The Plot Twist That Should Have Saved the Show

 

Theresa comes back

Nice touch MTV. Don’t get me wrong. They still screwed this season up big time, but this week’s episode was a nice step towards remedying old wrongs. But let’s start at the beginning. Regardless of whether or not Nia’s physical altercation warranted leaving the show, MTV could not leave her on the show after the various slurrs she used in last week’s episode. That being said, however, if anyone is mad at Nia for using those words (which they should be) they should be even more mad at MTV for putting that footage on national television. MTV is far more responsible for putting that footage on the air than Nia is for saying them if we’re discussing who is at fault for spreading that kind of hate speech to a wide audience. What MTV did was equally disrespectful, irresponsible, and wrong. They didn’t have to do that, just like they didn’t have to (and chose not to) release that footage of Snookie getting punched in a bar during Jersey Shore. Even censoring that material was irresponsible in my opinion, but that’s another matter.

What that meant for the show itself was that Hurricane Nia’s outburst got her kicked off the show. Leroy was left without a partner, and all signs pointed to MTV screwing up this season even worse than they already had.

cast without nia or theresa

Leroy and Nia were the only two individuals left in the cast who deserved to win this thing with Jay and Jenna coming as a distant second for the lol factor. But that still left us with both Johnny Devenanzio / Nany and Sarah / Jordan as our miserable duo most likely to win the thing. Things looked bleak. Even after Jordan and Sarah showed their true scumbag colors by double crossing Devenanzio and Nany (which is fine… no honor among thieves…) it looked like the King of Corruption was going to sneak by again as Nia would be sent home, Leroy would be disqualified for not having a partner, and this garbage season would continue on to its miserable finish.

However, MTV decided to use its arbitrary rulings for the side of good this time, and did so in the flashiest, best manner imaginable.

Theresa was so happy to be back and partnered with Leroy her nipples were literally hard with anticipation of destroying Nany

Theresa was so happy to be back and partnered with Leroy her nipples were literally hard with anticipation of destroying Nany

Meanwhile, Johnny and Nany were none too pleased to have the MTV magic finally turned against them

Meanwhile, Johnny and Nany were none too pleased to have the MTV magic finally turned against them

MTV decided to bring Theresa back to be Leroy’s partner, thereby easing at least some portion of the atrocity they turned this season into. It was still a joke of an excuse to call Leroy and Theresa “Exes” and it feels manufactured (although not as badly manufactures as the Johnny – Nany “relationship”) but hey… this is the way MTV wants to run their show, so who cares I guess… And, bringing Theresa back was only fair to her, and pairing her with Leroy is great for both of them. Theresa is the best female competitor left in this competition and Leroy is far and away the best male. We saw as much in their dismantling . And I love how when Johnny Devenanzio takes on Leroy its perfectly excusable to tell the cameras “Leroy broke my ribs” but yet its also ok for him to mock Wes for getting a concussion against Leroy. Give me a break. That kid is the worst. It was horrible for He, Nany, Sarah, and Jordan to make fun of Wes last week, and made me lose even more respect for them than I already had. They are all simply the worst. In the modern era where NFL players are retiring after their rookie season out of fear of concussions, and former players are committing suicide as a result of brain trauma they had no right to mock Wes during that event, and the fact that they not only didn’t hesitate to do so, but also relished in the experience shows what kind of scum they are.

So needless to say, I was MORE than pleased to watch Leroy embarrass Johnny Devenanzio (for a second time mind you)

Leroy Johnny Start Leroy Johnny Takedown Leroy Wins

and to see Theresa not only eliminate Nany (for a second time mind you) but stomp on her face and kick her straight out of the show.

Theresa and Nany Leroy Theresa win

Wes still deserves to be in this Final even though he likely would have gotten third, but to see Theresa back and paired with the best guy left is awesome. Also, I couldn’t be happier with the decision (whether it was MTV’s [likely] or Theresa’s) for Theresa to go in still in her Grey Jersey that she wore with Wes (rightful 1 seed) all season long. These two are now the favorites, and if they can win this thing it will redeem at least some small portion of this season’s abysmal finish. It makes me sick to think Jordan and Sarah get to be in a Final when they should have been eliminated the same week that Devenanzio was unfairly brought back onto the season, but hey… Sarah is a proven quitter and a weak competitor so I can always hope that they fail to finish, and Jay and Jenna hilariously get second while Jordan and Sarah fail to even get any money. Here’s hoping to some Leroy domination and a Sarah collapse.

all in one shotsarah resting jordan pacing

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Welp… That’s Enough of That…

Leroy Nia Shocked

I’m out. This season of The Challenge has rapidly gone from potential All Time status to un-watchable. My thoughts haven’t changed since my last articles. It’s still all the same complaints, just exacerbated and compounded by time and repetition. It’s one thing for the players to unfairly stack the game against one another I guess, but what MTV has done this season is simply a terrible viewing experience. People watch real sports to see individuals or teams compete on an allegedly even playing field and root for whoever their chosen favorite ends up being. The leagues do not need to protect favorites, or even underdogs, because different people watch for different reasons, and in all honestly you need a somewhat reasonable balance of both for the product to succeed.

