Sunday, March 15, 2020

Battle of the Sexes 2 Episode 16: Penultimate Present

Well. I think that I may have finally found a reason to start posting my old recaps more rapidly . . . . a damn pandemic that is sweeping the world.

Truth be told, I'm a bit shook. The Coronavirus has ground the world to a halt. Entire nations have shut down. Sports have been suspended indefinitely. The president of the United States . . . well, he's still a moron. The point is this . . . .if things get better and you're reading this in the future, and you're wondering how we could have been this frightened . . . well, I would say we're entitled. Lots of people enjoy a movie about a plague making life a living hell for its characters, but you probably wouldn't want to be there. And that makes my final weeks at Reality News Online seem so small by comparison. But for the sake of providing context to my recaps, I'm go over it anyway.

To review: most of the recappers looked down upon me, especially my criticisms to the judgements of Donald Trump on The Apprentice. My chosen beat -- Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes 2 -- had been one stomp to the genitals after another, as the guys dominated for most of the season and the girls kept finding ways to self-destruct. Each recap I wrote went negative . . . and given that I've always been "glass-half-empty" in general, you can imagine how that was reflected in my writing.

A lot of what soured me on BOTS2 was the downfall of Mark Long. Looking back at the history of Road Rules, it would be a battle between him and Timmy Beggy as to which guy best represented the franchise. He finished with the most points of any player in Battle of the Sexes, even though he didn't "win" a mission outright. But somewhere between BOTS1 and BOTS2, he went awry. He got divorced, and he wound up showmancing (I know, term wasn't coined yet) with Robin. It wasn't on par with Brad fooling around with Britni in recent seasons, or Bear, period. He just became another asshole in a series of assholes, and he wasn't the paragon he used to be.

The other irritant was Eric Nies (different guy with two four-letter names; funny that my brain can make weird connections). Yeah, he was the himbo of the original season of The Real World way back in 1992, but he wasn't as awful as some of those that would follow. (*koff*Puck*koff*) For the most part, I was okay with him on BOTS1. But then he came back, and with that stupid jump rope. That stupid, stupid jump rope that he kept trying to pimp on the show. How bad was it? If an article was to be published within a few years of BOTS2 featuring the words "Eric Nies" and "asphyxiation," I would not have been that shocked.

Anyway . . . this is the penultimate episode, where I get mad yet again. Once again: this was early 2005. If I had known what would be coming in the next fifteen years, I probably would have tried to keep perspective.

Postscript to the prologue: If you're one of the recappers from back then, just know that I honestly believe you voted for Trump in 2016, and you'll do it again in November. And that pisses you off? Too bad. You made me out to be the bad guy. I might as well say whatever I want.

Episode Aired: January 17, 2005
Recap Posted: January 19, 2005 [I must have REALLY wanted to get the recap out of my system]

In their never-ending quest to dominate, the guys scheme to keep Arissa for the final mission. Seriously, just when you think this show can't get any lower, they dig a few more inches.

In the past few weeks, Reality News Online has asked readers to submit the best and worst of 2004 for the RNO Awards. A few days ago, I received the nominations for the "Worst Of" segment, and wouldn't you know it, there was nothing Challenge-related. I was banking on a few categories to be loaded with folks from the Challenge. I mean, contrary to what Andre 3000 might tell you, Veronica is the reason for the word "witch." I did learn a lesson: no matter how much I bellyache about my chosen beat, there are far worse shows and characters about there. I just have to remember that. But after this episode, perspective might be too slippery for me to grasp.

[Quick annotation: "Reason for the word 'witch' was lifted from "Roses" by Outkast. Here's the video; at 2:06, there's a picture of Irulan from RW:Las Vegas and The Gauntlet. You might remember her as Sarah's final opponent in the Gauntlet. I guess that I just wanted to be cute]

Previously on Battle of the Sexes 2: Arissa's fear of heights caused problems for her team. Cut to scenes from Sa-Wing, Pop Culture Bike Jump, and Semi-Cross. Don't ask me why they threw in Pop Culture Bike Jump, since she nailed that. The guys won Car-Go, upping their record to a ridiculous 13-2. Coral told Sophia that she didn't want to put herself at the mercy of two best friends with her and Ruthie. The women sent Ruthie home, while the guys let Brad go. Brad: "This was my game. I should have made it to the end." Eric: "We had to send somebody home. He's 20 years old. This is the first Challenge that he's on. And obviously, he should have played it a little bit better, because he shouldn't have allowed me to be a leader that day." What's worse than Eric wearing the jump rope around his head while saying all this? The fact that he's aware of how bad he stinks, and he's giving Brad grief about how he's still there. Theo interviews that Eric didn't deserve to be there, and it was time for him to bow out gracefully. What has Eric done in his life that can he considered graceful?

