After last week’s “to be continued” Jungle cliffhanger and Diemplosion of an episode of The Challenge: Rivals 2, a finals preview and power rankings had to be tabled (even though we really knew who was going in). Now that the finals have begun, we are in full-fledged retro running diary territory. As always, this my experience (down to the very last time stamp) of watching the episode live (including commercials!). It is on…
10:02 – The week of Jungle anticipation/inevitability is finally over. Let’s get this elimination going! T.J. announces that our two women teams will be competing in the “Hanging by a Thread” Jungle, or as I like to remember it, “the Jungle in which Cooke, waiting for Ana’s freakout to be over, decided to pee in the water she might be dunking her head in.” Good times.
10:02 – Consistent with other moments in which they are asked to speak, #teamsubtitles Jemmye and Camila describe the stakes of a loss. As simple as their explanation is, they manage to confuse.
10:03 – Diem reminds us that she “wants this” and “deserves this.” I am pretty sure last week’s “Diem-nesia” will not soon be forgotten.
10:03 – The competition begins and Diem cannot reach the rope she is supposed to be cutting with a little saw that looks like it was made to be used by a stuffed animal. Diem, naturally, finds an inner calm at this realization. Or not.
10:04 – Camila believes the key to this Jungle is “communication with your partner, keeping calm, and just getting it done.” Despite the ambiguity of the final item in the series, if anyone knows a thing our two about partner communication and keeping calm, it is Camila. Jemmye, meanwhile, seems to have mastered the rope cutting process. Her height and use thereof is a decided advantage.
10:06 – Knight’s acting appearance in this CapitolOne Mascot Challenge commercial is (A) one of the worst acting performances I have ever seen by a person; (B) utterly confusing; (C) making CT look like a middle-aged De Niro in comparison; (D) All of the above. I will take “D.”
10:09 – Opinion: The “Five Dollar Footlong” jingle from Subway is the best worst jingle I have heard since “1-877-kars4kids” hit the airwaves. Clearly no “1-800-54-Giant (Who do you call when your windshields busted?)”, but it is at least in the ballpark (for those readers as confused as a viewer after deciphering the content of a #teamsubtitles interview, spend any time listening to Boston radio over the last ten years and you will know what I’m talking about).
10:10 – Back to the action! Johnny Bananas provides the color commentary: “These two teams have two completely different strategies. One team works together. One team keeps a cool head. The other are a couple of complete basket cases.” If you had told me at the beginning of the season that Jemmye and Camila would be the former team described (admitted humblebrag, I did predict that they would get to this point), I would have questioned your reliability on all things.
10:11 – Diem and Aneesa lose, prompting a flood of emotion from Aneesa. This moment feels like it could be Aneesa’s last on The Challenge. Never a person whose name exudes much excitement when posted on a season’s cast list, Aneesa’s performance on Rivals 2 has been all class and all heart (she not even mad at her “wet rag” of a partner). As a stabilizing force and consummate professional on her veteran tandem, she has been the rock next to Diem’s roll through the land of CT. More surprisingly, Aneesa has been responsible for some of the most memorable memories of this season including her “Trashelle” verbal altercation and the time she ran on the deck literally through an ongoing fight. If you do retire from this sport that gave you so many wonderful opportunities to prove doubters wrong while facing elimination (the current record holder in Challenge history), we will miss you, Aneesa. One further note: Diem and Aneesa’s connection seems really beautiful. One of the best things about the Rivals construct can be the potential for former enemies to create most incredible bonds. Laurel and Cara Maria’s connection after Rivals is particularly noteworthy. It is nice to see, ladies.
10:12 – In a season where one of the pervasive storylines has centered on whether production went out of their way to shoot competitors in the worst angles and lighting possible, Jemmye and Camila have never looked better than in their post Jungle win interview. I have no reasonable explanation for either of these phenomenon.
10:13 – Pep talk master class alert! TJ lets us know that Diem and Aneesa’s loss was a matter of a “lack of technique” and that “making it this far is something to be proud of.” Is there anything that this man cannot do?
10:14 – TJ leaves the final teams with a “it’s getting really hot in Thailand” red herring before granting them a few days off from competition. Speculation ensues? Will our remaining competitors be taking a trip to a colder climate (à la the Iceland tundra of Battle of the Exes?) for the finals?
