Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Gauntlet (2003-2004)

Prelude: Once Upon A Time In Telluride Reflections on The Gauntlet in 2017.

Tussle in Telluride: A Preview to ‘RW/RR Challenge: The Gauntlet’ My look into the upcoming season.

Showdown at the RW/RR Corral – Gauntlet Preview Episode Jonny Moseley and Coral take a look at The Gauntlet.

Episodes 1 & 2: Back in the Saddle Matt makes some new enemies...but at least God loves him. Also: the players deal with freezing waters and snakes, David gives life lessons, and Sarah survives a trial by fire.

Episode 3: When Drama Mamas Attack Something with puzzles and bull-riding, which leads to some drama between Katie and Veronica.

Episode 4: Mud & Guts A winning combination: mud, giant balls, and players hellbent to kill each other. Tonya gets hurt yet again, Steve puts his puzzle skills to the test, and an accident sends Trishelle to the medical place.

Episode 5: Rocky Roads The kids eat giant sundaes without using their hands. Yeah, it's as hygenic as it sounds. In other news, Rachel B. steps up big for her team, Katie takes the long walk, and Matt dances. Seriously...Matt dances. Alert the authorities!

Episode 6: Great Coral Grief An underachieving performance, a betrayal by a trusted friend. Welcome to the worst day in Coral's televised life.

Episode 7: Onward Christian Soldier Fat suits are funny, because the producers tell us so! Yeah, right. Matt gets a foot up his religious butt, Sarah experiences deja vu, and Irulan and Veronica go at it.

Episode 8: Nobody Beats The Miz Mike exercises his authroi-tah, even as it's being affected by his romance with Trishelle. This does not make Elka a happy camper. Also: rubber rafts, and Dave and Cara's relationship gets jeopardized.

Episode 9: Wild Blue Yonder The kids dogfight in the sky, and it is all that. Trishelle gets put into the Gauntlet against Steve and...oh. Oh, no. Oh, HELL no.

Episode 10: Masters of Their Domain Mike and Adam try to take control of their teams, but neither of them look good in the process (Mike thinks with the incorrect head, Adam is a tool). Trishelle gets sent into the Gauntlet against Sarah...and the result is the big middle finger to a lot of people.

Episode 11: Oedipus Rex Sarah takes an early elimination thanks to Laterrian, and the bulk of the team uses that as an excuse to sent her into the Gauntlet. Again. This time, against good buddy Rachel B. I rate it four heads in the over out of five.

Episode 12: Turn the Beat Around Adam eats crow on a giant turntable, Theo looks to a higher power for a mission win, and Laterrian finally gets what's coming to him.

Episode 13: Three’s Company After a disastrous mission, Sarah finds herself in the crosshairs yet again. But she gets bailed out by Theo, and Mike stomps on Abram. Later, Rachel and Veronica snipe on Sarah and Theo, then have sex with Abram. I wish I made that up.

Episode 14: Tubthumper The final trial of Sarah Greyson. Also, we get to see what Theo V. packs in his shorts. I didn't want to know, but there it is.

Episode 15: Penultimate Peril After some interteam bickering, we move to Veronica's efforts to save her ass from the Gauntlet. In the end, Coral and Theo G. are tied for a date, and Alton has to break the deadlock.

What Should Alton Do? Kneejerk essay on how Alton should break the tie.

Episode 16: Beginning of the End Alton has chosen...poorly. Oh, and Coral slowly starts to die in the final mission.

Episode 17: The Last Roundup Coral collapses, Mike and Nathan act like punks, and Sarah gets her just reward. Okay, so do Adam, Rachel R. and Veronica...but you gotta take the good with the bad.

Battle Scars: From the Gauntlet to the Inferno A look back at the past season, a look forward at the upcoming Inferno. Oh, and Rachel R. and Trishelle jump on Sarah some more. Losers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Battle of the Sexes 2 (2004-2005)

Take the concept of the first Battle of the Sexes. Scrap the Inner Circles with the top three players. Make the teams choose three leaders for each mission. If the team wins, the leaders pick off a follower. If the team loses, the followers send a leader home. Mix with crappy missions and a 30-something guy there to pimp jumpropes. The result? The worst Challenge ever...a Challenge so bad, it was a part of me getting kicked off a major recapping site for being too negative. Dude, you try watching the girls get crushed every week.

Battle Lines: Real World/Road Rules Battle of the Sexes 2 Preview A quick overview of the show, as well as some predictions. Try not to laugh too hard when looking at who I chose to be the final women's team.

A Preview of the Men's Team A dossier of the dudes.

A Preview of the Women's Team A dossier of the dames.

He Says/She Says: Battle For The Battle Of The Sexes 2 The recap of the MTV preview show. Watch Challengers past and present crack wise on the upcoming season.

Episodes 1-2: Follow the Leaders The field of 36 hang onto punching bags over the water. Angela and Cameran show their brand of team spirit, Derrick shows his frog whispering talents, Sophia has her first Elimination Hill breakdown, and two likable RW alumni go home far too soon.

Episode 3: Slither Something with snakes and poker chips. Also: Tonya starts to go wild, Adam busts out his unique rapping, and Ace dorks his way out of Santa Fe.

Episode 4: Meltdown Witness the spetacle of man-on-man-on-man action. Veronica: "Blow and suck! Blow and suck! Use your hands!"

Episode 5: Choose to Lose "I slept in my uniform last night because I wanted to win today!" Thanks, Ayanna. Hope the therapy holds up this time.

Episode 6: Hope Floats The good news? The ladies finally win a mission. The bad news? They decide to keep an albatross and send home a RW legend. It's the opposite of hellacool.

Episode 7: Showdown The kids compete in a paintball shooting mission, which is pretty cool. Also: Shawn picks his time to shine.

Episode 8: Squirm We got honey, straws, roaches, worms, and other people's mouths. The bright side? Mike and Rachel finally go home.

Episode 9: Swing For It Arissa's fear of heights starts to hurt her team. Chris takes a detour to get hitched. Katie leaves with most of her dignity intact.

Episode 10: Pole Position Steven resumes being the punk he was in Las Vegas. Sophia gets her hair straightened out, which is very unnerving.

Episode 11: Trivial Pursuit It's a mix of pop culture trivia and ramp jumping. Witness Arissa's shining moment, and the girls make a questionable call. Also: Eric Nies and his love affair with the jumprope. Not recommended for the young or the squeamish.

Episode 12: Parannoyed Tonya punks out of leading the team, watches her squad lose in a meat-catching mission, then plunges a salad fork in Ibis's back.

Episode 13: The Smack Heard 'Round Santa Fe Steven hits Shane because he loves him. Or something. Anyway, Steven gets ejected, the women blow their advantage, and Tonya goes home to eat her weight in crazy wafers for the next Challenge.

Episode 14: Keep on Truckin' Coral gets her bitch on, giving grief to Robin and Eric. Arissa messes up again, but Robin walks the plank instead.

Episode 15: Are We Done Yet? The fellas screw Brad over, keeping him out of a leadership position. Arissa and Coral double-team Sophia, leading to Ruthie's dismissal and the worst of Sophia's breakdowns. Seriously...are we done yet?

Episode 16: Penultimate Present Mark adds insult to injury, throwing the mission to keep Arissa in the game. Oh, and Eric Nies makes the final men's team.

Episode 17: It's Over What do we have? Burly men in black, Jonny Moseley getting his Roadmaster on, the slightest flicker of hope for the ladies...and the guys shutting it off with extreme prejudice.

Battle of the Sexes 2 Reunion: Secrets From Elimination Hill Brad calls out his teammates for dumping him. Kina swiped Eric's jumprope and contemplated sending it back in pieces. Brad and Arissa got snuggly in Santa Fe. And this wasn't shown the first time because...? It's my last RNO recap ever. Borelli out!

The Inferno (2004)

How do you make an Inferno? Take the Gauntlet, the brillant endgame that forces one player out, and put Fear Factor stuff in there. Make the Infernos happen every other week, and give the teams a complicated process to decide who gets to go. Throw in folks like Veronica, Abram and Julie, along with a host that makes Jonny Moseley look like Phil Keoghan, and you have a strong contender for "Worst Challenge Ever" honors.

Battle Scars: From the Gauntlet to the Inferno A look back at Gauntlet, a look ahead at Inferno. Also features the seldom-seen "Melissa Will Kill You" t-shirt.

Episodes 1 & 2: Out of the Frying Pan… Julie tries to kill Veronica, Syrus tries to prove he's not that old, Katie attempts to choke down worms. Yep...just another night in the Challenge.

Episode 3: Enter the Wiznitch Trishelle yells at Mike and Coral, then is stunned when she's put into the Inferno. Plus: Yellowcard, and one of the cooler missions in some time.

Episode 4: Hollyday Holly pulls a double shift, as she convinces a troubled Katie to do a mission, and tries to eat more peppers than Trishelle. So long, Trashy! Say "hi" to Andy Dick for us!

Episode 5: Disco Inferno Something with disco, dominos and Seventies fashion. Also, Mike gets his annual fling underway with Kendal.

Episode 6: Hearts Afire Katie blows a mission so bad, the RW side carries her off the field. Plus: Trishelle causes trouble from home. Somebody get me a stake.

Episode 7: Net Loss Julie vs. Coral, Round One. Who cares about nets and Drama David throwing a fit?

Episode 8: Sleep Now in the Fire Road Rules tries to send Katie into the Inferno, but Christena screws the plan up. In other news, Veronica takes a guacamole bath and we're treated to the most boring endgame ever deviced, with two of the most boring women ever to play.

Episode 9: Hot Bargains The kids try and sell stuff to cruise passengers. David can't get it out of first gear, CT wears a thong, and Abram gets a Mohawk.

Episode 10: Hail to the Hero After watching Leah suffer a panic attack, we need a miracle to make this episode good. Enter CT and his ultimate sacrifice. Bye, Shane!

Episode 11: Plot Twist A shooting contest, double overtime...and Julie vs. Coral, Round Two. Oh, and Julie wants to wrestle Coral. Poor Julie.

Episode 12: Born to Lose Road Rules messes up a mission to send Katie into the Inferno...and it works. But after Abram humilates Katie in the process, can any of us really hate her? Plus: Julie's last stand, as mentioned as Kim's "The Most Awesome Thing I Saw on TV Last Week."

Episode 13: Relapse Leah comes back to play, just as CT reverts back to his asshole ways.

Episode 14: The One Where Kendal Messes Up Witness the rare event of both teams throwing a mission. RR tries yet again to screw Katie over, but an unwitting Kendal screws them instead. Watch as she gets double-teamed by her crew and boyfriend Mike, Leah clashes with CT, and I find a brand-new Axis of Ass.

Episode 15: Penultimate Panic First comes the Inferno From Hell, as everybody snipes on everybody else, and David jumps around naked (don't ask). Afterwards, Coral and Veronica try and pull their respective fats from the fire.

Episode 16: Eruption Katie goes into the Inferno and wins. Katie rips into Veronica. Katie contemplates throwing the final mission to piss off her own team. I love Katie.

Episode 17: Blaze of Glory Another finale, another obstacle course, another way for Coral to look bad on TV. Just be glad it's over.

