Tag Archives: Chet

The Challenge: Free Agents – Episode 1 Retro Running Diary and Power Rankings

There is really no other way to begin a Challenge season that begins so ceremoniously than with a retro running diary. Unfortunately, ninety minutes is a longer time to diary than I initially imagined. Pace yourself, readers. This is a long one. My week 1 power rankings can be found all the way at the end (if you even get there).

Episode 1 – “Live Free or Die” Retro Running Diary

10:00 – MTV voiceover guy is back (!) with a quick sojourn into a short “This season on” vignette. After a relatively disappointing first trailer experience and with promos that mostly skirted around the issue, we are finally seeing a series of compelling competition clips. What’s that you say, MTV voiceover guy? Each week two players will be eliminated? On behalf of momentum and power ranking fodder: dig.

10:01 – Hey, MTV producer editing room – good job by you. The juxtaposition of the snowy mountain peak of victory with tension escalating highlights has delivered the mood. Ready, set, The Challenge!

10:01 – Johnny Bananas has consistently set the tone for his nine seasons on the The Challenge. It is poetic and appropriate then for Johnny to have the first word on year 10: “The last Challenge that I was on, I came in second place. It definitely was a heartbreaking defeat, but every game is a new game and I feel ready to come back here and reclaim the title.” Competition, be warned. Bananas is back to reclaim what was his. This is what greatness is all about.

10:01 – Camila adds in an interview, “Every time I get a call for The Challenge it’s like do I really want to go back in the house with those crazy people?” This is followed by clips from past seasons of Camila acting like the crazy person she describes. MTV editors for the win again!

10:02 – Emilee (welcome, back?) just broke up with her boyfriend and has been going through a rough patch. She thinks that is will be “an empowering situation.” I know Emily was on Cutthroat for a hot second, but has Emilee even seen this show before? Ems, it may not be the healthiest environment for someone going through a difficult time. Trust me on this one.

10:02 – “I am Nia aka “Hurricane” Nia…you are going to have to kill me to get me out of here.” And based upon the Real World: Portland assault footage shown in conjunction, should we really have any reason to doubt her?

10:03 – There is a lot of talk about what the format is going to look like. Johnny wonders if it is going to be “Brain versus Brawn.” “That’s us,” says this season of Survivor. Jordan (no surprise here because he is a freaky incredible athlete) wants it to be an individual challenge. Cara Maria (who has struggled a wee bit with the whole group thing in the past) unexpectedly wants it to be a group Challenge. Theresa is “very nervous.”

10:04 – TJ Lavin the Great, minus his quintissential “do you wear that to formal events too?” (I’ve always wondered) hat, makes his beloved opening season speech (my commentary is imbedded): “For those of you who don’t know (and if you don’t, you need to know who this great man is), my name is TJ Lavin and I’ll be your host for The Challenge. This Challenge marks a very special milestone (Is he referring to this season’s exclusion of Knight?). This is the 25th season of The Challenge (Yeah, it is. Yes, it is appropriate to applaud everyone). This season you all have been chosen to be here for a reason (unlike when Vinny was allowed to participate). I’ve seen you guys compete as teams, as pairs, and as individuals. And I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why you didn’t win The Challenge (That’s right, Teej. Don’t you tolerate any lame excuses) – You had a terrible partner, you had a horrible team (Laurel makes the most incredible perplexed face at this statement. Maybe she is thinking about her fellow Fresh Meat cast team debacle on Battle of the Seasons). Some of you winners call yourselves champions when you were the worst player on the best team (Shots fired, Tonya on Inferno 3). Rookies – you guys always have a target on your back just for being new. Well, we’re changing it this season. No more excuses you guys. (Weird over dub alert) It’s time for you to prove that you’re truly the best (cut to Laurel). I’d like to welcome everybody to The Challenge: Free Agents.” Drop that mic, TJ Lavin the Great. You killed it.TJ Lavin

10:04 – Mass confusion ensues. Camila isn’t even sure what a “free agent” is (“What does that mean?”). Tell us Teej: “For the first time ever, before every challenge, you’re going to be randomly selected for either a team, a pair, or be asked to go at it alone. You will never know until you get to the challenge that day what it’s going to be.” The competitors go crazy with a partly giddy, partly psychotic, partly horrified reaction. Yes, Aneesa. This is a “mind fuck.” Zach says it best, “One day I could be working with Devyn (preseason ranking of 12 for the women). The next day I could be working with CT (preseason ranking of 1 for the men). You never know. It freaks me out.” For the first time in as long as I can remember, chance does play a significant role in potential success during The Challenge, not just in the preseason team or partner selecting (as Sarah has learned the hardest of ways).

10:05 – There’s more. TJ Lavin the Great explains that the winning team, partner, or individual chooses the guy or girl from the losing team to face an elimination. This is par for The Challenge course, but wait. TJ Lavin the Great is not done: “Get ready for another twist you guys. Everyone that lost the challenge that day are going to take part in what is known as “the draw.” “The draw” is where two players – one guy and one girl – are selected by pure chance to go against the two nominated players in the elimination round.”

10:05 – Jemmye, a consistent contributor of an intrepid mix of interview wisdom and hilarity and no pawn of President Snow, puts it perfectly: “You could literally get picked in a moment’s notice and have to go into the elimination. I did not sign up to play in the Hunger Games and I do not like this at all.” Since the comparison has been introduced, how would I cast these competitors in a Hunger Games movie? Here are my picks: Laurel as Katniss, Cara Maria as Primrose. Cohutta as Peeta, Preston as Cinna, Johnny Bananas as Haymitch, LaToya as Effie, and Dustin as Gale. Zach and Nia would play some of the enemy combatants in the games. Frank would play Seneca Crane. Bearded CT would play President Snow. So, who would like to assist me with my Kickstarter campaign video to fund this thing?Camila, Chet, Jordan, Jemmye

10:06 – TJ Lavin the Great drives the point home. This is an individual game and the first place guy and girl goes home with $125,000 dollars. Cut to Jordan celebrating (foreshadowing?).

10:07 – Jonna reminds us that she’s “always had a problem where she like relies on other people,” but now “wants to be an independent woman and be able to follow [her] dreams.” Jonna, does your Challenge participation actualize this desire?

10:07 – CT points out that “he’s always been a free agent” and that now everyone else “has to play his game.” Strangely, CT, despite his reigning champion status and first place placement in the preseason power rankings, still feels a little bit like a sleeper pick to win. The format could not be better for this most veteran veteran. If his team or partnership loses, good luck sending him into an elimination. No one is going to want to compete against him, but with the unpredictability of “the draw,” you might have to anyway. The rankings of players you most fear to face in an elimination are as follows: 1) CT 2) Laurel 3) CT 4) CT 5) CT.

10:07 – Yes! Finally there is a house tour to alleviate the competitive tension. Unlike the sauna bug den of Thailand, the Uruguay house is “sick” (credit to Cara Maria).

10:08 – So Swift’s ego apparently has changed too much since Real World: St. Thomas: “I am technically a rookie as they like to call it, but I’m extremely cocky. But I’m cocky and I’m confident for a reason ’cause when it comes to competition time, people are going to be like, oh snap, Swift gets poppin.” Hmm. Things I hope for: Swift versus CT in an elimination round in which Swift does whatever “gets poppin” means and CT does whatever “destroying Swift in an elimination” means.

10:08 – The reason this is the best The Challenge house in history: there is a basketball court. Again, there is a basketball court.

10:08 – Isaac gives it “about forty minutes” until this place is trashed. I give it about twelve minutes until Isaac says or does something incredibly bizarre.

10:08 – The Challenge officially begins with a toast of what appears to be Ecto Cooler led by Johnny Bananas. “Let the games begin!”

10:08 – Jordan, declaratively single, assesses some of the women prospects. Camila “always shows up,” Emilee is “always good looking,” and Laurel is “a physical specimen.” Jordan, keep your eyes on the prize. You were my preseason pick to win!

10:08 – Jasmine is single too and she has decided she wants to be the “whore of The Challenge” and to get “dick and balls, all day, every day.” I am not even sure how to comment on this.

10:09 – And it took only one minute! Isaac made a shot glass out of a lemon and let Zach know that, according to wikipedia, 2013 was a great year for the South American lemon. With ironic self-awareness: “The Challenge takes the weirdest of the craziest psychos and puts them in a house and says, beat each other up for money. Yeah, it’s going to get weird, but hey, I like weird.” Isaac, it is great to have you back.Zach and Isaac with the lemons

10:10 – In the least surprising news of the season, Devyn’s relationship with ship with Big Easy “fell off a cliff” and is no more.

10:11 – In more romance/relationship news: Nany thinks Cohutta is “cute,” Emilee is ready to mingle, and Johnny (of Real World: Portland) is no longer with Averey. The real question: does he have Daisy visitation rights?

10:12 – So, Dustin made a pact with old fling Heather that he would be a good boy on The Challenge. Johnny Bananas does not think this is realistic. Nany does not think one should trust Johnny’s relationship advice. This led Bananas to make the following statement: “I might be a man on the outside, but I am a woman on the inside.” Perhaps not “All’s fair in love, war, and Challenges” nor the “much respect to CT” speech made in defeat last season, this line will at least go down in this legend’s “top twenty best statements made while on The Challenge.”

10:13 – I think I just witnessed the most enjoyable minute in the history of extra-curricular nighttime activity ever on The Challenge. CT and Theresa, on the aforementioned basketball court, played a game of “strip basketball” (As LaToya says, “All’s fair in love and basketball”) to eleven. Before CT won the game by one point on a crazy, J.R. Smith launch from downtown, the following things happened: Isaac played the role of center court promoter (of course he did), Camila got on Laurel’s shoulder and they performed a cheerleading routine, Theresa gained a fair amount of competitive “street creed” (also, she is deceptively tall), and CT and Theresa both took off most of their clothes. When the game finished CT conducted his own post game interview with the cameraman in which he said, while being hugged and congratulated by Leroy (subtitles were provided), “Bottles and bottles all night tonight, baby! Bottles and bottles!” And no, you can’t make this stuff up.CT, Isaac

10:14 – Laurel: “I am back and am going to be the same dominating Laurel in the challenges, but hopefully offer a nicer side that I don’t feel everyone got to see before. But at the end of the day, it’s me vs. you and I love that.” In my best Nicholson Joker impression, “Laurel, YOU are my number 1…”

10:15 – There is some mutual flirting and Southern hospitality going on between Jessica and Dustin. Storytelling seed successfully planted.

10:16 – It’s finally time for the first challenge of the season and it is going to take place at Uruguay’s World Trade Center, the highest building in the country (42 stories!). Bananas thinks that “it is going to be really high and really scary.” Yep, pretty much. We could use a commercial.

10:21 – TJ Lavin the Great describes the “Out on a Ledge” challenge and, as Nany, says, it is “crazy!” There will be two teams of fourteen and three stages. The first stage is six people from each team running the 42 flights of stairs while chained to each other (sounds like fun!). The second stage is four people from each team completing a puzzle (oh how Survivor of you). The third stage involves four people walking across a rolling log over open air (completely horrifying). The look on the competitors faces: a combination of confusion (there were a lot of directions!) and all-consuming fear.Chet and Nia

10:21 – The Captains of the two teams were randomly drawn to be Chet and Nia. They then pick their teams, alternating gender with each pick. Here is the draft that these playground social ostracizing tactics yielded (my comments follow in italics):

Nia’s picks – 1) Jordan (a strong first pick) 3) Laurel (the only choice for first girl) 5) CT (Nia’s GM skills are apparently excellent) 7) Aneesa (picking a competent and savvy vet is a sound move) 9) Cohutta (Her first misstep over Dustin, Leroy, and Bananas. Will Chet capitalize?) 11) Nany (I am thinking more and more that I may have had her too low in my initial power rankings) 13) Bananas (Bananas was picked 13? 13??!!! On one level, credit to Nia for nabbing him at 13, but did she and Chet really pick six guys before him?)  15) Devyn (You could tell that Nia really wanted Theresa here) 17) Johnny (Let Portland troubles stay in the past) 19) Jessica (She is SO ready to dispel her doubters) 21) Swift (Brandon gets no respect) 23) Jasmine (Openly gunning for “whore of the Challenge” and no friend to Nia according to Twitter interactions) 25) Preston by default (Poor Preston gets NO love. My Break Out pick for the men is going to surprise a lot of people this season. Preston, you won’t feel like you are seven on the kickball team too much longer.)

Chet’s picks – 2) Camila (She is the only women who has won, but it is really hard not to go with Laurel here) 4) Frank (A strong pick, but with CT, Laurel, and Jordan already on the other side, you have to go Bananas at no.4, Chet) 6) Cara Maria (Yep, she is ready to dominate this season) 8) Zach (He deserves high draft status in any playground style pick. You want him competing with you and you don’t want him competing against you) 10) Jonna (Living the dream and riding an inflated competitive rep) 12) Dustin (Dustin is a sound pick, but still no Bananas? Really, Chet?) 14) Theresa (You would think that she would get a greater basketball game bounce, but this area is about right) 16) Isaac (The master of random lemon facts is in the right area of the draft, but with Leroy still on the board, this is the wrong pick) 18) Jemmye (I had Jemmye ranked third in my preseason power rankings. Maybe Chet missed Rivals 2?) 20) Leroy (This man gets no Challenge respect. I can feel his redemption coming) 22) Emilee (A complete wildcard at this point.) 24) Brandon (Poor Brandon) 26) LaToya by default (As clear as Laurel first. The rookie has to pay some dues.)