Photo via World Wrestling Entertainment

Photo via World Wrestling Entertainment

 

Even in a product such as the WWE were the physical competition is real but the outcomes are scripted, you still have a full and conscious understanding of what makes a good sports product. Professional wresting has their “heels” and their “babyfaces”… their villains and heroes, but they work out a balance between the two. Even in a scripted athletic event such as professional wrestling, the writers understand that stacking events too far in the favor of one camp or the other makes events inconceivable and preposterous, and therefore unwatchable. Hell, even when they forget this sometimes their fans vociferously elucidate the error (as demonstrated by the Roman Reigns fiasco in Philadelphia a couple months ago.

But hey… any publicity is good publicity right?? Right?!?! Not really…

Screen-Shot-2013-01-15-at-10.54.07-AM

In sports or even pseudo sports like the challenge the “integrity of the game” (as baseball writers will tell you ad naseum) is valued above all else. What MTV has repeatedly done this season, however, is shred their game’s integrity and credibility to ribbons. My thoughts on how they botched the Battle of the Exiled were covered in last week’s article, but they made things even worse this week after unfairly sending the show’s rightful #1 seed home. They constructed a game whose rules were unclear, convoluted, and, as it turns out, unfair. See, they said Johnny Devenanzio and Nany beat Leroy and Nia, because they performed better “as a team”… not jsut as individuals. Sure… whatever… that’s all fine and good… we like teamwork in America sometimes right? But their justification was frustrating and ambiguous. Devenanzio and Nany both got to the 3rd stage of ropes before falling while Leroy completed the entire excercise (5 stages) and Nia got to the 2nd stage. So MTV claimed that Leroy and Nia only finished 2 Stages, Devenanzio and Nany 3… ergo Leroy and Nia lose. But wouldn’t it make more sense to calculate the total number of stages completed by the team? In that case Leroy and Nia completed 7 stages while Devenanzio and Nany only completed 6. It seems absurd to even ask Leroy to finish the competition (which MTV did do) after his partner fell if they were going to completely disregard the work he did thereafter.

At the end of the day I just cant help but think and feel that this shit is fixed. MTV has its chosen favorites from before the season even starts, and the outcomes are altered mid stream to ensure these favored candidates move on. It’s not secret that certain characters draw big ratings, either positively or negatively, and MTV seems to be doing everything they can to protect these characters in place of fostering competition. In fact, there is no competition. And if there is no competition in an athletic event (scripted or otherwise)… not even a GUISE of competition, then why watch? Why not just check the “box scores” after the fact, see if your favorite was granted the favor of the deus ex machina and move on. That’s where I’m at now. I’m not interested in watching anymore. I’ll keep an eye out to see if Leroy and Nia win this thing (the only acceptable outcome).

Go ahead and say I’m being petulant and bitter. Say its just sour grapes. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and if you had asked me about this season of the Challenge 3 weeks ago I would have told you it was one of the best ever… now I won’t even be watching the end. Something is broken here, and if MTV truly is trying to save The Challenge from getting the axe, they had better think of something better than this… because THIS is garbage.

Challenge Corpse Theory: Making the Leap From ‘Top Tier’ to ‘Elite’ as a Challenger

Jay

There’s a famous line from the First World War wherein various German officers (generally attributed to Erich Von Ludendorff) are said to have described their dismal position in the war in regards to their allies was akin to being “shackled to a corpse.” The idea here was that Germany, by all accounts an economically and militarily powerful nation, was being dragged down toward defeat by her decrepit allies (particularly the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but also the Ottoman Empire of the Turks). Ok, so I’ll stop with the history lesson, but the idea is that in any intense competition, you generally don’t want a worthless competitor around, unless they’re dragging your opponent down.

The Challenge, however, has developed a culture over the years that views “corpses” a little differently. Somewhere around the rise to power of Kenny/Evan/Bananas a theory of Challenge strategy began to solidify. This strategy centers around the idea that top tier competitors should do their best to ensure that one of the worst competitors in the field makes it to a final so that the top competitors have at least 1 push over competitor who they can beat in said final, thus ensuring themselves a greater portion of the winner’s purse.

e5453e1dd674d85111fb7b70338ec059

 

Now, often this involved a late game back-stab. This strategy was put into practice by who else but Kenny and Evan. And hilariously enough they would use it more often than not to backstab Bananas at the last second. They would form a 4 man alliance of Kenny, Evan, Bananas, and Adam King (he of the “I will eat your face” fame).

adamk01

Kenny, Evan, and Bananas would form a practically unbeatable alliance of powerful contenders, then drag Adam along for the ride, telling him it was because they liked him (obvious lie) and telling each other it was so that in case one of them messed up and got thrown into elimination, they could challenge Adam instead of an actual contender, and ensure that they would be able to come back to the house. What they would actually do, however, is bring Adam along to the finals, and find a way to back-stab Bananas right at the end. That was the plan anyway. And that stuff worked more or less. One of those 3 would at least be in a position where they could win a final thanks to their skillful dragging along of their token corpse.

This strategy is also present on this season. Perhaps you’ve been asking yourselves, “man… how the heck are Jay and Jenna still on this season? They’re TERRIBLE! They haven’t done anything well all season outside of that trivia win last week, and that one time Jenna started inexplicably doing bikini cartwheels by the pool.” Well, my friends, this is your answer. Jay and Jenna are being dragged along by any one of the top contenders. At first it was Wes (who always surrounds himself with a human shield of rookies) then it was Zach (because he was banging Jenna) and finally [shockingly enough] Leroy.

