Friday, May 26, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 11: Oedipus Rex

Spoiler Warning: This is a brutal episode.

I don't know if I can be impartial with reality television, in the sense that there's usually people I root for, and then there are folks I'd fall into an open manhole. And, of course, I would take sides with The Challenge.

In retrospect, I can see why members of the Road Rules teams wanted Sarah off. She was a scrub on RR: Campus Crawl. She didn't have much of a good time in her brief stint on the show. Shit, she probably would have been cast on The Real World, but that was the season in Las Vegas, and she was under 21. And even if she did make the cut, she probably would have taken Brynn's slot and had to deal with the likes of Steven and Trishelle. Basically, she was a downer. And you know what? So was I. Still am in many ways. I don't root for that many people on shows that hard, but I can be heavily invested when I do. I related to Sarah more than most of the gang from The Gauntlet, so -- of course -- she would be in constant peril. To me, it was a karmic price to pay for Melissa (somebody I REALLY liked) lasting almost the full length of Battle Of The Sexes.

As you'll see in the first few paragraphs, I was mad before the episode aired. For somebody who doesn't drink alcohol, this was "pregaming" for me. And most of these people did NOT disappoint when it came to pissing me off. If you roll your eyes and think I should have gotten a life by then, you'd probably be right. But I had favorites, and I stuck with them.

Airdate: December 1, 2003
Recap Published: December 6, 2003

The title is a ten-letter substitution for a twelve-letter phrase which can't be said in an RNO recap. After you read what happens between Sarah and her teammates, you'll probably be muttering that as well.
I should have seen it coming. Wait a second... I did see it coming.

So there I am late Friday night, waist-deep in MTV dreck, trying to find a commercial for the latest episode. I sifted through one of the "Sunday Stew" shows... you know, the one with the guy from Jackass. Or maybe it was the other one with the guy from Jackass. Finally, I found what I was looking for, and I wished I hadn't. Rachel B. and Sarah, best of friends, were going into the Gauntlet.

It wasn't just that two of my favorites were going to battle each other to stay in Telluride. In fact, from the extended teaser that aired after the first episode, I figured this would happened. I just wanted to live in denial. This wasn't the first time MTV spoiled things... they had aired clips of Elka/Cara and Trishelle/Sarah. I heard a rumor that Bunim and Murray were selling their long-running franchises to a major network, so maybe that's why MTV is doing this. They got enough non-BMP shows on their own, so why would they act like spoiled brats now?

Oh, and I knew Sarah was going to win. Colin Mortensen, one of the big winners from Battle of the Sexes, had interviewed Nathan for show recaps. Nathan revealed that Road Rules would send in one of their players a fixed number of times. Because I don't want to spoil any of you, I won't reveal how many. But it became obvious that he was talking about Sarah and that she would win in the Gauntlet for a fourth time. Sadly, Colin erased all of the current recaps, citing that the show "bores the sh*t out of me and is a waste of my time and energy." I learned two things from Colin: we're obviously watching different shows and he didn't buy class with his $50,000.

So, as I grimly plopped myself down to watch the latest debacle, one question remained: who was gonna piss me off tonight? Previously on The Gauntlet: A dog on a bench? That's random. Anyway, while the guys and girls partied, Rachel B. and Sarah became friends. In Inferno, Laterrian skipped two rungs, getting disqualified. Real World won, upping their bank account to $30,000. Adam went into his "stronger and weaker" spiel after voting Sarah into the Gauntlet. Sarah interviewed that she can't agree about sending somebody over and over and still not seeing any positive attributes. She then won her third Gauntlet. "They can do whatever they want," she said. "I'm not going anywhere."

Breakfast time. Theo V. drawls about the truth being sugar-coated. Sarah jokingly asks if he's voting her into the Gauntlet today and he tells her yes. Gallows humor seems to be the only kind of humor she has nowadays. Theo tells Abram that she lives in the Gauntlet. She interviews that she's been signing things, "Queen of the Gauntlet." Ouch. "I already own this season," she tells Theo. "It's called `Me and My Gauntlet.'" She's so jovial, she does her own rimshot on the table.

Mission site. Norman sees two logs above the pool. Jonny welcomes everybody to Rolling On a River. The objective: to test endurance and agility. Roni expositions that this is a "motorized log rolling competition." Jonny continues: last player standing wins $10,000 for the team, and the remaining players from each team get the Freshlook Lifesaver, which keeps them out of the Gauntlet. The rules: once a player falls off, that person is eliminated, even if pulled off. There's a cut to Laterrian after Jonny says that.

Preparations. Both teams suit up. Abram jokes about not grabbing teammates while falling. Alton tells his team to jump off right before getting thrown. Irulan interviews that RW has to keep the momentum going. What momentum? They haven't gotten consecutive mission wins yet.

