Monday, July 24, 2017

Battle Scars: From the Gauntlet to the Inferno

Welcome to the start of my recaps for The Inferno. Sort of. In case you did not read the last few entries, MTV decided not to hold a reunion covering the events of The Gauntlet. Instead, they spent thirty minutes going over that season and hyping The Inferno, which would air the following week. Once again, the drama overlap seems so quaint as compared to the thirtieth season currently airing on MTV, where being "dirty" is an essential prerequisite.

Airdate: January 26, 2004 
Recap Published: February 1, 2004

We take one last look at The Gauntlet, one good look at The Inferno, and one lingering look at the various drama kings and queens who play the game.

Looks like my preview article wasn’t redundant after all. This episode abandons the old format, where the show’s host and a cast member talk up the season. Instead, we get a final look back at The Gauntlet, and a quick peek into The Inferno. Also, I get to tell some people to shut up one last time. I do that a lot.

Scenes from Gauntlet. Scenes from Inferno: Guys trashing a room with guitars, paintballs, bungee jumping, running on a wall, exercise bike, giant dominos, and David naked.

Voiceover Guy talks about sunny Acapulco and a $12 million house. “All quiet and serene,” VOG notes, “until The Inferno comes to town!” Players cheering upon arrival. Guys wrestling with each other, Katie going on a bitch fit. Coral and Mike argue. Guys do damage with guitars. Julie squirts lotion on Jeremy. Ace helps Syrus with his chicken costume. Abram wrestles somebody. Katie and Veronica fight. Katie: “This game is so [bleeping] nasty.” Zip line mission with Katie kicking and screaming. Bridge bungee. Guys with their heads in bug-filled boxes. Abram says he’s done. He’s wearing a mohawk for some reason.

Voiceover Guy tells us that before we get into The Inferno, we have to take care of Gauntlet business. Clips time! Theo V. tells Alton to help Irulan pack. Roni takes a picture of Abram, Rachel R., and Veronica in the tub. Coral can’t believe Mike sent her to the Gauntlet. Coral almost dies during Gold Rush. Theo G.: “We’re Real World. Keep it real.” I’m sorry... what show are you on, again?

Voiceover Guy drops by one last time to tell us to get to the source of the RW/RR rivalry. Cut to Day One and Mike saying, “Road Rules, kiss my ass, baby!” Upon reflection, I prefer Jisela’s opener from Battle of the Seasons: “MTV, kiss my ass, because I’m not afraid of heights!” Mike interviews that RW is full of drama kings and queens. Coral thinks RW is more popular and that RR is “the red-headed stepchild.” Rachel R.: “I think they feel superiority over Road Rules, and I think Road Rules has to continue to kick their ass in every single mission until they get it.” Trishelle figures that RW has more fun, while RR is more concerned with competition. Katie thinks that RR has more rivalry within itself.

Title card: “Boys vs. Girls.” Coral interviews that the guys voted off the women, thinking that would help them. Sarah thinks it was weird seeing Adam’s anti-women interviews. Cut to Adam telling Dave and Theo V. that they should vote off the women. Katie becomes the first person to tick me off by saying some women, especially Sarah, let it happen. She continue, “Me, I was like, ‘I went already. Eat [bleep].’” Hey, Katie? Maybe if you didn’t waste your energy bitching out your teammates, you would’ve beaten Rachel B. Rachel R. considers the women to be the backbone of the RR team. Clips of Veronica and Roni winning missions back her up. “I wasn’t trying to vote off the girls,” Abram interviews. “If I had a team of Amazonians [sic], I’d be like, ‘Make me some money, man.’” Veronica: “It’s not like they were trying to have all boys. I’m sorry, but not all girls are strong.”

Segue to the next segment: “Road Rules vs. Sarah.” In a nice touch, the editors pipe in “Where Is the Love?” by Black Eyed Peas. Sarah laughs about how there were three teams: RW, RR and herself. Cut to Jonny calling her up to the Gauntlet five times. Mike thinks that RR copped out by going after an easy target. Veronica: “If one of our weakest players - Sarah - keeps coming back because she wins in the Gauntlet, she’s still our weakest. It doesn’t change that.” Rachel R. snipes about Sarah getting disqualified several times. Cut to Sarah dropping the cat in Inferno. Rachel: “She was complaining.” Cut to Sarah telling the team that her back hurt. “She quit on us.” Cut to Sarah, unable to move up the rope in All or Nothing. How many Roadies actually completed that mission? One. “And those are characteristics that when there’s $150,000 on the line, you don’t mess with. You send that person into the Gauntlet.” Dear Lord! Sarah’s still out there! Her underachieving will destroy us all! It kills me that I saw Rachel love Sarah last week, and now she’s badmouthing her all over again.

