Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League: The Return of the Way-Too-Early But Totally Necessary ‘The Challenge’ Preview


The Grantland Reality Fantasy League column covers a huge swath of the intellectually barren reality TV landscape, but there has always been one format, one group of alcopsychoholics, one host, one show that stood head, shoulders, and genitalia above all the others in the hearts and minds of us at GRTFL Headquarters … and that show is The Challenge. Since its inception, The Challenge has grown from a silly MTV afterthought to legitimately owning its position as America’s Fifth Major Sport. I understand there are those who don’t understand the appeal of this show. There is no real talent on display like you see on Top Chef, it lacks the humanity of Naked and Afraid, and its production value is nowhere near that of Survivor. BUT for those of us who have been committed to the Real World franchise for decades, those of us who have watched these lunatics evolve over the years, and those of us who remember how awful T.J. Lavin’s predecessors were, The Challenge is the only reality show that really matters. It is with those people in mind that I embark upon this week’s GRTFL. That’s right: It’s the return of the “Way Too Early But Totally Necessary Challenge Preview!”

Now, before I even get started, I have to say this: I have no idea if any of the following is true. I have no idea who is on this show, what the format is, or what the teams are. But I do know that I received this information from Vevmo and not only has that site accurately predicted the last four or five Challenge casts, it also predicted the last eight major earthquakes and that Bruce Jenner would get a weave. These people know their shit. Besides having mined social media, sources, and their Spidey-senses to come up with this cast list, they also know that this season will be The Challenge: Battle of the Exes 2. I can’t fucking wait. In fact, let’s get right to the preview. I am going to introduce every couple, provide my initial reaction and some super-brief historical background on their relationship, and then predict their performance this season. I wish you could see the smile on my face as I do this. Let’s get to couple no. 1:

Jessica McCain and Dustin Zito


Initial reaction: Seriously, where is Heather? Dustin, your ex is Heather. I spent years invested in your relationship with Heather.

Super-brief relationship history: Dustin was still getting over Heather when he came into the house on Free Agents, and he promised he wouldn’t hook up with anyone out of respect for her. Not only did he hook up with someone else, that someone else was Jess, the most annoying cast member in the history of the franchise.

Prediction for this season: Jessica is boring, simple as that. Still, there is no limit to this team’s potential: Dustin gets inslopsicated regularly, used to do gay porn for a living, and once asked Frank, “Do you wanna get street, bitch?” Not only was he arrested for sexual battery, he also violently resisted that arrest. How do I know this? He uploaded the video of it to his YouTube channel. Dustin isn’t in the Tyson Zone — he’s in the Zito Zone. I don’t know which is less predictable.

Jenna Compono and Jay Gotti


Initial reaction: Wait, Jenny and Brian aren’t on this show? From the whole season of Exes, you picked these two? This is a huge oversight. Who is going to keep it real as Colby cheese?

Super-brief relationship history: Jay is the dude who dates the same girl for years and then says, “Why do we have to put a title on our relationship? What we have means so much more than the words boyfriend and girlfriend.” Jenna is the girl who stays with that dude.

Prediction for this season: They are the first to go. Neither is particularly likable, intelligent, or athletic. Rookies always go first, and these two don’t have a chance. That may not be what is going to happen; it is just what I want to happen. Who would have thought Jay could even take time off from his busy “yelling annoying shit into microphones at nightclubs” career to appear on this show?

Nany González and Johnny Bananas


Initial reaction: Should we just give them the title now?

Super-brief relationship history: Um, wait, have these two even hooked up? I did tons of research (Googled for 20 seconds) and could only come up with this thread that basically says, “They hook up on appearances off-camera and the producers will do anything to keep Johnny on this show.” First off, great job by the producers; there is not a single television show on any network that doesn’t get better the second Bananas walks onto the set. I mean, how dope would Meet the Press be if Bananas were on the panel? Second, who cares? Nany and Bananas are two of the best to ever do this, and partnering them up is like putting LeBron and Durant on the same team: There should be rules against it.

Prediction for this season: Domination. There is no team that can even come close to beating them in a head-to-head at anything. Basically, the only way they lose is if either of them is asked to stay silent for more than 20 seconds.

Oh yeah, I forgot, there’s one other way they could lose: Nany kills them both in a murder/suicide. Which is on the board.

Averey Tressler and Johnny Reilly


Initial reaction: I am so happy to have these two back in my life. If there is one couple I hope rekindles its love, it is this one.

Super-brief relationship history: They were on the Portland season together when Johnny, a pretty regular dude by all standards, somehow found himself dating a gorgeous, nymphomaniac Hooters waitress. Living in a house with strangers and being completely shut out from the outside world can do that for a fella. She moved to Boston for him after the season together, and it didn’t work out. Who could have predicted that?

Prediction for this season: They have tons of sex. All over the place. I love this couple.

Jemmye Carroll and Ryan Knight



Super-brief relationship history: They dated on the second New Orleans season of The Real World, and the two of them truly embodied the spirit of the city. By that, I mean that they were always slammered, super fun, and unpredictably dangerous. Here is how a typical Knight and Jemmye night ended on the show:

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A typical Knight and Jemmye night off the show ended with, you know, them getting arrested together. Young love.

