Friday, May 19, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 10: Masters of Their Domain

This was not a fun episode for me. Once again, the person I identified with the most got thrown to the wolves. Also, the alpha dudes on both sides acted like assholes. And I took Rupert's ouster on Survivor: Pearl Islands to heart. Hey, there weren't heavy guys like me  on reality television at the time. Today, I see Rupert as an overrated blowhard who seldom got bad press, even when he wound up berating Lillian in the finale, and she was basically getting beaten up by most of the jury. On the bright side, I don't hate voters in Indiana for trying to elect him as their governor, since one of the alternatives was Mike Pence.

Airdate: November 24, 2003

Recap Published: November 30, 2003

After the latest mission, Adam and Mike take reign of their respective teams. Does it work out? Here’s a hint: no, it doesn’t.
I was bummed out last week. First, Steve got beat in Perfect Fit... by Trishelle, of all people. A few days later, Rupert was voted off on Survivor. Yeah, he was a bit of a pill in the end, but I identified with the big lug. As I watched the commercial for the next episode, I got a sick feeling... one of my favorite people on the show was going into the Gauntlet. And so I went into Monday night with a mixture of hope and dread. That night, I was going to be really happy... or I was going to take the worst hit since John Vito and Jill got eliminated.

Previously on The Gauntlet: Road Rules won Red Baron, upping their bank to $60,000. Coral: “Maybe we can get more than four dollars in our stupid little [bleeping] bank account.” RW put Trishelle in the Gauntlet, while Mike voted for Irulan, who felt his decision was a cop-out. Coral: “Mike is under some sort of vaginal spell.” Hate the player, love the quotes. In the Gauntlet, Trishelle upset Puzzle Master Steve. His last words? “Yeah, good for her.” I hope he gets invited to the reunion.

Telluride. Mike and Trishelle are fishing. I picked up my first rod and reel a month ago. It was fun. I even caught my first fish, a scrawny thing I threw back. Mike talks about how didn’t want a girlfriend while living in Los Angeles, because the women he met were fake. “You’re beautiful, inside and out,” Mike gushes to his girl. “You’re the girl every guy would want, but probably couldn’t get.” That made me laugh. Who has Trishelle made out with on camera? There’s Steve, Frank, Eric, and Mike. Oh, and Adam dated her off-camera. And from what I’ve heard, that’s barely chipping at the iceberg. “He makes me smile,” she interviews. “I’m just happy to have him.”

Mansion. Nathan reads the clues for the next mission: depart at 8:30 am, wear bathing suits, tennis shoes, team colors, and mouth guards.

Morning. View of an odd, ladder-type contraption. Two stuffed cats hang from the top rung. The editors pipe in some mewing, since this is a cheesy production. Jonny welcomes everybody to Inferno. The objective: to climb up the spinning ladder, rescue the cat, and climb back down in the shortest amount of time, while being sprayed with water. A few contestants question the last part. “Well,” Jonny replies, “they gotta put out the fire to save the cat.” Makes sense to me. Jonny continues to lay out the rules: every rung must be climbed. If a player drops the cat, that person is assigned the longest time plus a two minute penalty. Mike interviews that they’re not racing against each other, but against time. Jonny continues: the times will be pooled, and the team with the shortest average time wins $10,000. Also, the fastest players get the Freshlook Lifesaver, which gives them immunity from the Gauntlet. Coral expositions that RR must sit out two players. This time, it’s Cara and Adam. Why, Cara? That’s the second time in a row. I know this will come back to haunt her.

Norman vs. Darrell. Remember Darrell dissing the old guy about outrunning him? Jonny blows his airhorn and they start climb. Norman takes a slight lead. “I don’t think this is Darrell’s mission,” Theo V. interviews. “He’s scared of heights. He grew up his whole life in an one-story house. He comes from a long line of low-level people.” Reminds me of an old SNL sketch with Martin Short as a solider who can’t climb stairs. Anyway, Norman gets his kitty and hits the bottom first, clocking in at 1:09, while Darrell finishes at 1:21 and he can’t believe Norman beat him.

Abram vs. Irulan. He finishes at 0:42, she at 1:14. Veronica and Theo G. race, but we don’t see their times. Rachel R. clocks out at 0:50, faster than Coral’s 1:07. Mike and Dave shake hands before and after their race. Mike finishes at 0:50, Dave at 1:03.