Trishelle: “If I would have been on the Road Rules team, I would have put Sarah in the Gauntlet every single time, every time. She sucks as a competitor.” First of all, I have to laugh anytime I hear Trishelle say the word “suck.” Second, I’m guessing somebody is a little bitter over her Gauntlet loss to the sucky competitor. Third, notice that Trishelle says that exactly as Adam would have. More on that later. Coral is proud of Sarah. “Gauntlets suck,” Sarah interviews. “I can’t put it any more simply than that. They just really blow. They both suck and blow. I don’t like them, I don’t ever want to do them again, ever.”

Next segment: “Friendship vs. Competition.” In previously unseen footage, Nathan argues with a hot-tubbing Katie. “I swear to God,” she shouts, “if she fell down, I would help this bitch up in a second.” The camera pans past Adam to Trishelle. Mike interviews that he takes friendship out of the game and looks at performance. Katie claims that RR took issue with her friendship with Trishelle. “We’re roommates and friends first, way before the shows,” she continues. “Fortunately, I like Real World people better, not because they’re on The Real World, but because they’re nicer people.” Coral notes that Katie and Trishelle traded secrets. “As soon as the competition starts,” Katie says, “that’s when the friendliness dies.”

“Road Rules vs. Alton & Irulan.” Cue the Irulan/Sarah Gauntlet. Coral interviews that RR booed Irulan when she was announced, and that set the tone for the nastiness. Irulan falls into the water, sealing Sarah’s win. Coral adds that Theo V. yelled “Ding dong, the witch is dead!” That’s harsh. Clip of Theo screaming “Go home!” and Nathan holding back an angry Alton. “Alton was ready to beat Theo down,” Mike interviews. “Back in the house, we basically had to keep him in the basement because he was looking for Theo. He wanted to basically kill Theo.” Sarah says that Alton and Irulan had been yelling at production all the time. She didn’t bring up getting hugged by a production member for wasting Irulan in the Gauntlet , which she discusses on her web site. Cut to Irulan making noise with her clapper, then threatening to drop Veronica. Sarah adds that RR would lash out at RW. “After a while,” she continues, “it became this giant feuding extravaganza.” Rachel considers Alton and Irulan a team within a team, which she thinks wasn’t good. Trishelle: “You can definitely use relationships with people to manipulate the game.” The sad thing is, I bet she’s not even thinking about herself.

Cut to Abram getting greeted in the bathroom by Veronica. Oh, no. “Veronica & Rachel & Abram vs. The Censors.” Trishelle interviews that Veronica’s butt was on the line, and she had to do something. Mike figures that Veronica knows how to play the game. Veronica correctly points out that Abram had already been bounced out of the game. Cut to Abram and the ladies hitting the shower. “Maybe they were trying to get votes?" Abram ponders. “I’d like to think no. If they were, all the more power to me.” Rachel notes that Abram was already gone, and she and Veronica would never vote for one another. “For us to have sex with each other,” she says, “it didn’t really matter at that point.” Rachel adds that Dave wanted to join in on the fun. Abram thinks that the scene was kept “a little too PG-13.” Cut to Veronica in the tub, her arms positioned between Abram’s legs. That’ll give you nightmares. Abe says that he was so proud of himself. Yeah, he would be. “I would not take back one minute on that show,” Rachel concludes. “If you ask me if I regret the threesome? Never.”

After commercials, we move into rivalries. First up: “Katie vs. Veronica.” In previously unseen footage, Katie bitches out about Veronica to the guys. Mike interviews that he’s never seen anybody hate each other more. Trishelle notes that the rivalry started when Katie thought Veronica voted for her. Cut to the altercation, where Katie loses whatever cool she had. She claims that Veronica manipulates a lot of people. Veronica replies that it wasn’t true. Katie then sheepishly admits that she was told Veronica didn’t do it, and Veronica tells us that she wasn’t impressed by Katie’s off-camera apology.

“Coral vs. Trishelle.” “Coral?” Trishelle gripes. “What a bitch!” Turns out Coral talked about Mike and Trishelle having sex before their first kiss, after she got into the bike accident. Coral interviews that Mizchelle would be lying if they denied having sex during the season. She adds that Trishelle “just bit off more than she can chew with me.”

“Mike vs. Trishelle.” Say what? Mizchelle is no more? Do I want to live in such a cruel world? Anyway, Mike tells the story: the day they came back from Telluride, she told him that she wanted to flirt with two of her exes at a party, and he couldn’t get mad. Mike continues, “I look at her, and I’m like, ‘This isn’t gonna work, is it?’” Trishelle tells us that after the break-up, she got back with Adam, and that pissed Mike off, since Mike and Adam hate each other. I did read about Trishelle and Adam, but hearing it out loud makes me sick. No wonder Trishelle sounded like him while bashing Sarah. “Who goes out with Trishelle?” Coral wonders. “‘Trishelle is my girlfriend?’ That doesn’t really work.”