It's daytime at the Osaka Bistro, where the final four ladies have a meal. Tina gets the clue from the sponsor phone, which mentions that "this is the high point for this season." Anything can be higher than the valleys this season has chosen to dwell in. Arissa is not happy about the "high" implications. Sophia interviews that she's concerned about Arissa's physical performances. She adds that if Arissa makes the final team, they would have to pick up the slack,

Over at the Men's Lounge, Dan reads the clue, "high point" and all. Mark is excited and ready for action. He interviews that he made a pact with Eric to bring each other to the final three. He adds that both have stuff going on outside the Challenge (dodgeball and jump ropes, presumably), and that Dan and Theo have "earned their keep." The fellas debate about the mission. Theo thinks that if it's a loseable mission, Eric would lead. Mark wants to step up if he feels confident, and that "The Big E" would go home. Eric: "Do you really think that we're gonna get there tomorrow, and one of us is gonna go, 'Man, I really think we're gonna lose it'?" He has a good laugh, since kicking a team when they've been down for weeks is so funny. Eric interviews that Theo and Dan deserve to be in the final mission, and that he and Mark have fewer points. I don't get that, myself. I also don't get how a small white dog just walked in the background. Where did he come from?

It's a new day, and the kids have taken a trip to the exotic land of Albuquerque (motto: "We Bet You Can't Spell It Right The First Time!"). Today's mission involves beams jutting off the roof of a tall building. Jonny welcomes the kids, and there's a dude in a suit with him. But it's not just any dude; it's Martin Chavez, mayor of Albuquerque. Neat .. a mission mayor who's actually a mayor. Don't you have to go way back to the first season of Road Rules for that? Anyway, Mayor Chavez welcomes the players to the mission and his city. "This is going to be a knockout," he adds, "and will scare the bejeezus out of everybody." Here in New York, I don't think our mayor has ever said "bejeezus." Arissa reminds us that she thought that she was over her fear of heights, but she was wrong.

After commercials, we cut to the roof and the assembled players. Jonny congratulates everybody for making it this far, then welcomes them to today's mission: Vertigo. Jonny adds that they'll find out who's afraid of heights. We get a tight close-up of Arissa, as if we haven't been told she's scared of heights. Jonny lays down the rules: the players will walk out on the beams. At the end of each beam is a tiny pedestal. The team that stands on the pedestals the longest wins. He adds that he'll blow his air horn once to get everybody to the edge, then blow it again to start the mission. The winning team gets a furniture shopping spree,worth $3,500 per person. Jonny gives the team 30 minutes to pick leaders, and hammers all the implications on who would stay and who would be vulnerable. We get it, Jonny. Shut up.

On the men's side, Dan wants Mark and Theo to lead. He interviews that if they win, Eric should be the one to leave. Mark is good with this arrangement. On the women's side, Coral and Arissa step up. Arissa interviews that she wants to make things fair, and she would go home if they lose. After a meaningless shot of sponsor drinks, Theo thanks the guys for getting this far.

Jonny calls the leaders up, then tells them to get harnessed. The guys huddle up, as Mark tells the team that Arissa hasn't been good for her side, citing Semi-Cross as an example. Eric asks if they want Sophia or Arissa in the final team. Dan would rather have Arissa stay on.

We find that the event will be done in heats, as Arissa and Sophia go up against Dan and Theo. Jonny gives both sides two minutes to walk to the pedestals. Arissa is shaking already, as the others gingerly make their way tot the edge. Theo interviews that he's not doing well standing over the ledge. "Did you see the beams?" he adds. "Who made this? This is like Bob Villa's evil twin made these things!" Arissa barely makes it halfway before expressing her need to quit. Coral yells that she should at least try. Suddenly, Dan shakes and falls off, and Theo follows. Eric smirks on the sidelines. Coral interviews that this is a good thing, since Arissa would have fallen anyway. Jonny awards the first heat to the women, and they celebrate. Arissa can't believe she went out as far as she did. Theo spouts out a "Dang!" and tells Eric that he could have done better. Eric laughs and agrees, and Mark thinks that this wasn't Theo's day.

Second Heat: Coral & Tina vs. Eric & Mark. This time, all four players make it to the end. Mark falls off the pedestal, and Eric follows. Jonny ends the mission, giving the girls their victory. Coral dangles from her harness, yelling for somebody to pull her up. Tina yells about how she's getting couches. Arissa can't believe she won.

Jonny wraps the mission up, giving the win to the women. He goes over who the vulnerable players. Coral: "It won't be me, Jonny!" Let us take a moment to recognize how Coral can be a bitch and a veteran of four Challenges, and yet still remain in the game. If her team lost, Arissa would have gone home. I feel that Coral should teach in the Learning Annex, because she's that good at manipulation and not getting any comeuppance in the process. Anyway, she and Arissa celebrate their guaranteed berths in the final mission. Arissa interviews that nobody believed she'd make it past the first week. Sophia is not as thrilled. "My battle is not over yet," she tells her teammates. She interviews that it sucks for her and Tina to be in this position, and she hopes Coral and Arissa make the right choice.

