A letdown was inevitable. Last week’s scintillating episode of The Challenge: Rivals 2 packed as much of what makes this Fifth Major Professional American Sport professional into its one hour runtime, capped off by a Jungle battle for the ages between two teams of superior athletes. This week’s women elimination week episode begins with a similar “edge of your seat” momentum, but fizzles its way to a women elimination that was less than compelling.
Let’s begin from the top where our remaining competitors are living the Thailand nightlife dream to let off some endorphins after witnessing (or in Jordan and Marlon’s case, participating in) a most epic Jungle. Frank must have had an off-camera dance floor run-in with Jemmye because he is venting his verbal attack to Jonna, his real life friend and LA roommate, in a well-lit sitting area. Jemmye is on to Frank’s ways and wishes that Knight would lose his CT bodyguard post just for a minute to protect his old flame. Jemmye addresses this desire to Knight back at the house. Intoxication levels are high, which means that Knight is primed to take Jemmye’s request as an opportunity to do what he seems to do best, attempt to destroy her where it hurts the most (the pursuit of a new Challenge house hobby has eluded him thus far). Camila, a #teamsubtitles loyalist and at present a blood alcohol level risk taker, comes to the defense of her Rival partner. Knight, to the surprise of no one, sits in his “I didn’t do the deed” state of innocence, as Camila inches closer to the brink of her (as we saw one night on Battle of the Seasons) state of intoxicated insanity.
We all have our people who can really get to us. For Jemmye it is Knight, and for Camila, it will always be Johnny Bananas. Amidst a huddle of bro standing, Johnny says something to the effect of “she’s crazy, dude” as only Johnny can do. Camila’s volcano of uncontrollable rage and violence literally erupts, but unlike Frank’s similar quick trigger from last week, Camila’s lava flow is just a bit messier. Paula, Jemmye, and especially Emily, become team “help Camila simmer down.” Camila kicks, screams, flails, and RAGES a monstrosity of animus toward Johnny. If not for Emily’s Herculean efforts of restraint, Camila would have attempted to make Johnny a human bobble-head. Jemmye’s moral of the story to Camila when active raging has ceased, “we can only trust ourselves.” #Teamsubtitles is learning to understand one another.
All is well again on challenge day (alcohol’s role in extracurricular nighttime activities must not go unnoticed) and TJ is ready to present this week’s fun scenario involving competitors falling from great heights into water, production’s weekly go to (Hmm, would it be possible to try something different more often? Last week’s Blind Leading the Blind shock-a-thon was awesome!). This week it is Swingers, a challenge that begins with an impossible trapeze artist attempt followed by an endless swim through a nasty current (of the water kind, unlike the electrical kind from last week). Cooke and Cara Maria are inevitably chosen to go first (Diem and Aneesa do not let them catch a break in the order – has their every been a team who was more consistently lower in the totem pole over the course of a Challenge season who has stayed this long as Cooke and Cara? I think not.). Despite Cooke’s incredible trapeze artistry, this challenge is really about the swim, and, apparently, Cara can’t. Current or no current, Cooke spends the near twenty minutes of participation motivating her partner to breath and fight through the panic. It is admittedly hard to watch Cara, self-effacing to a fault, struggle through an activity that is not in her stable of tricks. They do finish (the journey to the final buoy seemed to take up an entire segment of the show between commercials), but without another women team disqualification, a trip back to the Jungle for Cooke and Cara seems to be near certain.
Two men teams, ignoring the $1000 reward, logic, or the potential repercussions next week, voluntarily tap out. Although Knight already had finished, Preston is unfortunately swimming in the wrong direction (at least he is a great runner, right Knight?). In a more surprising turn, rookie sensation Marlon gives in to the current (much to Jordan’s competitive juiced chagrin) and DQs as well.
Frontrunner teams have similar successes – Frank and Paula are beasts in the open ocean. Both Johnny and Emily have more difficulty than their superstar partners, but compared to Preston and Cara, they look more like Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin than Little John from Robinhood: Prince of Thieves. CT and Wes, sneakily under the radar as a serious contender this season, swim to the best male team time. Nany and Jonna compete, but both Aneesa and Diem and Jemmye and Camila excel (Who knew the #teamsubtitles catastrophe duo from the night before were trained lifeguards?). In a mere five-seconds better than Aneesa and Diem, Jemmye and Camila win (my preseason prognosticating is proving to be accurate) and are safe from this second to last women Jungle. No surprise, Cara Maria and Cooke were the last place women team and now must make their claim to stay in the Jungle.
This week’s voting deliberation focus is squarely on Frank and Jonna’s relationship. We learn that they are LA roommates and that Frank was an instrumental support when Jonna broke up with Zach. Unfortunately, as the alliances are currently constituted, the two teams Frank would have voted for are either safe (Jemmye and Camila) or already in the Jungle (Cara and Cooke). He couldn’t possibly vote for Paula and Emily (expected from the Johnny bond) or Diem and Aneesa (unexpected, did CT and Johnny’s teams join forces after week 1 in a strategic game changer that the audience was not aware of?). Jonna’s potential hurt is not enough to dissuade Frank from what he feels is in his team’s best strategic interest. According to Diem, Jonna and Nany’s strategy has been too “wishy-washy” anyway (whatever this means).
The 3-1 vote (Jordan and Marlon, trying to stick it to Johnny and Frank, vote for Paula and Emily) settles the Jonna and Nany versus Cooke and Cara Maria Jungle battle. This week’s game is Snapper, the one where Knight and Preston’s swordplay and verbal strategy (who can forget “Nola! Nola!”) eliminated Derek and Robb so many weeks ago. Like most Jungle games, Snapper is determined by winning 2 out of 3 (could we at least go 3 out of 5 next season, please?). Cooke beats Nany in the first heat because Cara’s directional code words are louder than anything Jonna says (maybe she is perplexed by Frank’s decision to wear her shorts with her name on it on his head in a show of solidarity. Where was his solidarity in the vote?). The second heat is as undramatic as the first. Cara beats Jonna (cameras don’t capture these thin wooden swords too well in HD) and Jonna and Nany are eliminated, just like that (strangely unremarkable second season for Nany after such a promising rookie campaign in Battle of the Seasons.).
After last week’s Jungle elimination for the ages, the letdown this week is real. Moving on…
There are now four men teams and four women teams left and one more elimination for each gender. Next week proves to be the much anticipated physical altercation between Johnny and his actual rivals, CT and Wes and the much anticipated goodbye to Preston and Knight (or so I predict). Stay tuned for a new power rankings before the episode next week…
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.