Friday, March 10, 2017

Tussle in Telluride: A Preview to Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet

Here is the lead-in story I wrote before watching the preview special of The Gauntlet. You'll see that I had hopes for some of these people. This would be the last season where we'd see a sane Tonya. On the other hand, I was dead-on in my assessment of Tina. And I may have been too excited to trade in Puck for Coral and Mike. This was written on September 22, 2003, which might have been on the same day when Showdown at the Real World/Road Rules Corral aired.

It’s time once again for a new Real World/Road Rules Challenge to begin. Join Jason as he discusses what the newest challenge will entail and who will be competing for the big money prizes.
When I finished up my tour with Battle of the Sexes, I figured to recap the following season should I not have a life of my own. Well, aside from a freelance gig with a local newsweekly, I have nothing going on. Bad for me, good for you.

Since the final episode of Sexes, reality fans have had their fill of disheartening moments. Jenna won Survivor, CBS renewed Big Brother before The Amazing Race, and an Osbourne dog got fake-killed. Reality Wrap-Up showed us how not to do a recap show and Dat Phan showed us he was more obsessed about his mother than Norman Bates was about his. Over in the land of Bunim-Murray Productions, Real World: Paris took a leap away from its immediate predecessor, Las Vegas. But that isn’t saying much. On the other hand, Road Rules: South Pacific managed to blend in lovely locales with some of the worst people BMP ever unearthed. And guess what? I have to deal with four of them.

But enough dwelling in the past. MTV and BMP have decided to milk the sponsors by holding back-to-back Challenges. The Gauntlet starts on September 29. The next Challenge should be filming soon and will air early next year. My job is to chronicle the events as they unfold. That, and to put the hammer down upon those who displease me. I know it’s not healthy to project internal angst, but I just can’t help it.

The Location

BMP has left the exotic scenery of Cancun and Jamaica for Telluride, Colorado. MTV will have you believe it’s a wonderful rustic place to dump the contestants. Truth is, it wasn’t the first choice. There were a few towns in Rhode Island that BMP wanted to invade, but the residents did everything but make with the torches and pitchforks. Thanks to the delay, some contestants had to bail out of the show due to personal conflicts.

The Competition

This time, there’s no scoring system, and the Inner Circle has been junked. The Gauntlet harkens back to old-school Challenges, where results were determined by teams, as opposed to single players and duos. The contestants are split between Real World and Road Rules as they compete in 16 missions. The winning team in each of the first 15 missions receives $10,000, which is split up upon completion of the show. The final mission has a $150,000 prize. In other words, this is not a winner-take-all event. The “losing” team can go home with a nice chunk of change.

The Gauntlet

After each mission, each team votes for one person. The two players then engage in the Gauntlet, a mini-mission just for them. The winner stays, while the loser has to depart. Such a format is filled with possibilities. Would a team vote on somebody who is a weak link? A loose cannon? Or would the strongest person be selected for the purpose of wiping out the opposing player, making things tougher for the other side in future missions?

The Host

Once again, Jonny Moseley, the sleepy-eyed champion moguls skier, will take hosting duties. He doesn’t bring anything to the table the way Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan does. On the other hand, he’ll be a lot more comfortable without Colin drooling all over him.

The Players

Out of the 28 assembled (down from 36 in Sexes), only six appeared on their shows before 2000. For almost half of them, this is their first Challenge.

The Real World

Hard to believe that RW teams were once considered pushovers. They defeated their adversaries in Extreme Challenge and Battle of the Seasons. In Battle of the Sexes, four of the last six players hailed from RW.

Norman Korpi (New York): BMP seems to be fond of alternating between snarky gay guys, as Norman takes Dan’s place once again. While he might not be the physical specimen like Eric, Norman did hang tough in his last Challenge, staying on with Becky until they were both ousted in the final elimination round. Another advantage Norman has: party-planning skills. Remember the toga party he thought up in Cancun?

Elka Walker (Boston): Formed the top RW duo with Sean in Seasons, winning $50,000 and two Saturns in the process. The former ingenue broke up with her longtime boyfriend, Walter the Irish rocker, so she’s single and free to mingle.

Montana McGlynn (Boston): Why is she back? She’s known for two things: getting bawled out by boyfriend Vaj after she saw another guy (“Whooooorree!!” is oft-repeated in the forums), and for getting fired after allowing kids to sip on wine. Her previous Challenge experience five years ago wasn’t much better. From her bio, she seems to have recovered nicely, but who knows how well she can fare here?

Nathan Blackburn (Seattle): Think of him as the middle between fan-favorite David and world-class loser Slappy Stephen. His previous Challenge experience wasn’t quite as impressive, as his team lost four of five missions.

David Broom (New Orleans): Oh, yes. In his season, he was a headache-inducing playa, giving his roommates fits. In Sexes, he attempted to broker a peace between Puck and David Edwards, and he got cuddly with Ayanna. David seeks to rebound from last time, after going a mere four rounds. Whether he’ll lapse back to his “woo woo” ways remains to be seen.

Matt Smith (New Orleans): Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the whitest boy on Earth. He loves breakdancing, Camaros, mullet-hunting, and God. Doesn’t seem as physical impressive as David or Jamie... but if skinny, acrophobic Danny could win in Seasons, then there’s hope for Matt. I just hope he doesn’t go the way of Chadwick and JoAnna, playing the God card every five minutes.

Coral Smith (Back to New York): In case you don’t know, here’s the deal: If you’re good to her, she’s your best friend. If you’re nasty, you will experience the Great Coral Grief. Did not expect her to perform as well as she did in Seasons. If she rubs the wrong people in the wrong way, she might be Gauntlet-bound.

Mike Mizanin (Back to New York): Ah, yes... The Miz. Did well in Seasons, but was tantrum-prone when things didn’t go his way. He’s a doofus, but he’s got the athletic skills and the credentials. Whatever relationship he had with Tara is over, so he might hook up again. I really hope I don’t see “The Miz” again, save for wrestling. Fun fact: he’s 0-1-1 in televised matches that count... and the guy that beat him is here.

Rachel Braband (Back to New York): The tall ingenue from 2001. She came off as somewhat immature during her season. On the other hand, I related to her a lot more than the others, so I’ve got a soft spot for her. I’ve heard that she’s matured a lot, so maybe we won’t have her punctuate a semi-indecent act with “My mahm’s gonna KILL me!”

Theo Gantt (Chicago): Doesn’t he have a life? Well, better him being here than big-headed Kyle. Anyway, Theo was rocking hard in Sexes until he messed up on the stirrups course, sending him to the bottom of the men’s standings and out of Jamaica.

Tonya Cooley (Chicago): After coming off as one of the more loathed cast members of her seasons (no small feat considering she lived with Cara and Kyle), Tonya turned at least 90 degrees on her way to 180. We have no idea how far she would have gotten if she didn’t hurt herself. She could be the sleeper in this pack.

Alton Williams (Las Vegas): Ugh, couldn’t BMP have forgotten last year entirely? Anyway, here’s what I know of Alton: he plays the violin, he’s got a larger-than-average “eighth roommate,” and he got in a threesome in Australia... we think. He’s still with Irulan, and they’re the official RW couple.

Irulan Wilson (Las Vegas): She was the one with the nose-piercing, and Arissa was the one who looked half-racoon. Irulan’s claim to fame came last year, when she out-wrestled Rachel. I’m still baffled as to how that happened.

Trishelle Canatella (Las Vegas): Yeah... her. At least Steven isn’t with her... I don’t know how much of that I could stand. She’s got connections to The Quest; Katie is her roommate, and she used to go out with Adam. As luck would have it, they’re both in this Challenge.

Road Rules

They’ve lost the last two RW/RR Challenges, and only Mark and Ellen lasted until the very end in Sexes. The most recent plus is that RR is beating RW in the ratings. That’s the Seventh Sign to me. Come on, people! RW has funky people, like Ace the manchild and uberneurotic Adam! If RR is the most-watched show, then Donell wins.

Roni Martin (Northern Trail): If you ask who she is, then you never saw her season, which I feel was the best. She was a member of the overachieving RR squad that schooled RW five years ago. Expect minimal drama, maximum effort.

Veronica Portillo (Semester at Sea): This is her third consecutive Challenge, her fourth in the past five seasons. She got screwed over big-time by Emily and her whipped Inner Circle accomplices, Ellen and Ruthie. Hopefully, she’s stayed away from reality show guys, lest a girlfriend decides to pick up Emily’s bloody axe.

Laterrian Wallace (Maximum Velocity Tour): Nobody listens to me. “Don’t come back,” I told him. “You’ve never fared well on BMP shows. You’ll look like a fool if you return.” Without a points system and an accompanying gentlemen’s agreement, Laterrian could go far. He’ll be around to provide the “hoo-rah!” and “Ride or [Oedipus Rexing] die!”

Theo Vonkurnatowski (Maximum Velocity Tour): Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the alpha male. In Seasons, he overachieved with partner Holly, hooked up with Becky and Coral, and looked good doing it. His dopey sayings make him a fan favorite. Given that there’s another redneck guy with questionable tastes, Theo might find himself as a mentor before this Challenge is over.

Adam Larson (The Quest): The good: he’s a hard-core athlete, going as far as to compete in Eco-Challenge, which makes Survivor look like a picnic. The bad: his ADD made him insufferable on his season. We couldn’t quite gauge him in Seasons, since he was shackled to underachieving Jisela and was knocked off quickly. From the cast photos, he seems to have inherited Jamie’s “outlaw” persona, with beard and cowboy hat.

Katie Doyle (The Quest): The first substitute in the show’s history, filling in for Jisela. Came off kind of bland compared with the other ladies (drama queen Ellen, unathletic Jisela, out-of-the-closet Sophia). She’s also Trishelle’s roommate... imagine if they were pitted in the Gauntlet. In the RW10/RR10 Face-Off, she survived getting mummified overnight with Adam and she pinned Rachel to clinch the win, so she knows a few things about pressure.

Steve Meinke (The Quest): On Television Without Pity, we had a running gag about his lack of screen time. We called him “HiSteve,” since we always forgot about him. Truth is, he’s too funny to be ignored. Check out his travelogues with Blair and his audition tape. He might be overshadowed by Adam, but remember this: Steve was the one who took the Miz down. Could he do that again?

Darrell Tayler (Campus Crawl): There are two sides to Darrell. On the one hand, the aspiring Olympic boxer talks like he’s taken too many blows to his unprotected head. Remember when he got the sex ed questions wrong and he had to smear skunk poop on his face? On the other hand, he masterminded the prank that culminated with Steven getting handcuffed to a rail, and he managed to take Chris out of the recent RR contest.

Rachel Robinson (Campus Crawl): Another victim of Emily. While she’s the de facto strongwoman, her poor performance in Sexes, combined with her loss to Irulan last year, might make her expendable once again.

Sarah Greyson (Campus Crawl): I’m getting some major Melissa vibes from her. Sarah was miscast, screwing up missions and finding ways to hurt herself... like the double clip at the Citadel. In the recent Face-Off, she was caught napping by South Pacific and taken out of the game. But I still like her better than anybody else from her season. I just don’t think she’ll go the distance.

Abram Boise (South Pacific): He makes for an interesting study. At first, he came off as misogynist, racist, and psychotic. Then he became Christena’s friend and he looked like he was making a change. But Donell couldn’t shut his mouth, and Abram couldn’t stop his temper. He’s had a few months to think about his actions. Will he make the turnaround, like Ruthie? Or will he sink further, like Stephen and Puck? One thing’s for sure: if he acts like an idiot around the others (Coral in particular), he’ll be going home.

Cara Zavaleta (South Pacific): Miscast as a Roadie, Cara whined her way out of the show. This was doubly bad, as Donell got to stay and Tina was inflicted on the viewing audience. Without a cramped RV, Cara could go far in the game. Then again, Jisela was in splendor the past two seasons, and she didn’t get far at all.

Dave Giutoli (South Pacific): He’s the guy I hate the least from his season. Not as much of an competitor as Abram, but his personality is better. According to, he’s going out with Cara. Not sure if that’s a step up from Mary-Beth, but at least it’s not Tina.

Tina Barta (South Pacific): Hate her. Despise her. While staggering around blindfolded in an obstacle course, the usually non-savvy editors piped in “Who Invited You”? by the Donnas. She became fast friends with Donell, decides that Mary-Beth sucks, and generally came off as a bad teammate. My favorite Tina moment was when she blew the spelling bee against Shane in the Face-Off. Mark my words: the longer she’s there, the worse off this show will be.

Final Thoughts

The Gauntlet will provide the usual about of drama and chaos that is typical in a Challenge. Already, I’ve heard gossip of a new hookup that disturbs me, and a Big Brother-like twist. If anything, I recommend watching along with me. For every Beth, there comes an ass-kicking Ruthie. For every Puck, there comes a funny Belgian named Antoine. For all the headaches I suffered recapping the past season, there were a lot of great moments, and this year should be no different.

Much as Tinkerbelle lives for applause, Jason Borelli lives for feedback. E-mail him at his new address: [REDACTED]

The sad part is that I never got e-mail . .. at least that I can remember. For the heck of it, I clicked the link in Steve's profile, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the travelogues he and Blair wrote on were accessible. Sadly, I couldn't find Steve's audition tape, which included his appearance on The Price Is Right. Anyway, keep a look out for the recaps. I'll try to squeeze some in next week.

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