On the van ride home, Sophia tells the others that she's exhausted her energy about being nervous. Tina says that there's no stopping her, and she would be upset if she were to go home. "All the girls know I'm a strong contender," she interviews. "The only fault against me is that they're intimidated by my intensity." Love yourself much, Tina?

The guys ride in the van. Dan goes over Arissa's shaking: "I'm like, 'Bleep that, I'm done before you!'" Eric and Mark have a good laugh. And now, it's time for Mark to reveal the big secret. "I really think we should all get Cable ACEs for this performance today," he smugly interviews. "I don't think the girls caught on one bit that we were throwing the mission." Cut to Eric and Mark laughing like goons. Dan tells us that the two oldsters thought up a scheme to keep Arissa in the game.

We flash back to earlier in the episode, where Eric wonders whether to keep Arissa or Sophia in the game. Mark decides that he will sacrifice himself to allow Arissa to stay. "No offense to Arissa," he interviews, "but Arissa physically is just not on a level as the rest of the team." Flashback to Arissa messing up on Sa-Wing and Semi-Cross. Mark goes on, saying that if Arissa stays on, it would stack the deck for the men. I think their deck is already stacked; the women have been beaten day in and day out, and I don't see the need to try and put frosting on an already delicious cake. He adds that he would rather set up a women's team less likely to win then stay on himself. Theo hugs Mark, saying that it was big of him. Mark tells them that they'd better win, or he'll kill them.

Now we get to watch Arissa struggle on the beam, followed by Dan and Theo flopping. Out of this whole fiasco, I'm the most disappointed in these two. Shouldn't they be above such crap? Mark smirks and winks to the camera. Man, I hate him. He prances around in front of Eric, saying that he can fly. In the second heat, the old-timers take their dives. Eric jokes about how Mark dropped twenty feet. Cut to Coral and Arissa celebrating, seemingly oblivious to the men's machinations.

Back in the van, Mark reminds us that he had won a final mission once before, but Eric had never gotten that far. So why didn't Mark sacrifice himself last week? Right... because Brad, Dan, and Theo would have kicked Eric out today. Seriously, what does Eric bring to the party other than the jump rope? Theo and Dan actually admire Mark for making his move. Theo interviews that he's sad to see Mark go. "But at the same time," he adds, "for him to just be completely selfless, and give up his opportunity? It's really cool, and that's what this whole thing is about to me." But Eric is still in the game! Weren't you the one that said Eric had to go last week? Once again, Mark says that he wouldn't have done it if he didn't think it would help. Eric interviews about how Mark is a "stand-up and honorable guy." Mark brings up how Tina was kept over Ruthie last week, and how she might go home today. Eric calls the women "morons." I'm not at a loss for words, but too many of them can't be printed here.

Speaking of the women, they arrive at their Lounge. "Those girls are screwed if I get voted off," Tina interviews. "They're not going to win the $60,000. If I go home, good luck to ya!" Sophia interviews that she doesn't know what will happen next, and that she always goes up against Tina. "If I lose to her," she adds, "I'll give it to her because you know what? I didn't lose to her because I suck."

Final Girls' Inner Circle. Arissa wants what's best for the team..Coral feels that both Tina and Sophia have performed equally well, but Sophia has the edge. How so? Turns out she has been doing puzzles her whole life. Yeah, so did Steve, but he got whupped by Trishelle in The Gauntlet. She would want Sophia in there, "even if it's a placebo effect." She adds that if there's a crossword puzzle, that wouldn't be for her. She's been there and done that.

Welcome to Elimination Hill. Jonny blathers on before calling Coral and Arissa up. Coral wastes no time in dropping the axe on Tina, bringing up Sophia's supposed puzzle prowess. Arissa adds that Tina is a "beast." I would have called her that almost two years ago, but I wouldn't have been as positive as Arissa. Tina hugs Coral and Arissa, then tries to see the bright side of the decision. Of course, she wants her team to win in the end. She interviews that she's upset, but Sophia is a "puzzle person," and she hopes there's a puzzle in the final mission.

Now Eric comes up to speak. Naturally, he's alone and he holds his precious jump rope. He talks about his alliance with Mark before dropping the hammer. Mark goes on about how he wouldn't want any other guys to go into the final mission, and he considers them brothers. Jonny dismisses the troops and congratulates the final six players.

Tina and Mark pack up. Tina says her farewells, gets into the cab and rides off into the night. "Those three girls worked their asses off to make it to the top three," Tina interviews. "I hope that they can win, for the sake of saying, 'Look, guys, chicks are just as strong as you'."

Outside, Mark gets escorted out by his teammates. He reminds them that he didn't sacrifice himself so they can lose. He interviews that he thinks the men will win the final mission "by a landslide." He enthuses about taking an electric guitar home with him. Dan then breaks out his air guitar moves. If I weren't so repulsed by the actions of this group, I'd find that funny. Mark: "I'm walking away from this almost as if we won already." Eric interviews that he has a good feeling he'll be calling Mark after the final mission. Mark rides away.

