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I probably should have marked the return of Culture Challenged with a good ‘ole Let’s Get A Few Things Off My Chest column, explain some of the (right – I hope) reasons for my absence, and preview the future of the site. This informative hibernation mea culpa is coming soon (I promise!), but there is a new season of the The Challenge already two weeks underway and there is no better way to dive back into the commentary cesspool than a proper chronicle of America’s Fifth Professional Sport. There are, however, a few The Challenge related things to get off my chest before I embark on yet another season of coverage…gulp.

  • I haven’t written on The Challenge since the tragic deaths last fall of Diem and Knight. When their final season of The Challenge: Battle of the Exes II aired last January, it just didn’t feel right to spend energy and time commenting on the discomforting awkwardness of Johnny and Averey’s relationship or on how Jay and Jenna’s third place finish is the most undeserved appearance in a finals since the 2009 Orlando Magic (I am openly still bitter about KG’s injury. That 2008-2009 Celtics team started the season 27-2 and was even better than the 2008 champions that dominated the league). Although the reality of reality television is an obvious misnomer, often lost in all of the fun, games, and drama is that we are watching real people with real lives and real challenges. Diem’s chronicled departure from the show for health complications from her long and heroic bout with cancer is the worst end of the uncomfortable voyeuristic contract signed by her participation and by our viewing. Diem – the warrior, amazing effervescent club dancer spirit that she was – used her platform for the most incredible kind of good. She propelled her fortunate famed privilege into something that mattered. Her human legacy and the organizational legacy of MedGift beautifully live on. ‘Tis the season for giving and supporting her cause is one the best ways to do so. Both Diem and Knight are greatly missed. Continue to rest in peace.
  • While we were away, long-time Culture Challenged favorite Sarah finally had a partner (in Jordan) of her competitive stature, defeated her Challenge demons and won Battle of the Exes II, started the amazing Brain Candy podcast with former Challenger Susie Meister, and got married to a nice Jewish man named Landon. Mazel Tov, indeed.
  • I admittedly watched the Battle of the Bloodlines premiere last week ready to write and couldn’t get myself to do so. It was the day of the horrific San Bernardino shootings and much was put out of focus. The violent brotherly unlove between Shane and Tony and the interview contact lens situation of Nany’s cousin Nicole just seemed a little too insignificant. Was I, after a loyal 26 seasons of careful viewing observation, finally too far removed from the immature shenanigans of Dario and Raphy? Why venture into this hot mess of drunken tomfoolery, TJ Lavin quotable gems, Are You the One? imposters (I am none too pleased with the addition of this recruitment pool – it’s like having to scout NBA players from an amateur league in Canada – I just don’t have the time, energy, or the resources), and the simple life of the Buell twins? I felt out of touch and frankly, kind of dirty while watching. The show I was watching felt so far removed from the “Hoorah!” camaraderie of Battle of the Sexes II, the glory years of the JEK dynasty, and the always entertaining battles among Wes, Wes’s ego, and the competition. Why continue to watch? I needed a compelling reason beyond an admitted loyalty to the heroic and herculean twelve year run of Johnny Bananas (primed to win his sixth title this season – even MJ took thirteen seasons to do the same). Then, this week, master pop culture barometer Bill Simmons came out of his own Challenge commentary sabbatical on the Bill Simmons Podcast.

With his pulse (and his 4.7 million Twitter followers in toe) driving the conversation, implicit permission had been passed on for me to follow suit. Like Jenna’s struggling cousin Brianna, I am not sure I am quite ready to handle this rodeo once again, but with promising late-game additions appreciatively cluttering the wonderful “this season on” it is too hard to pass up.

In lieu of a toast from Bananas (at this point the unofficial beginning of any The Challenge season), there is no better way (and an appropriate homage to the writing tomb of Monsieur Simmons) to begin this season’s coverage than with a retro running diary. From this point forward, “All is fair in love, war, and Challenges!”