Montezuma’s Revenge: Inside the Inferno Lala picks over the Challenge with the surviving players. Learn about Julie's bathroom habits, find out which RW cast member Darrell goofed on, and because you did not demand it? A preview of Road Rules: X-Treme!

Coming Soon

It's late, so I'll be quick. I finally learned how to link stuff on the side. Yay, men. Seriously, check out Melissa's site...she has an essay about her teeth and her big sister. Funny stuff.

Anyway, I'm going to be trying something big over the next few weeks. I will be getting the URLs from every recap I've done, and linking it to this blog. The Challenges? Check. My stints with Dog Days and Kevin & Drew Unleashed? Check. The humorous essays I wrote for Survivor? Check. The roundtable discussions where I made horrible predictions? Check. I had Rob Cesternino winning Survivor: All-Stars. What the hell was wrong with me? I'll put the links in one entry, then link that entry to the side. As a bonus, you can see how far I've come as a snark-happy recapper. That first recap I did of Dog Days totally sucked...luckily, I got over that quickly.

By the way, I was dead-on about Tina beating Robin. To me, Tina's the lesser of many, many evils. She's not as useless as Beth, not as insane as Tonya and Julie, and not as...well, she ain't Rachel or Veronica. And it looks like Abram goes nucking futs next week. Wotta tool. Only cool thing he ever did was clobber Donell.

That's it. Maybe this time tomorrow, I'll be celebrating a crap team getting booted out of The Amazing Race. Here's hopin'.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Random Eggs

Hoping you guys had a happy Easter. I got some stuff to share.

This Race Is Broken!

Okay, it's an exaggeration...but it's been five days after the last episode of The Amazing Race, and I'm still fuming. As always, the action is centered around "Survivor sweethearts" Rob & Amber, and how everybody hates them. Last week, the four teams that started off in the lead ended up on a plane, all waiting for takeoff. You might remember that in the previous episode, members of those teams ate four pounds of gross meat for a Roadblock. Rob not only punked out and took a four-hour penalty, he convinced two other duos not to bother...thus assuring he and Amber wouldn't be the last ones to the Pit Stop. Anyway, Ramber ended up on the plane, shutting up everybody in the process, all of whom had been crowing over the impending five-hour lead they'd have. On the forums, there's been speculation that the plane was delayed on purpose so that Ramber could make it, since they're the marquee team. And you know what? I believe it.

Actually, here's what should have happened: The eight teams should have been on two planes, with four on each one. This isn't merely a measure to screw Ramber. Think of it as a lesson to do the damn tasks assigned to you. And I know that Ramber would have beaten everybody else in the trailing pack, given that their competition would have been Meredith & Gretchen (Team Fogie, three episodes away from annoying, Teri & Ian territory), Ray & Deana (Team Cobra Kai, since Ray is resembling Creese more every week) and Susan & Patrick (who had messed up navigation in the prior ep).

So what happened? Right...Ramber took the lead, finished first for the leg, and got a vacation. What sucks is that Lynn & Alex won the leg last week, but they got squat. I don't think they're long for the Race, since 90 percent of their interviews are them bitching about Ramber. That would suggest that they have nothing else coming to them in future episodes. That's a shame...I mean, they are one part Cha Cha Cha, two parts Thunk, but they seem like nice guys. Now they'll be compared unfavorable to TAR3's Aaron & Arianne, dubbed "Aahab" because they kept hunting for twins Derek & Drew. But I feel Lynn & Alex have more reason to be pissed at Ramber. Heck, I bet there's an interview where Uchenna says he'd punch Rob out in a men's room stall. But it won't air, because we're supposed to like him and Joyce. I just made that up as an example...I like those two kids. Win or lose, I hope she can get pregnant soon.

I just feel that the sooner Ramber takes the elimination, we can get to the business of actually racing. I'm tired of them, and I'm tired of anybody who overlooks past flaws. One columnist wrote that Rob isn't an idiot because he outwitted his way through Survivor: All Stars. Look at the people he beat: Lex, Kathy, Alicia, Shii Ann, Tom, Rupert and Jenna Lewis. You take out Shii Ann and Alicia (feeling generous to Ms. Finger-Waver tonight), you wouldn't have enough brain power to run a toaster. And how did Amber win the $1 million? By piggybacking on Rob, and getting three votes (Lex, Alicia, Tom) that were more "Fuck Rob" than "Yay Amber," Ms. Brkich got her prize. For God's sake, look at the credits...Rob is carrying Amber on her back! She's a nice person, but she's always in the shadow of those close to her. Remember, she was called "Lamber" back in Outback because she kept following Jerri around. Ramber getting off this show will be like Rupert leaving Pearl Islands; we'll have time to focus on the other contestants.

Rant over. Two-hour episode airs on Tuesday...first midseason doubleheader since TAR3. Worst episode ever...Flo whines, bitches, moans, then she and Zach get bailed out by a consective non-elimination leg. And that sucked, since fan faves (and Staten Islanders) John Vito & Jill wasted a Fast Forward, thinking they would have at least two more legs afterwards. Nope...they ended up getting eliminated in the next leg. Sad stuff...and the season went downhill from there.

DVDos, DVDonts

Finally got my copy of Yu-Gi-Oh: Pyramid of Light from the library. True to my word on the forums, I didn't see it in theaters or pay for the video. It's one of those things where I don't want people seeing me enjoy it. You could have a midnight showing at half-price, filled with folks who post in the thread, shouting "So! Much! Talking!" and "Shut up, Tea!" and I still wouldn't go. It's a private thing.

Anyway, the stupid disc gave out on me at around 23 minutes...which sucks, since it was in the middle of the Kaiba/Pegasus duel (Kaiba: intense boy billionaire and former Duel Monsters champ; Pegasus: creator of the game and one of the gayest characters in recent animation history). I ended up using toothpaste at the suggestion of a friend, dabbing and wiping the underside of the disc. I ended up seeing most of the movie thanks to that advice. For any fan of the show...you have to see it. The violence? It's there. The gayiety? Ramped up. The writing is extra-snarky, and the players get even more dramatic. Okay...there are liberties taken from the series, like Joey getting a giant syringe in the ass from Injection Fairy Lily. But seriously, you'll have fun.

Also, I ended up getting Anchorman on DVD from the library. Didn't even put a hold on it. And whaddya know...I actually saw the end. Dopey fun all around.

Infernal Date

Saw a commercial for the next episode of Inferno II. It was like watching the orignal edition, except this time, it's Beth getting screwed over in Katie's place. Heck, even Abram lies to her face about it, just like he did with Katie. If Beth ends up in the Inferno, I think she'll have no chance. Then again, I thought the same thing about Sarah and the Gauntlet, and Katie in the Inferno.

Let's say the matchup stays the same, and it's Robin vs. Tina. Who would win? I'm thinking that if it's physcial and/or head-to-head, Tina takes it. She's got karma saved up from the times she got booted off prior Challenges. She's also neck-and-neck with Dan for Funniest Challenger honors, with Darrell far back in the pack (he hasn't misprounced "Inferno" yet.) Also...did you see the Road Rules face-off, when Tina boxed and beat the snot out of Angela? It's the best of all worlds: Tina stays to snark and play Discount Coral, Tonya can focus on hating Tina and Beth some more, and Robin goes home to Dodgeball Boy. Everybody wins!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Inferno 2, Episode 3: She Said/She Said

Previously on Inferno II: I can’t lie to you guys. I biffed the recording. I was online too long, I went to the VCR, and things were already underway. In my defense, it was 9:58 p.m. That’s only the second recording malfunction I’ve had in over two years of recapping. Here’s what you need to know: the Bad Asses spanked the Good Guys in Juice It Up, upping their bank account to $20,000. Mike won the Aztec Lifeshield, which bailed him out of his date with Dan in the Inferno. Jon took the noble route, volunteering himself to replace Mike. Sadly, Jon was defeated by Dan in Hang Tough, leading to the first genuine Beth moment in a long time. Oh, and Julie cried herself a river, and I laughed.

It’s daytime at the villa or mansion or whatever the heck these kids stay, and some of the girls are having a bull session over Tonya. Tina: “Tonya is like a stray dog. You don’t know what she carries.” Robin asks Beth if Tonya slept with a guy. Beth brings up Robin’s romance with Mark on Battle of the Sexes 2. Apparently, Tonya had said that those two were over, and he was too old for Robin. There’s only seven years and change between them, but it still squicks me out. Cut to a shot of Beth and Tonya talking. Robin interviews that Beth had told her that Tonya and Mark were “somewhat datey,” and she thinks Tonya is a “big fat liar.” She then calls up Mark on the sponsor phone and asks him what the deal was. Of course, Mark denies hanging out with Tonya. Robin: “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill that bitch.” In an interview, Tina is really happy over this development. “Who’s the liar?” she asks. “Is it Tonya? Is it her man Mark?” I’m going to go with “both,” personally. “Some drama’s in the air!” Thanks for being the Coral patch, Tina.

Night. The sponsor phone rings, and Dan picks it up. For some reason, Derrick is wearing swimming goggles. Don’t ask. Dan reads the instructions: leave at 11 a.m., and wearing swimsuits and sneakers. What happened to “tennis shoes”? Elsewhere, Jamie reads that the players will be getting wet at the Grand Bay Marina. Landon whoops it up while lying down. Has he been counting his drinks in Mexico?

Robin interviews that she confronted Tonya, asking why she lied about hooking up with Mark. Robin gets up in Tonya’s grill, ticked that she was labeled Mark’s “rebound chick,” and that Tonya hung out with him. Tonya interviews that Robin thinks she made it up. “It existed for a weekend,” she explains. “It’s not a big deal, and I don’t like him.” Robin insists she’s not jealous in an interview, adding that she doesn’t want to believe Tonya was with Mark. I don’t want to believe two women are fighting over Mark, but here we are. Robin: “It becomes an all-out scream fast.”

Sure enough, the bickering proceeds to the dinner table. Robin tells Tonya that she doesn’t trust her. Tonya says that she never dated Mark, and it’s ridiculous that Robin is insecure for “busting that out.” Tina: “Oooooooohhh!” Robin calls Tonya a whore, restating that she doesn’t trust her. Tonya reminds us all that she never dated Mark. Robin tells Tonya not to say how much fun they had. Tonya insists she wouldn’t hang out with Mark while they dated. Robin has a problem with Tonya being near Mark. Tonya: “I could say so much right now, but you’re just really not worth it.” Robin: “Good. Then shut your fucking mouth, you fucking whore.” It’s like they’re both trying to outcrazy Julie. There’s silence, with Tina grinning. And then? More arguing.

Robin tells Tonya that she called Mark, who denied having anything with Tonya. Tonya advises Robin to reevaluate her relationship, adding that he schupted both of them. Now we see Derrick grinning. Robin calls Tonya a dirty whore. I wonder how my feminist friend is reacting to this episode. There’s more arguing, then Robin storms off, interviews that she’s happy to get that off her chest. Make your own joke about Robin’s chest. Tonya doesn’t want to be called a liar. Robin: “I take the liar back. You’re not a liar, you’re a ho.” “Call me a whore,” Tonya interviews, “call me a slut. Don’t call me a liar.” Aim high, girl.

