Tag Archives: Aneesa


I probably should have marked the return of Culture Challenged with a good ‘ole Let’s Get A Few Things Off My Chest column, explain some of the (right – I hope) reasons for my absence, and preview the future of the site. This informative hibernation mea culpa is coming soon (I promise!), but there is a new season of the The Challenge already two weeks underway and there is no better way to dive back into the commentary cesspool than a proper chronicle of America’s Fifth Professional Sport. There are, however, a few The Challenge related things to get off my chest before I embark on yet another season of coverage…gulp.

  • I haven’t written on The Challenge since the tragic deaths last fall of Diem and Knight. When their final season of The Challenge: Battle of the Exes II aired last January, it just didn’t feel right to spend energy and time commenting on the discomforting awkwardness of Johnny and Averey’s relationship or on how Jay and Jenna’s third place finish is the most undeserved appearance in a finals since the 2009 Orlando Magic (I am openly still bitter about KG’s injury. That 2008-2009 Celtics team started the season 27-2 and was even better than the 2008 champions that dominated the league). Although the reality of reality television is an obvious misnomer, often lost in all of the fun, games, and drama is that we are watching real people with real lives and real challenges. Diem’s chronicled departure from the show for health complications from her long and heroic bout with cancer is the worst end of the uncomfortable voyeuristic contract signed by her participation and by our viewing. Diem – the warrior, amazing effervescent club dancer spirit that she was – used her platform for the most incredible kind of good. She propelled her fortunate famed privilege into something that mattered. Her human legacy and the organizational legacy of MedGift beautifully live on. ‘Tis the season for giving and supporting her cause is one the best ways to do so. Both Diem and Knight are greatly missed. Continue to rest in peace.
  • While we were away, long-time Culture Challenged favorite Sarah finally had a partner (in Jordan) of her competitive stature, defeated her Challenge demons and won Battle of the Exes II, started the amazing Brain Candy podcast with former Challenger Susie Meister, and got married to a nice Jewish man named Landon. Mazel Tov, indeed.
  • I admittedly watched the Battle of the Bloodlines premiere last week ready to write and couldn’t get myself to do so. It was the day of the horrific San Bernardino shootings and much was put out of focus. The violent brotherly unlove between Shane and Tony and the interview contact lens situation of Nany’s cousin Nicole just seemed a little too insignificant. Was I, after a loyal 26 seasons of careful viewing observation, finally too far removed from the immature shenanigans of Dario and Raphy? Why venture into this hot mess of drunken tomfoolery, TJ Lavin quotable gems, Are You the One? imposters (I am none too pleased with the addition of this recruitment pool – it’s like having to scout NBA players from an amateur league in Canada – I just don’t have the time, energy, or the resources), and the simple life of the Buell twins? I felt out of touch and frankly, kind of dirty while watching. The show I was watching felt so far removed from the “Hoorah!” camaraderie of Battle of the Sexes II, the glory years of the JEK dynasty, and the always entertaining battles among Wes, Wes’s ego, and the competition. Why continue to watch? I needed a compelling reason beyond an admitted loyalty to the heroic and herculean twelve year run of Johnny Bananas (primed to win his sixth title this season – even MJ took thirteen seasons to do the same). Then, this week, master pop culture barometer Bill Simmons came out of his own Challenge commentary sabbatical on the Bill Simmons Podcast.

With his pulse (and his 4.7 million Twitter followers in toe) driving the conversation, implicit permission had been passed on for me to follow suit. Like Jenna’s struggling cousin Brianna, I am not sure I am quite ready to handle this rodeo once again, but with promising late-game additions appreciatively cluttering the wonderful “this season on” it is too hard to pass up.

In lieu of a toast from Bananas (at this point the unofficial beginning of any The Challenge season), there is no better way (and an appropriate homage to the writing tomb of Monsieur Simmons) to begin this season’s coverage than with a retro running diary. From this point forward, “All is fair in love, war, and Challenges!”

7:00 – The scenes from last week are an unfortunate reminder of the travails of the Bloodlines conceit. Sure, family dynamics create a different and perhaps more compelling kind of drama (as Blood vs. Water seasons on Survivor highlighted), but this mostly ragtag group of Challenge newbies, with the exception of Bananas cousin, Vince, are obvious major downgrades on their OG counterparts. Was their resistance from the veterans to bring on a relative who could possibly steal some of their family holiday celebrity status thunder? Or are their not enough sane relatives (certainly plausible) who would be willing to throw themselves in to this teetering fish bowl of insanity? Either way, these Bloodlines are a weak new class of competitors. Fresh Meat ain’t what it used to be.

7:02 – In one of the season’s earliest non-surprises, Aneesa and her cousin Rianna almost kiss. After eleven seasons (the female competitor record) and a surging nostalgic relevance to this franchise, at this point Aneesa has earned the right to do whatever she damn well pleases in the house that TJ Lavin built.

7:03 – The decision to give a Bananas a GoPro for “super sneaky Bananas footage” is a stroke of genius. This type of constant innovation has carried The Challenge to 26 seasons of tomfoolery. Some early footage highlights: butts in the water and a inconspicuous new version of “rock, paper, scissors” played in the back of the bus by Thomas and Cara Maria who primed to “flirt her little butt off to get the final.” I wonder what the always measured Abram will have to say about this later in the season.

7:04 – Today’s Challenge promises to be “creepy.” Bananas, take the mic: “I’ve already seen every one of the girls in this house wake up in the morning, so I don’t know how much creepier the day can get.”

7:06 – TJ Lavin the Great sets some high expectations: “Every once in a while we have a challenge that you never forget. Well today, promises to be that day.” After ten years and seventeen years of hosting, he should know (#youkilledit). “I’d like to welcome you all to FAMILY DINNER. You guys are going to be eating live bugs.” Boom.

“I’ve already seen every one of the girls in this house wake up in the morning, so I don’t know how much creepier the day can get.” – Bananas, responding to the prospect of a “creepy” challenge

7:07 – The premise is simple: for ten minutes one partner chews live bugs and spits them through a tube into a cup while the other partner sustains composure while a snake crawls all over your face. You are either “eating” or “suffering.” Sounds like a great time!

7:09 – KellyAnne and Anthony are the current leaders for the “bloodline that most perplexes.” Case in point…this exchange:

KellyAnne: “If I know Anthony, he’s going to do great.”

Anthony: “She’s going to do fine. You should have seen the stuff she was feeding me when I went and visited her in LA.”

KellyAnne: “(Uncomfortable pause) It was vegan, but ok.”

Anthony: “Yeah, ok (shakes his head).”

What does this even mean? I am so confused.

7:09 – Nine minutes in, it seems like an appropriate time to touch base on what is going on with the Nicole (Nany’s cousin) eye/makeup situation in interviews. It’s like a cross between


7:10 – The initial “suffering” reports of the Round 1 competitors are universally Indiana Jonesian (“I hate snakes!”), except for Cara Maria’s who is admittedly right at home hanging out with a python.

7:11 – Pre-commercial reactions to “eating” are varied. Jamie goes right for chewing. Nany, Jill, and KellyAnne freak out. Candice really freaks out. Bananas just starts banging his head.

7:15 – Bananas, always The Challenge innovator, thinks with his head. “I’m gonna use this massive head of mine which also houses one of the biggest brains in the house to smash, stun, or in some way, shape, or form just render these insects disabled.”

7:16 – Cara Maria sneaks in some Boston accented words of encouragement and frankly, it’s about time. Besides some unexpected kinship with CT and Johnny Reilly over their respective area code 617 origins on past seasons, Cara tends to keep her r’s (pronounced “ahhs”) unaffected. Jamie’s bug deliveries to the dirty watah warrant a little extra something special.

7:17 – Nicole and Nany’s post-interview is a hot mess (“I did the best I could do!”) of apologies and excuses. My “way to go really far out really out on a limb” prediction of the season: Nicole and Nany will often find themselves at the center of the drama this season.

7:20 – Brianna intimates that “this is isn’t for her” and she “just kind of wants to go home.” Bon voyage! With Jenna’s at times rocky initial appearances and now with Brianna, Jay’s Bunim-Murray people contribution tree is a contender for worst of all-time. Only Sylvia’s skeleton and horrific former boss, Alicia, may be a worse additive to the franchise.

7:24 – Wait, I take back my initial desire to see Brianna go home. Watching Jenna (not exactly an intellectual or competitive stalwart) passive aggressively show her disappointment in Brianna is enduring entertainment. Let her stay TJ! I want more of this distressingly low level performance.

7:27 – Cara and Jamie win. Bananas thinks that Jamie’s experience eating prison food as a corrections officer is to account for his success with all the bugs. I still think it was Cara’s decision to go Boston with her accent.

7:28 – TJ Lavin the Great delivers the news of Brianna and Jenna’s obvious loss with a mid-season form zinger, “Some people weren’t really made for The Challenge.” Preach, TJ, killing it always.

7:31 – …but it’s a guys elimination day so none of it matters. Tough times, The Challenge producers. If you are going to have all teams compete in the same pool of winners and losers (all guy teams, all girl teams, and guy/girl teams) than you can’t differentiate who goes into the pit. If Brianna and Jenna lost, they have to go in and should have to face any team that the winners select. This is a wee-bit ridiculous. Why have the two women teams compete in the first place if winning and losing for them didn’t even matter? Inexcusable. Spend more time working out the game play kinks and less time making sure the alcohol cabinet is properly stocked. This is the 5th American Professional Sport! We can’t have stuff like this in season 26. Jenna: “If those are the rules than those are the rules.” No, if those are the rules change the rules.

7:39 – To make matters worse, Cohutta and Jill are the worst team with a guy on it and are headed for the pit. Jill: “I know it’s kind of silly to get upset over something that’s just a game, I can’t help but get a little emotional.” I don’t blame you. For this same “just a game,” you postponed your wedding to take a trip to transient celebrity status with some big cousin Cohutta bonding along the way only to face elimination because of ill-conceived game rules. Meanwhile, Jenna and Brianna are left behind for some bickering and Long Island white trashy talk.

7:41 – Which set of twins is it going to be? Strong Boston courtesy from Cara and Jamie gives Cohutta the call on who to face in the elimination. After a brief deliberation, he settles on the Dario and Raphy meat sandwich, a largely competitive unknown.

7:43 – Cara delivers the news to Dario and Raphy and they threaten to make war when they come back into the house after defeating “toddler” Cohutta. Frozen-footed and fearful Cara goes back to Cohutta, and Cohutta shares her tarsus temperature. Thomas and Stephen (“Buell. Buell.”) seem like an easier out. Cara admits that being in a power position may not be her sweet spot of comfort. Where is Bananas in all this for at least a brief, veteran consultation?

7:46 – Facing the perspective of Dario and Raphy wrath, Cara sends in Thomas (her hookup on the “low-low”) and Stephen. After a brief resentment period, Thomas makes quick peace in time enough for a night out!

7:47 – All the talk at the club is about Jenna’s less than partner who is openly planning her trip home. Aneesa, never one to hold back truth, delivers a “she’s not even cute” provocation to Jenna. It’s one thing to be a lousy partner, but for Jenna to be linked to someone not attractive enough…it’s about to go down…

7:50 – Back at the house, Brianna’s misery blows up in a tearful slop of blame and lame. Jenna, newly backboned, goes after her cousin with low blows about her cheating Spanish boyfriend. With Nicole and Nany handling the intervention, conflict resolution is just around the corner! Oh, wait.

7:52 – Brianna, according to Jenna’s (who is deceptively tall) account, thinks that all of the other housemates are degenerates and losers and that she is better than everyone else because she has a job at the bakery. Jenna unloads about dads in jail, ice cream, and someone’s boyfriend and short hair.  It’s really as unintentionally comedic as it sounds. Nany wax-poetics on the sanctity of family. Bananas chews metaphoric popcorn from his front row seat. Cohutta chimes in perfectly: “I swear on my life. These people are insanely crazy.”

7:53 – Jenna and Brianna’s insincere apologies the next morning miraculously make it all better for now. Again, these are the women that should have been in the pit two weeks in a row and one of their members has outwardly declared her desire to go home! How could producers have screwed this one up so royally.

“I swear on my life. These people are insanely crazy.” – Cohutta, on the eve of elimination

7:55 – TJ, sans hat, announces SQUARING OFF. Thomas volunteers to go against Cohutta in this physical best of three rounds event. Cohutta aptly calls it a “damn David and Goliath thing.” Things are not looking good for Georgia’s own Challenge vet and his wedding postponement specialist cousin, Jill’s chances.

7:59 – Based on both my DVR and MTV app viewing, Cohutta and Jill are eliminated, but just not onscreen. Oops. Next week’s clip foreshadows a Camila throwback event and some medical issues for Tony. At this point, I am all in.

Stay tuned…This season’s first weekly power rankings to come on Wednesday.

The Challenge: Free Agents Episode 4 – A Good Old-Fashioned Recap

“This is an individual game. This is not a team game.” – Johnny Bananas

As prolific playwrights, screenwriters, and Greek literature revolutionaries have done before them, The Challenge producers are active employers of dramatic structure. Each episode begins with some simple exposition, often foreshadowing the climactic conflict later in the episode. This week’s expositional section of “Inadequate” begins at a Uruguayan pool party. Preston takes this opportunity to work on fine-tuning his swimming strokes and shirtless modeling skills. Camila sees it as an opportunity to improve upon both her cocktail creation and consumption abilities. LaToya, the little verbal engine that could not be denied in week 1’s elimination against Jemmye, gets that some of the social pleasantries mask the bigger competitive picture. “With the game being Free Agents, everybody that you call your friend are really not your friends and deep down inside they are actually gunning for you.” The first foreshadowing seed of exposition is planted!

In other expositional intel, Aneesa is not feeling the “overachieving, showboating, I’m better than you” romantic alliance between Jordan and Laurel. She shares with Theresa and Zach that she would prefer that Jordan and Laurel take their apparently hilarious sexual activity (there was laughter!) out of her bedroom. Aneesa just dropped the second seed of expositional foreshadowing and this tree of drama could grow personal.Jordan and Laurel

This week’s challenge is called “Bounce Out,” a game in the vein of soccer or hockey in which the goal is to score goals (the first team to score three wins), except each player will be wearing a giant plastic bubble of his or her face that according Zach makes him look like a “fat girl.” What is going on right now indeedJonna. There will be two lines for each team (cleverly titled Group A and Group B) and within each line one player will be the ball and the other players will then be strategically on offense, defense, or a little bit of both. “So basically we just have to get inside these gigantic gerbil balls and bounce each other all around.” Pretty much, Laurel. Johnny in a bubble

Poetically and finally deserving of the responsibility of the position, Johnny Bananas and Cara Maria are chosen as team captains. Let us see how these two veteran veterans do with their selections!


1) Team Bananas – LAUREL

2) Team Cara – ZACH

3) Team Bananas – CT

4) Team Cara – CAMILA

5) Team Bananas – THERESA

6) Team Cara – ISAAC

7) Team Bananas – JORDAN

8) Team Cara – ANEESA

9) Team Bananas – NANY

10) Team Cara – LEROY

11) Team Bananas – JOHNNY

12) Team Cara – DEVYN

13) Team Bananas – JESSICA

14) Team Cara – BRANDON

15) Team Bananas – SWIFT

16) Team Cara – LATOYA

17) Team Bananas – JONNA

18) Team Cara – COHUTTA

19) Team Bananas – PRESTON (by default)

20) Team Cara – JASMINE (by default)Jasmine

Final Team Bananas: Men – Bananas, CT, Jordan, Swift, Preston; Women  – Laurel, Theresa, Nany, Jessica, Jonna

Final Team Cara: Men – Zach, Isaac, Leroy, Brandon, Cohutta; Women – Cara Maria, Camila, Aneesa, Devyn, LaToya, Jasmine

Although Cara makes strong picks for her first guy and girl (in a physical challenge like this, you want to have Zach’s Thor-like frame on your side), Bananas team has the clear advantage on paper. If we use last week’s power rankings as the only barometer, Bananas’ guys are ranked 1, 3, 4, 8, 10 and girls are ranked 1, 3, 5, 8, 11. Cara’s guys are ranked 2, 5, 6, 7, 11 and girls are ranked 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10. Some additional things to note about these numbers: although Cara’s last guy chosen was Cohutta (ranked no. 2 going into episode 4), his size is a distinctive disadvantage in this challenge (Jasmine, ranked no.7, was not chosen for the same reasons). If you add up all of the number rankings of each team with the lower number having the better team, Johnny’s guys sum to a 26 and girls to a 28 (total of 54). Cara’s guys add up to a 31 and girls add up to a 38 (total of 69). If the numbers indicate a clear advantage, then the eye test does even more so. How can a team of Bananas, Laurel, CT, Jordan, Nany, and Jessica possibly lose?

Back to the “Bounce Out” event, Bananas creates his groups. Group A will feature Swift, Jonna, Jessica, Theresa, and CT with Bananas himself as the ball. Group B will include Preston, Laurel, Nany, and Johnny with Jordan as the ball. Theresa correctly notes that the two balls, Bananas and Jordan, are “both really agile, both really quick, and smart players.” Cara’s Group A will be Camila, Aneesa, Cara Maria, Cohutta, and Jasmine with Zach as the ball. Her Group B will be LaToya, Brandon, Leroy, and Devyn with Isaac as the ball. Again, advantage all around to Team Bananas. Zach hopes that because Isaac is a “crazy white boy” he will be “good at running and hitting people” because, employing the theory of the Artist Formally Known as Ron Artest, “sometimes being crazy is better than being prepared.” Jessica’s strategy is just to “not die.” Cohutta is concerned about Johnny and CT, but feels good that on his side they have “Zach, and Zach, and pretty much Zach.”

Round 1 begins with Zach, “aka Conan, aka Thor, aka Goliath,” bouncing through much of the Team Bananas defensive unit. Meanwhile, Bananas, a “sneaky little guy,” darts around, plows through Aneesa, and then, like a “Mack truck,” crushes Cara Maria’s “little deer” en route to his team’s first goal. Team Bananas – 1. Team Cara – 0. In the least surprising moment of the episode, Camila and Zach have a adrenaline-laden, shouting blame-off after the initial defeat.Bounce ItRound 2 is the stalest of mates for a while. Jordan’s ball is up against three able defenders at the visiting team net. Laurel and Nany’s intended “let’s f—in annihilate him” strategy toward Isaac seems to be working wonders, although Zach contends that Isaac seems to be “jogging on a run” and calls his performance “pathetic.” All of this changes when Johnny (of Bridgewater) instructs Preston to “go help Jordan.” Preston, oft picked last and oft overlooked (did anyone see his swimming prowess at the pool party?), comes to the rescue (cue triumphant sports music!) and wills Jordan into the net for a Team Bananas second goal. Preston’s post game interview says it all: “I just got there and put all my gusto into it and got Jordan into that net. I’m always picked last, but people should realize at this point whichever team I’m picked last for is usually the team that wins.” My preseason “Break Out” predictions for Preston and Jessica continue to gain momentum (I like to forget how I chose fondly departed Jemmye for this season’s “The Leap.” Maybe I was referring to a leap back to the United States? Nope, no I wasn’t.). Team Bananas – 2. Team Cara Maria – 0.

With some defensive improvement from the back line of Team Cara (Jordan misogynistic contention about the performance of Bananas is hereby ignored), Zach is able to force his dynamic physical presence to a goal in Round 3 against the Team Bananas defense. Team Bananas – 2. Team Cara Maria – 1. After receiving some strategic advice from Camila (“get up, step backwards”), Isaac puts the round 4 stakes in perspective: “They only need one more point to win. We need two. It’s all up to me, and our game plan is do exactly what we did last time. (sarcastic pause of doubt) We’ll see.”

Team Bananas continues to pound Preston against the defensive wall in Round 4. Isaac decides to mix it up strategically by using both The Challenge wall and TJ Lavin the Great as “picks” (this, expectedly, works horrifically). Jordan scores, Preston wins the group’s unofficial MVP vote (Swift, while talking about it so passionately in his interview, starts “boppin” until his chair falls over! This is high unintentional comedy.), and Zach will do whatever it takes to avoid Isaac as a future teammate in Uruguay (we are a long time away from random wikipedia lemon facts). Team Bananas – 3. Team Cara Maria – 1. For the fourth time this season, Bananas, Preston, Laurel, Nany, and Jessica have avoided a potential vote or draw situation. For the fourth time this season, Cara Maria has not.

On the post challenge night, there is immediate strategic talk. CT, Swift, and Preston are riding on Leroy for his lackluster defensive showing. Leroy graciously takes the joke, but is concerned that it may be his time. A pillow talk between Real World: Portland cast members and Laurel reveals her intention to vote for Aneesa (the seeds of exposition are flowering!). Laurel pleads with her whisper party not to share intel. The next morning, Jessica, attempting a “I won’t vote for you if you don’t vote for me” move with Aneesa, reveals that there is talk about Aneesa as an elimination candidate. Aneesa takes this to Jordan who denies his “friend’s” involvement, but learns from Aneesa that this all came from a conversation with Jess (no matter how naively benign it might have been). The possibility of a winning team deliberation confrontation is at an all-time high.

At the deliberation, talk about potential men remains inconclusive and Johnny Bananas and Nany remind everyone that this is part of the game. When Jonna tries to take the “someone else can talk first” route about the girls, Jordan calls her out (“you gotta have a voice at some point”) by comparing her to “Jessica.” It’s on. Jessica: “Jordan may be able to bully other people, but honey, you’ve got the wrong girl.” After Jordan yells and confront her with his belief that Jessica has been carried up until this point, she promptly calls him out (Princess Hulk angry!) for his lackluster performance in the log challenge (totally fair) and for being afraid of feeling “inadequate” (this episode title alert knows where to hit him!). Personal buttons have been pushed (Real World: Portland baggage continues to be in play) and Jessica walks out of the room.

Bananas continues his role as sagacious lion to Jessica’s young cub and advises her to “let it go,” but privately is concerned about Jordan’s treatment of a woman. Back in Jordan’s camp of sympathy, there is negativity toward Bananas for his lack of viable allies on this season and for Jessica for “doing nothing.” Some battle lines for later in the season (if the season preview is any indication) have been formally drawn.

Laurel and JonnaThe voting process is all kinds of messy. Even before TJ Lavin the Great (still recovering from being inadvertently – or was it? –  “smoked” by Isaac in the challenge), Laurel’s tribal council whispers to her most spineless teammates (Jonna and Swift) rub Aneesa the wrongest of ways. (The flowers of exposition have reached a full bloom!). Aneesa calls BS on the first three votes against her (Nany, Swift, and Laurel) and TJ Lavin the Great asks her why (regrettably). After Aneesa spews jargon about whispering and bullying (Opinion – She is totally overreacting in her desire to have justified reasons for voting for her. Laurel wants her gone and convinced others to do the same. Period.). TJ Lavin the Great is forced to cut this Aneesa and Laurel fight off (“All right girls! That’s it. Enough is enough.”) before greater escalation or before Aneesa embarrasses herself any more out of entitled veteran fear. The eventual vote is a tie between Aneesa and LaToya (They each got four votes. Jasmine received the other three and is understandably upset that both of her rival partners, Jonna and Theresa, voted for her. This really is an individual game, Jaz.). TJ Lavin the Great calls for a re-vote with only Aneesa and LaToya eligible. After five votes for Aneesa (she flips some literal and figurative birds to Laurel and Jessica along the way) and five votes for LaToya, it all comes down to CT’s final voteWithout flinching, The Challenge greybeard votes for LaToya and Aneesa relieved, talks about the dilapidated karma of Laurel.

The men vote begins with little fanfare until Jordan indicates why his vote is for Leroy: “Man, this dudes a good competitor. It sucks that these are the guys we had to choose from.” LaToya, from her perch next to TJ Lavin the Great as the chosen girl for elimination, takes open offense and begins the following exchange:

LaToya: “Guess we ain’t votin’ based on performance no more.”

Jordan: “Yours was.”

LaToya: “Shut the f— up and keep your ass on the other end of the couch. You are a fake motherf—–. You walk in and out of my room smiling and saying s—. When you grow up, grow some balls, and keep it real, then you can say something. Right now, don’t say s— to me. Zip it up, motherf—–. I could whip your ass and not give two s—- about it…we can proceed TJ. I do apologize for the interruption.”

LaToya and JordanShots officially and hilariously fired. (Brandon is voted in for the guys, receiving four votes. The only drama here is that his buddy Swift went with what he perceived to be popular sentiment instead of having the back of his buddy. Brandon, you know Swift isn’t really sure how to play this game, right? Swift is regretful.) LaToya is still hot back at the house and goes at Jordan one more time. Laurel, coming to his defense, tries to reason with LaToya and Jessica and indicates that there are many sides to the story. LaToya respects Laurel’s position as “his woman,” but wants her to see how Jordan is not always as kind as he could be. Let us all water this second expositional seed!

It’s draw time, or is Cara Maria and Frank like to call it, hell. This time Zach is the unlucky recipient of bad luck and Brandon is the unlucky recipient of Zach’s bad luck because he has to face Zach in an elimination. ZachAs these things tend to go, Cara Maria is back for another elimination (“Of course, why not? Me. Again).Cara Maria

Tonight’s elimination is called “Oppenheimer” (as in Manhattan Project leader J. Robert? Let us hope there is no catastrophic nuclear radiation as a byproduct) in which our competitors run by each other in opposite directions in a circular cage to see who will be the first person to ring a bell. If it sounds that simple, it is that simple. The first to two bell rings wins. Production probably thought there would be more potential for a mid cage collision, but instead there is just a lot of sprinting. Just like that, Cara Maria wins the first two heats and eliminates LaToya from the competition. LaToya and CaraAfter last week’s time-consuming and endurance-testing elimination, Cara deserves this far more forgiving battle round. A stats wiz on her own right, Cara has now been in twelve eliminations in seven seasons and acknowledges that distance from eliminations does not make the prospect of winning grow stronger. Instead, it just increases anticipation and fear. TJ Lavin the Great astutely tells Cara Maria that she is “amazing.” LaToya makes quite the first impression of her The Challenge career and sums it up perfectly: “I met a lot of nice people. I met a lot of bad people. But overall, a lot of people I’ll never forget and hopefully I will get a chance to see everybody again in the future.” We hope so too.

On to the men, despite Brandon’s football experience, Bananas predicts that this elimination is going to be Brandon’s “swan song.” In the first heat, Zach repeatedly tramples over Brandon before ringing his bell. Brandon recognizes the fallacy in his strategy. The second time around is just a footrace and Zach is stronger and faster. TJ Lavin the Great: “Brandon – this ends your time on Free Agents. I’ll see you in the future for sure. Take care, man.” Brandon is well-liked to the end and Swift knows he messed up.Brandon

To fulfill its dramatic structural obligation, the final scene of this week’s episode takes us back to the Laurel and Aneesa battle. Aneesa has a poolside chat with CT about Laurel and Jordan. Aneesa: “I promise you – every time I have the power to vote her in, I will do it. Over and over again.”

And there it is for this week. Next week’s episode promises more of the foreshadowed Jordan and Bananas collision. Ready we will be…

Stay tuned for the week 4 power rankings later in the week.

THE CHALLENGE: FREE AGENTS Preseason Power Rankings – Women Division – Part II

Culture Challenged will be following The Challenge: Free Agents every step of the way this season with commentary, interviews, recaps, Zapruder film analysis, and weekly power rankings.

The Men rankings can be found here: Part I  Part II

Read Part I of the Women Rankings here.



6) NANYNany

Where did we last see her? After a tough disqualification in “The Blind Leading the Blind” challenge shocker on Rivals 2, Nany and Jonna lost a little bit of their sanity and edge (can you blame them?) and were eliminated a week later.

CHALLENGE History: Free Agents is Nany’s third straight season on The Challenge. She was previously on Battle of the Seasons (season 23) and Rivals 2 (season 24).

From her MTV bio: Every time Nany arrives on The Challenge, she gives it her all. Unfortunately on Rivals II, and Battle of the Seasons, her all wasn’t quite enough. Nany declares, “I have this thing called the “Challenge Curse,” where I get eliminated right before finals. And I’m so sick of it. I just really, really, really want to get there this time and win.” With nothing holding her back this time, Nany is more determined than ever to prove she is a top competitor. However, this fun-loving lady quickly finds love in the house, giving her an unexpected ally and confidant. Is Nany still doomed by her Challenge Curse? Or will being a Free Agent finally take her to the end?

Why would you sign Nany? Nany’s loyalty runs thick and she certainly benefited from Dustin’s “big brother” presence on Battle of the Seasons. His return on Free Agents will be most welcome. Nany has been a particularly unfortunate victim of circumstances (weirdness from Trishelle and Alton on Battle of the Seasons and inhumane shock therapy on Rivals 2), and the Free Agents format should level the playing field. Although relatively successful, she may have taken a few steps backwards on Rivals 2. Her hunger to compete and win are unquestionable. Nany only benefits from having an “unexpected ally and confidant.”

Why would you not sign Nany? I may not agree with this “Challenge Curse” notion, but if she does and it is in her head, this could pose a problem. Nany is a feeler and sometimes she lets her emotions (and the effects of alcohol) get the best of her. She has had strong partners or teams in her first two seasons and she was an important member of them, but how she will fair as a solo artist remains to be seen.

Potential Allies: This aforementioned “unexpected ally and confidant”; Dustin and Leroy (Las Vegas Strong is the Strongest); Jonna

Potential Enemies: Frank and Nany have some difficult history; Memories of Adam Royer

Best-case scenario: Nany, set up for success in Challenges for years to come, has a flawless third season, wins some challenges, takes out worthy competition in eliminations, and rides this momentum into the finals.

Worst-case scenario: Nany’s “Challenge Curse” premonitions are real. She is a “The Draw” victim early, faces a strong competitor targeted by that episode’s challenge winner, and goes home prematurely.

The Verdict: Supported by more established relationships, this new mystery man, and Dustin’s consummate loyalty, Nany will have a bounce back season on Free Agents and will be in the mix to make the finals at the end.



CamilaWhere did we last see her? We last saw Camila and #teamsubtitles partner, Jemmye, struggle in the first day of the finals of Rivals 2. To the end, communication was never their collective strong suit.

CHALLENGE History: Free Agents is Camila’s sixth straight challenge (the second longest current streak). She has previously been on Cutthroat (season 20), Rivals (season 21), Battle of the Exes (season 22), Battle of the Seasons (season 23), Rivals 2 (season 24 and her second finals trip). She and partner Johnny Bananas won Battle of the Exes. She is the only women on Free Agents who has won before.

From her MTV bio: While several of her fellow competitors have made it to a final, Camila is the only girl on Free Agents who knows the thrill of Challenge victory. After winning Battle of the Exes, Camila advanced to the finals of Rivals II, but finished a disappointing third. She’s ready to redeem that performance, stating, “I’m at that point in my Challenge history that I want that big money no matter what. I don’t care who I have to cross. I will do what I have to do.” Fearless and feisty, this Brazilian bombshell doesn’t flinch when it comes to daring physical feats or dishing out a verbal assault. Can Camila keep her temper in check long enough to make another final? Or will an emotional meltdown send her packing?

Why would you sign Camila? She is “fearless and feisty” and one of the most experienced women competing. Camila’s win on Battle of the Exes was most impressive. When Camila is checked into the game and not into extracurricular nighttime activity drama, she is unstoppable. After recent disappointments over the last two seasons (especially on Battle of the Seasons), Free Agents could prove to have a redemptive quality. Freed from the partnership challenges she has had the last two seasons (Rivals 2 was all about communication difficulty. Battle of the Seasons was all about being on a dysfunctional team with Big Easy), Free Agents can all be about Camila competing against the limits and with the strengths of herself and herself alone.

Why would you not sign Camila? At least one emotional meltdown is to be expected during the season, and, without a partner to hold her back, how will she fair? The target on her back always seems to be large and her strongest competition will immediately see her as a threat.

Potential Allies: Will she get along with Johnny again this season? She and Jemmye had a tough ending, but were largely compatible most of Rivals 2.

Potential Enemies: Alcohol at night; Expressing herself so that others understand her; Frank and Camila have often kept it close to upheaval

Best-case scenario: Camila maintains a laser competitive focus all season and fearlessly fights off the competition to another finals appearance and shot at finals victory.

Worst-case scenario: Camila’s worst-case scenario is always the extent and forum of her emotional meltdown. In an elimination (as it was with Big Easy on Battle of the Seasons) is different than the night before a men’s elimination.

The Verdict: I have a feeling that Camila is going to thrive under the Free Agents format. As her MTV bio conveys, she is thinking about things like this point “in her Challenge history.” She gets that she has an opportunity to move into the next tier of Challenge greats (any women two-time winner is in elite company – Paula, Tori, Susie, Rachel) and will keep this in mind throughout this season. I expect at least a trip to the finals and she will be one of the short handful of contenders who could win it all.