“Coral vs. Trishelle vs. Mike.” Coral claims she wasn’t mad at Mike for dating Trishelle. Trishelle figures that Coral was jealous that Mike wasn’t paying attention to her. Coral: “It was Mike being hypnotized by her vagina, and treating me like [bleep].” Trishelle insists she didn’t turn Mike against Coral. “He just liked me more than her,” she adds. Cut to Gauntlet voting, where everybody voted for Trishelle, while she and Mike voted for Coral. “It was hard to vote her off,” Mike admits with a comically pained look, “so I didn’t.” Coral: “He was more willing to let me, his friend for three years, go home than to let his free [bleep] go home.” Mike admits to making a mistake. “Coral just gives you an eye for a second,” he adds, “and that will affect you for a week.”

“Coral vs. the Spider.” Clips of Gold Rush and Coral’s breakdown. She interviews about going into shock and being unable to breathe. “For somebody who’s deadly allergic to spiders,” Sarah chimes in, “she made it really, really far.” Mike didn’t believe her, opting to wait to see the episode. Rachel claims that Coral filled out paperwork about her allergy prior to filming. “Give me a break!” Trishelle snots, not endearing herself to me in any way. “Everybody knew she was lying. And even if she could have had a spider bite, she made it more than it was.” It’s amazing that Trishelle never got into nursing. Mike claims that Coral manipulated the team, arguing how strong she was. Clip of her collapsing. “We were pissed,” he adds. “We should have won that.” Sarah figures that RW would have won if they left Coral behind at the very beginning. Coral interviews that if she knew about the bite, she would have told her teammates to leave.

Sarah adds that Coral needed shots, and her leg got swollen. “I didn’t see it,” Mike notes with a sheepish grin. “I was over at Trishelle’s hotel.” Rachel thinks that it’s mean how RW had no sympathy for Coral. Sure, but had Sarah been bit and affected, Rachel would have smacked her. Cut to Nathan bitching out Coral. For the last time: shut up, Nathan. Coral says that nobody visited her at the hospital, and Mike was sleeping with Trishelle when she got home. Actually, in the Inferno on his web site, Mike claims that a nurse called him and said that Coral would be released soon, so there was no point for a visit. Sarah giddily reveals that Coral didn’t get bit during the mission, but while she was taking care of business in the bushes. “So we learned a valuable lesson,” she laughs. “Don’t piss in the woods.” Mike interviews that Coral’s hands were shaking at the wrap party from all the adrenaline pumped into her, and thinks maybe she did get bit. Coral still loves Mike, and hope he’ll be at her side in Inferno.

Before the commercials, we get a look at the Inferno site, which looks like Torquemada’s meditation room, with the torches and darkness. Cut to Coral wearing a t-shirt that says, “Melissa Will Kill You.” More on that later. Coral: “I’m gonna make Trishelle one that says ‘Infern-ho.’” She cackles, and Mike busts a gut.

Enough Gauntlet stuff... it’s time to get burned! Cast members arrive in Acapulco on boat. Abram flashes two middle fingers. “If there’s a Lord in Heaven,” Coral shouts skyward, “let Abe fall off the top boat!” Roll call: Abram, Ace, Christena, Coral, Darrell, CT, Jeremy, Julie, Holly, Leah, Katie, David, Kendal, Mike, Shane, Syrus, Veronica, Mallory, Timmy, Trishelle. Leah notes that everybody is friends already, and they tell her to cherish the quiet moments which will be gone soon. Mike adds that at the beginning of every Challenge, people don’t fight. “I see this is going to be boring,” he adds. “Then about a week or two into it... oh. My bad. I almost forgot... this is The Real World and Road Rules.”

Cut to guys fighting. Mike: “So you did lie to me!” Abram curses. Julie: “When I hear her voice, it makes me want to go home.” I instinctively reach for my wallet, willing to pay for her departure. Coral: “She cannot be talking to me like that!” David jumps around naked. Weird note: David looks like Antoine now. Maybe Mr. Nascah went metrosexual on us.

Coral interviews that Inferno will be intense, since some people hate each other. Cut to Katie yelling at Veronica. Actually, “yelling” is too small a word. “SHUT THE [bleep] UP!” Katie screeches. “YOU ARE A SHORT, SCRAWNY, ACNE-FACED [bleep bleep]!” And she flips the bird. Oh, I get it... David’s trying to be Antoine, and Katie wants to be Belou. Abram: “They wouldn’t bring them back if they didn’t think they would get some good [bleep] on them, man. It’s gonna be good drama. Katie: “[Bleep] YOU!”

