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

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

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

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.

The Best Laid Schemes o’ Bananas and Gingers, Often Go Awry

Johnny and Wes

In spite of the preponderance of top male competitors remaining in the field, Wes and Johnny are clearly running the show early on this season. This is no surprise. We all know their politicking was a notch above the rest, and as a result they are one another’s primary targets and primary threats at this early stage in the game. They have now both won a Challenge, and both postured with threats of throwing the other one into an elimination round. However, reason and sense won out in the end and neither power pairing has been thrown into an elimination by the other yet. 

In spite of how sensible that decision is, however, it was surprisingly difficult. We already knew Wes and Johnny hated each other, but they’re both too savvy and experienced to make a power play this early in the game. Their partners, however, don’t seem to see things that way. Our loving latina “Gonzalez sisters” Theresa and Nany have already decided they hate each other (eased along by Theresa’s past actions on Free Agents especially) and have decided they want to go at each other’s throats. While this is all well and good for the drama of the show, it isn’t exactly making Wes or Johnny’s jobs easier. It is absolutely spectacular to me to see those two forced to switch from posturing and empty threats to immediate damage control to keep things from spilling over and causing an early exit for one or both teams.

Approximate reenactment of events.

Approximate reenactment of events.

Wes’s downfall is always and has always been the decision of the other competitors to pick off his rookie minions one by one, depleting his armor until he finally stands alone. And because he never truly cares about protecting his rookies he always let’s this happen, and sometimes willingly offers up his rookies in secret deliberations in order to save himself. Not exactly the most savory technique, but it works for a while. However, it won’t work forever and never does. I’m not too worried for Wes’s survival yet. Especially when he and Theresa were so close to winning that ludicrous challenge (and honestly should have won), but Bananas has taken the first of many steps toward chopping Wes down to size.

This time around, however, he may have another problem is his own partner doesn’t quit starting fires around the house. I’ve seen Johnny control crazy partners before, but can’t recall Wes being put to the same test. In fact, in Rivals II it often seemed like CT who was keeping Wes in check, rather than the other way around. Theresa is undeniably a strong partner to have when it comes to physical competition. Her politicks, however, remind me of old Johnny Bananas the bumbling villain rather than his new form as a modern day MTV Otto von Bismarck. She just tries the “nice to your face, lie behind your back” stuff which never works. It is too purely motivated by greed and selfishness, and always backfires as it currently is with Nany.

Now, normally this wouldn’t be a problem for Theresa as there are only a handful of female competitors on this show superior to her physically, but this time around her picking on Nany is going to bring Bananas into the fight, and could spell ruin for her team. She has a great opportunity to learn from one of the best schemers in Challenge history with Wes on her team. Last episode she did not seem to want to learn from him as he pleaded with her to apologize to Nany, and she sat silent like a petulant child. She’ll have to fix this attitude problem and start learning a thing or two from Wes if they want to succeed. Its so obvious she wants to win one of these things, and works really hard to put herself in successful positions, but she hasn’t achieved anything yet. She needs to shut up, humble herself, and learn from Wes for the time being. If she does she might turn into one of the most dominant female characters we have. Otherwise her Challenge might be shorter than she would like.

So with that said, let’s take a look at some updated Power Rankings shall we?

ELIMINATED:

thomas and hailey

No surprises here. I never expected much of them to start the season, and was shocked that Dustin and Jessica ended up going down week one instead of someone like them or JJ and Simone. It all worked out in the end though as Thomas and Hailey were double eliminated this week, losing in both The Dome and in Exile. The only sad part about them leaving in my opinion is that Wes is now short of 2 more minions. O’well though. Better luck next time folks.

