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Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League: A ‘Challenge’-Shaped Life Raft in a Sea of Juan Pablocalypses

This week brought three hours of ‘The Bachelor,’ an hour and a half of ‘Real World,’ an hour of ‘Survivor,’ and even an hour of some show called ‘Online Dating Rituals of the American Male’ — and none of it mattered once we got one minute of ‘The Challenge.’

This week, I watched three hours of The Bachelor, an hour and a half of Real World, an hour of Survivor, and even an hour of some show called Online Dating Rituals of the American Male — and none of it mattered once I got to see one minute of The Challenge.

On Wednesday, MTV released the trailer, format, and cast list for the upcoming season, and Challenge-related thoughts have pretty much dominated my life since. It was so comforting to see that familiar, emotional, unstable mass, encased in Under Armour and screaming. Just knowing we’re a mere month away from having T.J. Lavin back in our lives gives us all a reason to wake up every morning.

Sure, I’ll get to Monday’s Juan Pablocalypse, this week’s groundbreaking Real World episode, and one of the funniest moments in the history of Survivor. But it’s only right to start off by talking about the show for which this column was built: The Challenge.

The Challenge: Free Agents Frame-by-Frame Trailer Breakdown


TJ: “This season, it’s an individual game … FREE AGENTS.”

We see six women running through a gigantic Red Hot Chili Peppers logo dug into the sand, and then colliding in the middle. Cara Maria’s all, WHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAT?


But she isn’t shocked at the show’s new format; she’s shocked that T.J. got a haircut and isn’t wearing a fitted hat:


It’s also important to note that the art director scored a huge fucking FIRE LOGO this year:



CT: “I’ve always been a free agent, and now everyone is going to have to play my game.”

We hear him say that over super-slo-mo shots of people wearing Under Armour booty shorts and falling off of stuff. Every description in every cable guide for every episode of this series should read: “People wear Under Armour booty shorts and fall off of stuff.” Then we see the biggest surprise of the entire season: CT’S BEARD.


Beards are a thing now; beards are having a moment. There are all types of thought-leader/influencer beards out there nowadays, but they basically fall into three camps: There are the Rick Ross–ian hip-hop beards, the Mumford & Sons–ian hipster beards, and the Hacksaw Jim Duggan–ian “I had this before it was cool and I’ll have this after it’s cool” beards. CT’s beard defies classification. Remember, CT’s beard carries the exact same DNA as CT. That means CT most likely didn’t even grow his beard on purpose; it probably just threatened him. Picture it:

[CT in his bathroom, hung over, reaches for a razor.]

CT’s Stubble: “Bro, I know you aren’t going to try to shave me with that razor.”

CT: “Um, what did you say, stubble?”


Either his beard ate his face and refused to stop, or all the hair T.J. cut off his head revolted and joined CT’s facial-hair army. If I were hair, I would have done the same.


Bananas: “This is an individual game; this is not a team game.”

Chet: “I’m going to fight for every inch.”

Cara Maria: “I don’t trust a single person here.”

More shots of, you guessed it, people wearing Under Armour booty shorts and falling off of stuff. Then we see Aneesa being all:


Aneesa is the Derek Fisher of The Challenge. She won’t go away, but no one’s excited she’s still around. She’s chairman and president of The Challenge’s “Keep Getting Dem Checks” Club.

I also love that they’re bringing back the Oklahoma drill:


This exercise is so brutal that the NFL is considering banning it from practice. You know that if you’re demanding Johnny Bananas to do something that’s too dangerous for J.J. Watt, you’re in the right mind-set.

