Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 5: Rocky Roads

How do I remember this episode? Back then, I had kept in touch with Sarah. Back during her brief time on Road Rules: Campus Crawl in 2002, she posted semi-regularly on the Mighty Big TV forums (I forget when they switched names to Television Without Pity). Since I was neurotic and not liking any of the cast members (except maybe for Kendall's coat, which was rad), we shared occasional  correspondence. Before this episode, Sarah told me that several BMP personalities were going to tend bar at Calico Jack's on 42nd St. and Second Avenue in Manhattan. Funny enough, I had been in that area before, back when I was visiting talk shows to write about, and I sat on a taping of Judge Mills Lane. That's the guy who decided the contested mission in Extreme Challenge. I don't remember if Sarah would be who was coming. If she did, I was good with it, because there wasn't an overt bitch or asshole in the bunch.

The big problem? I was sick. Very sick. Not hallucinating Emily Bailey coming at me with a bloody axe sick, but I wasn't at my peak. I went anyway, on the day after this episode aired, and I had fun. Since I was (and still am) awkward, I didn't chat up people too much. At that often, I had gone to three TARCons (the post-season finale party celebrating The Amazing Race) and had met "celebrities," but it still felt like walking through a wall. I can remember Roni (perhaps the most underexposed two-time Challenge winner ever) dancing on the bar. And the Antoine tried it, but he was pulled down because only women were allowed to do that. I met Sarah in-person, chatted up Elka, and got to talk with Steve, whom I had also kept in contact with, along with his girlfriend. I had my picture taken with him, but I lost it. Oh, and I saw Rachel Braband up-close. The girl was tall. At least 5'10" in sneakers. I liked her on Real World: Back to New York. She couldn't compare as an ingenue to Julie, but I felt she was cool.

Enough reminiscing. Onto the recap . . . 

Airdate: October 20, 2003
Recap Published: October 27, 2003

Do you scream for ice cream? Or one cast member’s return to the Gauntlet? How about Matt busting a move? Read on, and stay away from dairy products.
Well, this past week has been eventful. I’ve been sick. Really sick. Road Rules: South Pacific sick. Also, this past Wednesday, I went to a bar in Manhattan, where several cast members were taking turns bartending. This is all that I can say for now: you have not lived until you’ve seen Antoine dance on a bar alongside some hot women, Coyote Ugly-style. Seriously, the guy is as much fun in person as he was on Battle of the Sexes.

Previously on The Gauntlet: Road Rules won Mudbath, increasing their bank to $20,000. Tonya hobbled with her bulky leg brace. Rachel B. interviews that the Real World team is bruised and broken. In footage we didn’t see last time, Nathan gets pissy, and Coral yells for somebody to shut up. BMP skips past Steve’s win in Perfect Fit, showing Tonya going home. Trishelle reminds us that she is Katie’s roommate, and they’re best friends. Katie doesn’t think too highly of her team.

Mountain shots. The Road Rules women are sunbathing. Rachel R. has a problem with Katie telling Real World about voting strategy. Basically, the secret of the “three two one” must be as closely guarded as nuclear reactor plans or the mystery of the seven herbs and spices at KFC. “Some of the people have a problem with me hanging out with Real Worlders,” Katie interviews. “I’m not stupid. I don’t want them to win. I like them better, but I don’t want them to win.” Tina tells Katie that the mistrust separates her from the others. Cara chimes in about how she was lying on the floor with “my boyfriend” when she heard Katie talking to Alton and Irulan about the voting. Scandalous! Rachel interviews that she’s trying to sabotage the team. “If Katie does not stop running her mouth,” she adds, “she will go to The Gauntlet.” Once again: has Rachel forgotten her experiences with Emily? And to think I felt bad for her back then. Katie insists she wasn’t trying to screw anybody over.

Night. Elka reads the clues off the mission phone: 7:30 a.m., wear team colors, bathing suits, sweaters, sweatpants, and sneakers. Norman wonders if they can bring their wheelchairs, canes and walkers. He interviews, “I have never had this many bruises, scrapes, scabs, and stitches since seventh grade.” Trishelle holds some ice over her eye. Elka interviews that the team is completely depressed, but they have to put on a good face for the missions.

Daytime in Telluride, outside a place called The Sweet Life. Jonny welcomes everybody to I Scream, which is “just a good ol’-fashioned ice cream eating contest.” Everybody cheers, which means that their local leaks were dead-on, if Sarah’s recaps are to be believed. “I’m excited, because it’s better then eating something nasty,” Roni interviews. “I’d rather eat ice cream any day.” They leave out the part where she remembers the days when the RV had no engine and five people had to push it cross-country.

Jonny spells out the objective: first team to finish their ice cream sundae wins. The catch? No utensils; they have to eat with their hands tied because their backs. Nathan is still wearing his dot-com shirt, and Steve still has his “Rozelle” headband on. Jonny adds that only four players can eat at one time, and throwing up results in disqualification. Throw in some nasty cow parts, and this is a Campus Crawl mission. Oh, and the winning team gets $10,000 to bank.

The players walk into the ice cream shop. Matt interviews that RW has three less people, adding, “We have got to set some momentum, or otherwise this is going to be a blowout.” Cut to a shot of one of the massive ice cream sundaes. I miss ice cream. It sucks to be sick. The players come in with their swimsuits and wool hats. They look like dorks, to be honest. “I’m not really sure how much ice cream I’m gonna be able to store,” Theo V. interviews. “My head’s already filled with two scoops of snot.” I think I got three right now. More players enter. Tina interviews about thinking she’s in heaven when she saw the ice cream. Did any of these people watch Campus Crawl? Food in a mission is never a good thing.

Jonny sounds the airhorn and everybody starts to dig in. Roni interviews that the strategy for Road Rules is to rotate with two men and two women. Cara adds that the idea is to take a big bite, then step back. Norman’s face is covered in whipped cream. He interviews about the three-person disadvantage, adding “once again, we have to man up and do it.” Elapsed time: six minutes. Norman looks like he’s smoothing the ice cream with his chin. “I don’t know what happened to me,” he interviews. “I just turned into a raging eating psycho machine.” Jonny yells that RW is barely ahead. Theo V. interviews that the current strategy might be losing the RR time some time.

Elapsed time: 9:00. Some crap comes out of Adam’s nose. Theo V. has a vanilla beard to go with the Santa hat. Cara interviews that some people are becoming ill. Laterrian has a streamer of caramel coming out of his nose. That’ll make you lactose intolerant. “I’m a complete germophobe,” Rachel B. interviews. “The thought of ingesting ice cream that’s been sucked in the nose and blown out the mouth makes me want to throw up.” Alton pukes up some chocolate. Tina thought it was going to be fun, but now, “this is the grossest thing I’ve ever partaken in.” Adam looks ready to throw up.

More eating. Nathan uses his forehead to smooth things out. He has Rocky Road up his nose, chocolate chip cookie dough in his ear, and fudge down his throat. Elasped time: 13:00. I feel bad for Trishelle. A concussion and an ice cream headache can’t be a good combination. Both plates are almost clean. “We have three less bellies in there,” Irulan interviews, “and we’re still holding our own.” The screen splits in two as we go into commercial.

Coming back, Jonny blows his airhorn, signaling a win for Road Rules. “That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever done,” Theo V. says. “It was like disappearing from this world that I know, into this dark, cold mint chocolate world.” Does anything this boy says get cut? Theo G. grouses that RW has lost three missions in a row and something has to change. Just like in Campus Crawl, the puke bucket gets passed around. These people won’t be eating at Baskin-Robbins anytime soon.

Jonny congratulates RW for their performance, then he awards the $10,000 check to RR. Steve accepts it, wearing a Santa hat. A few people rush off to purge themselves. “I can’t stress enough how much I don’t like sharing germs,” Rachel B. interviews, “but to share germs and not get $10,000? Give me a break.” Jonny gives both teams 30 minutes to figure out who’s going to The Gauntlet.

Mansion. Real World Meeting. Nathan doesn’t want to send another male, pointing out every guy he saw had ice cream coming out of the nose. He leaves out Matt for some reason. Irulan interviews that the vote is based on performance and team dynamics. Alton agrees with Nathan, but Coral thinks the girls are getting picked on. “These teams are co-ed for a reason,” Irulan offers. “If we keep sacrificing the girls, at some point that’s gonna pull the team down.” Coral swears that there’s a check on the wall and that Elka got it. “I think it should be even,” Coral interviews. “I don’t necessarily think that automatically because I have two nipples, that I should be going to the Gauntlet.” I’m sure men have two nipples as well, Coral. Let’s go to the medical place to check.

