Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Battle Lines: Real World/Road Rules Battle of the Sexes 2 Preview

Sorry I haven't been posting. I've been busy with work, as well as sinus surgery. My nose is packed with gauze right now, and it is not comfortable. Also, I went to New York for an event chock full of Challengers . . . and I didn't mingle much. I mean, the podcast with Derrick and his friend shooting the shit with Mark, Emily (the fitness one, not the "Bloody Axe" one) and Darrell. But the main event was crowded, and I wasn't feeling it. Once again, I hate myself for being a wuss. I mean, I like Derrick these days, but I would've inevitably brought up this blog, and it might have been awkward as hell. "So . . . any regrets murdering that table at the end of Gauntlet 2?" Maybe I think too hard about such things.

Anyway, this article (written before MTV's preseason special) was posted on October 5, 2004

It's Challenge time! Thirty-six former members of The Real World and Road Rules gear up for money and fame. Jason lets you know what to expect.

Welcome back my friends to this show that never ends ... at least as long as the sponsor money holds up. Once again, MTV and Bunim-Murray Productions (BMP) is bringing to you, whether you want it or not, The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

The Theme

We're back to an old concept: the Battle of the Sexes. Some fans might remember the original Sexes season, which aired in early 2003. I think it's never a good idea. It's not that men are better than women overall, but the women on these shows never come off well. Don't believe me?

Battle of the Sexes: While the men's team managed to vote out their lowest scorers from their ranks with minimal drama, the women didn't stick to that plan. Emily managed to convince her Inner Circle members to vote out strong females Rachel and Veronica. Emily eventually left the show after her boyfriend was voted off the men's team, thus taking away any chance the women's team had of winning the final mission.

Survivor: The Amazon: The men's tribe (Tambaqui) set up camp with little difficulty. The female group (Jabaru) struggles in the early going. After a tribal swap and two councils, the men outnumbered the women 6-4 heading into the first individual immunity challenge… where Jenna and Heidi volunteered to take off their clothes for chocolate and peanut butter. In the final episode, Jenna was the last female standing, but ended up winning the title of Sole Survivor, much to the chagrin of viewers.

The Apprentice: The all-female Protege group opened with four straight victories, halving the hapless males of Versacorp. Once the groups mixed, seven of the next eight candidates that got fired were women. The last lady left, Amy Henry, failed to impress Donald Trump's executives, and she was subsequently fired.

The Apprentice: Season Two: Two words: Stacie J. Thanks to one isolated incident with a Magic 8 Ball, Stacie was targeted by her fellow Apex members. In scapegoating reminiscent of Road Rules' treatment of Sarah (The Gauntlet) and Katie (The Inferno), the ladies convinced Trump that Stacie was out of her gourd, and she was shown the door.

My guess is that the endgame situation (Gauntlet and Inferno) were deemed obsolete, since women were shoved in most of the time. Also, both Survivor and The Apprentice started off with male/female competition this season. Personally, I think Mark Burnett should be checking for moles within his company.

The Process

Happily, the inner circles are a thing of the past. Since MTV.com didn't list the official rules on their web site, I don't feel right in telling you what I heard. But I will say this: if the rumors of "leaders and followers" are true, then we might have found the best elimination process since the Gauntlet. Or it could reek something fierce. With BMP, it's usually one or the other. The main goal is probably the same as the first BOTS: each team starts with 18 players. After each round of competition, both sides lose one member. In the end, each side will have three members, and they will play for a grand prize.

The Host

Jonny Moseley returns for his third Challenge. While the one-time moguls gold medalist cannot rate amongst hosts such as Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan, Jonny does exude a vacuous charm that fits just right for this show. Also, Dave Mirra was practically a big-time zero in the hosting department during Inferno, so Jonny's comeback works for me.

The Players

Some are old-school, while others are from the most recent season. Some are rookies at Challenges, while others are seasoned veterans. Some players I will support and coddle, and some players will be targets from the first minute. I'll go into detail in future articles, but I'll give you the names and seasons right now.

Real World Guys: Eric (New York); Mike (Back to New York; Frank and Steven (Las Vegas); Ace and Adam (Paris); Brad, Jacquese and Randy (San Diego)

Road Rules Guys: Mark (Season One); Dan (Northern Trail); Shawn (Semester at Sea); Theo (Maximum Velocity Tour); Shane (Campus Crawl); Abram and Chris (South Pacific); Derrick and Nick (X-Treme)

Real World Girls: Cynthia (Miami); Genesis (Boston); Ruthie (Hawaii); Coral (Back to New York); Aneesa and Tonya (Chicago); Arissa (Las Vegas); Cameran and Robin (San Diego)

Road Rules Girls: Ayanna and Veronica (Semester at Sea); Katie and Sophia (The Quest); Rachel (Campus Crawl); Tina (South Pacific); Angela, Ibis and Kina (X-Treme)

What to Expect

I got wind of a few early spoilers, but I won't ruin them here. Basically, the stuff here is just guessing. Feel free to rub them in my face in case I screw up.

  • Mike will hook up with a girl… again… running his streak to four.
  • I'll probably be humming the theme song by the fourth week. I liked Yellowcard's "Miles Apart," and I actually sought out their video for "Way Away," which they played during Wreck & Roll last season.
  • Katie will stink things up, then rip into whoever calls her out. Sure, she literally kissed and made up with Veronica on MTV's reality awards show, but do you honestly believe those two will ever be at peace?
  • Coral will probably be gone by mid-season, but not before targeting some hapless bozo who needs her special kind of tough love.
  • Ruthie and Mark will have a tougher experience this time around. One of them will be gone in the end.
  • Theo and Ayanna will make your head hurt in their interviews, but in a good way.
  • At least three women will gun for Veronica. Unlike the unholy trinity of Emily, Anne and Christina, I'll be rooting this faction on.
  • Once again, Tonya's body will fall apart at the wrong time, and she'll have to go home.
  • The final rosters? For the men: Brad (the aggressive newbie), Dan (the end-all be-all Roadie), and Theo (the unquestioned leader). For the women: Ayanna (wild guess), Kina (another wild guess), and Ruthie (keeping her reputation as Superwoman). In the end, the men will once again come out on top.

He Says/She Says: Battle For The Battle Of The Sexes will air this Monday night, October 4, at 10 p.m. on MTV. The first episode of Battle of the Sexes 2 airs October 11, also at 10 p.m.

Let's look at those predictions!

  • There wasn't evidence of a hookup. Maybe Mike got tired of them after Kendall in The Inferno.
  • "Come Out Fighting" was good, but not that great. Hey, at least we had credits back then, even if it was mostly green screen.
  •  Those two were a nonfactor. Veronica and Rachel were not the heinous hose beasts they were in The Gauntlet. I was shocked by that.
  • Coral wound up going the distance. Who else has completed three straight seasons? Has Johnny ever done that?
  • Wow, I mostly nailed this one. Ruthie's story was a painful march compared to BOTS1. I don't think Mark had any ordeals beyond his dating life, but he did bow out near the end, allowing his buddy Eric to basically win $60,000. Is it silly that it's 2018, and I still haven't forgiven him for that?
  • Theo got his share of awesome lines. Ayanna had the one outburst.
  • Were there any alliances? Maybe that's one of the unsaid reasons why BMP went back to endgames . . . lack of scheming.
  • Actually, Tonya went further here than her first two stints. Sadly, her mind was stuck in her RW: Chicago days, in the sense where she was erratic as hell.
  • Hey, I got a third of that right! Shit, I was too into the idea of Ruthie fulfilling her destiny as a Challenge champion.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Once Upon A Time In Santa Fe

I feel the need to apologize for waiting this long to start posting my recaps from Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle Of The Sexes 2. In a small miracle, I obtained a temp position, and I haven't given myself much free time to write. Also, I had wanted to talk about my last few months on Reality News Online, how I felt that I was singled out, that I never meant to piss anyone off, and all other stuff. But does anyone reading this care? At all??

I promise: if there ever comes a time where I am forced to "serve tea," I will. While I feel that I am capable of hurting people's feelings, I never try to do that if I can help it. The other recaps figured I would wake up, have breakfast, then express total lunacy as opinion. I know that I'm probably biased, but I felt the others were elitist jerks that thought Television Without Pity (the place where I posted often and wanted to recap for) was beneath them. Also, I'm thinking most of them were not only in the tank for Donald Trump as he ran roughshod on The Apprentice, they probably voted for him twelve years later. On purpose.

So, basically, I wound up getting cut loose for slow writing time (I wanted to get as much detail as I could), contrary opinions (I remember at least one case of "Jesus Christ, I agree with Jason," which still stings a little), and negative recaps. My defense on that last one is that if they had to watch and write about Eric Nies every damn week, they'd be negative as well.

Here's what I figured what was happening at Bunim-Murray Productions: The Inferno probably did not receive favorable feedback, especially with their elimination games. But instead of trying to improve the format in the next season, it would be junked altogether. Battle Of The Sexes was probably popular enough to warrant another edition, but the leaderboard format (also used in 2002's Battle Of The Seasons) was only exciting when teams did not vote off somebody who was at the very bottom (e.g., Rachel, Veronica). A new twist was needed.

