TJ: “Alright everybody, we are halfway home.”
With TJ’s declarative words after the Theresa and Jasmine Jungle elimination (by the way, apparently it wasn’t even close – Jemmye and Camila won in a landslide, but the edit did not afford them the time), we have reached the midseason of this fifth major professional sport. Like in the NFL, an All-Star game would be premature at this point (notice how I did not say, “Like in the NFL, an all-star game would be unnecessary”), so a check-in on preseason predictions and the dolling out of midseason awards seems to be an appropriate direction for this week’s column. Thus far, it has been a season of production mishaps and missteps, unexpected turns, game conceit questions, CT early night drama, and an education in obscure phobias. This week’s return to a good old-fashioned elimination without fear of a “game twist” or a rule violation set the tone for what is to come (a revealing “still to come on Rivals 2” gave some great pieces of intel – more on this in a bit) and Phuket is certainly heating up (the poor competitors did not know it could get any hotter than it already was!).
Preseason Prediction – Men: Johnny Bananas (runner up: Leroy); Women: Emily (runner up: Sarah)
Midseason Award – Men: Johnny Bananas (runner up: CT); Women: Emily and Paula (tie)
Unlike the undeserved Karl Malone MVP of 1996-1997, I am not going to refrain from giving Johnny this distinction just because he has won before and another competitor deserves a turn. Johnny, despite a smaller foothold at the top than in previous seasons, is still running the show, has managed to make his Bobblehead a key contributor to production interviews, and has been able to work beautifully next to Frank. CT deserves some attention for the award because, after some early season extracurricular nighttime activity, he has mellowed out and found an almost humorous Zen with Wes while managing to position himself away from viable threats on the women side. Both CT and Johnny appear to be out of the Jungle as long as they don’t lose the challenge (i.e. their placement on the voting totem pole will keep them out). Emily and Paula, now winners of four of five challenges (the one they lost was gifted to the now departed Jasmine and Theresa), have shown no signs of letting up. As the preview of the rest of the season seems to show, it is hard to conceive a scenario where they are not in the finals.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Preseason Prediction – Men: Trey; Women: Jemmye
Midseason Award – Men: Frank; Women: Aneesa
Trey had a great run and, until his elimination last week, was definitely a contender for this award, but, after several weeks second in the power rankings and several weeks free of any unnecessary extracurricular nighttime activity, Frank has become the competitor in this game that he always had the potential to become. Last season’s at times hot mess en route to an eventual win was too sloppy and dirty a ride, but this season he has played his cards well, demonstrating incredible humor, emotional restraint, and unwavering partner support. His potential outbursts could have been the thorn in Johnny’s side, but besides an early blowout with CT (it was inevitable), Frank has been on more than best behavior. His falling out with Zach, often a relationship where both parties could take responsibility for its toxicity, seems to have been entirely one-sided. Frank handled himself with honor and class and wishes his San Diego compadre could have done the same. Aneesa’s central role in the game thus far and her wonderful presence in a house of mostly younger players has been a bit of a revelation and a definite surprise. She is the best physical shape of her long Challenge career, has constant strategic awareness (she was on to how CT/Diem drama had to be extinguished immediately), and seems to have found a enjoyment of the festivities that had not been thought possible. Her “Trashelle” fight will go down as one of the season’s high points (even if the resulting eviction of Sarah low point was the result).
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Preseason Prediction – Marlon
Midseason Award – Jordan
The most surprising aspect of this award looking back at the first half of the season may be that you could make a somewhat legitimate argument for all four Real World: Portland candidates as Rookie of the Year. If drama and violence is your thing (it is not mine), you could argue that Anastasia packed more drama and violence into her two episodes than any other competitor. More up my alley of admiration, Jessica’s Princess Hulk performance in her last challenge and her “knock some sense into her” pep talk will continue to be iconic and lasting moments of this Rivals 2 season. Marlon has at times loudly (his CT fight night one, the Knight fiasco, his stand up to Johnny interruptions this week) and at times smoothly (his hookups with Derek and Nany) stepped up in a way that no other rookie has so successfully done before him, but Jordan’s rookie campaign continues to impress both the viewer and his fellow castmates each time they are exposed to another aspect of his competitor bag of tricks. Season highlights include his closet hookup with Sarah, several impressive athletic feats in challenges (most recently his handling of the beam on last week’s challenge), incredible showings of strength (Zach’s weight lift), and this week’s holding his ground against the onslaught of women persuasion. Although an image from the “later this season on” preview shows a Jungle participation, to have reached this point (and outlasted three other teams) is an accomplishment in itself for Jordan and Marlon.