The good news is that we get off Robin for now. The bad news? Veronica: “BETH IS SUCH A BITCH!” Pot, I believe you’ve met kettle. Turns out somebody finally put two and two together, and now the finger has been pointed towards Beth. Veronica interviews that Beth is a nightmare, and she’s out to stir things up. Tonya interviews that Beth started something that should not have been started. She adds, “That’s...where...my...craziness...begins.”

Tense music plays, as Tonya storms into the bedroom. Just my luck ... the producers bring out the night vision lens, and there’s no hanky-panky to cover. Tonya orders Beth to get up. Beth responds by pulling the cover back over your head. As somebody turns on a light, Tonya wants to know what Beth was trying to pull. Beth insists she didn’t pull anything. Tonya wants to know what Beth said to Robin, since Robin’s feelings are hurt. “I’ve been exploited as a slut,” she adds “and none of this had to happen unless you opened your fucking mouth.” Beth hides under the covers, insisting she didn’t cause anything. Tonya demands to know what happened. In a rather sensible move, Beth suggests bringing Robin over to talk things out. Tonya figures Beth can’t think up a lie. Beth: “Tonya, you’re being really crazy right now.” BZZT! Wrong answer!

Tonya grabs Beth’s bag. She runs off with it, dumping it in a pool. Somewhere, Ayanna breathes a sigh of relief, since her ripping on Aneesa was more mature than this. Rachel approcaches Tonya, slurring that the bag is floating on the water. Tonya cusses up a storm. “Maybe she’ll talk to me now,” she snipes, “when she has nothing to fucking wear.” Rachel laughs as Tonya empties the bag’s contents into the pool. Veronica interviews that she didn’t help Tonya’s plans, “but I definately don’t stop her. So mean! We’re like the mean girls!” I hadn’t noticed.

Tonya goes back to the bedroom, barking at Beth some more. Beth is still in bed, apparently oblivious as to what had happened with her stuff. Tonya notes that if Beth does not talk, she will lose all of her stuff, adding that she felt humilated. Beth repeats that Robin should be brought in. Unsatisfied, Tonya grabs another bag and huffs off. Beth finally gets up and follows Tonya. Rather than repeat her performance in the pool. Tonya throws Beth’s clothes off the roof. “Oh, my God,” Beth interviews, “this girl has lost her mind. She must be on some medication.” Beth still wants to bring Robin in, but Tonya wanted an answer and didn’t get it. Beth calls Tonya crazy, and Tonya informs Beth that the rest of her clothes are in the pool. “You better hide your shit,” Tonya interviews, “because it will be gone!” Beth tells Tonya that she will die if her stuff is damaged. Tonya waves, and we cut to Beth’s clothes floating in the pool. Finally, we go to commercials.

We come back to Beth going to the pool, wearing a “New York City” sweater. Hey, keep my city out of this! Mike is guffawing, as Beth pulls her stuff out, griping about getting a Louis Vuitton handbag ruined. She interviews that she would never steal things or throw them in the pool. “At the end of the day,” she adds, “what does that prove? I think she’s the loser for acting the way that she did.”

So how do the other people react? By going to the pool, laughing, and taking pictures. I know this is Beth we’re talking about, and she deserves all sorts of abuse. But I reckon there should be limits. Mike goes on about how this is the best Challenge ever, and pumps his elbow and shouts “YES!” to emphasize it. Tonya yells that she trusted Beth. Beth yells that she didn’t tell Robin that Tonya was having Mark. Beth interviews that people will find reasons to plot against her, adding “all I have to do is show up.” Works for me, Tonya tells Beth that she had no right to tell Robin those things. Tonya is also pissed that Beth is causing conflict with the other team. Once again, Beth calls Tonya crazy. Tonya thinks it doesn’t matter. Beth no longer feels safe. Tonya interviews that she is now staying at a hotel because Beth is scared. “I just really wanted to push her buttons,” she adds, “and get her to defend herself, because I knew she was lying.”

Morning. The Bad Asses have a meeting. It seems that Beth does not want to do anything until Tonya leaves and she is compensated for damages. Tina and CT waste no time in calling Beth selfish. Tina interviews that the game plan is to manipulate Beth into going to the mission. Hey, you never know when a scrub will start to shine. Tina tells Beth that if she tried to punish Tonya, she would punish the entire team. CT: “There’s no reason why she should be acting like a 14-year-old high school girl that just got picked on in school. Don’t lock yourself in the bathroom, stop crying, get out there and face your problem like a grown-up.” Sing it, CT. Rachel tells Beth to go for her integrity, and not to let the fiasco take her out of the game. “Beth, we love you,” she interviews, “we need you, we want you here. Please come to the mission.” I figure that’s a 9.7 on the Insincerity Scale.

Mission site. We see a crane, as well as targets floating in the water. It’s the mission we saw on the MTV special! Dave welcomes everybody to today’s mission: X Marks the Spot. “Unfortunately,” he adds with a grin, “the key to winning is gonna be teamwork.” This gets some chuckles, as we see that Beth made it after all. Derrick interviews that Beth was able to “tough it out” and ready to put aside everything that had happened. Dave notes that the mission is similar to ring toss. One player will be harnessed to the crane, while the other is harnessed to the teammate. The duo swings over the targets, and the person attached to the crane releases the teammate. Okay, how come Julie and Veronica aren’t on the same team? Julie tried to do that before with Veronica! Speaking of Julie, she expositions that there are five rings; landing in the middle ring nets 20 points, while the outer rings are worth ten. Dave adds that if they miss the target, no points would be awarded. The team with the most points gets $10,000. Landon reminds us that his team is 0-2 so far, that he feels confident, but they’re getting walked on. Jamie declares to her teammates that they have this mission.

First up is Julie (the dropper) and Robin (the dropped). Robin misses the target for no points. Next up is Dan & Tonya. They fail to score, and Robin whoops it up on the sidelines. CT and Beth prepare for their turn. Beth interviews that she doesn’t want to be here. CT drops her for no points. Shavonda & Brad? No points. Shavonda notes that everybody is trying different things to win. Karamo & Tina? Well, Tina surfaces under a target, but she missed on the way in.

Abram and Rachel swing out. Abram pulls the pin, and Rachel lands in the middle ring, giving the Bad Asses 20 points. Landon paces, clearly not happy. Now it comes down to Mike and Darrell to pull out a win (or at least a tie) for the Good Guys. Mike interviews that they must go for the middle ring. They swing out, and Darrell drops as we flame out to commercials.

Coming back, we get a repeat of Mike’s interview and the dropping. Darrell hits the outside of the ring, sealing the win for the Bad Asses. Mike swings dejectedly, while Darrell floats in the water. Robin rubs her eyes, while Rachel dances and brags. Jodi wonders why her team keeps losing. Jamie: “It’s just a game, but losing sucks!”

Denouement. Dave awards the $10,000 check to the Bad Asses, which Rachel and Abram accepts. In self-promoting t-shirt news, Rachel and Veronica are wearing “I [heart] my pussy” t-shirts with a cartoon kitty. For them, that’s the height of witticism. “We damage each other’s clothing before a mission,” Rachel interviews, while a clip of Tonya’s tantrum plays, “and still manage to show up to a mission and win. I don’t get it, but I’m rolling with it.” Dave tells the Good Guys that he’s tired of congratulating the other team. Great, Dave thinks he’s the second coming of Jeff Probst. Jodi interviews that she has a good team, yet they can’t win. Tell it to Ulong, sister. Dave reminds the players that they must nominate two women into the Inferno. He gives them 30 minutes to deliberate at their respective lounges.

Before the Good Guys’ Deliberation Meeting, Dan sidles up to Robin and whispers something. At the meeting, Robin declares that Dan told her she was being sent to the Inferno, and she doesn’t care which Bad Ass they pick, but she wants to face Tonya. Brad doesn’t want it to be personal. Mike is sick of losing, and he hopes to turn things around.

Bad Ass Deliberation Meeting. Beth figures the other team will pick her or Tonya to go to the Inferno. Tonya thinks it will be her. Tina suggests that the Good Guys will throw a curveball and put her in. Beth and Abram assure her that it wouldn’t happen. Dan thinks the Good Guys would go to Tonya, since she’s fresh in their minds. Throwing somebody’s clothes into the pool will do that. Beth thinks it would be “one of the three of us.” Dan: “God forbid one thing has nothing to do with Beth!” He then figures it would come down to Tonya or Veronica, then asks his teammates who those two could beat. Veronica feels five percent more confident against Robin. Tina and Karamo don’t know how Robin got into the conversation. Tina bitches that her vote doesn’t even matter.

Nomination time! Dave goes over the rules before yielding the floor to the Good Guys. Robin announces that Tina will be going to the Inferno. Honestly, I didn’t see that coming. Tina gets up and smiles, telling her team that she told them so. Dan’s jaw drops, and remains dropped for some time. Tonya intervews that Tina would be going into the Inferno.

Bad Asses’ turn. Dan announces that Robin is going to the Inferno. The Good Guys clap, as Robin gets up and places her figurine into the Mininferno. Tina tells Robin to get ready for an ass-whooping. Robin: “You have a big bark and that’s it!” If only she had said that to Coral last season, just for the novelty of it. Dave reminds Robin and Tina that they have a chance to save themselves in the next mission. Robin wants to go into the Inferno. “The Good Guys are sending me into the Inferno,” Tina interviews. “They just screwed up! They’re going to lose the center hold of the women’s team. I’m sendin’ that chick home!” I’m sorry ... “center hold”?

A flaming segue brings us to the Bad Ass area, where Tina is pissed off that the Good Guys picked her. “If I come back from the Inferno,” she snipes at her team, “every single one of you guys can kiss my motherfucking sorry ass!” Tonya is surprised that Tina is going in, but it works for her, since she has problems with Robin and Tina. Hey, you gotta look at the glass half-full. Tonya talks to Veronica and Rachel about how Beth causes problems. Rachel tells Tonya not to trust Beth.”Beth is very shady in every aspect of her life,” Veronica interviews, “and I don’t trust her at all.” I need the Hemlich maneuver to stop choking on the irony of Veronica saying that somebody can’t be trusted. Beth interviews that she can’t stand people talking behind her back and not have the guts to say stuff to her face. She puts her bag down, as we see Rachel and Veronica laying down. She adds that she doesn’t like her team, and she doesn’t want to help them win. Yeah, that’s going to end well.

This episode is a mess, especially if you’re a woman. Crazy does not become Tonya, but she continues her spiral to insanity. Throwing another person’s clothes in the pool is not the sign of a mature person. Beth seems to be in the right, but her long history of crap-stirring suggests she fed Robin a buffet of exaggerations. Needless to say, I wouldn’t trust her if she was doped up on truth serum. As for Robin? I’m still amazed that she’s allowing herself to be an accessory for Mark’s thirty-something crisis. And the biggest villain in all this? Has to be Mark. I think he had Robin AND Tonya, and he’s probably getting a huge kick out of watching this. I can’t believe the man can be called “Ultimate Good Guy” on MTV.com without a trace of irony. Also, Julie’s insane, and Veronica and Rachel are still loathsome self-promoting minxes. The only halfway redeemable women here are Jamie, Jodi, Tina and Shavonda. That’s right ... I gave love to Shavonda. Man, that’s messed up.

