Tag Archives: Johnny Bananas

RIVALS 2 – Episode 2 – The Confessioner’s Rules

In last week’s weekly power rankings, I introduced the decidedly half-baked (some of my friends questioned the name, but I stand by it!) idea of “The Confessioner.”  Explored more in depth in my week 1 power rankings opus, “The Confessioner” would be a neutral figure that competitors could meet with (both through appointment and through an office hours like system) to seek out strategy tips, relationship advice, workout regimens, group activity ideas to fight against boredom, and conflict resolution for alcohol infused and infested extracurricular nighttime activities.  The Challenge house is one step closer to Arkham Asylum than to the Fortress of Solitude (cross DC Comics metaphors are allowed), so the addition of a such an invaluable resource could be of great sustenance to many a participant.

Coming off of tonight’s wildly entertaining (although devoid of a Johnny Bananas twitter teased and probable father disowned unnamed act) second episode of The Challenge: Rivals 2 season, here are 16 rules (with no discernible method to the order) from the hypothetical Confessioner:

Rule #1 – Before an elimination round in the Jungle, eat more than watermelon and cigarettes.

We all know it can be terribly hot and humid in Thailand and a healthy dose of rookie nerves in your first elimination (or for Tyrie, it appears to be in all six of his) is to be expected, but Anastasia’s nausea delay pre-elimination and full-blown nausea attack post-elimination (Jessica’s solo mission on the “you’ve been eliminated, so TJ is going to make a final speech” podium was a significant moment in her “we’ve only just begun” The Challenge career.  Much respect was gained.) may have had a little too much to do with her final meal (or rather lack there of).  In an episode of more than a few “not a good look” moments for this real Portland Bird, the Jungle debacle may have been the worst look of all.  The Anastasia flight’s crash landing was oddly reminiscent of another one-time CT side project (up on the roof?) from The Challenge “hot mess moment of infamy” Mount Rushmore: Shauvon, whose bubble burst (literally) several seasons ago.  Tough.

Rule #2 – Don’t quit a challenge or you may face severe repercussions.

Wes and Preston, for reasons that the edit did not explore to the depth that this viewer would have liked, decided that they would quit the challenge, thinking that they had nothing to lose (Wes was under no circumstances going to thrust his saw with CT.  Preston sawed his way to the second round with Knight, but wasn’t about to have some mutual face to crotch time on the ridiculous inverted relay race with his Real World: New Orleans “everything but” mate.).  TJ’s verdict: “Since you guys quit, you will be assessed a penalty at the next challenge.”  It may be unfair CT, but you know TJ hates a quitter.  CT and Wes can likely stomach such a blow, but the Team New Orleans men may not be so fortunate.

CT working alone

Rule #3 – If you want to have better chance of living, don’t pick a fight with CT.

Yeah, so this is kind of important because the possibility (Adam King can attest) is in the conversation.  As Frank tearily admits in his downright Confessioner-esque post battle session with Johnny Bananas, he knows better.  Be careful, Frank.  Be careful, Marlon.  Be very careful.

Frank and CT

Rule #4 – Do not underestimate Jordan

“That’s my partner if you all didn’t know.”  Thanks, Marlon.  If we didn’t know, we know now.  First, his pull up counter to the mighty Thor was near incredible.  Sarah says it best, “I gotta give mad props to Jordan.  He embraces every single challenge that comes his way, and that to me is soooo sexy!”  Second, he and Marlon came very close to winning the challenge and will continue to be near the top if there is any degree of athleticism and drive involved.  Third, his peacemaking skills, maybe not always as effective when in the middle of a Hurricane Nia squal in Portland, are already a factor two episodes in to Rivals 2.  He defended Marlon against the CT (CT!) in the “glass in the pool motive head scratcher” throw down last week and managed to keep Anastasia’s suddenly pugnacious and out of control self off of CT (a twist of fight roles) and indoors (the door close was the underrated DVR rewind moment of the week).  Finally, he translated cuddling with Sarah (a more common Challenge scenario) to a steamy closet makeout session (a less common Challenge occurrence).  In a week when a Challenge rookie took most of the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, Jordan was illuminated for all the right reasons (if only her were on the Bachelorette with Des).

Jordan

Rule #5 – If you need to pee while waiting for a Jungle opponent to work through a nausea attack set off by poor preparation choices, feel free to do so right where you are as long as you understand that you may have your head dunked in the same water you are peeing in.

One of my predictions for this season: “Cooke will have a moment on this show that everyone is talking about.”  Ding ding ding!  We have a winner!

Cara and Cooke

Rule #6 – If you want to piss off TJ, don’t quit, don’t give a lackluster effort, and don’t smoke before an elimination.

The Great TJ Lavin about Anastasia after her elimination: “I mean, I guess she shouldn’t smoke cigarettes and not eat, so…”  When TJ kills it, TJ kills it.

Rule #7 – If CT gets attacked, Knight will protect him.

Knight is officially the Kevin Costner to CT’s Whitney Houston.  If you mess with CT (and if you thoroughly read rule no. 3, you would know not to), Knight will be there to protect him.  How and when this was decided remains a mystery, but if I am Knight and CT asks me to be his bodyguard, I am going to be his bodyguard, no questions asked.

Knight protects CT

Rule #8 – A cheer of “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go” is always a fantastic early 90s allusion to make.

Thank you to Theresa for your stellar lead narration of this playful entry into this week’s episode in which a band of five (Theresa, Trey, Anastasia, CT, and master strategist Johnny) decide to water balloon bomb a barracks full of unassuming sleeping competitors huddled together in the living room to be closer to the AC.  Their incognito choice of themed attire (an idea that the Confessioner would surely have come up with) is “ninja.” Somewhere the nine remaining Vanilla Ice fans are smiling.

Rule #9 – Don’t sleep on #teamsubtitles – Jemmye and Camila.

In my preseason power rankings column, I predicted Jemmye and Camila were going to come very close to making the finals and I stand by this prediction, but I may have underestimated how much fun their journey would be to watch.  Jemmye is fast becoming this season’s go to sound byte (“Literally, it’s ten seconds in and Camila is already being a crazy person.  My biggest fear is can Camila and I get through this without killing each other because my first instinct is to kill her,” “I am thinking about just staying there with Camila’s face stuffed in a tire until she passes out”) and we all know Camila has a most entertaining extracurricular nighttime activity or two in her before the season is through, but I think they will be an unexpected factor in future challenges.  Perhaps as much as any team. if they do well this season, their potential to rise into the upper tier of The Challenge female competitors is very much in play.  So far, we are just enjoying the ride.

Rule #10 – As the first two challenges have proven (and $1000 richer!), you may want to start considering Zach and Trey as one of the favorites.

Two straight challenge wins to start this season is at worst a statement of arrival and at best a harbinger of future success.  They have the best combination of complimentary physical skills and builds of any male team and seem to have found a common goal (winning) and a common enemy (the competition) that has allowed their personal differences to be tabled.  Be prepared for a rise in the power rankings this week.

The challenge

Rule #11 – If your welcome and reception after a 30 hour journey to Thailand is less than warm, tune it out and focus on winning.

And Cara Maria, a late addition for the second straight season, did just that.  She knows how to play the rivals construct (it is really only about the partnership of two people as she and Laurel embodied on their road to a finals appearance in Rivals), and, despite some unfortunate, but clear social difficulties with the rest of this group, Cara will try to ignore all the background noise (or in this case, Thai crickets).  Maybe not a friend for life, Cara Maria will be the best of partners for Cooke on Rivals 2.

Cara Maria and TJ

Rule #12 – Pay attention: Sarah is wonderful and may be a part of the team you are voting for.

Sarah, please go ahead and sing this from the mountaintops so all of those men teams can hear you!  Poor Sarah may again be stuck with lesser than partner (C’mon Trishelle!  Where’s the fire?)  Thankfully, Jordan seems to have already figured out what has been so very clear over these past seven seasons of The Challenge to all those of us watching, “Physically Sarah is beautiful, and then add her personality in there and she is an amazing catch for anyone…Sarah is the kind of girl that you marry.”  Amen.

Trishelle and Sarah

Rule #13 – Practicing your use of a saw is a good way to train for The Challenge.

Apparently…

Rule #14 – Listen to Jessica’s words of wisdom and you will learn something important.

“Yah, you got a fight.  Yah, you had a hookup, big frickin’ deal.  You think anyone else hasn’t ever had sex with somebody?  You think anyone else hasn’t ever fought anybody?  You’re damn wrong if you think they didn’t.  So frickin’ what!  At the end of the day, and I’m realizing this too, so you’re not standing alone, it’s me and you baby, and guess what?  We’re rookies.  So we gotta kick ass.”  This was Jessica to Anastasia after Bird attempted to assault CT.  One of the most welcome, but unexpected aspects of Rivals 2 thus far has been the incredible rookie campaign of Jessica.  Yes, she has been eliminated, but she went out with such a valiant fight (especially in contrast to Anastasia).  Her Hulk-like move during the challenge was an episode highlight and she earned some serious competitor cred with TJ for never quitting in the Jungle.  Jessica’s return to The Challenge on future seasons would be most welcome, thirsty, and junk.

Rule #15 – There are cameras in the closet.

Although, I am not sure any of the competitors living in the house in Phuket knew this at the time.

Rule #16 – The Big Easy Rule: You’re only as good as how strong you are compared to how much of a liability your partner is (my silly power rankings scoring system does matter!).

In other words, during team or partner additions of The Challenge, it doesn’t matter how good a competitor you are if you are on a team with Big Easy.  You will inevitably lose.  Balance is rewarded (especially, as has already been made wildly clear, in Paula and Emily’s case) if both members of the team have little to no weaknesses.  Conversely, for all the bodyguard strategy mind games that Knight can bring to the table, if his partner is Preston (and running is not the challenge event), it is going to be awfully hard to succeed.  Sarah is facing this struggle right now with a seemingly detached Trishelle.  Johnny must weather every potential Frank alcohol influenced meltdown (I think we are not going to see too many more the rest of the season).  Both CT and Wes must deal with each other’s too often a season detrimental moves and can only be as good as their ability to keep it together.  What made Laurel and Cara Maria’s run in Rivals so impressive was that Laurel was able to elevate Cara to her level over the course of the season as opposed to having their ultimate fate linked to Cara’s unrealized potential.  Going forward, these pairings who have such a disparity of competitor skill must find a way to mind and decrease the gap, or early elimination is inevitable.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about MTV’s “The Challenge,” pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ power rankings and recaps will post weekly starting on July 10.

