Tag Archives: Battle of the Seasons

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – Jonna and Nany

This is the sixth in a series of “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ team previews that will lead into the first power rankings of the season.  Next up: Paula and Emily


Where did we last see them? Jonna and Nany were last seen habitually near the top of the weekly power rankings for Battle of the Seasons, although both just missed out on an opportunity to compete in the finals.

The Rivalry: Honest confession – I think this rivalry amounts to a whole lot of nothing.  Jonna and Nany were a close pair before Battle of the Seasons, but then a Jonna Turkish love affair with Zach and some alliance tension created a division between these two onetime friends that came to a climax in and around the reunion.

Rivalry Meter on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is a Leroy and Mike from Rivals I “Rivalry? They’re actually really good friends” rivalry and 10 is a Kenny and Wes from Rivals I “they have hated each other for years” RIVALRY) – 3, best Rivals I comparison: Johnny and Tyler

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio: 

“Jonna explains, ‘I should have stood up for Nany, but instead I chose a guy over a friend and that’s the number one rule you don’t break.’”

Although I think there may be more important rules not to break (traveling in basketball, stealing), preseason buzz on this pair is that the reasons behind the tension (Jonna’s very much over relationship with Zach) appear to be behind them.

Nany is a strong, athletic presence in the game but her quick temper has been her undoing in the past, while Jonna’s need for male attention fueled their rivalry in the first place.”

There is much to agree with here.  Nany’s “strong, athletic presence” was a highlight of Battle of the Seasons.  I think her quick temper continues to be something to monitor, but I was more impressed with how she seemed to be able to effectively recover from those moments she would like to forget.  Also of note – her bond with Dustin and consummate loyalty to Team Las Vegas was a key to her success last season.  She will be able to attain that focus with Jonna as a partner.  Jonna’s need for male attention may have “fueled their rivalry in the first place,” but I think she has learned her lesson and will benefit from a two person partnership as opposed to a series of team alliances.

Although she claims to be solely focused on the game, Jonna could ruin Nany’s plans when she cozies up to a hot new boy-toy.”

This could happen, but my money is on Jonna and Nany having a shot to win it in the finals.

Best-Case Scenario: All of this “rivalry” talk is rendered silly and Jonna and Nany become an irrepressible force in Rivals 2 with a trip to the finals and a legitimate shot to win.

Worst-Case Scenario: Out of the mutual protective shield of surrogate sibling Dustin Zito, some of the stronger male personalities (Knight again, CT, Frank) find those right Nany buttons to push and she struggles with the pressure.  Jonna will be loyal and supportive, but no Dustin in Nany’s world (or on this season) is a big loss.

The Verdict: Many of the pairings in this game seem to make little sense in that they are either stretching the definition of what it means to be a “rival” (most cases) or not a pairing that anyone was hoping to see compete in this game (Cooke and Naomi?).  Jonna and Nany, although not necessarily “rivals” in a true sense, are a tandem, especially considering their exceptional showing on Battle of the Seasons, that we are looking forward to watching compete.  They have a ripe combination of game strategy and challenge athleticism that will be a worthy match to some of their strongest opponents.  I would be surprised if they do not got far this season.

Watch the Jonna and Nany pre-interviews here.

Other team previews:

Anastasia and Jessica

Aneesa and Diem

Camila and Jemmye

Cooke and Naomi

Jasmine and Theresa

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 weekly “The Challenge: Rivals 2” power rankings will begin the week of July 10.

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 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.”


1 (1) Chet (Team Brooklyn)


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) 


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)


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)


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)


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.

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


1 (1) Sarah (Team Brooklyn)


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) 


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) 


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)


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) 


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.

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


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)


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.


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. 


Can you feel it?  The momentum of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons has picked up like the volatility in Frank’s personality while drinking.  Each moment of each episode now feels like an essential window into the potentiality of the final challenge.  This past week, the Challenge cast journeyed from near and far to New York to film the reunion special, a sign that the end is near.  With only one episode left before the final, I have decided to keep on the retro running diary train to make sure that every important moment (and as you will soon find out if you actually read through all of this prose before hitting the rankings) gets mentioned.  On to our last night spent in the confines of Turkey before a major location change in preparation for the final…

THE WEEK 10 RETRO-RUNNING DIARY (power rankings to follow)

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.

10:00 – The episode begins with an artistic opening shot of the moon cross-faded into the Turkey compound pool followed by some wind swept drapes billowing in the ominous post-arena evening.  Ladies and gentlemen – The Challenge means business tonight!

10:01 – First off, where in the house is this Team Brooklyn communication den?  Second, I love how Brooklyn serves as the home to Vegas therapy sessions.  In this sequence, they seem to be good listeners.  Third, the Dustin and Trishelle impasse seems impenetrable.  Trishelle can’t get Dustin to see the big picture!  Dustin is so distraught he may be forced to go home!  What is going to happen?  At least in-episode cliffhangers last all of one minute because the next day…

10:01 – The next morning Jedi Master Chet (vintage Ray-Ban sunglasses and all) is doing some crazy force work on Padawan Dustin: “These are the cards you have (mock card dealing motion).  It’s a team of Dustin and Trishelle.  That’s all you can play right now.  So you either do it, or you quit, and I know you are not a quitter.”  Listen, when you are number one in the rankings, you are number one in the rankings.  The force is strong in Chet as he gives Dustin “a second wind” with Trishelle.  The Team Vegas crisis is officially averted, so Dustin can now go about his business of jumping out of a plane (as teased in the original trailer and photos for the season) in a future episode.

10:02 – Back in a different Team Brooklyn communication den, Sarah and Chet discuss the strategy for Brooklyn going forward (aptly recognizing that both Cancun and San Diego are the obstacle in front of them).  JD’s input: “Well, let’s move forward and prosper.”  Dolphin trainers are apparently good at speaking in generalized mixed clichés (among so many other things).

10:02 – Today’s challenge is called “Force Field” or (to kick it old school) “what everyone needed when around Beth S. of Real World: Los Angeles.”

10:03 – The challenge is based on a simplistic, but hard to explain, point system of which team can stay on the platform longest and out of the surrounding mud pit while battling each other in inner tubes (one team per tube).  The longer you stay on the platform, the higher your point value.  The scores from the girl’s and guy’s heat will be added together to determine the winner.  TJ seems particularly excited about watching this one.

10:04 – The girl’s heat is first “and, out of nowhere, [Jonna] sees four inner-tubes heading towards [her].  What the hell is going on?”  Perhaps there is some homelessness envy going on.  Jonna is in the mud.  Cancun has 0 points.  Zach is none too pleased.

10:05 – Trishelle lazily makes her attack and Team San Diego’s Sam and Ashley duo bounce her into the muddy waters.  Dustin is “glad to see Trishelle try.”  Maybe Dustin did not have access to the replay of the viewing audience because from my perch at home, Trishelle’s “try” left something to be desired.  I am just saying (20 points to Vegas).

10:05 – Devyn: “You do know who you are going up against, right?  Sarah and Devyn – two of the baddest girls here.”  Surrounding mud pit, meet Team San Diego (40 points).  Sarah likens the challenge to “human Mario Kart” and the episode’s sound editors provide a “wink and a nod” musical homage.  To answer your question, yes we are having fun, yet.

10:05 – Sam is still stuck on Marie’s plant pot push from last episode and does not appreciate the continued Marie assault (this time in “Force Field”).  According to Sam, Marie is an “all-around [indistinguishable expletive].”  Zach is pissed about the San Diego girl loss and is going to take it out on Chet and JD because he “doesn’t care.”

My writing of this column just took a bit of a delay.  My newly acquired Christmas tree decided to randomly fall over in the middle of my living room (luckily just missing my laptop and television by a few inches).  Unfortunately, Rapunzel and Pinochio were casualties of the event.  Not good times…

10:06 – Sarah and Devyn (“It feels sooooo good”) knock Marie off and win the girl’s heat.      It is the boys turn.  Zach pre-game strategizes with Frank: “Now we have to be able to move together.  It is just like true becoming one.  Honestly.”  The edit playfully plays on the homo-eroticism between Zach and Frank.  JD and Chet’s pre-game strategizing lacks the same charisma.

10:10 – The first boy’s heat begins and an initial battle between Cancun and Brooklyn (trying to eliminate Cancun) yields the first penalty for both.  You are not allowed to fall in “Force Field” (three times and you dq).  Sarah (“Oh my God you guys, stop!”) and Jonna (“Go for Brooklyn.  That is fucked up.”) side coach from the sidelines.

10:10 – The Brooklyn boys fall again and Devyn and Sarah are none too pleased that their first place finish in the girl’s heat is in jeopardy.  Clearly, they presume it is JD’s fault.  Sarah: “JD, don’t fuck around!”  Devyn (in her post interview): “JD is spazzing around like a headless fish.  What is wrong with you?”  Poor, JD.  Even his indiscriminate action is a cause for team concern.

10:11 – Brooklyn falls for a third time and is disqualified.  The JD directed tirade continues.  Sarah: “JD, what’s your problem with listening to directions?”  JD is “pissed off” that “his team is attacking him…Of course, JD gets all the blame.”  Again, poor JD.  Even when his team wins, he can’t win, and, when his team loses, he is the scapegoat.  There has got to be something to this, though.  Maybe he is conditioned to listen to dolphin sounds instead of human directions?  For the first time in weeks, there is some tension in Team Brooklyn’s team corner.

10:12 – Dustin tries to survive as long as he can, but San Diego’s attack is too strong.  Tough times for Team Vegas in this challenge.  Frank thinks he and Zach are “giggling” inside the inner tube like “two sisters on a beach vacation.”  Touché.

10:13 – In succession, San Diego knocks out Robb and Derek to win the “Force Field” challenge.  Zach: “San Diego is definitely the best team in the game at this point.”  With the Team Brooklyn fall out boy heat, he can reasonably make this argument.

10:13 – The Team Brooklyn post challenge interview is particularly dysfunctional and the blame is still JD centered.  Chet, on one hand, defends JD, but acknowledges to the incredulous Sarah and Devyn that he was “in the damn tire with him” and gets what they are saying, but because he is their teammate, they all have to stick with him.  JD gives a sincere apology and looks shell-shocked and broken.  Again, poor JD.

10:14 – Vegas comes in last place and will be heading back to the arena.  Dustin remembers his fallen comrades of Nany and Alton and wants to “make them proud.”  He  is again is composed and clear.  After an episode off of the emotional deep end, Mr. Zito seems back in the zone.  This is going to be bad news for whomever he faces in the arena (and very good news for his recently reconnected partner, Trishelle).

10:15 – The San Diego deliberation on who to send in reaches a bit of an impasse.  Zach wants to send in St. Thomas because Marie “assaulted Sam” and Frank wants to keep St. Thomas and send in Brooklyn because Robb and Marie are his best friends here (“Thanks a lot, Frank,” says his entire team).  This should be interesting.

10:16 – Chet and Sarah have one of those conversations that harkens back to the premiere episode and makes this avid and close (yes, I know…definitely too close) viewer of The Challenge giddy.  Sarah and Chet know that Devyn and JD are supposed to go in, so if Brooklyn is the San Diego pick, Sarah and Chet are at least safe for another week.  Chet is worried about an arena cold feet incident like Trishelle last week (JD remains the season’s biggest enigma) and cannot be complacent.

10:16 – San Diego pulls Brooklyn in for a meeting (the background music tells you it is an important, high stakes meeting).  San Diego wants Vegas out and asks Brooklyn what arena event they think they have the best shot against Vegas in.  Devyn’s answer is the “mental” memory/inverted water dive arena, but indicates that in order to knock Vegas off, St. Thomas would be a better choice.  The plot thickens.

10:17 – The Marie/Robb meeting with San Diego does not go so well.  Marie is not talking, leaves it to Robb to give his preferred arena events, and promptly walks out.  The pride this girl has is close to incredible.

10:18 – Zach is not having any of Marie’s “you owe us” attitude.  After all, no one else is “throwing one of [his] teammates into a flower bush.”  C’mon Frank, she is “Staten Island trash.”  Zach is rocking the effective metaphors tonight!

10:20 – Marie (she is a self-titled “crazy bitch”) comes back to further discuss with Frank and Ashley and the tears begin to stream down Frank’s face.  Central to their team conflict is the “flower plant push” incident and Zach and Sam cannot get past this (Listen, who pushes another person into a flower pot anyway?)  Cue melancholic emotional song and fade to pre-commercial black.  MTV is on point this evening.

10:24 – Team San Diego chooses St. Thomas to go back to the arena and seems to have completely disregarded Robb’s arena game request (I think this was a just an oops moment, but understandably tough for Robb and Marie to swallow).


10:26 – On the bus to Turkish nightlife, Marie is now on crying duty.  Frank’s lack of “friend protection” has quite the effect on her.  Turkish nightlife may not be the best elixir at this time.

10:26 – Devyn, on the dance floor, to Chet and Sarah: “Go Team Brooklyn!  We are still alive!”  Two things: this is wonderful and where is JD?

10:27 – Marie and Frank have a talk that does not go well.  Robb’s step-in to support Marie makes things even worse.  Names are called, insults are slung, and friendships are tested.  The night is too young for this to end well…

10:28 – The bus becomes the site of the next rumble (taking the form of a battle of stand-ups).  Marie calls everyone “corny” (urban dictionary: “trying to be cool, but ultimately very uncool indeed, and often even extremely embarrassing”), proving that it takes one to know one.  The lead-in to the commercial took a turn for the unintentionally comedic and surreal.  Marie: “Sam, i would kill you by the way.”  Zach: “Yeah, but I would kill your man, so shut up!”  Marie, in response: “And I would fucking kill your girl, how about that.”  As Sarah hides in the seat next to all of this, my mind goes to the bus driver.  What must he think of a scene like this?  Does he have a sense of who these people are?  Does he comprehend their celebrity status?  Does he think Robb is an NBA player?  Did he recognize Trishelle from The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning TV movie?  Does he make small-talk with JD?  We need a commercial to suss this all out.

10:33 – The action starts back at the house and Marie is still its center.  Chet tries to intervene: “Marie.  Chill.  Go to bed.”  Marie decides to direct her response at JD (inexplicably): “Don’t even talk to me.  You don’t even count, so.” (Marie follows this with a mocking dolphin impression – he just can’t win!).

10:34 – Fear not!  The dolphin trainer fights back!  JD: “Marie, have fun looking outside that airplane window.”  Marie then starts to go at JD for being a weirdo and “dol-phin trai-ner.”  This is all so overwhelming.

10:34 – Marie asks, who’s next?  Answer?  Derek, and he is not gonna take it anymore!

10:35 – Robb tries to support Marie (the broken record persists, at least they have each other’s back) and then gets mixed up with Derek (who, for the second straight house drinking event, is in it to win it).  It goes there to the point where Robb must take off his shirt in a show of strength while Chet and Frank (Now a peacemaker!  What is going on?) try to maintain order.  Commercial break, please.

10:37 – MTV contends that everyone is talking about Catfish.  So far, I have met only one person who is talking about Catfish.  Where are these people?

10:37 – Chet (number 1 in the rankings for a reason) summates the return to action as only Chet can: “This night is pathetic to watch.  It is further evidence that Robb and Marie are unstable as both competitors and, more importantly, as human beings.”  Of all the people on The Challenge who I would most like to sit and watch The Challenge with (or watch life with, for that matter), three are on Team Brooklyn and this does not even include JD (whose head would be fascinating to be inside for a day).  Chet’s successful peacemaking is just beautiful to watch.  A star he is.

