Holy Jordan, Laurel!
We certainly saw a whole bunch of familiar sights tonight —Bananas v Wes, a little preview of Cara v Laurel, and a player already outplaying and outsmarting the rest.
First, let’s take a big picture look. On paper, the US are leaps and bounds a better team. Again, that’s on paper. The Lakers with Kobe, Shaq, Malone and GP also looked better on paper than in real life. And we see the cracks nearly immediately —these guys are so used to playing against each other, they haven’t figured out how to play with each other.
Over the pond, we see - for the most part - a group that is happy to be there and happy to fight. I mean, what typically happens to the underdogs? They get scrappy and learn to fight together. The UK are willing to build up their teammates if it means they can eek out some early wins.
So we all know what happens, US win the first competition. What I found interesting from jump: Turbo/Dee didn’t automatically take the side of UK, and CT/Ninja didn’t replace an American. To me, watching CT walk to join the Brits spoiled the big reveal —there was never any reason, or intention, to keep the teams aligned by country. It was apparent right away that characters would flip flop in some way in order to mash up the teams.
CT is too strong to go after the weakest person in the house — take a chill pill bro and get your shit together. I understand he feels betrayed, it was not a fun sight for CT to be passed over.
We saw some drama, we saw little of Paulie/Cara (thankfully), a bit of scheming by Tori and Jordan - and a fantastically underrated and smart play by Bananas that helped Jordan and Laurel suss out Wes’ real intentions.
I’ve said before, I have always been on the opposite side as Wes. However, last season helped my appreciation for him grow. That said, how much fun was it to watch, with Johnny’s help, Jordan peel back the layers of his betrayal of the US team? These guys are not stupid, they watched last season and realized the Wes starts playing before the show even starts —and his relationship with Joss and Rogan got sniffed out mighty quick.
Other than regular Challenge drama, we saw an interesting and, honestly, disappointing interrogation. The Brits but up Sean as their first sacrificial lamb - and while I’m all for the cutthroat style of the Challenge, I feel as though Wes went a little overboard on a guy already feeling out of place and lost.
So, we got a little taste of Sean and Idris and, considering we were talking about two rookies, I don’t think they realized the intensity expected. They both looked like they were going at about 60%, while classic Challengers go at 110%. I think the first time we see veterans in the ring, some of the new kids might piss their pants.
As I hinted at above, once CT scurried to the UK team, I had a feeling these teams would start to blend somehow, and now we know the answer. So, for sake of the unknown, I will give each team a ranking out of 100 - so, for example, after compiling the men and women from each side, I will say that Team A is a 65, meaning Team B is a 35. It’s a competitive way to look at these teams in the aspect of how well would Team A competes against Team B currently and in a theoretical final. Sort of an ever-changing scale.
My power rankings will also now be male and female only - no more split by team. That said, a players ranking may be affected by what team he/she is on —obviously currently CT stands to run the UK team, which can be good and bad.
Im off to a rather hot start, seeing as how my bottom-ranked male on the UK team, Sean, was sent home episode one. Let’s keep this rolling…
Jordan - He may have come off a little strong for some people, but this is exactly the Jordan I was expecting and hoping for. He was assertive and completely took control of the US team. That will absolutely rub some of the vets the wrong way —this squad is FULL of egos —but it should also keep the lesser-knowns from calling him out. Jordan has the track record to back his mouth, and if he is allowed to make a final, I can’t see how anyone beats him.
Turbo - Our defending champ was chosen over the American Challenge legend CT -which should speak volumes. Despite getting older and not being in peak physical condition, CT has been, hands-down, one of the most feared and respected competitors in this game. Despite this fact, along with the long history, the US team chose Turbo as their reinforcement pick - and it really shouldn’t have been hard. Turbo won two seasons of Survivor: Turkey and came on the Challenge and walked thru it as if he was the vet. So long as he continues to play this game, he will be one of the top competitors around. He might see a little more pushback this season - letting him walk to the finals proved to be a bad decision for the rest of the cast. It’ll be interesting to see Turbo in an elimination with the likes of Jordan, Paulie, or even CT —and might give us a better overall understanding of just how good he really is.
Paulie - Yeah, I’m still on Paulie’s nuts. Many will point to the War of the Worlds elimination in which Paulie fell short, but the truth is he was one of the most consistent players last season, and was likely headed to a second-straight final. His overall stats don’t look fantastic, but that has more to do with the fact he was partnered up with Natalie Negrotti during Final Reckoning. Put him with a good competitor or on his own, and there’s no stopping this guy. Also - he’s already got a TON of elimination experience.
Theo - Not sure I can write about Theo anymore without referencing his tragic eye injury…I really just wish him as best a recovery as possible. That said, Theo appears to be the real deal. He made a final (and finished second) in his rookie season, and proved to be another fantastic all-around player introduced into the Challenge world. Would love to see him a little more battle-tested - wondering if this season will throw some of these big boys in eliminations together.
Bananas - I honestly felt he should be a little lower…and had Wes ranked higher originally. More on Wes later, but this just might be Bananas’ perfect opportunity to fly under the radar. Yeah, you heard that correctly. There are finally bigger, younger fish to fry. We’ve already seen him put a bug in Jordan’s ear - which led to the fall of an early Wes-led alliance with Brits. Bananas could work his magic behind the scenes, working as a puppet-master as opposed to the big, bright target. Don’t be surprised if this is Bananas’ best showing since 29.
Kyle - Here’s the interesting thing about Kyle - he’s got his foot in the door with the enemy more than any other player in this game. Other than his accent, the lines between Brit and American have been blurred beyond recognition when it comes to Kyle and his friends. Let us not forget, since his first season, Kyle has become a bit of a beast physically. Will the Paulie/Kyle storyline continue? We can only hope not.
Wes - Welllll, Wes Wes Wes. He was about as much of a rising player as he could have ever been after his comeback season. Any player coming back after a long absence might be a little hard to trust, but it was apparent Wes was at the top of his game during War of the Worlds, even making the final with relative ease. Here’s the rub —Wes has already been snuffed out (see above; Bananas) by Jordan regarding his relationship and apparent alliance with some UK fellas. This season has too many good, smart players for Wes to get away with this for long. I see Wes being an early sacrificial lamb —perhaps maybe to be made an example of by the US team on what happens to traitors (not to sound too serious). Could be very interesting…
CT - To be clear, I think CT still has something left in the tank. He certainly doesn’t look like the guy everyone rumored was in the gym getting ready for a new Challenge season, however we’ve already seen that dad bod CT is effective CT. That said, the competition has gotten very, very good. He’s already been betrayed by his US team when they chose Turbo over him, which could light an epic fire under his ass. As I always say, this site is spoiler free, but SPOILER!!! the very first preview after episode one shows CT in his Challenge gear…with an AMERICAN FLAG on his shirt. He somehow makes it back to the US team…but the question(s) are: how long does it take? and how pissed is he?
Joss - Again, our first sight of Joss included him running up a mountain without much stress. We also saw him seemingly robbed of a million dollars by the grenade Paulie decided to throw his way in the cave at Final Reckoning. So, is Joss still pissed at Paulie? Will he be coming for revenge? Time will tell…
Zach - Zach is coming off great performance after great performance. He’s spent time between dominating this game and fighting with his partner. He’s also just a few seasons removed from being robbed of his second Challenge title (Vendettas), but he’s found himself in some hot water. Last season, one of Zach’s closest allies, Bananas, felt betrayed by Zach seemingly helping Wes during an elimination. Zach was also the guy that physically ousted Bananas - which also had some confusion in the sense that Bananas was under the impression Zach was going to throw the comp in order to go home. So, needless to say, without Jenna in this game, it’s hard to figure where Zach’s allies come from…unless he reinvents himself and works with the Brits.
Rogan - A terrible showing in his first season, as his back kept him from finishing a run up the Rock of Gibraltar and gave us our first casualty of Vendettas. I think it would be a little ridiculous to underestimate him this season based on that showing —that said he was a target in the first episode, so it’s not crazy to think the bullseye isn’t at least pointed in his general direction.
Bear - Another Brit with a well-deserved target on his back in the first episode,
Idris - He’s the only person in the game with an elimination record: 1-0. Now, I’ll say that had he gone against any of the vets, he seemingly would have been overmatched. That said, you typically perform up/down to match your competition and that could have been the case week one. Other than his physique, I didn’t see anything overly scary. You’d think he would stick with UK, as a move to the US would put him squarely at the bottom.
Leroy - I would love nothing more than to rank Leroy high and be proud to do so. He’s a great guy with good strength and a very loyal partner on Bananas. However, he’s picked a fight with Kam and Theo and his name could be on the chopping block more often.
Josh - Again, really didn’t like him on Big Brother. Was not looking forward to him on the Challenge. That said, I was actually impressed with him on WotW’s. I don’t necessarily expect him to be the next male out of the game,