“The Confessioner” and the THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Weekly Power Rankings – Week 1

The Challenge has returned (and what a glorious thing it is!).  For details on all of the key events from the epic 90 minute season premiere episode, check out my retro running diary.

Before we hit up this week’s power rankings, there are two important topics that must be discussed…

“The Confessioner”

In this week’s jubilant GRTFL column from Czar David Jacoby over at Grantland, he played back the exchange between Leroy and CT after CT’s pool fight with Marlon in which CT goes from rabid beast to “I love you, man” within moments.  To best express Leroy’s uncanny ability to tame the mighty CT, Jacoby named Leroy “The CT Whisperer.”

I was inspired.  Now beginning my 24th season of The Challenge as a viewer, I have often wanted to knock some sense into competitors about how to play a strategic move, delicately handle an ex, motivate a teammate, or, as was the case this past week, talk some sense into Anastasia about how hooking up with CT may not be the wisest of moves.  The Challenge house is a pressure cooker of competitive insanity, 24/7 intrusive observation, and deeply emotional personal relationships set against the prospect of winning a substantial sum of money.  Who do you turn to in a time of need?  There have often been Challenge competitors throughout the years who can provide counsel or a calming influence on the proceedings (Mark Long, at times, Auntie Trishelle last year until she and Dustin imploded), but frequently for many, The Challenge experience can be a wasteland of paranoia, loneliness, and tension that is most often alleviated through consumption of alcohol (of which production supplies in abundance).  What if there was a person, removed from the action of the game, that could be an island of sanity within the walls of the asylum?

Let me introduce you to…THE CONFESSIONER.

The Confessioner would be an outsider, never before on a Real WorldRoad Rules, Spring Break Challenge, Fresh Meat, or let alone, The Challenge season.  Armed with skills in conflict resolution, psychology, strategy, and wisdom, the Confessioner would live in a private room in a private house separate from the cast.  The Confessioner would serve the following roles:

  • Strategic Advisor – Let’s say you want to make a big game play like CT tried to do Week 1.  Go see the Confessioner.  After CT presents his idea, the Confessioner would have told CT that blindsiding Johnny and Frank is not a bad direction to take eventually, but putting them against Dunbar and Tyrie in the first Jungle elimination is an automatic win for them and you don’t want an angry Johnny and especially an angry Frank coming back to the house filled with a vengeful rage.  Bad move, CT, says the Confessioner.
  • House Therapist – There are so many occasions on The Challenge where the machinations of personal relationships force competitors to make decisions that they ultimately regret.  Anastasia – you are interested in embarking on a Challenge fling with CT?  Go see if it is a good idea with the Confessioner.  Alton, you are having trouble relating to “these new kids?” The Confessioner will give you some strategies on how to make it work.  Nany – you just want to go home?  See the Confessioner first in order to explore if it is really the right move for you.  Wes – you are wondering why no one ever seems to like you?  Talk to the Confessioner about ways to improve your personality in the perception of others.
  • Personal Trainer – You are concerned about your cardio vascular endurance on the final challenge or how smoking may be affecting your lung support.  Go see the Confessioner to develop a workout plan or some meditative strategies on how to quit.  You’re telling me CT couldn’t have used regular Confessioner training sessions on Exes to help him succeed on an Iceland mountain slope?
  • Creative Consultant – When you are bored and having trouble coming up with fun ideas to pass the time, go see the Confessioner who has many party games, role-playing scenarios, costumes to provide, and themed nights to suggest.
  • Mediator – There is a major dispute between two parties at night that gets physical or verbally abusive.  The next morning, you receive a mandatory summons to go see the Confessioner.  Marlon and CT, what was this pool fight really about?  CT, the next time Marlon knocks glass in the pool, can you think of better way to handle it?
  • House Judge – I recognize that production has served this role for years, but wouldn’t it be that much more compelling if a decision whether someone had to leave the house was made by the Confessioner?  Like the surreal scene on Hard Knocks showing Joe Philbin cut Chad Troubled Johnson Ochocino last summer, wouldn’t you have wanted to see a Confessioner conversation with Adam Royer about how he let down his teammate Leroy with his reckless and violent behavior on Rivals?  The Confessioner delivers the news and we get to watch.

Justin Booth and Jon Murray, take note.  The Challenge needs to implement the Confessioner next season (In case you are looking for people, I nominate myself).

What are some of the effects of the surprise gender separated voting system?

T.J.’s surprise reveal after Week 1’s women vote (well executed delivery, Mr. Lavin) sent shockwaves through the collective establishment (and especially through Derek and Robb who were somewhat blindsided by the women’s relative apathy toward them and more acutely, because they were counting on an unrealized and frankly, unrealistic coup d’état against Johnny Bananas.  As everyone, including partner Wes seemed to say, CT – What are you doing?).  Teams are no longer voting against other teams that they are directly competing against and instead must now rely on an outside (the other gender) party to control their fate.  Here are some breakdowns of what this means for the men’s teams (women next week) with the knowledge of how the women voted this week:

Derek and Robb (received 5 votes) – Derek and Robb were sent into the first elimination with five out of a possible eight votes.  Although there may be some reticence to vote them in again right away (the “they proved themselves in the Jungle, let’s give them a break this week” philosophy), the comments made by the women why were most damning to this largely unproven tandem.  Diem and Aneesa haven’t had any “real conversations yet” and Camila and Jemmye like them, but “right now there is no loyalty” between them.  Besides the Cancun connections with Derek for Jonna and Jasmine, Derek and Robb have no other women team in their corner.  Cooke and Naomi were the other team to vote for someone else (Jordan and Marlon “just because”) and Cooke’s new partner could have had little to no contact with Derek and Robb up to this point that would warrant any protection.  Unless Derek and Robb do some serious social playing or win the next challenge, it is hard to envision a scenario in which they avoid the Jungle.

Jordan and Marlon (received 2 votes) – They received two votes (Jasmine and Theresa, Cooke and Naomi) and would have probably received one more if Nany did not have a reason to go after Knight (and she has a whole wet wardrobe of reasons).  As rookies new to the game, it is significant that they seemed to have more women support than Derek and Robb who have been on The Challenge before.  Unless manipulated by the powers that be, Ana and Jessica are a solid vote that will never come Marlon and Jordan’s way.  In the meantime, they have to make some other strong connections that put them in a better social position than Knight and Preston or Zach and Trey (Unexpected? More on this in a bit.)

Knight and Preston (received 1 vote) – Besides the Nany revenge vote, this less established The Challenge team has a leg up on both Derek and Robb and Marlon and Jordan.  Jemmye will not vote for Knight (unless he really pisses her off, a common occurrence) and Trishelle’s Knight bond may prevent her from giving him an early vote, but otherwise, it is unclear how much women support Knight and Preston will have.  They must target the Jasmine and Theresa and Cooke and her new partner (relatively unaligned teams) as potential teams to work with going forward.

Zach and Trey – They will likely be competing to win challenges throughout this season, but the new voting system may negatively affect their ultimate success.  Zach and Trey have strong alliances in the men, but their women relationships are less established, and, in Zach’s case with Jonna, he may be targeted.  Like Knight and Preston, they must go after Cooke and her new partner (a little of a wildcard at this point) and some of the top teams (Sarah and Trishelle, the latter of whom has some ties to Zach, and Paula and Emily).  They may not rise to the top of the women voting chart, but they must work to keep themselves as far away from the bottom as possible.

Ty and Leroy – Ty and Leroy may have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new voting system.  Ty’s Paula and Emily connection is solid (they would probably protect them second to only Johnny and Frank) and Leroy has strong support in Nany and Jonna and in Cooke and her partner-to-be besides the fact that he seem to be universally (and rightfully so) well-liked by all the women.  Aneesa and Diem could be another potential area of support for these two.  If Ty keeps his past shenanigans in check, teams will have little reason to vote against them.

CT and Wes – CT and Wes may face an upward battle in persuading women teams to protect them.  Besides Diem and Aneesa who you could not picture ever going against CT and the slew of women who have a CT “crush of the moment,” who else is going to have their back?  With Nany’s tenuous relationship with Frank, Nany and Jonna could be a potential area of support.  Cooke and her partner-to-be are for now an open team to persuade, and, if Cooke’s partner has not been on The Challenge with Wes before, she may not have developed the anti-Wes sentiments that many of the past competitors feel toward him.  CT’s early erratic behavior coupled with Wes being Wes (although his week 1 self was a calm and collected wonderful iteration) will immediately put the target on their backs.  Additionally, CT’s attempt to force Johnny and Frank into an early elimination will force Johnny and Frank into “attack CT and Wes” mode (as if they weren’t already living there).  They will do all in their power to persuade more flexible women teams to target CT and Wes.  Although they would have faced similar issues in an open voting system between both genders, this new system presents CT and Wes with many a problem to solve.

Johnny and Frank – Johnny and Frank were in a better position when the guys voted for them too (Zach and Trey were to be a locked ally), but they are still sitting in the best guy strategic position after the women only vote reveal.  From past ties to and successes with Johnny Bananas, Paula, Sarah, and Camila will remain a loyal vote.  Nany’s past troubles with Frank are not in their favor, but most of the other women players are less apt to rustle any feathers with two players (in Johnny and Frank) that they know will come after them if they vote against them.

This new voting system has spiced up a Rivals 2 season that was probably better served as a veteran versus next generation showdown.  It has created a strategic direction that we have yet to see in past Challenges.  It will be most revealing to see how the men vote for the women this week and could give further insight into how all of this will play out.

 

On to the rankings…

As became tradition last year during Battle of the Seasons, the individual competitor power rankings and team power rankings will be released weekly sometime shortly after each new episode airing.  Here are the individual and team rankings after week 1…

PRESEASON RIVALS 2 INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS

 NOTE: the rankings will again be based on my un Zach Lowe-like analysis/sabermetrics method known as “My subjective experience and observations watching all 24 seasons of the show.”  Weight will be given to how well teams and individuals do on competitions, on strategy and in the social game, and whether he or she is a “good competitor.”  Green = increased ranking.  Red = dropped ranking.

THE MEN

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

Week 1 Tweet: The Challenge King has returned!  Early positive returns on Frank partnership.  Staved off potential (wasn’t really going to happen) coup.

Preseason Tweet: Legendary and undisputed Challenge king primed to make triumphant return.  Found the perfect balance between strategy and athleticism.

