Tag Archives: Knight

“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.

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – Preston and Knight

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

PRESTON and KNIGHT

Where did we last see them? Preston and Knight shared their first The Challenge as members of Team New Orleans on Battle of the Seasons.  Preston was a little bit of a struggle throughout and Knight’s play picked up when he and Jemmye were left to fend for themselves after Preston and McKenzie were eliminated.  Also of note: Knight decided to throw Nany’s clothes into the pool for no apparent reason.

The Rivalry: These two have been butting heads since The Real World: New Orleans.  It seems like their relationship largely consists of Knight putting Preston down.

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) – 7, best Rivals I comparison: Adam and CT

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio:

Knight and Preston go together like gym socks and high heels, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a force to be reckoned with.”

Yes, Knight and Preston have always had their difficulties finding the right mix (or simply liking each other), but to their credit, they both have very strong personalities that will be heavily involved in the strategic and social machinations of this game.  Preston seemed to gain a little more confidence and drive toward the end of his stint on Battle of the Seasons, so maybe he is ready to begin this season with a similar energy.

“Knight reveals, ‘People look at us and are like, ‘Hey, we want to bring these guys to the Final.’ What they don’t know is Preston is a runner. Preston can run for days.’”

This revelation – that Preston can “run for days” – could be an underrated factor this season.  Knight is just beginning to flex his muscles as a strategic player and will have worked on some his weaknesses from his rookie Battle of the Seasons campaign in the offseason.  With this intel about Preston, does Knight play the “bring us to the final because you will beat us there” card?  Knight is always (commendably) looking for an advantage.  Perhaps keeping Preston’s running acumen a secret is the strategic direction they take.

“Preston recalls, ‘Knight and I have always had a very messy relationship. If Knight’s opening his mouth, he’s saying something offensive. I don’t know how we’re going to get along.’” 

Yeah, the volatility of these two is based on both their respective quick-tempered and stubborn personalities and on the glaring differences between their respective personalities.  As long as Knight can become Preston’s biggest cheerleader and support and not be a continual demeanor, they could find some success this season.

Best-Case Scenario: Per Knight’s pre-interview commentary, Knight and Preston, in professing weakness as a reason to carry them there, persuade other teams to bring them to the end.  In the finals, Preston unleashes his running ability in a mostly endurance based event, and they somehow find a way to win.

Worst-Case Scenario: Preston loses what confidence and positive karma he accrued on his last day in Turkey and struggles mightily in both an early challenge and elimination.

The Verdict: The odds are admittedly against Preston and Knight from becoming a serious factor this season, but Knight is shrewd and committed to finding a way to win.  If he can learn to foster Preston’s talents and help him gain additional confidence, they could last longer than anyone expected.  Unfortunately, this season is more stacked than Battle of the Seasons, so the road will be that much tougher.  I have a feeling that Rivals 2 may not yet be their time.

Watch the Preston and Knight pre-interviews here

Men Team Previews:

CT and Wes

Dunbar and Tyrie

Johnny and Frank

Jordan and Marlon

Leroy and Ty

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.

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.

THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS – WEEK 5

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

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

KNIGHT CLEANS NANY’S CLOTHES

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

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

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

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

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

THE “DON’T WEIGH ME DOWN” CHALLENGE

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

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

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

THE BIZARRE POST CHALLENGE ALLIANCE “GATHERING”

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

CHET VERSUS CJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEVYN AND ERIC: A LOVE STORY

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

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

FRESH MEAT VERSUS BROOKLYN PREVIEW

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

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

WEEKLY CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS

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

THE MEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELIMINATED: NO ELIMINATION

Biggest Rise: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)

Biggest Fall: JD (Team Brooklyn)

THE WOMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELIMINATED: NO ELIMINATION 

Biggest Rise: Marie (Team St. Thomas)

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

FULL TEAM RANKINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOP 10 PAIR RANKINGS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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