Tag Archives: “You Killed it!”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this even mean? I am so confused.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Challenge: Free Agents – Penultimate Episode Retro Running Diary

My few loyal readers (much appreciation to all of you) may have noticed that it has been a while since I last expressed my feelings in prose form on this season of The Challenge: Free Agents. Sometimes life has to take over (amazingly, there are some things that are more important than the fifth major professional sport although this is debatable) and for me, life just took over (you have no idea). With this week’s episode marking the penultimate episode of the season (this does not include the reunion), I couldn’t hold back any longer. A final elimination and the beginning of the final final deserve our fullest attention, so an appropriate time for a retro running diary it is. To prevent further unnecessary displays of mea culpa, let us begin…

10:01 – Where did we leave off from last week? Oh right – the Wrecking Ball elimination (this is probably the least compelling of the possible eliminations). For the men, it is Leroy and his recently elimination-tested self versus CT and CT’s beard. For the women, Laurel will compete against rival-turned bff-turned silent treatment partner Cara Maria, whose unlucky injury becomes even unluckier when she is asked to punch through drywall in order to remain in the game. Could The Challenge higher-ups have possibly audibled this one to an elimination in which Cara actually has a prayer? Quick side-note: you know that TJ Lavin the Great did everything in his power to possibly persuade such a change. For as much as he is blatantly intolerant of any form of quitting, his reverence for fighting through adversity, as Cara has done here, could not be any higher.

10:02 – Leroy refers to both himself and CT as “power players” in this game. There is are loud shades of Antoine Walker “perennial All-Star” lack of self-awareness going on here.

10:02 – Does CT’s form of focusing always have to be based on the “scare the video camera lens” technique? This is not a man that I would want to cross in a dark alley.

10:02 – Bananas gets the stakes: “There is so much riding on this elimination round. CT has been sent in…by me. And I know, if he wins, he will probably be coming back with vengeance.” CT with a vengeance? Yippee kay yay, indeed.

10:04 – CT’s victory is decisive, but Leroy did have a valiant showing. They conclude the competition with one of those cool and effortless handshakes that you wish you could so flawlessly execute with one of your friends. Some of my questions (I could have kept going…) include: What was the conversation like when they came up with this cool handshake? Did Leroy suggest the cool handshake or was it more of a collaboration? During the early attempts, were there any mess-ups? How did the cool handshake first come up? Did CT have a cool handshake with Adam King of Real World: Paris? Does CT have a cool handshake with Bananas or do they just respectfully nod at one another?CT and Leroy

10:04 – Did CT just blink a message out to TJ Lavin the Great? It does look like this guy has plenty of gas in the tank.

10:05 – TJ Lavin the Great has something to say about Leroy. Sit down, relax, and let the wisdom of a master fill your hearts and minds: “All class. It’s easy to be gracious when you win. It’s real hard to be gracious when you lose. You’re gracious in both.” There is just so much mutual respect between these two and if Teej feels like Leroy left it all out there, then I will have to agree.

10:05 – When Cara promises that she will give “a million percent” even if she has to scale the wall with one hand, you have to take her seriously. What an amazing season she has had!Cara Maria

10:06 – Laurel’s decisive win (and she did dominate her performance) is lost in the fact that Cara’s left hand is in a cast. Again, could the producers have maybe mixed this one up? Their “let’s stick with the game plan” or “make bad and untimely decisions” approach is appalling and needs to go.

10:07 – Maybe in an act of editing room redemption, the true melancholy of Cara’s elimination gets its due. Shots of sad dejected faces from the admiring crowd, some great lasting Cara interviews, and a bittersweet semi-détente to the Laurel and Cara Maria dispute provide the makings of a worthy salute.Cara and Laurel

10:08 – “Cara – you are a beast.” CT says what we are all feeling.

10:08 – Cara’s final interview says everything she is about: “Hand or no hand – like, this is not an excuse. I’ve just got to stay positive, man. I did my best. I’ve got nothing to be upset about. I just have to train harder, be stronger, and come back better. Hopefully I will get another chance to do it again.” Cara – I have a strong feeling you will get the invite.

10:08 – Teej announces that it is time to move to another location for the final. The location this time is the Andes Mountains or as Zach likes to call it, “Where?”

10:13 – Guys! It’s Nany and Theresa’s first location change! Celebration time! We will not even address Johnny Reilly who is still riding the “second time he ever got so lucky train” to perfection. Note: The first time? When Averey initially agreed to be his girlfriend. Since when was the second location a thing, anyway?The second location celebration!

10:14 – At least Johnny has some keen insight on his incredible good luck: “I guess rookies don’t get to see this very often or come this far. So, it’s just an awesome feeling. Us eight morons are going to Chile.” Right.

10:14 – Bananas thinks Laurel handled the whole end of the Cara situation with grace and that karma will be on her side. It is hard to disagree. She is ready to ride this confidence and momentum into the final and, if I were one of the three other girls, Laurel’s continued participation would provoke nightmares.

10:16 – The cuddly beauty of the little Chilean lodge in the forest is overshadowed by a the can’t miss volcano in the background whose name in Spanish translates to “House of the Devil.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the site of The Challenge: Free Agents final challenge!

10:17 – The four “lucky sons of guns” – Bananas, CT, Zach, and Johnny Reilly – enjoy a twilight hot tub on the eve of the final and discuss the endless possibilities of what they are about to do. A friendly handshake and a jump in the “ice cold pool” (CT managed to sneakily avoid this leg) set a perfect tone for the maelstrom of physical endurance to come. These are the moments that make The Challenge such a great viewing experience.

10:19 – And it looks like a final draw before the final! “WTF” is correct, CT. This is just silly.

10:24 – “These cards are worth $125,000. And if you pull over the wrong one, that might have just taken that money and threw it right out the window.” Bananas is right. When you get this far (the final four!), arbitrary luck should not be this much of a determinant of potential success. I am NOT pleased with the MTV producers right now. Let the record so reflect.

10:24 – Zach and Nany both have some of the most amazing feelings ever when they turn over blank cards. Now at least CT and Bananas have to go into an elimination. Is that what you were really hoping for, Justin Booth?

10:25 – And of course, Johnny “I love the draw” Reilly pulls a blank card, sealing the fate of either CT and Bananas. I may have to turn this off in protest.Johnny Reilly is so lucky

10:25 – Yes, Bananas. The CT and Johnny Bananas rivalry is “alive and well,” but it should have been played out on the final challenge, not because of some shameful and shady card flips.

10:26 – Of course Devyn is safe. Of course.Nany and Devyn

10:26 – To make matters even worse, the elimination is called “Puzzle Pyramid.” At least it could have been some kind of endurance based elimination as is often on this stage of the great game of Survivor. This is just another level of cheap. Poor Theresa is not the puzzle master and Laurel’s laser focus will be difficult to beat.