2. CT (9th season, last week: 2)

Week 1 Tweet: “Lady Heart Killer/Mess with me at your own peril” version of CT unleashed.  Early victims: Ana, Marlon, Diem, Wes’s strategic game

Preseason Tweet: Perennial #1 Challenge intimidator, recently mellowed.  Must find way to manage collective animus toward Wes, fight off lady distractions.

3. Zach (2nd season, last week: 4)

Week 1 Tweet: He may hate Trey, but self-congratulatory pronouncements of athletic prowess have some substance.  Statement making early challenge win.

Tweet comment: “Thor” is physical beast, gave mostly (Sam may object) calming force on Team San Diego BoS win.  Must find way to get along with enemy Trey.

4. Frank (2nd season, last week: 3)

Week 1 Tweet: “Let him shake!  Let him shake!” Frank & Johnny is lethal pair.  Combining these two consummate strategy elites = bad news for competition.

Preseason Tweet: Temperamental Extracurricular Nighttime Activity wild card, but strategic mastermind of BoS win.  A Johnny Bananas in training.

5. Wes (8th season, last week: 5)

Week 1 Tweet: Wes just trying to ride out this early CT monster storm.  He must utilize Leroy as the “CT Whisperer” or he will find his team on an island.

Preseason Tweet: Arrogance & self-proclaimed brilliance aside, has had amazing Challenge resiliency amidst slew of enemies.  Must find a way to work with CT.

6. Leroy (3rd season, last week: 8)

Week 1 Tweet: As @Jacoby_ coined, Leroy is the “CT Whisperer.”  His strong relationships with women are going to be essential to voting success.

Preseason Tweet: Most welcome return after 1 season off, has to excel in social game & manage potential Ty outbursts.  Takes care of business in challenges.

7. Ty (4th season, last week: 7)

Week 1 Tweet: Not much play from Ty in Week 1, but any night that ends w/o blowup or upheaval = good night.  Has maybe the most reliable partner in Leroy.

Preseason Tweet: Coming off great performance on BoE, must continue to ride that momentum, stay out of conflict.  Leroy is ideal partner to keep Ty in check.

8. Trey (2nd season, last week: 12, biggest rise)

Week 1 Tweet: Huge first week for Trey.  Challenge win and gained some respect to his much larger (in size, close in athletic ego) partner.

Preseason Tweet: Unexpected major feud (at least in social media) with Zach.  Athleticism and drive to be great will supersede bad blood.  Could go far.

9. Knight (2nd season, last week: 11)

Week 1 Tweet: Got somewhat expected vote against him (Nany), but avoided elimination round – first week success.  Must keep Preston confidence rising.

Preseason Tweet: Left BoS riding a little momentum, primed to be strategy power player in future.  Can he motivate Preston and keep things positive?

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

10. Marlon (Rookie season, last week: 13)

Week 1 Tweet: Week 1 fight with CT risky business, but earned him some cred.  Did not lose any votes.  No elimination round week 1 is a good sign.

Preseason Tweet: Great addition to The Challenge.  Ready to have a big rookie campaign.  Well-matched with Jordan athletically.  Will surprise people.

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Naomi, Jasmine/Theresa)

11. Jordan (Rookie season, last week: 14)

Week 1 Tweet: Underrated moment of Week 1: Jordan jumping in the pool and going to Marlon’s defense.  Rivals? No longer.  Great convo w/Johnny in edit.

Tweet comment: Fulfilling Challenge destiny, will be perfect fit as freak athlete.  Must tweak social game.  Partnership w/ Marlon: Leroy/Mike in Rivals I?

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Cooke/Naomi, Jasmine/Theresa)

12. Derek (3rd season, last week: 9, largest drop [tie])

Week 1 Tweet: Despite big win in elimination (albeit against Tyrie’s team), must sure up women relationships.  He and Robb have few connections coming in.

Preseason Tweet: Had very successful run on Team Cancun on BoS, great team player.  Will work well in social game, but impressive in challenges too.

VOTES AGAINST: 5 (Emily/Paula, Ana/Jess, Camila/Jemmye, Sarah/Trishelle, Diem/Aneesa)

13. Robb (2nd season, last week: 10, largest drop [tie])

Week 1 Tweet: Besides maybe Trey, does not have many friends in Phuket and must make them fast.  Landslide vote into elimination may not change next time.

Preseason Tweet: Bulked up in offseason, already huge dude.  Derek fight non-factor.  Could break out this season w/o Marie.  Social game prowess is unknown.

VOTES AGAINST: 5 (Emily/Paula, Ana/Jess, Camila/Jemmye, Sarah/Trishelle, Diem/Aneesa)

14. Preston (2nd season, last week: 16)

Week 1 Tweet: Preston gained some confidence in challenge.  Very interesting attire throughout.  Must work the women’s room and gain some allies.

Preseason Tweet: Not quintessential Challenge material, but apparently, he can run!  Mostly poor showing on BoS.  Gained some confidence toward the end.

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

ELIMINATED

 

Dunbar (6 season, last week: 6)

Week 1 Tweet: Dunbar knew he was screwed and unfortunately for him, he was right.  Early exit a byproduct of unfortunate partnership.

 

Preseason Tweet: Often on wrong alliance, faces upward battle with yet to prove himself, Tyrie, as partner.  Must rely on experience and strength to succeed.

Tyrie (6th season, last week: 15)

Week 1 Tweet: Oops.  Tough times on The Challenge for Tyrie.  I feel badly for the guy.  As predicted, lost first challenge.  Lost first elimination.

Preseason Tweet: Yet to prove much in 6 seasons, strange partnership w/ Dunbar. Although overdue for success, still likely early exit.  Weak in social game.

THE WOMEN

1. Paula (10th season, last week: 1)

Week 1 Tweet: Challenge win with Emily made statement about being the strongest women’s team.  The target is there, but few men will vote against them.

Preseason Tweet: Longest tenure in Challenge history, much wiser & stronger now.  Great w/ strategy, amazing partner in Emily.  Close ties to Johnny Bananas.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

2. Emily (3rd season, last week: 2)

Week 1 Tweet: Emily strutted her stuff in first challenge.  1 of 2 members of the women’s team to beat and definitively the most feared female competitor.

Preseason Tweet: Yet to win a finals, best position yet with Paula as partner.  Most athletic women this season (no Laurel!).  Rivalry with Paula non-issue.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

3. Sarah (7th season, last week: 2)

Week 1 Tweet: Sarah’s body language and astonishment every time T.J. revealed new game surprise was worth the price of admission.

Preseason Tweet: Just an amazing person. 7 straight Challenges, due for a win.  Trivia master and has great relationships. Will partner well with Trishelle.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

4. Nany (2nd season, last week: 4)

Week 1 Tweet: Not unexpected strong showing in the first challenge.  Will surprise a lot of people this season. Love that she voted for Knight.

Tweet comment: Resilient, strong, willing to step up for her team.  Well-matched w/ Jonna.  Left BoS too soon.  Must stay grounded, esp. while intoxicated.

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

5. Jonna (3rd season, last week: 5)

Week 1 Tweet: Jonna seems to work better with women, as shown in strong first challenge.  Must be careful of ties to Derek’s likely sinking ship.

Preseason Tweet: Out of Zach romance, can have more focus on Rivals 2.  Will partner well w/ Nany.  Must exhibit next level strategy.  Strong in challenges.

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

6. Camila (5th season, last week: 6)

Week 1 Tweet: Uneventful first week for Camila not a bad thing.  After embarrassing BoS experience, she and Jemmye remain a team to watch.

Preseason Tweet: Ready for comeback season after Big Easy debacle on BoS. Killer instinct, drive like no other but must be corralled. Jemmye as partner? Yes!

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

7. Trishelle (4th season, last week: 7)

Week 1 Tweet: Mostly stayed in the background in Week 1.  With new voting format, must ride Sarah’s men ties.  Relationship with Knight could be key.

Preseason Tweet: Made strong comeback on BoS after many years away.  Wants to win – rivalry will be non-issue with Sarah.  Must push herself a little harder.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

8. Jemmye (2nd season, last week: 9)

Week 1 Tweet: Double fisting wine aside, Jemmye’s sophomore campaign has only just begun.  Her athleticism is going to come out soon in a challenge.

Preseason Tweet: Predict a breakout season.  Sneakily good athlete, committed, well-liked, will get along with Camila.  #Team subtitles could be surprise.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

9. Aneesa (9 seasons, last week: 10)

Week 1 Tweet: Forgot how much Aneesa has been to a few of these rodeos before and gets it – great awareness of Diem’s CT issues affecting her team.

Preseason Tweet: Challenge veteran back for an 8th season.  Hasn’t been in finals in some time.  Endurance has always been an issue, but in best shape ever.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

10. Diem (7th season, last week: 8, largest drop)

Week 1 Tweet: Any CT entanglements are not good for her game.  He and Wes only carry one vote.  Worried that things are going to go bad very quickly.

Preseason Tweet: Courageous and incredible in real life – fought cancer twice.  Struggled at time on Challenges.  Relationship with CT can be a distraction.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

11. Cooke (Rookie season, last week: 13, largest rise)

Week 1 Tweet: Naomi’s exit was real – reasons for it, tragic.  In Challenge world, Cooke is big beneficiary of a new partner, whomever it is.

Preseason Tweet: Professional Filipino soccer player, how long will she be partnered w/ Naomi?  Must make good alliance decisions or face early elimination.

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

12. Jasmine (4th season, last week: 11)

Week 1 Tweet: Concerned about overall support from guy teams.  Must keep out of bottom in elimination – she and Theresa could be physically overmatched.

Preseason Tweet: Took major positive steps on BoS.  Valuable member of Team Cancun.  Still must fight against small frame.  A calmer version of former self.

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

13. Theresa (4th season, last week: 12)

Week 1 Tweet: Had the longest hiatus between challenges, could affect her connections to the men who decide her vote. Must avoid bottom next challenge.

Preseason Tweet: Took past 2 seasons off, must build up some new relationships.  She and Jasmine will be physical underdogs – good to be under the radar.

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

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

Week 1 Tweet: Loved her week 1!  Must stay close to Marlon throughout.  Not afraid to mingle w/ CT – great straight talk on Bird going down wrong CT path.

Preseason Tweet: Should be a classic rookie – happy to be there, but early elimination.  Counting on dirt biking (her forte) in one of the challenges.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

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

Week 1 Tweet: Has no idea what she is getting herself into with CT.  Tough route to take in long-term game planning.  Can she recover?

Preseason Tweet: Breakout star of Rivals 2 trailer w/ CT slap. Could put target on back.  Not someone you would expect to bring much to table athletically.

