“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…
Of course, some of the “rivalries” are more intense than others. Some, like Kenny/Wes, are long and well-documented. Some, like Adam/C.T., have come to physical blows. And some, like Adam R./Leroy, are completely new to me.
In fact, let’s do a quick rundown of each team’s history right now:
Adam/C.T.: This is probably the most epic pair. They’ve been at odds the longest, going back to their Real World: Paris season when they almost came to blows multiple times. Of course, their most famous blowup was the fight that got them kicked off The Duel II on the first episode. What’s weird is that Adam is a totally reasonable fellow, and they don’t even really seem to dislike each other. But C.T.’s anger problems (which are legendary) almost always end up directed at Adam when they are near each other. I don’t expect this pair to have issues with teamwork or communication or trust—as most other teams will—but it’s hard to see C.T. making it through a season without punching Adam in the face.
Aneesa/Robin: This is a much more classic example of two people who don’t really like each other. This boiled over when Robin made comments about Aneesa’s sexuality and race—which were really more ignorant than offensive—but I don’t think they’ve ever gotten along. This makes sense: I don’t think anybody likes Robin, and I don’t see why anybody likes Aneesa. They are two of the most annoying people on these shows.
Brandon/Ty: Two newcomers to the challenges, they got into a minor scuffle on last season’s Cutthroat. Unlike the last two, there’s not much history here, but Ty seems like an explosive and volatile player who had to be included in a season like this.
Camila/Theresa: Once again, not much history to this one. Camila fought with basically everyone last season (through no real fault of her own) and Theresa went out of her way to antagonize her. I don’t expect these two to bury any hatchet, but I doubt they’ll come to blows.
Cara Maria/Laurel: Like the last two, this is a newer feud. Unlike the last two, it’s a fun one with some substance. Laurel accused Cara Maria throughout last season of basically getting a free ride to the end thanks to her romance with Abram. Laurel meanwhile, followed up her great performance in Fresh Meat II with aggressive, arrogant, and nasty playing throughout Cutthroat, which she capped off with an unimpressive show in the final challenge. I suspect that pairs that don’t trust each other will have the most difficult time in this game, and I think Laurel and Cara Maria don’t trust each other at all.
Davis/Tyrie: This is an old one, but one I had totally forgotten about. On Real World: Denver, these two got into some kind of fight. Davis may or may not have used a racial slur. It was probably a big deal at the time, but I hope these two have moved on by now. Honestly, it’s very easy to get over one big fight; it’s several years of underlying hatred that’s tricky.
Evan/Nehemiah: This is a tricky one. Nehemiah has criticized Evan a lot, and last night said that he doesn’t like “the way Evan plays the game.” But virtually everyone not named Kenny has said that about Evan at some point. Nehemiah seems more like a stand-in for anyone who’s ever resented Evan in the game (a large group) in this rivalry. At the same time, Nehemiah’s history of erratic behavior will likely infuriate Evan, who likes cold, calculated play.
Evelyn/Paula: This is a perfect example of what makes this set-up work: While Evelyn is one of best girls to ever play, she has a history of playing poorly with partners. Paula is also a strong player on her own, but she and Evelyn can’t stand each other. Ever since The Island, they’ve been on opposite sides of any alliance. They are both very vocal and strong-willed, so any competition that involves strategizing or teamwork is a potential disaster with these two.
Jasmine/Jonna: I could not care less about these two. Apparently one of them stole the other’s boyfriend on Real World: Cancun?
Jenn/Mandi: These two came to blows during Fresh Meat II, but like Davis/Tyrie, I don’t think it was a real indicator of underlying tensions. It seemed more like hazing. These two won’t be best friends, but I think they’ll be fine.
Johnny/Tyler: This one is complicated. Their animosity goes back to Real World: Key West, and they have faced each other in three separate eliminations. At the same time, their rivalry often seems more like one of competitive respect than outright hostility. They may not like working together, but I suspect they will do it well.
Katelynn/Sarah: This is probably the tamest rivalry on the list: On Fresh Meat II Katelynn voted for Sarah after saying she wouldn’t…. and Sarah got mad! The End. That’s pretty much it.
