THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Weekly Power Rankings – Week 4

This week’s gameplay “twist” courtesy of a production team that has now been responsible for botching two out of four episodes of The Challenge: Rivals 2 with misguided decision making, left this week’s power rankings in a little bit of a tough spot.  Subjective assessment of structured competition is one thing, but subjective assessment of unstructured competition beholden to arbitrary decrees that ostracize the viewer is quite another.  At one point I considered a week 4 power rankings boycott to highlight my strong objection to recent events, but we did have a challenge, a vote, and a plethora of extracurricular nighttime activity to pull from to bring some credibility to the attempt.  I hope that future weeks of this season are devoid of any additional production irritation so that we can again focus on the incredible competition and strategic gameplay that makes this fifth professional sport just so good.

Before we hit the rankings, my episode re-watch provoked some additional thoughts…

Diem

Wow, Diem is a sensation.  I touched on this in my photo diary earlier in the week, but Diem’s generous and beautiful openness in sharing some of the lingering ripple effects of self-consciousness of her heroic cancer journey continues to be the most important real story in the Bunim/Murray produced world since Pedro Zamora’s courageous onscreen battle with AIDS on Real World: San Francisco so many years ago.  Through the chronicling of her fear of exposing the after effects of hair loss, we see the truth of a person who, after having been through so much already, still struggles with a seemingly more manageable obstacle to overcome.  The exposure of this vulnerability juxtaposed with the obvious strength and fortitude she has summoned to beat cancer into remission twice is such a privilege of human nuance to be able to see on television.  Beyond her pixie cut dance floor coming out party, Diem is playing this game at the highest of levels.  She and Aneesa have now been fighting Paula and Emily for first place on challenges (beating them appears to still be the tallest of orders) and they seem to be controlling any potential uprising against them in a vote.  Diem’s alleged rap skills and ensuing backlash led to great moments of unintentional comedy (Paula’s performance was a particular highlight) and her relationship with CT appears to be in the supportive and healthy zone (at least for now).  Four weeks in, and Diem is just hitting her stride.

“Why couldn’t you have done mustard, bro.” – Trey

Seriously, Knight.  Jemmye’s mortuusequusphobia, as odd and hard to understand to the average condiment user as it may be, is very real to Jemmye.  Knight’s ketchup attack is unnecessary, unusual, and definitely cruel.  Notwithstanding, Jemmye’s acute bout of mortuusequusphobia must go down on the pantheon of “You are never going to guess what happened last night on The Challenge” moments next to Shauvon’s implant pop, Devyn’s appearance in the Battle of the Seasons finale, and anything involving Brooke.

“No one likes you.” – Jemmye

Fighting through her tears, Jemmye managed to echo the separated space between she and Knight with this sentence.  My question, which seems to increasingly answer itself each subsequent week, is she right?  I had a reasonably high expectations for Knight this season to start flexing his strategic gameplay mastery (as he started to do on Battle of the Seasons), but so far, he is either been CT’s unofficial bodyguard or a tactless bully.  Raise the integrity of your game, bro.

“I never hooked up with Jemmye.  I figured it would be a possibility that we would, but there’s definitely way too much drama.  I pretty much want to stay out of it.” – Leroy

Leroy, who narrowly missed out on the episode MVP to a Diem locomotive of inspiration (a boost in the rankings did result), is making every right decision, finding a rhythm in challenges with Ty, and playing the social game as well as anyone has.  Most telling, when he decided to pursue Theresa after Jemmye and Knight drama turned him off, Jemmye was complimentary and understanding.  How could you not like Leroy?  He is playing each moment so rationally and so cooly (the throw away vote for Nany and Jonna was the underrated strategic move of the episode) to the point where the women are going to be reluctant to vote against him because he is hard not to like.

“These rookies are coming at us pretty hard right now.  They’re looking like a really tough team. It’s time everybody stopped sleeping on them and uh, try to figure out a way to get rid of them.” – CT, actually making a lot of sense

Jordan and Marlon, coming off their first challenge win, must not be underestimated.  They are the superior 2.0 version of Leroy and Mike Mike from Rivals 1 (except Jordan is – no offense Mike – athletically off the charts) and Leroy and Mike made it to the finals on Rivals, so a rookie return this season is very much in play.  Jordan and Marlon will compete to win challenges going forward, so CT is right to worry about finding a way to get rid of them.  It will be most interesting to see how this all plays out.

