Diem: “I’m really confused.”
Wes: “That’s an emotional thing.”
Diem: “I’m an emotional person!”
I have been watching the Challenge for many, many years—not quite since the beginning, but close. And I’ve watched half a dozen Real World seasons as well. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entire cast turn to the cameraman, point, and yell, “Go!” the way they did in Wednesday’s episode of Rivals II, after Diem followed C.T. away from the pool.
The confrontation itself was a bit of a letdown—they both just stuck to their guns—but it shows how invested everyone involved in the show—cast, crew, and audience—is in C.T. and Diem. The conflict between the two former lovers was pretty small—C.T. didn’t vote the way Diem would have liked—but it became a kind of Rorschach test for how everyone perceives C.T.
The episode began with C.T. and Diem in a kind of prelapsarian state of bliss, laughing and having fun in the pool. Obviously this scene was only in the episode to foreshadow doom. Johnny and Frank both opined that Diem was crazy for not seeing C.T.’s “true colors” (Hey! That’s the name of the episode! What a weird coincidence…) and realizing that he was only playing her.
Of course, it’s worth considering the sources here. Johnny and Frank both hate C.T., and Frank is a known liar. Still, one could construct a pretty damning case against C.T. if one were so inclined. In early episodes this season he spent a lot of confessional time talking about playing the girls for votes, as well as the mind games he was playing with Diem. And last night he voted against Diem’s wishes for no real reason, other than that he liked Emily/Paula more than Camila/Jemmye.
Having said all that, Diem was the one who came off as a crazy person in this week’s episode. First, she melted down in the challenge—conveniently named True Colors. She was easily distracted and unable memorize the colors as well as everyone else. This held her and Aneesa back in both heats, sending them into the Jungle.
But it was Cooke/Cara Maria’s victory that really sent Diem spinning. As soon as the challenge was over, Diem began to fret about who she’d rather face in the Jungle, since Cooke/Cara Maria, the go-to Jungle fodder all season long, had won immunity. Now, obviously Diem was right to prefer Camila/Jemmye over Emily/Paula, but she handled the politics of the move terribly. She started trash-talking Cooke, claiming Cooke didn’t “deserve” to be in the Final, which was ridiculous—Cooke might deserve it more than anyone, given her lack of allies throughout. Even Emily seemed a little weirded out by Diem’s behavior.
Then, instead of simply asking C.T. and Wes to vote for Camila/Jemmye, she got mad at them for not approaching her and asking who she wanted to vote in. Understandably, this put them on the defensive, and they ended up even more resolved to vote for Emily/Paula.*
Ultimately, it didn’t even matter—Marlon/Jordan surprisingly voted for Camila/Jemmye, so Diem got what she wanted anyway. Still, even after the votes were in, Diem couldn’t help getting into fights with Camila, Jemmye, and Cooke, all before confronting C.T. and accusing him of being a bad person. She didn’t raise her voice in any of these fights—something she kept reminding everyone—but that didn’t make her seem any less panicked.
Now, I should say that I don’t blame Diem for feeling betrayed—given what Frank and Johnny and Jemmye were telling her, plus the fact that C.T. barely had a reason for voting against Diem’s wishes, I can see why she’d think she got backstabbed. Still, the idea that C.T. was “using” Diem seems ludicrous to me. For one, he never needed her vote. At no point was C.T.’s name ever on the chopping bloc, and nobody ever wanted to see him in the Jungle. He never asked her to vote for someone she wasn’t already going to vote for. And from C.T.’s perspective, he didn’t wrong Diem in any way—he didn’t vote her into the Jungle, or even side with someone outside her alliance. He just voted his conscience.*
*It’s also entirely possible that C.T.’s real motive for his vote was so he didn’t seem under the thumb of his ex-girlfriend. It’s worth remembering that Diem dumped C.T., and that C.T. has been far more open about his feelings for her than she has about her feelings for him (at least based on what we’ve seen on-screen). Perhaps he just doesn’t want to look like the ex who’s still pining after someone who wants nothing to do with him.
Ultimately, neither of them is completely innocent or completely at fault, but it appears as if this will undo whatever progress was made in their relationship during Rivals II. We all may have to accept that C.T. and Diem are not destined to end up together…
But now it’s time to handicap the Final:
Final Jungle Predictions: Camila/Jemmye over Aneesa/Diem
Aneesa gets a lot of credit as a killer in eliminations—she’s 7-2 in individual elimination rounds—but she’s not as good when paired with a partner. And in team events, you’re only as good as your weakest link, and there’s no way I’m betting on Diem in her current mental state. Plus, Camila/Jemmye already have a Jungle win. Either way, whoever survives will finish third in the Final Challenge.
Final Female Order: 1) Cooke/Cara Maria 2) Emily/Paula 3) Camila/Jemmye
WHAT? I’m not picking Emily/Paula to win? Am I nuts?! Well, hear me out. What makes Final Challenges so interesting is that they emphasize a different skill set than the rest of the season. For most of a challenge season, the most important thing is size. Simply being bigger is enough. But in the Final, the most important thing is endurance. That’s why Laurel has made it to three Finals but never won. It’s why Emily has made it to two and finished third both times. It’s part of why C.T. has never won a Final. It’s why Wes crapped out in the original Rivals. They’re big, but they lack endurance. Cooke and Cara Maria have endurance. So they will win, which will be as much of an upset as has ever happened on the Challenge.
Final Male Order: 1) Marlon/Jordan 2) C.T./Wes 3) Johnny/Frank
I’m much less confident in this pick. I could any of the male teams winning, and I could see them finishing in virtually any order. Johnny’s performance last week didn’t bode well for his stamina, but he has a pretty good record in Final Challenges. C.T. and Wes have been the best team the last few weeks, but will likely from the same lack of stamina that will hold Emily back. So Marlon/Jordan seem like the best bet, even though they are rookies. But I wouldn’t bet the house or anything…