Sunday, August 12, 2018

Battle of the Sexes 2 Episodes 1-2: Follow the Leaders

It begins. One of the worst seasons in the history of The Challenge. Well, maybe it's just me. I'm posting this as Final Reckoning is airing . . . and that might be the absolute worse. I'm thinking of blogging abut that . . . but lets be real, I think about blogging a lot, but I seldom get around to it. Just a mess of twists and inconsistencies. Also, Shane is being a little bitch yet again. I miss Classic Challenge Shane. And there are Big Brother people there, and they can ruin anything.

Okay . . . shutting up about the present now. Moving on to the horror from the mid-2000s.

Episode Aired: October 11, 2004
Recap Posted: October 17, 2004

A new Battle brings new rules and new rivalries. Can the guys continue their dominance? Will the women be able to rebound? And what is Derrick doing with that frog?

Before we start officially forgetting the abysmal season that was The Inferno, I just want to thank you guys for reading my stuff. This is my fourth season; if I had a life, maybe I wouldn’t be doing this. Then again, making you guys happy after watching the Challenge makes me happy as well. Keep sending those e-mails.

We start with an Old West vibe, complete with rattlesnake noises. The guys are on a bus. Cut to a close-up of a man’s sandaled foot, tapping in anticipation. The girls are on another bus. Jonny Moseley, gold medalist and guy who really needs a career change, magically materializes. The buses arrive, and everybody piles out. Jonny welcomes everybody to the Vista Clara Resort & Spa in Santa Fe. Battle of the Sexes 2 is officially on.

Credits. This years theme is “Come Out Fighting” by The Vandals. The bad news: no ultra-cheesy opening sequence. It’s just eighteen pairs in front of a blue screen. There is cuteness, like Cynthia swiping Jacquese’s glasses, and Coral attempt to give Dan a noogie, but the lack of a third dimension bugs. If you want to try and figure out patterns, here are the pairs: Rachel/Nick, Adam/Ruthie, Frank/Kina, Ace/Arissa, Derrick/Katie, Jacquese/Cynthia, Veronica/Brad, Mike/Robin, Shawn/Ayanna, Mark/Tina, Sophia/Randy, Angela/Abram, Aneesa/Steven, Chris/Tonya, Coral/Dan, Cameran/Eric, Ibis/Theo, and Genesis/Shane. Take another look .... Coral and Mike aren’t together. End of an era, folks.

Back to the action: Jonny introduces himself. Coral’s wearing one of Mike’s “Miz” shirts, while Tonya’s top says “Boy Beater.” Make your own jokes. Jonny tells the kids that they’ll be competing every day foe $180,000 in prize money. The field will be narrowed down from 36 players to six. “I would do anything for this money,” Tina interviews. “I will stab a chick in the back if need be!” Good to know, Tina.

Jonny lays out the rules: once the teams find out what the mission is about, they appoint three team leaders who would be responsible for strategy. The leaders of the winning team decide who to send home. The losing team convenes to boot out one of the leaders. Coral cackles at the news. Rachel interviews that people are never safe in this game. Jonny dismisses the group, telling them to get ready for the first day.

As loyal viewers would expect, there’s a lot of awe as the players check into the lodges. Randy loves the ranch setting. Abram rides around on a bike inside. Dude, Dave Mirra was so last season. Eric lays claim to the “old guys room.” Jacquese interviews that it’s time for the new boys to step up.

At the main lounge, Cameran says hi to Coral, who doesn’t know who she is. Cameran interviews that she thought people would be friendlier. She voices her concerns to Robin, who interviews about not feeling the need to prove herself to anybody. Katie high-fives Kina. “I came back to do this Challenge,” Katie interviews, “because I won the last one, and it avoids getting a real job.” At least she’s honest. Veronica interviews that she and Katie don’t actively hate each other. Damn… so much for looking forward to their seasonal fight. It would’ve been tough for Katie to top her tantrum from last season.

Derrick starts yelling, clearly happy about his new surroundings. He interviews that being a new guy is a demerit since the veterans are in their cliques. The guys sort out their beds. Nick: “Can I sleep on top of you, Shane?” It’s the first day, Nick! Take it easy! Ace interviews that he’ll be going all-out this time. “If there’s going to be a safety cord,” he adds, “I’m like, ‘No safety cord!’” Can you say “overcompensation?” Guy gets ripped after he couldn’t handle a few dozen bugs to his face, and suddenly he’s Evel Knievel. Mark expositions that there’s a 200-yard dirt path between the boys and girls’ lodge. Theo contemplates getting naked in the pool.

At the girls’ lodge, Aneesa sings a happy tune about the number of lesbians on her team. “With girls, it gets a little catty, it gets a little petty,” she interviews. “I’m hoping it’s not going to happen.” Cynthia interviews that she’s a mother to a two-year-old son. To her credit, she didn’t bring the kid over with her. That only works if you’re Dutch and insane, like Belou. Kina interviews about moving into her first apartment and looking for a job.

Eric and Coral relaxing on massage chair. Mike and Coral indulge us in half-assed impressions of Dave Chappelle impersonation Rick James. “It’s a celebration, bitches!” is so old. How much do you bet that he’ll be doing Dave doing Lil Jon before he leaves? “Coral on the opposite team is going to be so great,” Mike interviews, “because she is going to just screw with all those girls’ minds.” Coral: “My motive is to win all the cash, all the prizes, and to cuss a couple of bitches out.” She’s gotta play to her strengths. Derrick shows off a beer funnel to Adam and Jacquese. Rachel: “You will see me on Senior Citizens Challenge when we’re all 60.” Some of the guys ride around in a golf cart, and they slam into Derrick. “Derrick is blunt and brash,” Nick interviews. “He’s a character.”

A time lapse shot segues into the sponsor phones ringing. Mark and Genesis read the clues. In the women’s lodge, you can see Sophia dancing. It’s her hair ... makes her easy to pick out. The details: get on the buses at 7:45 a.m., and wear bathing suits for getting wet. Jacquese tells us that he can’t swim. Oh, Ja. You never learned after being stuck in the life jacket during your season? It’s one of the first rules of reality television: learn to swim!

Girls meeting. Everybody debates on how to eliminate. Ruthie interviews that there’s a separation between the new girls and the veterans. Rachel and Angela go back and forth. “I think we all know who the ringleaders are,” Angela interviews. “They’re the bullies.” Sounds like something I’d say, but we’ll get back to that later. Ruthie tells us that Angela and Rachel got off on the wrong foot, since Rachel told her to take notes. Rachel lectures the women about “stepping out of your pride” to listen to the leaders. Veronica asks Tonya if she’d take her top off, an obvious dig at the Battle of the Opposite Sexes fiasco from two years back. Tonya: “I’ll eat it, suck it dig it, swim it!” She interviews about being a competitor, and she wants everybody to see that.

