Tag Archives: The Challenge: Rivals II

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Weekly Power Rankings – Week 2

The Challenge: Rivals 2 is beginning to get her groove on.  After a disappointing challenge and a Jungle round that left something to be desired in week 1, week 2 had everything you could ask for in a Challenge episode: a CT and Frank blowout fight, a most entertaining challenge built on a “face in partner’s crotch” relay, a steamy closet hookup between Sarah and Jordan, an iconic inspirational speech from a least expected competitor, an allusion to Vanilla Ice, Cooke peeing on a swing while waiting to begin the Jungle elimination round, and a TJ Lavin guilt giving clinic that took “killing it” it to an entirely new level.  Some significant movement near the top of the forthcoming power rankings reflect the joyous insanity that was.  Before we delve deep into the numbers, there are a few points to touch on:

Welcome, mainstream media.  It was about time.

Beyond the aforementioned brilliant content of the second episode, it was a huge week for The Challenge in the world of mainstream media:

  • Johnny Bananas took over OK Magazine’s twitter account during the airing.  On a site known for fluffy and sensational celebrity coverage, Johnny’s presence alone gave the website/magazine immediate enhancement in clout.
  • Entertainment Weekly (oftentimes the barometer of what is and isn’t important in popular culture – I should know as a subscriber since 1996) finally acknowledged The Challenge not once (in a slightly condescending way, but still), but twice (in a most celebratory way!).  Staff writer Melissa Maerz detailed the “The Ten Reasons Why I’m Still Obsessed with MTV’s ‘The Challenge’” as a mostly guilty pleasure admission, but clever and complementary nonetheless.  Most importantly, The Challenge: Rivals II appeared on this week’s EW Must List (listed second in the print magazine) as one of the “ten things we love this week.”  The description – “All right, we admit it.  We’re hooked on the new season of the competition series that forces enemy ex-reality stars to pair up for comically arduous physical challenges.” – calls the competitors stars (even if technically considered “from the past”) and nails it (particularly this week) with the physical challenge description as “comically arduous.”  EW has finally seen the light.
  • The greatest The Challenge mainstream moment of the week (and will continue its substantial ripple effects for some time) was Frank Sweeney’s appearance on The Right Reasons podcast with Juliet Litman on the Grantland Popular Culture Network.  The kingdom of Bill Simmons (originally just a writer and then just a writer and podcaster) has been promoting this “Fifth Major Professional Sport” for many years, often with the able and dedicated Czar of Reality TV, Dave Jacoby, by his passionate side.  As Grantland (under the not so watchful eye of ESPN) over the last two years has grown to be the go-to site for sports and popular culture writing, podcasting, and now video casting, The Challenge has always been a celebrated topic.  With Jacoby’s Right Reasons podcast covering the reality TV week that was, Challenge season is the best time of year.  Frank’s insightful, engrossing, informative, and entertaining interview this week provided incredible behind the scenes insight into how this show works and how this season will play out.  I am still decompressing some of the intel that he provided and will, with a little more perspective, reflect on it next week.  If you are reading this (an indication that you may be a fan of The Challenge), I guarantee that the 49 minutes you spend with Frank and Juliet will be your best hour of the week before Wednesday’s next airing.

The Rise of a Rookie (on her way out)

Although Mike and Leroy had a great run before running out of gas on Rivals and Frank and Zach were season MVPs on Battle of the Seasons, I am not sure I can remember a time when I found a rookie performance on The Challenge to be more surprising and impressive than Jessica’s week 2.  Yes, she and Anastasia lost the challenge and yes she and Anastasia lost in the Jungle and are now eliminated, but Jessica managed to raise her stock and her The Challenge credibility while doing so.  Her Princess Hulk performance in the challenge in which she literally picked up Anastasia was an athletic feat of both physical and mental endurance (and one that many a viewer did not know she had in her).  More impressive, perhaps, was her rallying cry pep talk of greatness (“Yah, you got a fight.  Yah, you had a hookup, big frickin’ deal.  You think anyone else hasn’t ever had sex with somebody?  You think anyone else hasn’t ever fought anybody?  You’re damn wrong if you think they didn’t.  So frickin’ what!  At the end of the day, and I’m realizing this too, so you’re not standing alone, it’s me and you baby, and guess what?  We’re rookies.  So we gotta kick ass.”) that should be used as inspiration and mandatory viewing for any rookie team in subsequent seasons of The Challenge.  Jessica had a tough go at times in Portland, especially with Anastasia, who at one point tried to friend break up with her.  One could have assumed (as I may have) that her Challenge experience would be more of the same.  Yet, Jessica ended up showcasing her inner strength, commitment, and wisdom and gained much respect throughout the process.  Exiting on the highest of possible notes when you are eliminated in a Jungle, she is primed (a current offseason workout regimen will only help) to come back next season as a force to be reckoned with.

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

Last week, we took a look at the voting system repercussions for the men’s teams.  This week, after the first women’s vote and some unexpected veteran targeting, let us explore how the women may fair:

Cooke and Cara Maria (received 4 votes) – In many ways, this was the obvious male vote choice for the first women’s Jungle elimination.  Cara Maria has made few connections (Abram and Laurel being the exceptions) on her now six Challenge seasons and from the moment TJ announced her second straight season appearance as a late game replacement, the crowd of competitors was less than excited.  Cooke is a rookie to The Challenge (and for what it’s worth this midseason Real World replacement at times struggled to find acceptance while in Las Vegas) and Challenge rookies are often asked to prove themselves in an elimination rounds early and often.  Notwithstanding, they only received four of the seven votes and at this point in the competition, this must be seen as a mini-victory.  Cooke seems to have Leroy’s loyalty and allegiance for now (he and Ty had a most random vote for Theresa and Jasmine) and with Trishelle stirring up some trouble for her Sarah partnership, the target could rest elsewhere in future votes.  One additional factor that could play a role: as their Jungle victory may prove, Cooke and Cara Maria, if they can get it together as a team, are going to be a tough out, and if one of the more powerful women teams ends up with an unexpected challenge loss, they will want to avoid a showdown with Cooke and Cara Maria if possible.  They will be in the running to be voted into the next Jungle, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Sarah and Trishelle (received 2 votes) – They received two votes and with the way the momentum was going, it felt like a few more may have been left on the table (Knight’s Battle of the Seasons bond with Trishelle probably prevented him from following CT’s lead).  Derek and Robb’s vote could be seen as strictly a payback for Sarah and Trishelle’s week 1 vote, but with other viable options out there, there may be more to this message.  Sarah still has Johnny and Frank as a solid support and after some cuddling and closet time with Jordan, Jordan and Marlon seem to be aligned for a time as well.  The strength of Zach’s relationship with Trishelle is going to be particularly important for Sarah and Trishelle as a possible locked third team that will not vote against them.  Yes, it is only two votes against them, but Sarah’s concern that her partner may be a real liability is sound and needs to be dealt with immediately if she wants to have a shot to make it to the end.

Jasmine and Theresa (received 1 vote) – Leroy and Ty were not going to vote against Cooke (Real World house lines remain the strongest of bonds), but it was interesting how they chose Jasmine and Theresa.  As the power rankings may start to prove, Jasmine and Theresa do not have too many teams who will definitely not vote for them (Derek and Robb as the clear exception).  Knight and Preston seem to be the next best connection, but anytime you hedge your bets on Preston, you may want to rethink your strategy.  If the powers give Cooke and Cara Maria a Jungle reprieve during the next women elimination, Jasmine and Theresa are probably going to have to go in.

Aneesa and Diem – They are an interesting pair in the analysis of men team support.  CT and Wes are never going to vote against them, but I am not sure if there is a one other team in the competition who you could say that for.  On the other hand, with many younger and less established teams left in the competition, I can’t see many of the men voting in Diem for at least several eliminations.  They should be protected from votes for the forceable future, so they must work to stay out of the bottom on challenges.

