Sunday, November 03, 2019

Battle of the Sexes 2 Episode 14: Keep On Truckin'

Once again, I'm taking my sweet time with my "legacy." Here's the situation in regards to The Challenge: 

PRESENT: War of the Worlds 2 is the usual mix of clusterfuck, only more so than usual. In the span of three episodes, three legitimate legends of the series (Wes, Laurel, Johnny) were sent packing from the game; Laurel losing to Natalie "Ninja" Duran in what will be considered one of the most chaotic elimination games in the history of the series. And defending champion Turbo was ejected after he going after Jordan, whom he had called a "pussy chicken." Basically, Turbo lost a lot of luster, and now I want Jordan to get smacked hard. With the absence of Johnny, he's stepping up as the unbearably irritating veteran male this season. Also, the UK team is a hot mess, CT has been the voice of reason on that team, and Cara Maria and Paulie continue to be toxic. Fuck, just about everyone left in the game could give you tumors. If the season ends with the million dollar grand prize getting split between CT, Natalie (whose mere existence causes pain for a lot of people on both sides of the TV) and Leroy (the perpetual also-ran who's been trying to step up as the voice of the reason of the US team), I'd be great with that.

PAST: Unbeknownst to me, my tenure at Reality News Online was drawing to a close. At some point, most of the other writers decided that I was an asshole. I'd watch reality stuff on TV, post on the RNO Yahoo group, and I was the asshole. I'm not the sort of person that tries to be an asshole . . . and yes, I am aware that's what most assholes would say. It got to a point where "Jesus, I agree with Jason" was said once or twice. That is not a good place to be. A while back, people were talking about Even and Kenny on a Challenge-based Facebook page, and Beth commented about how neither deserved to return due to their alleged assault on Tonya in The Ruins. My first instinct was to express disbelief about being on the same side as her . . . and then I remembered that Yahoo group.

I'd go over individual moments, but that would involve opening old wounds, and I don't want to do that. Same with naming names. They hurt me, but I don't wish to be that sort of asshole. All I know is that even with the amount of time between episode and recap, even with all of the negativity I brought to the group and to the recaps, I was doing a good job.

This episode: basically, Coral crosses a few lines, and I remember that I wasn't always on her side. Also, Eric Nies acts the fool. Well, more than usual. Enjoy!

Episode Aired: January 3, 2004
Recap Posted: January 9,  2005
The kids find themselves running an obstacle course pulled by a semi. Can Robin overcome the mission’s toughness? Will Coral exceed her bitchy boundaries? Will Eric put his nose where it doesn’t belong?

Previously on Battle of the Sexes 2: Steven smacked Shane, resulting in his dismissal. That was so underwhelming in retrospect. Where were the producers jumping out of the bushes?  Where were the cast members crying as they watched the footage on tape? Despite being shorthanded, the guys managed to win, slicing yet another layer from the women’s collective self-esteem. The women voted out Tonya. Oh, and Mark got cuddly with Robin.

As we get to the credits, I can announce the last names of the kids from RR: X-Treme that I couldn’t get when I wrote my preview: Nick Haggart, Ibis Nieves, and Angela Trimbur. I’m pained by that last one, since I would have went nuts with her booting. Trrrrrriimmburrrrrrrrr! Ah, it could be so much worse; try being named “Tonya Cooley.”

We start at the Men’s Lodge, where Mark and Robin spend some quality cuddle time. Mark says that he’s never gone into a chow think he’d meet somebody [2019: I’m certain I meant “into a show thinking”]. Well, he was married during BOTS1. He adds that it’s good to separate himself from the game, and that he and Robin are alike in many ways. Did Mark slap a Marine and get arrested for it, too? She tells him that her deal is to go into the final mission and win. He whispers that she’s going to get crushed tomorrow. “Mark’s the kind of guy that’s so great and amazing,” she interviews, “but he’s able to laugh at himself. I’m very lucky.” 

Later on at the Men’s Lounge, Shane picks up the sponsor phone. Dan and Mark comically dive onto the bed. Brad ups the ante by being enthusiastic about the clue to a cardboard cutout of Randy. I swear, this had better be nominated for Funniest Moment at the 2005 RNO Awards. At the Women’s Lounge, Tina reads the clue to Coral and Arissa: “Keep on truckin’. Ready, steady, go.” More details: be ready by 8:30 a.m., wear pants, long sleeves and tennis shoes. Shane smacks Randy’s doppelganger, while Coral gives two thumbs up.

It’s daytime at the Sandia Motor Speedway. The players arrive and are captivated by this week’s prize, a motor scooter. Jonny welcomes everybody to today’s mission: Semi-Cross. The deal: a semi-truck rolls around the track, towing three trailers. On top of each trailer is an obstacle course. Mark explains that each trailer has its own obstacles: balance beams, tires, see-saws, and high and low hurdles. Jonny adds that the game starts once the truck goes 30 miles per hour. Once that speed is attained, the driver will blow his horn to start the mission. The teams will go into heats of three players each. The squad with the lowest accumulated time wins the scooters, which are worth $3,000 apiece. Tina pronounces that her team has it “in the bag.” Jonny gives both sides 30 minutes to pick leaders, helpfully pointing out that half the team will be leading. 

