Monday, July 03, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 16: Beginning of the End

We're almost there. Please forgive me for the negativity from 2004. At this point, I probably didn't think The Inferno would be a huge downgrade, even though I knew Julie was coming back. I was burnt out on the Sarah abuse, I had thought too hard about whom Alton should send into the final Gauntlet, and I was ready for the end. But that's the messed-up thing about The Challenge: how often do we get an ending where most fans would be happy? Even now, it's usually a mixed bag. In Invasion Of The Champions, CT got his second win, but he showed up with the other champs in the fourth mission, and one of the guys he was facing was Cory, whose theme song might as well have been "Brick" by Third Eye Blind. On the woman's side, friggin' Ashley Mitchell beat Camila and Nicole. Honestly, I could have lived with Camila lucking into a second title over the bitch know as "Smashley." It also hurt that Nicole -- who's probably a good woman even with that accent -- got abused on screen and in forums. Like I said, mixed bag.

Airdate: January 12, 2004
Recap Published: January 16, 2004 

Alton makes his choice, Cara faces her final confrontation, and the teams compete in the final mission. And one player is about to have the worst day ever.
Previously on The Gauntlet: Theo G. tried to finish Dukes of Saturn as best as he could, fearing that the Gauntlet meeting would come down to him or Coral. She also tried her best, and Theo figured that she beat his time by 12 seconds. Jonny awarded the last $10,000 check to Real World, giving them $60,000 to Road Rules’ $80,000. Jonny also handed the Plate of Protection to Alton, putting Theo in danger of being sacrificed. Jonny handed the other PoP to Veronica. Her reaction? Like somebody jabbed her in the butt with a needle. Why did that get stuffed into the prologue? It’ll get lopped off in marathons. Veronica interviewed that she would’ve been sent to the Gauntlet if she hadn’t won the PoP. In the RR Meeting, Cara got voted in for the second time, and she hoped that she wouldn’t have to say goodbye. A cloud of angst choked the RW meeting, as Coral and Theo G. split the votes. It all came down to PoP-possessor Alton to break the tie. Would he stick with Coral, or send Theo in? Boy, I’m on the edge of my seat. It’s not like MTV showed us Cara and Coral in the final mission, right? Wait a minute...

RW Meeting. Coral insists she isn’t mad, but says would be unbelievable to her if she had to go into the Gauntlet again. Mike interviews that the pressure is on Alton, who holds the PoP. Alton is still sputtering, still channeling Dave during RR: South Pacific. “Coral is really our overall weakest player,” he interviews, “but I can’t take this opportunity away from her. She’s my friend. It’s an opportunity to win $150,000. That’s huge.” Finally, Alton makes his choice: Theo. “Sex doesn’t matter, man,” Theo interviews, “it’s your performance. Coral’s definitely my girl, and I have been doing a better job than Coral, period. But that’s just how it rolls, man.” Mike and Norman reassure Alton. He interviews that Coral is his girl, and he wants her to have a chance.

Watching this from home, I thought this was a bad idea. Yes, I analyzed the crap out of the situation and figured that Theo would be a better choice. Alton agreed with me, but he based his decision on entitlement, not strategy, which was a huge mistake. Coral already won her giant cardboard check two years ago on Battle of the Seasons. All Theo got from Battle of the Sexes was a number of prizes for being on the men’s side when they won missions. I would’ve sent Theo in because he stood a better chance against a random Roadie than Coral, not because she deserved more of a chance. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. That’s going to be a recurring theme in this and the next recap.

Gauntlet. Jonny welcomes everybody to the final Gauntlet. He reviews: the winner stays to get a share of the team bank, while the loser goes home with nothing. He brings Theo and Cara up to determine the final game. “All I’m hoping when I roll the [die],” Theo interviews, “is that I don’t get Deadman’s Drop. If I get Deadman’s Drop... I’m a dead man.” Just the way he says it, like it’s so obvious, cracks me up. Theo rolls, and his side cheers. Jonny raises the die to reveal Ride ‘Em Cowboy. Cara interviews that she’s a little nervous going in. Theo asks God to “let a brother win” while meditating. They put on the cowboy hats and jump on the bulls. Sarah gives Cara some advice. “In the name of Jesus,” Theo mutters, “let her fall first,” Okay, whatever. Dave interviews that Theo looks better on the bull, and he’s worried Cara won’t win this Gauntlet.

