Did you think there wouldn’t be another Challenge for a while? MTV and Bunim/Murray Productions beg to differ, as they unleash The Inferno.
On Sunday, February 1, CBS will premiere Survivor: All-Stars after the Super Bowl. This season will feature 18 past contestants, and it will be the focus of many recappers here at Reality News Online. What do I have to say to my fellow writers? Four words: Welcome to my world.
On Monday, February 2, MTV will premiere Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno, the eighth season of the series. Filmed shortly after The Gauntlet ended, Inferno brings 20 alumni from Real World and Road Rules to Acapulco to gossip, fight and hook up. Oh, and there are missions as well. While the kids from RW: San Diego are setting the bar higher in terms of drama, the seasoned veterans always come through in the clutch.
Jonny Moseley has headed off into the sunset, back to his world of moguls skiing. In his place is Dave Mirra. I’m not into “Extreme” sports, so Dave’s career as a BMX biker isn’t known to me. He’s been on Made and has been scammed on Punk’d. My expectations are low, so he shouldn’t disappoint me too much. I liked Jonny, but he wasn’t in the class of Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan.
From MTV.com’s description, we can look forward to the same intense events as before. One of the events is “an adrenaline-fueled 13th floor rope climb.” This could be a return of the infamous tightrope mission from Extreme Challenge. Sadly, the other listed mission involves eating worms, which might be the one with the chicken costumes shown in the commercials. Once again, each mission is worth $10,000, and the finale is worth $150,000.
I figured that the Gauntlet concept was good enough. After each mission, the teams had to vote one of their own into the Gauntlet, regardless of how well the team did. The two selectees then fought it out. Winner stayed, loser packed up and left. It wiped out strong players (Elka, Steve, Theo G.), served as a showcase for others’ athletic prowess (Mike, Alton), and transformed Sarah from an eternal scrub to a queen. So why mess with success?
This time, things become a little more complicated. At the end of a mission, each team picks two people to go into the Inferno. Then, the teams choose which opponent from the other team they want to go up against. Do they then fight it out? Nope, they get to compete in the next mission. In an added twist, the Inferno nominees will try and win the Aztec Lifesaver. Should one of the doomed players win, that player can select somebody else from the team as a replacement. Only after the second mission will the Inferno be held.
As for the Inferno itself? Apparently, BMP wasn’t as riveted as I was watching Sarah hang by her legs three times. Two tasks mentioned on MTV.com involve wearing a helmet full of bugs, and getting soaked in itching powder and placed on a treadmill. Gee, I always wanted to recap Fear Factor! Thanks, BMP! Anyway, the winner stays, going back to the teammates who might not want them to stay. The loser packs up and heads back home to shame and obscurity... at least until the next Challenge.
Once again, BMP has cut the number by eight, going from 28 in Gauntlet to 20 here. Excluding the last seasons from each show, only one person hasn’t been on a Challenge before. Half of them have been on the last two Challenges, and the rest I’m familiar with for the most part. Like I said before, there isn’t going to be one non-athletic girl I’ll be defending from start to finish, so expect me to potentially go off on everybody.
While RW kept things competitive last season, winning six of fourteen missions, they took heavy losses in the Gauntlet. In the final mission, whatever edge they had with a smaller group evaporated as Coral dropped out from a spider bite. That was RW’s first loss since Challenge 2000, and they’ll be looking to get back on top.
Syrus Yarbrough (Boston): A two-time Challenger, Syrus doesn’t bring the drama like his cohorts. The only time I’ve seen him lose it was back in Extreme Challenge, where he almost throttled James for pelting Julie with one paintball too many. The only trouble Syrus caused during Battle of the Sexes was jumping on Antoine’s back upon getting voted out. Seeing the Belgian dance up close, I’m amazed he can still walk, let alone bust a move.
Syrus can be a force in missions, but his bulk has been known to hinder him. In Sexes, he nearly killed himself on the stirrups course, and his slow time in Stairway to Heaven led to his elimination. Still, with his mellow personality, he should be a cinch to make it to the end.
