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THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Weekly Power Rankings – Finals Edition

Almost four months ago, eight teams of four embarked on an incredible journey in Turkey to reach the point at which we now find ourselves.  Teams Austin (an unfortunate early exit), Fresh Meat (troubled from the start), New Orleans (Knight and Jemmye had a valiant showing), St. Thomas (an amazing rookie season), and Cancun (deserved to be in the finals) are no longer with us.  The three remaining teams, Brooklyn, San Diego, and Las Vegas (minus Nany and Alton) all deserve to be at this point and all have worked hard, played hard, and persevered amidst various obstructions, blowups, and internal combustions.  There is one obstacle left: the final challenge, an unknown and potentially dangerous sojourn in the Namib Desert.  These are the last weekly power rankings before the finals.  I hope you enjoy.

NOTE: Check out the retro-running diary of the penultimate episode here.

THE WEEKLY CHALLENGE INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS – FINALS EDITION

The rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger (recently hired to work in the Memphis Grizzlies front office!)/sabermetrics method known as “My experience and observations” (See: Marc Stein’s great NBA weekly power rankings).  Weight will be given to how well teams and individuals do on competitions, in the social game, and whether he or she is a “good competitor.”

THE MEN

1 (1) Chet (Team Brooklyn)

Chet

The Journey So Far:

In my initial preseason rankings, I wrote that Chet “could be a real sleeper.”  By the first episode, he and Sarah were on the same page (apparently even liking one another, something that was inconceivable while they spent four months in Brooklyn on The Real World) and he has consistently performed in both challenges and arenas (valiantly in two with Sarah), has a great social game (despite the others claim of narcissism), is willing to help alleviate house fights, and has had the most consistent excellence in male sound bite delivery (Devyn has the female crown).  I have discussed the JEK Dynasty male power vacuum that so many competitors tapped in to this season, but I am not sure if anyone benefited more than Chet.  He was given room to blossom amidst all the chaos surrounding him, became an incredible leader and guide for his team, a wonderful balance and loyal companion to Sarah’s female dominance, and goes into the finals fearless, team and self-aware, and ready to anything that it takes to help Team Brooklyn win.  Congratulations to you, Chet.  Win or lose on Wednesday night, you will be one of the biggest winners of this season.

Chet in the Finals:

Chet has the endurance (both physical and mental), the calm and patience, and the courage to take the Namib desert head on.  He will helpful to inspire his team in more positive ways (although often successful, the anti Johnny Bananas) and could be a necessary balancing force when Sarah’s competitiveness clashes with the enigma of JD and the less travelled athleticism of Devyn.  Yes, in the finals, you are only as good as your weakest player, but in Team Brooklyn’s case, Chet could have close to a similar effect as one of the strongest players.

2 (3) Dustin (Team Las Vegas) 

Dustin

The Journey So Far: 

If Dustin and Team Vegas win the finals, it would be hard to argue against Dustin as the MVP of this season’s The Challenge.  His five week reign in the number one spot in the rankings highlights his game dominance and competitive greatness.  I remember back on his Vegas season when an indoor car race loss exposed his at the time inability to modulate in the moment competitive strife.  His recent rankings dip, although emanating from the same personality difficulty, came with more justification and further exposed just how badly Dustin wants and cares to win.  He was so much more than Alton’s Scottie Pippen.  This was Dustin’s season and he should be proud of all he has accomplished, both as a competitor and as a clearly kind, sensitive, and generous of spirit person.

Dustin in the Finals: 

If any guy is built to succeed in a crazy, TJ Lavin African final in the Namib desert, it is Dustin Zito.  He has the endurance, the strength, and the will to fight until his body does not allow him to.  His relationship (so sweet the last few weeks) with Trishelle will inevitably be central to his performance.  Can he inspire her?  Can he motivate and connect in a positive way?  I would not be surprised if we see Team Las Vegas cross the finish line first.