Guys meeting. Eric introduces the jump rope, which a guy must hold to speak. You’re thinking that Eric is a leader for making rules ... until you find out that he has starred in a number of jump rope exercise DVDs. [2018: is defunct, and that's probably for the best.] Trust me ... you will learn to hate the jump rope. Adam expresses the need to play fair. “I’m here to do three things,” he interviews. “Maintain old friendships [shot of ex-roommate Ace], make new friendships [shot of Chris, which could be foreshadowing], and win that [bleepin’] money.” Mike tells the new kids to prove themselves and have fun. Derrick goes on about respecting one another and “not be conniving little bitches.” At this comment, Shane looks shocked. Chris interviews that Derrick hasn’t left a good impression. Mark: “Unless the missions are Dust the House or Do Laundry or something like that, I think we’re going to win every mission.” I don’t know if this stems from Mark’s divorce, or if he’s just trying to rally the troops. But to me, this is the first sign that our love affair with Mark is coming to an end. Tina: “Those guys’ heads are so far up their own ass!” Cut to Mark breaking a stick off Eric’s leg.

Sunset. Derrick is having fun, bringing booze for the ladies. He talks to Eric about not getting hung over. Eric has the jump rope around his neck, like a scarf. Yikes. He interviews that Derrick’s drinking causes concern. “It shows signs of weakness,” he goes on. “This is a competition. We’re here to perform. Partying will affect performance.” Derrick gets away from Eric and Chris (wearing a t-shirt which says “no.”) to get some alone time. “I’m a rebel,” he tells us. “I’m a renegade. Whatever you want to call it.” He then engages in a classic outsider activity: following a frog around and talking to it. He even sings “My buddy, my buddy” to it. Cut to people in the pool having fun. “See?” Derrick sighs to the frog. “This is why I have you.” Sounds like somebody needs another heart-to-heart with Chris.[2018: I think the link originally went to a RNO recap covering the X-Treme/South Pacific face-off on Road Rules.]

Daytime! The kids roll into the mission site and pile out. Abram and Coral walk together, and I get a little nauseous. Jonny welcomes everybody to Cochiti Lake and the first mission: Dangle Drop. The deal: a contraption is set up over the water, holding nine punching bags. The players must hold onto the bags as long as possible. The winners of each of the four heats go on to the final to decide the mission’s winner. The prize: Student City Spring Break trips to Cancun, worth $90,000 ($5,000 per person). Eric seems enthused, even though he belongs at Spring Break as much as he does on Santa’s lap. Jonny gives the teams 30 minutes to decide who the leaders will be.

The boys huddle up, and Abram steps up to be a leader. He interviews that he needs to start things off right. Eric and Adam follow. Steven reminds us that if the guys lose, one of the leaders will be going home. And that’s all we get from Steven this week. Maybe the editors are ticked off that his hair is short and he’s not starting drama. Over on the women’s side, Genesis has ideas, so she volunteers. Tina steps up, having no fear of losing the mission. Rachel completes the leader list. “It’s good,” Coral interviews, “because if we lose, then we can vote Tina off.” Either she’s joking, or she wants a repeat of their Gauntlet, complete with Coral’s patented Evil Witch Stare.

Jonny calls up the team leaders, and they put their respective nameplates on a board. Jonny tosses a coin to determine who gets to set up position first. Genesis calls heads, but the coin lands on tails. As a result, the guys get first position and get to pick either four or five people on the bags in the heat.

Rachel starts picking people, going with Katie, Ayanna and Arissa. Genesis interviews that there are some people she can’t trust, naming Coral, Veronica and Rachel. Looking for filler, Rachel brings up Angela. Watch out, Rachel ... Angela’s packin’ adjectives. “It’s one thing to not like me for some obscure, jealous, bitchy, childish, high school reason,” she interviews. “But it’s another thing to make it affect me in the mission.” Maybe Rachel meant “filler” in the best possible way. Ever think of that? Theo thinks Derrick might be a liability. He adds, “This guy’s a contraption waiting to happen.” See, Theo can get nasty, but the way he says it is usually funny. Derrick volunteers for the first heat, looking to gain respect from his peers. Chris: “Hold your hats tight, because it’s gonna get crazy.”

The guys and girls hug one other as they prepare. Ruthie interviews that the guys have been talking smack, and the girls have to kick ass. Jonny goes over the rules again, adding that the players have 15 seconds to get positioned on the bag. Genesis expositions that holding the bag over the seam or grabbing the chain results in a disqualification, but players can rest their chins over the seam. Jonny blows his airhorn, and the players get on. A second blow, and the rig slowly positions everybody over the lake. The editors put cards on both sides of the screen to show who is doing the heat. It’s mildly annoying, but it’s informative. For the women: Ayanna, Veronica, Arissa, Katie and Robin. For the men: Steven, Eric, Derrick and Chris. Everybody hangs on, and those on the beach look on.

Veronica is the first to slide off. Yeah, that did make me happy. Shawn (who?) sees Arissa dangling from the bottom of the bag, ready to fall. “Arissa’s solid,” Coral spins. “I don’t know what Arissa you’re looking at. She’s just readjusting.” Arissa apologizes to her comrades before falling. Cut to a rafter shot of Katie. Cut to Theo: “If that was a big Marlboro, Katie would hang on all day.” The other guys laugh, as do I. Katie slips off ... but she’s officially one-up on Veronica today. Robin yells before falling. Ayanna struggles, climbing back up the bag, but she drops. It’s a clean sweep for the boys, and their sidelined crew celebrates. “I think the guys’ team is really, really funny,” Tonya interviews. “I feel like they’re constantly just trying to show off. I think they’re ridiculous. I’m hoping that was edited out of context, for her sake. The guys drop off. This heat’s winner: Derrick the Frog Whisperer. Mark interviews that he thought Derrick was abrasive. “The guy’s an animal,” Mark adds. “I think he’s going to be an asset to this tea,.” Eric declares that there’s no reason why every guys shouldn’t beat every girl.

Heat Two. For the women: Kina, Tina, Aneesa and Cynthia. For the men: Mark, Shawn, Abram, Brad and Ace. Kina drops right away, followed by Cynthia and Aneesa. “I don’t like to say it looks grim,” Coral interviews, “but [bleep] is grim.” Tina interviews that she’s trying to psyche out the guys by telling them she can hang on all day. Ace drops, followed by Shawn. Coral admires Mark’s legs before he drops. Brad drops. Now it’s a showdown between Tina and Abram. “I’m up there with a freak of nature,” Tina interviews. “It’s Abe!” She adds that she’s numb and sweaty. Sure enough, she falls off, giving Abram the second heat. Tina tells us that her sweat causes the fall.

Mark interviews that the girls don’t have a prayer to win the mission. I’m starting to lose my patience with Mark, and it’s only the first week. Genesis goes off to mediate. She interviews: “I think that now we’re just about pissed off enough to hang on as long as we can to take this home.”

Heat Three. Jonny demonstrates lifting on the bag, saying that lifting arms and elbows above the seam will be called. Coral interviews that her team has to prove to the guys that they can win. For the women: Ibis, Ruthie, Rachel, Sophia and Genesis. For the men: Theo, Mike, Adam and Frank. Coral talks trash at Mike from the beach. Ibis drops. Jonny hustles over to the pier, bullhorn in hand. Mike adjusts his position on his bag, only to be called out by Jonny. Sophia drops. Jonny tells Adam that he’s out. Adam lets go with his arms, hanging onto the bag by his legs. Adam is one interesting guy, I can say that much. Frank expositions that Mike and Adam were called out because they held onto their bags above the seam. Adam does a 360 into the water. Genesis slides off. The guys on the beach cheer, sensing another win. The remaining players hold onto their bags, and Frank smooches his. Genesis gets sympathy hugs from some of her teammates, and she tells Aneesa that if the team loses, one of the leaders will go home. Frank drops. Rachel adjusts her position, while Ruthie looks peaceful. Finally, Theo slips off his bag, giving the victory to the ladies. Ruthie drops from her bag, advancing Rachel to the final round.

Heat Four. For the women: Angela, Tonya, Coral and Cameran. For the men: Nick, Randy, Dan, Shane and Jacquese. Shawn yells encouragement to Jacquese, but he slips off. Mark notes that Jacquese fell faster than any of the guys. Cameran drops, screaming on her way down. She interviews, “I think a lot of the girls that have done this make you feel, in a subtle way, like they’re better than you.” Shane struggles before sliding off. Nick drops. The girls shout encouragement to Angela. And now it’s time for Out Of Context Theater. “I don’t think Angela’s a positive influence on our team,” Rachel interviews,” and I am a good judge of character.” This coming from a girl who was out to bulldoze Sarah in The Gauntlet. I’m not ready to let that go just yet. Anyway, Angela falls, followed by Randy. Dan holds tight, shaking hard. Coral interviews about telling Tonya to hold on, but she ends up dropping. So now it’s Coral versus Dan. Seriously, I’d put my money on Dan, since he’s been Superman throughout his career. Coral climbs up the bag. Dan shakes, then falls off. Coral advances, and she’s now 1-0 on Mike in this Challenge. Go figure. Abram goes over the winners and laughs, unable to believe that Coral won.

After commercials, Jonny brings in the heat winners: Derrick, Abram, Rachel and Coral. As they get on the bags to start the final heat, Rachel interviews that she and Coral had no time to rest. Both sides look on as the bags go over the water. Katie’s screeches for her teammates pierces the air. Unable to wrap her legs around her bag, Coral struggles and drops. The guys cheer. Rachel adjusts her position ... and sees that Angela and Cameran are playing in the water, not even watching her. As much as I don’t like Rachel, she has a legitimate beef. “If she doesn’t win,” Angela interviews with Cameran standing behind her, “maybe I see what I can do and get her to go home, because I know that’s her plan for me.” I hate them both now. Back at the mission, Rachel grimaces on her bag. The guys seem comfortable where they are. Derrick interviews that he wants Rachel to fall. Rachel tells us she has no strength in her arms. Sure enough, Rachel drops. Game Over, guys win. Adam sets a speed record trying to get to Abram and Derrick, and he nearly kills three other guys before falling in the water. Derrick and Abram hang from the rafters before falling off. Jacquese foreshadows that Derrick stepped up, and he would’ve been the first voted out. Rachel: “I think if somebody sends me home, you’re gonna see some broken noses tonight, that’s all I gotta say.” I reckon shouting “This game is ug-lay!” is passe nowadays.

Denouement. Jonny awards the prize package to the guys. The guys’ Inner Circle will be their three team leaders. The girls’ Inner Circle will be everybody but their leaders. He gives both sides one hour to deliberate.

Adam expositions that the Inner Circles go back to their respective lodges, while those on the chopping block wait at the Main Lodge. Tina interviews that the vote will come down to her and Genesis, and she thinks that performed well enough to stay on. Genesis feels it is difficult for her team to decide. Mike feels he performed like crap, since he rarely gets disqualified. Jacquese feels that it’s a Catch-22 trying to do good. Ace feels that it is tough to decide who goes home without a points system, and he adds that the new guys would go first.

Outside, Angela tells Derrick that the guys won last time because they weren’t catty. I would add that Emily did a lot of damage with her “bloody axe” before leaving her teammates in the lurch. Angela adds, “I never had to not trust 35 people.” Hey, welcome to my world. Derrick thinks it’s not about trusting people, but rather on performance.

Boys’ Inner Circle. Abram brings up Jacquese, and the others agree. Eric tells us that whoever didn’t “show up” in the mission had to go. Adam agrees, since Jacquese fell first. Abram adds that even the guys who got disqualified hung on longer than him. “I’m ecstatic to be here,” Adam interviews, “but it is kind of bittersweet, because you got to take a guy you know is a good guy, and give him his pink slip.” [2018: "Adam"? Looking at one headache, typing the name of a different one.]

Rachel tells us that there’s a battle of power in the Girls’ Inner Circle. Inside the lounge, the girls snack and get their meeting underway. Sophia feels that the vote is between Genesis and Tina, since Rachel deserved her spot on the team. The others agree, but Angela doesn’t. She feels that Rachel wouldn’t listen to her. She asks the others to give her more encouragement when they lead her. “I feel like Angela is dead weight,” Coral interviews. “She’s a nice girl, but she doesn’t know how to win.” As opposed to Coral herself, who has lost her last two Challenges. But hey ... if Coral finds somebody dumb enough to verbally smack around, then I’m happy.

Cynthia feels Rachel is a good player, but Genesis and Tina motivate her. Ibis feels goodness from Genesis. Ayanna feels that Tina stepped up, and that she loves Genesis, but Tina held on to the bag for so long. Veronica votes for Genesis. Katie feels that Tina wants it more. Cameran doesn’t have a vote of her own. Ayanna asks if anybody can abstain, and the others shout her down. Coral’s vocal opposition is so strong, Ayanna withdraws while shouting “daaaanng!” It’s all in good fun ... for now, anyway. Cameran: “Not everybody is here to win that money. Some of us are here to try and chill out, meet cool people, play a game and have fun.” Anybody else think Cameran should have stayed home to do those things? She votes for Rachel, and Coral thinks Cameran is crazy, given how Rachel beat most of the guys.

Tina gets votes from Ibis, Robin, Kina and Ibis.  Ruthie feels like throwing up and starts to break down. She interviews that she can’t vote out Genesis, but Tina had such a great performance. She is unable to make up her mind as we head for commercials.

Welcome to Elimination Hill. Jonny asks each team to bring up a representative to delivery the verdicts. The guys send in Eric and his jump rope/scarf, the girls go with Sophia. Eric explains that the vote was based on ability, and that Jacquese is going home. Jacquese smiles, which is basically in his character to do. The guys are all smiles and no hard feelings.

Sophia’s turn. She declares that the vote was “more than impossible.” She keeps going, on the verge of tears, and boots Genesis from the game. Genesis is more worried about Sophia’s well-being, and has to comfort her. Just once, I’d like to see the men break down in tears over a decision, for the sake of novelty. Genesis laughs in her interview, saying that she thought being a leader seemed to be the right thing to do. After a girls group hug, Jonny gives Jacquese and Genesis until 10 p.m. to pack up and leave.

Jacquese packs his bags. “We’re all going to be going home,” Theo drawls. “It’s just different days.” Jacquese jokes about getting a free trip. He says goodbye to Derrick (wearing a Miz shirt) and hugs Abram. “I’m not upset that I’m leaving,” he interviews. “It kinda sucks to leave first, but it’s all good.” I guess he’s too punk rock for this cast. Yeah, I don’t actively hate Frankie, but I couldn’t let that line go by.

Genesis packs up, as a piano plays a mournful tune. It’s kinda funny that the woman whom made thefirst elimination announcement at BOTS1 is the first to go home in BOTS2. “I’m really rooting on the fact that the girls are going to finally win this year,” she interviews. “Their energy is great right now, and I hope that they carry that with them throughout the rest of the competition.” She hugs Rachel and Aneesa. She and Jacquese get into cars and exit, stage right.

Night lapses into day. A snake slithers on the ground. Random animal shot, or blatant symbolism? Inside, Angela cries as she gets hugged by comforting females. She interviews about being a target after speaking out against Rachel. She tells the women about wishing to have the balls to be strong. Tonya cocks an eyebrow, but Sophia encourages her to let it out and not be intimated. Remember, the Challenge was filmed around the time Road Rules: X-Treme was airing, so there’s a chance Sophia never saw Angela in action.

Elsewhere, some of the veterans (and Arissa) chill out. Coral and Rachel talk about the number of Challenge they’ve done, then attempt to name all of Veronica’s Challenges. In case you’re keeping score: Challenge 2000, Battle of the Seasons, Battle of the Sexes, The Gauntlet, The Inferno and Battle of the Sexes 2. “The next time Angela is in a voting-off position,” Veronica interviews, “she will probably be the one to go. She doesn’t know who she’s messing with.” How bad is Angela? Bad enough to have me agreeing with Veronica.

Onto the lighter side of Santa Fe: Tonya and Ayanna plot to swipe one of the massage chairs at the guys’ lodge, since the women have none. Next thing, the guys try to hold off the girls, but she manage to grab one (with Mike still attached) and ride it off in a truck. Abram’s retaliation? Swipe the toliet seats in the girls’ lodge. He goes solo, slipping into the bathrooms and unscrewing the seats. That just screams “Abram,” wouldn’t you agree? He tells Mark, who loves it. Fade to black.

Two episodes down, roughly fifteen to go. What’s coming up next? Bicycle stunts. Tina to Tonya: “You’re the biggest liar in this [Oedipus Rexin’] house!” Players get bit by snakes. Eric: “The best guy in the world versus the best girl in the world, the guy is going to win every time.” Shut it, old man. Go down to Florida and watch the big dogs chase the bunny around the track. Angela cries on the cell phone. Adam and Brad grouse about the treatment of rookies. Wild West-like showdown with paintballs. Katie: “Yippie kay yay, [Oedipus Rex]!” Teams paddle with boards. Mike: “Girls suck at challenges.” Coral yells at Eric. Jonny reminds everybody of the no-violence policy. Cut to Shane with his head bowed. Somehow, I don’t think Shane would be going home. He learned his lesson in his season against Darrell. Ayanna: “I slept in my uniform last night because I wanted to win today!”

Club footage. Random dancing. Ruthie: “Half of the team is lesbians, and the others are bisexual.” Coral hugs a guy, and it’s clear that somebody is going home. That’s the question of this Challenge: who lasts longer? Mike or Coral? Teams rub their bodies on ice blocks. Stuff gets tossed into a wood chipper and the players catch it with buckets held on their heads. Mark gets covered in leeches. Ruthie and Sophia tug on chains. Sky diving. Tina: “You the only bitch who’s bitchin’ about [long bleep!]” Tonya: “When you watch the show, you’ll find out, okay?” Tina: “I’ll watch the show! We’ll see what they [bleeping] say about your white [Oedipus Rexin’] ass!” Yes, I can’t wait to see what I have to say about Tonya’s ass, either.

 Sophia breaking down would be a running trope that season. Once again: I had interviewed her in 2001, and I was rooting for her. Seeing her in tears was not fun here. It would get worse down the line.

I was spoiled on the first two sets of eliminations. Jacquese getting voted off first was sad. For me, he was the best cast member from Real World: San Diego. I mean, Brad was the dopey meathead, Randy was the dopey stoner-type, but I would've gotten along better with Jacquese. He was sane and funny, which I found was a rare mix on BMP shows. For the hell of it, I searched his name in Facebook, and I found this. He doesn't post much; my takeaway was his current picture. I never would have pegged him for a beard. I did miss him. Meanwhile, we got bug-eyed Brad on The Challenge, with the relationship with the younger Britni. Not unlike the Mark/Robin situation, as you'll see the the recaps to come.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

He Says/She Says: Battle For The Battle Of The Sexes 2

I'm almost at the starting line. Please notice that I was full of hope going into the season. Well, maybe just not filled with dread. I was so foolish. So foolish.

Episode Aired: October 4, 2004
Recap Posted: October 11, 2004 (I was back to taking my time, which probably thrilled the site's boss to no end)

With a new Real World/Road Rules Challenge on the horizon, players past and present reflect on the original Battle of the Sexes and take a look at the upcoming season.

We start with scenes from the original Battle of the Sexes (BOTS1). The guys shout “Hoo-RAH!” The girls shout “VAGINAGINAGINAGINA!” More misty-colored memories of the way they were. Ellen gives Melissa lip, which is an action I wouldn’t recommend. Ruthie says, “I wouldn’t have imagined people getting ugly in character for $50,000.” Cut to Veronica. That was funny. Cut to the final mission. The guys struggle with the puzzle, while the gals struggle. [2018: I probably didn't mean to say "struggle" twice.] Mark voiceovers about taking a look at the girls’ puzzle. The guys dissembled the girl’s solution, solve their own puzzle, and end up winning. Ellen comments, “The boys totally cheated to win.”

Present day. Both teams arrive. We see various competition scenes. Mark says, “This war is not over!” Mark is wearing Mike’s latest “Miz” tee shirt. I think this might be the year I start hating Mark. Then there’s more competition followed by nightclub fun. Some guy is covered in leeches. Cardboard cutouts of Mark and Mike are blown up. Cameran says to the camera, “We’re gonna kick your ass, bitches!” There is a Wild West showdown with paintball guns. The title card reads, “Rematch of the Century.” That’s taking it a bit far.

After the title sequence, we go to Dan Renzi, two-time Challenger and star of BOTS1. His take on all of this is that, “Guys didn’t want to look bad, so they agreed to never argue on camera. Girls never made that agreement, so they look crazy!” Cut to the "Battle of the Opposite Sexes/Club Zero" debacle. It’s been two years, and I still get fatigued thinking about it. Short story - girls bicker amongst themselves.

Cut to Eric who is leading the team in a “Hoo-RAH!” chant. Hey, there’s Puck. Avert your eyes… it’s the only way to get by him. Dan adds that everybody wanted to play fair, but that changed when money got involved. Dan is joined by Ellen, one of BOTS1's heaviest hitters, who concurs with him. Cut to Jonny Moseley, who explains the Inner Circle - the top three scorers decide who goes home. Colin leads a discussion, concluding that they have to vote out the lowest scorer, “so there’s not any negative emotion in it.” Cut to Melissa who says, “I personally want to vote Julie off.” Yeah, I haven’t changed my mind about that decision, especially after Julie’s actions in The Inferno. Now we meet Ruthie, who has a huge sun tattoo on her upper arm. It really doesn’t flatter her. She says that it was “very black and white” to vote out the lowest scorer, and the girls didn’t do that. Next, there’s Mark (sitting next to Robin). He says that the scoreboard was up for everybody to see, and it was only fair to vote off the lowest score.

Ellen tells us that the two girls who pitted people against each other were Veronica and Emily. We flash back to Emily lowering the boom on Veronica, announcing her exit from the game. Emily tells the guys not to judge, then, since they’re not men. Ellen says that the reason for Emily’s hatred was that James (her boyfriend at the time) helped Veronica move, and they apparently hooked up. Back then, I despised Emily, but now, I’m wishing she’d come back to fix Veronica’s wagon. Funny world, huh? Now we meet Tonya, who is sitting next to Theo. Tonya claims that girls are emotional, and they voted on who was liked and disliked.

We flash back to the Inner Circle where Rachel got voted off. Ellen says, “I personally don’t trust her,” while Emily adds, “Those are the kind of girls that made my high school life completely wretched.” Once again, there’s a difference in opinion for me. Back then, I thought that was a load. Today, after seeing Rachel work over Sarah in The Gauntlet, I can see where Emily is coming from. But watching Ellen make the announcement still pains me. Mark says that the girls showed everybody that anybody was vulnerable and says, “They were playing scared and playing for themselves rather than as a team.” Ellen adds that she took the heat since she made the announcement. “I was like, ‘It’s nothing personal,’ but it really was,” she adds. “I really couldn’t think of anything else to say at the time.”

Cut to the girls looking stunned, and Puck and Shane getting ticked off. Ellen claims that she didn’t know the vote would get everybody so upset. “Rachel, it was entirely personal,” Dan snarks. “No one liked you!” Cut to Rachel giving her “this game is ug-lay!” rant. Good times. Fast forward to the final mission. Dan and Ellen agree that the guys cheated. We flashback to Colin disassembling the girls’ puzzle and relaying the information to Mark and Jamie. Mike (credited as “RW/RR Challenge Expert”) faults the girls for being dumb enough to leave their puzzle out. Ellen playfully bitches some more. Ruthie tells Shane that her team would have won had they knocked their puzzle down. Ellen says, “Boys cheat. Yeah, that’s you, Mark Long.”

As Mark begins his rebuttal, Robin is credited as “Wasn’t There, But Watched It on TV.” He says that wasn’t cheating, and that he told a producer that his team would knock their puzzle over if they completed it first, and the producer had liked the idea. Robin gives him grief that his team couldn’t figure things out on their own. “And we won by an hour!” Mark replies. “I already did my exit interview before the girls passed the finish line.” Katie (another “Expert” who wasn’t at BOTS1) tells Mike that she would have copied the puzzle and laughed about it afterwards. Robin feels that the girls have something to prove.

Cut to the present day, as two buses arrive in Santa Fe. Jonny Moseley welcomes them to Battle of the Sexes 2. Mark says that BOTS1 was easy, since scores were being kept. Jonny lays down exposition. After the teams find out about the mission, they appoint three of their own as team leaders. Theo picks it up. If the team wins, the leaders can pick off one person. Shane continues explaining that, if the team loses, its members can choose one of the leaders to go home. Amazing... I didn’t think anything could top the Gauntlet concept, but this comes close. It looks like an Apprentice knock-off, but it’s very crafty. Ruthie and Shane agree that there’s more strategy involved this time. Katie says, “Everybody is going to be kissing each other’s ass in order not to piss them off. It’s going to be this big fake house with nothing but brutal back stabbing.” Or as Veronica might call it, “Paradise.”

Going to commercials, we see three girls swing on a hammock which breaks and sends them tumbling. Then we see the guys pile into a golf cart and run Derrick over. Next comes a commercial with somebody that sounds like Tina: “I don’t want their nasty duke in where I’m gonna lay down! Oh, that’s it. I’m gonna urinate in your mouths when you’re sleeping!” In case you’re wondering what “duke” means, they cut to a toilet. Very nice.

More BOTS2 highlights: Mark breaks a stick across Eric’s leg. Players grab snakes. One guy attempts a bicycle stunt. The girls paddle. Theo bites into something nasty. Tonya says it’s a crazy Challenge. Theo: “It’s like all the kids have been eating crazy wafers.” While we absorb Theo’s witticism, we see brief clips of the players: Ace, Aneesa, Adam, Arissa, Brad, Cameran, Eric, Cynthia, Frank. Theo: “I’m serious, dude. It’s like everybody woke up one morning and put on crazy shorts.” Coral, Jacquese, Genesis, Mike, Robin, Randy, Ruthie, Steven, Tonya. “And just opened up the crazy door.” Angela, Abram, Ayanna, Chris, Ibis, Dan Setzler, Katie, Derrick, Kina. “And walk out of the crazy room.” Mark, Rachel, Nick, Sophia, Shane, Tina, Shawn, Veronica, Theo. Don’t ask me why they were presented in that order. Maybe that’s a method that suggests spoilers.

Ruthie looks forward to seeing the new kids. Mike thinks that veterans like himself would intimate the newbies, and that they might form an alliance to boot him out. Katie starts planning on bringing the novices to her side. Cut to the kids from RW: San Diego: Randy lifts weights. Cameran spurts out a “Whassup, bitch?” Brad stuffs his face. Robin tells Ruthie that something blows. Jacquese walks. Yeah, that’s not a good sign if you’re a Jacquese fan. Dan wonders if Brad has sobered up. Cut to Brad cussing out the camera. Dan moves on to Robin. She complains about a teammate to Mark. Ellen says it’s not just a matter of being athletic, because a lot of girls are not. Naturally, we cut to Katie. Nice. Katie thinks that Robin will be an asset, and she likes her bitchy attitude. Robin tells us she watched the other Challengers on their respective shows, and it freaks her out to be working with them.

In a clip, Cameran introduces herself to Coral. Cut to Cameran telling Robin that Coral doesn’t seem friendly. If you listen carefully, you can hear viewers roll their eyes in unison. “These people have been doing this stuff forever,” Robin tells Cameran, “and they just look at everybody as competition.” Shane thinks than Cameran will be trouble, and she might go home. Cut to Cameran slapping Mike in the nuts, just like she did with Brad back in San Diego. Dan figures she’ll make it halfway before getting the boot.

Brief spotlight on Brad and Randy during a mission. Shane thinks they’ve be competitive, but they could take money that he wants. He adds that they’re more physical than the cast from RW: Paris. On cue, we see Ace dancing and Adam pulling his pants down. Ruthie and Shane agree that Ace just wants a good time. Thankfully, we don’t see his short trip to the Inferno.

Tonya can’t read into the kids from RR: X-Treme. Join the club, honey. Kina calls Derrick a drunk. Theo: “It’s like they’ve been sharing DNA or something. Like they’ve been drinking each other’s bath water.” As we reel from Theo’s latest offering, we see Derrick. What is Derrick doing? Well, he’s walking around with a cigarette in one hand, a bottle in the other, and he’s following a frog around. No, really. Something tells me Chris will have to have another heart-to-heart with the boy. Shane thinks Derrick is amazing, but Tonya sees the new RR as easy to pick off.

Shane talks about the “old dogs,” Mark and Eric. Cut to Eric griping about the youngsters losing bodily functions while drinking. Good thing he never got the “Julie Experience.” “Mark and Eric are doing it again?” Dan laughs. “Get jobs!”

Katie thinks that some guys might not be as tough as they think, going so far as giving Mike a quick tap. She then tells Mike that she could beat him up. Okay, he is “The Miz” and all, but if she gets pissed off enough? I can totally see that happening. We cut to Mike and Coral at a bus depot, trash-talking each other. Theo figures it’s nice for those two to be on separate teams. At the very least, we can find out who is the better Challenger, since they’ve gone the distance three times already. Robin says she can’t trust Coral. Dan doesn’t think Coral is that scary. Cut to Coral rampaging: “I talk to people how I want! You’re not God here! So you can’t change me!” Ellen, whose conflict with Coral at the 2001 casting special is the stuff of legends, agrees with Dan, but adds that other people don’t want confrontation. Back to Coral: “You worry about your jump rope and yourself and that’s it!” The camera pans to Eric, as he argues with her. Not smart. Seriously, even if Coral is wrong, has there been somebody who has gone up against her in a Challenge and made it to the end?

Ayanna time! “I slept in my uniform last night,” she yells, half-crying, “because I wanted to win tonight!” Dan laughs, as Ellen claims that she loves her. Ayanna: “All I needed was eight of y’all to have! My! Back! All! I needed! Was eight!” Ellen thinks that if Ayanna can control her temper, she can win. Dan: “And maybe, in Alaska this year, it won’t snow!” I miss Dan. Why can’t he host the Challenges? Or get him to do commentary. Have his wear a blazer and interview contestants.

Katie admits that she hasn’t gotten along with some people. Of course, she means Veronica. Cut to Katie fighting her during The Gauntlet and the massive fit from The Inferno. I still get a kick out of Syrus laughing his head off nearby. Shane says that when he sees Katie and Veronica, one of them will go home. Dan wonders why people think Veronica will play fair. Cut to Veronica, top on but blurred down there, yelling for somebody to get away from her. Rachel tells her to get into the shower. I swear, if Abram is waiting in there, that could be it for me. Been there, done that, not going there again.

After commercials (including an ad with Coral’s rant), we go to a women’s conference, where Tina wants her peers to be honest about her going home. Robin expresses her need to stay away from drama so she doesn’t get voted off. Cut to her walking with Ruthie, unwilling to vote somebody off because that person didn’t do anything wrong. Dan says it’s good to add drama to the mix. Ruthie doesn’t like drama, but Shane does. Cut to Ruthie crying, while Coral and Veronica debate off-camera about her voting off a friend. Tonya: “Live entertainment, baby!” Theo: “Are you kidding? Every one of these kids is HDTV in action.”

Club shots. Mix-and-match dancing. Seriously ... Coral and Dan Setzler? What the heck? Shane figures it’s political to hook up to stay around longer. Dan Renzi adds that people hook up, then forget they’re playing a game. As a “veteran hook-upper,” Mike recommends not to do it. We get flashbacks of his times with Trishelle and Kendal. What about Tara from Battle of the Seasons?

Theo says that he looks at eighteen different women and equates that to 36 individual breasts. The funny thing: we cut to a mission, and the camera goes right to Sophia, whom Theo would have a really tough time sweet-talking. Shane notes there’s a lot of hot guys. Then we see what could be the best mission ever. It looks like a variation of Freeze Your Butt Off from BOTS1. The object seems to be to melt a huge chunk of ice. One guy lies on top on his back. Another lies directly on top of the guy. The others pull them back and forth, like a fleshy hacksaw. Oh, and Eric grinds on the ice with his butt. It’s just so out there, and a lot better than watching people sit around and get frostbite. Tonya feels that hook-ups breed possible conflict between women and possible me. Cut to Rachel on top of the ice, driving her behind back and forth. Honestly, I cannot wait to recap that episode.

Now we move onto Tonya. Apparently, she’s going to last a lot longer this season than in her prior tours of duty. Shane calls her a “typical American stereotype” with her blonde hair and great body. Cut to her kissing Ace. Katie thinks Tonya will be a party girl. Mike predicts lots of fun with guys. Cut to her in bed with Mark, followed by her dancing with Theo, then Mark. Shane and Ruthie bring up Arissa, but then remember that she’s married. They move on to Angela, whom they feel needs support. Cut to her on the cell phone, crying her eyes out. Hey, that could have been lifted from any X-Treme episode! Ruthie feels that Angela needs to find her “rock.” The ensuing clip shows us that Frank is destined to fill that role. I’ll go out on a limb and say that he just offers moral support. Shane: “She doesn’t feel good unless someone loves her. She’ll sleep with someone for that.” Angela’s got a messed-up history ... but Shane? Shut up.

Robin and Mark want Shane to hook up. Cut to him dancing it up with Nick. Man, Nick could do better. Shane gushes that he’s waited three years for another gay person. He adds, “I’m tired of these semi-questioning straight men fooling with my head!” Heh. I’m thinking that list would start with Antoine and work its way down. Let’s just say there have been a lot of question marks attached to some people. Theo says that the women flock to Shane because he’s a love. We get of shot of Shane kissing a girl. Mike: “I’m actually thinking of saying I’m gay on a show, just so I can have these hot girls all over me.” Mike? You’ve had three women on three different seasons! Man, that’s just plain greedy. Dan contemplates flipping his orientation, saying he’d go after Tonya, since he’s fascinated by her breasts..

Mark tells us that he’s recently divorced, and now options are open for him. Cut to him power-lifting a girl in the pool Theo feels he has to worry about teammates getting involved with the opposition. Mike tells Katie she should go in knowing she’ll lose. Cut to Tonya eating something nasty as Ayanna encourages her. “I am not going up against the guys,” Katie tells Mike. “I’m going against the [bleeps]!” Cut to Tina arguing with Tonya, threatening to call her out. Katie: “Battle of the [bleeps] is what I’m playing. You’re playin’ a while other game, honey!” Robin knows it’s not about going against the guys until the very end. Cut to Coral playfully shoving Arissa out of the door. Dan feels that the women can be more up front. Cut to Angela tells somebody that she wishes she could be more like that person, and Sophia telling her to open up.

