Tag Archives: Trishelle

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Postseason Awards

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

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

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

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

Person whose stay in Thailand was way too short: Sarah

Most successful attempt to be silent: Ty

Worst attempt to be silent: Knight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most unexpected altercations: CT and Anastasia, Diem and Jemmye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst use of words: Diem’s rap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Honorable Mention: Preston, Wes, Aneesa

Preseason Prediction – Men: Trey; Women: Jemmye

Midseason Award – Men: Frank; Women: Aneesa

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




Honorable Mention: Marlon, Cooke

Preseason Prediction – Marlon

Midseason Award – Jordan

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




CT working alone

Paula and Emily

Honorable Mention: Johnny Bananas, Jordan, Wes, Cooke

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

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

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



  1. CT

  2. Wes

  3. Bananas

  4. Frank

  5. Jordan

  6. Marlon

  7. Leroy

  8. Trey

  9. Ty

  10. Zach

  11. Preston

  12. Dunbar

  13. Robb

  14. Derek

  15. Tyrie

  16. Knight


  1. (tie) Paula/Emily

  2. Cooke

  3. Cara Maria

  4. Sarah

  5. Aneesa

  6. Jemmye

  7. Camila

  8. Diem

  9. Jonna

  10. Nany

  11. Jasmine

  12. Jessica

  13. Theresa

  14. Anastasia

  15. Trishelle

  16. Naomi

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


THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Weekly Power Rankings – Week 3

Still reeling over the unconscionable production decision to remove Sarah from the competition after her partner Trishelle, amidst an apparent maelstrom of catatonic verbal expression and misguided beliefs on the mutual exclusivity of religion, ethnicity, and profession, quit the show, I have had trouble reflecting on the rest of the episode.  Sarah’s role in this modern (and dare I say, golden) era of The Challenge has been intrinsic to its success.  She has been our guide and our friend, the person that grounds the nighttime extracurricular activity and unnecessary violence and fighting in a more stable and humane personage.  Her earnest and commendable attempt to play the game the right way (and don’t get me wrong, Sarah is not afraid to mix it up with strategic blindsides or with an unpopular power play, it’s just that she is doing it with some honor and integrity) makes us always want to root for her to win.  This season of Rivals 2, loose execution of rivals conceit aside, has been an already impressive showing, but going forward without Sarah, especially after the unfair terms of her removal, seems to be a most daunting task.  The heart and soul of The Challenge was taken away without provocation or justification.  Her loss will be felt.

On to the rankings…

Once again, 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 3…


 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.


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

2. Frank (2nd season, last week: 3)


VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

He’s still got it!  As this week’s stellar performance in the “Mind Over Splatter” challenge proved, Johnny Bananas has not lost a step and continues to prove why he is the most celebrated competitor in Challenge history.  Johnny and Frank, once hyperbolized twitter foes, have had no difficulty (Frank’s blowout with CT aside) combining their respective strengths.  Frank’s offseason workout regimen and resultant action figure body are now on par with his already flexed strategic mind.  Johnny, after a low key first few weeks, seems to be just heating up and is now rounding into his Rivals and Battle of the Exes victorious self.  Although there is more competition at the top of men’s bracket than in the women’s bracket, Johnny and Frank are definitely the men’s team to beat.

3. Zach (2nd season, last week: 2)

4. Trey (2nd season, last week: 4)


VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

Thought to originally be a hotbed of dysfunction, Zach and Trey came close to taking their third straight challenge this week.  If they continue to be in the mix to win challenges (as I think they will), it is hard to see a scenario where they don’t make the finals.  One interesting tidbit (of the many) from Frank’s Grantland interview discussed how he and Zach are no longer the close friends they became (Zach’s call apparently) between Real World and Battle of the Seasons.  Under the expected voting system going into Rivals 2, a Frank and Zach severing of ties could have been most detrimental to both teams splitting natural allies into separate alliances, but now, under the gender separated voting, Zach and Trey must focus on winning female team support, and at this point, I am not sure where that support lies.  If they continue to win challenges, this is not an issue, but Johnny and Frank, Leroy and Ty, and even CT and Wes are going to have more women support than Zach and Trey.