3 (2) Zach (Team San Diego)

Zach

The Journey So Far: 

I knew in the first power rankings that Zach was “built for the physical demands of this serious physical competition,” but I didn’t know (especially after his antisocial Ashley relationship in San Diego) that he would be so successful in the social game (a place he has thrived).  Zach has been fierce in almost every challenge, willed two victories (with a not so confident Sam) in the arena, and has managed to manage his relationship with Frank (perhaps the most significant development of this season) despite some midseason struggles into a fruitful (he just received a Christmas gift from Mr. Sweeney!), bizarre, passionate, loyal, challenging, but clearly loving friendship.  His relationship with Jonna was never a distraction, always an asset both emotionally and strategically, and at least according to the edit, never hurt his ex-girlfriend and teammate Ashley.  In a season of many new stars, Zach’s certainly burns bright.

Zach in the Finals:

Zach is going to be in beast mode in the finals, particularly in anything that is physical and may ask him to support (by weight and by motivation) one of his three teammates.  I also think he has a strong handle on the strengths (Frank’s cardio) and weaknesses (Sam’s cardio) of his teammates and of himself and will be able to balance these factors in effective ways.  If he can keep himself out of the mud pit of human interaction that was his role (and Frank’s) in the “Logged Out” challenge, Team San Diego can win the finals.

4 (4) Frank (Team San Diego)

Frank

The Journey So Far:

Of any player in the game, Frank has had the most and least control of this game and both have been because of his own brilliance or his own failings.  His early season strategy is an essential reason why Team San Diego is in the finals, but his late night tomfoolery, pugnacious and unnecessary brutal comments, and his desire to fuel house turmoil almost unraveled all the good he had done.  As just stated, his relationship with Zach (especially when they got through some midseason drama) has marked why Frank is sitting on the verge of the finals.  In San Diego, Frank struggled (as did this humble viewer) with why Zach and Ashley were so difficult to get along with and wanted nothing more than to find common ground for relationship building.  His relationships with Zach and Ashley now (it helps that they are independent of one another) are so strong and may provide the loyalty and commitment to sustain a group finals effort.  Frank is the most polarizing figure in the modern Real World/Challenge community and a victory in the finals would help justify why some of his cruel and unusual antics are not the whole picture of this passionate and competitive man.

Frank in the Finals: 

From all reports coming out of podcasts and interviews, Frank is a cardiovascular freak.  The finals will require all players to exert an energy that all may not have, and, if Frank is at a higher level of endurance, this will be a key factor.  Unfortunately, the last time endurance was in play in a challenge (“Logged Out”), Frank had an episode on his struggling teammate (there is no love loss there), Sam.  He has to be able to motivate Sam in such a way that will inspire and not deflate.  If he is unable to do so, his personal abilities will be moot.

5 (6) JD (Team Brooklyn)

JD

The Journey So Far:

It is a striking statistic that JD’s highest power ranking is this week (no. 5) when there are only five players remaining.  However, what is statistically misleading is that JD has shown some great improvement over the last few weeks (dolphin training does come in handy!) and is considered a valuable player and not a liability (according to Chet) for Team Brooklyn in the finals.  JD’s journey has been mostly under the radar, off screen, and out of the spotlight.  Producers of The Challenge love competitors who get involved with the drama (Marie will be back), who provide insightful sound bites (Devyn made her living here this season), and who have compelling stories to tell (Sarah is perhaps the best at this).  JD has not been featured, so at least one (and likely more) of these three categories is not JD’s strong suit.  Has he ridden the Team Brooklyn coattails to the finals and should be lucky to be here?  Probably, but credit him for bringing positivity, loyalty, and that JD “je ne sais quoi” dolphin training personality that remains a mystery to us all.

JD in the Finals:

JD is in good shape, will do his best to do what he is told, and will be willing to do anything with little objection.  These are all important factors in the finals.  If Team Brooklyn wins, it won’t be likely because of JD, but if Team Brooklyn loses, I do not think he will be most responsible.

POWER RANKINGS WEEK BY WEEK – MEN
WEEK 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Chet 8 5 6 4 4 3 4 2 2 1 1 1
Dustin 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 3 3 2
Zach 6 4 4 6 7 6 5 8 3 2 2 3
Frank 14 14 5 5 5 2 3 9 7 4 4 4
JD 9 11 13 9 13 9 9 7 6 6 6 5

THE WOMEN

1 (1) Sarah (Team Brooklyn)

Sarah  

The Journey So Far:

Sarah’s twelve week journey has been nothing but a joy to watch.  She locked her number 1 ranking in week 4 and has been unsurpassable since.  As noted in previous columns, Sarah has received the raw end of the stick in recent challenges (most notably the terrible decision to send her home on Exes when Vinny acted stupidly – I still don’t understand why Kenny, Mr. Beautiful himself, was not brought in), and you can tell that she has humbly taken advantage of every moment in her time in Turkey and now in Namibia.  She has led, along with Chet, Team Brooklyn threw real adversity early on, through two arena victories, and to a consummate state of positive team morale that is unbreakable and the central reason that Brooklyn is in the finals.  She is a great person in a game that sometimes rewards the opposite and she has managed to utilize her fun, energetic, passionate, and positive energy and personality to a competitive advantage.  Of all the people on this season, no one deserves a win in the finals more.  Sarah, thank you for all the joy you bring.

Sarah in the Finals:

Sarah is primed and ready for her return to a Challenge finals (and ready to overcome fears about the heatstroke incident that pulled her out the last time she was in this position).  Armed with a team of positive thinkers (a culture that she cultivated), she has a group of people that want to work together and want to see each other succeed.  I am excited to see Team Brooklyn doing their thing when faced with the Namib Desert adversity and to see Sarah cross the finish line having left all of yourself in this competition.

2 (2) Ashley (Team San Diego) 

Ashley

The Journey So Far:

I always thought that Ashley was tailor-made for The Challenge (in a way that she never was for The Real World), but often throughout this season she was in the background, playing a third or fourth fiddle to her more rowdy and expressive teammates.  However, in recent weeks, she has found her groove (especially as a Frank loyalist, confidant, and partner), will be athletically and physically prepared for the finals, and seems to have come out of her shell.  Now that Team San Diego’s internal strife has been quelled (now may not last too long), Ashley seems to be having fun and enjoying her other cast mates (and we, the viewer, enjoy her!).  I give her the ultimate credit for understanding and connecting with Frank and for not letting her ex-boyfriend Zach’s new romance with Jonna cause trouble for her game or for the early season alliance.  The finals could be a formative time for Ashley to rise even further in The Challenge world.  Even if San Diego does not succeed in the finals, a pre-finals no. 2 ranking is an amazing place to have ended this very competitive season.

Ashley in the Finals:

My prediction is that Ashley is going to be an awesome competitor in the finals, and, if Frank and Sam have another “Logged Out” fight, she will be better equipped to help solve these issues.  This is could be bad news for Teams Brooklyn and Vegas and very good news for Team San Diego.

3 (5) Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) 

Trishelle

The Journey So Far:

As I reflect on this season and Trishelle’s role in it, I realize how much I have missed watching Trishelle on television.  This “older sister” version of her (a great Chet-ism) has been engaging, strong-willed, kind and considerate, competitive and strategic, and always interesting to watch.  She could have backed down and flopped with all of these newcomers surrounding her in the Turkey house (something Alton struggled with), but instead she embraced relationships, flirtations (well-played Chet), challenges, and her new Vegas teammates (she allied with Nany effortlessly, her Dustin journey has been more of a struggle, but I think they really get each other heading in to the finals) to a deserved place in the final episode.  If this is Trishelle’s last rodeo, it has been a memorable one and will seal her lasting reputation in the most positive of ways.

Trishelle in the Finals:

Trishelle’s success in the finals is linked to her relationship with Dustin.  When troubles come their way (and based on TJ’s warning, they will), can she and Dustin help one another succeed?  Will they be supportive or, as the Nany/Alton elimination episode illuminated, butt heads?  I think that these two have figured it out and needed to go through that awful few days (is Dustin going home?) to get some of those personality clash potentialities out of their systems and equip them with understandings and tools to better manage conflict.  Trishelle wants to win the money as much as anyone and will do what it takes to put herself in the best position to do so.

4 (4) Devyn (Team Brooklyn)

Devyn

The Journey So Far:

I struggled with Devyn (in fairness, the game did as well) in the early weeks of this season because I didn’t really know her as well as everyone else, she didn’t really know the concept of working out as well as everyone else, and her relationship with Big Easy (it was very cute) did not seem to have any competitive benefits.  As I, and the viewing audience, have come to know Devyn better, what we see is a beautiful person whose humor, dynamic personality, loyalty and team understanding, and unique and appreciated perspective on all happenings has been one of this season’s most rewarding revelations.  I always assumed that she wouldn’t make it this far (and may still hurt her team in the finals, Chet is a little concerned), but I cannot imagine this season without Devyn’s wonderful presence.  Although a Challenge may not always be the best fit, a television program that Devyn is in always will be.