Trishelle interviews that a lot of tension was brought over from Gauntlet. Back to clips: Coral asks Trishelle what she should have done. “Keep your [bleeping] mouth shut,” she replies. Veronica interviews that she thrives on drama. Clip of a mission involving zip lines and not touching a safety line. Veronica is in front, kicking and screaming, while Julie is pulling behind her. I have no idea what’s going on. Afterwards, Julie tells Veronica that she’s just trying to win. Veronica: “Shut the [bleep] up.”

Trishelle doesn’t know why people don’t hate Julie. Cut to Coral wearing the “Melissa Will Kill You” shirt, telling Mike that she’s wearing it for Julie. This is my official position: I am disappointed in Coral. If Melissa was behind it, then I’m disappointed in her as well. The shirt is not needed, because Melissa already killed Julie. Last year, Melissa and Amaya won the first event, cracked the Inner Circle, and kicked Julie’s annoying self out. Also, Melissa is the least threatening person around. I would be intimidated by Coral before Melissa. And yet, I know people who would want that shirt. Heck, I’d buy it and give it to a friend.

Flashback time: MTV salivates as they show Melissa in full-on bitch mode at the beginning of Battle of the Sexes. Trishelle blathers about how it’s all high school bull. Oh, head cheerleader Trishelle has a beef with Coral and Melissa. I’ll be begging Sarah to come back and run Trishelle out again in about a month. Coral: “As long as you’re getting up that ladder, Julie, you can stay as long as you want and win me my money.” Cut to another scene: Julie is blathering about how ineffectually women fight, and she wants to fight like men. David recommends wrestling. Coral’s response? “I don’t wrestle. I [bleeping] beat bitches up!” That has to be the first great quote of the season.

Coral interviews that four people from RW: Paris are here: CT, Mallory, Leah and Ace. Veronica thinks that RR has the advantage, since the Parisians have never had a mission. This is in contrast to Veronica, who has done 37 Challenge events. CT, who looks like he was gang-made-over by the Queer Eye guys, says he profiled everybody, trying to be “behind the scenes.” Abram: “Me and CT get along really well. We’re both assholes.” CT adds that people didn’t know what to think of him, and they were careful what they said around him. Trishelle reveals that Ace is a poor sport. CT gossips about how Ace would change the rules in a card game. He does a pretty good impersonation of his old roommate’s Southern accent. Trishelle interviews that Mallory was bitchier than she expected. Leah says that she went to support Mallory. “When I found out that Leah was going,” CT says, “I kinda figured they’re doing this for the drama.” Cut to CT wearing a bikini and a thong. Immediately, I wash my eyes with bleach. So not a fan of a man-thong. Leah gushes that the ladies were in awe over “his fine ass.” Veronica thinks CT is hot.

Mike: “Yes, you can cross team boundaries to get a little ass.” He’s such a smooth talker. Turns out he’s talking about himself and Kendal; they were friends before Inferno. Cut to the couple kissing and dancing. Coral gets a dig in, saying that she can’t see Kendal screwing Mike over. Coral goes on about how Kendal and Blair (from The Quest) used to date, how Blair and Mike are friends, how Blair and Trishelle are friends... then Coral runs out of steam. Trishelle notes that Kendal used to room with her and Katie. Apparently, Kendal has a high tolerance for pain. “You would expect some sort of loyalty,” Trishelle snots. Oh, shut up and stick to your own love life. Mike: “I just create drama, don’t I?” Katie jokes that her roommates are attracted to the same type of guy. “I like both of them,” she laughs, “and I think if they both stop dating people from the shows, we’ll be fine. It’s so incestuous, it’s sick.”

Veronica interviews that Shane is a loving person. Cut to a topless Shane on the dance floor. Trishelle notes that it’s a challenge to get the gay guy to kiss her. Cut to Shane dancing with and kissing Katie. Veronica thinks that Shane will kiss the girl, but not have sex with her.

Clip of... Darrell and Leah? Say what? It’s not even a racial thing. It’s just the weirdest combination I could ever think up. Coral shares my surprise. Cut to the new couple in the pool, discovering a camera trained on them. Turns out Leah crushed on Darrell during his season. Katie didn’t see the coupling at first. “Yeah, I heard it,” she adds. “They liked my shower a lot.”