On the guys’ side, Dan steps up, interviewing that he has good balance and a good center of gravity. Mark and Brad follow his lead. “We’re just so focused right now and determined,” Theo interviews. “We have such a great set of players. I don’t know how we can lose anything.” Elsewhere, Sophia, Tina and Robin step up to lead. Tina interviews that she was a gymnast and knows how to keep balance. Coral interviews that the team has a good chance of winning the mission, as well as their dignity.

After Jonny calls up the leaders, the first three guys – Shane, Mark and Brad – suit up. Brad interviews that he can’t fathom running across trailers. The truck blows its horn, signaling the start of the mission. First, the guys have to cross three balance beams, which are formed in an “N” pattern. Brad can’t take a step without falling off the first balance beam. Shane tries and fails. Brad goes on about how disheartening the mission is, adding, “You can’t even make five feet down this thing.”

Following the commercial break, the three men keep having trouble. Brad makes it to the second beam before falling. More jumping on and hopping off. Mark interviews that it is impossible to cross. That is, unless they use another beam as a brace. The fellas spilt their legs apart, with 12:11 passed. Shane and Mark go past the beams, onward to run and go through tires. Tina is amused about how Mark has to squeeze through the tires, as Shane pulls him. Brad is still on the beam, as 15:40 has elapsed. Shane hits the see-saw, then Brad finally finishes the first part of the course. He goes on the see-saw, then goes under and over the hurdles. Shane blows his air horn, stopping the boys’ time at 17:05.

The first three women – Tina, Sophia and Robin – prepare. Robin prays on getting past the beams. Tina: “We have this sucker in the bag. This is gonna be a piece of pie.” The women struggle on the beams. Tina: “Okay, this is ten times harder than I thought.” Tina makes it to the second beam before falling. Sophia figures out the secret, and Tina follows. Robin struggles some more, while her teammates finish the beams. Time elapsed: 12:05. Robin interviews that this mission is a lot harder than she thought. Sophia tries to guide Robin, but she still falls down. Tina shouts advice. On the sidelines, Coral paces. Elapsed time: 14:00. Robin gets on the final beam. Sophia yells for her to run across, but she falls off yet again.
Cut to Coral, muttering that she will kill Robin, adding, “Say goodbye to your little girlfriend!” Ouch. “If you can’t complete this mission,” she interviews, “then we are seriously concerned about your ability to be an asset to the team in the final mission.” Coral would know about final missions, since she’s been on the losing end of two of them. Mark and Theo shout advice to Robin. Mark interviews that Coral’s griping is not fun to be around, and he’s praying Robin can figure out the beams. From their respective positions, Sophia and Mark yell for Robin to run. At long last, Robin nails it. Mark cheers, as his honey negotiates the tires. “I’m not going to be nice,” Coral mutters to Ruthie. “I’m not here because I’m nice.” Can’t argue with that. Robin goes through the see-saw and the hurdles. Tina blows her horn, putting the girls at 17:45. Robin interviews that she usually performs well, but she had trouble on the beams.

Coral: “If we lose, we can send her home. That’s the only advantage of losing.” Oh, Coral. I know you’re a bitch, but why do you have to be an evil bitch now? Robin looks shook up, telling Coral that she has yet to go on the course. Tina figures that the mission has to do with “personal problem solving.” Robin adds that she had extra pressure, since she was the last one to finish. Coral argues with Robin about how the whole Challenge is about pressure, and that this mission is nothing compared to the finale. Coral interviews that she’s frustrated with all the losing. Gee, I hadn’t noticed. Coral then admonishes Robin for resting before the see-saw. Robin insists she was waiting for the semi to make the corner turn. She walks off, unable to take it. Coral: “Don’t buckle under pressure.” Robin: “You’re a [bleepin’] bitch.” Tell us something we don’t know.

Mark interviews that the women argue constantly. “They’ll argue during missions,” he adds, “they’ll argue after [missions], they’ll point fingers at people, make people feel like jackasses.” Outside of Coral and Tina, I honestly don’t get that vibe. Maybe it was left on the cutting room floor. Mark goes to talk with Robin, who insists she didn’t quit. Mark tells her that she thinks of the team, while the others think of the final mission. She sobs a little. “They love to single out somebody,” he tells her. “That’s what they do.” Seriously, has Sophia been a jerk? Or Arissa? Or Ruthie? I don’t get it.

As if things aren’t bad enough, Eric decides to insert himself into the mix. “I’ve been listening to Coral berate people this whole trip,” he interviews. “Coral can’t get along and is very selfish. It’s constant.” He’s kidding me, right? The guy couldn’t handle Heather B. in his prime way back in 1992. What makes him think he could handle Coral now? He yells at her. She insists she had not said a word to Robin. So she’s a liar, the editing is loopy, or she has a evil twin. Well, a more evil twin. Eric repeats himself, while Theo and Brad have lunch. Coral: “You worry about your jump rope and yourself! And that’s it!” Sophia looks down, probably wishing she had stayed at home where it was safe. Eric says that Robin was upset. Coral: “I’d be upset too if I [bleeped] up!” Damn. Eric ends it by saying he’s just giving his opinion. “Eric and his little jump rope hop over to me and start talking about how mean I am and ‘be a human being’,” Coral interviews. “Really, it’s none of his business what I say to a teammate.”

I will admit it: this is where I draw the line with Coral. Her ability to be likable is linked to the people she ranks on. With Robin, she was way over the line. With Eric, it was just right. Seriously, why should Eric jump in? I just hate how some exercise shill tries to lecture Coral. On, there’s an interview with Dan [2019: Link via] where he was very disappointed in Coral’s behavior. If he had come up to Coral, things would have gone better. Why? Because Dan is a reasonable guy, and Eric is a joke.