Now Coral asks Matt what he thinks. Soundtrack: “Careful what you choose.” A better option would’ve been Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi shouting, “It’s a trap! Call back the fleet!” Matt suggests Elka for her injured knee. Wrong answer, blondie. Elka interviews that she’s very offended that he put her name out there. “If things continue on the way that they’re going with Matt,” she adds, “I think he might be the next one on the chopping block.”

Rachel understands where Coral is coming from, saying that RR still has seven guys. Theo adds that out of those voted off, David’s departure hurt the worst, and it might be the same if another guy loses. Coral suggests sending a girl. Nathan asks Rachel what she thinks, adding that she is the strongest and most limber girl that RW has. Honestly, I can’t see her as the strongest. Tallest? For sure. She’s a blonde beanstalk. Rachel says she’ll go to the Gauntlet if they want her. Mike lifts his head dramatically. Nathan keeps buttering her up, saying that she would win. Rachel thinks she has a chance, and just like that, another of my favorite people gets put into jeopardy. It was so much easier last season, when I only worried about Melissa and she was never put into peril. “Nobody wants to feel like they’re being sacrificed,” Rachel interviews, “but my team needs somebody to step up, and that person’s going to be me.”

Road Rules meeting. Dave interviews that nobody wants to have their feeling hurt. Cara starts reading off votes. Darrell goes over the “three two one” procedure for those of us just tuning in. Tina has 14 points, Abram has 16, and Katie has 23. Okay, so I won’t have a Sarah/David “lose/lose” Gauntlet this week. “Being sacrificed to the Gauntlet is a scary thought to me,” Tina interviews. “I know I can handle it, but I don’t like the intensity of proving myself to my team members.” Poor girl. It’s not as easy as last time, where she tried to shred Mary-Beth’s self-esteem and was immune from the vote. Darrell reads off the votes. He reveals that he gave Abram a three for his two disqualifications, trying to give him a wake-up call. “When it comes down to the end,” Darrell adds, “we can’t be having those foul-up mistakes over no $150,000, because I’m gonna be hot.” Rachel R. interviews that Katie isn’t helping the team. “At this point, she really doesn’t care anymore,” she adds. Katie thinks that those who have already been to the Gauntlet shouldn’t immediately go back, and maybe the team wants her gone. Cut to a shot of Veronica and Rachel. Back home, Emily absently polishes her bloody axe.

Adam adds up the votes and announces that Katie is going into the Gauntlet. Katie is blasé this time, interviewing that she dealt with the dramatics last time. She asks the team to keep their distance from her should she win. “If they keep voting me,” she interviews, “I don’t wanna be a part of this team anyways.”

Gauntlet Site. Jonny welcomes everybody and goes over the obvious: winner stays, loser goes back home, doomed to work for The Man. Mike has his arms around Rachel’s shoulders. Once again, I dig the intra-season love. Jonny calls up “Rachel B.,” which makes me feel vindicated. It would be too easy to just say “Skinny Hetero Rachel” and “Muscular Lesbian Rachel.” The RW side breaks out the noisemakers as Rachel walks up with a smile. Katie gets cheers from her side as she’s called up. Since RR won I Scream, Katie rolls the die, which comes up Hangman. Jonny expositions for those of us who didn’t watch Battle of the Seasons: both players hang on to a trapeze over the water. The person who holds on the longest wins.

Katie interviews that Rachel is competitive but not physically strong, and she feels confident even though she’s half Rachel’s size. It also doesn’t hurt that Katie beat Rachel in oil wrestling during “Duel In The Desert” two years ago. Yes, I remember that. Yes, I’m sad. Meanwhile, Nathan, who looks a little like Puck, offers encouragement to Rachel. “She’s not gonna hang on long,” he tells her. “She’s an Oompa-Loompa.” Next to Rachel, isn’t every girl an Oompa-Loompa? Melissa and Ruthie would be Oompa-Loompa children by comparison. Rachel thinks she can beat Katie, adding “Her little ass is going home!” Wow. You go, aggressive Rachel.

Jonny yells for both players to go. I guess he lost his airhorn. Katie and Rachel dive into the pool, grabbing the trapezes, which slowly rise. The camera zooms on Rachel, as she drops a little, her face frozen in a stunned way, as we go into commercial.

