For all of the love we heap on the competitive aspect of The Challenge, well deserved as it is, it’s important to remember that this is still reality television, and the heart of the genre lies within relationships. Perhaps that’s what makes this show so compelling: the connection between relationship and competition. This week’s episode centered around a few of the relationships within the house (and beyond), and the impact they had/will have on the competition ahead.
Rogan and Dee
To start, we complete unfinished business from last week when we see the conclusion of the Purgatory challenge between Rogan and Jay. Rogan wanted to kill Jay because Dee, Rogan’s on-again-off-again, made out with Jay earlier in the season (even though Rogan has gotten around himself).
When we left them, Jay had just been slammed to ground pretty damn hard by Rogan, and appeared injured. The medics give him a look, and determine he had the wind knocked out of him… only they missed the part where he probably got concussed. Luckily, Jay doesn’t take anymore big hits and a producer catches on, and the medics take him out of the competition.
Rogan is happy with himself, and I gotta say: he’s a meathead dick. I’m out of Rogan, and Dee, too. Not just because of her association with Rogan, but for her lack of sympathy towards Jay; and if we’re being honest, she’s the kind of dumb that just makes you angry. I generally do not like when she’s on screen.
Anyway, we say goodbye to Jay, who threatened to have a legendary season. The kid needs to beef up a bit, that’s for sure, but I’m sure we’ll see him again.
Bear and Kailah
Last week, Kailah fell into the Bear trap when she had a quick makeout session with him in the bathroom. This week, Bear gets loose lipped and tells the boys about his conquest. This leads to Bananas and Wes “decorating” Bear’s sleeping area for the burgeoning relationship, as a surprise gift for the two. What Bear doesn’t see is that Bananas sneaks a couple pictures of Kailah and her boyfriend back home, and tapes them to the ceiling above Bear’s bed. During the reveal, Kailah actually finds the decor cute — there’s towel swans, a poem, some grapes — until she sees the picture. Things go south from there, needless to say. And, in a fun bit of Challenge “coincidence,” the weekly challenge teams Kailah up with Wes.
This doesn’t impact this week’s goings on too much, but it’s definitely something to remember. Especially considering that during the redecoration, Bananas compares Bear’s tactics to the formation of the Grand Canyon, and calls him an “annoying stream of water.” Bananas and Wes absolutely played Bear like a fiddle, using his greatest weakness (his horniness) against him. Bear talks a lot about wanting to win, but can’t seem to get his head in the game. Kailah rightly calls him out for being, and I quote, a “fuck boy.” Problem is, Kailah did it to herself, despite warnings from friends, and she’s bound to fail just the same as Bear.
Jordan and Tori, Swaggy C and Bayleigh, Jenna and Zach
This week was a women’s elimination week, and both Jordan and Swaggy went in with the mindset of giving their respective gals a shot at a red skull. Jordan actually went twice in the weekly challenge, and on the second run paired with Bayleigh. Despite a successful first run with Nany, Jordan couldn’t get the puzzle completed a second time (of note: Bayleigh was pretty worthless on the puzzle portion), but his time with Nany was good enough to nab the win and put the two in the tribunal. They chose Jenna, who had an eventful episode herself.
Jenna is in a relationship with Zach, who is not competing this season. This has been going on for the better part of six years or so, and history has shown us it’s a volatile relationship. This week, Jenna’s friend back home tells her Zach went through some old DMs (never go through your better half’s messages, you’ll always find something you don’t like) from two damn years ago.When Jenna finally gets Zach on the phone, his pisses and moans about some messages she sent when the two weren’t together. He tells her he wants her to come home because he has questions. The girls in the bunker do their best to compel Jenna to stay and try to win.
Unfortunately, we get a good ol’ Challenge tease ending, and all we know about Purgatory is the tribunal of Jenna, Nany and Jordan. Jordan is hopeful an opportunity presents itself for Tori to take on a distracted Jenna and win a red skull. We shall see next week. Say what you will about Jordan and Tori, they are definitely among the smartest competitors and certainly the most opportunistic. I liken them to Edge’s “Ultimate Opportunist” heel run in WWE. He was a great foil to the faces, but mostly because he was smarter than them and knew when to take an opportunity and use it to his advantage. Jordan already has three Challenge titles to his name, and he is laser focused on getting Tori her first. The rest of the cast better watch out.
The tease after the credits caught my attention with two things: first, a graphic over the highlights that read “time is running out.” Secondly, a clip of T.J. commenting on the lack of red skulls earned so far, and that “a lot of time’s been wasted.” I’m thinking there’s still a big twist coming in regards to the red skulls. Last week I said a lot of people were still playing a scared game, and now it seems like those who don’t get aggressive will be sure to fail.
What an episode. The Challenge is getting too good with these cliffhangers: I was beginning to wonder if my DVR had stopped recording too early until I saw the credits actually rolling as TJ confirmed the tribunal. Going back, though, I want to address my dislike of Jay. I didn’t want him hurt; I wanted him out in a fair battle. His concussion — not remembering attempting three full rounds — was scary. So best wishes to him, and maybe he’ll be back next time so that I can dislike him anew. Nelson really showed some other personal traits this week, and I was no fan. I didn’t get his logic that Aneesa would throw a competition. I was all for Nelson (and Cory) but now? That left a bad taste in my mouth. Then Bayleigh plays the same card after her loss with Jordan? Lots of drama, so it makes sense we didn’t even get to see Purgatory this week. I look forward to the rest of the season.
First up, I think we can safely view this episode as the conclusion of Act I. The extended trailer after the credits, the closing of Jay’s arc, all the evidence is there. The tone will now change, they’ll start zeroing in on characters as the cast gets whittled down, competition will get better, etc. And a “twist” is coming in regards to the red skulls. TJ is frustrated that they’re not being competitive and going to get them. I expect an Island style reveal, that there are only X number of skulls to be had, and they’ll run out long before the final starts. Back to the episode. After some questionable concussion protocol to begin, the house drama took center stage, which is great, because Rogan is awful. Wes and Bananas hit that classic point of debate: what is too far in these games? The real world came crashing into the bunker, riding the wave of Kailah’s questionable decisions regarding Bear, and poor Jenna being tortured by Zach. Jenna and Zach have grown up on this show, most of the time together, and it’s always frustrating to see her treated poorly. For contrast, we have the glowing presence of Big T. She has been pure, sweet cuteness. That’s it, just a Big T shoutout. On the competition side, this was a good daily (long live cross promotion on The Challenge), and a solid example of why Nany is a great competitor that can get overlooked. And why Jordan poses such a threat. Bananas, too. Smarts and physicality count, not just size. Nelson was awful to Aneesa for no reason, and Bayleigh showed a similar ugly side in her reaction to Jordan. Did Jordan try as hard the second time? Maybe not, but he’s a hyper-competitive guy. Bayleigh admitted in a confessional that it was supposed to be her win. That assumption led to a lot of standing around and not helping on her part. Is this the bunker taking its toll on their mental game? I am a little frustrated that the show is now off the rails in terms of the daily-house-elimination episode format. Seasons where they stick to that tend to flow much better than ones that they milk for cliffhangers. It has been alright over two episodes, but I’m worried about how it plays out long term. Are they slowing down to allow for more screen time for a franchise favorite before the elimination hammer drops? Makes you think! Episode MVP: the soundtrack, highlighted by the Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water standout “Rollin’.”