Next time: Beth tells her team that if they throw missions, she’ll screw them over, Tonya interviews that the Bad Asses are throwing the mission because Beth is a weak player. If Beth tells her group that she’s half-assing it before the mission, she can’t go to the Inferno fast enough. The mission: catching dollar bills dropped from a helicopter. Didn’t we already see this?

Help the Kids, Bring the Pain

Im at a library, so this will be brief. Television Without Pity has started something new called Tubey's Kids. In a non-sweeps month, posters can bid to have their favorite show recapped by the site. The money goes to charity. It's all laid out here.

Now...the reason why I started recapping Challenges was because TWoP dumped them around the time they were having bandwidth issues. I didn't hate them for it; all I ever wanted to do was fill some mighty big shoes. I've already started a thread for the Challenge. Seriously, I want to see somebody else go through what I've endured, and I mean that in the best way possible. TWoP has been my only competition, and everybody else has been my doormat.

I'm willing to put in money to make this happen. Heck, I got The Inferno, Battle of the Sexes 2 and most of The Gauntlet on tape, so episode choices aren't too big of a concern. If anybody has tape of Amaya & Melissa winning Sergeant Says, Emily swinging her bloody axe or Puck's wedding, talk to me. We could get Kim to rail on Julie one more time. We could force ex-Road Rules recapper Stee to endure the likes of Adam or Ellen again. Heck, any recapper they would be put into the pool would be aces by me.

Join the thread. The sooner we get things rolling, the less stiff the competition will be. We'd be going up against some pop culture juggernaunts, so every dollar will help.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Con Job

Let's see if I have this straight. I live on Staten Island, NY, which is a stone's throw from New York City. The city is the greatest city in the world AND the locale of the top two comic book countries in the nation. Here's my question: how come we don't have a kick-ass comic con?

What makes for a good con, you ask? Well, it's the feeling that you can do anything, and know you're missing stuff in the process. It's shaking hands with your favorite talent, talking crap while you get a sketch. It's hunting high and low for that one back issue that's related to what you're reading now. It's panels full of fanboys asking questions and editors previewing new stuff. And it's something I cannot get in New York.

So what do I get? There's the Big Apple Con...and that's about it. It runs several times a year...which is good for anybody wanting fifty-cent back issues. It's held at Penn Plaza Pavilion, across the street from Madison Square Garden. But the layout is chaotic, with too many twists and turns. The talent? Second-rate at best. If you're a fan of some dopey sci-fi show, odds are somebody's there to sign autographs for money. Since there is no real big company presence, artist charge for sketches. I do understand that bills have to be paid...but damn it, I'm cheap. The most I've ever paid for a sketch is $25. Maybe if I get a job and a life, my attitude would change.

The closest to what I look for is Wizard World Philladelphia. It takes me about 90 minutes to get there, and I sweat the whole time. First of all, I tend to get lost. I still remember the time it took me hours to meet an interview subject, when I was supposed to get there in about 30 minutes. The other concern is car safety. On the last day of the 2003 show, I rear-ended a car in the rain. I just blinked and BANG! No real harm was done, but that rattled the hell out of me for a while. Luckily, I had a clean run last year, and I got some quality con time in. But sadly, it all paled to the Main Event.

Comic Con International. It is Mecca for geeks everywhere. Located in San Diego, it brings in close to a million people during a four-day weekend. By my estimate, it would take about five minutes to go from one end of the hall to another...and that's if you're the only person there. Dealers? Hundreds. Companies? Big and small. Panels? Around the clock. There's also the Eisner Awards, the annual Masquerade, proximity to the Gaslamp Quarter, and a new baseball stadium across the street. Oh, and it's located in a California city that doesn't have smog and/or earthquakes. Sadly, it's 3,000-plus miles away from where I am. Both times, I stayed in Little Italy, in a hotel with no air conditioning. Not really that much fun.

Sorry to gripe...I've been reading stuff from Wizard World Los Angeles, and I saw a pic of one of my fave writers, whom I knew before she became famous. A lot of my friends end up going to CCI, and I feel bad that I don't meet them. I just wish there was a big enough show near where I live, so they'd come to me. Also, I don't know if I'll be flying out anywhere this year. CCI's a probable no-go. I do have friends in Chicago, so Wizard World wouldn't be out of the question. Ditto with Toronto, which seems to have all sorts to neat stuff. There's also a Wizard World in Boston, which could be a fun trip. The bad news? It takes place during the last weekend of the baseball season...and that's a Yankees/Red Sox series. So much for getting hotel rooms there.

I should hit the hay now. One day, I'll have to go over the con stuff from my past....memories, sketches, that sort of thing. I can tell you my most surreal moment: the time I was having breakfast in Chicago right before Wizard World 2001, and having Kenny Baker (the guy in the R2-D2) asking me about it. Perfect way to start off a weekend.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Random Stuff

I don't have a life. I think I told you guys that when I began. It's just that there's little going on to warrant sharing with an audience, even if that crowd is less than a dozen. Of course, I don't want everybody to think I'm all about reality shows and my recaps. It's just...nothing's going on.

March Madness? I'm not into that. I might be the only red-blooded American male not to be in a pool right now. Part of it is that I don't watch basketball games. If you take away the times I saw the Harlem Globetrotters as a kid, I've been to maybe six games total. Also, I didn't go to a big university, where life is nothing but a period between Midnight Madness and "One Shining Moment." I went to Wagner College, a small liberal arts school in Staten Island. In basketball, they're located in the Northeast Conference. I don't believe that anybody from the NEC has won a tournament game. They usually go in as a 15th or 16th seed, and get wasted by a national power. Tonight, Farleigh Dickinson got to within one of Illinois at halftime...then things went downhill from there.

Actually, I did get interested two years ago. Wagner had become successful at the time, and they hosted the NEC tournament. All I remember was that the coach was Dereck Whittenberg. Ten years prior, he was the guy who launched a desperation shot for North Carolina State against Houston in the championship game. Lorenzo Charles ended up slam-dunking the ball, giving the Wolfpack the shocking win. Yeah, now you remember. Anyway, Wagner won the conference title. I was there...only the second time I ever saw a season-clinching victory. It was the first time they went to the Big Dance, and they were a 15th seed against Pittsburgh. They played close for, like, ten minutes. Then the Panthers just pulled out, and the NEC was still 0-for-forever in the tournament.

What else do I not go for? St. Patrick's Day. Just another day...like Valentine's Day, only less depressing to think about. Going to the forums, I just got bummed. Tom Westman, the fireman from Queens and current fan favorite of Survivor: Palau (running neck and neck with Ian the dolphin trainer) was in the big parade. Would I have gone if the possiblity had occured to me? Who knows. I'm just hoping he's a fan of The Amazing Race and somebody invites him to TARCon. At the very least, I gotta ask why he voted the square root of Willard last night. Seriously, they showed the votes, and Tom put Willard's name under a square root sign. Weird.

I'm just not feeling motivated to write lately. It's not that I don't have ideas. I gotta explain my fondness for kiddie anime, especially Yu-Gi-Oh! down the line. I'm flirting with driving to Uniondale in April and watching arena football for this blog. And as a regular poster at Television Without Pity, I need to write about a recent post on another site from Danny Kastner of The Apprentice. Wait, I can do that now. First of all: shut up, Danny. Secondly, you're the guy who's supposed to be the fun, spontaneous, "UNBELIEVABLE!!!!" team member. So why is your skin that thin? Third, you were probably only cast to be the dancing monkey, the one that gets taken out when things get old. And your audition tape? Ye Gods. Further down, Kristen stops in and adds to the fire. Kristen is the last judge on anything, ever. Yeah, like I'm SO jealous of dips like Erin, Bren and John for being on the show.

Thinking about it...there should be something along the lines of the Miranda Rights for reality television. Before somebody is put on a show, a producer (whomever is available) would read the rights to that person, giving him/her one last chance to bail out. So far, I have "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of public opinion" and "You have the right to blame editing, but nobody will believe you." I won't lie...the thought of being on The Amazing Race or a resurrected version of The Mole is very sweet to me. But I know that I will probably be squeezed into whatever form the editors put me in, and that people who don't know me and my online presence might smack me around. But I would be ready, and I wouldn't try to pick fights.

That's it. If you have any additions for my "Reality Rights" idea, comment on them or e-mail me back. It'll be a nice little project between watching Tonya go nuts every Monday night.

PS: While I'm thinking about it...could somebody help me out with linking stuff? I'd like to put up links on the side, and maybe set up pages where I can link to past recaps.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Inferno 2 Episode 2: WWJD?

Previously on Inferno II: Twenty BMP alumni came to Isla Navidad to compete for money and that sweet, sweet camera time. The teams were spilt into “Good Guys” and “Bad Asses.” The Bad Asses won the Surf Torture mission, winning $10,000 for their bank. The BAs decided to nominate Good Guys’ top dog Mike for the Inferno, while the GGs wanted the weaker Dan. Mike ranted like the loon that he was, about Dan never being able to “be Miz” and whatnot. With Mike in every other teaser shot in the extended teaser and Dan nowhere to be seen, as well as the commercial with Mike and Dan going into the Inferno, this season might not be off to a good start.

Party! Everybody drinks, dances and hot tubs their night away. Been there, done that, and I’m getting bored with it. Julie’s on the sidelines, chatting on a cell phone. She interviews that she has spent the last year getting in touch with her spirituality. Along the way, she got married. Yeah, but did her wedding make an ABC special like Kelley and Scott Wolf? I think not. Karamo’s in the hot tub, telling Jamie that he wants to hook up with her. He’s probably joking, but I can’t really read into him half of the time. He also says something about telling Nick it’ll be the one time. Who’s Nick? Jamie’s boyfriend? Karamo’s? The nice guy from RR: X-Treme?

One guy pukes. Abram interviews that everybody is drunk, and they’re getting carried away. We see Derrick and Landon scrap with each other. I hope the production people hid the knives. Brad interviews that the wrestling is going down on concrete, two stories above the ground, and that he’s trying to keep the situation under control. Derrick seems to start something with Mike, but Darrell carries the little scrapper off. Landon walks away with blood dripping down his arm. Jon voiceovers that the others are about partying and sleeping around. Cut to him next to Julie. “We just want everybody to know,” he adds, “that’s not all there is, and there are some people out there that are trying to represent God, love, and what Jesus did for all of us.” Yikes. Jon means well, but his sense of perspective is a little skewed. Also, Julie is next to him while he’s saying this, which doesn’t work for anybody.