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

LEFT THE SHOW:

Naomi (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Week 1 Tweet: My heart goes out to Naomi and her family.  I am glad she was able to have a positive reconciliation with Cooke.  All the best.

Tweet comment: Rumored to leave early, nothing to do with game.  Unproven.  Challenge may not be best forum for her.

 

RIVALS 2 TEAM RANKINGS

Note: Team rankings are compiled by averaging the two individual rankings.  Teams with the lowest total average rankings are ranked better than the highest (i.e. you want as few points as possible).  First tiebreaker goes to number of total past wins.  Second tiebreaker goes to years of experience. Green = increased ranking.  Red = dropped ranking.

  1. Paula and Emily – Team Average: 1.5, last week: 2
  2. Johnny and Frank – Team Average: 2.5, last week: 2
  3. CT and Wes – Team Average: 3.5, last week: 3.5
  4. Nany and Jonna – Team Average: 4.5, last week: 4.5
  5. Sarah and Trishelle – Team Average: 5, last week: 4.5
  6. Zach and Trey – Team Average: 5.5, last week: 8
  7. Ty and Leroy – Team Average: 6.5, last week: 7.5
  8. Camila and Jemmye – Team Average: 7, last week: 7.5
  9. Diem and Aneesa – Team Average: 9.5, last week: 9
  10. Marlon and Jordan – Team Average: 10.5, last week: 13.5
  11. Cooke and ? – Team Average: 11, last week: 14
  12. Knight and Preston – Team Average: 11.5, last week: 13.5
  13. Jasmine and Theresa – Team Average: 12.5, last week: 11.5
  14. Derek and Robb – Team Average: 12.5, last week: 9.5
  15. Anastasia and Jessica – Team Average: 14.5, last week: 15
  16. ELIMINATED: Dunbar and Tyrie

LEFT THE SHOW: Naomi

Next week is a women’s elimination week and will reveal a new partner for Cooke.  The anticipation is real.  Until next time…

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about MTV’s “The Challenge,” pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ power rankings will post weekly starting on July 10.

RIVALS 2 Season Premiere Retro Running Diary

Opening night of the fifth American major professional sport (a “Challengoliday” as coined by the Czar himself, Dave Jacoby), dictates some special treatment, so a retro running diary of the festivities was the best possible way to encapsulate the greatness that was.  I have decided to split up the retro diary from the new week 1 power rankings (to be released later in the week) in order to have more time to consider the game implications of what I just witnessed.  Without further ado, on to the episode and welcome to the new season!

10:00 – And so we begin…This season The Challenge drops with a dramatic montage of clips from the past, teasers for future episodes, and some beautiful aerial shots of the green jungles of Phuket, Thailand.  Not included in the clips montage: past clips from Ruins, the last time The Challenge ventured to Phuket, and the backdrop for this unfortunate chapter in Challenge history.  It is like setting the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Dealey Plaza in Dallas.  Something just doesn’t feel right.  Random additional note: I did not expect to be making mediocre allusions to the JFK assassination in the first point of this running diary.  As Bananas says, “All is fair in love and war and Challenges.”

10:01 – Welcome to the Jungle!  When Naomi says it looks like “Nightmare on Elm Street” it begs the question, does Naomi know what “Nightmare on Elm Street” is?

10:01 – “Welcome everybody to Phuket, Thailand.  My name is TJ Lavin.  I am a pro BMX dirt jumper, and I am your host for The Challenge.”  They must have edited out the part where he tells them that he is a “hero among men” and he essentially spends his life “killing it.”

10:02 – TJ describes the rivals conceit.  According to TJ, the reasons for rivalry are: fighting, backstabbing, beating someone in a challenge, or…”dogg[ing] each other out in social media.”  Yikes.  I guess this is a thing now.

Reaction to TJ's news

10:03 – TJ reveals the rivals and the only pair that seems to have any real hatred toward one another are Zach and Trey, or as Zach calls him, “Mighty Mouse.”  Zach “despises this kid” and thinks Trey is “truly a disgusting human being.”  Did I just miss this on Battle of the Seasons?

10:04 – Jess calls her pairing with Anastasia “like Team Barbie…stop…lipstick break.”  I call their pairing “early elimination.”

10:04 – Derek, upon the reveal of Robb as his partner, thanks God that “his fight (on Battle of the Seasons) was with one of the biggest guys in the competition.”  The Challenge: a place where it may be advisable in the long run to fight with someone twice your size.

10:05 – Paula crosses her fingers in hopes that Emily will be her partner.  It doesn’t hurt to have a “lost X-Man” on your team.  Leroy calls Ty “crazy” because “he is crazy.”

10:06 – Cooke brings “a lot of strengths to The Challenge being a division I athlete.”  Would she have as many strengths coming from a D3 NESCAC school?

10:06 – Next up: Preston, who has the combination of a look of a man who would like to be anywhere but Phuket and a French painter.  He acknowledges that having to depend on Knight “to get through these challenges is the worst thing possible.”  Knight describes Preston’s biggest strength as his “toenail polish.”  Team New Orleans 2.0!

10:07 – There is a depressed look on Dunbar’s face when he realizes Tyrie will be his partner.  “He’s one of the worst players in the game,” Dunbar says.  It reminds me of the look on Mike Dunleavy’s face when he was told that he would be partnered with Billy “The Whopper” Paultz in the 1981 Houston Rockets best looking teammate competition (The last bit I just made up…my hypothetical scenarios are a little bit of a struggle this early in the season.)

10:08 – Frank and Johnny are partnered because they had a “serious beef on twitter.”  Frank acknowledges “that was an expensive fucking tweet.”

10:09 – TJ describes the game format (it could not be any simpler) like he is addressing a group of seven year-olds.  Their eyes light up when TJ floats intel on a total potential winnings pot of $350,000 ($125,000 for each winning gender team, $35,000 for second place, $15,000 for third).

10:10 – TJ tells us that “there might be a couple of surprises, so be prepared.”  Message received, TJ.  Message received.

10:11 – We venture into a house that makes Marlon think he is on a show like “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” (“I’m Robin Leach, I’m yelling, and I don’t know why!”)  CT, fighting off his own sweat in the Thai nighttime heat, promptly gives rookies Jess and Anastasia the following ground rules: Rule 1. No pooping. Rule 2. No open door policy.  Rule 3. No food, no bugs, no problems.  CT – it is a pleasure to have you back.

Jessica reacts to CT's rules

10:12 – As the “nighttime extracurricular activities” begin, Trey and Zach have a heart to heart in the pool where they both talk about how wonderful they are as athletes (no dispute from me).  Early strategy talks like this are good sign for this team of mutual hatred.  My wildcard pick for them to make the finals is so far so good.

10:13 – Marlon trips and accidentally breaks a glass that falls in the pool.  CT immediately responds by creating Rule 4. If glass gets in the pool, we can’t go in the pool no more.  Glass in the pool make CT very angry…

The CT and Marlon fight

10:14 – …enough to begin a water fight to the throat with Marlon.  Please cut to commercial!

10:16 – And we’re back!  Jordan realizes that he better go prevent his partner from getting into any more trouble and CT dismisses his head in the water.  After sixteen minutes, CT is earning his paycheck.

10:17 – Leroy (no surprise here from this classy dude) helps cool CT down. “What do you like more – money or some bullshit, bro?”  CT responds to Leroy with, “When it comes down to it, I love you man.”  The Challenge is back!  Some major takeaways from the fight: Marlon is a tougher guy than I ever knew.  CT is huge person and gets off on relentless intimidation, but Marlon is fearless and would not back down in the pool scrum.  Both Jordan (go to defend) and Wes (let this CT iteration be alone) knew how to handle their respective partner situation.  Will Wes’s laissez-faire attitude toward CT wildfires come back to haunt him?

10:17 – In other news, to the amusement of many a passerby (and clearly to the fancy of the MTV editing room), Tyrie is passed out and naked on the toilet with the door open.  Way to buck your own personal trend of disappointing Challenges, Tyrie.  There are reasons why some competitors are successful and some competitors are not.  This is just not a good look from Tyrie.

10:18 – It only took eighteen minutes into the episode to have our first revisit of the Diem and CT classic love story.  It is possible I have now read this book too many times now.  On a more sincere note, Diem’s fight against ovarian cancer is simply incredible.  Her courage and fortitude are an inspiration to us all.

CT and Diem

10:19 – CT uses the old “take off that weave” trick, playing into Diem’s confidence (or lack thereof) without her wig.  He has the majority of the audience of this show officially swooning.

10:21 – The Chet/Devyn soundbyte king and queen vacuum is real.  Knight has announced his candidacy for the job: “I hope that this first challenge is nothing physical for Preston’s sake, while I also hope it’s nothing with sharks because I don’t fuck with sharks.”

10:21 – Preston give a self-assessment: “I’m smaller than all the other guys, I’m less athletic than all the other guys, but I can run like a gazelle, I can accessorize, and I have lavender hair.”  The ability to accessorize will be of particular relevance.  Poor, Knight.

10:22 – The challenge is called “Game of Inches.”  One team member has to tangle from a rig over the water and the other team member jumps off a plank onto the teammate who must catch and hold them for fifteen-seconds.  Whoever makes it, moves on to the next round.  Each round, the plank moves further and further from the dangling teammate.  Eliminations will alternate with each challenge and “Game of Inches” will be a guy’s elimination.  If you are the winning team, you are safe from elimination.  If you are the losing team, you go straight into the jungle.

Game of Inches

10:34 – Emily and Paula beat Jonna and Nany to win the women’s heat of the first challenge.  The frontrunners have made a statement indeed.

10:37 – The guys rounds appear to be a perfect way to have rivals hug out some of their differences, or in CT’s case, to inflict further pain on Wes.

10:38 – Dunbar and Tyrie (no surprise here) are the first men’s team eliminated and will find themselves in the first jungle elimination.  Dunbar continues to look like he is about to cry; he is so disappointed to be partnered with Tyrie.

10:44 – Trey and Zach hold on to an impressive win.  Johnny’s take speaks for itself: “Trey, the little elf, managed to jump into the arms of the jolly green giant and now we are going to have listen to these two idiots talk more about themselves.”

10:50 – CT begins to talk some voting strategy with Leroy on the bus back to the house.  His target: Johnny Bananas because CT “hopes to win one of these one of these days” and Johnny’s mob tactics in the past (as he used according to CT on Rivals) will be an obstruction to this said aspiration.  The idea of Johnny Bananas running this local syndicate feels oddly appropriate.  I could see him fitting into the world of Boardwalk Empire with relative ease.

Johnny Bananas

10:50 – Tyrie, in a brief fit of obvious wisdom, “Johnny Bananas has become almost synonymous with the word The Challenge.”  Go on, Tyrie.  “I don’t have anything to lose if I lose to Johnny and Frank, but if I win, the whole scope of the game changes, so we might as well call out the king.”  You might as well, Tyrie, go against the strongest team in this game.  I guess when your reputation and track record are that bad, why not give yourself a lesser chance to survive?

10:51 – The most underrated part of the strategy scrambling pre-public villa vote is the role Wes takes: quiet bystander.  After a very early exit on Battle of the Seasons and some strong lingering anti-Wes sentiment still pervasive in many of the competitors, his conscious choice to keep a lower profile is a sound strategy.  For Wes, it is unfortunate that CT took the opposite approach by attempting to be at the center of every battle or conversation.  For now, Wes is doing exactly what he needs to do.

10:54 – It’s public vote time and the women are up first.  Here is how it goes down:

Emily and Paula vote Derek and Robb because “they haven’t really had any conversations with this team at all.”  Anastasia (“I like you guys, but…”) and Jess vote Derek and Robb as well.  Jonna and Nany (“…are not voting for Derek and Robb”) vote for Preston and Knight.  Camila (“I like you guys, but right now, there is really no loyalty between us…”) and Jemmye vote for Robb and Derek.  Cooke and Naomi vote Jordan and Marlon “just because.”  Sarah (“Although we love them…”) and Trishelle vote Derek and Robb.  Jasmine (“It’s nothing personal, but the rookies as well…”) and Theresa vote Marlon and Jordan.  Diem and Aneesa vote Derek and Robb because they have also not “had any real conversations yet.”  The final vote tally is 5 for Derek and Robb, 2 for Jordan and Marlon, and 1 for Knight and Preston.

10:55 – TJ delivers one of those aforementioned surprises.  Be prepared: “Derek and Robb, if it was up to the girls, you would be going to the Jungle, and well, guess what you guys, it is up to the girls.”  As Sarah sound bytes, “This changes everything.”  The girls will be deciding for the guys and the guys will be deciding for the girls.

The big voting surprise

11:00 – Tyrie speaks some indiscernible words to Marlon about beating Robb and Derek in the Jungle.  The. Writing. Is. On. The. Wall.

11:01 – Johnny and CT have a little public dispute that centers mostly on past Challenges and the sanctity of tactics used.  Johnny calls CT “Chris” which is like an angry mom using a child’s full name when sending him to his room without supper.  Frank thinks that now that CT has fired shots, he and Johnny should not really worry too much about another coup attempt.  Frank thinks that we should “let him shake…LET HIM SHAKE!”

11:01 – Go Wes!  He comes up with the idea to turn the living room and kitchen into a fake nightclub and group buy-in seems to be all in with this idea.  So far, Wes has stayed out of CT troubles and contributed in a big way to the social world of a Challenge house.  I am digging this Wes version 2.0.

Paula and Jordan at the club

11:03 – After a night of constant flirting, Ana and CT end up being caught much more than making out by a surveillance cam.  Jessica just goes for it: “Anastasia trying to sleep with CT isn’t going to end well.  Anastasia is emotional and I just don’t want her to get attached because if she does, it’s gonna be a bad day in a Challenge for her and I.”

11:09 – Poor Naomi must go home because her estranged dad is having some serious heart problems.  This harrowing chapter for her (can you imagine just how long that plane fight must feel from Phuket to NYC?) may ultimately create a bond between Naomi and Cooke, so there’s that silver lining.  Other weird irony: one cast member from Real World: Las Vegas has now gone home after one week of competition on each Rivals.  Mikey replaced Adam the first time.  Will we see Heather replace Naomi this time?

Naomi has to go home

11:10 – “Welcome to the Jungle…”  The challenge between Robb and Derek and Tyrie and Dunbar is called “Last Chance” and it involves running through each other to ring a bell first.  The first team to ring the bell twice stays another week.

11:17 – In the first round, Derek manages to run by the larger frames of Dunbar and Tyrie with Robb setting a nasty screen.

Last Chance

11:23 – The second round is a photo finish and by a tenth of a second, Robb and Derek ring the bell first (poor Dunbar missed it on the first swing.  Luck was not his friend this season).

11:23 – Robb and Derek are very happy to be coming back and might celebrate, according to Robb, by cuddling together tonight.

11:23 – Tyrie doesn’t really have a thing to say and Dunbar is just really pissed off.  I am not sure I have seen a more depressing losing team ever on The Challenge and this is likely to be, after six very unsuccessful seasons, Tyrie’s last.

11:25 – Everyone celebrates and loves life in a Thai nightclub that seems more like a sweat lodge.

A night out

11:26 – Johnny pokes at Anastasia about her pursuit of CT.  Ana’s response, “I am single and I’m having fun.”  According to the slap heard round the modern The Challenge world in the trailer, this will not last too long.

FINALLY, on the full “THIS SEASON ON” (identical to the Zapruder Analyzed Trailer) this is what I saw:

  • CT maniacally laughing
  • Jonna not having Leroy’s back
  • Sarah knows that “at the heart of all of us are good people” (go her!)
  • Trey knows that “they are way more nervous and way more scared than we could ever possibly be”
  • Romantic connections between Jemmye and Marlon, Jordan and Sarah, Nany and CT, Leroy and Theresa
  • Aneesa thinks that Trishelle is “always going to be trash”
  • A camera gets in Zach’s face
  • Camila’s finger gets in Theresa’s face
  • Jonna and Jordan approach a romantic kiss
  • Johnny declares, “All is fair in love, war, and challenges”
  • Paula “doesn’t care who we piss off.”
  • and finally, TJ welcomes everyone to the “scariest elimination round we have ever had” that seems to feature an electric chair

Stay tuned for the week 1 individual and team power rankings to be released later this week.  Until then, spread the good word.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about MTV’s “The Challenge,” pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ power rankings will post weekly throughout the season.

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Preseason Power Rankings

Are you ready?

Tonight’s main event has crept up on me like an over-hyped hurricane (thankfully not of the Nia nature) that was detected by meteorologists so early on that I could not possibly believe it to be real (despite the evidence delivered by the first teaser trailer only a handful of weeks ago), but now, as 10:00 p.m. EST tonight fast approaches, I can hardly believe that this is actually happening.  Brace yourselves.  There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne!

Back in February, when the MTV blog tantalized fans with the prospect of an All-star 24th season of The Challenge (Originally an offset of the Real World and Road Rules, this American competition institution allows past cast members to extend their fifteen minutes of fame to sometimes unprecedented durations while competing in a series of elimination competitions that all lead to a death defying (I wish I were kidding) final challenge.  The team who wins the final challenge wins a fair amount of money.  T. J. Lavin has been the stalwart and often heroic host for many years now (“He killed it!”) and will be (hallelujah!) yet again for Rivals 2) and asked for a public vote on who should participate (and, as in the NBA, not all players make the all-star ballot), I presented my picks (12 men, 12 women, 1 wildcard chosen for each gender from players not on the ballot) as a pipe dream of possibility.  Five month later, MTV has delivered on this promise in the most wonderful of ways.  With a roster of 16 men and 16 women featuring essential veteran players (Johnny Bananas!  CT!  Paula!  Sarah!  Camila!  Wes!) and a crop of promising younger talent (Leroy!  Frank!  Zach!  Nany!  Marlon!), Rivals 2 was born.  Although not an All-star season in name, Rivals 2 is unequivocally an All-star season in talent and scope.  The Rivals format that places two historic enemies on the same team, demanding a cease-fire in the pursuit of a monetary windfall, is a structural win.  Great moments will arise (Who can forget Kenny literally carrying Wes on his back in the finals of Rivals I?), long lasting and redemptive friendships will be born (Laurel and Cara Maria built an incredibly supportive bond on Rivals that exemplified what it meant to be a great teammate), and you may even learn how to replicate every detail of a campsite while carrying a literal ball and chain (this is also known as “a walk through a simulation of hell”).

This season’s pairings of competitors on Rivals 2 are notable for two things: hardly any of them are in fact Rivals (Did MTV producers give the green light on the structure after having only signed up CT and Wes or after only having read the Zach and Trey’s twitter interactions?  Dunbar doesn’t even know “rival” Tyrie’s last name!) and, beyond a few teams that are clearly at the top and bottom of the totem pole, there is an argument to made that most teams have a legitimate chance to go to the finals.  This wide open competitive landscape with few clear alliances gives a win to dramatic potential and an opportunity for anything to happen.

My team previews already exhausted ten thousand words on the prospects of our competitor tandems (if you read all of them, much credit is awarded), but before I hit the preseason power rankings, here are a few additional thoughts on the season:

The Fifth American Major Professional Sport – Yes, this has been a moniker for The Challenge, expertly conceived by Bill Simmons and his Czar of Reality TV, David Jacoby, so many years ago, but for the first time, its hyperbolic essence may be waning.  Like American’s niche relationship with the NHL outside of Detroit and Denver in the mid-90s through at least the first lockout, you are either a diehard fan of The Challenge or you are not a fan at all, and for the first time, the diehards are growing and are really coming out to support.  Certainly the twitter revolution (admittedly effecting my own power rankings commentary this week) has played a critical role, creating a direct line of access and a platform for fan connection (only the David Stern Retirement Tour has been this clairvoyant in other major professional sports with the use of new media and new technology).  This has fostered growth in the brand and in the intensity of fandom.  Already of the highest level of athletic competition and with a finals that is infinitely more interesting than any component of the “too late for youngsters time of night advertisement fest destroyed by the annoyance of listening to Joe Buck” that is the MLB playoffs, The Challenge may actually be the fifth major American professional sport.

Where is Laurel? – The truth of the why concerning the exclusion of Evan and Kenny (both are Challenge royalty) from Rivals 2 (and other recent Challenges) is likely imbedded somewhere in a legal document drafted by Tonya Cooley’s lawyers, but there is no explanation why Laurel (3 seasons, 3 finals) is not a part of this seven week Thailand adventure.  Her Amazonian awesomeness will be sorely missed.