Am I looking forward to the finale? No. The women have made too many mistakes, both on the field and off. With every loss, they lost morale. Even though they would go into the final mission with no apparent disadvantages, they don't have the same bond as the guys. Seriously, did any of the boys get weepy or bow their heads when they got rid of one of their own? Right now, the women are running on fumes.

And yet, the women have to win this Challenge. The men are far too arrogant, far too full of themselves. Remember how Sarah was supposed to hold her team back at the end of The Gauntlet? Or Katie in The Inferno? How would Arissa be any different? I am disgusted that Mark would add insult to injury and "nobly" sacrifice himself, just so his best pal in the whole world can get $60,000. Seriously, the worst thing to come out of this Challenge is Mark Long's devolution from a semi-decent guy to just another camera-grubbing loser for me to pick on. Eric Nies has done little on this Challenge except to pimp his stupid jump ropes. And I am honestly dismayed that Theo and Dan went along with the plan. All I want now is for the women to win. Arissa can go off into the sunset and bash Steven to her heart's content. Sophia can pay for a shrink to help with the distress she went through. And Coral can not only hold a second title over Mike's head, she can also retire as a champ. It ain't much, but I can take it at this point. Oh, and Mark? The Cable ACEs were discontinued in 1997. Shut up, Dodgeball Boy.

Next time: How do the kids get to the final mission? Jonny directs a goon squad to "kidnap" them from their farewell dinner. Seriously, we need a new host. The kids prepare to skydive, which distresses Arissa to no end. The players run outside. Theo interviews that he's always worried about the women getting ahead, and that makes his team go harder. He also ends up chewing on a knot to untie it.

Postscript: Like I said, there will always be worst shows and moments from my current beat. And thanks to some messed-up donkey handling, Jonathan Baker and Victoria Fuller are out of The Amazing Race. While their elimination (at the hands of Phil Keoghan, who was close to bursting out into song) didn't disperse the clouds over my head, it did shine a bright light for me. Some days, the bad guys get theirs, and I hope that's the case next week.

Oh, right. Those two. If you never watched The Amazing Race, just know Jonathan was the absolute worst. Even with all the headcases, stuntcast teams and assholes from Big Brother that raced in future seasons, he left his mark upon us fans. A dark, stank mark.

Heading into the finale, I had heard that Sophia would be the final boot. Given how her season had gone, that would have been the appropriate ending for her. I like to think that Coral and Arissa decided to go into the final mission with the same template as the girls' team in BOTS1: lesbian (Ruthie/Sophia), bitch (Ellen/Coral), lucky to still be there (Lori/Arissa).

Tina never did get that first title. That was great with me; I feel history should look upon her as a discounted version of Coral. She returned in Inferno II and made it to the end, teaming with Rachel ad Veronica to make Tonya's life miserable, and I still feel that cost them in the end, She would come back two seasons later in Fresh Meat. Naturally, she would wind up partnered with a geninue asshole in Kenny Santucci. They would finish the season in second, behind winners Darrell & Aviv, ahead of Wes and the anchor around his ankles known as"Casey." Her final season was The Duel, where she was kicked off for hitting Beth. And in true Tina fashion, she barely got a piece on one of the most aggravating Challengers before her ejection. Her final appearance was in Cutthroat, where she was brought into the penultimate (I like using that word) Gulag to fight Theresa and Tori (Brad's then-wife) in Back Up Off Me. You might remember that as the game where CT made his return and turned Johnny Bananas into a friggin' backpack. Naturally, Tina lost both times; Tori advanced because she beat her quicker.

Mark never did get a third title to go with All-Star Challenge and BOTS1. Thinking about it, maybe throwing games randomly dooms players. Going into Survivor: Winners at War, Ozzy Lusth competed in four seasons, and he was in the game longer than the other than the four-timers (Cirie Fields, Rob Mariano, Rupert Boneham) . . . but I think he sealed his fate as a perennial also-ran in the second episode of Survivor: Cook Islands, when he convinced the other members of the Aitutaki tribe to throw an Immunity Challenge in order to vote out Billy Garcia.

Mark? Right, right . . . he would return in Gauntlet 2, making it to the end with the overmatched Veterans team, and got into a love triangle of sorts with Robin and Tonya. I think his peak moment that season was "I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS FUCKING BUS!" He also completed The Duel II, alongside Brad and Evan. But any hope he had of winning $100,000 disappeared when he arrived at a checkpoint to team with a female finalist, and the long wait for Aneesa to arrive screwed him. His final Challenge was Battle of the Exes, where he was teamed with Robin. It was there where he would face elimination for the very first time, as he and Robin lost to Johnny & Camila in the final Dome.

Ever now and then, I hear that Mark saying he could come back. I don't think he's delusional. The "Godfather" moniker? Different story, but I reckon he could hold his own against bucks half his age. But any time I think of him, I think of  BOTS2, I think of him "nobly" stepping aside so that his buddy Eric could get a sure shot at $60,000 (the highest "Handsome Reward" at that point in Challenge history), and I get mad. And given current events, that is beyond stupid of me. Yeah, the throwing of the mission didn't set me off as the time Road Rules sought to screw Katie in Inferno (with Abram slamming a humiliating knife in her heart, followed by him twisting it with glee), but it was still done with a bit of glee that I just didn't like.

