Friday, February 19, 2016

Rivals III: First Impressions

Believe it or not, MTV is still invested in Bunim-Murray Productions. I would have figured the network would cancel The Real World and The Challenge and post Teen Mom reruns in their place. But the network is going to start airing RW's season #31 -- Go Big Or Go Home -- next month. And during the reunion special for Battle Of The Bloodlines, host Nessa (no clue) encouraged people to tweet in order to get a teaser for the upcoming season . . . which never came. At least Abram didn't kill anybody on the set. That counts for something, right?

Luckily for fans, Wikipedia has set up a page for the new edition, which is scheduled to air in May. It's good for me because it has casting spoilers, but no results. Aside from an early elimination spoiler, all I know about Rivals III is that two production people got killed in a helicopter crash. For some shows, that would be a harbinger of immediate cancellation, but I feel that BMP would not stop churning out their two main shows until somebody dies on camera. Remember RW: D.C.? If Ty drunkenly pushing Andrew off a balcony had led to Andrew's death, I wouldn't be writing about The Challenge. If you think I'm crazy, consider this: why else would BMP cast a person with a compromised immune system alongside some dope who looked like he had seven diseases at any given time?

As the title suggests, it'll be the third "Rivals" season for the show. As usual, it will feature folks plucked from past seasons of The ChallengeThe Real World, and Are You The One? This time, the contestants will be paired in male/female teams, which will be a first for "Rivals." I figured that I should provide my snap judgments to the cast. If you want to wait a few months until MTV officially announces the season, bail out now. Don't worry . . . I understand wanting to be surprised, and one person in particular baffles me in coming back to the show.

Still with me? Cool. First, let's go over some folks who won't be on the show:

Cara Maria Sorbello: She wound up winning $125,000, and it might have been the toughest road to the grand prize for any past champion. She got into a love/lust triangle with Thomas and Abram, got torn to shreds by the usual suspects, and tried valiantly to keep a brave face. Oh, and she said "cousin" almost as much as Balki on Perfect Strangers. In the reunion, she said that she wanted to open a gym with obstacles alongside Jamie, which means we might see her "raising" contestants for American Ninja Warrior down the line. That wouldn't be a bad thing to watch. I like that show.

Chris "CT" Tamburello: I'm happy he's not showing up, because I feel he got overexposed. He wound up popping up on Battle Of The Bloodlines twice; first demonstrating a mission with Faith (Diem's sister), then taking up the role of combatant that he played in Cutthroat against Jamie. Also, he didn't knock Vince's head off when the wanker tried to puff his chest at a club. Good for him.

Aneesa Ferreira: Eleven Challenges. ELEVEN. Her record: 0-11. I remember her back when she was a rookie in 2003 on Battle Of The Sexes, when I regarded Puck as the worst person ever and saw most cast members (i.e., Rachel, Veronica, Eric Nies) as human beings. On three seasons, she came within one episode of making it to the finale. Aside from the showmance with Cory (isn't she a lesbian?) and her fight with Cara Maria, she didn't bring much to the table, other than a cousin (Rianna) who might as well not have made the trip. I hate being a "GET A JOB!" guy, especially since I have trouble finding one on my own, but seriously . . . stop coming back, Aneesa.

Abram Boise: Even if Cara Maria didn't give Thomas a hand, I'd still be worried about somebody hitting the wrong button on Abram. I hadn't seen him since 2012 (Battle Of The Exes), and I was okay with that. I keep imagining him strangling hobos and drifters, burying them in shallow graves all over the state of Montana. And that was before I saw the tattoos on his arms and head. Looking back, I'm amazed he only got kicked out of two seasons of Road Rules (South Pacific, Viewers' Revenge) for beating the hell out of somebody. Did I mention the part of BOTB where he got so worked up pumping up his brother Mike for the Pit, his nose started bleeding? Yikes.

Zach Nichols: He was brought in alongside CT to challenge Jamie and Mike in the Pit. He also reunited with his girlfriend Jenna . . . and at the Reunion, she revealed they broke up. I'm good with that. She can do better. Hell, she could go back to that schmuck Jay, and he'd be an upgrade over Zach. I'm good without a season of misogyny and calling women "swamp donkeys," as well as his lack of stamina. And I'm still waiting for Sam to bust his head open for his treatment of her in Battle Of The Seasons. Then she could move on to Frank.

Laurel Stuckey: I'm guessing she has better things to do. With the ever-changing social dynamics of the show, it's hard for somebody to go 4-for-4 in completing Challenges, but the woman I dubbed "Killbot" managed that feat, and she won her first Challenge in Free Agents. It probably would have been easy to pair her up off with a guy she pissed off in a past season, but I guess she doesn't take BMP's calls.

Jason Hill & Nicole Zanatta: They would have been perfect for this season. Jason and Nicole were tight through most of RW: Skeletons. Then there was an altercation that didn't get filmed, where he apparently manhandled her, and he became dead in her eyes. So why aren't they competing in their first Challenge? In my opinion, it's because Nicole is way too normal for BMP's tastes. She could probably complete a season easily, having been trained as an EMT, but she wasn't as exciting as most of her castmates. That's a pity, since I consider her to be in the upper tier of reality folks to hail from Staten Island.

With that out of my system, we can move onto the contenders.

Brandon Tindel & Briana LaCuesta
Devin Walker & Cheyenne Floyd
Nathan Siebenmark &Christina LeBlanc
Nelson Thomas & Amanda Garcia

Apparently, Are You The One? is still a thing on MTV. I don't follow it. I'm good with cast members leaving The Challenge. I'm not compelled to track down episodes from past seasons. The extent that I'm familiar with the show comes from a skit on Robot Chicken with Archie characters in the cast, and that paled compared to the Archie/Final Destination mashup from an earlier season. It might be interesting to see eight rookies band together to force the BMP folks out, but that won't happen. Here's hoping the Go Big Or Go Home kids can fill the void in future seasons, especially since it seems like a half-hearted Road Rules rehash.

(While I'm at it, I might as well go over my definition of canon Challengers. Those who got their start on The Real World, Road Rules and The Challenge are canon. Camila hails from a week-long Spring Break Challenge, and I don't consider that canon. "Fresh Meat" contestants are canon, but not the exes from Ex-Plosion or "Skeletons." Ditto for AYTO. I'm on the fence when it comes to "Bloodlines." This is just my opinion . ..  your mileage may vary.)

Dario Medrano & Nicole Ramos
Thomas Buell & Simone Kelly

And apparently, BMP is good with bringing back AYTO alumni Dario and Simone. Dario & Nicole's beef is not stated, but I'm guessing it'll be pretty flimsy when revealed. If you'll recall, Dario's twin brother Raphy almost beat Mitch in the Pit, but he wound up celebrating prematurely, giving up the win. Thomas and Simone got into a fight on Battle Of The Exes II, to the point where she dumped a cup of water on his face. Sound familiar? It was in teasers that season, but didn't make the cut. This will be the third Challenge for Thomas. After fooling around with Abram's girl, here's hoping he'll live to see more.

Wes Bergmann & Nany Gonzalez

Nicole will be joined by her cousin this season, and Nany is paired with the ginger jackass from RW: Austin. This will be Wes' tenth season. According to Wikipedia, he's won $248,000, placing him second all-time on The Challenge. Why he doesn't stay away, I do not know. I expect the same thing for him: grandiose alliance schemes that fall apart in the opening episodes.

Cory Wharton & Ashley Mitchell

Had to look online to remember Ashley as the girl I dubbed "Smashley" on RW: Ex-Plosion. She was a one-woman disaster area in her short time on the show. She got drunk one night and told Cory that she could buy his family. Did I mention Cory is black and Ashley is white? If Ashley can remain upright at the clubs on Rivals III, I will be amazed. And I don't know if she would be as good at math and puzzles as Mitch was.

Johnny Reilly & Jessica McCain
Leroy Garrett & Averey Tressler

With three cast members from RW: Portland (Averey, Jessica, Johnny), I think we should be grateful Nia didn't get an invite. Johnny and Jessica had beef in Portland which spilled into Free Agents. Leroy teamed with Nia in BOTEII to defeat Johnny & Averey in the Dome, and he called her a liar on The After Show. My biggest concern with Averey being on another Challenge is wondering who is taking care of Daisy. The Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix was the cutest member of the Portland cast, and she was probably the smartest. Part of me thinks Johnny dated Averey to get closer to Daisy.