Jemmye and Camila – Although Camila is on Johnny’s list of “women I will try not to vote for,” where she is on that list is a little bit more of a wild card.  Paula and Emily are ahead of her and I think Sarah and Trishelle probably are too.  Jemmye’s logical Knight protection is mired in a such a tumultuous relationship that it should not be counted on too seriously.  How some of the other men teams approach #teamsubtitles is a bit of a mystery.  They remain one of the most intriguing teams on this season who could, if some balls drop in their favor, make a finals trip.

Jonna and Nany – Their two Real World connection teams (Derek and Robb, Leroy and Ty) will be loyal to the end, but where the rest of their support lies is yet to be seen.  Both Nany and Jonna could have logical votes for them (Frank, Knight, a spurned ex-lover in Zach) and the better they do in the challenges (two second place finishes), the larger their target grows.  They must work to align with another male team (Jordan and Marlon?) to develop a beneficial voting relationship.

Paula and Emily – After two straight challenge wins, they haven’t been even considered yet for a vote, but as an early season outlier of success, anything short of a win in future challenges will muster some confidence in rival women teams to persuade men teams to take out the mighty frontrunner.  Johnny and Ty are not ever going to vote against Paula and Emily respectively (another huge advantage) and both of these mens teams should be around in the competition until the end.  CT and Wes must be seen as the primary mens team opponent, but without a deep bench of followers besides Knight (and he didn’t even vote with them this week), how much voting damage can they do?  It is hard to conceive of a scenario in which Paula and Emily find themselves in a Jungle, if it be through a challenge loss or a vote.

On to the rankings…

As became tradition last year during Battle of the Seasons, the individual competitor power rankings and team power rankings will be released weekly sometime shortly after each new episode airing.  Here are the individual and team rankings after week 2…

RIVALS 2 INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS

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

 THE MEN

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

Week 2 Tweet: Part Ninja, part therapist to Frank, Johnny Bananas is just beginning to work his strategic magic, OK!?

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

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

2. Zach (2nd season, last week: 3)

Week 2 Tweet: As Zach and Trey just keep winning, the rest of the competition has to be legitimately concerned.

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

CHALLENGE WINS: 2

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

3. Frank (2nd season, last week: 4)

Week 2 Tweet: Well, he “let him shake.”  I think, as his Grantland interview proves, Frank got his stuff together and is a near lock for the finals.

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

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

4. Trey (2nd season, last week: 8, biggest rise [tie])

Week 2 Tweet: Another challenge win means Trey takes the largest jump of the week in the rankings.  He and Zach seem unstoppable.

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

CHALLENGE WINS: 2

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

5. CT (9th season, last week: 2)

Week 2 Tweet: Too much shaking in Week 2 brought his ranking down.  The Wes quit and ensuing penalty in the next challenge won’t help.

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

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

6. Leroy (3rd season, last week: 6)

Week 2 Tweet: Leroy is staying under the edit’s radar thus far.  I love his random vote for Theresa and Jasmine.  The best of his game is yet to come.

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

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine

7. Jordan (Rookie season, last week: 11, biggest rise [tie])

Week 2 Tweet: Jordan’s sensational weightlifting and Sarah hookup tie him with Trey for biggest rise in the rankings.  Fulfilling his Challenge destiny.

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

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

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

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

Week 2 Tweet: As his partner’s social game improves, so do his ultimate chances.  Another altercation next week is not a good thing, though.

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

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

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

9. Ty (4th season, last week: 7)

Week 2 Tweet: There is some dispute as to whether he is actually still on the show.

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

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine

10. Wes (8th season, last week: 5, largest drop)

Week 2 Tweet: He quit the challenge and accrued a penalty next week.  He seems to be losing whatever grip he had.