It’s time for the sponsor phone clue. Jon reads it off for his team: wear team colors and tennis shoes. Beth adds that the players must be ready to leave at 1 p.m. Derrick interviews that the tempo has been set, and the best thing is for the Bad Asses to keep winning. Mike high-fives Jamie, and she smacks his butt. He interviews that he’s excited to be taking out one of the other players in the Inferno. Dan tells Mike that he’s ready to go “balls out” and wear war paint. Mike says that he wears war paint. Dan: “Of course you do. Why wouldn’t you have war paint?” Heh. Dan thinks that he can beat Mike. “There’s really not that big of a difference between Mike and I,” he adds, “other than, like, 200 pounds of muscle. [eyeroll and sigh] But what’s that?” I sigh, trying to treasure the brief time I have left with Dan.

It’s a new day. Dave welcomes the players to today’s mission: Juice It Up. He gestures to some nearby trees, with grapefruit dangling from ropes. The objective: grab the fruit, run across the field, and squeeze the juice into a container. Once the juice reaches a line, the time will be stopped. Dave adds that the fastest average time wins $10,000. Also, each player from the winning team wins an MP3 player. The catch? The players will be running on stilts. Darrell: “What the hell is a stilt?” Turns out that “stilt” refers to something I thought of as “sproingy shoe.” Cut to the players squeezing into the stilts and trying to walk in them. Jodi expositions that if a player falls, two teammates can pick that person back up. Also, if the container is tipped over, the player has to start over. Dave adds that the players with the fastest individual times on each team will win the Aztec Lifeshield, which can save somebody or a teammate from the Inferno. Mike reminds us that he can protect himself by winning it. Dan advises Karamo to always keep moving in the stilts. He says the same thing Mike says, then bounces around on the stilts. Landon interviews that his team has to bounce back, since they’re down one mission.

Abram and Julie get strapped into their stilts. Julie interviews that there’s no question her team will win, since they’re still pissed off about losing last time. Rachel tells us that her team isn’t called “Bad Asses” for nothing, and that they’ll win. Abram wants to win the Lifeshield so he wouldn’t have to save Dan. Remind me again how Dan and Abram can be on the same team. Julie interviews that she wants to be Abram, since she doesn’t like the guy.

After commercials, Julie and Abram go off in the first heat. Both make it to the tree and pluck the grapefruit. Abram interviews that there is a collective average time, and one person can blow it. Mmmm...the sweet smell of foreshadowing. Julie stuffs fruit in her shirt, and both players squeeze their goods into the containers. Julie tears into the fruit with all 572 of her teeth, while Abram stumbles. Dave blows the airhorn, signaling Julie’s victory. Abram finishes up, and a graphic shows that the Good Guys have a 21 second lead. Apparently, we’re not getting individual times.

Heat Two: Brad vs. Veronica. Brad interviews that his team was impressed by Julie’s performance, and he hopes to keep it up. Brad stuffs fruit in his shirt, while Veronica falls. Brad wins the heat, and the clock goes into fast-forward, stopping at 1:10. Brad interviews that he feels confident his team will take the mission

Heat Three: Jon vs. Rachel. She interviews that she’ll try to keep steady and not be a hero today. He interviews that his strategy is not to pay attention to his opponent. Rachel manages to run on the stilts while Jon stumbles. He gets helped up, while Mike yells that he can still beat Rachel. Jon still stumbles, but he gets to the container. The editors then pipe in gospel music. Because Jon is down with the Lord, you see. Jon wins the heat, putting his team up by 1:15. I think the win had less to do with divine intervention than, say, Rachel’s mediocrity in missions. CT interviews that he feels confident the Bad Asses will make up for lost time.

Heat Four: Landon beats Derrick, pushing the clock to 1:19. Heat Five: Darrell vs. Karamo. This time, a Bad Ass wins, as Karamo pushes time back to 0:58, and triggering a huge team celebration. Heat Six: Shavonda vs. Tonya. This is another BA win, as Tonya kicks the time back to 0:41. Heat Seven: Robin vs. Beth. Of course, Robin wins this round, giving her team a 1:18 edge. Beth interviews that Robin didn’t beat her by much. She beat you by 37 seconds! Beth does spit out a seed, so that was funny.

Heat Eight: Jamie vs. Dan. Dave reminds Dan that this is his last chance to save himself. Naturally, Dan doesn’t take this seriously. Dave expositions that Karamo has the fastest BA time with 1:37. “I don’t feel any pressure right now,” Dan interviews, “because if I pressure myself, I can probably fall flat on my face. So lets get this over with, shall we?” He manages to squeeze out a win. Jamie ends up gnawing on a grapefruit, stopping the time at 1:01. Dan jumps up and down in happiness, interviewing that he’s glad to show the others that he can play this game.

Heat Nine: Jodi vs. Tina. As we see Jodi high-five Jon, she interviews that she’s glad her team is in front, and she has no doubts about beating Tina. Both players pluck fruit. While Jodi gets to squeezing, Tina falls down. It looks like a cakewalk for Jodi, until she knocks her glass over. Julie grimaces, while Abram whoops it up. “I was praying for somebody on their team to screw something up,” he interviews, “and Jodi just completely screws it up!” Tonya obnoxiously sing-songs that Jodi has to start over. Jodi gets propped up by Landon and Mike, while Jamie looks unhappy. “This kills us,” she says in an interview.

As Tina gnaws on a grapefruit, Jodi seems to have recovered by filling her glass up quick before realizing she has no more fruit. Haven’t we all had days like this? As Jodi goes back to the tree, Tina finishes up, and the clock starts moving backwards. Jodi stumbles, and I see a grapefruit bounce away from her. Either she did have one after all, or the editors are screwing with us. Jodi finally finishes up, and the clock stops at 0:37 ... in the Bad Asses’ favor. Of course, the BA s are thrilled over this turn of events. “I killed this bitch!” Tina boasts in an interview. “Her team is looking at her like she’s a disgrace.” I think Tina has a high opinion of herself. Meanwhile, Jodi takes to sobbing away from the group. There’s no crying on the Challenge! Oh, wait, there is. Carry on.

Final Heat: Mike vs. CT. Mike interviews that not only does he have to win the Lifeshield, but he’s going up against CT. Mike gets to the fruit first, but ends up falling on his face. We get a slow-motion show of the fruit jiggling under Mike’s shirt. It’s a little frightening, to be honest. He interviews that he makes up time by pulling out a grapefruit and “[making] that sucker bleed.” Both players squeeze, as they’re urged on by their teammates. Mike gets the win, but it’s a pyrrhic victory, as CT stops the clock at 0:18. CT interviews that he didn’t know what Mike did to his grapefruit. Mike celebrates, interviewing that he doesn’t know if he beat Landon’s time (1:22).

Denouement. Dave congratulates the Bad Asses on their win, and awards them a check for $10,000, double their bank account. Jodi looks sad in particular. Veronica is wearing a “Future MILF” t-shirt. Did you know she and Rachel are in the business of selling slogan t-shirts? Bleh. Now it’s time for Dave to award the Aztec Lifeshields. Tense music plays, as the camera scans Mike and Dan. For the Bad Asses, Dave awards the AL to CT, for his time of 1:24. CT bust out a victory dance. If you go back to the original Inferno, that’s his fourth individual mission win. Dan doesn’t have much of an expression on his face.

Next, Dave awards the Good Guys’ AL to Mike, for his time of 1:05.Suddenly, anything is possible, and Dan isn’t as doomed as I had originally feared. MTV snookered me with their commercial, and I actually liked being used this time. Naturally, Mike goes nuts over the news. Dave notes that he’ll ask the AL winners what they’ll do at the Inferno. Jon interviews that Mike cannot go into the Inferno, and he has to pick another guy to take his place. At first, I was put off by this, since we had two cases of cross-gender shoving in the first Inferno (David putting in Leah, Coral putting in David). Upon further reflection, this does see to stem the tide of targeting women to bite the bullet. Also, it becomes harder for players to dodge their infernal date, and there are some folks who are long overdue in competing in an endgame (Darrell, Rachel and Veronica come to mind). Dan reminds us that Mike can’t go. “What a pansy ass!” he jokes. “If he was a man, he would have slowed down and purposely faced me off. He’s scared! He was running scared!” Dave ends things by telling the kids he’ll be seeing them in the Inferno at nightfall.

As the players depart, the camera lingers towards Jon. He interviews that he’s done a lot of thinking. “Just as Jesus sacrificed himself for all of us,” he continues, “maybe this is the chance to do that for my team. The Inferno could be like the hell, and I could step up and take the place of somebody like Christ did for us on the cross.” Oh, man. He’s actually drawing a parallel between himself and Jesus Christ. Sometimes, even the nice guys go insane. Mike interviews that Jon proposed taking his place, and that he feels good about it. Jon tells the team, interviews that it’s the best thing to do for his team.

Jon talks to Julie, asking that she not be mad at him. Dude, did you see her in past seasons? Why are you talking with her? She’s like Beth and Tami squared! Julie figures that it’s noble of him to sacrifice himself, but she feels selfish in wanting him to stay, and it would be hard to be motivated if he’s gone. Jon praises Julie’s efforts in both missions. She says that it’s about wanting to be here. She adds, “You’re the only person where that’s got any kind of morals.” Think that’s an admission of being a little loose herself?

Inferno! The players file into the set, winding up on the second level. Dave welcomes them to the first Inferno of the season. He introduces the Bad Ass representative, “Dirty Dan.” The door slides to the side, and Dan stands with hands on hips. He walks out, gagging a little on the smoke, and flexing for his teammates. Next, Dave calls out “Mike the Miz.” The Bad Asses boo as Mike stomps out, his teammates chanting “Miz! Miz! Miz!” People, he’s not doing anything tonight!

Once the smoke clears, Dave asks CT if he plans on using his Aztec Lifeshield to save Dan. Since Dan is not his good buddy David, CT passes. Dave asks Mike who he picked to take his place in the Inferno. Mike notes that there was a team meeting, and that Jon is going to fill in. Brad interviews that he’s impressed with Jon stepping up. “He’s got a very strong mind,” Brad adds, “and he’s got a very strong concept of being a team player.” Mike interviews that he really thinks Jon can win it, adding that he has God on his side.

One harp segue later, Dave goes over tonight’s Inferno, which is called Hang Tough. He motions to monkey bars, which are thirty feet above the ground. The objective: go up a ladder, hang onto the bars and engage in what Dave calls a “good old fashioned chicken fight.” Last man hanging stays in the game, while the loser goes home. The ladders get dropped, and the players are helped into their harnesses. Jon interviews that he weighs 225 lbs., and Dan doesn’t have to hold up that much weight. Dan interviews that he can’t think of his opponent, but rather what he is capable of.

Dave bangs a gong to start the party. Jon and Dan climb the ladders and climb on the monkey bars. They start kicking out, trying to get their legs up. Soon, Dan wraps his legs around Jon’s waist, and forces Jon to let go. Game Over, and I am flippin’ ecstatic that Dan gets to stay. The Bad Asses celebrate, as Dan hugs Jon on the way down. I’d take either one of those old-schoolers over Eric Nies any day. “I just wish people weren’t so surprised that I won,” Dan interviews. “If it was Mike up there, I would’ve dropped his butt down on the ground too!” Keep dreaming, Renzi. “When it comes to this stuff, I still bring it! And I can do it again!”

