“We can win the money and then we can go back to Square One: hating each other.” — Chet
Aaaaaaaaaand we’re back! MTV is back with another edition of the Challenge. This time it’s Battle of the Seasons, and I have so many questions: Who will win? Who will get stabbed in the back? Who ARE THESE PEOPLE?
While every season seems to have a few people I don’t recognize, this season is the first time that I almost can’t keep up. It’s like I’m watching a spin-off show, or The Challenge: The New Class. Of the seven seasons featured in the introduction, I never watched a minute of four of them—St. Thomas, Back to New Orleans, Back to San Diego*—and I watched less than half of Cancun; thank goodness the Las Vegas team includes some of the original Vegas cast…
*How old am I? I can remember the ORIGINAL San Diego and New Orleans casts! Where are you, Julie?!
As such, I paid extra close attention to the introductions, to learn who these people were and what they were about. If you were wondering which of these contestants are willing to do whatever it takes to win, and which of them aren’t here to make friends, the answer is all of them.
Of course, there were some recognizable vets: Sarah from Brooklyn is back for her sixth Challenge—still without a win (Sarah’s the new Paula!)—and the Austin team is mostly familiar. Wes, Danny, and Melinda have been through multiple Challenges, though this is a first for Lacey.* And, of course, MTV threw in the surprise addition of a Fresh Meat team of more familiar faces at the last second.
*When people come back to the Challenge after a long absence, I always wonder what kind of traumatic life event caused them to relapse.
Despite my unfamiliarity with the cast, the format of the new season actually seems interesting. The teams are small—four players each—but there are eight of them. This means that, unlike paired seasons like Fresh Meat or Rivals, there will be some intra-team strategizing. Last night’s episode saw teammates like Chet and Sarah making alliances over whom to eliminate first. But with eight teams, there should also be some alliances forming, which help create the most intrigue.
Last night’s episode also featured two good challenges. The first, Don’t Cross Me, had teammates climbing a rope ladder, crossing across each other on a balance beam suspended over water, and then climbing back down the ladder. It was easy to keep track of as a viewer and, more importantly, it actually involved teamwork. As I said over and over and over again during Rivals and Battle of the Exes, the only point of creating teams that have a turbulent history is forcing them to work collaboratively. In this one, teams that worked together did the best.
In two instances, though, it came down to one weak link sinking the whole team. First, Eric, who has been known to hold his teams back before, fell off the ladder. Though he wasn’t injured, the fall “used up all the gas in the tank,” and Eric couldn’t climb back up, DQing his entire team. Preston, on the New Orleans team, also fell. Though this killed his team’s chances of winning, Preston at least finished, keeping the team out of last place.
Eric’s DQ sent the entire Fresh Meat team into the Arena—this season’s elimination challenge—and the challenge winners got to chose their opponent. In something of an upset given that Las Vegas has Alton, possibly the greatest challenge player ever,* Team Cancun had the best time.
*Alton or C.T.? It’s like Magic or Bird, Wilt or Russell, Peyton or Brady, Mantle or Mays…
Rather than simply throwing in the rookies, Team St. Thomas, Cancun decided to throw in Austin. This was probably smart: C.J. already has a history with Wes, and it’s better to go after a veteran team before it can consolidate power.
Another interesting twist to this season’s rules is that each team has to chose which two players will represent it in the Arena. Wes/Lacey and Eric/Cara Maria each volunteered themselves this time, but I imagine this will cause some friction later on. Also, the Power Team (winner of the challenge) gets to decide the type of elimination game in the Arena: Physical, Mental, Endurance, or Strategy.
Cancun chose a Physical challenge, which didn’t seem smart until I realized that Eric has a size advantage over everyone, including Wes. The Arena challenge involved two players trying to run through each other to ring a bell. Cara Maria, after nearly having a mental breakdown about volunteering herself, simply destroyed Lacey: Her speed was overwhelming. In the first male match, it looked like Eric would walk to victory as well after he steamrolled over Wes. Wes, however, shrewdly changed strategy—instead of crashing into Eric, he lunged at Eric’s feet. Eventually, Eric just had to climb over Wes, and it became a foot race to the bells. It was much closer, but Eric still won by two tenths of a second.
And now the return of the rank!
Eliminated: Wes & Lacey (Austin)
Wes’ petulance while the final race was being reviewed was just a reminder of how classless and petty he really is under all his bravado.
8) Austin (Danny/Melina): It could potentially be an advantage having only two people, but not if those two people are Danny and Melinda…
7) St. Thomas (Robb/Trey/Laura/Marie): Not an especially inspiring performance in the challenge, and rookies in this game are like pawns: They be out the game early.
6) New Orleans (Preston/Knight/Jemmye/McKenzie): Preston’s performance last night was encouraging, but he seems like he could be dead weight later on.
5) Fresh Meat (Eric/Brandon/Camila/Cara Maria): Speaking of dead weight… I hate to keep doubting Eric, but until he proves himself in a challenge, I can put this team any higher.
4) Brooklyn (Chet/JD/Sarah/Devyn): Yet another team with a potential anchor. This time it’s Devyn, who is both annoying AND out of shape.
3) San Diego (Frank/Zach/Ashley/Sam): I don’t know anything about this team, but Zach looks really big, and that usually helps…
2) Las Vegas (Alton/Dustin/Trishelle/Nany): It’s hard to believe a team with Alton wouldn’t be first. This team seems very dangerous…
1) Cancun (CJ/Derek/Jonna/Jasmine): …But an early win, and bold strategic move that paid off, gives Cancun the edge.