00:28-00:37 — THE SEXY SECTION

Unidentified female: “I believe that hooking up in the game may have its advantages …”

Aneesa: “I think some people are trying to use it for strategy …”

In this section we see:

1. Jasmine dancing seductively in a schoolgirl outfit.

2. Jasmine hooking up with a bar — not AT a bar, WITH a bar.

3. Laurel getting a cheek kiss from Jordan (I think it’s Jordan):


4. Nany hooking up with some dude while JASMINE CHEERS THEM ON:


5. A random couple making out in a hallway.

6. The requisite female-on-female hookup:


7. Nany hooking up with Cohutta, who either has lipstick all over his face or was just attacked by a mountain lion:


8. Nany crying because she just realized she’s going to be in 40 percent of the hookups this season.

Question about the sexy section: Is this really it? Most of these kisses have that spin-the-bottle/truth-or-dare inauthenticity to them. Where are the signature under-the-blanket coitus shots? Why does seemingly every clip involve Nany or Jasmine? Are you telling me that Nia, Camila, Theresa, and Jonna didn’t make out with a single dude or start making out with each other if they couldn’t find a dude? Is that even possible? Is MTV holding back? Why would it hold back? I’m confused.


TJ: “The only way to stay safe in this game is to win.”

Nany (I think): “It’s me versus you, and I love that.”

Jordan: “I will send you home.”

Bananas: “I will end you, bro!”

First, we see Laurel (what up, Laurel?) doing the sexy-girl car-race flag-drop thing, and then we see … wait … what the hell is that? Is that Zach going through a metamorphosis?


Yep, that’s Zach, mid-metamorphosis, morphing from a meathead into a balanced, self-aware adult. After the transformation concluded, T.J. explained that there’s no place for balanced, self-aware adults on this program, and euthanized him. Then we see some shots of people climbing stuff. Oh wait? What’s that? More people wearing Under Armour booty shorts and falling off of stuff?


Then we see a shot of a kayak flipping over, then Jordan and Bananas getting finger-pointy, and then this thing:


This is either a snowcapped smoking volcano or a steroid pimple on one of the dudes’ backs. Tough call.

This entire trailer is the GRTFL Questionable Moment of the Week:

Wait, that’s all the partying, coitusing, and fighting for the whole season? The WHOLE season? Is this just the trailer for the first episode? How are so many people listed in the “cast,” but so few featured in the trailer? Did you see Swift? Did you see Preston? Did you see Devyn? Did you see Camila? Did you see Frank? Did you see Jonna? Did you see Jemmye? What am I missing? Did all these people get eliminated the first day? How could this happen? Was the first elimination challenge a drug test or something? How does a snowcapped volcano even exist? That MUST be a steroid pimple, right? Are you telling me Frank didn’t get into a single argument? That’s like LeBron James failing to score a point in a game; it can’t happen. Shouldn’t Under Armour put out a The Challenge line of clothing? Wouldn’t you buy a custom The Challenge outfit for yourself? Is Aneesa wearing a wedding ring while making out with Nany? And finally, HOW IS LEROY ON THE SHOW BUT NOT IN THE TRAILER? I just don’t understand. There’s either a ton of footage that didn’t make this trailer, or Leroy has finally been pegged to be our international leader in the event of an alien invasion, and thus all the footage of him has been embargoed. Nothing else makes sense.

Juan Pablo’s Family (The Bachelor, 1,879 points apiece)

Everyone hates Juan Pablo. I get it. On Monday’s live After the Final Rose special, we all saw the unedited, unfiltered Juan Pablo, and the entire human race turned on him. He gave us plenty of reasons. There were many worrisome revelations about his relationship with Nikki, his relationship with Clare, and his relationship with “people behind computers,” but the most shocking disclosure came before the after-show during the actual finale, when his mother was chatting with Nikki:


Juan Pablo’s Mother: “How would you imagine a weekend with Juan Pablo?”

Nikki: “I know he has Camila on the weekends, so we would go to the pool or the beach during the day and just kind of hang out and do activities there. Just have like a loving family, you know?”

Juan Pablo’s Mother: “You want me to tell you how it is going to be?”

Nikki: “How?”

Juan Pablo’s Mother: “He wakes up, takes breakfast, OK? And stays at home watching TV with the family or with Camila, or watching TV with you if you are the one, that’s it. He is very simple.”

WAIT WAIT WAIT … this dude watches TV all weekend? Like, ALL WEEKEND? We know Juan Pablo has no social tact, might be kind of bigoty, and has the self-awareness of an earthworm … and THIS is what his mother is warning her future daughter-in-law about? This guy must really watch a lot of TV. I like that she also mentioned breakfast. I imagine his breakfasts are like a bear preparing to go into hibernation, because Juan Pablo doesn’t want his marathon TV-watching interrupted by pesky meals. This is funny and everything, but this must be a misunderstanding, right? Wrong. Later, when Nikki asked Juan Pablo what life would be like after the weirdness of being filmed for a national television show built to make you fall in love had ended, he stressed the TV aspect EVEN MORE than his mother had.

