“…You guys have had some serious beef on Twitter.” —TJ
Look, I was on the fence about even doing another season of these power rankings. After slogging through the dismal Battle of the Seasons, I thought perhaps it was time I finally quit The Challenge, after a decade of loyal viewership. Of course, once I found out C.T. was coming back, I knew I’d be back for at least one more.*
*And if this is my swan song, it’s fitting that it comes in a season set in Thailand, which also hosted the first season I wrote about. Not that you asked…
And the new season reboots a format that has been successful before. The first Rivals season was generally successful, boding well for Rivals II.
I say only “generally” successful, though, because there are some problems, which were evident in Wednesday’s premiere of Rivals. First, since the format separates the sexes, as opposed to mixing them, it’s basically like there are two different games going on simultaneously, one for the girls and one for the guys. This season’s “solution” to that problem is to have the girls send male teams into the Jungle*, and the guys send female teams in. This is stupid. It makes absolutely no sense. The men aren’t competing against the women, so the only reason to throw any team into the Jungle is if you don’t like those players. But what makes the Challenge exciting is when personal relationships clash with competitive goals. By eliminating those competitive goals from the voting process, MTV has drained it of any real intrigue.
*This season’s name for the elimination challenge, which was also used in the first Rivals season.
The other big problem is that the relationships are no longer that intriguing. If the first season of Rivals asked the question, “Can people set aside their differences for money?” then the answer was a resounding, “YES!” Virtually every pair of “rivals” ended up as friends by the end of the season—the only notable exception being Kenny and Wes. As TJ said in this week’s premiere, “You guys love money more than you hate your partners.” In other words, all these people are basically valueless whores.
Plus, these relationships don’t really constitute rivalries. For example, Derek and Robb* got into a fight while drinking last season, and now they are teammates. One fight does not a rivalry make. Even extensive animosity, like the kind between C.T. and Wes, doesn’t really make a rivalry. Being someone’s rival is not the same as hating someone—the term “rival” connotes a level of respect and ongoing competition that doesn’t really exist in the vast majority of these relationships.
*Great. I have to type Robb with two “b”s again.
But enough raining on the parade. C.T. is back! And so is Diem! And they might fall back in love!
A lot of this week’s episode was devoted to C.T.’s relationship with the girls. The stupid voting process this season makes that extra important—if C.T. can win girls to his side, he can secure votes. Of course, flirting with Diem and then making out with Anastasia* in a closet is just as likely to alienate girls as it is to win them over.
*Who is this person? And they did a Real World season in Portland? How did I miss that? More importantly, how did Tim miss that? He LOVES the Pacific Northwest.
And, man, the longer gap between seasons really made me forget how bad these people are at strategy. After this week’s challenge—Game of Inches, where players had to leap off a platform into their partner’s arms—there was a frantic scramble to see who would vote for whom. C.T., before knowing about the new voting twist, tried to get the guys to vote Zach and Johnny into the Jungle. But his partner, Wes, thought it was too early to go after such a strong player and that this would “put a target on [their] backs.” Even Diem said that C.T.’s plan was “the dumbest possible thing.”
This makes no sense. How on Earth does trying to vote someone out “put a target on your back”? If the way to send people into the Jungle is to vote them, then the only thing that matters is getting numbers on your side. And the faster you do that, the better. But since sending rookies in first is the typical strategy—and since nobody on these shows really understands math—people got upset when C.T. tried to upset the established order.
Of course, the stupid rule change made the whole conversation irrelevant, and Derek/Robb got sent in against Tyrie/Dunbar. And Tyrie continued his stretch of incompetence that is almost Ruthian—nobody is as good as Tyrie at being bad at challenges.* In truth, it was really Dunbar, who for some reason failed to ring his bell despite getting there first, who cost that pair the Jungle.
*This is now the third time in six challenges he has been eliminated first. He has never made it past episode five.
And now all the teams that’s fit to rank:
Eliminated: Dunbar/Tyrie & Naomi (personal reason)
It’s awfully funny how quickly players turn on each other when the chance to win money goes away…
N.B. I thought about splitting the rankings up by gender for this season. But the new voting system probably means I should keep them together.
15) Cooke/??: Wikipedia gives away who her new teammate is, but until it’s official I have to rank her last.
14) Marlon/Jordan: I don’t know who these people are. Rookies do not fare well.
13) Anastasia/Jessica: Another rookie team, plus Anastasia is already making people mad by messing around with C.T.
12) Knight/Preston: I really don’t like Knight. I hope he goes home soon.
11) Camila/Jemmye: Both of these girls have a history of getting on peoples’ bad sides.
10) Derek/Robb: They proved themselves in the Jungle (especially Derek, with his speed), but teams that get voted in tend to get voted in again.
9) Jasmine/Theresa: Jasmine is so tiny that it’s hard to imagine her being of any use in challenges or surviving any Jungles, so this team will need to rely on diplomacy.
8) Leroy/Ty: Leroy has historically been great at challenges. Ty has historically been awful. So this team is exactly in the middle.
7) Jonna/Nany: You’ve got to love the pairing of names on this team. They’re both good but not great competitors, and their backstory is actually more interesting than most of these supposed rivals (they were actually friends before Jonna started getting involved with Zach last season), so this is a team to watch.
6) Trey/Zach: I wavered a lot on Zach last season—he’s big, but he never seems to be as good at challenges as he should be.
5) Sarah/Trishelle: Sarah is the new Paula, on her seventh challenge now and still looking for her first win. She’s made it to the finals three times.
4) Johnny/Frank: A team of prima donnas. Both Frank and Johnny were so personally offended that C.T. would target them this early. Maybe Johnny is still sore about this…
3) Aneesa/Diem: God I’m sick of Aneesa. She’s so unjustifiably arrogant. She’s like the Newt Gingrich of the Challenge.
2) C.T./Wes: One twist that’s offered by having girls vote for guy eliminations: Generally C.T. has been protected from votes because people are scared of him. But since none of the girls have to worry about that, he might see an elimination earlier than normal.
1) Emily/Paula: Clearly the early frontrunners. Without Laurel or Evelyn on the cast, there’s no female who can physically compete with Emily, and Paula is a savvy veteran who’s won before.