10:39 – It gets even better back in bunkhouse Vegas.  Chet: “Trishelle is kind of like that recently divorced mom that is trying to party with her daughters.  She’s been flirting with me quite a bit.  I wouldn’t mind having my way with her.”  Chet, yes you can!  Trishelle is flirting right back.  Trishelle: “Chet’s adorable.  He is funny, cool.  There is nothing wrong with flirting.  It is just innocent fun.”  In the scheme of social subplots, this is a great one.

10:42 – It’s arena time and the event is “Water Torture.”  The vibe coming from Team Las Vegas is refreshingly endearing.  Dustin and Trishelle are positive, joking with one another, and both seem relaxed for the circumstance they are in.  After an off-week for these two, win or lose tonight, they were able to rediscover some of their Challenge mojo.

10:43 – As “Water Torture” begins, the early drama is figuring out the breathing system.  Both Robb and Dustin are doing so with a sense of humor, an unusual response to torture.  Props, gentlemen.

10:44 – The weekly Challenge clip during the commercial break shows a Team San Diego hoedown at some daytime party.  Devyn seems to accurately portray this group dance as a “hot-ass mess.”

10:45 – I have no idea what to make of Jack Reacher.  It could be a sneaky good action movie or it could be a disaster.  I literally have no idea.

10:48 – Torture time, and according to Devyn, “Dustin is making it look easy.”  She is also enjoying looking at his “six pack abs” because “that is easy too.”  Devyn, when considering your participation on this year’s The Challenge, the pleasure has been ours.

10:49 – There is yet another commercial midway through the arena.  I can imagine the drama live in the arena, but alas, the “Water torture” is a bit mundane while watching at home.  Memory following does not translate well on TV and I struggle to follow the happenings (except when Camila and Easy imploded many many weeks ago).

10:55 – I guess there was some drama (Trishelle may have messed up a few squares), but Team Las Vegas, led my Dustin’s amphibious (Zach, again, nice work with the metaphors) skills prove to be too much for Robb and Marie.  Trishelle has a great moment of exultation: “Dustin, I love you even though we fought for the last three days!”  It feels like three years ago.

10:56 – Dustin and Trishelle’s post-game interview involves more smiling, more laughing together, and more cuteness.  Whatever they had in their system, it is long gone.  Team Las Vegas is back.

10:56 – Marie and Robb go out with some pride and sense of humor.  Robb: “I think the rest of the house is gonna feel probably relieved.  They don’t have two drunken assholes T-Rexing around anymore, so.”  Marie: “They don’t have to deal with my mouth anymore.”  Marie hopes that no one hugs her on her way out because she will “body slam them like…” until Robb stops her from finishing.  Robb and Marie have been a consistent fixture on our Wednesday nights for some time and the viewer could not have asked for a better send off.  As TJ says, hopefully we will see you in the future.

10:57 – TJ resets the game.  There are four teams left, one challenge, and one elimination.  If you get power team status, all of you have to do is “make it through [TJ’s] final, and you get money.”  All you have to do.  TJ, we know better that what you have to do is going to be a wee bit difficult.

10:58 – After a text from TJ, the remaining competitors learn that the next challenge will be in Namibia!  There is universal excitement, but Zach sums up the other prevalent sentiment: “Where is Namibia?”

10:58 – Trishelle: “Is it an animal?  Is it a state of mind?”

10:58 – Dustin is super-excited to be heading to Africa, but, at the same time, scared about what Africa is going to bring.  Cue a preview of some scary Africa clips (including the Dustin jump out of a plane clip from the original season trailer).  This is going to be a bit cray.



The rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/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.”


1 (1) Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Chet had one of those episodes where he was given adequate airtime to display his array of gifted interpersonal ability, savvy gameplay, peacekeeper essentiality, teammate loyalty, witty banter, and in a somewhat surprising showing, his flirtation skills.  He is the total Challenge: Battle of the Seasons package and has been flexing this muscle for weeks now.

2 (2) Zach (Team San Diego) – Not only a master of interview metaphor and pink scarves, Zach dominated the “Force Field” challenge and was the definitive leader of Team San Diego in their St. Thomas arena-send-in decision.  His free spirit and lack of self-effacing humility and humor have been one this season’s great revelations.

3 (3) Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week I wrote, “I have a feeling Mr. Zito will be able to recover next week.”  I didn’t how right I would be.  His southern charm, competitive spirit, and encouraging teammate self were back and maybe even better than before.  He was in “nothing to lose” mode which translated to “will not lose” in the arena.

4 (4) Frank (Team San Diego) – Frank was again dominant in the challenge, but again the provoker (Marie was mainly to blame on this one, though) of the house drama.  I do credit him for being able to help the situation as best he could (his attempts were genuine) and I felt for how the Marie arena decision devastated him.

5 (7) Derek (Team Cancun) – Derek held his own (for as long as possible) in “Force Field” and, although he could not avoid drama this episode, he seemed to be completely in control and mostly justified.  Derek has every chance to be a key player in the two remaining episodes.

6 (6) JD (Team Brooklyn) – JD got the most airtime this week of any previous week, although I thought most of it was at his expense.  There has to be some truth in Team Brooklyn blaming him for their “Force Field” dq and in Marie’s dolphin-themed attack.  If anyone can better explain JD to me, please do!

ELIMINATED: Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Robb grew on this show week to week and ended his long St. Thomas run with a respectable showing.  Robb with two Bs, we will miss your presence on Wednesday nights.  You are welcome to come back soon.



1 (1) Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Despite some JD inspired teammate disparagement, Sarah’s game face is always on.  Her “Force Field” complete domination (and teamwork with Devyn) and strategy session with Chet display this focus.  Sarah will be in the final and will be ready.

2 (3) Ashley (Team San Diego) – Ashley continues to rise in the rankings with a delicate (but effective) handling of some of her more temperamental teammates and consistent (although not too successful this week) showings in challenges.  She has yet to step into an arena (amazing) and unless San Diego is sent there next week, may not have to.

3 (5) Jonna (Team Cancun) – Jonna was fiesty as ever and has one more week to survive to the final.  I continue to appreciate her push for the win and uber-competitive spirit.  She has managed to keep her Zach relationship drama-less and has reaped the benefits of the personal connection and team alignment.  She has played an overall outstanding game.

4 (4) Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Devyn has been a joy to get to know and furthered her successful run in this game with some “bad-ass” inner tube work with Sarah.  Always quotable, her interview skills would be ranked first among women.

5 (7) Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Trishelle may have still had difficulty bringing the edge to the challenge, but her subsequent performance in the arena, newly formed resolution with Dustin (and sense of humor that came with it), and smile inducing Chet flirtation seemed so carefree.  After the team turmoil of last week, she and Dustin are more unified than before and potentially very dangerous for other teams.

6 (6) Sam (Team San Diego) – Poor Sam came back from last week’s plant pot incident as the continual receiver of Marie’s wrath.  Marie really got to her (as Frank did earlier in the season), but fortunately, for Sam, she is no longer in Marie’s cross hairs.

ELIMINATED: Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Marie went out with a bang (the definitive star of the episode) and defined herself as one of the great new female characters, competitors, and drama centers that The Challenge has had in years.  She was in the game from the beginning, aligned with right people, and stood up for herself when it was time.  For she and Robb to last so long should be a point of pride.  We look forward to seeing her again.



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: 3, last week: 3

Sarah (1), Chet (1), JD (6), Devyn (4)

Can they win as foursome? Although Team Brooklyn buckled under pressure a bit after the JD/Chet disqualification, Chet was able to simmer the tide and show that when faced with adversity, there is an internal mechanism to combat it.  More and more, I think JD (over Devyn) may be the team liability (the other’s lack of belief in him rests the primary reason), but if appropriately supported and encouraged, he may be fine.  If Sarah and Chet’s conversation is a harbinger of things to come, we may not see this foursome reach the finals.

What pairings can win?  Sarah and Chet can win The Challenge.  JD and Devyn cannot.  There is little to no scenario that Sarah and Chet are going into the arena (if Brooklyn is forced to, Devyn and JD are up), so the JD/Devyn combo will not ever be alone.

2 (3) TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 3.5, last week: 4

Zach (2), Sam (6), Ashley (2), Frank (4)

Can they win as foursome? Yes.  This is a strong team, and Sam, their weakest link, is now completely supported by Zach.  I think they are stronger as four than as two.  The personality clashes under pressure are still their major Achilles heel (and a big one at that).

What pairings can win?  I have a feeling that this question is a moot point.  I think we can expect their foursome to be in the finals.

T-4 (4) TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 4, last week: 5

Dustin (3), Trishelle (5), Eliminated: Nany, Alton

Can they win as a pair? Yes!  They got their stuff together this week (at least in time for the arena) and showed what a dynamic pairing they can be.  As long as Dustin stays in supportive southern gentlemen mode, they have a very real shot at winning this thing.

T-4 (5) TEAM CANCUN Average: 4, last week: 6

Jonna (3), Derek (5), Eliminated: CJ, Jasmine

Can they win as a pair? At this point, I would consider them the biggest underdog to win this game.  They have to get through three more (the next challenge, a possible arena, the final final challenge) to win, and I am just not sure if they are strong enough to get past all three.  Derek and Jonna remain combative and passionate, so it would be foolish to in any way count them out.

And finally, during the “NEXT ON THE CHALLENGE” preview, this is what I saw:

  • Devyn (along with everyone else left) is going to Africa, “the homeland.”
  • Zach has never seen so many people go to the medic in his life.
  • There are three helicopters (what what?) in the final challenge and (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!) Sarah and Trishelle react (score one for DVR and Teams Las Vegas and Brooklyn).

We are heading to Namibia for the final challenge, arena, and final final challenge!  There are only two episodes remaining (sadly), so brace yourself for an amazing finish.  Tune in at 10 PM on MTV for the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons.

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out weekly on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com.  The Week 12 power rankings will be available sometime after December 13.


I was going to save my first The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons running diary for a season finale recap (epic, groundbreaking, and one of a kind athletic competitions demand such attention), but this week’s episode arena battle between Team Cancun’s CJ and Team San Diego’s Zach (both one-time NFL aspiring uber-athletes) was so phenomenal (and according Sarah on twitter: “that elimination between @ZachMTV & @CJKoegelMTV was a MILLION times more intense in real life vs how it looked on TV”) that a running retro diary is the only way to appropriately depict the glory in prose.  If you re-watch or have not watched yet, I am indicating the time on the EST telecast that each moment went down if you want to follow along.

Let the games begin!

10:00 – The opening recap reminds us of Jonna’s season premiere phone dumping of her GBH (Guy Back Home).  GBH – in case you wanted to be reminded of this humiliation on national television again, MTV has got you covered.

10:00 – Reminders of last week’s Frank and Zach team implosion feel even more uncomfortable in retrospect.

10:01 – What is Lacey doing in the opening credits?  I think she was asked to raise her hand and make a “come and get it gesture.”  It looks more like she is giving the finger with four fingers.  Poor Lacey may not have been right for the Challenge.

10:02 – Zach informs us that his “only goal here is to make Frank’s life miserable.”  Trishelle “swears to God” that she thinks Frank and Zach need therapy.  I swear to God, this is a great idea.

10:02 – Jonna: “With Zach I think it is like a weird situation.  It’s fantasyland.  It’s Challengeland.  This is The Challenge world.  This isn’t real life.”  Can this quotation be reinforced daily for Challenge competitors who take the interpersonal interplay on a Challenge a little too seriously.  Who can we get on this?

10:03 – It seems like Jonna needs to be on the Challenge more than anyone else because she was blackmailed by an ex-boyfriend two years ago (who even stole her dog!).  She does not want to be homeless ever again.  This is a reasonable desire.

10:04 – Welcome to the “Hunger Games,” a “70s game show gone bad” according to Dustin.  Things are not looking good (puke buckets?) until TJ enters in a vintage suit, sans cap, with slicked back hair and a Bob Barker micropohone.  Killing it just found a entirely new level of excellence.

10:05 – TJ: “You guys are going to be having a good, old-fashioned eating contest!”  Chet’s expression says, “I would rather stab myself in the eye with a machete.”

10:05 – The rules are a wee-bit complicated and teams seem as perplexed and bewildered as viewers when Shauvon popped an implant on The Ruins.

10:06 – Team San Diego cannot even help themselves.  We are about to eat disgusting food, so let’s have another embarrassing talk about how much we don’t get along.  Trishelle: “I love to sit back and watch San Diego sometimes.  They just never ever stop fighting, these people.  It is sort of like a television show, it’s great.”  Preach, Trishelle.  Zach does a spot-on impression of Frank.

10:06 – TJ’s assistant “Bunny” brings out the first item.  In a comical turn from either TJ or some hysterical producer, “Bunny” will be called the following names over the course of the “Hunger Games” (I kid you not): Bambi, Diamond, Candy, Daisy, Chastity, Passion, Sapphire, Mercedes, Diamond, Cinnamon, Raquel

10:07 – TJ lets everyone know that when making a prediction of how many items a team can eat, we only round up.  Thank you, he appreciates it, though.

10:08 – Team Cancun is challenged to eat fifty-one baklava (a palette cleanser according to Alton) in four minutes.  MTV plays the song “Moderation” to underscore the moment.

10:09 – The horn sounds (literally freaking out Sarah and Chet) and Diamond determines that Team Cancun ate…Let’s go to a commercial.

10:11 – I am not going to lie.  When a dude from Halo tells me to drink the Dew, I am going to drink the Dew.

10:13 – Back to the show, Team Cancun misses out on the fifty-one baklava threshold by two and has a one-way ticket to the loser’s round.  Jonna is concerned that Jasmine didn’t “eat her share” and that it is a good thing that CJ and Derek are seated between them.  Jonna – have you seen Jasmine?  Her share may be a little smaller than yours.

10:13 – Marie crosses her fingers in hope of cheeseburgers.  Girl, you are in the wrong reality inspiration (i.e. this is not Surivivor and very much Fear Factor) eating contest, although I love your innocent earnestness.

10:14  – Team Brooklyn must eat thirty-five grape leaves.  Sarah (“I love grape leaves” and “don’t get scared about the amount that is on the plate”) is in “pump up her team” mode as always.

10:14 – Zach is turned on by the way Devyn is eating the strangely phallic grape leaves.  He can’t even describe and we can’t even understand it.

10:14 – According to Sarah, Chet looks like he is “being polite at his grandmother’s kitchen table.”  Sarah is in the zone.  Nany gives her props, even if watching Sarah makes Nany want to vomit.

10:15 – Chet winks at Daisy and tells her she looks beautiful.  JD almost loses his leaves, but holds strong.  A Chastity announcement later, Brooklyn’s total grape leave consumption is at forty-seven.  Sorry, Team San Diego – Loser’s round destination chosen.

10:16 – Team Las Vegas rocks some strategy and bets low on the hot chili plate, forcing Team St. Thomas to eat eighteen.  TJ appreciates Sapphire’s plate delivery.  Dustin appreciates Mr. Lavin (seriously killing it like no time before).

10:18 – Marie eats hot peppers in her sleep and pulls her Robb twosome to the winner’s round, eliminating Team Las Vegas (they are thrilled to have missed out on the Turkish cuisine) from the winner’s round.

10:18 – Diamond, without further ado, what do Brooklyn and St. Thomas have to eat as much of as they can in two minutes?  Cow liver!  TJ: “Just think of it as steak.”

10:19 – Marie, after her pepper eating clinic, cannot hold down the cow liver (really though, who can?) and for the first time in TV history, is “disqualified for vomiting.”  Listen, in the scheme of disqualification reasons, vomiting is far superior to Big Easy’s way of “can’t climb the ladder.”  Poor Marie does not get along with cow liver (JD seems to dig it).

10:20 – For the loser’s round, San Diego and Cancun must compete in a cow intestine/testicle eating battle.  Ashley and Frank have a sexual innuendoed inside joke about going for the testicles.  Stay classy, San Diego.

10:21 – During the commercial break, I like how Trojan Charged: Orgasmic Pleasure sponsors The Challenge: “charged moment of the week.”  The selected moment was from last week’s episode in which Frank and Zach orally obliterate Sam as she struggles up the log jam hill.  This bit of linkage to “orgasmic pleasure” is a bit of a stretch.

10:26 – Beyond Ashley, who seems primed to eat cow testicles all day, both San Diego and Cancun are STRUGGLING.  Poetic justice for alliance bullying earlier in the game?  The ravishing Raquel reveals that San Diego is the big loser (beyond the cow innards consumption) and has an arena date.

10:28 – A San Diego team pow-wow does not go so well.  Zach walks off in disgust and Frank blows low with the “I fucking hate all three of you” routine.  To their credit, Ashley and Sam are calm, seem sane, and, like the rest of us, don’t really know what to do with San Diego’s men.

10:28 – Back in the bedroom, Frank releases his frustration to Marie and Robb (credit to Team St. Thomas survivors for riding the Frank superstorm).  In a fit that contradicts his words, Frank is “not going to be made to look like a fucking crazy person.”

10:29 – Devyn made a bet with her team that if they won two challenges in a row, she would take off her wig(s) and “rock an afro.”  As TJ says, “Looking good.”

10:33 – Team Brooklyn sends Team Cancun in to the arena so they can experience “the love of” it.  Devyn is brilliant.

10:34 – CJ holds a Team San Diego meeting and is ready to go in to the arena, but wants to go with Jonna, the strongest female player.  Jonna reminds everyone that she may be homeless and storms out of the room.  CJ’s endearing reaction: “Character is first and money should be second in this game.”

10:35 – Zach and Jonna have an emotional moment together about the realization that one of them could be going home.  The song underscoring this moment? “Glorious” by Stephanie Mabey.  Download it to have a good cry.

10:36 – On to the main arena event (earlier in the episode than ever before)!  This is what we have been waiting for.

10:37 – Sam goes into the arena because Ashley may not be mean enough from this.  If Sam comes back, she will get a rankings bump for winning her second straight arena, but Ashley may as well for characterizing “not being mean enough” as an asset in this competition.

10:40 – Jasmine steps up for Cancun, acknowledging her protective role as Jonna’s sister.  No one has grown more than Jasmine on this challenge.  Her days of wine glass toss with Tyrie and Johnny Bananas seem like decades ago.

10:40 – Frank, Professor of Hypocrisy 101: “Sam and Zach going in is the best thing for San Diego and I am just so happy that Zach knows how to man up when he has to.”

10:40 – In the understatement of the season, when learning of CJ’s arena involvement, TJ says, “Oh, this is going to be a good match.”  You have no idea.

10:41 – For the first time since the season premiere when the Big Easy Stampede ran over Wes, the arena event is “Hall Brawl.”

10:41 – The audience chatter is all about Jonna.  Sarah: “If Jonna sneaks by without ever having to see one of these Arenas…”  Trishelle: “She’s the trashiest person I’ve ever met.”  Devyn: “She’s homeless because she’s hoetic.” (whatever that means)  Trishelle: “Jonna is a greedy bitch.  She wanted to manipulate Jasmine into going in so that she can stay and get a piece of the pie.”  The verdict is that Jonna should have stepped up and that poor, little Jasmine doesn’t have a chance.

10:42 – Girl’s heat 2 of Sam v. Jasmine begins with a Sam tackle in the tunnel and an easy stroll to the ring the bell.  San Diego 1.  Cancun 0.  Girls’s Heat 2 is more of the same.  Jasmine manages to stay standing this time, but Sam’s strength is too much for the petite Jasmine.  San Diego 2.  Cancun 0.  Frank, in an unexpected move, is supportive on the sidelines.  It is now all up to CJ to keep Cancun in this thing.  Meanwhile, poor Jasmine can’t breath and feels like she has completely let her team down.  Jasmine, if you heard the girl chatter before the arena, you may realize how far this is from the truth.

10:43 – Sarah’s pre-game analysis is not about whether Zach will win, but rather how many CJ bones he will break.  This should be interesting.

10:44 – Boy’s Heat 1 of Zach v. CJ: After a mid-tunnel stalemate that lasts for an eternity, Zach starts to walk his way to the end of the tunnel.  Suddenly, in a moment of athletic and adrenaline perseverance, CJ doubles back and drags Zach’s legs toward CJ’s side just long enough to trip Zach up for an instance, allowing CJ’s sprint to the bell to barely beat Zach’s diving jump.  Team Cancun 1.  Team San Diego 0.  A stunned, but exuberant audience shot must mean a momentum building commercial break.

10:48 – Back to the action, Zach is not too pressed about his initial loss.  CJ is an MMA fighter, four years older, and smart, by the way.

10:49 – Boy’s Heat 2 of Zach vs. CJ: This time the two competitors approach each other at full speed, largely avoid each other, and sprint/dive to the bell.  CJ’s quickness outpaces Zach’s bigger frame to their respective bells.  Team Cancun 2.  Team San Diego 0.  CJ wins the boys heat and the mighty Zach has fallen, for now.

10:49 – The tiebreaker coin toss selects the boys to compete to break the tie.  Considering the results of the Boy’s Heat, advantage Team Cancun.  Jasmine can be seen taking a major sigh.  The best of three now wins.  The loser of three goes home.

10:50 – Boy’s Heat 1: CJ goes low again and literally flips Zach over.  Zach recovers and grabs ahold of CJ’s crawling feet.  The audience goes wild.  CJ drags Zach to the edge of the tunnel (closest to his bell), manages to free himself, and has an easy trot to the bell.  CJ 1 (and three in a row!).  Zach 0.  Meanwhile, Jonna is torn because she wants to root for her team, but Zach is her man.  Devyn amazing take: “Zach’s got to be pretty embarrassed.  I mean, you are seven foot thirteen and you just got your ass beat by the same dude chasing your ex-girlfriend?  You cannot be happy.”

10:51 – Boy’s Heat 2: In a move reminiscent of the leap/trot from Madden video games,  Zach, in full stride, steps over CJ and easily reaches the bell before his opponent, evening the score.  CJ 1.  Zach 1.  The crowd has a eerie silence.  Sam, simply: “Do it again.”  It’s time for another commercial break…

10:55 -TJ sets the scene as only he can: “Alright guys.  The score is 1-1.  This is the final round – the final heat.  Whoever wins this round, stays in the game.  Whoever loses goes home.  You guys ready?  Go!”

10:55 Boy’s Heat 3:Like the first heat in the initial round, there is a collision mid-tunnel, but this time, Zach just keeps moving forward, pushing CJ out the other side of the tunnel.  CJ tries to find a way to wrestle his opponent back, but Zach’s (“seven foot thirteen” according to Devyn) frame is just too big and strong.  Zach wins (and has an unintentionally comedic celebration burst) one of the best Challenge battles of all-time and the most entertaining since surprise guest CT’s demolition of Johnny Bananas in the Gulag on CutthroatSan Diego remains intact.  CJ and Jasmine, two of the finest competitors this season, are going home.  On that note, CJ carved out some Landon/Derrick territory on this challenge.  He is a great competitor, a superior athlete, and good dude.  He could definitely win one of these in the future.

10:58 – CJ and Jasmine leave like winners, praising the team success of Cancun.  The irony of the episode is that it is Jonna’s self-centered move (and I am not qualifying this as a negative thing – her situation back home seems to be universally accepted as not too good) may have been the downfall of her team.

10:59 – Zach and Frank bond again over the win and slightly at the expense of Sam (they may not have ever expected her to do so well).  Frank: “Let’s move on.  It’s over now.”  We will see, Mr. Sweeney.  Retro-diary out.

After this epic battle, we are down to 3 teams of 4, two teams of 2, and 16 people left in this game.  The rankings are getting even tighter as the power balance has officially shifted…here we go…


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/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.”


1 (1) Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Dustin’s team strategy in The Hunger Games was flawless and another week out of the spotlight maintains his positioning.

2 (2) Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Despite his meal at grandma’s house, Chet’s team keeps winning and the viewer keeps benefiting from his verbal wit.

3 (8) Zach (Team San Diego) – He gains major points by overcoming CJ’s incredible arena assault and by differentiating himself from Frank’s “I’m not a crazy person” rant.  Don’t mess with Zach athletically or he will crush you.

4 (5) Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Alton seemed to play a key role in Vegas’ great challenge strategy and what is more important, he seemed to have a good time doing it.

5 (6) Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Robb cracks the top 5 for the first time with some quality eating during The Hunger Games and a deserved acknowledgment for his longevity as the rookiest of rookies.

6 (7) JD (Team Brooklyn) – JD’s team keeps winning and this week, his eating skills played a key role (“Hold it down, JD!”).

7 (9) Frank (Team San Diego) – The end of the episode reconciliation with Zach avoided the bottom spot in the rankings, but going forward, Frank has got to keep his stuff to together.

8 (4) Derek (Team Cancun) – Although CJ and Jasmine went out as unified pair, Derek is right to worry about how he and Jasmine will fair alone.

ELIMINATED: CJ (Team Cancun) – CJ gave everything he had and then some this Challenge.  I give him complete respect.

Biggest Rise: Zach (Team San Diego)

Biggest Fall: Derek (Team Cancun)


1 (1) Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Once again, Sarah was instrumental in the Team Brooklyn win, going at those grape leaves and cow liver with an incredible confidence.

2 (2) Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Team Vegas played the Hunger Games just right and Nany is building her strength each week.

3 (4) Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Trishelle’s analysis of the both challenge and arena events was spot on.

4 (5) Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Marie may have been disqualified for vomiting, but her pepper domination, Frank listening performance, and St. Thomas survival skills move her to a fourth place ranking (her highest yet!).

5 (7) Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Devyn justly deserves a spot in the top 5 for going along with the wig removal bet and for her continued sound bite excellence.

6 (8) Ashley (Team San Diego) – Ashley seemed to be the only eater performing in the challenge and has managed to stay out of much of the Team San Diego drama.

7 (9) Sam (Team San Diego) – Sam won her second straight arena and this time dominated her opponent.  Frank and Zach have begun to believe in her.

8 (3) Jonna (Team Cancun) – Now vulnerable as a twosome, at this point in the game losing quality teammates is going to cause a rankings dip, but with as bad as Jonna needs to win the money, I would not be surprised if she can rise again.

ELIMINATED: Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Jasmine 2.0 is a mellow, loyal, and enjoyable individual who will be missed.

Biggest Rise: Sam (Team San Diego), Ashley (Team San Diego), Devyn (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: Jonna (Team Cancun)


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 LAS VEGAS Average: 2.5, last week: 3

Alton (4), Dustin (1), Trishelle (3), Nany (2)

Can they win as foursome? Yes, this remains the strongest, top to bottom 4 in The Challenge.  Another week of no drama is only a good thing for this group.  As previewed for next week, it will be interesting to see if Alton and Trishelle can support Nany and Dustin through the house drama.

What pairings can win?  At this point, any pairing combination has a chance, though both ladies are likely to work better with Dustin.

2 (3) TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 3.5, last week: 5.25

Sarah (1), Chet (2), JD (6), Devyn (5)

Can they win as foursome? Devyn’s endurance is still going to be a question mark, but I am starting to believe in Team Brooklyn as a foursome.  Their team camaraderie is unmatched and if their ability to work together plays a part in the final challenge, they may have a shot.

What pairings can win?  Sarah and Chet can still win The Challenge.  Sarah could probably get JD to the finish line as well.  I am not sure Devyn would be able to finish with either Chet or Sarah and will be better within a foursome.

3 (4) TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 4.5, last week: 5.5

Robb (5), Marie (4), Eliminated: Laura, Trey

Can they win as a pair?  Wow.  To even be here at this point in the game is a major accomplishment.  They are enough below the radar (and have been all game) where I could foresee a series of events in a final challenge leading them to have a chance.  We are at a place where it has to be considered.

4 (5) TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 6.75, last week: 8.5

Zach (3), Sam (7), Ashley (6), Frank (7)

Can they win as foursome? Who knows.  Sam’s endurance liability remains an issue and despite the brief détente at the end of the episode, they are a Frank breath away from a team implosion.  I still think that Frank is better without Zach and Zach is better when he has something to prove to Frank.

What pairings can win?  Both guys could compete with Ashley against the other strong teams (Vegas, Sarah/Chet), but the Zach/Sam pairing seems to have a dynamic, winning quality (at least in arenas).

5 (2) TEAM CANCUN Average: 8, last week: 4

Jonna (8), Derek (8), Eliminated: CJ, Jasmine

Can they win as a pair? Jonna is tough and Derek has proven himself to be a strong competitor, but without CJ, a heady and instrumental leader, I am not sure that this pairing has alone to be successful.  Jonna’s drive to have a place to live must not be underestimated.

And finally, during the “NEXT ON THE CHALLENGE” preview, this is what I saw:

  • Robb struggles to “make it” in a water challenge.
  • Chet: “There is a fight in every corner of the house.”  We see at least Nany, Marie, Frank, Dustin, Derek, Zach, and Robb involved (pretty much everyone).
  • Marie pushes Derek over into Sam and into some plant pots.  Frank checks on Sam.  This just appears to be the toughest of moments.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  There is no episode this week, so tune in on Wednesday, November 28 at 10 PM on MTV for the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons.

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out weekly on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com (listen to the incredible podcast featuring CJ and Zach this week).  The Week 10 power rankings will be available sometime after November 29.


The ends of prolific athlete careers can be difficult for both athlete and fan to endure.  Frequently during those final games of final seasons all that remains is a shell of the former self, a shadow and a memory of the good times we’ve had and a reminder of just how quickly time can pass us by.  Larry Bird’s final season in 1992, before his career succumbed to a debilitating back injury, had such a quality.  I remember on a Sunday afternoon in March listening to a throwback game on the radio against the Blazers when Larry was the Legend again for one last time.  As young fan and admirer of my Celtics hero, I knew that this was a special day that I should cherish because there would not be too many more like them (Bird retired that summer).

On rare occasion there is a moment like 1998 Michael Jordan (the Bryon Russell crossover, game-winning basket against Utah that could have been the perfect ending for the greatest basketball player of all-time), when an athlete is able to walk away on the absolute top of the sport that he has dominated.  The promise of these Jordan first endings is often cancelled out by the athlete’s hunger to compete again, resulting in ill-advised comebacks that nostalgically pull at our heart strings and make us yearn for a hopeful reality that is realistically condemned to the past tense as hard as we may wish for it to be like old times.  Watching Jordan on the Wizards in the early 2000s (or Magic in his mid 90s Laker comeback) was at first special because it was Michael in certain flashes, but inevitably was disappointing and painful because it was just not the same player.

In my preseason The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons rankings, I had Alton firmly ranked at number 1.  This is what I wrote at the time:

“Many of you new Challenge viewers will not remember Alton (he was last on The Inferno 3 in 2007).  All I can say is, watch out competition.   Alton is the MJ of Challenge lore.  It would be like if MJ retired in 1993, but instead of coming back in 1995 against largely the same competition, he came back in 2002 to show upstarts like Mr. Bryant and Mr. Iverson just whose league it really was (ironically, this is what he ended up doing with the Wizards).  Alton is a physical specimen (pre Challenge steroid era), super competitive, and a really nice guy.  He is in Turkey for one reason only – to win.  The question is will he be able to bring his teammates along (a la 1991 Jordan) for the ride?  Also, is Nany then his Kwame Brown?  If so, does that make Trishelle his Jud Buechler?”