Nia’s team is significantly better on paper. Let’s see how it plays out. As a comparison, here are the picks I would have chosen in Chet and Nia’s position:

Nia – 1) Jordan 3) Cara Maria 5) CT 7) Aneesa 9) Zach 11) Jemmye 13) Leroy 15) Theresa 17) Brandon 19) Jasmine 21) Isaac 23) Emilee 25) Swift

Chet – 2) Laurel 4) Bananas 6) Camila 8) Frank 10) Nany 12) Dustin 14) Jessica 16) Cohutta 18) Jonna 20) Preston 22) Devyn 24) Johnny 26) LaToya

Emilee, Jemmye10:23 – Nia’s the Black Team (to Chet’s the Red Team) has an open discussion about who is partaking in the heights gut check that is the third stage. Jasmine is out. Nia is doing running (the first stage). Jessica, bringing out her Princess Hulk right off the gate, volunteers herself for the heights stage because she is not “deathly terrified” and because “nobody else is stepping up to do it, so if it has to be done, [she’ll] do it.” Jordan objects to her offer (maybe Jordan has prescient powers and could sense the Jessica and heights collision foreshadowed in preseason promotional material). Jessica does not back down: “Jordan is being a little bitch. If I volunteered to do it, then let me do it.” The Real World: Portland interpersonal machinations run deep, but this time, Jessica is all the stronger and wiser. We will see how this plays out in a bit.

10:25 – So the stairwell climb is awful (Zach: “There are no genders. This is all-out war). Take me to some sponsors, please.

10:29 – Back to the action, Johnny Bananas goes to phase 2: prevent Cara Maria from getting past him. Poor, Cara. She can’t win. Laurel is having none of it: “That’s just stupid. You don’t have to put a girl in a chokehold, Johnny.”

10:30 – Frank is first to the top for the Red Team and hands his key off to the puzzlers: Emilee, Isaac, Chet, and Jonna. Frank and Leroy then work to prevent the Black Team from making it out of the stairwell. Swift promptly decides to jump on top of a group of people to obtain the Black Team key, smashing LaToya’s head into the door in the process. Swift thinking, Swift.Red holding back black

10:31 – It is a tale of two puzzles. CT and Aneesa lead Black to finish first whereas Red gets a little stuck. Camila is not sure Chet “knows what the hell he is doing.”

10:32 – So, Swift’s little crowd surf has some ramifications. LaToya’s eyes are rolling to the back of her head and it seems like she is about to pass out. Paramedics are rushed in and they rush her out to a hospital, concerned that she may have injured her head. The tumultuous back-and-forth built in St. Thomas between LaToya and Swift just opened up another chapter.

10:36 – The Red “puzzle people” finally finish the puzzle, but lost a significant time lead in the process. Chet, Isaac, Jonna, and Emilee lack a certain amount of collaborative chemistry. Who could have ever predicted?

10:38 – Devyn is first up for the Black Team on the rolling log of doom. Devyn is unafraid of heights, but does feel like God’s wind is trying to throw her into the ocean or something. Cohutta compares Devyn’s balance to that of a “male bull elephant.” God’s wind gets the best of her. Rolling log of doom – 1. Humans trying to cross the rolling log of doom – 0.

10:38 – First up for the Red Team is Brandon. The dude goes for it, grabs the flag, and lunges for the platform of safety, but just misses the ringing of the bell before falling off the log. Rolling log of doom – 2. Humans trying to cross the rolling log of doom – 0.

10:40 – It is time for the cliffhanger (or “buildinghanger” in this case) that has been heavily promoted and teased in the preseason. Jessica is up for the Black Team and is not too comfortable with heights: “I can just feel the pure fear from my soul just bubbling out of my pores. Like, how the hell am I going to do this?” Jordan and his ultra-competitive self poses a similar question. She is frozen with fear, 42 stories above Uruguayan ground, and the clock is ticking. How the hell is she going to do this? Time for a break.JessicaEveryone watches Jessica's run

10:44 – Upon return, Jessica’s inner motivators get angry, unleashing her Princess Hulk from last season. She attacks the rolling log, grabs the flag, and saunters across to ring that bell. Afterwards, emotion takes over: “I don’t know if I want to cry or scream or what, but I’m overwhelmed.” Just a moment before, her loudest detractor, Jordan is now her biggest support: “I have never been more happy to eat my words. Thank you, Jessica.” Rolling log of doom – 2. Jessica killing it and representing the Black Team – 1. As predicted, Jessica’s season break out is ON.

10:45 – The rolling log of doom victimizes two expected challenge dominators: Dustin for Red and Jordan for Black. Rolling log of doom – 4. Jessica representing Black – 1.

10:46 – Earning first women pick status, Camila successfully travails the rolling log for the Red Team. Frank puts it best: “Camila, the Brazilian Brouha whips across that thing. I mean, she was literally on her broom.” The Red Team celebrates as if they had just won a Brazilian football match.Camila

10:47 – Cohutta, a nuanced and descriptive balance expert, beast the rolling log of doom for the Black Team. It all comes down to Jemmye’s run for the Red Team.

10:53 – Back from the broadcasting revenue source, balancing on the rolling log of doom is too much for Jemmye and she falls off. The Black Team wins. The Red Team loses. This should get most interesting.

10:55 – LaToya makes her return to the house. It turns out that Swift’s full body attack did not cause her medical incident. Apparently dehydration from brawling up 42 flights of stairs did. Go figure.

10:57 – The Black Team deliberation gets heated. The loudest voices are coming from Johnny Bananas, Laurel, and Jordan. There is some disagreement surrounding not only who should get voted in, but how the game is supposed to be played. Johnny keeps reinforcing the “individual game” construct: “If it’s this ugly this early on, it’s only going to get worse.” Free Agents strategy development has only just begun.

11:01 – We are past the one hour mark and it is voting time. Jasmine starts things off with a vote for LaToya. Swift begins his “I am just going to go with the majority” speech, and TJ Lavin the Great cuts him off: “Hang on one second. Before you do that, I just want you guys to know,  this is an individual game. So it’s an individual vote.” Two things: this TJ interruption clarification is downright Probstian and Bananas was right all along.

11:01 – The vote for LaToya is “trending.” The final women vote: LaToya – 11. Emilee – 2 (voted by Swift and Devyn). Theresa – 1 (voted by Preston).

11:03 – The men’s vote is all over the place. Devyn votes for Leroy because she doesn’t know him that well and will be able to shake some cleavage in his face to make him forget about it later. The final men vote: Chet – 7 (Voted by Jasmine, Jessica, Johnny Bananas, Laurel, Cohutta, Nia, and Swift). Dustin – 3 (voted by Jordan, CT, and Johnny). Isaac – 1 (voted by Nany). Frank – 1 (voted by Preston). Leroy – 1 (voted by Devyn). Brandon – 1 (voted by Aneesa).

11:03 – Avoiding the vote is one obstacle, but “the draw” still remains. Cara Maria explains it well: “My name did not come up once in this entire voting process, but the rest of the lucky ones get to participate in  “the draw.” So, there’s really no safe position to be in right now.”

11:11 – “The Draw” takes Jemmye and Frank victim. As a viewer, I am not sure I have ever been so nervous. I can only imagine what they were going through.Jemmye11:12 – TJ Lavin the Great explains the elimination round titled “Balls In.” There is a barrel in the middle of a large circle. There are five rounds. Each round each player will get the opportunity to play both offense and defense. The goal on offense is to put the ball in the barrel. The goal on defense is to talk the ball out the circle or knock the offensive player out of the circle. Five rounds? This is going to be an epic elimination.

11:13 – Chet and Frank begin their battle and as Daniel Day-Lewis once brilliantly headlined, there will be blood. After the scoreless first round, Chet accrues a nasty nasty cut on his chin. His choice: get stitches now and forfeit or bandage up his cut and get stitches later – a win win scenario, really.Chet and Frank11:13 – The cut is really bad as you can tell from the reaction of the spectators…time for advertisements to take our attention away.The spectators11:16 – We’re back and MTV decides to show some footage all in black and white, but for Chet’s bloody chin which pops in a disturbing red. Hey MTV, perhaps editing trickery like this is meant for poignant storytelling in Schindler’s List, but perhaps you could restrain yourselves next time. This is excessive.

11:17 – Despite TJ Lavin the Great’s condescending disapproval of anything he deems in the ballpark of quitting, Chet decides to forfeit and go take care of his face. Frank “wins” the first men elimination round and Chet is the first Free Agents participant heading home.

11:20 – Two rounds into the Jemmye and LaToya elimination battle and the score is tied 1-1. LaToya is showing an amazing amount of fight and this is not going to be any cakewalk for the more experienced Jemmye. LaToya objects to Jemmye kicking her head. Jemmye chocks it up to “just a part of the game.” As Cara Maria points out, these are some NFL moves these ladies are putting on. I am not sure I have seen a women’s elimination quite like this before.LaToya

11:20 – Both Jemmye and LaToya score in round 3, evening up the score at 2-2.Jemmye and LaToya

11:21 – Leroy points out that this is “hands down the most impressive battle” he has seen “between two girls.” LaToya scores in round 4 on offense and on defense, gets angry (Swift provides the Real World: St. Thomas perspective), pushing Jemmye out of the circle. The score is LaToya 3 – Jemmye 2 – heading into the final round.

11:27 – Despite rampant support from the crowd, Jemmye cannot break through the LaToya’s defensive scheme to tie the score. LaToya wins the elimination and Jemmye is going home. In a showing of graciousness, Jemmye congratulates LaToya and says, “You proved yourself this game.”
The crowd is in it

11:27 – TJ Lavin the Great, for the first time this season, take it away: “LaToya, you absolutely killed it.” And she really did.LaToya

11:28 – Jemmye is ALL class in defeat, even giving LaToya some encouragement going forward: “They’re not coming for you anymore. I promise you that.” It is unfortunate that Jemmye had to go home so early in this game (this completely throws off some of my season predictions for the women), but it wasn’t for lack of effort or heart. Jemmye continues to build on to her Challenge resumé and this valiant defeat, although a disappointment, will only be a temporary setback.

11:28 – Thoughtful contemplation is all the rage back at the house. Frank has some insight: “This Challenge is everything on the line and it’s all on you. So that feeling of responsibility is overwhelming, it’s awesome, and this is going to be the most intense Challenge that has ever played out.” After the first ninety minutes, it is hard to disagree.

FINALLY, we were exposed to the first major “This season on…” of Free Agents. Here is a collection of what I saw:

– Theresa doesn’t “trust a single person here.”

– Johnny Bannas is wrapped in sandy saran wrap.

– Jordan will “send Johnny Bananas home.”

– LaToya is going at Laurel who apparently “looked her in the eye and didn’t say what she felt.”

– Jordan and Jessica have one of those Real World: Portland blowout fights.

– According to CT, Isaac should have had his back.

– Cara Maria and CT are apparently voted into an elimination together. Theresa thinks Cara Maria is “full of shit.” Cara Maria asks Theresa not to “talk to [her]” like that. TJ Lavin the Great asks that they not do this while he is here, please.

– There will be lots of kissing and one marriage proposal (Nany drops Cohutta the question)!

– Preston has to hold Nany back.

– Cara Maria: “Trust yourself. You only have you.”

Week 1 Power Rankings


Eliminated – CHET

13) BRANDON (last week: 10)

12) JOHNNY (last week: 14)

11) ISAAC (last week: 12)

10) SWIFT (last week: 13)

9) PRESTON (last week: 9)

8) LEROY (last week: 6)

7) DUSTIN (last week: 5)

6) ZACH (last week: 8)

5) COHUTTA (last week: 11)

4) JORDAN (last week: 3)

3) FRANK (last week: 4)

2) JOHNNY BANANAS (last week: 2)

1) CT (last week: 1)


Eliminated – JEMMYE

13) EMILEE (last week: 13)

12) JONNA (last week: 8)

11) DEVYN (last week: 12)

10) LaTOYA (last week: 14)

9) NIA (last week: 11)

8) JASMINE (last week: 9)

7) THERESA (last week: 10)

6) NANY (last week: 6)

5) JESSICA (last week: 7)

4) ANEESA (last week: 4)

3) CARA MARIA (last week: 2)

2) CAMILA (last week: 5)

1) LAUREL (last week: 1)

Stay tuned for some very exciting CHALLENGE content later in the week!

THE CHALLENGE: FREE AGENTS Preseason Power Rankings – Men Division – Part I

So it begins…

At long last, the season premiere of the new The Challenge season, Free Agents, is a mere days away (the season premiere is Thursday, April 10, at 10:00 PM EST). The Challenge, the fifth MAPS (Major American Professional Sport), is entering its 25th season as a cultural institution of competition, entertainment, and nighttime extra-curricular activities. A consummate star (capital “S”) maker and cultivator (Johnny Bananas, TJ Lavin the Great, CT, the Miz, Ruthie, Paula Walnuts), Twitter chatter centerpiece, and the only entity to be on both the professional sports and reality television Mount Rushmore, The Challenge is a modern pioneer and trendsetter for what greatness is all about. Like in “love” and in “war,” all “is fair” in The Challenge (thank you for this, Sir Bananas), and Free Agents proves to be an entirely new and innovative chapter to add to this proven commodity’s prolific history.

