Paulie Calafiore: Rightful Heir to the Challenge Throne?
True, he may be more King Joffrey than Charlemagne — but however you slice it, Paulie is being primed to step in as the next Challenge King.
He’s a seemingly open book of emotion: rage, sorrow, compassion, lust - and let’s not forget cool, calculated mayhem. I think we’ve seen a little bit of everything from the Challenge’s newest oil-strike, and it’s only more fitting that he swoops up the reigning Challenge Queen, in all her bloody, tie-me-up and whip-away fucked up glory.
The Cara/Paulie saga has been a roller coaster —and whether you willingly got on or not didn’t really matter—as social media and just about every Challenge-related thing had some sort of the drama linked. But you have to ask; who better to run this show than a power couple? Cara had been one of the two faces that you associated with the Challenge, and her dating ways were always a fruitful topic (from lovable lunatic Abe to fling-turned-Vendetta on, fittingly, Vendettas with Kyle), and now we can see the two fight with BDSM gloves off and then, uhhh, couples therapy? Is that real? Paulie and Cara are in fucking therapy?? Okay.
We’ve seen interesting rookies over the recent years, led by gritty women like Tori Deal (D:30) and Kam Williams (Vendettas), even going back to Devin Walker (Riv:3). But none have shown the tenacity, fire and knowledge of the game like Final Reckoning finalist and resident dirtbag Paulie Calafiore.
I watched Paulie scum it up on Big Brother, and I’ll admit I was mostly a fan. So when I heard he was coming to the Challenge for Final Reckoning, I was thrilled. I thought he’d bring intensity and athleticism to a show that seemed to lack just that — he was a guy that could push those around him (teammates and opponents) to be better.
So far, we’ve gotten nothing but gold from Mr. C. Sure, FR will be remembered mostly for the time he and Natalie spent in Redemption, only to find themselves not only in the finale, but as legit contenders. My argument here is that a) you can’t blame them for format and b) the terrible production of some of these eliminations played a HUGE part in their expulsion from the main house.
What we saw: Paulie was on another level physically than most of the competition. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in agility. A former soccer pro, it’s easy to see how Paulie could excel in the oddball physical challenges, and he did just that.
He was also quite possibly the perfect teammate — something that seems a bit odd knowing a little more about him. We were witness to our fair share of cringe-worthy moments from Paulie and Cara during FR and even more so in between these latest seasons, yet his sketchy personal life has yet to spill over too much. I found it inspiring that during the game he never expressed anger toward his partner, Natalie, despite her being a very clear weak link during their first challenges and eliminations.
He made it known during confessionals that he was going to attempt pumping Natalie up in Redemption, as he gave her pep talks and had positive discussions on their game going forward —never living in the past. We saw Natalie give her very best two performances: the seemingly impossible spinning BINGO comp against the much larger, much stronger Brad and Kyle that she helped dig out, and of course the final blow to Challenge kingpin Johnny Bananas and his partner Tony.
Then again, many will point to his 2-3 FR elim record, but I think that’s misleading. We saw Paulie get the worst of the ‘equalizer’ during his first ever elimination. We also saw him all but handcuffed in his second elimination in which Natalie could not break through one barrier, after Paulie tore up his section. There was also a questionable losse to Da’Vonne and Jozea in Redemption.
However, once they hit their stride, we saw both Paulie and Natalie stand up, eliminating Brad/Kyle in a hugely physical battle that Paulie fought to keep them in, followed by the famous Tony v Paulie eating show and Natalie trumping Bananas after 5 1/2 hours of an endurance challenge.
Headed into WotW’s, Paulie enters as one of the most prolific, intimidating competitors on either side. His rise from rookie to feared vet may have come quicker than any other player, and that’s not even bringing his partner into the mix.
We should find out next week how teams were picked/assigned —but I think it’s safe to say if Paulie had the #1 pick, Ninja Natalie would have been it, and vice versa. There are a couple of strong teams (Kam and Beast Ash) in the game, but none I would fear more than all-around stud Paulie and his American Ninja Warrior.
There are two key worries: 1) they have a massive target on their back because of their talent and 2) Paulie’s mouth and relationship status/enemies get them in unnecessary trouble.
My feeling — you have only seen the beginning of Paulie. Physically, he’s a sightly stronger version of Jordan but with two good hands (and that’s not a knock on Jordan — I regard him as one of the top Challengers of the modern-era) with the potential story arc and staying power of a Bananas.
I believe it’s only a matter of time before Paulie has a couple of wins under his belt, a house full of enemies, and his spot as the new, rightful heir to the Challenge Throne. The only question is —who will come to take it from him?