Make no mistake about it, MTV is the innovator of reality television.
The network which started the reality revolution with the Real World has always been the trend and precedent benchmark for all of the copycat network voyeuristic programming that has followed after it. There are countless examples with The Hills, The Buried Life, and World Of Jenks among others.
Perhaps its most popular franchise is The Challenge. The show is in its incredible 22nd season and adopts both various forms and intimidating names like The Gauntlet, The Inferno, The Duel and Cutthroat, the latest installment, called Battle Of The Exes, premiered last night. Filmed in the beautiful backdrop of the Dominican Republic, the Battle Of The Exes takes former Real World and Road Rules contestants from different seasons and pits them against each other in high-octane challenges for cash. While this does not sound ground-breaking, it’s the twists that the producers throw in every season which differentiate the show from its mundane counterparts that make the show as compelling as it is.
On its current Battle Of The Exes season, contestants were paired with people that they have or had a romantic relationship with. In most cases, the relationship ended badly and as a result, forcing former lovers to work together to claim the $150,000 grand prize simply cannot fail as a reality show.
The first episode wasn’t as fiery as I expected, but there is little doubt that things will heat up over the course of the season.
Last night’s first challenge asked the teams to walk across a balance beam suspended in the air, douse themselves in a tub of honey (I am not making this up) and then walk back across the beam where their partner would extract the honey from their bodies to fill up a bucket. The team with the most honey in the shortest amount of time won the challenge.
The losing team was placed into “The Dome” automatically while the winning team got to choose the team that they would face off against. This is the method that will be employed until the show’s finale which will see three teams battle it out.
In last night’s episode Johnny Bananas and Camila won the honey challenge and chose Wes (Real World Austin) and Mandi (Fresh Meat 2) to square off against the hapless looking rookie team of Priscilla and Nate from Real World San Diego. The move came as quite a shock to me as it has generally been protocol for veteran teams to eliminate rookies who are participating in their first challenge. I was almost positive Real World Las Vegas alumni, Dustin & Heather would be the first team to be thrown in.
Anyway, the challenge asked Wes/Mandi and Nate/Priscilla to jump over rotating obstacles in the style of double dutch when skipping rope. It was an embarassing massacre as the newbies quickly fell off while the vets (who had also teamed together on Fresh Meat 2) both stayed on.
Here are my thoughts on the rest of the teams:
Johnny Bananas & Camila
Johnny has been destroying the challenges lately and is coming off a win on Rivals. It will be interesting to see how he fares without his partners-in-crime, Kenny and Evan, but I think that Camila will be a good ally for him. They smoked the first challenge and if the strategy is for Johnny to handle the politicking and bullying while Camila destroys the challenges, they will be tough to beat. In fact, I think only the next team will be able to…
CT & Diem
I am completely in love with Diem. She is stunning, strong and sweet. Sounds like the exact combination needed to win. The best part is that she is paired with the fiercest competitor in Challenge history with CT. While the Boston boy is a lightning rod for controversy, I honestly believe he could beat most of the teams by himself. The only question is whether they will be able to put their past behind them as that is the only thing stopping them from walking away with an easy win. With that being said, I believe CT has already won because he is paired with the vivacious Diem.
Mark & Robin
It’s impossible to root against Mark Long. The oldest competitor in the challenge, the veteran finished second in the opening challenge and looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. As most reality TV fans know, it usually isn’t even about challenge ability in these competition shows. It’s making sure you never go in one by sweet-talking everyone around you. I can’t see any of the vets putting Mark and Robin in danger and the rookies will target teams like Johnny and Camila first so I think that Mark and Robin are in a good spot.
Abram & Cara Maria
I am a big fan of both Abram and Cara Maria. Abram is one of the best challenge competitors around and Cara Maria has proven herself after her first one. More importantly, I think that they will be entertaining to watch. I think that Laurel’s influence on Cara Maria will only help and that she will be tougher. I think that Abram has the ability to beat anyone so they could be darkhorses. I just wonder how they will fit in all of the politics as that doesn’t seem to be their thing.
