Truth be told, I'm a bit shook. The Coronavirus has ground the world to a halt. Entire nations have shut down. Sports have been suspended indefinitely. The president of the United States . . . well, he's still a moron. The point is this . . . .if things get better and you're reading this in the future, and you're wondering how we could have been this frightened . . . well, I would say we're entitled. Lots of people enjoy a movie about a plague making life a living hell for its characters, but you probably wouldn't want to be there. And that makes my final weeks at Reality News Online seem so small by comparison. But for the sake of providing context to my recaps, I'm go over it anyway.
To review: most of the recappers looked down upon me, especially my criticisms to the judgements of Donald Trump on The Apprentice. My chosen beat -- Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes 2 -- had been one stomp to the genitals after another, as the guys dominated for most of the season and the girls kept finding ways to self-destruct. Each recap I wrote went negative . . . and given that I've always been "glass-half-empty" in general, you can imagine how that was reflected in my writing.
A lot of what soured me on BOTS2 was the downfall of Mark Long. Looking back at the history of Road Rules, it would be a battle between him and Timmy Beggy as to which guy best represented the franchise. He finished with the most points of any player in Battle of the Sexes, even though he didn't "win" a mission outright. But somewhere between BOTS1 and BOTS2, he went awry. He got divorced, and he wound up showmancing (I know, term wasn't coined yet) with Robin. It wasn't on par with Brad fooling around with Britni in recent seasons, or Bear, period. He just became another asshole in a series of assholes, and he wasn't the paragon he used to be.
The other irritant was Eric Nies (different guy with two four-letter names; funny that my brain can make weird connections). Yeah, he was the himbo of the original season of The Real World way back in 1992, but he wasn't as awful as some of those that would follow. (*koff*Puck*koff*) For the most part, I was okay with him on BOTS1. But then he came back, and with that stupid jump rope. That stupid, stupid jump rope that he kept trying to pimp on the show. How bad was it? If an article was to be published within a few years of BOTS2 featuring the words "Eric Nies" and "asphyxiation," I would not have been that shocked.
Anyway . . . this is the penultimate episode, where I get mad yet again. Once again: this was early 2005. If I had known what would be coming in the next fifteen years, I probably would have tried to keep perspective.
Postscript to the prologue: If you're one of the recappers from back then, just know that I honestly believe you voted for Trump in 2016, and you'll do it again in November. And that pisses you off? Too bad. You made me out to be the bad guy. I might as well say whatever I want.
Episode Aired: January 17, 2005
Recap Posted: January 19, 2005 [I must have REALLY wanted to get the recap out of my system]
In their never-ending quest to dominate, the guys scheme to keep Arissa for the final mission. Seriously, just when you think this show can't get any lower, they dig a few more inches.
In the past few weeks, Reality News Online has asked readers to submit the best and worst of 2004 for the RNO Awards. A few days ago, I received the nominations for the "Worst Of" segment, and wouldn't you know it, there was nothing Challenge-related. I was banking on a few categories to be loaded with folks from the Challenge. I mean, contrary to what Andre 3000 might tell you, Veronica is the reason for the word "witch." I did learn a lesson: no matter how much I bellyache about my chosen beat, there are far worse shows and characters about there. I just have to remember that. But after this episode, perspective might be too slippery for me to grasp.
[Quick annotation: "Reason for the word 'witch' was lifted from "Roses" by Outkast. Here's the video; at 2:06, there's a picture of Irulan from RW:Las Vegas and The Gauntlet. You might remember her as Sarah's final opponent in the Gauntlet. I guess that I just wanted to be cute]
Previously on Battle of the Sexes 2: Arissa's fear of heights caused problems for her team. Cut to scenes from Sa-Wing, Pop Culture Bike Jump, and Semi-Cross. Don't ask me why they threw in Pop Culture Bike Jump, since she nailed that. The guys won Car-Go, upping their record to a ridiculous 13-2. Coral told Sophia that she didn't want to put herself at the mercy of two best friends with her and Ruthie. The women sent Ruthie home, while the guys let Brad go. Brad: "This was my game. I should have made it to the end." Eric: "We had to send somebody home. He's 20 years old. This is the first Challenge that he's on. And obviously, he should have played it a little bit better, because he shouldn't have allowed me to be a leader that day." What's worse than Eric wearing the jump rope around his head while saying all this? The fact that he's aware of how bad he stinks, and he's giving Brad grief about how he's still there. Theo interviews that Eric didn't deserve to be there, and it was time for him to bow out gracefully. What has Eric done in his life that can he considered graceful?