Both teams slowly walk on their logs. For some reason, the editors pipe in Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl." Jonny blows the airhorn. I see guys in striped shirts, so I'm guessing they'll be keeping things kosher. Soon, the RR log lurches forward, and four players fall off, while the others regain their composure. Out: Laterrian, Dave, Darrell, and Sarah. "Laterrian wallops me," Sarah interviews, "and claws me off this log." Cut to instant replay, with a sky view and spot shadow. Sure enough, Laterrian does knock her off. Sarah: "And that sucks." Oh, you have no idea.

Both teams try to keep balanced. Mike interviews that RR is more nervous and his team will win. Rachel B. drops into the water. She interviews that she fell off way too fast. "I beat out four Road Rulers," she continues, "but I'm the first one to go, and I'm the only one to go, and I go off on nothing."

More balancing. New tune: "Fall Back Down" by Rancid. Both teams dance on the logs. Veronica takes a dip. More balancing. Three RW players fall. From above the pool, one of them looks dangerously close to bonking his head on the RR log. Rachel R. falls. The three RWs are identified: Alton, Irulan, and Theo G. Theo interviews that his footwork was good, but he slipped. Mike voiceovers that it's down to Coral, Nathan, Norman, and himself. Theo V. shouts "Hoo-RAH!" As Adam repeats it, Theo slips and falls. This gives Mike great pleasure. "Boom!" he laughs in an interview. "Right into the water! Funniest thing I've ever seen in my life!"

More rolling. Coral slips and falls, followed by Adam. Nathan curses as he plunges, quickly followed by Norman. Cara takes a dip. Don't ask me where Abram went. So it comes down to a battle between Mike and Roni. Mike grins while Roni concentrates. She voiceovers that she's not tired. "I'm the only one left," Mike interviews, "so this is all on me... which I love."

After commercials, Mike and Roni are keeping pace. Mike gripes about Roni being in the zone and how it pisses him off. Roni voiceovers that she has to keep the pace. Darrell interviews that Mike "looks like a troll walking over a mountain," and he doesn't give Roni a chance for winning. More rolling. Mike starts to lose his balance. Coral from the sidelines: "Come on Mike! IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou!" But it's too late, as Mike falls over. RR celebrates, lifting Roni up in their arms. If there's any bright spot in this episode, it's her. "It's really good to see Roni shine," Veronica echoes my sentiments. "She's a quiet person, and we don't really see this whole side of her." Mike gets support from his team. "I did the best that I could," he says, "and my best wasn't good enough today."

Jonny awards the $10,000 to RR, giving them a $70K-$30K edge over RW. Roni happily accepts the check. "It feels so good to win one," she interviews. "It makes me feel like I deserve to be on the team." Jonny awards the Lifesavers to Roni and Mike. Have you noticed that the people who win those aren't the ones who need protection? Jonny gives the usual spiel, asking both teams to figure out who goes to the Gauntlet.

RW Meeting. Mike votes for Rachel B., since she clocked the second worst time in Inferno and was the first off the log today. So how come he went after Coral last week? That must have been some vaginal spell Trishelle was using. Theo G. goes for Rachel. Alton votes for Theo, feeling he can step up. I'm surprised anybody remembers Theo being on the team. Maybe he could marry Roni and they'd have cute, non-dramatic kids. Nathan feels Rachel could win in the Gauntlet again. Irulan splits from her boyfriend, voting for Rachel. Coral goes for Theo. "We're down to three girls," she cites, "and I think eventually, women are going to come into play." Norman cops out, saying he flipped a coin and it came down to Rachel. She admits she sucked and votes for herself to avoid drama. The team does a group cheer and I notice the crowd is rather smaller than from the beginning.

RR Meeting. Put on your hip boots and gas masks. Abram brings up the group splashdown, asking if anybody was pulled off. Dave says he wasn't touched. Sarah: "I was pulled off. Well, smacked off, but it was an accident, so it's not that big a deal." Famous last words.

Voting. Rachel R. feels that Laterrian is weaker than Sarah. Laterrian's points: 3, 2, 3, 3. He interviews that he can bring a lot to the team. First round results: Laterrian 25, Sarah 15, Veronica 14. Thank goodness I already knew what was about to go down. Otherwise, the next few minutes would've really pissed me off.

Voting. "If we're looking at the Road Rules team like a sports team," Dave interviews, "you're gonna keep voting off the person who is doing the worst on the team, who's holding you back." Notice he doesn't say a name. He reads the votes. Veronica gets three points. Sarah gets three points twice. Adam read the final results: Sarah 23, Veronica 22, Laterrian 21. Wow. Sarah is officially the least-liked cast member this side of Dat Phan. "Oh my God," she gasps, "this is (bleeping) [BS], you guys." She insists that she was knocked in and thought nobody was going to be penalized for that. Veronica wonders why they didn't talk about that. "Dude," Sarah replies, "because it's not my job to incriminate the person that made me fall." The room empties as Sarah voiceovers that standing up for herself doesn't work, and Laterrian left a bruise on her arm. After the room empties, it's just Sarah and Laterrian. And now, LT offers to go to the Gauntlet. "I don't wanna go," he mutters, "nobody wants to go." Gee, why would Sarah balk at going? Maybe because, I don't know, she went there three times?! He brings up college loans he has to pay as a reason to stay on. Sarah thinks she wouldn't be in this situation if women had been on both sides. Laterrian doesn't want to argue. I cannot believe I ever sympathized with him after his three-episode stint on Battle of the Sexes. "Way to go," Sarah snipes in an interview. "One of the few opportunities that you'll ever have in your entire life to stand up and be a man and admit making a huge mistake, and you sent me in." Pause. "Again." Hey, what else can you expect from Osterrian?

Later. Abram: "If I sent somebody else to give her a bye, I think it would be unfair to that other person." Shut up, Abram. Don't you have people to beat up or something? Veronica says that in the past three missions, one person did badly. Once again, you don't know if she's talking about Sarah or Laterrian. Rachel R. thinks it's odd that LT had 25 votes in the first round, but finished in last in the final round. Cara proceeds to lose it. "Everybody voted!" she cries out. "And everybody voted her in again! There are other people who deserve to go in!" I'm so wound up, I can't even muster a "You go, girl!" Seriously, if Sarah has allies on her team, why is she constantly going into the Gauntlet? Hell, I even look at Roni with my eyebrows cocked, and I like her.

Sarah and Rachel B. chat. Rachel interviews that the last thing she expected was RR sending Sarah in. She continues, "What is the irony of it, when it's the one person that I like, and one of us has to send the other one home." Sarah laments a little. "At least my team likes me," Rachel blurts out. They both have a good laugh. Rachel is wearing a Miz cap, and that isn't right. Not for her final day.

Cut to what appears to be the confessional booth. It looks like Sarah and Rachel are locked in a basement and are videotaping their final moments. Also, Sarah appears to be sitting on Rachel's lap, which is just plain weird. Then again, Rachel is a tall lady. Sarah laughs, "Guys, once you keep voting me off, you're next!" Rachel does some mugging. Sarah continues, "You only hope that I come back triumphant, so you're not [bleeped] too, because there's people gunning for you as well." This is sad and funny, like the Mardi Gras confessional with Melissa and Julie, before Julie turned into a total stinker. Sarah: "Once you get rid of the whipping boy, who do you whip?"

Gauntlet. Jonny lays out the usual spiel before bringing Rachel and "Gauntlet specialist" Sarah up. Cara interviews that she can't imagine trying to beat her best friend. Sarah laughs as she rolls the die and it comes up Ride `Em Cowboy. The players hug as Jonny lays out the objective: to stay on the mechanical bull for as long as possible. Sarah calls it "the one thing that I didn't want to do, against the one person I didn't want to do it against." They get on the bulls. Rachel interviews that it's a lose/lose situation, since one of them is going home.

Airhorn. The bulls start to buck. We go into slow-motion, as Chevelle's "Send The Pain Below" plays. Adam stares on and I'm convinced he's trying to push Sarah off with his mind. Soon, Sarah is chest-down on the bull. In the forums, some thought she should have been disqualified for touching the bull, a rule that was enforced on Montana several weeks back. However, Sarah has her hand raised. She touches the bull, but she doesn't grab it. Coral screams for Rachel. Adam's still staring, with his arms folded. Sarah is struggling as her cowboy hat flies off. She is about five seconds from getting bucked off when Rachel flies off her bull. Game over. As RR celebrates Sarah's win, the graphic tells us RW has now lost seven players. That's half the team, people. Stick a fork in `em, they're done.

Most Depressing Footage Ever. Cara hugs Sarah while Theo V. jumps around like a goob. Rachel cries and is hugged by Mike, who tells her it's okay. Sarah cries as Cara tells her she deserves to stay in the game. Yeah, maybe Cara is cool after all. Sarah breaks away to hug Rachel and they both sob. The others look on, not saying anything. That must have been awkward, especially for RR, who could have avoided this. In a perfect world, Rachel would've stomped on Laterrian like she did Katie, and sent him back home a three-time loser. "We definitely feel like we got a solid friendship out of this bullshit," Rachel interviews, while Sarah's sinuses try to clear up. "It's a really good thing that means more, the moral aspect of it means more than the money."

Denouement. Jonny tells the group that Rachel's going home and Sarah gets to stay for at least one more day. Soon, Coral is hugging Sarah, trying to calm her down. You know, I get on Coral's case a lot, but there are times I forget how cool she can be. Remember the time where Nicole kept throwing up during her date, and Coral cleaned her up and reapplied her makeup? Or when she comforted Mike after he went on a Miz rampage in Cancun? "I just think it's pretty crappy," Coral voiceovers. "I think a lot of people are saying to take emotion out of it and don't take it personal. But honestly, people do."

Mansion. Coral is having a chat with Adam as Rachel R. looks on. Coral wonders how many times Sarah has to pay for mistakes. Adam says that it's hard for him to say what's fair. Yeah, he would. Coral: "You don't know what it's like to go to the Gauntlet." Adam: "That's [BS]. Why do people say that?" Coral talks about how bad it feels to have the team say they can do better without a player. Adam claims that nobody on his team says that and he doesn't want to see anybody go home. "It's not about wanting to see somebody go," Coral says, "but it's about letting people on your team know that you want them on the team." She asks him if he's thankful for Sarah, and he shrugs.

Rachel B. packs. We'll always have Hangman. Kicking Katie out was fine by me. Sarah tells her she's sorry for beating her. "It's okay," Rachel responds. "Seriously, I'd rather you beat me than anybody else." They laugh. Sarah compares herself to those clown punching bags that get smacked and come right back up. They laugh and cry some more. "Rachel is the one that I relate to the best," Sarah interviews. "I know that once she's gone, I have nobody to be happy with about anything."

Anybody want to role-play? Okay, you're Sarah. You've been thrown to the wolves by your teammates for the fourth time. You beat your new best friend. The question: do you want cake? Yep, in the most self-serving move in recent reality television history, the RR team gets Sarah a cake. It's chocolate, with an inscription: "Thanks For Saving Our Butts Again Again Again Again." Oh, and it has four candles in it, one for each time Sarah had to save HER OWN BUTT. What says the King of Condescending? "The cake is a sign that she deserves to feel like she's part of the team," Adam interviews. I'm surprised that Adam didn't coat his beard in flour and bitch about how long it took to bake the damn cake. Sarah has a good laugh, at least for her so-called friends. "It's kinda flattering," she says, "but at the same time, it's like, give me a break." The team claps and has a good time. Cut to Laterrian, who should not even get a whiff of the cake. Fade to black. Sarah: "And it did make me sick." You and me both.

Next time: Mike and Theo V. do some intense weightlifting. Anybody else want to see those two in the final Gauntlet? I don't really hate them, but we need a climatic clash of those two titans. The players are spinning on a giant turntable. Cut to Adam walking with Dave and Theo. "We need to compete against the Real World right now," Adam tells them. "And we can't let go of a guy right now." Adam in interview: "The way to win these challenges? Vote off all the girls." Oh, man. Now I want Ellen to fly down to Telluride to stomp on him. Players spin off hard. Cara: "The guys are getting a reality check. This isn't just about sending women to the Gauntlet." Hey, Adam! Knock knock! Who's there? Instant karma! Instant karma who? Instant karma's gonna get you!

I know, this was overkill from me. I don't care. I lost all respect for Laterrian, whom I likened to Osten Taylor of Survivor: Pearl Islands. He was hapless during his time there, but was kept in the game by Andrew Savage and the bulk of the Morgan tribe before being the first contestant to fal-out quit.

And I really, really, REALLY hated Adam. Passing the buck, protecting an obvious scrub, piling on Sarah's woes, getting a cheap-ass store-bought cake . . . ugh. Just thinking about him chaps my behind. I take solace that he hasn't popped up since avoiding elimination in the ill-conceived Road Rules: Viewers' Revenge. Between then and Telluride, he did one more Challenge. That didn't work out for him. Because I'm that petty, I went to town with that. In the weeks that followed, more members of the Road Rules team would work my last nerve.

One more thing: a tiny part of me thinks Rachel B. may have thrown the Gauntlet. I'm probably wrong; BMP edited things to show Sarah struggling harder than Rachel because Sarah was the underdog the audience should root for. But if Rachel said that she said "fuck it" and let her then-BFF have it, I would understand. This would be the last we'd see of her on MTV. She was nice. Also, as you'll see eventually, the wrong damn Rachel left the show, and we were stuck with the overrated butterface.

Finally, to give you an idea on how painful the Gauntlet was, this is the video for "Send The Pain Below" by Chevelle. Not the cheeriest of songs, and perfect for that match.

No comments: