After what has felt like an eternity of waiting, The Real World/Road Rules Challenge comes back to MTV on December 5 with its eleventh season: Gauntlet 2: Rookies vs. Veterans.
Thirty-two former cast members from The Real World and Road Rules fly out to Trinidad & Tobago. They have been spilt into two teams: those who have competed in two or more Challenges (“Veterans”), and those who have done none or one Challenge (“Rookies”). While MTV.com is vague with details, we can assume that the same format will be running, as the teams compete in missions worth $10,000 apiece, with the final mission paying out $150,000. However, only those remaining in the game stand to get the money.
Introduced in 2003, the Gauntlet offered one last chance for doomed players to stay in the game. After each mission, the teams would vote one of their own to compete in a one-on-one event. A die roll determined which of the six events the plays would compete in. The winner of the Gauntlet stayed on, while the loser packed bags and went home.
This time, things are a little different. The new Gauntlet is a surreally-constructed edifice that gives off a Stonehenge vibe. Judging from the preview trailer, the die roll may have been scrapped in favor of a predetermined event similar to the Inferno. The biggest twist is that team members will have to fight each other in the Gauntlet to stay on. This will build tension and resentment amongst teammates...if the booze and sex didn’t do that already.
On the surface, the Rookies look woefully overmatched...until you see three certain guys on the roster. Alton (RW: Las Vegas) was the rock of the Real World team during Gauntlet, as he stood out in missions and handed Laterrian a humiliating defeat in the Gauntlet. However, his decision to sent Theo into the Gauntlet over Coral was a double whammy; Theo lost to Cara, and a spider-bit Coral held the team back in the final mission. Landon (RW: Philadelphia) is the only returning player from the victorious Good Guy team from last season. He won two Infernos, but he was pitted against Karamo (who already had a foot out of the door) and Dan (the gangly doof who was barely edged out). Then there’s the inclusion of Jamie (RW: New Orleans), who has not only competed in two Challenges, but has won both. While there’s no real explanation why he’s on this team, his strength and easy-going ways should be a boon to the Rookies.
In addition to Landon, the Rookies have an experienced endgame competitor in Cara (RR: South Pacific), who has won two Gauntlets. Of course, one had Elka swinging at Cara, missing, and falling into the water, and the other had Theo getting a more ornery mechanical bull to handle. The Rookies also have a five-person contingent from RR: X-Treme, and three of them are ladies looking for some payback. Ibis looks to rebound from getting outplayed and betrayed by Tonya in Battle of the Sexes 2. Jodi is still reeling from her Inferno loss to Veronica, a wound made deeper by the jeers of losers Rachel and Dan. How bad is she staggering? She’s reported to have dated Mark. Kina only competed in three missions in BOTS2, but she’s famous for stealing Eric’s jump rope and contemplating sending it back to him piece by piece. Who else is returning from BOTS2? Cameran (RW: San Diego) seeks fame, fortune, and guys to punch in the nuts. Adam (RW: Paris) brings his freshly-shaven head and bad raps to the game (as opposed to a shaved head, gaudy necklace, and mobster wannabe flavor). Randy (RW: San Diego) will be separated from his good buddy Brad, but will be in close contact with Kina (who he’s dating) and Jamie (who acts as stoned as he does). The most unexpected return to the Challenge has to be Susie (RR: Australia), who replaced the ejected Ayanna way back in Extreme Challenge.
Finally, there will be four relatively fresh faces in the mix. Danny (RR: X-Treme) was the first person voted off his season, because he couldn’t eat parts of a cow that people had no reason to eat. His presence could also be a baromater of how much Derrick has grown up (for instance, would Derrick still shout “Earmuffs!” anytime Danny talks about his gay lovelife). Also hailing from the last Road Rules season is Jillian, who made a beeline towards Patrick, and who has been linked romantically to Mark. Obviously, this youngster isn’t about making good life choices. While Mike “The Miz” Mizanin has abandoned the Challenges for the lucrative wrestling racket, his legacy lives on with MJ (RW: Philadelphia). This former football player sports an alter ego of his own in the superheroic “Muja Star.” Finally, there’s Jo (RW: San Francisco), the most unexpected player in the field. Jo does have connections to the show’s history; she replaced the guy who would become the first “Mr. Big” in Challenge history (Puck), and she was selected by the housemates over Mark back in 1994.
These people do not answer to “Hey, get a friggin’ life!” The most famous face of this group is Mark (Road Rules: Season One), who can be seen on Fox Reality’s Reality Remix, as well as on any BMP girl too young for him. Also, he gift-wrapped a $60,000 check to the undeserving Eric Nies during BOTS2. Never forget that. Another guy on the downward spiral is David (The Real World: Seattle), who has been in a relationship with Katie (RR: The Quest). Remember, Katie is best friends with Trishelle, and has also dated (if that is the correct word) Jon Dalton. Timmy (RR: Season Two) and Adam (RR: The Quest) come back after having won a past Challenge. Timmy looks to dope it up and not look as big a tool as Mark, while Adam pops his ADD medication and looks for girls to throw into the fire.
