“Playing the ‘my-partner’s-what’s-holding-me-back’ card is getting tiring.” —Katelynn
Despite the great structure of Rivals, there have been a few things about it that have been hard to watch, and last night’s episode was a great example of them.
First, this season has featured almost a complete absence of strategizing. Part of this is due to the separation of male and female eliminations (since only half of the contestants are invested in any given vote, the other half is much more likely to jump on any bandwagon so as to avoid making enemies) and part of it is due to sheer stupidity (Here is a brief guide to strategy: 1) Count up the number of votes 2) Divide that number by two 3) Try to get one more than that number of people to vote with you… It’s really that easy, yet it eludes most of these players).
Most of it, though, is due to the voting rules. For one, even though it seems like the fairest way to do it, the last place team should not automatically get sent into the Jungle. Doing so immediately drains half the suspense out of any vote, and preemptively eliminates a lot of potential strategies and alliances.
So in last night’s episode, the Jungle match-up was decided as soon as the challenge ended. Once it was clear that Jasmine/Jonna didn’t have immunity, everyone knew they would get voted in. Wes tried to make it seem like revenge for the two of them breaking ranks in the last episode, but it’s not like they would have been safe otherwise—rookies are always last on the totem pole. But this brings us to another point, which is that if the men and women are going to have separate eliminations, then the men shouldn’t be able to vote for the women. Since none of them have any real investment in the vote other than to not make enemies for when it’s a male elimination day, there’s no possible argument Jasmine or Jonna can make to sway their votes. Due to the current way the voting is structured, the deliberations this season—which should be the most exciting parts of the episodes—have been incredibly boring.
The next major problem with this season is one I have mentioned in every single review thus far: Why aren’t all of these challenges based on cooperation and collaboration? If you are going to pair players who hate each other, presumably you want to put them in situation where that hate will flair up. Doing anything else is like buying a Ferrari and leaving it in the garage.
Last night’s challenge—while entertaining to watch—involved very little cooperation. There was no strategy (unless you count “paddle as fast as you can”) and no real teamwork involved. The players shared a kayak, but other than that they basically just operated independently. Kenny/Wes were disqualified, but not due to any discord—they just fell out of their boat. The only team to really fight due to the challenge was Katelynn/Sarah, but that mostly came after the challenge, when Sarah (perhaps) unfairly blamed Katelynn for their DQ.
Even worse, though, was the elimination challenge in the Jungle. In this one, TJ Lavin literally removed one player from each team from the competition by burying them under haystacks. Since the buried partner wasn’t even allowed to make noise, it was basically an individual challenge for the first half.
The second half proved to be the difference as teamwork was the difference there. While Sarah and Katelynn are both good at puzzles, this seemed to be an example of “too many cooks spoil the broth”; since Sarah was so confident, it made Katelynn—who knew the puzzle better—doubt herself. Meanwhile, Jasmine willfully took a backseat to Jonna during the puzzle, and limited herself to doing what she was told. This worked perfectly, and sent Katelynn/Sarah home.
All that’s left to do is rank:
It was fitting for Sarah’s hubris about puzzles to be her downfall in the end.
9. Leroy/Michael (-2): Let’s see if voting with the mob throughout the game helps these two next week… I’m not betting on it.
8. Jasmine/Jonna (+1): Winning in the Jungle proves they’re “a force to be reckoned” with, but it won’t keep them out of the last girl Jungle.
7. Kenny/Wes (-1): Yet another DQ does not bode well for this team.
6. Jenn/Mandi (+1): Mandi got her first win last night, and Jenn did not help her reputation with her treatment of Adam.
5. Evan/Nehemiah (—): It’s always nice to see Evan place peacekeeper on the show.
4. Evelyn/Paula (—): Was Evelyn the only girl who didn’t go skinny-dipping in the opening scene (not that I missed her)?
3. Cara Maria/Laurel (-1): Nothing new on these two so… what did you guys think about those VMA nominations?
2. Adam/C.T. (-1): While I feel kind of bad for him, it’s very strange that Adam has focused his affections on Jenn, of all people. Did he actually talk about marrying her last night? Her?
1. Johnny/Tyler (+2): Back-to-back wins and the best relationship of any pair means we have a new #1!