Tony Raines & Camila Nakagawa

Ugh. Tony was such a jackass on RW: Skeletons and BOTB, getting into a drunken fight with his brother Shane, who came off a lot better. Tony wound up rupturing his spleen, forcing him and Shane out after four episodes. Thankfully, he's the only cast member from the car wreck that was Skeletons to appear on the Challenge. As for Camila? Despite a few moments of obnoxious behavior, I'd say she was a better reality TV personality from Brazil than Abi-Maria Gomes on Survivor: Second Chances. With that said, I fully expect Camila to take back the drama crown on Rivals III.

Jamie Banks & KellyAnne Judd

COUSIN! Looks like Cara Maria's "bloodline" got such a good taste for competition, he re-upped for a second straight stint. According to Wikipedia, Jamie and KellyAnne had a "verbal scuffle." KellyAnne will be looking to avenge her loss in the Pit to Jenna in BOTB. And speaking of whom . . .

Vince Gliatta & Jenna Compono

Jenna is not going away, is she? For the second straight season, she wound up finishing third. Unlike BOTEII, she managed to win money. The bad news is that she's stuck with Vince, who could have been partnered with any woman from BOTB because he was that annoying. Besides hanging onto his cousin's star, Vince played a big part in Blue Team's 0-6 record, and he got the nickname "Creepy Uncle Vince." I think we can come up with something better. In her recaps for, Lilit Marcus kept referring to Vince as "Plantains." I'm volunteering "Wince" to the world at large. What a pantload.

Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio & Sarah Rice-Patterson


First, let's focus on Sarah. Like I said in my last post, I expected Sarah to retire from the show after she won BOTEII with Jordan. There have been precedents for long-suffering Challengers to go out on top (Brad in Cutthroat, Paula in Rivals and Rivals II), and I wanted her to follow that path. After all, $125,000 isn't chump change. But I'm guessing that Sarah wants to supplement her income. Or maybe she's like CT and Wes, in the sense that they need the drama and the competition in their lives. I'm guessing that she was kept in the dark about the format of the latest season, because she probably wouldn't want to team with Johnny, especially after he tried to tear her down for sending him to the Dome.

As for Johnny? I hate him. This will be his thirteenth Challenge since his initial run on RW: Key West, which aired in 2006. By comparison, Aneesa has been knocking around the circuit since 2003. At least she takes some seasons off. He has won $409,043 in his "career," tops among Challengers. Can you imagine what would happen if MTV pulls the plug on this show? Johnny would be fucked. He'd wind up on the streets of Los Angeles, waving a "WILL ANNOY FOR FOOD" sign. And Puck would be pissed that he'd be on his turf. But BMP continues to enable him, giving him strong partners that allow him to coast to victory. I didn't like the finale of Free Agents being cumulative, because it would have been so easy for the times to be fudged in order to give Johnny an unprecedented fifth Challenge title over Johnny Reilly. And yes, I think Cara Maria & Jamie's win over Cory & Mitch might have been determined by the production staff to be a better finish, but not as much as with Johnny.

There is so much to loathe about "Bananas." There was the clique he was with over the course of several seasons, where he'd join assholes like Evan and Kenny (along with other questionable people like Derrick and Susie) to overwhelm the competition. If Tonya had pointed the finger at Johnny along with the other two members of the Axis of Ass for violating her, I would not have been surprised. There's the lawsuit Johnny filed against Entourage for allegedly swiping his "Johnny Bananas" shtick, while wound up going against him. There are the times where he didn't have to face an endgame because of his manipulations against an overmatched field. There are the occasions he doesn't win, where he carries on like Russell Hantz from Survivor. Speaking of which, Russell merely has his hat as his signature item . . . Johnny's got the bobblehead doll. And the "Johnny Bananas" t-shirts. And the stupid banana costume. But lots of people -- including Bill Simmons -- have partaken in the Kool-Aid when it comes to Johnny, and he's not going away anytime soon. And that pisses me off. Here's hoping Sarah tanks the missions for the purpose of having somebody stomp the Banana for good.

According to Wikipedia, Rivals III will air in May. With any luck, I won't feel compelled to blog about it.

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