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

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

11. Knight (2nd season, last week: 9)

Week 2 Tweet: The Official CT bodyguard duty has taken away from gameplay.  Preston baggage has only gotten worse.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

12. Derek (3rd season, last week: 12)

Week 2 Tweet: Love his retribution vote for Sarah and Trishelle.  Must work the social game this week to stay out of Jungle.

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

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

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

JUNGLE: Beat Tyrie and Dunbar Week 1

13. Robb (2nd season, last week: 13)

Week 2 Tweet: Apparently, Robb makes an impressive grilled cheese.  Could his culinary contribution keep him out the Jungle?

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

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

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

JUNGLE: Beat Tyrie and Dunbar Week 1

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

Week 2 Tweet: Why come on the show?  His head is nowhere near the game and costly DQ will cost his team next week.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

ELIMINATED

15. Dunbar (6 season, last week: 6)

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

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 1

JUNGLE: Lost to Derek and Robb Week 1

16. Tyrie (6th season, last week: 15)

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

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 1

JUNGLE: Lost to Derek and Robb Week 1

 

THE WOMEN

1. Paula (10th season, last week: 1)

Week 2 Tweet: As she builds a little challenge win streak, further distances herself from the competition.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

CHALLENGE WINS: 2

2. Emily (3rd season, last week: 2)

Week 2: Keeps getting better each week.  She and Paula appear unstoppable.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

CHALLENGE WINS: 2

3. Sarah (7th season, last week: 3)

Week 2 Tweet: I love everything about her Jordan hookup.  She must get Trishelle back on board or the “unlucky partner” trend will continue.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Derek/Robb, CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

4. Nany (2nd season, last week: 4)

Week 2 Tweet: Another strong showing in the challenge despite rocky start.  Mostly below the radar thus far.

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

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

5. Jonna (3rd season, last week: 5)

Week 2 Tweet: After second straight second place finish, starting to establish rhythm with Nany.  Must continue to build on this.

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

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

6. Jemmye (2nd season, last week: 8)

Week 2 Tweet: Sound-byte queen frontrunner (taking Devyn’s place), she and Camila are most entertaining.  Still the team to watch.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

7. Camila (5th season, last week: 6)

Week 2 Tweet: Her storm has yet to come.  Must continue to build on relationships and Jemmye partnership before her inevitable eruption.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

8. Aneesa (9th season, last week: 9)

Week 2 Tweet: Underrated strong two weeks so far.  Her physical powers seem to be at an all-time high.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

9. Diem (7th season, last week: 10)

Week 2 Tweet: CT entanglement is still a concern.  I think she has an ideal partner (wiser, seasoned) for this Challenge.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

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

Week 2 Tweet: Not sure if her head and heart are in the game.  Stirred up some trouble and got votes back in reaction.  Not a good sign.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 2 (Derek/Robb, CT/Wes)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

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

Week 2 Tweet: Contending with Jemmye for best sound byte crown.  Had a great showing in the challenge.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Leroy/Ty)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

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

Week 2 Tweet: Her narration and participation in the “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!” mission was a highlight of the week.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Leroy/Ty)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

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

Week 2 Tweet: Cara Maria is best partner for her to go to war with in physical challenges, just not social game.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 4 (Zach/Trey, Johnny/Frank, Knight/Preston, Jordan/Marlon)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

JUNGLE: Beat Jessica and Anastasia Week 2

14. Cara Maria (6th season, last week: -)

Week 2 Tweet: Cara Maria lack of warm welcome will weekly hill to climb.  After a few more elimination wins, teams may start to fear her?

VOTES AGAINST: 4 (Zach/Trey, Johnny/Frank, Knight/Preston, Jordan/Marlon)

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

JUNGLE: Beat Jessica and Anastasia Week 2

ELIMINATED

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

Week 2 Tweet: Princess Hulk was the star of week 2.  Sorry to see her go.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 2

JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2

LEFT THE SHOW

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

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

ELIMINATED

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

Week 2 Tweet: If Jessica was the star of week 2 for all the right reasons, Ana was the star for all the wrong ones.  Tough exit from the show.

