Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Gauntlet: What Should Alton Do?

During Battle Of The Sexes, the hemorrhoid that called itself "Puck" decided to take his leave midway through the season. Since denigrating him was a big chunk on why I volunteered to cover the season, I wound up expending brain matter on the circumstances of his departure. That included material from Challenger accounts about how and why he left, as well as him forcing himself to throw up when the women's Inner Circle  voted off Rachel. Aren't you glad I wanted to keep a record of that?

Cut to early 2004. The Real World team had painted itself into a corner, as alpha male Alton (sorry, Mike, you know it's true), had to decide who would go to the final Gauntlet: Coral or Theo. Once again, I put too much thought into what might happen. This was published on January 12, 2004, the day when the results would be shown.

Alton has a choice to make: who to send to the last Gauntlet. At stake: the possible elimination of Cara and a better chance of winning the final mission. Who’s it going to be: Coral or Theo?
Meet Alton Williams. Alton is a member of the Real World team competing in The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet. Throughout the season, Alton has been a top performer for his team, finishing at or near the top in the missions. After two sub-par performances in a row, he volunteered for the Gauntlet, managing to smoke Laterrian in Pole Climb. If ever there was a better example of a RW alpha male, it’s Alton.

As described in my recap of the 15th episode last week, Alton has a dilemma. For completing Dukes of Saturn faster than anyone else on his team, he was awarded the Freshlook Eyesaver, which kept him from being voted into the Gauntlet by his teammates. It also gave him the power to break a tie, should that occur. As Peter Parker once learned, with great power comes great responsibility. And for a team already guaranteed to have a disadvantage going into the final mission, Alton’s decision could be the difference between a $60,000 and $210,000 payday.

On one side is Theo Gantt. A rarity amongst the Bunim-Murray set, Theo left most of his drama back in Chicago. He competed well in Battle of the Sexes, constantly finishing near the top of the standings. He seemed to be a prime contender for the final threesome, until he fell off a stirrups course, plunging him from fourth place to dead last. Since his team established that the last-place finisher would go home, Theo left, and without regret. In Telluride, his performances had not blown away his teammates, to the point where he received votes to go to the Gauntlet. Since then, he has stepped up, performing to the best of his abilities.

On the other side is Coral Smith. In contrast to Theo, Coral brings the drama wherever she goes. She didn’t even unpack her bags before getting in Matt’s face. A member of the winning RW squad on Battle of the Seasons, Coral’s early performances were dismal. The lowest point came when her team, longtime friend Mike included, sent her to the Gauntlet. After defeating Tina in Deadman’s Drop, Coral’s name was kept out of Gauntlet consideration, save for Mike, who wanted to protect girlfriend Trishelle. Coral is the last woman on the RW side, and does not relish the thought of losing a share of her team’s bank with a Gauntlet loss.

In the closing minutes of last week’s episode, Coral and Theo voted for each other. Norman and Mike voted for Theo, while Nathan and Alton chose Coral. Whomever gets selected will face Cara in the final Gauntlet... but it’s unlikely that RW will know that until the actual match. With all this said... what will Alton do?

What Alton Should Do

With no points system, both teams have not had a set voting plan. Sometimes, the decision is based on overall performance. Other times, it’s a case of “What have you done for me lately?” Let’s look at the players’ performances in individual events, as presented by the editors (some information extrapolated from average times):

Snake Soup
Coral: Second person overall to drop out.
Theo: Fifth person on team to drop out.

Mud Bath
Coral: Eliminated after Round One.
Theo: Eliminated after Round Four.

Sink My Ship
Coral: Eliminated after Round One
Theo: Eliminated after Round Two

Red Baron
Coral: Shot down Laterrian.
Theo: Shot down by Adam

Coral: 1:07 (fifth place)
Theo: 1:01 (fourth place)

Rolling On a River
Coral: Fifth person to fall.
Theo: Second person to fall, tied with Alton and Irulan.

Coral: Fourth person to fall off.
Theo: Last person to fall off.

All or Nothing
Coral: Grabbed the rope, lost her shoes, decided to quit.
Theo: Grabbed the rope, finished at 0:31.

Vertical Sweep
Coral: 7:07 (sixth place)
Theo: 4:30 (fourth place)

Dukes of Saturn
Coral: 25.29 (second place)
Theo: 37.74 (third place)

As you can see, Theo has the edge over Coral. In addition, Coral has been a drag on her team throughout the season. She took the lead with Tonya in Masquerade, failing to put the faces together before tagging out to Rachel and Matt. Her freak-out during Holey Canoe led her teammates to send her to the Gauntlet, which led to a massive crying session over Mike’s decision to shove her in. On the other side, Theo has proven himself to be a good player, unable to provide the drama that this show demands. And that is why Alton should send him into the Gauntlet.

Hear me out on this. RW has no clue whom RR would send. Maybe they could determine that Cara has been voted into the Gauntlet. After all, they send in females in nine out of thirteen times. Sarah had been given a bye by her teammates, and Cara had the fourth-worst time in Dukes of Saturn. Right now, Alton needs to be feeling the hard feelings from the last Gauntlet. He needs to remember the taunting his girlfriend Irulan received after losing to Sarah. Theo would be the best weapon he could unleash, aside from himself. All he has to do is tell Theo that he believes in him and that he can’t trust Coral to get the job done. Alton stepped up to eliminate Laterrian, and Mike survived a scare against Abram. At this stage, it’s not about cutting the fat; the team is downright anorexic at this point. It’s about making certain the opposing team is as weak as possible. Besides, if Theo loses, he would take it like an adult. If Coral loses, she’d probably go on another “I thought we were friends!” jag, crushing what little morale is left.

What Alton Will Do

My guess? He’ll stick with his vote and send Coral. It’s easy for me to analyze the situation. After all, I have six days, 23 hours and 30 minutes to think up scenarios. Alton has less than half an hour. Besides, if he looked at the final missions of the last two seasons, he would see they were both gender-neutral. In fact, the course in Sexes was adjusted for both male and female teams. In other words, Coral would be more expendable.

Who Will Win the Gauntlet?

In Sarah’s recaps, she mentioned that the two dice used in the game were different. The same-sex die has six missions, while the opposite-sex has three. Once again, Cara is the RR representative. She is the only person on her team to survive a Gauntlet outside of Sarah, defeating Elka in Knock Your Block Off.

Cara vs. Coral

Think of this as the Princess Battle. The winner gets two Gauntlet wins, and gets to play Princess to Sarah’s Queen. If Cara loses, she will be forced to leave Dave, breaking up the third couple this season. In addition, she will be the second South Pacific cast member Coral racked up in the Gauntlet. If Coral loses, Cara will have eliminated two members of the winning RW team from Seasons. Let’s check out the possibilities.

Deadman’s Drop: I think Cara has this one in hand. Coral can give her the Evil Witch Stare all she wants, but she should have learned what to do in this event (Sarah) and what not to do (Tina).

Hangman: For some reason, I see Coral hanging a little tougher here. I’m probably thinking of how well she and Mike did on the original Hangman mission in Seasons.

Knock Your Block Off: Coral will have learned from the mistake Elka made, which was being too aggressive. Elka had Cara nailed, but her momentum threw her into the water. If Mike can learn patience, so can Coral.

Perfect Fit: Outside of David, name a cast member who has more issues with water. Yeah, Sarah managed to come back after Trishelle took a head start, but I feel Cara would solve the puzzle before Coral.

Pole Climb: Coral has this, since she has Alton on her side. His advice? Keep the hands dry before climbing.

Ride ‘Em Cowboy: This is a tough one. I’ll give this to Coral, who would hang on out of sheer spite.

Cara vs. Theo

This doesn’t have the punch of Cara/Coral, but the stakes are just as high. If Theo loses, he gets the label of “two-time loser.” Given that Beth and Emily formerly had that title, and Veronica’s currently wearing it, I would advise him never to do another Challenge. He’d probably come back as a bastard in the third.

Deadman’s Drop: For some weird reason, I don’t see this event claiming a third male victim. I just checked my recap of the event from last season, and they never showed Theo’s time. But it’s a feeling that I have that he would win.

Perfect Fit: This one goes to Cara, if she gets the pieces quickly enough.

Ride ‘Em Cowboy: From one of Sarah’s recaps, she mentioned that the man’s bull would be faster. Even so, I think Theo would pull it out, holding onto the bull, while Cara flops around.

To find out how well I know these people, check out The Gauntlet this Monday on MTV at 10 p.m., or any of the other hundreds of times they choose to air it. Then keep an eye right here on RNO for my recap, to see me crow about how right I was... or to just pretend this analysis was never written.

