It has taken me a full week to collect my thoughts on last week’s episode of The Challenge: Battle of the Exes 2, but here goes.
All season long I’ve been playing MTV’s game. Watching the Exile Challenges religiously, in gleeful anticipation of the day Johnny Bananas would return to the Challenge House to resume his ‘rightful’ place as King of the Castle.
Well, I got that moment last week, and it was nothing like I assumed it would be. I thought I’d be happy. I thought it would shake things up, re-inject strong competitors into the house (both of which it definitely did), and add a whole new dimension to this season’s Challenge. I thought the impact would be entirely positive. However, now that we’re here I can’t help but feel cheated, disappointed, and outright upset at how things have worked out.
To start with, the Exile “battles” themselves were HORRENDOUSLY disappointing throughout. In fact, they were so miserable that I wonder if MTV didn’t call an audible midway through once they realized what a valuable asset they had in the form of Johnny Bananas in Exile. You see, I assumed the Exile Champion, whoever it may have been, would come back right after the crop of competitors in the House had been cut to 3. That way the remaining house competitors would have assumed they had clinched a spot in the Final only to have a monkey wrench (get it? monkey? Banana?) thrown into their plans. Instead, MTV seemed to pull the trigger early, releasing the baboon from his cage while their were still 4 teams in the house. This in turn bumped the number of total teams back to 5 and effectively serves to merely drag out the show, rather than making it more exciting.
Moreover, when I first heard of the concept of being in Exile I knew that the people in Exile would invariably be, in large part, rejects and washouts who I didn’t care about early on. People not tough enough to compete and make it on the Challenge. But eventually I assumed they would have some heavyweights fighting off camera in Exile. Instead I got Bananas and Nany digging a coconut and a deflated soccer ball out of a hole with bamboo sticks for a couple weeks…. awesome… way to go MTV… followed by MTV promptly blowing its wad the first chance they got… they got ONE heavyweight matchup between Bananas and Zach and IMMEDIATELY reintroduced the winner to the house.
What MTV should have done is keep the Exiles going until there were only 3 teams left in the house. At that point they would transport all 3 House teams to the location of the Final and secretly bring the Exile Champions there as well. Then, just before the start of the Final, it would be revealed that an Exile team was reentering the competition, and the 4 teams would need to somehow compete and eliminate one of them just before the Final began. This is the only logical progression they could have made if they wanted to build on last season’s formula where, right before the Free Agents Final began, CT and Bananas and Theresa and Laurel, were forced to compete against one another for a single spot in the Final (and CT and Theresa were arbitrarily and unfairly sent home).
See, the problem is that MTV gave the Exiled team a chance to play Politicks once more, rather than just giving them a second chance at the money. Its one thing to give Bananas, or any Challenger, a second chance to compete physically, but its another thing ENTIRELY to allow them back in the house to participate in Politicks. This is unacceptable because invariably the team which has thus far performed the best in Politicks will have made the most enemies throughout the course of the show. These enemies, then, will have become Exile competitors and odds are whoever returned from Exile was going to hate the top Politickal team, and the team most deserving of a Finals appearance… aka Wes and Theresa. Allowing this newly reintroduced Exile team, then, to spin the house against your former front-runners is simply unfair.
It is particularly unfair to Theresa who, it now appears, will be robbed of a Finals appearance after a stellar season long performance two seasons in a row. But is also unfair to Wes, who has played, hands down, the best Politickal game I have EVER seen on the Challenge. Better than anything Kenny ever did. Better than Evan. Better than Bananas himself. It is also unfair to Leroy who has done nothing but prove he deserves to be in this house, and Nia who has done more to deserve a Finals spot than any girl this season. This sucks because it completely ruins the payoff of the greatest challenge episode I had ever seen. The Power Move Wes engineered against Johnny Bananas in episode 5 was, hands down, the best Challenge Power Move I have EVER seen or WILL EVER see. The way he won Leroy to his side after forcing Leroy to eliminate Bananas was MASTERY AT ITS FINEST. And now MTV is going to send either he or Leroy home when both deserve a finals run more than anyone on this miserable season. Some reward, huh?
This season of the Challenge had the best Challenge episode I have ever seen and one of the most shocking, exciting moments I have ever watched in the history of the series, and by bringing Bananas back and allowing him to destroy everything which that moment built towards pissed all over that moment. MTV ruined this season for me.
And again, I find myself particularly sad for Theresa. Last season on Free Agents she was thrown off the show right before the Final, and now this season she has to watch as someone whom she rightfully and skillfully eliminated from the show is given a second chance at life when she, in the recent past… aka just last season… had a Final appearance she had rightfully earned arbitrarily and unfairly stripped from her at the last possible moment, and was given no such second chance at redemption.