Oh, look. Eric is jumping rope again. He even gets Theo and Dan to kiss the rope before their heat. Honestly, if the others don’t dump him before the final mission and they win, I will be very upset. Eric walks the beam with ease as Dan shouts advice at him. Time elapsed: 3:20. Dan stops everybody as the semi turns a corner. He ends up tripping and falling hard on the beam and is forced to start over. The boys negotiate the course quickly, finishing at 8:05.
The final three women step up: Coral, Arissa and Ruthie. Coral psyches the team up, interviewing that Robin had problems with the beams. “Hopefully, I won’t have those same difficulties,” She adds, “or I’m gonna look really stupid for yelling at her.” She then breaks out into a grin. I break out into my mantra: “She’s not as bad as the Apex women, she’s not as bad as the Apex women.” [2019: Reference to the second season of The Apprentice. Yeah, I regret watching that. Hindsight is a bitch] Coral does cross the beams, as does Ruthie. Arissa comes close to nailing the final beam, but she falls down, then yells as she jumps back up. Tina: “All I hear is cussing and jumping up and down like a temper tantrum. Get your ass across those beams . . . NOW!” Arissa decides to cuss some more.

After the break, Arissa continues having problems. Ruthie yells encouragement, but to no avail. Arissa gets to the final beam, and Coral yells for her to run. She does, and goes through the tires, see-saw and hurdles. Final time: 13:19. “I let the pressure get to me,” Arissa interviews. “When you lose your head in competition, it just destroys you and any potential you have of winning the game.” First of all, that’s a great microcosm of the women’s season. Secondly, am I bad for thinking Arissa threw the mission? It would have taken a breakneck pace for the women to beat the men’s time, but Arissa isn’t a leader. If her team wins, she would have a one-in-three shot at having to go home. Even with Ruthie being vulnerable and Coral getting on Robin’s bad side, Arissa would probably be the best bet for elimination.

Jonny wears shades and a bicycle helmet as he announces the times. Seriously, I stopped figuring out Jonny a long time ago. The women’s time: 31:04. The men’s time: 25:33. As usually, the guys win the mission. Shane comes over, hugging Jonny and copping a buttcheek. Yikes. Jonny goes over the Inner Circle procedures: male leaders pick off a guy, female leaders are vulnerable.

Men’s Lounge, Boys’ Inner Circle Meeting. Mark votes for Shane. Brad doesn’t think it’s a hard choice. Dan adds that Shane thought he was going home a week ago. Mark figures that they got him a scooter, so everything should be fine.

Women’s Lounge, Girls’ Inner Circle Meeting. Coral declares that it’s down to Tina and Robin. Not to complain, but how come Sophia is never targeted? Elsewhere, Tina interviews that she will be very surprised if she goes. Ruthie doesn’t want to send Robin home. Coral asks if Robin deserves another chance. Robin interviews that she’s done her best up until now. “If I go home now,” she adds, “it’s B.S., because I’ve performed.” Coral asks if they can vote Tina off, since she has come through almost all the time. Arissa nods her head, while Ruthie thinks about it. Coral votes for Robin. Ruthie has her head down, unable to bring herself to vote Arissa. Coral tells her that she has to make a decision.

Welcome to Elimination Hill, where Richard Branson intends on building a cottage. Or something. Mark talks for the Men’s Inner Circle, talking about how ironic it is that he saved Shane in BOTS1. Is he kidding me? Antoine saved Shane! And even if Mark means the Inner Circle at that time, he makes it sound like Colin and Jamie didn’t do anything. Man, shut up, Mark. Shane fakes a grimace as the other guys hug him. The women looked bummed; either they really adored Shane, or they’re depressed how the guys can eliminate somebody without anybody getting hurt. Shane declares that he’s happy, and this was the best Challenge for him. Yeah, this does beat throwing up in the Inferno and losing to CT.

Ruthie speaks for the women’s side. She goes on the usual spiel about how she didn’t want to vote this person off. Our unlucky loser? Robin. She laughs a little, telling Ruthie not to cry. She doesn’t feel bad about going home, since the other leaders deserve to stay in the game. “Can’t hate the players,” Robin adds, “hate the game.” I do, but not as much as Inferno. Coral interviews that she loves Robin, and she hates to see her go. “However,” Coral adds, “I want that sixty [bleepin’] thousand dollars!” Robin tells the women to kick ass. I think it’s way too late for that.

Nighttime in Santa Fe. At the Men’s Lounge, Shane packs. He interviews that he loves the guys, and hopes their last days are boring without him. Meanwhile, Robin packs up. She says her farewells to Sophia and Ruthie, interviewing about hoping her team beats the boys. Cut to a confessional with Robin and Mark. The cheese just oozes off the screen. “I’m not winning sixty grand,” she interviews. “I only won two prizes, but I have a much better prize.” Two years ago, I would’ve agreed with her assessment of Mark. But now?  Ewwwwwwww. To make things worse, Mark has this smug look on his face. Robin runs to Mark, getting one more hug and kiss before getting into the car.

Next week: Coral tests my limits some more. This time, she interrogates Sophia about her friendship with Ruthie. Coral: “Is it smart of me to keep two best friends here? [Bleep] no.” The mission has something to do with cars and pulling on chains. I’ll spend the weekend praying for Sophia.  Also, I’ll keep watching Mark’s last Extreme Dodgeball match, where he allowed a teammate to get hit, ending the season for his squad. Hopefully, that’s an omen for things to come. 

