The Gauntlet had an ending of mixed blessings. The great news for me was that Sarah Greyson had survived five Gauntlets. However, her tormentors (basically Adam Larson, Rachel Robinson and Veronica Portillo) also won the "handsome reward," and they didn't have to face the prospect of going home with nothing. In other news, Coral Smith -- the Great Coral Grief for good and bad -- had seemingly almost died from a spider bite in the final mission, casting a pall on Road Rules' victory. Worse, her enemy-turned-friend ("frenemy" hadn't been coined yet) Mike Mizanin cursed her name once the dust settled, blaming her for Real World's loss, seeing Coral's ailing from exhaustion. Nathan Blackburn had also bitched about Coral . . . but like I said in the finale's postscript, I didn't think anybody gave a shit about him.
There aren't records on when The Challenge is filmed, so I don't know how much time had passed between Gauntlet and Inferno. Like The Real World, MTV had decided to step up production of Bunim-Murray's prime competitive reality program. This time, twenty Bunim-Murray alumni would be sent to Acapulco, Mexico. This would be the final season pitting Real World and Road Rules. The latter would fade away over the next few years.BMP had found a winning formula with the Gauntlet, so they installed the Inferno as an endgame. What could go wrong?
First of all, the processes of nomination was more complicated. I'd like to think BMP had enough of Adam bitching about the women on his team and his efforts to throw them into the Gauntlet every time. In Inferno, the sexes would be alternated. After each mission, each team would nominated two of their own for the Inferno. These picks would get sent to the other side, and each team would select one of the nominees. However, the Inferno would not be held. In the following mission, the best performer on each team would receive the Aztec Lifesaver. If a nominated player won that, that person would not only get out of the Inferno date, that person could choose a replacement. However, if another player won the Lifesaver, that person could take the place of his/her team's nominee. Like I said . . . complicated.
There was one other stumbling block that made Inferno pale to Gauntlet, and I believe it resulted in BMP dropping the endgame format for Battle Of The Sexes 2. To put it simply . . .
The Infernos were the absolute dumbest endgames ever conceived in the history of The Challenge.
Sorry for shouting, but it's true. Instead of having players roll a die to determine the game, the Infernos were set up in advance. And they sucked sooooooooooo hard. If you never watched the season, here's what you have to endure:
- Bug Helmet: Players get their faces smeared with syrup and have glass boxes of cockroaches placed on their heads. The best part is that this may have been the quickest endgame ever played.
- Chili Counter: Players eat chilies for an hour.
- Human Candelabra: Players hold out their arms while holding candles. First person to break loses.
- Noise Pollution: Players are put on a platform and endure loud noises through headphones for two hours. Tiebreaker: standing on a small box and trying not to fall.
- Don't Toss Your Cookies: Players eat milk and cookies and get spun around for ten minutes. First one to vomit loses.
- Scratchathon: Dear God. Okay . . . each player wears a tracksuit and gets coated with itching powder. They walk on a treadmill for three hours. First one to bail loses. Tiebreaker: jumping rope. For real. I mean, the results were awesome, and the whole episode was an entertaining shitshow, but it was so stupid.
- Brick by Brick: Players walk across a plank for three-and-a-half, transporting bricks from one side to the other. That was it. This was an even bigger shitshow, with the drama surrounding it distracting from the sheer stupidity.
- Smell Ya Later: *ssssssssiiiiiigggggghhh* Players sit in uncovered Plexiglass coffins, and foul stuff gets dumped in periodically. Tiebreaker: Submerging the entire body in utter foulness, with the first one to surface losing. Basically, this came down to which heavy smoker had the most lung capacity.
The biggest difference in cast was that Jonny Moseley was gone, at least for this season. Taking his place was Dave Mirra. I don't remember much from the late BMX legend. He didn't have any go-to quirks, like TJ Lavin's tormenting of quitters, or Jonny Moseley looking very stoned. Did you know Jonny finished fourth in the Moguls in the 1998 Winter Olympics, and she wound up hosting Saturday Night Live? Just throwing it out there.
The Road Rules team would have two rookies. Jeremy Blossom was the guy who replaced the fat fuck Donell on South Pacific. He was barely worth remembering, even less so that the sweet coat Kendall Shepard wore on Campus Crawl. Sadly, she wouldn't bring that to Inferno, but she'd make an impression in her single season. Two-time veteran Piggy Thomas (Down Under) made the trip, but she wound up dismissed under a cloud of suspicion. You can see bits of her in the first episode, but I totally missed her. Replacing her was Christena Pyle from South Pacific. She and Dave were the only ones I liked that season. Christena would let me down SO hard.Abram Boise (South Pacific) was let loose from whatever institution he was being held for Inferno. Shane Landrum (Campus Crawl) also was looking for his first win. Holly Shand from Latin America was seeking to redeem herself after coming up short with Josh on Battle Of The Seasons, and she would also let me down. Another BOTS player returning was Timmy Beggy. At the time, I think it was a contest between him and Mark Long as to who was the definitive Road Rules cast member. Mark would wind up wrecking his image in subsequent Challenges. Finally,we had Darrell Taylor (Campus Crawl) and Veronica (Semester at Sea) looking for their second straight title, and Katie Doyle (The Quest) seeking redemption from her early exit in Gauntlet. When you read my recaps, you will notice I was not a fan. That would wind up changing.
On the flip side, Real World had four rookies, all hailing from Paris. That might have shot the team in the foot, because I believe that season was airing when Inferno took place, and the others didn't know how to gel with them. For Mallory Snyder and Leah Gillingwater, it would be their only season. Clyde "Ace" Amerson wound up making a move where everybody questioned his heart, guts and/or manhood. Had Teege been hosting, he probably would have punched Ace in the dick. And Chris "CT" Tamburello started his Challenge career. When you read my recaps, understand that I remember a time when I didn't hold him in high regard. It would be a long time before he would display growth as a character, let alone as a human being.
One advantage Real World had was that four of their veterans had victories, compared to just two players that had 0-1 records. David Burns (Seattle) was five seasons removed from being on the losing side in Challenge 2000. Trishelle Cannatella would also return, fresh off breaking up with Mike. Speaking of which, Mike and Coral (Back to New York) returned, though I don't remember if they patched things up after Gauntlet. Another past champ making a comeback was Syrus Yarbrough (Boston), who was entertaining in Extreme Challenge. Sadly, one of his teammates was also returning: Julie Stoffer (New Orleans). It had been two seasons after Melissa had led the charge to bounce her from Battle Of The Sexes, and Julie would not learn a blessed thing from that. After the first week of Inferno, I was convinced that anybody who had ranked on Melissa for her move would have to apologize to her. And Julie would prove me right in the first week, scaring the living shit out of an opponent in the first mission. Some night, you can walk past a certain pair of high-rise buildings in Acapulco, and if you listen carefully, you can hear Jeremy screaming, "DON'T TOUCH THE SAFETY LINE!!!!!" But I'm getting ahead of myself.
That's about it. This was not that good of a season, and I thought that the "Inferno" system was flawed, unable to work at all. Inferno II would prove me wrong, but that was a year away. In 2004, however, I would have to endure one brutally dysfunctional season. But I did it for the fans. And I still need a life.