Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Ruins, The Granddaddy of Them All

My eyes can’t focus, let alone my brain, but I know there’s a good chance KellyAnne’s not going to be able to figure out this puzzle. I feel like if I don’t figure this out I might as well say, “It’s my fault we lost.” —Sarah

Every time there’s a puzzle you can count on this: Kenny, useless. Derrick, more than useless. Johnny’s so tired from this race he’s puking on the sidelines. This is a moment that could define the rest of our lives. —Evan

I feel like I’m part of something and I don’t want to leave. —Sarah

We’ve had people go home punching each other out. We’ve had people quit, and just get beaten mentally. I’m just happy that I wasn’t one of those people, because this is three challenge wins in a row for me, and I just want to dedicate this win to little baby Derrick, a.k.a. Little Awesome. —Derrick

Out, out, brief candle! / Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more. It is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.—William Shakespeare (not originally said about Real World/Road Rules Challenges)

Ah, another Real World/Road Rules Challenge comes to yet another poignant end, as the tears flowed in last night’s finale of The Ruins. An upset was avoided, as the Champions managed to defeat the Challengers as expected, but how they did it was quite the surprise. It couldn’t have been scripted any better.

I obviously should not have been so cavalier in my prediction last week, saying that the Champions would “cruise to victory”; MTV knows how to organize a final challenge so that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. The fact that each checkpoint on the final challenge had to be completed by all team members meant that having more players was almost inherently a disadvantage, no matter who those players are.

The first checkpoint—or “artifact” as they were known in this game (Get it? Ruins? Artifacts?)—was a perfect example of this, as each teammate had to consume a plate of assorted bugs and hot peppers before the team could advance.* While Kenny and Evan were gagging and puking, KellyAnne and Sarah managed to power through and advance.

*Every time I wonder what’s keeping me from going on a reality show competition, someone has to eat something disgusting, and I think, “Oh, that’s what.”

The Challengers, then, were “a whole artifact ahead”—as reader Jordan observed in last week’s promo—practically right out of the gate, and managed to maintain that lead for the first few artifacts.

Things turned, however, when the Challengers arrived at the game for their fourth artifact, a zigzag course of thin wooden beams that had to be traversed without any player falling. During the Champions’ turn at this challenge, Evan fell off midway through, forcing the entire team to start over. KellyAnne didn’t fall off, but was apparently so winded that she could only move in baby-steps, frustrating Sarah to no end. Even with Evan’s fall, then, the Champions managed to cut the Challengers’ lead almost completely.

The last artifact challenge, however, was a puzzle, which is generally a great equalizer in challenges. The rules of the puzzle were as follows:

There are ten boxes in a row. The only acceptable way to move a box is for it to jump two boxes in any direction. In five sequential moves, you must create five stacks of two boxes such that no two stacks are adjacent to one another. You have 30 minutes.

Yeah, I didn’t get it the first time around either.

Now, to be fair, it took me about seven minutes to do this puzzle once I paused the TV and read the rules, and I wasn’t completely exhausted and vomiting. Then again, I’ve never been very good at puzzles. On the Challengers team, KellyAnne seemed ready to have a nervous breakdown trying to figure this one out, while Sarah kept staring at the puzzle, waiting for the answer to come to her.

It didn’t seem like the Champions were doing much better, though, with Kenny, Derrick and Johnny essentially throwing their hands in the air. Ultimately, it was Susie, the albatross that the Champions had to carry—as in literally carry; they took turns giving her piggy-back rides from checkpoint to checkpoint—through the whole challenge, who stepped up and finally cracked this mystery.

Once the 30 minutes elapsed for the Challengers, they had to try to catch the Champions on foot. Even with the weight of Susie on their backs, though, the Champions weren’t slowing down enough for Sarah and KellyAnne to catch them.

I was rooting for Sarah and KellyAnne, who were each in tears by the end, but the unfairly advantaged team won again. When the dust settled, it appeared that both Derrick and Kenny announced their intent to retire from challenges (although retirements announced on these challenges are taken slightly more seriously than Brett Favre’s) and, thanks to the individual bank accounts in this game, everyone went home with at least $17,000. Susie took home the most money, with over $60,000, which was fitting, since she went into the Ruins three times while Johnny went in once and Evan, Kenny and Derrick never went in. Also, you know, she basically won the final challenge for the Champions by solving that puzzle. Plus, it was nice to see Derrick win again, this time for his baby son; now Little Awesome can start a college fund.

As tempted as you may be, though, to shed a tear for The Ruins, as it is done strutting and fretting its hour on the stage, fear not! For there is a Reunion show next week….

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by vicki on December 12, 2009 at 3:53 PM

    i think Susie’s puzzle solution was incorrect … if you have to jump two blocks, then didn’t #2 have to go to #7, and #10 to #5 (not 2 to 5 and 10 to 7 as the champions stacked them)? I think sara and kelly anne are due some big bucks!


    • Posted by John S on December 12, 2009 at 5:05 PM

      Hmmm, I’ll have to go back and rewatch. It didn’t even occur to me to check their answer. We may be breaking a Tim Donaghy-esque scandal here.


      • Posted by vicki on December 26, 2009 at 12:22 PM

        john did you ever go back and take a look at it? is it just me … clearly their last 2 moves did not jump 2 blocks!?


    • Posted by twinky on December 17, 2009 at 5:58 PM

      just curious where you put #4 and #8 b/c when i tried to work it out your way (#2 to #7 and #10 to #5) i can’t solve the puzzle since i end up w/adjacent stacks … however i worked it out the other way (#2 to #5 and #10 to #7) and it works out since there aren’t any adjacent stacks … just curious 🙂 ty


      • Posted by Vicki on December 17, 2009 at 11:02 PM

        6 to 9…4 to 1…8 to 3…2 to 7 and 10 to 5 …
        You end up with
        4/1 X 8/3 X 10/5 X 2/7 X 6/9 (with “X” representing an empty space).
        BTW, where does the instruction about no adjacent stacks come from? It wasn’t on the board the players read from!


  2. Posted by James Schneider on December 13, 2009 at 4:49 PM

    Kenny won, so yeah….is this really necessary…..yes


  3. […] tension was revealed between Sarah and KellyAnne, who were so close during the final challenge. Apparently, Sarah was on board with the early plan to help the Champions send KellyAnne home, and […]


  4. Posted by John S on December 26, 2009 at 5:45 PM

    OK, so upon re-watching, the Champions seemed to have solved the puzzle correctly. I slightly misrepresented the rules of the puzzle: The rule about no adjacent stacks is not explicit, but I don’t think that there is any solution that includes any adjacent stacks.

    Also–and this seems to be where the confusion comes in–each numbered block must jump two BLOCKS, and not occupied spaces, such that if two blocks are already stacked, then jumping over that stacks is a full two-block move. Therefore the solution provided by the Champions is:

    1. 6 goes to 9, jumping 8 and 7
    2. 4 goes to 1, jumping 3 and 2
    3. 8 goes to 3, jumping 7 and 5
    4. 2 goes to 5, jumping the stack of 8 on 3
    5. 10 goes to 7, jumping the stack of 6 on 9

    Leaving you with 4/1 X 8/3 X 2/5 X 10/7 X 6/9 X, where X is an empty space

    So you don’t end up with adjacent stacks, but that appears to be incidental. I originally interpreted (although it doesn’t say so in my version of the rules) as meaning that a stack only counted as one space for a jump. Sorry for any confusion.


  5. […] we’re back! It’s been nearly four months since the final challenge of The Ruins, a seemingly interminable stretch in which we Americans had to do with only college basketball to […]


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