But this isn’t just about MTV ruining their own product, and botching one of the best Challenge seasons yet. Last year I wrote some very glowing remarks about Johnny Bananas. Three different articles covering the overall story-arc of how I thought he had changed. How I believed he had evolved from Anti-hero to true Hero. He was the Champion of the Old Guard and one of the last vestiges of the Challenge I grew up with, the Challenge as I knew it and learned to love it. The Real World Road Rules Challenges. He was a scumbag back then but, to me, had turned the corner during Free Agents. His battles against Jordan, a character who I felt stood for everything wrong with the Challenge, were legendary and inspiring. He had become someone I was willing to follow, to root for, and to cheer on, when in the past he was always someone I reviled, and in whose failure I reveled. Now, however, he was to be my new Champion. But I was wrong.
Bananas never changed. He is not a hero. Bananas is a coward and a scumbag. The way he mistreated Leroy was absolutely inexcusable. The way he allied himself with Jordan (whom he allegedly hates, or so we were led to believe all last year) and threw his friend Leroy (whom he is not just friends with on the show, but actually trains with in the offseason) under the bus, just because he got pissy that Leroy did EXACTLY WHAT HE WOULD HAVE DONE IF GIVEN THE SAME CIRCUMSTANCES is bullshit. When Bananas went home (admittedly at Leroy’s own hand, but NOT of Leroy’s own volition) Leroy did what he could to ensure his survival in the house. His only ally was gone, and he had to recalibrate. He played a smart game. And once his “friend” returned to the house (a situation you may have assumed would favor Leroy), he found himself with a freaking machete in his back… Moreover, the fact that Bananas did all this using Jordan and Sarah as his pawns was absolutely disgusting. So he’s going to abandon his friend, throw him into an elimination, but attempt to avoid getting any blood on his own two hands? No. Unacceptable. Johnny Bananas is a coward, a traitor, and a despicable liar. He has always been a scum bag. And he always will be a scum bag. He is beyond redemption.
And Sarah and Jordan… I’m out… I’m done. Jordan I have always hated. No news there. He’s the same old arrogant, entitled jerk he’s always been. But to see the way Sarah whores herself out in hopes of winning a championship that never has (and I now hope never will) come is sickening. I’m done rooting for her. I’m done making excuses for her when she makes herself throw up during a Challenge to garner sympathy when the REAL problem is that she’s simply too weak to persevere. I’m tired of watching her talk about how “fun” and “awesome” life on Challenges is only to see her team fail and screw up on every single Challenge. I’m done. Sarah, I hope you never win one of these things. You’re weak, cowardly, and undeserving.
I don’t know who will win this season, But I do know that it probably won’t be either of the teams in the Dome tonight. However, I’ll be rooting for whoever comes out of this Dome. As far as I’m concerned Leroy and Nia and Wes and Theresa are the only two teams that deserve to win this thing at this point. Wes and Theresa played a masterful Politickal game all season long, putting themselves in a position where, no matter how the overall atmosphere of the house changed, no matter how the tectonic plates of the Challenge shifted, they were always safe. What they’ve done should only be rewarded. Instead it is being punished.
Leroy and Nia have fought and scraped for their lives in this Challenge all season long. They’ve defended themselves in Domes, and even “Eliminated” (should have been forever but turned out to only be temporary) the top competitors on this season. [And let’s dwell on that point for a second… all the other couples this season had more or less real, on camera relationships to justify their partnerships. Bananas and Nany, on the other hand, have what, for all I know, is a completely fabricated relationship that noone can verify and that even TJ seemed skeptical of in the opening episode. They were a team created to win this season and especially for this season. Everyone else had to deal with past circumstances, while Bananas and Nany were given a golden pairing… and Leroy and Nia STILL whooped their asses…].
No-one has more on their resume in terms of physical performance than Leroy and Nia in terms of why they deserve to win this thing. They played a game without friends and allies for large stretches of time, and simply fought their way to survival in wildly impressive fashion. And now their fate is thrown into the hands of two cowardly, inferior scumbags.
And now only one of these teams has even the remotest chance of making a Final. I call bullshit. I just hope MTV hasn’t done so much damage to their own product that we can’t salvage even a scrap of respectability and justice from this season, and at least put the winner of this Dome into the Final.
What MTV did this season was wrong. They horribly mismanaged a situation which otherwise could have been one of their best marketing ploys in the history of the Challenge. This is also depressing because the Challenge is obviously struggling in ratings. MTV has bumped them all the way back to the 11pm EST graveyard timeslot (a place shows go to die…), they started this “Exile” gimmick in hopes of driving more traffic to their website to save the show, and they’re now even putting episodes of the show on Youtube, free of MTV’s own oppressive online ad system in an attempt to drive viewers back to the show. The Challenge is in a dangerous position and may be ending right before our eyes. And in the midst of all that, MTV went against their own product, and unjustly changed the dynamics of the competition mid stream without any form of protection for people who had played the game correctly AND ENTERTAINED AUDIENCES all season long. I hope something good comes out of this season, but at this point I don’t have much hope left.
I guess sometimes relapse is stronger than redemption, stupidity and selfishness are just stronger than logic and justice, and the bad guys just win.