Small regret while reading my old recap: I didn't mention what Brad shouting at the cardboard cutout of Randy from the Bombs Away mission: "Yo, Big Rand! We got a clue, man!" You know those scenes of Challengers getting clues about future missions via sponsored phones? Man, I miss those, and I'm not conscious of it most of the time.

Like I said, there were times someone that Coral "clowned" didn't deserve it . . . like with Ace and the Bug Helmet, for instance. As for Robin . . . well, she never won a Challenge. She did nine seasons and finished three (including Gauntlet 2). She and Brad (ten seasons) were the two cast members of RW: San Diego with the most Challenge appearances (with both of them sharing the stage in six seasons), but they only had one win between them (Brad in Cutthroat). Meanwhile, Jamie and Randy combined for three seasons, and they won two between them (Jamie in Inferno II, Randy in Gauntlet 2). Go figure.

Shane also has come up goose eggs as far as The Challenge is concerned. Unlike Robin, he has yet to make it to a finale. I'm using present tense because he came out of the proverbial cornfield to compete in three recent seasons: Invasion of the Champions, Vendettas and Final Reckoning. Sadly, his pot-stirring "Shady Shane" persona wore thin, and I've been happy that he hasn't come back. He's probably a nice guy in "real life," but if you drop him in that environment, things get ugly. Well, not as ugly as the series has gone lately.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Battle of the Sexes 2 Episode 13: The Smack Heard 'Round Santa Fe

Blah, blah, blah, procrastination. Yadda, yadda, yadda, new season of The Challenge (Bloody Hell War of the Worlds 2) is nigh. Also, I still have to get around to blogging from my notes on the Challenge Mania event that I attended last Saturday). I didn't get to mingle, but I had fun . . . even with the prospect of Cara Maria and Paulie screwing on stage. Oh, and Ruthie was there. I didn't hit her up . . . and that's probably a good thing, given that my first and only question would be, "Do you have nightmares about Beth dragging you through the sand in Gauntlet 2?"

This episode? Right . . . Steven Hill. Stifler wannabe. He was an item with Trishelle in the original RW: Las Vegas, and they even had a pregnancy scare. Needless to say, I didn't think much of him. The good stuff is that I wouldn't have to deal with him for much longer. The bad news:his absence didn't improve this season as much as I would have wanted.

Oh, and I'm proud of the "Jingle Bells" riff I wrote below. Hey, I had keep myself amused this season, and these people weren't helping me at all.

Episode Aired: December 27, 2004
Recap Posted: December 31, 2004

Jingle bells, Steven smells from forty miles away. He's such a pain and he just whacked Shane, so he has to go away. Hey!

Previously on Battle of the Sexes 2: Tonya's off-the-field partying concerned her teammates. The guys won Shredder, running their record to 9-2. They proceeded to eliminate Randy, the last team member with a penalty. The women sent Ibis home, and she griped to Ruthie about Tonya coasting through the game. For some reason, the editors slip in footage of Tonya and Tina's fight from two weeks ago. Bottom line: Tonya is not popular.

It's nightclub time, as the kids get their respective grooves on. Tonya interviews that the other girls perceive her as a "ditzy blonde," but she's young and single. "I can be stupid and silly," she adds, "and still have my [bleep] together." She must be exaggerating, since she ends up kneeling down outside, eventually collapsing to the side and smacking her head against a car bumper. Theo comes out to check on his squeeze du jour, interviewing that Tonya is hard to figure out. Coral suggests that Tonya go home in a cab. She interviews that she has a problem with Tonya's drinking. "It's ultimately her decision," she adds, "whether or not wants to be here. If she [bleeps] it up, it's on her." Tonya gets loaded into the van.

It's daytime! The guys are chilling in the pool, as Dan reads off the sponsor phone clue, which includes the phrase "WORD UP." The players have to be ready at 9:30 a.m., and they must wear bathing suits. Brad: "What's Jonny's problem? He always wants to see us in out bathing suits!" Okay, that was funny. Theo: "At least say 'please.'" Over at the Girls' Lodge, Arissa reads the same clue. She and Coral pull off a double "Yeah, boooooooyyy!" that would make Flava Flav proud. Coral interviews that if the team can focus more on winning than their past losses, maybe they can win. Here's hoping.

The players arrive at the mission site. Jonny welcomes them to today's mission: Cast a Spell. This time, Jonny has to be mysterious about the mission, telling the kids that he cannot give them information until they pick leaders. He can tell them that they'll be using their brains. Tina interviews that Ibis was her team's "puzzle person," but she was voted out last week. Today's winners get spiffy laptops that can receive television broadcasts. I'd kill for that, since the TV in my room has a crappy antenna, and I can't see certain channels at night. It's the $2,000 dream: recap this show, and watch a far better reality show! Anyway, Jonny gives both sides the usual 30 minutes to pick their leaders.

The ladies try to figure out the mission. Sophia announces she would feel good with Coral and Ruthie leading, and Tina agrees with that. Ruthie interviews that people have faith in her, but she's made mistakes in past missions. Finally, Tonya steps up to lead. "I don't want to lose," Tina interviews, "but I don't want her here, either. If we happen to lose, that girl's gone." Nice to see Tina looking on the bright side. Over on the men's side, Shane and Brad volunteer to lead. Steven interviews that Shane is a better leader than follower, and that he's brighter than most people. Shane interviews that he has to win the mission to stay in the game.

