The MTV television show “The Challenge” should make a motion to reincorporate itself as a professional sport. I think it has the potential to surpass the NFL in terms of its presence in American life. Or perhaps that’s just me; it’s unclear. What is clear is that this past week’s episode gave us all of what makes this show amazing and more, and set viewers up for what looks to be a memorable stretch down to the finale.
For those who are unaware of what this show is, let me first apologize for the incomplete lives you have been leading thus far. Let me congratulate you, however, on the wonderful journey that you have ahead of you. The concept of “The Challenge” is that former cast members from MTV’s flagship reality show “The Real World” and its spinoff “Road Rules” are placed in a house in an exotic location and compete in a series of insane physical and mental “challenges” (get it!?) for vast-ish sums of money. Crudely thought of, it is a combination of “Survivor,” “The Real World,” and “Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome.” But really it is so much more.
This season’s location is Thailand, and the prize for the winners is $150,000, but the spin on this season explains the title “Rivals 2.” Your only teammate is someone who, on previous shows, you have been cross with, backstabbed, or punched in the face.
These teams must work together (or not, as the case may be) to compete in the insane daily challenges, which can range from swinging over 30 feet in the air over water to try and tag a buoy, to leaping into your partner’s arms over vast heights and at increasing distances. The pair that comes in last in these challenges is automatically sent into the elimination round, where they face another team voted on by the rest of the house. The elimination rounds are nightmarish team vs. team battles for the chance to stay in the game. As you can imagine, all this leaves plenty of room for tension, Machiavellian politics, and fighting. Any spare time is usually spent drinking, hooking up, shouting, or drinking more. It’s glorious.
So now that the context is all laid out, let’s dig into this week’s episode. (MAJOR SPOILERS.) I must say, it was a doozy. There are eight teams left in this crazy game. For the guys we have CT and Wes, Johnny and Frank, Jordan and Marlon, Knight and Preston. For the girls we have Paula and Emily, Diem and Aneesa, Cooke and Cara, Jemmye and Camilla. And yes, those are listed in descending order by how much I like them.
CT, my boy, is a huge hulk of a man with a glorious Boston mumble and enough testosterone to shame a gorilla. He had years ago been seriously romantically involved with the sweetie Diem. Shockingly, this didn’t work out. To no one’s surprise, romances and drunken episodes are part of the show’s DNA, but they’re definitely worth watching for yourself.
As this is the last elimination round for the guys, and the winning team is automatically safe, we could expect a Herculean effort from all the guys, except for Knight and Preston, who suck. The two are constantly referred to as the “layup” team, kept around hopefully till the final to make the other teams have an easier go of it. Knight looks like a former high school football star gone soft. Preston looks like… not a former football star at all.
The challenge this week was called “Rampage,” so named because two teams had to run back and forth across crisscrossing ramps and deposit balls from one side of the ramp to the other. The whole setup looked like a big X with the balls at one end and the goals at the other. Contact was not only allowed but also encouraged, as all players were outfitted with pads and helmets. Unfortunately, the teams realized that they could go faster and deposit more balls if they avoided contact and just ran.
That is not to say the challenge was without highlight. The first heat of Johnny/Frank versus Jordan/Marlon ended with both teams totally gassed out and Johnny throwing up in a spectacular fountain display. Also, keep an ear out for the music change during the Camilla/Jemmye versus Diem/Aneesa. The shift from heavy rock riff to twangy banjo perfectly sets the scene for the montage of the girls tripping, slamming into the ramps, and sliding down in hilarious failure. CT and Wes won for the guys and thus secured their spot in the epic finale that is to come.
Knight and Preston came in last.
At voting later that night Jordan and Marlon are voted into the elimination round to face Knight and Preston. This for no reason escalates into a huge fight between CT and Wes and Johnny. Unfortunately, if you punch someone, you are kicked off of these shows, as CT has found out on multiple occasions. So we are limited to shouting and some light pushing.
At the elimination the next night, Knight/Preston and Jordan/Marlon had to break their way out of a three-story structure including kicking down a locked door. Of course, Jordan and Marlon won. Though it did get a little tense when Jordan tried to break down the door cartoon-style by leaping into it without knocking the locks off. So Knight and Preston were sent home, vowing to keep their rivalry alive in the most 21st century way: by blocking each other on Twitter.
So we have our final three guys teams and only one more girls’ elimination before the finale. It’s going to get nasty. This episode is available on MTV.com, so get caught up. New episodes air Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. Or just watch online the next day like a normal person.