This week featured the best elimination challenge in the history of the GRTFL, the worst run-in with the law in the history of the GRTFL, the greatest T.J. Lavin performance in the history of T.J. Lavin performances, and the creepiest psychological breakdown of a former child star in the history of ... oh wait, creepy psychological breakdowns of former child stars happen, like, all the damn time. My bad. Let’s start with the elimination challenge.
Zach (The Challenge, Lisanti), 40 points: In one corner of the arena we have C.J. Koegel, eye-black wearer, punting instructor, MMA fighter, and crush-note writer. In the other we have Zach Nichols, crier (20 points), Saginaw Sting wide receiver, headband wearer, and exfoliater. Presiding over the arena we have T.J. Lavin, hoster, rapper, Friend of Grantlander, and well-documented hater of quitters. Many a Challenge cast member has felt the verbal wrath of T.J. for efforts he did not deem Challenge-worthy. However, on this day, after this effort, there would be no such chastising from the Teej. Let me take you through it.
What Magic was to Bird, what Frazier was to Ali, C.J. is to Zach. Both had NFL dreams that fell short, both have a history with Lady Ashley of Amazingassington, and both have a healthy dose of femininity beneath their chiseled exteriors. The two have been destined to face off since the beginning. After days of arguing with their respective teams (2 x 5 = 10 points) about who would go in the arena, they were set to face off. Geared up in helmets, body armor and, of course, Under Armour, the men stood at each end of a tight hallway, their goal to ring a bell on the opposite end of said hallway. If you don’t watch the show, I should mention that Zach looks like he eats HGH waffles for breakfast and C.J. spends his spare time writing love letters and picking flowers for Zach’s ex-girlfriend. Sarah summed it up best: “I feel like Zach going against anybody isn't 'Oh, who is going to win?,' it's, 'How many bones of the other player is he going to break?' The guy is enormous.” After C.J.’s partner lost the first round of the best-of-three-heats challenge, it was on him to stay alive:
Heat 1: The two men size each other up, T.J. sounds the air horn, they meet in the center of the tunnel/hallway thing like two territorial mountain goats wearing $300 worth of performance-blend fabrics. C.J. eventually gets Zach by both legs, drags him down the hallway, and rings his bell. Zach is not pleased.
Heat 2: Zach, ashamed, is awaiting T.J.’s air horn and clearly has readied himself for ultra-violence. C.J., awaiting T.J.’s air horn, is clearly terrified. At the sound of T.J.’s air horn the two men rush toward each other with enough force to cause a weather event should they collide, but they don’t. At the last second, C.J. ducks under the oncoming HGH-waffle-fueled man-monster and rings his bell with a triumphant dive. Goliath slayed.
Here’s the thing about David and Goliath: There was no Round 2. With Zach and C.J., there was. Since the boys and girls split their two rounds, a decisive extra round between the boys was in order. It did not disappoint:
Heat 3: At the sound of the air horn, the two meet in the middle, and this time Zach sets his internal smash gun from “pulverize” to “maim,” allowing him time to react when C.J. goes low. Zach grabs his legs but C.J. power-steps and drags Zach toward his bell and rings it. Zach is not happy.
Heat 4: C.J. has outsmarted and outhustled Zach for three straight heats. He needs only one more win to eliminate Zach and slay the exfoliating dragon. At the sound of the air horn, the two rush toward each other and then, right before contact, Zach hurdles over a stunned C.J., walks to the bell, and rings it. C.J. is rattled.
Heat 5: Heading into the deciding heat, each competitor’s statement reflects their attitude. C.J. says, “I know I am so close to the final and I am this close to pulling this victory out.” Zach warns, “I am going to hurt you, C.J. I am coming for you now.” Come for him Zach does. When the two meet in the middle of the hallway thing, Zach lifts C.J. off the ground and deposits him five feet behind where he originally started. Victorious, Zach freaks the fuck out. He stomps, grunts, yells unintelligible things, and then attempts to rip his shirt off like Hulk Hogan.