We get a replay of Rachel’s look, which translates to, “What the hell did I get myself into?” Nathan yells nonstop encouragement as Rachel relaxes, as does Katie. Rachel interviews about going into the zone. Katie closes her eyes, struggling with her trapeze. She interviews that her bar is already wet and her hands are slippery. She starts kicking, really struggling, before dropping into the pool. Game over. RW celebrates not losing somebody. Rachel drops into the water, getting pulled out by her teammates. “We need a turnaround,” she interviews, “and I’m really excited that I can be the person who gave the team that.” On the other side, the RR team looks glum, particularly Tina.

Jonny announces that Rachel won and Katie is going home. “It’s better off that she goes than she stays and gives away our strategies,” Rachel R. interviews. “We need people that need to be part of the team.” Yeah, heaven forbid Katie should stay. She’d give away the recipe for Coke if she worked there. Katie is embarrassed, saying she never experienced this in her life. Jonny reviews that RR still has 13 people left, while RW has 11. “Rachel gave The Real World hope,” Matt interviews. “We needed hope. No one else is going home. That’s how it’s gonna work.”

Mansion. Katie packs up as Trishelle watches. Katie figures that Abram should have been in there instead of her. “This game is not fair,” Trishelle tells her. “It’s not designed to be, and it’s never going to be.” She interviews that she wants her team to win, but wants her best friend to stay. Hey, maybe Trishelle could invite Katie to The Surreal Life house. Double date with Vanilla Ice and Ron Jeremy!

Departure. Katie wishes her team luck. “Play a little bit more fair,” she interviews. “Stop sending the same people into the Gauntlet. Hopefully, I’ll hang out with some of you again. Hopefully, some of you I’ll never see again.” Cut to black and white shot of Veronica and Rachel R. I’m starting to wish for a steel cage death match with Veronica and Rachel versus Katie and Emily.

Restaurant. RR table. Theo V. feels the momentum is going their way. Adam admits the team is more streamlined without Katie. “The best thing we can do for our team is keep each other around,” he interviews. “If you don’t win, it sucks. If you lose a teammate, it’s the worst.” Rachel R. chimes in that without Katie, the team is more united. She adds, “Now, I don’t really think there’s anybody we’re worried about.”

Nighttime. Bar. Lots of dancing cast members. No Antoine though, so I think I got them beat. Mike interviews that winning the Gauntlet improved morale. Matt... oh, sweet mercy. Matt is dancing. If you’ve ever watched his season, you know Matt dancing is an event, with all of his spastic movements. And he’s having so much fun with it. “Finally, the Real World doesn’t suck!” he interviews with gusto. “We’re not just a bunch of spoiled brats picked to live in a mansion! But gosh darn it, we won something!” He’s such a goober, but he’s a cute goober. At the bar, Coral and Elka apparently look at Matt busting a move. Elka interviews that she’s upset about Matt putting her name out. He was asked for his opinion, he gave it, so what’s the problem? “I think that she has a bad taste in her mouth,” Coral interviews, “and he is going down!” The ladies clink their glasses.

Next time: Rowing! There are holes in the canoes. I start looking for Osten to stand in front, weighing his team down. At the RW meeting, Mike calls Coral a weak link, and thinks she should go into the Gauntlet. She stalks off... and cries. Coral cries. Sobs about Mike being her homie to Alton, who needs to light up a cigarette while she bawls. Should be a fun episode.

 First of all, Katie made Challenge history by being the first person to engage in two endgames. Like I said last time, we would be seeing more of her in the future. Secondly, if you had to dive for old footage, you HAVE to see Matt dancing, either on this season or RW: New Orleans. Truth be told, none of those cast members could pull it off, but Matt and Julie were especially tragic. One sad thing is that I can't get Sarah's recaps via Archive.org. The mission was more gross than we can imagine. If I recall correctly, there was a point that didn't make the cut where Roni was screaming at a teammate to spit ice cream in her mouth. She had game. There would be moments where she shined, but this was one we should have seen on television.

You know something sad? I saw Sarah again last summer, and I was still squirrely around her. I don't think it's a "celebrity" thing, even though it's been a while since I've gone to TARCon, and I can't remember interacting with anybody from BMP after that night in 2003. She was acting in the Fringe Festival, and there was an afterparty. And it took me forever to get to her, because I was nervous. I don't identify that greatly with BMP folks aside from Sarah and Melissa, and I acted like a dope meeting them. She probably remembered me and was cool. I am happy that she found a path after her two stints on BMP (three if you count the intraseason clash in RR: South Pacific). After the grief Sarah endured, I'd say she earned some happiness.

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