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

CHALLENGE LOSS: Week 2

JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2

 

RIVALS 2 TEAM RANKINGS

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

  1. Paula and Emily – Team Average: 1.5, last week: 2
  2. Johnny and Frank – Team Average: 2, last week: 2.5
  3. Zach and Trey – Team Average: 3, last week: 5.5
  4. Nany and Jonna – Team Average: 4.5, last week: 4.5
  5. Sarah and Trishelle – Team Average: 6.5, last week: 5
  6. Camila and Jemmye – Team Average: 6.5, last week: 7
  7. CT and Wes – Team Average: 7.5, last week: 3.5
  8. Ty and Leroy – Team Average: 7.5, last week: 6.5
  9. Marlon and Jordan – Team Average: 7.5, last week: 10.5
  10. Diem and Aneesa – Team Average: 8.5, last week: 9.5
  11. Jasmine and Theresa – Team Average: 11.5, last week: 12.5
  12. Knight and Preston – Team Average: 12.5, last week: 11.5
  13. Derek and Robb – Team Average: 12.5, last week: 12.5
  14. Cooke and Cara Maria – Team Average: 13.5, last week: 11
  15. ELIMINATED 2nd: Anastasia and Jessica – Team Average: 15, last week: 14.5
  16. ELIMINATED 1st: Dunbar and Tyrie – Team Average: 15.5

LEFT THE SHOW: Naomi

 

Next week is a men’s elimination week, but the challenge will feature a penalty for both CT and Wes and Knight and Preston.  As always, it shall be most interesting.  If you haven’t, listen to Frank’s podcast.  It will blow your mind.  Until…

 

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

RIVALS 2 – Episode 2 – The Confessioner’s Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

CT working alone

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

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

Frank and CT

Rule #4 – Do not underestimate Jordan

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

Jordan

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

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

Cara and Cooke

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

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

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

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

Knight protects CT

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

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

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

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

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

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

The challenge

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

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

Cara Maria and TJ

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

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

Trishelle and Sarah

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

Apparently…

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

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

Rule #15 – There are cameras in the closet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Confessioner”

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

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

Let me introduce you to…THE CONFESSIONER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On to the rankings…

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

PRESEASON RIVALS 2 INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS

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

THE MEN

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

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

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

2. CT (9th season, last week: 2)

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

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

3. Zach (2nd season, last week: 4)

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

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

4. Frank (2nd season, last week: 3)

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

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

5. Wes (8th season, last week: 5)

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

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

6. Leroy (3rd season, last week: 8)

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

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

7. Ty (4th season, last week: 7)

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

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

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

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

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

9. Knight (2nd season, last week: 11)

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

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

ELIMINATED

 

Dunbar (6 season, last week: 6)

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

 

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

Tyrie (6th season, last week: 15)

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

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

THE WOMEN

1. Paula (10th season, last week: 1)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

2. Emily (3rd season, last week: 2)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

3. Sarah (7th season, last week: 2)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

4. Nany (2nd season, last week: 4)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

5. Jonna (3rd season, last week: 5)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston

6. Camila (5th season, last week: 6)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

8. Jemmye (2nd season, last week: 9)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

9. Aneesa (9 seasons, last week: 10)

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb

LEFT THE SHOW:

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

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

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

 

RIVALS 2 TEAM RANKINGS

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

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

LEFT THE SHOW: Naomi

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

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

RIVALS 2 Season Premiere Retro Running Diary

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

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

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

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

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

Reaction to TJ's news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica reacts to CT's rules