Mike interviews that Inferno will be a lot more dramatic than Gauntlet. Leah expositions that the teams vote for two of their own members to face the Inferno. Coral adds that the opposing teams pick each other’s representative to go into the Inferno. No mention of the Lifesaver or the alternating events; either the editors cut that out, or I interpreted the MTV.com description incorrectly. Katie notes her excitement, since she has a lot of friends on the RW side. Abram reveals that RR alternates between voting between males and females; whether this is a team policy or mandatory is unknown. CT rolls his eyes, saying that RW didn’t want to get rid of the women. Leah says that the first Inferno took 30 minutes, and the last one went four hours. Shots of roaches poured into a box, followed by guys with their heads in the boxes. Abram figures that this season will be so much better, television-wise, than Gauntlet.

Closing montage! Close-up of a spider. Close-up of Coral. A guy dives off a balcony and into a pool. Roller skating. Players going up a spinning wall. Abram curses twice. Leah squeals in terror. Busting of furniture. Bungee. Katie is scared to fall. Coral is spinning on a platform, out of paintballs. Chicken suits. Syrus: “I will carry the [Oedipus Rexing] flag to victory.” Somebody gets slimed. Wrestling. Guy bungees. “I [bleeping] hate MTV, man!” Fade to black.

Once again: I was NOT a fan of Katie. Aside from her, Holly and Christena, I didn't change my opinions that much about this cast. I was dead-on about Julie, which you will see almost immediately.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Feeling the Burn – Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Inferno Preview

Sorry for the delay. I haven't been that busy lately. I'm just been lazy. Also, I went to an event in New York for The Challenge: Dirty 30. It did not go well for me. I did not mingle at all. It's stupid in retrospect, but maybe it's because I recapped some of the stars in my "career." Or that I fear about saying something bad (e.g., to Aneesa, "Thanks for chasing Beth and Trishelle away, but isn't it sad that you haven't won once, and you more or less peaked in your very first mission?") Or maybe I'm just a huge wuss. Back to the topic: this was published on January 28, 2004. Also, I think this was the season I wrote my own intros after the headlines.

Did you think there wouldn’t be another Challenge for a while? MTV and Bunim/Murray Productions beg to differ, as they unleash The Inferno.

On Sunday, February 1, CBS will premiere Survivor: All-Stars after the Super Bowl. This season will feature 18 past contestants, and it will be the focus of many recappers here at Reality News Online. What do I have to say to my fellow writers? Four words: Welcome to my world.

On Monday, February 2, MTV will premiere Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno, the eighth season of the series. Filmed shortly after The Gauntlet ended, Inferno brings 20 alumni from Real World and Road Rules to Acapulco to gossip, fight and hook up. Oh, and there are missions as well. While the kids from RW: San Diego are setting the bar higher in terms of drama, the seasoned veterans always come through in the clutch.

The Host

Jonny Moseley has headed off into the sunset, back to his world of moguls skiing. In his place is Dave Mirra. I’m not into “Extreme” sports, so Dave’s career as a BMX biker isn’t known to me. He’s been on Made and has been scammed on Punk’d. My expectations are low, so he shouldn’t disappoint me too much. I liked Jonny, but he wasn’t in the class of Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan.

The Missions

From MTV.com’s description, we can look forward to the same intense events as before. One of the events is “an adrenaline-fueled 13th floor rope climb.” This could be a return of the infamous tightrope mission from Extreme Challenge. Sadly, the other listed mission involves eating worms, which might be the one with the chicken costumes shown in the commercials. Once again, each mission is worth $10,000, and the finale is worth $150,000.

The Inferno

I figured that the Gauntlet concept was good enough. After each mission, the teams had to vote one of their own into the Gauntlet, regardless of how well the team did. The two selectees then fought it out. Winner stayed, loser packed up and left. It wiped out strong players (Elka, Steve, Theo G.), served as a showcase for others’ athletic prowess (Mike, Alton), and transformed Sarah from an eternal scrub to a queen. So why mess with success?

This time, things become a little more complicated. At the end of a mission, each team picks two people to go into the Inferno. Then, the teams choose which opponent from the other team they want to go up against. Do they then fight it out? Nope, they get to compete in the next mission. In an added twist, the Inferno nominees will try and win the Aztec Lifesaver. Should one of the doomed players win, that player can select somebody else from the team as a replacement. Only after the second mission will the Inferno be held.

As for the Inferno itself? Apparently, BMP wasn’t as riveted as I was watching Sarah hang by her legs three times. Two tasks mentioned on MTV.com involve wearing a helmet full of bugs, and getting soaked in itching powder and placed on a treadmill. Gee, I always wanted to recap Fear Factor! Thanks, BMP! Anyway, the winner stays, going back to the teammates who might not want them to stay. The loser packs up and heads back home to shame and obscurity... at least until the next Challenge.

