“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 »
“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 »
“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 »
“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 »
“I want you to cry, because you’re worthless!” —Laurel
“This is the worst case scenario for the mob because somebody’s going up against ME. The mob is going to have to vote against each other and that is going to be good… This is going to be so good.” —C.T.
I knew this episode of Rivals was going to be good almost instantly. As soon as it opened with a series of slow motion close ups on the cast’s excited yet apprehensive faces—not unlike the piano scene at the end of Act I of The Deer Hunter—it was clear that MTV was setting up something big.
Instead of shipping off to Vietnam, though, the contestants were shipping off to Buenos Aires, trading their Costa Rican paradise for one farther south. Once in Argentina, their behavior veered from hedonistic bacchanalia to inmates-running-the-asylum type madness. There was screaming and nudity and violence, all to no apparent end, like some Nietzschen dystopia. Continue reading »
“Everybody’s watching every move I make. It’s fun at this point. It’s like, let the games begin…” —C.T.
“We’re playing the game with a bunch of bitches and I’ve got the biggest one on my team.” —Nehemiah
Just a week after I broke down my problems with this season of the Challenge, Rivals had its best episode yet. Things that had been brewing all season long—fraying rivalries, the tension with C.T., C.T.’s love triangle—finally boiled over.
It seems that the moronic “D-Day” plan from two weeks ago did not die with its initial failure—the Wes/Johnny/Evan alliance put it in motion yet again last night. The plan was essentially the same: Evan would throw the challenge to get sent into the Jungle, where he would hopefully meet and defeat Adam/C.T. There were many obvious problems with this plan, the first of which was preventing Adam/C.T. from winning immunity. Continue reading »
“The Challenge gods are angry at me for something.” —Kenny
“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. Continue reading »
“How these two, who legitimately hate each other, are able to win on a consistent basis…I don’t get it.” —Evan
“We got a problem, man, a real big problem.” —Evan
A lot happened in last night’s episode of Rivals: the main alliance betrayed one of its members, a player went to the hospital, Camila and Theresa launched an elaborate rope-a-dope heading into the Jungle, and Cara Maria and Laurel went through “couples therapy.”
But the episode was still mostly about C.T.
C.T. continues to intimidate and alienate everyone in the house, with the exception of Mandi. Which makes me wonder: Has C.T. done something to these people that we don’t know about? Did he burn down Diem’s house? Does he torment these people off-camera? I mean, their animosity seems to go way beyond being simply intimidated by his prowess in challenges. Last night Wes called him “one of the worst people who has ever been a part of anything.” Then he amended that statement to say, “He’s not a human being.” Continue reading »
“Evelyn is a superior partner. I’m pumped, and then I remember: We don’t like each other.” —Paula
“Wes’ weakness is his ugly face…I’m gonna show this guy what a finish line looks like.” —Kenny
“Madness is everywhere and it’s not me.” —C.T.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back! It’s been over six months since the last season of The Challenge concluded, and that’s too long to go without a Challenge-fix. The unusually long gap was likely due to T.J. Lavin’s recovery from last year’s injuries, though, so I’m cool with it. It was a classy move by MTV to wait for Lavin to come back rather than go forward with a new host.
Also making the wait the more palatable was the format of the new challenge: Rivals makes perfect use of the history and drama inherent in The Challenge by pairing people who hate each other. If this isn’t exactly what the show should be, then I don’t know what is… Continue reading »
Shut up, Michael Jordan. Nobody should be listening to you. You were an excellent basketball player—probably the best ever—but you are an arrogant, selfish idiot. We all know that by now.
So nobody should care that you said you would never have called Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and asked them to join you on the same team: “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’” Oh, really? “With hindsight,” you wouldn’t make drastic changes to what pretty much everyone agrees was the greatest professional basketball career of all time? Shocking.
What about without hindsight? What about when you were 25, like LeBron James is now, and you, like LeBron James, had never won an NBA title? Continue reading »