4) ANEESAAneesa

Where did we last see her? We last saw Aneesa valiantly fighting toward a fourth place finish in the women’s bracket (her pairing with Diem was the final women team eliminated before the finals) in Rivals 2 and occasionally running through altercations while working out on the Thailand house deck.

CHALLENGE History: With Free Agents, Aneesa ties The Challenge record for most seasons with 10 (Paula and now Johnny and CT share the distinction). Previous seasons include: Battle of the Sexes (season 6! In 2003!), Battle of the Sexes 2 (season 9), The Gauntlet 2 (season 11), The Duel (season 13), The Inferno 3 (season 14), The Duel 2 (season 17), Rivals (season 21), Battle of the Exes (season 22), and Rivals 2 (season 24).

From her MTV bio: Talk about an unstoppable force, “Elimination Queen” Aneesa arrives on Free Agents after a devastating exit one spot short of the Rivals II final. Aneesa is brimming with confidence going into Free Agents, “Doubt me all you want. I’m more about being humble and letting my actions speak for themselves. I have the heart and fight. I don’t, I never quit. Ever.” Aneesa may be a threat on the field, but this opinionated vet can rub some of her housemates the wrong way. Will Aneesa be able to fight her way to the top? Or will she face another crushing elimination?

Why would you sign Aneesa? You don’t get the nickname (as coined by MTV.com “writers”) “Elimination Queen” without being a force when facing adversity. Over ten seasons, Aneesa has shown great competitive improvement throughout the years, and, after an awesome run on Rivals 2, deserves to be “brimming with confidence.” Although not always able to have a bite as loud as her bark (don’t tell that to Trashelle Trishelle), Aneesa is now as wise as she is tough. If there was ever a season on The Challenge where she was due for her long sought after win, it is with the solo artist format of Free Agents. You don’t get to come back on The Challenge a record (tied with the Bananas/CT/Paula tri-force) nine times without doing something right.

Why would you not sign Aneesa? After CT got over the hump last season, Aneesa’s 0-9 record heading into Free Agents must mean something. Aneesa has been fighting Challenge mother time for many seasons, and, although she seems as strong as ever before, something will have to give at some point. Could Free Agents be that season?

Potential Allies: Always seemingly on a small island on the wrong side of the alliance, at this point whomever can improve her chances of winning

Potential Enemies: Much of the history among Johnny, CT, and Aneesa is not all warm and cuddly

Best-case scenario: Aneesa thrives in the every woman for herself format of Free Agents, builds off some of her Rivals 2 momentum and confidence, and comes out of the gate taking no prisoners. She fears no one, other women fear her, and she destroys the competition on a journey to her third finals appearance and a legitimate shot to win.

Worst-case scenario: A worst-case scenario for Aneesa is a season where she is eliminated somewhere in the middle of the pack and retires from competition without one final close chance at winning her first Challenge.

The Verdict: I am torn on Aneesa this year and keep going back and forth over what type of season she will have. A bit of a refreshing surprise on Rivals 2, it is going to be difficult for her to replicate her success on Free Agents. At the same time, she was made for a season on The Challenge that may ask each competitor to prove her or himself more frequently in elimination situations (something that Aneesa has proven to be very successful at). The jury remains in deliberation on this one.


3) JEMMYEJemmye

Where did we last see her? Jemmye, despite her #teamsubtitles trials and tribulations with partner Camila, made it all the way to the finals (a day one elimination) in Rivals 2.

CHALLENGE History: Free Agents will be Jemmye’s third straight season on The Challenge. She made it to the finals on Rivals 2 (season 24) and earned Challenge cred for competing on the same team as Knight on Battle of the Seasons (season 23).

From her MTV bio: Jemmye proved to be a true competitor on Rivals II, reaching the finals in only her second Challenge. The epitome of “work hard, play hard,” this former Division I athlete is ready to top last season’s performance. She explains, “At this point, the only thing that’s acceptable is first or second. If I don’t get first or second, then I didn’t do what I came here to do.” Brimming with confidence, Jemmye will take on the most daredevil tasks in challenges and has no fear when it comes to elimination rounds, “I’ve been to enough eliminations at this point where I’ll go in against whoever, but I’m not gonna count any of these females out.”

Why would you sign Jemmye? Jemmye is a perfect combination of athletic ability and physical toughness. Like fellow New Orleans cast mate, Preston, she will have an automatic bump in performance without Knight’s troubling shadow hanging over the festivities and CT bodyguard detail. After tasting the finals on Rivals 2, she can say things like this, “At this point, the only thing that’s acceptable is first or second. If I don’t get first or second, then I didn’t do what I came here to do.” Jemmye is here for a reason. She combines a healthy balance of fearlessness and respect for the competition. She can negotiate challenging communication situations (the #teamsubtitles experience).

Why would you not sign Jemmye? With only two previous seasons under her belt, she is still a relative newcomer against some of the more established veterans. She has never had to face Laurel in a Challenge before.

Potential Allies: She definitely had her girl group on Rivals 2 and didn’t rile too many feathers

Potential Enemies: Ketchup bottles; Lingering Knight-mares

Best-case scenario: Jemmye’s best-case scenario involves a return trip to the finals and at least a second place finish (because if not, she “didn’t do what she came here to do”).

Worst-case scenario: Jemmye’s luck of “The Draw” results put her in a competitive elimination round against someone like Aneesa, Nany, or Laurel and she loses a close battle.

The Verdict: Jemmye is one of the few women competitors who seems be a lock to be in the mix for the finals. She has improved exponentially in her first two seasons and may just be ready to take it to an elite level. I would not be surprised to see her successfully competing at the end.

2) CARA MARIACara Maria

Where did we last see her? We last saw Cara, a too frequent fellow cast mate punching bag and producer go-to replacement, embrace underdog status with partner Cooke all the way to a finals appearance and an eventual second place finish on Rivals 2.

CHALLENGE History: Free Agents will be Cara Maria’s (and this is incredible) seventh straight season on The Challenge, but her first of the last three in which she was not a late-game replacement (for whatever happened to Real World: Sydney on Battle of the Seasons and for Naomi on Rivals 2). Her previous seasons are: Fresh Meat II (season 19), Cutthroat (season 20), Rivals (season 21), Battle of the Exes (season 22), Battle of the Seasons (season 23), and Rivals 2 (season 24). She has made three appearances in the finals (CutthroatRivals with Laurel, and Rivals 2 with Cooke), but has never won.

From her MTV bio: After three runner-up finishes, Cara Maria is ready to stop being an underdog and take her rightful place as a legitimate threat to win. Cara Maria arrives in Uruguay in the best shape of her life, but believes her mental outlook is keeping her from taking first place. She elaborates, “I know physically I can do anything, but mentally I second-guess myself. It’s almost like I’m afraid to win.” Pegged as an oddball, Cara Maria yearns to break free of the social awkwardness that has plagued her in the past. Is Free Agents finally Cara Maria’s time to shine? Or will her unlucky streak continue?

Why would you sign Cara Maria? You would sign Cara because if she can get the mental game straight (even the acknowledgement of it is a major step forward), she is going to be a physical beast (and she came this close on Rivals 2 to beating the incredible Paula and Emily domination force). Cara Maria “arrives in Uruguay in the best shape of her life.” She also arrives in Uruguay when everyone else arrives – something that hasn’t happened to this replacement player since Battle of the Exes. Having her bestie Laurel to support her and push her to achieve will be a major boost to an already burgeoning confidence. She is one of the few women who CT will always support (not a bad male ally to have – especially defending champion CT).

Why would you not sign Cara Maria? Until she wins, the mental second guessing remains in play. Challenge houses are difficult places to live, and, based on the edit, Cara struggles with the conditions more than most.

Potential Allies: Laurel (Fresh Meat II and Rivals Strong); CT

Potential Enemies: Johnny Bananas and his continent have never been Cara’s biggest supporters

Best-case scenario: The wide-open Free Agents plays to all of Cara’s strengths. Freed from the ups and downs of symbiotic partnerships, her self-reliance and personal drive are catalysts for excellent performance in challenges and in potential eliminations. She makes a return trip to the finals and positions herself for a win.

Worst-case scenario: Cara’s worst-case scenario is some type of confidence destroying experience that takes the wind and drive out of her sails and forces her into an early elimination unprepared mentally and physically, eventually losing to an inferior competitor who took advantage of her heightened emotional state.

The Verdict: Cara Maria is going to kill it (TJ would be proud) on Free Agents. She is on my short short list to win it all.


1) LAURELLaurel

Where did we last see her? Laurel has been off-duty (for three long seasons – her return is most welcome) since building a lasting friendship and eventual finals run with Cara Maria on Rivals (season 22)

CHALLENGE History: Free Agents will be Laurel’s fourth season on The Challenge, although it seems like she has been on many more. In each of her three previous seasons – Fresh Meat II (season 19 and partnered with Kenny), Cutthroat, and Rivals (partnered with Cara Maria) – she made the finals, but has yet to win.

From her MTV bio: Last seen making a runner-up finish on Rivals, Laurel returns to The Challenge after a three-season layoff. She may have made the final in every Challenge she’s competed in, but a win still eludes this fierce competitor. Laurel hopes Free Agents will allow her to break the streak, “I’ve had three second-place finishes which is somewhat impressive, yet disappointing at the same time. I’ve been waiting to be on my own and this is a chance for every person to show what they’ve got individually.” Unlike many of her peers, Laurel can separate her emotions from the competition, but her road to victory takes an unexpected turn when she falls for one of her fellow competitors. Can Laurel maintain her laser focus and keep her eye on the prize? Or will romantic entanglements derail her plans?

Why would you sign Laurel? Laurel, despite an 0-3 finals record, is at her best, one of the most dominant women in The Challenge modern era (right up there with Ev, Emily, and late career (happy wedding!) Paula). She, of all competitors in both the Men and Women division, was made for the solo artist format of Free Agents. After three seasons off, she is going to be in the best mental and physical shape of any previous challenge she has been on. Laurel steps into Free Agents a so much happier and healthier version of herself. Of all twenty-eight people ranked in these power rankings, the only givens were that Johnny and CT would be either no. 1 and/or no. 2 for the Men and Laurel would be no. 1 for the Women (By the way, if Emily were competing in Free Agents, I would still choose Laurel over her in the preseason rankings – her competitor status is just that prolific).

Why would you not sign Laurel? There may be a little rust to clean off after a three season hiatus. She is definitively “the one to beat” among the women and will have to fight against the target on her back the entire season. She has no experience competing against some of the new elite (Jordan, Dustin, Frank, Nany, Jemmye) and it is unclear how their relationships will play out.

Potential Allies: Cara Maria (Fresh Meat II and Rivals Strong); CT

Potential Enemies: The field (because it is really a game of Laurel vs. the field)

Best-case scenario: Laurel, hungry, wiser, and more determined from her prolonged break, absolutely crushes it, winning challenges, gut-testing eliminations, and the admiration and respect of all of her fellow competitors. This reign of excellence culminates in her first win on The Challenge.

Worst-case scenario: She spends the entire season fighting off the obvious target on her chest, and, after winning many close calls, succumbs to an up-and-coming competitor in a late game elimination.

The Verdict: I think the three year break and Free Agents format will galvanize and inspire this already fierce competition destroyer to reach another finals and once again be there at the end, fighting for the win.