10:32 – Despite a late comeback (“Lock it down, Theresa”), Laurel’s robotic mathematic skills (or so Devyn says) triumph in the end. No knock to Theresa (After beginning on the basketball game with CT high note in the first episode, she had a consistently strong season throughout), thank goodness Laurel is in the final. At least there is some competitive justice.Laurel

10:33 – The depressing piano underscoring set against Theresa’s departure speaks to my mood. This is a terrible way to lose.

10:34 – Zach believes that “you couldn’t write a better story” than a CT and Bananas match before the final. Let’s see. Let me try. How about a CT versus Bananas final challenge!

10:36 – I have never coveted a random commercial for a movie starring Eric Bana (Deliver Us From Evil) more. This puzzle elimination is all levels of pointless.

10:39 – Bananas wins! His joy is contagious as the weight of 10,000 volcanoes is lifted off of him. The legend deserves to be in the final, it just sucks that CT couldn’t be there to compete against him.Johnny Bananas10:39 – TJ tells us that he is “sure we’ll see” CT in the future and CT promises to be back stronger and better trained on puzzles. In an episode filled with painful eliminations somewhat caused by producer tomfoolery, the news about CT’s future participation in this game is most welcome. CT, “try to bring it home for the vets, baby.”CT

10:40 – TJ promises that the final will be the hardest thing they ever do in their lives and guarantees they will need all the rest they can get. Tomorrow is going to be real.

10:41 – Bananas and Laurel have one of those wonderful conversations about veteran things. I could watch an entire show of these snippets.

10:42 – The “House of Devil” volcano seems to be rumbling for an eruption, so there’s that.

10:44 – In true and beloved Challenge tradition, Johnny Bananas sets the tone in only the unique way that he knows how: “I think we are all going to die tomorrow. I think tomorrow is a good day to die, folks.” And then: “This is the culmination of weeks of pure insanity that has all come to this moment. The stakes don’t get any higher.” Drop. The. Mic.

10:49 – It’s final challenge time! Devyn has never been less excited to see TJ (“And some of you are good at the draw.” Shots fired, TJ). Either way, you can’t fake it here. TJ’s one guarantee is that they have never done anything “this difficult in their life before.” Summiting an active volcano seems to warrant such guarantees.

10:50 – The rules for the final challenge are little messy. There are five stages. The first three stages are done as guy-girl partners that will change each time (commonly referred to as the “everyone has to be partnered with Devyn” fairness clause). Stages four and five will be solo missions. The combined times of each stage will be added up for each player. The lowest guy and girl times are the winners of $125,000. Second place is $35,000. Third place is $15,000, but you have to finish in order to get the money. Oh, and the final stage will involve that awful volcano.

10:50 – The first pairings are set: Devyn and Zach, Nany and Johnny, and Laurel and Bananas. The first stage advantage goes to Laurel and Bananas by an unfair margin.

10:51 – Stage 1 is a tandem kayak trip down the river. Good luck, Zach and let us hope that Devyn channels her inner Pocahontas.

10:57 – Update from the kayak trippers: Bananas and Laurel are killing it in first place. Nany and Johnny are chugging along steadily. Zach and Devyn seem to be having some trouble.Kayaking!

10:58 – Zach is hilarious: “Unfortunately Devyn this is not a date in Central Park. This is a competitive race for a lot of money. She is doing everything wrong and I am having a hard time staying calm.”

10:58 – Nany and Johnny’s kayak seems to have hit a few spin cycles too many before righting the ship. However, they remain entrenched in second place because…Nany and Johnny

10:59 – …Devyn and Zach capsize! The Challenge Rescue Raft (where is the Challenge Doctor in all of this?) saves Devyn, but what about Zach? Is he going to be rescued? And, fade to black for now (spoiler alert: Zach gets rescued). The rest of the final challenge will have to wait until next week and honestly, I need a break from the illogical and disappointing producer decision-making.Poor Zach

The Challenge: Free Agents – Episode 1 Retro Running Diary and Power Rankings

There is really no other way to begin a Challenge season that begins so ceremoniously than with a retro running diary. Unfortunately, ninety minutes is a longer time to diary than I initially imagined. Pace yourself, readers. This is a long one. My week 1 power rankings can be found all the way at the end (if you even get there).

Episode 1 – “Live Free or Die” Retro Running Diary

10:00 – MTV voiceover guy is back (!) with a quick sojourn into a short “This season on” vignette. After a relatively disappointing first trailer experience and with promos that mostly skirted around the issue, we are finally seeing a series of compelling competition clips. What’s that you say, MTV voiceover guy? Each week two players will be eliminated? On behalf of momentum and power ranking fodder: dig.

10:01 – Hey, MTV producer editing room – good job by you. The juxtaposition of the snowy mountain peak of victory with tension escalating highlights has delivered the mood. Ready, set, The Challenge!

10:01 – Johnny Bananas has consistently set the tone for his nine seasons on the The Challenge. It is poetic and appropriate then for Johnny to have the first word on year 10: “The last Challenge that I was on, I came in second place. It definitely was a heartbreaking defeat, but every game is a new game and I feel ready to come back here and reclaim the title.” Competition, be warned. Bananas is back to reclaim what was his. This is what greatness is all about.

10:01 – Camila adds in an interview, “Every time I get a call for The Challenge it’s like do I really want to go back in the house with those crazy people?” This is followed by clips from past seasons of Camila acting like the crazy person she describes. MTV editors for the win again!

10:02 – Emilee (welcome, back?) just broke up with her boyfriend and has been going through a rough patch. She thinks that is will be “an empowering situation.” I know Emily was on Cutthroat for a hot second, but has Emilee even seen this show before? Ems, it may not be the healthiest environment for someone going through a difficult time. Trust me on this one.

10:02 – “I am Nia aka “Hurricane” Nia…you are going to have to kill me to get me out of here.” And based upon the Real World: Portland assault footage shown in conjunction, should we really have any reason to doubt her?

10:03 – There is a lot of talk about what the format is going to look like. Johnny wonders if it is going to be “Brain versus Brawn.” “That’s us,” says this season of Survivor. Jordan (no surprise here because he is a freaky incredible athlete) wants it to be an individual challenge. Cara Maria (who has struggled a wee bit with the whole group thing in the past) unexpectedly wants it to be a group Challenge. Theresa is “very nervous.”