7:00 – The scenes from last week are an unfortunate reminder of the travails of the Bloodlines conceit. Sure, family dynamics create a different and perhaps more compelling kind of drama (as Blood vs. Water seasons on Survivor highlighted), but this mostly ragtag group of Challenge newbies, with the exception of Bananas cousin, Vince, are obvious major downgrades on their OG counterparts. Was their resistance from the veterans to bring on a relative who could possibly steal some of their family holiday celebrity status thunder? Or are their not enough sane relatives (certainly plausible) who would be willing to throw themselves in to this teetering fish bowl of insanity? Either way, these Bloodlines are a weak new class of competitors. Fresh Meat ain’t what it used to be.

7:02 – In one of the season’s earliest non-surprises, Aneesa and her cousin Rianna almost kiss. After eleven seasons (the female competitor record) and a surging nostalgic relevance to this franchise, at this point Aneesa has earned the right to do whatever she damn well pleases in the house that TJ Lavin built.

7:03 – The decision to give a Bananas a GoPro for “super sneaky Bananas footage” is a stroke of genius. This type of constant innovation has carried The Challenge to 26 seasons of tomfoolery. Some early footage highlights: butts in the water and a inconspicuous new version of “rock, paper, scissors” played in the back of the bus by Thomas and Cara Maria who primed to “flirt her little butt off to get the final.” I wonder what the always measured Abram will have to say about this later in the season.

7:04 – Today’s Challenge promises to be “creepy.” Bananas, take the mic: “I’ve already seen every one of the girls in this house wake up in the morning, so I don’t know how much creepier the day can get.”

7:06 – TJ Lavin the Great sets some high expectations: “Every once in a while we have a challenge that you never forget. Well today, promises to be that day.” After ten years and seventeen years of hosting, he should know (#youkilledit). “I’d like to welcome you all to FAMILY DINNER. You guys are going to be eating live bugs.” Boom.

“I’ve already seen every one of the girls in this house wake up in the morning, so I don’t know how much creepier the day can get.” – Bananas, responding to the prospect of a “creepy” challenge

7:07 – The premise is simple: for ten minutes one partner chews live bugs and spits them through a tube into a cup while the other partner sustains composure while a snake crawls all over your face. You are either “eating” or “suffering.” Sounds like a great time!

7:09 – KellyAnne and Anthony are the current leaders for the “bloodline that most perplexes.” Case in point…this exchange:

KellyAnne: “If I know Anthony, he’s going to do great.”

Anthony: “She’s going to do fine. You should have seen the stuff she was feeding me when I went and visited her in LA.”

KellyAnne: “(Uncomfortable pause) It was vegan, but ok.”

Anthony: “Yeah, ok (shakes his head).”

What does this even mean? I am so confused.

7:09 – Nine minutes in, it seems like an appropriate time to touch base on what is going on with the Nicole (Nany’s cousin) eye/makeup situation in interviews. It’s like a cross between


7:10 – The initial “suffering” reports of the Round 1 competitors are universally Indiana Jonesian (“I hate snakes!”), except for Cara Maria’s who is admittedly right at home hanging out with a python.

7:11 – Pre-commercial reactions to “eating” are varied. Jamie goes right for chewing. Nany, Jill, and KellyAnne freak out. Candice really freaks out. Bananas just starts banging his head.

7:15 – Bananas, always The Challenge innovator, thinks with his head. “I’m gonna use this massive head of mine which also houses one of the biggest brains in the house to smash, stun, or in some way, shape, or form just render these insects disabled.”

7:16 – Cara Maria sneaks in some Boston accented words of encouragement and frankly, it’s about time. Besides some unexpected kinship with CT and Johnny Reilly over their respective area code 617 origins on past seasons, Cara tends to keep her r’s (pronounced “ahhs”) unaffected. Jamie’s bug deliveries to the dirty watah warrant a little extra something special.

7:17 – Nicole and Nany’s post-interview is a hot mess (“I did the best I could do!”) of apologies and excuses. My “way to go really far out really out on a limb” prediction of the season: Nicole and Nany will often find themselves at the center of the drama this season.

7:20 – Brianna intimates that “this is isn’t for her” and she “just kind of wants to go home.” Bon voyage! With Jenna’s at times rocky initial appearances and now with Brianna, Jay’s Bunim-Murray people contribution tree is a contender for worst of all-time. Only Sylvia’s skeleton and horrific former boss, Alicia, may be a worse additive to the franchise.