Leroy Rising

Leroy

Everyone on this show who is worth their salt understands that this is a top level strategy. When executed correctly it can help you pocket an extra ten grand here and there, so clearly its something that should be kept in mind, even though it means pushing an undeserving team through to a Final and hurts the overall viewing product for fans. But playing the game this way (with your head) rather than irrationally, emotionally, and without strategy, is the sign of a real winner and a real top contender, and I believe we are watching Leroy’s birth into the vaunted heights of Challenge Valhalla.

The Challenge: Rivals

Leroy has been an obvious physical specimen since day one of his rookie season on The Challenge: Rivals where he dragged Michael Ross all the way to a Final in their Rookie season. Not a bad start to a career.

MTVChallenge_Rivals_MikeRoss_LeroyGarrett

From the very start Leroy understood that when you had a weak partner you needed to build up their confidence and carry them through the competition. This is a must, and every great team Challenger has understood this, so the fact that Leroy understood that at the start (with Michael) and kept it up to this day (with Nia) was an obvious sign of his promise. His biggest failing, however, was always his inability, or refusal to play Politicks. He does everything else right. He builds up his partners. He understands who to keep around and how to seize an opportunity to eliminate a strong contender. He didn’t allow emotion to cloud his judgement with Jay and Jenna when they are so much more valuable to him as a corpse than gone. Heck, he even trains with Bananas in the off-season for these things (and really, it has been so obvious to see that he comes from the Bananas School in this season… but I digress). So Nia was right to congratulate him during their Power Couple dinner (also, lol fried chicken) for finally learning to play Politicks, because that very well could have been the last piece of the puzzle needed for Leroy to begin a reign of absolute dominance and terror on these shows.

Leroy Fried Chicken

But for all Leroy has achieved, and all the progress he has made from a Challenge with supreme promise and natural gifts, to a real member of Challenge Valhalla, may very well have been overshadowed by the Ginger-Haired Genious Wes Bergmann. Wes proved during this episode that he is hands down the greatest villain this show has ever seen, maybe even ever. Forget Sauron, forget Voldemort, forget Hannibal Lector, Darth Vader, and the freaking Terminator himself. Wes is scarier than any of those guys in his element, and the way he maneuvered Leroy into a win win situation for himself was absolutely masterful. The man is an evil genius.  The best Villain of all time.

Wes and Leroy

While Wes was solidifying his position and Leroy’s star continues to ascend as he puts more and more pieces of the picture together, however, there has been another “top tier” competitor plummeting further and further from “elite” status all season long… Zach Nichols.

Zach Voted In

Leroy and Zach entered this season in the same place in my eyes. Both were young stars with tons of potential. Both had made Finals appearances, but fallen short of ultimate victory thus far in their young careers. However, from there things couldn’t have diverged more for these two. Zach has allowed his fits of roid rage to get the best of him time and again as he berated and criticized Jonna (who is honestly not the worst partner. She’s solidly middle class). His Politickal bungling got Bananas eliminated and got him ostracized from his former alliance (an act that in all likelihood will even have negative repercussions for Thor in future seasons). And now he got himself knocked off the show in a Dome that involved swinging a sledgehammer against an opponent with one hand… His career and reputation may have been irreparably damaged here. He has never bothered to learn from Challenge History like Leroy, and tries to brute force his way to victory, which hasn’t worked yet, and likely never will.

Kenny and Evan may be gone from the Challenge forever, but their legacies and strategies still live on in both the Old Guard (Wes, Bananas) and the New Generation (Leroy). This game is hard, but its not difficult to understand. The perfect winning strategies are already known. The playbook is written. Its just a matter of getting your head straight, and following the plays, something that Leroy has apparently figured out, and Zach evidently never will.

So with that said, let’s get to some Power Rankings.

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

Final Rank: 10

Preseason Rank: 10

JJ and Simone

Final Rank: 9

Preseason Rank: 13

Adam and Brittany

Final Rank: 8

Preseason Rank: 4

Johnny and Averey

Final Rank: 7

Preseason Rank: 8

Exiled:

zach and jonna

Zach and Jonna aren’t gone yet, and they provide the first real test Bananas and Nany will have to face in exile, but at this point I have no confidence in them. I can’t imagine them being the ones to prevent Bananas from reclaiming his birthright.

Current Rank: 6

Change From Last Week: -3

Preseason Rank: 6

bananas and nany

They destroyed Boston Johnny and Averey at digging balls out of graves, so that was cool I guess. But I think we can all agree that the we’re just waiting to see Bananas eviscerate the paper tiger that is Zach Nichols, and make his triumphant return to the Challenge House next week.

Current Rank: 5

Change From Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 1

Live and Kickin’

jay and jenna

As much as I may hate it Jay and Jenna have won the “corpse lottery” and will likely be competing in a Finals regardless of whether or not they deserve it. I have nothing else to say here. I am disgusted to put them in the Top 4. They’re terrible, but they’re going to the Final…

Current Rank: 4

Change From Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 12

jordan and sarah

A miserable Challenge performance for these two, but they more than redeemed themselves with that Dome showing. Zach and Jonna may have been in a long, painful meltdown for several episodes now, but they are still and incredibly strong team, and the fact that Jordan beat Thor at hammer swinging with only one hand? Spectacular. I still hate Jordan and wish him nothing but ill will. And I still want to see Sarah win one of these, but I’m starting to lose faith. They’re not peaking at the right time, and Sarah has been showing signs of mental fatigue for along time. We’ll see if they recover here for the final stretch, but for now I can’t jump them any higher than #3.

