Over the past two weeks, The Challenge: Rivals 2 has been mired in questionable production decisions (and I am not even referring to the decision to provide limited AC to the competitors in the most hot and humid of environments. What the Phuket, indeed.) First there was Sarah’s irrational and erroneous all-too-familiar and all-too-soon of a forced goodbye. Then last week, after a creepily over the top fear fest of a Jungle elimination, TJ announced a stay on unnecessary shock therapy and the “nobody is going home this week” twist which just demeans hard fought competition and all the competitors immersed in it. This week’s episode was certainly not devoid of questionable decisions (challenge winners CT and Wes and Theresa and Jasmine didn’t exactly earn their honors after they were given a free walk across the balance beam, pretty much everything that Knight does at this point) and costly mistakes (Zach and Trey lost their Jungle victory when video replay showed a clear rule violation), but at least these blunders were par for the game and not some byproduct of overreaching and failing producers.
Among a substantial handful of lapses in judgement, gameplay gaffes, and strategic miscalculations (I am telling you, the Confessioner was most needed this week), this week’s collective women’s vote really took the aptly named “What the Phuket?” episode title to a whole new and unimaginable level. A full breakdown of the voting proceedings is the only way to do this clinic in logic avoidance and rational thought depravation justice:
Preliminary note: This all started with Knight’s announcement of “The man, the myth, the legend. Often imitated, but never duplicated…TJ Lavin.” Why can’t he have more moments like this and fewer moments like this?
Vote #1: Theresa and Jasmine, the challenge “winners”
Voted for: “Uh, Leroy and Ty.” – Theresa
Percentage illogical: 86%
Pre-Vote Interview Quotation: “I don’t want to tick anyone off, so the best thing for me and Jaz to do, is just throw our vote away.” – Theresa
Post-Vote Interview Quotation: “She says, ‘Leroy and Ty.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ If you throw away a vote on someone, you normally come and tell them before you just say their name out loud.” – Leroy
My take: Let the voting silliness begin! Yes, there have been some random throw away votes in the past (last week, Leroy and Ty voted randomly for Nany and Jonna for example), but Theresa, you never vote for the dude you are currently sharing a bed with if you want to continue (as she does) to share that bed. I know she did not expect what followed to follow, but there is no reason for Theresa to even place herself in the realm of the worst case scenario possibility. This was the most bizarre of first votes and unquestionably set the tone for what was to come. There is a reason you earn the right to vote first by winning the challenge, and the karma effect on the Jasmine and Theresa challenge free pass is at play.
Vote #2: Cooke and Cara Maria
Voted for: “We’re going to give Zach who he wants, uh Johnny and Frank. “ – Cooke
Percentage illogical: 42%
My take: This would have been completely logical (Johnny and Frank have voted against Cooke and Cara Maria in both men votes and are the frontrunners who you want to try to take down), but for Cooke’s assertion that she is going to “give Zach who he wants.” If anything became blatantly apparent this episode, Rivals 2 Zach (yelling at Sam Battle of the Seasons Zach for that matter) does not deserve to get what he wants (as Bunim/Murray camera operators and broken objects in his room can attest).
Vote #3: Camila and Jemmye
Voted for: “We’re going to go with the rookies this time, Jordan and Marlon.” – Camila
Percentage illogical: 37%
My take: After last week’s mortuusequusphobia outbreak, you would think that Jemmye would be ready to cut ties with her former New Orleans cast mate lesser half. The rookie vote is certainly a safe one here (at some point Jordan and Marlon may have to prove themselves in a Jungle) and can be easily rationalized, but after seeing an early split vote, why not get the Knight and Preston goodbye tour on the road?
Vote #4: Nany and Jonna
Voted for: “We’re gonna do Ty and Leroy.” – Nany
Percentage illogical: 98%
Interview rationalization: “We vote for Ty and Leroy because there are two teams after us that are most likely voting for Jordan and Marlon.” – Nany
Leroy’s take: “Nany throws my name out and I am in such shock, like, someone who I have a close bond with, you know, another dagger.”
My take: What were Nany and Jonna thinking? Let’s just presume that Nany is confident, as she stated, that the other two remaining teams will be voting for Jordan and Marlon, why give your vote here to Leroy, a loyal friend from Las Vegas, when you can vote for the first time for Knight and Preston with seemingly no harm done? This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Vote #5: Aneesa and Diem
Voted for: “Um, we are also going to vote for Leroy and Ty.” – Diem, as Aneesa bows and shakes her head in her hands in protest, effectively throwing Leroy and Ty into the Jungle
Percentage illogical: 64%
Wes’ telling take: “You’re fucking awesome.”
Diem’s take: “How would I know the girl that’s sleeping with Leroy would throw in his name first? How would I know that Nany, someone who is like family to Leroy, would be the second team that throws Leroy and Ty’s name in? Why should I correct your mistake?”
CT’s take: “Leroy and his gang of girls are so caught up with burning votes, that they burn themselves. I mean, that’s classic.”
My take: Sure, Diem and Aneesa could have deliberated before the vote and determined that with Leroy and Ty relatively close to several other women teams, it made sense to vote for these guys out of self protection. However, after watching Aneesa’s plea to go a different route at the actual moment of vote, clearly an audible could have been called. No offense, but Diem’s desire to not correct the mistake of other teams makes little to no sense here. You are not responsible for the mistakes of other teams, but just for the mistake of your own. If you did not want Leroy and Ty to go in, vote for someone else and hope that Paula and Emily will go different route too. There was just not a fair amount of strategic thoughtfulness at play.
Vote #6: Paula and Emily
Voted for: “Knight and Preston!” – Paula
Percentage illogical: 0%
My take: As at least Paula and Emily have figured out, Knight and Preston deserved to go into the Jungle. Why one of the other six teams did not go this direction will be one of this season’s lingering mysteries.
Let’s recap: Theresa and Jasmine voted for Leroy and Ty as a complete throw away vote. Cooke and Cara Maria voted for Johnny and Frank to please Zach. Camila and Jemmye voted for Jordan and Marlon because they are rookies. Nany and Jonna voted for Leroy and Ty because there were two other teams left. Diem and Aneesa voted for Leroy and Ty because they should not be reactive to other team’s mistakes. Paula and Emily voted for Knight and Preston because it actually made sense. One vote makes sense, one vote can be rationalized, one vote may have had poor motivation but could be argued for, and three votes bring to question logic and strategic gameplay acumen. After Zach and Trey’s rule violation in the Jungle, Leroy and Ty thankfully dodged this undeserved chad hanging, so all is well. May the lesson be learned that unlike my Presidential vote from the state of MA, every vote on The Challenge does count.
Tough moment, ladies. At least we can’t blame production this 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.