Laurel: In any other challenge, with other people, you wouldn’t be here.
Cara Maria: …Beg to differ
Sometimes you get all excited for something and as the anticipation mounts your expectations grow to be so unreasonable that they can’t ever be met… and then something happens that actually tops those expectations. This was basically how I felt watching C.T.’s performance in the Gulag last night.
The challenge was “Back Up Off Me,” in which the contestants were harnessed to each other, back-to-back, while seated in the middle of the mud. The object was to pull the other through the mud—as Theresa did to Tina—to your end and knock over a barrel. Now I of course expected C.T. to do something crazy, but I never expected him to actually stand up, carry Johnny—a fully-grown adult human—on his back, and do a high-step across the Gulag, where he didn’t just knock the barrel over, but he spun around and basically body-slammed Johnny into the barrel. And he did this all in 19 seconds.
After that, the rest of the episode was kind of anticlimactic. Tori beat Theresa in the Gulag, as it seemed like Tina, the worst ringer of all-time, was weakened from going against Theresa first. And C.T. set the bar so high against Johnny that all Tyler had to do was last more than 19 seconds (his strategy of eating a lot and gaining weight actually paid off, as even C.T. acknowledged Tyler was too heavy to carry). So Blue lost two more players, leaving them with only three.
In their weakened position, Blue tried to cut a deal with Sarah and Laurel on Gray: Gray would help Blue beat Red, and Blue would in turn help Sarah and Laurel throw the challenge so they could get Cara Maria into the last Gulag. Unfortunately, the challenge itself—a version of king of the hill with large plastic shields—was so conducive to Laurel’s strength advantage over the other females that it was impossible for her to throw it subtly. After Blue and Gray had dispatched Tori and Paula from Red, Laurel basically just stood there hoping someone on Blue would knock her off. Abram, who was already suspicious of Sarah and Laurel, quickly realized what was going on and yelled that if they lost, he would vote Laurel back into the Gulag. Eventually, this convinced Laurel to try, and she quickly dispatched the Blue girls.
For the guys, Red had a numbers advantage, and they were able to win the heat, leading to a Red vs. Gray war, in which each team sent its best player. Gray predictably sent Abram, but Red ended up sending Brad, which even Brad thought was a bad idea. Abram won, keeping Gray out of the Gulag yet again. Even so, the tension on Gray reached a tipping point, with Laurel accusing Cara Maria of getting a free ride, Sarah accusing Abram of being arrogant, Luke accusing Laurel of being arrogant, and Abram trying to make everyone on his team angry for the Final Challenge.
Meanwhile, Red once again had problem with deliberations. Tori didn’t want to volunteer herself again, but Paula felt like she meant more to the team in the Final. When it became clear that Paula would have to go into the last Gulag, she threw a fit, lashing out particularly at Dunbar by calling him “Johnny Bananas,” which passes for a huge insult on this show. The guys once again voted in Tyler, who wasn’t happy about having to go in while Brad hadn’t been into the Gulag once.
Over on the Blue Team, things were comparatively tranquil. Derrick, as the only male left, was officially nominated for the last Gulag, and even though Jenn hasn’t been in one yet, Emily offered to go into her second Gulag.
So that’s where we are heading into next week’s finale. With only one episode to go, I’m shaking the power rankings up a bit:
Picking the Gulag:
Emily v. Paula: Emily is cool, calm, and collected going into the Gulag, while Paula is panicking and complaining and asking Emily to take it easy on her. Plus, Emily has won one already and has a big size advantage. The pick: Emily
Derrick v. Tyler: This is much trickier. Tyler has been way more impressive than I expected, but I can’t really see Derrick losing. The pick: Derrick
Handicapping the Final Challenge:
First, let’s deal with Red. The Red Team hasn’t had a win since a pre-Halloween, pre-Republican takeover of Congress episode. They have two players—Brad and Tori—who are a constant source of bickering and who haven’t done anything to prove their capabilities. The team’s best remaining player might get sent home before the Final even begins. Dunbar and Tyler have size, but haven’t proved their endurance, which is usually a huge part of the finale. I’m not putting this team’s chances very high. I’ll say they have a one in nine shot.
That leaves Blue and Gray. Picking between these two is tricky. On the one hand, Gray has won four of the last five challenges and Blue could conceivably be down to just Jenn by the time of the Final. This ought to make Gray the clear favorites. The odds should have Blue at about a one in three shot, leaving Gray with five out of nine…
The Final Pick
…On the other hand, there are a lot of reasons to question the Gray Team: They all seem to hate each other, Laurel had a rather uninspiring performance in Final of Fresh Meat 2, Cara Maria had a bad performance in her elimination from the same season, and even Abram has made some odd strategic decisions this season. The Blue Team, though, is down to a lean three competitors, all of whom have proven that hey can hold their own. The Final Challenge often favors these smaller, more cohesive teams. So even though I’ve had Laurel and Abram as my #1/#2 throughout this season, I think Blue will win the Final Challenge.
For your viewing pleasure, here is C.T.’s domination: