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!!!!!!"

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