Friday, August 16, 2013

Best Challenge Endgames Ever (Part One)

Note: I still have no friggin' clue how to properly do footnotes on Blogger, so I'm just going to copy, paste, and research later.

It’s been over a decade since I started recapping Real World/Road Rules Challenge on Reality News Online. I wound up “covering” four seasons for RNO[1], followed by two seasons on my own with this blog. A lot have changed over the years. For one, with Road Rules dying an unlamented death, we’re left with The Challenge, which now runs an hour long on Wednesday nights. Most of the regulars I wrote about have gotten on with their lives, replaced by a generation filled with “Fresh Meat” players and products of The Real World which have veered as far away from the days of original ingĂ©nue Julie Oliver, country singer Jon Brennan and the original casts. In other words, we’re left with assholes, and we’re getting bigger assholes with every passing season.

As much damage as Bunim-Murray Productions has inflicted on its viewers (most of whom, like me, probably hate themselves), they did stumble into something special: the endgame. Okay, it’s mostly known as “elimination rounds,” but fuck it . . . my blog, my term. Starting with The Gauntlet, players on the outs with their own teams had an option: win a game, stay on the show. Lose the game, get sent packing. No other show used this format on a regular basis. Survivor had a College Bowl-type playoff in its Africa season, as well as fire-building contests to break ties[2], but it would be years before Mark Burnett introduced “Redemption Island” to completely wreck the entire “The Tribe Has Spoken” mystique the show had. In trying to create more drama, BMP managed to create something special.

Since we’re coming up on the tenth anniversary of The Gauntlet, I thought that I could share the endgames that stick in my head the most. The Gauntlets, Infernos, Duels, Jungles, Gulags, and all the other labels used by BMP. Some are easy to remember, like “Johnny Bananas Backpack,” because fuck Johnny Devenanzio, that’s why. Others are better known for their aftermaths, like the time after an Inferno where Katie Doyle almost murdered Veronica Portillo with her bare hands. And some of them you may have forgotten. God knows I have, and I’m not hellbent on poring through every single endgame to pick the best. I don’t remember jack about Fresh Meat, but I know I would equate Wes Bergmann & Casey Cooper’s five Exile wins to Sarah Greyson’s five Gauntlets won. I adored Sarah way too much to compare her to the debuts of the Ginger Jackass and his whiny partner. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take the time to write about my fave endgames, and I hope you’ll enjoy them. Let’s start with The Gauntlet and the first-ever do-or-die challenge.

            The first-ever endgame was a no-win situation for me. You can ask my friend Clara about how disappointed I was, because she was nice enough to have me over, a tradition that carried over for several seasons.

            If David were a movie, he would’ve been a horror flick from the Fifties: The Ego That Walked Like A Man!!! He managed to alienate his roommates, make a fool of himself with his rapping and scatting, and sleep with about nineteen women during his stay in New Orleans. I think that’s a record; unlike the ribsy Teck Holmes[3] of the prior season, at least you’d get why women would be hot for David. By the time The Gauntlet rolled around, I was thinking of him as a human being. He was part of the peace talks in trying to keep Puck Rainey in Battle of the Sexes[4], and he had a thing going with crazy Ayanna Mackins prior to his elimination after four missions.

            On the flip side, I had no fucking clue why Sarah was doing this show. She was part of Road Rules: Campus Crawl, one of the worst seasons in the show’s history. Unlike her castmates, she wasn’t athletically gifted, and she wasn’t much into socializing with them. She would be voted off mid-seasons and replaced, and she wasn’t missed much. That probably explains why Rachel Robinson and Darrell Taylor were scheming to get rid of her from the start of The Gauntlet. Here’s their abridged talk:

Rachel: You got my back, right?

Darrell: Fiddy tye nye dicky do! But y’all know we gotta get ridda Sarah, right?[5]

Rachel: I know, right? She sucks so hard! She isn’t like me, a mediocre athlete who scares people with her muscles!

Darrell: (interview) Diddy die Sarah suck. She suck so hard. She suck all the live-long day. Tiddy tye tiddy toe, Sarah gotsta go!

            And then we’d get a flashback to the time Sarah almost killed herself running in a Citadel-based mission. She fell down twice that time and was sideline, and most of her castmates hated her for holding them back. Meanwhile, I emphasized with her, since the only other thing that got enough love on the Television Without Pity forums was not Kendal Sheppard, but her badass coat.

            Anyway . . . in the first mission, the 28 players had to endure a frigid pool with snakes in it for some reason. David was the first person out, and he’d get voted into the Gauntlet by his teammates. Sarah wasn’t hot on his heels . . . Laterrian Wallace (RR: Maximum Velocity Tour) was the first Road Rules player out. Sadly, the bulk of the team valued Laterrian (and his muscles) over Sarah, and she was thrust into the Gauntlet. Between the oft-put-upon chick and the reformed asshole, I knew things would suck either way.

            The first-ever endgame was a bit of an anticlimax. Since Real World won the mission, David got to roll a die, and he and Sarah were put into Dead Man’s Drop[6], where they had to hang from their legs on trapezes above the pool. David’s muscular physique worked against him, as he fell into the pool into elimination and trivia.

            Before leaving Telluride, something funny occurred with David. One of his roommates from New Orleans was making his debut . . . .Matt Smith[7], the ultra-white hipster doofus who had been his best bud. Matt had made the mistake of getting on the bad sides of teammates Tonya Cooley and Coral Smith (miss her so much), and David gave him advice. The amusing thing was that Matt had been trapped in his bed in most of the times where David was getting freaky with a woman nearby. The talk didn’t work . . . five missions later, Matt was sent into the Gauntlet, where he’d lose to Sarah. In Dead Man’s Drop. And now, because you've been such good boys and girls, I offer this . . . "Come On Be My Baby Tonight." You're welcome.

Next time: Coral gets revenge, Sarah endures more pain, and Steve gets swept away without so much a fond farewell.

[1] The breakup was ugly. Like, Rachel Robinson saying “ugh-gah-lay!!!” after she was voted off Battleof the Sexes. I won’t go further that this, save that I still hold grudges. And the guy who replaced me and took the first few paragraphs to shit on my writing style? I got words for him.
[2] RememberBecky vs. Sundra in the final Tribal Council in Cook Islands? With Jeff Probst shouting “We’re going to matches”? That was awesome.
[3] Anytime I think of Teck, I imagine all the child support payments he has to make for all the half-black kids in Honolulu with scraggly bleached blonde hair. Nice guy, but he threw it around way too much.
[4] Short story: I think the fight between Puck and David Edwards was staged. In my head, BMP could only rustle up seven male RW alumni, so they brought in Puck, promising him a wedding to his baby mamma and a no-questions-asked departure halfway through the show. And David Edwards got to fake stirring up shit about getting spat in the face by Puck before leaving the show after the first mission. Otherwise, human beings were acting the way they were acting . . . and that would be depressing as fuck.
[5] In my recaps and on forums, I’ve referred to Darrell as “Pootie Tang.” Lest you think I’m racist, the man coined the phrases “infuorno,” “poorlest” and “non-flexibilist cat.” I think I was onto something back then.
[6] At the time, the game was known for being the second mission in Battle of the Sexes, climaxing with warrior goddess Ruthie checking her wristwatch while hanging, making sure she got a win for her fellow women.
[7] No, no, not the Matt Smith that got to play the lead in Doctor Who. No, this one was a little more alien-looking. He was so damn white, he didn’t need a lamp to read in bed.

Note #2: . .  . and apparently, Reality News Online also died a unlamented death, along with all the stuff I wrote with them. As much as I'd love to talk shit about the site, I'm more concerned whether to find all my material and repost it here . . . or if anybody would care.