MTV Presents: Ridiculousness
Tonight we saw dominant-Laurel at her best. Thrown into an elimination that completely favored her opponents skill-set, we watched as Laurel absolutely beat Ninja at her own game. This would have been a step in the direction of no one ever calling Laurel out again. But then, fuckery ensued. The moment viewers realize they take a show more seriously than the people that make it is the moment the show has a serious problem.
Well friends, the debate presented long ago by Scott and Derrick (Challenge Mania) on whether the Challenge should be considered a sport got its very clear, very obvious answer.
Let me start by saying that anyone with half a brain knows not to classify this show on the same spectrum as a real sport —however I believe it is moving more toward a show for real athletes. Those are two very different things.
My argument against the Challenge being a sport is simple: when you watch a football game, every second is viewable. Every borderline catch is reviewed to make certain feet are in bounds, every yard meticulously measured. In baseball, frames are slowed to the nano-second to determine if a player is safe or out. Calls are blown, sure. But not without scrutiny and legions of bettors and fans obsessing over every second that ticks off the clock, and every pitch twirled toward a hitter. In short: we basically see everything that happens.
The Challenge takes whatever footage that enhances the elimination —it tells us Laurel and Ninja have planted an identical number of branches at every step of the way when, in reality, that’s probably not the case. It takes whatever liberties it needs to make each and every battle one that is as epic as the last. And most importantly, it takes the rules with a lumpy, dry grain of salt.
Lets just break down the final scene of the monstrosity that was Laurel v Ninja in WotW2 (save for Ninja’s goofiness, Laurel’s gloating and Cara’s Cara-ness). We watched two women battle it out in a climbing-centric game that apparently came down to the wire. Laurel planted her final flag and rang the bell. TJ sounded the horn.
I italicized that last sentence for you. Keep that little nugget in mind.
I said we’d skip the goofiness, so to summarize, Laurel celebrates and Ninja can’t accept defeat. She notices Laurel has a hole still unplugged. That’s a problem. However, if you watch closely, the reason Ninja has an extra flag at the top of her tree as well is that she missed the same hole on her tree. Remember that rule about me italicizing a sentence? Okay good.
Ninja runs to Laurel’s tree to point out the open hole. She then runs to her own tree, starts climbing and places the flag into the hole she also missed, and makes it to the top to ring her bell. Laurel inexplicably starts to climb as well, despite having already taken her helmet off and sprawling in the dirt due to exhaustion.
TJ gathers the ladies, and explains that he sounded the victory horn as Laurel had run out of branches. That was an error, he says, as she missed a peg. This ends your time here, Laurel.
Wait, what?? So you mean to tell me that you let these two duke it out, you sound the horn to signify the elimination is over, and then allow one of the players to determine that the race is back on, put her branch in the peg, climb up and ring the bell…and she’s the winner?? Huh?
TJ has been known for his fairness & his distaste for cheating. What Laurel did was not cheating, it was misunderstanding, and I think he recognized that. This was an absolutely rare misstep for TJ Lavin, and I wonder how involved he was in this decision-making. No one could have felt good about this one.
Sure, it’s messy. However there is a reason in football that a referee allows a fumble to play out before blowing the whistle. The whistle signifies the end of the play. Had TJ never blown the horn, and Ninja picked up on that cue and a little bird popped in her head that said “go finish your tree,” then okay. At the very least, there should have been some sort of reset or tiebreaker once they realized something was rotten in Denmark. However, the Challenge decided to allow a player to restart an elimination on her own cue and self-proclaim the W.
This, ladies and gentlemen, was a fail at the most epic of proportions. It took what little credibility the show had when it comes to fairness and sport and threw it down the muddiest of holes.
There was a point once the madness began that Bananas was yelling at Laurel to get the fuck off the tree. Laurel should have planted her feet in the ground in protest, but beginning to make her way up the tree signified that she was at least somewhat playing Ninja’s game.
Not to mention, the words from TJ to Laurel: “You didn’t put the branches in the appropriate places” should have emphatically been retorted with “neither did she!”
MTV finally lures Laurel out of retirement, they finally have a little spat between her and Cara Maria…and they let it slip through their fingers.
Intrigue disappearing aside…the Challenge has really screwed the pooch here. Of all the asterisked wins in Challenge history, this goes down as the largest. Worse than CT ripping the flag v Brad, worse than resetting two days of results from a final so that Cara gets an even playing field with Zach on a puzzle, this one will make even the most dedicated Challenge fan question what they are watching.
The main takeaway here, if anything, is that we all know to take this show as nothing more than entertainment. The disappointing part is that, until tonight, we at least gave the show the benefit of the doubt that while it might lie about details, it gave us the overview without too much bullshit. Fans love this show, we love to fight about who is the best and who is overrated. We get behind the characters we love and hate on the ones we don’t. It has become a real show of fandom. Unfortunately, when the outcome is taken out of the hands of the competitors we watch, it sours all the rest. The Challenge has a very deep hole to climb out of —and a soured fan base to somehow win back.
Laurel v Ninja will forever be a black eye in Challenge lore —but is it already too late to be redeemed?