A Battle Among Challenge Titans: Johnny Bananas vs. Wes and CT

For much of this season of The Challenge: Rivals 2 and besides some first episode scrambling and a second episode Frank altercation, Johnny and Frank and CT and Wes have lived together in the Phuket, Thailand converted pool house in an unexpected amount of harmonious civility.  They have not been preoccupied with scheming against each other, have shared laughter and nightclub toasts, protected one another from Camila crazy storms, and have solidified their own fates without worrying too much about each other.  We knew that with the finals fast approaching (next week is the final women elimination Jungle) and the monetary stakes feeling all that much more real, there would be a shift from the tranquil waters of the middle of the season.  Last night’s classic battle among some of the Challenge’s most prolific warring titans hit a ceiling that had seemed unimaginable a week ago and raised the stakes of this season to an entirely new level.  The antagonism between Johnny and Wes (with CT as his loyal converted partner) has never sunk too far below the surface, but as competitors get older, they must be more selective with which battles to engage in.  Last night, engagement occurred, and, although it would be hard to argue against a CT and Wes victory in this battle, the stage has been set for a finals for the ages that may be the ultimate culmination to this longstanding war.

Here are some facts about Johnny, Wes, and CT’s Challenge history before I break down the key moments from last night:

  • CT has never won a Challenge eight previous tries.
  • Wes won one Challenge, but it was over seven years ago.
  • Before Rivals 2, Johnny has won four of his eight Challenges, including his last two.
  • Johnny has won $266,543 dollars in his Challenge history, more than anyone else.
  • Both CT and Wes lost in the last finals they reached (Battle of the Exes and Rivals respectively).

 The 25 Most Important Incidents from last night’s Johnny vs. CT and Wes battle (in chronological order)

Incident no. 1 – CT, talks to Diem about Wes: “I never thought I’d say it, but I like having him as a teammate.”

Why does it matter? Of all the rivals on Rivals 2, CT and Wes have had the most significant historical feud.  This confirmation that CT and Wes are thriving as teammates strengthens their potential in the final and in opposition to Johnny.

Advantage: CT and Wes, but without any sexual tension

Incident no. 2 – CT and Wes choose the order at the “Rampage” challenge

Why does it matter?  The value of order choosing varies from challenge to challenge (in this one, with fewer physical altercations than perhaps production intended or desired, it ended up being less important), but CT and Wes, coming off the win last week and heading into the final men elimination, are peaking just at the right time.  Mind games (as we will see later) and confidence boosts are not unimportant.

Advantage: CT and Wes, carrying momentum for the last two weeks

Incident no. 3 – Johnny begins to slow down a minute and ten seconds into his heat (Paula: “Frank and Johnny are doing great and then you just can see Johnny start to slow and slow and, you know, Pappa’s getting old.”)

Why does it matter? This was a challenge that takes incredible physical endurance and most teams (including rookie sensations Marlon and Jordan) gassed out to a certain extent, but Johnny’s early huffing and puffing is a sign of this all-time great’s physical wear and tear.

Advantage: Coupled with Johnny’s trouble in the water last week, CT and Wes

Incident no. 4 – With forty-seconds remaining, Johnny knocks whatever wind he has left out of him, crashing into the base of the wooden ramp

Why does this matter? Johnny is incapacitated for the remainder of the challenge.  In this brief moment, a proud warrior has fallen.

Big Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 5 – In the aftermath of the challenge, all eyes and opinions are on Johnny and his physical state

Why does it matter?  Wes begins his trash-talking (he describes Johnny as if “falling on the ramp like some beached whale”) and CT intimates to Wes, “he’s just so out of shape, dude.”  Frank expresses concern about Johnny in an undoubtedly endurance heavy final.  Johnny even says himself that he “basically died up there.”  Whether an isolated incident or not, Johnny’s reputation as the highest level of competitor is openly questioned.

Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 6 – Johnny vomits

Why does it matter? Although vomiting after an event of battle tested physical endurance is healthy for the body, in the Challenge world it is always viewed as show of defeat or weakness.

Advantage: CT and Wes, especially since the “vomiting after three minutes” theme becomes Wes’s consummate retort for the rest of the episode

Incident no. 7 – With thirty-seconds remaining, Wes and CT complete the challenge, placing all twenty balls in the net basket

Why does it matter?  In the most physically taxing challenge of the season, Wes and CT completely dominated and had plenty of gas left in the tank.

Advantage: CT and Wes, obnoxious swagger and all

Incident no. 8 – Wes playfully confronts Johnny after the challenge: “Why don’t you take a time out and throw up real quick?”  Johnny has little defense.

Why does it matter?  Good sportsmanship aside, CT and Wes are basking in the glow of the walk behind their trashy-talk.

Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 9 – Wes and CT win the challenge and automatically make the Rivals 2 finals.  Johnny and Frank must wait for the final vote to know if they too make the finals, even if they know there is no way they will get voted in.

Why does it matter?  Controlling your own destiny is far more “satisfying” (Johnny’s word) than relying on the voting loyalty of the other women teams.

Big Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 10 – Frank and Paula discuss what motivates CT and Wes

Why does it matter? Frank’s concerned that Johnny is lacking real motivation while CT and Wes are motivated to beat Johnny (after so many years of Johnny beating them).

Advantage: Even.  Johnny if CT and Wes become preoccupied and CT and Wes if Frank is correct in thinking that Johnny is struggling to find motivation.