Katie thinks that the girls have a chance. Mark figures the guys can win every mission. Katie hopes the final women’s team will have as much determination as she did going into the Inferno. Theo doesn’t think the process is that complicated. Cut to credits.

And that’s that. The first episode airs this Monday at 10 p.m., and reruns a few dozen times afterwards. I hope that you guys enjoy my recaps as much I enjoy writing them.

I missed Ellen. Really. And I didn't know how much Mark would let me down that season. Or Eric. And his jump rope. That damn jump rope. But you'll find out about that soon enough.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Battle of the Sexes 2: A Preview of the Women's Team

Posted on October 10, 2004

After losing to the guys in the first Battle of the Sexes, the women are out to settle the score. Will they send their best to beat the men, or will the ladies go 0-2?

In the original Battle of the Sexes, the women's team was fragmented with drama, and the final team (Ruthie Alcaide, Ellen Cho, and Lori Trespicio) ended up losing to the guys in the final mission. Today, the poster girls for unflattering female stereotypes are the Apex group from The Apprentice. The good news: this Challenge team is three times bigger than Apex, and only half as catty. The bad news: this Challenge team has Veronica.

Aneesa Ferreira (RW: Chicago)

Several months ago, focused on reality television. One writer listed the worst characters from the genre [July 2018: link defunct], and Aneesa was at the top of the list. Apparently, excessive nudity is the ultimate sin for some people. She beat out Omarosa, Jerri, Jon Dalton ... even folks like Puck, Emily, and Julie. I think that the nudity is funny, like you never know when she'll get naked next. For instance: remember when Ellen was crying about how Puck was going to kick her ass, and Aneesa just ambles in, holding her bare breasts? That was just so random, it broke up the seriousness of the situation.
In the last Battle of the Sexes, Aneesa made the first Inner Circle, then slid down the rankings. Her lone highlight was trying to convince Ruthie to throw a mission in order to get rid of Emily. It remains to be seen if Aneesa can top her first Challenge performance.

Angela (RR: X-Treme)

Quick question: why wasn't this big-time drama mama on Road Rules to begin with? We started off with three girls, all of whom looked alike. After Kina got voted off (more on that later), BMP shipped Angela in. She fought with her castmates and got cuddly with Patrick. Then Jillian came in to replace Ibis, and proceeded to steal Angela's thunder. From there, it was just a medley of yelling and tearful calls back home. Angela also came perilously close to blowing the final mission, almost costing her team their Handsome Reward.

I'd like to think that Angela might have taken the time between her season and the Challenge to assess her life and make a few changes. Then I saw her in a commercial. What was she doing? Lying in a hammock, crying on the cell phone. I might have given up hope on her, but you don't have to ... at least in terms of the Fantasy Challenge. Crying is worth ten points this season, so Angela is bound to be a gold mine.

Arissa Hill (RW: Las Vegas)

How could I tell Arissa from Irulan while watching their season? Simple: Irulan had the small nose piercing, and Arissa looked like a raccoon. Also, Arissa had the most dysfunctional family, complete with a trash-talking mother. Since then, she's gotten hitched and gone into the music business. She's a big question mark going into this Challenge.

Ayanna Mackins (RR: Semester at Sea)

Ayanna is crazy, but it's a good crazy. Looking past the time she beat up Christian for dropping a certain word that Norwegians should say during Extreme Challenge, I find her to be a nice character. For starters, she ripped Veronica's head off after the Verantula plagiarized Ayanna's paper. We also saw a softer side of Ayanna during Battle of the Sexes, when she got cuddly with David from RW: New Orleans.

Ayanna left on a bad note last time, as she got into a war of words with Anne during the Laser Tag mission, and ended up requesting to get voted out. I think that in the right environment, Ayanna can thrive . But with all the potential drama on her side of the field, can we last that long?

Cameran Eubanks (RW: San Diego)

What can I say about RW's latest ingénue? She's immature. She digs lunks like Brad. She likes punching Brad in the nuts. If the commercials are any indication, she'll be lusting after Mike since she slaps him in the nuts. Other than that? She doesn't leave much of an impression.

Coral Smith (RW: Back to New York)

There are two sides to Coral: On one hand, she hasn't achieved the glory days of Battle of the Seasons, where she teamed with Mike to wreck havoc on RR. She's been dead weight in many missions. Her friendship with Mike seems to be a millstone around his neck. She got bit by a spider in the final Gauntlet mission, which held her team back. After two losses, you'd think she would take the hint, and go to the Oxygen network to do a "Good Cop/Bad Cop" show with her roommate Melissa (current cast member of "Girls Behaving Badly" and my ideal Good Cop).

On the other hand? Coral loves to smack people around. Slappy Stephen gets in her face? Out he goes. Matt talks about how bad women are to get fake breasts? He's a goner. Trishelle steps up to her in two separate Challenges? Gone and gone. Fools jump up, Coral smacks them down, and with some of the best lines ever uttered (on Julie challenging her to wrestle: "I wear a 32DD bra. One boob alone could kick her ass!") And maybe that's why I like her: we're both player-haters, and I see a little of myself in her.

There is some bad news. Rumors are swirling that she is dating Abram. He is the ultimate fool, so how come she's coddling him? Either this is a sick rumor, the most elaborate practical joke ever conceived, or Coral just crossed the line. But she remains one of the most tenacious players in Challenge history. Whether she can outlast Mike may be the mark in which she'll be measured.

Cynthia Roberts (RW: Miami)

Where has this girl been? Cynthia was one of the funniest people in RW history, with her squeaky voice, long fingernails, and use of "hella" before words (e.g., "hellacool," "hellascared.") She took part in the first Challenge, Road Rules: All-Stars, back when it was just five former Real Worlders doing the RR bit. She got scared during a face-first rappel, and almost stalked off after she found out that she had eaten bugs for dinner. Think of her as an ancestor to Melissa: both funny ladies who freaked out during the more intense missions.

Cynthia is currently seeing her baby's father. I'm disappointed, only because she's off the market. We haven't seen her on the tube since the RW tenth anniversary special back in 2001. I'm not sure how far she can go, but hopefully we'll see her teach the new kids a thing or two about respect.

Genesis Moss (RW: Boston)

RW's first full-season lesbian, Genesis participated inBattle of the Sexes. She made the first Inner Circle, then faded over time. She was slated to go home twice, but she was saved by Shane giving her the Ion Lifesaver, and by Emily leaving the game with her boyfriend.

Ibis (RR: X-Treme)

I was finally able to tell Ibis apart from the other girls around the same time Kina was voted off. I have only one clear memory of Ibis: during the guard dog mission, she had grabbed a bone in front of a chained German Shepard and ran with it as Derrick occupied two other dogs. The catch? A fourth dog managed to tackle her and prevented her from reaching the finish line. That ranked up there with Amaya running from the midget wrestler in Challenge 2000.