Prediction for this season: Jemmye has a way of staying on these shows for a long time even though she exhibits no real mental or physical talents. Knight has a way of being a sociopath and manipulating his way deep into seasons as well. I don’t see a deep run this season, though. Clairvoyant Jacoby doesn’t see these two working together in harmony. In fact, whatever the opposite of harmony is, that is what they will be working in.

Hailey Chivers and Thomas Buell


Initial reaction: Where the fuck are Jenny and Brian? His thought records, her purse full of deli sandwiches, their on-camera infidelity? HOW ARE JENNY AND BRIAN NOT ON THIS SHOW?

Super-brief relationship history: Tom was hooking up with this chick Jamie on the show and everything was all good until the exes showed up. Once Hailey was in the house, Tom launched a full-on campaign to get Hailey out of the house, which eventually led to Hailey leaving. It was kind of foul, if you ask me, because Tom was all “You weren’t even cast to be on this show, you don’t belong here,” and the only reason he was there was because he had a cute ex named Hailey. You could totally tell that Hailey was a better match for Tom, but Jamie was the flavor of the month. On the show, Tom claimed that Hailey had hit him in the past, so, she hit him in the present:


Prediction for this season: She hits him in the future.

Jonna Mannion and Zach Nichols


Initial reaction: I am glad they are back; I just hope they find their way back together.

Super-brief relationship history: On Battle of the Seasons, Jonna was so into Zach that she straight-up broke up with her boyfriend and started hooking up with Zach. It was one of those relationships that you root for because his gigantic muscles and milquetoast personality were so wrong for her petite cuteness and whimsical nature that you wanted it to work. It didn’t work.

Prediction for this season: Zach does everything he can to keep them in the game as long as possible, but you need two strong players to win in dual eliminations. They don’t have two strong players.

Nia Moore and Leroy Garrett


Initial reaction: Leroy is a great American hero. The only surprising thing about him is that he hasn’t been elected to office or given a daily talk show or been shot into space as a representative of our species. Long live Leroy.

Super-brief relationship history: They hooked up in the bathroom on Free Agents so they wouldn’t be caught on camera. This was revealed on one of those after-shows from last season. Those shows were so bad that I watched them only to make myself feel like a good TV producer. Jonny Mosely makes John Clayton look like Johnny Carson.

Prediction for this season: Leroy will be chill and play the background. Hurricane Nia will wild the fuck out:


Theresa Gonzalez and Wes Bergmann


Initial reaction: Before the Royals went to the World Series, Wes’s win on The Duel was the greatest athletic achievement in the history of Kansas City. Also, how did Wes find time to go on the show when he has “30 companies” and a “monster truck”?

Super-brief relationship history: They hooked up on Fresh Meat 2, but I think she is like fifth on the Wes’s Exes Power Rankings. Also, I would totally watch a half-hour studio show called Wes’s Exes Power Rankings.

Prediction for this season: I see these two going to the finals and losing to Bananas and Nany. Theresa is more athletic than she looks (remember that hoops game against CT?) and Wes — well, Wes is a winner. I mean, the guy owns a monster truck. Only winners own monster trucks.

Sarah Rice and Jordan Wiseley


Initial reaction: There are couples that are better at The Challenge than Jordan and Sarah, and there is no couple that CARES more about The Challenge than Jordan and Sarah.

Super-brief relationship history: They hooked up a bit on Rivals 2. Honestly, I don’t even remember it. Oh wait, I remember it, it was pretty hot, too. Who cares though? HOW IS LAUREL NOT IN SARAH’S SPOT? WE NEED LAUREL!

Prediction for this season: I see them exiting early. Bananas is no fool; he knows that if he doesn’t get Jordan out of the house in the first couple episodes, Jordan could gain some support and lead a coup against Bananas. Bananas will see that coming from a mile away and send Jordan and Sarah packing.

Are You the One? Curveball Alert

OK, I guess the rumors are true. THEY ARE LETTING PEOPLE FROM ARE YOU THE ONE? ON THE CHALLENGE. Now, before you freak out and act like the world is going to end, consider this: Change is good. This opens up a world of opportunity for Bunim/Murray cross-show pollination. Imagine The Bad Girls Club girls on The Challenge. Imagine Dylan from Making the Band on The Challenge. Imagine Lamar Odom on The Challenge. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamar Odom were someday on The Challenge. Anyway, here are the two couples that will be on the show. I am not going to act like I know anything about these people, so I’m just adding clips for them so we can get to know them together. I am also sure the folks who have been on The Real World will treat them with nothing but elegance and respect.

Brittany and Adam

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Simone and JJ

There they are: two dozen of America’s finest sent into the middle of nowhere to stop being polite and start getting slammered all for our enjoyment. Now all we have to do is wait for five months or so for MTV to air this stupid thing. Until then, listen to the Right Reasons, enjoy the rest of the reality TV landscape, and, as always, enjoy your weekend. Party hard.

Filed Under: Reality TV, The Challenge, Are You The One?, Mtv

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

Archive @ djacoby

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