One note before we move on to the rankings…the Rivals finale featured three men teams and three women teams.  If Rivals 2 follows this same format, it is all about making it to the final three of your respective gender.  With that in mind, nine out of the remaining twelve teams (five men teams and four women teams) right now have a legitimate shot at making the finals.  Besides the obvious frontrunners, the difference between numbers 3 and 8 for the women and 3 and 10 for the men are minute at this point in the competition.  If you fall out of the group of the contenders, it is a problem, but if you are any where in that mix right now, you are in a good position.  Next week’s men elimination will be a real tell when at least one of the five contenders will have to make a trip to the Jungle.  For now, we gestate in a little state of production induced limbo.

Once again, 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 4…

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.”  

THE MEN

THE FRONTRUNNERS

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

2. Frank (2nd season, last week: 2)

CHALLENGE WINS: 1

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria, Cooke and Cara Maria

Johnny, Frank, and the Johnny Bobble-head seem to be untouchable and free from a potential vote into the Jungle.  As long as they stay out of the bottom of a challenge (Knight and Preston make it awfully difficult for other teams to come in last), they are primed to remain frontrunners until the finale.

THE CONTENDERS 

3. Leroy (3rd season, last week: 6)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Theresa/Jasmine)

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine, Nany and Jonna

4. CT (9th season, last week: 5)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

5. Jordan (Rookie season, last week: 7)

6. Marlon (Rookie season, last week: 8)

CHALLENGE WINS: 1

VOTES AGAINST: 4 (Cooke/Naomi/Cara Maria [2], Jasmine/Theresa, Nany/Jonna)

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria, Cooke and Cara Maria

7. Zach (2nd season, last week: 3)

8. Trey (2nd season, last week: 4)

CHALLENGE WINS: 2

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria, Cooke and Cara Maria

9. Ty (4th season, last week: 10)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Theresa/Jasmine)

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine, Nany and Jonna

10. Wes (8th season, last week: 9)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle, Cooke and Cara Maria

Presuming Johnny and Frank as locks, two of these teams will make the finals and two of these teams will not.  Challenge execution is going to become increasingly important.  Zach and Trey won the first two, Johnny and Frank the third, and Jordan and Marlon won this week (with Ty and Leroy close behind).  At some point (likely next week), Preston and Knight will be sent home and one of these teams will have to place last in a challenge.  Strategic politicking with the women teams is only half of the equation – so it will be telling over the next few weeks which of these teams can build some consistent challenge winning.  CT and Wes seem to have the most work cut out for them in challenge success.

IT IS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME…

11. Knight (2nd season, last week: 11)

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle, Cooke and Cara Maria

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 3 (DQ)

JUNGLE: Beat Derek and Robb Week 3

Another week means another stern Knight and Preston condemnation from TJ the Great.  Week 5 should be their last on this season.

ELIMINATED

13. Derek (3rd season, last week: 12)

14. Robb (2nd season, last week: 13)

VOTES AGAINST: 8 (Emily/Paula [2], Ana/Jess, Camila/Jemmye [2], Sarah/Trishelle, Diem/Aneesa [2])

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

JUNGLE: Beat Tyrie and Dunbar Week 1, Lost to Knight and Preston Week 3

15. Dunbar (6 season, last week: 15)

16. Tyrie (6th season, last week: 16)

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 1

JUNGLE: Lost to Derek and Robb Week 1

 

THE WOMEN

THE FRONTRUNNERS

1. Paula (10th season, last week: 1)

2. Emily (3rd season, last week: 2)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

CHALLENGE WINS: 4

TJ, before the vote: “Paula and Emily – Absolutely killing it this season.  I can’t even believe it.”  There is no stopping them in challenges (although Aneesa and Diem are putting up a great fight!) and until they come close to losing, their top spot in the rankings is unshakeable.