Two more recaps left. Then maybe I can start reposting some non-Challenge content from back in the day.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Battle of the Sexes 2 Episode 15: Are We Done Yet?

"Worst season ever."

When we're dissatisfied with a show, we tend to snap into Comic Book Guy Mode. With The Challenge, there are a lot of contenders for that title . . . if there was to be a title. Over the years, I feel there have been a lot of nadirs. Extreme Challenge. Gauntlet 2. The Island. The Ruins. Rivals 3. Final Reckoning. And, of course, Battle of the Sexes 2.

It wasn't just the show. At this point, I was being sniped at by most of the other recappers at Reality News Online. They didn't like my negativity. They disagreed with opinions I took on The Apprentice. One of the writers misinterpreted my comments and called me a misogynist, which really upset me. They didn't like me frequenting the Television Without Pity forums, as they didn't seem to actually visit and see that the average discourse was more civil than most message boards. Snarky, yes, but it wasn't mostly cursing and typos. And while they shit was going on, the sixth season of The Amazing Race had the nicer teams getting eliminated and the nastier pieces of work clinging on. Because of the awesomeness of the prior season and its happy ending (middle-aged couple Chip & Kim winning), karma balanced the tables, and my favorite reality show became a horror movie. And unlike most films of that genre, the "final girl" -- in this case, long-distance dating couple Kris & Jon -- wound up getting a machete to the head at the end, finishing second to the odious Freddy and racist Kendra.

I just feel that I feel to explain the context determining my mood, as I try to recover memories from almost fifteen years ago . . . why I kept being negative. Well, more negative. The final three episodes of Battle Of The Sexes 2 would prove to be one painful kick to the body after another, in the few places that hadn't felt pain yet. And that brings me to Sophia Pasquis.

I never met Sophia in person. I interviewed her twice in 2001 for an article I wrote while I was enrolled as a grad student at New York University (you can read it here ). In retrospect, she probably didn't have to help me out. I think she was interviewed by anyone into reality TV and culture back then, since she was the first openly gay cast member on Road Rules. Before and after those interviews, I had liked her "work" on MTV. She was pretty mellow on Road Rules: The Quest, at least compared to headcases like Adam, Ellen and Jisela. And that mini-Afro was soothing to look at. Not as majestic as Malik from RW: Back to New York, but it was still a nice signature.

Sophia came to Battle of the Sexes 2. I was looking forward to it . .  .two of my favorite females that I had been in touch with from time to time -- Melissa Howard and Sarah Greyson -- had come to The Challenge (Battle of the Sexes and The Gauntlet, respectively), and they made out well. Melissa almost made the finale and got Julie eliminated in the first episode, and Sarah was on the winning Road Rules team after fighting for her survival five times. Surely, Sophia wouldn't be put through the wringer as bad as that, right?

I was wrong. Her team got manhandled in almost every mission. She had a few breakdowns on Elimination Hill. Watching her slowly lose her mind was brutal . . . and the worst was yet to come.

Postscript to the Prologue: War of the Worlds 2 ended as a big mess. On the bright side, I got an article published on Saniac Podcast about how Johnny might be the Typhoid Mary of The Challenge, in the sense that all those would have beaten him in elimination games have not won a title on their own since. Seriously, give it a read. There is a little negativity, but not as much as what you're about to read.

Episode Aired: January 10, 2005
Recap Posted: January 16, 2005

Do you crave depressing moments and the eternally lame triumphing week in and week out? It's more of the same this week.

Previously on Battle of the Sexes 2: There was an argument between Sophia and Coral that we never saw before. Coral felt that she expects so much more from Ruthie, while Sophia didn't want Ruthie to be punished. The guys won Semi-Cross, running their record to 11-2. Theo: "The girls' team is like some little forgotten country that has pretty much all been defeated." Shots of dejected girls, followed by Coral ripping into Robin. Here's my question: what would their national anthem be? I got it down to either "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day, or My Chemical Romance's "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)." On Elimination Hill, Shane was booted by the guys, while the ladies voted out Robin, tearing her from Mark. Yeah, I'm so sure he'll be suffering from that. Coral interviewed that she loved Robin, but she wants the $60,000. Can things get more depressing tonight?

At the Women's Lounge, Ruthie and Sophia shoot the breeze. Ruthie interviews that she thinks about the shadiness on her team. "There's some people that have gone that have good hearts," she adds, "and now I know Sophia's the only one left." That's a helluva endorsement. Sophia tells Ruthie that she's willing to punch out and cuss at people. They laugh.

