“I know I don’t have a rocket scientist as a partner, so this is basically going to be the blind leading the blind.” —Johnny
“I just want to say: Johnny, you’re the worst person to motivate someone.” —Camila
Spreading the final challenge over two episodes has some obvious logic to it: It allows MTV to continue making them more and more difficult every season, and it led to a nice cliffhanger ending last week, with the shot of the three team’s sleeping on the mountain. The problem, though, is that it meant that last night’s episode was all one challenge. There was no foreshadowing or exposition or storylines being set up.
While I appreciate the leanness of an episode like that—as opposed to the filler included last week—it can diminish some of the payoff of the ending. So when Diem was trying to get C.T. motivated, or when Ty/Emily briefly took the lead, there wasn’t as much resonance as there should have been because the episode lacked any real personal moments in the house (like Abram declaring that he has “always been good at” final challenges before crapping out in Cutthroat, or Landon vowing to do whatever it takes before pushing his partner up a mountain in Fresh Meat II).
The finale began in the middle of a challenge, with TJ Lavin rousing our contestants at 5 AM to begin the second day of the final. Continue reading »
“What? Iceland? Who goes to Iceland?” —Emily
“I’m scared to die.” —Camila
First off, my most sincere apologies for the delay on this week’s rankings. I was unavoidably detained. Luckily, I will be able to provide a prompt recap of this week’s finale.
Last week’s episode, on the other hand, seemed like a lot of filler. With two teams needlessly sent home at the beginning of the season, MTV had to do some reshuffling to reach the usual ten episodes for a season of The Challenge. As a result, the episode killed a lot of time focusing on Mark’s choice of headgear and Robin’s latest crisis of confidence before getting to the task at hand: The final Dome. Continue reading »
“That’s one of the dumbest moves I’ve seen in Challenge history…” —TJ Lavin
“Robin is actually doing exceptionally well: She hasn’t totally freaked out and she’s not crying yet!” —Mark
One of the biggest factors determining whether or not a reality show contestant is well-liked has to be how entitled he or she seems. Players who come into the game acting as if they are somehow owed a pass to the finals come off as spoiled, whereas audiences will root for anyone if they feel he’s earned his keep.
Compare, for example, Camila and Paula in last night’s episode of Battle of the Exes. When C.T./Diem announced their decision to send Dunbar/Paula into the Dome—a puzzling decision that even TJ criticized—Paula took it in stride and didn’t complain, even though it pitted her against her new beau Ty. Dunbar was a little confused, but only because he didn’t understand the logic behind the move. Continue reading »
“You should be, like, a psychologist.” —Diem, to Ty
“Are you sure this isn’t racist?”—Emily, about to perform in blackface
Well, that was a really good episode of Battle of the Exes. At least, until MTV decided to cut it off before Ty and Emily’s Dome opponent was revealed—a classic move by Challenge producers in their most exciting episodes. Leading up to that, though, the episode had a nice duality, with the heartwarming story of C.T. and Diem, the challenge’s winners, contrasted with the depressing tale of Ty and Emily, its losers.
With shades of Breaking Bad, the episode began in medias res, showing scenes from the fallout Ty and Emily’s fight before flashing back to Two Days Earlier, when it was C.T. and Diem who were dealing with the fallout of a recent fight. Diem explained that, in the three days since the blowout featured in last week’s episode, she and C.T. have not spoken or even so much as looked at each other: When one of them enters a room, the other leaves. Continue reading »
“Let’s make things interesting: The Power Couple will get $2500… and I will personally give you a pat on the back.” —TJ Lavin
Diem: “Wow, I’m excited for this one. The money’s cool..”
C.T.: “The pat on the back is cool!”
Like Rivals, the most compelling relationship of this season involves C.T., but unlike Rivals—when C.T. and Adam seemed to follow a slow but steady path toward reconciliation—Battle of the Exes has not renewed or repaired C.T. and Diem’s relationship. Throughout the season, they’ve been perhaps the most distant couple. They’ve rarely shared any scenes together, and when they have it’s usually been to talk about how they haven’t been talking.