The Players

Once again, BMP has cut the number by eight, going from 28 in Gauntlet to 20 here. Excluding the last seasons from each show, only one person hasn’t been on a Challenge before. Half of them have been on the last two Challenges, and the rest I’m familiar with for the most part. Like I said before, there isn’t going to be one non-athletic girl I’ll be defending from start to finish, so expect me to potentially go off on everybody.

Real World

While RW kept things competitive last season, winning six of fourteen missions, they took heavy losses in the Gauntlet. In the final mission, whatever edge they had with a smaller group evaporated as Coral dropped out from a spider bite. That was RW’s first loss since Challenge 2000, and they’ll be looking to get back on top.

Syrus Yarbrough (Boston): A two-time Challenger, Syrus doesn’t bring the drama like his cohorts. The only time I’ve seen him lose it was back in Extreme Challenge, where he almost throttled James for pelting Julie with one paintball too many. The only trouble Syrus caused during Battle of the Sexes was jumping on Antoine’s back upon getting voted out. Seeing the Belgian dance up close, I’m amazed he can still walk, let alone bust a move.

Syrus can be a force in missions, but his bulk has been known to hinder him. In Sexes, he nearly killed himself on the stirrups course, and his slow time in Stairway to Heaven led to his elimination. Still, with his mellow personality, he should be a cinch to make it to the end.

David Burns (Seattle): Once upon a time, guys from Boston with thick accents were a novelty, as opposed to the norm (CT from Real World Paris, Rob Mariano of Survivor). Ditto for cast members who would reveal their private parts to roommates. Before Brad and Alton, there was David and the “eighth roommate.” Seriously, when you look back on Seattle and look past the Irene/Stephen drama, who do you think of? David expressing his heterosexuality, David trying to secretly romance an ex-BMP casting director, and David getting into a heated fight in a parked car with said director. Remember that? “You don’t even KNOW!” makes me laugh every time I think about it.

David does have one Challenge under his belt; in Challenge 2000 he was the alpha male for the RW team. Sadly, that team hit a losing skid even he couldn’t stop. I still think of David trying to kiss a cow for a scavenger hunt, dismayed that he underestimated its speed. It’s been four years. He’s rested, ready, and a helluva lot better than former roommate/VMI buddy Nathan. You don’t even know.

Julie Stoffer (New Orleans): Once upon a time, there was a girl named Julie. She was the token ingenue of her season, a wide-eyed Mormon who departed BYU to live in New Orleans, experience new things and (gasp!) sleep in the same room with boys. Then came Extreme Challenge, which filmed soon after. Gradually, she started to get on my nerves. Julie protested Ayanna’s dismissal after she beat up Christian, she cheated in a rappelling mission against Emily, and she basically behaved like a brat.

Then came Sexes, where she was cast alongside people who considered her shady. Chief among them was ex-roommate Melissa, who bitched Julie out on camera. In the first mission, Julie was forced out when her partner Ellen got disqualified from Sergeant Says. Meanwhile, Melissa and Amaya won the event, entered the Inner Circle, and proceeded to dump Julie. The smile on my face lasted for days, because Julie is just that annoying. And I’ll say this much: if she makes it past six missions, you’ll see her as I do, as nothing less than a female Puck.

Coral Smith (Back to New York): The obvious question: Why is she back? The last we saw of Coral, she dropped out of the final mission, due to an allergic reaction to a spider bite. Not only was she sidelined, but Mike and Nathan made her the scapegoat for their loss. Come to think of it, given the increasingly “extreme” missions, why would anybody return to compete? I still think BMP is out to kill their cast members.

Maybe Mike begged Coral to come back, asking forgiveness for the way he treated her. Maybe she feels like she has something to prove. Maybe she lost a bet with Melissa, and wants to go double-or-nothing. Past problems aside, it still would take a lot to keep Coral out of commission for too long. One more thing: remember how some people consider Julie shady? Coral allegedly has first-hand experience in that. Could Coral finish the job Melissa started last year and force Julie out?

Mike Mizanin (Back to New York): Apparently, BMP thinks I need more Miz in my life. The last we saw of Mike, he was still working on the puzzle in the Gauntlet finale, unable to solve it before RR. This came after he was unable to keep Coral in the game. So why is Mike back? In one word? Trishelle.

The scuttlebutt is that Mike and Trishelle (a.k.a Mizchelle) were so in love with each other that they signed up for Inferno together. The biggest concern is that Mike’s status as RW leader was compromised when he refused to vote for her. This time, with Syrus and David around, Mike’s status might be downgraded, and his status as a mainstay may be in jeopardy should he fail in the clutch.