Once again, Jonny declares this to be the final Gauntlet. The remaining RW players stand up, holding hands. Nice show of solidarity there. Jonny blows his air horn to start things off. The bulls slowly start to buck. Adam stares, but not as hard as he did when Sarah was up there. Theo rides his bull, and I see that behind a nearby fence, some misguided soul is holding up a “GO REAL WORLD” sign. Soon, Theo’s bull starts spinning fast, while Cara’s steer moves a little slower. In one of her recaps, Sarah explained that the bulls operated differently for each gender, due to the difference in weight. That must have made some sense on Planet Bunim-Murray at the time. Then again, does anything make sense coming from BMP?

Dave says, “Cara’s doing quite nicely on the bull, and I’m going to give myself some credit for that, if you know what I’m saying.” Oh, yuck. Seriously, that’s way too much information from Dave today. Cara is actually smiling on the bull, while Theo’s ride is clearly possessed. He interviews that he was trying to hang on, but his arms were burning. He’s smacking the bull, while his teammates continue to hold hands. Roni interviews that Cara looks balanced on her bull. Soon, Theo slides off his bull. Game over. As RR celebrates, Coral bitchily mimics their gestures. “So apparently,” Cara declares, “I can ride a [bleeping] bull!” Theo can’t believe he lost. “This was my time to go home,” he interviews. “I’m going home with pride, and I’m going home with dignity. I’m only going home. I ain’t dying.” You know, I take back my fear of Theo coming back as a bastard in a third Challenge. The guy shows maturity, which is a rare commodity in reality show folk these days.

Denouement. Jonny reviews what happened, telling Theo that the loss hurt. You and me both, Jonny. “Theo was probably the best competitor that we lost in the Gauntlet,” Nathan interviews, slathering his body in I Told You So cologne. “I’m sure some of the people that voted for him are kinda questioning their vote at this point.” He does bring up a positive side: with fewer people, RW might have a better chance. Cut to shots of Veronica, Sarah, and Adam spinning a disc, looking like Adam’s off the meds. “Your final mission is on Sunday,” Jonny concludes. “Good luck.”

Back from commercials, I see that Theo G. didn’t get a farewell montage. Finally, I can compare him to Steve without any problems. Anyway, members of both teams celebrate as Coral reads the clues off the sponsor phone. Alton interviews that he feels great, and that his team showed RR that they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Sunset. Sunrise. A graphic tells us it’s the final mission day. RW members stretch and exercise outside. In the mansion, RR members look out to observe. Theo (only one left now) is worried about going into the final mission with more people. He talks to the others, trying to figure out how many Challenges ended with a distance race. Answer: every Challenge since Extreme. Sarah interviews that the others sent her to the Gauntlet because they don’t trust her to follow through in the end. Rachel figures that every mission that RR has lost has been physical in nature. And now it’s time for BMP to drag out the same damn negative Adam clip. “It’s blatantly obvious that Sarah is the weakest player, and that Cara is the second weakest player,” he interviews, clearly not as tired of his voice as I am. “There’s a reason they went into the Gauntlet. We were lucky that they beat somebody else on our team. Are we lucky that they came back?” The guy should consider himself lucky Sarah didn’t follow through with shoving her shoe up his butt. The editors, wacky funsters that they are, follow up Adam’s drone with a shot of Sarah shaking her head.

Final preparations. Alton: “This is the team that I dreamt of having. This is my dream team.” Coral flexes. Nathan says that his team has kicked ass. Darrell: “Today is what counts. Not yesterday, not the day before, not the first day we got here.” Nathan: “Looking on both sides of me right now. I know that I’m not going to be looking over my shoulder and pulling somebody with us.” Poor Nathan. He’s so optimistic right now, it hurts. Adam thinks that his team has weak spots, but they have strong spots as well. Mike speaks for his team: “Road Rules, kiss my ass!” Coral repeats that, while Nathan shows his butt and rubs it.

