The King Has Fallen
Another Challenge season, another early Bananas exit.
Naysayers will point at his elimination record. Witches will believe in a curse. But Bananas being part of the second team eliminated this season is just the product of being Johnny Bananas.
Most of what happened to Bananas this episode is a culmination of the last decade or so. Take this season for example: you’ve got a new cast of people that only really know the main talking points. They weren’t raised on MTV’s teet and a steady diet of the Challenge and Real World as many American kids, like myself, were. Coming from countries all over the world, a crash course probably focused on Cara and Paulie, a bit on some history, and the fact that Johnny Bananas has more wins than any other player in Challenge history.
Mix those details in with a bit of Wes likely talking a bit here and there, a little TYB backing and all of the sudden we see a herd of girls attack Morgan (Bananas’ partner this season) for her ball in the mud pit this week after allowing every other girl to walk to the end zone.
Morgan and, in turn, Bananas, were never going to be safe this week —a week where the daily challenge consisted of a game that allowed groups to gang up on one team or player. It’s good gameplay, and that’s what happened.
Pepper in Wes doing his best Odell Beckham impression: catching literal passes (one from enemy Zach and one from new ally Hunter) and a nice jet sweep (from old ally CT), and it was basically inevitable that Wes would be standing on the podium looking down on his enemy, sealing his fate.
And that’s another point —I know Wes fans will direct the attention to him being manipulative —and god damnit was he ever gloriously manipulative —but this is the type of “win” most would never gloat about. First, Wes wasn’t able to find a ball, instead instructing his teammate Dee to rip one out of the hands of another. Then, when he was on mud pit duty, he stayed clean (pun intended) of any physicality and caught wide open passes (who passes!?) with very little effort. He then walked off with his head held high and a shit-eating grin.
We could argue up and down whether Zach had an agreement with Wes —on one hand I think he just fucked up, on the other it’s hard to make that big an error — and it doesn’t matter. Zach all but eliminated Bananas once that ball left his hands.
The real battle, however, had not even started. Zach has been out of sorts, complaining about not really having his head in the game. And once the dust settled on the Killing Floor, it was Bananas/Morgan with their pick of the litter —and Bananas didn’t take the easy way out, he called Zach into battle, which, hindsight may prove a poor choice, was an absolute badass move by a badass dude.
And major props to my friend Mr. Zach Calhoun (saniacpodcast.com) for his take on this: Bananas had the perfect setup right in front of him. He’s pissed at Zach, he wants to get back at him and he sees an elimination with a wall and a bunch of countries. Zach is known to be pretty smart, and Zahida a world traveler...how does Bananas not call resident airhead (sorry), Zach’s girlfriend Jenna into battle!? Gus isn’t known for his smarts either —but I’d have to guess Jenna and Gus fall flat on their faces in an elimination like this one, and then you’ve got a broken and already fragile Zach ready for a finishing move once Jenna packs her bags. It’s almost too perfect, and almost too Johnny. The fact that he missed this is, well, maybe a sign. Bananas can’t be as invested in this as he once was.
And then, for Bananas and his fans, to watch Wes smirk and know he’s sitting on the top of the mountain, well...this could get scary.
So, where does this put Bananas?
If you’re on the anti-side, you’ll say he’s cooked. Cursed. Done. And for Bananas fans, you might even agree at this point. It’s been a long, tumultuous road for Johnny since his season 28 Rivals III win in which he decided to keep the entire $275,000 prize money instead of splitting with partner Sarah Patterson (Rice). Since that point, the narrative has been that he is cursed when it comes to the Challenge — though seeing as how he likely demands the largest appearance fee, has late night appearances as the ‘face of the franchise’ and now hosts NBC’s 1st Look, he seems all but ‘cursed.’
A more likely explanation: the game and players have finally caught up to him. Love him or hate him, he has been leaps ahead of his competition mentally and strategically for many seasons—running every house, avoiding elimination until late in the game (my explanation for his less-than-stellar elim record), and riding his solid daily challenge streak in which he rarely finished anywhere near the bottom —straight to final after final.
However, with an apparent (and needed) shift in tone for the franchise for season 33, where we’ve eliminated the ridiculous Redemption House and other weak, contrived excuses to keep big names in the game, sending two of the most prolific and infamous players (defending champ Ashley Mitchell & JB) home first and in consecutive weeks shows that the Challenge isn’t fucking around. It’s a sign that MTV is preaching a deviation from convention, an in-your-face memo that they are discarding this theme that they are protecting their top names. In S33, a loss is a loss is a loss, and losses mean you go home.
Can the show continue without Bananas? This season should be a fantastic measure...vets like Cara Maria, CT and Wes will be asked to carry the old-school viewers, and perhaps we get a few more young diamonds like Paulie Calafiore (ironically, perhaps the ultimate replacement for Johnny Bananas) to carry the torch.
It’s a bit like cheering against the Yankees —once they are knocked out of the playoffs, who do we band together to root against!? Bananas is the ultimate heel, and his elimination opens the door for a new, exciting dynasty to begin.
Only question: Who will it be?