 How did I do? Here's a hint: about a month later, when I contributed to a roundtable on who would win Survivor: All-Stars, my pick was Rob Cesternino. He was the fourth person vote of the game. Apparently, being a genius on a tribe with no prior winners did not work into his favor. I'll have the next recap -- "Beginning Of The End" -- posted soon.

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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 14: Tubthumper

This is it . . . Sarah's final trial on her way to personal redemption. And yes, I really went "all-in" with her writing this recap. Once again: I identified with her a lot back then; of course I had a rooting interest. It's funny that we're thirteen years from when this was written, and not only did Sarah not prove to be the most-screwed person in Challenge history, she's not even the most pitiable player named "Sarah." Look at Sarah Rice-Patterson . . . she went years with below-average teammates (can't hate Devyn; she was awesome), and got forced off two seasons thanks to the dumbasses she was paired with (fat fuck Vinny in Battle Of The Exes; the always sucky Trishelle in Rivals II). She won Battle Of The Exes II with Jordan, came back two seasons later on Rivals III, got teamed with Johnny, and he denied her $175,000 in the end. Oh, and guys have gotten a lot worse than Adam Larson. But you knew that already.

Airdate: December 29, 2003
Recap Published: January 2, 2004 

Sarah gets knocked out, but she gets up again, and nobody can keep her down. But after a brutal mission, the Queen of the Gauntlet is primed to be overthrown. Will the forces of evil finally win out?
How’s everybody doing? Did you get what you want for the holidays? Cool. This episode is dedicated to Danny Roberts and his boyfriend Paul. If you skipped out after this episode aired, I’ll break it down: during Real World: New Orleans, Danny and Paul met up romantically several times. The problem was, Paul was in the Army, and his homosexuality was a big problem in the time of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” So Paul’s face was blurred every time he showed up. Monday night, the blur was finally taken off, and we got the first look at him. I dedicate this recap because I sometimes get so squirreled away in my little area, I forget that others go though tougher times than dealing with the obnoxious. Also, at the beginning of 2003, I found myself cheering on Melissa and her friend Amaya during Sergeant Says. So applauding another Belfort resident and his friend at the end seems fitting. I think I’ll overdose on that season’s marathon this weekend.

Previously on The Gauntlet: Real World won All or Nothing, upping their bank to $40,000, which was half of Road Rules’ total. Mike defeated Abram in the Gauntlet, but RR had nine players left to RW’s seven. Theo V. interviewed that it was tough to lose Abram. Sarah sat on the bench, looking distraught over how the bullet she dodged nailed Abram between the eyes. Roni interviewed that Sarah has gone to the Gauntlet four times and won, and that was big for the team.

We start with some quick cuts, which will be consistent for tonight’s episode. First, we flash from Sarah in the mansion to Adam and Theo V. walking outside. Theo can’t believe she has gone to the Gauntlet four times. He interviews that he likes Sarah and he wants her to stay. He tells Adam that they have to think of a way for her to use her Gauntlet energy in the missions. “Maybe it’s fear,” Adam muses, “a fear of getting sent home.” He’s perceptive, isn’t he? Cut to Sarah in the bedroom with Roni. “Sarah has gotten disqualified two or three times,” Adam interviews. “She is definitely the weakest link. If it was up to me, I would’ve voted her in the Gauntlet every single time, from the very beginning.” You mean he didn’t do that? I guess Tina and Steve were collateral damage. She might be the weakest link, but she doesn’t look like the missing link.

Mountain shots. Sarah laughs about the standard operating procedure of her team. “How many times can one person go into the Gauntlet,” she wonders, “before somebody starts to recognize that maybe that’s not exactly fair.” Shot of her in the bedroom, laughing with Roni. “They want me to go home. If I give up, that’s it.” Also, her “friends” wind up with larger shares from the bank. She laughs painfully, then frowns.

Later. Cara answers the sponsor phone. The clues: individual challenge, pick-up at 7:45 a.m., wear team colors and sneakers.

Mountains. Everybody looks up, as we glimpse some rope hanging from the cliff. Jonny welcomes everybody to Vertical Sweep. The object: to rappel down the cliff face while collecting flags. Nathan expositions that there’s a 100-foot drop. Jonny continues: failure to grab all the flags results in the mandatory (say it with me) worst logged time plus a two-minute penalty. For some reason Theo V. has his hand raised. Jonny concludes: the team with the fastest average time wins $10,000 and a sponsor audio notebook. He presents it with a big grin on his face. I know he annoys me, but I’m going to miss him when he leaves. “We really need everybody to step up here in the Vertical Sweep,” Theo V. drawls. “We need all the ladies to get lovely in this rock, and we need all the guys to come through. It’s gonna be tough.”

Darrell is first to descend, as he reminds us of his fear of heights. Jonny blows his airhorn and Darrell slowly descends. As he grabs the flags, Adam shouts advice to him. Darrell slides to the left, picking up another flag. “I just simply don’t trust equipment,” Darrell interviews, while we see a random key grip fiddling with the cord. “Man made it, it was made to be broken.” At least he didn’t say, “I don’t wanna hear, ‘Come on, Darrell!’” He grabs another flag before slamming into the mountain. Cut to a tight shot of Sarah. She interviews that seeing Darrell struggle she is hoping she can kick ass. Darrell grabs the final flag, clocking out at three minutes, 43 seconds.

Nathan descends, taking his time as Alton cheers him on. Irulan interviews that RW is stepping it up, “In every individual mission that we have,” she adds, “we shine and we win.” Nathan comes down at 4:00, getting hugged by Mike and Alton.

Roni jumps around, having trouble. Adam yells at her, telling her to cinch the rope. She climbs up to retrieve a flag, then twirls on the rope. Cut to Sarah, looking worried. Since she mentioned in a recap that Roni had firefighter training, I can’t blame her. “It’s really hard for me to maintain a positive energy level,” Sarah interviews. “It would really suck to go home with nothing.” Roni snags the final flag, hitting the ground at 9:59.

Techno montage! Theo G. yells while swinging. Veronica looks like she’s having an easy time of it as she grabs a flag. Theo V. grabs a flag. Mike descends. Theo G. finishes at 4:30. Theo V.: 1:46. Mike descends and the camera pans to Sarah. He finishes at 1:46. No shot of Veronica finishing. Average times: RW 4:12, RR 5:16. Since I have no life, I took the times at face value and calculated Veronica’s time at 5:36. Hey, I gotta use my math degree somewhere.

Suddenly, there’s an annoying pinging, like something off a submarine’s radar. Sarah looks on as Mike gets love from his team. “I’m just trying really hard to stay focused on the task at hand,” she interviews. “Screw the past, screw the future. Today is today.” She gets ready at the top, a little nervous, but in good spirits. Maybe she’ll be okay. It’s not like the producers showed her wiping out two weeks ago. Oh, wait... they did. Never mind.

Back from commercials, Sarah starts her descent. Adam yells instructions and encouragement from the ground. She snags a flag and all is well. The soundtrack gets happy, repeating, “I’m gonna do it!” She keeps grabbing flags. Adam looks like he doesn’t totally hate her. Soundtrack: “Isn’t it time to shine?” She keeps grabbing flags before getting stuck in a crack. She slowly crawls up to grab it. All in all, she’s kicking butt. Adam yells that her “momentum is awesome!” She swings left, hitting the wall hard with her back. Adam grimaces. She floats down on the rope, hitting the wall again. She whimpers as she tries to climb up. “Come on, you got it!” Roni hollers. “You do not quit!” Sarah grabs a flag, hitting the wall once more. Roni yells for her to pick her feet up. Sarah pushes herself off the wall, only to hit the wall and the ground. Damn, that had to hurt. Disqualification. Cara and Roni rush up to help her as we see the final flag still in place.

Montage! Norman descends, grabbing a flag. Irulan swings. Rachel grabs a flag, swinging far to her left, getting cheered on by Veronica and Adam. Well, the Axis of Ass has to stick together. Coral swings, hitting the wall hard. Cara struggles to grab a flag. Norman lands at 3:16. Rachel lands at 3:29, getting a hug from Adam. Irulan finishes at 8:04, getting hugged by Alton and Mike. She interviews that she brings a lot to the team, but she didn’t do her best. Coral grabs a flag, finishing at 7:07. She feels that since Irulan and herself are the last ladies on the RW side, she might be going to the Gauntlet again. Average times: RW 5:11, RR 5:58. Cara floats down with a smile on her face, not hitting the ground hard as she gets disqualified, making Theo V. curse. Cara thinks she might be Gauntlet-bound, while Sarah prays that’s not the case for her.