I will say this about Ibis: she's honest. After she stumbled in a mission, forcing her team to lose yet again, she volunteered herself to go home. She was just another victim in BMP's insistence that voting makes RR more interesting.

Katie Doyle (RR: The Quest)

Let's see if I got this right. Katie goes into Inferno as the one person her team has to shed. Thanks to the format of that season, RW blocks every attempt to shove Katie into the Inferno. RR plots and schemes 24/7, shoving Katie into the line of fire. But she wins two Infernos, proceeds to bitch out Veronica (the biggest highlight of that season), and contemplates throwing the final mission before relenting and winning her share of a $230,000 reward. Here's my question: why is Katie back?

After watching the preview special, I still got a soft spot in my heart for Katie. Sure, she did kiss Veronica on the lips briefly during MTV's reality awards show. And she's still one of the biggest scrubs on either side until further notice. But Katie can go from zero to pissed off faster than most people ... and really, isn't that what matters here?

Kina Dean (RR: X_Treme)

How could I tell Kina apart from Jodi? Simple: Kina left the show, and Jodi didn't. Kina was booted in the dumbest way imaginable: unable to bring themselves to boot out one of their own by a vote, the five original cast members (with Nick exempt from the vote-off) picked names out of a hat. And Kina lost because her name was picked twice. If ever there was an example of the inanity of voting people off on RR, that was it.

Rachel Robinson (RR: Campus Crawl)

First, I hated Rachel during her season. Then came Battle of the Sexes, where she got screwed over by the Inner Circle. Ruthie wanted to keep Aneesa around, Ellen was chummy with Tonya, and Christina was Emily's henchwench. With the three lowest scorers passed over, the Circle went against Rachel, who insistence not to help out and perhaps break the rules during the Tree House mission ticked Ellen off. The announcement of the vote was a shocker, leading to Rachel's "This game is ug-lay!" rant. So what did she do during Gauntlet? Try to bully Sarah off the show the same way she had been bullied off. While Sarah ended up going to the Gauntlet five times, Rachel didn't perform much better, but her name wasn't brought up once. And there was her insinuation that Theo had been thinking with his penis after he bailed Sarah out of a date with the Gauntlet. Afterwards, she got into a threesome with Veronica and Abram. Whatever.

I don't think Rachel will last long, and it's not wishful thinking. Remember, this is the same woman who lost to Irulan in a wrestling match. Seriously ... Irulan, for crying out loud. It wouldn't even take somebody as nasty as Emily to boot out Rachel ... just somebody who looks past the muscles and sees a mighty underachiever.

Robin Hibbard (RW: San Diego)

Not much to say about Robin that hasn't been said, except that the whole "punch a Marine" thing was blown way out of proportion. She's feisty, she does a great Brad impression (as seen in the clips show), and can probably rumble with the boys. She was also a commentator on the preview special, so maybe she'll go the distance.

Ruthie Alcaide (RW: Hawaii)

Two years ago, I heard that Ruthie's was doing Battle of the Sexes. I thought to myself, "Half the people on the cast will put drinks in her hand, the other half will knock them out of her hand." She co-hosted the special with Jonny Moseley, and there were no highlights of her, so I thought she was toast. In the second mission, she hung by her legs longer than anybody else, checking her watch as she hung upside-down. As the guys traded the top position amongst themselves, Ruthie was the top points-scorer after thirteen of the fifteen missions. Sure, she let Emily run roughshod over the Inner Circle, but she had the biggest redemption of any Challenger out there.

Today, Ruthie is a favorite to go the distance. My biggest problem with her? Rumors that she hooked up with Steven. If it's true, then I gotta have a sit-down with her. Seriously ... who would find Steven attractive ... especially a lesbian such as her? Aside from that and a garish tattoo on her left shoulder, Ruthie is still the same ass-kicker we knew from two years ago.

Sophia Pasquis (RR: The Quest)

Want to know why Sophia was the last person on her season to be in a Challenge? Simple: 99 percent of her drama was that she was a lesbian and had yet to come out to her folks. Well, she did, and that's why she hasn't been around in the past three years. The funny thing is that we don't know where she rates in terms of the women on her season. There's a huge gap between scrubs like Katie & Jisela and an overachiever such as Ellen. With her mellow personality, it remains to be seen if Sophia can compete with the drama.

Tina Barta (RR: South Pacific)

I never thought I'd say this, but I like Tina. Back when she replaced Cara, she was bossy and noisy, cliquing up with Donell, bitching about every little thing and flirting with Dave to make Mary-Beth miserable. Then she showed up on Gauntlet. I laughed when she was crying during Snake Soup, but didn't feel any maliciousness when she got beat in the Gauntlet by Coral. She recently popped up during the X-Treme/South Pacific Face-Off, where she scored a first-round TKO on an overmatched Angela.

So why the change of heart? I've thought of Tina as "Discount Coral," a bossy bitch who enjoyed putting people down. With the rumors of a romance with Abram swirling around, Coral may be dead to me, so there's a vacumn that Tina can fill nicely.

Tonya Cooley (RW: Chicago)

Once upon a time, Tonya was the most hated member on her cast ... and she was alongside the likes of Cara and Kyle, so that's saying something. Tonya has done Battle of the Sexes and Gauntlet. Aside from becoming buddy-buddy with Ellen, she hasn't done anything remotely worthy of scorn. She's gotten praise from fellow cast members on their home pages. She's done charity work, and is working on getting her nursing degree. The down side? She got hurt in both Challenges, and she had to go home.

Judging from the preview special, this might be her breakout season. The weird thing is that she seems to be popular with the boys this time around. She kisses Ace, and dances with Theo and Mark. I haven't pegged Tonya into being in a relationship since the days of Walla Walla and Justin. At the very least, things should get interesting.

Veronica Portillo (RR: Semester at Sea)

In the past year, I have rained down all sorts of abuse on Veronica. Is there any bright side to her doing her sixth Challenge? First of all, she's probably so smart, it would take four people to do her job. And since she apparently doesn't have a full-time job, four people are employed when they might not have been. Veronica has done 54 missions in the Challenges going into the current edition, and that will rank as untouchable as Cy Young's 511 wins. If it wasn't for Veronica, where would we get the drama from?

Veronica stinks. She lies, she manipulates, she steals. She uses Emily's treatment of her (re: "The game played me, now I play the game") as an excuse to bully Sarah and Katie. Watching Katie go supernova on her was fun, but Veronica picked up yet another Challenge win. The good news? Since eliminations are guaranteed after every mission, the odds of the Verantula making it to the final mission are longer than before.

The full names: Angela Trimbur and Ibis Nieves. Then again, she came from Road Rules: X-Treme, one of the final nails in the casket for the series. And shit, I did not take a case like Johnny into account in regard to Veronica's mark. Basically, she set the bar pretty high, but those that would followed invented the "Fosbury Flop" equivalent, and now we got Johnny in his sixteenth Challenge. I think. I'd look it up, but then I'd get depressed all over again.