The Challenge is like the United States Men’s Basketball Team…

Rivals I and Battle of the Exes were like the 2008 Men’s Olympic Basketball Team.  They featured the best players in the world (Kobe, Johnny Bananas, Lebron, Kenny, Laurel, DWade, Evan, Ev, the 2008 Dwight Howard, CT, Melo, Paula), some aging veterans who everyone respected (Jason Kidd, Mark Long), and a few random players that everyone forgets about (Michael Redd, Tayshaun Prince, Davis, Katelynn).  If an apt comparison, Battle of the Seasons was like the 2010 World Championship Team.  Some of the best veteran players took the summer off (no Kobe, Johnny, CT, Lebron, Paula, etc.), allowing some on the verge younger talent to gain some experience out of the shadow of the big boys (Kevin Durant, Frank, Derrick Rose, Zach, Russell Westbrook, Nany, Dustin, Derrick Rose).  Rivals 2 is like the 2012 Olympic Team.  Kobe, Lebron, and Melo are back (Johnny, CT, Paula), DWade and Howard are injured (Kenny and Evan – sorry to you both, I don’t particularly care for either Dwyane or Dwight), but the young talent of Durant, Westbrook, and Love (Frank, Zach, Nany) are now ready to play with the big boys.  (Yes, I spent too much time coming up with this.  Yes, in this “filled with holes” metaphor Dustin Zito is Derrick Rose.)

As usual, alliances will rule, but it sure could be confusing. – We do not yet know the official rules (revealed to the cast on the first episode), but if it is at all similar to Rivals I, alliances will still be as important as ever.  What makes the possibilities this season so interesting is that the lines between veterans and rookies and connections and enemies are more blurred than ever.  Let’s go down just one rabbit hole: of course Johnny (and subsequently Frank) will be closely aligned with Paula (and subsequently Emily).  Here’s where it gets interesting – Emily and Paula, from past relationships, should be closely aligned with Ty (partnered with Leroy who got along with Johnny really well on Exes and Rivals I).  This all makes sense so far.  Johnny’s partner, Frank, is going to be close with Zach (partnered with Trey) from their Team San Diego days.  Zach, no longer involved romantically with Jonna, is going to have an adversarial relationship with Jonna and Nany.  Nany, dating back to her Real World: Las Vegas days, will be connected to Leroy.  This could be problematic for Leroy if he aligned with Johnny and Frank and Trey and Zach because they will have beef with Jonna and Nany.  Where is Jenn (with two “n”s) when we need her to be the consummate “playing both sides” figure in this game?  (Also, why is Jenn not on this season).  How all of these alliances fall is anybody’s guess.  Beyond some very clear unbreakable bonds, I expect some “sorry Paula, we are choosing Ev instead of you”-esque alliance destruction throughout the season.

There are many pursuits of a first The Challenge win, but Sarah’s is the one we care the most about…

There are several competitors this season who have been on at least six Challenges and have never won (CT, Aneesa, Diem, Tyrie who has yet to even be near a finals), but no pursuit of a first championship quite captivates our heart like Sarah’s (now in her seventh straight season attempt).  Sarah embodies all that is good in a The Challenge world that too frequently becomes a series of drunken, violent, and embarrassing “extracurricular nighttime activities.”  Her drive to compete is so earnest – she is a throwback to simpler time when competitors care most about the love of the game.  Any time the great T.J. Lavin announces a traditional one-time a season trivia contest (as I am sure he will again this year), Sarah’s spontaneous infectious and contagious display of joy provide the viewer just that.  She is someone we can all root for, and, with a savvy and driven partner like Trishelle, she has as good a shot as she has ever had before at finally winning.

On to the rankings…

As became tradition last year during Battle of the Seasons, the individual competitor power rankings and team power rankings will be released weekly sometime shortly after each new episode airing.  Here are the individual and team rankings going into the season.  Some postseason award and final predictions will follow…

PRESEASON RIVALS 2 INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS

 NOTE: the rankings will again be based on my un Zach Lowe-like analysis/sabermetrics method known as “My subjective experience and observations watching all 24 seasons of the show.”  Weight will be given to how well teams and individuals do on competitions, on strategy and in the social game, and whether he or she is a “good competitor.”

THE MEN

1. Johnny Bananas (9th season, 5 finals, 4 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Records held: Most Season Appearances, Men – 9 (tied), Most Seasons Won, Men – 4

Tweet comment: Legendary and undisputed Challenge king primed to make triumphant return.  Found the perfect balance between strategy and athleticism.

 

2. CT (9th season, 4 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Records held: Most Season Appearances, Men – 9 (tied)

Tweet comment: Perennial #1 Challenge intimidator, recently mellowed.  Must find way to manage collective animus toward Wes, fight off lady distractions.

 

3. Frank (2nd season, 1 finals, 1 win – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Temperamental Extracurricular Nighttime Activity wild card, but strategic mastermind of BoS win.  A Johnny Bananas in training.

 

4. Zach (2nd season, 1 finals, 1 win – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: “Thor” is physical beast, gave mostly (Sam may object) calming force on Team San Diego BoS win.  Must find way to get along with enemy Trey.

 

5. Wes (8th season, 3 finals, 1 win – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Records held: Most Elimination Rounds in a Single Season, Men – 5, Most Elimination Wins in a Career, Men – 11

Tweet comment: Arrogance & self-proclaimed brilliance aside, has had amazing Challenge resiliency amidst slew of enemies.  Must find a way to work with CT.

 

6. Dunbar (6 seasons, 1 finals, 1 win – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Tweet comment: Often on wrong alliance, faces upward battle with yet to prove himself, Tyrie, as partner.  Must rely on experience and strength to succeed.

 

7. Ty (4th season, 1 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Tweet comment: Coming off great performance on BoE, must continue to ride that momentum, stay out of conflict.  Leroy is ideal partner to keep Ty in check.

 

8. Leroy (3rd season, 1 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Tweet comment: Most welcome return after 1 season off, has to excel in social game & manage potential Ty outbursts.  Takes care of business in challenges.

 

9. Derek (3rd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Had very successful run on Team Cancun on BoS, great team player.  Will work well in social game, but impressive in challenges too.

 

10. Robb (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Bulked up in offseason, already huge dude.  Derek fight non-factor.  Could break out this season w/o Marie.  Social game prowess is unknown.

 

11. Knight (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Left BoS riding a little momentum, primed to be strategy power player in future.  Can he motivate Preston and keep things positive?

 

12. Trey (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Unexpected major feud (at least in social media) with Zach.  Athleticism and drive to be great will supersede bad blood.  Could go far.

 

13. Marlon (Rookie season)

Tweet comment: Great addition to The Challenge.  Ready to have a big rookie campaign.  Well-matched with Jordan athletically.  Will surprise people.

 

14. Jordan (Rookie season)

Tweet comment: Fulfilling Challenge destiny, will be perfect fit as freak athlete.  Must tweak social game.  Partnership w/ Marlon: Leroy/Mike in Rivals I?

 

15. Tyrie (6th season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Tweet comment: Yet to prove much in 6 seasons, strange partnership w/ Dunbar. Although overdue for success, still likely early exit.  Weak in social game.

 

16. Preston (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Not quintessential Challenge material, but apparently, he can run!  Mostly poor showing on BoS.  Gained some confidence toward the end.

 

THE WOMEN

1. Paula (10th season, 4 finals, 1 win – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Records held: Most Season Appearances, Women – 10, Most Appearances in a Final, Women – 4 (tied)

Tweet comment: Longest tenure in Challenge history, much wiser & stronger now.  Great w/ strategy, amazing partner in Emily.  Close ties to Johnny Bananas.

 

2. Sarah (7th season, 3 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Records held: Most Consecutive Seasons, Women – 7

Tweet comment: Just an amazing person. 7 straight Challenges, due for a win.  Trivia master and has great relationships. Will partner well with Trishelle.

 

3. Emily (3rd season, 2 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Tweet comment: Yet to win a finals, best position yet with Paula as partner.  Most athletic women this season (no Laurel!).  Rivalry with Paula non-issue.

 

4. Nany (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Resilient, strong, willing to step up for her team.  Well-matched w/ Jonna.  Left BoS too soon.  Must stay grounded, esp. while intoxicated.

 

5. Jonna (3rd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons  23)

Tweet comment: Out of Zach romance, can have more focus on Rivals 2.  Will partner well w/ Nany.  Must exhibit next level strategy.  Strong in challenges.

 

6. Camila (5th season, 1 finals, 1 win – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Ready for comeback season after Big Easy debacle on BoS. Killer instinct, drive like no other but must be corralled. Jemmye as partner? Yes!

 

7. Trishelle (4th season, 1 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Made strong comeback on BoS after many years away.  Wants to win – rivalry will be non-issue with Sarah.  Must push herself a little harder.

 

8. Diem (7th season, 2 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Tweet comment: Courageous and incredible in real life – fought cancer twice.  Struggled at time on Challenges.  Relationship with CT can be a distraction.

 

9. Jemmye (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Predict a breakout season.  Sneakily good athlete, committed, well-liked, will get along with Camila.  #Team subtitles could be surprise.

 

10. Aneesa (9 seasons, 2 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 23)

Records held: Most Elimination Wins in a Career, Women – 8

Tweet comment: Challenge veteran back for an 8th season.  Hasn’t been in finals in some time.  Endurance has always been an issue, but in best shape ever.

 

11. Jasmine (4th season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Seasons 23)

Tweet comment: Took major positive steps on BoS.  Valuable member of Team Cancun.  Still must fight against small frame.  A calmer version of former self.

 

12. Theresa (4th season, 0 finals, o wins – last appearance: Rivals 21)

Tweet comment: Took past 2 seasons off, must build up some new relationships.  She and Jasmine will be physical underdogs – good to be under the radar.

 

13. Cooke (Rookie season)

Tweet comment: Professional Filipino soccer player, how long will she be partnered w/ Naomi?  Must make good alliance decisions or face early elimination.

 

14. Jessica (Rookie season)

Tweet comment: Should be a classic rookie – happy to be there, but early elimination.  Counting on dirt biking (her forte) in one of the challenges.

 

15. Naomi (2nd season, 0 finals, 0 wins – last appearance: Battle of the Exes 22)

Tweet comment: Rumored to leave early, nothing to do with game.  Unproven.  Challenge may not be best forum for her.

 

16. Anastasia (Rookie season)

Tweet comment: Breakout star of Rivals 2 trailer w/ CT slap. Could put target on back.  Not someone you would expect to bring much to table athletically.

 

RIVALS 2 TEAM RANKINGS

Note: Team rankings are compiled by averaging the two individual rankings.  Teams with the lowest total average rankings are ranked better than the highest (i.e. you want as few points as possible).  First tiebreaker goes to number of total past wins.  Second tiebreaker goes to years of experience.