Adam gets ready as he and Theo V. yell instructions to each other. Adam descends with ease as the editing flashes between him and Sarah. She interviews, “Adam just views things from the perspective of a person who can do whatever the hell he wants, and has never had anybody beat him down before.” Hey, bring Adam to New York. I’m sure I could round up some friends to remedy that. He finishes at 1:39. Alton flies around, finishing at 1:59 and getting a group hug from the team. At least RW can openly display affection for each other. Final times: RW 4:43, RR 6:10. Don’t ask me why Dave wasn’t shown. I got him finishing at 5:20. Once again: I have no life. Norman (with bright red shades) explains that with Cara and Sarah getting disqualified, things are looking good for RW.

Jonny awards the $10,000 check to RW, which is picked up by Coral and Irulan. Current banks: RR $80,0000, RW $50,000. Jonny then hands out immunities to Adam and Alton. In past recaps, I got confused, calling it a “Lifesaver” when it should have been “Eyesaver.” You know what? It’s the Plate of Protection. It’s simple, it doesn’t cater to sponsors, and it’s easy to initial (PoP). Alton interviews that RW is in the game. We get a close-up of Sarah, zooming back to see Adam with his arm around Rachel. Jonny sends both teams to figure out who goes into the Gauntlet.

RW Meeting. Irulan feels like the inevitable time has come and she volunteers herself. Alton doesn’t agree, since she’s his girlfriend. Once again: Mike never copped to that with Trishelle. “I can’t do it,” Alton interviews. “There’s some others I can think of to go to the Gauntlet.” Irulan asks for an alternative and Alton offers himself. Coral reminds us that the PoP forbids him from going in this time. Irulan tells Alton that she wants to go out with some pride. The team gathers for the usual cheer, with Mike babbling about the “element of surprise.” They cheer... notice that RW displays some semblance of unity, at least on-camera.

RR Meeting. The tension is thick. It’s not like MTV ran a commercial with Sarah hanging upside-down in the Gauntlet to ruin the ending. Oh, wait... they did. Never mind. After an awkward silence, Adam rambles on, “apologizing” for the team losing four physical missions, and how he “prepared [his] ass off.” His latest t-shirt: “I’m a Pony!” He’s actually getting set to sell shirts from his web site. Theo V. is ticked about people who finished with a smile after getting disqualified. Why doesn’t he just say “Cara”? “I’m not feeling that same vibe,” he continues. “If you’re hitting the bottom and you’re disqualified, something should be wrong with you.” Cara asked if she did laugh, and Theo (and the replay) confirms it. Now Cara is pissed. “You can’t speak for me,” she snipes at Theo. “Don’t point fingers and don’t say that you think that I’m feeling a certain way when you don’t even know.” Theo figures she could’ve tried harder. Veronica blahs about the importance of not giving up. Sarah, defensive shields at the ready, thinks she didn’t quit. Veronica claims she didn’t say that, and she’s not pointing fingers. Adam wants people in the final mission with “different intensity.” I have no clue.

And now, it’s time for me to rip Adam with the power of numbers. “It’s blatantly clear that Sarah is the weakest player,” he repeats. “If she wasn’t there, then we wouldn’t have gotten disqualified.” What a jerk. First of all, the team lost. Get your words straight. Second, if Sarah had finished the course, it wouldn’t have been enough. Cara and Sarah would have needed to finish under the combined time of 10:55. Also, if Roni had done better, finishing under 5:38, the DQs would not have mattered. Why don’t you ride on Roni? Because she’s not your whipping girl. So don’t think that Sarah is the one bad thing holding you back from ultimate bliss, you pitiful Jamie wannabe. For my readers: I’d show the calculations here, but I got enough to write about. E-mail me if you want the exact methods.

Sarah speaks up, telling her team she’s feeling the effects from slamming into the wall. “My back hurts,” she says, “and if you send me in, and I’m doing a Deadman’s Drop, there’s a solid chance you’re going to lose a team member today.” That was weak. Rachel does everything in her power not to dance for joy. More silence. Adam: “Like I was wrong to say, ‘Everybody, go in there and do your best.’” Ugh. Veronica: “We’re not playing games, we’re competing, okay? So it does count to win.” Everybody starts to vote. Sarah and Cara don’t look happy.

Adam collects the votes. Theo voiceovers voting for Sarah. He rips off Cara’s head, and he votes for Sarah? I don’t think I’ll ever truly know what goes on in that guy’s head. Adam reads off the votes. The third person thrown in is Veronica, so I’m guessing the anti-Axis faction kept Roni out of the final vote. Cara admits to voting for Sarah, since she doesn’t want to vote for herself. Adam keeps reading off three-bombs in Sarah’s name. Veronica adds the totals, and guess what? Sarah’s going to the Gauntlet. How happy is she? “I’m getting fed up with the fact that I’m constantly being considered completely dispensable by our team.”

Gauntlet. Rain. Jonny does his spiel as Irulan and Sarah try and keep warm. Irulan rolls the die and it comes up Deadman’s Drop. “This is ridiculous,” Sarah snipes to the camera. “Why can’t we wait until the morning when it’s not raining?” Rachel snipes that Irulan has to do the same thing. Darrell actually nudges Rachel back while Sarah gripes some more. “It’s hard for me not to take it personally,” she interviews, “that there’s a lot of people out there who are waiting for me to fail.” Cut to Sarah with Adam behind her. “And Adam is at the top of the list.” He’s at the top of my list, too. He tells her that Irulan got as banged as she did. “Yeah,” Sarah replies, “she also weighs 65 pounds.” RW does a group cheer. Irulan interviews that Deadman’s Drop is Sarah’s event. Jonny goes over the exposition. Since this is the fifth time, I won’t go over it again.

Both players get into position and Jonny blows his whistle to start the game. The editors break out the effects from the Coral/Tina match. Elapsed time: 15 minutes. Irulan looks at Sarah. I guess Coral has been teaching the Evil Witch Eye to her. RW claps. Elapsed time: 32 minutes. RR stares; Sarah probably told them to keep quiet, like the time she faced Matt. Elapsed time: 46 minutes. Theo V. bounces around. “If Sarah wins her fifth Gauntlet,” he voiceovers, “there’s going to be a lot of kids in the water.” Coral yells at Irulan as she bends her legs over the bar. Coral interviews that Irulan is trying to win for the team and to stay with Alton.

The pinging comes back. Sarah: “Sometimes, they actually really want me to win, and sometimes they were hoping I’d lose.” Adam stands with his arms folded and I still think he’s trying to make Sarah lose with his mind. More pinging. The camera is upside-down as the water drips up off Sarah’s body. A piano plays softly. “This entire trip for me has been completely about personal redemption.” Cut to the RR guys, with their shirts off. Adam still has his arms folded. “It’s more than anything, the fact that I’m capable of better than what I put out there a lot of the time.” More pinging. The guys keep watching. “How many times can I disappoint myself before it starts hitting me that I can do better?. I just want to be proud of me.”

This is what went through my mind as Sarah was talking: No. Not like this. The only reason she’s reflecting is because she lost. She drops, the Axis of Ass wins. Sad, right? I’ve grown attached to a lot of people on past series: Judd, Sarah Becker, Melissa, Dorothy, John Vito and Jill, and Rupert, among others. I know it’s stupid to be a raving fanboy. But I see a lot of myself in Sarah, and the prospect of her going down was too much to bear.

Irulan is struggling. Suddenly, my attitude does a 180-degree turn. Alton yells for her to fight. Adam slowly goes nuts, waiting for the finish. Finally, Irulan drops. Elapsed time: 48 minutes. Game over. The RR guys dive into the pool. There’s a slow-motion shot of Sarah lowered into the water, while Darrell does a cannonball into the pool, splashing her. That seems appropriate. On the RW side, Irulan cries, comforted by the guys. Adam and Dave carry a fatigued Sarah away. Irulan shakes and cries some more.

Theo V. jumps around, his stuff flopping around. Seriously, it looks painful. Something for the ladies... and a few of the fellas. Soon, I’m able to make out what Theo is yelling: “GO HOME!” Oh, that’s nice. He interviews that Irulan caused a lot of trouble, “She’s been such an awful sport,” Cara adds, “we just feel she deserves it.” Looks like RR hasn’t forgiven her for using her clapper during the Sarah/Matt Gauntlet. Theo yells to Alton, telling him to help his girlfriend pack. Damn. And Theo has been so good lately. In Sarah’s recap of Mud Bath, she mentioned a dust-up between those two that didn’t make the air, so I guess Theo feels the need to rub it in. Immediately, Alton wants to squash the swamp rat and Nathan has to keep him from making the team lose another player. Sarah interviews that it hurts her feeling that her teammates feel the need to bitch out RW to celebrate. Adam and Rachel heap huge, hollow praise on her. She’s probably too tired to punch Adam in the nuts. “We couldn’t even say anything,” Adam tells her. “We couldn’t cheer you on because you were perfect!” Yeah, whatever. Alton warms Irulan up. He interviews that RR has a false air of team spirit around them. “They’re not all there with her,” he adds. “Every one of them are scared to see the Gauntlet.” Nathan: “It is false to cheer for somebody you vote to the Gauntlet five times and jump in the water, like, ‘Oh, we love you. Thanks for saving our ass again.’ You’re full of [bleep].”

Indoors. Sarah is shivering, as her teammates declare tomorrow a holiday from voting Sarah into the Gauntlet. That’s so nice of them, considering there’s only one Gauntlet left. Darrell starts up, “Who’s the big winner tonight?” Yes, he sounds like he’s talking to a dog, but RW did the same thing with Mike. The only difference: Sarah doesn’t cock her head to the side like a tool and slide a Miz cap on her head. “It would fell really great if we win,” she laughs. “I am not a winner! I haven’t been a winner my entire life!”

Cut to Theo G. and Mike at the table. Theo gives Sarah props for winning, knocking on the table. Mike knows that she’s been screwed over. How about that? This chick took out five of their teammates, including Mike’s main squeeze. She’s the biggest reason RW will go into the final day at a disadvantage... and they don’t hate her. “I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had control of anybody,” Sarah interviews. Alton hugs Irulan once last time before escorting her out. “I’ve sent five people home. I’ve taken this experience away from five people. I don’t really know how I feel about it all. I still feel really confused and heady.” The camera zooms on her, as she covers her mouth and gives a slight smile. With the glasses on, she’s adorable.

Next week: Jonny welcomes everybody to Dukes of Saturn. Basically, it’s two cars, a ladder between them, and a few hundred feet from the ground. If you listen closely, you can hear Melissa mutter, “Oh, hell no!” Coral worries that since she’s the last girl, she’ll go to the Gauntlet if she doesn’t do well. Theo V. tells Adam that Veronica is conniving and not good for the team. Adam: “Veronica needs to prove herself. Her attitude is pissing people off.” Hey, better this from Adam than having him beat up random residents for not being able to lose Sarah. Veronica straddles the ladder as her teammates count down. She interviews that people want her to go and she has to do well. The best part? No Sarah in there. Hoo-RAH!

Better theme song: “Let Go” vs. “Rock Star.” Worst villain: Puck vs. Adam. Biggest heroine: Ruthie vs. Sarah. Biggest blast from the past: Antoine vs. Roni. Cooler voting process: Inner Circle vs. the Gauntlet. How does Battle of the Sexes fare against The Gauntlet? Send me your feedback on the past two seasons at {REDACTED].

So much to talk about. You'll notice that I had a recap from Sarah's site linked, and that was visible through Archive. I don't know how to get the one related to this episode. From what I remember, she had major leg pain from her battles with David and Matt in the Gauntlet, and the production staff had to give her painkillers. I don't think it was quite enough to handle hanging upside-down against a woman who was lighter than either guy, even if you figure God was trying His darnedest to hold Matt above the water.

As for afterward . . . it turned out the staff congratulated Sarah for her win, and -- if I remember correctly -- they had been referring to Alton and Irulan as "Bobby and Whitney." DAMN. That was not a compliment. I laughed, though, because I HATED RW: Las Vegas. I mean, I liked Brynn, and I'd grow to appreciate Arissa, but the other five could soak their heads. Especially Steven Hill, the poor man's Stiffler. I'll be "covering" him in Battle Of The Sexes 2.

I did not notice Theo flopping around under his shorts until people on the Television Without Pity forum pointed that out. I don't think it's a phobia thing for me. I just don't notice stuff like THAT. Like the episode near the end of RW: Philadelphia where Landon is lying down with a girl, and he has a visible boner. That went over my head the first time.

Getting back to Sarah's site . . . you'll notice that Roni did not get put into Road Rules' voting process. I was wondering why that was the case because of her time on Vertical Limit. Well, when she was rappelling, she missed a few flags. Rather than take the penalty, she climbed up the mountain face to retrieve them. Also funny: this past Tuesday, MTV ran a special on ass-kicking women in Challenge history. Naturally, nobody from before the TJ Lavin era made the list, as they only went back to The Duel (specifically, Diem taking off her wig). However, Mike was hosting, and he brought up the time Roni beat him in Rolling On A River. That felt like the most random shoutout ever. I liked Roni. I never had a problem with her. I enjoyed meeting her at Calico Jack's, but I would never have expected anybody but the most diehard fans to remember her. If she's reading this, I'd want her to let her know that I still remember. Also, for smiling as I tried to push Reality News Online and my recaps on her. Hey, I needed validation. I still do.

Finally . . . last week, I mentioned how crappy my timing was in regards to reminiscing about Danny Dias. I forgot to post about a target of far greater ridicule for me: Rachel Robinson. In my mind, she is the most overrated Challenger in the show's history. All muscle, no hustle, and the lucky champion of two seasons. Also, she was at least 33.3 percent responsible for taking chunks out of Tonya's soul in Inferno II. Anyway, the gal I have taken to calling "Butterface" announced that she is pregnant with twins. I don't know the logisitics with her partner, and it's probably none of my business. In the interests of trying to resemble a human being, I wish the couple luck. Heck, if it turns out her RV buddy Shane was the donor, I'm be greatly amused. And I would not seek out the twins in a decade's time to tell them what I thought of their birthmother. Now . . . if they seek ME out and ask my opinion? I'm not going to lie. Hey, somebody has to explain why Rachel wakes up screaming, "EMILY, NO!!!!!!"

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 13: Three’s Company

Hello. Today's theme is about standing by what you believe. I'm not sure if this episode pissed me off the most, or the following one where (spoiler!!) Sarah gets thrown into the Gauntlet for the fifth time. It takes a lot for me to back off on an opinion I feel strongly about. If I do a 180-degree turn on something, I would have to have a damn good reason because I don't feel like feeling like an asshole, even if nobody cares.

Last week, I brought up Danny Dias from Road Rules: X-Treme. I mentioned the time he got humiliated by Alton in Gauntlet 2. I said that Danny "was a little punk." Days later, I'm on Facebook, and I find a link from TMZ. Danny had died from an apparent overdose.

Of course, I felt shitty. In my defense, I don't think anybody has really thought of the guy since Alton defeated him. It's not like I wanted THAT to happen. While I want somebody on this show (or any reality program, really) to suffer, there's an unspoken limit. I don't want people to die. I hated Colton on his two stints on Survivor, but I never would have wished for his boyfriend Caleb to get killed by a train. In many cases, suffering would be good, but I'm more into somebody getting pants and everybody laughing at the meager genitalia. Yes, there would be a different situation for women.

And that brings me to my final recap from 2003. Before Champs Vs. Pros (and the upcoming Dirty 30), Veronica had not been on a Challenge since The Ruins in 2009. Rachel's last appearance was in Battle Of The Exes (2012). They've had lives away from the show. I know they had highs and lows. And yet, I can't divorce those two from what happened in The Gauntlet . . . or Inferno II, for that matter. And The Inferno in Veronica's case, to the point where Katie could have strangled her, and I would have been okay with it. I know, it's messed up . . . even if things had not broken her way, Sarah would have let it go a long time ago. And if Sarah has moved on, why can't I?

Airdate: December 15, 2003
Recap Published: December 21, 2003

The players compete in a challenging mission, Mike finds himself in a tough position, and Theo V. is forced to make a tough choice, Oh, and there’s a threesome, but you wouldn’t care about that, right?
I watched the Survivor: Pearl Islands finale on Sunday. I don’t care what anybody says; Sandra deserved the win. You should have seen me around 9:20 p.m. I had my fingers and thumbs crossed, begging Lill to take Jon out of the game. And bless her little heart, she did just that. I’ve overdosed on odious a few times while recapping The Gauntlet, and the last thing I needed was Jon to win $1 million. But Sandra won 6-1, a complete turnaround from that dark day when Jenna beat Matthew. Of course, I had to come down from my high quickly, since I had a new episode, and MTV already gave away the ending in their commercial. Thanks, MTV! Once would’ve been enough, but you showed us the Gauntlet at least three times! Way to take away the suspense!

