“You’re too good for this, Sarah.” —Dunbar
Does anyone know MTV’s official fighting policy? Everyone knows there’s a No Fighting rule—since someone gets sent home for violating it seemingly every season*—but there’s obviously some ambiguity about what constitutes a “fight.” Contestants often say that they’re not allowed to hit anyone, but even that isn’t totally clear—Jasmine clearly hit Tyrie during their brief fight in last night’s episode, but there was no mention of her going home.
*It’s not actually every season, only Rivals, The Ruins, The Duel II, The Inferno III, The Duel, Battle of the Sexes II, and the Extreme Challenge. Just those seven. Oh, and now this one, so eight.
Of course, the difference between what Jasmine did and what Vinny was ultimately sent home for was that Tyrie was obviously never threatened by Jasmine’s violence (probably because she’s like three feet tall) while Mandi clearly and justifiably felt violated. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this, but it seems like the policy is not nearly as black-and-white as the audience is led to believe, and I imagine that there’s an awful lot that goes on behind the scenes that leads to someone getting sent home.
Complicating the matter even further is that, in a paired competition like this one, a player getting sent home leaves someone without a partner. Last season, when Adam R. got sent home in Week 1, the show simply replaced him with Michael—even though it violated the Rivals conceit. I was sure they’d do the same thing for Sarah, so I was shocked when she was sent home along with Vinny. I assume something like this just comes down to whether or not the producers can quickly find a replacement, but it still strikes me as incredibly unfair that Sarah was undeservedly sent home.
What made the situation even worse was that Vinny/Sarah were coming off a win. The Hook Up challenge (man, MTV is really going to have fun with the Exes puns) seemed like a classic example of the producers setting the difficulty level too high. The pairs needed to traverse six suspended beams using only a hook to swing across, except that the beams were so unstable that almost nobody could get beyond the second beam before falling or running out of time. The only two teams to pass the second beam were Vinny/Sarah, who just barely reached the third beam, and Johnny/Camila, who made it look easy by completing all six before time expired.
Now, it seemed to me that Johnny/Camila clearly won, but the rules of Exes apparently stipulate that there needs to be a championship round in each challenge, so Vinny/Sarah and Johnny/Camila had to compete for the title of Power Couple. It’s MTV’s equivalent of the second wild card. In the head-to-head match-up, Vinny/Sarah actually won handily, taking the Power Couple title from the dominant team.
Leroy/Naomi fell off the quickest, so they were going into the Dome no matter what, but Vinny/Sarah had to choose their opponent. They seemed to vacillate between two choices: Tyrie/Jasmine, whose earlier fight had created tension in the house (and who are generally terrible at challenges), and Wes/Mandi, who sent Vinny/Sarah home in Fresh Meat II.
Now, the timing here seemed a little off. The way the show was edited, it seemed like, before making their final decision, Vinny, Sarah, and the rest of the cast went out for a night of revelry, during which Vinny got drunk. So drunk, in fact, that he took his shirt off (not a sight I ever want to see on HD TV). He apparently liked having his own shirt off so much that he decided that everyone’s shirt needed to be off, starting with Mandi’s; so he pulled her shirt down in front of the entire bar. Seriously, Vinny, go back to the Jersey Shore cast look-a-like contests where you belong…
But as I said, the timing was fishy. Rather than send Vinny home right away, or even the next morning, they kept Vinny around long enough to make his decision on who would go into the Dome. I assume the producers were using this time to try to find Sarah a replacement, but it seems like a pivotal moment in the game: Of course Vinny is going to want to eliminate Wes and Mandi, since his actions at the bar likely made a permanent enemy of that team.* Someone else likely would have made a different choice; even if Sarah had made the decision alone, it seemed like she was leaning more toward Tyrie/Jasmine.
*Wes’ pretense at chivalry, telling Mandi and the cameras that he would have attacked Vinny outside of the show, seemed like a lot of empty talk—as is Wes’ habit.
ANYWAY, it was only after Vinny/Sarah made their decision that TJ Lavin came back to the house to tell Vinny and Sarah their fate. Still, their decision stood, and Wes/Mandi were sent to the Dome against Leroy/Naomi.
Now, if you recall, when Wes and Mandi were sent into Exile on Fresh Meat II, Mandi was great and Wes was awful. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened here! The Dome challenge was X Battle, which was a variant that the Challenge has done before, and it’s always great: Two opponents hold onto something—in this case an X—and try to wrestle it away from each other. Leroy beat Wes twice in a row, leaving Mandi to go against Naomi. Despite being slightly smaller, Mandi used good positioning to beat Naomi just as handily as Wes had been beaten. With the two teams tied, the tie-breaker would come down a coin flip. If TJ flipped heads, Leroy and Wes would wrestle (and so Wes/Mandi would almost certainly be eliminated); if he flipped tails, then Mandi and Naomi would (meaning Leroy/Naomi would be in danger). He flipped heads, and thus ended Wes and Mandi’s time in the Dominican Republic…
But now keep on ranking in a free world!
Sarah took her elimination harder than I’ve ever seen someone take an elimination from a reality television show. She looked like I did after the Yankees lost the 1997 Division Series. (Screw you, Sandy Alomar, Jr.!)
I’ll never get tired of seeing Wes humiliated, but I like Mandi and I’m sorry to see her go.
10) Tyrie/Jasmine (+1): At least Tyrie seemed aware of how bad he is in these challenges.
9) Aneesa/Rachel (+1): Still not sold on a two-girl team…
8) Dustin/Heather (+4): The first two episodes are really Rookie Hunting Season, so for these two to have survived them bodes well.
7) Dunbar/Paula (—): Maybe I should have bumped them up for providing my epigraphs.
6) Ty/Emily (—): Based on the body language in the new opening credit sequence, these two are on better terms than I realized.
5) C.T./Diem (-1): This pair continued problems communicating in challenges.
4) Mark/Robin (-2): Robin had a nasty fall off the first beam in a very poor team performance.
3) Leroy/Naomi (+2): They now have the Power Couple duties of setting the order in the next challenge, and winning in the Dome should intimidate some people.
2) Abram/Cara Maria (+1): These two have looked good in both challenges.
1) Johnny/Camila (—): They didn’t win, but these two looked like a well-oiled machine in the challenge. They’d have won on style points, if that were a thing.