Politicks: The Backdoor Dealing That Makes The Challenge Run

When you've got these two conniving lovebirds on a team against you, you know it won't end well

Two of the best Politickers in Challenge history, whispering sweet nothings into one another’s ears. Some dangerous pillow talk right there folks.

So I’ve used a term frequently in these Challenge blogs that makes me look like an idiot who can’t spell. And while I won’t necessarily deny that that may be the case, I’d like to explain my word choice quickly, and this week’s episode seemed to be a perfrect time to do so. The phrase in question here is my decision to spell Politicks with a “k” and capitalize it to make it a proper noun.

Now, both of these references are a shout out of sorts to 19th/20th century political mastermind and Empire builder Otto Von Bismarck.


Now, as I’m sure you remember from your high school European History classes, this crotchety old man is credited with carving the German Empire out of a collection of divided principalities. Moreover, he is often (unfairly) blamed for causing World War One BUT for the sake of our discussion, the most important thing about Big Otto is the fact that he is credited with the crafting the concept of Realpolitik. Now, you will again remember from your high school European history class that Realpolitik is a concept which hinges primarily on the idea that nations, as individuals, are strictly and should strictly be out for themselves. They can cooperate with others in so far as it serves their own purposes, but at the end of the day all that matters is their own success or failure and their power to achieve their desired ends.

Sound familiar? It should because our beloved Challenge Competitors spout that kind of stuff off constantly. “I gotta do what’s best for me in this game.” “I’m just here to win and I gotta do whatever it takes to get me to the Final” etc etc. What I think these Challengers are doing when they talk about “politics” in the game is attempting to play Bismarckian Realpolitik, which is why I use the term “Politick” to discuss their amateurish political machinations. The capital P makes the term a proper noun, in the German style, thus hinting back to Bismarck. The addition of a “k” at the end of the word “politic” is a throwback to the word “Realpolitik” and the decision to leave it a “ck” is to tie to to Bismar”ck”‘s own last name. So there ya go. I’m not a terrible speller, I’m just a wannabe clever wordsmith. Add that all together and you get all the influences and origins of my idea of Challenge Politick, Politicking, and Politicks.

However, while I use this term to discuss all politics on the show, that doesn’t mean everyone is doing it right, as this episode elucidated for us. Bismarck’s Realpolitik was a notoriously dangerous game that could get the unskillful purveyor into some major trouble. In Bismarck’s time you had many examples of several nations mishandling their poltics while Bismarck himself was thriving.

You had nations such as the Russian Empire who thought they could get by without alliances, without politics, and instead using only their physical might to get by (Leroy). However, as we saw this week with Leroy, playing no Politicks and making no friends often leaves you dangerously exposed in this game, and can get you undeservedly thrown into elimination.


You had newcomers to the game of nation building and international power politics like Italy, making bad deals in an attempt to save themselves now and ‘play with the big boys’ in exchange for certain death later (Jay).

Sure thing Don Corleone, keep talking like you know what you're doing...

Sure thing Don Corleone, keep talking like you know what you’re doing…


A striking resemblance!


And even a once great power such as France allowing their pride to detrimentally affect their politics, before finally making deals with anyone and everyone in an attempt to remain a great power, even as they lose friends left and right (Jordan and Sarah).


Rarely does anyone get to a Final without friends (although if anyone can do it I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Leroy) or Politicks. The Challenge is a cruel game where the strong don’t always survive. Not only do Challengers need to have the physical strength to fall back on, but they also need to be able to summon the specter of strength of skill in order to keep themselves out of potential eliminations. Adam and Brittany were clearly strong competitors as they won 3 Elimination Domes, but they got themselves thrown into 4 Eliminations which proved to be their undoing. Same can be said for Johnny and Averey as they won 2 Domes but lost the 3rd. You can’t go home if you’re never thrown into an elimination, which is one of the reasons Wes and Theresa are riding so high right now.

Jay had the right idea in trying to secure a free pass for he and his partner when he cut a deal with Jordan and Sarah, but he foolishly made an enemy of one of the strongest competitors on the Challenge. Jordan lucked out and benefited from Jay’s stupidity after the Challenge, but his arrogance on Challenge day nearly cost he and Sarah a chance at ultimate victory. Politicks is clearly one of the most important aspects of being a Challenge Winner. Noone is ever sitting on as safe of a perch as they think in the Challenge, and the only way to survive is the skillful deployment of self interest and Bismarckian Realpolitik. It takes more than just enormous guns to come out on top in life (although both Leroy and Germany circa 1914 would have argued differently). Winning the Challenge is like seeing how can fall off a cliff most gracefully, and the biggest key to that equation is deploying your own Politicks better than your opponents.

So with that obviously statement thoroughly exhausted, let’s get to some Power Rankings.


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

Final Rank: 10

Preseason Rank: 10

JJ and Simone

Final Rank: 9

Preseason Rank: 13

adamn and brittany

Sad to see them go, but Adam and Brittany put on an absolutely spectacular rookie season. Brittany is now one of my new favorite female competitors. Somehow she remained positive in every single situation. Whether Adam was criticizing her, she was about to be thrown into a dome, or was losing a Challenge she someone remained positive and delightful for the duration of her stay in the Challenge house. While her final Exile competition against Nany was disappointing, I still think she did spectacularly for her first season, and with the crop of females always as weak as it generally is I could really see her having some staying power on this show. Adam was often a paper tiger of sorts, looking a lot tougher than he ultimately proved to be, but his final Exile vs. Bananas was really impressive, and he did win 3 Domes before getting sent home. I can’t wait to see these two back on another Challenge season, and can only hope it comes soon. They definitely won me over all season long.