10:15 – Emily: “People look at Paula and I as this superhero team that cannot be beat and that’s so not true.” Em, there’s a reason why. Have you seen yourself? Paula attempts to assuage some of Emily’s concerns with some classic Paula wisdom: “There’s a reason people talk about finals as if they’re like ghosts. Like, it’s scary. And if you’ve seen one, it’s even more scary.” Big Easy can attest.
10:17 – I like how the World War Z blue-ray combo pack tries to sell itself by “including intense footage that was not seen in theaters.” Oooh, intense footage!
10:18 – Was Colin Kaepernick doing his best Knight as an actor impression in this McDonalds commercial or was Knight doing his best Colin Kaepernick as an actor impression in the CapitolOne commercial? Either way, at least Colin Kaepernick has his NFL gig. At least Knight has a warm and gracious personality. Oh, wait…
10:20 – TJ’s “hot in Thailand” comment does its work. Fear of a cold climate final is all the rage at the kitchen table. At least Johnny can have solace that Frank will use the cold weather as a reason to get intimate with his partner.
10:21 – Cara Maria takes a swimming lesson from CT in the pool in preparation for the finals. This seems to be a harbinger (the Bunim/Murray production folks love their overt foreshadowing) of a story thread yet to come.
10:22 – Bananas delivers the text from TJ that we have all been waiting for: “Meet me in Tokyo tomorrow at 10:00 PM. We’re gonna see how you handle the city for a change!” The crowd of competitors erupts with joy. Czar Jacoby – you got what you wished for.
10:23 – There is general happiness about the evening of the playing field. Wes and CT are less excited than the rest because they would prefer “the playing field that they have been preparing for for six weeks.” Again, the good folks at Bunim/Murray only include something if it has relevant later. Either this Tokyo adventure is going to be the crapshoot that Wes fears (good news for the Jordans, Marlons, Jemmyes, and Camilas of the world) or it is all going to be some kind of big rouse. Time will tell.
10:25 – “Beautiful, don’t you think?” Yes, George Clooney, Gravity does look beautiful. And yes, George Clooney, October 4 could not come any sooner.
10:26 – What is more discouraging? Knight’s acting or seeing Sofia Vergara struggle in the Machete Kills trailer?
10:26 – “Alright, vet. What is it?” Jordan (legitimate season MVP candidate) has a healthy dose of competitive fire next to Bananas and Frank. If the crapshoot Wes predicts is proved to be correct, Jordan and Marlon could be the biggest beneficiaries in Japan.
10:26 – Then Camila does this:
10:27 – Paula begins to crack at the Tokyo “curveball” seems (with an assist from resident provocateur, Frank). Paula’s message to Emily: when it comes to directions, do the opposite of what Paula says. Emily’s message to Paula: I got you. They are frontrunners for a reason, folks.
10:27 – This may be the moment of the season. Johnny Bananas and CT, two The Challenge warriors, sit across from each other on the eve of the finals, reminiscing on what has been and what they hope this finals to be.
10:28 – “I don’t want to be Dan Marino. I want to be Tom Brady.” – CT, enough has been officially said.
10:29 – CT describes this rivalry as “going back before time.” Johnny ends the conversation telling CT that he deserves to be here, bro, followed by a gentlemen’s handshake. This is the stuff that The Challenge is made of: two stalwarts on the eve of battle. We will some day look back on the Bananas/CT era with such affection. It doesn’t get any better than this.
10:30 – “There are ninjas.”
10:31 – We have a nominee for the movie trailer line of the fall from this forgettable new Ben Affleck picture provided by Mr. Future Bruce Wayne himself: “When your boss says take a beating, go out there, take it, and say, do you need me to take it again?” Hey, it’s no “Get off, my plane!” (frankly, what is?), but it there is something to it. Meanwhile, did Ben film this movie before Argo? It seems like a little bit of a wildcard choice after directing and starring in a Best Picture winner.
10:33 – Well, our dreams of a finals in Tokyo (Paula: “Toky Oh No”) will have to wait. TJ and his band of ninjas ambush and storm the bus full of competitors en route to the airport. The competitors are then blindfolded and tied up to look like Bane from the first scene of The Dark Knight Rises. What is this?
10:34 – The destination? A beautiful port in Thailand! So, the twist is that there really is no twist? What happened to the ninjas? Why are there no more ninjas? Where did they go ninja, go ninja, go?
10:34 – TJ then welcomes everyone to their final challenge, sans ninja outfit (this is such a missed opportunity). After the ninja attack, Bananas considers this bait and switch in which the finals remain in Thailand a “total nightmare.”