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. Before we delve deep into the first part of the preseason power rankings (the men will be first up), let us peruse the MTV.com season description (a luxury not often released until after the season begins) to discover more. The MTV description is in bold and my commentary is below.

Twenty-eight money-hungry competitors arrive in Punta del Este, Uruguay,
Yes! A return to South America! Clearly a professional sport that sets the international trends, this summer’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics and Rio are following The Challenge‘s lead. The only previous season to begin in a South American country was The Duel (season 13) and the last time our favorite competitors set foot this far below the equator in the Western Hemisphere was on Rivals (season 21) when Johnny Bananas did some winning and Laurel did some Cara Maria defending.
expecting to be teamed up with an ex, an enemy, or even a weak rookie.
Is “weak rookie” referring to LaToya? Johnny from Bridgewater? Swifty? You can call rookie Nia many things, but weak would not be one of them. Honestly, when the competitors size up the competition, which rookie is the one nobody wants to work with? The rankings may provide some answers…
Little do they know, this is an individual game, and they’ll be answering to no one but themselves in the most unpredictable Challenge ever.
This is a lofty statement. One could argue that the Shauvon implant experience represents the ceiling of unpredictability, but that’s just me. Either way, an unpredictable game format is only a good thing.

The 25th season, Free Agents, forces players to compete on their own in a battle of perseverance and luck.
“Perseverance” sounds promising. “Luck” does not. For savvy veterans like the Legendary Johnny Bananas, CT, and Laurel, they have earned a certain status to not have to worry about an elimination based upon chance. Evening the playing field is one thing. Respecting the sanctity of earned greatness of the elite competitors is quite another.
The players will have no idea if they’ll be competing in teams, pairs or as individuals until moments before each challenge begins.
Now we are talking, Bunim-Murray. One of the great opportunities for The Challenge are the challenges (Yes, it can get confusing when the name of the professional sport is the same name as the events that take place within the professional sport). I love the potential application of this conceit. Forcing competitors to pick a partner or to pick teams will immediately identify the totem pole of respect, the value placed on winning over alliance loyalty, and we will finally see what happens when petty schoolyard hurt feelings come to The Challenge arena (wait, we have already seen this many times).
Winners are not only safe from elimination, but also have the power to choose one guy and one girl to send in.
Yes, this is a stock The Challenge formula, but since it works, there is no need to fix it.
The losers from that day’s challenge must take part in the game’s biggest elimination twist yet, “The Draw”, where one guy and one girl are selected by pure chance to face the two nominated players in the elimination round.
“Luck” immediately sounds better with a name like “The Draw” surrounding it. I really hope the edit shows a healthy dose of “The Draw” talk. Also, who will be the first competitor to whip out the clever, albeit cliché “Win, Lose, or Draw” allusion? My money is either on The Legendary Johnny Bananas or Leroy.
With competitors’ fates being determined by a flip of a card, no amount of strategy can protect them.
Or, in other words, the only way to ensure safety is to win challenges. Never mind, I have changed my mind on the whole “perseverance and luck” duo. This will be legit.

A grand total of $350,000 is up for grabs, and with so much money on the line, these already blood-thirsty competitors turn vicious.
Listen, “blood-thirsty” may be stretching this a little too far…
Heated rivalries will take shape, bitter enemies will clash, and heart-tugging relationships will form.
This could be the composition of any The Challenge season description. I, for one, am most interested in what “heart-tugging” relationships will form. It all sounds so perfectly dramatic.
Only the lucky few will face the epic final challenge that starts in dangerous rapids and ends at the top of an active volcano.
End of season SPOILER ALERT!
In the end, this season will find the most worthy challenger yet, the ultimate FREE AGENT.
And then it begins…on to part 1 of the The Challenge: Free Agents Preseason Power Rankings – Men Division.



14) JOHNNYJohnnyWhere did we last see him? The last time we saw Johnny and his long-lasting buzz cut, he was curled up next to his two favorite lady friends, Daisy and Averey, on The Real World: Portland, surviving an infamous hairdryer and a few Hurricane Nias.
The Challenge History: This is his first Challenge.
Why would you sign Johnny? The intrinsic kinship of recent past season formats were beneficial to rookie success stories (Jordan and Marlon on Rivals 2, Frank and Zach on Battle of the Seasons), but Free Agents is not likely to afford such possibility. You would sign Johnny because he will be eager and earnest in his pursuit of victory, an easily persuadable alliance member (he fits the definition of “happy to be here”), and he is no longer distracted on a daily basis by Averey’s all-consuming beauty (Sources say that a Bridgewater breakup has occurred). He flirted with a pro hockey career, so he has some serious athletic chops.
Why would you not sign Johnny? He is a classic rookie patsy for conspiratorial veterans to pounce on. Unlike the other two men from his Real World: Portland season who were ready-made The Challenge competitors, no one was chomping at the bit to see Johnny spread his athletic prowess on The Challenge game field, despite his hockey skills (there are not likely to be too many hockey rinks in Uruguay). Also, are we sure Johnny can handle this much time apart from Daisy?
Potential Allies: Portland mate Jordan, CT and Zach (Greater Boston ties could run deep), Swift (on his own rookie island as well)
Potential Enemies: Nia (the hairdryer indentations on his head prove it)
Best-case scenario: Johnny gets lucky early when the group targets Swifty first, allowing Johnny to stick around a little longer than expected.
Worst-case scenario: Johnny is the first guy thrown into an elimination and loses to a tough competitor picked by “The Draw.”
The Verdict: The Challenge has only room for one Johnny. This will be a short, forgettable first season for Bridgewater’s own.

13) SWIFTSwift Where did we last see him? We last took frequent naps (a bit of a yawn of a season) while watching Swifty pull live chicken pranks on Real World: St. Thomas, or as I like to call it, “The Real World: when we find out what happens when people stop being polite and are isolated from the rest of society by a body of water: i.e. boredom.”
The Challenge History: This is his first Challenge.
Why would you sign Swift? Swift is a little bit of an irrational confidence guy in the Vernon Maxwell/Jamal Crawford mold. How good he is may be a question for others to pose, but in Swift’s mind, he is the best, and this could be useful against this season’s veteran guy murderer’s row.
Why would you not sign Swift? Like Johnny, in a cast of veterans, rookies tend to stand out. His height and size could be an issue in any challenges that require brute force.
Potential Allies: St. Thomas bickering partner LaToya (there just aren’t a lot of other options here)
Potential Enemies: I cannot see Swift getting along too well with Jordan, Frank, or Nia; his irrational confidence ego
Best-case scenario: Swift gets lucky early when the group targets Johnny first, allowing Swift to stick around a little longer than expected.
Worst case scenario: Swift is the first guy thrown into an elimination and loses to a tough competitor picked by “The Draw.”
The Verdict: Like his Real World season, Swift’s first season on The Challenge will be soon forgotten, but this time not because of boredom, but because of shortness (and I may also be referring to the length of his stay).


12) ISAACIsaacWhere did we last see him? We last saw Isaac, probably still reeling from the CT and Adam violent brawl on night one, lose to all-time great Landon in an elimination on season 17 of The Duel II.
The Challenge History: The Duel II was Isaac’s one and only Challenge and he last five episodes.
Why would you would sign Isaac? Isaac has always been a little bit of a wild card, and in an individual game, this can be an asset. His long Challenge absence could be used to his advantage as an up for grabs alliance member (CT, Aneesa, and Cohutta are the only people who have been on a season with him before).
Why would you not sign Isaac? He may be the closest thing The Challenge has to Tyson Zone membership. As Real World: Sydney viewers may remember, Isaac was an actual juvenile delinquent, and, after years of heavy LSD use, would occasionally hallucinate about prophetic birds (and no, I am not making this up). He is older now and undoubtedly more grounded, but I am not sure a Challenge house is the best environment for someone with some unstable tendencies.
Potential Allies: Cohutta (Sydney Strong), CT (Animalistic Connectedness Strong)
Potential Enemies: I am not sure that Isaac and Camila will have much in common, hallucinations
Best-case scenario: Since we last saw him, Isaac has become an athletic beast that everyone fears, destroying competition in eliminations and in the social game. This could get him as far as the middle episodes.
Worst-case scenario: A black bird hallucination means something most awful and he takes himself out of the game to protect fellow competitors from impending doom.
The Verdict: Honestly, I have no idea what to expect. It has been so long and it is hard to know both how the others will take to him and how he will take to the others. My best guess is that he will be a mellower version of his former self, but without clear bonds with some of the new elite, he will find himself fending off competition in early eliminations.

11) COHUTTACohuttaWhere did we last see him? We last saw Cohutta on the classic JEK Empire victory season, The Ruins, season 19, but it feels even longer than that.
The Challenge History: Cohutta has performed in two The Challenge seasons – The Island (season 16) and The Ruins (season 19). His best finish was Top 8.
Why would you sign Cohutta? Cohutta is a really sweet guy who gets along with almost everybody. More often than not, he manages to stay above the nighttime extracurricular activities fray. His southern twang is easy to root for.
Why would you not sign Cohutta? In the past, relationship entanglements have not exactly helped his game. He is not one of the most physically intimidating guys this season. Cohutta has been out of the mix for a long time and when he was in the mix, he willed his way to relatively strong finishes by being so likable. The quality of competition this season may not be so lenient. His lack of connection to the new elite could be a problem.
Potential Allies: Isaac (Sydney Strong), I have a strong feeling that he will get along really well with fellow Southerners Dustin, Jess, and Jemmye
Potential Enemies: Brute strength in the form of Zach or CT, female entanglements
Best-case scenario: With a little bit of good fortune and some key partnering, Cohutta could slip into contention and have an outside shot at the final challenge.
Worst-case scenario: He is the unlucky recipient of the first “The Draw” iteration and gets out-muscled by a bigger guy.
The Verdict: I have a hunch that Cohutta is going to be a key player this season (A similar trajectory to Chet in Battle of the Seasons, perhaps?). In his two Challenges, he has excelled at staying a little unassuming and a little under the radar, so look for a similar strategy this time around. Although not likely, I would not be surprised to see Cohutta competing at the end.


10) BRANDONBrandonWhere did we last see him? We last saw Brandon as an ill-fated member of the dysfunction that was Team Fresh Meat on Battle of the Seasons (season 23). Thankfully, he and Cara Maria got off the sunk ship in episode three before having to witness the embarrassing elimination competition between their teammates, Camila and Big Easy, who were apparently attempting to show the worst version of themselves.
The Challenge History: Free Agents will be Brandon’s fifth season. Previous seasons include Fresh Meat II (season 19), Cutthroat (season 20), Rivals (season 21), and Battle of Seasons (23). His best previous finish was Top 10 (among guys) on Cutthroat.
Why would you sign Brandon? After much frustration and futility, this could be a make or break season for Brandon on The Challenge, so it may be a worthy risk. In the past, his teams and teammates have not been easy sells, so as a solo artist on Free Agents, he might have a greater chance at success. He well-liked and gets along with most people.
Why would you not sign Brandon? His The Challenge track record looks more like Tyrie’s than like Derrick or Kenny’s. Although well-liked, his bonds may not be the strongest. His athletic chops (despite some worthy elimination fight) remain largely in question.
Potential Allies: Cara Maria and Laurel (Fresh Meat Strong); He and Leroy are Las Vegas buddies
Potential Enemies: Isaac does not seem to be someone he will find points of connection with; If he watched any of Real World: Portland, Brandon will be having none of Hurricane Nia; things did not end well with Camila on Battle of the Seasons
Best-case scenario: Brandon makes the right alliances, stays out of the ire of challenge winners, and has some luck with “The Draw” to make it to the middle of this game (Top 6 or 7).
Worst-case scenario: An early elimination drawing against one of the frontrunners sends Brandon packing prematurely.
The Verdict: Brandon, due to many past disappointments, is one of several people this season who has the most to prove, but consequently, may have the most to lose. If he doesn’t take the leap on Free Agents this season, five seasons of mediocrity may be the death knell on his The Challenge career. I think that there is a realistic shot that he could go far, but it is hard to see him beating any of the frontrunners one on one.


9) PRESTONPrestonWhere did we last see him? Although during his eventual Rivals 2 (season 24) elimination episode, we last saw Preston saving face and more than showing up his disgraceful partner and until Free Agents, Bunim-Murray cellmate, Knight.
The Challenge History: This is Preston’s third season on The Challenge, but first season away from the haunting shadow of Knight as a teammate on both Battle of the Seasons (season 23) and Rivals 2 (season 24).
Why would you sign Preston? Preston’s potential can now be finally unleashed outside of Knight’s demeaning and derogatory wrath. This freedom could propel one of the best long distant runners on the show into the top group of men. He has a great social game and seems to bond with everyone not named Knight. He is really tall and will be difficult for smaller players (Swift, Cohutta) to beat in more physical eliminations.
Why would you not sign Preston? His will to compete has been a growing work in progress. He still may have some athleticism and risk aversion opportunities. Does he live to compete in Challenges?
Potential Allies: Jemmye and the other woman of the house; Frank, reasonable people, and any anti-Knight faction that is thrilled to see him freed from Knight’s darkness
Potential Enemies: His will to compete
Best-case scenario: The best-case scenario for Preston involves a whole lot of elimination luck and some solidified alliances, but there is a slight chance that he could be on the verge of a final if he gets the dealt the right cards and uses them effectively.
Worst-case scenario: The worst-case scenario is that his opposition to Knight was a galvanizing force at the end of last season and that the momentum built from his promising finish lacks the same motivation this time around.
The Verdict: This is a talented group of male competitors, but there are enough clear advantages for Preston to make it out of the first several eliminations. If he manages to stay out of the drama and under the radar of the game’s heavyweights, there is potential for a breakout season.