Current Rank: 3

Change From Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 3

leroy and nia

I won’t bore you with any more Leroy stuff, but I really think he’s about to make the leap, and Nia is by no means dead weight like I feared. They’re peaking at the perfect time, and I would take them against anyone in a final at this point.

Current Rank: 2

Change From Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 7

However….

wes and theresa

That Politickal mastery was just too much. Wes somehow convinced Leroy (who hates him by the way) to back-stab Zach (who Wes was supposed to be protecting), but also convinced him to take 100% of the blame on himself (even when directly confronted about it by Zach) in order to protect Wes WHILE LEROY AND NIA WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE POWER COUPLE!!!! What?!?!?!?! Pure mastery. I have no idea how he pulled this off. PLUS Leroy even knew Wes was playing him and said so to Wes’s face BUT DID IT ANYWAY!!! AND WES LAUGHED IN LEROYS FACE ABOUT IT AND. HE. STILL. DID. IT. I’ve just never seen something like this before. It’s absolutely astounding. I always thought Evan had the best Politicks in Challenge history, but after that clinic Wes put on I can’t see how you could put anyone ahead of him at this point. It’s just a shame that Bananas is likely coming back to throw a wrench in Wes’s plans to achieve ultimate victory. He has the best female partner this season with Theresa, but Wes isn’t anywhere near his physical peak from a few seasons ago. They’re the front runners for now, but in a Final anything can happen. We’ll just have to wait and see if he can put up the physical game to match his expert Politicks and close this thing out.

Current Rank: 1

Change From Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2

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.

bismarck108_v-contentgross

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.

Leroy

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…

don-corleone

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).

jordan

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.

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

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

Exiled:

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.

So-Youre-Telling-Me-Theres-A-Chance-Dumb-and-Dumber

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

The Science of Winning: Team Chemistry on the Challenge and Separating Dominance from Success

Montage

There are a handful of Repeat Challenge competitors (mostly male, but a select few females as well) that I affectionately name as members of the Challenge Valhalla, or aspirants to the Hallowed Hall of Valhalla. These are just generally the most barbaric, brutish, and powerfully dominant competitors on the show and the individuals who are generally preseason favorites to make a deep run and win any given season. Historically this meant guys like Mark, Landon, Evan, Kenny, etc, and in modern terms it means guys like Wes and Bananas while guys like Zach, Leroy, Jordan. However, this kind of logic only applies in individual competitions, which have traditionally been rather rare in Challenge history. The real key to success, then, is often teamwork.

Now, while this fact seems incredibly obvious to anyone viewing the show it is apparently some kind of incomprehensible mystery to many competitors on the show. Moreover, MTV is constantly trying to think up formats where they can create potentially powerful pairings that are likely to meltdown due to lack of cooperation.

Now, this season is just starting to get down to crunch time. There are still a few weak teams floating around in the house, but in large part the proportion of Power Teams to weak ones is heavily in favor of the Power Teams. When watching last week’s episode, however, you might not even have known it. The reason being, of course, partners.

It’s one thing for me to say Zach and Leroy are Top Tier Competitors. I mean… just look at them…

zach and leroy

 

Its an entirely different thing to claim that either will actually win this thing, and the reason for that disparity is due to their partners. Neither Jonna nor Nia are necessarily strong competitors in their own right. In fact, both appeared on last season’s Free Agents (a season whose gimmick explicitly involved telling competitors to ‘stand on their own’ and see what everyone was worth as an individual) and neither performed very well as both finished in the bottom half of female competitors.

However, Leroy and Nia look to be one of the front-runners to make the Final this season after knocking out Bananas and Nany last week, and coming in second in this week’s Challenge. Zach and Jonna, on the other hand, continue to bicker and melt down even when factors stack up in their favor, and nearly pushed themselves into the dome this week.

At this point in the season when we’re essentially halfway through, having one strong competitor in your team just isn’t going to cut it the way it does in the early game. We’re beginning to see a divergence of top tier competitors wherein those who are attempting to build up and work together with their partner (Leroy) are rising to the top of the crop while those who continue to place blame, criticism, and frustration on their partner (Zach) begin to fall lower and lower down the standings.

Zach and Jonna will have an even tougher mountain to start climbing if they don't stop fighting and start working together

Zach and Jonna will have an even tougher mountain to start climbing if they don’t stop fighting and start working together

Zach appears to be pushing his team rapidly out of the top 3 as he berates Jonna for any missteps which would cost them a Final appearance. Leroy, on the other hand, has been constantly supportive of Nia, and her new found confidence is constantly visible. Clearly one of these two strategies is inferior…

This isn’t just a problem for Zach though. We saw the first cracks in Jordan and Sarah’s armor in this last episode. Adam and Brittany continued to fail to work together (largely Adam’s fault). Boston Johnny and Averey are actively fighting one another. And Jay and Jenna seem to simply have no communication at all. It’s no surprise then that Wes and Theresa and Leroy and Nia are leading things right now, and this is also why I won’t be surprised at all to see Nany and Bananas shred one challenge after the other like lambs to the slaughter in the Exile. These teams don’t know it yet but as their teamwork degrades in the house they’re only hurting their chances at earning a second opportunity to compete later in the show. Clearly there is a right way to approach a team Challenge, and while it couldn’t be more obvious for us as viewers, even the most dominant Challengers will likely never learn how to succeed.