Outside the Men's Lounge, Eric and Mark play catch. Mark feels that since they're so close to the end, they might as well buddy up. Eric interviews that everybody knows he and Mark would protect each other no matter what. Mark asks who would be in the final three. Eric figures it's a toss-up between Theo and Dan, and that they're both good for certain tasks. "Eric's one of my best friends," Mark interviews, "and it's good to have someone on your side that is a good friend."

Nighttime at the Men's Lounge. Theo answers the sponsor phone, getting the clue. Cut to Brad, walking on his hands. I'm guessing he's all about mocking the exposition, and I can respect that. Over at the Women's Lounge, Sophia reads the clue to Ruthie: "Are you ready for loads of fun?" More details: be ready by 8:30 a.m., and wear tennis shoes. The girls wonder if this mission will require getting naked. Theo thinks that maybe they have to play tennis. Brad interviews that he's getting along with everybody, and it's going to be difficult to vote somebody off.

It's a new day, as the kids get to the mission site. This time, we have cars on platforms and a few dozen luggage bags. Jonny welcomes everybody to today's mission: Car-Go. The objective: lift a car ten feet off the ground. The method: each car is loaded onto a contraption, which is connected to four free weight pulleys. The players must pull the chains to raise the contraption, and the key is for the chains to be pulled at the same time. Before any of that happens, the cars must be loaded with luggage. "Packing is not my forte," Coral interviews. "I tip bellboys to do that kind of [bleep]." Jonny explains that the luggage fits in a certain way, and that the bags cannot be stuffed, crunched, broken, or shoved into other bags. The first team to raise the car wins exercise equipment, worth $2,600 per person. Jonny gives both sides 30 minutes to pick leaders. Since we're so late into the game, there will be two leaders per side. Arissa interviews that it's every person for themselves, and they all what to get the cash.

On the guys' side, Mark asks Dan if he's good at loading. Dan thinks that he is, and Mark pronounces him and Eric to be the leaders. Brad interviews that the leaders were picked without any discussion, adding "that's a little creepy." He goes up to the guys, asking who the leaders are. After some awkward silence and a commercial break, Brad points out that figuring out leaders is more important than putting bags in the car, and that he does not want to get burned in the end. Dan interviews that Brad is nervous, since Eric is on the bottom rung but is leading. Mark wishes that somebody had two disqualifications. Theo thinks that Eric has messed up a little more than the other team members. Mark figured that Eric and Dan were good packers, and Dan adds that he used to pack trucks for a living. Brad notes that he used to work at UPS. Eric says that if the team loses, the leaders would be at risk, but he's willing to chance it. "I know that the only way for me to survive is to be a leader and win," Eric interviews. "There's no other place for me, because I'm number five when it comes to points." Brad interviews that he's alone, but he'll abide by the team decision.

Over on the girls' side, Coral feels it's important to pick leaders. Tina steps up, then adds that she doesn't want Coral or Sophia to lead with her. Coral goes on about how Ruthie wouldn't want to go up against a strong person. Ruthie: "So you're saying I'm not strong?" Coral asks why Ruthie isn't stepping up to be a leader. Ruthie responds that Coral thinks that she would go home with a loss. Coral thinks that Ruthie has done the same things as Tina. Ruthie brings up her struggles with the Sa-Wing mission. Once again, Coral asks why Ruthie isn't stepping up. "Picking leaders is no longer a way of winning a mission," Coral interviews. "It's a way of keeping your ass in the game." Arissa doesn't want to step up, since that's a 99.9 percent chance they'll lose every mission. "Stepping up is pretty much asking to die," she interviews. "I'm not stepping up!"

Coral asks if Ruthie is not stepping up, which Ruthie denies. Ruthie interviews that Arissa is quiet, and that she has a good feeling about the mission. So at long last, Ruthie steps up. Either she's very naive, very optimistic, or Coral has Jedi mind powers that do not translate well on the screen.

Jonny calls up the team leaders. Dan starts organizing the guys. He interviews that Eric will pack the trunk, Brad and Theo will deal with the small bags, and Mark will cram the front seat. Tina wants to stick the bags in vertically, which Ruthie interviews is a waste of space. Turns out Ruthie wants to stack the bags horizontally. Tina isn't comfortable with Ruthie's plan and feels it isn't fully thought out, but she goes along with it.

Jonny blows his air horn to get the mission started. Both sides stuff the cars with bags. It's not boring, but it's not exactly action-packed. The guys finish packing their car first. Theo supervises the lifting while the others pull the chains. The ladies join in, as Arissa oversees their efforts. "I'm determined to win," she voiceovers, "not only because of the prize, but because of my pride. I can't stomach another loss. The girls gotta step it up." Both sides pull. Eric yells about something we didn't know about; namely, the bottle that is attached to the contraption. Once the bottle leaves the ground, the car has offically gone ten feet. We get a shot of the bottle lifting up. Jonny blows his air horn. Guess what? The guys won. Again.