The teams arrive at the mission site by car. Jonny is wearing some sort of funky white jacket, with a t-shirt underneath. Such a dork. I will miss him, though. He welcomes the teams to Gold Rush, which is worth $150,000. He explains that the entire team must complete it, so the teams are only as strong as their weakest link. Naturally, we cut to Sarah and Cara. Jonny explains that the course is four miles long, and has seven obstacles.

1. The mission starts with a steady 1.3-mile uphill climb. Upon completion, the team will receive a gold piece. Actually, it’s a Perfect Fit puzzle piece with “$10,000” printed on it. Some extra in a cowboy hat holds two pieces, working his one second of fame before we cut to...

2. Gold Block, where the players climb a twelve-foot wall. Once done, the teams get another piece and move to...

3. Cash Crawl, a self-explanatory trek under a cargo net.

4. Gold Digger comes next. Each team gets two shovels to dig a hole. At the bottom is a lockbox.

5. Dough-Nut is a golden tire suspended about eight feet (by my reckoning) above the ground. Players go through that and towards...

6. Loop the Loot. The players must retrieve a piece from the middle of a pond. Next, we go to...

7. Goldie-Locks, which involves Saturns in some way. Here’s a sign: “The key to your SATURN is in your locked box. Road Rules, the first digit to your combination is 6.” Jonny says that the teams must get the key, open the Saturn and move on to...

8. Gold Bar, which looks a lot like Perfect Fit, but with a golden stand and tray. Once done, the teams dash to the finish line for $150,000.

Jonny tells the teams that referees are stationed at each stop to answer questions. Also, if a player is injured, the team can either move on and have ten minutes added onto their time, or they can carry that person with them. Jonny hands out maps to both teams. Rachel interviews that the other girls are her team looked like they saw a ghost. Theo adds that he saw in Sarah’s eyes only that she couldn’t do it. “We have this in the bag,” Mike interviews. “They have Sarah, they have Cara, and they have Veronica. There’s no way they can touch us.” In other words, Mike is begging destiny to give him a wedgie. Theo leads a RR huddle, asking his team to finish together in victory.

Shot of a deer. Jonny gets both teams ready before blowing his air horn for the last time. The deer runs off. Good move. Both teams start to jog, as RR gets a slight lead. Mike interviews that 200 yards into the run, he turns around and sees Coral walking. It’s funny... they’re running uphill, and yet everything is about to go downhill.

We get a shot of RR running, panning left to see Darrell far out in front. He interviews that his plan is to psyche out RW by getting ahead, dubbing himself “Spirit Killer.” I’d go with “Grammar Killer” for him. Coral is still struggling. Cara interviews that they’re 10,000 feet above sea level and it’s hot, so it’s hard to keep a fast pace. Cut to... oh, wow. You know, I thought seeing Matt dance would be the highlight of this season, but this tops it. Adam is carrying Sarah. Let me repeat: ADAM is carrying SARAH. Now, maybe Adam was right about the girls being weak links. Maybe Sarah was wrong in thinking the girls wouldn’t be objects the guys could lug around. Even so, I would’ve paid to see Sarah kick Adam in the butt like he was a pony. “Giddiyap! I did not take out five people so you could slack off!” Instead, she asks if he’s okay and thanks him for the lift. Norman interviews that he’s near Darrell, then looks back to see Mike carrying Coral on his back.

Darrell arrives at the checkpoint, yelling for his team to arrive. Jonny counts the members before handing the puzzle piece to Theo. Adam is still carrying Sarah. Darrell doesn’t want to see RW, and then he gives his back to Sarah, telling her she’s going to finish on her own. I’m guessing Darrell is all about the tough love, but he still irritates me at times. Guess I’ll hold off on final judgment until after Inferno. Sarah rides for a few seconds before hopping off. “I’m exhausted,” she interviews, “out of breath, and totally and mentally incapacitated.”

Commercials. Clips from this episode, set to Linkin Park’s “Numb.” Anybody else feel that’s Sarah’s theme song for this season? Anyway, the finale is next week. I’d settle into a small coma, but Inferno is right around the corner, and somebody has to protect you guys from the evil of BMP.

Nathan is out in front for RW, yelling at his team. Mike is still carrying Coral. “It’s just unbelievable to me,” Nathan grouses, “to see that within one mile of this race, this woman is already done.” Yeesh. Nathan yells for Mike to put Coral down. She walks a few steps, but Alton rushes in front of her and she hops on. Jonny hands the piece to Nathan.

Gold Block. The RR team starts to climb the wall without incident. RW closes in. Mike looks pissed with Coral on his back. RR climbs down the other side. Coral is on Norman’s back. RR keeps climbing. Theo says, “A lot of good teamwork at the wall by the Road Rules team. Adam is such a great captain, and Darrell is so encouraging, it’s a pleasure to be in such an intense atmosphere with these guys.” RR finishes the obstacle and moves on.

Nathan pulls Coral up, interviewing that RW got to the wall just as RR wrapped up. A graphic tells us that RR is only 55 seconds in front. “She’s saying she’s about to pass out,” Nathan gripes in an interview. “She can’t see, she’s tired, she can’t breathe. I can’t see, I’m tired, I can’t breathe either, but I’m not laying on the ground.”

RW continues to stagger to their next destination, with Coral faltering. She interviews that the sight in her left eye is completely gone. Alton tells her to take a knee, only to face the wrath of the Miz. Normally, when Mike goes into Miz mode, it’s supposed to be funny. Right now, it’s not. Mike orders her on his back. Alton thinks she could die, which Mike doesn’t believe. Coral tells the team she’ll catch up, but Mike’s not buying it. His face looks like Eric Bana turning a mild shade of green in The Hulk, a mere minute away from total meltdown. “This is like a nightmare that’s coming true,” Mike interviews. “You never would imagine one of your teammates saying, ‘I can’t do it.’” He wonders if they should leave her, since ten minutes is a long time. Soon, Coral gets on Mike’s back.

RR advances to Cash Crawl. “I don’t care if you’re tired,” Darrell interviews, “I don’t care if your leg hurts, I don’t care if your booty itch. You need to come on. This is for $150,000.” The team goes under the net. Darrell: “Come on, Sarah. Come on, Cara. Come on, Veronica. Come on. Push.” Who knows what he’d be going through if he were on the other team. The team completes the crawl, moving on to the next stage.

Nathan is at the start of Cash Crawl, waiting for the team. Alton is sprinting with Coral on his back. Yeah, he’s officially a rock star at this point. She goes under the net first, with Mike urging her on, “We’re two seconds away from ‘em!” he shouts. “They’re right in front of us!” Graphic: RR leads, 2:04. Coral insists that her predicament is beyond her body. Alton: “Never say never, baby.”

Adam is walking, holding Sarah’s hand. By Rachel and Veronica’s definition, that’s getting to second base! Sarah interviews that she’s getting tunnel vision, only able to see Adam’s shins. Various team members stumble forward. “Guys,” Adam hollers, “I know your bodies are gone. Give me some heart!” I hate to say this, but this is the right time to be on Adam’s team. Roni falls and gets picked up by Dave. Veronica and Rachel stumble. Darrell gets to the start of Gold Digger, but the referee tells him that the whole team has to arrive. The ladies arrive depleted, staggering, and collapsing. Adam reminds the team that he can’t start until everybody arrives.

Back to the RW Doom March. “Let’s go,” Mike mutters. “It’s just a walk.” The inflection in his voice borders on Miz. Norman helps Coral, and she gasps that she’ll give up her share of the money. Mike snaps, “We’re not going to have your share, because we’re not going to win unless you keep your [bleep] up.” Actually, they’re each guaranteed $12,000, before taxes. Nice work, if you can get it and put up with BMP. Coral feels like she can’t breathe. Mike: “You’re telling me Sarah is stronger than you?” Oh, no. Oh, hell no. He did not just take Sarah’s name in vain like that. Norman interviews that Coral keeps saying she’s not as strong as Sarah, and he can’t believe it. Since when is Sarah the line between being an athlete and eating chips in front of the tube? Quick note: I looked at the Inferno roster, and there’s not a single woman there that I’d fawn over. No Melissas, no Sarahs. I don’t know if my bias irritates any of you, but I thought I’d get that out of the way.

Gold Digger. Adam and Theo dig in the hole, frantically trying to find the box. The others have decided to take a breather. Cara interviews that it’s hot and the oxygen level is low. Her body is drenched in sweat. Thankfully, Dave isn’t taking credit for that one. More digging. Nathan arrives. Darrell interviews that the box is buried deep.