Next Up: A quick post of season predictions and preseason awards leading up to the 90 minutes season premiere of The Challenge: Free Agents at 10:00 PM on Thursday, April 10 on MTV.

The Challenge: Free Agents Trailer – A Zapruder Analysis

Most major professional sports have offseasons filled with blockbuster trades, upside loaded drafts where we hear constantly about things like wingspan, player signing periods, and a consistent flow of media attention (something has to fill all twenty four hours of television programming on ESPN and its numerous subsidiaries).  The Challenge, widely accepted at this point as the fifth major professional sport (at least in the United States, international football nitpickers), is uniquely kept under a contracted (designed to be Frank Sweeney proof) veil of secrecy.  Some early rumors sustain our rampant excitement, but can they be trusted?  What if a speculated participant’s strange twitter absence this fall was due to an intended social media purge and not because they were in some remote location filming?  If MTV and challengers won’t confirm the inevitable competitor picture collage that surfaces, should we consider it reliable?

All of this uncertainty surrounding the twenty fifth (Twenty five seasons! Incredible!) of The Challenge faced its celebrated demise earlier this week when official cast pictures were unwrapped for the new season.  With an enormous appetite officially whetted, today the first appetizer course was served.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you the first trailer for The Challenge: Free Agents:

Things just got real.  It is time for my annual “Zapruder Analysis” (frame by frame dissection) of this scintillating sixty seconds of glorious footage.  So we begin…

0:01 – This opening aerial shot of the maze-like collision star set against the foreboding underscoring is an immediate tone-setter.  “Welcome to The Challenge.  Warning: competitive danger lies ahead.”  One second in and the excitement level could not possibly higher.


0:02 – I have watched this collision back now several dozen times, and this is the real deal, people.  Nany obliterates Cara Maria (finally here to start a season for a change!) head on and then ricochets into the modern Amazonian goddess, Laurel (Welcome back! We missed you).  The Challenge: Free Agents is a full-contact sport and will show no mercy.


0:04 – In case you have any doubts about just how dangerous things will get, this burning demonstration should dispel these doubts.


0:05: “This season, it’s an individual game – Free Agents,” explains TJ Lavin the Great.  The time had come for a move to a more individual game free from the alliances of old and the attempts to dethrone them of the new. One bittersweet realization is that Sarah will not be competing for the first time in seven challenges.  No one deserves a shot at individual The Challenge glory more than Sarah who had the misfortune of being teamed up with a quitting partner (Trishelle on Rivals 2), Devyn in an endurance heavy final (on Battle of the Seasons, although I am happy to see Devyn compete a second time), and a partner who assaulted another competitor (Vinny on Exes).  Can’t she be a late game arrival like Cara Maria?  Could she at least be brought on this time as “The Confessioner?”  Let us hope.  In the meantime, Cara’s reaction to TJ’s announcement is without a price.



0:06 – TJ Lavin the Great without a hat and his “flow” haircut underneath? This season does promise to have many changes.


0:11 – CT’s soundbite: “I’ve always been a free agent.  Now everybody’s gonna have to play my game.” The defending champion and Boston’s strongest is back!  I agree with him.  This season could have been called The Challenge: Experience what CT goes through every year.  My question is, like in the other four major professional sports, can you sign free agents to work for your team?  Great season title, Bunim-Murray.


0:17 – Lost in the “challenges that are up high are really scary” surface level understanding of these images is the triumphant return of Jessica, last season’s surprising Real World: Portland alum.  The heroic valiance of her Princess Hulk final performances was not lost on this loyal Challenge commentator (nor was her dedicated offseason workout regimen).  My preseason power rankings are forthcoming (sometime in the next three weeks), but I have a feeling Jessica’s placement is going to surprise a lot of people.  Bold prediction: she is one of the handful of competitors to watch this season and could go deep.

0:19 – Seriously though, please be careful when you are up that high or you might fall off.  Oops.
0:21 – “This is an individual game.  This is not a team game.” – Johnny Bananas.  The Challenge does not really begin until the legendary Johnny Bananas has a say.  Although maybe not of the poetic permanence of Johnny’s “All’s fair in love, war, and Challenges” from last season, the profound simplicity of his two sentences stands out.  The subtext: “It is every man and woman for his or herself and I plan to win.  This time I am playing only for Johnny.”  Welcome back, Johnny.  The Challenge is what it is today because of you and will not be the same when you finally hang up your oversized bandana.  (One additional note: congrats to reigning champ and recent Challenge retiree Paula who is recently engaged and having a baby).
0:22 – Camila shows the new elimination format twist (TJ Lavin the Great loves a good twist!) confirmed in today’s BuzzFeed article: one person in the elimination round will be chosen by the winner of the challenge, but the other person will be chosen by a random drawing.  If you want to be safe, you have to win.
0:24-0:28 – Aneesa, Devyn, and Jonna cannot believe their eyes.  Chet lets us know that he is “going to fight for every inch.”  The elimination arena does not seem like the happiest of places.
0:30 – “Romance” is in the air (after this disastrous season of The Bachelor, I couldn’t be more ready)!  Last season, Jordan had a momentous hookup with Sarah in a closet.  This season, it appears he is smitten with Laurel.  Beyond impeccable taste in women, Jordan is a legitimate threat to win this Challenge.  In other Real World: Portland news, Johnny (as in Daisy Dog, Bridgewater, MA Johnny) continues to inexplicably kiss beautiful women (First Averey, now Nany).


0:32 – “I believe that hooking up in the game may have its advantages.” Jemmye knows what’s up.  I would also argue that a Challenge without Knight has its advantages for the audience, for other’s pining to guard CT’s body, for those wishing to be treated with respect, and especially for Preston and Jemmye who can finally be out from under Knight’s disrespectful behavior for the first time.

0:33 – Wait, who is Dustin kissing?

0:35 – So, Nany likes to kiss…
0:37 – …and may be crying because of it.  Poor thing.  I am just glad Dustin is back as her “big brother” emotional support rock.
0:38 – “The only way to stay safe in this game is to win.”  TJ Lavin the Great should know.
0:38 – Isaac has returned after a seven season hiatus.  Always a little bit of a wildcard (as erratic behavior on his original Real World: Sydney season showcased), Mr. Stout and his fashion pioneering haircut will be an interesting addition to this group of mostly established Challenge competitors.
0:39 – This is some nice camera focus work highlighting this potential showdown between likely women’s favorite Laurel and Theresa (another breakout performer, especially in extracurricular nighttime activity, early on last season).  In case you haven’t already realized, this cast is kind of stacked.
0:42 – Listen, Swifty is not the tallest of men, so he needs to elevate himself sometimes to get through a scrum.  Also noteworthy in these images is the most substantive footage of Frank in the entire trailer.  Is this an intentional slight?  Is MTV that burned by his open, honest, and apparently contract-breaching Grantland interview that they have gone out of their way to edit him out here?  Or, does the lack of footage indicate an early elimination? You can say many things about Frank, but   one thing you must admit is that he has been GREAT for the last two seasons of The Challenge.  Let us hope that this is all “much ado about nothing” conjecture.
0:43 – Um, who is this woman?
0:43 – I feel like Zach is often in a lot of pain.
0:44 – “It’s me vs. you and I love that.”  And this Challenge commentator loves that you are back, Laurel.  After three finals losses (the last of which was on the first Rivals too many seasons ago), Laurel deserves another shot to be the first person of a season to reach the proverbial Challenge mountain top.  A few years removed, a few years wiser, but still the same exceptional athlete and beautiful presence, Laurel is the woman to beat.
0:47 – I think that canoes are meant to stay upright, but I could be wrong.
0:48 – Perhaps the most telling moment of the trailer comes around the forty eight second mark.  Although a brief conversation, there is potentially so much here.  Jordan: “I will send you home.” The Legendary Johnny Bananas: “I will end you, bro.”  These two had some competitive clashes in Thailand last season on Rivals 2, but now that each individual has a degree of free agency, it could get even more interesting this season.  Their battle for supremacy could be one of the central story lines of Free Agents.
0:51 – Yes!  There will be snow on the final!  There will be a midseason climate change!  That’s what I’m talking about!
52 53
0:54 – Boom.
0:57 – …And on Thursday nights?  Very interesting.  The countdown to April 10 has officially begun.
Note: Culture Challenged will be covering The Challenge: Free Agents all season (I moved all my work from Bishop and Company).  Stay tuned for preseason power rankings columns in the coming weeks.
The Challenge: Free Agents premieres April 10 at 10 p.m. on MTV.

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Postseason Awards

Earlier this week, our (most of the time) good friends at MTV and Bunim-Murray announced that there will be (as if there was any doubt) a season 25 of The Challenge, America’s fifth major professional sport.  Before we can rejoice in potential future happenings (Duel 3?), wants (Laurel to return, justice for Sarah), and predictions (Jordan is an early favorite to win) for the next season, we must reflect on the at times masterful and compelling, at times frustrating and degrading, but always reliable and entertaining just completed season of The Challenge: Rivals 2.  Here is a thorough breakdown of superlatives and awards for the season that was:

Most successful use of little screen time: Anastasia, who was at the center of drama for her two episodes on the show that may have won her an improbable call to return

Least successful use of little screen time: Tyrie, whose one notable moment this season involved a very public bathroom experience

Person that hung around way too long for such a little contribution: Knight

Person whose stay in Thailand was way too short: Sarah

Most successful attempt to be silent: Ty

Worst attempt to be silent: Knight

People who had less screen time than Johnny’s Bobble Head: Tyrie, Dunbar, Robb, Naomi

Most welcome returns from at least a season of hiatus: Paula, Johnny, CT

Most unconventional workout: Aneesa, who ran on the deck through a burgeoning fight

A meltdown that I already forgot: Zach’s not so sportsmanlike exit

A meltdown that will be hard to forget: Camila’s out of nowhere (is there any other kind for her?) once a season blowout

The “It’s Time to Officially Retire” award: (tie) Trishelle and Tyrie

Low points of the season: Sarah’s unnecessary departure, Knight’s immaturity at the reunion

High points of the season: The “Bananas still has it” episode, Jordan’s hookup with Sarah, Diem’s courageous everything, CT and Johnny’s old vet conversation on the eve of the final

Most unexpected altercations: CT and Anastasia, Diem and Jemmye

Most expected altercations: Frank and CT, Frank and Jordan, Knight and Jemmye

The “My 2008 Self Could Never Have Seen This Coming” award: How well Wes and CT gelled, how Paula is in the conversation for all-time pantheon of Challenge competitors

The “My 2008 Self Saw This Coming” award: The Bananas and CT/Wes fight after Johnny’s challenge vomiting

The “Maybe The Outcome Will Be Different With Another Partner” award: Preston, who is so ready to distance himself from his New Orleans housemate

Best hidden camera moment: Jordan and Sarah’s closet hookup

Most competitive major award: Rookie of the Year, Jordan, Marlon, and Cooke all had incredible first campaigns (more on this in a bit)

The “Could You At Once Be On Time to the Party” award: Cara Maria, I just think it would give her better stability in those first few weeks

The “I Forgot You Were On This Season When Writing This Column” award: Dunbar

The Rivals 2 Media Guide Cover Would Feature: CT, Bananas, Paula, Emily, and Jordan

Best interview: Paula, consistently hysterical, self-effacing, and honest; Honorable Mention: Jemmye, CT, Jasmine

The “Sophomore Slump is a Real Thing” award: (tie) Zach and Nany

The “Sophomore Slump Doesn’t Exist” award: Frank

Best impression of a Marvel Super Hero: Jessica’s Princess Hulk

Worst impression of a Marvel Super Hero: Trishelle’s the Invisible Woman this season, Knight’s nondescript villain character that he always seems to play

Most in need of swimming lessons during the offseason: (tie) Marlon and Cara Maria

Best use of words:  Johnny Bananas for the epic summation/credo “All’s fair in love, war, and challenges.” Honorable Mention: Aneesa for coining “Trashelle,” all of the #teamsubtitles communication between Camila and Jemmye

Worst use of words: Diem’s rap

The “I am Glad I can Rewind Because That Was Incredible” Award: Jordan, an uber-amazing athlete who kept finding more ways to show us why

Real World season that had the best showing: (tie) Key West (Paula and Johnny) and Portland (Jordan, Marlon, Jess, and Ana)

Worst impression of Kevin Costner: Knight’s fanboy bodyguard routine during CT’s early fights

Best impression of Kevin Costner: Frank ‘s incredible swimming was straight the Mariner from Waterworld

Best conflict resolution reflexes: Emily, at the reunion and when Camila’s drunkenness exploded

Best TJ Lavin moment: His delivery of the Zach elimination disqualification news

Worst TJ Lavin moment: When he told Sarah she had to go home.  TJ, could you have at least tried to call an audible on production?

Vomiting that got the most play: (tie) Johnny’s in the final men elimination challenge before the final and the awful eating stage in the final

Best manipulation of “rivals” conceit: Johnny and Frank (A twitter war? Really?), Paula and Emily (they were thrilled to be together from the start and their performance showed this throughout)

Best player stock to buy (for future season success): Jordan





Honorable Mention: Preston, Wes, Aneesa

Preseason Prediction – Men: Trey; Women: Jemmye

Midseason Award – Men: Frank; Women: Aneesa

In a very similar fashion to last season (speaking of fashion – Preston is setting trends – whether he has any followers or not is yet to be seen), Preston had a great last day, further showing himself as ready to be as far away from Knight’s shadow in future seasons as possible.  Although some of his early season success may have been on the circumstantial end of the scale, he did make it within one elimination of the final.  Wes, who had to go into an early elimination with Lacey last fall on Battle of the Seasons (an almost guaranteed subsequent loss), managed the social game as well as he ever has and has the hardware (or money in this case) to show for it.  Frank is the ultimate winner of this award because, although he had some moments of his most volatile and uncontrollable self rearing its most ugly (but good for TV!) self, his leap as a loyal and dedicated teammate and friend was substantial.  He and Johnny were an understandable hot (Thailand temperatures were an issue all season) mess (eating durian will cause this) during parts of the final, but Frank managed to keep any cruelty and low-blowing (poor Sam had to endure quite the barrage in Turkey and Namibia) out of the mix.  His admirable passivity when faced with Knight’s premeditated violence at the live reunion is at the heart of what “most improved” is all about.  On the women side, Jemmye narrowly beats out Aneesa for the award because not only did she have to compete in challenges and in the social game, but she had to learn to communicate with a partner who spoke an entirely different language.




Honorable Mention: Marlon, Cooke

Preseason Prediction – Marlon

Midseason Award – Jordan

All three of them – Marlon, Cooke, and Jordan – had incredible rookie campaigns.  Marlon was a fighter from the first night (I am still not sure why he and CT were fighting in the pool), successfully hooked up with both guys and girls and continues to walk the walk of being himself, and had the best attempt at bringing down the tomfoolery of Knight of anyone on the cast.  His Challenge career has only yet begun.  Cooke began in the no-woman’s land of a partnership with the endearing, but less than athletic Naomi (who had to go home for honorable familial reasons), but managed to take full advantage of her second partner’s improved competitorness.  She fought through many an elimination, used her down time effectively (peeing or allowing others to pants her), and was a consummate cheerleader, motivator, and warrior in challenges.  She too is primed for a successful future career, but her first season second place finish will always stand as a major achievement.  Jordan ultimately wins the award (and was a legitimate MVP candidate) for not only dominating every challenge put before him, but for fully understanding his own strengths and weaknesses as a competitor both athletically and socially and then taking this information to adapt and evolve throughout the season as if he was the savviest of veterans.  He found a perfect balance of being a rookie, respectful and aware that he would have to pay his dues to get to the finals, while also demonstrating a willingness to stand strong against attempts (poor Theresa felt so betrayed!) to persuade him against what was in his best interest.  He was not afraid of the big guns (and at times told Bananas and CT thus), but he knew not to take too much effort to fight every battle (as the edit may have conveyed about him while in Portland).  Jordan was in control of his game and dealt with each machination of adversity head on and without fear.  Perhaps his greatest feat of the season: despite her brief stay in the Thailand house, Jordan managed to build a romantic rapport with Sarah that led to a little hot and heavy rendezvous in front of the hidden closet cameras.  As he said at the time, “Physically Sarah is beautiful, and then add her personality in there and she is an amazing catch for anyone…Sarah is the kind of girl that you marry.”  This now Rookie of the Year winner just gets it.




CT working alone

Paula and Emily

Honorable Mention: Johnny Bananas, Jordan, Wes, Cooke

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)

Johnny Bananas summarized the men side of this award best in the final episode: “You win some and you lose some, but I hate to say it, but I think that the team that deserved to win won today.  Rivalry between me and CT aside, the guy’s put in his time.  We’ve spilled the same blood in the same mud.  It’s only appropriate for him to at some point get a win.”  CT is the rightful MVP.  As for the women, how can you choose between Paula and Emily?  Only a co-win does justice to their season of dominance, teamwork, determination, drive, and commitment.  They aligned from TJ’s initial partnership announcement and never strayed from their dedication and support of each other.  They are so much of what is so good about this fifth professional sport.



  1. CT

  2. Wes

  3. Bananas

  4. Frank

  5. Jordan

  6. Marlon

  7. Leroy

  8. Trey

  9. Ty

  10. Zach

  11. Preston

  12. Dunbar

  13. Robb

  14. Derek

  15. Tyrie

  16. Knight


  1. (tie) Paula/Emily

  2. Cooke

  3. Cara Maria

  4. Sarah

  5. Aneesa

  6. Jemmye

  7. Camila

  8. Diem

  9. Jonna

  10. Nany

  11. Jasmine

  12. Jessica

  13. Theresa

  14. Anastasia

  15. Trishelle

  16. Naomi

One final note: It has been quite a ride this season for yours truly.  Thank you for all of your feedback and the time and energy you gave to reading my usually longer than necessary pieces.  Thank you to the cast for making this journey so enjoyable and for your consistent and humbling spreading of the word.  See you all next season (and undoubtedly for some interim Challenge columns in between…)!


THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Weekly Power Rankings – Week 9

If this switch hadn’t already happened before last week’s metaphorical comparative team weigh-in (especially on the men side), the individual slant of these power rankings has become less important.  The final women Jungle elimination is this week and the beginning of The Challenge: Rivals 2 finals are a little over a week away.  It is a team game in which you are only as strong as your ability to successfully minimize your most vulnerable player’s failings.  In the finals you can’t hide Cara Maria’s inability to swim, Johnny’s vomiting after three minutes of heavy cardio (lest Wes let us ever forget), #teamsubtitles communicative shortcomings, or the potential destructive power of Wes’s monster truck (well, actually the last one is entirely irrelevant).  When the final three women teams are set after this week’s Jungle (and the Zapruder Analysis concludes that it may be a disappointing week for a team with player names that rhyme with time after noon and Da Vinci’s most famous painting), the power rankings will explore a more detailed team-by-team analysis.

Despite a depleting individual emphasis, the rankings shakeup on the men side this week does tell a story.  With two straight challenge wins (including the all important choose your own fate ticket in this week’s most difficult challenge that they unabashedly dominated) and a “don’t mess with my partner” burgeoning loyalty among the former foes, CT and Wes are the frontrunners with some distance between the other two teams.  Paula and Emily, locked into the first and second slots in the rankings since Emily moved up to second in week 2, won their sixth (!) challenge this week and are decisively the team to beat on the women side.  They will either win again this week (I predict that it will be Cooke and Cara) or avoid the men vote.

Some additional thoughts on last week…

PRESTON MAGIC! – Although Preston’s New Orleans dysfunctional partnership with Knight came in last in the challenge and the Jungle (forcing their inevitable elimination this week), Preston could not have been more of a star.  Often second guessed by his teammate, his peers, and, admittedly, yours truly, his final performances earned him major “you killed it!” credibility (did you see his initial hit of CT?).  For the second straight season, Preston ends his time in a Challenge on the highest of notes, but this season, with Knight floundering (maybe he was distraught and felt useless now that CT no longer needed a bodyguard, having undertaken full-time Wes protection duty?), Preston may have been given the wrong side of the edit and our subsequent interpretation of it.  Knight, perhaps flippantly, spoke of Preston’s running abilities in his preseason interview, and in this challenge that gassed out Bananas, Marlon, and Knight, Preston strutted his cardio endurance stuff.  In subsequent seasons, I will welcome back Preston with open arms and hope that he can be finally separated from his toxic housemate, Knight.

KNIGHT – His season was a major disappointment on all fronts.  Like Dane Cook’s film career, Dexter, or Donald’s Sterling’s tenure owning the Clippers, his is an act that has gone on far too long.

ROOKIE SUCCESS STORY – I will touch more on this in next week’s finals preview, but the Jordan and Marlon’s road to the finals could not be more impressive.  With two clutch wins in the final two men eliminations, early Jungle avoidance through strong political work, courageous and unpopular decision-making (who can forget Theresa’s charge of betrayal), and some incredible feats of athleticism, Jordan and Marlon are already the most successful rookie team in Challenge history (sorry last year’s Team San Diego who just had easier competition) and they have a legitimate shot to win the finals.  Congratulations to you both.

JENGA discussion – In a desire for objectivity and fairness, I argued that Wes and CT had the overall advantage in their epic battle with Johnny Bananas this week.  However, Frank’s point, while playing Jenga with Paula, was that such a defeat may have provided some much needed motivation for Johnny’s pursuit of a fifth title.  It will be interesting to see how, in challenge this week that has little to no consequence unless TJ throws us for another gameplay bit of sorcery, Johnny bounces back.

Without further hesitation…Here are the individual and team rankings after week 9 heading into the final women elimination…


 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.” 


1. CT (9th season, last week: 2)

CHALLENGE WINS: 2 (although one was handed to them)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle, Cooke and Cara Maria, Theresa and Jasmine

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


VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Cara Maria)

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

3. Wes (8th season, last week: 5)

CHALLENGE WINS: 2 (although one was handed to them)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle, Cooke and Cara Maria, Theresa and Jasmine

4. Frank (2nd season, last week: 4)


VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Cara Maria)

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

5. Jordan (Rookie season, last week: 3)


VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Naomi/Cara Maria), 1 (Jasmine/Theresa), 1 (Nany/Jonna), 3 (Jemmye/Camila), 2 (Paula/Emily), 2 (Diem/Aneesa)

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

JUNGLE: Beat Leroy and Ty in Week 7, Beat Preston and Knight in Week 9

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


VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Naomi/Cara Maria), 1 (Jasmine/Theresa), 2 (Nany/Jonna), 3 (Jemmye/Camila), 2 (Diem/Aneesa), 2 (Paula/Emily)

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

JUNGLE: Beat Leroy and Ty in Week 7, Beat Preston and Knight in Week 9


7. Leroy (3rd season, last week: 7)

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Theresa/Jasmine), 1 (Nany/Jonna), 1 (Diem/Aneesa)

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine, Nany and Jonna, Aneesa and Diem


JUNGLE: Beat Zach and Trey (DQ) in Week 5, Lost to Jordan and Marlon in Week 7

8. Preston (2nd season, last week: 8)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna), 1 (Paula/Emily), 1 (Cooke/Cara Maria)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle, Cooke and Cara Maria, Jonna and Nany

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 3 (DQ), Week 9

JUNGLE: Beat Derek and Robb Week 3, Lost to Jordan and Marlon Week 9

9. Ty (4th season, last week: 8)

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Theresa/Jasmine), 1 (Nany/Jonna), 1 (Diem/Aneesa)

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine, Nany and Jonna, Aneesa and Diem


JUNGLE: Beat Zach and Trey (DQ) in Week 5, Lost to Jordan and Marlon in Week 7

10. Knight (2nd season, last week: 7)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna), 1 (Paula/Emily), 1 (Cooke/Cara Maria)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle, Cooke and Cara Maria, Jonna and Nany

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 3 (DQ), Week 9

JUNGLE: Beat Derek and Robb Week 3, Loss to Jordan and Marlon Week 9

11. Trey (2nd season, last week: 11)

12. Zach (2nd season, last week: 12)



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

JUNGLE: DQ against Leroy and Ty

13. Derek (3rd season, last week: 13)

14. Robb (2nd season, last week: 14)

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)


JUNGLE: Lost to Derek and Robb Week 1


1. Paula (10th season, last week: 1)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb, Knight and Preston, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon


2. Emily (3rd season, last week: 2)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb, Knight and Preston, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon


3. Diem (7th season, last week: 3)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb, Leroy and Ty, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon



4. Cooke (Rookie season, last week: 4)

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Zach/Trey), 3 (Johnny/Frank), 2 (Knight/Preston), 2 (Jordan/Marlon), 1 (CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan, Marlon and Jordan, Johnny and Frank, Knight and Preston, Johnny and Frank

JUNGLE: Beat Jessica and Anastasia Week 2, Beat Nany and Jonna in Week 8

5. Jemmye (2nd season, last week: 5)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon


JUNGLE: Beat Theresa and Jasmine in Week 6

6. Aneesa (9th season, last week: 6)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb, Leroy and Ty, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon



7. Camila (5th season, last week: 7)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon, Jordan and Marlon


JUNGLE: Beat Theresa and Jasmine in Week 6

8. Cara Maria (6th season, last week: 8)

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Zach/Trey), 3 (Johnny/Frank), 2 (Knight/Preston), 2 (Jordan/Marlon), 1 (CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan, Marlon and Jordan, Johnny and Frank, Knight and Preston, Johnny and Frank

JUNGLE: Beat Jessica and Anastasia Week 2, Beat Nany and Jonna in Week 8


9. Sarah (7th season, last week: 13)

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

FACT: Sarah continues to climb in the power rankings and has not been on the show in over a month.


10. Nany (2nd season, last week: 7)

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston, Marlon and Jordan, Leroy and Ty, Jordan and Marlon

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Leroy/Ty), 1 Knight/Preston)

11. Jonna (3rd season, last week: 8)

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston, Marlon and Jordan, Leroy and Ty, Jordan and Marlon

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Leroy/Ty), 1 Knight/Preston)

12. Jasmine (4th season, last week: 7)

13. Theresa (4th season, last week: 8)

CHALLENGE WINS: 1 (although it was handed to them)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Leroy/Ty), 1 (Jordan/Marlon), 1 (CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan, Leroy and Ty, Leroy and Ty


JUNGLE: Lost to Jemmye and Camila in Week 6

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb


JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2


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


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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb


JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2


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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb


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.

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

2. CT and Wes – Team Average: 2, last week: 3.5

3. Johnny and Frank – Team Average: 3, last week: 2.5

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

5. Marlon and Jordan – Team Average: 5.5, last week: 4.5

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

7. Cooke and Cara Maria – Team Average: 6, last week: 6


8. ELIMINATED: Ty and Leroy – Team Average: 8, last week: 7.5

9. ELIMINATED: Knight and Preston – Team Average: 9, last week: 7.5

10. ELIMINATED: Nany and Jonna – Team Average: 10.5, last week: 9.5

11. ELIMINATED: Zach and Trey – Team Average: 11.5, last week: 7.5

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

13. ELIMINATED: Jasmine and Theresa – Team Average: 12.5, last week: 7.5

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


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.

An In-Season RIVALS 2 Retro Running Diary

A vintage Johnny Bananas performance, an excruciatingly enjoyable challenge, stellar sound bytes, a fair share of extracurricular nighttime activity, a hall of fame outing for the great TJ Lavin, and the most dramatic Jungle elimination of the year all mixed together make for the best episode of this season of The Challenge: Rivals 2. The best episode calls for only one thing: an in-season retro running diary. Usually saved for premieres and finales, this episode was just that good. Without further adieu, let’s go back to 10:00 PM EST this evening where it all began…

10:01 – This season’s opening credits are kind of lame. Albeit, nothing will ever compare to the unintentional comedy fest that were the opening credits to the Duel II. Highlights include:

  • Davis struggling to find the right facial expression during his intro. First he smiles, then realizes that is not the direction they are going for (this is serious business), and then tries to save it with his best intimidating scowl face. You can imagine that by the thirtieth take this was the best they were going to get from Davis.
  • The spelling of Brittini’s name and how easily she is to forget.
  • The moment Evan starts to yell the war chants. His commitment is a work of Canadian art.
  • Isaac’s chanting section brings another level of joy because unlike everyone else on this cast, you could actually picture him expressing himself through such nonsensical gibberish in real life. “C’mon, guys. Let me show you how it is done.”
  • Big Easy’s “Night at the Roxbury” head bobbing during his lead chant turn. This could be Big Easy’s best moment he has ever had on The Challenge.
  • Kim is just so over it.
  • Adam unleashes the tongue as an act of intimidation. CT was not swayed.
  • TJ Lavin in the foreground overlooking this unnatural performance like an artiste taking in his masterpiece.

10:02 – Diem calls Aneesa the “Queen of Excuses.” Does this make Knight the “Jester of Bodyguards?”

10:02 – Aneesa: “If I could change 1 to 5 things about Diem, it would kind of be that you would get off my back.” Diem wants to put Aneesa through some insanity partner workouts in preparation for the Finals. Frank tells Aneesa to embrace the cards that she has been dealt and “deal with it.” Aneesa looks at Frank like he is the silliest of lads. This is kind of awesome.

10:04 – Paula says that “Aneesa and Diem are partners whether they like it or not and they do not.” This all reminds me of the Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

10:04 – TJ describes the premise of the “Blind Leading the Blind” challenge, but unfortunately no one is listening because we are all distracted by Phukie (as in Phuket), the little furry white dog that TJ has brought to The Challenge. Phukie ranks somewhere below the Johnny Bobble-head, but above Daisy and Irene’s Teddy Bear from Real World: Seattle in the rankings of the best non-human participants in Bunim/Murray history.

TJ Lavin

10:05 – You just couldn’t stay away from shocking the competitors, could you production?

10:06 – Ty speaks alert! “So we already know who is going first…” Six minutes in and we have already heard Ty speak more than in the first three episodes!

10:07 – The first heat in the challenge is CT and Wes for the men and Aneesa and Diem for the women. In the challenge, competitors, blind-folded and attached on one side via arm and leg, must navigate a maze in thirty minutes. This would not seem as daunting a task, but for the fact that each person must wear a dog shocker on one wrist and one ankle that increases voltage and frequency the more you go in the right direction. This is both incredibly sadistic and potentially a lot of fun to watch.

CT, Wes, Diem, Aneesa

10:07 – Diem: “It feels like someone is caddle prodding you and you are getting electrocuted through your entire body.” What’s the over/under on how many times Cara Maria and Abram have actually attempted this on their ranch in Montana this summer? Eight? Ten?

10:07 – Apparently the VMAs are live in Brooklyn this Sunday. Like my post Challenge viewing nights (4:03 AM as I edit), there is apparently no sleep (‘til Brooklyn).

10:09 – Brooklyn Nine-Nine (premiering on Fox on September 17) looks increasingly promising with each promo. Andy Samberg, although at times a little juvenile in a Adam Sandler circa 1995 kind of way, and the great Andre Braugher butting heads in a squad room? Yes, please.

10:10 – “Wow, I really was pining for a continuation of the Riddick series on film!” – says nobody

10:11 – Meanwhile, back at the challenge, let the uncomfortable squeamish laughter commence! Every time a competitor is shocked and omits a cry of pain, you chuckle a little on the inside, catch yourself, and then chuckle a little on the outside, before catching yourself and realizing that you are taking too much joy at the expense of another’s pain (but it really is kind of funny to watch…)

10:12 – Wes takes over full control of the challenge from CT and has a healthy dose of humility about it: “As soon as I take over, everything starts going extremely smoothly. He might have more brawn than me. He might be bigger. He might be scarier, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s my dog on a leash. I am the greatest human being that has ever lived.” Ok, I made up the last part.

10:12 – The Wes and CT bromance continues after they finish. There are some pats on the back, some faux-hugs, and some declarations of mutual pride. Somewhere at home, Kenny is yelling at the TV, “You can have him!”

10:13 – Cara Maria: “Blind folds and electric shocks – it’s nothing really new to me, so I should be ok.” Neighbors of Abram and Cara Maria watching at home in Montana nod approvingly.

10:14 – So, this is not the kind of pain that Cara Maria enjoys. Cooke tries to take a moment to listen to the ocean. Cara Maria, as if overtaken with a mild (if clichéd) bout of Tourette Syndrome, unleashes a “fuck” for every shock.

10:15 – Jordan is, according to Johnny, doing some “geometry in there” and saying things like “wait a minute – this is a forty-five degree angle.” Jordan uses Johnny’s voice to determine where the finish is not located. It’s all just a little hilarious to watch.

10:16 – Cooke has a post-mortem “don’t do that ever again talk” with Cara Maria that sounds like vintage Laurel/Cara Maria circa early in the first Rivals season. Comparing Cooke to Laurel is the highest of praise.

10:17 – Ty speaks alert! This time he leads Leroy to the beginning of the maze (Aneesa: “Talk about the blind leading the blind”). Meanwhile, Paula and Emily are killing it as usual. Paula takes the reigns on this one as Emily squeaks her way through the pain.

