Culture Challenged will be following The Challenge: Free Agents every step of the way this season with commentary, interviews, recaps, Zapruder film analysis, and weekly power rankings.
The Men rankings can be found here: Part I Part II
Read Part I of the Women Rankings here.
PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS – WOMEN DIVISION
THE NEW ELITE
Where did we last see her? After a tough disqualification in “The Blind Leading the Blind” challenge shocker on Rivals 2, Nany and Jonna lost a little bit of their sanity and edge (can you blame them?) and were eliminated a week later.
CHALLENGE History: Free Agents is Nany’s third straight season on The Challenge. She was previously on Battle of the Seasons (season 23) and Rivals 2 (season 24).
From her MTV bio: Every time Nany arrives on The Challenge, she gives it her all. Unfortunately on Rivals II, and Battle of the Seasons, her all wasn’t quite enough. Nany declares, “I have this thing called the “Challenge Curse,” where I get eliminated right before finals. And I’m so sick of it. I just really, really, really want to get there this time and win.” With nothing holding her back this time, Nany is more determined than ever to prove she is a top competitor. However, this fun-loving lady quickly finds love in the house, giving her an unexpected ally and confidant. Is Nany still doomed by her Challenge Curse? Or will being a Free Agent finally take her to the end?
Why would you sign Nany? Nany’s loyalty runs thick and she certainly benefited from Dustin’s “big brother” presence on Battle of the Seasons. His return on Free Agents will be most welcome. Nany has been a particularly unfortunate victim of circumstances (weirdness from Trishelle and Alton on Battle of the Seasons and inhumane shock therapy on Rivals 2), and the Free Agents format should level the playing field. Although relatively successful, she may have taken a few steps backwards on Rivals 2. Her hunger to compete and win are unquestionable. Nany only benefits from having an “unexpected ally and confidant.”
Why would you not sign Nany? I may not agree with this “Challenge Curse” notion, but if she does and it is in her head, this could pose a problem. Nany is a feeler and sometimes she lets her emotions (and the effects of alcohol) get the best of her. She has had strong partners or teams in her first two seasons and she was an important member of them, but how she will fair as a solo artist remains to be seen.
Potential Allies: This aforementioned “unexpected ally and confidant”; Dustin and Leroy (Las Vegas Strong is the Strongest); Jonna
Potential Enemies: Frank and Nany have some difficult history; Memories of Adam Royer
Best-case scenario: Nany, set up for success in Challenges for years to come, has a flawless third season, wins some challenges, takes out worthy competition in eliminations, and rides this momentum into the finals.
Worst-case scenario: Nany’s “Challenge Curse” premonitions are real. She is a “The Draw” victim early, faces a strong competitor targeted by that episode’s challenge winner, and goes home prematurely.
The Verdict: Supported by more established relationships, this new mystery man, and Dustin’s consummate loyalty, Nany will have a bounce back season on Free Agents and will be in the mix to make the finals at the end.
Where did we last see her? We last saw Camila and #teamsubtitles partner, Jemmye, struggle in the first day of the finals of Rivals 2. To the end, communication was never their collective strong suit.
CHALLENGE History: Free Agents is Camila’s sixth straight challenge (the second longest current streak). She has previously been on Cutthroat (season 20), Rivals (season 21), Battle of the Exes (season 22), Battle of the Seasons (season 23), Rivals 2 (season 24 and her second finals trip). She and partner Johnny Bananas won Battle of the Exes. She is the only women on Free Agents who has won before.
From her MTV bio: While several of her fellow competitors have made it to a final, Camila is the only girl on Free Agents who knows the thrill of Challenge victory. After winning Battle of the Exes, Camila advanced to the finals of Rivals II, but finished a disappointing third. She’s ready to redeem that performance, stating, “I’m at that point in my Challenge history that I want that big money no matter what. I don’t care who I have to cross. I will do what I have to do.” Fearless and feisty, this Brazilian bombshell doesn’t flinch when it comes to daring physical feats or dishing out a verbal assault. Can Camila keep her temper in check long enough to make another final? Or will an emotional meltdown send her packing?
Why would you sign Camila? She is “fearless and feisty” and one of the most experienced women competing. Camila’s win on Battle of the Exes was most impressive. When Camila is checked into the game and not into extracurricular nighttime activity drama, she is unstoppable. After recent disappointments over the last two seasons (especially on Battle of the Seasons), Free Agents could prove to have a redemptive quality. Freed from the partnership challenges she has had the last two seasons (Rivals 2 was all about communication difficulty. Battle of the Seasons was all about being on a dysfunctional team with Big Easy), Free Agents can all be about Camila competing against the limits and with the strengths of herself and herself alone.
Why would you not sign Camila? At least one emotional meltdown is to be expected during the season, and, without a partner to hold her back, how will she fair? The target on her back always seems to be large and her strongest competition will immediately see her as a threat.
Potential Allies: Will she get along with Johnny again this season? She and Jemmye had a tough ending, but were largely compatible most of Rivals 2.
Potential Enemies: Alcohol at night; Expressing herself so that others understand her; Frank and Camila have often kept it close to upheaval
Best-case scenario: Camila maintains a laser competitive focus all season and fearlessly fights off the competition to another finals appearance and shot at finals victory.
Worst-case scenario: Camila’s worst-case scenario is always the extent and forum of her emotional meltdown. In an elimination (as it was with Big Easy on Battle of the Seasons) is different than the night before a men’s elimination.
The Verdict: I have a feeling that Camila is going to thrive under the Free Agents format. As her MTV bio conveys, she is thinking about things like this point “in her Challenge history.” She gets that she has an opportunity to move into the next tier of Challenge greats (any women two-time winner is in elite company – Paula, Tori, Susie, Rachel) and will keep this in mind throughout this season. I expect at least a trip to the finals and she will be one of the short handful of contenders who could win it all.
A FINAL GO-ROUND?
Where did we last see her? We last saw Aneesa valiantly fighting toward a fourth place finish in the women’s bracket (her pairing with Diem was the final women team eliminated before the finals) in Rivals 2 and occasionally running through altercations while working out on the Thailand house deck.
CHALLENGE History: With Free Agents, Aneesa ties The Challenge record for most seasons with 10 (Paula and now Johnny and CT share the distinction). Previous seasons include: Battle of the Sexes (season 6! In 2003!), Battle of the Sexes 2 (season 9), The Gauntlet 2 (season 11), The Duel (season 13), The Inferno 3 (season 14), The Duel 2 (season 17), Rivals (season 21), Battle of the Exes (season 22), and Rivals 2 (season 24).
From her MTV bio: Talk about an unstoppable force, “Elimination Queen” Aneesa arrives on Free Agents after a devastating exit one spot short of the Rivals II final. Aneesa is brimming with confidence going into Free Agents, “Doubt me all you want. I’m more about being humble and letting my actions speak for themselves. I have the heart and fight. I don’t, I never quit. Ever.” Aneesa may be a threat on the field, but this opinionated vet can rub some of her housemates the wrong way. Will Aneesa be able to fight her way to the top? Or will she face another crushing elimination?
Why would you sign Aneesa? You don’t get the nickname (as coined by MTV.com “writers”) “Elimination Queen” without being a force when facing adversity. Over ten seasons, Aneesa has shown great competitive improvement throughout the years, and, after an awesome run on Rivals 2, deserves to be “brimming with confidence.” Although not always able to have a bite as loud as her bark (don’t tell that to
Trashelle Trishelle), Aneesa is now as wise as she is tough. If there was ever a season on The Challenge where she was due for her long sought after win, it is with the solo artist format of Free Agents. You don’t get to come back on The Challenge a record (tied with the Bananas/CT/Paula tri-force) nine times without doing something right.
Why would you not sign Aneesa? After CT got over the hump last season, Aneesa’s 0-9 record heading into Free Agents must mean something. Aneesa has been fighting Challenge mother time for many seasons, and, although she seems as strong as ever before, something will have to give at some point. Could Free Agents be that season?
Potential Allies: Always seemingly on a small island on the wrong side of the alliance, at this point whomever can improve her chances of winning
Potential Enemies: Much of the history among Johnny, CT, and Aneesa is not all warm and cuddly
Best-case scenario: Aneesa thrives in the every woman for herself format of Free Agents, builds off some of her Rivals 2 momentum and confidence, and comes out of the gate taking no prisoners. She fears no one, other women fear her, and she destroys the competition on a journey to her third finals appearance and a legitimate shot to win.
Worst-case scenario: A worst-case scenario for Aneesa is a season where she is eliminated somewhere in the middle of the pack and retires from competition without one final close chance at winning her first Challenge.
The Verdict: I am torn on Aneesa this year and keep going back and forth over what type of season she will have. A bit of a refreshing surprise on Rivals 2, it is going to be difficult for her to replicate her success on Free Agents. At the same time, she was made for a season on The Challenge that may ask each competitor to prove her or himself more frequently in elimination situations (something that Aneesa has proven to be very successful at). The jury remains in deliberation on this one.
Where did we last see her? Jemmye, despite her #teamsubtitles trials and tribulations with partner Camila, made it all the way to the finals (a day one elimination) in Rivals 2.
CHALLENGE History: Free Agents will be Jemmye’s third straight season on The Challenge. She made it to the finals on Rivals 2 (season 24) and earned Challenge cred for competing on the same team as Knight on Battle of the Seasons (season 23).
From her MTV bio: Jemmye proved to be a true competitor on Rivals II, reaching the finals in only her second Challenge. The epitome of “work hard, play hard,” this former Division I athlete is ready to top last season’s performance. She explains, “At this point, the only thing that’s acceptable is first or second. If I don’t get first or second, then I didn’t do what I came here to do.” Brimming with confidence, Jemmye will take on the most daredevil tasks in challenges and has no fear when it comes to elimination rounds, “I’ve been to enough eliminations at this point where I’ll go in against whoever, but I’m not gonna count any of these females out.”
Why would you sign Jemmye? Jemmye is a perfect combination of athletic ability and physical toughness. Like fellow New Orleans cast mate, Preston, she will have an automatic bump in performance without Knight’s troubling shadow hanging over the festivities and CT bodyguard detail. After tasting the finals on Rivals 2, she can say things like this, “At this point, the only thing that’s acceptable is first or second. If I don’t get first or second, then I didn’t do what I came here to do.” Jemmye is here for a reason. She combines a healthy balance of fearlessness and respect for the competition. She can negotiate challenging communication situations (the #teamsubtitles experience).
Why would you not sign Jemmye? With only two previous seasons under her belt, she is still a relative newcomer against some of the more established veterans. She has never had to face Laurel in a Challenge before.
Potential Allies: She definitely had her girl group on Rivals 2 and didn’t rile too many feathers
Potential Enemies: Ketchup bottles; Lingering Knight-mares
Best-case scenario: Jemmye’s best-case scenario involves a return trip to the finals and at least a second place finish (because if not, she “didn’t do what she came here to do”).
Worst-case scenario: Jemmye’s luck of “The Draw” results put her in a competitive elimination round against someone like Aneesa, Nany, or Laurel and she loses a close battle.
The Verdict: Jemmye is one of the few women competitors who seems be a lock to be in the mix for the finals. She has improved exponentially in her first two seasons and may just be ready to take it to an elite level. I would not be surprised to see her successfully competing at the end.
2) CARA MARIA
Where did we last see her? We last saw Cara, a too frequent fellow cast mate punching bag and producer go-to replacement, embrace underdog status with partner Cooke all the way to a finals appearance and an eventual second place finish on Rivals 2.
CHALLENGE History: Free Agents will be Cara Maria’s (and this is incredible) seventh straight season on The Challenge, but her first of the last three in which she was not a late-game replacement (for whatever happened to Real World: Sydney on Battle of the Seasons and for Naomi on Rivals 2). Her previous seasons are: Fresh Meat II (season 19), Cutthroat (season 20), Rivals (season 21), Battle of the Exes (season 22), Battle of the Seasons (season 23), and Rivals 2 (season 24). She has made three appearances in the finals (Cutthroat, Rivals with Laurel, and Rivals 2 with Cooke), but has never won.
From her MTV bio: After three runner-up finishes, Cara Maria is ready to stop being an underdog and take her rightful place as a legitimate threat to win. Cara Maria arrives in Uruguay in the best shape of her life, but believes her mental outlook is keeping her from taking first place. She elaborates, “I know physically I can do anything, but mentally I second-guess myself. It’s almost like I’m afraid to win.” Pegged as an oddball, Cara Maria yearns to break free of the social awkwardness that has plagued her in the past. Is Free Agents finally Cara Maria’s time to shine? Or will her unlucky streak continue?