5. CT (9th season, last week: 5)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

CT took the week off from being in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.  His challenge showing (and carrying of Wes) had vintage Rivals CT (I feel like he was often dragging Adam to the finish line) written all over it.

6. Leroy (3rd season, last week: 6)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Theresa/Jasmine)

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine

Despite a vote against from Theresa and Jasmine (just payback for Ty and Leroy’s vote last week), Leroy remains under the radar (and largely out of the edit), but still in a prime position, with few other women teams who would vote against him.

7. Jordan (Rookie season, last week: 7)

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

VOTES AGAINST: 4 (Cooke/Naomi/Cara Maria [2], Jasmine/Theresa, Nany/Jonna)

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria

Real World: Portland continues to make their indelible mark on The Challenge world.  Anastasia went out in a hot mess of closet hookups, CT attacks, and poor pre-Jungle health choices.  While still considering there is so much more yet to come, her slap on CT will be one of the lasting iconic images of the season.  Jess dispelled all of her doubters with a valiant performance in her final challenge and elimination, Princess Hulking her way to competitor credibility in the minds of viewers and the Great TJ Lavin.  She is in prime position to become Sarah Rice 2.0 of The Challenge, the Southern version.  Jordan ceases to amaze us all with his athletic ownership of a presumably disability disadvantage.  He continues to convert discounters and reshape expectations to the point where any lingering doubts will only hinder the competition.  Marlon, on a week when his hip-hop alter ego, Jay Dillinger, dropped an album, was at the center of The Challenge world.  First, he admirably stood up for himself when Knight’s juvenile attempt at humor backfired.  Then, his bookend episode hookups with Derek and Nany, exemplify his admirable comfort at celebrating who he is.  Marlon, from all accounts and from any perception created by his edit on Real World and Rivals 2, is just a great guy and a role model for his openness and for proudly owning the fluidity of his gender choices of sexual partners.  The only thing holding Jordan and Marlon back from a rankings rise at this point is they remain in a most vulnerable position among the men teams.  They were almost voted into the Jungle, and, with fewer clear voting options left for some of the women teams, may have to go in during the next men elimination.

9. Wes (8th season, last week: 10)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

10. Ty (4th season, last week: 9)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Theresa/Jasmine)

VOTES FOR: Theresa and Jasmine

Edit aside, where have these two former lightning rods of Challenge tension been?  Someone has got to light their fires.

11. Knight (2nd season, last week: 11)

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

VOTES FOR: Cooke and Cara Maria


JUNGLE: Beat Derek and Robb Week 3

Knight continues to find ways to embarrass himself outside of his CT bodyguard role and the effective, yet unintentionally comedic “Nola” verbal strategy in the Jungle.  His mimed fellatio to describe Marlon was desperate and pitiful.  I honestly don’t even get what his point was or why he thought his action was at all humorous.  I continue to want to give Knight a benefit of the doubt, but sadly, his actions do not warrant further accommodation.  At this point, the ball is in Knight’s court to show that there are some redeeming qualities there.  I am less and less hopeful by the week.

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

VOTES AGAINST: 1 (Nany/Jonna)

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle


JUNGLE: Beat Derek and Robb Week 3

Preston’s effective communication to the blindfolded Knight in their Jungle win (“Nola!  Nola!”) was the highest point of Preston’s young Challenge career.  Was this wig the low point?


13. Derek (3rd season, last week: 12)

14. Robb (2nd season, last week: 13)

VOTES AGAINST: 8 (Emily/Paula [2], Ana/Jess, Camila/Jemmye [2], Sarah/Trishelle, Diem/Aneesa [2])

VOTES FOR: Sarah and Trishelle

JUNGLE: Beat Tyrie and Dunbar Week 1, Lost to Knight and Preston Week 3

Derek and Robb just didn’t have enough allies in their favor.  They should both be proud of how well they worked together and the fight that they showed.  Their time was not now.

15. Dunbar (6 season, last week: 15)


JUNGLE: Lost to Derek and Robb Week 1

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


JUNGLE: Lost to Derek and Robb Week 1



1. Paula (10th season, last week: 1)

2. Emily (3rd season, last week: 2)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb


I am just not sure who or how they are stopped from making the finals.  Three straight challenge wins is a substantial statistical trend and I am not sure what other women team can rise to their level of athletic ability and partner synergy.

3. Aneesa (9 seasons, last week: 8, largest rise)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

Welcome back, 2007 Aneesa!  We have missed you.  Aneesa literally took out the trash (Trash/Trishelle was sadly unable to communicate an intelligible verbal response when Aneesa confronted her about erroneous comments) with a barrage of words and an able defense of Trishelle’s “I guess, this is all I got” physical attack.  Aneesa looked good and made Trishelle look really bad.  Not stopping there, she was not swayed by Derek’s emotional plea to save him from Jungle selection, recognizing that voting him in was the best strategy for her team.  She and Diem appear to be aligned with Paula and Emily’s vote and one of the key power brokers on the women’s side.

4. Nany (2nd season, last week: 4)

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston, Marlon and Jordan

5. Jemmye (2nd season, last week: 6)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

Largely still victims of the “there are so many people there, so unless you are involved in an extracurricular nighttime activity of the fighting kind, we don’t have too much airtime for you at this point,” both Nany and Jemmye will surely have their moment in forthcoming episodes.  For now, each had a brief highlight this week.  Nany’s highlight was her end of episode hookup with Marlon that put a perfect ribbon on his episode arc.  Jemmye, in a subtle gesture of support, gave Aneesa the intel about Trishelle spouting off about her struggle to understand that you can be both black and Jewish at the same time.

6. Diem (7th season, last week: 9)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

As Diem’s partner rises, so does she.  Also, any week she can stay out of CT drama has to be considered a win.

7. Camila (5th season, last week: 7)

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb, Derek and Robb

A candidate for “most forgotten member of the cast” this season, I will be happy if she loses this election.  Camila is a great competitor and has the potential to be great television.  Three weeks in, we have not been blessed with much evidence of either of these things.  I trust that her time will come.

8. Jonna (3rd season, last week: 5)

VOTED FOR: Knight and Preston, Marlon and Jordan

With Derek and Robb sent home, I am not sure what support Jonna brings to her team with Nany.  Partnerships are only as good as the weaker player, and I am not sure which men teams have any invested interest in Jonna’s success.

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

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


VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan, Leroy and Ty

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

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

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

VOTED FOR: Marlon and Jordan, Marlon and Jordan

JUNGLE: Beat Jessica and Anastasia Week 2

The numbers 9-12 are largely interchangeable.  More conclusive, these four women are at the bottom of the women power rankings and at least one pair will likely be sent in to the Jungle this week (facing whomever loses the challenge).


13. Sarah (7th season, last week: 3)

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb


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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb


JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2


15. Naomi (2nd season, last week: 15)


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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb


JUNGLE: Lost to Cooke and Cara Maria Week 2


17. Trishelle (4th season, last week: 10)

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

VOTED FOR: Derek and Robb



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


Next week is a women’s elimination week with, according to TJ, “the scariest elimination round we have ever had.”  Also, stay tuned in upcoming weeks for some Challenge Profiles, behind scenes and eye-opening access to some of your favorite Challenge competitors from this and past seasons.  More information will be available soon.

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.

Seriously though MTV, why did Sarah have to go?