Devyn in the Finals:

There are some legitimate concerns about Devyn’s physical (her mental is airtight) abilities in a high-end athletic competition.  If she can galvanize around her teammates and find the adrenaline and will to perform, Team Brooklyn has a shot to win.  Chet is planning to carry her on his back if she fails at this, so she could win via another method as well.

5 (6) Sam (Team San Diego) 

Sam

The Journey So Far:

Despite a minor dip coming out of the “Logged Out” challenge, Sam has been consistent this season, but a bit of a surprise disappointment.  Considering her time and competitive nature in San Diego (a frequent ping pong partner of Zach), I thought she would be more heady and effective in this competitive scenario.  She has often been the brunt of Frank aggression and there was that Marie push that forced her into a plant (tough moment for us all).  I think that unfortunately Sam may not have been placed on the best team for her (I can imagine seeing a different and improved version if she were with Chet and Sarah on Team Brooklyn) and had to fight back for her relevance and placement in this game far too often.  A great performance in the finals could change all that.

Sam in the Finals:

If you consider “Logged Out,” her endurance could be a real liability.  If this is so, she needs both Frank and Zach to support her and inspire her, not to belittle her and demean her.  This big “what if?” is an essential question in deciding the inevitable winner of this season’s The Challenge.

POWER RANKINGS WEEK BY WEEK – WOMEN
WEEK 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Sarah 2 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Ashley 7 10 5 4 7 11 8 8 6 3 2 2
Trishelle 10 7 9 6 5 5 6 4 3 7 5 3
Devyn 15 15 13 9 10 6 9 7 5 4 4 4
Sam 6 6 6 7 8 9 10 9 7 6 6 5

FULL TEAM RANKINGS – FINALS EDITION

Note:  Team rankings are compiled by adding up the individual rankings and dividing by number of players remaining.  Teams with the lowest total average ranking are ranked better than the highest (i.e. you want as few points as possible)

1 (1) TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 2.75, last week: 3

Sarah (1), Chet (1), JD (5), Devyn (4)

Brooklyn

How do they win?

They win by continuing their teamwork centered, positive, and supportive identity, by having a once and a lifetime athletic showing by Devyn, and by pacing their performance throughout.

2 (T-4) TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 2.5, last week: 4

Dustin (2), Trishelle (3), Eliminated: Nany, Alton

Las Vegas

How do they win?

They win by getting along, motivating each other, and taking each checkpoint of the final one at a time.

3 (2) TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 3.5, last week: 3.5

Zach (3), Sam (5), Ashley (2), Frank (4)

San Diego

How do they win? 

They win if Frank can stay in control, if Sam can perform at a high level, and if Zach has an amazing, Herculean showing.

MY FINAL PREDICTION:

I think that Dustin and Trishelle benefit from being a strong two (as opposed to the other teams strong threes plus one), get along, and ride their late season momentum to a first place finish.

 

It is now time to jump out of planes into the Namib Desert.  Tune in at 10 PM on MTV for the final episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons.  It is going to be an epic conclusion to this wonderful season.

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS appear weekly on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com. 

THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Penultimate Retro Running Diary

The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons remaining competitors are literally on the verge of jumping out of a plane into the Namib desert to embark on a final challenge that even TJ thinks is undoable. In order to best encapsulate the awesome and incredible season this has been, I have decided to split up the column this week. First, is the retro running diary of the penultimate and final elimination episode. Early next week, I will release my pre-final power rankings and some further analysis of the remaining teams and their chances in the Namib Desert experience. Here we go…

THE WEEK 11 Penultimate RETRO RUNNING DIARY (power rankings to follow in a separate column)

The times are EST on the night the original episode aired, so feel free to follow along while viewing for the first time or while re-watching.

10:01 – There is one more challenge left and our faithful competitors are off to Namibia, Africa (“The homeland!” as coined by Devyn) for the rest of the season. Dustin: “Well there’s no tigers. Is there tigers? I don’t know.”

