Ahoy. It’s Season 23 of MTV’s The Challenge, where former Real World cast members are thrown together into teams that compete for lots of money. Along the way, they get drunk, brawl and hook up. And there is a hot tub. It’s like Jersey Shore meets the X-Games, and this season is the first post-Hunger Games Challenge, so you really think someone is going to die in the arena. But this is MTV, kids, and they don’t create snuff films, so if you really want to eliminate one of the cast members permanently, write fan fiction – because there is no end in sight for The Challenge. Everyone is just going to come back – over, and over and over again, season after season, whether you like it or not.
Among this season’s competitors is Sam McGinn from San Diego, an out butch lesbian who has returned with a hairstyle that can be described as Roman Gladiator chic, or “I tried to mow the lawn while drunk and left a landing strip” chic. Take your pick. Also competing is crazy Frank from San Diego, who likes to break dinnerware and start fights after drinking. He is still crazy. And Preston from New Orleans, who is also out and proud, and like honey badger, he don’t care. He don’t give a shit, and this attitude extends to the challenges, much to the chagrin of his teammates. Cancun’s Derek Chavez and Brooklyn’s JD Ordoñez also play for Team Dorothy.
After the contestants file into the arena, perennial Challenge host T.J. Lavin announces that teams will be formed by seasons. Austin, Brooklyn, Cancun, Vegas, New Orleans, St. Thomas and San Diego. Zach is not amused. Reunited with the dreaded San Diego house? With Frank? No, the beef this time around is between him and Ashley, who is now is ex. Zach tells us, “Ashley ripped by heart out, put my heart in a blender and served it to me for breakfast. Me and Frank hated each other, but we made up. Make ups and breakups!” Ah, Zach and Frank are bros now. Who could have seen this coming?
T.J. tells everyone that the prize money this time around is $250,000. Devin from Brooklyn asks a pressing question: “Do you know how many lip glosses and shoes that is?” T.J. tells everyone that the losing team of each challenge will be sent to the elimination round, and the winning team from each challenge will pick another team to be sent to the elimination round. Both teams in the round will pick a guy and a girl to go into the elimination challenge, and whichever team loses ends up with just two members.
Then the contestants are sent to their house. And of course, it comes with a pool and a hot tub. Within minutes, Frank is already becoming antagonistic. He tells Ashley she better be open and honest this time, because as he tells her, “I cannot take another time of living with you thinking you’re lying all the time.” Then Frank gets up and walks away.
On team New Orleans, Preston tells us that teammate Jemmye has never played sports, but “she’s really good at eating McDonald’s,” so she is the weakest link. Or it could be him. He says that he has never played sports, but his biggest challenge is to keep his heart in the competition.
Night falls, and everyone is chilling by the pool. And then the inexplicable happens. Frank and Zach walk out in identical pink Speedos, start modeling and giving lap dances. Jonna from Cancun tells us, “All the girls have a crush on Zach. Come on, he’s so cute!” Derek from Cancun approves as well.
The next morning the teams assemble and T.J. throws in a new twist. There is one more team. Will it be comprised of Marines? Navy Seals? An invincible power team? No, it is team Fresh Meat – contestants who have never lived in a Real World house. Womp womp.
The challenge is to climb a rickety ladder and cross wobbly beams suspended 30 feet above the water, and climb down a ladder on the opposite side. If anyone falls, he or she has to start over. Cancun, Brooklyn, Las Vegas and San Diego complete the challenge without anyone wiping out. Then St. Thomas and Fresh Meat are up. As Eric “Big Easy” from Fresh Meat almost reaches the top, he loses his grip and falls. He doesn’t recover, so Fresh Meat is disqualified. Sarah from Brooklyn is relieved as up to that point, Brooklyn was in last place.
Then in Austin v. New Orleans it is Preston’s turn. He says, “All I have to do is stand up and get across and I realize, wait — how the hell am I going to stand up?” He doesn’t figure out the solution because he slips and falls the full thirty feet. Preston gets his bearings and tries again. He makes it across and down in the nick of time. Sorry, Team Fresh Meat. Cancun is the winner of this round, so they get to pick the team to face Fresh Meat in the elimination round.
And so the rest of the teams spend the next few hours kissing Team Cancun’s butt – except Team St. Thomas, the newest team, who doesn’t realize that kissing the winning team’s butt is the way to play the game. But ultimately Cancun picks Team Austin, which contains Wes, a wily and very cocky player who, for strategic reasons and for peace of mind, is the one to eliminate.
There are four types of challenges: endurance, physical, strategy and mental. The winning team gets to decide the category. Cancun picks the physical category. Wes and Lacey from Austin will represent Team Austin. Big Easy and Cara Maria volunteer themselves for Team Fresh Meat.
Wes calls the house together in an impromptu pow wow and starts to talk shit, telling everyone that Team Cancun didn’t make the right choice. “I am a very long term thinker,” he says. He invites people to come kick his ass. No one is impressed and they disperse.
Then it is time to party. Shots are poured. Frank and Zach call themselves Batman and Robin. Zach says that he is Robin. And then before the Twilight Zone theme can be cued, the two peck each other on the lips. Did anyone see Real World: San Diego, where Zach was not OK with the gay? What is going on? “Frank is not a good kisser,” says Zach. “I am a way better kisser than Frank.” And Zach and Frank start wrestling in front of everyone, Lacey from Austin declares, “I think they have kissed penises.”
And then the bizarro turn of events turn from bizarre yet harmless to all out shitshow, which, unfortunately, is not bizarro for The Real World. Frank is wasted and starts a fight – with pretty much everyone in his path. Zach picks Frank up and carries him away before he can assault anyone. He pins him to the ground like an officer trying to subdue someone on bath salts. “We have a problem on our hands: Now everyone thinks Frank is the lunatic in the house,” says Zach.
Then just as Frank looks like he is about to lay back and pass out, Sam starts to yell at him, and Frank gets up and lunges at her, forcing Zach to enforce yet again. Then Frank starts yelling at Sam. “We defended you the whole goddamn time, Sam! Go f–k your fat girlfriend, bitch!” I don’t know what this is about, but Frank may be banned from the GLAAD Awards for life. Then, mercifully, Frank passes out.
With Frank neutralized, Zach and Jonna retreat poolside for some kissy kissy. The next day Jonna decides to break up with the guy she is dating at home. Jasmine from Cancun is all for it. “Jonna hooking up with Zach can definitely benefit our team. San Diego will always have our back.”
Then Cara Maria has second thoughts about volunteering herself, and the rest of her team is all, “Shut up Katniss.” And may the odds ever be in your favor.
Then it is time for elimination. The challenge is “hall brawl,” which requires contestants to run through a narrow hallway, subdue the opponent by knocking him or her over and then ringing a bell on the other side. Wes is irritated that he has to “go up against a fat kid,” as Wes will be disadvantaged. Oh well, life isn’t fair. Cara Maria quickly knocks Lacey out of the round, and now it comes down to Wes and Big Easy. In round 1, Big Easy bulldozes through Wes and rings the bell. In round 2, Wes plays smart, hugs the ground, and forces Big Easy to run over him and then sprints to the bell. But Big Easy gets to his bell 2/100 of a second ahead of Wes. Bye bye Wes. Nice knowing ya.
So it’s the divorced couple left on the Austin Team, which can only lead to a bunch of “oh hell naws.” And that’s the end of the season opener. Tune in every Wednesday night at 10 on MTV for The Challenge.