Final Rank: 13

Change from Last Week: -3

Preseason Rank: 11

EXILED:

dustin and jessica

This is much more like what I expected from Dustin and Jessica. I think they’re better than almost every single rookie pair with the exception of Adam and Brittany who they had to face in exile (and honestly should have beaten… they were several rungs ahead of them on that ladder challenge until Jessica toppled them). So anyway I’m happy to see them win in Exile. Also, I absolutely love the Royal Rumble setup for these exile eliminations where Dustin and Jessica will have to run a full gauntlet of 9 teams if they hope to make it back to a Final Challenge. I highly doubt they’ll succeed, but I’m excited to see how long their run lasts.

Current Rank: 12

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 9

LIVE AND KICKIN’:

jj and simone

I have no idea how these two continue to sneak under everyone’s radar, but I am convinced that they are legitimately terrible. They’ll shatter worse than a recent college graduate’s hopes and dreams after they enter the job market as soon as someone decides to test them. It’s just a matter of time.

Current Rank: 11

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 13

jay and jenna

I’ve said the whole time that I think Jay could actually put on a respectable showing physically on this show, but that I doubted Jenna’s abilities. Now, with Jenna starting a romance with Thor’s nephew Zach you’d think they improved their chances and gained a powerful ally. However, only half of the team-members involved in that love quadrilateral are happy about it. Both Jay and Jonna seem to be out of sorts, and I can only believe Jenna’s actions are going to create enough drama to drag her team down, and maybe even take Zach with them.

Current Rank: 10

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 12

Knight and Jemmye

They didn’t do anything to hurt themselves this week, but I still don’t have much faith in the ever-feuding twosome. Their veteran status will carry them a ways, but their hatred is gonna send this house of cards crashing down eventually. Although I did love their comments during the Challenge that “they wouldn’t have to talk to each other so that would help.”

Current Rank: 9

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 10

adamn and brittany

This ranking isn’t about them falling, as it was last week, but rather the next team in our list passing them. Adam and Brittany have done nothing to make me think they’re worthy of the inflated preseason rank I gave them, and Brittany is even starting to get on my nerves. I still have faith they’ll put it together and make a small run eventually, but they’re not final Challenge material. At least not at this point in their young careers.

Current Rank: 8

Change from Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 4

boston johnny and averey

Johnny and Averey had an impressive Dome win over hapless Thomas and Hailey. I’ve got all the faith in the world in Boston Johnny after his surprise Finals appearance last season, but Averey I still question. She took FOREVER to complete her half of the elimination challenge, and only succeeded because Hailey completely failed to move on. However, I do give her props for accomplishing a difficult task, as countless girls on this show can’t even do that, so there’s hope here. I’m just not sure there’s enough hope for them to upset any of the teams ahead of them.

Current Rank: 7

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 8

zach and jonna

Thor and his partner dropped thanks to the time honored tradition on the Challenge of ‘trouble in the bedroom.’ Zach is breaking the #1 rule of The Challenge (given to us by Johnny Bananas himself): NEVER FALL IN LOVE ON THE CHALLENGE. There is no way this Jenna fling can end well for him, and it only makes things worse that his jealous partner is now making out with Jay just to make herself feel better about it. Troubling seas ahead for The Great Viking.

Current Rank: 6

Change from Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 6

leroy and nia

Zach’s loss is Leroy’s gain. I think the two are about equal in terms of physical strength so the only way to differentiate them (normally) is through their political standing in the house. Normally the edge here goes to Zach because Leroy flatly refuses to politick (something I’ve always admired in him as it reminds me of the old CT), but this time around since Zach is actively hurting his political standing, Leroy’s neutral stance wins out. I still can’t put them in the Hallowed Top Four because I don’t trust Nia in a Dome Elimination, but they’re in pole position to capitalize if any of the Top Four should stumble.

Current Rank: 5

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 7

jordan and sarah

Jordan and Sarah dropped a spot this week, but I don’t think it’s really anything to be concerned about. They’re still one of the strongest teams out there in terms of both male and female rankings. They got hit with some tough luck with that ball spinning Challenge considering the fact that Jordan only has one hand, and that type of thing could easily come back to haunt them in crunch time, but I doubt it. So even with a one spot drop I don’t think they have any less of a chance to win the whole thing. They’re still Top Four and have a great chance to make the Finals.