“It’s a bitter pill I swallow here…” – The Edge, from U2’s Van Diemen’s Land, a summation of how I feel after having watched this week’s episode of The Challenge: Rivals 2

As most The Challenge episodes go, this week’s poorly titled The Dark Knight Rises (at this point, any loose comparison made by the crack episode title creation staff over at MTV between Batman and Knight, even if only through a pun, shall be considered offensive) had a familiar dramatically structured rhythm: it begins with the rising action of a fight or a romantic fling (Knight and Marlon, Trishelle and Aneesa, Derek and Marlon), then it moves to the climax of the challenge (an enjoyable timed event involving unstable rope) and the Jungle vote (Aneesa broke her word!), before hitting the falling action of the Jungle elimination (blindfolded dizzy sword play is always appreciated), and then ends with the denouement of a budding romance or two (this week: Marlon and Nany).  These plotted points give The Challenge a flow and a pace that is surprisingly comforting – the who and the what in each phase may differ from week to week, but we ostensibly know what we are going to get.

Although imbedded within this characteristic dramatic rhythm, all the key plot points this week were almost (almost, I will touch on those important moments in the power rankings column later in the week) irrelevant juxtaposed with the most unjust (and all too familiar) of decisions made by the powers of Bunim/Murray.  This week’s episode and the structure we have come to understand were blindsided by an unexpected, terribly unfair, and exceedingly unreasonable production reaction to a player’s decision to quit.  For the second time and for absolutely no fault of her own (I will especially ignore Johnny Moseley’s embarrassing question on the After Show), Sarah was sent home.

The context of this horrific decision made it all the worse: On a night of seemingly many fights, Trishelle was concerned that Aneesa had a monopoly over oppressed minorities as a Jew and as a lover of women (Jemmye was a helpful relayer of this intel).  Aneesa’s rebuttal was both physical and witty (“You are the same Trashelle you were!).  Trishelle reacted with some words that, when put together, seemed to make less than sense (Rivals 2 was a tough go for the professional poker player).  The next morning, Trishelle packed her bags faster than the duration of her film career and had suddenly quit the show (Some After Show clips provided further fodder for the quandary: why did she agree to participate this season to begin with?).  Sarah, who faced a similar destructive partnership on Exes (the worst hookup ever) when Vinny decided it was a good idea to be an awful human being (as Mandi and her top found out at the club), was now faced with the possibility that no more partner meant no more The Challenge.  But wait, just last week Naomi departed because of some home priorities and Cara Maria (thirty hours of travel later) was brought on as her replacement, so Sarah must get a replacement partner as well.  It is still early enough in the game (only one female elimination has taken place) and a male elimination is next, so it is reasonable to bring in another replacement player, right?

When TJ gathered the troops to share the production decision, I actually thought that after clearly making the WRONG call on Exes (you are telling me Mr. Beautiful wouldn’t have flown in last minute?), they would make the right call this time around.  Unfortunately, for Sarah, for the people that would have been able to spend time with her in Thailand (especially Jordan who let his best qualities out when around her), for the weekly viewer, for the sanctity of gameplay, for any semblance of justice in this fifth major professional sport, the MTV powers that be (not) DROPPED THE BALL and eliminated her from the competition.  Sarah’s reaction, the last time (it is inconceivable that this has now happened to her twice) this quaked an outpouring of emotion, was almost hauntingly (and nobly) stoic and proud.  Even in this moment of objective irrational tomfoolery, Sarah remained the bigger (and biggest of them all) person.

I have spent the few hours since this catastrophic reveal trying to rationalize a decision that on face value appears just so irrational.  I still can’t make any sense of it.  Sure, it is not easy to get someone to pick up their stuff and travel to Thailand for six weeks on a moment’s notice, but how does this explain the Cara Maria add-on just last week?  I am sure MTV in their (free falling in credibility) minds had a reason.  Without knowing it, I just don’t buy it.  The focus should have been committed to finding a way to keep Sarah in the game.  Here are the top 5 solutions that would have kept Sarah in Thailand that should have been at least tried before sending such an important and vital force of the past seven seasons of this beloved more than-a-television show home at no fault or responsibility of her own:

1. Bring back Jess – If Jess was still in Thailand, this seems like a no-brainer and the easiest solution.  The “rivals” construct is already a serious reach, so the budding friendship between Sarah and Jess is of little consequence to the premise of the game (Mike Mike was Leroy’s partner in Rivals, so there is already a precedent for blowing up the season format).  Ana’s body (and likely healthy decision-making) let Jess down, so why not give her another shot with a more seasoned partner.  Princess Hulk was just beginning to pave her destructive path of the competition and as Jess tweeted, “We’d be a ball of sunshine and badassness!”  That’s what I’m talking about!