First off, Nany and Trishelle: I apologize for ever comparing you to Kwame Brown and Jud Buechler.  This is a major misjudgment on my part.  You both have proven yourselves worthy competitors.  As for my Alton assessment, I may have been right to compare him to preretirement MJ, but Wizards MJ is a far superior 2.0 than Alton has turned out to be.  On this week’s aptly titled “Going Insane” episode of The Challenge, we witnessed the unraveling of a former great into a shell of his former self.  (It would be like out of retirement Jordan playing on the Wizards for a month and then quitting on his team because he couldn’t handle the jabbing and joking from Kwame Brown and Richard Hamilton.)  This tragic and terrible fall from grace was depicted throughout the hour in the following incidents:

Incident #1: Alton versus Frank in the gym

This childish man-off got physical (a little pushing by the weights) and could have erupted, but Alton didn’t think it was the time.  Frank was “here all day, bro” and could have continued his verbal sparring beyond the workout session.  It was unfortunate to watch Frank so easily bring Alton down.  The status difference in this space between veteran and rookie was remarkable.  Alton has always been a shorter man who looked humungous.  In this case, he was just a shorter man who looked short.

Incident #2: Alton doesn’t want to go to a beach party

In order for the beach party to happen, all cast members must attend, and Alton wants to stay home and sabotage the fun because he is “just generally annoyed by these kids and their bravado.”  Two of his only (barely hanging on) allies, Sarah and Dustin, kindly plead their case, but Alton seems to care less.  When Frank gets wind of the ensuing storm, he calls it like it is, “It is kind of selfish and you are kind of throwing a temper tantrum like a little five year old.”  Alton leaves the room and then in an amazing moment of loyalty, Dustin supports his Vegas teammate in front of Frank (“another man doesn’t get in people’s face”).  Compared to Dustin’s chivalry and poise, Alton looked like a broken and selfish individual.

Incident #3: The Insane Games

In the first event, “The Chariot Race,” Alton took the reigns as the horse runner and led Vegas to an early lead.  Five years ago, this would be a show of Alton’s athletic and competitive dominance.  There was no way that he would let anyone catch his team.  In the fall of 2012, Alton was not only caught and beaten by young guns Frank (leading San Diego to second) and CJ (leading Cancun to first place), but Alton was so gassed that TJ had to actively cajole him to continue with his team on the next event.  Here is Frank’s take: “Alton, I just beat you and now you are on the ground.  Do you feel emasculated?  Because you should.”  Ouch.

Incident #4: Alton and Zach conversation in the kitchen

After Team New Orleans (the feisty twosome of Knight and Jemmye) wins the “Insane Games” challenge, Alton approaches Zach in the kitchen to ask him to tell Knight to throw in Vegas.  Two things are terribly wrong: 1) He can’t even ask Knight on his own and 2) HE WANTS TO HAVE VEGAS THROWN IN TO THE ARENA!!!  Why Alton? “For me, the arena is the path out of here.”  What is going on?

Incident #5: Alton’s conversation with Nany and Trishelle

Alton tells his Vegas female teammates that he “would love to go into the arena and lose,” forgetting that his selfish decision would result in one of their eliminations, and Nany and Trishelle understandably do not want to go home.  Nany (growing week by week as an irrepressible life force in this game) brings it and asks Alton if the Zach and Frank bullying is at the root of Alton’s unrest.  Alton won’t come close to listening.  “I don’t see it as throwing it.  I see it as letting the kids have fun.”  He continues, “If I want to go into an arena to use it as a passport back to the states, that is what I am going to do.”  Who is this imposter pretending to be Alton?

Incident #6: Alton discusses the situation with Sarah and Trey

This is where things get even weirder.  He tells us that he came on The Challenge this season because “he just wanted a vacation.”  According to Alton, team rumblings about Nany and Dustin going in to the arena (to prevent Alton from screwing over Trishelle or Nany) must not be taken seriously and that they will inevitably chicken out, giving Alton the exit opportunity he so covets.

Incident #7: Alton at the arena with Zach and CJ

Team Cancun and San Diego alpha males are surprised that after all of his talk, Alton is not even going to compete for his team in the arena.  CJ calls him out, Alton objects to the screaming, and Zach gets in his face and tells Alton, “I’m not screaming.”  Poor Nany and Dustin are trying to focus on arena strategy while their “teammate” makes a scene on the sidelines.  Both CJ and Zach have “tough to hear but likely true” interview takes.  Zach:  “He’s just an old fart who is lucky enough to get a call to come here.”  CJ: “I thought Alton was the man who wanted to prove himself as a competitor.”  CJ, I thought the same thing.  I guess we were both wrong.

Incident #8: Alton’s final fall

Perhaps the least overt Alton incident may be the most telling.  During Nany and Dustin’s eventual arena victory over Trey and Laura, you can hear Alton speaking to Trishelle about Nany and Dustin’s apparent struggles, “These kids, they don’t listen.”  In these five condescending words, Alton’s fall has finally reached its low point.  No, he has not left the show yet, but his complete disrespect for Nany and Dustin, two people (especially Dustin), who have been so supportive to him throughout the season, is unforgivable.  Maybe “Zach and Frank have gotten to his head” as Trishelle suggests.  Maybe this is some evil Alton clone who has come to the Challenge to disparage the mighty “kids.”  Maybe an epiphany will occur and he will suddenly snap back into the Challenge hero that I remember, but I fear it may be too late.  Time may heal these wounds and someday we will remember Alton again for that incredible competitor that so impressed us in the past, but for now, we are left with a selfish, unpredictable, horrible teammate, and questionable dude.

Before we hit the rankings, here are a few more non Alton-tidbits to pull from this episode:

  • The Insane Games were completely silly and MTV has a GREAT time with it.  The “ear pull” and “egg drop” took close to zero strategy (Chet: “There is no strategy to ear pull.  I mean, what do you do?”), but producers sure had fun in post production with sound effects and slow motion replays.  The “15 pound fish” duel for elimination was quite the event.  I loved the intensity of Marie’s conviction about her fish dueling skills compared to Laura.  TJ’s fake horse neigh is a top ten moment of the season.
  • Before jousting in the final event, Knight hysterically pointed out the “destiny” of his name in such an event.  Good for New Orleans to achieve power team status (even if in a silly event).
  • Although Trey and Laura were eliminated in the arena, TJ pointed out “there are no quitters today,” a final dig at Big Easy.  There is nothing that TJ hates more than quitters.
  • Despite Alton’s antics, Nany and Dustin (in the arena) and Sarah (in the loser’s bracket duels against Laura) again showed their incredible resolve and drive to win.
  • Laura and Trey should be commended for lasting so long in this game.  After spending every Wednesday night with these two for the past several months, I hope their break from a weekly TV appearance will give them some real time to figure out if what is between them (there loyalty and connection are really commendable, especially in this reality TV medium).

On to the rankings, with some serious movement this week…


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/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.”


1. Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 1 of 11

What makes Dustin special is that he can overcome moments of justified confusion and despair (“I don’t know where to turn.  I have to clean up whatever mess Alton made.  I don’t know what to do.”) to galvanize his teammates (“Nany is like my little sister.  If she needs me to show up for her, I will.”) and find ways to win (“Dustin is a fighter.  I am thinking, I am so glad that you’re my partner.” – Nany).  As mentioned earlier, I love how he was able to be brutally honest and critical of Alton surrounded by family (in this case, Sarah and Chet), but when Frank’s wrath interrupted his space, he was loyal to Alton and kept family business private.  He didn’t want to go into the arena, but helping Nany and helping his team was more important than his personal feelings.  We see Dustin cross a physical contact line with Frank in the preview for later in the season.  Let us hope that Mr. Zito can stay in the game to have the opportunity to continue to lead his team to have a shot in the final challenge.

2. CJ (Team Cancun) – Last week: 4 of 11

How did CJ do in the “Chariot race” event (the only event that took any real skill), Jonna? “CJ dominated it.”  Coupled with his on point stand up to Alton pre-Arena, CJ plays the game at a very high level and expects his competition (especially the best of it), to do the same.  His Landon-ian performance is still in line to have a shot in the final challenge.

3. Frank (Team San Diego) – Last week: 2 of 11

Zach was on Derrick Kosinski’s podcast last week and perhaps his most telling statement was about Frank’s incredible endurance in challenges.  This was on display in the “Chariot Race” and in the preview for the rest of the season.  Frank takes a slight dip this week because although he may have showed up Alton in their little tiffs, Dustin came across as the more righteous dude in his heated encounters with Frank.

4. Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 3 of 11

Chet’s line of the week during the challenge: “JD already looked like an idiot.  I guess it’s my turn.”

5. Zach (Team San Diego) – Last week: 6 of 11

Zach is back in the big boy mix with an informative ultimatechallengeradio.com podcast, some justified tension with Alton, and the realization that he and Frank are running one part of the house.  In a astute hypothetical question posed by Derrick on the podcast about a rookie dream team in future challenges, I was further impressed with his selection and competitor respect for supposed opponent Dustin.

6. Knight (Team New Orleans) – Last week 8 of 11

Yes, “The Insane Games” were foolish, but the Team New Orleans victory was a significant accomplishment for Knight and Jemmye.  Respect for Knight grows by the week.

7. Derek (Team Cancun) – Last week: 7 of 11

8. Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 11

Derek was silent, whereas Robb, for the first time in many weeks, had something to say of real value.  His competitive fire during the challenge and his arena support of Trey and Laura were refreshing and appreciated.  The foreshadowed duel between these two (as again previewed in the promo for the rest of the season) will determine the ultimate power advantage to these two “nice guys, happy to be here” competitors.

9. JD (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 9 of 11

JD’s week was encapsulated in the following quotations:

Chet, on JD’s look during the “Chariot Race”: “He looks like a prepubescent Secretariat.”

JD, on why he struggled so much: “Not only am I having to pull Chet, I’m having to pull his big ego, Devyn’s double D tits, and Sarah, so it is a lot of weight to carry.”

Chet, on why JD failed his team: “He was horsing around too much.”

Devyn, on how Sarah’s fish faired against Laura’s in the loser’s bracket elimination: “The fish put in more effort than JD did in the horse challenge.  I am just saying.”

10. Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 5 of 11

See above.  One final note: Alton’s low ranking and current game doghouse designation do not have to be permanent.  He is welcome to break out of this undesirable state at any time.  Sadly, if the after show (hosted by hair fashion novice Jonny Moseley) is any indication, there may be some issues going on with our fallen hero.  I am hoping that I am wrong.

ELIMINATED: Trey (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 10 of 11

Biggest Rise: Robb (Team St. Thomas, kind of a surprise at this point)

Biggest Fall: Alton (Team Las Vegas)


1. Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 1 of 11

Sarah takes care of her business.  She destroys Laura in the loser’s round (“My game face is on.  I never thought in a million years I would be so serious about smacking someone with a fish.”), keeping Team Brooklyn out of the arena for the first time since Team Austin left.  She understands that her connection with Alton (the after show proved that it was never anything too serious, let alone a relationship) is not worth jeopardizing the strength of her team: “I am way more concerned about Brooklyn than I am about anything going on with Alton.  Everything that he is involved with is an extra stress that I definitely don’t need…I don’t have the energy to deal with that.  I will give him his space.”  This social-emotional intelligence flexing is an asset to Sarah and her team.  She is not blinded by a crush to understand that Alton has reached a tipping point away from “fun to hang out with” and towards “volatile and may need some space.”

2. Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 3 of 11

Nany has earned her way to number 2 in these rankings.  Since her clothes in the pool episode (so not her fault), she has been a consummate fighter and a formidable competitor.  She handled the Alton situation with great poise and strength (“I am not going to go out of this game looking like a punk.”) and was willing to step up to the arena sand to take matters of her fate in this game into her own hands.  It also helps her that, if traditional practice dictates, she will continue to be linked to Dustin in arena battles and won’t have to worry about whether Alton is ready to end his vacation.

3. Jonna (Team Cancun) – Last week: 2 of 11

4. Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Last week: 4 of 11

Consistent and drama free work coupled with unquestioned team unity translates to frontrunner status.  Will this blissful existence remain when J and J are actually challenged in this The Challenge?

5. Jemmye (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 8 of 11

This “softball player [who] knows how to throw eggs” may not be having any victory sex tonight with Knight (her response was one of the episode’s finest moments), but her power team accomplishment moves her up into the top five in the rankings.  For all their dysfunction as a couple, as a couple of teammates, Knight and Jemmye are loyal, communicative, and dynamic.  I will not be surprised if they continue to go far in this game.

6. Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 5 of 11

“I don’t want to stay here with Alton.  That is like a death sentence for Team Vegas.”  Sadly for Trishelle, her potential linkage with Alton in an arena lowers her stock in this game.  Can she put on your poker face girl and get your Vegas housemate in line?

7. Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 7 of 11

I wasn’t sure why Marie wanted to fish attack so badly (“Whenever you are in a competition, you pick your best player, and it is probably me.”), but from the result, clearly she was right.  She wants to win (Alton could learn a thing or two) and knew Laura would not do well against Sarah.  With Laura/Trey out of the picture, she and Robb have an opportunity to prove themselves in this competition.  I can now say with strong assurance that no matter what, Marie will bust everything she has to make this happen.

8. Ashley (Team San Diego) – Last week: 11 of 11

Zach’s positive podcast comments about Ashley’ competitor worth moved her up a few spots this week.  I am still waiting for more intel and screen time from this one.

9. Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 6 of 11

It is not that Devyn got weaker, it is just that her competition seems to be a little stronger.  With that said, she is giving Brooklyn teammate Chet a run for his money as the best interview on this show.

10. Sam (Team San Diego) – Last week: 9 of 11

It looks like next week’s preview (of Sam struggling in the challenge) may be the validation for her bottom ranking.

ELIMINATED: Laura (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 10 of 11

Biggest Rise: Jemmye (Team New Orleans)

Biggest Fall: Devyn (Team Brooklyn)


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. TEAM CANCUN Average: 4, last week: 4.25 (2)

CJ (2), Jonna (3), Jasmine (4), Derek (7)

They are back on top again with a strong showing in the challenge and a CJ step up to Alton.

2. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 4.75, last week: 3.5 (1)

Alton (10), Dustin (1), Trishelle (6), Nany (2)

Alton’s insanity is the cause for their big drop.  Nany, Dustin, and Trishelle would be the strongest team of three.

3. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 5.5, last week: 8 (5)

Knight (6), Jemmye (5), Eliminated: McKenzie, Preston

Team New Orleans at number 3?  What is this?

4. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 5.75, last week: 4.75 (3)

Sarah (1), Chet (4), JD (9), Devyn (9)

JD and Devyn find their ways back to the bottom of the rankings, further pushing the full Team Brooklyn down with them.

4. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 6.5, last week: 7 (4)

Zach (5), Sam (10), Ashley (8), Frank (3)

The Frank and Zach tandem are a huge force in this game, but the female contingent is still unproven.

6. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 7.5, last week: 9.5 (6)

Robb (8), Marie (7), Eliminated: Laura, Trey

Marie and Robb are primed for a resurgence out of the Trey and Laura shadow.


Based on this fail-safe system that I created, these are the best top ten pair combinations for this week.  

1. Dustin and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 1.5

T-3. Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 2.5, CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 2.5

4. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 3 

5. Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3.5

T-7. Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 5, Sarah and JD (Team Brooklyn) Average: 5

T-9. Knight and Jemmye (Team New Orleans) Average: 5.5, Frank and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 5.5

10. Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 6

And finally, during the “STILL TO COME ON BATTLE OF THE SEASONS” preview, this is what I saw:

  • Frank and Sam going at it in a challenge
  • Marie vomits
  • Frank goes off on a teammate
  • Dustin and Frank have a physical altercation
  • Marie cries on the bus
  • Zach and Frank have an altercation
  • Devyn says, “You just got your ass beat by the same girl chasing your ex-girlfriend.”
  • JD vomits
  • The final challenge in the desert looks impossible
  • Dustin hits Frank

Until we all meet again, watch the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons at 10 PM on Wednesday night on MTV.