Why would you sign Cara Maria? You would sign Cara because if she can get the mental game straight (even the acknowledgement of it is a major step forward), she is going to be a physical beast (and she came this close on Rivals 2 to beating the incredible Paula and Emily domination force). Cara Maria “arrives in Uruguay in the best shape of her life.” She also arrives in Uruguay when everyone else arrives – something that hasn’t happened to this replacement player since Battle of the Exes. Having her bestie Laurel to support her and push her to achieve will be a major boost to an already burgeoning confidence. She is one of the few women who CT will always support (not a bad male ally to have – especially defending champion CT).
Why would you not sign Cara Maria? Until she wins, the mental second guessing remains in play. Challenge houses are difficult places to live, and, based on the edit, Cara struggles with the conditions more than most.
Potential Allies: Laurel (Fresh Meat II and Rivals Strong); CT
Potential Enemies: Johnny Bananas and his continent have never been Cara’s biggest supporters
Best-case scenario: The wide-open Free Agents plays to all of Cara’s strengths. Freed from the ups and downs of symbiotic partnerships, her self-reliance and personal drive are catalysts for excellent performance in challenges and in potential eliminations. She makes a return trip to the finals and positions herself for a win.
Worst-case scenario: Cara’s worst-case scenario is some type of confidence destroying experience that takes the wind and drive out of her sails and forces her into an early elimination unprepared mentally and physically, eventually losing to an inferior competitor who took advantage of her heightened emotional state.
The Verdict: Cara Maria is going to kill it (TJ would be proud) on Free Agents. She is on my short short list to win it all.
Where did we last see her? Laurel has been off-duty (for three long seasons – her return is most welcome) since building a lasting friendship and eventual finals run with Cara Maria on Rivals (season 22)
CHALLENGE History: Free Agents will be Laurel’s fourth season on The Challenge, although it seems like she has been on many more. In each of her three previous seasons – Fresh Meat II (season 19 and partnered with Kenny), Cutthroat, and Rivals (partnered with Cara Maria) – she made the finals, but has yet to win.
From her MTV bio: Last seen making a runner-up finish on Rivals, Laurel returns to The Challenge after a three-season layoff. She may have made the final in every Challenge she’s competed in, but a win still eludes this fierce competitor. Laurel hopes Free Agents will allow her to break the streak, “I’ve had three second-place finishes which is somewhat impressive, yet disappointing at the same time. I’ve been waiting to be on my own and this is a chance for every person to show what they’ve got individually.” Unlike many of her peers, Laurel can separate her emotions from the competition, but her road to victory takes an unexpected turn when she falls for one of her fellow competitors. Can Laurel maintain her laser focus and keep her eye on the prize? Or will romantic entanglements derail her plans?
Why would you sign Laurel? Laurel, despite an 0-3 finals record, is at her best, one of the most dominant women in The Challenge modern era (right up there with Ev, Emily, and late career (happy wedding!) Paula). She, of all competitors in both the Men and Women division, was made for the solo artist format of Free Agents. After three seasons off, she is going to be in the best mental and physical shape of any previous challenge she has been on. Laurel steps into Free Agents a so much happier and healthier version of herself. Of all twenty-eight people ranked in these power rankings, the only givens were that Johnny and CT would be either no. 1 and/or no. 2 for the Men and Laurel would be no. 1 for the Women (By the way, if Emily were competing in Free Agents, I would still choose Laurel over her in the preseason rankings – her competitor status is just that prolific).
Why would you not sign Laurel? There may be a little rust to clean off after a three season hiatus. She is definitively “the one to beat” among the women and will have to fight against the target on her back the entire season. She has no experience competing against some of the new elite (Jordan, Dustin, Frank, Nany, Jemmye) and it is unclear how their relationships will play out.
Potential Allies: Cara Maria (Fresh Meat II and Rivals Strong); CT
Potential Enemies: The field (because it is really a game of Laurel vs. the field)
Best-case scenario: Laurel, hungry, wiser, and more determined from her prolonged break, absolutely crushes it, winning challenges, gut-testing eliminations, and the admiration and respect of all of her fellow competitors. This reign of excellence culminates in her first win on The Challenge.
Worst-case scenario: She spends the entire season fighting off the obvious target on her chest, and, after winning many close calls, succumbs to an up-and-coming competitor in a late game elimination.
The Verdict: I think the three year break and Free Agents format will galvanize and inspire this already fierce competition destroyer to reach another finals and once again be there at the end, fighting for the win.
Next Up: A quick post of season predictions and preseason awards leading up to the 90 minutes season premiere of The Challenge: Free Agents at 10:00 PM on Thursday, April 10 on MTV.