Trishelle Canatella (Las Vegas): She’s harder to get off your television than infomercials at 4 a.m. In addition to appearing on The Surreal Life 2, Trishelle makes the trip to Acapulco to compete. Although she underachieved in most of the missions last season, she did manage to knock Steve out. Her run ended the next day, as she became Sarah’s third victim.

My main beef with her involves the men in her life. It’s not just a matter of quantity, but quality. You need two hands to count all the guys she’s gotten cozy with in the past few years, and they’re mostly schmucks like Mike. If Mizchelle were to hit the skids, who would she gravitate towards? Or will Trishelle be booted before she can, in Coral’s words, cast a “vaginal spell”?

Clyde “Ace” Amerson (Paris): I hate saying this out loud since fellow RNO writer Jen Shrader is a huge fan of Ace, but I’ll say it: he’s a phony. Get past the “aw, shucks” surface, and you’ll see a guy who only stayed in Paris in order to reap the post-show benefits. For every knock on CT, you have to remember Ace bitching about French people, the time he almost came to blows with a taxi driver, and the time he spent $1,000 on strippers in one night. I do think he’s a nice guy at times, but the brighter the picture, the darker the negative.

From what I understand, Ace and Mallory were cuddly in Paris, and I think they were dating at the time of the reunion special. Will they be a couple in Acapulco? Also, while Mallory does bring athletic skills to the table, Ace is a bit of an unknown.

Chris “CT” Tamburello (Paris): In contrast to Ace, I don’t think CT is a phony. CT is aggravating to watch - a sweetheart on some days, a pain on others. But it’s not phoniness. Rather, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and is unable to hide emotions. I don’t excuse CT smacking that guy and screaming “ONE ON ONE!” so loud that mimes would scream for him to shut up.

CT’s is another unknown in terms of competition. He has the potential of either being top dog on RW, or be the first one out. One thing is for certain: with his poofy hair cut and his almost unibrow fixed, CT will be prime eye candy on the screen.

Leah Gillingwater (Paris): I think “bitch” covered her nicely during her season. Between her frequent clashes with her roommates, dragging Christina to accompany her on long distance date with the cute Italian boy, and plagiarizing an assignment, I figure Leah sets a standard that the San Diego kids will have trouble reaching.

Is there hope for Leah? Of course - last year, I had written off Tonya as the worst thing to come out of Chicago. Today, she is somebody who doesn’t blame the editors for the way she was portrayed. Perhaps Leah will follow suit. I’m not putting money on it, but it’s good to hope.

Mallory Snyder (Paris): It’s hard for me to get a fix on Mallory. That’s probably because my attention was fixed on the guys and Leah. I do remember that Mallory was the token ingenue of that house, and she fell for Ace.

Interesting fact: Mallory played soccer for Iowa State. In fact, she gave up her scholarship in order to join the cast, Normally, I’d question her intelligence, but c’mon... this was Paris. I don’t speak French, and I’d still go. Anyway, Mallory could emerge as RW’s alpha female during missions.

Road Rules

When Mike sent Elka to the Gauntlet, he talked about how RW had to be a family to win the final mission. By contrast, RR was about fourteen people taking thirteen cabs to the missions (Dave and Cara would have shared a ride). Will two members of the winning team be enough to ensure a second victory?

Timmy Beggy (USA): Believe or not, alpha males don’t have to be jerks. After suffering through Adam doing everything short of shoving Sarah down a flight of stairs, I now get to recap Timmy. One of the stars of the second season, Timmy blends athleticism with a wacky sense of humor. He came back to help out in a few missions (Islands and Australia) and partnered with Emily in Seasons. Rumor had it that he signed up for Gauntlet, but scheduling conflicts kept him out. That explains the “Where’s Timmy?” t-shirts wore by a few RR males.

One knock on Timmy is that he’s wishy-washy. In Seasons, he hemmed and hawed before helping to boot out Chadwick and Piggy. Also, he does tend to go overboard with the funny, so he can be hard to take. But he should be able to keep morale high on his team.

Holly Shand (Latin America): Truth be told, Holly’s season is one of the few that I haven’t seen all of. I do consider the Gladys/Abe beatdown as the turning point for Road Rules, the moment where the show went downhill. I do know that Holly was a crier and that she wears her heart on her sleeve. Then again, I don’t remember her weeping during Seasons. Oh, and she hooked up with Timmy, but that probably won’t come into play this time.

Holly does bring experience to the team, as she enters her third Challenge. Normally, I’d be leading the “get a life” chant, but her trips have been spread out over six seasons, so I’m good with her.

Veronica Portillo (Semester at Sea): Why do I hate Veronica? This is her fifth Challenge in the past six seasons. At this point, I have to wonder if she has a life. Yes, I did feel bad after she was voted out of Seasons and Sexes. Then came Gauntlet, where she lied about how many Challenges she lost, acted indignant anytime the votes went against her, and joined Rachel in giving Abe a send-off he’ll never forget.