7:24 – Wait, I take back my initial desire to see Brianna go home. Watching Jenna (not exactly an intellectual or competitive stalwart) passive aggressively show her disappointment in Brianna is enduring entertainment. Let her stay TJ! I want more of this distressingly low level performance.

7:27 – Cara and Jamie win. Bananas thinks that Jamie’s experience eating prison food as a corrections officer is to account for his success with all the bugs. I still think it was Cara’s decision to go Boston with her accent.

7:28 – TJ Lavin the Great delivers the news of Brianna and Jenna’s obvious loss with a mid-season form zinger, “Some people weren’t really made for The Challenge.” Preach, TJ, killing it always.

7:31 – …but it’s a guys elimination day so none of it matters. Tough times, The Challenge producers. If you are going to have all teams compete in the same pool of winners and losers (all guy teams, all girl teams, and guy/girl teams) than you can’t differentiate who goes into the pit. If Brianna and Jenna lost, they have to go in and should have to face any team that the winners select. This is a wee-bit ridiculous. Why have the two women teams compete in the first place if winning and losing for them didn’t even matter? Inexcusable. Spend more time working out the game play kinks and less time making sure the alcohol cabinet is properly stocked. This is the 5th American Professional Sport! We can’t have stuff like this in season 26. Jenna: “If those are the rules than those are the rules.” No, if those are the rules change the rules.

7:39 – To make matters worse, Cohutta and Jill are the worst team with a guy on it and are headed for the pit. Jill: “I know it’s kind of silly to get upset over something that’s just a game, I can’t help but get a little emotional.” I don’t blame you. For this same “just a game,” you postponed your wedding to take a trip to transient celebrity status with some big cousin Cohutta bonding along the way only to face elimination because of ill-conceived game rules. Meanwhile, Jenna and Brianna are left behind for some bickering and Long Island white trashy talk.

7:41 – Which set of twins is it going to be? Strong Boston courtesy from Cara and Jamie gives Cohutta the call on who to face in the elimination. After a brief deliberation, he settles on the Dario and Raphy meat sandwich, a largely competitive unknown.

7:43 – Cara delivers the news to Dario and Raphy and they threaten to make war when they come back into the house after defeating “toddler” Cohutta. Frozen-footed and fearful Cara goes back to Cohutta, and Cohutta shares her tarsus temperature. Thomas and Stephen (“Buell. Buell.”) seem like an easier out. Cara admits that being in a power position may not be her sweet spot of comfort. Where is Bananas in all this for at least a brief, veteran consultation?

7:46 – Facing the perspective of Dario and Raphy wrath, Cara sends in Thomas (her hookup on the “low-low”) and Stephen. After a brief resentment period, Thomas makes quick peace in time enough for a night out!

7:47 – All the talk at the club is about Jenna’s less than partner who is openly planning her trip home. Aneesa, never one to hold back truth, delivers a “she’s not even cute” provocation to Jenna. It’s one thing to be a lousy partner, but for Jenna to be linked to someone not attractive enough…it’s about to go down…

7:50 – Back at the house, Brianna’s misery blows up in a tearful slop of blame and lame. Jenna, newly backboned, goes after her cousin with low blows about her cheating Spanish boyfriend. With Nicole and Nany handling the intervention, conflict resolution is just around the corner! Oh, wait.

7:52 – Brianna, according to Jenna’s (who is deceptively tall) account, thinks that all of the other housemates are degenerates and losers and that she is better than everyone else because she has a job at the bakery. Jenna unloads about dads in jail, ice cream, and someone’s boyfriend and short hair.  It’s really as unintentionally comedic as it sounds. Nany wax-poetics on the sanctity of family. Bananas chews metaphoric popcorn from his front row seat. Cohutta chimes in perfectly: “I swear on my life. These people are insanely crazy.”

7:53 – Jenna and Brianna’s insincere apologies the next morning miraculously make it all better for now. Again, these are the women that should have been in the pit two weeks in a row and one of their members has outwardly declared her desire to go home! How could producers have screwed this one up so royally.

“I swear on my life. These people are insanely crazy.” – Cohutta, on the eve of elimination

7:55 – TJ, sans hat, announces SQUARING OFF. Thomas volunteers to go against Cohutta in this physical best of three rounds event. Cohutta aptly calls it a “damn David and Goliath thing.” Things are not looking good for Georgia’s own Challenge vet and his wedding postponement specialist cousin, Jill’s chances.