8) ZACHZachWhere did we last see him? Zach was last seen sophomore slumping on Rivals 2, eventually disqualifying himself (there was a bit of a directions folly) in the Jungle elimination week 5.
The Challenge History: Free Agents will be Zach’s third straight Challenge season. His Team San Diego (where verbal abusing teammates happens) won it all on Battle of the Seasons (season 23) and the aforementioned Rivals 2 (season 24) was a bit of a letdown.
Why would you sign Zach? Zach is an athletic and physical power. He feeds off of competition and gives all of his physical and emotional self in an attempt to win. Freed from the entanglements of partnering with others (he and Trey did manage to find some common ground before imploding at the end), the Free Agents format will benefit Zach as much as anyone else. He will be hungry to bounce back from a disappointing second season.
Why would you not sign Zach? Rivals 2 exposed some of his weaknesses. Will they be quelled this time around? Although this is billed as an individual game, relationships will still matter and the ones that were most important to his success on Battle of the Seasons (Frank and then, cuddle buddy, Jonna) have either ended (Jonna) or have inexplicably gone off the rails (Frank). There is much competitive pressure in a Challenge house and Zach has yet to prove how well he can handle it.
Potential Allies: CT and Johnny (Boston Strong); it is possible that he and Frank have reconciled again
Potential Enemies: Dustin; There was some healthy antagonistic banter between Zach and Chet during Battle of the Seasons; Does Jonna have lingering animus?
Best-case scenario: Zach has the physical ability to go the end in a “every man for himself” competition and through a series of elimination gut checks and momentum gains, wills himself to a final challenge appearance (at which point it is anybody’s game).
Worst-case scenario: Zach lets other competitors get in his head and it paralyzes him in an elimination round against an inferior opponent, sending him packing earlier than expected.
The Verdict: Zach as a partner or teammate is very different than Zach as an individual. Free Agents will absolutely play to his strengths. He desperately wants to win and, on paper, is completely ready to do so. I have a feeling that his Rivals 2 sophomore slump will be an aberration in his Challenge career.

7) CHETChetWhere did we last see him? We last saw one of the sport’s most reliable interviewees anchoring Team Brooklyn (along with his amazing female teammate, Sarah) to a third place finish on the sand dunes of the Namibian Desert on Battle of the Seasons.
The Challenge History: This is Chet’s fourth Challenge season. Previous seasons were The Ruins (season 18), Cutthroat (season 20), and Battle of the Seasons (season 23) when his Team Brooklyn made it to the finals.
Why would you sign Chet? As Battle of the Seasons proved, Chet is more than just a bow tie promoter. Of all the men participating, he will not let the nighttime extra-curricular activities affect his game. Although totally competent athletically, others will underestimate him (as they did on Battle of the Seasons), keeping him from being targeted early and often. He has proved he can handle endurance challenges.
Why would you not sign Chet? There are several guys participating who are physically much stronger. This will be his first challenge without Sarah, and, although able to more than stand on his own, Team Brooklyn loyalty runs deep. It is unclear who he will align with this time around. He is one of the competitors who likely benefits from being part of a team.
Potential Allies: Cohutta; Johnny Bananas; Jemmye; Devyn (Brooklyn Strong, if he can forget her Namibian Desert hair choices); pretty much everyone
Potential Enemies: Zach; CT; unnecessary drama; Camila
Best-case scenario: Chet makes the right alliances early and stays out of “The Draw” against formidable competition, paving the way for another final challenge appearance.
Worst-case scenario: The Free Agents format does not align well with Chet’s strengths and forces him to have to prove himself in an early elimination against a dominating physical force.
The Verdict: Not that Battle of the Seasons was any bit of an easy go, but I think the Free Agents conceit will be a harder sell for Chet’s game. If he finds the right people to align with and competes well in challenges, he has a legitimate shot at a finals return, but the competition will be that much better this season. I expect a strong showing, but that Chet will not be as successful as he was on Battle of the Seasons.

Read Part II

CHALLENGE 24: Picking an All-Star Season

It’s happened.  Sometime earlier in the week, MTV (through their MTV remote control blog – clever name network formally known for music videos) formally acknowledged what has been known to us legion of devoted fans for some time: The Challenge is the fifth major American professional sport (sorry NASCAR wannabes) and it is time for a professional all-star game season voted on by the fans.  That’s right: the participants on the 24th season of The Challenge (they make it seem like “Challenge 24” may never “see the light of day,” but on a network that can produce several too many Teen Mom iterations, who are they kidding?) are going to be chosen by (or at least influenced by) who takes the time to go and vote.  This unprecedented move is a complete first for this form of reality tv competition program (if you can even call it that, The Challenge is so much more) and represents an incredible opportunity to have a say in who we want to watch.

In the spirit of honoring its rightful place in the professional sport fraternity, how twitter can and will be a major factor in this voting process, and the whole “Challenge 24” motif, I have decided to select the participants for this All-Star game season like the NBA (whose All-Star game is appropriately this weekend).  In the NBA All-Star process, there are twelve players for each conference: the five starters are voted on by the fans and the remaining seven participants are selected by a vote of the coaches.  In my mock The Challenge All-Star season formatting, I will choose twelve men and twelve women, the five “starters” will be the top five current vote getters in the most up to date polls remote control blog polls, and the seven remaining players will be chosen by me (a group of coaches I cannot find).  Like the NBA voting process, not every viable participant is included in the ballot.  Therefore, I will choose one additional “coaches pick” for both the men and women from an incredible group of past participants not included in the twenty names that MTV has provided.

Before we delve into my selections, I would be remiss to not breakdown the simply amazing prose and preamble that the MTV remote control blog provides for this innovative process (my comments are imbedded below):

“With 23 seasons under its belt, “The Challenge” has begun to sprout one or two silver hairs, but, as proven over the years, maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age.” (The awareness that The Challenge may have “sprouted one or two silver hairs” is just short of brilliant, and based on some of the nighttime activities in Turkey, maturity and age are not synonymous) No matter how many old or new faces picked for a game, it always delivers the nail-biting battles (and personal beefs) we’ve come to love. (Amen.  Battle of the Seasons really accentuated this point.  It delivered the goods with a cast of predominantly rookies and largely unproven veterans.) And we, like you, hope it’s only a matter of time before we’re off to some exotic land to fight another good fight. (Seriously.  Make it happen, MTV).

With 15 years’ (this is simply an incredible number) worth of participants on our hands, it’s impossible (so impossible!) to predict how any future roster might look, which is why we’re curious to hear YOUR opinion (Thank you.  The time had come). In the event “Challenge 24” ever sees the light of day (and it will), who would you want to see competing? Take our girls and guys polls below, and if you happen to check the “Other” box in either, make sure to write your picks in the comments.” (I love the crude methodology of picking an “other.”)

Now, on to the women and men All-Star teams.  I have included the MTV remote control blog person descriptions (because some of them are just that good) with my additional comments added as well.

THE WOMEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

Laurel (15% of the vote!) – 4th season – “The outspoken Amazonian who doesn’t put up with BS.”


Should she be selected as a starter?

Yes!  Her incredibly high vote percentage (twice the percentage of the next women) is a testament to her watchability as both a competitor and an after hours drama participant.  Since her first days as the “fresh meat” to Kenny’s then newly earned veteran status on Fresh Meat 2, Laurel has been a Challenge force.  Her recent reconciliation and beautifully kindled friendship with Cara Maria on Rivals are some of the best redemptive moments that this show has ever seen.  Laurel is not afraid to mix it up with both men (in competition) or women (anywhere) and is a deserved lock for any All-Star season, whether she is a starter or a reserve.

Sarah – 7th season – “The most well-rounded “Challenger” to never win the game.”


Should she be selected as a starter?

Absolutely.  I have written this many times before in this space (she rocked it on Battle of the Seasons, spending most of the season on top of the weekly power rankings), but an All-Star season would not be the same without Sarah.  She is a fierce competitor who loves competing, loves puzzles, loves being a member of a team, loves trivia, and is a joyous presence for the viewer.  Her Paula-like quest for Challenge victory is a compelling narrative to follow on any season, but especially on an All-Star season when the stakes are raised so much higher.

Cara Maria – 6th season “The sensitive soul who throws down when it matters most.”

Cara Maria

Should she be selected as a starter?

As a starter, maybe not, but she should surely be a member of the team.  After the too-short and drama heavy Fresh Meat debacle on Battle of the Seasons this fall, Cara Maria is ready to be back in a competition with teammates who can actually complete challenges without disqualifying.  It will be interesting to see what the Laurel/Cara Maria tandem can do now that their “rivalry” has been converted to bonafide “bff” territory.

Paula – 10th season – “The die-hard competitor whose emotions sometimes get the best of her.”


Should she be selected as a starter?

Without question, you cannot do an All-Star season of The Challenge without Paula, whose nine season quest for victory (an amazing win finally during “Rivals” with Ev is a major event in Challenge history) has been a key component of The Challenge evolution.  Her insider politicking, social game ties, underrated athletic toughness, and inevitable once a season meltdown put her certainly on the female Mount Rushmore of Challenge participants.

Kelly Anne – 3rd season –  “The hot chick who is much tougher than she looks.”

Kelly Anne

Should she be selected as a starter?

She is definitely a surprise starter (barely beating out Ev for fifth place) and probably would not have made the team otherwise (some may say the KG of the The Challenge All-Stars – although I strongly dispute that Kevin Garnett is not one of the twelve best players in the Eastern Conference).  Her Challenge history is short and not too memorable beyond the relationship theater that is any romantic involvement with Wes.  To her credit, she is willing to mix it up in both competition and in late night tomfoolery, will have a little something extra to prove, and will be a potentially intriguing ingredient to the mix.  Also, in the Challenge rumor mill, there is a story out there about Kelly Anne refusing to participate in the Battle of the Seasons Turkish Vacation when she heard that Wes would be there.  If true, her involvement in an All-Star season that should also feature Wes seems to be a no-brainer.







Evelyn – 8th season – “The born athlete who is rarely taken down.”

Jenn – 7th season – “The itty-bitty spitfire who tells it like it is.”






Camila – 5th season – “The fiesty Spring-Breaker with a record-setting temper.”

Trishelle – 4th season – “The comeback kid.”






Devyn – 2nd season – “The quick-witted beauty queen who’s not such a clutch athlete.”

Marie – 2nd season – “The win focused rookie who always love a good happy hour.”






Nany – 2nd season – “The girl who rides speedy loops on the emotional roller-coaster.”

Emily – 3rd season – WILD CARD selection


This was a surprisingly challenging group of women to decide upon, but looking at them top to bottom, they all pass the “who do you most want to see on the next Challenge?” test.  Ev, of the original Fresh Meat, will provide a consummate competitive fire and is one of the only women here who may align (based upon past seasons) with Wes.  She will not be afraid to stand up to anyone (especially the JEK Dynasty) while still commanding a great deal of respect from all of those around her.  Jenn is a Challenge mainstay that always places herself in the central mix of strategy and drama.  She should have been selected as a starter over Kelly Anne.  Camila’s Battle of the Seasons uncomfortable exit (the one in which she verbally berated her clearly overmatched teammate, Big Easy) and her Exes victory tour with Mr. Johnny Bananas highlight the ups and downs that accompany this Brazilian spitfire.  She is a lock.  Trishelle gets my nod for the All-Star season over Coral for the “old school woman slot” because of her great work on Battle of the Seasons, often playing a key intermediary role in conflict resolution.  Trishelle made some important connections with some of the new blood and I fear that Coral will find herself very out of place with this mostly younger women crowd (Fear not Coral fans: I have a place for her later on).  Devyn, Nany, and Marie all earned their place in an All-Star season for having breakout campaigns on Battle of the Seasons.  Devyn is going to be the best female soundbite and a perfect guide to describe the action to the viewer .  Her lack of athletic prowess is still a factor, but an All-Star season would just not be as much fun without her.  Nany had an incredible rookie season (that should not have been cut so short) in which she exhibited the commitment and fight of Sarah and the nighttime volatility of Camila.  Marie will bring a similar mix (but different flavor) of fierce competitor and inebriated crazy.  Both Nany and Marie will not be intimidated by anyone (Marie was having none of Wes on his brief stay on Battle of the Seasons) and will not waver on the fact that they have earned their right to participate in “Challenge 24.”  My wildcard selection is Emily (from Real World: DC) who, after Exes, is unfortunately remembered for some of the wrong reasons (the infamous blackface incident directed at partner, Ty), but is one of the best female athletes this show has ever seen and will be a worthy physical match against Ev and Laurel.  She is also a stabilizing force (in the Sarah vein) and this group of women could use a little more of that.

Most difficult omissions:

Coral, Jasmine, Katie

Coral and Katie were both tough decisions.  Trishelle seems like a better selection for that the “old school” slot.  Jasmine has been an enjoyable member of the gang, but ironically, her more down-to-earth version on Battle of the Seasons is not as television compelling as her wine glass throwing freak outs of past seasons.