THE CONTENDERS

3. Aneesa (9 seasons, last week: 3)

4. Diem (7th season, last week: 6)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

5. Jemmye (2nd season, last week: 5)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

6. Nany (2nd season, last week: 4)

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston, Marlon and Jordan

VOTES AGAINST: Leroy and Ty

7. Camila (5th season, last week: 7)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

8. Jonna (3rd season, last week: 8)

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston, Marlon and Jordan

VOTES AGAINST: Leroy and Ty

Aneesa and Diem have put a little distance between them and the rest of this pack.  The two women votes have piled on to Cara Maria and Cooke thus far, so it is hard to tell which of the Camila/Jemmye and Jonna/Nany teams would fall next in line.  Johnny’s relationship with Camila must not be underestimated here as an advantage that she and Jemmye may still have.  Nany and Jonna may have a few male team friends, but beyond Leroy’s loyalty (notwithstanding the arbitrary vote this week), who else will be in their corner?

IT IS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME…

9. Jasmine (4th season, last week: 9)

10. Theresa (4th season, last week: 10)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Leroy/Ty)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan, Leroy and Ty

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 4 DQ

11. Cooke (Rookie season, last week: 11)

12. Cara Maria (6th season, last week: 12)

VOTES AGAINST: 9 (Zach/Trey [2], Johnny/Frank [2], Knight/Preston [2], Jordan/Marlon [2], CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan, Marlon and Jordan

JUNGLE: Beat Jessica and Anastasia Week 2

Jasmine and Theresa, despite losing the challenge, had their best week yet (great airtime, the budding Leroy/Theresa relationship, Jasmine’s intimidating hairstyle, avoiding an elimination they deserved to go in).  Cooke and Cara Maria must consider this week a win as well.  They are clearly at the bottom of the power structure (proving themselves in Jungles will be their only chance of salvation), but they now have a free week to try to at least partially right their near disastrous collaboration in challenges in order to attempt to press Paula and Emily during the next women elimination day.  Unless one of these two teams miraculously wins two weeks from now, it will be hard to conceive the next Jungle without at least one, if not both teams fighting against elimination.

UNFAIRLY SENT HOME

13. Sarah (7th season, last week: 13)

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Derek/Robb, CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

ELIMINATED

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 2

JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2

LEFT THE SHOW

15. Naomi (2nd season, last week: 15)

ELIMINATED

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 2

JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2

QUIT

17. Trishelle (4th season, last week: 17)

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Derek/Robb, CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

 

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.

THE FRONTRUNNERS

1. Johnny and Frank – Team Average: 1.5, last week: 1.5

2. Paula and Emily – Team Average: 1.5, last week: 1.5

THE CONTENDERS

3. Diem and Aneesa – Team Average: 3.5, last week: 4.5

4. Marlon and Jordan – Team Average: 5.5, last week: 7.5

5. Ty and Leroy – Team Average: 6, last week: 8

6. Camila and Jemmye – Team Average: 6, last week: 6

7. CT and Wes – Team Average: 7, last week: 7

8. Nany and Jonna – Team Average: 7, last week: 6

9. Zach and Trey – Team Average: 7.5, last week: 3.5

IT IS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME…

10. Jasmine and Theresa – Team Average: 9.5, last week: 9.5

11. Cooke and Cara Maria – Team Average: 11.5, last week: 13.5

12. Knight and Preston – Team Average: 11.5, last week: 12.5

NO LONGER WITH US…

13. ELIMINATED: Sarah and Trishelle – Team Average: 15, last week: 6.5

14. ELIMINATED: Derek and Robb – Team Average: 13.5, last week: 12.5

15. ELIMINATED: Anastasia and Jessica – Team Average: 15, last week: 14.5

16. ELIMINATED: Dunbar and Tyrie – Team Average: 15.5

LEFT THE SHOW: Naomi

Next week is a men’s elimination (we presume) and the preview clip was an amalgamation of misdirection, prominently featuring a Zach battle with the camera, Theresa’s onscreen comeback part II, and bodies falling from high structures into the water (a Challenge staple).  Let’s just hope we can get back to the game format where challenges actually matter.

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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