Before we get to The Challenge, we have to deal with the big Survivor news. Yes, Naked and Afraid’s older, more mature stepfather proved once again that it knows how to keep its relationship with its viewers fresh when it announced this season’s format. No, it isn’t as good as Juliet's “secret partner” idea, but it's in the neighborhood. The producers are pitting brothers, married couples, parents and kids, uncles and nephews up against each other in hopes that, at some point, someone says, “This is the most difficult decision that I have ever made in my life: Do I ruin my marriage for a million dollars?” Methinks that will happen damn near every episode post-merge, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Frank (Challenge, Yoshida), 35 points: The Alchopsychoholic is back! Between his kind, rational behavior when he visited the Grantland studio and his calm, affable behavior thus far this season, I was concerned that the old “If you look at me the wrong way I will immediately insult your sister’s heroin habit” Frank had been reformed. Not the case.
Frank the Alcopsychoholic and Bananas won a brilliant challenge in which the contestants were shocked by those electric dog collar things and garnered a “You killed it” from the Teej and his pet pooch Pookie (25 points):
The win meant that they were free from the elimination jungle. Immediately upon returning to the house, Bananas and Frank cornered the girls in the house and hatched a plan: “All right, this should be the easiest decision you guys ever made. If you guys don’t send the rookies in, it is going to be the dumbest thing that you have ever done. They have not been in an elimination yet and they are [bleeping] rookies, dude.”
Now, Bananas' superfluous use of superlatives aside, it is clear to all involved that the real reason they want Marlon and Jordan in the jungle is because they are intimidated by their athleticism and all-around badassness. When the women wavered, Frank decided to put more pressure on, explaining, “Let me just say one thing to you guys: They directly said last week, 'I broke my word.' If someone starts off the vote and says Jordan and Marlon/Jonna and Nany will say it because that’s one of the votes that they made a promise that they won’t throw you in.”
OK, don’t worry, I didn’t fully understand that quote either, but the important part is that Frank is clearly campaigning to have Jordan and Marlon voted into the jungle. Clearly. On camera. No doubt about it.
There is something oddly admirable about deep indignation in the face of overwhelming evidence that you're in the wrong. And to not only be wrong, but to be SCREAMING about how right you are when you are clearly wrong is a level of delusion and/or manipulation that needs to be celebrated. Case in point, when Jordan calmly asks Frank “How’s the campaign going?” A topless (and surprisingly super-buff) Frank loses his shit and acts like he has been falsely accused of puppy murder (5 points):
Stet that. Mass puppy murder. But it didn’t end there. He raged his way around the house, making his case to anyone who would listen, including Diem and Emily, who were hanging outside:
(Side note: WHAT THE HELL IS ANEESA DOING IN THIS PHOTO? Why is she running 20-yard wind sprints on the deck? Why is everyone always running around on this deck? IT LOOKS SO SLIPPERY. Someone is going to get hurt. Stay off the damn deck, everybody, there are flying cobras out there and you have a treadmill in the workout room. I am very concerned about your safety.) (Also, nice butt, Emily.)
When things calmed down a bit, Frank struck again (5 points). He reengaged with Jordan and got all ragey and insulty and finger-pointy:
At one point he flat-out claimed, “Actually, Jordan, let me check your facts on that; your name did not come out of my mouth.” Frank, THERE ARE CAMERAS HERE, YOU ARE ON A TV SHOW, AND THEIR NAMES TOTALLY CAME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH. WE WATCHED IT!
Frank’s passion, delusion, and commitment to arguing in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is interesting and everything, but not nearly as interesting as that pool ladder on the wall in the background that goes to nothing. Who puts a ladder in a house that goes to nothing? Oh shit, there's another one too!
Does this mean that they are living in a converted pool and going to flood the house with cheap gin later in the season? Please tell me they are going to flood the house with cheap gin later in the season. How many free, brilliant ideas do I have to give Bunim/Murray before they hire me as a consultant?