2. Fly in another vet – Laurel?  Ev?  Jenn with two Ns?  KellyAnne?  Ashley?  Someone with a little Challenge credibility had to have been available.  Cara Maria is a random ringer.  There is no reason not to bring in another one for Sarah at this still incredibly early stage of the game.

3. Add her to another women team – Of course this may require a little challenge reworking, but so what?  The chance to have Sarah remain in the game is well worth any behind the scenes audibles (Survivor lays out a model for in-game rule flexibility every season, so it can definitely be done).

4. Sarah becomes the inaugural Confessioner – Yes!  Sarah would have an easy transition to house therapist, strategic advisor, and creative consultant.  Production, having made a sound decision by keeping Sarah involved with the competition, would handle the conflict resolution, but Sarah could do everything else.

5. Sarah becomes TJ’s co-host – At first she would still be disappointed to not be able to compete, but you’re telling me that Sarah wouldn’t be incredibly excited to work with TJ behind the scenes of the show?

That’s just it.  For some competitors, The Challenge is a paid vacation, a chance to win money, or a way to stay on television for a period of time beyond what was originally thought possible.  There is nothing wrong with these reasons and I don’t fault anyone who has them, but Sarah is refreshingly different.  You can tell that she has looked at every moment of these past seven seasons as a most incredible opportunity.  She strives to live each of these moments with a competing passion and compassion, a fervent commitment, and an unabashed joy.  House fights that devolve into the lowest common denominator affect her (as her last night in Phuket displayed) in a way that others may not feel.  Sarah is genuinely kind and considerate, someone who puts the needs of others before those of her own.  She wants everyone to get along and to treat each other with respect because she understands that this is a better way.

The After Show this week showed a clip of Sarah’s final speech to the group after TJ’s (I will refrain from killing the messenger, Master Lavin) decree of elimination.  She left her fellow competitors, fighting through tears, with the following words: “First and foremost, we are people.  Everyone knows exactly the behavior that they’ve done that has been despicable.  Just think – is what I’m doing right now going to help someone or is it going to hurt them?  Everybody has the ability to change and change starts as soon as you say it’s going to happen.”  The edit showed faces in the background (the disrespectful Knight, to use Sarah’s words, first and foremost) smirking, laughing, and cynically condescending to this earnest and real attempt to make this at too many times insane asylum of a Challenge world a better place.

Johnny takes a realistic (and bitingly clever, Mr. Bananas) take in his interview: “Sarah, do you have any idea the group of animals that you are talking to?  It’s like telling prison inmates to be more considerate of each other.  It’s just not gonna happen.”  It might not, but Sarah’s conviction and determination, commendably and admirably, will not be assuaged because she thinks better and believes more of others.  After this clip is shown, Sarah is visibly upset, and Aneesa (a great episode for this savvy vet) reassures her that she is “a good person among some bad people,” acknowledging how hard it can be.

Sarah reacts, “And really, is it that fucking terrible for me to expect human beings to be nice to each other or for me to want to deliver that message.  Maybe they can just, I don’t know, for a second choose to be nice in a moment where they could be mean, and, if really that makes me a big fucking joke, then I am joke.  I don’t care.  I really, I don’t.”  Sarah, know that we care and don’t let anything stop you from being you.  This is unfair and you, of all people, deserve so much better.  Keep up your fight and don’t lose your spark.  You are a beacon of positivity and goodness and the heart and soul of this Challenge world, and we are all the better for it.  You will be missed.

MTV, you dropped the ball.

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).


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.


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…


 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.


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)



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.


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


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.



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


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

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

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Team Previews – Sarah and Trishelle

This is the eighth in a series of “The Challenge: Rivals 2″ team previews that will lead into the first power rankings of the season.  Next up: on to the men teams


Where did we last see them? Both Sarah and Trishelle were last seen courageously competing and eventually losing in the finale of Battle of the Seasons to upstarts on Team San Diego

The Rivalry: On Battle of the Seasons, some tensions flared up when Sarah’s fleeting flirtation with Alton caused Trishelle to be leery of Sarah’s true intentions.  Like the professional poker player that she is, Trishelle had to make a strategic assessment of Sarah, and, in my opinion, she wrongly diagnosed her as manipulative and conniving.  This led to one (maybe it was the edit?) contentious conversation that has now become a RIVALRY!

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: Cara Maria and Laurel

Highlights and Commentary from MTV bio: 

Sometimes opposites attract, but that’s hardly the case with these two savvy vets.”

“Savvy vets” is my line, but no worries.

“SoCal surfer girl Sarah is the picture of kindness and Zen, while Trishelle is a whirling dervish of drama that knows no boundaries.”

Whether accurate (in part) or not (more just strange), way to hit up the written word, MTV Bio writers!  Sarah is the “picture of kindness and Zen” and continues to be a competitor we all can root for.  A “whirling devish” is apparently a “dervish whose ecstatic actions include ecstatic actions and dancing” and, in case you also did not know what a “dervish” is, a dervish is “an ascetic Muslim monk noted for devotional exercises involving bodily movements.”  With that in mind, Trishelle is apparently a “whirling dervish of drama” and this makes little to no sense.

Sarah explains, ‘After seeing the way she handles conflict, I get why we’re rivals. We are polar opposites.’”

Sarah just gets it.  These two are not the most natural of pairings, but I think their differences could be an asset to this partnership.

“While most folks see Sarah as a comforting, mature presence in the house, Trishelle isn’t buying her nice-girl act, noting, ‘What rubs me the wrong way about Sarah is that she’s so upbeat in a very weird way that I think is phony.’”

This feels a little like production was fishing for a little conventional drama and Trishelle (“the whirling dervish” of it, apparently) knows how to deliver.  Most people do see Sarah as a “comforting, mature presence in the house” and Trishelle will be able to recognize and appreciate how Sarah’s more above board game methodology has its clear benefits.

“Rivals II marks Sarah’s seventh Challenge and she is determined to change her fate and finally notch a win, but look for Trishelle to make a shocking decision that sends ripples through the entire game.” 

What shocking decision doth though speak of?  Of the many tidbits collected in these women bios, perhaps this is the most titillating.  What type of shocking decision “sends ripples through the entire game?” and even more so, how does this effect Sarah?  I could not be more ready for next Wednesday night.

“Can these two put their animosity aside? Or will Sarah’s Challenge curse rear its ugly head one more time?”

I wouldn’t exactly call it a “Challenge curse.”  She has made it to a few finals, she was unluckily paired with Vinny (a completely wasted Exes season) and Katelynn (not the strongest of partners on Rivals), and has competed her heart out otherwise.  Yes, they can put their animosity side and let us hope that Sarah’s seventh Challenge leads to her first win.

Best-Case Scenario: After a strong showing for both on Battle of the Seasons, a finals trip and an opportunity for a win is very much in play.

Worst-Case Scenario: Trishelle’s “shocking decision” forces a premature end to their game somehow.

The Verdict: Sarah could not be more due for a win, and, after many years away from these festivities, Trishelle has come back all the wiser.  This tandem has endless potential and is in a good position, with potential alliances and challenge success in mind, to have a long run in this game.  One thing remains clear – Sarah will give all of herself to make it happen and if she again falls short, it won’t be from a lack of effort, class, or grace.