In the aftermath of this zenith of human competition, the two men, covered in sweat and blood, embrace in the middle of the arena and declare their love for each other. T.J., presiding over the whole thing, revels in what he just witnessed, and like a proud parent declares, “Now that ... is how an elimination round is supposed to be played.” Yes, T.J., yes indeed.
Look, I realize that the last few paragraphs weren’t the most entertaining in GRTFL history, but I want to thank you for indulging me. I have no control over how MTV digitally archives their footage, and I hate to imagine a world where my descendants are oblivious to the events of this Challenge episode. In a post-apocalyptic earth where robotic breast implants have enslaved humanity, people will remember this as a pinnacle of human achievement and look to it for inspiration to start the revolution against their robotic breast implant overlords. Trust.
Blair from Facts of Life (Survivor, House), 0 points (10 points gained/10 points lost): Not all battles waged in reality TV this week involved muscled, bloodied men in performance wear smashing into each other with all their might. Equally as intense was the battle between Blair from Facts of Life and Blair from Facts of Life. The struggle for balance, morality, and sanity that was waged within her rivaled everything that occurred between Zach and C.J. in the arena.
To offer some context, before Survivor, Blair from Facts of Life had gotten divorced and was living a deeply religious lifestyle and home-schooling her kids. Now she is sitting on a beach in the Philippines trying to find her moral center in the shapeless, shifting mindfuck of a society that this show creates. She is simply not built for this. At one point, she even explained through tears (2 x 5 = 10 points), “I tried to make a big move, I tried to play the game like a real Survivor, and it’s just not me. I lied, and I betrayed, and I broke promises.”
Not being able to lie, betray, and break promises on Survivor is just adorable. You know what else is adorable? Baby sea turtles. And you know what happens to those little dudes once they hatch and attempt to make their way to the water? The swooping bird happens. In this case, that swooping bird is Penner. Sensing the cool of the chopping block on his cheek, he seeks out Blair from Facts of Life and sets his trap:
Penner: [Talking about Blair's youth as a famous child actress.] “A young person in your position? Devastating. And so you had to be the pleaser. I’m going to pay for my family’s whatever. I’m the breadwinner. I’ve got these responsibilities. 'Do you like me? Am I beautiful enough? Am I pretty enough? I mean, am I staying pretty? Am I funny enough?' I mean ...
Blair from Facts of Life: [Astonished look on her face.] “How did you know?”
Penner: “That is my business too ...”
Blair from Facts of Life, later in an interview: “I know Penner is struggling to stay, but he is really striking something pretty deep.”
Penner: “... and you are maybe only now really getting to deal with that toll, that cost, that you did lose something, that it did cost you something ...”
Blair from Facts of Life: “I have lived my life onstage since I was 7 years old. And even before that, I never learned to be loved.”
Penner, having gained her trust via empathy, knowing that she is emotional Play-Doh, attempts to shape her into a vote for anyone other than himself:
Penner: “I am like a storyteller, that is what I do, you know? Survivor is a big story. What is the story that is going to be told this season? Who are the good guys? And who are the bad guys? And who are the underdogs? Who is the audience going to be rooting for? What does the audience want to have happen? The audience is going to watch you and they are going to say she is being loyal and she has been loyal to the people that she is loyal to all along. They are not going to be happy that you are helping these three guys go further. I am not going to try to move you to my side, but I hope you and Skupin do the right thing and tell a better story.”
Feeling the pressure of being one of the swing votes in the game (with flair = -10 points) she cracks in tribal:
Blair from Facts of Life: “One thing that I have learned is that my life is bigger than this game and this game is bigger than me.”
Jeff: “What does that mean?”
Blair from Facts of Life: “What that means is, is this just a game? Or can I just cut off my heart to play it? Then I learned, no, I can't. And this has been such a huge life-altering experience for me already and I don’t know if I can learn it all in 39 days. But I do know that these 39 days are going to change me more than my 40 years.”
OK, let me get this straight, your life > this game, but this game > you. And what that means is that these 39 days > 40 years?
