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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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

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