10:02 – 3o hours later, we arrive in Namibia…The edit shows us Survivor-esque shots of dangerous looking (beetles, snakes) animals, less dangerous looking (ostriches, gazelles) animals, and the dune-rich sandy deserts of a Tatooine-like landscape. Will our remaining teams be roughing it out in the African wilderness? Not this time. MTV splurged for an Atlantic Ocean side beach three-story that appears to have been transplanted from a Santa Barbara villa. There is African fused urban chic decorum! There is an indoor pool! There is enough alcohol to last a Frank evening! Trishelle: “We are in Africa!” Cue the third single from Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill album…

10:03 – Sarah sets the stage for the final challenge with an experienced command that only she has: “This is the most important challenge yet. There are only four teams left: Vegas, who everybody is thinking is going to lose this challenge, San Diego, the clearly strong team, Cancun, who is shacking up with clearly the strongest team here, and Brooklyn. There’s no way we won’t be going in if we don’t win.” There it is.

10:03 – At the challenge, Sam sees an ATV and a ramp going into the water and all she can think of is Steve-O and Jackass. This concerns me on so many levels.

10:03 – TJ: “Today’s challenge is called ‘Sling Shot’.” Team San Diego starts laughing uncontrollably upon hearing the pun heavy title. Maybe I am obtuse for not getting it, but why is this so funny?

10:04 – “Sling Shot,” according to TJ, borrows a little “technique from the rednecks.” Ignorance?

10:05 – TJ explains the challenge (some ATV driving, a human sling shot into the water, lots of swimming to a dock, ring the bell, more swimming back to shore to cross the finish line) and the enhanced stakes (“You don’t want to go home now.”) Two people participate at a time, so the average time of the Brooklyn and San Diego’s respective two heats will be the counted score. This could be a distinctive advantage (if they do well) or disadvantage (if they do poorly) to the two person teams.

10:05 – TJ: “Today’s challenge has a little bit more riding on it today.” Devyn: “Literally.” Boom!

10:05 – Brooklyn is confident pre-challenge. Sarah, to her team: “You are a swimmer (to JD) and I am a swimmer. And you guys are the drivers. (To Devyn) You don’t even have to get your hair wet.” This is followed by a high-five and reason number 731 that Team Brooklyn has been a joy and a revelation to watch this season.

10:06 – Dustin and Trishelle have some pre-game confidence acknowledging (by a proud hand raise) that they fit right in with an event that connects to the redneck experience. Dustin: “That would be me!”

10:06 – Team Vegas is first (as chosen by San Diego’s power team privilege) and the Dustin ramp launch is teased into a commercial break…

10:09 – It’s Sway, introducing some end of the year TV event. I am distracted by the following notions: the fact that Sway is still around, how Sway got to appear on TV in the first place, whether or not Sway has any colleagues left at MTV News, whether MTV News still exists, why Gideon Yago is not a bigger star, why John Norris dyed his hair blonde during the mid-90s, how MTV used to be about music, and how The Real World and The Challenge longevity is one of the most underrated and unheralded TV stories (why aren’t more people talking about this?). Back to Sway – I am probably not going to spend my New Year’s with you. Sorry, buddy.

10:10 – Dustin “I feel like a superhero right now” Zito literally flies into the water (“I feel like I am here to save the day.”) off the ramp. Dustin absolutely kills the swimming portion of the challenge (TJ: “Way to dig deep”) and Team San Diego looks nervous. Dustin’s post performance vomiting (a longer swim than anyone thought) does not quell the fears of the other teams.

Dustin

10:12 – Next up: Sarah and Chet for Brooklyn. Sarah battles with the deceptively cold water, bests a minor dock elevation misstep, and swims her heart out to the shore line as her teammates (in the truest sense of the word) cheer her on. Like Dustin before her, vomiting and artificial oxygen support are necessary (“We are in Africa!”).

Sarah

10:13 – The JD/Devyn tandem seem to have the same success. JD’s (“This is fun!”) dolphin training experience is yet again a difference maker in this game.

10:15 – Derek struggles with the swimming (“I can’t breathe”) and is forced to backstroke much of the return trip to the shore. Things do not look good form Team Cancun.

10:16 – Ashley’s ATV stalls and Frank’s ramp acceleration flops like your average play from Reggie Evans. He has to swim longer than anyone else before him and although he does maintain a steady pace throughout, was it fast enough?