10:04 – TJ Lavin the Great, minus his quintissential “do you wear that to formal events too?” (I’ve always wondered) hat, makes his beloved opening season speech (my commentary is imbedded): “For those of you who don’t know (and if you don’t, you need to know who this great man is), my name is TJ Lavin and I’ll be your host for The Challenge. This Challenge marks a very special milestone (Is he referring to this season’s exclusion of Knight?). This is the 25th season of The Challenge (Yeah, it is. Yes, it is appropriate to applaud everyone). This season you all have been chosen to be here for a reason (unlike when Vinny was allowed to participate). I’ve seen you guys compete as teams, as pairs, and as individuals. And I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why you didn’t win The Challenge (That’s right, Teej. Don’t you tolerate any lame excuses) – You had a terrible partner, you had a horrible team (Laurel makes the most incredible perplexed face at this statement. Maybe she is thinking about her fellow Fresh Meat cast team debacle on Battle of the Seasons). Some of you winners call yourselves champions when you were the worst player on the best team (Shots fired, Tonya on Inferno 3). Rookies – you guys always have a target on your back just for being new. Well, we’re changing it this season. No more excuses you guys. (Weird over dub alert) It’s time for you to prove that you’re truly the best (cut to Laurel). I’d like to welcome everybody to The Challenge: Free Agents.” Drop that mic, TJ Lavin the Great. You killed it.TJ Lavin

10:04 – Mass confusion ensues. Camila isn’t even sure what a “free agent” is (“What does that mean?”). Tell us Teej: “For the first time ever, before every challenge, you’re going to be randomly selected for either a team, a pair, or be asked to go at it alone. You will never know until you get to the challenge that day what it’s going to be.” The competitors go crazy with a partly giddy, partly psychotic, partly horrified reaction. Yes, Aneesa. This is a “mind fuck.” Zach says it best, “One day I could be working with Devyn (preseason ranking of 12 for the women). The next day I could be working with CT (preseason ranking of 1 for the men). You never know. It freaks me out.” For the first time in as long as I can remember, chance does play a significant role in potential success during The Challenge, not just in the preseason team or partner selecting (as Sarah has learned the hardest of ways).

10:05 – There’s more. TJ Lavin the Great explains that the winning team, partner, or individual chooses the guy or girl from the losing team to face an elimination. This is par for The Challenge course, but wait. TJ Lavin the Great is not done: “Get ready for another twist you guys. Everyone that lost the challenge that day are going to take part in what is known as “the draw.” “The draw” is where two players – one guy and one girl – are selected by pure chance to go against the two nominated players in the elimination round.”

10:05 – Jemmye, a consistent contributor of an intrepid mix of interview wisdom and hilarity and no pawn of President Snow, puts it perfectly: “You could literally get picked in a moment’s notice and have to go into the elimination. I did not sign up to play in the Hunger Games and I do not like this at all.” Since the comparison has been introduced, how would I cast these competitors in a Hunger Games movie? Here are my picks: Laurel as Katniss, Cara Maria as Primrose. Cohutta as Peeta, Preston as Cinna, Johnny Bananas as Haymitch, LaToya as Effie, and Dustin as Gale. Zach and Nia would play some of the enemy combatants in the games. Frank would play Seneca Crane. Bearded CT would play President Snow. So, who would like to assist me with my Kickstarter campaign video to fund this thing?Camila, Chet, Jordan, Jemmye

10:06 – TJ Lavin the Great drives the point home. This is an individual game and the first place guy and girl goes home with $125,000 dollars. Cut to Jordan celebrating (foreshadowing?).

10:07 – Jonna reminds us that she’s “always had a problem where she like relies on other people,” but now “wants to be an independent woman and be able to follow [her] dreams.” Jonna, does your Challenge participation actualize this desire?

10:07 – CT points out that “he’s always been a free agent” and that now everyone else “has to play his game.” Strangely, CT, despite his reigning champion status and first place placement in the preseason power rankings, still feels a little bit like a sleeper pick to win. The format could not be better for this most veteran veteran. If his team or partnership loses, good luck sending him into an elimination. No one is going to want to compete against him, but with the unpredictability of “the draw,” you might have to anyway. The rankings of players you most fear to face in an elimination are as follows: 1) CT 2) Laurel 3) CT 4) CT 5) CT.

10:07 – Yes! Finally there is a house tour to alleviate the competitive tension. Unlike the sauna bug den of Thailand, the Uruguay house is “sick” (credit to Cara Maria).

10:08 – So Swift’s ego apparently has changed too much since Real World: St. Thomas: “I am technically a rookie as they like to call it, but I’m extremely cocky. But I’m cocky and I’m confident for a reason ’cause when it comes to competition time, people are going to be like, oh snap, Swift gets poppin.” Hmm. Things I hope for: Swift versus CT in an elimination round in which Swift does whatever “gets poppin” means and CT does whatever “destroying Swift in an elimination” means.

10:08 – The reason this is the best The Challenge house in history: there is a basketball court. Again, there is a basketball court.

10:08 – Isaac gives it “about forty minutes” until this place is trashed. I give it about twelve minutes until Isaac says or does something incredibly bizarre.

10:08 – The Challenge officially begins with a toast of what appears to be Ecto Cooler led by Johnny Bananas. “Let the games begin!”

10:08 – Jordan, declaratively single, assesses some of the women prospects. Camila “always shows up,” Emilee is “always good looking,” and Laurel is “a physical specimen.” Jordan, keep your eyes on the prize. You were my preseason pick to win!

10:08 – Jasmine is single too and she has decided she wants to be the “whore of The Challenge” and to get “dick and balls, all day, every day.” I am not even sure how to comment on this.

10:09 – And it took only one minute! Isaac made a shot glass out of a lemon and let Zach know that, according to wikipedia, 2013 was a great year for the South American lemon. With ironic self-awareness: “The Challenge takes the weirdest of the craziest psychos and puts them in a house and says, beat each other up for money. Yeah, it’s going to get weird, but hey, I like weird.” Isaac, it is great to have you back.Zach and Isaac with the lemons

10:10 – In the least surprising news of the season, Devyn’s relationship with ship with Big Easy “fell off a cliff” and is no more.

10:11 – In more romance/relationship news: Nany thinks Cohutta is “cute,” Emilee is ready to mingle, and Johnny (of Real World: Portland) is no longer with Averey. The real question: does he have Daisy visitation rights?

10:12 – So, Dustin made a pact with old fling Heather that he would be a good boy on The Challenge. Johnny Bananas does not think this is realistic. Nany does not think one should trust Johnny’s relationship advice. This led Bananas to make the following statement: “I might be a man on the outside, but I am a woman on the inside.” Perhaps not “All’s fair in love, war, and Challenges” nor the “much respect to CT” speech made in defeat last season, this line will at least go down in this legend’s “top twenty best statements made while on The Challenge.”