So on that note! Let’s see where these folks stand!

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

Final Rank: 10

Preseason Rank: 10

JJ and Simone

Final Rank: 9

Preseason Rank: 13

Exiled:

bananas and nany

I HATE cliffhanger episodes! Not only was I denied the finish to an Eliminatino that literally had me jumping out of my chair, but I don’t get to see Bananas and Nany absolutely destroy someone in exile this week! Very frustrating. O’well. Bananas and Nany are still the favorites to come out of this exile thing no matter who gets thrown in there against them. Its just a matter of time until they’re back in the competition.

Current Rank: 8

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 1

jay and jenna

That cliffhanger is also gonna screw with these Power Rankings a little bit, but I’m going to treat this as if everyone were coming back next week. As such even though either Adam and Brittany or Boston Johnny and Averey should be below Jay and Jenna (Since Jay and Jenna aren’t at risk for elimination) I’m still putting them at the bottom. They performed poorly in that Challenge. They don’t talk to one another. All things considered they’re kindof boring (although I do kindof like both of them and can’t figure out why). In the end, however, they’ve done nothing to make me think they can win this thing on their own merits. They’ll make it to a final only if Wes drags them along as his personal body armor.

Current Rank: 7

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 12

boston johnny and averey

Even if they come back, which it very much looks like they will in that Elimination, these two are absolutely horrible together. Boston Johnny is right when he tells Averey that Wes isn’t really loyal to her or he wouldn’t have thrown her in, but that doesn’t change the fact that Reilly is extraordinarily vulnerable without Bananas in the house. I just can’t see these two making a Final without another miracle run of luck like Johnny had on his inaugural season last year.

Current Rank: 6

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 8

adamn and brittany

I should honestly probably have these two ranked below Johnny and Averey since it seems certain that Boston Johnny will win that elimination and since these two performed so miserably in the Challenge together, but I was honestly wowed with how fast the recovered on their second attempt to build that tower. That was absolutely amazing and incredibly impressive. For that alone I’m gonna keep them relatively high in the rankings even though they’re probably going home this week.

Current Rank: 5

Change from Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 4

zach and jonna

In spite of the impending meltdown that is Zach Nichols they climbed a spot this week. I can’t believe they managed to beat Adam and Brittany in that Challenge, but they did so they have to leapfrog them. However, this couple is a disaster just waiting to happen. And if they somehow get to a Final, they’re easily my last pick.

Current Rank: 4

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 6

jordan and sarah

They were in 3rd last week as well, but it was a close race. This time around? Not so close. They’re definitely losing ground on the leading two couples in my opinion. I hated seeing how Sarah melted down on that Challenge. She’s supposed to want this more than anyone else, and that’s how she’s gonna perform? And it didn’t help that Jordan was melting down yelling at her. There are some real cracks becoming exposed here that another powerful team (cough cough Wes and Theresa) could definitely play to their advantage. I don’t feel nearly as good about Jordan and Sarah this week as I did last week.

Current Rank: 3

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 3

leroy and nia

I’ve already mostly spoken my piece on Leroy and Nia but I’ll give it one more quick summary here. Leroy is a monster. I would give Leroy a 50/50 shot at beating any one of the Top Male Competitors in any non aquatic sport. Bananas, Wes, Zach, Jordan, hell… even bring Mark and Landon out of retirement and I still think Leroy could beat them. He’s a monster. And he is doing a spectacular job building up Nia’s confidence and making her a reasonably average competitor. I see nothing but good things happening for these two moving forward… as long as there is no more swimming… please no more swimming…

Current Rank: 2

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 7

wes and theresa

They work together well as a team. They’re winning Challenges. Wes’s Politicks are coming off without a hitch. Bananas is out of the house. Everything is going off without a hitch for them right now. Hell, they even threw Averey into an elimination and got her to blame it on Johnny rather than them. Its just spectacular. Now, Adam is Wes’s #1 Pawn *cough* ermmm… I mean… Lieutenant so if he loses to Boston Johnny in this Elimination things become A LOT less stable for these two, but at the moment they’re were the smart money is to make it to a final in this thing. Still don’t know if they can take down the big dogs when the going gets tough in that Final as Wes has been abysmal in his last two Finals appearances and was carried by his partners (literally in the case of Rivals One) so we’ll see, but as far as the game as currently constituted they’er at the top of the mountain right now.

Current Rank: 1

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2

The Anatomy of a Power Move and the Slaying of a Giant

Bananas untying Nany Leroy and Nia after victory

Buckle your seat belts folks, because this is going to be a long one. As surprising as this may sound I don’t actually have a running list of the greatest Challenge episodes of all time, but there is no scenario where I can’t imagine that one being in the top 5. So let’s try our best to break everything down.

One of the most exciting moments in any Challenge season is the attempted Power Move. Whether its successful or not it always shakes things up, pushes us away from the rut of “just throw in the rookies every time” (which, as last week’s article pointed out, we were stuck in for this season), and always results in some excellent drama and a spectacular physical exhibition to cap off the episode. And like I said, it doesn’t even matter that the success rate of these power moves is abysmally low. Take last season for instance.

MTV-Challenge-Free-Agents-Jordan-Pulls-All-Three

Jordan tried this exact thing last season. When he finally got an opportunity where Johnny Bananas was thrown into Elimination, he intentionally put himself into The Elimination to face off against Johnny and (he thought) knock him off the show. Jordan’s attempt ultimately failed, but what Challenge fan doesn’t remember the tension and anticipation leading up to those events? That was hands down the best episode of the entire Free Agents season. Seriously. Even the competitors thought so.

CT Laughing at Jordan

 

But where Jordan went wrong, was by allowing his arrogance to get the best of him, and putting himself at direct risk in Elimination. A Power Move is almost always initiated by an inferior player hoping to improve their winning chances by eliminating a superior player. But the real sign of a well executed Power Move is when a player can make someone else do their dirty work for them. Where Jordan screwed up was throwing himself into Elimination. Where Wes succeeded was waiting until Fate handed him an opportunity to initiate his Power Move before putting himself at risk.

You will recall that he and Theresa had an opportunity to throw Bananas and Nany in Week One this season. Moreover they had reason to. Wes and Bananas have always and will always hate each other. Theresa and Nany were already mired in drama. And Wes and Theresa held Power Couple status. However, the key to a Power Move is holding all your cards until you think the team you want to move against has a legitimate chance of being eliminated. Generally this means either they or one of the other top teams has slipped up. However, when you really broke things down, Adam and Brittany in their first ever Challenge and their first ever Exile had a 0% chance of eliminating Bananas and Nany Week One. So… Wes didn’t throw them in, and it wound up earning them collateral benefits as Bananas didn’t throw Wes in Week Two when he had the chance as a way to pay back the favor. Wes identified that the situation wasn’t yet right, decided to bide his time, and it paid off.

Bananas was sent home before he could even START his run on the Elimination thanks to Leroys full Beast Mode tactics

Bananas was sent home before he could even START his run on the Elimination thanks to Leroys full Beast Mode tactics

What you need to pull this thing off is for one Top Tier team to have performed so poorly in the Daily Challenge that they have automatically put themselves into the elimination. Check. Leroy is a notoriously horrible swimmer, and it cost him this week. However, he is undeniably an elite competitor and a physical force, so with him in an Elimination the first ingredient to a successful Power Move was in place.

The next thing you need is to win that Daily Challenge yourself (so you can directly choose who will be “voted” in to Elimination to compete with the Top Tier team which unluckily put themselves in) OR have the Politickal acumen to push the house or winning team to put that other Top Tier team in for you. Wes has the Politicks in spades, and it just so happened that this time around, he would be able to seal things up on the Daily Challenge as well. While Leroy may be the worst swimmer in Challenge history, Wes is undeniably the best swimmer the show has ever seen. When he was in High School at Texas’s Blue Valley North High he was a 3 time state champion swimmer in the state of Texas of all places… not exactly a small number of individuals in those competitions (with his main even being the 100yard Butterfly if you’re curious. SO with this Challenge being a swimming Challenge it was no surprise to see Wes come out victorious.

Wes and Theresa Swimming

It is an incredibly complex series of events, and if you are a good player and an elite Politicker like Wes, you have to be able to recognize this cascade of events and take advantage of the fleeting window which Fate has provided you with. Once everything fell into place with Leroy forced into elimination and Wes was left staring down on opportunity to knock off his Rival Johnny Bananas, the fireworks were ready to fly. (Fun fact, Leroy and Bananas actually train together in the offseason, meaning Wes was also guaranteed to break up their alliance no matter who won the elimination. Not a bad consolation prize). That Power Move was executed with an absolutely clinical level of accuracy and perfect, and I could not possibly have been more impressed with how it played out.

The Score Card may have said Leroy and Nia were the winners, but one look at Wes and Theresas faces tells you who the real winners were.

The Score Card may have said Leroy and Nia were the winners, but one look at Wes and Theresas faces tells you who the real winners were.

But let’s be honest. The Biggest story here is not Wes. It’s not even Bananas. Its LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOOOY mJENNNKIIIIIIIINS!!!!!!!!!

Leroy Competing

Just look at the determination on his face! Look how calm he is during this! Could not have been more impressed with him.

 

At the end of the day Leroy is the one who did the real work this episode, and Leroy was the one who delivered. Now, I don’t mean to short change Hurricane Nia who was very good in that elimination. That competition was right up her alley because her length and she absolutely worked her ass off to win, never giving up, and really impressed me. But Leroy…. Ohhhhh leroy… My Lord… Leroy obliterated Elimination with a ferocity I never thought I could see from a former Garbage Man. I obviously would have loved it if Nia and Nany could have finished their leg of the Elimination simultaneously so we could have seen Bananas and Leroy truly go head to head, but I’m not sure Bananas could have beaten him even with a 5 second head start. It’s hard to tell from the editing but it looked like Leroy finished in under 9 seconds. NINE SECONDS!!!!! It took Nia like 45 to complete that thing!!! I’m gonna be brutally honest with you folks here… Leroy’s performance got my nipples hard… it was that good…

I’ve always had a soft spot for Big Lee. I’ve always thought he was a truly Elite Competitor just waiting to be unleashed. Sure he hadn’t been lucky enough to break through and win a finals yet, but … I mean… first off just look at the man.