Jonny announces that until he blows his whistle, the players cannot talk to each other or to him. Doing so results in a 20-point penalty. Next, Jonny shows the teams stencils of each letter of the alphabet. The leaders pick one letter to get spray-painted on each player's stomach. Jonny lifts his shirt to reveal a "J." Jonny has a bit of a gut; here's hoping other competitive moguls skiers don't meet the same fate. Anyway, the players will step onto a stage to form a word. Jonny's helpers will then take an instant picture and post it on a corkboard. The more letters that are used, the higher the points (in order: 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, and 28 points for a seven-letter word). Both sides have 30 minutes. Shane informs us that if a team uses the same word twice, the point total would be deducted. Of course, the team with the most points wins the mission. After the leaders reveal themselves, Jonny reminds them to stay silent.

The boys go off to the side, trying to sign at each other. Steven sounds close to whispering. Theo interviews that Steven is flirting with disaster. "It's like I'm so angry at him," Theo adds, "but I can't say anything to him." Shane figures that if Steven gets a penalty and the team loses, he will go home.

Jonny gives both sides 20 minutes that make their letter choices, and then blows his whistle. Theo gives Steven crap about almost talking. Steven replies that nobody talked. Shane grabs Steven's wrist. And how does Steven react? By smacking Shane upside the head! Wow. Has it really been 546 days since the last act of violence on a Bunim-Murray show? Steven argues with the guys some more, and we go to commercials.

We get a slow-motion replay of Steven's smack. He interviews that it was a reflex action, and he knew he did something wrong. "This angers me to see this go on," Brad interviews. "If you had a problem with somebody, that definitely should have been worked out after the mission." Brad is the voice of reason? Are pigs flying right now?

Now it's time for Jonny to make an announcement. Mark thinks something is up, since Jonny never calls the players twice. Jonny declares that there is a no-hitting policy, and that Steven violated said policy. Bottom line? Steven Hill, you have been eliminated from the Challenge. Somewhere, Brynn stops stabbing her Steven voodoo doll with a fork. Shane pleads for Steven to stay, interviewing that it was his fault for grabbing the wrist. I don't think Shane is playing the victim card. Part of it might be a fear that his would get voted out in the future due to Steven's departure. Or perhaps he remembers the time he drunkenly slapped Darrell in RR: Campus Crawl and didn't get ejected. Steven hugs Shane, interviewing that his departure was all his fault.

Jonny gives the guys a chance to replace their letters. Robin interviews that recent events are an advantage for her side, since the guys can't form a seven-letter word. Mark holds onto Shane, telling him not to take responsibility for Steven's departure. Theo tries to snap Shane out of it, telling him that he has to lead the team. Mark: "What if he punched Eric?" Mmmmm... Eric getting punched. That is such a happy thought. Tonya is happy, and why not? With the girls getting a break, they can win the mission, and she wouldn't have to get voted off.

The ladies gather to strategize. Ruthie picks out a word: "candles." The girls get the letters spray-painted on their tummies. Ruthie interviews that nobody came up with a better word. For the guys, Dan suggests "Master," which the guys like. Mark interviews that he's going into this thinking they have no shot at winning. To be honest, I don't smell the ironic foreshadowing. I'm losing my skills.

Jonny gives both sides 30 minutes to form their letters. There's really not much to write about. Both sides get coordinated (Theo calling the shots for the men, Coral for the women), go up on the stage, raise their arms, get their pictures taken, then step down. Coral interviews that her team has lots of five- and six-point words, as well as a few sevens. Honestly, I don't think you can use all seven letters from "candles." Mark sees that most of the girls' corkboard is filled with pictures. The guys discover that a few words has been repeated, resulting in a 28-point deduction.

Over at the Men's Lounge, Steven packs up. He holds up a fake grave marker (probably plucked from High Noon) with his death date being 2004. Ha ha, very funny. He stops to write a letter and interviews that he understands why he got kicked off. He leaves the note behind, carrying his bag and cardboard twin (from Bombs Away). He apologizes for hurting the team before he gets into the Van of Shame.

Jonny gives everybody one minute to finish up. The guys get one last word in, while the girls stand by. Jonny blows his air horn to end the mission. The girls try and psyche themselves up for the win. Ruthie feels that they got it in the bag. Brad tells his group that they did the best that they could. Mark: "I'm just gonna bury my head in the sand."

Jonny goes over today's events: Guys shorthanded, women had full roster, blah blah blah. Tonya and Tina are unable to stand still. Jonny announces that the guys got 735 points, then proceeds to drag out the women's score, making both sides sore. After commercials, Jonny reveals the ladies' score: 624. Damn. I mean, daaaaaaaaayymn. If you look up "tough loss" in the dictionary, you'd find a picture of Sophia's face deflating after hearing the news.

The guys celebrate like they just won the World Series. Fellas, you just kicked your underachieving opponents for the tenth time in twelve missions. I don't care if you were shorthanded. Simmer down. Sophia actually slams a chair down on the ground. I really hate seeing her that ticked off. Tina interviews that this was the biggest disappointment since coming to Santa Fe. "I honestly can't believe," she continues, "that they have outwitted us." The guys celebrate some more, as Brad hands out cardboard certificates for the laptops. Mark interviews that this will go down as "the biggest upset in reality television." Shut up, Dodgeball Boy.