This is not the worst season ever. That distinction goes to Extreme Challenge and The Inferno. However, this is the most depressing season ever. And what lessons have we learned every week? First of all, I know enough not to make judgments on the genders based on this show. I know that if I were to gather eighteen guys and eighteen gals to compete, the results would probably vary from what we've gotten. Secondly? "Battle of the Sexes" does not work… not for Challenge, not for Survivor, not for The Apprentice, not for any reality show. I don't even watch American Idol, but I know you fans are gonna be upset within the next month over the semi-final format. The women just never seem to come off well with this format, and I'm sick of typing "guys win" damn near every week. We now go back to your regularly scheduled recap.

The girls try to dissect where things went wrong. Arissa notes that the guys got their car up quickly. Coral feels it came down to the packing of the last bag. Tina says she felt better with her plan. Ruthie thinks she didn't have a bad plan, and she's pissed off that Tina is placing the blame. She also interviews that Tina can go procreate in isolation, if you know what I mean. Sophia is hoping that Tina was just explaining what had happened. "But it was more for blaming," she adds. "I don't think that's cool."

Jonny wraps things up, awarding the exercise equipment to the guys. Today's voting: Dan and Eric pick off a guy, Ruthie and Tina are vulnerable. Sophia interviews that she will act as Ruthie's lawyer in order to convince the others to let her stay. Jonny gives both sides one hour to deliberate.

At the Main Lounge, those not in the Inner Circles sweat out their fate. Mark feels he would go home if the guys don't like his overall performance. Theo states the obvious: that Mark is lucky to be buddies with Eric, and Eric is on the bottom of the totem pole. Brad reminds everybody that the teams had 30 minutes to pick leaders, and the guys did it in five seconds. He interviews that he should have stepped up to prevent Eric from leading. Mark asks how Arissa dodged being a leader. I'd like to know that as well. Ruthie interviews that it's obvious that Arissa should be going home for a long time. Tina feels that she would be ready to pack if she was next to Coral or Sophia, and she's confident being next to Ruthie or Arissa. Ruthie: "That's because I don't [bleepin'] toot my horn about every [bleepin'] mission." Tina: "I'm sick of waiting around, waiting for this so-called huge character Ruthie to come out and to dominate the game. She hasn't done such at all. She hasn't delivered at all." Sad but true. Back in BOTS1, Ruthie was on top of the leaderboard after all but two missions. Maybe she's just an individual star, and not a huge team player. In a way, it breaks my heart.

Men's Lounge, Boys' Inner Circle. Eric asks Dan if one guy steps up more than the others. Dan interviews that this is a rough decision, since the remaining men are strong. He thinks that Theo sometimes gets "too heated" in missions, and he brings up Mark's loss in Bombs Away. Eric notes that Dan, Mark and Theo have been in the final mission in past Challenges.

Women's Lounge, Girls' Inner Circle. Sophia is acting as Ruthie's defense counselor, and the prosecution is hammering her. Coral thinks Sophia and Ruthie want to be together in the final three, and if Tina goes home, Arissa will follow. Sure, but you'd be safe, right? Sophia rebuffs the accusation. Coral thinks that if Sophia had to choose between and Ruthie, she would be gone. That, and some of my Coral-hating friends would treat Sophia like a queen for the rest of her life. Coral interviews that it's not smart to keep two best friends. She tells Sophia that keeping Ruthie jeopardizes her or Arissa. Arissa butts in, saying it just jeopardizes her. Coral does not want to be at the mercy of best friends. "They see these friendships as a hindrance," Sophia interviews, "but they'd better think about who they're voting off and who they left to make it a strong team." Coral asks Arissa whether she can trust her and Tina, or Sophia and Ruthie. Everybody just stares quietly.

We go to Elimination Hill. Dan and Eric step forward to make the announcement for the fellas. Dan claims that it was a difficult decision, and that they had to make a logical choice. All three guys actually look stressed. Our unlucky loser? It's Brad, and unlike the last several dismissed players, he does not look happy. He steps forward, telling his team that he went through the emotional roller coaster already, and he's just spent. Eric insists it wasn't personal, adding, "We love you as a person, dude." Go play with your jump rope, Eric. Brad interviews that he was so close to the big prize, and could taste it. I feel you, man. I had Brad, Dan and Theo being on the final team. Now, I might be lucky to have one person there by the end of next week.

Coral steps up for the women's side, and goes into her spiel when… oh, no. Oh, no no no no. Don't walk forward, Sophia! Don't nudge Coral out of the way! I swear, she was so normal on The Quest, at least when compared to her fellow cast members. This show is slowly driving her out of her mind. Anyway, Sophia says this is the hardest thing for her to do, and that she fought for this person. She's so sad, she can't even say Ruthie's name. The others clap as the friends hug. Ruthie admits that this wasn't her game. Sophia: "It was your game, it just wasn't your circumstance." Ruthie goes on about hoping the people who deserve to be on the final team stay on to make up for the losses. "I decided to play it fair," she interviews, "and unfortunately, it cost me my spot. I don't ever want to sell my soul for money."