10:13 – I think I just witnessed the most enjoyable minute in the history of extra-curricular nighttime activity ever on The Challenge. CT and Theresa, on the aforementioned basketball court, played a game of “strip basketball” (As LaToya says, “All’s fair in love and basketball”) to eleven. Before CT won the game by one point on a crazy, J.R. Smith launch from downtown, the following things happened: Isaac played the role of center court promoter (of course he did), Camila got on Laurel’s shoulder and they performed a cheerleading routine, Theresa gained a fair amount of competitive “street creed” (also, she is deceptively tall), and CT and Theresa both took off most of their clothes. When the game finished CT conducted his own post game interview with the cameraman in which he said, while being hugged and congratulated by Leroy (subtitles were provided), “Bottles and bottles all night tonight, baby! Bottles and bottles!” And no, you can’t make this stuff up.CT, Isaac

10:14 – Laurel: “I am back and am going to be the same dominating Laurel in the challenges, but hopefully offer a nicer side that I don’t feel everyone got to see before. But at the end of the day, it’s me vs. you and I love that.” In my best Nicholson Joker impression, “Laurel, YOU are my number 1…”

10:15 – There is some mutual flirting and Southern hospitality going on between Jessica and Dustin. Storytelling seed successfully planted.

10:16 – It’s finally time for the first challenge of the season and it is going to take place at Uruguay’s World Trade Center, the highest building in the country (42 stories!). Bananas thinks that “it is going to be really high and really scary.” Yep, pretty much. We could use a commercial.

10:21 – TJ Lavin the Great describes the “Out on a Ledge” challenge and, as Nany, says, it is “crazy!” There will be two teams of fourteen and three stages. The first stage is six people from each team running the 42 flights of stairs while chained to each other (sounds like fun!). The second stage is four people from each team completing a puzzle (oh how Survivor of you). The third stage involves four people walking across a rolling log over open air (completely horrifying). The look on the competitors faces: a combination of confusion (there were a lot of directions!) and all-consuming fear.Chet and Nia

10:21 – The Captains of the two teams were randomly drawn to be Chet and Nia. They then pick their teams, alternating gender with each pick. Here is the draft that these playground social ostracizing tactics yielded (my comments follow in italics):

Nia’s picks – 1) Jordan (a strong first pick) 3) Laurel (the only choice for first girl) 5) CT (Nia’s GM skills are apparently excellent) 7) Aneesa (picking a competent and savvy vet is a sound move) 9) Cohutta (Her first misstep over Dustin, Leroy, and Bananas. Will Chet capitalize?) 11) Nany (I am thinking more and more that I may have had her too low in my initial power rankings) 13) Bananas (Bananas was picked 13? 13??!!! On one level, credit to Nia for nabbing him at 13, but did she and Chet really pick six guys before him?)  15) Devyn (You could tell that Nia really wanted Theresa here) 17) Johnny (Let Portland troubles stay in the past) 19) Jessica (She is SO ready to dispel her doubters) 21) Swift (Brandon gets no respect) 23) Jasmine (Openly gunning for “whore of the Challenge” and no friend to Nia according to Twitter interactions) 25) Preston by default (Poor Preston gets NO love. My Break Out pick for the men is going to surprise a lot of people this season. Preston, you won’t feel like you are seven on the kickball team too much longer.)

Chet’s picks – 2) Camila (She is the only women who has won, but it is really hard not to go with Laurel here) 4) Frank (A strong pick, but with CT, Laurel, and Jordan already on the other side, you have to go Bananas at no.4, Chet) 6) Cara Maria (Yep, she is ready to dominate this season) 8) Zach (He deserves high draft status in any playground style pick. You want him competing with you and you don’t want him competing against you) 10) Jonna (Living the dream and riding an inflated competitive rep) 12) Dustin (Dustin is a sound pick, but still no Bananas? Really, Chet?) 14) Theresa (You would think that she would get a greater basketball game bounce, but this area is about right) 16) Isaac (The master of random lemon facts is in the right area of the draft, but with Leroy still on the board, this is the wrong pick) 18) Jemmye (I had Jemmye ranked third in my preseason power rankings. Maybe Chet missed Rivals 2?) 20) Leroy (This man gets no Challenge respect. I can feel his redemption coming) 22) Emilee (A complete wildcard at this point.) 24) Brandon (Poor Brandon) 26) LaToya by default (As clear as Laurel first. The rookie has to pay some dues.)

Nia’s team is significantly better on paper. Let’s see how it plays out. As a comparison, here are the picks I would have chosen in Chet and Nia’s position:

Nia – 1) Jordan 3) Cara Maria 5) CT 7) Aneesa 9) Zach 11) Jemmye 13) Leroy 15) Theresa 17) Brandon 19) Jasmine 21) Isaac 23) Emilee 25) Swift

Chet – 2) Laurel 4) Bananas 6) Camila 8) Frank 10) Nany 12) Dustin 14) Jessica 16) Cohutta 18) Jonna 20) Preston 22) Devyn 24) Johnny 26) LaToya

Emilee, Jemmye10:23 – Nia’s the Black Team (to Chet’s the Red Team) has an open discussion about who is partaking in the heights gut check that is the third stage. Jasmine is out. Nia is doing running (the first stage). Jessica, bringing out her Princess Hulk right off the gate, volunteers herself for the heights stage because she is not “deathly terrified” and because “nobody else is stepping up to do it, so if it has to be done, [she’ll] do it.” Jordan objects to her offer (maybe Jordan has prescient powers and could sense the Jessica and heights collision foreshadowed in preseason promotional material). Jessica does not back down: “Jordan is being a little bitch. If I volunteered to do it, then let me do it.” The Real World: Portland interpersonal machinations run deep, but this time, Jessica is all the stronger and wiser. We will see how this plays out in a bit.

10:25 – So the stairwell climb is awful (Zach: “There are no genders. This is all-out war). Take me to some sponsors, please.

10:29 – Back to the action, Johnny Bananas goes to phase 2: prevent Cara Maria from getting past him. Poor, Cara. She can’t win. Laurel is having none of it: “That’s just stupid. You don’t have to put a girl in a chokehold, Johnny.”

10:30 – Frank is first to the top for the Red Team and hands his key off to the puzzlers: Emilee, Isaac, Chet, and Jonna. Frank and Leroy then work to prevent the Black Team from making it out of the stairwell. Swift promptly decides to jump on top of a group of people to obtain the Black Team key, smashing LaToya’s head into the door in the process. Swift thinking, Swift.Red holding back black

10:31 – It is a tale of two puzzles. CT and Aneesa lead Black to finish first whereas Red gets a little stuck. Camila is not sure Chet “knows what the hell he is doing.”

10:32 – So, Swift’s little crowd surf has some ramifications. LaToya’s eyes are rolling to the back of her head and it seems like she is about to pass out. Paramedics are rushed in and they rush her out to a hospital, concerned that she may have injured her head. The tumultuous back-and-forth built in St. Thomas between LaToya and Swift just opened up another chapter.

10:36 – The Red “puzzle people” finally finish the puzzle, but lost a significant time lead in the process. Chet, Isaac, Jonna, and Emilee lack a certain amount of collaborative chemistry. Who could have ever predicted?