Kenny/Wes: Outside of C.T./Adam, this is the most exciting pair. While there isn’t the constant threat of violence that C.T. brings, these two legitimately hate each other, and have for a long time. They were very candid about it during last night’s confessionals, with Kenny calling Wes ugly and Wes calling Kenny the stupidest person he’d ever met. At the same time, they are both great competitors. I suspect these two will make it far together, and hate every minute spent in each other’s company.
Leroy/Adam R.: Apparently these two were on the most recent season of The Real World and they fought a lot.
ANYWAY, those are our teams. Which brought us to the first challenge. What did MTV do in its first challenge with this incredibly compelling new format? They chose a challenge that involves virtually no strategizing, teamwork, or cooperation. Of course they did.
The challenge was basically a long jump, but over a waterfall. The teammates had to jump together, but there was virtually no thought or planning involved—although several players did say to their teammates something like, “We should try to jump really far.” In keeping with the tradition of poorly designed challenges, about a third of the teams DQ by jumping from beyond the line. It was also incredibly boring to watch.
Surprisingly, though, both rookie teams won, which made the elimination round—The Jungle—more compelling. It was a female elimination day, so the female team with the worst performance in the challenge goes into the Jungle. In another surprise, that turned out to be Evelyn/Paula, who both stepped over the line while jumping. The rest of the cast had to vote on which team they will face.
In a classic example of what Wes deems “the bandwagon effect,” Laurel threw out Aneesa/Robin and nobody wanted to make enemies by objecting. Aneesa called Laurel “dirty” for playing that way, which….come on…REALLY?
After the vote finished, the drinking began, and it became a countdown to the first fight. Ty and Adam R. seemed almost eager to get into a fight, and both had to be held back. Then Adam R. charged at Ty—knocking Mandi over in the process—and punched him in the face. Adam R. got sent home and replaced by Michael, who I also don’t know. No great loss there. Ty suggested that his new plan might be to piss off everyone in the house until they all get sent home for fighting him. Based on last season, that might be his best strategy.
The Jungle competition was better than the long jump since it involved come cooperation. The teammates had to stand with their hands touching on two platforms that T.J. gradually pulled away from each other. The teammates that held on the longest won. Both teams had trouble trying to balance against each other, and finally Robin fell off. Evelyn admitted that doing the challenge with Paula made it harder, but they shared a celebratory roll in the mud after winning. That was not a euphemism for anything—they actually rolled around in mud.
And now we unveil the inaugural rankings:
Eliminated: Aneesa/Robin, Adam R.
I’m glad to see two of the most annoying players go home first. And I’m glad I don’t have to keep writing Adam’s last initial.
13. Camila/Theresa: Neither of these two has enough friends or experience to last very long.
12. Brandon/Ty: People really hate Ty, and he was terrible last season. Brandon will probably be a victim of that.
11. Jasmine/Jonna: An early win keeps them away from last place, but with their first loss this rookie team will get sent to the Jungle.
10. Leroy/Michael: Michael looks like less of an athlete than Adam R. was, so Leroy may suffer for Adam R.’s fight.
9. Davis/Tyrie: Tyrie has always disappointed me on these challenges, and neither of these two are good at the scheming element.
8. Katelynn/Sarah: Katelynn is really good at making enemies and really bad at challenges, but Sarah is getting to be pretty savvy at this point.
7. Jenn/Mandi: This team is set up perfectly to win the attraction of two guys who won’t want to send them home. C.T. is already getting close to Mandi.
6. Evan/Nehemiah: Evan is great at the politics of this game, but, as C.T. said last night, “he looks pregnant.”
5. Evelyn/Paula: These two could be great together, but mistrust will hold them back.
4. Cara Maria/Laurel: These two could be even better, but mistrust may hold them back even more.
3. Johnny/Tyler: As I said, I suspect these two will actually benefit from being on the same team.
2. Adam/C.T.: C.T. is the best competitor to ever appear on The Challenge. But the fact that he has tried to kill his partner before prevents me from putting him at #1.
1. Kenny/Wes: Like Hitler and Stalin, if these two could just set aside their differences, they could rule the world.