Nikki: “What’s going to happen when we don’t have private islands anymore?”

Juany Pabs: “We will have a bed, TV. We watch movies, sports. I will have my office; I watch some baseball, too.”

Nikki: “Yeah?”

Juany Pabs: “I will be doing that by myself probably.”

Nikki: “Not all the time by yourself?”

Juany Pabs: “Some of them, I will be by myself.”

Imagine you’re on an island with your prospective wife, and she asks you what life together will be like. Why would you basically say: “I’m not sure what your life will be like, but I will be in my office watching TV”? Just why? It cracks me up. What woman would get engaged to this man? What woman listens to that and says: “Perfect. Exactly what I was looking for in a life partner”? What is even more amazing than Juan Pablo’s clear obsession with watching TV all day every day is that someone who watches TV all day every day could be so oblivious about how to act while on TV.

As if the whole “You know if you marry this dude he’s going to watch TV all day, right?” thing from his own mother wasn’t enough to make Nikki completely reconsider getting engaged to this guy, Juan Pablo’s cousin made sure to ask BOTH women this:

“Something that happens with Juan Pablo you should be aware of is, when things get rough, he is willing to walk away. You have to hold on to the relationship, or are you one of the persons that walks away at the first signs of problems?”

My wife was kind enough to immediately offer this translation: “He is going to repeatedly leave you and have no interest in getting back together, so you have to be the one to chase him around all the time. Are you prepared for that?”

The only thing I don’t understand is how Juan Pablo manages to get into all these arguments with women when all he does is watch TV all day.

Juan Pablo (The Bachelor, 279 points)

Juan Pablo is very honest, so I’ll be honest, too: I’m kind of sick of Juan Pablo talk. On Tuesday, I was all fired up about it. On Wednesday, I watched spring training games and wondered what Juan Pablo was snacking on while he watched the games, too. By Thursday it was wearing off a bit, and now I feel Juan Pablo’d out. But not so Juan Pablo’d out that this week’s GTRFL Top Five won’t be about him. This week’s GRTFL Top Five is the Top Five Takeaways From the Juan Pablocalypse:

5. Clare knew she wasn’t going to get the final rose and had a fuck-you speech planned. Clare’s fuck-you speech was straight Barack-ian. She delivered it without a vocalized pause, the logic was airtight, and the grand-finale insult was impeccable. There’s no way she came up with this on the fly: “Sharleen didn’t have the feelings for you; it wasn’t there. Andi did the same thing. You had every other opportunity like those other girls did to tell me exactly how you felt.” Juany Pabs: “You know how I feel? Do you know when I made my decision?” Back to Clare: “It doesn’t matter to me. I lost respect for you because I thought I knew what kind of man you were. And what you just made me go through … I would never want my children having a father like you.” Women are especially attractive when they’re mad; I don’t like that it’s true, but it is. Yelling at Juan Pablo was the best Clare has looked all season.

4. Was Juan Pablo too much of a dick for Dancing With the Stars? On the after-show, Chris Harrison promised a big surprise from Juany Pabs that Juany Pabs then pretended he didn’t know anything about. Juan Pablo said his plans “changed drastically two weeks ago.” Rumor has it, he was supposed to be on DWTS, but the show dumped him because he’s too much of a liability. If that’s true, the whole changing plans/no surprise thing makes a lot more sense.

3. Did anyone else notice Juan Pablo and Nikki making out before every commercial break? Nothing says love like awkward, forced, overtly public displays of affection. Oh, wait, something else DOES say love like that: MAKING A WEIRD YOUTUBE VIDEO ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU LOVE THE WOMAN YOU WOULDN’T SAY “I LOVE YOU” TO AND THEN RELEASING IT TO THE PUBLIC.

Totally normal behavior.