10:38 – Devyn is first up for the Black Team on the rolling log of doom. Devyn is unafraid of heights, but does feel like God’s wind is trying to throw her into the ocean or something. Cohutta compares Devyn’s balance to that of a “male bull elephant.” God’s wind gets the best of her. Rolling log of doom – 1. Humans trying to cross the rolling log of doom – 0.

10:38 – First up for the Red Team is Brandon. The dude goes for it, grabs the flag, and lunges for the platform of safety, but just misses the ringing of the bell before falling off the log. Rolling log of doom – 2. Humans trying to cross the rolling log of doom – 0.

10:40 – It is time for the cliffhanger (or “buildinghanger” in this case) that has been heavily promoted and teased in the preseason. Jessica is up for the Black Team and is not too comfortable with heights: “I can just feel the pure fear from my soul just bubbling out of my pores. Like, how the hell am I going to do this?” Jordan and his ultra-competitive self poses a similar question. She is frozen with fear, 42 stories above Uruguayan ground, and the clock is ticking. How the hell is she going to do this? Time for a break.JessicaEveryone watches Jessica's run

10:44 – Upon return, Jessica’s inner motivators get angry, unleashing her Princess Hulk from last season. She attacks the rolling log, grabs the flag, and saunters across to ring that bell. Afterwards, emotion takes over: “I don’t know if I want to cry or scream or what, but I’m overwhelmed.” Just a moment before, her loudest detractor, Jordan is now her biggest support: “I have never been more happy to eat my words. Thank you, Jessica.” Rolling log of doom – 2. Jessica killing it and representing the Black Team – 1. As predicted, Jessica’s season break out is ON.

10:45 – The rolling log of doom victimizes two expected challenge dominators: Dustin for Red and Jordan for Black. Rolling log of doom – 4. Jessica representing Black – 1.

10:46 – Earning first women pick status, Camila successfully travails the rolling log for the Red Team. Frank puts it best: “Camila, the Brazilian Brouha whips across that thing. I mean, she was literally on her broom.” The Red Team celebrates as if they had just won a Brazilian football match.Camila

10:47 – Cohutta, a nuanced and descriptive balance expert, beast the rolling log of doom for the Black Team. It all comes down to Jemmye’s run for the Red Team.

10:53 – Back from the broadcasting revenue source, balancing on the rolling log of doom is too much for Jemmye and she falls off. The Black Team wins. The Red Team loses. This should get most interesting.

10:55 – LaToya makes her return to the house. It turns out that Swift’s full body attack did not cause her medical incident. Apparently dehydration from brawling up 42 flights of stairs did. Go figure.

10:57 – The Black Team deliberation gets heated. The loudest voices are coming from Johnny Bananas, Laurel, and Jordan. There is some disagreement surrounding not only who should get voted in, but how the game is supposed to be played. Johnny keeps reinforcing the “individual game” construct: “If it’s this ugly this early on, it’s only going to get worse.” Free Agents strategy development has only just begun.

11:01 – We are past the one hour mark and it is voting time. Jasmine starts things off with a vote for LaToya. Swift begins his “I am just going to go with the majority” speech, and TJ Lavin the Great cuts him off: “Hang on one second. Before you do that, I just want you guys to know,  this is an individual game. So it’s an individual vote.” Two things: this TJ interruption clarification is downright Probstian and Bananas was right all along.

11:01 – The vote for LaToya is “trending.” The final women vote: LaToya – 11. Emilee – 2 (voted by Swift and Devyn). Theresa – 1 (voted by Preston).

11:03 – The men’s vote is all over the place. Devyn votes for Leroy because she doesn’t know him that well and will be able to shake some cleavage in his face to make him forget about it later. The final men vote: Chet – 7 (Voted by Jasmine, Jessica, Johnny Bananas, Laurel, Cohutta, Nia, and Swift). Dustin – 3 (voted by Jordan, CT, and Johnny). Isaac – 1 (voted by Nany). Frank – 1 (voted by Preston). Leroy – 1 (voted by Devyn). Brandon – 1 (voted by Aneesa).

11:03 – Avoiding the vote is one obstacle, but “the draw” still remains. Cara Maria explains it well: “My name did not come up once in this entire voting process, but the rest of the lucky ones get to participate in  “the draw.” So, there’s really no safe position to be in right now.”

11:11 – “The Draw” takes Jemmye and Frank victim. As a viewer, I am not sure I have ever been so nervous. I can only imagine what they were going through.Jemmye11:12 – TJ Lavin the Great explains the elimination round titled “Balls In.” There is a barrel in the middle of a large circle. There are five rounds. Each round each player will get the opportunity to play both offense and defense. The goal on offense is to put the ball in the barrel. The goal on defense is to talk the ball out the circle or knock the offensive player out of the circle. Five rounds? This is going to be an epic elimination.

11:13 – Chet and Frank begin their battle and as Daniel Day-Lewis once brilliantly headlined, there will be blood. After the scoreless first round, Chet accrues a nasty nasty cut on his chin. His choice: get stitches now and forfeit or bandage up his cut and get stitches later – a win win scenario, really.Chet and Frank11:13 – The cut is really bad as you can tell from the reaction of the spectators…time for advertisements to take our attention away.The spectators11:16 – We’re back and MTV decides to show some footage all in black and white, but for Chet’s bloody chin which pops in a disturbing red. Hey MTV, perhaps editing trickery like this is meant for poignant storytelling in Schindler’s List, but perhaps you could restrain yourselves next time. This is excessive.

11:17 – Despite TJ Lavin the Great’s condescending disapproval of anything he deems in the ballpark of quitting, Chet decides to forfeit and go take care of his face. Frank “wins” the first men elimination round and Chet is the first Free Agents participant heading home.

11:20 – Two rounds into the Jemmye and LaToya elimination battle and the score is tied 1-1. LaToya is showing an amazing amount of fight and this is not going to be any cakewalk for the more experienced Jemmye. LaToya objects to Jemmye kicking her head. Jemmye chocks it up to “just a part of the game.” As Cara Maria points out, these are some NFL moves these ladies are putting on. I am not sure I have seen a women’s elimination quite like this before.LaToya

11:20 – Both Jemmye and LaToya score in round 3, evening up the score at 2-2.Jemmye and LaToya

11:21 – Leroy points out that this is “hands down the most impressive battle” he has seen “between two girls.” LaToya scores in round 4 on offense and on defense, gets angry (Swift provides the Real World: St. Thomas perspective), pushing Jemmye out of the circle. The score is LaToya 3 – Jemmye 2 – heading into the final round.

11:27 – Despite rampant support from the crowd, Jemmye cannot break through the LaToya’s defensive scheme to tie the score. LaToya wins the elimination and Jemmye is going home. In a showing of graciousness, Jemmye congratulates LaToya and says, “You proved yourself this game.”
The crowd is in it

11:27 – TJ Lavin the Great, for the first time this season, take it away: “LaToya, you absolutely killed it.” And she really did.LaToya

11:28 – Jemmye is ALL class in defeat, even giving LaToya some encouragement going forward: “They’re not coming for you anymore. I promise you that.” It is unfortunate that Jemmye had to go home so early in this game (this completely throws off some of my season predictions for the women), but it wasn’t for lack of effort or heart. Jemmye continues to build on to her Challenge resumé and this valiant defeat, although a disappointment, will only be a temporary setback.