Previously on The Gauntlet: Adam asked Sarah if she was the weakest player. Sarah figured that everybody had messed up at least once, and Theo V. backed her up. She interviewed that it was great to have a friend like him on the team. Over on the Real World side, everybody voted for Trishelle, and Mike voted for Coral. Cue the record scratch in the soundtrack. Nice one. Irulan questioned the integrity of Mike protecting his girlfriend. Road Rules won Rolling On a River, Red Baron and Turntable, upping their bank account to $80,000, while RW had $30,000. Norman notes that his team is losing players and missions, and they need to step up. “We’re just whuppin’ that ass,” Darrell interviews. “They can’t touch us.”

Mansion. Mike looks on while Theo V. sews a team flag. Mike small talks about how tough it is to lose people and how it was a lot easier when they were on Battle of the Seasons. Those were good times. Well, except for when the Inner Circle kicked out Stephen and Lindsay, and Kelley didn’t want Lindsay to go. “It’s hard to tell who does bad and who does good,” Mike interviews. “Sometimes, I don’t know who to vote for.” That’s the price the teams pay for the removal of the points system. Theo: “I believe that the Real World is in so much turmoil, they have no clue who they’re sending in the Gauntlet and all they to is wake up every morning and realize the state of pain that they’re in.” Mike says that Sarah is Theo’s girl, and he can’t understand why she keeps going back into the Gauntlet. You and me both, Miz. Theo labels her as a “good luck charm.”

Elsewhere, Veronica rubs her shoulder in slow-motion. Oh, please. Like I’m that weak? Abram sits on the bed, rubbing Rachel. He interviews that he’s thinking along the same lines as the girls. “If you keep rubbing her legs, dude,” Theo V. quips, “a genie will pop out of her ass.” Where would I be without Theo? Rachel thinks that Abram is trying to schmooze her and Veronica with special treatment. He jokes that he wants to do Veronica. What a smooth talker. “I think Abe has a lot to offer,” Veronica interviews. “I mean, I don’t want him to be my boyfriend, but I think he’s a really great guy.”

Daytime. Ridgway Marina. Jonny welcomes everybody to All or Nothing. The objective: jump off a twenty-foot platform and cling onto a rope suspended from a moving object. The editors pipe in “Ride of the Valkyries” for dramatic effect. I hum along, “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit...” While Jonny lays out the exposition, a helicopter lifts off, arriving at the mission site. Abram feels like he’s in a “Vietnam movie.” The chopper makes impressive ripples above the water. Jonny continues: when he blows his airhorn, the players will jump on the rope and climb past the orange balls on the rope, towards the red balls. The team with the fastest average time wins $10,000. Jonny brings up the penalties: if a player misses the rope or fails to climb into the red zone, that person will get the worst logged time of the day, plus a two-minute penalty. Also, the top players on each team receive the Freshlook Lifesaver... or is it the Icesaver? At this point, I don’t care. Anyway, the player receiving that gets immunity from the Gauntlet and gets to break a tie. That was brought up a few weeks back, but I thought nothing of it. My bad.

Abram climbs up the ladder to the platform. What’s his strategy? “My plan for this is to jump off and grab the sonofabitch, and hang on for dear, sweet life.” Good thinking. “Balls to the wall. Go big or go home.” James would be proud, dude. Jonny blares his airhorn. Abram stands on the platform’s edge, waiting for the rope to come to him. He jumps, and proceeds to slide down the rope. He makes a token effort to climb before letting go, earning the DQ. I check off “go home” next to his name. “I think Abe just gets really excited and hyper,” Roni interviews, “and I think he loses mind of what’s at hand.” Abram gets hugged by Dave, while Alton tells his teammates how to get on the rope.

Mike bounces on the platform. He interviews that since he’s the team “leader” (his quotes, not mine), he has to set an example. He takes a running start, grabbing the rope and climbing up. But he loses his grip and falls down, getting the DQ. “Dang,” Theo G. grouses in an interview, “this cat’s stronger than I am, and he’s out.”

Back from commercials, Dave tells us that everybody has failed so far, so he has nothing to lose. He grabs the rope, loses his grip and falls. DQ. Irulan jumps, misses, and does a nice 270-degree flip into the water. Even her boyfriend laughs about that. “That was a very impressive little fall,” he chuckles. DQ. Cara grabs the rope, but loses her grip. DQ.

Theo G. expositions that everybody has been disqualified already, and he has to show his team that it’s possible. He takes a running start, climbs up the rope and reaches the red zone in 31 seconds. Of course, his teammates whoop it up, as he is slowly dipped into the water. “It was a good feeling of going in there and pulling something out for my team,” Theo interviews. Average times: RW 1:51, RR 2:31.

Norman jumps from the platform. Nathan explains that Norman climbed up the rope, celebrated, and jumped off... but didn’t hit the red zone. I’d make a senility crack, but since Norman griped about rules changes in his recap, I’ll pass. He stomps, obviously furious. DQ. Adam runs and falls. DQ. Loser. Coral starts to climb, loses her shoes, then decides to quit. DQ. Darrell drops. DQ. Theo V. hopes that he can come through for his team. He jumps on the rope and climbs, clocking out at 0:24. Average times: RW 2:07, RR 2:10.

Sarah comes up. How bad is it that I knew this wasn’t going to end well for her? She jumps on the rope. Veronica shouts encouragement, but Sarah is frozen, unable to pull herself up. Darrell: “I’m knowing she’s about to just give up, because that’s what she always does.” Hey, I got a Christmas present for you, Darrell. It’s a big box of Shut Up. Enjoy. Sadly, Sarah still dangles, and she makes the signal to quit. “I could’ve hung on all day,” she interviews, “but I couldn’t go anywhere. So what are you going to do? At least I grabbed the rope. Let’s hope that they noticed that and don’t send me in there for Gauntlet number five.” Nathan makes a run for the rope, finishing at 1:44. Average times: RW 2:51, RR 3:15.

Roni drops. DQ. Rachel drops. DQ. Veronica drops. DQ. She interviews: “This has been the most difficult challenging mission ever [pause] invented.” Alton jumps on the rope. After smoking Laterrian in Pole Climb last week, what else can you expect from Alton but a 0:23 time? Irulan jumps around like an excited cheerleader. “That’s my dawg!” she tells us. Adam interviews that since three RW guys climbed the rope, they got the win.

Final times: RW 2:47, RR 3:24. Jonny awards the $10,000 check to RW. Nathan interviews that RR has peaked, and RW is just starting to rise. Jonny awards the Lifesavers to Alton and Theo V., then gives both teams 30 minutes to decide who goes into the Gauntlet.

RW Meeting. Nathan interviews that the smaller the team gets, the harder it is to vote. “You look around,” he continues, “and everybody you look at is valuable for the team.” Theo G. brings up Mike, based on performance in the last few missions. There are a lot of cuts, followed by Mike’s interview, where he votes for himself. “It’s time for me to step up and show you why you guys call me leader,” he says. “It’s time for me to be the Miz.” And it’s time for me to bang my head against a wall. I hate the Miz. Irulan interviews that sending a strong player would psyche out RR, but losing him would be a blow against morale.

RR Meeting. Our finalists today are Abram, Cara, and Sarah. Wait a minute... Cara? She’s been kicking butt since beating Elka in the Gauntlet. What gives? Adam announces a tie between Abram and Sarah. “If you guys really wanted me gone that bad,” Sarah says, “why didn’t you just [bleeping] break my knees in my sleep?” Adam says nothing, almost as if he’s contemplating the notion. He puts on the same track as before in an interview: Sarah is the weakest person on the team and she does the most for herself and the team in the Gauntlet. Roni interviews that Sarah hasn’t held her weight, but she’s gone to the Gauntlet four times, which is more than what Abram has done. It turns out that Theo’s Lifesaver allows him to break the tie. Cara expositions that he makes the decision at the Gauntlet. “It’s not fun being the middleman,” Theo interviews. “I like her, I want her to be here, but I care about this team first and foremost.” Cut to Abram, cut to Sarah looking miserable. The suspense is not killing me. Once again: thank you, MTV.

Gauntlet site. Jonny goes through his Gauntlet spiel. Abram reminds us that his team doesn’t know who’s going, and he hopes it’s Sarah. Jonny calls up Mike, provoking a huge RW celebration. Jonny then goes on about the tie vote and how Theo broke it. After it’s dragged out enough, Abram is called up. While everybody else cheers, Sarah remains seated. Maybe she caught the ending, too. She interviews, “The fact that Theo choose Abe shocked the hell out of me.” Abe and Mike hug in a manly manner. Theo interviews that making the right call, adding, “I’m sick of seeing sacrificial lambs in this Gauntlet. I have a feeling that if Abram goes, he’s going to do well.”