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out every Monday on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com.  The Week 8 power rankings will be available on November 11.



This week’s episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons was titled The Dark Knight.  MTV – easy (and probably cliché) pun aside – I am offended.  To associate Knight (first name Ryan), Team New Orleans’ over confident, obnoxious, offensive, at times genuinely kindhearted, pain in the neck, and Jemmye on again off again ex in any way to the real Dark Knight or the Christopher Nolan masterpiece, is irresponsible and beguiling.  Knight’s actions in this week’s “let’s cliffhang the elimination to accentuate the Devyn/Easy romantic drama” episode were the opposite of heroic, really turned me off, and made me yearn for the menace of the Joker (at least his chaos was thoughtful and clever) to put this gutless and dark less than Knight in his place.

ImageRational ranting aside, a Dark Knight he was not, but in his defense, Knight, did act with strategy in mind (it just wasn’t very good strategy) and time will tell if the other teams identify why this kind of behavior just cannot be tolerated.  (Looking back now on the Real World: New Orleans experience, what is the deal with that group?  From Preston’s unconventional toothbrush usage, to the experience of witnessing the life and times of Ryan, to Knight’s clothes cleaning tactics, something went terribly wrong).  Knight’s after show (brought to you by Jonny Moseley’s interesting hairstyle) hubris showed how somebody (Jemmye certainly tried, credit must be given) has yet to adequately paint this gentleman the picture of just how immature and uncool his behavior (and the bar is set low on this show, people!) actually was.  My hope is that the game will speak for itself and Knight and Team New Orleans will have to pay in the arena for his stupidity.  Until that time, here’s what must be discussed (including the details of these aforementioned Knight incidents) in this week’s episode:


Although according to Knight on Challenge Legend Derrick’s fantastic weekly podcast at ultimatechallengeradio.com, the clothes incident occurred after the Nany/Knight post bar blowout (discussed later), be we begin here where the episode begins.  To summarize, someone (a Turkish laundry service?) does Challenge cast members laundry and sends it back in neatly folded in plastic bag covered package.  After all the laundry had been returned, Nany wondered, “Hmm…where is mine?”  As we soon learn, Knight decided to throw Nany’s laundry in the pool because after all, Knight believes that “laundry in Turkey is not done very well” so “he thought he would help [Nany] out.”  After Nany makes this discovery, Knight decides to (and according to Knight on D. Kosinski’s pod, he was aided by Zach, seriously dude?) deliver the rest of Nany clothes to the pool floor for cleaning.  Jemmye – take it away: “What grown man throws another person’s clothes in a pool?”  Although the right sentiment, the fallacy in the question surrounds the “grown man” portion.  Grown men do not throw another person’s clothes in a pool.  As Camila says, “I don’t even think fifth graders do this.”  (She also went on to say that Knight is “dirt” and she wishes she could “step on” him.  The moral of this is do not mess with Camila).

So, why is Knight lacking the maturity to act as man in this case?  His rationale for this unconscionable behavior is that “[Nany] is not all there, stable” and that “this is a game” and if he can “mentally break someone, they shouldn’t be here.”  I agree with a portion of this to a point.  You succeed in The Challenge only if you are mentally there.  Look at Paula as a prime example.  Her success in recent years was directly corralated to her ability to put some of her insecurities and past issues behind her and find the proper mental focus and confidence to rise to the top.  CT has always been a nasty athlete, but he has only been able to do so well in recent seasons because of a accentuation of the kinder, more introspective parts of himself.  The Derricks, Landons, and Darells of Challenge lore have always had physical toughness matched with mental toughness.  Darrell’s one misstep was the regretable boxing match between he and Brad on The Ruins and represents the only time in my memory that his mental toughness was less than stellar.  It is acceptable for Knight to identify mental toughness weakenesses in other competitors, he just didn’t have to do it in such a nasty way.

The fallout of the clothes cleaning incident speaks to just how unsuccessful Knight was at achieving his goals.  Nany’s ability to fuel her anger and recognize that this was clearly a bush league move by Knight (and did not demand anything more than condescending to its stupidity) was simply remarkable.  She showed this questioned mental toughness in recognizing that her payback can and will occur in the actual gameplay.

The kindness of Big Easy, Camila, and especially Dustin must not go unnoticed.  Dustin says it best (although we get what he means, at the same time, we not all that sure what he means): “You know we are going to do…we are going to turn those lemons into watermelons.”  Watermelons are delicious and Team Nany ate them up, exposing Knight as a real aggressor and subsequent game enemy, and galvanized the Team Las Vegas juggernaut.  Nany knew that by taking this highest road, it “kills them (Knight and friends) that much more.”  Good for Nany.

How do the alliance powers feel about this tomfoolery?  Frank, one of two clear alliance male alphas (along with CJ) is right on point:  “It’s not smart Knight.  It puts a target on their back and all they did was rally behind it.  They’re just out there celebrating that fact that they now have a common enemy.”  The Team Brooklyn, Team St. Thomas, and Team Fresh Meat islands now may have an evolving ally in Team Las Vegas who hopefully will now see Knight and Team New Orleans as prime target number one.  Frank continues, “Knight you are douche.  The alliance is carrying around a big painted target and we do not need to make it even bigger.”  Knight’s target enhancement should at least push Frank (because he knows it is a bad look) and CJ (because he professes to adhere to a higher moral code) to cut their New Orleans losses.


ImageAs has happened with many challenges this season (last week’s “Hook, Line, and Sinker” being the aberration), the “Don’t Weigh Me Down” competition is geared toward collaboration among teams and gives clear advantage to the ruling alliance.  In this challenge, half of each team stands on the platform holding up the rock basket for as long as humanly (or superhumanly in Big Easy’s case) possible and half the team puts rocks in the baskets of their choosing.  Although Easy (the basket holder) and Camila (the rock distributor) were a team of two, Easy showed up.  As he triumphantly declares in the heat of battle, “I would rather have the basket rip my arms off my complete body before I let that thing go.”  This feat of strength yielded a totally smitten Devyn (more on this later) to have “never been more turned on in her entire life.”

Sarah’s perfectly put “assassination of Brooklyn” has begun and they were the first team out after having been prime targeted by everyone, but Fresh Meat (This is despite some great mental imagery from Devyn: “Ok, Devyn, pretend you are carrying 100 pounds of shoes, high heels, beautiful heels, we can throw in some cosmetics…you can do this, you wouldn’t want them to drop.”).  ImageThe Easy strong man competition eventually ends (TJ gives a beautiful post challenge shout out, he certainly killed it), leaving alliance members to fight amongst themselves for power team status.  The cracks in the armor begin to fall.  Frank and Trishelle have a spat (Frank is working “his ass off” to keep this alliance together).  Nany recognizes that “this alliance has gone to crap” and makes clear to CJ and Jonna, the only other team left besides Vegas, that she knows that Cancun and San Diego are calling the alliance shots.

Credit has to be given where credit is due and Team Cancun rightfully wins this challenge with a great showing by Jonna and CJ (who seem to be perfectly in line), but also from Derek (starting to rise in the rankings this week) and Jasmine who worked their rock distribution to a tee.


What was up with this?  Invitations were sent out to Teams Cancun, San Diego, Vegas (I didn’t see Alton in attendance), and New Orleans.  Marie and Robb (with two b’s) were invited, but Trey and Laura were intentionally excluded.  The alliance powers wanted to discuss sending Trey and Laura in to the arena, but Marie would have N O N E of it.  She made sure that they all knew that her team was four strong and she would not accept the alliance attempt to push off Trey and Laura.  What became clear in this moment (besides Knight’s impression that Marie was acting “like a wild wildebeest”) is that Marie is running the St. Thomas team (and better than I realized) and will stand up for her castmates (despite the continual bridges that Trey seems to keep blowing up, circa Bane 100 minutes into the Dark Knight Rises).  The pullout from this conversation is that St. Thomas is back in play (Marie: “Cancun, I am coming for you”) and it appears (albeit from the edit) that CJ, Jonna, and Frank are running the show and Knight thinks he is running the show.


My favorite moment of this week’s episode went something like this: CJ was chatting it up with Alton and Chet about why Team Brooklyn’s heads of state keep getting James Garfielded.

CJ: “It’s not about you Chet, you know how I feel about you…I tell you I am proud of you as a competitor.”

CHET: “What does that mean?  You are proud of me as a competitor.  You are a fake and a phony.  Don’t tell me I am a good competitor and then throw me in…you are a phony.”

CJ: (walking away) “Now your true colors come out.”

CHET: “I wear them on my shoulder, I don’t try to pretend to be something I am not.”


Booyah.  Chet wants nothing to do with the “fake Malibu Ken doll” and will not be condescended to.  Chet’s fight, Sarah’s drive and passion, an alliance that is “now crap” and a potential rogue Team Vegas, Marie’s game entrance, Knight’s prime target inducing stupidity, and the prospect of a Devyn-less Big Easy returning for vengeance from the arena next to the ever dangerous Camila could shakeup the makeup of this game’s power structure.  Nany and Dustin’s watermelons, Easy’s strong man impression, and Chet here could be the beginnings of this revolution.

NANY VERSUS KNIGHT – PART II (that was actually part I)

“I don’t know if there are full moons in Turkey or what’s going on, but people are completely insane.”  Trishelle’s wise words are all over the bus fight that became a house fight battle among Nany, her mental toughness, and Knight.  It all started with a hard to keep up with back and forth between first Camila and Jemmye, then Devyn and the bus, then Knight and Camila, then Robb and Nany trying to restrain Knight and Jemmye respectively, and finally just Knight versus Nany.   Camila reasoned that “Knight’s just got poor character and it is time we stand up and do something about it.”  This is fair.Image

Things escalated when the bus returned to the house and Nany had an emotional episode after Knight’s verbal assault took it so many steps too far.  It was an amazing role reversal to watch Frank (great work by the way), Trishelle, and the super cool Jasmine acting as sane restrainers.  Nights (and not Knights) like this do happen on challenges, so I felt for Nany in this moment.  My biggest pull away was in the way Dustin again got behind a Vegas teammate.  There was an amazing moment when Dustin sent everyone else away and said to Nany, “It’s me and you.  We stay right here…Who’s got your back?  You let it out. Knight has continued to mess with our team.  Don’t let him do it again.”  This was a huge moment (and the impetus for Dustin’s rise to the top of the men rankings this week) for Team Las Vegas going forward.  He was not going to let Nany fall apart and in this knowledge, Nany was able to pounce back vengeful and even stronger.  Can you imagine if Paula had received the same support from a Johnny (as he gave to Camila last season) on one of her first challenges?  Above all else, providing what your teammate needs (Laurel taught a master class on this with Cara Maria during Rivals) when they are at their lowest differentiates the winners and the losers. Image Dustin gets it, Sarah and Chet get it, and this is why my preseason favorites remain viable forces in this game.

In the end, where the light Knight’s head was at after the second Nany battle says it all:  “In the end this is a fucking game…ask McKenzie, I am the best manipulator here.”  Knight wants us to verify something with McKenzie whereas Dustin shows us what it means to be a true teammate.


Oh we got here.  This unexpected challenge romance took center stage this week (and will even punctuate the beginning of next week’s “to be continued” conclusion) and brought some really endearing moments.  Devyn rightfully knows that “coming here and dating someone is equivalent of going to a fast food restaurant chain and ordering a vegan omolette,” but she can’t help herself:  “I am smitten with Eric.  It kind of blindsided me because I wasn’t looking for it.  I usually date people who are collecting their social security checks. So, to date someone who is under that age is sort of a shock, but it works.”  This self-described “long date with really bad food” is at times cute (their romantic kiss on the “double date” with Sarah and Alton), sexually aroused (Devyn watching Easy beast at the challenge), facing normal insecurities (the whole past relationship/age difference blip), and so sweet (their eventual “come together” moment pre-arena).

ImageLike Easy says (“I came here to win 250,000, and this is the last thing I thought would happen”), I didn’t see this one coming (nor did Devyn who apparently only dates men twice Easy’s age).  These two Turkey night star crossed lovers who will be torn asunder in next week’s first segment arena battle, appear to be doing just fine according to the Jonny Moseley hair clinic.  Good for both of them.


Next week the conclusion of the arena battle pits Team Fresh Meat’s Eric and Camilia (TJ would be lonely in the arena without them) against Team Brooklyn’s Devyn and JD (we can see that Chet is not participating in the preview) in a mental strategy game.  If Camila and Eric come back, they are going to be ready to mix up this game.  If Devyn and JD return, Brooklyn remains four (a bit of a mixed bag) and reduces the alliance opposition ratio by another team (bye bye already beaten Austin and now Fresh Meat).  Although I was just beginning to like her (the shoe comment at the challenge was genius), I hope that Devyn and JD go home, hopefully releasing Chet and Sarah a little bit in challenges and unleashing the beasts within Easy and Camila.

Without further adieu, onward to the first non-elimination weekly power rankings…


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/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.”


1. Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 2 of 13

Dustin’s move to number 1 this week is so well deserved.  Although he may not have tapped into the strategy killing end of this game, his route so far has been part Landon, part Derek, and the best parts of Kenny.  He is likable, loyal, great at challenges, super competitive, a good dancer (we saw that clip), and a healthy social leader (we saw his leading of the “wish I could have participated) boat jump.  Nany’s description of him as “big brother’ on the Jonny Moseley Hair Experiment aftershow warmed many a heart.  His next job – get Vegas back together and start carving out some strategic connections to Brooklyn, St. Thomas, and Fresh Meat (if they come back).

2. CJ (Team Cancun) – Last week: 1 of 13

CJ’s Chet conversation and Dustin’s rise pushed him down one spot this week.  One thing is clear – he is one of three players who are running the ruling party this season and has shown up at every challenge.  His win with Jonna was very impressive (beating an indestructible Alton and a fiery Nany).  How he deals with the ensuing alliance testing storm will determine how Cancun fairs.  The target is partly on his head and it is time to see his stealth strategic maneuvering abilities.

3. Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 3 of 13

Alton laid low this week (at least in the edit), did well in the challenge (although not well enough) and is primed for a major comeback next week.

4. Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 4 of 13

Thank you to Chet for providing real humor in this uber competitive fish bowl.  He calls it like he sees it and showed amazing fortitude against CJ this week.  Ironically, his continued rise in this game may take more steps forward if JD and Devyn go home.

5. Frank (Team San Diego) – Last week: 5 of 13

Frank may be ranked a little low at number 5.  He has been consistent, continues to have a handle on the structure of the game (aligning with Knight and New Orleans may have been a major misstep), and was simply incredible trying to help the Nany explosion.  The next few weeks are going to be huge for Frank – will he maintain the status quo or will he adapt to the ever evolving and emotionally driven power structure of this game?

6. Derek (Team Cancun) – Last week: 7 of 13

Derek rightfully deserves to move up this week past Zach.  He was dynamic in the challenge (he and Jasmine deserve Turkey street cred for dumping those rocks so well) and was a natural at representing his team’s arena pick to TJ and the group.  Still Cancun’s weakest player, Derek is no slouch and is a major reason why they are as successful as they are.