Brad walks with Dan, still not getting why he's going home. Ever the good cop, Dan says that he and Eric looked to see who had standout missions. Cut to the Lounge, where Mark and Eric hang out. "You're not really playing an honest game," Eric interviews. "Although everybody says that they are, am I going to feel bad? No. Why should I have a difficult time sending somebody else home? It's the nature of the game." And needless to say, the nature of this game sucks raw eggs. Seriously, at least Norman carried himself with some dignity in The Gauntlet. You take away Eric's time on RW, and he's just a sad man with a jump rope.

Elsewhere, Coral hugs Brad, trying to comfort him. Not exactly the "Mother Hen" moments like with Sarah and Leah, but I can take what I can get. He tells her that he still can't believe she's out, and that he should have fought for the leader role. "I wanted to feel like it was my time to go," he interviews, "but certain people that are still here that aren't supposed to be here, that's the only thing that bothers me walking away from this game. This was my game. I should have made it to the end." Poor guy. He's rumored to be doing the next Challenge even as you read this. Here's hoping he plays the game with honor and gets his just reward.

Theo escorts Brad to the van. "He was a great competitor and he's unbelievable," Theo interviews. "Eric doesn't deserve to be here, and it's time for him to bow out gracefully." I've had issues with Theo throughout this season, but we're on the same wavelength. Of course, that probably means that Theo will be out on his butt next week, and Eric would win $60,000. Have I mentioned how much I hate this season? Elsewhere, Ruthie and Sophia share one last hug. Sophia interviews that she doesn't know this game will end, but she knows that she must perform well in the next mission. "Right now," she adds, "I only have my back."

Next time: Mark and Eric feel that Dan and Theo deserve a spot in the final three. Eric: "It's all about strategy. It's all about positioning." Arissa has trouble with walking on a beam jutting off a roof. Two guys fall off. Why do I feel like next week will be a lot worse than today?


In terms of diminishing returns, Ruthie's Challenge "career" could be considered tragic. Yes, people will point out her drunken misadventures on Real World: Hawaii, and that isn't easy to paint over, even when most of her roommates were mentally skewed in their own individual ways. While she did let Emily call her shots in the Inner Circle during Battle of the Sexes, Ruthie was the most consistent performer, leading the rest of the women after all but two missions.

She would come back in Gauntlet 2, and earned herself the position of becoming the female Captain of the Veterans team. But then she had to face a bad person (Beth), and that person got to choose the worst possible game for Ruthie (Reverse Tug-Of-War). Needless to say, Ruthie was bounced from the game in an even more inglorious fashion than in BOTS2

Ruthie's final season was Duel II. She lasted five missions before being bounced by Kimberly from RW: Hollywood. On the plus side, Ruthie seems to be doing good with her life. I saw her at Caroline's in Manhattan a few months ago. She really rocked the shorter hair. When asked if she would return, Ruthie figured that she wasn't in the type of shape that The Challenge demands these days, but she ended her response with a "never say never."

Brad's "career" was more checkered, as he would eventually become the poster boy for Challengers who couldn't get that first win. Inferno II saw him pressed into a battle with Abram that ended with his defeat. Oh, and that same episode started with Brad getting an epic wedgie from Mike. Gauntlet 2 had Brad verbally squaring off with Derrick in one episode. While they eventually made up, they were eventually pitted against each other in the Gauntlet, with Derrick coming away the winner. To keep thing short, here's the rest of his run:
  • The Duel: lost to CT in the final Duel, but wound up advancing to the finale when CT pulled a carabiner even after host TJ Lavin told them not to do that, like, fifty times. Brad would up losing the final mission to Wes. 
  • Gauntlet III: He was the only male on the Veterans team that I could respect, since most of them were in "Trim The Fat" mode, constantly trying to lose the female teammates that could weigh them down in the final mission. They would eventually win that season . . . but since they had to dump a dying Eric Banks (a guy full of actual fat that the Veterans didn't want to face in the Gauntlet), the Rookies would up with the victory.
  • Duel II: Brad wound up the final two Duels, winning both . . . including an upset over Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) short-list candidate Landon. He would lose to Evan in the final mission, extending his woeful streak.
  • The Ruins: I blocked out most of this horrible season. All I remember in regard to Brad is that he wound up punching Darrell. He responded with about fifty shots to Brad's face, giving him a black eye. If Darrell has a "man cave" away from his wife and children, I wouldn't be surprised if he had a large picture of Brad with that black eye. Oh, and both were ejected from the game.
Brad finally got over the hump in Cutthroat, as he won with the Red team . . . a foursome that included his wife Tori Hall. And then things went south again . . .  they got divorced, Brad returned in Vendettas and Final Reckoning, falling short both times. He also got into a showmance with Britni from Are You The One? Thanks to the age difference, I wound up making a LOT of "windowless van circling the high school" jokes. I know, real cheap, but Brad had long soured in my eyes. On the bright side, the recent actions of Stephen Bear gave me a new target for those jokes.
Next recap: even more depressing stuff. In the meantime, have a happy (and safe) holiday season.