Current Rank: 4

Change from Last Week: -1

Preseason Rank: 3

ct and diem

They leapt over Jordan and Sarah this week to continue their upward trajectory in the rankings largely due to their fantastic performances in Challenges. They finished 2nd (barely missing out on 1st) in Week One, and now they made it to the top three in the Week Two challenge as well. I’ve had my doubts about Diem’s abilities for years, and her sickness only further shook my faith, but if her and CT keep putting up these amazing finishes (narrowly missing out of victory each team) I’ll have no choice but to reconsider. Already I think Diem is one of the top female competitors after her performances thus far, and we all know CT is a monster in these things so if they can keep it up I foresee nothing but success for these two.

Current Rank: 3

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 5

wes and theresa

They BARELY lost the Challenge this week so they’re obviously still near top dog status, but unfortunately the team they lost to was the only team outranking them last week, so I can’t move them up. Moreover, if Theresa doesn’t get her act together and start playing safer Politicks these two will be in trouble. For now though I still consider them one of the frontrunners to bring down the whole thing. The only problem is theres one team still ahead of them…

Current Rank: 2

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2

bananas and nany

… the King still sits atop his Banana Throne. They narrowly won a Challenge this week, putting them into Power Couple status which is always a plus. However, Nany has apparently turned nearly the whole female side of the house against her which if left unaddressed will become a major issue. I have faith that Johnny will straighten everything out though, so for now I guess it reamins “All Hail the Banana King.” Until next time folks.

A Banana and a Ginger: Sowing the Seeds of Discord

Well folks we have officially entered the Exes 2 Season, and I think MTV started things off fairly well.

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First off… I freaking love the [Thunder] Dome hahaha. So glad to have it back. One of the most ridiculously named, and down bad-ass elimination arena’s every. Mad Max references are always welcome with me.

But with all show inspirations aside, the beginning to the show and the character intros were fairly funny. Leroy promising us (as he has done before) that he finally learned how to swim. Jordan informing us all that he is now a model in his non-MTV life. CT claiming he shaved his beard to get back with Diem. Johnny Bananas giving a soliloquy to his fans, promising them he will prove that he’s still the best and deliver another title to them, before delivering his traditional Challenge Toast.

But it wasn’t all smiles. Those CT and Diem scenes were absolutely heart wrenching. The Knight scenes were depressing as well, but hearing Diem say she wanted to win this money so she could pay for a surrogate since cancer had robbed her of the ability to have her own children? Good night… That is depressing… Especially after hearing everyone else say ridiculous things like “I want to use the money to start my own hair extension line” [Jonna] or “I want to open up a cross fit gym” [Zach]. Not trying to offend either of those two, but the juxtaposition was jarring. And just seeing CT and Diem together again smiling is an emotional sight. CT and Diem are Challenge royalty. They are The Challenge’s version of Robert and Jackie Kennedy. Diem is The Challenge’s Princess Di. And so while I’m happy to see them getting one final run on air, it certainly doesn’t make me feel good. But on to the show.

I’ll have some updated rankings and new overall thoughts on the competition on whole at the end of the article, but first I’d like to talk a little bit about Mr. Wes Bergmann.

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Wes, like Johnny Bananas, was always one of my least favorite characters on the show during it’s Golden Era (which we are currently in the process of transitioning away from). Moreover, I disliked Wes for all the same reasons I disliked Bananas. In my mind they were the conniving, politicking, back room dealing scumbags who dragged down the truly deserving and dominant competitors (like CT and Evan). It always pissed me off that the guys who I thought were top tier competitors would lose out to second tier athletes like Johnny and Wes simply because they didn’t politick as well, and I always felt especially vindicated when Wes and Bananas would get thrown into an elimination and have their physical inferiority thrown on display as they were quickly ushered off the show. However, I was always aware of the fact that they made the show better, and as more and more members of the Golden Generation of Challenge competitors fall by the wayside, I find myself falling into their camp if only for the sake of nostalgia, and reverence for a fleeting, departing Era.