11:28 – Thoughtful contemplation is all the rage back at the house. Frank has some insight: “This Challenge is everything on the line and it’s all on you. So that feeling of responsibility is overwhelming, it’s awesome, and this is going to be the most intense Challenge that has ever played out.” After the first ninety minutes, it is hard to disagree.

FINALLY, we were exposed to the first major “This season on…” of Free Agents. Here is a collection of what I saw:

– Theresa doesn’t “trust a single person here.”

– Johnny Bannas is wrapped in sandy saran wrap.

– Jordan will “send Johnny Bananas home.”

– LaToya is going at Laurel who apparently “looked her in the eye and didn’t say what she felt.”

– Jordan and Jessica have one of those Real World: Portland blowout fights.

– According to CT, Isaac should have had his back.

– Cara Maria and CT are apparently voted into an elimination together. Theresa thinks Cara Maria is “full of shit.” Cara Maria asks Theresa not to “talk to [her]” like that. TJ Lavin the Great asks that they not do this while he is here, please.

– There will be lots of kissing and one marriage proposal (Nany drops Cohutta the question)!

– Preston has to hold Nany back.

– Cara Maria: “Trust yourself. You only have you.”

Week 1 Power Rankings


Eliminated – CHET

13) BRANDON (last week: 10)

12) JOHNNY (last week: 14)

11) ISAAC (last week: 12)

10) SWIFT (last week: 13)

9) PRESTON (last week: 9)

8) LEROY (last week: 6)

7) DUSTIN (last week: 5)

6) ZACH (last week: 8)

5) COHUTTA (last week: 11)

4) JORDAN (last week: 3)

3) FRANK (last week: 4)

2) JOHNNY BANANAS (last week: 2)

1) CT (last week: 1)


Eliminated – JEMMYE

13) EMILEE (last week: 13)

12) JONNA (last week: 8)

11) DEVYN (last week: 12)

10) LaTOYA (last week: 14)

9) NIA (last week: 11)

8) JASMINE (last week: 9)

7) THERESA (last week: 10)

6) NANY (last week: 6)

5) JESSICA (last week: 7)

4) ANEESA (last week: 4)

3) CARA MARIA (last week: 2)

2) CAMILA (last week: 5)

1) LAUREL (last week: 1)

Stay tuned for some very exciting CHALLENGE content later in the week!

An In-Season RIVALS 2 Retro Running Diary

A vintage Johnny Bananas performance, an excruciatingly enjoyable challenge, stellar sound bytes, a fair share of extracurricular nighttime activity, a hall of fame outing for the great TJ Lavin, and the most dramatic Jungle elimination of the year all mixed together make for the best episode of this season of The Challenge: Rivals 2. The best episode calls for only one thing: an in-season retro running diary. Usually saved for premieres and finales, this episode was just that good. Without further adieu, let’s go back to 10:00 PM EST this evening where it all began…

10:01 – This season’s opening credits are kind of lame. Albeit, nothing will ever compare to the unintentional comedy fest that were the opening credits to the Duel II. Highlights include:

  • Davis struggling to find the right facial expression during his intro. First he smiles, then realizes that is not the direction they are going for (this is serious business), and then tries to save it with his best intimidating scowl face. You can imagine that by the thirtieth take this was the best they were going to get from Davis.
  • The spelling of Brittini’s name and how easily she is to forget.
  • The moment Evan starts to yell the war chants. His commitment is a work of Canadian art.
  • Isaac’s chanting section brings another level of joy because unlike everyone else on this cast, you could actually picture him expressing himself through such nonsensical gibberish in real life. “C’mon, guys. Let me show you how it is done.”
  • Big Easy’s “Night at the Roxbury” head bobbing during his lead chant turn. This could be Big Easy’s best moment he has ever had on The Challenge.
  • Kim is just so over it.
  • Adam unleashes the tongue as an act of intimidation. CT was not swayed.
  • TJ Lavin in the foreground overlooking this unnatural performance like an artiste taking in his masterpiece.

10:02 – Diem calls Aneesa the “Queen of Excuses.” Does this make Knight the “Jester of Bodyguards?”

10:02 – Aneesa: “If I could change 1 to 5 things about Diem, it would kind of be that you would get off my back.” Diem wants to put Aneesa through some insanity partner workouts in preparation for the Finals. Frank tells Aneesa to embrace the cards that she has been dealt and “deal with it.” Aneesa looks at Frank like he is the silliest of lads. This is kind of awesome.

10:04 – Paula says that “Aneesa and Diem are partners whether they like it or not and they do not.” This all reminds me of the Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

10:04 – TJ describes the premise of the “Blind Leading the Blind” challenge, but unfortunately no one is listening because we are all distracted by Phukie (as in Phuket), the little furry white dog that TJ has brought to The Challenge. Phukie ranks somewhere below the Johnny Bobble-head, but above Daisy and Irene’s Teddy Bear from Real World: Seattle in the rankings of the best non-human participants in Bunim/Murray history.

TJ Lavin

10:05 – You just couldn’t stay away from shocking the competitors, could you production?

10:06 – Ty speaks alert! “So we already know who is going first…” Six minutes in and we have already heard Ty speak more than in the first three episodes!

10:07 – The first heat in the challenge is CT and Wes for the men and Aneesa and Diem for the women. In the challenge, competitors, blind-folded and attached on one side via arm and leg, must navigate a maze in thirty minutes. This would not seem as daunting a task, but for the fact that each person must wear a dog shocker on one wrist and one ankle that increases voltage and frequency the more you go in the right direction. This is both incredibly sadistic and potentially a lot of fun to watch.

CT, Wes, Diem, Aneesa

10:07 – Diem: “It feels like someone is caddle prodding you and you are getting electrocuted through your entire body.” What’s the over/under on how many times Cara Maria and Abram have actually attempted this on their ranch in Montana this summer? Eight? Ten?

10:07 – Apparently the VMAs are live in Brooklyn this Sunday. Like my post Challenge viewing nights (4:03 AM as I edit), there is apparently no sleep (‘til Brooklyn).

10:09 – Brooklyn Nine-Nine (premiering on Fox on September 17) looks increasingly promising with each promo. Andy Samberg, although at times a little juvenile in a Adam Sandler circa 1995 kind of way, and the great Andre Braugher butting heads in a squad room? Yes, please.