On paper, the format seemed logical. Teams would select three captains going into a mission. If the team won, the captains would get together to vote off one of the other players on their team. A loss meant that the captains themselves would be up for elimination. In retrospect, the lack of endgames led to players getting voted off without getting a chance to stay in the game . . . something that made Gauntlet and Inferno more appealing, as well as giving us unlikely heroes in Sarah and Katie, respectively.

What would ultimately be BOTS2's undoing was the lopsided results. The only other season that would prove to be more painful to watch was The Ruins, where a team of past champions continuously throttled players looking for their first title. I think that would be held worse that BOTS2 because three of the bigger scumbags of that era (Evan Starkman, Johm "Johnny Bananas" Devenanzio, Kenny Santucci) wound up winning, and two of them (Evan and Kenny) would later be accused of molesting Tonya in her sleep, which just added to the overall suck of Ruins. But if you think about it, there's never been a "perfect" season from this series. Back in 2004, BOTS2 was far from perfect.

There was also the situation with Sophia Pasquis, who had originally appeared in Road Rules: The Quest, and who had the distinction of being the first openly gay cast member in the history of the series. (I have to say "openly" because there were a lot of question marks out there. Lookin' at you, James and Theo.) In the span of four seasons, Sophia would be the third person I had made contact with in some form. I did not get to correspond with her like I had Melissa and Sarah, but I had interviewed her in 2001 (which you can read). In my mind, she was pretty cool, at least compared to her female castmates; Ellen was a bitch, Jisela was a waste of a slot, and Katie was just "meh" in general (this was before we discovered her temper and indestructible liver). If current Challenge mainstays are correct about the existence of "Challenge Gods," those deities decided to make it hard to watch Sophia. Don't get me wrong . . . she was all right, but there were a few times where she broke down, and it was so rough to watch. And like Melissa and Sarah, she would be in all of the episodes (remember, Melissa popped up in the BOTS1 finale) . . . but I wondered about the toll on her sanity. And that took a toll on mine. Well, a little more than usual, anyway.

Seriously, so many things went sideways on us. Tonya snapping back to more of a "wild card" personality, newly-divorced Mark diving into the dating pool, Steven Hill in general, the girls' team not picking Angela to go home (this was coming off Road Rules: X-Treme, where she was not warmly received) . . . and an ending where you hated the winning team. Well, maybe not Dan Setzler. Sure, he helped his veteran teammates screw over Brad (then a rookie, that's how long ago BOTS2) took place), but he always seemed like a nice guy.

Then there was Eric Nies . . . or as I took to calling him from that season forward, "Eric Fucking Nies." (I also bitched about "Marky Mark" and "Dodgeball Boy"; the latter coming from Mark appearing on GSN's Extreme Dodgeball) I knew that he had been a pain in the ass in the past, but he seemed nice in BOTS1. In BOTS2? Total pain in the ass. Worse, he used most of the season to promote his jump rope, and that was painful to watch as well. He wound up with a share of $180,000 (the largest "Handsome Reward" at that time), I wound up losing respect for him.

Without further ado, here comes the very depths of my negativity, circa late 2004. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Montezuma's Revenge: Inside the Inferno

I know that this recap was long overdue for reposting. I just get into periods where I lose interest in putting up my older seasons. Aside from trying to find ongoing work and watching Vendettas, I haven't been doing much. Once again, I miss the straight-forward nature of The Challenge back when I was recapping it. One bright side is that Devin (assisted by Tony) successfully bounced Johnny from the game. Of course, Mr. Bananas did not take that well at all. It would have been better if Devin wasn't such a tool himself. The next batch of recaps will pose an interesting question: as bad as the current edition plays out, is it anywhere near as bad as Battle Of The Sexes 2? I cannot wait to reopen those wounds!

Airdate: May 31, 2004
Recap Published: June 4, 2004

The surviving cast members of Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno spill their guts. Who got freaky? What did Julie do to Coral's bed? And because nobody demanded it: a Road Rules preview.
Before I finish out this train wreck of a season, I want to congratulate Kelley Limp. The one-time Real World and Battle of the Seasons cast member married actor Scott Wolf this past weekend. While I paid more attention to the likes of Melissa and David during her season, I grew to like Kelley. On her sole Challenge, she and best friend Danny kicked ass, making it to the final round and winning the grand prize. I just hope that if she has kids, they'll have better bladder control than Julie. I'll get to that in a minute.

Opening credits: Katie screams at Veronica. Shane pukes himself off the show. Jeremy sticks his head in the Bug Helmet. Julie tugs on Veronica's harness. Rotten eggs get dumped on David. The title: Montezuma's Revenge: Inside the Inferno. Does that mean I'll lock myself in the bathroom before the first commercial?

We're at MTV headquarters on Broadway, with an actual audience. I tried to make it, but I didn't get an invite. Then again, with all the bad stuff I've written in the past three months, maybe it's for the best. Out host is the VJ known as Lala. Make your own Teletubbies joke. Our guests are the twelve remaining players: Mike, Coral, Syrus, CT, and everybody from the Road Rules team except for Shane and Jeremy. Lala thinks that RR winning again is ridiculous. Boy, there's an insight. Everybody talks at once. Lala asks why RR is so unstoppable. "Every time I see Mike," Darrell says, "I rise to the occasion a little bit to whup his ass once again." I'm sorry... how many "win or go home" games did you play, Darrell? He adds that the RR folks are used to traveling and competing, while RW people argue with each other. Christena feels like RR are the underdogs, and they have to overcompensate. Timmy picks up a basket and starts a collection for RW. I like you Timmy, but please... go to bed. Seriously, go to bed already. Mike insists that RR got lucky twice in a row. He adds, "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while!" Syrus thinks that RW chills in a mansion, while RR is used to sleeping in a Winnebago.

Lala decides to move onto the sexy stuff. Clips time! Mike play-wrestles with Kendal. She interviews that she can't think about him without blushing. Now Mike's on the phone, discovering that Trishelle is spreading rumors about the new couple. Cut to earlier in the season, where Trishelle tells Mike that she doesn't enjoy watching him kiss other people. Slow-motion shot of Mike and Kendal kissing. Mike: "I can't help it if a girl likes me and I like her."

Back at the studio, Lala asks for an update. Timmy asks what they'll do with the baby. Pipe down, Timmy. Kendal tells us that she and Mike are better off as friends. That wouldn't happen to do with Mike's drunken tirade during Kendal's Inferno, would it? Lala asks about Trishelle ratting Mike out to his friend. Mike informs us that when Trishelle got home from the Inferno, she started rumors about Mike and Kendal doing stuff they weren't doing at the time. The audience laughs as Mike continues: a friend of his who Kendal was barely seeing got pissed off hearing the story. I'm guessing this was before Trishelle got host-slapped by Sally Jesse Raphael. [2018: Link to the final of The Surreal Life 2. Also, once again, I would not wish Sally Jesse on a lot of assholes, and Trishelle was one of them]

Lala brings up Mike dancing with Christena at the club. "Mike was trying to dip into the chocolate," Christena beams. Oh, whatever. Lala tells Mike it wouldn't be a bad idea. It would be with Christena in my opinion. Seriously, I hate her so much now. Christena says that Trishelle threatened to punch her. Mike adds that Trishelle was crying in the bathroom about how much she loved him. I'm guessing that true love involves kissing five guys in front of your ex. Katie lunges, covering Mike's mouth, saying that she doesn't wanted anybody talking about Trishelle since she's not here to defend herself. Katie, I've grown to like you over the past few months. Do yourself a favor: move away from Trishelle. If I had to be in the same apartment as Trishelle and her hook-up du jour (currently the odious Adam Larson, last I checked), I'd be as irritable as Katie. I'm sure there's another BMP alumnus who needs to split the rent with somebody.

Lala moves on to the Coral/Trishelle rivalry. Cut to the club, where Coral doesn't want Trishelle to touch her. Trishelle threatens to beat Coral's ass. Coral interviews that Trishelle causes her own drama. Coral asks Trishelle what she should have done, and Trishelle thinks Coral should have kept her mouth shut. Good luck with that. Trishelle: "I'm not going to let her walk all over me and intimidate the [bleep] after me." Suddenly, we segue to Coral vs. Julie, which is the Challenge equivalent to "Shoe vs. Ant." Julie tells Syrus that she's not willing to let Coral run things. Coral: "Do I not want to see Julie's big ugly face everyday? No, I'd rather not." Julie tells Coral to keep her mouth shut, which angers Coral. Julie calls out Coral to wrestle her. You can guess what happens next. "I don't wrestle!" Coral blurts out. "I [bleepin'] beat bitches up!"

Lala points out that drama always goes on around Coral. She replies that she only hates four people, listing Trishelle, Julie, and Slappy Stephen from RW: Seattle. Syrus asks who the fourth person is. Coral replies that she reserves the right to put somebody in there. Basically, it's an irritant to be named later. I reckon she's a lady after my cold heart. Lala asks everybody why it's hard to get along with Julie. Coral says that she hates Julie's ass. "I don't have to like everybody," Coral adds, "and everybody doesn't have to like me."

Lala introduces a new clip, much to Coral and Katie's excitement. Leah tells Coral that Julie was huffing about doing something really bad. David: "She definitely peed on your bed." Several shots of the gang trying to figure out Julie's technique. Cut to Julie telling us she pissed on Coral's bed. Coral tells Timmy, and they both laugh. Timmy: "See what happens when you don't wrestle people?" This is a clip that has to be shown to Frankie. Girl, this is what you're life is gonna be if you don't shape up.

Back in the studio, Lala asks if the cast dislikes Julie. Most of them disagree, and Coral insists it's just her. Veronica pipes up, saying that Julie almost killed her. Syrus comes in to defend Julie, saying she did a lot of growing up on TV. But he draws the line at the pissing.

Lala goes to commercial, teasing us with never-before-seen footage of Inferno and the new Road Rules season. I feel like the luckiest boy in the land. Not. We get a clip of two girls puking, and one guy throwing a fit about a mission.

Back from commercials, Lala says that RR won the cash, but there was some "serious sneakiness" going down. We start with a "Katie sucks" montage: she gets disqualified from Grope the Rope, gags on bird feed and worms during Birdfeeder, balks at doing Climbing Wall, and freaks out during Bungee Bound. Veronica interviews that Katie is holding the team back. Once again: they ended up winning all by four missions, so I'm not being the least bit sympathetic. Cut to Balcony Swing, where RR sought to give Veronica the Aztec Lifesaver in order to shove Katie into the Inferno. Abram carries on as he rappels down, humiliating Katie. She wins the Inferno, but Veronica sends her in again.

The audience bursts into applause. In my world, intense booing would have shoved Veronica out of the building entirely. Lala asks Katie about RR's backstabbing ways. She claims to have been wise to their plans, thanks to Mike, Syrus and CT. Abram doesn't buy it, but Mike confirms it. Katie says that she pretended not to know about the machinations. Lala asks Abram if he felt bad about lying to her. Abram claims to have been pushed into throwing the missions, and he says this with a straight face. I add "pathological liar" to his ever-expanding profile. CT wonders why they wanted to dump Katie if they kept winning missions. Thank you! Abram insists he didn't want to "fight the world" on this Challenge. Did he "fight the world" before or after the threesome with Veronica and Rachel during The Gauntlet? "I thought that people were too stupid to know what the [bleep] was going on," Abram continues. "I went and threw the [bleeping] missions, and it pissed me the hell off!" The audience breaks into applause, and I honestly hope they got paid for doing that. How can anybody watch this show and think Abram was being honest? He tells Katie that he didn't want to be secretive about it. Wait, wasn't he the one wearing Mike's Miz gear, lying to her face about not throwing Balcony Swing? Christena: "So you laughed in her face." Shut up, Christe-... wait, she's right. Abram yells that he was pissed at throwing the mission. Christena says that he made jokes about it, and insists Katie didn't care about it.

Lala asks Katie if she's over it. Katie answers that she thought she was over it. Lala asks Veronica what's up between her and Katie. Veronica: "Between who?" Coral: "You and the Lord." Lala asks again. Veronica: "There is no deal." Segue to clips. Veronica: "As long as I'm here, I don't want her on my team." Katie: "Screw a few more cast members, slut!" I really need that on a t-shirt. Of course, we get Katie's raging against Veronica one more time.

The audience cheers again, and I cannot blame them this time. Veronica notes that things aren't cool between her and Katie. Katie doesn't want to discuss it. Lala snipes that she has to do a show, telling them not to front like they like each other. Whatever, Lala. The feuding ladies insist they're being honest. Lala wants to know if Veronica was the mastermind behind the dumped missions. "If you want to make it so it was me that wanted to," Veronica replies, "then go ahead. But I don't think so."

Lala turns to Kendal about how she botched a thrown mission. Kendal says that nobody let her in on the plan. Lala then asks Timmy why he was afraid of going into the Inferno. Since he's a veteran reality star, Timmy dodges the question gracefully, saying that he volunteered for the first Inferno. "I would've been afraid to go up again David, for sure," he continues, talking about his would-be opponent. "David brought his C-game. I know he's got an A-game in here."

Lala turns on RW, bringing up their mission drama. Cut to clips of CT wanting to throw Leah into the Inferno. No word on how afraid Timmy would have been to have faced her. CT snipes at Leah to step up in the Inferno. To her credit, she doesn't lodge a brick in CT's ear.

Lala asks CT if he feels bad about how upset she got. He claims to have gotten mad at her insisting she deserved to be there as much as the others. "If she deserved to be there," he adds, "then I deserve a larger car." In my opinion, a doctor's note trumps everything. Leah would have taken part in the two missions she missed, so CT can shut up. Lala mentions that CT's actions got Darrell in trouble with Leah, and she asks what's going on between them. Darrell says that she's still friends with Leah. "Like they say," he continues, "what happens in Acapulco stays in Acapulco." Christena: "Unless you're being filmed." Timmy: "Unless you need a prescription to get rid of it!" Katie thinks that cast members will realize hook-ups on shows won't work. Once again: since she's near Trishelle, she would know about that.

Lala teases us with the promise of new clips, and new RR footage. Right now, we got a dune buggy flipping over. Joy.

Back from commercials, Lala tells us that with seasons of Real World, unseen footage would make it on tape. But here, this is the only place to see unaired Inferno material. Am I the only one who thinks they could be a market for Challenge DVDs? Challenge 2000 would move quickly, with Heather sitting on Teck and chastising him, the Los/Piggy fights, Amaya clotheslining Veronica in a flag football game, David running after a cow as he tries to kiss it, and Amaya running from a midget wrestler. Good times. Better that the times we get nowadays.

David tells us that CT spoons Julie and calls her, "my lil Stormin' Mormon." CT tells David that he shaved in a certain place, and he's getting a rash. Abram and Mike wrestle. Coral lies in bed, asking if we want to see her boobs. I got enough of them under tops, thank you very much. In the pool, the girls get on top of the guys' shoulders, and Coral's boobs come out. Syrus flicks food at Coral, trying to get it between her boobs. On the boat, Darrell wears the wig and teeth, telling us he's Adam from RW: Paris. That's mean. Funny, but mean. Darrell jumps on top of Leah, and she's grossed out by the teeth. Julie squirts a drink at Jeremy. I'm happy it's just a drink. At the club, David enjoys Veronica grinding on his leg. Between this and CT spooning Julie, I'm guessing playoff stress does weird things to Red Sox fans. At the Kendal/Leah Inferno, Abram calls somebody a whore, flipping the bird. Holly tells him to shut up. He continues to act like an ass. Abram: "[Bleep] you, [bleep] you!" Coral: "We saw already, Abram!” [2018: Road Rules: South Pacific episode dealing with aftermath of Abram beating up Donell]

Katie tells us the rumor about the house being haunted. She tells members of Yellowcard about it, but CT denies it. Timmy pours beer into his sneaker. He drinks from it, staggers around, and falls into a kiddie pool. During Birdfeeder, David complains that he has to go to the bathroom again. Coral tells him to go in the chicken suit. CT brags about seeing Coral’s nipples.

The crowd applauds, since everybody loves Coral’s breasts. Lala asks her if that’s her favorite body part. She they moves to Veronica, asks her about the deal with David. She insists that the clip was all that happened between them. Moving on to the ghost story, several of the players inists the phantom was real. Holly tells the story: she met a girl who grew up in Mexico City, and who spent summers in Acapulco. Apparently, two women were murdered in the house. Christena says she saw the ghost, but nobody believed her.

Lala asks Abram about his rant. He breaks out into the most incoherent rambling this side of Jerri Manthey. “It’s a show that’s meant to bring out the worst in people and, at the same time, the best. It was hard for me to deal with watching such deviousness, such hatred, such lies, everything. Just the entire situation was really hard to deal with, because everything was based to selfishness, greed and trying to [bleep] each other over. It was really hard to live for an entire month with everyone that I live with. Even Timmy, a good guy, I couldn’t trust him, because it would be stupid to trust people on the show.” If this came from Katie, I would understand. But right now? Shut up, Abram. Christena thinks that the game makes players blame themselves. Coral: “The game can’t make you anymore of a liar than you were before you got there.” Bless you, Sister Coral.

Now it’s time for Lala to pimp Road Rules: X-Treme. We start with a guy driving the RV. Players rappel under a waterfall. We meet Patrick, who hails from Park Ridge, IL. Cut to a clip of him puking. “I’m a lustful person,” he interviews. “Whenever I see girls, I see their ass.” The sad thing is that he probably has lots of girlfriends. Next is Ibis, who is from Florida. Cut to her going in a tandem bungee. She interviews about being emotional, but she tires to keep it to herself. Cut to her sobbing a little.

One of the boys has the other in a wrestling hold. Now we meet Derrick, 20, from Chicago. “If someone challenge me,” he interviews, “I’m gonna give it my all.” He argues with one of the females. “I say thing people are afraid to say.” I bet he’s a charmer. One of the girls: “Uneducated, ignorant, [bleeping] [a-hole]!” This is Kina, 18, from South Jersey. She quits during a flying mission. She interviews that she likes new experiences.

Now we meet Jodi, 22, from Richmond, VA. She has a “J” on her top, so I’m guessing she’s supposed to be Laverne 2K4. She talks about getting into a threesome. Back at the studio, you just know Veronica is writing a letter to the producers, begging them to let Jodi on the next Challenge. We see footage of a guy yelling at somebody off-camera while carrying a girl on his shoulders. I’m guessing this is Danny from Hillside, NJ. Cut to him gagging on something. Danny is the gay guy from this season, as he complains about somebody telling him “thanks” after he expressed affection. “If I say ‘I love you,’” he adds, “I expect to hear it back.” I’m sorry, but I’ve already seen one gay Danny, and this kid will not measure up.