  1. Johnny and Frank – Team Average: 2
  2. Paula and Emily – Team Average: 2
  3. CT and Wes – Team Average: 3.5
  4. Sarah and Trishelle – Team Average: 4.5
  5. Nany and Jonna – Team Average: 4.5
  6. Ty and Leroy – Team Average: 7.5
  7. Camila and Jemmye – Team Average: 8
  8. Zach and Trey – Team Average: 8
  9. Diem and Aneesa – Team Average: 9
  10. Derek and Robb – Team Average: 9.5
  11. Dunbar and Tyrie – Team Average: 10.5
  12. Jasmine and Theresa – Team Average: 11.5
  13. Knight and Preston – Team Average: 13.5
  14. Marlon and Jordan – Team Average: 13.5
  15. Cooke and Naomi – Team Average: 14
  16. Anastasia and Jessica – Team Average: 15

Postseason Awards and Predictions

MVP – Men: Johnny Bananas (runner up: Leroy); Women: Emily (runner up: Sarah)

Most Improved Player – Men: Trey; Women: Jemmye

Rookie of the Year – Marlon

Some bold predictions:

  • Both Marlon and Jordan and Camila and Jemmye will come very close to making the finals, but fall short.
  • Dunbar and Tyrie will learn each other’s last names, but will not be able to avoid an early elimination.
  • There will be a moment in which Johnny, Frank, and Trey strategize together.
  • Jasmine will not do too well in terms of competition, but will continue to showcase a more mellow version of herself.
  • Cooke will have a moment on the show that everyone is talking about.
  • CT and Wes will be on the wrong side of the alliance and will have to prove themselves in an elimination early on.

Teams in the Finals – Men: Johnny and Frank, Ty and Leroy, Zach and Trey; Paula and Emily, Sarah and Trishelle, Nany and Jonna

Winners – Men: Johnny and Frank, Women: Sarah and Trishelle

My first episode recap and Week 1 power rankings will be out sometime later this week.  Enjoy this season!

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about MTV’s “The Challenge,” pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ power rankings will post weekly starting on July 10.

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – CT and Wes

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

CT and WES

Where did we last see them? Wes was an early casualty of Battle of the Seasons (an elimination partnership with Lacey didn’t help).  CT was last seen valiantly sucking wind on the finale of Battle of the Exes.

The Rivalry: It may be difficult to full encapsulate the tumultuous journey these two have had on The Challenge.  Some plotting against one another on The Duel began a running series of arguments and verbal disputes perhaps coming to a climax on Rivals when CT spent a night (and apparently it was the whole night) yelling at Wes.

Rivalry Meter on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is a Leroy and Mike from Rivals I “Rivalry? They’re actually really good friends” rivalry and 10 is a Kenny and Wes from Rivals I “they have hated each other for years” RIVALRY) – 9 (the closest thing this season has to a real rivalry!), best Rivals I comparison: Kenny and Wes

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio: 

Wes and CT have one of the most infamous rivalries in Challenge history.”

This is an accurate portrayal.  Wes has many an enemy and at this point, CT is certainly the biggest and baddest.

“‘I’m paired with someone who’s threatened my family’s life, who I’ve gotten in screaming matches with in four or five different countries, that I legitimately am scared of,’ Wes explains.” 

The life threatening is one thing, but screaming matches in maybe five, but at least four countries?  Consider how many people you have in your life that you have gotten in screaming matches with and then consider how many of these have taken place in more than one country.  This is some serious international screaming.  Also, despite Wes’ recent peaceful protest during CT’s verbal barrage, he is honest enough to admit the real (and deserved fear).

“CT promises, ‘We may not be the best of friends now, and we may not be the best of friends in the end, but we both want to win. We’re gonna give everyone a run for their money.’”

And he means it.  Both Wes and CT have channeled real rivalries (CT and Adam had to overcome an actual assault and Kenny and Wes had a girl between them) into relative success on Rivals I.  They both know it is in their best interest to put all of their past animosity behind them and solely focus on the task at hand, and, for both of these The Challenge vets, this is about winning money.  CT’s promise to give “everyone a run for their money” is not good news for the competition. 

“Ever the bad-boy Romeo, CT ends up romancing his ex, Diem, but also cozies up to several other girls in the house for political purposes.” 

We know about Anastasia.  Who will the other girls be?

Best-Case Scenario: CT and Wes recognize the benefit of getting along and working together and through experience, complimentary physical and athletic abilities, and a real CT fear factor stomp through the competition to a chance at a finals win.

Worst-Case Scenario: Although unlikely, a physical altercation that sends them both home is not out of play.

The Verdict: Despite CT’s night of yelling on Rivals, he has been a mellower and more peaceful version of himself in later years, still crushing and destroying in challenges, but getting along better with others back at the house.  He is here to win money and Wes is his partner, so he will work with Wes (certainly begrudgingly) to make this happen.  Wes has been a bit of a lone wolf for several seasons now, fighting his way to be taken seriously and often resorting to alliances with younger, more susceptible players.  CT has been able to toe the line recently between the Johnny Bananas and Paula veteran alliance force and other factions that may to his benefit.  He and Wes come in to Rivals 2 relatively unencumbered by a ruling alliance and could decide to directly oppose the inevitable Johnny and Paula group.  I do think producers dropped the ball a little bit with some of these pairings, but CT and Wes more than make up for it.

Women Team Previews:

Anastasia and Jessica

Aneesa and Diem

Camila and Jemmye

Cooke and Naomi

Jasmine and Theresa

Jonna and Nany

Paula and Emily

Sarah and Trishelle

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about MTV’s “The Challenge,” pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His weekly “The Challenge: Rivals 2” power rankings will begin the week of July 10.

CHALLENGEMANIA: The Road to Rivals II – Winners, Losers, and Questions

To continue to tease our already overwhelming appetite for all things The Challenge in preparation for the July 10 season premiere of Rivals II (and to shamelessly cross-promote some shows called Girl Code and Guy Code that I admittedly had never heard of), MTV aired a one hour The Challenge part retrospective and part new season preview.  Hosted by the modern MTV and Jersey royalty tandem of Challenge stalwart Kenny “Mr. Beautiful” Santucci and Nicole “Snooki? Now that I am half my original size, I go my Nicole now, bitches!” Polizzi, the hour was mostly an exercise in historically bad cue card reading (more on this in a bit), unnecessary opinions from Girl and Guy Code cast members that nobody asked for, and clips from MTV’s pre-HD past.  Despite mostly  “I wish I had fast forwarded over this” filler, there were some important takeaways, some charming former Challenge cast member commentary, and a second season preview scored to the fiery furor of Nico Vega’s “Fury Oh Fury.”  Before we delve into brief analysis of matters of consequence, here are some quick take winners, losers, and questions posed by ChallengeMania: the Road to Rivals II.

Question: What happened to Snooki?  Beyond her incredibly gaunt and emaciated appearance (she’s been working out apparently), the author and mother of one didn’t seem her usual “hot mess” of a self.  Her affect felt flat, disengaged, and enigmatic.  I never thought of Snooki as talented in any way beyond being a unique individual in a reality TV world of mostly personality repetition and replication, but now I know that acting or in any way improvising should not be a her next career move…ever.  Poor Kenny struggled to get through her feeble attempts at banter and seemed so relieved when Paula Walnuts came on stage toward the end of the taping.  I thought Snooki always had a degree (I am stretching a little bit here) of charisma and perhaps maybe a little charm on camera, but this Snooki .5 is a depressing figure.

Loser – Snooki, the cue card reader – Snooki should not be reading cue cards.  Period.

Other lingering Snooki questions:  Why does she seem so obsessed with Johanna?  Does she really watch The Challenge?  Where is her baby during the taping of this show?  Is she serious when she says she is working out to be on a future Challenge?  At this point, is Snooki a human?

Losers – The writers of all dialogue between Kenny and Snooki – Tough moment for MTV writers.  If their aim was to make Kenny and Snooki sound as unnatural and fake as possible, mission accomplished.  This was a disaster.

Winners – The viewer while watching classic clips – It brought great joy to loyal The Challenge fans to reminisce and recall classic moments and people from a wonderful, twenty three season history.

Question: With Evan, Kenny, and Tonya featured prominently in retrospective clips, did MTV have to run this by legal before airing?  Since the settlement, Kenny and Evan have not been back on The Challenge.  Was this a never made public part of this agreement?  Why else would two all-time greats be kept off recent seasons?

Winners – Promos for the new season – Bananas is back!  CT is back!  Camila is unstable!  If these teasers don’t get you pumped, nothing will.

Winners – The great fights retrospective  – I vividly remember the genuinely scary CT and Adam melee (Isaac as an initial peacemaker may not have been the best call), but I had forgotten about the Wes and Evelyn room assault and the Katie battle with topless Veronica.  Watching Evelyn stomp around and destroy plants while Wes tells Johnny he is the “worst person in the world” is priceless television.

Loser – The making out segment and the terrible elevator music that accompanies it – This was a few too many levels of awkward.

Loser – Brad’s wedgie meltdown – Poor Brad.  Although he will be inducted into The Challenge hall of fame (although not on the first ballot), his wedgie reaction is not the best of looks.

WinnerThe Miz Only a WWE superstar can get away with a wedgie attack.

Winner – Sarah for her reaction to the Katie plunger meltdown – And otherwise for just being great.  Her commentary interviews are spot on.

Loser/Winner – Katie and the plunger meltdown – She is a loser for having a meltdown over a plunger.  She is a winner for finding a reason for a meltdown that seems to best match the great eccentricity of her persona on The Challenge.

Question: Why wasn’t a Katie/Veronica rival pairing included this season?  Veronica may have Challenge retired, but who wouldn’t want to see these two classic enemies play again?

Winner – Entertainment for the viewer…seeing Camila walk into a pool again on her night of crazy.  What is most remarkable to me is that Johnny and Camila won after this happens.  Of all the things Johnny Bananas has accomplished on this show, recovering from Camila’s night at Arkham Asylum may be his greatest achievement.

Winner – Jessimae Peluso – I mostly tuned out the random members of the cast of Girl Code and Guy Code who were randomly asked to become Challenge experts, but Jessimae kept bringing it with her witty insight and playful crushing on CT.  Some bio investigation garnered additional intel about her comedic beginnings in Boston (check), infatuation with John Stamos (check), and appearance on “The Tyra Banks Show” (check plus).

WinnerPaula walking us through a web of “Challenge Family Tree” connections – This was one of the more relevant (albeit unintentionally comedic) portions of the preview show.  Finding threads (even loose ones) to piece through the participants was a win for production.  Paula, unlike the little Snooki creature, can read a mean cue card and narrated this segment like a pro.

Winner – Whoever decided to call Wes a “self-proclaimed, political mastermind” – I like how with Wes, adding “self-proclaimed” to any description of him adds more authenticity.  Wes – a self-proclaimed redhead.  Wes – a self-proclaimed entrepreneur.  Wes – a self-proclaimed intellectual.

Losers – Connections that don’t actually exist – Paula connected Aneesa and Robb in her “family tree” because they both live near Philadelphia.

Losers – Rivals that have never met – I am a proponent of twitter and all, but to partner Johnny and Frank as rivals because of a twitter feud?  It may be a partnership that is great for gameplay, but it seems to take away from the sanctity of the construction of the season.

Winner – Kenny – He does professional work throughout, fending off the train wreck that is Snooki .5, maintaing great focus, managing several digs at Wes, and flooding the camera with his quintessential charisma and charm.  Could Kenny be a viable replacement for the legend of TJ Lavin if he ever decides to retire the hosting throne?

Although Paula’s connecting of the dots (“And don’t forget the four members from the cast of Portland who are connected by being new!”) flimsily weaved a rival backstory, the real fresh meat is in the showing of the original Rivals II trailer (already Zaprudered here) and the final “this season on” teaser (the real “this season on” will undoubtedly be unveiled at the end of the season premiere).  Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Anastasia seems to slap CT (not once, but twice – the second time in the back of the head) and then kick CT in the back of his legs.  Bird never struck me as such a dangerous predator while in Portland, but I guess a certain amount of time in the eye of the Nia storm will ruffle anyone’s feathers.  This is not the first time CT has been the object of someone’s uncontrollable aggression and it will certainly not be the last.
  • Speaking of fighting CT, it appears that Frank has a little run-in with him.  No one is in the least bit surprised.
  • I eagerly anticipate the interplay and strategic game manipulation of the Johnny and Frank tandem.  Maybe not the most real of rivalries, seeing them work together could be a treat of “Kenny carrying Wes on his back” proportions.
  • I can’t help myself but to kiss and tell.  Jordan and Sarah?  CT and almost Cooke?  Leroy and Emily?  Jonna and almost Jordan?  CT and Diem!

We are now less than two weeks away from The Challenge: Rivals II premiere (Wednesday, July 10 at 10/9c.  You won’t believe your eyes!).  I will be dropping a preview column and preseason power rankings before then, so stay tuned.  Until then, let me leave you with the final cue card reading improvisation catastrophe of Snooki: “Holy crap, the rivalries just keep getting more and more intense.  I’m obsessed.  Bye, we love you.”  Yep, thank you Nicole.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about The Challenge, pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company.

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Trailer – A Zapruder Analysis

A few days ago, MTV released the trailer for the 24th season of The Challenge on mtv.com.  In this second iteration of the Rivals format, eight male partner teams and eight female partner teams compete against each other in what is now commonly referred to as the fifth major American professional sport.  Mysteriously, the mtv.com trailer has been taken down and subsequent versions on other websites have been pulled as well (it is quite possible that sometime in the run of this post, the bootleg and unfortunately low-quality youtube version that I found will also be redacted).  In a race against the clock of destruction (or until mtv eventually reposts – UPDATE: MTV reposted), I wanted to provide my frame by frame analysis (a Zapruder treatment so to speak) of the two minute run-time of this historical piece of footage.

0:01 – The opening shot is eerily reminiscent of the classic helicopter shot going over Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park. Any time The Challenge makes you think about Jurassic Park, this must be a good thing. 

0:05 – TJ begins his voice0ver with “I want you guys to picture a very large sum of money…money so big, it could change your life forever.”  This is the kind of sum that warrants foreboding underscoring.

0:09 – In some very expected news, Tyrie (according to the back of helmet name tag) appears to be in an elimination.  The Tyrie/Dunbar pairing could be prdouction’s attempt to make this ultra-dramatic, hyper intense Challenge viewing experience just a little more comedic.  Has there ever been a combination in these past 24 seasons that has less of a chance of winning?

0:22 – TJ continues: “What if that one person is your worst enemy?” – This second rodeo of this premise (Rivals was particularly enjoyable – especially Wes and Kenny’s implosion in the finale) is a wonderful conceit on the surface, but if you look a little closer at the actual pairings, in almost every case, “rival” is a lot a bit of an overstatement.  Johnny and Frank’s entire relationship up until now has been a twitter back and forth.  I have watched every second of Marlon and Jordan on Real World Portland, and besides some extreme competitiveness from Jordan in the Dustin Real World Las Vegas mold, I would hardly call their relationship a battle between two enemies.  There may be some strained blood here and there among most of these pairing, but enemies? I am afraid not.  The one glaring exception is Team Wes and CT whose potential for greatness (in a great reality TV kind of way) more than makes up for an otherwise loose interpretation of the word “rival.”

0:28 – Zach’s voiceover: “I hate this kid…I hate the ground he walks on.”  Is he referring to partner Trey, or, more likely, is he referring to Wes?  Wes has faced quite a few “I hate this kids” in his long Challenge career.

0:37 – The “TRUST NO ONE BUT YOUR WORST ENEMY” mashup is apparently directed by the great master of frenetic cutting himself, Baz Luhrmann (see: all of his movies).  I have to hand it to production though – if you have a shaky premise, you might as well present it in this “the world is ending/impending doom” fashion.  It is admittedly effective.

0:41 – Bird tells us that “some of these people here are like absolutely pure evil.”  After this past week’s Real World in which Hurricane Nia attempts murder with a hair dryer, she should know.  On another note, I can not foresee The Challenge and Jessica being a successful pairing.  It’s just a hunch.

0:44 – Emily tells us that this game is going to get “so nasty.”  Is she referring to the kind of nasty of her blackface incident from Exes?  Too soon?

0:47 – People are “looking for love wherever they can get it” and apparently for Sarah, this is with Jordan.  With full comprehension that Challenge love teases are almost always grossly exaggerated, I strangely dig this possibility.

0:53 – “All is fair in love, war, and Challenges.”  Welcome back, Johnny Bananas!

0:55 – Diem trusts Wes more than she trusts CT.  It is like preferring to put your hand in an open flame versus in a pot of boiling water.  They are both going to leave you burned.

0:57 – CT is “being nice” but Diem’s “not playing fair.”  The Challenge legend may have a point.  This gentler version of CT has been alive and well over the past few Challenges and is a far cry from the monster that broke Diem’s heart or Johnny’s will here:

1:00 – We are one minute into the trailer and we have our first sight of Paula crying!  In fairness, in a brief size-up of the female teams, despite emotional roller coaster riding, I am not sure who beats Paula and Emily.

1:04 – There is some water poured, heads butted, arms swung, and barrels thrown.  This is par for the Challenge course, but, after the aforementioned Hurricane Nia maelstrom on The Real World this week, it all seems so tame.

1:11 – “Welcome to the scariest elimination round we have ever had.”  Not one to emphatically hyperbolize, TJ means business.  In the trailer’s second clear (only in my mind) allusion to Jurassic Park, the electric cables and caging reminds me of a raptor paddock.  Safety is not guaranteed.

1:21 – Cooke (a strong addition to this franchise – it never hurts to have a professional athlete competing) tells us that “good people in this game do not get far.”  Did you forget about Sarah making it to last year’s finals?

1:26 – This shot of Marlon working out and companion voiceover of “You wanna get me up out of here, you’re gonna have to kick my ass” speaks to some shotgun preseason analysis – Marlon and Jordan, if they can figure out the social game and align with the right power players, are going to be a formidable rookie combination.  Both are elite athletes, super competitive, and seem to compliment each others strengths.  They are a team to watch out for.

1:34 – In an even deeper confirmation of his godfather role in this game, Johnny lays it straight with Knight: “You have got yourself linked up a a sinking ship, dude.”  Is he talking about partner Preston?  Old flame Jemmye?  Sage Aunt figure Trishelle?  This is followed by a shot of Knight engaging in some extracurricular activity of the physical fighting kind.  There may not be too much to read into all of this, but I hope that Knight has been pulled under Johnny’s strategic organization.  He showed some game mastermind promise on Battle of the Seasons that was extinguished too soon in the fiery remains of a team featuring Preston and Mackenzie.  Knight deserves another go round.

1:39 – What a pleasure it is to see old enemies, Aneesa and Trishelle, still going at it, now a full decade later.  Aneesa’s nomination for best line of the trailer (“You are the Tra-shelle you were and you are always going to be trash”) is followed by a push “punch” to Trishelle’s face.  You can begin to feel the momentum of the July 10 season premiere.

1:43 – What The Challenge trailer would be complete without some time devoted to Frank yelling?  “Let him shake!”  Oh, don’t worry.  We will.

1:44 – A new rule to live by – Any time The Challenge incorporates a light saber battle into the festivities, it is a good thing.

1:48 – Does Bird just slap CT in the face?  Welcome to the big leagues Real World: Portland!

1:50 – These fleeting images of the challenges within The Challenge show shot after shot of people falling in water.  People falling in water is kind of a win.

1:53 – The trailer ends with Zach yelling, “I want who’s next!” and then cuts to the show titles (set against an unexpected purple misty swirl).  If this ending montage doesn’t encourage excitement and anticipation, you may need to reevaluate your own understanding of dramatic tension.

My season preview column will be out later this month.  The Challenge: Rivals 2 debuts on MTV on July 10, 2013 at 10:00 PM EST.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.

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.”

Laurel

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.”

Sarah

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.”

Paula

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.

MY PICKS FOR WOMEN RESERVES

EvJenn

 

 

 

 

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

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

CamilaTrishelle

 

 

 

 

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

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

DevynMarie

 

 

 

 

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.”

NanyEmily

 

 

 

 

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

Emily – 3rd season – WILD CARD selection

THE BREAKDOWN OF WOMEN RESERVES:

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.”

CT

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.”

Kenny

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.”

Evan

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.”

Dustin

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.

MY PICKS FOR MEN RESERVES

Wes

Mark

 

 

 

 

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

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

Dunbar

Chet

 

 

 

 

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

Zach

 

 

 

 

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

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

FrankDerrick

 

 

 

 

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

Derrick  – 9th season – WILD CARD selection

THE BREAKDOWN OF MEN RESERVES:

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…

THE WOMEN ALL-STARS:

Coach: Coral

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

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

THE MEN ALL-STARS:

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.