Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League: T.J. Lavin Appreciation Day


Good thing T.J. Lavin put in a performance for the ages this week, because The Bachelorette was on some bullshit. It was one of those “we don’t want to give up the time slot but we don’t have a real show, so here is our recap show” shows. The worst. The best? T.J. Lavin. Let’s start this week’s Challenge-only GRTFL with the underappreciated work of reality TV’s most efficient host: the TEEJ.

T.J. Lavin (The Challenge), 176 points

T.J. Lavin is to The Challenge as Kawhi Leonard is to the Spurs. He is essential, underrated, and quiet as fuck. Being an introvert does not hinder one’s ability to put the ball in the basket, and one would think that being an introvert would hinder one’s ability to host a stupid reality TV program, but ONE WOULD BE WRONG.

The TEEJ’s calm counterbalances the psychosis that surrounds him. T.J. doesn’t play the games, he doesn’t break up the fights, he doesn’t get involved. T.J. is the camp counselor to the cast’s unruly campers. I really appreciate how T.J. has matured this season. You can see it in his appearance. His loud T-shirts have morphed into understated button-ups, his fitted cap into a sensible Supercut showing a Kevin Durant–ish “Is it? Or isn’t it?” bald spot:


This week’s GRTFL Top Five is the Top Five T.J. Moments From This Episode, listed from “oh yeah, I remember that” to “I think this man should win a Peabody Award for what he does for our species through art”:

5. The Return of the “Challenge Doctor”: T.J. once again invoked the mysterious “Challenge Doctor.” Now, I have asked a million questions about this “Challenge Doctor” in the past, but now I ask only one: “Are we sure the ‘Challenge Doctor’ isn’t Dr. Drew?” Also, I miss Dr. Drew.

4. T.J. Hates Quitters: We know this. It has been well documented how much T.J. hates quitters. His periodic outbursts of disgust for quitters is the only proof that we have that T.J. is not a cyborg. This week we learned that the inverse is true as well: When Cara Maria refused to quit even though she had fractured her hand, T.J. was clearly appreciative, smiling a little Mona Lisa smile. It is the happiest he has ever been on the show without having the ability to pull a lever and send someone instantly flying off a cliff.

3. HE CALLED CT “LITTLE GUY”: T.J. is the best.

2. He flipped it on Bananas and Nany: After they couldn’t come to a conclusion on whom to send into elimination, T.J. looked at Nany and Bananas and said, with a completely straight face, “We’re going to try this one more time. Bananas, Nany, if you can’t come to a decision, CT is going to sit down and you guys are going to come in here and you guys are going into the elimination round.” T.J. gives no fucks.

1. Please, Children, I Have Things to Do: When Cara Maria did the spiteful lash-out thing that everyone does when they are voted into elimination, and started yelling at Theresa, after a couple back-and-forths T.J. killed it with, “Cool, cool, cool. Can you guys do this when I am not here please?” He wasn’t really asking.

T.J., you killed it.

Laurel (The Challenge), 55 points

You know when you know you SHOULD apologize but you just can’t get yourself to? I feel like Laurel feels like that 80 percent of her conscious life. After she eviscerated her “best friend” Cara Maria for THE SECOND TIME on national television, they have stopped talking to each other. It has led to some great awkward silences. Awkward silences translate really well to reality television. I think it’s because people don’t know what to do with their bodies during an awkward silence. So Cara Maria and Laurel spent the entire episode not knowing what to do with their bodies. They would just kind of sit near each other and shuffle.

When Laurel finally went to talk to Cara Maria, she couldn’t bring herself to simply say “I’m sorry.” If you don’t know how to say “I’m sorry” when you don’t 100 percent feel sorry, you are going nowhere in life. If I am ever asked to make a commencement speech, that will be it: “When in doubt, just say sorry. Who cares? Also, lie about your GPA — no one looks that shit up.”

After the attempted reconciliation went left, Laurel offered this insight about herself: “Cara Maria has made it clear that our friendship is over. But I am not this monster. I do have a heart.” If you ever find yourself in a place in life where you have to explain that you are “not a monster” and you “do have a heart,” you have done something seriously wrong. Ask Mike Vick.

Johnny Reilly (The Challenge), 25 points

Johnny Reilly had no chance of winning this week’s challenge once he was partnered up with Devyn, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Here he is dragging Devyn by the arms through the water even though he is about 30 minutes off the lead:


I always liked this guy, ever since his Real World fight with Hurricane Nia, in which he took his pants off and used his small genitalia as a conflict-resolution tactic.

Bananas and CT (The Challenge), 37 points

In the same way it always comes down to the Heat and the Spurs, it always comes down to Bananas and CT. Whether Bananas is being backpacked by CT or CT is being blindsided by Bananas, in the end they are always the ones facing off, and this season will be no different. Here are the two of them focusing on the finish at what will forever be knows as the Floppy Beanie in Hot Weather Summit:


During the Floppy Beanie in Hot Weather Summit, Bananas suggested that he might vote CT into the elimination. Instead of freaking out like Cara and everyone else does, CT sat back, looked at the floppy-beanied Bananas, and calmly mumbled, “You want to poke a stick at the bear, go ahead. That’s not my bag.” Two things: (1) I would rather be attacked by a bear than CT, and (2) “not my bag” is a term that we all need to work into our everyday vocabulary.

Enjoy your weekend, listen to the Right Reasons podcast, and we’ll be back next week, just like The Real World is back in Chicago.

Filed Under: Reality TV, Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League, The Challenge, TJ Lavin, The Decline of American Civilization, Recaps, TV

David Jacoby is an ESPN producer who somehow became a writer and editor for Grantland.

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