Other team previews:

Anastasia and Jessica

Aneesa and Diem

Camila and Jemmye

Cooke and Naomi

Jasmine and Theresa

Jonna and Nany

Paula and Emily

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

THE CHALLENGE: RIVALS 2 Trailer – A Zapruder Analysis

A few days ago, MTV released the trailer for the 24th season of The Challenge on mtv.com.  In this second iteration of the Rivals format, eight male partner teams and eight female partner teams compete against each other in what is now commonly referred to as the fifth major American professional sport.  Mysteriously, the mtv.com trailer has been taken down and subsequent versions on other websites have been pulled as well (it is quite possible that sometime in the run of this post, the bootleg and unfortunately low-quality youtube version that I found will also be redacted).  In a race against the clock of destruction (or until mtv eventually reposts – UPDATE: MTV reposted), I wanted to provide my frame by frame analysis (a Zapruder treatment so to speak) of the two minute run-time of this historical piece of footage.

0:01 – The opening shot is eerily reminiscent of the classic helicopter shot going over Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park. Any time The Challenge makes you think about Jurassic Park, this must be a good thing. 

0:05 – TJ begins his voice0ver with “I want you guys to picture a very large sum of money…money so big, it could change your life forever.”  This is the kind of sum that warrants foreboding underscoring.

0:09 – In some very expected news, Tyrie (according to the back of helmet name tag) appears to be in an elimination.  The Tyrie/Dunbar pairing could be prdouction’s attempt to make this ultra-dramatic, hyper intense Challenge viewing experience just a little more comedic.  Has there ever been a combination in these past 24 seasons that has less of a chance of winning?

0:22 – TJ continues: “What if that one person is your worst enemy?” – This second rodeo of this premise (Rivals was particularly enjoyable – especially Wes and Kenny’s implosion in the finale) is a wonderful conceit on the surface, but if you look a little closer at the actual pairings, in almost every case, “rival” is a lot a bit of an overstatement.  Johnny and Frank’s entire relationship up until now has been a twitter back and forth.  I have watched every second of Marlon and Jordan on Real World Portland, and besides some extreme competitiveness from Jordan in the Dustin Real World Las Vegas mold, I would hardly call their relationship a battle between two enemies.  There may be some strained blood here and there among most of these pairing, but enemies? I am afraid not.  The one glaring exception is Team Wes and CT whose potential for greatness (in a great reality TV kind of way) more than makes up for an otherwise loose interpretation of the word “rival.”

0:28 – Zach’s voiceover: “I hate this kid…I hate the ground he walks on.”  Is he referring to partner Trey, or, more likely, is he referring to Wes?  Wes has faced quite a few “I hate this kids” in his long Challenge career.

0:37 – The “TRUST NO ONE BUT YOUR WORST ENEMY” mashup is apparently directed by the great master of frenetic cutting himself, Baz Luhrmann (see: all of his movies).  I have to hand it to production though – if you have a shaky premise, you might as well present it in this “the world is ending/impending doom” fashion.  It is admittedly effective.

0:41 – Bird tells us that “some of these people here are like absolutely pure evil.”  After this past week’s Real World in which Hurricane Nia attempts murder with a hair dryer, she should know.  On another note, I can not foresee The Challenge and Jessica being a successful pairing.  It’s just a hunch.

0:44 – Emily tells us that this game is going to get “so nasty.”  Is she referring to the kind of nasty of her blackface incident from Exes?  Too soon?

0:47 – People are “looking for love wherever they can get it” and apparently for Sarah, this is with Jordan.  With full comprehension that Challenge love teases are almost always grossly exaggerated, I strangely dig this possibility.

0:53 – “All is fair in love, war, and Challenges.”  Welcome back, Johnny Bananas!

0:55 – Diem trusts Wes more than she trusts CT.  It is like preferring to put your hand in an open flame versus in a pot of boiling water.  They are both going to leave you burned.

0:57 – CT is “being nice” but Diem’s “not playing fair.”  The Challenge legend may have a point.  This gentler version of CT has been alive and well over the past few Challenges and is a far cry from the monster that broke Diem’s heart or Johnny’s will here:

1:00 – We are one minute into the trailer and we have our first sight of Paula crying!  In fairness, in a brief size-up of the female teams, despite emotional roller coaster riding, I am not sure who beats Paula and Emily.