10:10 – “Wow, I really was pining for a continuation of the Riddick series on film!” – says nobody

10:11 – Meanwhile, back at the challenge, let the uncomfortable squeamish laughter commence! Every time a competitor is shocked and omits a cry of pain, you chuckle a little on the inside, catch yourself, and then chuckle a little on the outside, before catching yourself and realizing that you are taking too much joy at the expense of another’s pain (but it really is kind of funny to watch…)

10:12 – Wes takes over full control of the challenge from CT and has a healthy dose of humility about it: “As soon as I take over, everything starts going extremely smoothly. He might have more brawn than me. He might be bigger. He might be scarier, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s my dog on a leash. I am the greatest human being that has ever lived.” Ok, I made up the last part.

10:12 – The Wes and CT bromance continues after they finish. There are some pats on the back, some faux-hugs, and some declarations of mutual pride. Somewhere at home, Kenny is yelling at the TV, “You can have him!”

10:13 – Cara Maria: “Blind folds and electric shocks – it’s nothing really new to me, so I should be ok.” Neighbors of Abram and Cara Maria watching at home in Montana nod approvingly.

10:14 – So, this is not the kind of pain that Cara Maria enjoys. Cooke tries to take a moment to listen to the ocean. Cara Maria, as if overtaken with a mild (if clichéd) bout of Tourette Syndrome, unleashes a “fuck” for every shock.

10:15 – Jordan is, according to Johnny, doing some “geometry in there” and saying things like “wait a minute – this is a forty-five degree angle.” Jordan uses Johnny’s voice to determine where the finish is not located. It’s all just a little hilarious to watch.

10:16 – Cooke has a post-mortem “don’t do that ever again talk” with Cara Maria that sounds like vintage Laurel/Cara Maria circa early in the first Rivals season. Comparing Cooke to Laurel is the highest of praise.

10:17 – Ty speaks alert! This time he leads Leroy to the beginning of the maze (Aneesa: “Talk about the blind leading the blind”). Meanwhile, Paula and Emily are killing it as usual. Paula takes the reigns on this one as Emily squeaks her way through the pain.

Leroy and Ty

10:20 – Katy Perry is performing live in 4 days at the VMA awards in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga is taking her clothes off in the strangest of ways every day in off-putting Kickstarter campaigns and V Magazine photo shoots. So there’s that.

10:21 – When Paula and Emily finish the maze, Paula declares that she is going to “make a phone call to PETA as soon as [she] gets back in America and ban those.” I will gladly sign your petition, Paula.

10:22 – When they finally finish, Leroy tells Ty that he “killed it,” but production always seems to depict Ty doing the opposite. Who am I to trust?

10:23 – Frank and Johnny actually kill it. Johnny’s post maze take, as Challenge eloquent as ever: “They say the key to every successful relationship is communication and me and my main man, Franklin over here (patting his partner’s chest), I think we communicated well. Pain is your key to victory, and hopefully our time is going to hold up.” This is just vintage, 1998 MJ mode for Bananas. There will be more of this to come later in the episode.

10:24 – Frank compares Nany and Jonna’s performance to “like watching two five-year-olds trying to go through a haunted house.” My addendum on this is that the five-year-olds in Frank’s metaphor actually walked through the haunted house. Nany and Jonna sort of took two steps into the maze before creating a ball of fear and frustration for the next thirty minutes.

Jonna and Nany

10:24 – Classic TJ: “You don’t know what to do – just move towards the shock.” Can we get this man some kind of lifetime achievement award at this point?

10:27 – Camila (Preston: “Camila was the savior today”) literally dragged Team New Orleans through the maze. This begs the question, does Camila have strange powers over the Real World: New Orleans cast? Should Sahar be calling her up for musical advice? Would she be able to magically make Ryan into a more tolerable person? Also, how was Camila able to sustain the shock without the appearance of pain? What Brazilian super powers does she possess?

10:28 – Aneesa and Diem are the women winners (thank you Wes!). Diem does a very cool dance to celebrate. TJ asks her, despite the heat, to do the dance again because it was just that good. It is in these little moments where The Challenge greatness can be found. TJ Lavin – the myth and legend is a man among men.

Diem's dance

10:28 – TJ announces Johnny and Frank as the winners (and safe from elimination) and either Ty and Leroy or Jordan and Marlon as the losers, but not before getting another dig at Jonna and Nany’s embarrassing performance. I have to give credit to Jonna and Nany who seem to have a good sense of humor about it all.

10:29 – I RSVPed to The Great Gatsby Blue-Ray event of the year that I could not attend because I have better things to spend two hours of my time on (although it was at times visually stunning).

10:31 – Ty and Leroy are crowned the losers and Jungle elimination bait. Ty is uncharacteristically silent.

10:32 – There is a Johnny and Frank strategic session with some of the women teams about who should be sent in the Jungle. Johnny and Frank are pulling for Jordan and Marlon “whose time has come,” but really Johnny is hoping that the layup of Knight and Preston sneaks around long enough to be in the Finals and become an immediate team that Johnny and Frank will beat. Jordan listens intently from the other room. Not to overstate my Confessioner gimmick, but wouldn’t the Confessioner have told the strategy party to wait to have this conversation when Jordan is in the shower, on a run, or at least out of earshot?

Johnny strategizes

10:33 – “So how’s the campaign coming?” With these four words and a conjunction, Jordan begins his Frank provocation, and it was just that easy.

10:34 – Frank’s outburst begins (Emily and Diem are the primary listeners at this point) while Aneesa comically sprints by. See Diem! Aneesa is exercising, but just on her own time!

10:34 – Emily gets the ultimate credit in the world for putting Jordan in his place and guiding him away from behaviors that will wake the Frank sleeping bear that has been dreaming happy thoughts while in hibernation since the CT blow-out earlier in the season. Her attempts, although valiant, only do so much good when Frank…

Jordan and Frank

10:35 – …absolutely loses it.

10:37 – Following a much needed commercial break, all is calm again at the voting proceedings. Johnny provides an impromptu (but so appreciated) speech in which he can’t stop gushing about his excellent, but volatile partner: “I gotta give all the credit to my partner, Frank here. Without him, I could not have done today’s challenge. He’s got a higher threshold for pain apparently, so thank you sir.”

10:38 – Knight is not optimistic about his chances of avoiding a Jungle trip: “My team is an easy target for the Jungle because everybody knows that Preston can’t do anything.”

10:39 – TJ thanks Marlon for his lipstick to face vote tallies. He then calls Camila, “Mila.” Can this man be any more exceptional?

10:39 – The vote is overwhelming. Four teams vote for Jordan and Marlon (Nany and Jonna hold out and vote for Preston and Knight). Paula’s rationalization: “I need Johnny to make my game as easy as possible, so I have to vote the way he wants me to.” We are now 399 minutes into this season and this is really the first time we have heard Paula or Johnny speak about their unwavering alliance. The time had come.

10:39 – Leroy brings some levity to the moment: “I would like to wish the rookies the best of luck in the Jungle, but I really hope that you LOSE!” Ty remains silent.