Frank

10:17 – Zach (“the last time I swam competitively was never”) owns his heat and competition in general. This guy was made for The Challenge.

10:18 – Team Cancun is the losing team (no surprise there) and will be forced into the final arena and Team Vegas is the winning team (the Vegas comeback is on!). TJ puts it in historical perspective: “Very rarely is a team get picked to go first and then win.” Dustin sees this late challenge adversity as “the best preparation for the final.” He may be right.

10:23 – Dustin and Trishelle must instantaneously deliberate (an appreciated African twist) and choose Team San Diego to go into the arena.

10:24 – TJ: “So which game are they going to play?” Trishelle: “Do we have a second to talk about it, or…?” TJ: “I mean, you got a second.” TJ Lavin – this is what host greatness is all about. (BTW – Dustin chooses “strategy” as means of leveling the playing field for Cancun while making San Diego “sweat.”)

10:25 – Chet gets the poetic drama of the final arena battle: “Jonna has been boning her way to the final and now Zach’s team has to go against her. I mean could you ask for a better final elimination?” There will be a serious depreciation of life quality without the man, the myth, the legend that is Chet on my television once a week.

10:25 – Dinner is served (on three, four-person tables – an odd configuration) and Sam is publicly basking in the glow of Frank’s ramp elevation issues in the challenge (completely the ATV or Ashley’s, the ATV driver, fault). Frank vents his frustration to Ashley in the nastiest of terms (as only Frank can). Poor Jasmine’s low weight is dragged into the mess. Is this a potential team turmoil fueled harbinger for what is yet to come for Team San Diego? (The seating chart, by the way: Zach, Jonna, Sam, and Dustin are at one table. Trishelle, Devyn, Sarah, and Chet are at another table. The third table is Derek, JD, Ashley, and Frank. So much incredible interpersonal and social structure understanding can be gleaned from this configuration. I am fascinated.)

10:30 – Even though Sarah is off of arena duty and has a ticket to the finals, her strategic game is at play: “As much as I loathe (gulp, unexpected) conversation with her, I give Jonna advice on how to do the strategy one, hoping that maybe she can send San Diego home. It would mean Brooklyn would be the only four person team running in the final, and maybe we could win the whole thing.”

10:31 – Understatement of the episode alert from Ashley: “Nothing is every easy for Team San Diego.” Doubts about the arena abound. Frank feels like he is going to puke.

10:32 – The “Knot So Fast” arena strategy game is transported to Africa. It is the same rules and concept as in Turkey’s fire pit locale, but the large metallic domes have been replaced by wooden teepees. Production must have run out of resources or money after decorating the Namibian digs.

Knot So Fast

10:35 – Round 1 (the rope twisting part) is over. San Diego and Cancun both feel good about what they did. The viewer struggles (knot so great translation to television) to have any idea about just happened.

10:37 – Round 2 (the rope untwisting part) begins and it looks like (from this obstructed view vantage point) that Cancun is neck and neck with Frank and Ashley. The entirety of Brooklyn and Vegas are instructing Jonna and Derek’s every move. Yes, Chet. The Cancun v. San Diego final elimination was a perfect ending, but another arena battle (more understandable suspense) may have yielded more tangible evidence to support this claim.

10:40 – During the commercial break, a The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 television promo tries to make the connection between “holiday season” and this final installment of the popular movie franchise (a reach like Robb’s arms). I try to keep myself in the center of pop culture, but this Edward/Jacob/Bella journey is one that I am glad I have never partaken in.

10:41 – Frank and Ashley make an “oopsy” in their rope untangling, or as I like to call it, the night in San Diego that Nate and Priscilla “hooked up.” This was the most lenient possible interpretation of the word “exes” in human history.

Ashley and Frank

10:41 – Jonna struggles with all the side-coaching and instead of tuning them out, decides to engage and yell back (“just shut up!”). Derek recognizes the problem with this reaction.

10:42 – Ashley and Frank win and Jonna is still focused on the “too many voices” that affected her performance. Thankfully, Zach is their to comfort her. Jonna intimates that she was in the “worst place of her entire life” before coming on The Challenge (that poor guy she dumped on the phone from the season premiere must be struggling with this revelation) and that Zach has been the best thing that has happened to her. Underrated subplot of the season: how functional Zach and Ashley seem to be with their post-breakup existence. San Diego had to overcome much diversity to get to the final and I am not sure they could have sustained another interpersonal impasse. Credit to both Ashley and Zach on this front.

