MTV’s The Challenge, formerly known as The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, is one of the longest-running reality competition shows of all time. While it may be lesser known than Survivor or The Bachelor, it’s still a perennial favorite among many TV-lovers, including several Prompt writers. Here, we discuss the show’s newly-launched 29th (!) season, The Challenge: Invasion of the Champions.
The Challenge is a show about relationships, mind games, puzzles, and psychology. It’s also about biology, sex, fighting, and never ever quitting. But at its heart, it’s a competition, and even though many other things often obscure the competition itself, this week’s MVP is the one who was the best competitor.
It doesn’t often happen that one person is so much better at a challenge than anyone else, but this week we met Hunter and all of his talents (and there were quite a few). First and foremost, we saw his bedside manner as he flirted up a storm with Smashley. We didn’t exactly get closure on that front, but like any good investment, what you put in now should pay dividends down the road. Quickly though, the budding romance sets him up with an ally on voting, and an ally for this week’s competition.
And that turned out even better for Smashley, who literally and figuratively got to ride on Hunter’s back as he rowed the boat, loaded the coconut booty (not Smashley’s), and proceeded to DRAIN. EVERY. DAMNED. COCONUT. BASKETBALL SHOT. Major points to Smashley for saying what we were all thinking and comparing Hunter to Steph Curry (with the shot, boy). Hunter even drained the coconut into the moving basket, after he’d already done the damn thing!
And what do you do when you shoot perfect from the field and lap the competition? You talk about it. You tell everyone. And Hunter worked Cory up so much with his champion bluster, that Cory went and threw himself into a showdown. Hunter, a Challenge rookie, quickly showed us his value beyond big muscles in a shmedium shirt. Hunter, the man with the squished face, the man who squashed everyone else, is my MVP of the week.
Who did you think was this week’s winner?
Hunter is a great choice, as is Smashley herself, who, beyond always being entertaining, really seems to be coming into and holding her own this season without any champs to steal the spotlight and hold her back.
My pick, though, is Cory, who also benefited from the absence of The Champs. Cory comes off confidently, as a rookie-no-more, but rather an older, wiser, slightly-more-seasoned veteran. So far he’s remained loyal to Real World cast-mate and fellow Challenge vet Jenna, his friend Tony, and the mini-alliance they’ve (prematurely? seriously, how did this happen so soon) formed with Kailah and Nicole. And despite getting riled up by Hunter’s taunting, he’s kept an even-temper in a few of the more heated arguments that have come up already.
And last night, Cory even decided to nominate himself for elimination, a move that almost always backfires. His logic was sound: he wanted a ticket to The Oasis, and this was his chance. He was right to think that a) the rest of the group wanted to see him go in, and b) he could easily take on any of the guys in the house anyway.
He even went about politicking the right way! He told his Rivals III partner Smashley he wanted to/knew he would be voted in, and asked her upfront if she would send in someone he wanted to go against. He then told Shane and Theo that they were his picks, so that they wouldn’t hear it from anyone else. He THEN went on to win the elimination by a damn mile, heeding TJ’s advice to “not hesitate” and just jumping straight off a cliff (with an arm full of balls… this was a weird elimination, right?) in 5 seconds flat.
Congrats on your trip to The Oasis, Cory, you earned it. Keep doing you, and you have a strong chance of making it to your second Final in three Challenges.
TJ Lavin. Duh. TJ rules over The Challenge with a strong, steady presence and like all good men, TJ has a code. TJ’s code is simple: “I hate quitters.”
As an audience we usually are treated to one good TJ rant about quitting per season, and what a treat, we got that last night. When Theo, a cocky Challenge rook who let us know that he was a D1 athlete—no fewer than four times—didn’t jump off the platform, everyone, including Theo, knew what was coming.
TJ didn’t disappoint because he never does. He’s a man of few words, our TJ, and a reliable man, the ever-present, unflappable constant on this shitstorm of a show. He generally sticks to the script: an awkward pronunciation of the season’s exotic locale here, half-hearted advice to “dig deep” there. But when the unthinkable happens and someone dares to quit on TJ, he lets them have it, like a teacher or a parent who’s not mad, just disappointed. And also very mad.
Here is what TJ says to Theo:
“Theo, what happened, man? Why’d you even sign up, bro? You obviously don’t have the heart to be on The Challenge. You just wanna go home. Alright. Get outta here.”
Short. Sweet. Brutal. TJ’s words cut through Theo exactly as intended. They ended his Challenge life and then served as his shameful eulogy. Bravo TJ, bravo!