So, just like I finally got over my Johnny Bananas hatred and finally began rooting for him during his absolutely spectacular run through Free Agents, I have a feeling [after watching the first episode] that I am about to follow the same steps of acceptance as I welcome Wes into my depleted and shrinking club of beloved veterans.

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Wes may have let some of his Physical game go. He is no longer the cut and chiseled competitor he once was (see picture for reference). However, his political game still has me giddy with joy when the wheels start turning. He knows all the Vets hate him (as does everyone on this show once they get to know him) so he always seems to make an early alliance with all the Rookies and newer payers on the show to surround himself with fodder which can be used to shield his own body from any fatal strikes. It really is a genius strategy when you consider the fact that none of the rookies realize just how well he’s playing them. I mean seriously… did you see the look on Thomas’s face when Wes had him and Jay alone in a room as he told them he wasn’t going to vote them in? And those quotes he threw out afterwards? “This kid is smart. I mean.. I could just really tell this kid was smart cuz like… this kid is just really smart… ya man… he’s just smart”… I can’t wait to see the look on Thomas’s face when Wes finally pulls the trigger and back-stabs him. I assure you it will be priceless.

In a similar vein I don’t think that it matters that he pissed off Bananas. One would assume that was a tactical mistake, but Bananas was going to take his first chance to get rid of Wes anyway, so in that sense nothing changed. The two just now have their beef out in the open (as if it weren’t already). Furthermore, with multiple members of The Challenge Valhalla retired (either entering into retirement voluntarily [Landon, Mark, Brad, Derrick] or being forced into retirement  [Evan, Kenny]) Wes finds himself without his traditional antagonists. Wes’s true rival has always and will always be Kenny “Mr. Beautiful” Santucci.

I Miss you Mr. Beautiful.... Just look at that Shit Eating Grin... its spectacular

I Miss you Mr. Beautiful….Just look at that Shit Eating Grin… its spectacular

Wes and Kenny have an extremely long backstory which reached it’s climax during their Runner-Up finish during Rivals [1]. Even when they were the strongest team in the entire competition, they still dragged each other into the dirt, finishing second behind Fat Tyler, and Johnny Bananas.

But here, then, we have the seeds of MTV’s new story line for Wes. He has obviously had problems with EVERYONE on this show, but it was always Kenny who was his primary opponent and Kenny [often alongside Evan and/or Bananas] who kept him in check. He and CT had problems (but who DIDNT have problems with the Boston Brute in his younger years), but now MTV has informed us that it is his dusty past with Bananas that will provide his latest rival.  Wes will be the next challenger MTV lines up to do battle the Mighty Banana where so many before him have fallen. I have my doubts as to whether he will unseat the Banana, but we shall see.

To start with, anyway, Wes has made quick progress. He has organized the house, very quickly mind you, into a veritable stack of Jenga blocks which falls or stands depending how he pushes or pulls each block. Obviously that will change radically when other players (and there are MANY formidable players in this show… Bananas being simply the most obvious example) begin to add blocks of their own or remove blocks belonging to Wes, but for the time being it appears as if he has set himself up for early returns. I don’t know that I believe Wes can win the entire Challenge, but a spot in the top 5 is virtually assured, and a trip to the finals appears to be within his grasp already.

Wes and Bananas have always been the show’s best aggravators. Always. There have been others who have been very very good (Evan and Kenny amongst them) and there have been others who have been far superior to Wes and Bananas in terms of physical ability. However, there have NEVER been two better politickers and backroom assassins than these two. They create drama both in the house and in the arena. They are strong (but, importantly, never the strongest) competitors. They are #1 and #2 on the Challenge’s all time Prize Money Earned list. And are two of the shows remaining pillars in this era where the Old Guard is partially phasing out (numerically if not competitively).

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In Episode One MTV has already laid this season out as a test between these two giants of the game. Everything else is ancillary (albeit hilarious and enjoyable). THIS is what really matters this season. Most of the Old Guard have been cast away by MTV, but these two remain. Two surprising picks in my opinion since they were never the top competitors physically, but then again I’ve always had a soft spot for the Lumbering Ogres who play no politics (CT in his youth or Leroy now). These two represent what the Challenge is really about, and this season is setting up to be a true Clash of Titans. There is a huge opportunity for a competitor like CT to play this battle to his advantage, playing these two against each other (which they will be all in favor of) but no matter what happens I can’t wait to see how this season plays out.

Johnny Bananas and CT have became heroes in the new Challenge narrative where they used to be villains. As a result, MTV has dusted off the old Bogeyman Wes to see if he still has some of his old abilities. I can’t wait to see him prove that he does.

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Updated Power Rankings:

This week’s power rankings have changed a surprising amount for me considering we’ve only seen one episode, but then again with so many rookies on this season that seemed bound to happened. We learn exponentially more about each rookie episode by episode than we do about Vet’s who have been around for 5+ seasons. So without further ado here we have it. Competitors will be listed in reverse order of rank, starting with those already eliminated.

EXILED

dustin and jessica

Current Rank: 13

Change from Last Week: -4

Preseason Rank: 9

We all knew this one was coming, I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Although it’s always good for a laugh when Dustin’s “Gay Porn Past” comes up, and I got a good chuckle out of Dustin making an effort to “Bunk with the guys this year” to make friends and alliances it was still sad to see them go home so soon. I don’t really dislike either of these two at all, but they’re just a middle of the pack team that can always go home Week 1 or Week 6, but will likely never see a Final. We’ll see what they can do in this new exile bracket though.

LIVE AND KICKIN’

jj and simone

Current Rank: 12

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 13

JJ might not be as hate-able as I thought he would be when the show started, but Simone sure is. They moved up a spot due to Dustin and Jessica’s elimination, but have no fear… these two will soon be on the chopping block.

jay and jenna

Current Rank: 11

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 12

Moved up a spot because Dustin and Jessica went home. Nothing really to see here. I like this couple being in the house for storyline purposes, but athletically I don’t expect much. But those storylines! Jenna’s Slootiness apparently knows no bounds. So she convinced Haley to do tandem cartwheels with her, while ensuring that their butts faced four panting Vet guys in the pool. At what point does she just start stripping on the kitchen counter? Also, I don’t understand how, but I do enjoy the fact that Jay was apparently involved in every single off camera romance that happened before this season. I don’t know how far these two will make it but for the sake of drama I hope they stick around.

thomas and hailey

Current Rank: 10

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 11

Moved up a spot because of Dustin and Jessica’s elimination, but these two, especially Thomas, are no good. I mean, you can even look at him in that picture. Look at his eyes and his hands. He looks so nervous and unsure of himself. No wonder Wes lured him in and Thomas bit hook line and sinker. “Golly Jee Wilikers Wes, I sure hope you can help me stick around here…” They’re a great patsy pair for Wes to have under his thumb, but I don’t expect much else from them.