2. Nikki and Juan Pablo’s logic checks out. I understand how we ended up in a place where everyone hates Juan Pablo and thinks Nikki has been manipulated into being with him and blah blah blah. But you have to admit, the explanations they offered on After the Final Rose totally check out.

Nikki on why it’s no big deal that Juan Pablo doesn’t say “I love you”:

“Honestly, I feel like a lot of people have sat here and said they are in love, and everyone wants to believe it and they don’t because it’s just not there. I feel like it doesn’t matter if we say we are or we aren’t. I mean, I just feel like time will tell. I mean, like, this is real, this is a real relationship to us. Meeting someone and falling in love in a few months and not only that, but the fact that they are like dating other people the whole time, it’s just not exactly realistic.”

OK, hard to argue with that. Let’s see what Juany Pabs said after Chris asked, “So you love her?”

“I am not going to answer that question to you. I don’t get it. My question is that people don’t understand that this is real life, you know? And when you are with somebody you don’t say you love her or not if you are there or not. It’s just part of it.”

Basically, he’s saying: “I don’t tell people I love them when I don’t love them.”



Lindsey (Survivor, ALL THE POINTS)

I’m one of those evil people who finds it hilarious when people fall down. So you can imagine my reaction after this gem from a blindfolded Lindsey on Survivor:


I watched it, I laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, laughed at it, watched it again, and then laughed at it one more time.

Why doesn’t she break her fall? Was she paralyzed by the impact? Why does she lift her leg like that? Why does she try to continue to carry the flag? How many people does she think it takes to carry a flag? Seriously, why doesn’t she break her fall? I can’t even see it right now, and I’m laughing my ass off as I write this, just thinking about it. Can we all make sticking one leg up, being super stiff, and falling down into an Internet meme, like planking? Please? No? Fine.

Brian (Real World, 24 points)

I owe Brian an apology. I thought he was dumb. I mean, he is dumb, but he’s also the most interesting person I’ve seen on this show in a long time. His appearance and his vocabulary just don’t match up. He’s clearly been through enough therapy for seven Metta World Peaces, and now we can see the evil old Brian trying to come out but being suppressed by the new, post-therapy Brain. I feel like we need to send his Thought Records to the Smithsonian for safekeeping.

Producers (Real World, 16 points)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This whole season of “broken fourth wall” Real World action has been expertly produced. Allow me to offer two examples of scenes that would never have made previous seasons, but made this one and were excellent television.

The first started with a slammered Hailey rolling around the house wrapped in an orange blanket:


Now, you may think that Hailey traveling via orange blanket wouldn’t have anything intelligent to add to the evening’s proceedings. Au contraire. When her ex-boyfriend Tom demanded she leave the house because she was harshing the vibes with his new girlfriend and fellow roommate Jamie, and said Hailey wasn’t, you know, really part of the cast because she was just an ex, she brought the thunder:

Hailey: “The project is about relationships, and if it wasn’t for the fact you had an interesting relationship, you wouldn’t have been picked. You understand the fact that if you didn’t have a relationship that was interesting, they would not have picked you?”

Tom: “If I had told them my last significant girlfriend was Ashley …”

Hailey: “They didn’t like her enough. They interviewed her, she wasn’t interesting, therefore, they did not pick her.”

First off, impressive usage of “therefore” from a slammered 22-year-old. But even more impressive: The producers of a reality show allowed the cast members to acknowledge they were on a reality show. I don’t know why it took us so long to get here, but I’m glad we did.

The second “broken fourth wall” bit the producers deserve big ups for is that they send random clips of bad behavior to the house computer just to stir up the pot. Can you name a single reality show that shouldn’t do this? I’ve always wondered why this has never happened. In this case, they sent a video of Jay kissing a girl other than his “girlfriend” Jenna. The resulting fight between Jay and Jenna was more depressing than fun, but I loved the moment when Jay realized what was happening and said, “If they can air this, I’m screwed!” My wife yelled at the TV: “What about this video right now, when you are saying that? You know they can air that one too, right?”

Shout out to Bunim/Murray. I hope they adopt this format for The Challenge, too. Enjoy your weekend as much as I’ll enjoy watching this chick falling over in perpetuity:


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