Nathan yells that RR is close by. Coral voiceovers that she feels terrible and embarrassed about the situation. She hits the ground again, and Mike still looks pissed. Nathan: “Coral said, ‘If there’s a car involved, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you for a car.’ You think Coral is just a big talker, she is going do this and that, and then she just quit on you, Nathan? We get it. She’s out of steam; you could go on for miles. You’re the only one left who voted for Coral. We get it. Shut up. And I’m not forgiving you for blabbing to Colin on his web site about how RR sent one person into the Gauntlet five times. “Dammit, Coral should’ve been at that Gauntlet.” Yeah, well what if she won? You think Theo G. would’ve helped you guys out that much? Once again: shut up, Nathan. Coral lies down, and Alton tries to get her up. “We say, ‘Don’t let it get personal,’” Mike interviews, “but no matter what, it always does.” He growls to Coral to get up. Alton wants to stay with her, but she wants the team to leave her. Mike doesn’t want that, and he yells at her. Norman interviews that he’s on the fence over what to do. She feels knocked out. Mike calms down long enough to see if she’s okay. As she gets up, the camera view staggers every which way. Fade to black.

One last gripe before I finish: how unfair is Gold Rush to RR? If Coral were healthier, and/or Theo G. were in there, RW would have had a better shot, since they have fewer people to complete the course. The only stage I can see where more people would be beneficial is Gold Digger, and even then most of RR is electing to take a breather. Shouldn’t RR be awarded for all the times Cara and Sarah sent a RW player home? Here’s my thinking: RR gets a five-minute head start per Gauntlet win from their remaining players. Cara and Sarah racked up seven, so that’s 35 minutes. Next, deduct five minutes from each remaining RW player who won in the Gauntlet. Subtract 15 minutes from 35, and you have 20 minutes for RR to rush in front. Under this system, had Theo beaten Cara in the Gauntlet, her wins would have been wiped out, and RR would have had a five-minute head start (Sarah’s 25 minutes minus RW’s 20). It’s just a sad situation that Cara and Sarah were both voted out of their respective seasons, both crawled back to become the first outcasts to last an entire Challenge, and both could wind up penalizing their own team due to their lack of athleticism. Once again: what else do you expect from BMP?

Next time: It’s the last roundup, buckaroos. We got clips from this episode, as well as some new ones. I’m guessing the finale was supposed to have been an hour long. Sarah looks like she’s going to vomit on Veronica. Coral gets oxygen from a paramedic. More stuff from today’s episode. Two referees administering to Coral say, “She stopped breathing.” Of course, we’ll probably be laughing in relief a few weeks from now, but this is some intense stuff.

I know, I tend to overthink the format of this show. In retrospect, a twenty-minute headstart would have made the finale so much less interesting. I don't think Wes or Jodi lost the leads they started with in The Duel (please correct me if I'm wrong). Still, it felt like Road Rules would get bogged down by more moving parts . . . which is precisely what happened to the Bad Asses in the finale of Inferno II. And if you're like Adam, "moving parts" equals "women that don't kowtow to my superior masculinity." If Sarah had wrote about waking up and finding Adam above her with a pillow inches from her face, I would not have been shocked. I also had issues with Mike and Nathan, but I'll save that for next time.

I totally forgot Theo Gantt got no sendoff. Like we needed the extra 45-60 seconds to listen to Adam grumble about Sarah sabotaging the team, or Mike and Nathan badmouthing Coral. Theo never came back, which was a shame given that he was a good competitor and drama-free. Also, it's funny that he hailed from the one season where Challengers were in the minority. Aside from him, Tonya and Aneesa (still looking for that first win), nobody else from RW: Chicago competed on the Challenge. It's almost a shame Kyle became a soap opera star, because he could have excelled on the show. Then again, he was an asshole and everybody made fun of his ego and "fivehead" (which some also applied to Coral), so maybe that was for the best.

Before I go, here's the video for "Numb" by Linkin Park. I still feel this was Sarah's theme song for The Gauntlet, but I'd be happy to hear any suggestions you might have.

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