“I would hate to hand over $250,000 to a bunch of bullies.” —Sarah
Well, our long national nightmare of a Challenge season ended last night and, without spoiling too much, I must say the ending was incredibly fitting for this season.
Even last night’s final challenge was kind of a letdown. It wasn’t bad, so to speak, but I’ve gotten accustomed to MTV outdoing itself with every new final challenge. Last night’s was difficult, but it seemed to be mostly a lot of running. There was no standout moment—nobody had to eat a boar’s head, or carry a teammate on his back, or puke uncontrollably until they were Medevac-ed.
There wasn’t even much use of the location. While last season’s finale in the snow forced players to use snowshoes, this one didn’t really use the desert. There was a lot of running, but that’s normal no matter the climate. Aside from the brief appearance of a camel, they might have been anywhere.
The challenge started with a simple footrace to the first checkpoint, which established to tone of the entire challenge. San Diego got off to a good start, but was slowed down by Sam’s lack of endurance. Brooklyn’s weak link, Devyn, was even worse, at one point taking off her shoes to check on her feet and anchoring the team to last place. Las Vegas, on the other hand, didn’t have a weak link (something I predicted), and Dustin and Trishelle kept close behind San Diego.
At the first checkpoint—a mini-Sudoku puzzle*—there was the first lead change. San Diego and Las Vegas couldn’t get all their rows and columns to add up to 15. Brooklyn, on the other hand, finished first, even though they got to the puzzle last. San Diego eventually figured it out, but Las Vegas ended up running out of time, creating a big hole for that team.
*Even the puzzles for this challenge were uninspiring. A mini-Sudoku? That’s it? What happened to reassembling a campsite, or carrying logs in a certain order?
After a helicopter to ride to the next checkpoint, the teams had to compete in a glorified ring toss. The one interesting element was that whenever a player missed a toss, he had to take a shot of warm milk that had been sitting in the desert sun. I cannot imagine anything more disgusting than shots of warm milk in desert, but miraculously nobody ended up puking.
Once again, Brooklyn finished the checkpoint first, with San Diego following, though this time San Diego passed Brooklyn on the run to the next checkpoint. At this checkpoint, each team had to gather a bunch of tires (eight tires for teams of four, four tires for teams of two) to take to the next checkpoint. They were given rods and rope to tie the tires together, but the catch was that whatever material they took couldn’t be abandoned—if you realized you took too many rods, you had to keep carrying the extras anyway.
As usual, Brooklyn finished first, though the team made a classic mistake: The first rule of Carrying-A-Specific-Number-Tires-From-One-Place-To-Another Club is “Make sure you have the right number of tires,” yet Brooklyn somehow took nine tires instead of eight. By the time Sarah realized the mistake, both San Diego and Las Vegas had passed them.*
*It’s also worth pointing out that no team figured out a way to successfully roll the tires along the desert sand, and everyone ended up just carrying them. Brooklyn tried to roll them the longest, which seemed to hurt them.
The last challenge of the day was an overnighter: The teams were tasked with “protecting a camel,” which really meant standing in a box near a camel for the entire evening, while one teammate was allowed to sleep on nearby cot. They were allowed to rotate sleep schedules, and I would have loved to see how the teams divided up the sleep schedule, but the editing didn’t show much of that.
The next day had two remaining checkpoints, with the teams starting in the order they finished the previous day (plus a one minute penalty for Brooklyn thanks to Devyn stepping outside the box near the camel). San Diego got to the checkpoint first, which was actually an interesting one: The teams had to locate certain words on a giant board filled with random words, and then use the position of nearby letters to decode a combination lock. As far as puzzles go, this one seemed hard, though no team seemed particularly troubled by it, so what do I know?
For once, in fact, San Diego finished first, and was able to unlock the two crates to be carried to the final checkpoint. Even Las Vegas finished before Brooklyn, while Devyn didn’t even try to help at that checkpoint.
At the last checkpoint the teams used the crates to carry sand from one box to another—an incredibly basic and uninspired note to end on. There really wasn’t much hope for the trailing teams to make up ground on a checkpoint that was just manual labor, especially Las Vegas, a team with less manpower.
The only chance to catch San Diego, then, would be in the final race to the finish line, and for a while it seemed like Las Vegas might do it. Dustin and Trishelle were making good time and, incredibly given how much they hated each other just weeks ago, were helping each other and being encouraging. Meanwhile, Zach and Frank were still yelling and screaming at Sam, treating her like a dog for not being fast enough. Frank, in fact, actually threw her to the ground like a slave-master whipping a runaway.
For a second I thought Sam would blow up at Frank, or even refuse to run on principle for long enough to allow Las Vegas to pass them, but, alas, people will endure any indignity for the promise of money. And San Diego—the petty, sleazy, bickering, immature, underperforming team that dominated this season’s storylines—crawled across the finish line first. Vegas followed, and Brooklyn finished in last (and the Nets lost last night too…).
It really was the fitting ending for the season. You would have had to be deranged or related to someone on San Diego to have been rooting for that team last night. They were, as Sarah said, bullies. And so in a season full of disappointments, even the winner was a letdown. You get the winner you deserve…