Friday, June 23, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 15: Penultimate Peril

We're entering the final stretch of The Gauntlet. After this comes a "special" essay from me, followed by two recaps. Once again, hindsight is a bitch, as I was years away from the salad days of "Johnny Bananas" and his two alleged rapist buddies. XXX or Dirty 30 or whatever does not fill me with much hope. Veronica officially comes back, not counting her one-and-done stint on Champs Vs. Pros. She could be a shell of her old bitchy self and excel in missions, and I would still point out how awful she was when I recapped her, to the point where I was okay with Tonya hitting her during The Ruins, figuring it was long overdue after Inferno II. Lucky for me, lots of people go over the show in detail these days, so I don't feel the need to keep an unofficial official record, especially for hour-long episodes. I'll have to bring in my old recaps of Dog Days and Kevin & Drew Unleashed to give you an idea on how tough it was for me to do sixty minutes. And those two shows had a combined eleven episodes, which shows that I was not made for long distances.

Funny thing about me mentioning the upcoming Real World: San Diego at the start . . . not only was I right about Brad and Robin making their debuts on Battle Of The Sexes 2 that year, but  "longshots" Jacquese and Randy also got in, along with habitual nut-slapper/current Southern reality sophisticate Cameran. I'll be honest: I miss Jacquese. Easily the best of that cast.

Airdate: January 5, 2004
Recap Published:  January 8, 2004

Tempers flare as the teams prepare for their final mission. Can Coral step up and claim her place on the team? And with Sarah safe for the finale, who will Road Rules send to the Gauntlet?
This recap goes out to the readers from San Diego. I’ve been there twice for the kick-ass Comic Con International, and it is a lovely city. I know that this season’s Real World is about as indicative of your city as Adam is to people with ADD, and that My Big Fat Obnoxious FiancĂ© is to overweight people. By the way, I’m putting money on Brad and Robin making the Challenge in the fall, with Jacquese and Randy being the drama-free longshots.

Previously on The Gauntlet: In a Real World meeting, Coral didn’t think that the men were sexist, but she wanted them to know that the women could be an asset. I see Rachel B. and Irulan in that clip, so I’m guessing the men didn’t agree with her. Coral: “The guys are assuming that every mission is going to be, ‘Lift a car over your head.’” Hey, that would be a great mission. “Reenact the cover of Action Comics #1 in the best way possible!” RW won Vertical Sweep, boosting their bank to $50,000, while RR held at $80,000. Alton interviews that RW is a force to be reckoned with. Irulan got sent to the Gauntlet, and lost to Sarah in Deadman’s Drop. Theo V. told Alton to help her pack, and Alton lost it. It kills me seeing one of his flip-flops go flying off his foot in anger. Nathan interviewed about not knowing what deal Sarah cut with which devil to win in the Gauntlet so many wins, then reminded us that RR has a 9-6 advantage.

Outdoor shots. Close-up of ducklings shaking water off their bodies. Cut to the kitchen table, where both sides are engaged in a heated argument. Norman narrates the exchange of words between Darrell and Coral. She keeps talking about how the teams have never, ever fought like this. Oh, come on. What about Challenge 2000, where a tired RW concocted a fake mission for RR and Amaya clotheslined Veronica in a flag football game? Or Extreme Challenge, where a boiled-over James shot Julie with a paintball gun a few times too many, and Syrus nearly pulped him for that? We get a flashback to last week, where Theo V. keeps yelling for Irulan to go home. How did Norman respond? “Back tomorrow, Sarah!” Wait a second... Sarah’s recovering from hanging upside-down for 48 minutes, and Norman’s taunting her? Bad, Norman. Bad. Once again, we see Alton lose his cool. Back to the present, Coral bitches about how some RR members booed Irulan. Darrell insists he didn’t act like Alton did. More shouting between Coral and Darrell. Theo V. brings up Irulan being a poor sport. Cut to the Matt/Sarah Gauntlet, where Irulan went over to the RR side and used her clapper. At the table, Roni is just eating, trying to stay drama-free for another day. Cara tells Coral that Norman and Nathan had said horrible things. Now Nathan goes ballistic and he gets into it with Cara. “This game is getting so tough right now,” Mike interviews. “It’s so much pressure put on you. We’re at the final draw.”

Back to the bickering. Coral tells Cara not to boo somebody in the Gauntlet, adding “Not one of your guys clapped for her.” I’m assuming she means Sarah, and I remember that Sarah didn’t want noise while competing in the Gauntlet. Hey, at least her teammates give her that much. “We’re glad you’re staying,” Nathan yells in Cara’s direction, “‘cause you’re gonna help us win $10,000 today.” Cara: “God, Nate sucks so bad!” Theo V.: “Bad sportsmanship seems to be a popular hobby for some of the kids at this competition.” Whatever, Mr. “Go Home!”

Outdoors. Theo V. and Sarah go for a walk. Uh-oh... they might work on crossword puzzles! Theo is pissed off at Veronica; it seems that she has been reading the voting slips after meetings. Any time I think Veronica scraped the bottom of the barrel, she manages to find a few more feet. He feels that it undermines the voting, and that she brings shadiness to the team. “Whatever,” Sarah replies. “She’s got a couple new boyfriends these days.” Good one! She interviews that not many people like Veronica, and she’s been “freakishly manipulative” during the whole process.

Mansion. Coral tells Mike that all of the other girls have been sacrificed, and that the present team members should get an opportunity to win. “At the end of this thing,” she says, “if there’s a bunch of boys sitting around, I think that’s going to look like [bleep].” She interviews that she would get no money should she lose in the Gauntlet, that it feels good to be the final woman, but the team finds it easy to send girls. Mike tells her that the men are more physically fit, and he wants to look at the big picture, as he sees the team opposing the likes of Darrell, Theo V., and Adam. “I know,” Coral replies, “but don’t lose sight of the war, or the woman on your team.”

Night. Veronica reads the clue from the sponsor phone: it’s an individual challenge. Norman reads from the RW bedroom: 6:45 a.m. pickup, wear sneakers and team colors. Coral fakes enthusiasm in her bed. “I would burn my eyes out with cigarettes,” she interviews, “then go back to the Gauntlet.”

Elsewhere, Theo V. tells Adam that he’s not comfortable with Veronica, since she doesn’t bring the positivity. “Veronica wants to win bad enough,” Theo interviews, “that she’s willing to shower with the whole team in order to get the job done. I don’t like her method.” Abram might disagree with you there, Theo. Naturally, we get a clip of Veronica and Abram steaming up the shower. I think Bunim and Murray adore Theo. He continues, telling Adam that he doesn’t know whether to bring it up to the others. Adam feels that she is a good competitor, but interviews that she needs to prove herself or she’ll be the next to go. Theo can’t even make eye contact with Veronica. “I don’t want the Grim Reaper on my relay race team,” he says to Adam. And here I thought that was Sarah’s title. Adam looks on, not showing any reaction.

Daytime. Mission site. We have two cars in team colors, raised in the air by cranes with a ladder between them. Adam has his “I’m a Pony!” shirt on. Jonny welcomes everybody to Dukes of Saturn, which follows in the footsteps of Hands on Saturn (Battle of the Seasons) and Seven Rings of Saturn (Battle of the Sexes). This mission will test the players’ agility and balance. The object: climb the ladder from one Saturn Ion to the other, while being suspended in the air. “I have a fear of heights,” Darrell reminds us in an interview. “Why can’t we go back to the ground? Me and the air don’t get along.” Mike interviews that this mission looks scary.

Commercials. Promo for new reality programming in January: new seasons of Newlyweds and The Osbournes, Til Death Do Us Part with Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro, and the latest social misfits appearing on The Real World. Oh, and there’s three seconds of Inferno. I don’t know what’s sadder: that I care about that, or that I didn’t recognize some of the faces in the clips, despite knowing the roster. Apparently, people will be running around in chicken costumes. After the fat suits, I can live with that.

Alton lays out the exposition: when Jonny blows his airhorn, the player takes off the seat belt, crawls out of the window, crosses the ladder, gets in, and blows the horn. Jonny lays out the usual spiel: team with best average time wins $10,000 for their bank account. Nathan interviews that RW has two wins in a row, and they want the third for momentum. Jonny adds that the players with the best times will win the Plate of Protection, which also can be used to break a tie. “I’ve been screwed over so many times on Challenges,” Veronica interviews. “People want me to go into the Gauntlet. I have to win the [PoP] to be able to stay.”

Nathan gets equipped with his bungee cord. He talks about the bickering between the squads. “We’re just going to keep our mouths shut,” he adds, “and smile all the way to the bank.” Jonny blows his horn. Nathan takes his time getting out of the car and onto the ladder, as his teammates yell encouragement from the ground. He slides through the window and honks out at 58.72 seconds.

On the ground, Dave tells his teammates that he will “gun it” across while holding onto the sides of the ladders. He interviews that he’ll be calm and pretend the ground is under the ladder. Airhorn. Dave gets out and crawls across. He honks out at 50.37. Cut to Cara clapping. Oh, that’s right... they’re the only couple left. Darn the Sarah! Darn that grim reaping love-hater for ousting Trishelle and Irulan!

Theo V.: “One thing about all this protective gear is that I think it’s really good for safe sex, man.” Eh, they can’t all be winners. Cut to a montage: Norman gets out of the car. Cut to Theo G. on the ground, looking at his phone. Sarah gets to the hood and slides down. Roni scampers across. Norman gets into the car and honks out at 41.10. Darrell slowly crawls across. The editors give us “Feel This” by Blink 182. Adam staggers across quickly. Theo V. crawls quickly. Mike and Rachel make their efforts. Sarah honks out at 48.13. Darrell: 53.34. Mike nearly breaks the horn at 38.78. Adam: 30.61. Theo V.: 31.34. Rachel: 31.19. Roni: 29.04. Average times: RW 46.16, RR 39.00. Norman interviews that the times are getting better. “If you screw up,” he adds, “you are going to lose the mission.”

Cara gets ready. She interviews about getting in the final three in the voting last time. Airhorn. She gets out of the car and onto the ladder. She takes her time, finishing at 33.27. She interviews that it took a while to slide off the car. “I think my time was average,” she adds. “I don’t think it was frickin’ awesome.”

Theo G. interviews that he needs the PoP, since the voting might come down to him and Coral. It takes a while to hit the horn, finishing at 37.74. Back on the ground, Sarah laughs to Theo G. about being fast. “I had to be,” he tells her. “I have no choice.” Sarah: “Welcome to my world!” They both have a good laugh, and I think I saw Adam smiling.

Airhorn. Alton climbs out, skittering across the ladder, hands and feet on the edges. He honks out at 19.16. Wow. Theo G. jumps around in celebration. “That boy Alton crawled across that ladder like a little monkey,” Darrell interviews. “That boy is a monkey for real.” I get a flashback of Eric Nies as the “Ancient Jungle Monkey.” RW whoops it up some more. Mike interviews that Alton rocked the mission. We get a slow-motion shot of Alton jumping on the windshield. He’s a lot of things, and superhuman seems to be one of them.

Coral gets fitted. Average times: RW 37.80, RR 38.28. She interviews that she’s extremely nervous, and she doesn’t want to go home. Oh, come on. You got Melissa as a roommate. Who doesn’t want to go home to her? She waves as she’s lifted to the cars. Mike interviews that the pressure is on Coral. Norman on the ground: “You need to kick ass!” Norman in an interview: “We’re like, ‘Coral, you need to bust ass on this.’” Whatever, editors.

Back from commercials, Coral gets out, sliding down the windshield, and crawling like Alton. She takes her time to crawl on the hood and through the window, honking out at 25.29. On terra firma, the guys cheer her, and Alton lifts her up. She interviews that she doesn’t know how well she did, and she got in and out of the cars efficiently enough. She calls her mother, breathlessly telling her that she made it through all 14 missions.

Veronica gets prepped. She interviews that people are gunning for her, and she has to do well. She climbs out of the car, her teammates yelling out the seconds. I thought they were counting down when I saw the teaser. My bad. She tries to spider-crawl, but she doesn’t finish like that. Instead, she straddles the ladder, and pulls herself forward. I think I’ll let Mike handle this one: “She starts a humping motion, and it’s kinda turning me on.” What do you expect with Trishelle gone? The man has needs! Veronica climbs through the window, honking out at 28.74. The graphic people have decided she’s a RW member, since she has that logo and colors on her time. Is it Drunken Interns Week again? The RR guys check their phones for the time. Veronica interviews that the ladder was wobbly, and it messed with her balance, but she did OK.

Jonny announces that the winning team had an average time of 36.66 seconds. After a drawn-out pause, he announces that RW won. They have a huge celebration, as they boost their bank to $60,000. Mission-wise, this season hasn’t been a total bloodbath, as RR got the 8-6 edge. Both sides shake hands, trying to put the bickering behind them. Jonny awards a PoP to Alton, for his 19.16 performance. As for RR? Well, I looked down at the times I frantically scrawled, and my reaction was, “Oh, crap.” It’s Veronica. I heard she was gone. I actually had this witty line in store: “Hey, what’s eight letters long, ‘Three-time loser’?” Damn. Anyway, the editors pipe in Ludacris’ “Stand Up,” as she jumps into Jonny’s arms. Theo V. and Adam? Do not look happy. She interviews that she’s not going anywhere, and she will be a member of the RR team. Quick shot of her hugging Rachel, and I cringe. Dave interviews that if not for the PoP, she would’ve gone next. “I cannot believe Veronica will be here for the final mission,” Theo V. drawls. “It really, really makes me mad.” I bet he had some witty lines stored, too. Jonny does his usual spiel: 30 minutes, sacrifice, whatever.

Both teams are still feeling the good vibes as they shake hands and hug. Adam thinks they learned about pushing each other’s buttons, and it doesn’t need to be done again. “We had found each other’s boundaries,” Norman interviews, “we have crossed them, and if we were going to get along to recognize that we can’t cross those boundaries again.”

RR Meeting. Adam explains that one person from either team will be going home without getting a shot at the $150,000 after playing for a month. Veronica asks what would be best for the team. Cara thinks that if they send a girl, it would between her and Sarah. Oh, hell no. Don’t even joke about that. “They say they’re not going to send me in,” Sarah laughs, “but do I ever believe the team when they tell me anything? No. Don’t trust those Road Rulers any further than I can throw them.” Cara says that the guys did a little better than Sarah, and she doesn’t want to go to the Gauntlet. Theo V. decides that Sarah doesn’t need to go again. “Who knows?” Adam asks. “Maybe it’ll be a good luck charm.” I only got a little more time to spend on Adam, so I won’t go ballistic. This time, Cara will be going up against Dave and Darrell in the voting.

Votes are collected. Roni interviews that nobody wants to go, since this is the last chance to see money. Cara reads off the votes, as all three candidates get threes. Theo scrawls the numbers and I can’t make them out. Final results: Cara 22, Darrell 16, Dave 16. Roni doesn’t want anybody to go. Cara interviews that she’s going back because Veronica is immune. Dave admits not being able to vote his girlfriend into the Gauntlet. Cara plans to win, and she doesn’t have to say good-bye.

RW Meeting. Norman tells the others that this will be a difficult decision. Theo G. feels that anybody can go, and he figures it’ll be between him and Coral. She tells the group that (say it with me) she is the last girl on the team, and been kicking ass competing with the boys. Theo remembers that after his name was brought up, he has gone “balls-out” since then. “If I really feel like I deserve to go in, I’d vote for myself,” he interviews. “But man, I’ve been stepping up.”

Coral: “Both strategically and morally, I can’t vote for myself.” Theo, 1-0. Theo: “It has to be a survival tactic for me to vote for her.” Tied, 1-1. Norman votes for Theo, citing his friendship with Coral. Theo, 2-1. Mike votes for Theo, because he hasn’t been in the Gauntlet, and Coral would tear him apart if he voted otherwise. Or maybe he’s just thinking that. Theo, 3-1. “Coral really pulled through today,” Mike interviews, “and I think we might need a girl in this final mission.” Alton doesn’t feel right sending Theo in. Theo, 3-2. “Coral’s my girl,” Alton interviews, “but Coral is out overall weakest player.” Nathan says that his votes have been based on performance, and it would be “completely asinine and a waste of my month” if he changed that. Based on cumulative performance, he votes for Coral. Tied, 3-3. Coral goes into an edited rant, interviewing that she did better than everybody on the team save for Alton.

Mike informs Alton that he can break the tie with the PoP. Alton interviews that he hates coming down to this. “Coral’s my girl,” he laments out loud, “and Theo’s my boy.” Already, he looks like he’s going to top Dave’s painful vote against Cara on South Pacific. “How am I going to do this, God? How am I going to do this?” Fade to black.

Next week: Alton agonizes some more, saying that Coral is his friend, but she’s also the weakest player. Theo interviews that he’s done better than Coral. Cut to Jonny and the final mission: Gold Rush. We got running, climbing, digging, crawling, and puzzle pieces. By the way: no sign of Cara, Coral or Theo. Don’t worry... MTV will probably blow the final Gauntlet this weekend.

I wound up writing my take on what Alton should have done. In retrospect, Theo could've just outright noted that he was way too normal for the franchise, and I would not have blamed him for throwing shade on Coral, who was Bunim and Murray's best cast member at that time. The episode would have hurt less if Veronica had gotten sent in. I probably would've ranked her fourth on the list of people that needed comeuppance for abusing Sarah (after Adam, Rachel and Darrell), but any sympathy I had for her following her ouster in Battle Of The Sexes was gone. The really sucky part is that she would avoid the possibility of going into the final Inferno in the following season. She was tough to flush, and I don't feel bad for saying that thirteen-plus years later.

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