7:59 – Based on both my DVR and MTV app viewing, Cohutta and Jill are eliminated, but just not onscreen. Oops. Next week’s clip foreshadows a Camila throwback event and some medical issues for Tony. At this point, I am all in.

Stay tuned…This season’s first weekly power rankings to come on Wednesday.

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Postseason Awards

Earlier this week, our (most of the time) good friends at MTV and Bunim-Murray announced that there will be (as if there was any doubt) a season 25 of The Challenge, America’s fifth major professional sport.  Before we can rejoice in potential future happenings (Duel 3?), wants (Laurel to return, justice for Sarah), and predictions (Jordan is an early favorite to win) for the next season, we must reflect on the at times masterful and compelling, at times frustrating and degrading, but always reliable and entertaining just completed season of The Challenge: Rivals 2.  Here is a thorough breakdown of superlatives and awards for the season that was:

Most successful use of little screen time: Anastasia, who was at the center of drama for her two episodes on the show that may have won her an improbable call to return

Least successful use of little screen time: Tyrie, whose one notable moment this season involved a very public bathroom experience

Person that hung around way too long for such a little contribution: Knight

Person whose stay in Thailand was way too short: Sarah

Most successful attempt to be silent: Ty

Worst attempt to be silent: Knight

People who had less screen time than Johnny’s Bobble Head: Tyrie, Dunbar, Robb, Naomi

Most welcome returns from at least a season of hiatus: Paula, Johnny, CT

Most unconventional workout: Aneesa, who ran on the deck through a burgeoning fight

A meltdown that I already forgot: Zach’s not so sportsmanlike exit

A meltdown that will be hard to forget: Camila’s out of nowhere (is there any other kind for her?) once a season blowout

The “It’s Time to Officially Retire” award: (tie) Trishelle and Tyrie

Low points of the season: Sarah’s unnecessary departure, Knight’s immaturity at the reunion

High points of the season: The “Bananas still has it” episode, Jordan’s hookup with Sarah, Diem’s courageous everything, CT and Johnny’s old vet conversation on the eve of the final

Most unexpected altercations: CT and Anastasia, Diem and Jemmye

Most expected altercations: Frank and CT, Frank and Jordan, Knight and Jemmye

The “My 2008 Self Could Never Have Seen This Coming” award: How well Wes and CT gelled, how Paula is in the conversation for all-time pantheon of Challenge competitors

The “My 2008 Self Saw This Coming” award: The Bananas and CT/Wes fight after Johnny’s challenge vomiting

The “Maybe The Outcome Will Be Different With Another Partner” award: Preston, who is so ready to distance himself from his New Orleans housemate

Best hidden camera moment: Jordan and Sarah’s closet hookup

Most competitive major award: Rookie of the Year, Jordan, Marlon, and Cooke all had incredible first campaigns (more on this in a bit)

The “Could You At Once Be On Time to the Party” award: Cara Maria, I just think it would give her better stability in those first few weeks

The “I Forgot You Were On This Season When Writing This Column” award: Dunbar

The Rivals 2 Media Guide Cover Would Feature: CT, Bananas, Paula, Emily, and Jordan

Best interview: Paula, consistently hysterical, self-effacing, and honest; Honorable Mention: Jemmye, CT, Jasmine

The “Sophomore Slump is a Real Thing” award: (tie) Zach and Nany

The “Sophomore Slump Doesn’t Exist” award: Frank

Best impression of a Marvel Super Hero: Jessica’s Princess Hulk

Worst impression of a Marvel Super Hero: Trishelle’s the Invisible Woman this season, Knight’s nondescript villain character that he always seems to play

Most in need of swimming lessons during the offseason: (tie) Marlon and Cara Maria

Best use of words:  Johnny Bananas for the epic summation/credo “All’s fair in love, war, and challenges.” Honorable Mention: Aneesa for coining “Trashelle,” all of the #teamsubtitles communication between Camila and Jemmye

Worst use of words: Diem’s rap

The “I am Glad I can Rewind Because That Was Incredible” Award: Jordan, an uber-amazing athlete who kept finding more ways to show us why

Real World season that had the best showing: (tie) Key West (Paula and Johnny) and Portland (Jordan, Marlon, Jess, and Ana)

Worst impression of Kevin Costner: Knight’s fanboy bodyguard routine during CT’s early fights

Best impression of Kevin Costner: Frank ‘s incredible swimming was straight the Mariner from Waterworld

Best conflict resolution reflexes: Emily, at the reunion and when Camila’s drunkenness exploded

Best TJ Lavin moment: His delivery of the Zach elimination disqualification news

Worst TJ Lavin moment: When he told Sarah she had to go home.  TJ, could you have at least tried to call an audible on production?

Vomiting that got the most play: (tie) Johnny’s in the final men elimination challenge before the final and the awful eating stage in the final

Best manipulation of “rivals” conceit: Johnny and Frank (A twitter war? Really?), Paula and Emily (they were thrilled to be together from the start and their performance showed this throughout)

Best player stock to buy (for future season success): Jordan





Honorable Mention: Preston, Wes, Aneesa

Preseason Prediction – Men: Trey; Women: Jemmye

Midseason Award – Men: Frank; Women: Aneesa

In a very similar fashion to last season (speaking of fashion – Preston is setting trends – whether he has any followers or not is yet to be seen), Preston had a great last day, further showing himself as ready to be as far away from Knight’s shadow in future seasons as possible.  Although some of his early season success may have been on the circumstantial end of the scale, he did make it within one elimination of the final.  Wes, who had to go into an early elimination with Lacey last fall on Battle of the Seasons (an almost guaranteed subsequent loss), managed the social game as well as he ever has and has the hardware (or money in this case) to show for it.  Frank is the ultimate winner of this award because, although he had some moments of his most volatile and uncontrollable self rearing its most ugly (but good for TV!) self, his leap as a loyal and dedicated teammate and friend was substantial.  He and Johnny were an understandable hot (Thailand temperatures were an issue all season) mess (eating durian will cause this) during parts of the final, but Frank managed to keep any cruelty and low-blowing (poor Sam had to endure quite the barrage in Turkey and Namibia) out of the mix.  His admirable passivity when faced with Knight’s premeditated violence at the live reunion is at the heart of what “most improved” is all about.  On the women side, Jemmye narrowly beats out Aneesa for the award because not only did she have to compete in challenges and in the social game, but she had to learn to communicate with a partner who spoke an entirely different language.




Honorable Mention: Marlon, Cooke

Preseason Prediction – Marlon

Midseason Award – Jordan

All three of them – Marlon, Cooke, and Jordan – had incredible rookie campaigns.  Marlon was a fighter from the first night (I am still not sure why he and CT were fighting in the pool), successfully hooked up with both guys and girls and continues to walk the walk of being himself, and had the best attempt at bringing down the tomfoolery of Knight of anyone on the cast.  His Challenge career has only yet begun.  Cooke began in the no-woman’s land of a partnership with the endearing, but less than athletic Naomi (who had to go home for honorable familial reasons), but managed to take full advantage of her second partner’s improved competitorness.  She fought through many an elimination, used her down time effectively (peeing or allowing others to pants her), and was a consummate cheerleader, motivator, and warrior in challenges.  She too is primed for a successful future career, but her first season second place finish will always stand as a major achievement.  Jordan ultimately wins the award (and was a legitimate MVP candidate) for not only dominating every challenge put before him, but for fully understanding his own strengths and weaknesses as a competitor both athletically and socially and then taking this information to adapt and evolve throughout the season as if he was the savviest of veterans.  He found a perfect balance of being a rookie, respectful and aware that he would have to pay his dues to get to the finals, while also demonstrating a willingness to stand strong against attempts (poor Theresa felt so betrayed!) to persuade him against what was in his best interest.  He was not afraid of the big guns (and at times told Bananas and CT thus), but he knew not to take too much effort to fight every battle (as the edit may have conveyed about him while in Portland).  Jordan was in control of his game and dealt with each machination of adversity head on and without fear.  Perhaps his greatest feat of the season: despite her brief stay in the Thailand house, Jordan managed to build a romantic rapport with Sarah that led to a little hot and heavy rendezvous in front of the hidden closet cameras.  As he said at the time, “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.”  This now Rookie of the Year winner just gets it.