Jonny reminds the boys that since Steven is gone, they won't have to send anybody home today. As for the women? They get to choose between Coral, Ruthie, and Tonya. Ruthie interviews that she didn't want to lose, but that guys had more five- and six-letter words, which she gives props for.

The guys arrive at their lounge, basking in the afterglow of their "upset." They find Steven's letter. Mark reads that Steven is sorry for hurting the team. "Shane," he adds, "I only pushed you because I love you the most." Wow, that is very creepy. Shane interviews that he appreciates Steven taking the time to write before departing. Brad thinks Steven did a "very negative thing," but the team won anyway. He brags about winning the laptop and wanting to show it off to the girls. Brad is still a meathead, but he's my second-favorite guy still in this Challenge. Sad, isn't it?

Outside of the Main Lounge, Tonya sits and waits. She interviews that the team wouldn't send Coral home, and that it would come down to herself and Ruthie. Inside, Ruthie and Coral wait it out. Ruthie concurs with Tonya's view, interviewing that the team was counting on her.

Women's Lounge, Girls' Inner Circle. Tina bases her vote on performance, and she's not ready to let Ruthie go, so Tonya gets the vote. "Tonya, it's nothing I'm doing," Tina snipes in an interview. "You just don't know how to perform. You're just not strong as me." I think Tonya could outperform Tina in anything athletic, but Tina is more fun to keep around at this point. Robin figures that out of the three leaders, she would rather do the final mission with Ruthie and Coral. Sophia dubs Coral "phenomenal," and calls Ruthie "strong," and see a lot of intensity in Tonya. Arissa doesn't feel like voting for Tonya.

Welcome to Elimination Hill, now with fifty percent fewer eliminations! Jonny reminds anybody who fell asleep that Steven already went home, so the guys didn't have to vote anybody out. Arissa comes up to drop the axe on behalf of the Inner Circle. She thinks that all of the players left deserve to be here, and she doesn't want to send anybody home. But she does, and Tonya is leaving today. Tonya laughs a little, then hugs Arissa. She doesn't have much to say, save for wishing her team luck. Jonny goes into his farewell spiel, interrupted by Tonya shouting, "I'll be back!" The sad thing is that she's right. I feel that she might be better off going into nursing, or wherever her skills may lead her. I've had one friend suggest that her antics in Santa Fe are a result of a delayed adolescence, due to her being in foster care when she was younger. I don't have a problem with her getting wild and kissing strange boys. I just have a problem with her doing that on camera, with those boys. Aim higher, Tonya!

Tonya walks with Coral and Shane, blurting out, "Walla Walla goes back home!" I cannot believe I forgot she's from Walla Walla. She interviews about being bummed over losing, and she figured to be on the final team. She adds that some girls are looking out for themselves. When it comes to a $60,000 check, who wouldn't?

Cut to the Men's Lounge, where Theo and Tonya get in one last snuggle. Theo figures he'll be friends with Tonya. "I'm not carrying anything out of this desert," he interviews. "I'll probably just leave here and let the little summer love fizzle and die out."

Tonya packs up and says her goodbyes. "I'm a strong competitor and a strong woman," she interviews. "I put myself in a position to be judged and to be questioned, and that's fine. I'd rather do that than back down because I'm too scared of being voted off." She gets a few hugs, orders her team to win, then gets in the van. And now, let us remember Tonya fondly. Will you do the honors, Tina? "Ding dong, the witch is dead! Good riddance!" I predict that Tina's compassion for people will be her downfall.

Next time: Mark and Robin snuggle. The mission has the kids walking on balance beams on top of speeding semis. And guess what? It's Eric versus Coral in a war of words. Robin's crying for some reason, but who cares? Here's hoping Coral ties up Eric with his own jump rope.

Depressing as fuck, huh?

The girls wound up with an advantage, and they still blew it. They did lose Tonya, but it didn't end up a case of "addition" by "subtraction." I wasn't kidding about wanting Tonya to have a normal life. After her turbulant time on RW: Chicago, it was nice to see her look sane in BOTS1 and The Gauntlet. But she would wind up in more four seasons: Inferno II (where the "Mean Girls" troika overlooked their own flaws to rank on her for most of the season), Fresh Meat (she and one-shot player Johnnie McBride were the fourth team eliminated, done in by a rookie Wes and his plus-one, Casey), Inferno 3 (where she won her first Challenge after six tries, winning $40,000 along with the remaining players of the Bad Ass team), The Island (first player voted off) and The Ruins, where this allegedly happened to her. I have to say "allegedly" because the case was settled out of court, and there are times I pretend to be a practicing journalist . . . but I'm thinking it happened.