10:35 – Jemmye tells in many words that there are no words to describe what winning will be. There will only be one #teamsubtitles.
10:35 – The final is going to start with a one mile swim to “dream island” (for Cara Maria, the “icing on the nonexistent cupcake.” Well played, fellow Bostonian). On “dream island” there will be three puzzles, but you only have to solve one to get your key to the kayak (with a one hour time limit). This will be followed by a race to a super yacht.
10:36 – Another twist from TJ? Could Sarah be coming back this time to compete in the final? Sadly, no. The twist? Only two men teams and two women teams are allowed on the yacht. The thirds place teams will be eliminated and won’t get to compete in the next part of the finals. Although interesting from a gameplay standpoint, this is a little like the wild card play-in game in MLB. After an 162 game season, it seems a little cheap for it all to come down to one game. Teams should get to compete a little bit longer after making it all the way to this point!
10:36 – Cara lets us know that she would pick “eating a bowl of beetles over swimming.” For some reason I think Cara would pick “eating a bowl of beetles” over “being abducted by ninjas” too. She seems to still be rattled.
10:38 – The swim has begun (and ladies first)! Cara is feeling like a “wet sinking cat.” Emily and Paula are, expectedly, “kicking butt.”
10:40 – This Miley Cyrus special promo is really disturbing. Let’s just say I will not be joining the movement.
10:44 – Paula and Emily are the first to the beach of puzzles. Jemmye and Camila are not far behind. Cooke is still coaching her partner on how to kick while swimming.
10:44 – Paula reads the puzzle directions like it is the last thing she will ever do. Production provides subtitles to help us understand her through her heavy breathing. Cooke and Cara finally arrive.
10:46 – The men arrive at the beach all at relatively the same time accept for Marlon who apparently took the same (or lack thereof) swimming classes that Cara Maria took. Collective puzzle making ensues!
10:48 – Frank, struggling through the puzzle: “There is zero strategy on team Frank and Johnny now.” These are ten words that I never thought I would ever hear coming out of Frank’s mouth. The “this is anyone’s game” reality is very much in play.
10:48 – Wes: “Man does this feel good. We just look around and we murdered everyone.” In a different context, one might be alarmed. In a Challenge final, it means that Wes and CT have completed the puzzle and are off to the super yacht to advance to day 2.
10:50 – Johnny and Frank are arguing because they are struggling. Jordan and Marlon are just struggling. The time limit could become a factor.
10:52 – Dear Bill Hader: I appreciate your willingness to help promote T-Mobile in television commercials, but do you think it would be possible for you to come back to do SNL this season instead? Sincerely, everyone.
10:54 – Jemmye sums up her situation quite well: “There is nothing more horrible in my mind than this. Literally, I’m living a nightmare. This is definitely not “dream island.” It is hell (pronounced hail) and I am stuck with Camila.” #Teamsubtitles, even to the end, never disappoints.
10:55 – And, somehow (Cara’s word) Cooke and Cara finish the puzzle first. So much for Cara’s swimming deficiencies being a day 1 factor. Captain Lavin welcomes them to the super yacht!
10:57 – Emily, with a willingness “to be shot” before she lets Camila and Jemmye finish the puzzle first, finishes the puzzle. With the knowledge that there will be no day 2, Camila begins to implode.
10:58 – Paula, upon arriving at the super yacht realizes, “The worst part is – this is only the beginning.” There will be no super yacht complacency for these frontrunners!
10:59 – And Camila, in defeat, is walking into the ocean…(what is it with her and walking blindly into bodies of water?). We are going to miss these “two crazy chicks.”
11:00 – Marlon’s swimming struggles earlier come back to haunt him. Johnny and Frank, after having reached the one hour time limit, take off in their kayak almost two minutes before the rookies. It is going to come down to a kayak race.
11:00 – Bananas feels that if he doesn’t beat Jordan and Marlon to the super yacht, this would cap off “one of the worst days of [his] life.” Second only to the CT elimination demolition, Johnny? Too soon?
11:01 – One of the boats capsizes setting up a wholly unnecessary “TO BE CONTINUED…” cliffhanger. Is there really any doubt about who capsized? There is no way Johnny and Frank go out like this, right?
11:01 – The preview of day 2 takes place on “nightmare island” and looks to be a bit more intricate than day 1. Vomiting commence!