Final Rank: 8

Preseason Rank: 4


boston johnny and averey

I gotta say, I’m really not enjoying this new delayed system they’ve implemented with the exiles. It made the end of that Johnny and Averey vs. Adam and Brittany Dome anticlimactic, and its screwing up my power rankings, not knowing which team actually goes home! But that aside, this is about where I expected Johnny and Averey to make their departure. Averey was impressive in domes this year, and Johnny continues to be a strong mid tier competitor, but I never expected them to win this thing. Boston Johnny got lucky to make the finals of Free Agents (should have been CT) but he definitely has a future on this show. Even though it likely won’t be this season, as I can only imagine Bananas will absolutely decimate him in the Johnny vs. Johnny Exile Challenge next week.

Current Rank: 7

Change From Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 8

bananas and nany

Nothing much to say here. Another impressive exile win, and another exile victory on the horizon with Boston Johnny and Averey up next on the chopping block. Basically we’re all just watching these Exile webisodes to kill time until Bananas and Nany make it back to the Challenge House and start homiciding all over people’s faces. (Yes I’m using that as a verb… deal with it… )

Current Rank: 6

Change From Last Week: +2

Preseason Rank: 1

Live and Kickin’

jay and jenna

Not even a Challenge win could change the fact that these two are far and away the weakest team left in this thing. They had a real opportunity with that win to try and steal a finals trip from somebody, but somehow Jay royally screwed everything up. Jay… Jordan straight up told you he was going to throw you in against Boston Johnny (because Boston Johnny could beat you, but couldn’t beat anyone else left in the house currently). Then you bought his bullshit about saying he wasn’t going to send you in, and instead you cut a deal with them? Ugh. Throwing Jordan in would have been so obvious and easy… and you could have offered that “I save you, you save me” deal to anyone else in the house. Then you compound that mistake by throwing in LEROY of all people? You KNOW Leroy is better than Boston Johnny and he’s OBVIOUSLY going to come back meaning you have a guaranteed enemy in the house, moron. If you send Jordan in against Johnny there’s at least a chance that Boston Johnny upsets Jordan and wins (especially in that particularly Dome where not having a second hand would have likely lost it for Jordan). Jay, you are a moron, and even though I’ve liked you all season, that despicable debacle completely lost me. I hope you go home next week, and end this charade already.

Current Rank: 5

Change From Last Week: +2

Preseason Rank: 12

jordan and sarah

I dropped Jordan and Sarah anther slot in the rankings for a couple reasons. First and foremost is Jordan’s stupidity. This guy is just an ass and I can’t imagine it won’t come back to bite them eventually. It almost cost them a trip to the Dome this week, and I can only imagine it will rear its ugly head again soon. The other reason, however, is that they’re quickly running out of real friends in the house. The game is rapidly shifting gears away from the early season “alliance system” to the late game “everyone for themselves” model. As far as I can see, 4 of the remaining 5 couples in the house are good enough to make it to a final, plus you have Bananas and Nany coming back at some point. Moreover, as Evan and Kenny taught us back in the day, you want to drag the weakest team possible (Jay and Jenna) into a final with you so you have someone easy to beat and can’t possible fall any lower than second. That means some of these top level teams will be going home before the final, and if Jordan is going to continue to be an arrogant prick, I have a sneaking suspicion his name will be on everyone’s tongue come Dome time.

Current Rank: 4

Change From Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 3

zach and jonna

Zach and Jonna jumped up one slot in the rankings not because they did anything right, but mainly because they weren’t yelling at each other this week, and didn’t screw anything up. If these two just keep their heads together they could easily back their way into a Final. However, with Zach’s roid rage theres no telling when they’ll meltdown and self destruct. I highly doubt they’ll win this thing, but there’s still a chance.


Current Rank: 3

Change From Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 6

leroy and nia

BEAST! BEAST MODE! DOMINANCE! Leroy is fantastic. I have nothing to say here. I mean… I was very disappointed with Nia’s performance in that Dome. This is the second time in her Challenge career she’s made us sit through a 2 hour elimination [the other was against Cara Maria in that rope pulling challenge on Free Agents last season] because her stamina is garbage (probably cuz she’s suckin’ down heaters like they’re soda pop off camera) so that is definitely a concern, but Leroy himself is just a monster, and that’s all there is to it. Also, I cannot freaking wait to watch how miserable Leroy makes Jay’s life from this point onward.

Current Rank: 2

Change From Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 7

wes and theresa

But even with that second Dome win, Leroy hasn’t done enough to pass Wes and Theresa. Just like with Adam and Brittany and Johnny and Averey, too many Elimination appearances, even when they come with victories, is always a sign of an imperiled team. Wes and Theresa, on the other hand, have avoided every Dome so far. They’ve won a few power couples. They’ve sent their biggest threat to victory home (they think). Everything is going their way, and noone has done anything yet to make me think otherwise. I won’t say what I think might happen when Bananas comes back, but for now Wes and Theresa are on top of the world.

Current Rank: 1

Change From Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2


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