It's daytime at the Osaka Bistro, where the final four ladies have a meal. Tina gets the clue from the sponsor phone, which mentions that "this is the high point for this season." Anything can be higher than the valleys this season has chosen to dwell in. Arissa is not happy about the "high" implications. Sophia interviews that she's concerned about Arissa's physical performances. She adds that if Arissa makes the final team, they would have to pick up the slack,
Over at the Men's Lounge, Dan reads the clue, "high point" and all. Mark is excited and ready for action. He interviews that he made a pact with Eric to bring each other to the final three. He adds that both have stuff going on outside the Challenge (dodgeball and jump ropes, presumably), and that Dan and Theo have "earned their keep." The fellas debate about the mission. Theo thinks that if it's a loseable mission, Eric would lead. Mark wants to step up if he feels confident, and that "The Big E" would go home. Eric: "Do you really think that we're gonna get there tomorrow, and one of us is gonna go, 'Man, I really think we're gonna lose it'?" He has a good laugh, since kicking a team when they've been down for weeks is so funny. Eric interviews that Theo and Dan deserve to be in the final mission, and that he and Mark have fewer points. I don't get that, myself. I also don't get how a small white dog just walked in the background. Where did he come from?
It's a new day, and the kids have taken a trip to the exotic land of Albuquerque (motto: "We Bet You Can't Spell It Right The First Time!"). Today's mission involves beams jutting off the roof of a tall building. Jonny welcomes the kids, and there's a dude in a suit with him. But it's not just any dude; it's Martin Chavez, mayor of Albuquerque. Neat .. a mission mayor who's actually a mayor. Don't you have to go way back to the first season of Road Rules for that? Anyway, Mayor Chavez welcomes the players to the mission and his city. "This is going to be a knockout," he adds, "and will scare the bejeezus out of everybody." Here in New York, I don't think our mayor has ever said "bejeezus." Arissa reminds us that she thought that she was over her fear of heights, but she was wrong.
After commercials, we cut to the roof and the assembled players. Jonny congratulates everybody for making it this far, then welcomes them to today's mission: Vertigo. Jonny adds that they'll find out who's afraid of heights. We get a tight close-up of Arissa, as if we haven't been told she's scared of heights. Jonny lays down the rules: the players will walk out on the beams. At the end of each beam is a tiny pedestal. The team that stands on the pedestals the longest wins. He adds that he'll blow his air horn once to get everybody to the edge, then blow it again to start the mission. The winning team gets a furniture shopping spree,worth $3,500 per person. Jonny gives the team 30 minutes to pick leaders, and hammers all the implications on who would stay and who would be vulnerable. We get it, Jonny. Shut up.
On the men's side, Dan wants Mark and Theo to lead. He interviews that if they win, Eric should be the one to leave. Mark is good with this arrangement. On the women's side, Coral and Arissa step up. Arissa interviews that she wants to make things fair, and she would go home if they lose. After a meaningless shot of sponsor drinks, Theo thanks the guys for getting this far.
Jonny calls the leaders up, then tells them to get harnessed. The guys huddle up, as Mark tells the team that Arissa hasn't been good for her side, citing Semi-Cross as an example. Eric asks if they want Sophia or Arissa in the final team. Dan would rather have Arissa stay on.
We find that the event will be done in heats, as Arissa and Sophia go up against Dan and Theo. Jonny gives both sides two minutes to walk to the pedestals. Arissa is shaking already, as the others gingerly make their way tot the edge. Theo interviews that he's not doing well standing over the ledge. "Did you see the beams?" he adds. "Who made this? This is like Bob Villa's evil twin made these things!" Arissa barely makes it halfway before expressing her need to quit. Coral yells that she should at least try. Suddenly, Dan shakes and falls off, and Theo follows. Eric smirks on the sidelines. Coral interviews that this is a good thing, since Arissa would have fallen anyway. Jonny awards the first heat to the women, and they celebrate. Arissa can't believe she went out as far as she did. Theo spouts out a "Dang!" and tells Eric that he could have done better. Eric laughs and agrees, and Mark thinks that this wasn't Theo's day.
Second Heat: Coral & Tina vs. Eric & Mark. This time, all four players make it to the end. Mark falls off the pedestal, and Eric follows. Jonny ends the mission, giving the girls their victory. Coral dangles from her harness, yelling for somebody to pull her up. Tina yells about how she's getting couches. Arissa can't believe she won.
Jonny wraps the mission up, giving the win to the women. He goes over who the vulnerable players. Coral: "It won't be me, Jonny!" Let us take a moment to recognize how Coral can be a bitch and a veteran of four Challenges, and yet still remain in the game. If her team lost, Arissa would have gone home. I feel that Coral should teach in the Learning Annex, because she's that good at manipulation and not getting any comeuppance in the process. Anyway, she and Arissa celebrate their guaranteed berths in the final mission. Arissa interviews that nobody believed she'd make it past the first week. Sophia is not as thrilled. "My battle is not over yet," she tells her teammates. She interviews that it sucks for her and Tina to be in this position, and she hopes Coral and Arissa make the right choice.
On the van ride home, Sophia tells the others that she's exhausted her energy about being nervous. Tina says that there's no stopping her, and she would be upset if she were to go home. "All the girls know I'm a strong contender," she interviews. "The only fault against me is that they're intimidated by my intensity." Love yourself much, Tina?
The guys ride in the van. Dan goes over Arissa's shaking: "I'm like, 'Bleep that, I'm done before you!'" Eric and Mark have a good laugh. And now, it's time for Mark to reveal the big secret. "I really think we should all get Cable ACEs for this performance today," he smugly interviews. "I don't think the girls caught on one bit that we were throwing the mission." Cut to Eric and Mark laughing like goons. Dan tells us that the two oldsters thought up a scheme to keep Arissa in the game.
We flash back to earlier in the episode, where Eric wonders whether to keep Arissa or Sophia in the game. Mark decides that he will sacrifice himself to allow Arissa to stay. "No offense to Arissa," he interviews, "but Arissa physically is just not on a level as the rest of the team." Flashback to Arissa messing up on Sa-Wing and Semi-Cross. Mark goes on, saying that if Arissa stays on, it would stack the deck for the men. I think their deck is already stacked; the women have been beaten day in and day out, and I don't see the need to try and put frosting on an already delicious cake. He adds that he would rather set up a women's team less likely to win then stay on himself. Theo hugs Mark, saying that it was big of him. Mark tells them that they'd better win, or he'll kill them.
Now we get to watch Arissa struggle on the beam, followed by Dan and Theo flopping. Out of this whole fiasco, I'm the most disappointed in these two. Shouldn't they be above such crap? Mark smirks and winks to the camera. Man, I hate him. He prances around in front of Eric, saying that he can fly. In the second heat, the old-timers take their dives. Eric jokes about how Mark dropped twenty feet. Cut to Coral and Arissa celebrating, seemingly oblivious to the men's machinations.
Back in the van, Mark reminds us that he had won a final mission once before, but Eric had never gotten that far. So why didn't Mark sacrifice himself last week? Right... because Brad, Dan, and Theo would have kicked Eric out today. Seriously, what does Eric bring to the party other than the jump rope? Theo and Dan actually admire Mark for making his move. Theo interviews that he's sad to see Mark go. "But at the same time," he adds, "for him to just be completely selfless, and give up his opportunity? It's really cool, and that's what this whole thing is about to me." But Eric is still in the game! Weren't you the one that said Eric had to go last week? Once again, Mark says that he wouldn't have done it if he didn't think it would help. Eric interviews about how Mark is a "stand-up and honorable guy." Mark brings up how Tina was kept over Ruthie last week, and how she might go home today. Eric calls the women "morons." I'm not at a loss for words, but too many of them can't be printed here.
Speaking of the women, they arrive at their Lounge. "Those girls are screwed if I get voted off," Tina interviews. "They're not going to win the $60,000. If I go home, good luck to ya!" Sophia interviews that she doesn't know what will happen next, and that she always goes up against Tina. "If I lose to her," she adds, "I'll give it to her because you know what? I didn't lose to her because I suck."
Final Girls' Inner Circle. Arissa wants what's best for the team..Coral feels that both Tina and Sophia have performed equally well, but Sophia has the edge. How so? Turns out she has been doing puzzles her whole life. Yeah, so did Steve, but he got whupped by Trishelle in The Gauntlet. She would want Sophia in there, "even if it's a placebo effect." She adds that if there's a crossword puzzle, that wouldn't be for her. She's been there and done that.
Welcome to Elimination Hill. Jonny blathers on before calling Coral and Arissa up. Coral wastes no time in dropping the axe on Tina, bringing up Sophia's supposed puzzle prowess. Arissa adds that Tina is a "beast." I would have called her that almost two years ago, but I wouldn't have been as positive as Arissa. Tina hugs Coral and Arissa, then tries to see the bright side of the decision. Of course, she wants her team to win in the end. She interviews that she's upset, but Sophia is a "puzzle person," and she hopes there's a puzzle in the final mission.
Now Eric comes up to speak. Naturally, he's alone and he holds his precious jump rope. He talks about his alliance with Mark before dropping the hammer. Mark goes on about how he wouldn't want any other guys to go into the final mission, and he considers them brothers. Jonny dismisses the troops and congratulates the final six players.
Tina and Mark pack up. Tina says her farewells, gets into the cab and rides off into the night. "Those three girls worked their asses off to make it to the top three," Tina interviews. "I hope that they can win, for the sake of saying, 'Look, guys, chicks are just as strong as you'."
Outside, Mark gets escorted out by his teammates. He reminds them that he didn't sacrifice himself so they can lose. He interviews that he thinks the men will win the final mission "by a landslide." He enthuses about taking an electric guitar home with him. Dan then breaks out his air guitar moves. If I weren't so repulsed by the actions of this group, I'd find that funny. Mark: "I'm walking away from this almost as if we won already." Eric interviews that he has a good feeling he'll be calling Mark after the final mission. Mark rides away.
Am I looking forward to the finale? No. The women have made too many mistakes, both on the field and off. With every loss, they lost morale. Even though they would go into the final mission with no apparent disadvantages, they don't have the same bond as the guys. Seriously, did any of the boys get weepy or bow their heads when they got rid of one of their own? Right now, the women are running on fumes.
And yet, the women have to win this Challenge. The men are far too arrogant, far too full of themselves. Remember how Sarah was supposed to hold her team back at the end of The Gauntlet? Or Katie in The Inferno? How would Arissa be any different? I am disgusted that Mark would add insult to injury and "nobly" sacrifice himself, just so his best pal in the whole world can get $60,000. Seriously, the worst thing to come out of this Challenge is Mark Long's devolution from a semi-decent guy to just another camera-grubbing loser for me to pick on. Eric Nies has done little on this Challenge except to pimp his stupid jump ropes. And I am honestly dismayed that Theo and Dan went along with the plan. All I want now is for the women to win. Arissa can go off into the sunset and bash Steven to her heart's content. Sophia can pay for a shrink to help with the distress she went through. And Coral can not only hold a second title over Mike's head, she can also retire as a champ. It ain't much, but I can take it at this point. Oh, and Mark? The Cable ACEs were discontinued in 1997. Shut up, Dodgeball Boy.
