Tag Archives: Team Cancun

THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Penultimate Retro Running Diary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dustin

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

Sarah

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

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

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

Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knot So Fast

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

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

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

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

Ashley and Frank

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

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

Zach and Jonna

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

Ashley and Frank

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

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

Dustin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chet and Devyn

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

Dustin

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

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

THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS – WEEK 9

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

Let the games begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest Rise: Zach (Team San Diego)

Biggest Fall: Derek (Team Cancun)

THE WOMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biggest Fall: Jonna (Team Cancun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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