Leroy and Ty

10:20 – Katy Perry is performing live in 4 days at the VMA awards in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga is taking her clothes off in the strangest of ways every day in off-putting Kickstarter campaigns and V Magazine photo shoots. So there’s that.

10:21 – When Paula and Emily finish the maze, Paula declares that she is going to “make a phone call to PETA as soon as [she] gets back in America and ban those.” I will gladly sign your petition, Paula.

10:22 – When they finally finish, Leroy tells Ty that he “killed it,” but production always seems to depict Ty doing the opposite. Who am I to trust?

10:23 – Frank and Johnny actually kill it. Johnny’s post maze take, as Challenge eloquent as ever: “They say the key to every successful relationship is communication and me and my main man, Franklin over here (patting his partner’s chest), I think we communicated well. Pain is your key to victory, and hopefully our time is going to hold up.” This is just vintage, 1998 MJ mode for Bananas. There will be more of this to come later in the episode.

10:24 – Frank compares Nany and Jonna’s performance to “like watching two five-year-olds trying to go through a haunted house.” My addendum on this is that the five-year-olds in Frank’s metaphor actually walked through the haunted house. Nany and Jonna sort of took two steps into the maze before creating a ball of fear and frustration for the next thirty minutes.

Jonna and Nany

10:24 – Classic TJ: “You don’t know what to do – just move towards the shock.” Can we get this man some kind of lifetime achievement award at this point?

10:27 – Camila (Preston: “Camila was the savior today”) literally dragged Team New Orleans through the maze. This begs the question, does Camila have strange powers over the Real World: New Orleans cast? Should Sahar be calling her up for musical advice? Would she be able to magically make Ryan into a more tolerable person? Also, how was Camila able to sustain the shock without the appearance of pain? What Brazilian super powers does she possess?

10:28 – Aneesa and Diem are the women winners (thank you Wes!). Diem does a very cool dance to celebrate. TJ asks her, despite the heat, to do the dance again because it was just that good. It is in these little moments where The Challenge greatness can be found. TJ Lavin – the myth and legend is a man among men.

Diem's dance

10:28 – TJ announces Johnny and Frank as the winners (and safe from elimination) and either Ty and Leroy or Jordan and Marlon as the losers, but not before getting another dig at Jonna and Nany’s embarrassing performance. I have to give credit to Jonna and Nany who seem to have a good sense of humor about it all.

10:29 – I RSVPed to The Great Gatsby Blue-Ray event of the year that I could not attend because I have better things to spend two hours of my time on (although it was at times visually stunning).

10:31 – Ty and Leroy are crowned the losers and Jungle elimination bait. Ty is uncharacteristically silent.

10:32 – There is a Johnny and Frank strategic session with some of the women teams about who should be sent in the Jungle. Johnny and Frank are pulling for Jordan and Marlon “whose time has come,” but really Johnny is hoping that the layup of Knight and Preston sneaks around long enough to be in the Finals and become an immediate team that Johnny and Frank will beat. Jordan listens intently from the other room. Not to overstate my Confessioner gimmick, but wouldn’t the Confessioner have told the strategy party to wait to have this conversation when Jordan is in the shower, on a run, or at least out of earshot?

Johnny strategizes

10:33 – “So how’s the campaign coming?” With these four words and a conjunction, Jordan begins his Frank provocation, and it was just that easy.

10:34 – Frank’s outburst begins (Emily and Diem are the primary listeners at this point) while Aneesa comically sprints by. See Diem! Aneesa is exercising, but just on her own time!

10:34 – Emily gets the ultimate credit in the world for putting Jordan in his place and guiding him away from behaviors that will wake the Frank sleeping bear that has been dreaming happy thoughts while in hibernation since the CT blow-out earlier in the season. Her attempts, although valiant, only do so much good when Frank…

Jordan and Frank

10:35 – …absolutely loses it.

10:37 – Following a much needed commercial break, all is calm again at the voting proceedings. Johnny provides an impromptu (but so appreciated) speech in which he can’t stop gushing about his excellent, but volatile partner: “I gotta give all the credit to my partner, Frank here. Without him, I could not have done today’s challenge. He’s got a higher threshold for pain apparently, so thank you sir.”

10:38 – Knight is not optimistic about his chances of avoiding a Jungle trip: “My team is an easy target for the Jungle because everybody knows that Preston can’t do anything.”

10:39 – TJ thanks Marlon for his lipstick to face vote tallies. He then calls Camila, “Mila.” Can this man be any more exceptional?

10:39 – The vote is overwhelming. Four teams vote for Jordan and Marlon (Nany and Jonna hold out and vote for Preston and Knight). Paula’s rationalization: “I need Johnny to make my game as easy as possible, so I have to vote the way he wants me to.” We are now 399 minutes into this season and this is really the first time we have heard Paula or Johnny speak about their unwavering alliance. The time had come.

10:39 – Leroy brings some levity to the moment: “I would like to wish the rookies the best of luck in the Jungle, but I really hope that you LOSE!” Ty remains silent.

10:40 – Some conversations are just this good…

Camila, fighting through intoxication and speaking with her unbreakable loyalty to Johnny in mind: “You’re a rookie. You’re going in. You have to prove yourself!”

Jordan, shirtless: “Then riddle me why…”

Camila, interrupting him: “–Listen to me.”

Jordan, incredibly rational: “…Johnny and Frank win, and they had to go campaign.”

Camila: “They weren’t necessarily campaigning. They’re our friends.”

Jordan: “But until Johnny and Frank went in there and said, ‘Look – this needs to happen. They’re rookies. They need to go in.’ And that’s what you just said, you’re rookies, you need to go in, so the vote was changed because someone wanted it to be changed that was not a girl.”

Wait, did Jordan just say, “riddle me why?”

10:41 – Frank overhears all and volunteers to be a fact checker (again, where is the Confessioner?). This lasts for all of three seconds before Frank settles into full-fledged nighttime extracurricular activity mode and unleashes his verbal spite on the Real World: Portland veteran (and a resident fact checker, according to Marlon in the challenge last week, of his own).

10:41 – Johnny Bananas, can you please bring some calm and clarity to this situation? Johnny Bananas, in classic form, has a little something to say to Jordan to deescalate the situation while still supporting Frank. Pay close attention – this is the stuff that legends are made of: “You don’t understand. The way that the guys are looking at this is that there is a team that obviously everybody wants here for a final.”

Right. Go on…

“So the way this game’s played – you leave the easiest team here. That way, if you have to go in, you’re hedging your bets, ok? You guys are a great team, ok? You’ve proved it time and time again, but your time’s up, dude. It’s your time to go in and it’s your time to fucking earn your stripes, dude. I don’t blame you. This is a fucking dirty game, bro, but I’ve always said is that all is fair in love, war, and challenges.”

There are so many important takeaways here: Jordan shows incredible restraint during Frank’s outburst. Frank, although unleashed, manages to find an inner peace much faster than imaginable. Paula and Emily are keeping Camila’s point of no return somewhat checked in the background of the shot. But this moment is really about Johnny Bananas, the Michael Jordan of The Challenge. This is the same Johnny Bananas who was the first person eliminated on his first The Challenge season of The Duel (like when Jordan was cut from his Varsity basketball team) so many years ago. This is the same Johnny Bananas who couldn’t get over the hump on Inferno 3 or The Gauntlet 3 (Jordan’s repeated attempts to pass the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals). This is the Johnny Bananas who put it all together when he was able to learn how to rely on his teammates on The Island (the 1991 Championship) and again on Ruins (the 1992-1993 Championships). Then came the trials of Cuthroat, the nadir being CT’s elimination demolition (the baseball career, the 1995 playoffs). A Rivals win brought some redemption with long-time competitor, Tyler (the 1996 Championship). Battle of the Exes was not as easy as the one before, but that much sweeter when Johnny and Camila reached the top of that Icelandic mountain peak (the 1997 Championship). If Rivals II is the 1998 season, then you know where Jordan’s career goes next. Let us hope the Jazz series is stretched out for as long as possible, but if Rivals II is meant to be his last stand on The Challenge, what a ride it will have been. Tonight The Challenge legend of Johnny Bananas is just doing his thing.

10:47 – Let’s get to the Jungle (Take it away. Johnny: “We’ve got ourselves a good, old-fashioned head banger!”) and skip over the weird commercial break segment about Ty and Aneesa hooking up. We will just pretend this didn’t happen.

10:48 – “Leroy, do you think Ty has got this?” Even TJ acknowledges Ty’s silence. By the way, why has Ty been silent this season? Was he coached?

10:48 – The event is “Last Chance,” a retread of the first Jungle elimination from Week 1 between Tyrie and Dunbar and Robb and Derek. The memories of this first elimination faded that night, so fresh does this feel!

10:49 – Jordan and Marlon are talking about the “Oklahoma drill” that they worked in football practice every day. Maybe Ty is silent out of fear for these two athletic beasts?

10:49 – Leroy is going to “play defense and nobody is getting by without getting touched.” Ty is, as is custom, silent.

10:49 – Round 1 features an initial collision followed by what looks to be a tie for both teams to the bell ringing on either side of the course. The crowd, like Ty, is silent waiting for the instant replay.

The Jungle

10:50 – The replay shows that Marlon and Jordan won the first round by the smallest fraction of a second. Ty remains silent.

10:50 – Round 2 goes to Leroy and Ty after Ty shoots out of the gate like a train. This elimination is as physical and evenly matched as I have ever seen. I am not sure there has ever been a Challenge elimination as much cumulative talent participation.

10:51 – Round 3, the deciding round, appears to be leaning in Ty and Leroy’s favor, but a Seacrestian commercial break (and the habitual longest one of an episode) prolongs the suspense. Was my Zapruder Analysis wrong and could Marlon and Jordan lose this thing?

10:56 – There was no way. Jordan’s dive for the bell (as teased in the “Still to come this season on Rivals 2” trailer from last week) was in fact the moment of victory. The most impressive rookie campaign in Challenge history just got even more prolific.

10:57 – Ty speaks alert! – “I wouldn’t rather have any other game and to have lost to them in something I think we should have beat them in, I just don’t even really know what to say right now.” No really, was Ty advised not to speak all season? He is a really articulate guy who has gone a little overboard at times emotionally, but all kidding aside, something has seemed a little off this season for Ty in his mostly limited screen time.

10:58 – Awwwwwwwww. Ty and Leroy’s exit interviews were both really sweet. Despite the sounds of silence this season for Ty, these are two genuinely good dudes who will be missed.

10:59 – Jordan: “I am really over all the politicking, so we’re just going to win it.” This is why Jordan is a legitimate season MVP candidate.

10:59 – Frank’s ready to let his “beast out of his cage” and Johnny is concerned that if Frank starts “punching holes in their ship” that Johnny will “be sinking right along with you.” If there were any doubts before, The Challenge is on.

Until we meet again for the power rankings later in the week and prepare for Camila’s teased extracurricular nighttime activity…

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.

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Midseason Report

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.



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).



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.

Jordan and Sarah

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

Camila and Jemmye

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


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.