David Burns (Seattle): Once upon a time, guys from Boston with thick accents were a novelty, as opposed to the norm (CT from Real World Paris, Rob Mariano of Survivor). Ditto for cast members who would reveal their private parts to roommates. Before Brad and Alton, there was David and the “eighth roommate.” Seriously, when you look back on Seattle and look past the Irene/Stephen drama, who do you think of? David expressing his heterosexuality, David trying to secretly romance an ex-BMP casting director, and David getting into a heated fight in a parked car with said director. Remember that? “You don’t even KNOW!” makes me laugh every time I think about it.
David does have one Challenge under his belt; in Challenge 2000 he was the alpha male for the RW team. Sadly, that team hit a losing skid even he couldn’t stop. I still think of David trying to kiss a cow for a scavenger hunt, dismayed that he underestimated its speed. It’s been four years. He’s rested, ready, and a helluva lot better than former roommate/VMI buddy Nathan. You don’t even know.
Julie Stoffer (New Orleans): Once upon a time, there was a girl named Julie. She was the token ingenue of her season, a wide-eyed Mormon who departed BYU to live in New Orleans, experience new things and (gasp!) sleep in the same room with boys. Then came Extreme Challenge, which filmed soon after. Gradually, she started to get on my nerves. Julie protested Ayanna’s dismissal after she beat up Christian, she cheated in a rappelling mission against Emily, and she basically behaved like a brat.
Then came Sexes, where she was cast alongside people who considered her shady. Chief among them was ex-roommate Melissa, who bitched Julie out on camera. In the first mission, Julie was forced out when her partner Ellen got disqualified from Sergeant Says. Meanwhile, Melissa and Amaya won the event, entered the Inner Circle, and proceeded to dump Julie. The smile on my face lasted for days, because Julie is just that annoying. And I’ll say this much: if she makes it past six missions, you’ll see her as I do, as nothing less than a female Puck.
Coral Smith (Back to New York): The obvious question: Why is she back? The last we saw of Coral, she dropped out of the final mission, due to an allergic reaction to a spider bite. Not only was she sidelined, but Mike and Nathan made her the scapegoat for their loss. Come to think of it, given the increasingly “extreme” missions, why would anybody return to compete? I still think BMP is out to kill their cast members.
Maybe Mike begged Coral to come back, asking forgiveness for the way he treated her. Maybe she feels like she has something to prove. Maybe she lost a bet with Melissa, and wants to go double-or-nothing. Past problems aside, it still would take a lot to keep Coral out of commission for too long. One more thing: remember how some people consider Julie shady? Coral allegedly has first-hand experience in that. Could Coral finish the job Melissa started last year and force Julie out?
Mike Mizanin (Back to New York): Apparently, BMP thinks I need more Miz in my life. The last we saw of Mike, he was still working on the puzzle in the Gauntlet finale, unable to solve it before RR. This came after he was unable to keep Coral in the game. So why is Mike back? In one word? Trishelle.
The scuttlebutt is that Mike and Trishelle (a.k.a Mizchelle) were so in love with each other that they signed up for Inferno together. The biggest concern is that Mike’s status as RW leader was compromised when he refused to vote for her. This time, with Syrus and David around, Mike’s status might be downgraded, and his status as a mainstay may be in jeopardy should he fail in the clutch.
Trishelle Canatella (Las Vegas): She’s harder to get off your television than infomercials at 4 a.m. In addition to appearing on The Surreal Life 2, Trishelle makes the trip to Acapulco to compete. Although she underachieved in most of the missions last season, she did manage to knock Steve out. Her run ended the next day, as she became Sarah’s third victim.
My main beef with her involves the men in her life. It’s not just a matter of quantity, but quality. You need two hands to count all the guys she’s gotten cozy with in the past few years, and they’re mostly schmucks like Mike. If Mizchelle were to hit the skids, who would she gravitate towards? Or will Trishelle be booted before she can, in Coral’s words, cast a “vaginal spell”?
Clyde “Ace” Amerson (Paris): I hate saying this out loud since fellow RNO writer Jen Shrader is a huge fan of Ace, but I’ll say it: he’s a phony. Get past the “aw, shucks” surface, and you’ll see a guy who only stayed in Paris in order to reap the post-show benefits. For every knock on CT, you have to remember Ace bitching about French people, the time he almost came to blows with a taxi driver, and the time he spent $1,000 on strippers in one night. I do think he’s a nice guy at times, but the brighter the picture, the darker the negative.
From what I understand, Ace and Mallory were cuddly in Paris, and I think they were dating at the time of the reunion special. Will they be a couple in Acapulco? Also, while Mallory does bring athletic skills to the table, Ace is a bit of an unknown.
Chris “CT” Tamburello (Paris): In contrast to Ace, I don’t think CT is a phony. CT is aggravating to watch - a sweetheart on some days, a pain on others. But it’s not phoniness. Rather, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and is unable to hide emotions. I don’t excuse CT smacking that guy and screaming “ONE ON ONE!” so loud that mimes would scream for him to shut up.
CT’s is another unknown in terms of competition. He has the potential of either being top dog on RW, or be the first one out. One thing is for certain: with his poofy hair cut and his almost unibrow fixed, CT will be prime eye candy on the screen.
Leah Gillingwater (Paris): I think “bitch” covered her nicely during her season. Between her frequent clashes with her roommates, dragging Christina to accompany her on long distance date with the cute Italian boy, and plagiarizing an assignment, I figure Leah sets a standard that the San Diego kids will have trouble reaching.
Is there hope for Leah? Of course - last year, I had written off Tonya as the worst thing to come out of Chicago. Today, she is somebody who doesn’t blame the editors for the way she was portrayed. Perhaps Leah will follow suit. I’m not putting money on it, but it’s good to hope.
Mallory Snyder (Paris): It’s hard for me to get a fix on Mallory. That’s probably because my attention was fixed on the guys and Leah. I do remember that Mallory was the token ingenue of that house, and she fell for Ace.
Interesting fact: Mallory played soccer for Iowa State. In fact, she gave up her scholarship in order to join the cast, Normally, I’d question her intelligence, but c’mon... this was Paris. I don’t speak French, and I’d still go. Anyway, Mallory could emerge as RW’s alpha female during missions.
When Mike sent Elka to the Gauntlet, he talked about how RW had to be a family to win the final mission. By contrast, RR was about fourteen people taking thirteen cabs to the missions (Dave and Cara would have shared a ride). Will two members of the winning team be enough to ensure a second victory?
Timmy Beggy (USA): Believe or not, alpha males don’t have to be jerks. After suffering through Adam doing everything short of shoving Sarah down a flight of stairs, I now get to recap Timmy. One of the stars of the second season, Timmy blends athleticism with a wacky sense of humor. He came back to help out in a few missions (Islands and Australia) and partnered with Emily in Seasons. Rumor had it that he signed up for Gauntlet, but scheduling conflicts kept him out. That explains the “Where’s Timmy?” t-shirts wore by a few RR males.
One knock on Timmy is that he’s wishy-washy. In Seasons, he hemmed and hawed before helping to boot out Chadwick and Piggy. Also, he does tend to go overboard with the funny, so he can be hard to take. But he should be able to keep morale high on his team.
Holly Shand (Latin America): Truth be told, Holly’s season is one of the few that I haven’t seen all of. I do consider the Gladys/Abe beatdown as the turning point for Road Rules, the moment where the show went downhill. I do know that Holly was a crier and that she wears her heart on her sleeve. Then again, I don’t remember her weeping during Seasons. Oh, and she hooked up with Timmy, but that probably won’t come into play this time.
Holly does bring experience to the team, as she enters her third Challenge. Normally, I’d be leading the “get a life” chant, but her trips have been spread out over six seasons, so I’m good with her.
Veronica Portillo (Semester at Sea): Why do I hate Veronica? This is her fifth Challenge in the past six seasons. At this point, I have to wonder if she has a life. Yes, I did feel bad after she was voted out of Seasons and Sexes. Then came Gauntlet, where she lied about how many Challenges she lost, acted indignant anytime the votes went against her, and joined Rachel in giving Abe a send-off he’ll never forget.
Unlike Beth, another shady BMP alumnus, Veronica does bring more to the party than drama. Her performances in Turntable and Dukes of Saturn kept her out of the Gauntlet, and set a tone for her teammates. But will she play nice with others this season?
Katie Doyle (The Quest): Let’s see if I have this right: I can only see Blair and Steve once in a Challenge, and Sophia not at all, but I have to endure Katie again? Feh. To recap: she was sent to the Gauntlet, won, and had a massive hissy fit against Veronica. She talked to RW about the RR voting strategy. She got sent to the Gauntlet again and lost, perhaps taking any massive attack Sarah would have had away from her.
From the commercials, I see that Katie and Veronica will go at it one more time. While it would be nice for somebody other than Emily to take Veronica down a few pegs, I don’t think Katie is the one to pull it off. I expect her to beat Trishelle back to their apartment once again.
Darrell Taylor (Campus Crawl): On the one hand, I hated him. He rarely had anything positive to say about his teammates, particularly the women. Also, he and Rachel decided from Day One to take Sarah out of the game on Gauntlet, setting the tone for the entire season. It’s worse that I can barely understand what he says. He’s like Pootie Tang, but without the magic belt.
On the other hand, Darrell isn’t a total alpha jerk like Adam was. On some level, he does seem to care. In terms of his season, I’ve basically written off Rachel, but not Darrell. Maybe Sarah taught him that anybody can be a winner, and he won’t start picking people off in his mind.
Kendal Sheppard (Campus Crawl): I’ve forgotten about her since her season aired. Back then, she was the midpoint between the highly overrated Rachel and perennial scrub Sarah. Most people remember her romance with alpha male Eric. Some people I know adore her funky coat. It was funny... they’d even refer to it as an entity to itself.
After her season, she got into a heavy relationship with Blair (The Quest). Last I heard, she was single. Kendal should be fun to watch, both on and off the field.
Shane Landrum (Campus Crawl): At first, Shane got on my nerves. I could barely stand the guy. But during Sexes, he turned things around, finishing in fifth place. During the face-off between Campus Crawl and South Pacific, he beat Tina in a sleep-deprived spelling bee, keeping his team in the game. Given my hatred of the latest RR season, that feat clinched the title of Second Favorite Crawler... after Sarah, of course.
Never mind his goofiness and the weird tan. Shane is a fighter. After Veronica was booted out by the Women’s Inner Circle, he gave them crap about it. He almost quit the game, but was inspired by Genesis to stay in. He’ll probably be in the drama, but he won’t cause it.
Abram “Abe” Boise (South Pacific): In case you haven’t seen MTV in the past year... meet Abe. Abe is a pain. Abe had issues about women. Donell got on his nerves, and Abe beat him up for it, earning an ejection from his season. During Gauntlet, Abe managed to get himself disqualified a lot, earning votes for the Gauntlet. One day, he tied with Sarah, and Theo sent him in to face Mike. But Abe couldn’t pull off the upset, as he rushed Mike in Knock Your Block Off. Result: Abe was knocked out of the game, while Mike stayed on.
Abe must learn to take direction. He’s a hothead to be sure, but he can be tamed. Another concern: he might cozy up to Veronica, since she and Rachel gave him a hero’s goodbye that since makes me nauseous thinking about it.
Christena Pyle (South Pacific): Christena was my favorite from South Pacific, at least most of the time. Rather than recoil from Abe, she tried to teach him what he was doing wrong with the others. For the most part, she was very sensible and mellow. My biggest beef was when she and Chris voted Cara out, keeping Donell in. Not only did viewers endure three more weeks of the odious Donell, but newbie Tina proved to be as big a pain as the portly Roadie.
Christena might prove to be good with Abe once again, calming him down when he needs it. However, rumor has it that she was a last-minute substitution for another player. Is she ready for the madness that a Challenge can provide?
Jeremy Blossom (South Pacific):Who? Good question. After Donell was voted out, the gang had three more missions. For whatever reason, Jeremy was sent in as a replacement. All I know was that he was from Parma (Mike’s hometown), he kinda looks like Steve, and he liked Raquel a lot. Also, given the way he helped his team through the final mission, I suspect he was a BMP intern, sent to make sure the kids won their handsome reward.
Jeremy is an enigma. At this point, he won a car for three missions. Admit it... you wish you could do that. Why he would go back is a mystery to me.
Up next: the Gauntlet review/Inferno preview. It turns out there was stuff I didn't get looking on MTV.com. Also: the reason for the Mizhelle breakup. In case you forgot, it was pretty much Trishelle's fault.