Knight and Jemmye

Current Rank: 9

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 10

Knight and Jemmye moved up a spot in the rankings since Dustin and Jessica (previously ranked ahead of them) went home. They’re as much of a disaster working together as I remember. That Challenge performance was… not great… And it doesn’t help that both of them have traded athleticism for fat since their Challenge debuts.

boston johnny and averey

Current Rank: 8

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 8

I probably should have moved these two ahead of the next couple in the rankings, but right now I just have no faith in Averey. Boston Johnny surprised me big time with his performance in the Free Agents Final, but considering how little faith he seems to have in his partner and their partnership, I have a hard time moving him up in the rankings while he’s shackled to her.

adamn and brittany

Current Rank: 7

Change from Last Week: -3

Preseason Rank: 4

Still firmly locked in “Wildcard” status, but nevertheless I feel this collapse in rankings is firmly justified. Adam and Brittany looked horrendous this week. Their Challenge performance was abysmal and even their Dome performance felt lackluster. They were losing the entire time by about 2 ladder rungs until Dustin and Jessica fell off. That does not exactly make me feel confident in my preseason Dark Horse team. I feel bad for jumping off my sleeper pick so quickly, but it was probably ill-advised all along. Admittedly I judged their physical characteristics and athletic ability from a picture so… serves me right. Rookies should never be picked that highly, even when the veterans you were leaping them over have awful partners. Lesson learned.

Brittany gave me some hope early on for my initial over-ranking with her comment that she wanted to “Power Bomb people in the face” but it was certainly not a good sign that her victim in question was Adam… I’m convinced that these two could probably be something eventually, but right now they’re a hot mess begging for a quick exit. I fear that unless they start winning Challenges they’re in store for the old Challenge standby of “throw the same group in every single week until they lose so we don’t have to piss off anyone else.” Either way, I don’t have much faith in them making it as far as I thought they could go preseason.

leroy and nia

Current Rank: 6

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 7

The first beneficiaries of Adam and Brittany’s fall. Leroy is a monster. His partner has the strength of an ant. Not the whole “carrying ten times their body weight” thing… but the “she could probably lift up a leaf without getting too exhausted” part… I have faith that Leroy could carry this team quite a ways single-handedly because… I mean… thems is some strong hands he’s got there… But I just don’t feel confident moving them out of the Wildcard category and into Contender status just yet. Especially with Leroy’s politics being what they are. Leroy is a modern take on CT in his youth. CT was always the most physically gifted and dominant athlete on the show, but always refused to play (or bungled up) politics. Leroy has stated multiple times on the show that he refuses to play politics, which I really like, but I don’t think it improves his chances of winning. And Nia isn’t the one to make up for this shortcoming…

zach and jonna

Current Rank: 5

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 6

More or less the same storyline here as for Leroy and Nia, but because I think Jonna is capable of bench pressing two pillows whereas Nia is only capable of benching 1 Teddy Bear and an empty red solo cup (the contents of which have likely found their way into her liver) I’m giving the nod to Zach and Jonna for the top Wildcard spot, and prime position on a move into the 4 Contender slots. Zach and Leroy are equally physically dominant, so the girls need to be tiebreakers for now.

ct and diem

Current Rank: 4

Change from Last Week: +1

Preseason Rank: 5

CT and Diem moved up one slot in our power rankings to make up for the cataclysmic fall of Adam and Brittany. However, it’s pretty clear to me that I should have had them in the Top Four all along. They’ve moved out of the top slot in the Wildcard category, and into the bottom slot in the Contenders category. However, they could easily upset any of the three teams ahead of them, so it’s just a matter of time until they make a real move.

jordan and sarah

Current Rank: 3

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 3

Nothing new to add from last week. No signs of drama in the relationship yet which is a good sign. We’ll see if any of the top tier Wildcards make a run at them anytime soon, but for now they’ve held serve.

wes and theresa

Current Rank: 2

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 2

Wes’s politicks are in place and the gears are already turning in his dastardly machinations. Add to that the fact that this is one of the few pairs with both an athletic male and female competitor and it’s no surprise to see them defending the #2 stop. In fact the only surprising thing about this ranking might be that they’re not higher, but as we all know that is impossible since the #1 spot belongs to…

bananas and nany

Current Rank: 1

Change from Last Week: 0

Preseason Rank: 1

Nothing to say here. The King stays atop his throne until someone violently removes him. Long live the Banana King.

Johnny Bananas