Trial By Fire: ‘Earning Your Stripes’ as a Challenge Rookie

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So… a couple things about the most recent Challenge episode. First and foremost I just want to say that it was a great episode. I thoroughly enjoyed myself all the way through. That being said, it was an extraordinarily cliched episode. Now that is certainly not a bad thing when the recurring events are things you enjoy thoroughly (which I do in this case) but there is one Challenge staple in play here that I (along with Mr. TJ Lavin by the way) generally find annoying and cowardly. I’m speaking, of course, of the”Earn Your Stripes, Rookie” elimination crucible.

It seems like every season for time immemorial the Challenge cast picks one individual or group to do their elimination dirty work for the entire first half of the season. The strategy and logic behind it is relatively sound. Noone wants to screw up their Politicks by throwing anyone into the Elimination (even a team they don’t like). SO, rather than starting any fires, everyone generally votes for whoever won the first elimination to go back into the second. And the third. And the fourth. And every other elimination until they themselves are eliminated.

It’s not fair. It’s not particularly entertaining from the viewer’s side of things (eliminates suspense, dampens Politicks, and prevents us from seeing different people compete for their Challenge Lives). But at this point its just part of the game. The Challenge is almost 20 years old at this point, the strategy has been declared sound by many veterans (first and foremost amongst them being Johnny Bananas) and it simply isn’t going to go away. This, of course, is much to the chagrin of Adam and Brittany this season, the victims de jure.

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But for all that I may hate it, there is one silver lining to this particular cliche. The teams or individuals subjected to it generally become strong returning competitors on the show. Now I’m not saying they become world beaters by any means, but when a team or individual survives The Crucible its generally a good sign for their challenge future. Brandon Nelson, Camilla, Jonna… those are just a few examples of recent competitors to be forced through The Crucible (winning 2 or more consecutive challenges) and come back a stronger competitor for it. None of them have ever won a Challenge for one reason or another, but their rookie season Crucibles were at least proof that they wanted to be here, and would not be one of these flash in the pan, one season and done kind of competitors. Now, they may be winning their Eliminations against inferior competition, but they’re still winning. And anyway it proves that they themselves are not bottom tier competitors.

To turn back to Adam and Brittany, then, their repeated tests in the Dome have made me like them a lot more than I did after Episode 1. I had excessively high hopes for these two in the preseason. They seemed to have everything needed to be a strong physical pair, and then looked like pure garbage in the first Challenge on Week 1. Now, after 3 straight Dome wins my preseason rank of #4 looks a lot less moronic. (Still bad mind you, but improving every week). They’ve still made several downright horrible decisions (taking a freaking 45 minute break in the middle of The Dome vs. Jemmye and Knight rather than just powering through) but we might be witnessing another example of The Crucible forging some iron ore into tempered steel.

But more than making them better physical competitors, the added airtime is quickly making them into one of my favorite pairs just to watch. I would love to hang out with Brittany. She seems like a complete goofball in the best possible way, and anyway who wouldn’t want to go hang out with a couple that does a mid dance floor 69 in a crowded bar?

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I admire Brittany’s spunkiness and I’m all in on them as a couple. Even with Adam trying his best to be a dick and make the pair self destruct she doesn’t seem to care which is hilarious and fun to watch. I think they’ve got a real future here. At least I hope so for the sake of my preseason ranks. No Crucible team has ever won a Challenge before on their rookie season, but who knows. Maybe Adam and Brittany dance floor chemistry will carry over on challenge days.

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So after that little intermission… without further ado… Power Rankings time

ELIMINATED:

Thomas and Hailey

Final Rank: 13

Preseason Rank:11

Dustin and Jessica

Final Rank: 12

Preseason Rank: 9

Disqualified: CT and Diem

Final Rank: 11

Preseason Rank: 5

Knight and Jemmye

And here we get another sad goodbye. Knight and Jemmye were eliminated this week by Adam and Brittany in exactly the manner you would have expected. They worked terribly as a team all season long. Never put up an impressive performance and were on or near the chopping block every single episode. And that is more or less exactly how their Challenge careers together have played out for the entire duration of their time with us. My thoughts on Knight have already been posted, but I’d just like to say one more time how sad I am to see these two go out like this. Its clear to me that both Knight and Jemmye have made great friends through these Challenges, and have a lot of people who care about them on these shows. Regardless of how they have ever finished in these competitions, something bigger was always at stake, and in that endeavor I’d call them a success. Winning Challenges and money aren’t the most important thing in life by far, and in no way do I think these two are or were a failure no matter how they finished.

Also, as an aside… Knight telling Zach he wanted to go into Elimination against Bananas so nonchalantly was an awesome moment.

Final Rank: 10

Preseason Rank: 10

EXILED:

jj and simone

Current Rank: 9

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 13

Well… they lucked out since Knight and Jemmye were unable to compete due to Knight’s shoulder injury… I have nothing to say here besides the fact that I hope they go home soon…

LIVE AND KICKIN’:

boston johnny and averey

They did absolutely nothing wrong to fall in the power rankings, its just that other people aroudn them did things right and passed them. There’s nothing much new to add here as it was a very quiet episode for Boston Johnny and Averey. They weren’t really fighting which was a plus. They weren’t involved in any of the bar room drama. They seem to be playing the “lay low” card to perfection, but that hasn’t earned them any style points, so here they sit.

Current Rank: 8

Change from Last Week: -2

Preseason Rank: 8

jay and jenna

Current Rank: 7

Change from Last Week: +2

Preseason Rank: 12

This ranking has nothing to do with their own skills or ability on the Challenge but everything to do with the circumstances around them. There’s still a bit of drama around them with Jonna wanting to throw Jenna in (so as to not throw in Adam and Brittany again because she doesn’t want to take part in the same Crucible strategy that was used against her as a rookie) but Zach protecting Jenna. The fact that they have Zach looking out for them (as he even pointed out during their Power Couple dinner conversation) is just going to help them plain and simple. This Jonna situation could still boil over at any time, but for now Jenna has Zach on her side, and Jay has proven to be just too likable to get in trouble at all. They may be stumbling into it but with Jenna using her feminine wiles and Jay his affable personality these two have thrown together a fairly decent Politickal angle for themselves. We’ll have to see how long they can keep it going.

leroy and nia

Current Rank: 6

Change from Last Week: -2

Preseason Rank: 7

Again, another team sliding down through no fault of their own. Leroy is still one of the best male competitors in this thing, and in single elimination I’d like my chances with him against almost anyone. Nia is… Nia… but she has looked incredibly average this year which is a big move up in the world for her! However, the next two teams made some significant power plays last week which helped them leap over Leroy and Nia. I have no doubt that Leroy and Nia will move back up in future weeks, but for now here is where they stand.

adamn and brittany

Current Rank: 5

Change from Last Week: +2

Preseason Rank: 4

My thoughts on these two have been touched on above, but this week they finally showed some of the promise and ability I saw in them in the preseason. They’re now 3-0 in Dome Eliminations and have been thrown into the Dome every single week. If they can just manage to start winning some Challenges to make themselves Power Couple things will start to turn around for them, but for now there are enough inferior teams left in this thing to make me think they can keep this Elimination run going. Plus they’re just so fun to watch. I’m 100% in on the Brittany bandwagon, and Adam is a tool, but entertainingly so. Plus until they took that moronic break in the middle of the Elimination they were absolutely dominating those cinder blocks. Very impressed. As long as Adam doesn’t blow this team up by constantly criticizing Brittany and rubbing his junk and various ladies’ faces they’ll be fine.

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Especially cuz Brittany seems to handle the criticism surprisingly well. I have faith in the rookies!

zach and jonna

Current Rank: 4

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 6

A Challenge Day victory pushed Zach and Jonna into the Top 4 for the first time this season! They had a pretty impressive performance on Challenge Day, and in the early hours of their Power Couple status they actually looked like a fairly well functioning team. They even had matching team glasses.

glasses

Zach apologized to Jonna, made some great friends in the house (gave Knight and Jemmye a chance to pick who they wanted to go into elimination with, while also protecting Jay and Jenna). Everything looked peachy. And then Jonna tried to bring up her own opinion and the whole facade came collapsing down, ending with Zach talking shit about Jonna while she was in the room and he didn’t know. Soooo I foresee a meltdown in the future… but for now Zach finally started looking like a Top Tier contender this season.

wes and theresa

Current Rank: 3

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2

Honestly I probably should have moved them down this week after they finished second to last in that Challenge Day Competition, but a couple things saved them. First and foremost is just reputation. Everyone has an off day, and Wes and Theresa are the kind of team that can shake that off and move on. Moreover, Wes proved that at least one rookie team is still alive as part of his ‘human shield’ strategy in the form of Adam and Brittany. They need to step up their game and get back to winning Challenges or they’ll start slipping down the power rankings but for now they’re hanging on to the #3 slot.

jordan and sarah

Current Rank: 2

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 3

A Second place finish on Challenge day after coming off their first Challenge Day win isn’t too shabby. I don’t feel like Jordan and Sarah did enough to bump themselves up another slot just yet, but if they can manage to win next week’s Challenge day I’ll have to move them up. For now, however, your #1 seed remains…

bananas and nany

Current Rank: 1

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 1

This ranking looks shakier and lazier than ever this week. I simply can’t bring myself to remove Bananas and Nany from the top slot when they really haven’t done anything wrong strategically all season long. The only issue is that Nany is apparently really in love with Bananas (NUMBER ONE RULE OF THE CHALLENGE IS NEVER FALL IN LOVE ON THE CHALLENGE!!!!) and she’s really melting down after being forced to be on a team with him. Maybe that comes back to bite them soon, but I can’t help thinking that at least part of that drama is made up by Nany to get camera time, cuz when it comes to Challenge Days she competes just fine. So there may be a storm brewing on the horizon for them, but as of right now they’ve still got the inside track to win this thing.

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