1:04 – There is some water poured, heads butted, arms swung, and barrels thrown.  This is par for the Challenge course, but, after the aforementioned Hurricane Nia maelstrom on The Real World this week, it all seems so tame.

1:11 – “Welcome to the scariest elimination round we have ever had.”  Not one to emphatically hyperbolize, TJ means business.  In the trailer’s second clear (only in my mind) allusion to Jurassic Park, the electric cables and caging reminds me of a raptor paddock.  Safety is not guaranteed.

1:21 – Cooke (a strong addition to this franchise – it never hurts to have a professional athlete competing) tells us that “good people in this game do not get far.”  Did you forget about Sarah making it to last year’s finals?

1:26 – This shot of Marlon working out and companion voiceover of “You wanna get me up out of here, you’re gonna have to kick my ass” speaks to some shotgun preseason analysis – Marlon and Jordan, if they can figure out the social game and align with the right power players, are going to be a formidable rookie combination.  Both are elite athletes, super competitive, and seem to compliment each others strengths.  They are a team to watch out for.

1:34 – In an even deeper confirmation of his godfather role in this game, Johnny lays it straight with Knight: “You have got yourself linked up a a sinking ship, dude.”  Is he talking about partner Preston?  Old flame Jemmye?  Sage Aunt figure Trishelle?  This is followed by a shot of Knight engaging in some extracurricular activity of the physical fighting kind.  There may not be too much to read into all of this, but I hope that Knight has been pulled under Johnny’s strategic organization.  He showed some game mastermind promise on Battle of the Seasons that was extinguished too soon in the fiery remains of a team featuring Preston and Mackenzie.  Knight deserves another go round.

1:39 – What a pleasure it is to see old enemies, Aneesa and Trishelle, still going at it, now a full decade later.  Aneesa’s nomination for best line of the trailer (“You are the Tra-shelle you were and you are always going to be trash”) is followed by a push “punch” to Trishelle’s face.  You can begin to feel the momentum of the July 10 season premiere.

1:43 – What The Challenge trailer would be complete without some time devoted to Frank yelling?  “Let him shake!”  Oh, don’t worry.  We will.

1:44 – A new rule to live by – Any time The Challenge incorporates a light saber battle into the festivities, it is a good thing.

1:48 – Does Bird just slap CT in the face?  Welcome to the big leagues Real World: Portland!

1:50 – These fleeting images of the challenges within The Challenge show shot after shot of people falling in water.  People falling in water is kind of a win.

1:53 – The trailer ends with Zach yelling, “I want who’s next!” and then cuts to the show titles (set against an unexpected purple misty swirl).  If this ending montage doesn’t encourage excitement and anticipation, you may need to reevaluate your own understanding of dramatic tension.

My season preview column will be out later this month.  The Challenge: Rivals 2 debuts on MTV on July 10, 2013 at 10:00 PM EST.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.

CHALLENGE 24: Picking an All-Star Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WOMEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

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


Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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


Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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

Cara Maria

Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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


Should she be selected as a starter?

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

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

Kelly Anne

Should she be selected as a starter?

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







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

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






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

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






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

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






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

Emily – 3rd season – WILD CARD selection


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

Most difficult omissions:

Coral, Jasmine, Katie

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

Other people not selected:

Rachel, Aneesa, Jemmye, Jonna, Naomi

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

Other potential wildcards not selected:

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


THE MEN – STARTERS (according to the voting polls)

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


Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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


Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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


Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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

Johnny Bananas

Should he be selected as a starter?

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

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


Should he be selected as a starter?

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








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

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







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

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







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

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






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

Derrick  – 9th season – WILD CARD selection


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

Most difficult omissions:

Tyler, Knight, Mike

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

Other people not selected:

Trey, Robb, Alton, Big Easy, Vinny

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

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

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

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

To recap the final selections…


Coach: Coral

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

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


Coach: The Miz

Starters: CT, Kenny, Evan, Johnny, Dustin

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

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

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