Tomorrow night marks the return of The Challenge to MTV with its 24th season: Rivals II. Much like Big Brother, this is a show that should have been put down years ago. Much like Survivor, the show has a douchebag hosting it. And much like The Amazing Race . . . I'm not gonna say anything bad about The Amazing Race. At least not here. Since I already complied statistics on the competitors (male and female), I might as well go over what to expect this season.
1. Lack Of Newbies
This season, there are a mere five new players out of 32 that are competing for the first time. Last season in Battle of the Seasons, that number was 15 . . . almost half of the field. The winning team consisted of four rookies; the team representing the San Diego season from 2011. The bad news? That included Frank Sweeney and Zach Nichols.
2. The New Axis of Ass?
Allow me to back up. Back in the day, when I was recapping The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, I came up with a nickname for any alliance of players that irritated me: The Axis of Ass. Yes, it was really original of me. Back then, I never considered the horror of a permanent Axis. Soon after I stopped recapping, that became a reality. Three insufferable assholes took control of the game: John Devenanzio (aka "Johnny Bananas," the most charmed of the Axis), Kenny Santucci (the self-described "Mr. Beautiful"; the worst Italian stereotype outside of Jersey Shore) and Evan Starkman (a chunky Canadian manchild; best known for turning on ex-Fresh Meat partner Coral Smith in the Veterans' "Trim The Fat" plan during Gauntlet III). Challengers came and went, but those three kept appearing and winning Challenges, acting insufferable every time. It took a rape allegation to sideline Evan and Kenny after the original Rivals season . . . and even then, Kenny still manages to turn up on MTV; most recently hosting the Rivals II preview special with Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi from Jersey Shore. How could you tell those two apart? One has probably smoked a lot of poles and talked a mountain of shit . . . and the other lets people call her "Snooki."
Anyway, while I groused online about how Johnny probably played a part in the alleged incident, his nose kept clean, and he wound up winning back-to-back seasons (Rivals and Battle of the Exes), lucking into the big money both times. While he rested on his laurels and kept at a lawsuit about how Entourage stole the name "Johnny Bananas" from him (he lost, I laughed), Frank and Zach made their cases to take Evan and Kenny's place. If you're an old-school Challenge fan: Zach is essentially a Bizarro version of Jamie Murray, an alpha male goof that wound up winning three Challenges. While Jamie took time for viewers to warm, Zach and his stupid ponytail took too much screentime in BOTS. Zach is the guy who sets back gay rights by fifty years anytime he opens his ugly mouth. Thoughts of strangling him with his headband dance in my noggin anytime I saw him whine, bitch, and puss out of going into Arena. The worst parts of BOTS came not when those two bitched at each other like an insufferable married couple, but when they tag-teamed to shred Sam McGinn, the likeable butch lesbian. In the final mission, they both screamed at her to keep up the pace. Frank not only shoved her (which should have been grounds for disqualification), but he denied doing that in the subsequent reunion, even as the footage of him shoving her was shown. Frank and Zach are back. So is Johnny. In fact, Frank and Johnny have been partnered as "rivals," based on their bickering on Twitter. As one Axis collapses, another may rise to take its place . . . and it might be even more brutal to watch.
3. The CT Redemption, Part III
Johnny's last two wins obscured the feel-good story of Chris "CT" Tamburello trying to resemble a human being. CT had been on a rocky path for a while, including getting thrown off two seasons (Inferno 3 and The Duel II) before a single mission was played. In the penultimate Gulag, Johnny and Tyler were supposed to compete against each other . . . but in a surprise twist, both had to face CT instead. The girls (Theresa and Tori) took on Tina Barta and won because she was and always will be a fucking scrub . . . but all anybody would remember was how CT absolutely humiliated Johnny. We need to see "Johnny Bananas Backpack" again. We need to see it right now.
Once it was determined CT wouldn't murder anyone right off the bat, he was paired with ex-RW: Paris housemate Adam King, whom he had fought in The Duel II and jacked up in their original season. While CT had the occasional flare-up, he tried to bury the hatchet with Adam . . . and not between his should blades. In the final Jungle, they lost to eventual winners Johnny & Tyler (ironic in retrospect), even as CT went out of his way to lay the most vicious hits he could on his opponents. It was like he was trying to cremate both of them without using fire . . . but it was perfectly within the rules.
Next came Battle of the Exes . . . this time paired with Diem Brown. I feel that a win from Diem would allow her to pursue her dream: writing songs of heartbreak for Taylor Shift, in case the waif ever runs dry. They broke up for a number of reasons . . . in his defense, they were on a break when he got a hummer before getting thrown off The Duel II. In her defense, it was from Shavoun, one of the nastier pieces of work from RW: Sydney. Anyway, the two sniped as they fought to stay in the game, eventually reaching a peace. In a game full of caricatures, they actually resembled human beings. Since The Challenge is the place where hope goes to die, they got outlasted in the final mission by Johnny and Camila. Since then, Diem had a relapse of cancer, but it went back into remission. I feel that if CT doesn't win this Challenge (this will be his seventh attempt, not counting the two seasons he left early), I figure his destiny would be to get miniaturized and ejected into Diem's ovaries to end the cancer once and for all. Why spend billions on research, when you can shrink a Southie down and have him pummel the tumors himself? And you know he'd be shouting, "ONE! ON! ONE! ONEONONE!!!!! I WILL WORK YOU!!!"