Mike rolls the die and it comes up Knock Your Block Off, which provokes another RW celebration. Coral and Norman make punching motions, which cracks me up. Jonny lays down the exposition: the players fight with fugel sticks on a balance beam. First to knock the other in the water wins. Abram is excited to battle Mike. As for Mike... he goes into Miz Mode. Basically, the Miz is a poor man’s Rock, and as somebody who rejects all things wrestling, I’m not quoting him. But I will translate and make Mike sound like a nerd. “You did defeat me once, Abram, but I was drunk then [clip from the wrestling match in the first episode]. But now I am sober and ready to give you a sound thrashing. And I wish to ask you this: are you ready? Because, quite frankly, I do not think that you are, my friend.”

The guys get ready. Mike puts on his psycho game face. RR whips out the “Hey Road Rules!” cheer. “This is what the Gauntlet is all about,” Theo V. drawls. “The Gauntlet is all powerhouses. It’s all about two bulls heading straight at each other.” Jonny blows his whistle. Both players feel each other out. The RW side looks stressed. The opponents exchange blows. Sarah is still seated, perhaps feeling guilty about Theo’s decision. Soon, Mike nails Abram in the butt, pushing him into the water. Game over. The RW side is jubilant, knowing they dodged a bullet. “There’s nothing like it,” Mike interviews about the Gauntlet. “There’s no rush like it. I loved every second about being in that Gauntlet.” He hugs Abram. “But I never want to do that again.” Cut to Abram stretching and Sarah apologizing. The only person feeling lower than her? Theo, who’s sitting on the bench, as bummed as I’ve ever seen him.

Denouement. RR now has nine members, while RW holds steady at seven. Jonny asks Abram if he has parting words, but the Bozeman Brawler declines. The RW kids cheer for Mike, feeding his massive ego as he strikes a highly derivative pose. Nathan interviews that RW now have a one-male advantage over RR. Wow... so rampant sexism in the voting booth does work!

Mansion. Veronica is really bummed. So bummed, she doesn’t want to join Rachel in partying. She interviews that she thought the majority was going to vote for Sarah, so she leaned towards Abram, not anticipating the tie. Translation: “I felt sorry for Sarah, and I’m not going to do that again!” Elsewhere, Abram packs. I’m just glad he didn’t beat anybody up this time.

Theo and Sarah work on a crossword puzzle. He tries to figure out who said “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” Sarah thinks it’s Mark Twain. I think Willy Wonka, not remembering he had quoted Ogden Nash. Cut to the bathroom, where Veronica is working on her hair and Rachel is taking a bubble bath. Veronica wants Sarah to go back to the Gauntlet and Rachel doesn’t want her winning there anymore. Veronica then suggests that Theo is thinking with his penis, since he sympathizes with Sarah. Wow. Okay, I understand Theo is the guy who said, “If you’re a guy and you can’t hook up on the Challenge, you basically need to donate your penis to charity.” But Sarah has a boyfriend back home and I know Theo is gentleman enough to understand that. The “ladies” go into a giggling fit about crossword puzzles and sex. Do you remember the scene in Mole 2 where Dorothy told the others she made her future boyfriend play Scrabble with her and Darwin shouted out “Triple Word Score!”? Rachel and Veronica are at the opposite end of the spectrum, they stink that much.

Abram ambles into the room, wearing a Miz cap and t-shirt. I bet Mike made him pay for it since he lost. Abram hugs Veronica, copping a cheek in the process. Rachel beckons him into the tub for one more time. In fast-motion, Abram strips and eases into the tub. Soon, Veronica joins the duo, and Abram starts writing a letter to Penthouse in his head. The girls invite Coral to join them, but she knows a ho train when she sees one. Just then, Norman gives her a call. Judging from the previews, I thought it would be Coral’s roommate, Melissa. Yes... THAT Melissa. “He is the happiest man in the world right now!” Coral gushes. “Getting voted off is the least of his worries right now!”

News of an impending orgy travels fast, and the gang shows up to revel. Roni even takes a picture. “I think Abe is doing well for himself,” Veronica voiceovers. “He might have lost in the Gauntlet, but I think Abe feels like he’s a pretty big winner in life.” Keep deluding yourself, Veronica. Beer bottles line the tub’s rim. The trip decide to retreat to the shower. How I miss Dan, Flora, and Sarah Becker right now. They weren’t in the RW: Miami threesome, but their supporting roles made it great. Adam shouts that he would’ve gone to the Gauntlet instead of Abram. Shut it, Adam. I can barely see Abram and Veronica making out behind the shower door. “This has been a wonderful and pleasant experience,” Abram interviews, “and perverse and [bleeped]-up, and twisted and bizarre. I loved it.” Cut to outside the mansion, hearing happy noises as we fade to black.

What have we learned today?
  • Sarah should have made an effort to climb the rope. At least make a tiny attempt, then fall into the water. What am I saying? She could have climbed the rope, boarded the chopper, tossed the pilot out, and land all by herself... and she’d still get threes and twos.
  • Theo V. is RR’s true alpha male. He’s made more of an effort than Adam. In the context of the Challenges, Theo is the best person to come out of Maximum Velocity Tour
  • If you and somebody of the opposite gender work on a crossword puzzle, you want to have sex. Don’t look at me like that. Veronica and Rachel set the rules, and I merely state them.
  • It’s okay to rank on Theo and Sarah, then have a pity threesome with Abram. The worst part is that this might have sent him the wrong message about women in general. Yes, I still remember everything prior to his last day on South Pacific and his beatdown of Donell. Abram has issues, and it should be interesting to see how that plays out in Inferno.
  • Rachel and Veronica are bitches. Like I said last season with Emily, that is not a word I want to use lightly in these recaps. These two learned absolutely nothing from their encounters with Emily and her bloody axe. Seriously, where is Irulan to wrestle Rachel to the ground? Where is Amaya to clothesline Veronica? Or should I send a telegram? “Dear Ms. Bailey [stop]. All is forgiven [stop]. I am sending you $5,000 in travel money and a baseball bat [stop]. Hee-haw and Merry Christmas, Jason Borelli.”
Next time: Mountain scaling! Coral slams into the mountain hard. Adam: “Sarah is definitely the weakest link.” Sarah slams into the mountain again and again. Adam again: “If it were up to me, I would’ve voted for her into the Gauntlet every single time.” Look, Mommy! Recapper says that every time Adam pisses on Sarah, an angel gets its wings! Sarah tells her team that her back hurts. “If you send me in,” she adds, “there’s a solid chance you’re going to lose a team member today.” Wow... weakest defense ever.

Bad news: MTV will not be airing the next episode this coming Monday, opting for a marathon of some other show. You know, the one with the ditzy pop star and her husband from that boy band. No, the other boy band. No, the other, OTHER boy band. So we’ll meet back in two weeks. In the meantime, have yourself a happy holiday. And if a friend gives you the complete Real World: Las Vegas collection, then that person was never your friend to begin with. I’m just saying.

Two hundred seventy-two days. That was the duration between my recap of Emily wielding her axe to eliminated Veronica from Battle Of The Sexes to me basically forgiving her. I thought she did Rachel and Veronica dirty, then screwed the other women by leaving the game when her boyfriend was voted off. Amazing what a difference almost nine months makes.

I know that reality television is subject to the whims of the producers . . . and if you haven't noticed that Bunim-Murray Productions are a shysty bunch, you have not been paying attention. And a lot of a viewer's opinion (if that person has one) depends on belief. In that vein: I don't that Sarah and Theo were that deep into each other, in any sense. I realize that Sarah had a boyfriend back home, and it may be considered shady for her to snuggle up to somebody, even if it's the charismatic weirdo swamp rat. But I doubt it got past second base. That is what I choose to believe. I know Theo got around a LOT in his many BMP tours of duty, but I doubt he and Sarah went all the way.

And they I turn to Rachel and Veronica. At the end of this episode, I was livid. Basically, they talked shit about the one person I liked the most on the show, and then they got Abram into a threesome, and they all but forced to cameramen to film it at gunpoint. To me, this was a gigantic "fuck you" to Sarah, and maybe to me as well. I know, I shouldn't take that personally. I take lots of stuff personally. It's a flaw.

Cut to Inferno II in 2005. I'm watching the preview special on MTV, and it got around to Sarah & Theo. And then I had to contend with Rachel and Veronica sharing the camera, both with shit-eating grins on their faces,  talking epic amounts of smack about those two. And by "those two," I mean Sarah. Even if they did go "all the way," at least they tried to be discrete about it. Meanwhile, these two bitches did it with Abram. First of all, who knows what kind of weird Bozeman-born diseases he had. Doing that in a tub doesn't reduce the likelihood of an STD. Secondly, this is a guy who willingly scarred himself, AND he got kicked off Road Rules: South Pacific for beating up Donell. At that point, I probably didn't regard the guy as a Section 8, but as a Section 64 (eight squared). And Inferno II didn't help me much, with those two heinous bitches and Tina teaming up to make Tonya's life miserable. You know something? I heard that Tonya was partying the night before the finale. I know she could barely be stable, but had the "Mean Girls" had bothered to treat Tonya like a human being, the Bad Asses would have won. I firmly believe this. Also, there was Veronica's triumph over Jodi in the Inferno. That was not fun for me.

Once again: I know Rachel and Veronica are human beings. I know that anybody can improve over time. Fuck, that's basically been CT's theme in the past several years. Last week, I found out that Rachel had a life partner, and she was pregnant with twins. I wish her well. And I hope Veronica has had a good life, and I hope that she doesn't revert to being a wicked hosebeast next season. But if somebody brings up either or both of those two, their actions in The Gauntlet come back to me, and I don't think I can ever let that go.

I'll end on  a positive note: I still believe a RW: Las Vegas DVD set is a shitty present to give anybody. Okay, Brynn was bearable, and I grew to like Arissa, but man, those people sucked. They deserved the horror that was "Awesome Anne."

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 12: Turn the Beat Around

Apologies for not posting/reposting in a timely fashion. I keep meaning to post more often . . . not only putting up my Gauntlet recaps, but also my takes on The Challenge, Survivor and The Amazing Race. Contrary to what people might tell you, the winning team from the latter was NOT the worst in the show's 29-season history. Also, I keep wanting to writing about the Mets possibly being cursed. Bright side: This episode is light on agita for me. In the following episode, the bile started filling my mouth to overflowing. Not good times.

Airdate: December 8, 2003
Recap Published: December 13, 2003

It’s Battle of the Sexes all over again, as the cocky guys on both teams size up the girls for elimination. But by episode’s end, two of the strongest men fight for their own survival.
I have to be honest, I’m not up on dating shows. How many of them end up “happily ever after”? Due to my commitment to this show, I missed the spectacle of Average Joe, so I don’t care about it one way or the other. But I did hear about the homecoming queen picking a guy named Jason over an Adam. That made me smile. I know it shouldn’t have, but it did.

Previously on The Gauntlet: Roni beat Mike in Rolling On a River, winning $10,000 for her team’s check-fattened bank account. Coral feels that the girls are being picked on and that it’s coming down to all boys. Naturally, the camera pans to the soon-to-be-gone Elka while Coral says this. Back to ROAR, Sarah got knocked off the log by Laterrian, and she eviscerates him in her interview. He just mumbles something about college foundations knocking on his door.

Mansion. Nathan tells Mike and Norman that he’s sick of losing and that the team has to win some Gauntlets to prevent a mismatch in the final mission. Mike asks who on the team finishes at the top of the competitions. Nathan answers the three people in the room. Honestly, it is hard to discern the best of the RW, given that nobody has had the one dramatic win. Nathan interviews that RW has had their ups and downs. Flashback to Holey Canoe, with Matt steering, Coral freaking out, and Nathan cursing at her. Good times. “It’s been one big tension ball,” Nathan continues. “When you hit rock bottom, the only place you can go is up.”

Outside. Adam discusses voting strategy with Theo V. and Dave. He feels that they can’t afford to lose a guy in the Gauntlet. “They have two less girls than we do,” he explains, “so obviously, to even it out, we get rid of a girl.” It’s a wonder he gets dates that aren’t producer-arranged. Adam interviews that Theo, Dave, and himself have risen to the top. He continues: “The way top win these challenges is to [super obvious cut] vote off all the girls.” Even with the ham-fisted editing, Adam is still a loser.

Cut to the mansion. The editors have piped in “Not Gonna Get Us” by the Russian duo known as t.A.t.U. You know the song; it’s the one they did at the MTV Movie Awards, and the set finished with dozens of women in school uniforms making out with each other. Great times. Coral tells Veronica she doesn’t want to be available to be sent into the Gauntlet just because she’s a girl. “The guys are scared to sacrifice another guy,” Veronica interviews. “They think the girls aren’t as strong as the boys.” Sounds like Ruthie picked the wrong Challenge.

Back to the RR Brain Trust, such as it is. Adam says it would hurt to lose a guy before the final mission. “I’m playing for the $150,000 and the fifteenth mission,” Dave interviews. “The potential that a guy can offer is a lot better than what, say, Veronica can offer.” *koff*Foreshadowing!*koff* And I still think Dave asks Cara permission to trash-talk the ladies. Adam notes that if not for the money, people would have gone home. He does make a valid point; Battle of the Sexes was loaded with deserters, and Sarah would’ve bailed out a long time ago if there wasn’t a bank involved. “I love my girls,” he interviews, “but at the end of the day, the girls are going to be the ones to look the weakest.” Your girls? Seriously, who should beat this guy up? So far, I got Ruthie, Sarah, Ellen, Emily, Jisela, Sophia, Blair and Steve, Coral, Veronica and Rachel, Timmy, Ethan Zohn and Jenna Lewis, and t.A.t.U. What? Russian lesbians can’t hate Adam, too?

Mansion. Coral reads the clue off the sponsor phone. The next mission will test the players’ endurance. “Like the others ones haven’t?” Coral quips. She continues to read: pick-up time is 6:45 a.m., wear team sweaters and sneakers. Alton and Irulan joke about working out.

Cut to the gym. Mike and Laterrian lift some weights. Roni, Rachel, and Veronica heft small barbells. Theo V. cleans and jerks. Theo G., on the phone: “I’m here in the gym with the Hulks.” Only thing missing is Amaya and Melissa doing some funky aerobics. He interviews that he has to start performing, or else he’s going to the Gauntlet.

Gauntlet site. The soundtrack blasts some scratching as we look at a giant record. Jonny welcomes everybody to Turntable. The objective: sit on the spinning platform as long as possible. The player who stays on the longest wins $10,000 for the team bank account. The rotation speed of the turntable also increases in time. Dave expositions that the players must hang onto balls which are attached to the wheel. Jonny reminds the players that the last player from each team will receive the Freshlook Lifesaver.

The players find places to sit on the wheel as it begins to rotate. “I think I’m the stronger person on the team,” Adam interviews. “When it comes down to it, I’m going to be the last man standing.” That was probably taken out of context of this episode, but I’m surprised his arm hasn’t broken off from all the times he patted himself on the back. Jonny asks both teams if they’re ready, and he blows his whistle to start the game. The editors have fun, moving the film back and forth and adding scratch sound effects. A few RR guys yell out the “Hey Road Rules” chant. Abram: “It’s like a big merry-go-round that goes really, really fast.”

Elapsed time: two minutes, 20 seconds. More spinning. The editing kicks in, and Darrell flies off the wheel. “My back was going out,” he interviews, “my legs were asleep. I’m the non-flexiblist cat you ever seen.” Do they still make amateur boxers wear headgear during fights? Just curious.

Elapsed time: 3:22. Whirling. Scratching. Adam tumbles off. Ha! “I couldn’t hack it,” he admits. “Records are so 1980s anyways.” Excuses, excuses. Adam and Darrell look on as the game continues. Nathan flies off, making a scary Popeye face in the process. He interviews that he couldn’t hold on. Veronica: “At this point, my hands feel like they’re going to fall off.” More spinning as we go into commercials.

Elapsed time: 5:01. “Help me, Lord!” the soundtrack blares. “I found myself in some kind of hell!” Dude, it’s just Monday night at 10 p.m. Chill out. Cara flies off, and Alton slams into her prone body. Ouch. “It is not just about your muscle bulk and how big and scary you look,” Cara interviews. “It is seriously about your duration and your mental control.” Mike spins off, followed by Abram. The latter interviews that he doesn’t know what’s going on with the guys. Laterrian is flung off. “Should I have done better?” he interviews. “Yes. I didn’t win when I should’ve won. That’s it.”

Elapsed time: 6:31. Coral hits a bump and gets spun off, followed by Norman and Theo V. Next to go? Sarah. Is she happy with her performance? “I looked up and I was like, ‘Wait a minute. [looking over both shoulders] There’s only three people left now that I’m gone!’ Yes!”

Irulan takes a backwards somersault off the wheel, followed by Roni and Rachel. Now it’s down to Veronica vs. Theo G. “Give me the victory in the name of Jesus!” Theo gasps as he spins around. Yeah, whatever. Mike interviews that Theo feels the pressure of being on the chopping block. Elapsed time: 9:12. I’m surprised nobody threw up. Theo is still praying for the win. But one edited scratch later, he goes flying off, giving RR the win. “I was really focused the whole time” Veronica tells her teammates, “I had a really good grip and a good lock with my legs, and I couldn’t get off, or else I’d be in the Gauntlet.” Go ahead... take the comments out of context. “I feel like we forgot how to win,” Mike glumly interviews. “We’ve lost I don’t lost how many in a row. What are we doing wrong? I just don’t get it.”

Jonny awards the $10,000 check to RR, bumping their bank to $80,000. He also awards the Freshlook Lifesaver to Veronica, who admits she needed that. Theo V.: “I think it’s becoming more and more obvious that everyone on our team has something great to offer that they can offer not only in the missions, but also for the future of our team.” Jonny also hands a Lifesaver to Theo G., who was also prime Gauntlet bait last week. He interviews that he had to show the team that he’s a fighter. Jonny gives both teams time to go back to their lounges and figure out who’s going to the Gauntlet.

RW Meeting. Irulan doesn’t know who she’s voting for. Coral interviews that it’s hard to gauge who would be strong in future missions. Alton tells the group that he was the second person gone in ROAR and Turntable, and the voting shouldn’t be hard. He interviews that he feels like having the best chance of winning in the Gauntlet. “You have to make a sacrifice,” he adds. “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” And here I was worried about Cara’s skull after he smacked into her. Irulan tells the group that she wants to be strong, but it’s hard to vote for her boyfriend. Why couldn’t Mike just admit that with Trishelle? She interviews (behind a pair of huge sunglasses) that she’s behind him, but she can’t contribute to sending him home. Cut to Alton and Irulan kissing in front of the camera. I hate to say it, but those two have grown on me. He apologizes for volunteering, but he feels the need to represent the team.

RR Meeting. Cara reminds the team that they’re voting on overall performance. She interviews about how the men are getting a reality check. At this point, Laterrian decides to step up, volunteering himself for the Gauntlet. Too little, too late in my eyes. Sarah wastes no time in thanking the team for not sending her in. “There’s always tomorrow,” one of the guys pipes up. Sad but true. “Finally,” Sarah interviews, “the guys are starting to realize that girls are an asset to the team, and not just this thing that they have to carry around like a big monkey on their back.” Laterrian interviews that he’s out to prove his worth to the team. “I don’t know who the hell I’m going against,” he adds, “but I’m trying to take somebody’s [bleeping] head off.” You have to positive about these things.

Gauntlet. Alton and Irulan hold hands. Jonny does his usual bit, bringing Alton and Laterrian up to the front. Laterrian rolls the die, and it comes up Pole Climb. While Laterrian makes a sour face, Alton threatens to break his teammates’ hands with hard high-fives. “Alton has a history in climbing,” Laterrian interviews. “I have to go against him, and I’ve never climbed ever in life. How does that suck?” Ah, shut up, or I’ll start playing the violin. Wait, Alton’s good at that, too. Nathan drops the exposition: two poles dangle from the rafters over the water. The object: get up the pole as quickly as possible and release the opponent’s lever, releasing the pole. Norman interviews that Alton can climb anything. “Laterrian is some freak of nature,” Dave retorts. “He’s just in perfect shape to do something like a pole climb.”

Jonny blows his whistle, signaling both players to go into the water. Laterrian dives in, while Alton plops, keeping his hands out of the water. “These missions have torn us apart emotionally and physically,” Norman interviews. “Alton, you need to come back to us. We need you.” Irulan feels confident in her boyfriend. Jonny blows his whistle again. From start to finish, it’s a bloodbath. Alton zooms up the pole like he’s got a jet pack, while Laterrian can’t even grab onto the pole. Game over... or as Laterrian’s old pal the Roadmaster would put it: “Nighty night!” “For someone as strong as Laterrian,” Adam snipes, “I expect bigger things out of him.” Looks like somebody’s grumpy after not sending a lady off to die. Alton and Laterrian hug manfully. Norman is feeling strong with seven players on his team.

Denouement. Jonny restates that Laterrian is going home. Cut to Laterrian, with Sarah behind him, covering her mouth. Really, I don’t think she’s hiding a smile. A graphic shows that RR has lost four members, while RW lost seven. Laterrian tells his team that he made good friends, and he wants them to bust RW’s ass. “I let my entire team down,” he interviews, “and that hurts me to my heart.” He gets hugged by his teammates while Alton and Irulan hug and kiss.

Mansion. Water fun. A few of the guys play Marco Polo in the pool. Mike admits to Veronica and Rachel that he thought the men would dominate, like they did last season. Here’s the thing with Sexes: the guys had a plan. They were able to control who left the game (Puck and Jake aside) and they kept the drama out. On the other side, some of the stronger women (Rachel, Veronica, Julie to some extent) were booted due to the pettiness of a few people. With the different voting processes, comparing Sexes to Gauntlet is comparing apples and oranges. Mike wonders in an interview what would happen in a “girl mission,” and that nobody knows what future missions would bring. He laments to the ladies that RW has tried every method to select somebody for sacrifice. Veronica thinks that Turntable was a turning point. “The boys are always looking at themselves,” she continues, “like, ‘Who’s gonna win it today,’ and they never really though they could look to the girls for a win.”

Abram and Theo V. gripe about Laterrian’s performance. For some reason, Theo is sewing a flag. Maybe he wants to get a head start on those “girl missions.” “He didn’t get off the pole today,” he tells Abram. “What’s up with that?” They keep talking about how much he bench presses, and how he prepares the wrong way. It’s luck of the die, to be honest. If David had rolled Knock Your Block Off, Sarah would be a distant memory. Tonya would have fared better in Hangman against Steve. Laterrian just got the one game he was certain to lose.

Night. Roni takes a picture of Laterrian with Dave and Theo G. Dave: “I just want you to know we’re going to miss you as much, if not more, than Montana.” Laterrian’s brain needs that extra second to motor before he laughs. Theo V.’s t-shirt: “SPEED KILLS.” Make you own “slow” joke. The goodbye takes way too long, especially since Laterrian will probably try to latch himself back onto a Challenge next year. Honestly, after the incident with Sarah, I’m not going to miss him as much as last season. His final words: “Telluride or Die.” Okay, that was funny.

Next time: Helicopter! Loud helicopter! So loud, you can’t hear Jonny say his spiel. The object is to run and grab the rope hanging from the chopper. At least one player misses and hits the water. Veronica calls this the most difficult mission ever. Considering this is her thirty-fourth Challenge mission, that would be saying something. Norman stomps his foot is obvious disgust. Abram: “The girls, they’re all good-looking. We’re all thinking along the exact same lines, looking for the exact same targets.” Cut to: Abram, Veronica, and Rachel in a bubble bath. Oh, wow. Coral’s nearby on the cell phone. “He is the happiest man in the world right now!” she gushes. The trio move to the shower. Dude! Abram came to Telluride a boy, and he’s leaving a happy, happy boy. Hoo-RAH!

 At least we Laterrian never came back. Or maybe BMP lost his number. Whatever. I thought that Alton was a beast in his first two Challenges, but his four endgame wins came against overwhelmed opponents: Laterrian, Danny, Adam King and Ace. If it turns out Danny is still in therapy for how Alton took him out, I would not be surprised. Good times, because that Danny was a little punk.

Looking back, I forget if I was aware that only three Gauntlets (Dead Man's Drop, A Perfect Fit, Ride 'Em Cowboy) could be played between genders. I get how  we get alternating gender endgames from Inferno II to today, but I like the idea of anybody going home. Otherwise, you get Gauntlet III, where the Veterans team kept chanting "Trim the fat" and throwing missions to lose their women, only to fuck up by keeping plus-sized Eric "Big Easy" Banks for fear of getting eliminated by him in the Gauntlet. In the finale, he almost died, the team lost for having him drop out, and Coral probably laughed herself sick. Also, that's a strike against CT, who was screaming at Eric to run. This is for those who weigh CT's pros with the cons from early in his career.

I think that I created a thread on the Television Without Pity forum for Darrell, starting with The Inferno. The title: "Darrell: Non-Flexiblist Cat."

And damn, I was so okay with the threesome going into the next episode. Then I found those two bitches slagging Sarah, and . . . no. Next time. And  I'll try to post that soon.