Battle of the Sexes 2 turned out to be Steven's only Challenge, which was a pleasant surprise for me. Sadly, he would take part in the unnecessary Reunited: The Real World Las Vegas season in 2007. By the way, how weird was it that I felt bad for Shane back then, but I'd wind up rooting for someone -- ANYONE -- to slug him over a decade later? I'm sure he's probably a nice guy in "real life," but "Shady Shane" wore on my nerves. It tickles me that out of the six members of RR: Campus Crawl to compete in Challenges, he's the only one to have not won in multiple tries (alpha guy Eric Jones only did three missions in BOTS1). Basically, he's Homer Simpson, and Challenge titles are the Employee of the Month award at Springfield Nuclear. And Sarah Grayson would be the inanimate rod. That has to keep Shane up during some nights.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Underdogs: Another Essay On The Amazing Race

Last Wednesday, I was posting on the (formerly forum for The Amazing Race. With only two more episodes left for the thirty-first season, four teams were left going into this coming Wednesday's two-hour finale. One of the duos was Nicole Franzel and Victor Arroyo. They had met on Big Brother 18, a season where Nicole (in her second season) won and Victor finished in fifth place.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a profound disdain for Big Brother, which I will be explaining shortly. Here's what I wrote on the episode thread:

"Nicole & Victor are probably nice and decent people . . . but they're still Big Brother. Big Brother is the antithesis of The Amazing Race . . . very little substance, crap host, but CBS treats it and the fanbase so much better. Nic & Vic winning wouldn't be as hard to stomach as Cody & Jessica last year . . . .but they would still be Big Brother. Fuck, CBS would probably end up with 4-5 people from the next BB to "suggest" to [series creators] Elise [Doganieri] & Bertram [van Munster] when another TAR gets cast. And that's even if Nic & Vic go out in the penultimate leg."

Soon, someone else posted, and this person took great exception to my opinion. Here were the points made:

  • Big Brother lasts three times longer
  • More strategy is involved
  • There isn't "tourism porn" to "spackle over the cracks"
  • Julie Chen-Moonves hosts episodes on live television
  • The time TAR host Phil Keoghan visited Big Brother 17, showing embarassing clips of past champions Rachel Reilly and Brendon Villegas, who had run TAR and finished third both times. The poster added: "Pissing on 'our' contestants on our show.  I'm still not over that"
The poster ended the rant on my rant with this:

I'll take being the unappreciated underdog.  (And the show that gets nothing but "wacky" promos from CBS, instead of the drama generated for the other two shows.  Eh, who needs respect, right?)

Oddly enough, priority to that Wednesday night, I was thinking of writing about TAR being the underdog  of CBS' reality programs. My opponent taking that angle for Big Brother was unexpected. If you think about it, who doesn't want to be an underdog in any area? "Underdog" means that the odds are against you, that your opponents are the insidious empire, and you're a plucky band of rebels looking for freedom. Right now, both major sides of the American political spectrum claim underdog status: one holds more power, but claims that the other side's media dogs them at every turn. Their opponents decry the dwindling rights of their base enforced by men in power who couldn't care less about them. But that's a story for another post. Or you can visit my Facebook. I'm very easy tor rile up about national politics.

For me, The Amazing Race has been the least-favored child of CBS. Survivor coasts on its past successes from long ago, as host Jeff Probst wields more power, drowning the show with his abiding love of alpha males, dismissing of female players, and an abundance of hidden immunity idols that adds unneeded chaos to the game; the worst case happen in Game Changers, when fan favorite Cirie Fields was eliminated because all the other players were protected.

Meanwhile, Big Brother chugs along with its drama and controversy. I confess that I don't watch the series, but anything I hear isn't usually good. Recently, some past "housemates" (including Victor) have popped up on The Challenge. This is akin to throwing a ton of trash into an already-raging dumpster fire. Sure, Victor was inoffensive in his one stint (Vendettas) and Da'Vonne Rogers has established a sold base for future appearances, but then you have the more toxic element making bad things so much worse. This is personified in Paulie Calafiore; after Big Brother, he went to the American edition of Ex on the Beach before getting picked up for The Challenge, where his ambition to take over the series and his nauseating relationship with veteran Cara Maria Sorbello are hard to watch unironically. Also on Big Brother: something called a "Zingbot." I think that's supposed to be a selling point.

The Amazing Race doesn't see a natural underdog for some people. The main argument would be that it won seven straight Emmy Awards for Reality-Competition Program and ten total in that category. Some dismiss those, bringing up the valid point that the voters deciding that Emmy could care less about the category. My argument for that comes with Jeff Probst winning four straight Emmys for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program. Once again, I don't think highly of his work. I'd expand on that, but then I'd get more off-topic than usual.

In recent years, CBS has removed TAR from the regular schedule rotation, while Survivor gets two edition per traditional season (September-May) and Big Brother is guaranteed to air in the summer months. When TAR fans aren't sweating their show's future, they have to wait for it to be scheduled. And while TAR's returns are diminished from seasons past, it isn't as bad as the other two series. Survivor had an unusually good season with David vs. Goliath  in Fall 2018, but then came Edge of Extinction. The gimmick for that was players that got voted out got the option to go to Edge of Extinction; a barren area away from the "normal" game. With every Tribal Council, EoE filled with players looking to get back to the main action. Once the carnage settled, the person on top of the heap was Chris Underwood. He was voted out of his tribe on Day 8, and he elected to go to EoE. He would fail to win his way back on Day 16, but he was allowed to stay on with the other losers. Not only that, anybody that did not wish to leave the game would wind up on the jury. The end result: Chris was able to re-enter the game by winning a challenge on Day 35, managed to stay in contention, pulled off a ball-busting move by challenging Rick Devens (the other player to win their way back into the game) to a firemaking challenge, won that, and wound up with nine out of the thirteen votes cast to win $1 million . . . all thanks to a format that favored anyone who had spent almost four weeks with other cast-off castaways.

