Tag Archives: Nany

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – Jonna and Nany

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

JONNA and NANY

Where did we last see them? Jonna and Nany were last seen habitually near the top of the weekly power rankings for Battle of the Seasons, although both just missed out on an opportunity to compete in the finals.

The Rivalry: Honest confession – I think this rivalry amounts to a whole lot of nothing.  Jonna and Nany were a close pair before Battle of the Seasons, but then a Jonna Turkish love affair with Zach and some alliance tension created a division between these two onetime friends that came to a climax in and around the reunion.

Rivalry Meter on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is a Leroy and Mike from Rivals I “Rivalry? They’re actually really good friends” rivalry and 10 is a Kenny and Wes from Rivals I “they have hated each other for years” RIVALRY) – 3, best Rivals I comparison: Johnny and Tyler

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio: 

“Jonna explains, ‘I should have stood up for Nany, but instead I chose a guy over a friend and that’s the number one rule you don’t break.’”

Although I think there may be more important rules not to break (traveling in basketball, stealing), preseason buzz on this pair is that the reasons behind the tension (Jonna’s very much over relationship with Zach) appear to be behind them.

Nany is a strong, athletic presence in the game but her quick temper has been her undoing in the past, while Jonna’s need for male attention fueled their rivalry in the first place.”

There is much to agree with here.  Nany’s “strong, athletic presence” was a highlight of Battle of the Seasons.  I think her quick temper continues to be something to monitor, but I was more impressed with how she seemed to be able to effectively recover from those moments she would like to forget.  Also of note – her bond with Dustin and consummate loyalty to Team Las Vegas was a key to her success last season.  She will be able to attain that focus with Jonna as a partner.  Jonna’s need for male attention may have “fueled their rivalry in the first place,” but I think she has learned her lesson and will benefit from a two person partnership as opposed to a series of team alliances.

Although she claims to be solely focused on the game, Jonna could ruin Nany’s plans when she cozies up to a hot new boy-toy.”

This could happen, but my money is on Jonna and Nany having a shot to win it in the finals.

Best-Case Scenario: All of this “rivalry” talk is rendered silly and Jonna and Nany become an irrepressible force in Rivals 2 with a trip to the finals and a legitimate shot to win.

Worst-Case Scenario: Out of the mutual protective shield of surrogate sibling Dustin Zito, some of the stronger male personalities (Knight again, CT, Frank) find those right Nany buttons to push and she struggles with the pressure.  Jonna will be loyal and supportive, but no Dustin in Nany’s world (or on this season) is a big loss.

The Verdict: Many of the pairings in this game seem to make little sense in that they are either stretching the definition of what it means to be a “rival” (most cases) or not a pairing that anyone was hoping to see compete in this game (Cooke and Naomi?).  Jonna and Nany, although not necessarily “rivals” in a true sense, are a tandem, especially considering their exceptional showing on Battle of the Seasons, that we are looking forward to watching compete.  They have a ripe combination of game strategy and challenge athleticism that will be a worthy match to some of their strongest opponents.  I would be surprised if they do not got far this season.

Watch the Jonna and Nany pre-interviews here.

Other team previews:

Anastasia and Jessica

Aneesa and Diem

Camila and Jemmye

Cooke and Naomi

Jasmine and Theresa

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

CHALLENGE 24: Picking an All-Star Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WOMEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

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

Laurel

Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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

Sarah

Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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

Cara Maria

Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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

Paula

Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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

Kelly Anne

Should she be selected as a starter?

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

MY PICKS FOR WOMEN RESERVES

EvJenn

 

 

 

 

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

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

CamilaTrishelle

 

 

 

 

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

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

DevynMarie

 

 

 

 

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

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

NanyEmily

 

 

 

 

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

Emily – 3rd season – WILD CARD selection

THE BREAKDOWN OF WOMEN RESERVES:

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

Most difficult omissions:

Coral, Jasmine, Katie

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

Other people not selected:

Rachel, Aneesa, Jemmye, Jonna, Naomi

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

Other potential wildcards not selected:

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

 

THE MEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

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

CT

Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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

Kenny

Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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

Evan

Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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

Johnny Bananas

Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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

Dustin

Should he be selected as a starter?