3a. The Possible End Of The CT Redemption
Unfornuately for CT, he's been paired with Wes Bergmann. I apologize in advance to anybody who frequents the Challenge thread on Television Without Pity, because this will be too familiar coming from me. In brief: Wes thinks he's King Shit of Turd Mountain. This will be his eighth Challenge. Unlike CT, he's won a Challenge . . . although The Duel did take place in 2006, which might as well happened in prehistoric times. He gets on people's nerves so easily, he's often targeted by the popular cliques and sent into the endgames, along with whatever hapless soul (or Kenny) that's chained to him. BOTS not only had him going out earlier than any other time, he also managed to drag Challenge virgin Lacey Buehler with him. She was the best part of the sucktactular RW: Austin season. Most of her time in the second half was spent calling her wheelchair-bound boyfriend back home . . . and given the odiousness of the rest of the cast, she came off as cool, at least to me. To have Wes for a partner is to have a chain wrapped around your neck. Weighted down by an anchor. Daisy, the lovable Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix from RW: Portland would've made for a better partner for CT. I wish him the best, but I'll be expecting the worst.
It's running late, so I'll speed through the rest of the crap.
4. The Return of Camila Nakagawa
In a cruel twist of fate, none of the second batch of "Fresh Meat" kids have won a Challenge. Meanwhile, this obnoxious twist took part in the non-canon Spring Break Challenge, almost died at one point, and is now on her fifth tour of duty with a win under her belt. That happened with Johnny . . . they were labeled "exes," though I sometimes wonder if a woman trying to grind on him would have better luck getting blood from a stone. Last season, she nagged Eric "Big Easy" Banks during an Arena to the point where he quit on her. TJ Lavin gave Eric a mountain of shit, since TJ is all about hating quitters. TJ can eat a dick. That season ran alongside Survivor: Phillipines, and I was stumped as to how Abi-Maria Gomes was constantly reamed out by players and fans alike, when she wasn't even the worst Brazilian on a reality show with Camila around. That December, I had another contestant from that show -- Roberta "R.C." Saint-Amour -- at TARCon telling me that Abi-Maria was every bit as obnoxious as she appeared on TV . . . and my only defense would've been, "Dude, seriously, have you seen Camila?!?"
5. The Return of Emily Schromm
The RW: D.C. alumnus has competed in two Challenges and completed them both. What I remember about her was the time in BOTE when he wanted to make fun of her ex Ty by dressing and acting like him . . . and putting chocolate on her face. Yes, Ty is black. In Emily's defense, she was raised in a cult, and the whole "blackface" thing might have been skipped over. Also, Camila helped her out, and she didn't think anything was wrong with it. The only thing that saved Emily from getting raked over the coals by America at that time was Colton Cumbie ruining Survivor: One World with his epic sucking. In the big picture, The Challenge is probably beneath everyone's contempt.
6. Paula vs. Aneesa, Round Six?
Paula Mernek (aka "Paula Walnuts") and Aneesa Ferriera need lives. They are on their tenth and ninth seasons, respectively, and that's a record for Paula. Since I no longer have a kung fu grip on Challenge trivia and minutia (coming from endless hours of rewinding tapes and getting every good quote and meaningful figure for my recaps), I need to use Wikipedia to pick up the slack. Through that, I noticed those two have fought in five endgames; Paula triumphed during Inferno 3, Rivals and Battle of the Exes, while Aneesa won in The Duel and Duel II. I went nuts back when Karamo and Landon tilted against each other in Inferno II because they roomed together in RW: Philadelphia. Back then, I never figured two players would wind up facing off more than once, let alone five times. Just something to look out for in the weeks to come. Seriously, though, they both need lives. Aneesa first competed in the original Battle of the Sexes, and that was the first season I ever recapped . . . and that might as well be called "the long long ago" at this point.
7. No Hurricane Nia
Four players will be debuting this season, hailing from RW: Portland. Amazingly, none of them are Nia Moore, perhaps the nastiest piece of work in recent RW history. She came to the house early on and managed to pick fights with everyone at one point or another. To look back on her "work" is to work on a headache that I really don't want. Last I checked, she was working on her book about how to be a gold digger. That's the gist of it . . . if asked, she'll probably say she's too busy trying to zero in on a draft pick, but she was probably working on separating a D-League reserve forward of his meager earnings. She's probably a lock to appear on the next season . . . even if she's not interested, Bunim-Murray Productions would offer her enough money up front to disturb everybody's shit.
There's a lot of stuff that I'm missing, but I'll stop here. As always, I'll hope for the best, but I'll be expecting the worst. And really, that's what The Challenge is all about.