BOLD PREDICTION CHECK-IN – Here is a look at what I predicted in my preseason power rankings column and the quality of said predictions…
Both Marlon and Jordan and Camila and Jemmye will come very close to making the finals, but fall short.
We haven’t reached this point yet, but it is still very much in play. With either two or three teams in the finals, Marlon and Jordan and Camila and Jemmye are either in or will just miss.
Prediction Quality: Strong
Dunbar and Tyrie will learn each other’s last names, but will not be able to avoid an early elimination.
They were the first two competitors sent home (although I am not sure if they had the opportunity to catch each others last names!).
Prediction Quality: Excellent
There will be a moment in which Johnny, Frank, and Trey strategize together.
After some clear strategic leanings in Battle of the Seasons, I thought we would see more of this from Trey in Rivals 2. I also assumed that the Zach/Frank bond would be more relevant (the flipped gender voting made this point moot) to a power alliance. Conversations like this were not really shown while Trey was in the game.
Prediction Quality: Questionable, although game rule unpredictability played a part
Jasmine will not do too well in terms of competition, but will continue to showcase a more mellow version of herself.
As predicted, Jasmine did not do too well in competition (although she was not asked to really prove herself too much before last week’s eventual elimination), but also as predicted, did continue to grow into a much mellower version of her earlier Challenge self. Her interviews were must watch, her partner relationship was one of the strongest and most loyal on the women side, and she figured out how to use her hair as a intimidation tool.
Prediction Quality: Excellent
Cooke will have a moment on the show that everyone is talking about.
I would consider her peeing while waiting for the Jungle to begin such a moment.
Prediction Quality: Uncanny
CT and Wes will be on the wrong side of the alliance and will have to prove themselves in an elimination early on.
This did not happen both because traditional alliances did not really form and the women teams have yet to come together in any semblance of an organized fashion.
Prediction Quality: Poor
TEAMS IN THE FINALS
Preseason Predictions – Men: Johnny and Frank, Ty and Leroy, Zach and Trey; Women: Paula and Emily, Sarah and Trishelle, Nany and Jonna
Midseason Predictions – Men: Johnny and Frank, Jordan and Marlon, CT and Wes; Women: Paula and Emily, Cooke and Cara Maria, Jemmye and Camila
Preseason Predictions – Men: Johnny and Frank; Women: Sarah and Trishelle
Midseason Predictions – Men: Johnny and Frank; Women: Paula and Emily
A Zapruder Analysis of the “Still to Come on Rivals 2” Preview:
Things I saw (potential spoilers ahead):
- Marlon and Jordan “fighting for survival” against Ty and Leroy in the Jungle
- CT yelling in Johnny’s face
- Johnny and Frank competing in what looks to be the final challenge
- Johnny receiving medical attention because he “can’t breath” in what looks to be the final challenge
- CT kissing Diem, cuddling with Cooke, and then Johnny telling Diem that “nobody trusts” CT and that “his heart is not in the right place, dude”
- A fight between Jemmye and Diem where Jemmye calls Diem a “fake-ass bitch”
- Paula tells Camila that “people will not be friends after this”
- A fight between Jordan and Frank about who is scared of whom
- Knight gets angry at Preston
- Jonna and Nany struggle with communication in a challenge
- Camila asks Diem if she “really thinks that [she] can’t beat her ass”
- Paula and Emily “trying so hard” in what looks to be the final challenge
- Leroy tells Jonna that they “don’t have our back, bye”
- Jonna “can’t deal with this”
- Camila seems to have a massive extracurricular nighttime activity blowup at Johnny (as expected at some point this season)
- Cara Maria’s cries and is consoled by Camila
- Aneesa and Diem versus Jemmye and Camila in a Jungle
- Jordan diving for a win in a Jungle round against Ty and Leroy
- A Jonna and Cara Maria sword fight in the Jungle
- Someone puts a black bag over Frank’s head
- Camila puts her hand in Emily’s face
- CT and Wes run threw a puff of smoke on what appears to be the final challenge
- As long as CT and We stay “cool, calm, and collected” they are good
- Wes and CT don’t take this to heart
Ten teams are left. Four more will be going home. Rivals 2 has only just begun.
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.