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

MY PICKS FOR MEN RESERVES

Wes

Mark

 

 

 

 

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

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

Dunbar

Chet

 

 

 

 

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

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

Leroy

Zach

 

 

 

 

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

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

FrankDerrick

 

 

 

 

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

Derrick  – 9th season – WILD CARD selection

THE BREAKDOWN OF MEN RESERVES:

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

Most difficult omissions:

Tyler, Knight, Mike

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

Other people not selected:

Trey, Robb, Alton, Big Easy, Vinny

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

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

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

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

To recap the final selections…

THE WOMEN ALL-STARS:

Coach: Coral

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

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

THE MEN ALL-STARS:

Coach: The Miz

Starters: CT, Kenny, Evan, Johnny, Dustin

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

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

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

THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS – WEEK 10

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…

 

WEEKLY CHALLENGE INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS

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

THE MEN

1 (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.

THE WOMEN

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?)

FULL TEAM RANKINGS

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

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.

 

THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS – WEEK 6

ImageWe are now five episodes, two full team eliminations, countless Camila meltdowns and T.J. “we killed its,” three Big Easy induced disqualifications, one GBH (guy back home) breakup over the phone, one messy drunk Frank night, one troublesome instance of Knight helping Nany with her laundry, several episodes in which JD and Robb did not make the edit, and a few sketchy rumors about why certain teams (Real World: Sydney) and players (Johanna from Real World: Austin) did not participate (it may have had something to do with not wanting to be around a certain ginger-haired ex-boyfriend) into this “living up to the hype” season of The Challenge.  So far, the “Battle of the Seasons” format has provided a worthy framework for some unexpected power grabs, either seemingly unbreakable team unity or habitual team dysfunction, and a likely fabricated but relevant influx of Real World season pride.  To the credit of Bunim-Murray/MTV producers, this season’s The Challenge feels both fresh (game format innovation, some worthy new blood) and familiar (some “ready to the take the leap” competitors, reliably dramatic and entertaining).

Before we take stock of this week’s episode (featuring the outcome of two arena eliminations and the continuation of a major power shift), it is important to take a moment for a brief big picture assessment.  Now that Team Fresh Meat (just a brutal showing all around) and Team Austin (targeted and executed early by the ruling alliance) are no more, we are down to six teams and twenty-two competitors (Knight and Jemmye are all that is left of Team New Orleans after perennial power rankings bottom feeders, Preston and McKenzie, made an admirable, but inevitable exit this week).

The ruling alliance that had prescribed the first four arena eliminations is finally showing some cracks.  Not only did they face their first communal elimination this week (albeit Preston and McKenzie), Imageonce loyal Team Las Vegas has clearly moved on (although I am not sure how well they have aligned with Team Brooklyn or Team St. Thomas).  This much is clear: there is a clean line between San Diego, Cancun, and New Orleans and the other three teams.  If Brooklyn and Las Vegas can start to dominate together, bring in Trey’s St. Thomas faction as an additional ally, and begin to route out some of the Cancun/San Diego power players, they have a real shot at changing the course of this game.

A few other observations:

  • After three consecutive arena wins, Team Brooklyn is not afraid and is growing stronger by the week (even JD and Devyn are making real contributions).
  • Team Las Vegas has to reunify after their dissension a few weeks back.  How well they work together from this point forward will determine their ultimate success.
  • I am baffled by the good fortune of Team St. Thomas.  We are five eliminations in to the game, and they have yet to come close to participating in an arena.  On every previous season of The Challenge, they would have been gone by now (or at least would have had to prove themselves in some way).  If Frank, CJ, and Jonna are controlling their alliance (as it continues to appear they are), this St. Thomas situation may be the greatest manifestation of how well the Cancun/San Diegoers have controlled the game up to this point.  The rookiest of Challenge rookies are still alive and well and this is a completely underrated and under the radar fact.

Before we hit the rankings, let’s digest the key moments and machinations of this week’s episode:

CAMILA VERSUS BIG EASY

ImageIn the dysfunctional unreality that is Team Fresh Meat, it was inevitable that their final farewell would go down with somewhat of a bang.  I did not expect that this bang would make those watching at home (I can only imagine what it was like to be there in person, some shots of facial expressions capture this idea) feel so uncomfortable.