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

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

The CT and Marlon fight

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

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

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

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

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

CT and Diem

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

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

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

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

Game of Inches

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny Bananas

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

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

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

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

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

The big voting surprise

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

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

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

Paula and Jordan at the club

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

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

Naomi has to go home

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

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

Last Chance

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

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

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

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

A night out

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

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

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

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

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

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Preseason Power Rankings

Are you ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the rankings…

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

PRESEASON RIVALS 2 INDIVIDUAL POWER RANKINGS

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

THE MEN

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

13. Marlon (Rookie season)

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

 

14. Jordan (Rookie season)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

THE WOMEN

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

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

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

 

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

Records held: Most Consecutive Seasons, Women – 7

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

13. Cooke (Rookie season)

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

 

14. Jessica (Rookie season)

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

 

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

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

 

16. Anastasia (Rookie season)

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

 

RIVALS 2 TEAM RANKINGS

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

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

Postseason Awards and Predictions

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

Most Improved Player – Men: Trey; Women: Jemmye

Rookie of the Year – Marlon

Some bold predictions:

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

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

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

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

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

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – Zach and Trey

This is the sixteenth (and final!) in a series of “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ team previews that will lead into the first power rankings of the season.  Next up: on Tuesday, The Challenge: Rivals 2 Weekly Power Rankings – Week 1

ZACH and TREY

Where did we last see them? Both were rookies on Battle of the Seasons.  Zach, as a key cog in Team San Diego, won in the finals.  Trey, often ignored by Marie on Team St. Thomas, was not so successful.

The Rivalry: On Battle of the Seasons, they did not get along too well, but since, they have been on social media attack mode (see more below).

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) – 8, best Rivals I comparison: Aneesa and Robin

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio:

The male team that poses the biggest physical threat… is also the one fraught with the most bad blood. Zach and Trey hate each other and neither is afraid to express it.”

Wow!  This is frankly a little unexpected.  I wasn’t aware that they had all that much to do with one another on Battle of the Seasons. 

“Zach seethes, ‘Trey is your typical douchebag. He’s the friend no one likes. He’s truly a disgusting human being and now I gotta carry Mighty Mouse to a final.’”

Zach, please don’t hold back.

“Their feud has even spread to social media, where Zach assailed Trey’s character in interviews and on Twitter. As Trey explains, ‘At first those things kind of bothered me and then I realized Zach is just a really insecure bitch. He wants everything to go his way because he’s the biggest dude in the house.’”

Yeah, so it is game on for these two.  We might actually have a “rivalry” on Rivals 2 that is currently at war (albeit over social media). 

For Trey, though, this Challenge is about redemption. After a disappointing debut last season, this Baltimore boy yearns to make a name for himself and finally impress his peers with his athletic ability.

Yeah, Trey had a some difficulties acclimating himself on Battle of the Seasons.  His will to win is not questioned and he and Zach will both have this in common, but Trey must learn how to better manage the social game.  With Frank and Johnny a pair and Zach and Frank besties for life, Trey would be smart to immerse himself in the Johnny Bananas power structure and learn from a master.

Best-Case Scenario: With a little good fortune and some surprise power team eliminations, Zach and Trey make it to the finals and have a realistic shot to win.

Worst-Case Scenario: The twitter smoke is an actual fire that has too far spread.  A dispute in a challenge puts them in an early elimination and they are taken out by a team that does not share their dysfunction.

The Verdict: Maybe not the “biggest physical threat” as the MTV Bio suggests, Zach and Trey are in the conversation, and, besides Johnny and Frank, I am not sure there is a more competitive pair.  Zach continues to grow in gameplay and I think his management of Frank (and his potential volatility) was one of the most underrated elements of Team San Diego’s success.  Both Zach and Trey must put aside whatever animosity has been fostered and focus on how to use their relationships and physical abilities to their advantage.  I think the intensity of their respective wills to win and wills to prove themselves will overcome any unnecessary hatred.