7. Zach (Team San Diego) – Last week: 6 of 13

In the challenge, Zach struggled to work with Sam, concerned his intestines were going to shoot out of his anus.  His comment and crediting to Knight (“He calls it like it is”) after the Nany clothes cleaning incident did not sit well, and, if he participated, what are you doing, brother?  He has been slipping for several weeks now.

8. Trey (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 13

I continue to give Trey credit.  Even though it seems to him (and the viewer) that no one seems to like him all too much, his decisions seem driven by integrity and a desire to compete to win.  In the challenge he refused to agree with the alliance plan because he likes Brooklyn and thinks they deserve to be here, cheered on Easy’s feat of incredible strength, and seems to have developed a connection with Alton (only a good thing).  CJ probably accurately thinks that Trey needs to meet people halfway, but this may not be the time.  If he and Marie are able to lead St. Thomas toward Vegas and Brooklyn, they can take down the ruling alliance.

9. Eric (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 13 of 13

Easy had a big week and would rise even higher if her were not one of two teams that could be going home.  My prediction: he comes back and driven by love, will keep fighting much longer than we originally thought.

10. Knight (Team New Orleans) – Last week 11 of 13

This week’s costar and central focus (along with Nany, as unofficially chosen by MTV producers) was my hardest guy to rank this week (as discussed ad nauseum above).  Hearing him on Derek’s podcast (particularly his connection to Chet – unexpected) gave me the impression that he recognizes he is stuck with dead weight (McKenzie and Preston), has some strategic chops, and is playing to win it.  Sadly, he is acting like the naughtiest of young boys and has ostracized himself from many a competitor (and this viewer).  I have trouble imagining a scenario where his team is not in the arena next week.

11. Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 10 of 13

Robb did speak up in the Alliance conference meeting, but it continues to show how he is following Marie’s orders (like usual) and is less aggressive than Trey in gameplay.  Notwithstanding, no one seems to want to mess with Marie and Robb may have outsmarted us all by following her currently indestructible influence (it still blows my mind that St. Thomas, after four weeks, has yet to see an arena elimination).

12. Preston (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 12 of 13

The only moment I recall of Preston from this challenge was when he directed St. Thomas what to do in the challenge.  What was this?

13. JD (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 9 of 13

JD is at the bottom this week because I think he is about to go home.  If he does go home, tough moment for JD who did not have one moment on screen this week that we saw him speak.  I am not sure the producers will be bringing him back for a third go round.


Biggest Rise: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)

Biggest Fall: JD (Team Brooklyn)


1. Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 1 of 13

Sarah may survive the Team Brooklyn assassination attempt even stronger (the elimination of Devyn and Jasmine could be a good thing for her game).  If she and Chet can pull the numbers back in their favor (she must have a hungry Fresh Meat, Vegas, and St. Thomas on board), the road to victory is back on the table.

2. Jonna (Team Cancun) – Last week: 2 of 13

3. Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Last week: 3 of 13

These two keep doing their thing and keep doing their thing oh so well.  After a few weeks in virtual power (but out of power team status), the frontrunners came back to decision making bench (and Jasmine sported an unruly afro).  Jonna showed that she is an active orchestrator of strategic action and that she can bring it when it comes to strength.

4. Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 5 of 13

Nany analysis has been done above.  I will leave you with these two quotations that best display the story:

1. “There is no alliance now, there is San Diego and Cancun.  I am so over it.”

2. “If you are going to throw me in I am going to kick ass…and then I am going to come back and fuck you up.”

Don’t mess with Nany (cue Kelly Clarkson).

5. Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 6 of 13

I want to take this moment to say that The Challenge has missed Trishelle.  She is a great competitor, mixes it up with everyone, and has a den older sister quality going this season.  Her next strategic move (align away from the alliance in my opinion) will be her most important.

6. Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 13

Marie!!!  She was finally able to fuel her self-professed “bitchiness” into an indestructible life force.  Now, you have already made it this far.  Get your team some friends (Brooklyn, Vegas) and make this thing happen.  Her loyalty to Trey and Laura went a long way in her rise to the top tier.

7. Ashley (Team San Diego) – Last week: 4 of 13

8. Sam (Team San Diego) – Last week: 7 of 13

Eh.  At some point, will we get a better sense of what is going on with these two?

9. Camila (Team Fresh Meat)Last week: 10 of 13

10. Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 9 of 13

One of these woman is going home.  One of these woman is coming back.  Both will have something to prove (Camila will be as feisty as ever.  Devyn will be doing it for Eric) and both will come back stronger than when they left.

11. Laura (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 13

It was very sweet when she was commending Easy during the challenge.  She is sweet.

12. Jemmye (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 13 of 13

I must give Jemmye credit.  Jemmye had one of those “I kind of really like her” weeks (she had a few on the Real World).  I am SO glad she has come to this understanding: “Knight’s actions toward Nany solidify that I made the right decision by breaking up with him.”  Sadly, on a team with Preston and McKenzie, working with Knight is her best hope.

13. McKenzie (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 12 of 13

“The rocks are strange shapes.  Carrying them that distance is a bit of a struggle.”


Biggest Rise: Marie (Team St. Thomas)

Biggest Fall: Laura (Team St. Thomas), Ashley (Team San Diego)


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)

T-1. TEAM CANCUN Average: 3.25, last week: 3.25 (1)

CJ (2), Jonna (2), Jasmine (3), Derek (6)

Another challenge win and another power team position.  Some feathers were knocked off their frock with Chet being awesome.

T-1. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 3.25, last week: 4 (2)

Alton (3), Dustin (1), Trishelle (5), Nany (4)

They keep on moving up in the ranks (finally tying Team Cancun).  Next week they must get on the same page as a team.

3. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 6.75, last week: 5.5 (3)

Zach (7), Sam (8), Ashley (7), Frank (5)

Team Brooklyn is closing in and Frank seems to be the only one holding it all together.

4. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 7, last week: 6 (4)

Sarah (1), Chet (4), JD (13), Devyn (10)

Sarah and Chet could be alone by ten minutes into the episode.  If they were this week, their team would be ranked first.

5. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 9, last week: 9.25 (5)

Laura (11), Trey (8), Robb (11), Marie (6)

The Marie rise plus some positive talk from Trey could be the fuel they need to make their move.

6. TEAM FRESH MEAT Average: 9, last week: 11.5 (6)

Camila (9), Eric (9), Eliminated: Cara Maria, Brandon

If they come back (a real if), look for a new life for Camila and Easy.

7. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 12, last week: 12 (7)

Knight (11), Jemmye (12), McKenzie (13), Preston (12)

Knight and his unmanly ways could put them on the block of chop next week.


Based on this fail-safe system that I created, these are the best top ten pair combinations for this week.  At this point, all are hypothetical (the only actually current pair were not close to the top), but you can definitely get a sense of what intra-team strategy may need to be employed.

1. CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 2

T- 4. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 2.5, Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 2.5, Dustin and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 2.5

5. Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3

6. Alton and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3.5,

T – 8. – Alton and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4, Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 4

9. Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 4.5

10. Frank and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 6

And finally, during the “NEXT WEEK ON” preview, this is what I saw:

  • It will be JD and Devyn versus Big Easy and Camila in the arena.
  • Today is TJ’s favorite challenge.  Is it because he is torturing Mckenzie’s soul?
  • It doesn’t sound good to TJ when Jasmine falls in the water.  Jasmine appears flummoxed.

Until we all meet again, watch the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons at 10 PM on Wednesday night on MTV.

Dr. Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  He writes about Pop Culture and the NBA for bishopandcomp.com.  His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out every Monday.  The Week 6 power rankings will be available on October 22. 




For several weeks now, I have been singing the praises of several Challenge competitors (Team Las Vegas, Sarah and Chet from Team Brooklyn) and destroying several others (Team New Orleans) without having any real statistical data from this season as support.  Past Challenge and Real World seasons have provided useful insight, but on paper is one thing – you still have to play the games.  For better or worse, this week’s aptly titled “What Happens in Vegas…” episode tested the fortitude of a preseason favorite team, further confirmed the comical futility of another, and presented the rise of a Challenge veteran who may have just made the leap and is now definitively the one to beat on Battle of the Seasons.

A chronological recap does not seem to fit the makeup of what was an insightful and informative hour of classic Challenge action.  Last week, we discussed the rise of an alliance spearheaded by Frank connecting Teams Cancun and San Diego with (and to a lesser extent) Las Vegas and New Orleans.  This week, as Team Fresh Meat continues to be marinated, Las Vegas’ internal makeup was put to the test and Sarah, aided by the (fast-becoming) perfect sidekick Chet, was given an early season exam.  Her score was off the charts and it feels like the game has finally begun.

Here is what must be discussed:


Last season on Exes, MTV producers unjustly sent Sarah home because her Exes partner (and this was a liberal use of ex and partner – I am not sure there was much to their relationship past a one night hookup on Fresh Meat II) Vinny, not known for his common sense, decided to pull off Mandy’s top and you just can’t do that.  Partners have been replaced in the past (Mike, Leroy’s bro, replaced Adam “Crazy” Royer on Rivals), but for some reason last season, Sarah was forced to pay for her partner’s idiocy.  I remember watching the moment from my uncomfortable living room futon empathizing with the visible disappointment and devastation on Sarah’s face. (There must be a story as to why Mr. Beautiful was not flown in.  And, Bunim-Murray, if Nate and Priscilla were considered exes for their awkward bed cuddling in San Diego, then the Kenny and Sarah flirtation on The Ruins must count).


I came in to Battle of the Seasons hoping that Sarah would not only have the opportunity to compete again without facing silly producer decisions, but would (now on her sixth challenge) possibly find a way to put it all together and reach her ultimate goal (think LeBron in 2012).  There is something about her that makes you want to root for her and this made the Trishelle assault in this episode seem like it was coming from out of left field.  I recognize that I know her through a produced reality competition television program lens (and I know, the Challenge is so much more than that), but I really think Sarah is genuinely one of the good people in this world (and certainly on this show).  We will get to her competitive dominance in a moment, but the instance that struck me the most on this episode was unexpected.  It was her response to a perhaps too-off colored joke by Chet about selling her body to Alton for game benefits.  Sarah is tough and no one can deny that, but she was sensitive and hurt by Chet’s comment and was forthright in telling him so.  This moment of vulnerability (or the moment she broke down and cried when T.J. told her the bad news last season) is the essence of Sarah’s greatness.  She is strong, she is competitive, she will fight to win at all costs, she cares more than anyone, but she is also a human that feels.  These few cracks in her often impenetrable armor may make her the most relatable and genuine person that The Challenge has ever known.

Beyond her more affable traits, Sarah is a warrior.  Her decision to go into the arena, the admirable confidence and joy she had in the “Knot So Fast” strategy game, and the way she worked with Chet to find a way to win, were out of a chapter from the How To Win the Challenge textbook (with other chapters by the Miz, Kenny, Laurel, Derrick, and Johnny Bananas among others).  She was in complete emotional control, had keen and focused understanding of what to do, and had a incredible humility about the decision to be sent in to the arena in the first place.  “I’ll tell you the truth, I think people are starting to see that I am not a girl that they want to mess with and yeah, I’d want to get rid of me too.”  She gets a game that is played fairly and strategically, knows her place within it, and has the utmost confidence in herself (and now I think Chet) that she can win.  For all the other teams, Sarah (if she is with Chet) is the one to beat.


For the first time this season, Team Las Vegas was tested.  In the “Hook, Line, and Sinker” challenge, they narrowly beat out Team Cancun (it was the opposite outcome in week 1) and fulfilled their destiny as the dominant challenge force.  This part was easy.  Now, as the power team, deciding who to throw in the arena proved to be the real challenge.


Alton wanted to throw in alliance member Team New Orleans because of consistent poor performance (and captain obviously, because of his burgeoning relationship with Sarah).  Trishelle wanted to throw in Team Brooklyn because she thinks they are a threat to Las Vegas and teammate Alton because of some pre-challenge intel on Sarah (more on that later).  This pitted a Team Las Vegas internal battle between Alton and Trishelle and Nany that forced Dustin into a bit of a conundrum.  Nany’s take: “Team Vegas is in shambles.”

The potential problems are clear.  If Alton’s heart is too much of a driving force and is causing him to reason something that “is not the plan,” this is an issue.  Trishelle also thinks that “Alton will say anything to save Sarah” and that this “relationship is taking his head out the game.”  If Vegas is going to win, they need Alton to be focused and away from distractions.  Additionally, Trishelle went right to CJ and Knight (what up with that?) about her team issues.  She has got to keep family business in the family.

ImageAll of this could be bad news for Team Las Vegas, but my take is a little different.  Yes, when it was said and done, Dustin sided with the ladies and voted 3 to 1 to send Brooklyn into the arena, potentially further isolating and offending his Alton running mate, but what he said on the way back from the challenge may be more important.  When Alton and Trishelle first go at it, Dustin knows that “things are going to get heated and that’s ok.”  The most successful teams in all major sports (of which The Challenge is clearly one) are going to have these moments when they tested.  How they deal with this adversity will ultimately determine whether they have it in them to be a champion or not.  This is such a moment for Las Vegas and although some resentment may linger for a time, they must now move forward.  Dustin is going to be the key.  He called it straight with Alton and told him he was power tripping (wow, that was an incredible moment from Mr. Zito) and Alton took it.  He was able to hear from Nany and Trishelle without being steamrolled.  The question remains: can he bring the factions back together and will he be able to continue to independently (as I believe he did in this case) make the call?

Finally, this may have been editing, but it appeared that Vegas gave Alton the say of who to pick from the Fresh Meat team to go against Sarah in the arena.  This power consolation shows a functioning team who dealt with conflict, but can still operate as a compromising unit.  This was a test.  The results are pending, but I have a feeling they passed.



Every time a professional poker player is pitted against a warrior sweetheart, there are going to be some issues.  Here are some quotations highlights:

Trishelle on Sarah: “Before I came on this Challenge, I was told my multiple people, Sarah is extremely manipulative.  She might be manipulating Alton and he is an easy target.”

Trishelle to Devyn: “He (Alton) is picking vagina over his own teammates.”

Trishelle, on her prediction that Sarah would try to avoid the arena: “She should really just be a woman and go in.”

This all led to an AMAZING exchange between Trishelle and Sarah.  The confrontation went something like this:

Trishelle: “Trust me, I’m a poker player.”

Sarah: “I think you are not as good as a bluffer as you think you are.”

When Sarah won the arena strategy competition, “Knot So Fast,” Trishelle conceded defeat:

“I am the person that had to eat my words…it’s embarassing, I hate to eat my words, but I had to.”

In this Fresh Meat defeat and in this defeat conceit, we learned much about these two woman.  In Trishelle’s defense, she probably had bad intel about Sarah’s true intentions going into The Challenge, but if she believed what she heard, eliminating Sarah from the game makes sense.  I am impressed with both her vigilance in trying to do so and in her acknowledgement that she may have been wrong.  Sarah, on the other hand, showed tremendous fortitude by confronting Trishelle, speaking truth, and proving herself worthy in her arena performance.  I predict that mutual respect may arise from this early escalation and I think it is in the best interest of both parties (especially with Alton in the middle) to align.


The Challenge has sprouted many a romantic connection and most are slightly curious (Paula and Ty, Evan and Veronica), too easy (Wes and Mandy), violent (Tyrie and Jasmine), beautiful and bizarre (Cara Maria and Abram), or horrifying and on a roof (CT and Shauvon).  There are not many Brad and Tori success stories (I so rooted for CT and Diem!), and more often than not, a Challenge romance is a challenge.

Alton and Sarah are great people and for those hopeless romantics out there (of which I am one), I wish them nothing but the best.  In the interim, I will leave you with some of Alton’s best verbal discoveries:

“You are like me only like a white girl.  But I’m like you, but only like a bald black guy that is much older.”