Jordan (Challenge, Litman), 20 points: Jordan scored for fighting with Frank a couple times (5 + 5 = 10 points) and winning the elimination challenge with Marlon (10 points). I criticize the producers a lot, so I have to give them a shout-out on this episode, because one challenge involved electrocuting the cast and the other was a popular football practice routine called the “Oklahoma drill” that is so dangerous IT HAS NEARLY BEEN BANNED BY THE NFL. You know you are doing something right as a TV producer when you have your cast doing shit that is too dangerous for Ray Lewis. For those of you who didn’t play high school football (go, Amherst Hurricanes!), the Oklahoma drill is pretty much human dog-fighting. It looks like this:
Between Ty, Marlon, Jordan, and Leroy, there is a Division I linebacker, a semipro wakeboarder, the biggest guy in the house not named CT, and a former trashman/future president of the species. In other words, there is no shortage of muscle mass, athleticism, or kick-assness. The challenge got physical fast. If they made a television network where all they did was have former Real World cast members alternate between competing in the Oklahoma drill and then a spelling bee I would never leave the house. Oh yeah, on that network every show ends with the entire cast being flooded with cheap gin. Cheap gin flood!
Johnny (Challenge, Simmons), 25 points: GRTFL super-scorer Caitlin was so fired up about Bananas that she took this one. Super-scorer Caitlin is the best:
I love Johnny Bananas. He's my single favorite Challenge cast member of all time. As the last man standing from the Evan–Kenny "Mr. Beautiful"–Bananas bromance/joint dictatorship, Johnny is a true incarnation of a Challenge veteran. In an ode to Bananas, this week’s GRTFL Top Five is the Top Five Reasons Johnny Bananas Is A National Hero Who Should Have His Own Holiday, ranging from the fact that he doubles as a backpack to how he drove Camila to new, previously unrealized levels of insanity. This man is a gem. Here’s the top five:
5. Johnny is the Challenge Confucius. After Frank goes Chernobyl on Jordan this week for reasons I still don't fully understand, Johnny somehow calms him down by going all meta, declaring "All is fair in love, war, and challenges." If it turns out Johnny is the 13th Apostle of MTV Debauchery, I'd believe it. I also think that Frank is the other 12.
4. Johnny wants to send Jordan and Marlon into the jungle ... thus keeping "the layup team" of Preston and Knight around. Why don't more of these people understand that when you're on a 275-mile final challenge run featuring sled dogs, electrocution, and MTV-sanctioned murder attempts, it behooves you to be going up against the weaker teams? I feel like if I played tic tac toe against these people I would have to explain that you can't take the same square twice.
3. Since his first appearance on the Challenge, Johnny's biceps have morphed into the size of cantaloupes.
2. Johnny is a disciple of the Bret Michaels School of Terrible Head Scarves. How could you not love a man that incorporates a truck-stop bandanna into his daily wardrobe?
1. Johnny has won this thing four times and has won nearly $270,000 in prize money. The man has his own bobblehead and more than 110,000 Twitter followers. TJ tells him that he "killed it" on a regular basis (25 points). All of this once again proves that I made a career mistake. MTV, if you're looking to start a Challenge featuring relatively uncoordinated, boring individuals who watch too much television, hit me up.
Marlon (Challenge, Jacoby), 10 points: Marlon notched a dime for winning the challenge he was voted into (10 points). During the voting process I noticed something about Paula: What is up with her makeup?
I chalked up her weird cheek streak to “no big deal,” and then I saw this:
Why are women using black blush on television? Is this a thing? Because if this is a thing, I need it stopped. By any means necessary. Thanks.
Ty and Aneesa (Challenge, Simmons and Litman), 5 points: If you make out during one of those “Here’s 45 seconds of content that I will catch you fast-forwarding through” segments, is it really a make-out (5 points)? Don’t people know that we still aren’t watching the commercials and all we are doing is testing our fast-forwarding-with-the-remote skills? In fact, this is the GRTFL Questionable Moment of the Week:
Am I the only one who practices stopping the fast forward through the commercials and stopping at the perfect spot like it is a sport? Do other couples argue about who is better at it? Do other people treat an over–fast forward with the remote like a federal offense? Do other people have to hand over the remote like a pitcher does the ball to the reliever? Why do they put these little segments in these shows? Do they get paid more for ads? Does Nielsen even track this? Who decided this was even a good practice in the first place? Am I getting too inside-baseball? Will The Challenge ever end with entertaining episodes or does it always get all competitive and serious at the end and no one has sex or gets drunk or tries to murder each other like they do when there are more people in the house in the early episodes?
Truth is, I have no idea, but the “Next week on ...” features Camila finally starting to act Camilaesque, and by that I mean going absolutely lunatic hamburger, and I can’t wait. Until then, enjoy your weekend. We’ll be back next week.