SPROTS UPDATE: The Challenge Total Madness: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Game

In the despair that is currently the wasteland of the sports world in the age of coronavirus, Wednesday graced us with the long awaited premier of the 35th season of MTV’s reality show meets kind of actual sport(?), The Challenge.

The delay was a bit longer than what we are used to; usually we get a trailer, releasing the theme and cast, around mid-February. That wasn’t until March 18 this time around, for an April Fool’s release date.

But, it’s here, and just in time, as the desire for competition has never been greater.

With all of that out of the way, lets get into the premier of The Challenge: Total Madness.

The Challenge

Challenge rules: Competitors haul a barrel of “medical supplies” across 500 yards in three separate stages, broken up by a puzzle and a math problem. If the players are not at one of the checkpoints by the time a pair of tanks roll across the field, destroying the barrels, they’re eliminated. Played in two heats, one male one female. Winners, along with a selected third player, form the Tribunal.

Each heat had strong statements made by each winner; Rogan outlasted CT (who equally surprised me that he was able to be in the final three of the first challenge and, also, it’s C MFin T, of course he was one of the last three) and Fessy while Jenny made the biggest statement, blowing every other female competitor out of the water, with Dee being the next closest.

I’ll be honest – having two of last season’s winners win the first challenge is not something I expected and we’ll see how long that bodes well for the that duo, along with Jordan and CT.

As a contest, it was enjoyable, although there was something off about how it was put together; maybe it was the 1917-esque filming style and soundtrack that made it feel more movie and less “MTV game show”. Although, this is one of the first challenges in a long time that you could almost feel what it would be like to be out there; you could feel how tired they were, you couldn’t hear much of anything because everyone was laser focused and at times it became disorienting as to who was where.

Following the challenge, Rogan and Jenny made the first real game move of the season, electing to have Cory join them to form the Tribunal. I was almost assured they’d have made it an all-Brit affair, but with Cory only in a two-man alliance (Nelson and Cory are 2/3’s of Team Young Buck; the third member, Hunter, is not along for this season), nothing was too shaken up, but maybe we are seeing a new alliance form before our very eyes.

The House

House drama is not, in any way, shape or form, my thing. In fact, some of the recent seasons of the show (think the recent Trilogy; XXX, Vendetas, Final Reckoning) were hard to watch because 50 minutes of the show was dedicated to the house, with 10 built in for competition. That ain’t why I’m here, fam.

I say that to preface this; I think the house portion of the debut episode is my favorite portion. We get a tour of the bunker they’re living in. We get to meet a couple of the newbies (which, in hindsight, is TV’s language of telling us who the elimination will consist of) in Jay and Asaf, two guys I immediately like, but for very different reasons.

Asaf is quick to be found out by Nany, a pairing that I find to make way too much sense, and they get nice and cozy with each other. Isn’t that sweet?

Nominations turned into an explosive affair, something that isn’t out of the norm, but we usually have to wait a couple of weeks before tempers really begin to flare.

As stated (or I guess, more aptly, alluded to) previously, Jay and Asaf are the two on the chopping block; the house assumes it’s safe, for now, to not go after Chris “Swaggy C” Williams, as he has a built-in alliance with his girlfriend, Bayleigh (this rarely, if ever, has been an issue before, but the vets seem awful afraid that Bayleigh will come after them with vengeance) and CT almost straight up says “Fessy, you’re a strong and intimidating dude, I’m holding out hope that we’ll have an alliance so I’m not saying your name.”

The only dissenter in this line of voting is Asaf, who votes not for the only other guy on the chopping block, but decides to throw a grenade into the proceedings and nominates Wes.

Bergman, who is usually one to brush off snark directed at him, especially by a newcommer, takes great offense, which at first doesn’t make a ton of sense to me? You’d think someone who has ridden in a rodeo a time or two would have belief that he wouldn’t be on the verge of elimination so soon – and that it was someone who was scared of not lasting a week to throw him in. However, with how the games have been turned on their head over the last couple of series, maybe early comfort in the house for a vet is a thing of the past.

However, he says after the fact that he’s playing a different game this season (we’ll get to that in a sec), and he doesn’t really have anyone he’s close to in the house with, so his trepidation and early uneasiness makes sense.

But first, the bombshell that was preceded coming into the evening by a social media campaign led by Johnny Bananas, that was even turned into an EW article. The Wes/Asaf spat ends the nomination, and Wes is still fuming. He’s fuming so much so, that he and Bananas embrace, and then we get the reveal; Wes and Bananas are going to be working together this season, ending their near decade long Challenge feud. Are they now friends? Have they been friends this whole time? Is one of them going to backstab the other in the end?

The bombshell is dropped, but some folks in the house are already on to them; Cory gets a confessional, saying something is a foot, as does Nany, who notices the embrace and is quite frankly stunned. Also, every confessional Bananas and Wes have leading up to this telegraph their rivalry, which makes the reveal super obvious in hindsight.

The Tribunal selects their trio to interview – Wes, Kyle and Jay – where Wes seems like he’s about to offer something before just coming out and asking if it’ll be him (probably from a place of uneasiness following the house nominations) and Rogan, as straight a face as possible, says they’re not showing their hand until they get to the elimination arena.

While it’s a subtle moment before we cut to Purgatory, the elimination arena for this season, Jay and Nelson are talking scenarios over a game of chess, and it feels like a blossoming team up, especially after Jay all but offers himself to the Tribunal (but, that’s before he gets voted into elimination, so we’ll see how vengeful he is upon his return).

The Elimination

Asaf vs. Jay in a “who can hang on the poll longest,” and it’s both not as cool as the previews made it look and is instantly a strategic game (think the Jordan vs. Josh tug-of-war elimination from last year). Asaf wants to force Jay off the ladder with brute strength, while Jay (who, it’s noted several times, is a climber) bides his time and waits for Asaf to tire himself out.

In the best two of three,  it’s a 2-0 sweep for Jay, which means Nany’s boytoy is gone.

Stray Thoughts

  • The most bitter taste left in my mouth has been by Baileigh, who is coming in H O T with a “don’t mess with me OR my man.” I’m not saying that’s a bad mentality to have, I’m just saying I’d prefer it to be less open, at least early one.
  • TJ ends the episode by detailing the show’s “biggest twist”, which has been known since the first trailer – to make a final, you have to win an elimination. It’s a good rule, one that many corners of the community have wanted to see implemented for a while, and I hope we see how it plays out with people changing their mentality’s in the game right away. Are we going to see people scramble to go IN, as opposed to seeing people scramble to stay OUT. Are we going to see people want to go in immediately, only to play the “I’ve already gone in and proven myself, bro,” card (which is often played, but rarely cared about) or will we see people wait until the last possible moment to go in and earn their way into a final.
  • Also, what happens if you make it all the way to the end and don’t participate in the final? Could that become a strategy by any large alliance we see throughout the season (god help us if that happens) as a way to keep people from reaching that point, by simply keeping them out of contention in Purgatory? Will we see people throw challenges to ensure that doesn’t happen?
  • The Bananas/Wes alliance is certainly the major talking point coming out of this episode, and that’s largely why it’s happening, methinks. However, from the full trailer they released a couple of weeks ago, we get a tease of TJ saying something along the lines of “I’ve waited my whole career for the stars to align for this elimination,” which immediately tells me it’s this duo going head to head. Automatically, we know their plan of aligning to make it to the end together doesn’t work. I’m interested to see how this plays out. It’s also something I might write about more in this week we have between episodes.

That’s all, for now, from our first week of Madness. I’m over at @Fletch_Keel if you wanna talk Challenge or, really, anything else.

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