“Sarah completes a picture for me…”

“What I like most about Sarah – she reminds me of home.  She could be my best friend in real life.”



Battle of the Seasons is a team game and you are only as good as your partner.  Poor Fresh Meat is learning that most Big Easy scenarios are not going to be easy.  As much as Sarah’s star shined brightly this episode, it is even more pronounced in light of the fact that her final partner could be Chet.  From a comedic (“It’s all your fault JD.  Would it kill you to get in Frank’s bed?”), strategic (he has been ready to play since day one), and “who do I want to hang out with” perspective (Chet seems super chill), Sarah is doing really well.  Chet rocked the arena and “wanted to be the ones (he and Sarah) to set the example for [his] team,” leaving every inch of himself in the sandy pit (including the hard work, high exertion vomit emmission)  Sarah said it simply, “Chet’s got my back and I’ve got his.”

Chet’s best moment (and perhaps the episode’s as well) came when Trishelle was talking some Alton-Sarah unrest.  Chet went right at Trishelle: “Have you heard their conversations? They talk about stars and wind….You are delusional.  You are a conspiracy theorist.”

Trishelle retorts, “She is going to try to save herself…she is selfish,” Chet’s response: “That is where you are wrong.”  Chet and Sarah are the team to beat.


Lost in the Vegas deliberation over “Team Brooklyn or Team New Orleans in the arena” was the question: what about Team St. Thomas?  Apply this take by Knight about New Orleans to St. Thomas: “I think we are probably looked at as the weakest team but could actually be beneficial to us because they want to keep the weakest teams around until the end.  Hey, I’ll take that.”  The reality?  Knight may have been right.

The “HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER” challenge


The “Hook, Line, and Sinker” challenge was “one of the most difficult five legged races you have ever seen” according to T.J. “the great one” Lavin.  Having seen so many, I totally get it.  Chet’s take:  “Devyn doesn’t want to get her weave wet and I don’t want to fall and like skewer my penis.”  Perfect segway to…


…on the challenge Big Easy “needed a break” and then fell (his second disqualification causality) and the third straight Fresh Meat arena appearance.  Camila said it best: “We’ve been given this burden called Eric.”


Meanwhile, Easy was romancing the Devyn stone and thinks “Devyn likes having a good time with Eric.”  This led to Devyn’s in your face wine drinking confrontation, “What is exactly going through your mind?”  At the same time, Brandon and Camila had their previewed blowout fight, Chet laughs, Brandon thinks Camila needs therapy, and Camila yells, “I’m done.  I’m done.  I want to leave.  I’m going home.  I’m leaving.”  The next morning, all was well and Camila got after Cara Maria for not wanting to volunteer an arena appearance (especially since Camila was trying to keep the team together).


Can you understand why Fresh Meat suffered its first elimination?  Poor Brandon and Cara Maria were victims of another tough showing for Big Easy, an inexplicable refusal from Easy to volunteer, some bad luck, and the juggernaut that was Sarah and Chet in the “Knot So Fast” arena battle.  I will miss them both, especially Cara who deserved a more stable team makeup.  I have said it before – Team Fresh Meat had the worst possible combination of players (although three were strong as individuals) and needed an alpha (Laurel, Johnny) to lead them away from their dysfunctional ways.  As for Cara “I’ve hung on a few ropes in my day, so I will see what I can do” Maria, I hope that Abram’s arrival in Boston brings beautiful possibilities to her real life and that on the next challenge, she and Laurel can once again partner together to even greater heights.

Onward to the weekly power rankings…


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/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.”


1. CJ (Team Cancun) – Last week: 3 of 14

CJ is top dog for the first time this week.  His Jonna-like insight cannot go unnoticed: “Las Vegas wins.  It’s a win-win for our alliance.  I don’t have to sweat anything.  You guys make the decision.”  Vegas sweated, CJ relaxed, and Cancun remains as strong as ever.  Also of note, it appears that Trishelle has a clear connection to CJ (she conversed with him about strategy on a view included segments).  Since his Wes overthrow in week one, he has uncontested control of this game and will continue to assert it if Teams like Vegas remain loyal.

2. Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 2 of 14

3. Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 1 of 14

Although Nany did describe Alton as a “thirty-two-year old man having a temper tantrum,” (not a good look and the reason for a slight drop in the rankings), he dealt with a difficult situation with as much poise as you could expect (as in he showed the anger but did not go all ballistic).  As Trishelle noted, he is a feeler and leads with his heart (I remember you Irulan, don’t worry).  It is part of why he wins and what makes him great, he just needs to reign it in a little bit (especially with the momentum of a Sarah arena victory).  Despite some above the surface emotions, his game analysis is spot on: “New Orleans is weak.  It is so obvious that for Preston and McKenzie, it is time for you to go home.”  Obviously.

As mentioned before, Dustin was faced with a tough situation, and I think his handling of it showed true character.  In this weathering of the storm (“There is a part of me that believes Alton, but I am not sure where to way to go.  I am being tugged from so many different angles, I am about to rip apart.”), Dustin continues to rise.

4. Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 6 of 14

See above.  Chet is a player in this game.

5. Frank (Team San Diego) – Last week: 5 of 14

6. Zach (Team San Diego) – Last week: 4 of 14

Frank was on the sidelines (not a bad thing with his alcohol track record), but did not lose momentum.  He was calm and cool when Ashley faced fear in “Hook, Line, and Sinker” and showed strategic awareness with his “two teams at once?” rule clarification.  He is still in it; he just took a short breather.

It was not the best week for Zach.  He had this moment: “Brooklyn is just all around softer than puppy turds.  Obviously we are going to send them in first.”  Wrong.  Even Knight highlighted something problematic: “Zach, you’re a monster.  We need a steroid test.”  Tough.

7. Derek (Team Cancun) – Last week: 7 of 14

Although his team came in second in the challenge, he remains mostly a silent partner (he did have some on point Sarah/Chet insight).  In the part of the episode that is not really part of the episode (I still don’t get it), Derek got naked, so there is that.

8. Trey (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 10 of 14

9. JD (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 13 of 14

10. Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 14

Once again, Chet, take it away: “It’s all your fault JD.  Would it kill you to get in Frank’s bed?”  Brilliant.  JD also managed to not compete in the arena.  Brilliant.

11. Knight (Team New Orleans) Last week 14 of 14

Knight knew this: “All I have to do is get past where Big Easy fell.”  That’s it big, man.  Way to set the bar high.

12. Preston (Team New Orleans) Last week: 12 of 14

Alton openly identified him as a weak player adding him to a list of Knight, myself, and Preston who have acknowledged his Challenge challenge.

13. Eric (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 8 of 14

He may have found love with Devyn (and I am happy for him), but Easy is struggling in challenges.  The Fresh Meat elimination this week is squarely on his shoulders.

ELIMINATED: Brandon (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 9 of 14

Biggest Rise: JD (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)


1. Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 3 of 14

See above.  After a week away, Sarah is back at the top.  Her attitude, her enthusiasm, her tenacity, her drive, and her coolness under pressure may keep her there for some time.

2. Jonna (Team Cancun) – Last week: 1 of 14

3. Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Last week: 2 of 14

4. Ashley (Team San Diego) – Last week: 5 of 14

They continue to do what they need to do in challenges to avoid the arena.  Yet to be fully tested, will they have the same fight as Sarah or the Vegas girls?  The answer to this question could be the ultimate answer in determining who wins this season.

5. Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 10 of 14

6. Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 9 of 14

Finally!  Nany and Trishelle were given some opportunity to show their stuff and they brought it.  They receive high praise for convincing Dustin to vote for Team Brooklyn (and against Alton) and showed some strategic chops.  Putting an Alton/Sarah relationship aside, Brooklyn was a threat and they were right to try to force an elimination.  Trishelle’s first two comments post challenge were: “I would like for Chet and Sarah to get Camille (tough) and freakin one of the Fresh Meat guys out” and “we need to keep New Orleans around because they are weak.”  The poker player is here to play.  Although Nany may be “just letting Dustin and Alton guide [her] through this entire challenge,” she and Trishelle are performing and have a voice.  Their best next move?  Reconcile with Alton and consider a new alliance (Brooklyn, St. Thomas, and the carcass of fresh meat) that lets them get out from under the San Diego and Cancun shadow.

7. Sam (Team San Diego) – Last week: 6 of 14

8. Laura (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 14

9. Devyn (Team Brooklyn) Last week: 13 of 14

Devyn may have found love in a hopeless place. – and she has Chet and Sarah as teammates.  Two wins for her.  Each week we peel back the onion under threat of weave destruction, we may learn more about Devyn’s ceiling in this game (not too high, easily persuaded by others – see Trishelle Sarah bashing), but she is certainly not anonymous.  And, if you are going to choose a person on another team to canoodle with that no will be threatened by, Big Easy is your man.

10. Camila (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 4 of 14

Camila is having a tough time on Battle of the Seasons.  Her slight victory in avoiding an arena is offset by having to continue to team with Big Easy in challenges.  This is not her year.  Like David Robinson in 1997, hang it up early this year and come back next year with a high draft pick (the return of Evan perhaps?).

11. Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 11 of 14

12. McKenzie (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 12 of 14

13. Jemmye (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 14 of 14

Marie is “petrified.”  McKenzie says, “Don’t fall.  Don’t fall.  Don’t fall.”  Jemmye literally disappears.  With Devyn gone, the bottom three are intact.  It looks like Marie Marie comes out next week.  The Battle of the Seasons cast can now commiserate with Swifty and the St. Thomas viewing audience.

ELIMINATED: Cara Maria (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 7 of 14 

Biggest Rise: Nany (Team Las Vegas)

Biggest Fall: Camila (Team Fresh Meat)


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. TEAM CANCUN Average: 3.25, last week: 3.25 (1)

CJ (1), Jonna (2), Jasmine (3), Derek (7)

They finished strong in “Hook, Line, and Sinker” and remain on top of the standings.

2. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 4, last week: 5.5 (3)

Alton (3), Dustin (2), Trishelle (6), Nany (5)

Last week: It feels like we are still in the preseason for Team Las Vegas.  They have yet to be adequately tested.  This week they learned that “winning the challenge is the easy part…making the decision on who we are going to send in is the tough part.”  They dealt with this adversity and in light of Sarah and Chet’s arena win, Trishelle ate her words, and Alton will be complete again.

3. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 5.5, last week: 5 (2)

Zach (6), Sam (7), Ashley (4), Frank (5)

It was a slow, uninteresting week for San Diego, reminiscent of many Real World: San Diego episodes that featured Zach and Ashley GTSing (Gym, Talking, Subway).  Look for them to be back in the mix next week.

4. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 6, last week: 8.75 (5)

Sarah (1), Chet (5), JD (9), Devyn (9)

Last week I said: Look for a comeback week from Team Brooklyn in episode 3.  Success.  Derek kills it: “Sarah and Chet aren’t on the strongest team, but together, they are definitely a strong duo.”  Yes they are.

5. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 9.25, last week: 10 (6)

Laura (8), Trey (8), Robb (10), Marie (11)

Fresh Meat’s fall is their gain.  They have definitely had the easiest time as straight off the boat rookies in Challenge history.

6. TEAM FRESH MEAT Average: 11.5, last week: 7 (4)

Camila (10), Eric (13), Eliminated: Cara Maria, Brandon

Last week Frank called Team Fresh Meat this season’s “most dysfunctional team” and wonders since “they don’t have any loyalties, why would they come together?” This week, something had to give.  I feel for Cara Maria, Camila, and Brandon as competitors and am certainly happy for Big Easy in the land of love, but criticize producers for allowing such clear dysfunction on screen.  They never had a chance.

7. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 12, last week: 13 (7)

Knight (11), Jemmye (13), McKenzie (12), Preston (12)

Their weakness (as Knight pointed out) is becoming their strength.  I, like Alton, don’t think there is a place for this in The Challenge (whereas in Survivor it makes sense) when the final is about beating the best.  Oh well.


Based on this fail-safe system that I created, these are the best top ten pair combinations for this week.  At this point, all are hypothetical (the only actually current pair were not close to the top), but you can definitely get a sense of what intra-team strategy may need to be employed.

1.CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 1.5

2. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 2

3. Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 2.5

4. Dustin and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3.5

T – 5. Alton and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4, Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4

T – 8 – Alton and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4.5, Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 4.5, Frank and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 4.5

T- 10 – Zach and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 5, Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 5

And finally, during the “NEXT WEEK ON” preview, this is what I saw:

  • Zach is “dying up here” during the challenge
  • Marie is not “keeping her voice down” and “doesn’t give a fuck who hears me now.”  Jonna is astonished.
  • Nany has one of those nights and wants to go home (see Dustin taking care of things, once again)…

Until we all meet again, watch the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons at 10 PM on Wednesday night on MTV.

Dr. Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  THE CHALLENGE: WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS comes out every Monday.  Check back here on October 15.



The title of this week’s episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons was “The Perks of Being a Rookie.”  In traditional Challenge seasons, the “perks of being a rookie” include early exits, empty wallets, and the experience of being targeted by veterans whose line between “unconscionable hazing” and “we’re just having a little fun” is as blurry as my vision every morning pre-contact insertion or the yesteryear brit pop band.  I fondly remember Leroy and Mike’s adorable bromance taking them all the way to the final challenge on Rivals, but this rookie pair succeeded because Mike was a late game addition after insane Adam Royer fought his way off the show (he got booted) and because Mike and Leroy were the opposite of adversaries going into the season.  Otherwise, it is Challenge tradition, practice, and expectation for rookies to be sent home early.

Going into Battle of the Seasons, we knew that the sheer number of rookies would be new terrain for the rookie one and done policy, but this week’s action-packed episode presented an entirely unexpected scenario: there are rookies who are legitimately running the show.

Let’s recap what happened with some good old-fashioned bullet points:

  • We got to finally see the production heavy opening titles (held in episode 1 to create more Team Fresh Meat suspense).  These openings are always goofy.  I particularly liked the close-up of T.J. at the end.  Nothing compares to the Duel II opening titles (you have to watch the behind the scenes video – high level unintentional comedy).
  • We learned that Melinda has a GBH (Guy Back Home) and Danny has a LAH (Lady at Home).  They both seemed genuinely happy.  Based on the timing of this scene and the dramatic structure template that Challenge episodes follow, this does not bode well for the divorced couple to remain in the game much longer.
  • This week’s challenge was called “Oil Change,” a wrestling match in a pit of olive oil.  If you force your opponent out of the pit past the perimeter red line, you are out.  The first team to win four matches is the new power team.  The last team to win four matches is going into the arena.  Also, as T.J. said, “You may not know this, one of Turkey’s national sports is wrestling.”  No, I didn’t know.  Hey T.J., you may not know this, but I don’t really care.
  • Before the challenge, it is revealed that a purposeful alliance (start watching at :37, priceless) has formed among Teams San Diego, Cancun, Las Vegas, and New Orleans.  Teams Brooklyn, Fresh Meat, and Austin didn’t have their stuff together and are only connected by default.  Team St. Thomas is on their own island (some things don’t change).  This reality becomes the central focus of the challenge when the coalition (led by C.J. and Frank) discovered that by keeping the wrestling matches insular among their alliance teams, they would freeze out the other teams and ensure one of Teams San Diego, Cancun, Las Vegas, or New Orleans the victory.  This was executed (with minor setbacks) to a tee.  Many matches were immediately tapped out in obnoxious theatrical displays (T.J.‘s response: a disdainful “Jesus Christ”).  Team San Diego won (led my new Challenge mastermind, Frank) and was the new power team, followed by Cancun, New Orleans (riding the cottails of alliance mates), and Vegas (Dustin had to fight off Robb with two “Bs” for a legit win).
  • Chet realized that “somebody is getting screwed” among the four remaining teams.  Team Brooklyn and Fresh Meat completed the challenge first, leaving the last place spot to be fought over between Austin and St. Thomas.  After an epic draw between Danny and Trey, Laura beat Melinda and sent Team Austin into their second straight arena (after having lost Wes and Lacey last week).
  • Captain Frank and Team San Diego held court with Team Fresh Meat and Team St. Thomas to determine who would face Austin in the arena.  Despite Fresh Meat’s pathetic groveling (Brandon at one point said, “Pleaseeeeee”) and Trey’s as good as throwing himself in arrogance, San Diego sent Fresh Meat back to the arena anyway.
  • Team Fresh Meat could not decide which two competitors would face Danny and Melinda in the arena, yielding the decision to Team San Diego.  T.J, was accusatory when he asked Cara Maria and company, “You couldn’t come to a decision?  Why not?”  San Diego selected Camila and Big Easy to represent Fresh Meat in an endurance game called “Balls Out.”  T.J. in classic form: “I hope you did your running.”
  • This led to one of the best exchanges in Challenge history – T.J.:  “Easy, what happened man, you ain’t politicking right, what happened?”  Big Easy: “I don’t give a f–k.  How about that?”  T.J. : “Sounds good to me.”
  • Big Easy and Camilla beat Danny and Melinda and eliminated Team Austin from the game.  Seven teams remain and Team Fresh Meat seemed like a mess.