Leroy

Seriously! Here take another look!

Leroy Abs Leroy Pecs

You can’t tell me that isn’t the body of a Challenge Champion. Moreover, I felt like his early career was following an incredibly similar arc to another one of my all time favorites, CT. You see, both CT and Leroy were always dominant physically. Where they struggle was Politicks. Now, CT had the added problem of making everyone hate him and being hyper aggressive, picking too many fights, but both of them generally refused to play any Politicks at all during their early careers. Now, this is exactly what I like to see from my Competitors. I want pure physical dominance, and hate to see an undeserving team or individual Politick their way into the finals. However, it is undeniably a poor strategy. Both Leroy and CT would too often find themselves isolated, cut off, and eventually eliminated before the finals due to their lack of alliances and failure to play Politicks.

However, even though it took CT until his 10th Challenge to finally win one it doesn’t mean he wasn’t elite all along. I think the same thing is true of Leroy, and after watching that Elimination how could anyone disagree? He knocked off the defending champ. An all time great. And one of the greatest Challenge competitors of all time in Johnny Bananas. The guy is an undeniable beast, and I am certain that this will be just one of many accolades in his soon to be revered Challenge career. Also, as an aside, how spectacular was it to see Leroy take over the official role of Challenge Toast-Master now that Bananas is out of the house. Leroy’s star is undeniably on the rise, and I for one cannot wait to watch the devastation. So here’s to you Leroy.

Leroy Toast

But the day wasn’t all positives. Leroy is a Top Tier competitor who is constantly flirting with Elite status, but who hasn’t managed to get over the hump yet. He’s not the only guy in that pool. There’s Jordan who has looked very impressive thus far this season, and there is also, Zach Nichols. We can, and should, thank Zach for initiating that waterfall of drama that we just witnessed, but while his ‘move’ may have been great for TV I’m not sure it was great for him in the house.

nervous zach

You see, both Zach and Leroy and fringe elites. Neither has won a title, but noone would be shocked if either of them did. Their physical capabilities are undeniable (although Zach’s performance in the Free Agents finals brought in a few clouds), but, again, that isn’t the whole picture. Winning a Challenge means properly balancing Politicks and Physicality. Leroy’s biggest weakness is generally that he completely ignores the Politickal game. Zach’s is that his Politicks are too often inept.

It is clear that there are generally two camps in the house at this moment. Those competitors who had thrown their lot in with Mr. Bananas, and those who had allied themselves to Wes. While you could argue that there was a third pole / independent faction in the form of Jordan and Sarah, they were in large part more closely aligned with Bananas. So there it is. Now. The Bananas alliance was undeniably the stronger of the two. Bananas, Boston Johnny, Leroy, Zach, Jordan and Sarah… these are more or less all the competitors who have a chance at winning this thing with the exception of Wes and Theresa. Wes’s alliance, by comparison, is more or less entirely filled with rookies and bottom feeder teams (as it always is, as he has generally alienated all the Top Tier competitors throughout his career).

So, going into that daily Challenge, it would have made perfect sense for Zach to follow Bananas’ orders, stick with his powerhouse alliance, and put Wes and Theresa first in the daily Challenge. Moreover, it’s entirely possible that if they had been put first, Wes and Theresa never would have collected enough information to know that the right strategy was simply to ride the sled as far as possible before jumping into the water. Zach, however, attempted to play both sides of the field. He put Wes 4th which may have helped Wes win the Challenge, get Bananas eliminated, and absolutely obliterate his alliance. Moreover, before Johnny left he made sure that everyone in his former alliance knew that Zach was the cause of this, was not to be trusted, and should be taken out if possible. Zach, it would appear then, has put himself in a very bad position as a result of his attempt to strengthen his position.

Bananas and Zach fighting

Good Lord, check out the glorious vein-age that went down in that shouting match

 

Zach made it very clear that he didn’t want to simply fall in line with Bananas. He sees himself as a truly elite competitor who should be able to act unilaterally. He think he has outgrown the days where he needed to ally himself to a stronger player and feels he should be the guy making power plays. However, his clumsy execution shows that his Politicks definitely still needs more work, and elucidates why, although he is certainly a Top Tier competitor, he is not yet Elite.

Phew. What an episode. I think we all need a hug after that one.

Bananas comforting nany

We have two Titans clashing, and the lesser of the two coming out victorious (Wes vs. Bananas). We had two rising giants attempting to make a name for themselves in the game (Leroy and Zach) where one suceeded emphatically (Leroy) and one may have cost himself everything (Zach).  And you throw it all together and you end up with one of the best episodes of The Challenge of all time. They seriously killed it, right Theresa?

Theresa Killin it Shirt

But the best part? IT DIDN’T EVEN STOP THERE!!! This season MTV has thrown us the “Exile” curve ball where every eliminated team enters a side tournament for the right to reenter the competition, unbeknownst to everyone in the house. This could not have worked out better for MTV.

Bananas and Nany walking away

Not only did they get to air all that spectacular content and the Fall of the King in the regular episode, BUT NOW THEY (and we the fans) GET TO WATCH JOHNNY BANANAS FIGHT HIS WAY TOOTH AND NAIL THROUGH A ROYAL RUMBLE STYLE TOURNAMENT TO REENTER THE COMPETITION AND RECLAIM HIS BIRTHRIGHT!!!!! From a television perspective this couldn’t have worked out better for MTV. Things just went absolutely insane with this season, and I couldn’t be more excited to see how things will turn out. I’m definitely gonna need another hug before this is all through…

bananas and nany hugging

So while nothing could live up to all that excitement, let’s see how the episode shook up the Power Rankings, shall we?

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

Final Rank: 10

Preseason Rank: 10

jj and simone

Final Rank: 9

Preseason Rank: 13

FIIIIIINALLY!!! I have nothing to say here. They put on an absoultely pitiful show against Bananas and Nany, which wasn’t even their fault. Noone was going to beat Bananas in that moment. Not after he was given a second chance. I’m shocked the got as far as they did. Congrats to them. But good riddance.

EXILED:

bananas and nany

The Giant has fallen from Mount Olympus. The King is down but not out. Bananas is about to put on an absolute clinic, decapitating everyone who comes to challenge him in the exile house and I’m giddy as a school girl. Noone will be expecting to see him, and if the mental shock of seeing him as their opponent doesn’t turn them into a puddle of mush, Bananas’ biceps certainly will. This season is going to be spectacular.

Current Rank: 8

Change from Last Week: -7

Preseason Rank: 1

LIVE AND KICKIN’:

jay and jenna

They’ve primarily been in a good position because Zach has been Jenna’s protector. If his poor Politicking begins to destabilize his position, it will mean far more severe repercussions for Jay and Jenna down the road. However, Jay has been pretty good about sticking with Wes from day one which has to help for something. The only problem is that Wes has a tendency to throw his allies under the bus if it means saving his own skin… so no matter what I’m not sure we’re gonna see Jay and Jenna much longer.

Current Rank: 7

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 12

boston johnny and averey

Boston Johnny and Johnny Bananas are close. Their alliance was helping out Boston Johnny significantly. With Bananas gone, I worry that Johnny and Averey now make tasty targets for Wes and his minions to pick off as the begin dismantling Bananas’ former alliance.

Current Rank: 6

Change from Last Week: +2

Preseason Rank: 8

zach and jonna

Here comes the slide that we all knew could happen to Zach. His Politickal tomfoolery certainly hasn’t helped him. Moreover, with his entanglement with Jay and Jenna, plus the fact that his own team is falling apart as he continues to yell at and criticize Jonna he cannot possible be on stable ground. I have a feeling he will bounce back strong next episode (especially because Wes will gladly welcome the wounded grizzly bear into his alliance) but Zach needs to start pulling things together fast. Everyone on Bananas’ former alliance could be gunning for him now.

Current Rank: 5

Change from Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 6

adamn and brittany

Adam has been Wes’s puppet from day one. It’s hilarious. The guy is like Wes’s own big, dumb, meathead puppy. Absolutely fantastic to watch. However, his unquestioning loyalty to Wes is paying off. As Wes’s ship rises, it brings Adam and Brittany right along with. This was the first week they didn’t have to face elimination, and its no surprise that this is because Wes won the Challenge and made his Power Move. As long as they stick together and stick with Wes, we could see a big Dark Horse run from them. And hey! Look! They finally climbed their way back up to my preseason rank for them!!!

Current Rank: 4

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 4

jordan and sarah

Jordan hates Bananas and thats no secret. However, Sarah and him were tight. Losing Bananas can only hurt them and their attempts to play both sides of the Wes vs. Bananas rivalry. I’m not saying they’re in any danger right now, because they aren’t, but their position certainly isn’t as strong this week as it was last. That being said, they still got second in that Challenge and lost by a mere 2 seconds so obviously they’ve still got some fight in them and are still favorites to make the Final.

Current Rank: 3

Change from Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 3

leroy and nia

A massive move up for my main man Leroy!!!! I can’t say enough about these two. Hurricane Nia included. She may be weak, but she played to her strenghts in that Elimination, never gave up, and really gave me a lot more faith that she won’t be dead weight for Leroy in this thing. And Lee… I mean… he’s just a beast… a Leviathon… He can’t be stopped if its a matter of 1v1 competition. They would have made a good case for #1 this week if it weren’t for a certain someone…

Current Rank: 2

Change from Last Week: +4

Preseason Rank: 7

wes and theresa

The ginger and his Harpy reign supreme at long last! A Challenge win. A Power Move. And a shiny new #1 ranking. If anyone “Killed It” this week, I think TJ and I would both agree it has to have been Wes and Theresa.

Theresas Outfit

Not sure exactly how I feel about Theresas Elimination Day shirt, but Im pretty sure I loved it. The Killin It thing may have been too meta or exactly the right kind of Meta. I wish TJ would comment on how he feels about Theresa co-opting his catch phrase so I could know how I truly feel.

 

I’m not sure they’ll win the whole thing, but they’re about to enter a 2 week stretch where everything will go right for them. They still have most of the powerful teams against them in this house, but if Theresa’s spicy Latina anger doesn’t derail Wes’s Politicks they have as good a chance to win the whole thing as anyone.

theresa and wes 3

Things just got really spicy on this bad boy, and I can’t wait for the next episode.

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

mgid-uma-image-mtv_8

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.

challenge day

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.