Zach and Jonna

10:43 – Frank and Ashley “love each other” and are as bonded as any two people on this season. This is yet another aspect of the Jekyll & Hyde Team San Diego experience.

Ashley and Frank

10:44 – Derek and Jonna walk off into the Namibian desert horizon. We are down to the final three teams. TJ sets the scene while addressing Teams Brooklyn, Vegas, and San Diego: “You are officially in the final. I hope you guys dig a little bit deeper. I’ve been on over a hundred challenges. I don’t think anybody can finish that final, but if you can, you are getting $250,000 for first place. See you at the finals. Congratulations.” He follows this by rocking a cool hand signal gesture. There is only one TJ Lavin.

10:46 – The cast finds a new wardrobe for the finals (including under armor full body suits and new sneakers) waiting for them at Camp Namibia. Dustin models the new gear. The “night before” excitement is real.

Dustin

10:46 – Chet and Trishelle have a heart to heart about the finals makeup of Team Brooklyn (particularly the potential liability of Devyn). Chet is in beast mode and will “carry Devyn up a hill across an ocean” if he must. This why Chet is rightfully ranked number 1 in the rankings.

10:46 – Chet’s interview analysis takes the clear plot forecasting a step further: “I have the endurance of a young virgin cult. I could win this thing by myself if I were allowed to, but Devyn thinks that taking the spoon from a peanut butter jar to her mouth constitutes a workout.” Well, there’s that.

10:47 – Trishelle has some legitimate (the episode two weeks ago warrants this feeling) concerns about her ability to work with Dustin in a stressful, competitive environment. There are now doubts percolating around each team. This is real.

10:51 – The morning of the final is here! The “butterflies are doing their thing” in Dustin’s stomach. According to Sarah, JD is “looking good.” Zach has a “pit in his stomach the size of a bowling ball.” Devyn puts on her weave. Now it is time.

10:52 – Sarah reminds us that the last time she was in a final, she “got heatstroke and ended up in the back of an ambulance.” She also lets us know that she is “not going to do that this time,” that she “came here to win,” and that she is “never giving up.” Competition, be warned. Sarah has her game face on and is ready to dominate.

10:53 – TJ, in front of three helicopters and four planes, breaks down the potential earning situation: first place is $250,000, second place is $60,000, and third place is $40,000. Everyone is at least winning $10,000 and Dustin and Trishelle could walk away with $125,000 if Team Vegas wins.

10:53 – TJ: “Welcome to the vast and empty Namib desert. You are officially entering no-man’s land. There is only one way in. So to start things off, you guys are going to be jumping out of those (pointing to the planes).” That’s what I’m talking about, The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons! You are killing it!

10:57 – Trishelle thinks Dustin give her the look of “I will rip your head off you back out of this.” I think it was more of the look of “this is the coolest thing I have ever done.” Just sayin…

10:57 – TJ’s inspirational wisdom: “This is going to be the hardest thing you have ever done in your entire lives. You will be a better person for finishing this thing. So, no matter what happens…when you are going, and you feel like you can’t go anymore, just ask yourself is that your mind speaking or your body. Ninety percent of the time, it’s your mind. So just tell it, no I am cool. Just keep on moving. Good luck. I will see you soon. Make it happen.”

10:58 – Ashley has an amazing way of making every post production interview feel super happy and cute, even when she is talking about jumping out of planes.

10:59 – The ominous music says, “there is a storm coming.” Well-played, sound designer. Well-played.

Chet and Devyn

10:59 – Dustin’s jump (the one originally teased in the pre-season trailer) leads into a “to be continued” fade to black screen…next week is The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons final challenge and I could not be more ready…

Dustin

Stay tuned for my pre-final power rankings and my analysis and predictions of how well Teams Brooklyn, San Diego, and Las Vegas will fare in the finals (out sometime on Monday). Then, tune in Wednesday at 10 PM on MTV for the final episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons.

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7. His CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out weekly on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com. The Week 12 power rankings will be available sometime before the final.