Footage! Running from an explosion. Holding onto a pole over a river. The camera zooms out to show what appears to be a volcano. Players bungee over mountains. Attack dog training. Jumping into inner tubes. We go back to the driving footage, when a tree falls on the hood of the car. That’s not a good sign. “Road Rules: X-Treme: So bad, even the trees want to hurt them.”

The studio audience applauds, and I question their intelligence. Lala asks the players what they think of their potential teammates. Of course, everybody talks at once, and they seem happy. After the train wreck known as South Pacific, anything would be an improvement. Abram thinks they’ll do awesome. Coral is hoping for another Battle of the Sexes, since being on the RW team isn’t working for her. Syrus: “Where the brothers at on Road Rules?” Thank you! Darrell adds that all the black Challengers made it to the end of Inferno. “We like a horror clip,” he adds, “we be the first ones to go!”

Lala asks the cast for final thoughts. “Just because you guys won twice in a row,” Mike sputters, “doesn’t mean you guys are better!” Kendal covers his mouth, and Lala wraps it up. Once again: thanks for reading my recaps, and I hope to entertain you in the near future. Be cool, be safe, and stay the hell away from Veronica.

 Nice stuff here and there . . . like how the black Challengers all made it to the end. Cut to Free Agents, where Devyn Simone whispered about all the black people disappearing. Also, I more or les pegged Derrick to be the Abram for 2004. For the most part, I was wrong. In retrospect, I have to cringe about Coral being game for a battle of the sexes, given how the next season panned out for her.

That's that for The Inferno. Four months after the Reunion, I would recap Battle Of The Sexes 2 for Reality News Online. That was my final assignment for that website due to differences of opinion, which I will go over soon. Unless I obtain a job and/or life. Seriously, that was one of the worst seasons in the history of the series, and that is saying something. Why rush through the pain?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Amazing Race 30: Thoughts Before The Finale

The thirtieth season of The Amazing Race is drawing to a close. CBS has compressed the episodes into eight weeks, and fans are on the edge of their seats . .. not so much in anticipating which of the four remaining teams will win, but whether the series will get one more season.

I have to admit, I always feel like CBS puts the screws to TAR and its fans. I don't feel that's unjustified on my part, given that the other big reality series on CBS (Survivor and Big Brother) always have a place on the network. With TAR, fans have to go on a year-by-year basis waiting for word on when a new season will air. In my head, I feel that TAR deserves two editions ("cycles" never caught on for me) within a standard network season. The reality is that it would probably be one . . . maybe in the spring, probably in the summer. The fear is that CBS would pull the plug. The glass-half-empty part of me fears that if the team of "stars" from last summer's Big Brother (Cody & Jessica) win, CBS would cancel the series, because Big Brother contestants have been inflicted on TAR for years. A win by Cody & Jessica might be seen as the "perfect" ending, by which there could be no better note to go out.

Yes, I will also admit that I am unreasonable about TAR, to the point where if that were to get canceled, Survivor should follow it into oblivion. I know Survivor has the ratings to -- well -- survive, and then some. But it's not the "water cooler" show it used to be. If you haven't been following the series lately, it's drowning in twists and gimmicks, and most of them involve host Jeff Probst trying to cater to alpha males. For him, a buff dude winning is way more necessary than a balanced season. The upcoming edition premiering next week -- Ghost Island -- looks to be more of the same.

I feel that TAR30 has been pretty good. The show abandoned gimmicks after two seasons (online celebrities in TAR28, eleven teams of strangers racing in TAR29), going with a "soft" theme of "winners." I take that as a subtle jab of the current president of the United States, who hated how TAR kept winning Emmys over The Apprentice. Right now, we're approaching the final two legs with four teams vying for $1 million: Cody & Jessica, Alex & Conor (IndyCar drivers; Alex won the Indianapolis 500 in 2016), Kristi & Jen (extreme skiers and friends), and Henry & Evan (dating debaters from Yale). The odd thing is that unlike the past two seasons, the better teams haven't skidded out of contention prior to the finale. I won't bore you with the math; just know that if you take the leg averages of all teams, they almost line up in order of elimination. Also, there were only three legs where teams finishing sixth through eleventh finished in the top three. I'll go over the stats after the finale.

As for problems this season, there were three. Here they are, in order of annoyance:

3. The Partner Swap

Going into TAR30, fans heard that teams would be switching partners. Needless to say, that didn't go over with fans that well. I thought it would have been more appropriate in TAR26, where five of the eleven teams were strangers set up for "blind dates" while racing around the world. Mixing things up gave me the image of host Phil Keoghan throwing a glorified "key party."

What ended up happening was a bit of an anticlimax. Teams wound up in Zimbabwe, camping out overnight. The follow morning, Phil woke them and revealed the twist. The teams that had arrived at camp first and successfully set up a tent would pick another team, and partners would be chosen from there. Cody & Jessica chose Kristi & Jen and Lucas & Brittany (dating lifeguards, until Lucas popped the question in France) picked Conor & Alex, leaving Henry & Evan to mix with Eric & Daniel (twins/firefighters/unrepentant punsters). The new pairs wound up performing two tasks before arriving at the Pit Stop, where the teams had to wait to reunite before proceeding to the next leg.

The stupid thing is that TAR already did something close to that. The Intersection debuted in TAR10, and would be used in the following season and TAR16. Instead of switching partners, two teams would combine to form a foursome and perform tasks until they were told to separate. The Swap was basically a more-hyped Intersection. In the end, it didn’t upset me so much as make me wonder how badly the producers wanted to create drama.

2. The U-Turns

I have come to accept some gimmicks to be adopted. The U-Turn evolved from the Yield, where one team would pick another to wait for a predetermined amount of time before proceeding. Originally, teams would perform a Detour, choosing one of two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. Upon completion, a team would arrive at a Route Marker with the U-Turn. If they chose to do that, another team would have to go back and perform the second Detour task. Last season, the format was tweaked. Now, the U-Turn would be set up before the Detour, meaning teams could perform that, and the affected team would have to perform both tasks. Suddenly, a team could throw a roadblock (small letters) at a rival without much effort.

I’m being pedantic, but I think the original format worked better. Or maybe I was just “butthurt” that Cody & Jessica (fresh from a series of which I have no interest) pulled that on Trevor & Chris (violinists, nicknamed “Well Strung” after the quartet for which they play), leading to their elimination. I get really picky about U-Turns in general. In my mind, they should come after a Detour, and a U-Turned team would not be able to do that to a rival until they performed both tasks. I don’t get that anal about it, but I can burn up a forum thread. But that’s nothing compared to this season’s “twist.”

1, The Head-to-Head

Okay. So . . . you’re running the Race, and you’re doing pretty good. You see Phil at the Pit Stop mat, but you can’t check in. No, you have to play a game with another team. If you fail, you have to wait for the next team to arrive and play them. The last team remaining gets eliminated.

There are many reasons to loathe this twist. For one thing, while the Head-to-Head was only done in two legs (second and fourth), they were at the very end, potentially negating all progress made by teams. It didn’t help that the game involved team members pushing a cart of frites through a course, while being dressed as a bag of frites. Henry & Evan arrived at the Route Marker in third place, but then proceeded to lose match after match, dropping further down the leaderboard with each failure. Finally, they managed to best April & Sarah (mothers, practitioners of “Goat Yoga), checking in eighth.

It got  worse. From what I heard, April & Sarah waited for the last team – Eric & Daniel – for three hours, then proceeded to lose the final Head-to-Head, earning an elimination. While most of the editing suggested that the women were snippy towards each other I their two legs, it didn’t seem fair that one team would have that large of a lead negated without getting an advantage for their patience. The second (and final) Head-to-Head involved a less ridiculous game of p├ętanque (or bocce, if you’re Italian), and that led to elimination for Cedric & Shawn . . . which was a relief after Cedric interviewed in the prior leg about having three heart attacks. That was also the episode when he elected to perform a Roadblock (running the streets of Tangiers in search of a Travelocity Gnome) while wearing a huge backpack, something he could have left with Shawn. While I’m certain all contestants had to go through physicals, and a quick online search reveals that Cedric’s heart attacks were “small,” it still felt like a relief for him and Shawn to bow out, albeit in the dumbest way imaginable.

Bottom line: I feel that Head-to-Head is a cheap way for a team to get eliminated. I prefer the more conventional methods . . . like losing a foot race to the Pit Stop (models/”ring girls” Dessie & Kayla), not being able to figure out how to open a puzzle to get a clue (competitive eaters Joey & Tim), or misplacing a passport (Lucas). Also, I did not mention that the Head-to-Head matches had Phil doing running commentary from the Pit Stop. He has never done that in the prior 29 seasons, and it showed. That is more of Jeff Probst’s deal, albeit with more shaming of women and beta males for poor performances.

Despite my problems with this season, I am convinced that average TAR is better than most reality programs. We’re going into the finale with four strong teams, and there’s no one favorite to win. I’m good with anybody getting the $1 million save for Cody & Jessica, for reasons I’ve already mentioned. After tonight, I will have to hope that The Amazing Race gets renewed by CBS. That, and hoping Survivor: Ghost Island won’t be a dud. But I doubt the latter.

PS: Here are Trevor and Chris -- along with their fellow performers of Well-Strung -- performing the theme music of The Amazing Race.