respect was gained.) may have had a little too much to do with her final meal (or rather lack there of).  In an episode of more than a few “not a good look” moments for this real Portland Bird, the Jungle debacle may have been the worst look of all.  The Anastasia flight’s crash landing was oddly reminiscent of another one-time CT side project (up on the roof?) from The Challenge “hot mess moment of infamy” Mount Rushmore: Shauvon, whose bubble burst (literally) several seasons ago.  Tough.

Rule #2 – Don’t quit a challenge or you may face severe repercussions.

Wes and Preston, for reasons that the edit did not explore to the depth that this viewer would have liked, decided that they would quit the challenge, thinking that they had nothing to lose (Wes was under no circumstances going to thrust his saw with CT.  Preston sawed his way to the second round with Knight, but wasn’t about to have some mutual face to crotch time on the ridiculous inverted relay race with his Real World: New Orleans “everything but” mate.).  TJ’s verdict: “Since you guys quit, you will be assessed a penalty at the next challenge.”  It may be unfair CT, but you know TJ hates a quitter.  CT and Wes can likely stomach such a blow, but the Team New Orleans men may not be so fortunate.

CT working alone

Rule #3 – If you want to have better chance of living, don’t pick a fight with CT.

Yeah, so this is kind of important because the possibility (Adam King can attest) is in the conversation.  As Frank tearily admits in his downright Confessioner-esque post battle session with Johnny Bananas, he knows better.  Be careful, Frank.  Be careful, Marlon.  Be very careful.

Frank and CT

Rule #4 – Do not underestimate Jordan

“That’s my partner if you all didn’t know.”  Thanks, Marlon.  If we didn’t know, we know now.  First, his pull up counter to the mighty Thor was near incredible.  Sarah says it best, “I gotta give mad props to Jordan.  He embraces every single challenge that comes his way, and that to me is soooo sexy!”  Second, he and Marlon came very close to winning the challenge and will continue to be near the top if there is any degree of athleticism and drive involved.  Third, his peacemaking skills, maybe not always as effective when in the middle of a Hurricane Nia squal in Portland, are already a factor two episodes in to Rivals 2.  He defended Marlon against the CT (CT!) in the “glass in the pool motive head scratcher” throw down last week and managed to keep Anastasia’s suddenly pugnacious and out of control self off of CT (a twist of fight roles) and indoors (the door close was the underrated DVR rewind moment of the week).  Finally, he translated cuddling with Sarah (a more common Challenge scenario) to a steamy closet makeout session (a less common Challenge occurrence).  In a week when a Challenge rookie took most of the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, Jordan was illuminated for all the right reasons (if only her were on the Bachelorette with Des).

Jordan

Rule #5 – If you need to pee while waiting for a Jungle opponent to work through a nausea attack set off by poor preparation choices, feel free to do so right where you are as long as you understand that you may have your head dunked in the same water you are peeing in.

One of my predictions for this season: “Cooke will have a moment on this show that everyone is talking about.”  Ding ding ding!  We have a winner!

Cara and Cooke

Rule #6 – If you want to piss off TJ, don’t quit, don’t give a lackluster effort, and don’t smoke before an elimination.

The Great TJ Lavin about Anastasia after her elimination: “I mean, I guess she shouldn’t smoke cigarettes and not eat, so…”  When TJ kills it, TJ kills it.

Rule #7 – If CT gets attacked, Knight will protect him.

Knight is officially the Kevin Costner to CT’s Whitney Houston.  If you mess with CT (and if you thoroughly read rule no. 3, you would know not to), Knight will be there to protect him.  How and when this was decided remains a mystery, but if I am Knight and CT asks me to be his bodyguard, I am going to be his bodyguard, no questions asked.

Knight protects CT

Rule #8 – A cheer of “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go” is always a fantastic early 90s allusion to make.

Thank you to Theresa for your stellar lead narration of this playful entry into this week’s episode in which a band of five (Theresa, Trey, Anastasia, CT, and master strategist Johnny) decide to water balloon bomb a barracks full of unassuming sleeping competitors huddled together in the living room to be closer to the AC.  Their incognito choice of themed attire (an idea that the Confessioner would surely have come up with) is “ninja.” Somewhere the nine remaining Vanilla Ice fans are smiling.

Rule #9 – Don’t sleep on #teamsubtitles – Jemmye and Camila.

In my preseason power rankings column, I predicted Jemmye and Camila were going to come very close to making the finals and I stand by this prediction, but I may have underestimated how much fun their journey would be to watch.  Jemmye is fast becoming this season’s go to sound byte (“Literally, it’s ten seconds in and Camila is already being a crazy person.  My biggest fear is can Camila and I get through this without killing each other because my first instinct is to kill her,” “I am thinking about just staying there with Camila’s face stuffed in a tire until she passes out”) and we all know Camila has a most entertaining extracurricular nighttime activity or two in her before the season is through, but I think they will be an unexpected factor in future challenges.  Perhaps as much as any team. if they do well this season, their potential to rise into the upper tier of The Challenge female competitors is very much in play.  So far, we are just enjoying the ride.

Rule #10 – As the first two challenges have proven (and $1000 richer!), you may want to start considering Zach and Trey as one of the favorites.

Two straight challenge wins to start this season is at worst a statement of arrival and at best a harbinger of future success.  They have the best combination of complimentary physical skills and builds of any male team and seem to have found a common goal (winning) and a common enemy (the competition) that has allowed their personal differences to be tabled.  Be prepared for a rise in the power rankings this week.

The challenge

Rule #11 – If your welcome and reception after a 30 hour journey to Thailand is less than warm, tune it out and focus on winning.

And Cara Maria, a late addition for the second straight season, did just that.  She knows how to play the rivals construct (it is really only about the partnership of two people as she and Laurel embodied on their road to a finals appearance in Rivals), and, despite some unfortunate, but clear social difficulties with the rest of this group, Cara will try to ignore all the background noise (or in this case, Thai crickets).  Maybe not a friend for life, Cara Maria will be the best of partners for Cooke on Rivals 2.

Cara Maria and TJ

Rule #12 – Pay attention: Sarah is wonderful and may be a part of the team you are voting for.

Sarah, please go ahead and sing this from the mountaintops so all of those men teams can hear you!  Poor Sarah may again be stuck with lesser than partner (C’mon Trishelle!  Where’s the fire?)  Thankfully, Jordan seems to have already figured out what has been so very clear over these past seven seasons of The Challenge to all those of us watching, “Physically Sarah is beautiful, and then add her personality in there and she is an amazing catch for anyone…Sarah is the kind of girl that you marry.”  Amen.

Trishelle and Sarah

Rule #13 – Practicing your use of a saw is a good way to train for The Challenge.

Apparently…

Rule #14 – Listen to Jessica’s words of wisdom and you will learn something important.

“Yah, you got a fight.  Yah, you had a hookup, big frickin’ deal.  You think anyone else hasn’t ever had sex with somebody?  You think anyone else hasn’t ever fought anybody?  You’re damn wrong if you think they didn’t.  So frickin’ what!  At the end of the day, and I’m realizing this too, so you’re not standing alone, it’s me and you baby, and guess what?  We’re rookies.  So we gotta kick ass.”  This was Jessica to Anastasia after Bird attempted to assault CT.  One of the most welcome, but unexpected aspects of Rivals 2 thus far has been the incredible rookie campaign of Jessica.  Yes, she has been eliminated, but she went out with such a valiant fight (especially in contrast to Anastasia).  Her Hulk-like move during the challenge was an episode highlight and she earned some serious competitor cred with TJ for never quitting in the Jungle.  Jessica’s return to The Challenge on future seasons would be most welcome, thirsty, and junk.

Rule #15 – There are cameras in the closet.

Although, I am not sure any of the competitors living in the house in Phuket knew this at the time.

Rule #16 – The Big Easy Rule: You’re only as good as how strong you are compared to how much of a liability your partner is (my silly power rankings scoring system does matter!).

In other words, during team or partner additions of The Challenge, it doesn’t matter how good a competitor you are if you are on a team with Big Easy.  You will inevitably lose.  Balance is rewarded (especially, as has already been made wildly clear, in Paula and Emily’s case) if both members of the team have little to no weaknesses.  Conversely, for all the bodyguard strategy mind games that Knight can bring to the table, if his partner is Preston (and running is not the challenge event), it is going to be awfully hard to succeed.  Sarah is facing this struggle right now with a seemingly detached Trishelle.  Johnny must weather every potential Frank alcohol influenced meltdown (I think we are not going to see too many more the rest of the season).  Both CT and Wes must deal with each other’s too often a season detrimental moves and can only be as good as their ability to keep it together.  What made Laurel and Cara Maria’s run in Rivals so impressive was that Laurel was able to elevate Cara to her level over the course of the season as opposed to having their ultimate fate linked to Cara’s unrealized potential.  Going forward, these pairings who have such a disparity of competitor skill must find a way to mind and decrease the gap, or early elimination is inevitable.

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 and recaps will post weekly starting on July 10.

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