In the understatement of the decade, Camila deduced that “communication isn’t our biggest strength as a team.”  This was before the “Water Torture” arena battle that required a human pulley system coordination between she and Eric.  Easy had to spend some time holding his breath upside down under water while she played a cruel game of hanging monkey concentration.  To Camila’s credit, she had the right intentions: “All I am going to do up there is keep calm and if he needs to tell me anything, he just needs to voice it.”  Sadly, Big (never) Easy was struggling and decided to voice it by quitting (TJ Lavin is pissed off alert!).

ImageWhat came next was a level eight (of ten) on the “squirm in your seat” uncomfortable scale.  The transcript of Camila’s monologue of uncontrollable despair went something like this:

“You are not done.  You are not done.  You are not done.  No, you are not done, Easy.  You are not done.  You are not done.  This is not fair.  He’s quitting, not me.  I am climbing this motherfucker if I have to, you son of a bitch.  I am not giving up because of him.  I am not losing because of him.  It’s not fair.  He’s done.  I’m not, so what do we do now?  Cause I’ll go in the fucking water.  You want me to go in the water?  I’ll go in the water.”

There was one point where Camila actually started to climb her wooden concentration board tower.  She was not going to give up (commendable) under on anyone else‘s terms.

Then she took it a little too far (you could see this one coming).  Eric’s raised his middle fingers while passing the distraught Camila, inciting this almost unspeakable reaction in his Brazilian anti-partner:

Image“You ruined our team.  You are a disgrace to the human kind.  You are a loser.  You are selfish little fuck.  You are a selfish motherfucker piece of shit.  Fuck you, dude.  Go to fucking hell.”

Wise big sister, Trishelle put it best: “Camila says the most horrible degrading things to Big Easy.  I don’t think that anyone deserves that, no matter what happens.  No one deserves to be spoken to that way.”  No one deserves to be spoken to that way, and unfortunately for Easy, this is not the first time he has had to endure such verbal bashing on The Challenge.

What can we make of all this?  I feel for both Camila and Big Easy.  Camila is a winner who will fight to win no matter what the personal cost or personal attack (she may have spent a little too much time last season learning the Johnny Bananas ways).  Easy did quit on her (and was central to her team’s troubles in the first place), so I get it when she says, “I have no desire to ever talk to him again.”  It was her tough luck (and maybe the reason the savvier Laurels and Evs stayed away from the doomed Fresh Meat team) to be with a player that was just unable to compete at the necessary level.  As for Easy, I think he gave every thing he had, and it just may be that what he has does not amount to all that much in the uber-competitive athletic/social gladiator pit known as the Challenge.  Thankfully, it does seem like he found love in a hopeless place with Devyn and can look back on his Turkey experience with a worthy consolation prize.

Finally, I think there is some real truth to when Eric says, “we didn’t have that Real World season to get to know each other.”  Easy may be an overall weak competitor, but he is (by all accounts) a good dude, and a hypothetical Real World roommate would know Easy (beyond his athletic failings on the competition geared Challenges) well enough to more graciously forgive him for his failings.  He and Camila have only done Challenges together and may not have had the opportunity in a more controlled social environment to make those vital connections.

TJ HATES QUITTERS

Exchanges like this both confirm the greatness of TJ Lavin and explain why he is essential to creating and maintaining the competitive environment of the Challenges:

TJ: “That’s one thing I hate worse than anything else in the world – and that’s quitters.  Big Easy, man, why did you quit?”

Big Easy: “We were fighting an upward battle, man, it wasn’t going our way, and it didn’t look like anything was going to change.”

TJ: “Yeah, but when the chips are down bro, don’t you just think you should give it to them?”

Big Easy: “I’ve been giving it to ‘em since I got here, I am over it.”

TJ: “You want to let your teammate down like that?”

Big Easy: “She’s not my teammate, we’ve been playing a single person’s game since our team walked into the house.  It is what it is.  Words are words.”

TJ: “Alright…(slow pause, obviously not agreeing), Camila, what do you think about that?”

Camila: “Exactly, we are not teammates because I am not a quitter and I don’t align myself with quitters like you.  JD did it.  He never let Devyn down, so you know what, once a quitter, always a quitter my friend, there is no excuse for that.”

Above all else, TJ hates quitters.  You can be un-athletic, awkward, boring, or largely disliked, but if you give it your all in front of TJ, you are killing it on The Challenge.