Incident no. 11 – After the women vote Jordan and Marlon into the final Jungle to face Preston and Knight, Johnny, Frank, and the Johnny bobble-head celebrate.

Why does it matter?  Johnny just made his third straight finals.  Frank made his second straight.

Advantage: Johnny, although a physical beast, his political game has always been his strongest asset before a finals

Incident no. 12 – In response to TJ’s question whether it is nice for CT and Wes to know they have company in the finals, Wes responds, “Yeah, if he’s throwing up after three minutes, I am totally cool with it.”

Why does it matter? Wes has a point.

Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 13 – Johnny responds, reminding Wes that he “got carried up half of the last Challenge (Rivals) by Kenny.”

Wes and Kenny in Rivals

Why does it matter?  This happened and is still a major piece of Wes’s Challenge legacy.

Advantage: Johnny

Incident no. 14 – CT playfully defends his partner, “It was a long time ago.  You aren’t in nearly the shape you were in the past.”

Why does it matter?  CT may be right.

Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 15 – Paula: “Everyone took off their sheep’s clothing and the wolves are coming out.”

Why does it matter?  Equating CT to a wolf is appropriately horrifying.

Advantage: CT and Wes out of fear and intimidation

Incident no. 16 – The talk escalates.  Wes thinks that Johnny always has to use his past in the argument.  Johnny asks Wes: “What else do you have to go on?”  CT steps in to defend his partner and former rival.

Why does it matter?  Johnny may have a point about the past and the plethora of evidence that exists in his favor, but the real takeaway is how CT steps in to help Wes.  This idea would have been unheard of at the beginning of the season and is why Wes and CT’s burgeoning strength in this game must be taken seriously.

Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 17 – Escalation continues.  CT says, “You ain’t the same as you used to be, Johnny.”  This is followed by a Wes “You suck” head pump and a Johnny push back (where is Frank in all this?)

Why does it matter? Where is Frank in all this?  He was not part of the history.  This is not his fight.

Advantage: The partnership of CT and Wes

Incident no. 18 – Frank steps in.  CT remains steadfast in Johnny’s face while Wes stomps around in the background.

Why does it matter? Frank will defend his partner.

Advantage: Even

Incident no. 19 – Diem asks, “Why is this going on right now?  You are both in the finals.”  CT responds, “I defend my teammate.”

Why does this matter?  Listen, CT and Johnny get along these days in their Challenge career twilights.  This is really about a longstanding antagonism between Wes and Johnny.  What is different here is that the other players in this battle, E. (as in Evan) and K. (as in Kenny), are far far away from Thailand.  Johnny must maintain his ground relatively alone (Frank was helpful to the fight breakup and will be loyal, but this feud was brought to bare well before his MTV experience).  CT, a partner’s partner, present and involved for much of the feud, will go to great lengths to be there for Wes.  This is bad news for Johnny.

Advantage: CT and Wes

Incident no. 20 – Johnny asks Wes, “What do you have?” Wes responds, “I have a BMW, a Porsche, a monster truck, a house of thirty companies!”  CT cackles.

CT cackles

Why does it matter?  Wes has been a successful venture capitalist in Kansas City and at this stage of one’s Challenge career, what you do outside of competition holds increasing credibility.

Advantage: Wes

Incident no. 21 – Johnny responds, “Are these matchbox cars?”

Why does it matter?  Verbal banter has been one of Johnny’s successful calling cards in his Challenge career.  The dude has still got it.

Advantage: Johnny Bananas

Incident no. 22 – Wes’s interview declaration set to ominous music: “I want him to know that I am here to make his life living hell.  And when he goes home, he won’t have a paycheck because I am going to take it and he might actually have to get a job or have his mom keeping paying his rent.”

Why does it matter?  Again, Wes is motivated to beat Johnny.  This should not be underestimated.

Advantage: Wes

Incident no. 23 – Johnny: “All I know is you both have died in a fucking finals.  I have never died in a finals.”

Why does it matter?  This has happened.

Advantage:  Johnny, as his track record supports

Incident no. 24 – CT does an unintelligible, but brilliant Johnny Bananas impression.

Why does it matter?  CT can be hilarious sometimes.

Advantage: CT

Incident no. 25 – Following a clip from CT’s Battle of the Exes Iceland gas out, Johnny is smart to remind him that he “died in Iceland, bro.”  CT continues his team mantra of “that was the past” and calls Johnny a “fat kid” with a “big-ass head.”

CT on EXES

Why does it matter?  CT’s nicotine addiction may have cost him a Battle of the Exes win.

Advantage: Johnny

Yes, CT and Wes have an edge after this episode’s battle analysis, but Frank’s point at the end did not go unnoticed.  Johnny is motivated again and this only means good things for the viewing public.  The finals are less than two weeks away.  We’re finally ready.

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.

2 thoughts on “A Battle Among Challenge Titans: Johnny Bananas vs. Wes and CT”

  1. Very well written article. I personally feel that Johnny did not focus as much on conditioning for this season and new found motivation can only get you so far. Wes and CT seemed to be really focused on their cardio in the most recent episode and by evidence of the daily challenge it seems to be paying off. Jordan and Frank both seem like great finals guys similar to Kenny, but I really do think Johnny and Marlon will bring their respective teams down. Wes and CT are working real well together, are motivated, and while Wes isn’t as bulked up him and CT both seem more prepared for a final than they were last time.

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