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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Lie, Cheat, and Steal: The Only Way the Challenge Works (I Guess)

Demon Bananas

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.

stick exile

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.

Zach and Jonna vs Bananas and Nany

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.

Wes and Theresa shocked and upset

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?

Wes and Theresa sad

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.

Theresa distraught

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.

Leroy Bananas discuss

Bananas lambasted and shamed Leroy when Leroy tried to come with him to discuss how the game played out thus far. Despicable. He will do ANYTHING to win himself, but criticized others for trying to do the same. He is a hypocrite and a coward.

 

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.

Judas dinner

Judas dinner 2

I realize this type of hyperbole has no place here, but Judas dined with Jesus the night before he betrayed him too, Bananas. Just like to let you know the kind of company you keep.

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.

The betrayal is planned

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.

wes and theresa into the dome

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…].

Leroy and Nia after victory

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.

dinnerDinner 2

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.

dome pairings

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.

Bananas and Nany Winners

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