Dave congratulates Dan, then lets him rejoin his team. Tina interviews about how the team didn’t vote him into the Inferno. “When you come back to your team,” she adds, “you know that your team wants you there.” Sure enough, the entire team of Bad Asses mob Dan in joy. I get misty remembering the time Dan came back to Battle of the Sexes, and all the women hugged him. Tina: “Dan comes in to warm hugs and kisses, and we got our baby back.”

And now for the sad part. Dave tells Jon that it was big of him to volunteer himself. The guys shake hands as the Good Guys cheer. Beth looks on, and I think she’s crying. “Jon is like one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life,” she interviews of her former roommate. “There’s nobody that even comes close to Jon. Most of these people are just crazy and out of their minds, and I’m very sad to see him go.” I cannot believe Beth just said something that didn’t make my eyes roll. I don’t think Vegas would have taken bets on that.

Jon tells his team to win, as he shakes hands through the iron bars. Jamie notes that it’s sad that the team can’t even hug him. Jon interviews that he is all about the sacrifice, and both teams know what he stands for. He tries to hug Julie, who is not happy. Cut to an interview of her crying. Yes, I do get joy from this. “Jon just sacrificed himself for all the guys on the team,” she sobs, “and any of those guys could have stepped in and freakin’ done that better. It just pisses me off that they let him go.” Slow-motion shot of Jon shaking hands. “The world needs more Jons. The world need more people that are willing to save other people in their own way. A lot of what Jon believes in and the reasons why he does things just gets lost on these people, like they don’t even know, they don’t even understand the symbolism of it.” Wow. Coral alone couldn’t make Julie cry. Melissa couldn’t make Julie cry. But Jon leaving does the trick. By the way? IT’S A FREAKIN’ REALITY SHOW! Get a grip, girl. Jon walks out the door. Julie looks on. The door shuts behind Jon. Cut to credits

Next time: we got people dropping into the water, trying to go through targets. Robin calls Tonya a whore. Tonya asks Beth what she said to Robin. Tonya whips out Beth’s clothes and throws them into the pool. This might be the best Challenge season ever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Strange Days

I never thought this would happen. I actually liked a Challenge episode more than The Amazing Race. Dear Lord, pigs are zooming outside my window right now.

Let's back up to Monday. I was resigned to the fact that Mike would beat Dan in the Inferno. The commercial basically laid it out. I didn't even go over the footage that hard. Why should anybody do that? With MTV.com no longer doing the fantasy game, there was no longer a need to be attentive. Looking back, "Mike's" arms were a little less muscular. Remember, Mike cares about his "guns" so much, he gave them names.

So I'm careening through the episode, past the drinking, past the fighting, past Julie trying to be all moral, etc. The mission's over, and Dan doesn't get the Aztec Lifeshield...but Mike does. Suddenly, everything is wide open. Mike's entrance in the Inferno was just a prelude for him giving his spot to Jon, thus levelling the playing field. Look, I've seen Dan in action. Dan can rock the house in missions. But against Mike? I gave him no chance, especially with Mike in most of the season teasers. Luckily, Dan was able to take down Jon to stay in the game. It was a perfect episode. Dan stayed on to snark on every little thing and get massive love from his team. Jon gets to leave peacefully. Beth expresses emotion over Jon that's as genuine as I've seen her. And Julie bawls like a baby. Coral alone couldn't make her cry. Melissa couldn't make her cry. But Jon leaving brought out the waterworks. Sweet.

Cut to the next day and TAR. Basically, the season is all about Rob & Amber, and how Rob schemes like he's on Survivor. The thing is that he played All-Stars the same way he played his original season of Marquesas, and the only reason he finished runner-up on All-Stars was because his peers were idiots. I mean, Lex should have engineered Amber's dismissal, then wrapped a fish in her buff. Y'know, let the "Robfather" know that his squeeze sleeps with the fishes. It was like Rob & Amber were monsters in a movie, and everybody else were folks that didn't have a plan to stop them. Shii Ann would have been the local scientist who would keep warning to ignorant townspeople, only to get killed in the final half-hour.

Anyway, the teams headed into a Roadblock. For those not hip: a Roadblock is a task only one team member can perform. The teams are given a clue, they pick one person to go, then the instructions are read. In this case, Rob had to eat four pounds of meat. Doesn't sound bad? Well, some of it were parts where you wouldn't eat. And Rob couldn't do it. So he came up with a plan: quit. Rather than gag down the foul food, he and Amber would sit on the sidelines. When another team came to the Roadblock, their four hours of penalty time started. It got worse: Rob convinced Ray & Deana (this season's problem couple) and Meredith & Gretchen (the old fogies who'll probably be the next ones gone) that it was better to not do anything than eat. The genius was that Rob & Amber now had a "lead" on the other two teams...and they didn't know that two more teams (Susan/Patrick, Debbie/Bianca) were far behind, victims of navigational woes. And there were Racers who were (gasp! shock!) doing the damn Roadblock! For actually not using a loophole, I give props to Uchenna, Patrick, Ron, and all the others whose names I can't seem to figure out. As for Team Cobra Kai and Team Fogie? I don't want them to win. And wanting Rob & Amber to win another million bucks is like rooting for the Yankees. As for quitters Rob, Meredith and Deana? Here's hopin' Charla kicks them hard. That woman had to bite into chocolate, eat a kilo of caviar, and chew on an ostrich egg's contents. Did she use her lack of size as an excuse to back out? No, she just had her stomach and an almost useless partner.

Who do I want to win? That's the weird thing: no team has stepped up to be the fan faves. Usually, one team delights the audience consistantly from the get-go. Sometimes, that team takes a while to come up. Circus clowns Jon & Al didn't start rocking TAR4 for the first few episodes, and Chip & Kim were seemingly destined for early elimination in TAR5 until Chip tore through the caviar. Even in the suck-filled Ring Ding that was TAR6, Kris & Jon reinforced how ugly most of the other teams were by comparison. This season, there isn't a clear-cut huggable duo. Lynn & Alex? Too obssessed with Ramber, and too schticky. I think of them as "Chacassin," since they're Oswald & Danny wannabes. Brian & Greg? Their dopey entrance in tonight's episode were cute...but they might be too big to be loved. I'm leaning towards Uchenna and Joyce...even with the sob story of being on failed dotcoms AND her inabilty to get pregnant, they seem to be nice people. With Susan & Patrick closing in on the ceiling for parent/child teams, Ron & Kelly continuing not to impress me (and couldn't the editors refer to them as "Dating Long Distance" instead of "Former P.O.W./Beauty Queen"?), and my distaste towards Ramber, Fogies and Cobra Kai, I figure Uchenna/Joyce is the safe bet.

The real winner in all of this? Chuck. In interviews, Ryan said he wanted to find a woman for his good buddy. At this point, those two guys are in Sequestersville with Heidi, Megan, Debbie and Bianca. I don't think any of those folks has the sexual drive of your average Challenge contestant, but I wouldn't be surprised if Chuck got to know any of the single ladies a lot better. I'd make a "load testing" joke, but I'll pass, since I like him.

As for the recap? I finished taking notes. It should be up tomorrow or Thrusday. I'll be spending tomorrow working on the recap, getting comic books, and hoping the Survivor twist doesn't take out Tom or Ian.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Blast From The Past: The Sophia Article

Before the next episode comes on this Monday (tentative title: "Dead Dan Walking"), I thought that I could share some old stuff with you.

The year is 2001. I'm taking one of my final graduate courses at NYU. I'm supposed to write a profile for the class. In a half-court jump shot at the buzzer, I try and contact Sophia Pasquis. At the time, Road Rules: The Quest had just finished airing. Sophia was not only a cast member, but also the first openly gay character in the show's history. The way I had figured, she seemed nice on television, and she was based in New York. And yeah, the gay thing made for a great hook. Seriously, how could I have sold a story on, say, Katie? Or Ellen?

I ended up interviewing Sophia twice, and wrote an article about it. Yeah, I tried getting a hold of production and castmates, but that didn't pan out. This article never got published, since I tried selling it to gay & lesbian magazines (I am a bit of an idiot, am I not?). This is all 2001, so the current stuff is out of date. Those who see me at TWoP can probably guess that watching her break down during Battle of the Sexes 2 was freakin' brutal for me to watch. Here it is...enjoy!

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Imagine, if you will, that for ten weeks, you get to go to exotic locations. You experience such thrills as rappelling down steep mountains, charming cobras, and bungee jumping with complete strangers. Now imagine if there was something more terrifying than anything, something that is on your mind during the journey, and that a cable television audience would be watching your every move. For Sophia Pasquis (pronounce "pass-key"), that dread was telling her parents that she was a lesbian.

In early 2001, Sophia became the first openly gay cast member of the MTV reality show, "Road Rules." The show, which began production in 1996, revolves around six young adults as they compete in various events as a group. This season, "The Quest," was held in Morocco and Spain over a 10-week period, as the sextet played for pieces of a crest, which would allow them to win an often-mentioned "handsome reward" at the end of the journey. However, she had not told her parents about her sexuality until after her trip, just before the episodes began to air.

Sophia was born on June 22, 1977, in Jamaica, Queens. She lived in Haiti with aunts and uncles before coming back to America when she was 5. After living in Queens for six months, her family moved to Elmont, N.Y.

It wasn’t until high school that Sophia began to question her sexual preferences. "I was like, ‘Nah, I’m just going to shake it off, this is wrong, this is wrong.’ But I didn’t come to terms with it until I went to college at [the age] of 18. By 19, that’s when I like, ‘you know what? That’s it.’ I came out to myself and I became comfortable with it."

Her first real experience came with a kiss with another girl at a movie theater; they were each other’s "first" (which she described as "awkward at first, but then it was okay.") She began to date other girls, slowly coming out the closet. After some time, she felt comfortable telling her friends about her new identity, starting with Jeff, her best friend. "Jeff was laughing at me," she reminisced. "He told me I never ceased to amaze him, I’m the only person in the world that can shock and amaze him at the same time. But then he was cool about it and he was happy."

However, she decided against telling her parents, given the family’s Catholic background. "In Haiti, your name means everything," she said. "You can have all the money in the world, but if you have a bad name, they’re not going to respect you. They’ll respect the name more than the wealth. If I make them look bad, it will affect them, and all their friends will be like, "Ooooh, that Pasquis family.’"

In 2000, Sophia graduated from SUNY-Albany with a communications degree along with a theater minor. She wanted to travel, since she would have the rest of her life to work. She worked as a groundskeeper at Albany, as well as an event coordinator, planning parties and bar mitzvahs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. While working with a film crew in Maryland as a production assistant, a friend told her about auditions for "Road Rules" which were being held in Boston.

"On a whim, I was like, ‘Hey, why not?’" she said. "I never been to Boston, so I get to see the city. Even if I don’t make it, I figured at least I got to see Boston."

Before long, Sophia passed through round after round of auditions. On December 15, 2000 she arrived in Palm Springs, Ca., alongside 27 other hopefuls for "Road Rules" and "The Real World," MTV’s reality television mainstay, which was casting for their tenth season (to be filmed in New York City.) There, casting directors interviewed them once more, as well as putting them through games of "Show & Tell" and "Truth Or Dare" in order to gauge their interaction with one another.

Many of the would-be cast members attempted to figure out who among them was gay, given the appearance of open and potentially closeted gay people in past seasons of "The Real World" (which had had eight confirmed gay people in its history, including three in the last two seasons). None of them suspected Sophia. On the third day, during "Show & Tell," she outted herself to the others.

"It was like a manhunt," she recalled. "They were like, ‘Do you think he is?’ ‘Do you think she is?’ And I was thinking, ‘Wow, that’s really bizarre.’ I’m looking at all these people trying to figure out who’s the one. That was kind of interesting and sad at the same time."

In the end, Sophia was chosen to be on "Road Rules: The Quest." Among her closest friends on the trip was Jisela Delgado, a 20-year-old from Tampa. Their friendship would prove to be short; an added quirk in the show called for the cast members to vote somebody out upon a failure of a mission. After balking over rappelling down a mountain, Jisela was voted off, 4-2, with Sophia refusing to vote for her. During their time together, viewers got the idea that Sophia was interested in Jisela as more than just a friend.

"We have interviews every one to two weeks that last three and a half hours long where they ask us questions about the missions and what’s been going on in the R.V.," said Sophia. "They asked Jisela, ‘Do you think Sophia is a really good friend with you because she has a crush on you?’ Now Jisela thought that I may have said something about that in my interviews, so she got a little paranoid and started becoming distant with me. I asked her what was wrong and she told me. I told I didn’t have a crush on her, that they were misleading her, trying to make her think something that’s really not there."

At one point, the cast members went on blind dates in Altea, Spain. Sophia was set up with Kelly, an au pair from St. Louis. The date, which Sophia had been nervous about when she found out she had to go, was chronicled on the show. Sophia had been given cash and a curfew of 11 p.m. for her date. However, since she didn’t speak Spanish, the couple ended up lost.

"We got lost for a good hour-and-a-half," she remisiced, "Because I made [the taxi driver] drop us off at the wrong place. In the whole hour-and-a-half, she was so cool. We just talked and laughed. I felt so much better, because any other date would be like, ‘Oh, this girl doesn’t know where she’s going’ and be really snotty, but she was really cool and laid back, especially by the time we found the restaurant.

"I was kind of glad because to have one other person to relate to who can understand where I am coming from. It was nice and refreshing."

At the end of the ten weeks, Sophia, along with her castmates, received the vaunted "Handsome Reward": a 2001 Suzuki Grand Vitara suv. Since the final destination was New York City, she traveled the shortest distance home. Before long, she would break the news about her sexuality to her parents.

"I couldn’t quite get the words out," she said, remembering how she broke the news to her mother. "I was really scared and nervous. So she started guessing. ‘Sophia, are you pregnant?’ I’m like, ‘No, Mom, I’m not pregnant.’

"‘Oh, Sophia, are you dying?’ She thought I was dying. ‘No, Mom, I’m not dying.’"

Sophia laughs when she finishes the story. "She said, ‘Are you gay?’ And I said, ‘Yes!’ And she said, ‘Oh, Sophia, I wish you would told me that you were pregnant.’"

Sophia had especially dreaded telling her father the news; on the show, she had expressed fear that the news would kill him. "He took it really hard," she said. "He was crying for about an hour in front of me, which was the hardest thing to sit through. This man, I’d never seen him cry in all my life. The fact that I made him cry was really disturbing and upsetting.

"He couldn’t look at me in my face too much for about a week. I knew there was hope; he called to wish me a happy birthday, and that made me feel better because this was going to take time and he’ll be okay. Now we talk more, we joke around, and things are a lot better now."

Today, Sophia resides in Wantagh, N.Y. with a cousin. She works as a substitute teacher in District 29. She has traveled a lot in the past several months, visiting San Francisco and Tampa. She also visited St. Louis, meeting Kelly twice, in addition to talking on the phone with her once a week. Her future plans include traveling cross-country, reuniting with her fellow cast members from "Road Rules" and well as a few roommates from "The Real World" (including a stop in Tampa for Jisela’s 21st birthday), visiting friends and family in Arizona and New Mexico, and stopping in San Francisco, where she plans to live there for a while.

In addition, she is preparing to go on the lecture circuit, talking about her experiences in her life and on the show. Gay-oriented publications have sought out her story. She often gets recognized while out in public (as she puts it, "It’s the afro, man, it kills me.")

"Some people cry, which is shocking to me," she said. "They tell me that [my experiences] helped them a lot to realize a lot about themselves and my struggles affected them so much. It makes me feel weird because here I’m being put in a role model position, when all I was doing was just living my life. I appreciate it and I don’t hate it, but I just see myself living my life."

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Did you like that? I have two more articles to show you, then.

Dorothy Hui: The whole story on how we met? Totally true. I've run into her a few times afterwards, including two TARCons. I'm hoping that Mole 2 gets the DVD treatment down the road, because she was fun to watch.

John Vito Pietanza & Jill Aquilino: Another Hail Mary interview. I had gotten a hold of their up-and-coming web site with their e-mail address. I had to do it over the phone, with a CBS official overseeing (overhearing?) the process. The story got published a week after the finale. And yeah, they are lovely people. As adorable and studly as Kris & Jon, but without all the public displays of affection.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Inferno 2 Episode 1: Get Off My Beach!

Previously on Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Eric Nies won $60,000, and there wasn’t an asterisk big enough to stamp on his forehead.

We go to Manzanillo, Mexico. The planes land and our plucky Challengers hop off. We go to Derrick, who felt like he got the shaft in Battle of the Sexes 2, as his team had voted him off over Mike. It probably had nothing to do with his drinking or following frogs around. An afro-wearing CT yells “Viva Meh-hee-co!” We reunite with Julie, who is no longer held in check by the likes of Melissa and Coral. Oh, and she’s blonde again. She tells us that she was in an “unhappy place” in the first Inferno, and she assumes there will be bad blood between her and Veronica. Cut to a clip from last year, where Julie almost got Veronica killed. “I’m over her tantrums,” Julie interviews with a straight face, “and I just hope that she keeps her legs closed, then this is a good trip.” Did she just try and take the moral high ground? Note to her newlywed husband: run!

We get shots of the new Inferno set, now with a second level. We get to Brad, as interviews that he has something to prove after getting screwed by his teammates in BOTS2. Another shot of the Inferno, along with a big-toothed skull. Jodi interviews about being one of the new people here, since the others might have alliances in place. Cut to Abram: “Dude, I love Mexico!”

Sunset. The players walk up to the Inferno, and they’re pretty awed. Tina compares it to what hell would look like. She interviews that this is the craziest thing she’s ever seen. She adds, “There’s going to be some bloodbath in this thing.” Don’t give the crew any ideas. Jamie thinks of the Inferno as a pit where gladiators fight to the death. An iron door closes on it’s own. Dun dun dunnnnnn!

Credits. The good news is that the blue screen is gone, and we’re back to the corny antics of the cast members. The bad news? We have theme music, not a theme song. Just makes me regret taking ditties like “Come On” and “Rock Star” for granted, as well as “Miles Apart” and “Come Out Fighting” to a lesser extent. Anyway, the “Good Guys” arrive in style, dressed in their finest. First, we have Jodi and Jon. The odds of us not seeing Jon’s cowboy hat outside competition are slim to none. Robin & Darrell are next, followed by two sets of same-season couples: Shavonda & Landon and Jamie & Brad. Finally, there’s Julie & Mike. Somewhere in California, Coral laughs, then points out to Melissa that she’s outlasted them both.

Uh oh! Here come the “Bad Asses” in a pickup truck! Suddenly, Julie & Mike are shoved away by Veronica & Abram. A vest-sporting Karamo is joined by Tonya. Rachel tugs on CT’s arm and slaps him. Yeah, whatever. Beth escorts a bleached-blonde Dan, prompting the first “Poor Dan” of the season. Finally, there’s Derrick and Tina. Both sides file into the Inferno, eyeballing each other. Dave “The Human Quaalude” Mirra stands between them, wearing a flannel shirt and t-shirt. What, he couldn’t ride a bike this time? We get close-ups of players making threatening gestures. CT jabs at the camera. Fire. Title. Scene!

Back to the Inferno, the players cheer the impending carnage. Dave introduces himself as the host. You know, I heard one theory that he was going to co-host with Jonny Moseley, so I think we got off easy. Dave’s first task is to get the teams situated, since things are going to be different this season. It’s not going to be Real World vs. Road Rules. Instead, the teams will be spilt between “Good Guys” and “Bad Asses.” I might need nicknames down the line. I’m leaning towards “Socs” and “Greasers” at the moment. Dave goes down the list of Bad Ass guys: Dan, Karamo, Derrick, Abram and CT. Dan interviews that his team has a license to “cut each other up,” and there’s no pressure to be a nice guy. I still think he’s horribly miscast. Moving on, Dave reads off the Bad Ass women: Tina, Tonya, Beth, Rachel and Veronica. Tonya interviews that she didn’t think that she’d make the other team based on her actions in BOTS2. We flash back to a “Tonya Gone Wild” montage. Tonya makes out with Theo. Tonya makes out with Ace. Tonya makes out with Shane (don’t ask). Tonya dances and flashes her breasts. Beth interviews that he reputation precedes her. “I’m a nice girl!” she kvetches, as we see her make a weak clawing gesture. “I should be on the nice team!”

Dave reveals the fellas on the Good Guys team: Jon, Landon, Darrell, Brad and Mike. Actually, Dave says “Mike the Miz,” which everybody seems to be doing this season. Suddenly Mike is “Dirk the Daring” or something. Mike talks trash in an interview, ending it with “Nice guys always finish first!” Dave completes the GG team: Shavonda, Julie, Jamie, Jodi and Robin. Julie interviews that as long as she doesn’t lose her temper, she’ll be the perfect match for her team.

Dave goes over the rules: the teams will compete in missions. After every other mission, each team picks one player from the opposite team to go into the Inferno. Shavonda expositions that her team doesn’t nominate anybody, and there’s no control. Dave continues: for those voted into the Inferno, there’s one more mission. If the nominee performs better than anybody else on the team, that person receives the Aztec Lifeshield, which allows self-preservation. These immunity devices are two snazzy ancient-looking plates. I give props to the production crew for their choice. The Inferno is an “extreme challenge,” where the winner stays, while the loser goes home. There will be fifteen missions, where the winners receive $10,000. The final mission is worth $150,000. Robin looks unusually shocked. Dave adds that there’s a catch: the winnings are put into the teams’ bank accounts. He doesn’t mention that only those who make it to the end can get the money. Dave ends the proceedings by ordering the kids to get settled into their villa.

The players pile off the van and go nuts over their new home. Jamie is impressed, interviewing that she can hear the ocean from the balcony. She adds, “It really makes you feel like you’re on this great vacation.” Brad admires the showers. Robin doesn’t want to leave this “most romantic place.” Great, now I’m mentally inserting Mark into the scenes. Derrick does a cannonball into the pool. Shavonda loves the bed.

Sponsor phone clue time! CT and Robin read the text message for their respective teams: first mission is tomorrow, wearing team colors and tennis shoes. CT interviews that everybody is nervous about the mission and the new voting process.

In the Bad Asses girls room, Tina doesn’t want all of the girls in there, for fear that there would be too much fighting. Tonya concurs, not wanting a repeat of BOTS2. We flash back to Tina screaming at Tonya about…something. I think it was a cell phone. “It’s not a rivalry,” Tina interviews, “because for a rivalry, you need some competition. Tonya’s not my competition. She’s my doormat.” I’ll miss Coral, but not as much with Tina’s tart tongue in action.

It’s a new day, as we head for the mission site. Dave welcomes everybody to the Wyndham Grand Bay Hotel, as well as the first mission: Surf Torture. This mission will test endurance, as well as physical and mental strength. Dace introduces Mark and Nash, the two Navy SEALs who will put the kids through their paces. Jamie interviews that she’s getting nervous, knowing they’re going to get worked. Dave lays down the exposition: the teams will break up into pairs, with no balance for gender. The pairs line up on the shore and perform exercises ranging from doing a push-up to lifting a log over the head. Shavonda expositions that the logs weigh anywhere from 40-65 lbs. She also brings up “wheelbarrows,” where one partner carries the other to the water and back. Julie adds that the players will perform these exercises until the SEALs are unsatisfied. Then the players go over and ring a bell, signaling their elimination. Dave goes on to say that the last pair standing wins $10,000 for the team. He then gives them five minutes to break up into pairs.

On the Good Guys side, Robin suggests paring up two strong guys, as well as a strong guy and strong girl. Jamie repeats it for us, then points out the strongest boys are Landon and Mike. Elsewhere, Dan tells the Bad Asses that only one pair has to win for the team. Veronica asks if she can carry Beth. Tonya asks Veronica if she’s crazy. Dan gets snippy, saying that those two probably won’t win. Tonya angrily interviews that she’s stuck with Beth, and that her team has screwed themselves.

Dave gets the pairs up in front of the logs. Tina (paired with Veronica) tells us that her team will win thanks to Abram. Turns out the Bozeman Bozo went to military school. The other team members pair off: Rachel/CT, Tonya/Beth, Derrick/Abram and Dan/Karamo. Landon and Mike are teamed up for the Good Guys, and both are confident in winning. The other pairs: Jamie/Julie, Jodi/Darrell, Robin/Brad and Shavonda/Jon. Mark the SEAL orders the kids to do wheelbarrows; one partner grabs the other by the ankles and goes into the water. Beth is already struggling in the sand, and Tonya asks if she’s quitting. Beth interviews that Tonya isn’t supporting her weight. I’m guessing that carrying Beth’s weight will be an ongoing theme for this season. Mark: “You people need to get off my beach!” Yes, it’s his beach. He has the deed and everything. Tonya rings the bell, bitching about how Beth gave up. Get used to it, girl. Beth snots about Tonya not supporting her.

Meanwhile, CT moves Rachel along at a nice clip, but Karamo gets surf in his face. He interviews that he got nervous about the mission especially with water being involved. “The minute water hits my face,” he adds, “I’ll probably drown.” Nash yells for Karamo to get off his elbows. He can’t, so Nash orders him and Dan off the beach. Dan tells Karamo not to worry. Jon and Shavonda are also ordered off, as are Robin and Brad.

Next exercise: log lifts. Jamie and Julie try to lift the log over their heads, but they can’t do it together, and they end up quitting. The players go back to doing wheelbarrows. Nash: “I know it’s your favorite exercise!” Shut up, Nash. Veronica interviews that she has to do this again. She crawls while Tina carries. Nash gives them a warning. Veronica: “It’s really, really miserable!” Nash orders them off.

The players move on to pulling lumber. Jodi struggles, but makes it. Nash barks for the kids to do wheelbarrows. Rachel decides that she’s done, taking herself and CT out. Dave sidles up to CT, asking him what happened. As Rachel collapses to the sand in pain, CT explains that Rachel had to carry him. Nash gets in Jodi’s grill as she struggles with carrying Darrell. Darrell interviews that the wheelbarrow is kicking his butt since Jodi is dropping him. The SEALs order the kids to perform flutter kicks, which has them on their backs, kicking up and down. One of the instructors asks Abram and Derrick if they’re going to sleep. They reply “No, sir!” in unison. Unfortunately, Jodi is in a world of hurt, and she and Darrell are ordered off the beach. Darrell is so mad, he bangs the hell out of the elimination bell.

We’re down to two pairs: Derrick & Abram vs. Landon & Mike. They perform wheelbarrows once more, with Abram and Landon doing the carrying. “As much as this mission is torture,” Derrick interviews, “and as much as I’m hurting, I’m not going to give up to the Miz or Landon.” Both sides hit the water. Landon interviews that his hamstrings are cramping up, but there’s no reason why he can’t win. The pairs switch positions from the water, and Nash yells for Abram to get up. To his credit, Abram manages to walk on his hands. He interviews that he’s dying, but his opponents are hurting just as bad. Mike struggles, hitting the sand with his forearms. He interviews that part of his mind is telling him that he can’t do it, but the other part tells him to win for his team. He crawls on the sand, while his teammates chant “Miz! Miz!” The Bad Asses cheer their pair on, as we head to commercials.

Back on the beach, Nash orders the remaining player to perform one more wheelbarrow. “It doesn’t matter how big you are,” Brad interviews. “It’s not the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog.” Actually, it’s the size of the fight in the dog, but you’re on the right track. Thanks to Cee for pointing that out to me. Anyway, Darrell yells for Mike, while CT cheers for Derrick. Mike struggles some more in a slow-motion shot, and it looks painful. Abram uses an interview to impersonate Mike’s effort. “Looks like Godzilla going through Tokyo!” he cheerfully adds. Mike tries to lift himself up, while Derrick doesn’t have any problems. Mark snaps at Mike. Julie interviews that her team is trying to give their energy to Mike, since he’s drained. Mark asks Mike and Landon if they want to finish second. Jodi: “Are you gonna let Derrick beat you?” Man, that was harsh. Mike struggles in slo-mo. Derrick has no problems in regular speed. Mike? Slo-mo. Derrick? Regular.

Nash: “All right, fellas! Get off my beach!” Game over, Bad Asses win. By the way, do you remember who won the first mission for their team last season? Abram and Derrick. I could not make this stuff up. Anyway, Mike collapses in a heap, while Derrick lunges for the log, sealing the win. As the Bad Asses celebrate, Brad comes over to comfort Mike and Landon. Abram violently hugs Derrick, interviews that it feels good to beat Mike and Landon. Mike rings the bell, then chucks the bell-ringer to the ground.

Denouement. Dave awards the $10,000 check to the Bad Asses, which Derrick and Abram accept. After the celebration, Dave reminds everybody that it’s time to vote somebody into the Inferno. This time, it’ll be guys only. See, this is what I hated it the first time around. BMP seems to be overcompensating after the frequent BOTS2 blowouts in the men’s favor. Alternating never works out. Remember how the Road Rules team kept finding ways to shove Katie into the Inferno? Also, it will be two weeks before Beth can get endangered. I miss the Gauntlet. Anyway, Dave gives both sides 30 minutes to make their picks. Tina interviews that the first win was important for her team, adding, “It sets the trend for the trip here in Mexico.”

Locale shots. We go to the Good Guys Deliberation Meeting. Mike presents two choices: go hardcore and take out the biggest guy, or target a weaker player. Robin wants a weak player, because all the guys are strong. Brad wants to test the waters, and he wouldn’t mind going after a “lesser-skilled player": Dan or Karamo. Jon isn’t sure if they shouldn’t take CT out. Why do I feel that Jon will be to Inferno 2 what Steve was to RR: The Quest? We might start calling him “HiJon.”

Bad Asses Deliberation Meeting. Dan wants to gun for the stronger people. CT is eager for “The Miz” to go down, while he’s hurting. By the way, Rachel is wearing a “Where’s Shane?” t-shirt. I hate her, I hate him, and I hate that shirt. She’s so predictable. Tina interviews that the first vote is crucial, since they get to see how the other team votes.

Both sides arrive for the announcements. We see little blue and red figurines, each wearing a sombrero with a name attached. Dave asks the Good Guys whom they selected. Mike announces that Dan will be going into the Inferno. This does not surprise Dan. Jon is wearing a “Jesus is Real” t-shirt. I’ll allow it, but he’s a little close to Matt and his “Porn Destroys Women” stuff. Dave asks the Bad Asses whom they picked. Dan asks Mike if he wants to join him. Of course, Mike is pumped up about this. Dave orders the nominees to place their figurines in an Inferno set, and adds that tomorrow’s mission will be important. Karamo expositions that the players will have a chance to win the Aztec Lifeshield. Dave notes that if either player performs the best on their team, it will save them from the Inferno. We get player reactions, as Derrick and Tonya look bummed.

Dan walks off, interviewing that he knew that he’d be nominated. “The thing that bothers me,” he goes on, “is that they presume Mike can beat me.” Yeah, the thought has crossed my mind. “I hope it’s not breaking rocks against my forehead, because I will lose.” Ha! “But if it’s singing Madonna songs, ohmigod, I’m going to totally win!” Great…the funniest guy on this show, and he’s a dead man walking.

Now we go to Mike’s rebuttal. He trash-talks Dan to the camera, ranting about how he’s undefeated in the Inferno and the Gauntlet. He beat Abram, but only because Abram got overzealous. He beat Jeremy, but hey, it’s Jeremy. Who cares? “So you can be good,” Mike slobbers to the camera, “you can be bad, but there is nothing, and I mean nothing like being Miz! Hoo-Rah!” He’s not going to go away, is he? Cut to a shot of the Inferno cage and flames. Flame to credits.

It’s time for the extended season teaser! Blah blah blah, good versus evil. Beth bitches about a team throwing missions. Players swing from a cord and drop to the water. Beth and another girl compete in the Inferno, as a cord holds them back. Guys climb ropes. Robin: “I want everybody to know that you’re crazy and you’re a whore!” Tonya: “I’m a whore because I hooked up with a single man?” Robin: “It proves the point that you’re a whore!” Why do I feel that Mark the Dodgeball Boy is behind this drama?

Abram roars, yelling at people about their thinking that he’s in an alliance with Mike. One guy bounces off a platform, while another hangs onto a tube. Two helmeted males attack each other with pugel sticks in the Inferno. Another pair of guys tackles each other. Players bounce on spring-loaded shoes, picking fruit off trees and squeezing the juice into a container. Derrick fights a guy outside, and gets a gash on the side of his neck. Call me crazy, but I’m guessing alcohol was involved.

Now we come to this season’s Coral/Julie confrontation. Tonya rips into Beth, who just pulls the covers over her head while lying in bed. Cut to Tonya, emptying a bag into the swimming pool. Beth grins, threatening to kill Tonya. The guys look on while the clothes float in the water. Mike: “I’ve never seen anything like it! This is amazing! This is the coolest Challenge ever, and I love The Inferno Part Two! Thank you for having me!” As much as I hate Mike, he might have a point. There’s no Julie drama shown, and no Infernos that involve gross stuff. I reckon closet optimism pays off for me after all. Hoo-Rah!