That night, as Jeff Probst grabbed the lipstick and worked to make the turkey of a season look good, I saw zero commercials from CBS for The Amazing Race. At the time, TAR had been following Survivor on Wednesday nights, and it would take over the 8 p.m. slot the following week, starting with a two-hour episode. But CBS didn't seem interested in promoting the show. Granted, the series finale of The Big Bang Theory was airing the following night, so those commercials had to be plentiful (and understandably so). Also promoted was the upcoming season of Big Brother, which would not air for another month. And there was something called Love Island, a dating show that is set to air in early July. The impression that I got was that CBS was looking into very attractive people exchanging social diseases . . . a market currently cornered by ABC (The Bachelor franchise), Fox (Paradise Hotel), and MTV (any reality show that doesn't involve women giving birth at a young age. Also, anything related to Rob Dyrdek, whom I find so much less annoying than the average Challenger). Oh, and in one of the commercials about Love Island that aired on that night, they was a shot of a woman's swimsuit area as she exited a pool. Draw your own conclusions.

As a fan of TAR, I've gotten used to being unhappy. Sure, we're going into the final legs with only one team away from the norm (Nicole & Victor), but the road to get here was rough. First came the end of TAR30, airing on February 21, 2018. In a tense final leg, it came down to a three-way Roadblock. In the end, Cody Nickson and Jessica Graf -- who had met on Big Brother 19 -- walked away with the $1 million. To add insult to injury, Henry Zhang had unknowing completed the Roadblock, and he would have won alongside fellow Yale debater Evan Lynyak, but he continued the task. Given how competitive she looked on the show, I'd say that Evan probably still has Henry locked up in a basement somewhere.

The worst part was that a Big Brother-born team had finally won. To use a well-worn phrase: "fetch" had happened at long last. This was great news for some fans; after all, a good chunk of the crowd at the starting line in Washington Square Park (which I had gone to see for myself and subsequently wrote about) were pulling for those two. CBS celebrated their win harder than most of the recent winners of TAR. I had figured the worst was over, and that the odds of CBS cancelling the series because a Big  Brother team won were pretty slim.

But then came rumors centered on casting for TAR31, and things felt even more dire, especially for a worrywart like myself. The speculation was that the cast would be all or mostly filled with Big Brother contestants. Names were thrown out, and the dread increased. Haven't not followed the series, I wasn't familiar with how bad the worst case scenario could be, but those that did brave that show filled in the blanks. The best analogy I could think of came from the movie Slap Shot, at the point where the Charlestown Chiefs had decided to play "clean" hockey (i.e., not beating the snot out of everyone on the rink) for the championship game . . . over to see their opponents stack their roster with the dirtiest players they could find at the last minute. Names from Survivor were also volleyed about, but they weren't much better. In my mind (which I will admit -- once again -- isn't the most stable of places) was the worst possible choice a fan could make. Would viewers stay with a dumbed-down version of their beloved show, leading CBS to continue stuntcasting people that would never have made the cut under normal circumstances? Or would they abandon the ship and possibly contribute to cancellation?

The end result has worked out well: TAR31 wound up bringing in teams from Big Brother, Survivor and The Amazing Race (including Rachel Reilly, who had done two seasons each on BB and TAR). While the TAR teams were outnumbered 6-5, they have managed to dominate throughout this edition.After border patrol agents Art Velez & JJ  Carrell fell in the first leg, no other TAR-based teams were sent off for another nine episodes, where Becca Droz & Floyd Pierce (the self-proclaimed "Team Fun") were eliminatied. In that span, all three Survivor-based teams were eliminated, including Rupert Boneham (who peaked as a "character" in 2004) and his wife Laura, as well as friends Corrine Kaplan and Eliza Orlins (two two-time Survivor contestants who went out ugly in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam). Nicole & Victor have made it farther than their fellow Big Brother alumni; including Rachel, who had finished in third place twice on TAR with her husband, Brendon Villegas. Running with sister Elissa in this edition, Rachel proved to be one of the more annoying Racers, and the team was eliminated after eight legs.

If you think I've been rambling and/or been fanatical about The Amazing Race, I wouldn't blame you. But in my mind, TAR is the best reality show CBS has, and probably one of the best competitive reality shows, period. Meanwhile, Survivor and Big Brother have been mired in allegations of racism and sexism. The former is set to redo their format from Ghost Island, drowning players in hidden immunity idols. Even the name of the season -- Island of the Idols -- suggests Jeff Probst spinning the series as still being relevant, all the while setting up altars for alpha dudes. Oh, and Rob Mariano will be returning to offer "guidance" to contestants. If you never watched Survivor, all you need to know is that he is the most overrated player in the history of the series. It took him four tries to finally win Survivor, and that only happened after he was fed a cast of dummies and given a safety net (Redemption Island) which he didn't need. While two-time champion Sandra Diaz-Twine (the only player to lay claim to that title) will be in a similar position, I expect the editing will wind up favoring "Boston Rob."

The finale for The Amazing Race airs this Wednesday night. Also, not only has a thirty-second season been filmed, none of the teams running appear to be stuntcast (here's the article, with location and casting spoilers only). While it might be a while before CBS decides to air it, I'm certain it will be a fun season. And if you've never watched TAR . . . .give it a shot. There are 31 seasons to root through, albeit with some less-than-pleasurable editions (the sixth season basically kicked fans in the privates week after week). In the end, not only do I believe that The Amazing Race should be considered an underdog even with its length and awards, I believe it is an underdog worth watching when it airs.