Unlike Beth, another shady BMP alumnus, Veronica does bring more to the party than drama. Her performances in Turntable and Dukes of Saturn kept her out of the Gauntlet, and set a tone for her teammates. But will she play nice with others this season?

Katie Doyle (The Quest): Let’s see if I have this right: I can only see Blair and Steve once in a Challenge, and Sophia not at all, but I have to endure Katie again? Feh. To recap: she was sent to the Gauntlet, won, and had a massive hissy fit against Veronica. She talked to RW about the RR voting strategy. She got sent to the Gauntlet again and lost, perhaps taking any massive attack Sarah would have had away from her.

From the commercials, I see that Katie and Veronica will go at it one more time. While it would be nice for somebody other than Emily to take Veronica down a few pegs, I don’t think Katie is the one to pull it off. I expect her to beat Trishelle back to their apartment once again.

Darrell Taylor (Campus Crawl): On the one hand, I hated him. He rarely had anything positive to say about his teammates, particularly the women. Also, he and Rachel decided from Day One to take Sarah out of the game on Gauntlet, setting the tone for the entire season. It’s worse that I can barely understand what he says. He’s like Pootie Tang, but without the magic belt.

On the other hand, Darrell isn’t a total alpha jerk like Adam was. On some level, he does seem to care. In terms of his season, I’ve basically written off Rachel, but not Darrell. Maybe Sarah taught him that anybody can be a winner, and he won’t start picking people off in his mind.

Kendal Sheppard (Campus Crawl): I’ve forgotten about her since her season aired. Back then, she was the midpoint between the highly overrated Rachel and perennial scrub Sarah. Most people remember her romance with alpha male Eric. Some people I know adore her funky coat. It was funny... they’d even refer to it as an entity to itself.

After her season, she got into a heavy relationship with Blair (The Quest). Last I heard, she was single. Kendal should be fun to watch, both on and off the field.

Shane Landrum (Campus Crawl): At first, Shane got on my nerves. I could barely stand the guy. But during Sexes, he turned things around, finishing in fifth place. During the face-off between Campus Crawl and South Pacific, he beat Tina in a sleep-deprived spelling bee, keeping his team in the game. Given my hatred of the latest RR season, that feat clinched the title of Second Favorite Crawler... after Sarah, of course.

Never mind his goofiness and the weird tan. Shane is a fighter. After Veronica was booted out by the Women’s Inner Circle, he gave them crap about it. He almost quit the game, but was inspired by Genesis to stay in. He’ll probably be in the drama, but he won’t cause it.

Abram “Abe” Boise (South Pacific): In case you haven’t seen MTV in the past year... meet Abe. Abe is a pain. Abe had issues about women. Donell got on his nerves, and Abe beat him up for it, earning an ejection from his season. During Gauntlet, Abe managed to get himself disqualified a lot, earning votes for the Gauntlet. One day, he tied with Sarah, and Theo sent him in to face Mike. But Abe couldn’t pull off the upset, as he rushed Mike in Knock Your Block Off. Result: Abe was knocked out of the game, while Mike stayed on.

Abe must learn to take direction. He’s a hothead to be sure, but he can be tamed. Another concern: he might cozy up to Veronica, since she and Rachel gave him a hero’s goodbye that since makes me nauseous thinking about it.

Christena Pyle (South Pacific): Christena was my favorite from South Pacific, at least most of the time. Rather than recoil from Abe, she tried to teach him what he was doing wrong with the others. For the most part, she was very sensible and mellow. My biggest beef was when she and Chris voted Cara out, keeping Donell in. Not only did viewers endure three more weeks of the odious Donell, but newbie Tina proved to be as big a pain as the portly Roadie.

Christena might prove to be good with Abe once again, calming him down when he needs it. However, rumor has it that she was a last-minute substitution for another player. Is she ready for the madness that a Challenge can provide?

Jeremy Blossom (South Pacific):Who? Good question. After Donell was voted out, the gang had three more missions. For whatever reason, Jeremy was sent in as a replacement. All I know was that he was from Parma (Mike’s hometown), he kinda looks like Steve, and he liked Raquel a lot. Also, given the way he helped his team through the final mission, I suspect he was a BMP intern, sent to make sure the kids won their handsome reward.

Jeremy is an enigma. At this point, he won a car for three missions. Admit it... you wish you could do that. Why he would go back is a mystery to me.

Up next: the Gauntlet review/Inferno preview. It turns out there was stuff I didn't get looking on MTV.com. Also: the reason for the Mizhelle breakup. In case you forgot, it was pretty much Trishelle's fault.