“I’m always looked at as, like, I don’t know… not that good at shit. I’m not good at challenges. I’m not good at elimination rounds. But I never wanted to let Emily down, so I did the best I could.” —Paula
“Third place is not my destiny!” —Emily
It may be anticlimactic, but it’s always nice when the team that deserves to win actually wins. And for both the guys and the girls, the winning pair for Rivals II was the team that performed the best throughout the Challenge.
First of all, Emily/Paula were obviously the best female team. They may not have dominated as much as I initially expected—early on I said they might go undefeated in challenges, which obviously didn’t pan out—but they were clearly the alphas on the girls’ side throughout. Even when they did lose, it was a surprise.
And Emily/Paula jumped out to an early lead, swimming to shore faster than Cooke/Cara Maria—since Cara Maria can barely swim.* But at the first checkpoint, which was just a larger version of the Cracker Barrel peg game (C.T. said he played it at Country Breakfast, but I’ve never been there…), Cooke/Cara Maria passed them.
*Also, MTV, if you split the “Final Challenge” over two days, and eliminate a team after Day One, and give all the teams the night off, and don’t give any advantage to the team that finished Day One in first… then you haven’t split up the Final Challenge. You have made two challenges. Sorry.
At this point I was pretty confident Cooke/Cara Maria would win, particularly after they finished the second checkpoint so early. After all, I predicted a Cooke/Cara Maria win last week, and Emily and Paula both have reputations for falling short in Finals. But then they got to the food checkpoint…
Have I mentioned before how much I love food challenges? Oh, I have. Well, let me say it again: I love food challenges. It’s not that I love watching people throw up into buckets—though who doesn’t?!—but that eating challenges are both humanizing and equalizing. It’s hard to relate to the experience of, say, carrying 20 body bags in a stretcher… but everyone’s had to eat something gross at some point. And you can always see on the players’ faces how repulsed they are by what they have to eat.
Plus, you never know who’s going to have the most trouble. On Wednesday it was Cara Maria who couldn’t seem to handle her picked duck soup and worms, and Emily/Paula used the opportunity to take the lead. And once they took the lead, it only grew. Cooke/Cara Maria never really had the opportunity to gain ground—there were no more puzzles, so the remaining checkpoints rewarded size and strength, which obviously favored Emily. And if it wasn’t particularly close, at least the team that earned it got the win.
On the flip side, C.T./Wes didn’t dominate the challenges like Emily/Paula did, but they dominated the Final Challenge even more. Whereas the girls at least found themselves in second early on, C.T./Wes had the lead throughout. You knew things were looking good when Wes was able to guess the answer to the Pythagorean Theorem question on the second checkpoint.* Even the design of the Final, which built in opportunities to catch up by allowing the trailing team to piggyback off work done by the team in the lead**, couldn’t stop them.
*I will be the first person to mock these players for their lack of intelligence, but that math question was HARD. They had to find the hypotenuse of a triangle whose legs were 75 and 168—that’s not even a Pythagorean triple, so I don’t know how MTV expected them to solve it without a calculator or even pen and paper. Do you know what 168 squared is off the top of your head? I don’t, and I got an 800 on my Math SATs… Congrats to Emily who was actually able to solve the problem eventually.
**Sort of like how the last place player tends to find more blue shells in Mario Kart, which is either an interesting trick or an unfair travesty, depending on your level of skill at Mario Kart…
The only time when C.T./Wes appeared to be in any real danger was on the fourth checkpoint, when Wes seemed to get tired and dehydrated. The teams had to lug 20 weighted body bags on a stretcher (this seemed unnecessarily morbid to me, but I guess it was called “Nightmare Island” for a reason), and Wes’ exhaustion allowed Johnny/Frank to gain a lot of ground. Still, they C.T./Wes never relinquished the lead, and were able to finish the fifth checkpoint* before Johnny/Frank even got there.
*The fifth checkpoint, which was just a tunnel the players had to dig to in order to get the idol that was kept inside a cage, looked pretty easy. Overall, this Final Challenge lacked the defining moment that so many others have had. This makes it the second in a row that was kind of anticlimactic. Step up your game, MTV!
So not only did the deserving teams win, but this meant that C.T. was finally able to snap his losing streak. He is no longer Dan Marino—now he’s Tom Brady. God bless us, everyone!