Next time: How do the kids get to the final mission? Jonny directs a goon squad to "kidnap" them from their farewell dinner. Seriously, we need a new host. The kids prepare to skydive, which distresses Arissa to no end. The players run outside. Theo interviews that he's always worried about the women getting ahead, and that makes his team go harder. He also ends up chewing on a knot to untie it.
Postscript: Like I said, there will always be worst shows and moments from my current beat. And thanks to some messed-up donkey handling, Jonathan Baker and Victoria Fuller are out of The Amazing Race. While their elimination (at the hands of Phil Keoghan, who was close to bursting out into song) didn't disperse the clouds over my head, it did shine a bright light for me. Some days, the bad guys get theirs, and I hope that's the case next week.
Oh, right. Those two. If you never watched The Amazing Race, just know Jonathan was the absolute worst. Even with all the headcases, stuntcast teams and assholes from Big Brother that raced in future seasons, he left his mark upon us fans. A dark, stank mark.
Heading into the finale, I had heard that Sophia would be the final boot. Given how her season had gone, that would have been the appropriate ending for her. I like to think that Coral and Arissa decided to go into the final mission with the same template as the girls' team in BOTS1: lesbian (Ruthie/Sophia), bitch (Ellen/Coral), lucky to still be there (Lori/Arissa).
Tina never did get that first title. That was great with me; I feel history should look upon her as a discounted version of Coral. She returned in Inferno II and made it to the end, teaming with Rachel ad Veronica to make Tonya's life miserable, and I still feel that cost them in the end, She would come back two seasons later in Fresh Meat. Naturally, she would wind up partnered with a geninue asshole in Kenny Santucci. They would finish the season in second, behind winners Darrell & Aviv, ahead of Wes and the anchor around his ankles known as"Casey." Her final season was The Duel, where she was kicked off for hitting Beth. And in true Tina fashion, she barely got a piece on one of the most aggravating Challengers before her ejection. Her final appearance was in Cutthroat, where she was brought into the penultimate (I like using that word) Gulag to fight Theresa and Tori (Brad's then-wife) in Back Up Off Me. You might remember that as the game where CT made his return and turned Johnny Bananas into a friggin' backpack. Naturally, Tina lost both times; Tori advanced because she beat her quicker.
Mark never did get a third title to go with All-Star Challenge and BOTS1. Thinking about it, maybe throwing games randomly dooms players. Going into Survivor: Winners at War, Ozzy Lusth competed in four seasons, and he was in the game longer than the other than the four-timers (Cirie Fields, Rob Mariano, Rupert Boneham) . . . but I think he sealed his fate as a perennial also-ran in the second episode of Survivor: Cook Islands, when he convinced the other members of the Aitutaki tribe to throw an Immunity Challenge in order to vote out Billy Garcia.
Mark? Right, right . . . he would return in Gauntlet 2, making it to the end with the overmatched Veterans team, and got into a love triangle of sorts with Robin and Tonya. I think his peak moment that season was "I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS FUCKING BUS!" He also completed The Duel II, alongside Brad and Evan. But any hope he had of winning $100,000 disappeared when he arrived at a checkpoint to team with a female finalist, and the long wait for Aneesa to arrive screwed him. His final Challenge was Battle of the Exes, where he was teamed with Robin. It was there where he would face elimination for the very first time, as he and Robin lost to Johnny & Camila in the final Dome.
Ever now and then, I hear that Mark saying he could come back. I don't think he's delusional. The "Godfather" moniker? Different story, but I reckon he could hold his own against bucks half his age. But any time I think of him, I think of BOTS2, I think of him "nobly" stepping aside so that his buddy Eric could get a sure shot at $60,000 (the highest "Handsome Reward" at that point in Challenge history), and I get mad. And given current events, that is beyond stupid of me. Yeah, the throwing of the mission didn't set me off as the time Road Rules sought to screw Katie in Inferno (with Abram slamming a humiliating knife in her heart, followed by him twisting it with glee), but it was still done with a bit of glee that I just didn't like.
Two more recaps left. Then maybe I can start reposting some non-Challenge content from back in the day.