It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to figure out that why: Unlike most of the other couples, they hadn’t seen or spoken in years, and unlike the other relationships in the house, this one was really important to both of them. Since they’ve been mostly polite to each other, and they haven’t lost or won a challenge yet, they haven’t had a lot of screen time; but based on their confessionals and brief interactions (and, of course, knowing C.T.’s history of dealing with anger), they’d always seemed one wrong word from being at each other’s throats. Continue reading »
“Camila turns into the Camilanator and I don’t even know what happens to this girl.” —Paula
“Emily competes almost like a dude.”
How is MTV’s Challenge like this Republican primary season? Well, in many ways, but the most obvious is the pressure that comes with being the frontrunner. Following in the tradition of Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain, Johnny and Camila seemed to crack under that pressure last night.
The episode began with the cast drinking and carousing at Club Ohno—the name would be an ominous presage of what would come. Signs of discord began at Ohno—Oh no! Camila doesn’t think Johnny is paying enough attention to her and Oh no! Camila is drinking way too much—but things really came to a head back at the house, when a drunk Camila fell asleep in Johnny’s bed. Rather than sleeping somewhere else or just sidling up next to her, Johnny decided to kick her out. Someone—I believe it was Ty—made the mistake of telling Camila that Johnny was “really pissed off,” which sent Camila into a screaming, chair-throwing, walking-into-the-pool-with-clothes-on rage. Continue reading »
“I just want to be on the same page as her, and I don’t know what page she’s on… or what chapter. I don’t know what book she’s reading.” —C.T.
“What is a second? It’s like… a second!” —Jasmine
As reality television has grown and evolved, a lot of attention has been paid to producers’ Orwellian attempts to spy on every aspect of the participants’ lives: The Real World producers alone have infamously put microphones in headboards to capture the cast’s pillow-talk, filmed a cast member receiving the news that his mother died, and captured a girl getting slapped in the face. Lost in all of this, though, is the fact that the secret to reality TV’s success is what the cameras don’t show.
Last night’s episode of Battle of the Exes was a perfect example. With Johnny/Camila once again in the position of Power Couple, they have to choose which team to send into the Dome against Tyrie and Jasmine. Johnny is leaning toward sending in Rachel, who voted against him on The Island (Dude, can hold a grudge—that Challenge was almost four years ago), and her partner, Aneesa, but Mark, Rachel’s friend, tries to intervene on her behalf. Continue reading »
“I’m loving me some Paula right now. She’s nailing these questions.” —Dunbar
Emily: “You’re a little scared, in my opinion…”
Paula: “She is correct! …Yes ma’am! Have you seen you?”
So the contestants this season are really dropping like flies. After last week, when Vinny and Sarah were sent home for Vinny’s sexual harassment, a fluke injury to Dustin when he tripped on some stairs ended up sending him and his partner, Heather, home before last night’s first commercial break. Battle of the Exes is rapidly turning into a battle of attrition.
Dustin and Heather’s departure left only nine teams for last night’s challenge, and man was last night’s challenge lame. I can only assume MTV’s producers wanted an extra week off or something, because “Mental Connection” was obviously put together in under ten minutes: Players were asked questions and, when they got one wrong, they were flung from a catapult into a river. It was just a really dangerous* trivia game. Continue reading »
“I know she’s a great competitor, but then there’s also the fact that I hate her.” —Ty
“We do not talk. We are not Facebook friends. Nothing.” —Diem
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back!
MTV is back with another installment of The Challenge and this time, fresh off the success of the Rivals format, it’s embracing a similar concept: Battle of the Exes will pair players with partners who they hooked up with/dated/sloppily-made-out-with-while-drunk on previous challenges.
Of course, it should go without saying that I love this season’s format, but I feel the need to stress something: I love this season’s format. There’s the obvious drama factor—always-quotable Paula called this season “drama’s wet dream”*—but this season also addresses a lot of concerns I have about challenge format. First of all, I almost always prefer individual or paired competitions (like The Duel, Fresh Meat, Rivals) to team challenges (The Gauntlet, The Inferno, Cutthroat). They prevent players from skating by and force everyone to strategize. Continue reading »