If you quit or give up, well, there is no excuse for that.  If TJ has any say (and if he doesn’t he should), I think we have seen the last of Big Easy on The Challenge.

THE “CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD” CHALLENGE

Before this week’s “Chairman of the Board” trivia contest, TJ declared it his “favorite” challenge.  Similar to past spelling/trivia competitions in recent challenges, competitors were asked questions in various categories and of varied obscurity.  If you get a question wrong, you are not only out, but TJ gets to pull a lever that connects to your chair, propelling you uncontrollably too many feet into the raging Mediterranean waters below.  The last team standing (or sitting in this case) wins and the first team to have all team members miss a question lose and must fight for life in the arena.  The intentional comedy of watching our favorite competitors struggle mightily on easy answers only to be sent flying at the hands of TJ into the sea is complete joy (and understandably TJ’s favorite challenge).

ImagePower team Cancun set the strategic order (Brooklyn, St. Thomas, Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Diego, Cancun – also revealing their own status rankings), but not before Team Las Vegas suffered a one person deduction when Trishelle’s dehydration forced her to sit this one out (to the chagrin of Alton and Dustin).  Here is the order of elimination, including some wrong answer high(low)lights:

Marie, Dustin, McKenzie (In what country was the very first Fresh Meat filmed? Europe.), Jasmine (What is the capitol of England? Liverpool.), Sarah, Laura, Alton (Who was Kim Kardashian married to before filing for divorce after 72 days? Kris Duncan.), Knight (Who did Prince William marry in 2011? No clue. Jemmye: We watched it!), Preston (In basketball, what city are the Suns from? Utah), JD, Robb, Jemmye (making Team New Orleans the first team eliminated), Frank, Jonna, Devyn, Trey, Nany (she was clutch on two answers, saving Team Las Vegas), Ashley (The Challenge has been produced on how many continents? 21), Derek, and finally Chet who incorrectly spelled “narcissistic” (Chet: “I wish he had given me “whiny bitch” because that is an easy one to spell.  F-R-A-N-K.” Brilliant.)

Thanks to Frank’s correct answer domination (he stayed on so long that Zach and Sam never had to answer a single question) and no thanks to Ashley’s answer of “21” to a question about the number of continents (tough moment), Team San Diego won and reclaimed power team status.

TEAM BROOKLYN FLEXES SOME MUSCLE

ImageI have said it before and I will say it again, there is something about this group and although it does seem to originate with Sarah and Chet, both Devyn and JD made key contributions this week.  Team Brooklyn has now won three straight arena eliminations and if anything, they seem to be only getting stronger.  As the anti-Fresh Meat, the following are several instances and statements that help explain why Team Brooklyn is all over what it means to be the good guys in this game and how they could carve a very real pathway to victory:

Warm

  • Before the first arena elimination, TJ: “I sense some team unity.  I like that.” Yep.
  • After the Camila/Easy meltdown, Sarah and Chet cheer on Devyn and JD to finish.  It is such a contrast.
  • When Camila uses Brooklyn’s example to show Eric his deficiencies, Devyn does not accept Camila’s comparison: “But we talk to our teammates with respect, always.”

Warmer…

  • Sarah: “Brooklyn ain’t going anywhere.  We are like the cockroaches you can’t kill.  No problem.”
  • In the second arena elimination, Sarah and Chet are so ready to compete for their team.  It leads to this classic exchange: Sarah: “It always comes down to who wants to be here more, and I want to be here, real bad.”  Chet: “Yeah it comes down to who wants to be here more, but it also comes down to Preston is a terrible competitor, and he ain’t sending me home.” There is no way, Chet.
  • Sarah: “The best thing about this Brooklyn Team is our team unity…I am ready to go in and I can’t wait.”

HOT!!!!!

  • Devyn: “We are like that toe fungus that you had.  You are just going to have to wait it out.  You are not going to get rid of us this fast.”

Beware Cancun and San Diego higherups.  The lovable “toe fungus” is growing and it may not be extinguishable.

WEEKLY CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS

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

THE MEN

THE TOP TIER

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

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

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

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

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

ImageAlthough there was some major movement this week in this group (both CJ and Alton dropped, Chet and Frank moved up), it is clear who the top five male competitors are in this game.  I must continue to give Frank credit.  He singlehandedly secured victory for his team and is the champion of maintaining alliance supremacy.  It will be very interesting to see (as teased in the “Next Week on”) how the male San Diego versus male Las Vegas off court battle plays out.  In many ways, this could be the pivotal moment for the power structure of this game.

Chet continues to man up in the arena with athletic execution and inescapable wit.  He has now orally bested CJ (live) and Frank (during his must watch interviews) in successive weeks.

THE NEXT LEVEL

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

Zach and Frank both pointed out their perceived irony of Chet struggling to spell the word “narcissistic.”  After Chet’s anti-Frank quip, the battle lines have been drawn.

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

THE RISING CONTENDERS

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

Last week’s power rankings may have gone after Knight a little too harshly (although I did not go as far to call him a sociopath, Jacoby).  To his credit, he is playing this game to win and for a first timer, is admittedly doing really well (good initial alignment, controls the machinations of his own team, has a good sense of humor, getting along with Jemmye).  Additionally, he was responsible for my favorite moment of this week’s episode.  As the recipient of the t-mobile text message pre-challenge, he opened the message report with his own hilarious faux-intro, “Thank god the wicked witch from Brazil is gone.”  Well played, Knight, Ryan Knight.

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

In a pleasant surprise, we finally heard something from JD this week before he faced elimination in the arena:  “I am ready for this.  This is what I was born to do.  I am a water person.  I have trained whales and dolphins in the past.  I am a competitive swimmer.  You can’t win something you have already won, so let’s just get this over with.”  Yes you can, JD.

LOWEST ON THE TOTEM POLE

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

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

I continue to struggle placing Team St. Thomas in this game.  Do I think they have power?  Most of the time, no.  However, if I put my Survivor hat on, one could argue that they have much power because if they ever settle their inconclusive alignment, they could serve as the majority determinant.  Although team votes are not a part of the deliberation process, it would be a moral victory for Vegas and Brooklyn if they developed some real bond with this rookie rookie team.

ELIMINATED: Eric (Team Fresh Meat), Preston (Team New Orleans)

Biggest Rise: JD (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: 3 tied

THE WOMEN

THE TOP TIER

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

Sarah had another one of those weeks where she flexed her personal and competitive greatness.

Sarah, how do you feel about a trivia challenge? “I love trivia.  It is even on my business card.  It says speaker, artist, trivia master, right under my name.  I can’t wait to do this Challenge.”

Sarah, how do you feel about getting a question wrong? “No worries.  Instead of painfully flopping, I will just have to do an awe-inspiring flip dive.  I love this game!” (I made this quotation up, but the dive was really cool)

From her self-described “nervous pees” before her arena battle, to her checking out a working out Alton, to her “see you next time” comment to TJ after winning, she is incredible and infectious to watch.  Fearless, but never overconfident, and having so much fun in the process, she is in a very good place to continue her game domination.

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

There was a telling moment this week when Jonna and Frank had a disagreement (Frank: “I saw you rolling your eyes”) at the alliance gathering.  Although Frank’s choice to send Brooklyn in won out, Jonna’s awareness that Las Vegas is a formidable opponent that must be addressed at some point did not go unnoticed.  She is playing this game and continues to be a force.

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

Nany ended up being super clutch for Team Vegas in the challenge (thank goodness she knew what city the Red Sox are from and what person is on the quarter), saving her team from their first arena appearance.  Although her questions were handed to her, she did execute when her team needed her to and represented for Vegas woman (in light of Trishelle’s dehydration issues).  Dustin “couldn’t be more proud of Nany if [he] was her father.”

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

Poor Jasmine.  She may be a hero to Liverpool FC and Beatles fans everywhere, but your mom is a geography teacher!  C’mon.

THE NEXT LEVEL

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

Fact: Trishelle almost cost her team the challenge due to an awful bout of dehydration (Alton: “What is up with her?”).  Notwithstanding, her place in the fifth spot in the rankings is quite secure (low competition behind her) this week, but will be tested when the Vegas and San Diego men come to blows next week.

THE RISING CONTENDERS

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

Devyn is a rising commodity on this list.  Her interview sound bites are go-to and she is a big proponent and provider of the Brooklyn Team Unity.  With her heart torn asunder after Big Easy’s departure, she will have extra motivation to fight for her man and her game will only benefit with the removal of a potential tense relationship distraction.

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

Marie is a struggle in challenges, although her answer of “TJ Lavin” was a reasonable one.  If she were smart, she would sit down with Sarah, Chet, and Team Vegas and make the St. Thomas connection.  I have a feeling her relationship with Frank could be her game demise.

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

Jemmye had some great moments this episode (When discussing the “identify the man on currency” category: “Everyone uses debit cards, let’s be real, this category sucks” and when asked why Team New Orleans is in the bottom this week, her response, “We lost.”) and feels like a burden has been lifted now that Preston and McKenzie were forced to say their inevitable goodbyes.  I think she and Knight always do better when it is just them and I would not be surprised if we see a more feisty and subsequently successful Jemmye/Knight tandem in future challenges and arenas.

LOWEST ON THE TOTEM POLE

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

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

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

Sorry, Ashley.  You share the award this week for “worst answer to an easy question” with McKenzie (Europe is not a country).  In what pressured universe is any answer to “how many continents?” ever “21”?  This was an automatic demotion to the bottom of the rankings.

ELIMINATED: McKenzie (Team New Orleans), Camila (Team Fresh Meat) 

Biggest Rise: Devyn (Team Brooklyn)

Biggest Fall: Ashley (Team San Diego)

FULL TEAM RANKINGS

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

1. TEAM LAS VEGAS Average: 3.5, last week: 3.25 (T-1)

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

Vegas is back on top after many weeks away.  Next week they will face their truest test yet when Alton and Dustin face the wrath of Frank and Zach.

2. TEAM CANCUN Average: 4.25, last week: 3.25 (T-1)

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

A brief slip pushes them from the top for the first time in a while.

3. TEAM BROOKLYN Average: 4.75, last week: 7 (4)

Sarah (1), Chet (3), JD (9), Devyn (6)

Here comes Brooklyn!  JD and Devyn are starting to show some fire and Chet and Sarah seem to be unbeatable in the arena.

4. TEAM SAN DIEGO Average: 7, last week: 6.75 (3)

Zach (6), Sam (9), Ashley (11), Frank (2)

Frank is doing incredible work, but increasingly, seems to be carrying this group.  Will his early season impenetrable pairing with Zach become relevant again?

5. TEAM NEW ORLEANS Average: 8, last week: 12 (7)

Knight (8), Jemmye (8), Eliminated: McKenzie, Preston

With Preston and McKenzie gone, Team New Orleans jumps to fifth place in the team rankings.  I credit them for making the right initial alliance.

6. TEAM ST. THOMAS Average: 9.5, last week: 9 (5)

Laura (10), Trey (10), Robb (11), Marie (7)

Although still in the dark about what to do with them, I have a feeling that we are going to learn more in the coming weeks.

TOP 10 PAIR RANKINGS:

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

T-1. Sarah and Chet (Team Brooklyn) Average: 2, Dustin and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 2

T-3. CJ and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 3, Dustin and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 3

T-5. CJ and Jasmine (Team Cancun) Average: 4, Alton and Nany (Team Las Vegas) Average: 4,

T-7. Chet and Devyn (Team Brooklyn) Average 4.5Derek and Jonna (Team Cancun) Average: 4.5

9. Alton and Trishelle (Team Las Vegas) Average: 5

10. Jasmine and Derek (Team Cancun) Average: 5.5

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

  • At the challenge, somebody smells disgusting and CJ vomits
  • Frank and Alton scuffle, Zach and Alton scuffle
  • Frank tells Dustin that he dying to get his hands on a man again…

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 7 power rankings will be available on October 29.

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

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

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

KNIGHT CLEANS NANY’S CLOTHES

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

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

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

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

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

THE “DON’T WEIGH ME DOWN” CHALLENGE

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

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

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

THE BIZARRE POST CHALLENGE ALLIANCE “GATHERING”

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

CHET VERSUS CJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEVYN AND ERIC: A LOVE STORY

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

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

FRESH MEAT VERSUS BROOKLYN PREVIEW

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

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

WEEKLY CHALLENGE POWER RANKINGS

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

THE MEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELIMINATED: NO ELIMINATION

Biggest Rise: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)

Biggest Fall: JD (Team Brooklyn)

THE WOMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELIMINATED: NO ELIMINATION 

Biggest Rise: Marie (Team St. Thomas)

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

FULL TEAM RANKINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOP 10 PAIR RANKINGS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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