Takin’ on ‘The Challenge’: Born to Ride or Die

Comeuppance has always been a major player on The Challenge, and this week’s episode was a great example of how playing the long game is as important as anything when you’re trying to win.

Jay and Michele pissed too many good teams off, and it finally bit them in the ass tonight, as they were eliminated and sent home. Horacio and Olivia did the dirty work, but it was the daily-winning team of Jordan and Aneesa who sent Jay/Michele straight into The Zone, taking revenge on the duo. Jordan then had a great line about the difference between Survivor — Jay and Michele’s original show — and The Challenge: when you say someone’s name, they can come back. Jay/Michele said Jordan/Aneesa’s name, and they came back. But the Survivor duo can’t say the same.

On the other side of that coin, Nelson was torn between saving his friend Faysal — who had betrayed him last season — and his new gal Olivia. Ultimately, Nelson said Faysal and Moriah, and lucked out when Olivia and Horacio won elimination. Or did he?

Question 1: Did Nelson make the right decision?

TD: Absolutely not. Fessy is not Cory, and he will throw Nelson to the lions if it benefits his game. Hell, Fessy even seemed to expect it and would’ve understood the decision. And, as a bonus for Nelson, Fessy/Moriah could’ve fucked around and lost elimination, sending home a pretty strong team.

Blaine: Faysal slides by too much in this game. He would’ve gone home this week had he been thrown into the Zone. Something I’ve noticed: these eliminations rely a lot on team participation, which lends itself to puzzles and not so much for physical eliminations. I don’t see Fessy and Moriah figuring out that puzzle as well as any other team. This is not the season to be afraid of Fessy due to his size, folks. Throw his ass in! And TD’s got it: he would (and will?) eliminate Nelly T if given a chance. It’s a shame that Nelson is so kind in this game sometimes. But it does make him mostly lovable.

Question 2: We complained the last few seasons that the challenges were more sizzle than steak. How do you feel about this season’s games?

TD: Even though this week’s challenge was similar to the past few seasons’ “simple task with special effects added,” I do feel this season has gone back to games that require the usual mix of skill/endurance/smarts. The teaser for next week made me think next week’s challenge will be one of the patented “mini-finals” we’re big fans of around here, as well.

Blaine: The daily challenges have been fine. One thing which I didn’t enjoy about this week was that players could rely heavily on the support system. That’s fair. You don’t want your competitors falling off a moving car and breaking a femur, but at the same time, the idea of danger was long gone. The ability to do it in a timely manner added stakes, yet the cords holding the players should’ve been given less slack. I’d argue, too, that the female competitors weren’t given a lot to do this week. I could’ve done their job! And I’m a weakling!

Question 3: After elimination, T.J. warned the cast that there’s surprises around every corner, and the house would encounter their next corner at the next elimination. What is T.J.’s surprise going to be?

TD: It’s probably too late to introduce any new teams, so I’m thinking it’s some kind of shift in format. I doubt they’ll split teams up, but perhaps it’s a change in the elimination/nomination process.

Blaine: It would be unfair to bring in new teams, and for some reason, I just don’t see them doing surprise ringers for eliminations or competitions. That idea feels like it’s gone the way of the dodo. TD disagrees, but wasn’t there a hint of changing up the teams in the trailer for next week? Now that would get my attention! Can you imagine Devin having to work with the likes of anyone else but Tori? Or how about Amber, whose gameplay has gotten weaker due to odd emotions, forced away from Chauncey? Not to berate the guy, but someone else placed with Faysal would be interesting TV. So I’m certainly hoping that’s the surprise.

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