Watch the Robb and Derek’s pre-interviews here

Men Team Previews:

CT and Wes

Dunbar and Tyrie

Johnny and Frank

Jordan and Marlon

Leroy and Ty

Preston and Knight

Robb and Derek

Women Team Previews:

Anastasia and Jessica

Aneesa and Diem

Camila and Jemmye

Cooke and Naomi

Jasmine and Theresa

Jonna and Nany

Paula and Emily

Sarah and Trishelle

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

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – Robb and Derek

This is the fifteenth in a series of “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ team previews that will lead into the first power rankings of the season.  Next up: Zach and Trey, the final men’s team

ROBB and DEREK

Where did we last see them? Robb (with two “bs”) and Derek both deservedly earned some The Challenge respect for some strong gameplay on Battle of the Seasons.

The Rivalry: Robb and Derek had an “in your face” drunken exchange in the middle of a bigger battle on Battle of the Seasons that involved Marie, JD, and Marie pushing Sam into a flower pot (tough moment).  Both Robb (in this case Marie) and Derek (in this case JD) were defending other people when they directed their pugnacity at each other.

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: Jenn and Mandi

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio:

“Robb and Derek can finally laugh at their shirt-ripping confrontation on Battle of the Seasons. Derek jokes, ‘My fight with Robb was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. He would’ve killed me and I look like a little Chihuahua!'” 

Finally!  It took them long enough!  In all seriousness, this little spat was over before it began (despite providing producers a great pre-commercial cliffhanger when it looked like something real was taking place).

“Not only has Robb put the past behind them, but has also been training hard since his last Challenge, adding 40 lbs. to his 6’6″ frame.” 

This is significant news for the competition.  Robb was always a good athlete, but added weight to his NBA small forward frame could make him a serious factor in challenges.

“‘We are very well rounded. I know he can probably endure just about everything. I suck underwater; he’s awesome underwater. And I think we’re both pretty smart,’ Robb says.” 

They are both “pretty smart” and Derek will have a good handle on how to connect to some of the more difficult personalities.  Derek’s calming, stable presence on Team Cancun on Battle of the Seasons was an essential ingredient to their success and he will be even better one year more experienced.

Best-Case Scenario: Riding a balanced approach that centers on Derek’s swimming and social game prowess and Robb’s utilization of a game-changing physique, they find themselves with a chance to make the finals.

Worst-Case Scenario: With not too many clear friends in this group of competitors, they are on a little island of positivity that is unprotected from an early elimination throw-in.

The Verdict: Robb and Derek, although an unlikely pairing and not of the most heated of rivalries, have a very positive combination of skills, attributes, and strengths.  They may not be dominant at anything, but I think they can be good at everything.  As long as they stay out of the bottom on challenges and remain socially neutral or in the middle of the power structure, they could stick around for some time.  With some more divisive personalities in play, I would not be surprised if Robb and Derek stay right below that radar.

Watch the Robb and Derek’s pre-interviews here

Men Team Previews:

CT and Wes

Dunbar and Tyrie

Johnny and Frank

Jordan and Marlon

Leroy and Ty

Preston and Knight

Women Team Previews:

Anastasia and Jessica

Aneesa and Diem

Camila and Jemmye

Cooke and Naomi

Jasmine and Theresa

Jonna and Nany

Paula and Emily

Sarah and Trishelle

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

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – Preston and Knight

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

PRESTON and KNIGHT

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

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

Rivalry Meter on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is a Leroy and Mike from Rivals I “Rivalry? They’re actually really good friends” rivalry and 10 is a Kenny and Wes from Rivals I “they have hated each other for years” RIVALRY) – 7, best Rivals I comparison: Adam and CT

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the Preston and Knight pre-interviews here

Men Team Previews:

CT and Wes

Dunbar and Tyrie

Johnny and Frank

Jordan and Marlon

Leroy and Ty

Women Team Previews:

Anastasia and Jessica

Aneesa and Diem

Camila and Jemmye

Cooke and Naomi

Jasmine and Theresa

Jonna and Nany

Paula and Emily

Sarah and Trishelle

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