It wasn’t so much that she made no sense while she explained these things, it was the way she made no sense. She had that blank look on her face that signaled emotional fatigue, recent heartbreak, and searching for answers. If there is a functioning cult within 70 miles of her residence, there is a decent chance that she is a fully committed member and has her bag packed for space travel in preparation for the eminent robotic breast implant takeover.
Frank (The Challenge, Simmons), 25 points: Frank the Alchopsychoholic did his regular arguing with anyone who would listen (2 x 5 = 10 points) and making out with anyone who would touch him (5 points) — but he also added a new wrinkle, the insane insanity denial. Let me set the scene. Actually, you know what? No scene needs be set, just listen to this lunatic go:
Frank the Alchopsychoholic: [Slightly disturbed.] “Marie, I feel like the bleeping asshole of the earth.”
Frank the Alchopsychoholic: [Upset.] “Exactly, for no bleeping reason.”
Marie: “Then don’t feel like it.”
Frank the Alchopsychoholic: [Enraged.] “But this is exactly what they did to me the last time. Exactly the same bleeping thing [starts pounding his pillow the way distraught widows in movies pound the husband/corpse] and I can't do it any bleeping MORE. I CAN’T! OK!? I CAN’T! I AM NOT GOING TO BE MADE TO LOOK LIKE A CRAZY PERSON!"
There is something so poetically perfect about someone on a reality show losing their shit on camera and screaming "I AM NOT GOING TO BE MADE TO LOOK LIKE A CRAZY PERSON" that I wish I could make it into a GIF and tattoo that GIF on my face. C’mon, technology, make this possible.
Snooki (Jersey Shore, House), 20 points: Jersey Shore has gotten so boring that they can’t even get arrested right anymore. This week, cops pulled over Snooki and Deena while they were driving. Was Deena slammered? No. Did Snooki crash into a cop car? No. They were both riding a wheelchair/scooter thing and the cops asked nicely for one of them to get off it (20 points). Can we just do the “Actual Story Lines of the Week on Jersey Shore" bit and get this over with?
1. It rained.
2. Are they going to walk or drive?
3. How do you spell hors d’oeuvre? (To be fair, I have no clue and neither do you. Don’t lie to yourself.)
4. Snooki has a balloon friend.
5. Sammi eats Corn Pops out of the box.
Don’t forget to tune in next week ... On second thought, totally forget to tune in next week.
Marie (The Challenge, Jacoby), 10 points: The challenge this week was called "Hunger Games" and it involved the cast eating a bunch of Fear Factor–y gross animal bits. Marie puked, which led to one of the best lower-third graphics I have ever seen on television: “disqualified for vomiting.” I can’t wait to use this on a future episode of House Eats.
Sam (The Challenge, Kang), 10 points: Sam scored 10 points for winning the greatest elimination challenge in the history of the sport, but that was only part of what made this T.J.’s best performance in the history of The Challenge. During the “eat animal bits until you puke” challenge, Teej was decked out as a '70s game-show host, thin stick mic and all, and had an assistant, who displayed the food to the contestants. Somehow T.J. managed to call this assistant Daisy, Bunny, Chastity, Diamond, Passion, Sapphire, Mercedes, Diamond again, and Ravishing Raquel. Whatever the fake '70s game-show hosting equivalent of the Jordan shrug is, the “Ravishing” in front of "Raquel" was exactly that.
Jasmine (The Challenge, Jacoby), 10 points: Jasmine cried a couple times (2 x 5 = 10 points), but none of that matters because ... Jonna. Why Jonna? Because the underboob-tattooed Jonna pulled the best “Here is the reason that I should stay on this reality show” excuse in the history of reality shows. Homelessness. Jonna is claiming that she should stay on the show because she has no home. Her explanation got even funnier/sadder/more mysterious: “My ex-boyfriend and I broke up two summers ago, and he threw away all my possessions and belongings. He blackmailed me into signing my car title over to him and he stole my dog. It was ... it was bad. Because I lost everything, I need to be here on this challenge more than anyone else does.” This week’s GRTFL Top Five is a deep dive into my Five Favorite Words/Phrases From This Statement Listed From “Yes, Jacoby, I was wondering about that too” to “If Chuck Klosterman hadn’t ruined the CIA, I would demand that they investigate”:
5. "Two summers ago." Two summers is a long damn time. One would even think that is long enough to, ya know, (a) get over it emotionally, (b) get some more stuff, (c) find suitable housing, (d) get another dog. Just sayin’.
4. "Threw away all my possessions." Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that Jonna cheated on him. I may be wrong ... but I’m not.
3. "Blackmailed." Does blackmailing happen outside of Disney cartoons, telenovelas, and political dramas? Also, why isn’t there a Disney cartoon telenovela political drama in development for the Grantland Channel?
2. "He stole my dog." He kept his ex’s dog? That must have been a Lassie-level pooch.
1. "Because I lost everything, I need to be here on this challenge more than anyone else does." I could make a great case for the exact opposite of that argument. Fun fact: Super reality-TV nerds will remember that Jonna was on TruTV’s Rehab: Party at The Hard Rock, in which she got fired almost every episode and drove up from Arizona every weekend to cocktail-serve in Las Vegas. I can’t imagine how their relationship went wrong ...
Then, later in the episode when she arrives at the arena (in a “Zach” Under Armour shirt that she has fashioned into a dress), we learn that pretty much every female member of the cast hates her. Why they hate her is never even remotely explained, but they do have some good one-liners about her. Matter of fact, I am doubling down on the GRTFL Top Five this week. The following are the Top Five Cattiest Things That the Other Women Said About Jonna for No Particular Reason, Listed From “That wasn’t that mean” to “She would never say that — did they dub that over her lips moving like Kung Fu movie?”
5. “She’ll be homeless again, watch.” — Nany
4. "She is a trash bag, like the trashiest person I have ever met” — Trishelle
3. “She is homeless because she is ho-etic” — Devyn
2. “I have a gag reflex. I am not Jonna.” — Jasmine
1. “Jonna is a greedy bitch. She wanted to manipulate Jasmine into the arena so that she can stay and get a piece of the pie.” — Trishelle
You can find Jonna's booking info on her website. You can also find her “résumé” there. It’s worth it.
Kyle (Real Housewives, Jacoby), 5 points: Kyle had a party for her daughter's birthday that included pretty much everything you would expect at an insanely spoiled child’s birthday party that's being broadcast on national television (5 points). At one point she was upset because the unicorns didn’t look like unicorns.
Derek (The Challenge, undrafted), 5 points: Derek scored five points for making out with Frank in one of those 20-second segments in between commercials. Those are a really good test of your remote-control control. If you are anything like everyone I have ever met, you pride yourself on your ability to fast-forward through commercials and hit play at the exact perfect moment. These little mini-segments during the break are a whole new wrinkle to the game, and I could not be happier to try to meet that challenge. We are, like, two years away from this being an Olympic sport.
Abi (Survivor, Jacoby), -5 points: Abi put flair on her vote card (-10 points) and had this perfect exchange with Blair from Facts of Life (5 points):
Blair from Facts of Life: “Can I say something?”
Abi: “I understand everything that you are trying to say. I think you are just gullible. I think you are just naive.”
Read that exchange again. Now read it again. It keeps getting better, right? I watched it six times in a row.
Michael (Survivor, Connor), -10 points: Michael lost 10 points when he put flair on his vote card that secretly swung the game in a whole new direction. More important, Blair from Facts of Life caught West Nile virus while on the show. I feel terrible for her, but I have to wonder: How does this not happen more often? How have they done 25 seasons of this show and never had someone get attacked by a wild animal, catch a deadly disease, or totally lose their minds? (Coach doesn’t count.) I am baffled by this. Three nights in a shitty hotel and I am convinced that I have bed bugs.
I would never wish harm on another person just for my entertainment (not true, I am actually doing it right now), but can we please get a shark attack? How many times are they going to go spear fishing and not get bitten by a shark? No snake bites? No scorpions? How do they have three shots of animals going into every segment but not a single animal on the damn show?
I have a theory: They are fenced in. Methinks that the production can’t risk wild animals eating their cast, so they have a fence around the camp. Someone get Probst on the phone, I need answers.