Ty & Emily
Never been a big fan of Ty on the challenges, but I really liked Emily and I thought that she was one of the most interesting characters on an otherwise bland season of The Real World DC. Her story was interesting and she’s clearly powerful, both physically and mentally. I think that Emily is the most athletic female but the problem is that Ty seems to always give up during challenges. As a result, it will be interesting to see how far she can carry the team.
Aneesa & Rachel
Mmm, lesbians! Once again, MTV sets a precedent by casting a same-sex couple to compete against the other inter-gender teams. While the premiere highlighted the issues between Aneesa and Rachel, make no mistake about it. These girls are tough. Rachel might be the best challenge competitor of all-time and I have seen Aneesa win plenty of duels. I think they will do well. And it’s uber hot!
Vinny & Sarah
Sarah has a great personality and is one of the smarter people I know. I think that Vinny has the potential to be quite good at the challenges now that he has a couple under his belt. The key is whether he will listen to Sarah’s direction. My prediction is Sarah getting frustrated with her partner, but at the same time, I think that they have learned things from the last time they were partnered. Sarah, you know I adore you, but I really hope we don’t have to see that “he’s big and strong and has muscles” annoying clip anymore. Hahahaha!
Wes & Mandi
Say what you want about Wes, but I don’t think I could watch a Challenge without him in it. He is easily the character that entertains me the most. I absolutely love his attempts to strategize which rarely work out and yet, he attempts to do them everytime. It’s absolutely hysterical to me. The scene where Kenny was literally carrying him on his back in the final challenge from Rivals still sticks out to me. I think the fact that another veteran put him up before the rookies speaks volumes. That being said, I do think that this team will do well under pressure. Clearly Johnny’s play is to target Wes even before the rookies so unless Wes does some serious damage control, I think he will be put in the Dome repeatedly. I don’t think that Wes and Mandi have has many issues as the other teams do and I think that will help them.
Dunbar & Paula
I was expecting to rate this team higher especially given how dominant Paula was on Rivals and how I feel like Dunbar is one of the more underrated performers. Unfortunately, they didn’t perform well in the first challenge and I think their baggage might be too much to overcome.
Dustin & Heather
This is my favorite couple on the show and I loved them both on Real World Vegas. Their relationship is clearly the strongest and they have already proven that they can make it through any adversity that confronts them (with “the secret”). They were close to winning the first challenge and it is for this reason that I think that they are in trouble. I was stunned when Johnny and Camila spared the toughest rookies and nominated Wes and Mandi instead. I can’t see them extending their execution at the hands of the vets for too much longer. It sucks because they are awesome.
Tyrie & Jasmine
This team will be hilarious. Period. I love that they are paired together because Tyrie is like a sleeping giant that is usually calm but who roars back when agitated and I feel like Jasmine knows exactly how to push his buttons, starting with her trashing their picture in the first episode. I also think that Tyrie is in much better shape for this challenge and that there might be a competition or two where the pair’s weight differential will be an asset. Really, I just can’t wait to see their interaction!
Leroy & Naomi
Naomi has admitted that she isn’t in the best of shape and the rookies will obviously be nominated sooner than later. I can’t see Leroy taking out any of the teams by himself. With that being said, they have a lot of chemistry so we will see just how much of a difference that really makes.
So there you have it. The first episode of what I feel will be one of the best reality shows of the year, right next to The Celebrity Apprentice and Survivor One World. This season will be tough for me because I am friends with so many of the cast. I will personally be rooting for Johnny/Camila, Diem/CT, Abram/Cara Maria, Wes/Mandi (a little) and Dustin/Heather. Especially Diem!
Let’s call a spade a spade though. Who else is going to miss Evan, Kenny, Laurel, Jenn & Katie?!
The Challenge: Battle Of The Exes airs Wednesdays at 10 pm on MTV & MTV Canada
Tags: MTV, murtz, The Challenge: Battle Of The Exes