Roni vs. Trishelle. Roni takes the lead early while Trishelle struggles. She interviews that she took her time since she didn’t want to drop the cat. Roni finishes at 1:04 while Trishelle stops after 1:51. Mike assures Trishelle she did good while Coral makes a sour face. RW has an average time of 1:12, while RR clocks in at 1:06.

Jonny calls up “notorious” Alton and Laterrian. Both run up the ladder, hooking their cats to belts. Alton gains a small lead while we get two shots of Laterrian skipping a rung. Cut to Jonny looking on, since you can sneak one by him the way you can sneak a rising sun past a rooster. Both sides cheer; Alton has a time of 0:41, while Laterrian finishes with 0:46. Jonny drops the hammer on Laterrian, disqualifying him for his miscue. Laterrian denies it, but Jonny and the replay shut him down. Jonny assigns the maximum time, plus the two minute penalty. New times: RW 1:08, RR 1:21. Laterrian breathes hard, knowing the bad luck that dogged him on Extreme Challenge and Battle of the Sexes has caught up to him.

Rachel B. vs Theo V. He interviews that his team is going to be fine. Rachel struggles, stuffing her cat into a pocket. Theo comes down at 0:36, Rachel at 1:28. Theo figures he did well enough to give his team a chance.

As the cats are pulled into position, we see the times: RW 1:10, RR 1:15. Dave voiceovers that it’s down to Sarah to pull out the victory. Time out. Who put Sarah in the final slot? On Campus Crawl, I saw her choke in the clutch. As much as I like her, I wouldn’t have put her in a position where she could make or break my day.

Final heat: Nathan vs. Sarah. She interviews about winning for the team, adding, “I need to make sure that they understand that I want to be here.” Nathan takes the lead immediately. Sarah breathes hard on her ascent. Nathan grabs his cat and climbs down. Sarah grabs hers and slowly goes rung by rung, holding the cat. No clipping of the cat, no stuffing into a pocket. This is as painful for me as watching Melissa struggle. Her arm goes back, and the cat falls out of her hand. Cut to the cat on the ground. Only thing missing is RW singing, “Sarah killed the cat, Sarah killed the cat.” As Nathan’s teammates hug him, Sarah has a sad look on her face.

Back from commercials, we see the final times: RW 1:08, RR 1:29. Jonny awards the $10,000 check to RW. Coral claims it and playfully keeps it away from Roni. Jonny hands out the Lifesavers to the fastest contestants: Theo V. (0:36) and Alton (0:41), He orders both teams back to the mansion to figure out who goes to the Gauntlet.

RR Meeting. Sarah apologizes for dropping the cat. There’s an awkward silence that I’m sure is edited in. She interviews: “It’s really starting to grate on my nerves that a lot of people have no respect for me as a competitor, or as a team player, or even as a person.” Theo reads the votes: Veronica with 9, Laterrian with 25, and Sarah with 26. Second vote. Laterrian interviews that he knew his name was coming up. Adam reads the votes as Sarah gets two three-pointers. Veronica: “As soon as I hear my name being brought up, it’s like ‘Oh, God, again’. Then I look around the room and try to figure out who is giving me those points.” Based on the first set of average times, I figured that Veronica came out with a time of 1:36, which was pretty slow. In other words, Little Miss Entitled should shut up. She gets one three-pointer. Darrell figures that Veronica is due, since Sarah has been to the Gauntlet twice. Cara covers her eyes, interviewing that she can’t imagine what Sarah is going through.

Theo reads the final tally: Sarah 27, Laterrian 21, Veronica 18. Sarah admits she messed up, but feels that the team doesn’t need a “Gauntlet diplomat.” Adam snots, asking her if she wants a bye. “Once you start mentally packing your bags,” she responds, “twice, and then have to do it a third time, then you can tell me how I’m supposed to feel.” Not taking a hint, Adam asks if she feels like the weakest player on the team. She replies that everybody has messed up at least once. Adam goes into a spiel about strong and weak players. Cara snaps, asking him why she’s telling Sarah that before entering the Gauntlet. “Because he doesn’t understand tact,” Sarah answers. Adam doesn’t look like he understands. Sarah: “The only motivation to come back to the team at this point is really just to shove my giant shoe up Adam’s ass.” I would pay money to see that.

Post-meeting. Darrell talks to Adam about sending Sarah to the Gauntlet with confidence. “I saw her panic and I saw her give up,” Adam sneers. “As soon as I see those things, I don’t want that person on my team.” Looks like somebody is having Jisela flashbacks. But maybe he has a point. I didn’t see Adam give up in the Inferno. Come to think of it, I didn’t see Adam in the Inferno, period. He asks what he was supposed to do. “Bite your tongue?” Dave replies. Oh, good. Ellen flashbacks. Adam stares, like the massive tool that he is.

Outside, Sarah takes a walk with Theo V. She snarks that she should have volunteered for the Gauntlet every time. Theo agrees with her about Adam’s lack of tact. He interviews that he’s on her side and she shouldn’t have to go all the time. He tells her that he wouldn’t blame her if she loses, but he hopes she wins.

RW Meeting. Alton asks if they’re going on performance to determine the voting. Coral quotes Trishelle about going back to the Gauntlet after a poor performance. Trishelle says that she never said to go from mission to mission, and while the others dropped out of Snake Soup, she stuck it out and got hypothermia. Once again: the producers want to kill their stars, I’m sure of it. Coral claims to have had only two bad missions. Not to nitpick, but I count at least four (Snake Soup, Masquerade, Mud Bath, Holey Canoe). Mike takes the floor, saying that whoever had the fastest time out of the two people he was thinking of would not get his vote. Then he says that since Coral was a little slower than Irulan, she would go to the Gauntlet. Let’s say the times were not doctored in any way. If that’s the case, Irulan was seven seconds slower than Coral. Who is Mike kidding? Trishelle chimes in, voting for Coral. Of course, she takes it well. “Mike and Trishelle miraculously came up with [my] name to throw my name in the Gauntlet,” she interviews. “I don’t know if they’re standing in front of the microwave too long, but that was a complete shock.” In quick order, everybody else votes for Trishelle (37 seconds slower than Irulan). Coral cocks an eyebrow, seemingly mocking Mike before she votes for Trishelle. She interviews that she didn’t think she would be going back to the Gauntlet, and she thought they were going by overall performance.

Outside. Coral bitches about Mike, bringing up the two missions again. She interviews that Mike should admit to not voting for Trishelle since she is his girlfriend. Irulan doesn’t think Mike has integrity and she would vote for him. “He needs to start thinking with the correct head,” Rachel B. gripes, “because he’s [bleeping] not!” Brilliant! Just then, Mizhelle comes outside. The vibe: “Cheese it, you guys!” As everybody shuts up, Mike looks around, ten seconds from Mizzing out.

After commercials, the others walk away as Coral calls Mike over. He interviews that his friendship with Coral has been a roller-coaster ever since he met her. She asks him if Trishelle is doing better than her. Mike says yes. Mike isn’t the brightest bulb, is he? Coral shakes her head. She asks, “How come everyone else sees it but you?” She interviews that Mike is totally oblivious. Eventually, he admits that it dawned on him once everybody else voted for Trishelle. Coral: “It just seems like your heart is kind of getting in the way.” Or other body parts. Hey, I’m just saying.

Gauntlet. Jonny goes into the usual spiel before bringing Trishelle and Sarah up. Trishelle says she is more nervous about battling Sarah than any guy, adding, “She might give me a run for my money.” Trishelle rolls the die and it comes up Perfect Fit. The optimism that was on the RR side when that came up last week shifts to RW. Jonny lays out the rules as we get a flashback of Trishelle taking out Steve. Sarah: “All I’m thinking in the back of my mind is. ‘I will not lose a puzzle to Trishelle.’” Jonny lays out more exposition. “It’s scary,” Mike interviews. “I can lose my girl in a matter of seconds.” As I hold back the tears, Mike and Trishelle share a kiss.

Jonny gets the players ready as they wish each other luck. For some reason, Jonny doesn’t have his trusty airhorn, so he’s forced to whistle, starting the game. Both players dive in, throwing the puzzle pieces out of the water. Trishelle gets out first while Sarah struggles. Trishelle starts working on the puzzle. Rachel R. covers her face and maybe she’s on Sarah’s side for once. Sarah finally gets out, but Trishelle is ahead of her. Both work on the puzzle. “Keep going,” Mike shouts out. “Keep playing with it. Keep playing with it.” Heh. More struggling on both sides. Irulan, Alton, and Nathan get out of their seats to watch. Sarah’s puzzle is almost complete, as she tries to cram pieces into the hole. Trishelle is still working. And finally... FINALLY!... Sarah slams the final piece. Game over.

Before I get to the celebration, let’s review what Sarah has just done:
  1. She won the Gauntlet for the third time, keeping herself in the game and making me a happy recapper in the process.
  2. She booted Trishelle from a reality show. Had she stayed, we would have had but a few precious weeks between the end of this season and the start of Inferno, as well as The Surreal Life. Now we get some breathing room away from her presence.
  3. She broke up Mizhelle, the most nauseating couple this side of Chadwick & Holly. She also delivered Mike into the somewhat sinister embrace of Coral, who is most entertaining when she has a whipping boy to call her own.
  4. She prevented an ending where Adam and his buddies get the last laugh. Honestly, I forgot what it was like to really loathe the ADD-addled dink until this episode. Adam, I know Jamie. I’ve watched Jamie. You are no Jamie. So lose the hat and shave the beard.
  5. She avenged Steve. I half-expected him to appear as a blue-tinted Jedi ghost, giving Sarah the wink and the thumbs up. Future get-togethers between those two should be fun. “Wanna play Jenga? I should win... after all, since Trishelle beat you, and I beat Trishelle, then I’m guaranteed to triumph!” At least she met one guy from The Quest who wasn’t all ego.
Back to the celebration. Sarah is mobbed by her teammates while Adam keeps away. “After everything that happened today,” she interviews, “it’s the big middle finger to a lot of people.” Cut to Adam. Sweet. “It’s awesome,” Theo V. drawls. “I think if Sarah wins the Gauntlet one more time, she should be able to take the Gauntlet home with her!” On the other side, Mike tells Trishelle that she did her best, then hugs her.

Denouement. Jonny brings up Trishelle for parting words. She leaves it at just having a good time. “Y’all don’t let it get too personal,” she says, “because everyone has friends here and we are going home after this.” Jonny asks “the undisputed queen of the Gauntlet” for her thoughts, but Sarah declines. “I’m a barnacle, man,” she interviews, “and they can do whatever they want. I’m not going anywhere.”

Mansion. Players are eating Subway sandwiches. Anybody got Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki they don’t want? Okay, just asking. Mike voiceovers that he has to tell his team that he screwed up. He apologizes to Coral, not realizing his vote was stupid until he talked with her. “Did I expect Mike to [apologize]?” Coral asks in her interview. “No, but he should have. I accept his apology. I’m just not going to make a parade of it and give him a medal or a brownie or some [bleep].” Trishelle exits, escorted by Norman. Cut to Mike, looking forlorn.

Next time: Log-rolling! Veronica bitches about one person not performing in the past three days. Laterrian volunteers to go into the Gauntlet. “I don’t want to go,” he interviews. “Nobody wants to go.” Female voice: “Way to stand up and be a man and admit to making a huge mistake.” Laterrian: “I [bleeped] up, but not as much as she did!” Cara can’t believe... something. We’ll find out about it when it happens.

Postscript: My good mood lasts less than 48 hours. I was happy for Sarah, and I was thrilled that she was able to give my Fantasy Challenge team a much-needed boost. Then I watched Survivor, where Jon played the Dead Grandma card, and I was furious all over again. Hey, I never said all my recaps would have happy endings.

Writing assignment: Which past and present Challenge players would you like to come back? Which “virgins” would you like to see again for the first time? And which RW and RR cast members would you not want polluting your TV screen ever again? E-mail me with your opinions at [redacted].


Of course, things would get worse for Sarah. On the bright side, "Mizhelle" did not last long after the season. I remember Mike going over events in the Gauntlet/Inferno special about how Trishelle caem to him before a party, told him that she was going to kiss a bunch of guys, and he wasn't supposed to get mad. Not as bad as telling people that your grandmother died for shits and giggles, but Trishelle just flat-out sucked.

Oh, and next episode? I get mad. Really mad. Just a heads-up. I know, it's stupid of me to get worked up about such things, especially in the "long long ago" era before friggin' Johnny.

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