There are also a few hard-luck stories in this group. Brad (RW: San Diego) couldn’t stay on long in his first two Challenges, including a heartbreaking Inferno defeat at the hands of Abram. Derrick (RR: X-Treme) got bounced early from BOTS2, and he was on the less-than-successful Bad Asses team in Inferno 2, but he proved to be the nicest guy on his squad (as least when sober). Syrus (RW: Boston) is one of the nicest Challengers you’ll meet, but he continues to get no respect, as his MTV.com biography has Ace’s history instead. Speaking of Ace (RW: Paris), he comes back after competing in a paltry four missions (five if you count his humiliating defeat in the Inferno).
Katie comes into this season as the most experienced endgame player, having defeated David and Julie (RW: New Orleans) in the Inferno, and Montana (RW: Boston) in the Gauntlet. Ironically, all four are on the same team. Julie still seeks her first win since Extreme Challenge, even as she continues to humiliate herself and shame Mormon people worldwide. Montana seeks to avenge her quick exit from Gauntlet, but she has steady work as an acupuncturist. Ruthie (RW: Hawaii) was a monster in BOTS1, but came up short in BOTS2. She won’t be the only lesbian to break out of the BOTS format, as Aneesa (RW: Chicago) and her bizarre Mohawkish hair seeks her first Challenge win. Also making a long-awaiting return is perineal scrub/drama mama Jisela (RR: The Quest), whose “ho train” antics in the Hamptons are a distant memory after we’ve seen the likes of Trishelle. Robin (RW: San Diego) is another tough luck case who is competing in her third straight Challenge. Last and certainly least is Beth (RW: Los Angeles), who got her stuff thrown into the pool by Tonya in Inferno II and ended up running away from the Challenge, a big streak of yellow running down her back. Why anybody would ever think of saying “Go, Beth!” without adding “And take David Edwards with you!” is beyond me.
Once again, Bunim-Murray Productions shows the love for alternative athletes. First, we had Jonny Moseley, an Olympic gold medalist in moguls skiing and a guy who looked like he was high at any given time. Then we had Dave Mirra, a biking god with no discernable personality (I still get chills thinking about “Yo, where’s Karamo at?”). Today, we have TJ Lavin. He’s a big-time BMX biker. Honestly, couldn’t they bring in an ex-BMP star? I mean, it was a mistake to partner Mark and Eric for Battle of the Seasons, but there are some folks out there who could pull it off (my short list: Syrus, Blair, Coral, Teck and Frankie. Oh, and Melissa, but I think she might be too short for the job).
The After Show
For the second straight season, MTV.com will host a post-show wrap-up, host by Blair Herter (RR: The Quest, Battle of the Sexes). Last time, Blair managed to mix it up with the players and not look like a tool himself...a rare feat in reality television. He will be interviewing some of the most memorable personalities from this season...most of whom hang out in the Los Angeles area. Already, I’m anticipating reunions with Adam and Katie, as well as a re-enactment of Jisela’s topless makeout session from four years ago. I’m also hoping for a pre-season interview with Sarah Greyson. After all, if it wasn’t for her winning five times in the Gauntlet, Gauntlet 2 wouldn’t never have happened.
Why Should You Watch?
1. Because Survivor: Guatemala isn’t as fun as Palau, The Amazing Race: Family Edition has been a huge trainwreck, and both versions of The Apprentice have been sinking in the ratings. We need a taste of the familiar right now.
2. Like I’ve said in past entries, the original Gauntlet made for outstanding television. In fact, I was midly outraged it wasn’t nominated for an Emmy in 2004. Think of it as a sympathy nod to the late Mary-Ellis Bunim. That, and no way Last Comic Standing should have been lumped with proven successes like Survivor, The Amazing Race and American Idol. Each endgame brought emotion, while you could cheer the winner, jeer at the loser, or had a good cry either way (especially the Rachel/Sarah battle, which was freakin’ brutal to watch). Even if the matches end up alternating between boy/boy and girl/girl, fans would have two weeks to hope for justice, as opposed to four with the Inferno seasons.
3. No Veronica Portillo. We haven’t not seen her since Extreme Challenge in 2001. I mean, you could love the exclusion of veterans like Mike, Coral, Rachel/Butterface, Tina and Tonya. But Veronica has been the most familiar, breeding the ultimate contempt. Yeah, she’s doing a new reality show with Butterface...but I’m not watching that when it comes out, so I don’t have to care.
4. Like I’ve stated before, BMP has gotten better. After watching crappy mission after crappy mission in Inferno and BOTS2, I was pleased by the production values that went into Inferno II. It was as if the producers actually gave a damn, and it showed. If nothing else, the new Gauntlet looks fantastic. Of course, I expect things to dip with the follow installment, dubbed Fresh Meat Challenge. If Mark and Eric sign on, it becomes Expired Meat Challenge.
The preview special airs on November 21 on MTV, with the season premiere airing two weeks later. I will be offering my scouting reports in the days to come. And if you think I take this too far, I offer you this: I obssess, so you won’t have to.