kyra: Boy am I stoked to have TJ Lavin back in my life. The Challenge has been well documented by David Jacoby of Grantland as America’s 5th professional sport. I love The Challenge, which combines the drama of The Real World with the insane physical activity of a World’s Strongest Man competition. What The Challenge has over Magnus Samuelson and Mariusz Pudzianowski though, are great characters. The show has done a brilliant job over the years creating heroes (ex: Darrell, Mark, Diem, Johnny Bananas) and villains (ex: Wes, CT, Knight, Coral) as they scheme and form alliances through competition after competition. This is their jobs–go to exotic locales, get fucked up, do crazy shit, and try in vain to eliminate CT because everyone hates him. How fuckin old are some of these guys by now? Amazing they keep coming back. This might not be a show I recap on a weekly basis, but I am excited to check in all season with my favorite band of alcohol-fueled meatheads and sexpots. I am also excited to introduce our first of what I hope are many other contributors here at Room Eleven. Our buddy Toosh is also a big fan of the show, and is going to join us along for the ride. Toosh–welcome.
Toosh: Thanks, Kyra. Like all of the rookies who will be voted out during the first few episodes, I’m just happy to be here. Let me first start off by applauding Bunim/Murray on a fantastic selection to bring back the “Rivals” format for this season. While there are some competitors who are paired up for obvious reasons (watch Wes and CT argue for literally the ENTIRE night, culminating in a mattress being thrown into the pool), MTV attempts to create absurd reasons why others are paired. Exhibit A: Ty and Leroy apparently have beef because Ty “smoked Leroy at a previous challenge.” Does anyone really buy this? Exhibit B: Johnny Bananas and Frank have never been in the same room before, but decided to start a Twitter feud once they heard about the format so that neither of them would be stuck with Preston as their partner. I know it’s early in the show to start making predictions, but at this point I’m thinking Johnny/Frank will win for the guys and the towering presence of Emily will be way too much for the girls to handle (Paula really lucked out on this one). Would you agree, Kyra?
kyra: Emily, like every girl on the competition, is crazy. It probably stems from growing up in a Christian fundamentalist cult. Fortunately for Paula, she’s channeling that crazy into a way that can help make her “rich.” I love how the show tries to convince us these guys are competing for a “life changing amount of money” when in reality it’s just over $60k apiece to the winners. Hardly quit-your-job worthy (although who knows if any of these people have actual jobs). Anyways, I think you make an astute observation about Johnny and Frank. Johnny is a vet who’s proven time and time again that no one plays the game better. Meanwhile, Frank had a brilliant run last year manipulating his way to the title. It definitely wouldn’t surprise me to hear they orchestrated the whole feud just to get paired together. As for the other favorites? Although he’s never won, I’ll never discount CT’s team because in order to leave the competition before the final you have to eliminate him in a duel, which is next to impossible. However, his chain-smoking also stops him from being great in the finale, which is always a serious test of endurance. I also think the winners of the first challenge, Zach and Trey, stand a chance because Zach is probably the best athlete in the competition (although Marlon is a former Texas Tech linebacker, he’s a rookie so fuck him).
Let’s talk about the biggest story of the first episode: the twist. CT spends what seems like hours slowly trying to convince everyone that Johnny/Frank should get thrown into The Jungle, only to have it blow up in his face when the competitors learn that only the girls will decide their fate. THE GAME DONE GOT DIRTY.
Toosh: Have to say, Kyra, I was disappointed to see that everyone (not just the winners of that day’s challenge) was getting a chance to vote and we would once again see groupthink take over, but then the curveball of all curveballs was revealed. I LOVE this idea, and have a few takeaways from this unforeseen turn of events:
1. Once CT and his alliance looked as if they would rally the others to vote for Johnny/Frank, I’m convinced that the producers stepped in to prevent the self-proclaimed ‘Challenge King’ from leaving the show in episode 1.
2. What an incredible way to induce everyone on the show to sleep with each other for votes. In the words of CT, “I had no idea flirting with all the girls in the house would pay off.”
3. Hilarious reaction by Frank and Preston (both gay)–“We got the harder end of that stick.” Yes you did, Frank. Yes you did.
kyra: Well said, Toosh. Well said. Might I add that I laugh considerably every year when they say this is the “hardest challenge yet” and the “dirtiest challenge yet” without fail. It looks like we’re headed that way again.
Moving on to the competitions of the day, I didn’t mind the jumping-into-the-other’s-arms concept (rivals who need to hug, I get it), but I thought the bit was filmed horribly. I would’ve simply liked to watch still shots of them jumping, but the director felt the need to change camera angles every two seconds and go to commercial every 5 seconds (blame MTV). As a result, you basically couldn’t tell who was doing well until people hit the water. Zach and Trey won for the guys, which from the instant replay looked like credit should be given mostly to Zach for holding onto Trey’s midget body as he was falling down. Obviously Paula and Emily won for the girls. I presume I’ll be saying that a lot this season.
As for The Jungle, I thought this was incredibly lame. Each round probably took a grand total of 5-10 seconds to complete //yawn//. When people go into a duel, I want to see brute strength and endurance. I’m talking CT carrying Johnny like a rag doll. These should be the competitors at their most animalistic, base, state. It’s win or go home, and what happens when you corner an animal in the wild? They get unleashed. I was missing that from The Jungle this week. What did you think Toosh?
Toosh: I was not impressed with the challenges we saw this week. This week’s immunity challenge “Game of Inches” (Al Pacino’s favorite challenge I might add) came as no surprise to any of us. The competitors were asked to run/jump/hopscotch while suspended 100 feet in the air for the umpteenth time, an idea that was exhausted about 5 seasons ago. I must say I felt pretty comfortable fast forwarding through this part until we heard who the winners are. For the elimination challenge between Tyrie/Dunbar and Derek/Robb, they essentially played a game of 2-on-2 football with bells to ring on opposite sides instead of end zones. Maybe it was the lack of enthusiasm I had for both teams who were sent into the “jungle,” but I feel as though these elimination battles used to be much more exciting. Let’s provide them with more opportunities for insanity like this. Or this (skip to 4:45). Hell, bring back the merry-go-round!
kyra: Let’s be honest, any elimination battle with CT is one worth watching. Finally, let’s conclude with a number of great quotes from week one:
“CT legitimately scares me to death.” -Wes (but really everyone)
“I’m paired with the spawn of Satan.” -Johnny Bananas (I’m convinced the producers told all the competitors to say they hated their partners in interviews regardless of whether they have any feelings at all)
“Good people in this game do not get far.” -Jonna
“All is fair in love, war, and challenges.” -Johnny