The Challenge: Battle of the Seasons, Episode 1 recap

It may not be as hyped as the Super Bowl, Opening Day or the beginning of March Madness, but for Mike Aurigemma and Greg Kaplan, the season premiere of The Challenge holds a very special place in their hearts.

After one 90-minute extravaganza, both writers are a bit surprised that, for the second straight season, Challenge veteran Wes is going home (along with teammate Lacey from Real World: Austin). They had a lot of a opinions on a bevvy of topics, so let’s not waste your time by throwing more explanation before the conversation..

Greg Kaplan: O.K. Mike, episode one is in the books, and there is a clear story line we need to talk about first above the rest. For as long as The Challenge has been around, there have been people on the show that have been clearly disliked by the majority of those in the house. We’ve seen it with CT, we’ve seen it Derrick, and plenty more than just that.

However, there is something different about the pure, unadulterated hate people have for Wes. This marks the second consecutive season that Wes has not only been voted to the first elimination round, but he is once again the first male competitor to go home. In the past, Wes being hated by everyone was fine because he’d go to the eliminations and dominate. That’s not the case anymore.
It really seems that Wes has officially pissed too many people off over the course of these shows and will never get deep into the competition. So, I have to ask. Will we ever see Wes again on another Challenge? Has he officially ran out his welcome on the shows?

Will Wes be able to ever win a Challenge with so many enemies?

Mike Aurigemma: Thank God it is finally back.  And even with a very new and young cast it is still just pure entertainment.

Now onto your question about Wes.  I think we will absolutely see hiim on the show again.  He is a complete Challenge junkie and I cannot see that ever changing.  Now I do not think we will see him ever get very far again because he just cannot be trusted.  He has burnt too many bridges at this point to allow anyone to trust a word that he says.  We even saw it with some of the rookies that already had their eye out for Wes and did not want to listen to him except for Trey who is just an idiot.  So he will not stop from competing, but everyone knows the way he plays the game and in the end he needs an alliance around him to help get him through the show.  That just is not going to happen for him at this stage in his career.
I also must say that I was completely wrong in my predictions as I had Wes being the one who would walk away as the winner.  I thought he would ease his way into being the villain around the new guys, but CJ really threw a big wrench into that.
With him gone I am really wondering who the top dog will be now.  I thought this season was going to still be stacked with some really athletic guys, but I think I was blinded by people like Zach and Alton and just looked over people like Preston or Chet.

Tell me who you think is going to take the reins from here on out now.  And could Frank being a psycho when he drinks be the things that holds his team back.

Is Frank the biggest liability?

GK: Frank is the clear liability in this house. He’s the guy that’s going to drink way too much and say stupid things from week to week, and then not back them up in the competitions. But, you forgot to inform me of how much an absolute beast Zach is. Good lord. He’s easily the most intimidating figure in the house to date, and nobody is going to want to face him head to head in a physical elimination.

As far as taking control of the house, I have to believe it’s going to be the Fresh Meat team. Yes, they looked terrible in the first challenge as the only team to DQ. Yes, Cara Maria is back up to her waffling, no-confidence ways. However, there is no team on this show more experienced in these type of Challenges then the likes of Big E, Brandon, Camila (a defending champ, no less) and Cara Maria. They have to be the favorites going the rest of the way.

Now, we talked briefly before the show about how awesome it is that producers have put Danny and Melinda together on the Austin team. Well, as luck has it, Lacey and Wes were sent home first from their team, meaning the divorced couple from the Real World are now their own team. Somebody dropped the line at the end of the show “They couldn’t work out their marriage, how can they work together as a team?” Mikey, is this not setting itself up for something really dramatic?

MA: That situation is going to be extremely awkward from here on out.  With Wes there it was not as bad since there was a buffer, but at this point they really do not have any friends left in the house to try to talk to and help them out of some ugly situations.  They are absolutely set up for failure.  This is 10 times worse than Ct being paired up with Diem because they both had other people in the house who they knew already and were at least somewhat close with.  Now I do not think we will see these two get back together or anything like that because of this situation.  But I also do not see them just having a huge blowout at this point either.  Mainly because I cannot see them lasting much longer as a team.  Danny is an extremely overrated competitor so I could easily see it being their time to go next week.  And they might be happy about it at that point even if it means giving up a shot at $250,000.

Speaking of that prize that is insane.  For some of these new people coming on, they definitely picked the right season.
I wanted to get your thoughts on the way the “Arena” is set up and how it is decided what kind of competition it will be.  I like that the power couple can decide whether it will be physical, mental, endurance or strategy as that gives them a lot more power.  But with that being said I am an even bigger fan that they must select all four before repeating one of them.  I think that will help keep things different from week to week.  Give me your thoughts on this new set up.
GK: The first part about it I absolutely love is that whole teams are not eliminated each time. Instead, it’s only the half of the team that failed to carry their weight in an elimination. We saw shades of the drama that can come from it when Cara Maria started to back out at the last second and try to get Camila to go in her place. I think this is going to be the factor that splits teams down the middle, especially Las Vegas. Think about it. That team has two different seasons of Real World. Do you really see them agreeing on anything once they get to the Arena?

As for the Arena itself, I like that there are four different types of events. While I prefer everything to be decided physically, it does add another element that there are now mental and endurance events. This is where we will see some rather surprising upsets. If everything was physical, the odds would be stacked so high in someone like Big E’s or Zach’s favor. However, should Zach go into an Arena and have to do a puzzle against, say, Chet, I’d be terrified for him.

Will Zach and Jonna be able to bridge an alliance?

While we’re on the topic of Zach, do you think Jonna is setting herself up for disaster trying to start a relationship with a competitor? She thinks it’ll work as an alliance, but we’ve seen this work against someone getting cozy with the enemy more times than I can count. Oh, and what the hell is with the phone call home? You and I exchanged texts about this last night, and I hated this. This isn’t the Real World. Why are we allowing this, MTV?

MA: Well I think Jonna is doing what she feels is right now, but when do these little flings on The Challenge even work out.  It just amazes me that these people are so willing to throw everything away immediately for someone they just met.

Onto the fact of this trying to be strategy. I think that eventually this relationship will fail and when it does that whole alliance could get extremely messed up.  So I understand what Jasmine is trying to do to push her into it, but that plan could backfire in a second.  The other tricky part here is the fact that Ashley is on Zach’s team and was in a relationship with him not too long ago.  That could lead to problems with Zach and then all of a sudden there is a feud between the San Diego team themselves.
As for the phone call that Jonna made.  That just blew my mind.  I never remember seeing someone be able to make a phone call and they let her make one for that!  We have had parents on the show before and I do not remember them making phone calls home.  Maybe this is allowed and MTV has just decided not to show that footage as it could get tougher to show this many people compared to the seven from The Real World, but like you said we do not need to see any of that.
Now lets get down to next week and who will be going home.  I see Danny and Melinda lasting one more week so I will have to go with Devyn and J.D. from The Real World: Brooklyn.  Who ya got packing their bags next week?
GK: Is it too early for me to think Frank is on the outside looking in? I mean, you could sit back and say “Well, at least he blew up at Wes.” And that’s true. I just feel like everyone saw that performance last week and he could easily get himself put into the Arena. However, I think Zach is going to protect him from elimination for a little bit, so he won’t go this week.

I think a lot was made last week about Preston needing to step up and prove himself. And while he might’ve, I still think he’s one of the weaker competitors in the house. I think him and Jem may be going home next week.

Any final thoughts friend?

MA: Well I have to say I was a little bit disappointed in the cast, but really in the end this show will never disappoint me no matter who is out there competing.  I do have to wonder whether a bunch of people turned them down for this season or if they wanted to go a completely different route.  I mean even the Fresh Meat team were not the top dogs we are used to seeing.  They could have had Kenny or Evan in that group so I have to wonder whose decision it was to go with a really different cast.  But either way I am looking forward to another stellar season.

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