CT working alone

Paula and Emily

Honorable Mention: Johnny Bananas, Jordan, Wes, Cooke

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

Midseason Award – Men: Johnny Bananas (runner up: CT); Women: Emily and Paula (tie)

Johnny Bananas summarized the men side of this award best in the final episode: “You win some and you lose some, but I hate to say it, but I think that the team that deserved to win won today.  Rivalry between me and CT aside, the guy’s put in his time.  We’ve spilled the same blood in the same mud.  It’s only appropriate for him to at some point get a win.”  CT is the rightful MVP.  As for the women, how can you choose between Paula and Emily?  Only a co-win does justice to their season of dominance, teamwork, determination, drive, and commitment.  They aligned from TJ’s initial partnership announcement and never strayed from their dedication and support of each other.  They are so much of what is so good about this fifth professional sport.



  1. CT

  2. Wes

  3. Bananas

  4. Frank

  5. Jordan

  6. Marlon

  7. Leroy

  8. Trey

  9. Ty

  10. Zach

  11. Preston

  12. Dunbar

  13. Robb

  14. Derek

  15. Tyrie

  16. Knight


  1. (tie) Paula/Emily

  2. Cooke

  3. Cara Maria

  4. Sarah

  5. Aneesa

  6. Jemmye

  7. Camila

  8. Diem

  9. Jonna

  10. Nany

  11. Jasmine

  12. Jessica

  13. Theresa

  14. Anastasia

  15. Trishelle

  16. Naomi

One final note: It has been quite a ride this season for yours truly.  Thank you for all of your feedback and the time and energy you gave to reading my usually longer than necessary pieces.  Thank you to the cast for making this journey so enjoyable and for your consistent and humbling spreading of the word.  See you all next season (and undoubtedly for some interim Challenge columns in between…)!


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…


 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.”


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.



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.



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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

1 (1) TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 3, last week: 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five teams are left (three now have two players) and one (Las Vegas) is in complete shambles.  At this point, especially with a resurgent St. Thomas in the arena, it is anyone’s game…let’s shakeout a particularly movement heavy rankings…



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


1 (2) Chet (Team Brooklyn) – After a long wait, Chet has stuck around long enough near the top to finally have earned his first place ranking (his consistency has to be applauded).  A stalwart rowing performance and humor laden peacekeeping showing provided the final push.  Congrats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What pairings can win?  The same is true as last week: Sarah and Chet can still win The Challenge.  Sarah could probably get JD to the finish line as well.  I am not sure Devyn would be able to finish with either Chet or Sarah and will be better within a foursome.  Additionally, Sarah and Chet have many ways of working together (this week rowing the boat and facilitating a conversation between Dustin and Trishelle to name a few) and this is only to their advantage if they make the finals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What pairings can win?  Last week I wrote: Both guys could compete with Ashley against the other strong teams (Vegas, Sarah/Chet), but the Zach/Sam pairing seems to have a dynamic, winning quality (at least in arenas).  This all remains true, but if San Diego can keep their foursome intact, this won’t even be an issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are approaching the home stretch!  There are only a few episodes remaining (sadly), so do not miss a moment.  Tune in at 10 PM on MTV for the next episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons.

David Bloom can be reached on twitter at @davidbloom7.  His weekly CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS come out weekly on Derek Kosinski’s UltimateChallengeRadio.com.  The Week 11 power rankings will be available sometime after December 6.



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

Let the games begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest Rise: Zach (Team San Diego)

Biggest Fall: Derek (Team Cancun)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest Fall: Jonna (Team Cancun)


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

1 (1) TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 2.5, last week: 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Incident #1: Alton versus Frank in the gym

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

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

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

Incident #3: The Insane Games

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

Incident #4: Alton and Zach conversation in the kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incident #8: Alton’s final fall

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JD’s week was encapsulated in the following quotations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest Fall: Alton (Team Las Vegas)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest Rise: Jemmye (Team New Orleans)

Biggest Fall: Devyn (Team Brooklyn)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team New Orleans at number 3?  What is this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Biggest Rise: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)

Biggest Fall: JD (Team Brooklyn)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Biggest Rise: Marie (Team St. Thomas)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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