So, how could this rookie-led takeover be happening?

There are several key factors.  First, there is a MAJOR power vacuum without Johnny Bananas, Jenn with two “Ns”, Paula, Kenny, Evan, Laurel, or Derek, providing their traditional physical or political domination.  Even the players that have had past success have been retired for some time (Alton) or may need a strong partner to be kept in line (Camila).

Second, although a team like San Diego is made up of all Challenge rookies, they still have a team like St. Thomas below them on the totem pole to walk all over.  If Team San Diego were the only rookie team in the game, they may not find their journey so easy.

Third, this season’s vets are in dysfunctional teams.  Sarah and Chet are working with the likes of JD and Devyn, Team Austin is already out, and Team Fresh Meat is (up until this point in the game) a terrible combination of ex-players.  There is no calm, cool alpha.  Just think if they had Kenny, Evan, Ev, or Laurel calling shots.  Camila is a beast, but may not have the disposition to be a team leader.  Big Easy may have the disposition, but his track record is lackluster.

The time was right for a mind like Frank to take advantage, but he definitely has some external circumstances in his favor.  We will see how long he can remain the big dog of the Turkish pound.

To the weekly power rankings…


NOTE: the rankings will be based on an un-Hollinger/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.”


1. Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 1 of 15

“Who doesn’t like Alton? He’s probably the most amazing guy on the planet.” – Sarah.  Yes, he may be.  We only wish that the challenge required more of him.  It appeared like his “Oil Change” battles were inconsequential.  Still, any week Alton manages to be under the radar and on the side of the power team alliance, no will touch his place at the top of these rankings.

2. Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 2 of 15

Unlike Alton, Dustin was put to the test and could not have performed better.  His epic draw with Zach (to the delight of women and men who like to see attractive men wrestle) was a signal of just how ready Monsieur Zito is to compete against the best of his competition.  Zach is bigger and stronger, but Dustin would not let up and definitely gave teammate Alton a preview of what his younger Las Vegas teammate is capable of.  Team Las Vegas did have a moment that mattered (when San Diego, Cancun, and New Orleans had already finished the challenge), but Dustin handily took care of business against the outmatched (but still a really tall dude) Robb with two “Bs.”  This is just it – at this point in the game, Dustin is just taking care of business.  We will see how he fairs when his alliance mate (I still think Las Vegas has the loosest of ties with the current in crowd) Frank brings up his pay porn past as teased on “This season on…”

3. CJ (Team Cancun) – Last week: 3 of 15

4. Zach (Team San Diego) – Last week: 4 of 15

Both Zach and C.J. represent the new Challenge uber-athlete competitors who are going to be in these competitions because of sheer athleticism and consummate off-season “training.”  Think Landon or Derek (although Zach and C.J. are not even close to being in the same league as these Challenge legends yet).  C.J. in particular is showing a keen, strategic mind (he seemed to be alongside Frank step by step in the “Oil Change” takeover).  Although Jonna “doesn’t mind the view” of an oiled up Zach wrestling and wants to “be yours” to Zach when The Challenge is over, Zach has a ways to go in the political maneauvering that must take place outside of the athletic competition and Jonna cuddling.

5. Frank (Team San Diego) – Last week: 14 of 15

Frank said, “I think this is our time” as he plotted the Rookie Revolution in a confessional interview.  Frank, you may be right.  My, have the tides changed.  Frank’s crazy drunk night in the season premiere seems like a long time ago.  His nine position jump is earned for a remarkable transformation from a loose canon to a thoughtful, plotting mastermind.  I knew that Frank had this in him, but I did not expect it to happen so soon.  He is cool, cutting, and completely aware of what the right move was to make at each juncture.  A must listen or must watch is his interview with the AfterbuzzTV Challenge after show where he outlines his motivations and sizes up other competitors (afterbuzztv, by the way, may be the best place to get weekly Challenge intel).  He reminds me of a combination of Kenny’s confident sass and Johnny’s political scheming.  I am very impressed.  In the episode, his most striking moment may have been when Trey (an “egomaniac, a Wes Jr. if you will” as Frank coins him) pushes Zach’s last nerve in their “why we should save St. Thomas” discussion.  Zach gets up and his ready to leave and Frank forcefully responds, “Zach, sit down.”  This Frank/Zach relationship, so troubled in San Diego and its environs, may be the key to their victory on Battle of the Seasons.  Zach keeps Frank’s drunken messes in check and Frank keeps Zach’s quick temper and impatience in line.  As individuals they are strong, but as teammates, they may be the only guy pair that can compete with Dustin and Alton.

6. Chet (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 5 of 15

Chet has “never wrestled in oil” and it shows.  He also has a very telling indictment of Cancun’s yielding their power team status to San Diego: “Cancun is so stupid and so naive that now Frank holds all the cards.  He’s the new guy.  We are supposed to be tossing him in.”  Chet knows that Frank’s takeover is dangerous.  Does he have enough game to make a countermove?  I say yes.

7. Derek (Team Cancun) – Last week: 6 of 15

In this episode, Derek tried to beat Frank in an “Oil Change” wrestling match and lost.  At least he bought into the “Frank wins” theme of the week.

8. Eric (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 10 of 15

9. Brandon (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 7 of 15

Big Easy was in serious “vet mode” all episode, but I am not sure it did any good.  It was sad and slightly pathetic to watch him fighting for his life against San Diego’s power team power.  Give me a break for one day is all I am asking.  They did not give him a break, but to Easy’s credit, his anger, pride, and unwarranted “I’ve won before and can win again” attitude may have been the difference in his second straight arena win.  Here’s what I will say – at this point, I would rather have Easy’s fight than Brandon’s seemingly lack of backbone.  Easy has always been the underdog because of his endurance and physical issues, but now, after two arena wins, he may have earned a temporary reprieve from facing an elimination for the time being.  This week Brandon had a draw wrestling match versus Trey, easily threw in St. Thomas in his conversation (grovel session) with Team San Diego, and even asked them to save him politely.  Also, Brandon, I get that you did a few too many eliminations in the past, but at some point you have to step up.

10. Trey (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 8 of 15

From Marie cooperation issues, to his introspective awareness that he is “not really good at keeping [his] mouth shut,” to the “these are people that already dislike me” emotional sit-down with Laura at the end of the episode, Trey is having a tough time in Turkey.  He did fight hard in the challenge and clearly wants to win, he may not be ready this year.  If the aforementioned denouement is any indication (some of Frank’s talking points in the Afterbuzztv podcast and show may have hinted at this as well), Trey and Laura may be going home next week.

11. Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 12 of 15

Although Robb with two “Bs” lost his chance to beat Dustin and Team Las Vegas and potentially flip the balance of power in the challenge, he at least seemed into the game this week and moves up one spot just for this reason.

12. Preston (Team New Orleans) Last week: 15 of 15

13. JD (Team Brooklyn) Last week: 11 of 15

14. Knight (Team New Orleans) Last week 13 of 15

Last week Devyn said that “J.D. is kind of creepy.”  This week, JD and Knight couldn’t beat each other wrestling.  As Jemmye says, Knight’s main intentions are about her, not about winning the money.   Yes, Jemmye, That is a lot to take in.  Preston even called the Knight vs. JD battle “a mess.”  Anytime Preston calls you out, you have to take a dive in these rankings.

ELIMINATED: Danny (Team Austin) Last week: 9/15

Biggest Rise: Frank (Team San Diego)

Biggest Fall: Tied – Brandon (Fresh Meat), Trey (St. Thomas)


1. Jonna (Team Cancun) – Last week: 3 of 15

I am little bit relieved because we’re not the power team and we don’t have to make the decision of who to send in.  This is the statement of a master player and moved Jonna to the top of the rankings.  She knows that winning the first challenge is one thing, but you don’t want the attention consistently on you too early.  She let San Diego have this week because she knew that her team was safe, but would benefit from letting them do the dirty work and make some enemies on their own.  If her budding Zach romance can remain in the cuddly honeymoon phase, it will be an asset going forward.

2. Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Last week: 5 of 15

It was a quiet week for Jasmine (not a bad thing for Jasmine or her audience to have every once and a while) and she got body slammed by Ashley, yet she still deserved to move up three spots.  This blows my mind.

3. Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Last week: 1 of 15

Although Sarah may have been behind the curve on the “forming of alliance” part of Challenge strategy (I will blame the fact that she has JD and Devyn on her team), she had a great moment during “Oil Change” when she galvanized the remaining teams against St. Thomas.  Sorry, Frank and co.  You may fool her once, but if next week’s trailer is any indication (her potential relationship with Alton could be a game changer), Sarah is not going to let you stay on top for too long.

4. Camila (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 2 of 15

Poor Camila.  For all she has going for her (and believe me, I would pick her against every girl in an elimination), there is a bit of a not-so-good duality that always seems to crop up.  Even in her victorious Exes run last season, there was one night when it all came loose and Johnny feared for his Challenge life.  This time around Camila pissed off Frank, which would not have been a bad thing, but for the fact that Frank was in control and threw her into a much too soon arena elimination.  I do wish that Camila had volunteered to go in (leaving it up to San Diego should have been her demise), but I credit her for at least acknowledging that “everyone is watching their own back” on Team Fresh Meat.  If you cross her, she will beat whatever is in front of her (Marie in a wrestling match and Danny and Melinda in the arena discovered this), but I fear this game may have even more to do with politicking than she knows how to handle.  Her first order of operation is to improve the dysfunction that is her team.

5. Ashley (Team San Diego) – Last week: 10 of 15

In this episode, Ashley body slammed Jasmine in the “Oil Change” challenge and her team won.  It also appears that she has fallen into line with both Frank and Zach and that this will certainly pay off.  She and Frank earned their large jumps in the rankings.

6. Sam (Team San Diego) – Last week: 6 of 15

Her team won, but with Ashley stepping up, I am not sure where Sam is in all of this.  According to Frank in the aforementioned Afterbuzztv interview, her head (and face?) may be somewhere besides in the game.

7. Cara Maria (Team Fresh Meat) – Last week: 4 of 15

This was a tough week for Boston’s own Cara Maria and she definitely loses some standing for seeming to create some of Team Fresh Meat’s dynamic problems.  I did think she had the right attitude about the grovel session to San Diego.  “We are so experienced in this game and we are begging rookies to keep us.  I am not feeling this.”  Nor should you be.  Also, it seems like she lucked out when San Diego chose Camila to go into the arena when she said she was “not really good with balls.”  Yep.

8. Laura (Team St. Thomas) – Last week: 9 of 15

Laura valiantly beat Melinda to save her team from the arena, but her linkage to Trey may be her ultimate demise (see: Trey section).

9. Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 7 of 15

10. Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Last week: 8 of 15

Trishelle and Nany are still waiting for their moment on this season (Nany losing a wrestling match to McKenzie was not such a moment).  From the preview for next week, it seems that Trishelle is not too pleased with a connection between Alton and Sarah.

11. Marie (Team St. Thomas) Last week: 12 of 15

“The bitch is strong, ok.”  Apparently Marie is a beast in the “Oil Change” wrestling ring.  Camila still took care of business.

12. McKenzie (Team New Orleans) Last week: 14 of 15

‘Kenzie beat Nany in a oily match to move her up a few spots, but her own words speak for themselves: “Everyone that knows me says that I am too nice to really be competitive.”  I trust those who know McKenzie.

13. Devyn (Team Brooklyn) Last week: 15 of 15

Devyn had an actual revelatory moment when she beat Melinda to stay alive, so ride that momentum, girl.

14. Jemmye (Team New Orleans) Last week: 13 of 15

Some things do not change: Jemmye is a hot mess when she is drunk.“Knight and I will get back together over my dead body.”  I don’t believe you.

ELIMINATED: Melinda (Team Austin) Last week: 11/15

Biggest Rise: Ashley (Team San Diego)

Biggest Fall: Cara Maria (Team Fresh Meat)


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. TEAM CANCUN Average: 3.25, last week: 4.25 (1)

CJ (3), Jonna (1), Jasmine (2), Derek (7)

They get even stronger by leaving their perch as the power team.  Well done, indeed.

2. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 5, last week: 8.5 (5)

Zach (4), Sam (6), Ashley (5), Frank (5)

This is a fantastic week for the new power team.  The Frank-led rebellion has begun.

3. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 5.5, last week: 4.5 (2)

Alton (1), Dustin (2), Trishelle (9), Nany (10)

It feels like we are still in the preseason for Team Las Vegas.  They have yet to be adequately tested.

4. TEAM FRESH MEAT Average: 7, last week: 5.75 (3)

Camila (4), Cara Maria (7), Brandon (9), Eric (8)

Frank calls Team Fresh Meat this season’s “most dysfunctional team” and wonders since “they don’t have any loyalties, why would they come together?”

5. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 8.75, last week: 8 (4)

Sarah (3), Chet (6), JD (13), Devyn (13)

Look for a comeback week from Team Brooklyn in episode 3.

6. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 10, last week: 10.25 (7)

Laura (8), Trey (10), Robb (11), Marie (11)

There are “the Rookies, The Vets, and then there is St. Thomas.”  Tough.

7. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 13, last week: 13.75 (8)

Knight (14), Jemmye (14), McKenzie (12), Preston (12)

Holding on for dear life is easy to do when you align correctly.  Well done.


Based on this fail-safe system that I created, these are the best top ten pair combinations for this week.  At this point, all are hypothetical (the only actually current pair were not close to the top), but you can definitely get a sense of what intra-team strategy may need to be employed.

1. CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 2

2. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 2.5

3. Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 4

T-6. Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 4.5, Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 4.5, Zach and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 4.5

T-9 Alton and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 5, Zach and Sam (Team San Diego) Average: 5, Frank and Ashley (Team San Diego) Average: 5

3 teams tied at 12 Alton and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 5.5, Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 5.5, Sam and Frank (Team San Diego) Average: 5.5

And finally, during the “NEXT WEEK ON” preview, this is what I saw:

  • Alton about Sarah: “I just feel like I have been waiting my whole life to meet you.”  Trishelle is concerned.
  • Marie is afraid of heights and “can’t even look down” at the challenge.
  • and Camila and Brandon have a huge blowout fight.  Watch out.

Until we all meet again, watch the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons at 10 PM on Wednesday night on MTV.