Other people not selected:

Rachel, Aneesa, Jemmye, Jonna, Naomi

Aneesa and Rachel have both had their time on the show and would not fit in too well with much of the above group (Exes was a bit of a social game struggle).  Jemmye had a very sweet first season, but needs more opportunities to be seriously considered.  Naomi , like Devyn, is not cut out for athletic competitions, but, unlike Devyn, has not yet exhibited an incredible wit and sense of humor.  After her Battle of the Seasons reunion sour demeanor, I am not sure Jonna is going to have any fun on an All-Star season.

Other potential wildcards not selected:

Veronica, Tonya, Tori (retired and happily married to Brad)


THE MEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

CT – 9th season – “The closest thing “The Challenge” has to the Terminator.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes, without question.  Despite CT’s losing record (he has never won a Challenge), he is one of the definitive stars of this franchise.  His physical prowess goes without saying, he commands a healthy combination of respect and fear from all, and his recent streak of a kinder and gentler Chris is a late career reinvention.  Formally the enemy and chief rival of the JEK Dynasty boys, CT 2.0 is a more nuanced and more thoughtful individual outside of competition, but within the playing field, there is no one who will be more of a force.  His commanding first place lead in votes among men is well-deserved.

Kenny – 8th season – “You know him as Mr. Beautiful.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

The Men’s vote is 2 for 2.  Kenny, as the “K” in the JEK Dynasty, has been one of the most instrumental people in fostering the growth of The Challenge into the phenomenon and respected national sport it has become.  An original Fresh Meat participant, there is no one who can cut you down with words and then in the next moment bring you back up with a smile as well as Mr. Beautiful (Sarah knows all too well).  He has not performed as well as his past elite level in recent seasons, so he will be even hungrier this time around especially to show some of the less proven fellow men (he’s looking at you Frank) a thing or to about the history of this game.

Evan – 6th season – “The cocky smart guy who only can be trusted by his boys.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes, absolutely.  Like Kenny, Evan, the E of the JEK and an original Fresh Meat (Coral’s partner), is one of the men who has brought The Challenge to new heights.  His unfortunate and poorly conceived Rivals feud with Nehemiah was a tough last memory, so this All-star season surrounded by his traditional allies and some rambunctious (see: Frank) new competition will be a great platform for the Canadian.  Evan is a great athlete, a sound strategist, and an effective communicator who can sometimes be the more approachable public face than his more antagonistic partners, Johnny and Kenny.

Johnny – 9th season – “The self-proclaimed asshole with an impressive record”

Johnny Bananas

Should he be selected as a starter?

Yes and he probably deserves to be the leading vote getter.  An All-Star season would be his 9th, and there is a reason why Johnny Bananas (the J of JEK) has continued to be at the center of season after season of The Challenge: He has been able to find the perfect combination as a dynamic and engaging social power player while maintaining his competition cred in challenges.  He is always interesting and compelling, provocative about everything, and ultra-competitive.  His most recent wins in Exes and Rivals highlight how his often abrasive outer persona (I will never forget his motivational tactics with Camila in the final challenge) have proven to motivate individuals that he has some difficult history with (His redemptive win on Rivals with Tyler was one for the ages).  Of all past participants, Johnny Bananas may be The Challenge’s brightest star.

Dustin – 3rd season – “The guy with no misgivings about getting street.”


Should he be selected as a starter?

You can make this argument.  Although Frank and Zach may have something to say about this, I think Dustin was the breakout male star of Battle of the Seasons (consistently topping the weekly power rankings) and is primed to be a Challenge regular for years to come.  Although he did have his moments of reaching his breaking point (certainly with Trishelle and maybe at night he can get a little too street), his combination of competitive fire, athleticism, and loyalty (his older brother/little sister relationship with Nany is of the most endearing terms) are of the highest caliber.  He will be willing to compete against the big boys (CT, JEK) and will quickly earn their respect.








Wes – 8th season – “Plain and simple: The man with a plan.”

Mark – 7th season – “The old dude who belongs on Olympus.”







Dunbar – 6th season – “An odd dichotomy of introvert and screaming-match contender.”

Chet – 4th season – “The straightlaced bow-tie sporter with a little chip on his shoulder.”







Leroy – 3rd season – “The tenacious warrior with a heart of gold.”

Zach – 2nd season – “The hulking rookie who has no patience for quitters.”






Frank – 2nd season – “The emotional time bomb.”

Derrick  – 9th season – WILD CARD selection


Wes could be a starter (only over Dustin), but is a definitive lock as a reserve.  He has been the thorn in the JEK dynasty’s side for many years and embraces the target that always finds itself on his carrot top head.  He is an adversary, an antagonist, and a grand strategist who has earned his Challenge stripes overcoming many an elimination.  Mark gets the “old school slot” for the men because he is Challenge pioneer, well-liked by all, and now, into his forties, a freak of a physical specimen.  His recent connection to Johnny and CT on Exes and his ability to connect with so many different kinds of people will allow him to fit in in ways that Coral, another old school vet, may struggle with.  Dunbar gets the nod here over Tyler because in part, Tyler’s story seemed to find a perfect final moment (the Johnny Bananas redemptive victory on Rivals) and Dunbar still has much to prove to some of his Challenge peers.  Forever linked to Paula (as infamously highlighted with a partnership on Exes), Dunbar puts up metaphoric consistent numbers season after season, but has yet to have that definitive moment.  Chet earned his All-Star selection with a great showing on Battle of the Seasons that combined his wit (the male version of Devyn) with a newfound athletic and competitive drive.  Leroy has been a joy to watch in his three brief seasons of The Challenge, earned immediate respect from Johnny and the power structure, and is going to be a major force in competition.  Both Zach and Frank, with their Battle of the Seasons win and drama-filled rookie season, earned the right to compete against the Challenge royalty.  It will be interesting to see how they build an alliance amongst this group of veterans.  Derrick gets my nod as the wild card selection (over the stiffest of competition!) because of his amazing athletic ability, physical tenacity and determination, and, like Emily, he will be a rational, stabilizing force.  It seemed like each time he linked up with the JEK brotherhood they were the better for it because Derrick knows how to cut out some of the derailment that stems from late night extracurricular activities.

Most difficult omissions:

Tyler, Knight, Mike

Knight is a rising star, but it is just not his time yet.  A few more seasons under his belt and he will be on this list.  As already stated, Tyler’s career had a perfect ending and you don’t want to mess with that.  Mike is a pleasure to watch (especially when he and Leroy are giving us a peek into their genuinely beautiful friendship), but does not have the experience to warrant a selection just yet.

Other people not selected:

Trey, Robb, Alton, Big Easy, Vinny

Before Battle of the Seasons, Alton would have been a starter on this list, but, after the roller-coaster ride that was his time in Turkey, I am not sure he should be competing in The Challenge anymore.  Trey and Robb both have more to prove.  Vinny should be banned for life.  Finally, Big Easy is too much of a liability on a few too many challenges and it would be a shame for any of his teammates to have to lose because of him again.

Other potential wildcards not selected (and mind you, many of which I would have chosen over some of the 20 eligible vote getters):

Darrell (there was room for only one wild card, he has an incredible record of winning), Landon (I am not sure why he wasn’t he included in the vote), Brad (happily retired and married to Tori), Abram (he would have probably beat some of the current reserves if he had been in the voting), Ty , CJ, Miz (competing may not be the right thing for him at this point, but there may be something else for him to do…)

Finally, one thing The Challenge has sorely needed over the seasons has been some kind of sound resource for participants to go to to discuss strategy, different issues, or for in-game advice.  In the All-Star game season vein, for the first time there should be team coaches who are there for such a purpose.  My coach selections are the Miz for the men and Coral for the women.  Wouldn’t Dustin benefit from the Miz’s take on how to come back at Frank?  Couldn’t you see Coral giving Nany some tough love, but useful advice about why she needs to hold it together better?  Who doesn’t want this?  Yes, this needs to happen.

To recap the final selections…


Coach: Coral

Starters: Laurel, Sarah, Cara Maria, Paula, Kelly Anne

Reserves: Evelyn, Jenn, Camila, Trishelle, Devyn, Nany, Marie, Emily (wild card selection)


Coach: The Miz

Starters: CT, Kenny, Evan, Johnny, Dustin

Reserves: Wes, Mark, Dunbar, Chet, Leroy, Zach, Frank, Derrick (wild card selection)

MTV – great work with this poll.  You killed it.  Now the ball is in your court.  It is time for “Challenge 24” to become a reality.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  He writes weekly TV columns on Afterbuzztv.com (currently, Fox’s “The Following”) and his THE CHALLENGE: Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.

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. 

THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Penultimate Retro Running Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knot So Fast

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

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

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

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

Ashley and Frank

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

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

Zach and Jonna

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

Ashley and Frank

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chet and Devyn

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


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

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


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.


In my last The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons weekly rankings column, I went all retro-running diary because the action of the episode was just too much to effectively account for any other way.  This week’s episode may have even pushed the scale of awesomeness a few steps higher (the weekly challenge and especially the night time drama raised these stakes), so until something changes (and with the final challenge coming up later this month), I am going to keep rocking the retro-running diary until it loses its potency.  As established last week, 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.

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

10:00 – In the scenes from last week, the creepy chill MTV announcer voice reminds us of “one of the biggest arenas in Challenge” history.  Don’t worry creepy chill MTV announcer voice, we won’t forget the epic duel between CJ and Zach anytime soon.

10:01 – The episode begins with the image of a cat licking itself.  No, for real.

10:01 – Team San Diego does a group workout session and then plays a little game of “say something positive, say something negative” (still in the R & D phase at Milton Bradley).  Sam’s negative comment to Ashley is that she is “way too positive.”  Zach doesn’t like how he and Frank have old animosity toward one another.  In a solution just shy of miracle status, harmony has returned to the San Diego shores (cue creepy chill MTV announcer voice: “For now…”)

10:02 – It’s time for the challenge clue delivery from some new product placed c-list company’s mobile device!  This time, the Battle of the Seasons contestants pretend to be sleeping at a slumber party when Frank brings the electronic correspondence delivered news.  The clue is always some low quality pun about having to wear bathing suits while “getting to know” your teammates, but the clue delivery scene appears to be contrived by production (I will have to check with Derrick about this) and has become more silly as the years go by.  Can someone give me some Intel on this?

10:02 – TJ, rocking the hatless look two weeks in a row (his wife must have been involved somehow), tells us that today’s challenge is called “Abandon Ship,” named after what KellyAnne and Johanna did pre-filming when they found out ex-boyfriend Wes was going to be on Battle of the Seasons. (Did you every wonder why Lacey represented Team Austin?  Or why was Fresh Meat such a strange late addition to the premiere?  Wes is apparently kryptonite to his past lovers.  It’s too bad because Real World: Sydney’s Isaac would have been an interesting addition to a house with Frank already in it.)

10:04 – Team Las Vegas is represented by “water people” and Alton thinks it is therefore going to be a “fun, lean challenge” for them.  How ironic this is.

10:04 – Sarah, thankfully, reminds us that JD trains dolphins, so the required 25 foot dive for a player from each team to retrieve buoys (less horrifying 15, 10, and 5 foot dives as well) is a point of confidence for Brooklyn.  Sarah, you had me at “JD trains dolphins.”

10:04 – Let’s just say that TJ’s hair (thank you Turkish wind gusts) is pretty close to awesome.

10:05 – Twenty-five foot dives begin!  In succession, Derek, Dustin, JD, and Sam rock this (Honestly, I am quite impressed).  Poor Robb struggles and struggles and struggles.  He’s “actually kind of panicking.”

10:06 – Fear not Robb!  You have a panic partner!  Enter, Trishelle!

10:06 – Teams San Diego, Cancun (Jonna and Derek by their lonesome), and Brooklyn (way to dominate the five foot dive, Devyn!) finish the four dives and are onto the boat race phase of the Challenge.  Robb and Trishelle are still panicking and their teammates are none too pleased.  In Robb and Trishelle’s defense, under water pressure can be hard.  It is time to go to commercial.

10:07 – Jersey Shore is down to its final four episodes ever.  Even though I hopped out of the tanning bed several seasons ago, but with this realization and some Hurricane Sandy relief initiatives, is it wrong to admit that I am feeling a bit nostalgic?

10:11 – Back in the water, Trishelle’s outright panic leads Alton to take matters into his own hands and he dives for the ten foot buoy, accruing a five minute time penalty in the process.  Dustin is not pleased with Trishelle.

10:12 – Meanwhile, in St. Thomas land, Marie impressively beasts the 25 and 10 foot buoys.  Marie may talk a big game, but she is seriously walking the walk.

10:13 – The juxtaposition of San Diego’s sea of tranquility in a commanding lead and Las Vegas’ already penalty ridden team implosion directed at resident delinquent Trishelle is further proof of just how quick of a sea change can occur in The Challenge.  If team unity and consistent togetherness amount to anything, Team Brooklyn and the remaining Team Cancun deserve to ultimately win.

10:14 – San Diego wins the race and celebrates their first place finish with a cuddle fest in the raft.  Simultaneously, Marie and Robb have difficult relationship talks while learning their paddling technique.  Rough.

10:15 – Team Vegas finishes the race in fourth place, but Alton and Dustin are not through with Trishelle and have a discussion about her womanhood.  Alton tells Dustin to “get enlightened.”  The team interview and contentious back and forth between Dustin and Trishelle is an exercise in disharmony and futility.  Things are not going to end well for these two.

10:16 – A demoralized Robb and Marie reach shore, arena bound.  In the interview, Robb declares that he “can’t dive down 25 feet” because “he smokes too many cigarettes.”  (Yes, Robb!  An opportunity to quit!)  Marie’s silent, icey frown says it all.

10:18 – Alton tries to act as team mediator and facilitates apologies between Dustin and Trishelle.  The conversation goes nowhere as they continue to butt heads.  As Dustin says, “Not everything is rainbows and butterflies.”  There is a dispute about whether Trishelle is going in.  One thing that the Bunim/Murray brain trust always excel at is foreshadowing within an episode.  Let’s hope I am mistaken.

10:23 – TJ lets San Diego know that they “killed it” in the challenge.  Right back at you, Sir Lavin.

10:23 – Zach represents San Diego’s arena participation decision and says an under the radar, crafty, and humorous comment.  He preambles the inevitable Team Las Vegas choice with the information that San Diego really wanted to go in, but that “Frank needed a rest” from the arena.  Well played, Zach.  Well played.

10:24 – It’s a night of alcohol consumption and the excrement is about to hit the motorized, circular cooling machine.

10:24 – Derek (particularly and uncharacteristically rowdy tonight) and Nany have a dispute about how close they are as friends.  Oh boy.  This is not going to go well.

10:25 – Frank somehow takes offense at nothing (we have seen some of this before, Monsieur Sweeney) and goes off at Nany.  Nany, not one for restraint while intoxicated, matches Frank’s ante raise.

10:25 – Marie invites herself to the party because she doesn’t care about Derek, but she cares about Nany (one thing Marie will have is the back of one of her girlfriends, Swifty learned this quite often when he messed with LaToya in St. Thomas).  Robb tries to keep her back, but “two people are getting in [Nany’s] face right now!”  In the cleaned up (and she did it nicely) interview, Marie: “Right now, in the way that everyone’s ganging up on Nany, I don’t really care about our alliance.  I care about defending my friend who needs my help right now.”  You go, girl.  Zach is entertained, full well knowing that “step in to keep Frank from attacking multiple people time” will be soon be his responsibility.

10:26 – Derek and Nany continue their battle royale about the quality of their friendship (does it really matter?).  Credit to the peacekeeping team of Chet, Robb, Sam, Marie, and Trishelle.  Interesting side note: Where are Devyn, Alton, and Sarah during all of this?  If the answer is asleep, I want some of that REM cycle in my nightly routine.

10:26 – Somehow, the camera man misses Derek pushing Robb (as he attempts to restrain Derek) over some patio furniture.  This is a clutch miss, camera man, and our loss.

10:26 – Marie does not miss this incident and is “not going to sit here and let [Derek} push [her] man” so she decides to body slam Derek who dominos into Sam who falls into a pile of plant pots.  Chet goes to check on Sam and determines that Frank should “get your girl” out of the pots (a classic and underrated moment of Chet brilliance).  Thank goodness for the commercial to sort this all out.

10:31 – We’re back.  Chet does a play-by-play of the individual battles. (I give him credit for keeping up with all the iterations.  Also, is he, as a member of Team Brooklyn, on babysitting duty shift and is this an official job?  What happens on the night’s when JD is on call?  Do they have paramedics on hand?)  He appropriately ends his recap with the wise question of “where the hell am I?”

10:31 – Sam is actually hurt and wants to share her thoughts with Marie whose Derek body slam inadvertently knocked Sam over into a patch of plant pots.  Marie is as pugnacious as ever.  It takes the full force of the seven foot tall Robb and Frank (now calm) to hold her back from “killing” Sam.  Frank’s take (it takes one to know one): “I absolutely love Marie.  I see a lot of myself in Marie, but Marie is an idiot sometimes.”  Frank lets Marie know that poor Sam “has nothing to do” with any of this.

10:32 – There is an amazing JD sighting as Frank and Nany decide to meet down at the cabana for a chat.  JD, beer in hand, unassumingly walks by like nothing is going on.  Oh, how I yearn for the carefree existence of a dolphin trainer.

10:32 – The cabana chat lasts for a hot three-seconds before blowing up.  Mediator Trishelle is helplessly left alone.  Frank decides to berate low and makes some comment about Nany’s sister injecting heroin too much.  Nany, holding four beer cans (check, I am not making this up), will not stand for a family member’s inclusion in Frank’s verbal tomfoolery.  Fight escalation, GO!

10:33 – Dustin comes to Nany’s defense and Frank hits back with some gay porn past insults.  Trishelle, wisdom fueled: “Oh my god, yes, Dustin did gay porn.  Like get over it.”  The fight continues.  Cut to Devyn (she apparently woke up) who is understandably unsure about exactly what is going on.

10:34 – Frank, like a Roman gladiator from the a balcony above the pool (Dustin and Nany are down below): “I.  Will.  Bury.  You.  Both.”  Dustin and Nany egg him on.  All Frank “sees right now is red and it’s blood” and comes down to attack.  Alton (his Spidey sense for soulmate Dustin being in trouble is a working power) tries to peace make.  Dustin snaps, (“Hey Catholic school boy, you want to get straight, bitch?  Come and get some.”), whacks Alton in the face (not on purpose and slightly comedic, watching back) and then push/shoves Frank’s head (the memorable moment from last week’s preview).  Stuff is going down and we still have 36 minutes left.

10:35 – A commercial promotion for next week’s Teen Mom 2 about Janelle forgiving her mom for not bailing her out of jail while her baby son cries in the background somehow calms me down.

10:37 – I have never desired a longer commercial break.  Back in the action, there is an actual fight and the cooler heads of Robb, Zach, Alton, Trishelle, Chet, and even Nany prevail.  Zach pleads with Frank to step back using first the tactic of repeating the phrase “the team” and then forces Frank to “go through” him.  Zach, this one scene may be a serious rankings boost and Frank and Zach, I am beginning to believe in the possibilities of your friendship.  Frank decides to “wash his hands clean” of the “dirty scum that got under his fingernails” that is the “entire fucking Vegas team.”

10:37 – Meanwhile, in another fantastic male friendship manifestation, Alton lets Dustin know that he took it too far.  Alton about Frank: “He’s a little pig and you chose to get in to the dirt with him…and clean him up, in the mud?”  Well, done Alton 2.0.  Alton and Dustin then have a conversation about which of a peacock and a flamingo is a more apt description for Nany.  Yes, this happened.

10:38 – Alton admits in his interview that “after babysitting these kids” he has had “one of the worst times in paradise, ever.”  Are you a paradise frequenter, Alton?  If so, how do I get on that train?

10:39 – Back to the game game (and a sunny, morning after the storm at that), Trishelle wants Dustin to go in with her because she fears that Alton is still on his “I want to go home” kick.  The conversation does not go well and creates a line between Trishelle and the boys.  Not for nothing, but I feel like Nany is often the victim in the these circumstances.

10:41 – Albeit less than accurate, Trishelle has this line of the night about Alton and Dustin: “The only thing consistent about those two is that they are consistently crazy.”  Nany knows that Trishelle is sometimes not a team player and looks at her, wondering if she is going to step up or not.

10:42 – Arena time!  Marie steps down to the stage for Team St. Thomas.  TJ says she is “looking as mean as ever.”  Marie, loses her game face, and cracks a killer smile.  These TJ moments of greatness are what sets him apart from all the other competition show hosts.  TJ Lavin, I salute you.

10:42 – The commercial cliffhanger surrounds Trishelle’s “will she or won’t she” decision to volunteer herself to go in.  In her interview, she says she is going to leave it up to San Diego because she fears having to compete with Alton and the potential that he will throw the challenge.  Things are not looking good for Team Vegas.

10:43 – The only thing I love more than Ricky Rubio on the basketball court (please get well soon, senôr) is this Ricky Rubio commercial.  Foot Locker’s ad agency deserves some kind of award.

10:45 – And, Nany volunteers herself to go in!  Nooooooooooo (the reaction that Dustin and I share)!  Dustin is justifiably furious because Trishelle deserved to go in and he doesn’t want to see his little Vegas sister Nany potentially go home (let alone have to toil alone with Trishelle back at the base camp).  All he can do now is stare at Trishelle in disgust.

10:45 – Robb is feeling “really, really confident” because “truth be told” the last time he lost something was his “virginity.”  You have to love Robb.

10:46 – Such props to Nany on this one.  She volunteered herself in because she was not going to stand idle and let San Diego make a decision on the fate of her team.  Poor Dustin (I would be the same way, brother on this one) cannot get over the fact that what was supposed to happen (Trishelle going in) did not.  He and Trishelle have a little verbal fight (she says she will never speak to him again).  My take: I think Trishelle feels bad about this, but is unwilling to admit it.  I think Dustin does not provide the safest forum for this to happen, so the cycle of iffy communication continues.

10:48 – Round 1 (2 out of 3) of the Balls Out Endurance game goes 14-11 in favor of Robb and Marie.  They came to play!  Nany questions Alton’s full investment in winning (not an unreasonable thought about the former Challenge legend’s motivation in Turkey).  Dustin, too, is not “seeing that hustle spirit” and he does not “want to be left here with Trishelle.”

10:49 – Round 2 goes 13-12 to Alton and Nany.  This has turned out to be a second straight, down to the wire arena.  Advantage this season of The Challenge.  Marie and Robb are not shaken at all and unified anew.

10:50 – Marie: “If I can take out two of the strongest competitors that means that I am one of the strongest competitors.”  No argument, there.

10:55 – Zach lets Robb and Marie know that they “freakin’ did it!” by beating Alton and Nany 13-12 in the final round.  Credit to Marie and Robb for their perseverance in this arena and throughout this game (especially in their ability to reunify so quickly after the shipwreck that was the “Abandon Ship” challenge).

10:55 – Alton: “I am a little shocked.  For me, losing is a new experience.”  Yes, it is, old friend.  Although your total reputation may have taken a hit, I hope that in a few years the glory that was Alton 1.0 will be your enduring legacy.

10:56 – Dustin is visibly and understandably shaken.  He is losing Alton, a brother and very close friend, and Nany, his little sister, support, and best chance he had at winning the whole thing.  They are both concerned about how Dustin will manage being alone with Trishelle.  Nany: “Don’t kill her.  You guys gotta make it to the finals.”  Alton: “Forgive her bro.”  Dustin: “Never.”

10:57 – Nany: “If I have proved anything to anyone, I proved to myself that I am a good competitor, and I deserved to be here this entire time.”  Speak the truth, Nany.  If anyone has risen up in the actual and metaphoric Challenge power rankings, it is Nany.  She overcame beaucoup de drama (internal and external) and managed to go out with the utmost dignity and as an honorable fighter.  When (not if) she returns in the future, I would want her on my team.

10:57 – Alton: “I met a brother.  Dustin, we are going to be friends forever dude.”  I applaud this seemingly, beautiful friendship.

10:57 – Frank, in a bout of uncontrollable irony, is “so so so so” excited that Nany and Alton are going home so that he can finally “live in peace now” in a drama free house.

10:58 – Dustin will not let this Trishelle thing go, asking her to “live,” “remember this forever,” and “have nightmares.”  TJ: “I thought I’ve seen some uncomfortable teams in my life, but Dustin and Trishelle, that’s a pretty uncomfortable team.”  Preach, TJ.  Preach.

10:58 – Dustin is in a cloud of despair and wants to go home.  Chet and Sarah try to step in and help the situation, facilitating a conversation between Dustin and Trishelle.  JD does nothing.

10:59 – Fade to black on the potential of Dustin quitting…after last week’s arena battle between Zach and CJ, I expected this week to have a fair degree of momentum lowering, but instead, the stakes have been raised yet again.  The Challenge is bringing it this fall and I cannot wait for next Wednesday night.

Five teams are left (three now have two players) and one (Las Vegas) is in complete shambles.  At this point, especially with a resurgent St. Thomas in the arena, it is anyone’s game…let’s shakeout a particularly movement heavy 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 (2) Chet (Team Brooklyn) – After a long wait, Chet has stuck around long enough near the top to finally have earned his first place ranking (his consistency has to be applauded).  A stalwart rowing performance and humor laden peacekeeping showing provided the final push.  Congrats.

2 (3) Zach (Team San Diego) – Zach had a great episode, excelling as Frank’s bodyguard, as a player in  “still in need of development” games, as the arena selection decision master, and as Team St. Thomas’ biggest fan.

3 (1) Dustin (Team Las Vegas) – Dustin spent much of the episode (much of it justified), falling apart.  The loss of Nany, Alton, and a trust in Trishelle were individually crushing, but all put together, devastating.  I have a feeling Mr. Zito will be able to recover next week.

4 (7) Frank (Team San Diego) – Frank did erroneously provoke several altercations, but he also walked away when Zach stepped in.  His Team San Diego “Abandon Ship” domination also amounts for a strong rise this week.

5 (5) Robb (Team St. Thomas) – I was torn on Robb this week.  On one hand, his challenge performance was a challenge in itself, but his arena win was (over Alton and Nany!) very impressive.  Ultimately, no movement in the rankings was justified.

6 (6) JD (Team Brooklyn) – JD’s 25 foot dive was the beginning move in a very respectable second place finish in “Abandon Ship” for Team Brooklyn.  His uninvolved, metaphorical wallpapering at house fights did not allow any ranking rise this time.

7 (8) Derek (Team Cancun) – Yes, Derek and Jonna were commendable in the challenge, but his role in the night’s extracurricular festivities was unnecessary.  He should know better.

ELIMINATED: Alton (Team Las Vegas) – Alton, admittedly, had a difficult time on this challenge (most likely his last).  Like twilight comebacks of other legendary athletes (Jordan on the Wizards, as mentioned in this space before), I hope we forget these ending impressions and remember all the previous good times.  Alton, thank you for going out like a pro.  Your final image on this challenge was one of the warrior you have always been.  May your next paradise trip be a better one.


1 (1) Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – An under the radar week for this close to dethrone-proof leader of women is only a good thing at this stage.  Her ability to stay out of the nighttime house rumble (Sarah – Please tell me how you were able to do it) may be her most incredible feat yet (Really, were you sleeping and if so, how do you do it?  Amazing).

2 (4) Marie (Team St. Thomas) – If someone had told me this summer that I was going to write a weekly The Challenge power rankings column and that in week 10 I would have no trouble placing Marie second on the women’s rankings, the struggle to believe them would have been real.  Marie – you have earned this placement (awesome work all around this week, unintentional Sam/plant meet-up notwithstanding) and have had to overcome so much to get here.  Seriously fantastic work.

3 (6) Ashley (Team San Diego) – Ashley again excels at being a genuine and kind person (and is even criticized for being too nice) and is a beast at challenges.  Her always patient presence with her teammates (and especially with pseudo cuddle buddy CJ gone) is an asset to San Diego’s success.

4 (5) Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – A low key week for Devyn (it was inevitable after last week’s real hair reveal), but her athletic showings seem to be getting better and better.  Bare in mind, Devyn came in to The Challenge a clothing shopper aficionado out of the mall when it came to being a worthy competitor.  She has come a long way.

5 (8) Jonna (Team Cancun) – Jonna is back in the mix (her “Abandon Ship” twosome appearance killed it), but now she needs to find a way to keep Derek away from late night drama (a tall order if the preview for next week is any indication).

6 (7) Sam (Team San Diego) – Poor Sam.  Marie pushed Derek into her and she fell on some plant pots.  Often the recipient of the wrath of teammates, this was an unexpected low.

7 (3) Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Trishelle had a very difficult week (tough diving experience in the challenge, didn’t step up in the arena, the disintegration of her team) and it is largely because of her decisions.  It is in her best interest to come clean, take some responsibility (Dustin may be more stubborn than than she is) and recognize that her partner is one of the best male competitors in the game and the road to winning $250,000.

ELIMINATED: Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Nany is really the victim in the Team Vegas implosion and could not have come out on the other side looking better than she does.  With so many rookies on this challenge, it was a question as to who was going to separate themselves from the masses and Nany may have one of the most successful at doing so. (On an unrelated note, do you remember when Preston was in this game, because I momentarily forgot?)


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

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

Can they win as foursome? They keep humming along as a foursome (even utilizing the talents of JD – this week deep sea diving and last week eating random things).  While other teams have faced internal turmoil, Brooklyn has remained unified and strong.  At this point in the game, it makes sense that they are ranked first.

What pairings can win?  The same is true as last week: 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.  Additionally, Sarah and Chet have many ways of working together (this week rowing the boat and facilitating a conversation between Dustin and Trishelle to name a few) and this is only to their advantage if they make the finals.

2 (3) TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 3.5, last week: 4.5

Robb (5), Marie (2), Eliminated: Laura, Trey

Can they win as a pair?  Yes.  Their arena showing (especially following such a demoralizing challenge) is very impressive.  Marie and Robb are fighters and I think it helps that in this twosome, Marie’s stronger personality is given room to lead, whereas Robb’s reliable and protective tendencies will help keep Marie out of trouble.  The previewed fight with Derek will be a barometer of just how resilient these two really are.

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

Zach (2), Sam (7), Ashley (3), Frank (4)

Can they win as foursome? I think we can move last week’s “who knows” answer to this question to “sometimes” or “it depends on the week.”  If San Diego can continue to have good weeks (at this point we know bad weeks will happen, but they may be able to hang on long enough to avoid them), they are going to be tough to beat in a final (Frank and Zach are just so uber-competitive and Ashley is a very strong women).

What pairings can win?  Last week I wrote: 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).  This all remains true, but if San Diego can keep their foursome intact, this won’t even be an issue.

4 (1) TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 5, last week: 2.5

Dustin (3), Trishelle (7), Eliminated: Nany, Alton

Can they win as a pair? Yes, I think so (despite the real relationship sever that occurred between these two this week).  Both are super competitive (different manifestations), stubborn, prideful, and want to win the money.  I think they can put their Humpty Dumpty of a team back together again in time to be a player in the finals.

5 (5) TEAM CANCUN Average: 6, last week: 8

Jonna (5), Derek (7), Eliminated: CJ, Jasmine

Can they win as a pair? Athletically, yes.  Mentally, I am not sure.  I have not liked what I have seen from Derek these past few weeks.  He seems to be falling apart at the seems.  I am not sure if they have a captain or have the right balance to steer this ship, although I wouldn’t count out Jonna just yet…

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

  • Dustin and Trishelle are still around (I got you MTV editors, you tried to conceal them in the shot, but they are there.)
  • Zach and Marie find the bus to be a great time to erupt at one another
  • and Robb finally seems to want to confront Derek about this week’s pushing incident by tearing off his shirt and screaming at him.

We are approaching the home stretch!  There are only a few episodes remaining (sadly), so do not miss a moment.  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 11 power rankings will be available sometime after December 6.



We are now somewhere close to the halfway point of this (the 23rd!) season of MTV’s The Challenge.  Last week’s unnecessary hiatus for Halloween programming (you are telling me that the prospect of a Frank meltdown is not ghoulish enough for viewers?) gave me some time for a reflection on a television show/fifth professional sport that’s first airing dates back to the middle of President Clinton’s second term.  For any television show to last 23 seasons and 14 years is an accomplishment in itself, but this season’s influx of new blood and talent accentuates a main reason for the (and dare I say continuing) success of the franchise.  The Challenge has always been in a malleable state that continues to strive for reinvention, reinvigoration, reformatting, and rethinking.  Bunim-Murray producer land has always been driven to make each new show more interesting and more compelling than the one previous.  This approach is not always successful and there have been some off seasons, but this sprint away from complacency is one of the primary root causes of its longevity.

Although Battle of the Seasons has some worthy game format tweaks and competition adaptations, the (frankly) “out on a limb” new personnel influx this season has been the most daring of moves.  Since season 12’s Fresh Meat introduction of Kenny and Evan (and the JEK dynasty establishment), the last 11 seasons of The Challenge have featured at least (and at its best, all of them) one of the Johnny, Evan, Kenny trio.  In these Challenge glory years, cast members like Derrick (ultimatechallengeradio.com and podcast guru), CT (a real softy in his later years), Laurel (the Amazonian dominator and perhaps the best female physical competitor we have seen), Ev (unquestioned heart and drive), Paula (a master class in personal perseverance), Diem (ditto), Brad (who met his wife Tori on The Challenge), and Jenn (with two “Ns”) have fostered a culture of continued viewing pleasure and Challenge excellence.  They are all off this year (and even one of the few real Challenge vets from this era on BotS, Wes, was sent home in week 1).  Whether we liked it or not (and I was going in as undecided as Devyn choosing a new pair of stilettos), Challenge rookies or relative newcomers were going to have a major effect on this season.

This week’s “I Do Not Like You Sam, I Am” episode did three major things: 1) It introduced a challenge that has final challenge elements (and gives players a preview of who you want to run up the metaphoric mountain with); 2) It showcased how important the concept and application of “team” is at the end of this game; and 3) It gave newcomers Frank and Zach the opportunity to make lasting Challenge memories (for all the wrong reasons).  These weekly power rankings have (after accruing the formatting intel in the premiere episode) acknowledged that although individuals are essential to success, teams are only as strong as their unity, collaboration, and how well they manage the weaker player weaknesses.

This chronological breakdown of the Logged Out challenge tells the first part of the story:


Logged Out began with this warning from TJ: “If you can’t get through today’s challenge, you ain’t ever gonna make it through my final, I promise you that.”  Beyond TJ completely “killing it” by calling it “my final” (a right he has earned at this point in his long, storied [and now – congratulations – married] Challenge tenure), producers finally realized that endurance tests (where teams have to stick together the whole time) that preview the actual final challenge are worthwhile.  This was a worthy representation on paper and in actuality: competitors were asked to run (there was a great deal of walking, summer Turkey heat and humidity will do that) through three checkpoints up a 1.5 mile mountain trail.  The first checkpoint was a nine part puzzle map featuring images with interesting numerical configurations of dots and lines, the second checkpoint asked teams to pickup heavy logs featuring these images (you could only carry one at time, so major disadvantage to the two person teams of New Orleans and St. Thomas who had to make 4-5 trips up and down), and a final leg to the top of the mountain ridge where you assemble the puzzle out of the correct nine logs (there were more extraneous ones at the second checkpoint, confusing multiple teams).

The pre-challenge interview of Team Brooklyn featured this exchange:

Sarah: “I guess I have a reputation for being good at puzzles.  I don’t know how I got it…”

Chet (interrupting her): “Because you brag about it…

Sarah: ‘Well, whatever…so ah, yeah, I am hoping I can help my team out with this one and that memory is what wins it.”

Meanwhile, during this interplay, Devyn was doing her hair and JD was smiling with one of those “I can’t wait to get back to my dolphins” looks.  For what it’s worth and for their arena-dwelling existence, Team Brooklyn is a fun team to watch.

TJ’s horn marks the start of the challenge.  Each team sprints to the first checkpoint (unaware that saving endurance is going to be important).  Puzzle image memory strategy takes on many different forms.  Frank decides to learn his row and then all of Sam and Zach’s assignments as well in fear that they won’t be able to handle it intellectually.  Dustin uses hand signals and gang signs (this actually happened).

The gameplay next takes us to the second checkpoint where most teams have gathered some logs (some teams without consideration that there are some that are not going to be used) and head up to the top.  Meanwhile, Team Brooklyn puts Sarah’s aforementioned puzzle mastery to work.  Sarah: “I look around.  I don’t think the other teams have figured out you kind of safe yourself a step if you assemble the puzzle right where the logs are.  I am not gonna tell them.  Go ahead.  Run up the hill.  Try and figure it out a mile up there, but you’re not gonna win that way.”  YES, SHE CAN! Unfortunately, nor are you going to win if Devyn gasses out.  Sarah’s on point encouragement: “Prove to everybody that you are more than high heels.”  Devyn’s response: “I’m not.”  You have to love Devyn.  I mentioned last week that she and Chet give the best sound bites.  Her personal best may be here: “I am not made for this.  This was not made for black people.  When was the last time you saw a black lumber jack?  Go ahead, I’ll wait.”

Focus shifts (as it will for most of the rest of the episode) to Team San Diego, where Sam’s cardiovascular struggles cause a team upheaval.  Frank begins by asking Sam, “You’re going home if you don’t finish this, you know that right?”  Then Zach, flexing his unique ability to raise his voice in less than a quarter of a second, speaks then yells back, “Sam, quit throwing a temper tantrum, and (100 decibels louder) WALK UP THE DAMN HILL!”  Frank (“Stop being so fucking selfish”) and Zach (“SAM!!!! – you are ruining it for all three of us.  We are your family.  Let’s go!”) take turns berating their San Diego housemate.  Poor Sam takes the “no, you’re not going to degrade me just because we’re in a fucking challenge” approach without knowing that Frank degrades her both in or out of the challenge.  As is becoming a growing trend, Devyn has the best take: “Frank and Zach – I don’t know what motivational speaking classes they went to, but they need to get their money back.”  Preach, Devyn.  Preach.

We all take a much needed break from some uncomfortable stuff (I haven’t squirmed like this since Camila went off on Easy) to show how actual teams operate.  Images flood the screen of the other teams working together to overcome adversity.  Jonna takes Jasmine’s hand, willing her to continue.  Sarah heroically (and putting money where her mouth is) takes a final log up her final leg (“No thanks, JD.  I got this.”).  Both pairs of Robb and Marie and Jemmye and Knight support one another through their doubly difficult challenge assignment; Jemmye at one point tells Knight to “look at the view” wanting “anything to inspire [him].”  This sharply contrasts images of a desperate Sam asking Zach, “please don’t raise your voice,” and Zach replying with “can you just like, step up?”

Sarah’s initial strategy is a success and leads Team Brooklyn (despite some real adversity – Devyn is not much of a runner in Turkish heat, but, really, who is?) to their first victory and power team experience. (Of note: JD looks like he is going to completely fall apart, he is so happy to win).  Chet declares, “Brooklyn finally wins a challenge, and arguably this was the toughest challenge, so I am really impressed with my team” and “Chock one up for the misfits.”  This ragtag bunch has been through it all so far in this game and continues to prove why working as a unified group (led instrumentally by Sarah’s leadership and excellence, Chet’s inner strength and humor, Devyn’s awesome attitude, and JD’s amiable, but malleable existence) can overcome other deficiencies.

Other teams dig deep to finish the challenge.  Jasmine is completely wasted to the point where she is worried about staying alive.  Derek (in his best challenge moment so far, a deserved power rankings bump  will follow below) decides to pick up Jasmine on his back to get to the top of the mountain to have his team complete the puzzle and finish in second.  He reasons correctly, “We started this as a team, and we are going to finish this challenge as a team.”  Team Las Vegas, who despite some early stumbles, were consistent throughout this event and came through with a strong third place finish.  According to Trishelle, fighting back an uncomfortable laugh observing the embarrassment that is Team San Diego, “[Team Vegas] didn’t just win, but, this is just sweet, sweet revenge.”  It is more of the same for San Diego, including a Frank and Sam physical and verbal escalation that was just not a good look.  Ashley states the obvious, “We can’t communicate at all.  There is just a bunch of yelling.”  San Diego does finally finish in fourth (the four person teams had a huge advantage over St. Thomas and New Orleans), but the damage has been done.

Producers seem to convey that St. Thomas and New Orleans are neck and neck for bottom-arena feeder.  There is then this great moment where Robb (with 2 “Bs”), proving himself worthy after helping Marie through this one, alerts TJ he thinks he has finished.  TJ, in only the way the beloved host (and so much more than that) can, says, “I am sorry man,” followed by a pause the length of an NFL replay challenge, and then finally, “but you guys are good.” First Robb has a gut (and well-intentioned) response of “you bitch” and then settles down to consider Logged Out “one of the proudest accomplishments of [his] life.”

Team New Orleans is arena bound (they admirably gave it their all) and TJ has this, one more awesome set of words of wisdom: “You know, when you are under pressure, how you treat each other. It matters.  San Diego?  You need to work a little bit on that.”

Team San Diego Blows Up – Part II, setting up the Frank versus Zach battle reawakening

There is so much that took place after the Logged Out challenge with Team San Diego that keeping up is like spending a day in Tonya Cooley or Anne Heche’s brain: a little confusing and a little scary.  Here is what happens as far as I can tell:

  • First, Frank and Ashley are going in to the arena because they had pre-agreed to do the mental game (Team Brooklyn’s smart call).
  • Zach intimates that he thinks that Frank wants Zach and Sam gone after blaming Zach for not motivating Sam better during Logged Out.  What?  In Zach’s mind, Frank and Zach made a deal but knows that, “when you are dealing with a kniving psychopath, you never know what they are going to do.”
  • Frank is overwhelmed and goes and cries.
  • The next day, Sam volunteers herself for the arena because she did so poorly in Logged Out.  Frank, thinking that an arena with Sam is a death knell, doesn’t want to go in now.  Zach wants Frank to “be a man” and keep his word and will not volunteer himself to work with Sam.  “As a man you shook my hand…you’re pathetic.”
  • An in-your-face, close to punch-throwing, physical bro-off ensues.  Ashley can only cover her head and note that “if our team can’t come together, then we will be defeated.”

  • After Sam goes off in an emotional stupor, Frank (this was so perplexing) “tries to be here” for Sam by first offering to help her pack.  Sam: “I already knew you guys really didn’t believe in me, but to have you guys break out into that big of a fight and then go scream at each other.  It’s kind of like, there goes whatever pride I had left.”  Frank’s response: “Both of us are very insecure in this game…Zach and I are in the wrong, and I’m sorry.”  Sam (rightfully) does not take Frank’s new assertion seriously.
  • In the arena, Sam volunteers to go in.  Zach and Frank abstain, forcing Team Brooklyn to choose Zach.
  • During the Water Torture arena battle, something even more unexpected happens.  Zach: “For the first time in our relationship, Sam is leading me through this whole thing.  I can’t quit for myself, but more importantly, I can’t quit for Sam.  She deserves to be in this house more than anyone on my team.”  Sam is directive and on point, leading Zach’s underwater, inverted, and blood rushed self to victory and hereby eliminating Knight and Jemmye (valiant in defeat).  Zach says to Sam, “You are the smartest dumb person I know.”  Healthy, guys.
  • Zach is immediately ready to take revenge on Frank, foreshadowing future entanglements: “The wound in my back that Frank left from the Real World had just healed and he just opened it right back up.”

What does this all mean?  The Frank/Team San Diego implosion that I predicted early on seems to have finally arrived.  Logged Out and the rest of the episode featured teams working together (even Alton seems to have found a way again) and one team completely blowing up from within, exposing all of its weaknesses all at once.  This is a major Challenge development since it appeared that Frank, as recently as last week, was running the show for his no longer majority alliance.  Sam is weak in endurance (and up and down mentally), Ashley is lost in the shuffle, Zach has a weird volume escalation in his voice and a rage for Frank, and Frank is again volatile and unpredictable.  They may have reached the point, as much as Frank knows strategically the benefit of a four person team, that they can no longer function with Frank, Zach, and Sam in the mix.  The Challenge power structure has officially shifted and it seems like it is every team for themselves going forward.

Before we hit the rankings, here are some “must be mentioned” tidbits:

  • The Insane Games: House Edition, hosted and conceived by Team Brooklyn, was a work of genius.  Chet says he was “trying to ease the tension in the house, but at the end of the day, what we are really trying to do is to get the house to like Brooklyn, which has yet to happen.”  Brilliant.  Sarah gets it too: “This is what being in a challenge house is all about.  Let’s put aside all the fighting.  Let’s have fun and share a few laughs in this house for once.”  These moments have been far and few between in the recent, super-athletic challenge seasons, and this was a refreshing (and too short) respite.  Thank you to Team Brooklyn for giving us all a much needed break.
  • The CJ and Ashley relationship was an enjoyable distraction as well.  Although Ashley looks “at him more as a friend and that’s probably about it,” CJ writes her a note to accompany a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  Marie and Jemmye (playing the LaToya role) get a hold of the note before Ashley does and cohort (this was not hard to do) Knight into helping them write her faux response.  Knight knows how wonderful it is “t0 see someone in an awkward position besides [him] for once.”  It playfully backfires on poor Christian: “The problem with writing letters is that you put some stuff on paper for other people to see.”  He may have the purpose and the problem of writing letters a bit mixed up.
  • Finally, after the debacle that The Dark Knight episode was, I am sorry to see Knight and Jemmye go.  They held their own on this challenge as competitors and came out of it with a renewed friendship with each other.  Both grew on me throughout the season, and, as I now am more able to recall, the same thing happened in New Orleans.  They are genuine and fun people who bring a light and warm energy to a space (at least as presented through the TV lens).  As TJ often says, I know we will see you again.

On to the rankings, with some serious movement (San Diego free falls) and some new game check-in analysis about which teams left have a chance to win.


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) – A strong challenge showing (with gang sign utilization) and a week off of the hot seat was only good news for Mr. Zito.

2 (4) Chet (Team Brooklyn) – His Insane Games: Home Edition work goes without saying, but it his Logged Out dominance that moves him up two spots.

3 (2) CJ (Team Cancun) – His few tough challenge moments (Jonna tweeted her slight frustration) and his flower/note prank recipiency dropped him down slightly.

4 (7) Derek (Team Cancun) – As mentioned before, Derek had his best moment on this challenge when he literally put Jasmine on his back.  Lost in this showcase of gallantry was his ability, in the heat, to  even carry Jasmine (albeit, a small woman), up the mountain.

5 (10) Alton (Team Las Vegas) – A week on the sidelines was only a good thing for Alton and hopefully a physical challenge was a good thing for his psyche going forward.

6 (8) Robb (Team St. Thomas) – Robb was a star of Team St. Thomas (and an underrated player throughout the episode), giving Marie a will and way to beat out Team New Orleans.

7 (9) JD (Team Brooklyn) – At this point, JD is so happy to be in this game.  On the plus side, he did everything to help his team and nothing to hurt it.  Also, why didn’t he participate in Insane Games: Home Edition hosting?  What a loss for us all it was.

8 (5) Zach (Team San Diego) – Despite a willful arena showing, Zach has to be low on this list for succumbing to Frank’s tactics and being wholly unhelpful to a teammate during Logged Out.

9 (3) Frank (Team San Diego) – Crazy Frank (and not even drunk this time) finally reared its unfortunate head again.  This is a mental game as much as physical, and unless he can keep the mental in check, it won’t matter what he brings physically (very much a force in endurance).

ELIMINATED: Knight (Team New Orleans) – Last week: 6 of 10 – We will miss you Knight.  Thank you for providing so many moments of levity and for showing us all a new method of cleaning clothes.

Biggest Rise: Alton (Team Las Vegas)

Biggest Fall: Frank (Team San Diego,)


1 (1) Sarah (Team Brooklyn) – Sarah’s spot at number one is the surest thing in The Challenge.  She dominated Logged Out and showed how wonderful a teammate she can be.

2 (2) Nany (Team Las Vegas) – Her team Vegas performance was strong and still is riding some post arena win momentum.

3 (3) Jonna (Team Cancun) – Jonna was her normal, reliable self in the challenge.  It will be interesting to see how she is affected by her beau Zach’s battles with Sam and Frank.

4 (6) Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) – Trishelle is showing her own athletically and must provide Alton with warmth and stability going forward.

5 (7) Marie (Team St. Thomas) – Marie may have struggled through this difficult challenge, but after seven eliminations, she has yet to see an arena and this stands for something.

6 (4) Jasmine (Team Cancun) – Poor Jasmine struggled a wee bit in Logged Out (thus her fall from the top 4).  Was this a one-timer or will endurance be an issue in a final challenge?

7 (9) Devyn (Team Brooklyn) – Although blessed to be with supportive teammates like Chet and Sarah, I have a feeling that Devyn’s apparent personal blossoming that the viewer has been privileged to watch is for real.  Her attitude continues to be a highlight.

8 (8) Ashley (Team San Diego) – Ashley may continue to be this low in the rankings because she has yet to differentiate herself from the field.  She appeared helpless (I really can’t blame her) to help Sam when Frank and Zach were drawing blood.

9 (10) Sam (Team San Diego) – Sam : “I am not gym rats like my teammates.  I am not runners and sprinters like my teammates are.”  She was incredible in the arena, but cannot overcome her challenge performance.

ELIMINATED: Jemmye (Team New Orleans) – Last week 5 of 10 – Jemmye, it has been a pleasure.  I truly believe you could have competed with the best of them in the finals and the notion of this when the season began could not have been further from my view.

Biggest Rise: Trishelle (Team Las Vegas), Marie (Team St. Thomas), Devyn (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: Jasmine (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 (2) TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 3, last week: 4.75 (2)

Alton (5), Dustin (1), Trishelle (4), Nany (2)

Can they win as a foursome? Yes, as displayed in Logged Out, this is the strongest, top to bottom foursome in The Challenge.  If the trend in last week’s episode has any afterlife, Alton could be a liability, but for now, he is back in the fold.  Both Nany and Trishelle have fight in them and are here to win money.  There are no two stronger female pairs in this game.  It is to their advantage to remain as four.

What pairings can win?  I think Dustin can win with either Nany (more likely) or Trishelle.  I think Alton remains questionable, but certainly has the physical pedigree to win with either partner.

2 (1) TEAM CANCUN Average: 4, last week: 4 (1)

CJ (3), Jonna (3), Jasmine (6), Derek (4)

Can they win as a foursome? Their unwavering unity is endearing and has been an asset, but if Jasmine’s physical endurance issues creep up in the finals (too many cigarettes?), she is a major liability against Vegas or a Sarah/Chet pairing from Team Brooklyn.  CJ and Jonna may need to start to consider the benefit of going into a final alone.  Derek definitely proved himself worthy of the finals in Logged Out.

What pairings can win? Jonna and CJ is a top 3 pairing.  Jonna and Derek is top 7 pairing.

3 (4) TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 5.25, last week: 5.75 (4)

Sarah (1), Chet (2), JD (7), Devyn (7)

Can they win as foursome? Unlikely.  Devyn is so much fun (even more so minus Big Easy), but her lack of athletic anything in the past is not going to work in a long, endurance event.  If winning The Challenge was all about teamwork, they are your strongest team, but I am not sure that Chet and Sarah could carry Devyn’s weaknesses over a Vegas or a Cancun.  You root for them to stay together because thus far they do it the right way, but at some point, Sarah and Chet may benefit from breaking free.  JD continues to be an enigma.

What pairings can win?  Sarah and Chet can 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.

4 (6) TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 5.5, last week: 7.5 (6)

Robb (6), Marie (5), Eliminated: Laura, Trey

Can they win as a pair?  Maybe.  They may both have the Jasmine “too many cigarettes problem” (CT’s addiction was his downfall in Iceland last year), but I was very impressed with their drive and fight this week.  Bare in mind, this is still when Robb and Marie were romantically involved and Robb seems to do everything in his power to make Marie happy.  Winning $250,000 could be under this auspice.

5 (5) TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 8.5, last week: 6.5 (5)

Zach (8), Sam (9), Ashley (8), Frank (9)

Can they win as a foursome? No.  I do not believe they can win anything with Zach, Frank, and Sam all in the mix.  Sam’s amazing arena performance notwithstanding, she struggled with endurance in Logged Out and Frank and Zach struggled with kindness.  The two fallacies will not go together.  In order for San Diego to be back in the mix, Sam may need to go home (along with either guy).

What pairings can win?  Both guys can compete with Ashley against the other strong teams (Vegas, Sarah/Chet, CJ/Jonna).  The question remains, will their implosion this episode allow them to even get there?

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

  • TJ presents the competitors with cow intestines to eat.  Trishelle is not pleased.
  • Frank tells Zach that they are not meant to be friends.
  • Frank (in a crazy rant) tells Zach that he “is not going to be made to look like a fucking crazy person.”

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 weekly on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com.  The Week 9 power rankings will be available sometime on or after November 15.