Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fresh Meat Challenge: ...And Now For Something Completely Different

What can I say about the arrival of Fresh Meat Challenge? Let me put it this way: I may have taken the wrong season to stop recapping.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sticking by my decision to take this season off. Besides, I have Wizard World to think about this weekend, and I would have been pressed to write an hour’s worth of episode within three days, which is not my speed. But I never would have guessed that Bunim-Murray Productions had a few surprises in store, and I am genuinely impressed so far.

Instead of pitting twelve BMP alumni against a dozen slabs of “fresh meat,” the challengers pair off into guy/girl alumni/newbie pairs. The alumni were randomly selected to draft a Meathead (still playing around with nicknames), based on the results of four games played before the two groups met. The endgame is Exile, an uncreatively-named event that pits two pairs against each other, away from the eyes of their comrades. Winning team stays in the game, losers go home. And the big prize this season? Two hundred fifty thousand dollars, working out to $125,000 per player, more than twice the jackpot each remaining guy from Battle of the Sexes 2 received.

We’re two episodes in so far, enough time to establish running themes.

1. Nobody Likes the Austin Kids

And who can blame them? Danny, Melinda, Johanna and Wes are too tightly clumped as a unit, to the point where they took over a Meaty room for themselves. The ones who suffer most are their respective partners: Evelyn, Ryan, Jesse and Casey. After Danny & Evelyn are sent into Exile, Wes tries to work some alliance-making mojo...only to get sent into the endgame along with Casey. And after both teams failed to bail themselves out of Exile, we got the third intraseasonal endgame in Challenge history. And guess what? If the commercial for next week’s episode are true, it’s going to be the same thing next week. I welcome this...after the Las Vegas season, Austin was the low point of The Real World history.

2. Wes Is An Asshole

Everybody compared Wes to Abram from the moment we saw the Austin casting special, but I’m thinking that Wes has the potential to be a greater malignancy. He obviously doesn’t get along with Casey, whose struggles on the walls in the pre-show trials were comical (anybody else remember Whitlow on the obstacle course in Boot Camp?). While Danny acted pissy at the knife plunged in his back, Wes remains to be such a punk to the point where MTV had a whole commercial of him acting like a dick. The sooner he’s taken out of the game, the better. As for Casey? On her MTV.com profile, it’s stated that she would use her prize money on breast implants. No further comment is needed.

3. Whatever Coral Wants, Coral Gets

How did Coral fare in her return to the Challenge? Let’s see...she was the second Challenger randomly drawn to pick a Meat (after Danny), and she chose Evan. Evan is a Canadian who impressed Coral because, in her words, “He outran a black dude!” Before the first mission (walking back-to-back on a balance beam attached to one of the bigger building in Australia), Coral’s name was randomly selected, allowing herself and Evan to determine the order. Since they got to see everybody else go first before being the last team to compete, they ended up with the best time to win the mission, allowing them to pick a team to go into Exile (Danny & Evelyn). This also made them immune from being picked as a replacement team should one of the two Exiled duos bail themselves out. Naturally, Coral & Evan end up winning the second mission (standing on pegs while trying to knock other teams out with a tethered ball)...which netted them a prize and the right to determine the order of the next mission.

Here’s the thing about Coral and Challenges: she’s an expert. She has an uncanny ability to avoid elimination, finishing four Challenges and competing in only one endgame. Even if she and Evan go on a winning streak, I can’t see them getting targeted by other teams once it ends. Coral may specialize in being a snark-happy bitch, but she knows how to work people. Aside from the Austin kids, she has competed with every one of the alumni in at least two Challenges, except for Derrick. If Coral & Evan make the final four, I won’t be surprised...that is, unless that’s Coral on a stretcher in the teaser, and she has to leave the game. I don’t care what her critics say...that will be a dark day.

4. Kinky Endgames

If the first Exile mission is any indication, the endgames should be a real treat. Instead of the enclosed space of Gauntlets and Infernos, the two doomed teams had to run from station to station, carrying weight equivalent to what they lugged coming off the plane. Danny had over 100 pounds of luggage since he had a lot of Melinda’s stuff. Along the way, the teams were given the option of playing puzzles at each station for prizes. To my surprise, there were no sponsor trinkets. Danny & Evelyn wound up with one minute cut from their time, not that it did them any good. If they had finished the second puzzle, they would have won the right to get into a car and drive to the finish line. How awesome is that? Let’s say there’s a similar scenario between Tonya & Johnnie and Tina & Kenny. Imagine Tina & Kenny running to the finish line. Imagine Tina looking back to see Tonya in the driver’s seat. Imagine Tonya with a crazed look in her eyes, remembering all the abuse she’s taken from Tina. Who wouldn’t want to see that?

So...who will be the last teams standing? Well, I’m weeding out the Austin brats and their respective partners right away. Derrick & Diem would have been automatic, given that Derrick is due for a win, but I just saw a teaser with her worrying about pulling her weight, so they’re out. Not out are Theo & Chanda and Darrell & Aviv, since both guys have never been eliminated from a Challenge. I’m going with the teasers to say that Coral will be knocked out of the game, as will Evan. Tonya & Johnnie? Too volatile. Katie & Eric? If there are smokes and booze waiting at the end of an Exile, then they’d win. Otherwise, I give them no chance. I refuse to give Shane any credit, so he and Linette are out. All that’s left is Tina & Kenny...and what the hell, I’ll bring back Derrick & Diem as contenders. In the end, I give the win to Darrell & Aviv. Is “Team Matzoh Tang” a good nickname for those two?

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