10:40 – Some conversations are just this good…

Camila, fighting through intoxication and speaking with her unbreakable loyalty to Johnny in mind: “You’re a rookie. You’re going in. You have to prove yourself!”

Jordan, shirtless: “Then riddle me why…”

Camila, interrupting him: “–Listen to me.”

Jordan, incredibly rational: “…Johnny and Frank win, and they had to go campaign.”

Camila: “They weren’t necessarily campaigning. They’re our friends.”

Jordan: “But until Johnny and Frank went in there and said, ‘Look – this needs to happen. They’re rookies. They need to go in.’ And that’s what you just said, you’re rookies, you need to go in, so the vote was changed because someone wanted it to be changed that was not a girl.”

Wait, did Jordan just say, “riddle me why?”

10:41 – Frank overhears all and volunteers to be a fact checker (again, where is the Confessioner?). This lasts for all of three seconds before Frank settles into full-fledged nighttime extracurricular activity mode and unleashes his verbal spite on the Real World: Portland veteran (and a resident fact checker, according to Marlon in the challenge last week, of his own).

10:41 – Johnny Bananas, can you please bring some calm and clarity to this situation? Johnny Bananas, in classic form, has a little something to say to Jordan to deescalate the situation while still supporting Frank. Pay close attention – this is the stuff that legends are made of: “You don’t understand. The way that the guys are looking at this is that there is a team that obviously everybody wants here for a final.”

Right. Go on…

“So the way this game’s played – you leave the easiest team here. That way, if you have to go in, you’re hedging your bets, ok? You guys are a great team, ok? You’ve proved it time and time again, but your time’s up, dude. It’s your time to go in and it’s your time to fucking earn your stripes, dude. I don’t blame you. This is a fucking dirty game, bro, but I’ve always said is that all is fair in love, war, and challenges.”

There are so many important takeaways here: Jordan shows incredible restraint during Frank’s outburst. Frank, although unleashed, manages to find an inner peace much faster than imaginable. Paula and Emily are keeping Camila’s point of no return somewhat checked in the background of the shot. But this moment is really about Johnny Bananas, the Michael Jordan of The Challenge. This is the same Johnny Bananas who was the first person eliminated on his first The Challenge season of The Duel (like when Jordan was cut from his Varsity basketball team) so many years ago. This is the same Johnny Bananas who couldn’t get over the hump on Inferno 3 or The Gauntlet 3 (Jordan’s repeated attempts to pass the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals). This is the Johnny Bananas who put it all together when he was able to learn how to rely on his teammates on The Island (the 1991 Championship) and again on Ruins (the 1992-1993 Championships). Then came the trials of Cuthroat, the nadir being CT’s elimination demolition (the baseball career, the 1995 playoffs). A Rivals win brought some redemption with long-time competitor, Tyler (the 1996 Championship). Battle of the Exes was not as easy as the one before, but that much sweeter when Johnny and Camila reached the top of that Icelandic mountain peak (the 1997 Championship). If Rivals II is the 1998 season, then you know where Jordan’s career goes next. Let us hope the Jazz series is stretched out for as long as possible, but if Rivals II is meant to be his last stand on The Challenge, what a ride it will have been. Tonight The Challenge legend of Johnny Bananas is just doing his thing.

10:47 – Let’s get to the Jungle (Take it away. Johnny: “We’ve got ourselves a good, old-fashioned head banger!”) and skip over the weird commercial break segment about Ty and Aneesa hooking up. We will just pretend this didn’t happen.

10:48 – “Leroy, do you think Ty has got this?” Even TJ acknowledges Ty’s silence. By the way, why has Ty been silent this season? Was he coached?

10:48 – The event is “Last Chance,” a retread of the first Jungle elimination from Week 1 between Tyrie and Dunbar and Robb and Derek. The memories of this first elimination faded that night, so fresh does this feel!

10:49 – Jordan and Marlon are talking about the “Oklahoma drill” that they worked in football practice every day. Maybe Ty is silent out of fear for these two athletic beasts?

10:49 – Leroy is going to “play defense and nobody is getting by without getting touched.” Ty is, as is custom, silent.

10:49 – Round 1 features an initial collision followed by what looks to be a tie for both teams to the bell ringing on either side of the course. The crowd, like Ty, is silent waiting for the instant replay.

The Jungle

10:50 – The replay shows that Marlon and Jordan won the first round by the smallest fraction of a second. Ty remains silent.

10:50 – Round 2 goes to Leroy and Ty after Ty shoots out of the gate like a train. This elimination is as physical and evenly matched as I have ever seen. I am not sure there has ever been a Challenge elimination as much cumulative talent participation.

10:51 – Round 3, the deciding round, appears to be leaning in Ty and Leroy’s favor, but a Seacrestian commercial break (and the habitual longest one of an episode) prolongs the suspense. Was my Zapruder Analysis wrong and could Marlon and Jordan lose this thing?

10:56 – There was no way. Jordan’s dive for the bell (as teased in the “Still to come this season on Rivals 2” trailer from last week) was in fact the moment of victory. The most impressive rookie campaign in Challenge history just got even more prolific.

10:57 – Ty speaks alert! – “I wouldn’t rather have any other game and to have lost to them in something I think we should have beat them in, I just don’t even really know what to say right now.” No really, was Ty advised not to speak all season? He is a really articulate guy who has gone a little overboard at times emotionally, but all kidding aside, something has seemed a little off this season for Ty in his mostly limited screen time.

10:58 – Awwwwwwwww. Ty and Leroy’s exit interviews were both really sweet. Despite the sounds of silence this season for Ty, these are two genuinely good dudes who will be missed.

10:59 – Jordan: “I am really over all the politicking, so we’re just going to win it.” This is why Jordan is a legitimate season MVP candidate.

10:59 – Frank’s ready to let his “beast out of his cage” and Johnny is concerned that if Frank starts “punching holes in their ship” that Johnny will “be sinking right along with you.” If there were any doubts before, The Challenge is on.

Until we meet again for the power rankings later in the week and prepare for Camila’s teased extracurricular nighttime activity…

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 Preseason Power Rankings

Are you ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the rankings…

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


13. Marlon (Rookie season)

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


14. Jordan (Rookie season)

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


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

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


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

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



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

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

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


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

Records held: Most Consecutive Seasons, Women – 7

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


13. Cooke (Rookie season)

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


14. Jessica (Rookie season)

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


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

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


16. Anastasia (Rookie season)

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



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

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

Postseason Awards and Predictions

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

Most Improved Player – Men: Trey; Women: Jemmye

Rookie of the Year – Marlon

Some bold predictions:

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Biggest Rise: Eric (Team Fresh Meat)

Biggest Fall: JD (Team Brooklyn)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Biggest Rise: Marie (Team St. Thomas)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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