A Banana and a Ginger: Sowing the Seeds of Discord

Well folks we have officially entered the Exes 2 Season, and I think MTV started things off fairly well.

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First off… I freaking love the [Thunder] Dome hahaha. So glad to have it back. One of the most ridiculously named, and down bad-ass elimination arena’s every. Mad Max references are always welcome with me.

But with all show inspirations aside, the beginning to the show and the character intros were fairly funny. Leroy promising us (as he has done before) that he finally learned how to swim. Jordan informing us all that he is now a model in his non-MTV life. CT claiming he shaved his beard to get back with Diem. Johnny Bananas giving a soliloquy to his fans, promising them he will prove that he’s still the best and deliver another title to them, before delivering his traditional Challenge Toast.

But it wasn’t all smiles. Those CT and Diem scenes were absolutely heart wrenching. The Knight scenes were depressing as well, but hearing Diem say she wanted to win this money so she could pay for a surrogate since cancer had robbed her of the ability to have her own children? Good night… That is depressing… Especially after hearing everyone else say ridiculous things like “I want to use the money to start my own hair extension line” [Jonna] or “I want to open up a cross fit gym” [Zach]. Not trying to offend either of those two, but the juxtaposition was jarring. And just seeing CT and Diem together again smiling is an emotional sight. CT and Diem are Challenge royalty. They are The Challenge’s version of Robert and Jackie Kennedy. Diem is The Challenge’s Princess Di. And so while I’m happy to see them getting one final run on air, it certainly doesn’t make me feel good. But on to the show.

I’ll have some updated rankings and new overall thoughts on the competition on whole at the end of the article, but first I’d like to talk a little bit about Mr. Wes Bergmann.

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Wes, like Johnny Bananas, was always one of my least favorite characters on the show during it’s Golden Era (which we are currently in the process of transitioning away from). Moreover, I disliked Wes for all the same reasons I disliked Bananas. In my mind they were the conniving, politicking, back room dealing scumbags who dragged down the truly deserving and dominant competitors (like CT and Evan). It always pissed me off that the guys who I thought were top tier competitors would lose out to second tier athletes like Johnny and Wes simply because they didn’t politick as well, and I always felt especially vindicated when Wes and Bananas would get thrown into an elimination and have their physical inferiority thrown on display as they were quickly ushered off the show. However, I was always aware of the fact that they made the show better, and as more and more members of the Golden Generation of Challenge competitors fall by the wayside, I find myself falling into their camp if only for the sake of nostalgia, and reverence for a fleeting, departing Era.

So, just like I finally got over my Johnny Bananas hatred and finally began rooting for him during his absolutely spectacular run through Free Agents, I have a feeling [after watching the first episode] that I am about to follow the same steps of acceptance as I welcome Wes into my depleted and shrinking club of beloved veterans.

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Wes may have let some of his Physical game go. He is no longer the cut and chiseled competitor he once was (see picture for reference). However, his political game still has me giddy with joy when the wheels start turning. He knows all the Vets hate him (as does everyone on this show once they get to know him) so he always seems to make an early alliance with all the Rookies and newer payers on the show to surround himself with fodder which can be used to shield his own body from any fatal strikes. It really is a genius strategy when you consider the fact that none of the rookies realize just how well he’s playing them. I mean seriously… did you see the look on Thomas’s face when Wes had him and Jay alone in a room as he told them he wasn’t going to vote them in? And those quotes he threw out afterwards? “This kid is smart. I mean.. I could just really tell this kid was smart cuz like… this kid is just really smart… ya man… he’s just smart”… I can’t wait to see the look on Thomas’s face when Wes finally pulls the trigger and back-stabs him. I assure you it will be priceless.

In a similar vein I don’t think that it matters that he pissed off Bananas. One would assume that was a tactical mistake, but Bananas was going to take his first chance to get rid of Wes anyway, so in that sense nothing changed. The two just now have their beef out in the open (as if it weren’t already). Furthermore, with multiple members of The Challenge Valhalla retired (either entering into retirement voluntarily [Landon, Mark, Brad, Derrick] or being forced into retirement  [Evan, Kenny]) Wes finds himself without his traditional antagonists. Wes’s true rival has always and will always be Kenny “Mr. Beautiful” Santucci.

I Miss you Mr. Beautiful.... Just look at that Shit Eating Grin... its spectacular

I Miss you Mr. Beautiful….Just look at that Shit Eating Grin… its spectacular

Wes and Kenny have an extremely long backstory which reached it’s climax during their Runner-Up finish during Rivals [1]. Even when they were the strongest team in the entire competition, they still dragged each other into the dirt, finishing second behind Fat Tyler, and Johnny Bananas.

But here, then, we have the seeds of MTV’s new story line for Wes. He has obviously had problems with EVERYONE on this show, but it was always Kenny who was his primary opponent and Kenny [often alongside Evan and/or Bananas] who kept him in check. He and CT had problems (but who DIDNT have problems with the Boston Brute in his younger years), but now MTV has informed us that it is his dusty past with Bananas that will provide his latest rival.  Wes will be the next challenger MTV lines up to do battle the Mighty Banana where so many before him have fallen. I have my doubts as to whether he will unseat the Banana, but we shall see.

To start with, anyway, Wes has made quick progress. He has organized the house, very quickly mind you, into a veritable stack of Jenga blocks which falls or stands depending how he pushes or pulls each block. Obviously that will change radically when other players (and there are MANY formidable players in this show… Bananas being simply the most obvious example) begin to add blocks of their own or remove blocks belonging to Wes, but for the time being it appears as if he has set himself up for early returns. I don’t know that I believe Wes can win the entire Challenge, but a spot in the top 5 is virtually assured, and a trip to the finals appears to be within his grasp already.

Wes and Bananas have always been the show’s best aggravators. Always. There have been others who have been very very good (Evan and Kenny amongst them) and there have been others who have been far superior to Wes and Bananas in terms of physical ability. However, there have NEVER been two better politickers and backroom assassins than these two. They create drama both in the house and in the arena. They are strong (but, importantly, never the strongest) competitors. They are #1 and #2 on the Challenge’s all time Prize Money Earned list. And are two of the shows remaining pillars in this era where the Old Guard is partially phasing out (numerically if not competitively).

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In Episode One MTV has already laid this season out as a test between these two giants of the game. Everything else is ancillary (albeit hilarious and enjoyable). THIS is what really matters this season. Most of the Old Guard have been cast away by MTV, but these two remain. Two surprising picks in my opinion since they were never the top competitors physically, but then again I’ve always had a soft spot for the Lumbering Ogres who play no politics (CT in his youth or Leroy now). These two represent what the Challenge is really about, and this season is setting up to be a true Clash of Titans. There is a huge opportunity for a competitor like CT to play this battle to his advantage, playing these two against each other (which they will be all in favor of) but no matter what happens I can’t wait to see how this season plays out.

Johnny Bananas and CT have became heroes in the new Challenge narrative where they used to be villains. As a result, MTV has dusted off the old Bogeyman Wes to see if he still has some of his old abilities. I can’t wait to see him prove that he does.

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Updated Power Rankings:

This week’s power rankings have changed a surprising amount for me considering we’ve only seen one episode, but then again with so many rookies on this season that seemed bound to happened. We learn exponentially more about each rookie episode by episode than we do about Vet’s who have been around for 5+ seasons. So without further ado here we have it. Competitors will be listed in reverse order of rank, starting with those already eliminated.

EXILED

dustin and jessica

Current Rank: 13

Change from Last Week: -4

Preseason Rank: 9

We all knew this one was coming, I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Although it’s always good for a laugh when Dustin’s “Gay Porn Past” comes up, and I got a good chuckle out of Dustin making an effort to “Bunk with the guys this year” to make friends and alliances it was still sad to see them go home so soon. I don’t really dislike either of these two at all, but they’re just a middle of the pack team that can always go home Week 1 or Week 6, but will likely never see a Final. We’ll see what they can do in this new exile bracket though.

LIVE AND KICKIN’

jj and simone

Current Rank: 12

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 13

JJ might not be as hate-able as I thought he would be when the show started, but Simone sure is. They moved up a spot due to Dustin and Jessica’s elimination, but have no fear… these two will soon be on the chopping block.

jay and jenna

Current Rank: 11

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 12

Moved up a spot because Dustin and Jessica went home. Nothing really to see here. I like this couple being in the house for storyline purposes, but athletically I don’t expect much. But those storylines! Jenna’s Slootiness apparently knows no bounds. So she convinced Haley to do tandem cartwheels with her, while ensuring that their butts faced four panting Vet guys in the pool. At what point does she just start stripping on the kitchen counter? Also, I don’t understand how, but I do enjoy the fact that Jay was apparently involved in every single off camera romance that happened before this season. I don’t know how far these two will make it but for the sake of drama I hope they stick around.

thomas and hailey

Current Rank: 10

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 11

Moved up a spot because of Dustin and Jessica’s elimination, but these two, especially Thomas, are no good. I mean, you can even look at him in that picture. Look at his eyes and his hands. He looks so nervous and unsure of himself. No wonder Wes lured him in and Thomas bit hook line and sinker. “Golly Jee Wilikers Wes, I sure hope you can help me stick around here…” They’re a great patsy pair for Wes to have under his thumb, but I don’t expect much else from them.

Knight and Jemmye

Current Rank: 9

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 10

Knight and Jemmye moved up a spot in the rankings since Dustin and Jessica (previously ranked ahead of them) went home. They’re as much of a disaster working together as I remember. That Challenge performance was… not great… And it doesn’t help that both of them have traded athleticism for fat since their Challenge debuts.

boston johnny and averey

Current Rank: 8

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 8

I probably should have moved these two ahead of the next couple in the rankings, but right now I just have no faith in Averey. Boston Johnny surprised me big time with his performance in the Free Agents Final, but considering how little faith he seems to have in his partner and their partnership, I have a hard time moving him up in the rankings while he’s shackled to her.

adamn and brittany

Current Rank: 7

Change from Last Week: -3

Preseason Rank: 4

Still firmly locked in “Wildcard” status, but nevertheless I feel this collapse in rankings is firmly justified. Adam and Brittany looked horrendous this week. Their Challenge performance was abysmal and even their Dome performance felt lackluster. They were losing the entire time by about 2 ladder rungs until Dustin and Jessica fell off. That does not exactly make me feel confident in my preseason Dark Horse team. I feel bad for jumping off my sleeper pick so quickly, but it was probably ill-advised all along. Admittedly I judged their physical characteristics and athletic ability from a picture so… serves me right. Rookies should never be picked that highly, even when the veterans you were leaping them over have awful partners. Lesson learned.

Brittany gave me some hope early on for my initial over-ranking with her comment that she wanted to “Power Bomb people in the face” but it was certainly not a good sign that her victim in question was Adam… I’m convinced that these two could probably be something eventually, but right now they’re a hot mess begging for a quick exit. I fear that unless they start winning Challenges they’re in store for the old Challenge standby of “throw the same group in every single week until they lose so we don’t have to piss off anyone else.” Either way, I don’t have much faith in them making it as far as I thought they could go preseason.

leroy and nia

Current Rank: 6

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 7

The first beneficiaries of Adam and Brittany’s fall. Leroy is a monster. His partner has the strength of an ant. Not the whole “carrying ten times their body weight” thing… but the “she could probably lift up a leaf without getting too exhausted” part… I have faith that Leroy could carry this team quite a ways single-handedly because… I mean… thems is some strong hands he’s got there… But I just don’t feel confident moving them out of the Wildcard category and into Contender status just yet. Especially with Leroy’s politics being what they are. Leroy is a modern take on CT in his youth. CT was always the most physically gifted and dominant athlete on the show, but always refused to play (or bungled up) politics. Leroy has stated multiple times on the show that he refuses to play politics, which I really like, but I don’t think it improves his chances of winning. And Nia isn’t the one to make up for this shortcoming…

zach and jonna

Current Rank: 5

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 6

More or less the same storyline here as for Leroy and Nia, but because I think Jonna is capable of bench pressing two pillows whereas Nia is only capable of benching 1 Teddy Bear and an empty red solo cup (the contents of which have likely found their way into her liver) I’m giving the nod to Zach and Jonna for the top Wildcard spot, and prime position on a move into the 4 Contender slots. Zach and Leroy are equally physically dominant, so the girls need to be tiebreakers for now.

ct and diem

Current Rank: 4

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 5

CT and Diem moved up one slot in our power rankings to make up for the cataclysmic fall of Adam and Brittany. However, it’s pretty clear to me that I should have had them in the Top Four all along. They’ve moved out of the top slot in the Wildcard category, and into the bottom slot in the Contenders category. However, they could easily upset any of the three teams ahead of them, so it’s just a matter of time until they make a real move.

jordan and sarah

Current Rank: 3

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 3

Nothing new to add from last week. No signs of drama in the relationship yet which is a good sign. We’ll see if any of the top tier Wildcards make a run at them anytime soon, but for now they’ve held serve.

wes and theresa

Current Rank: 2

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2

Wes’s politicks are in place and the gears are already turning in his dastardly machinations. Add to that the fact that this is one of the few pairs with both an athletic male and female competitor and it’s no surprise to see them defending the #2 stop. In fact the only surprising thing about this ranking might be that they’re not higher, but as we all know that is impossible since the #1 spot belongs to…

bananas and nany

Current Rank: 1

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 1

Nothing to say here. The King stays atop his throne until someone violently removes him. Long live the Banana King.

Johnny Bananas

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