Grantland logo

Lowbrow Highlights: ‘The Bachelor’ Premiere, ‘The Challenge,’ and the Thrilling Rebirth of the GRTFL

A way-too-deep analysis of the season premieres of the two most important shows in Lowbrow Highlights history.

Announcement! This column will no longer be called “Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League” for two reasons:

  1. GRTFL is a shitty acronym, hard to say, makes no sense, and, you know, no one knows what it means.
  2. A minor detail: There hasn’t been a “Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League” in, like, two years.

The column itself won’t change much, but instead of writing about a set of the same three or four shows every week and making up a ton of “rules” for them, the column will abide by one rule only: I will do whatever I want. That means one week I will do a deep dive, the next a “weird watch” that I fell in love with (90 Day Fiance). I might go historical and recap a forgotten reality show from history (I have my eye on Maui Fever). I might do a Q&A or something. (Anyone have contact info for that dude who bit off Neil’s tongue on Real World: London?) I might revisit the time Verne Troyer almost drank himself to death on The Surreal Life. Anything is in play. The goal is simply to make it more fun to read, less predictable, and to expand the reach of what is covered. But enough of this announcement bullshit — this was a banner week in reality TV.

In the three weeks since the last column, Vanderpump Rules and Real World: Skeletons have continued to be consistently interesting, shocking, and fun as all hell. But I won’t write a single thing about them this week. No chance. This week’s column will be dedicated to the premiere episodes of the two shows that are the foundation that this column was built on: The Bachelor and The Challenge. With fresh episodes of both shows, there is no room for anything else. In fact, there is no more room for this corny intro stuff, either. But before we get to The Challenge, let’s start with the traditional overanalysis of the limo exits of The Bachelor contestants. Those ladies are always a hoot.

A Way-Too-Deep Dive on The Bachelor Limo Introductions

Every season of this silly franchise, I look forward to no episode more than the premiere: the stupid gimmicks the hopefuls do out of the limo; the two or three girls who don’t eat and get too drunk on the first night; the stammering Bachelor himself not yet comfortable on camera; the terrible dresses. The all-around awkwardocity of the introductions are always more fun than anything else that happens on the season. This is why, each time, I break down every bad dress, every fake occupation, and every inslopsicated stumble one by one. This season is no different. The following are my first impressions of delusional women making their first impression on a handsome farmer who less than a year ago was completely in love with another woman on national television. Enjoy.

Britt is first out of the limo, a spot always reserved for one of the most attractive women. She is also a waitress “from” Hollywood. This isn’t a red flag, it’s a huge red blimp blasting a siren and leaving a smoke trail behind it that says “RUN.” However: Britt is hot. Hotness trumps all red flags. Both men and women will see past evil, shameful, vile traits for someone with a nice jawline.

Whitney is a fertility nurse without children. I’ll just leave it at that.

Kelsey walked out of the limo with a nice energy and differentiating lack of three feet of hair extensions, then she and Chris did this whole, “I am just a regular guy”/“I am just a regular girl” thing that I’m sure we will see at least three times in flashback montages this season. I say this because Kelsey was ALL OVER the “This Season On” montage; at one point she was scolding Chris for what looked like some audible tent-fellatio action, at another making out with him, and, of course, at another on the floor screaming and receiving medical attention.

kelsey_medical

I love this show.

Megan is a 24-year-old makeup artist from Nashville. There is no makeup in the world that is going to convince me this woman is 24 years old. WHY DO THEY ALL LIE ABOUT THEIR AGE? Why do they do this? It isn’t just one or two of them, either — 75 percent of the women on this show look three years older than their bios say they are. It’s weird. There is a lot about this show I don’t understand.

Ashley I. is another one that you see A TON of in the “This Season On.” She has these fake-ass Aeon Flux Venus Fly Trap eyelashes that take away from her natural beauty.

 ashley_eyes

The entire season, it will be hard for me to not call her “The Kardashian.”

Trina was forgettable aside from her side pony. And, let’s be honest, how memorable are side ponies?

Reegan brought a fake heart out of a cooler because she sells human tissue. For a second Chris thought she would have a Coors and you could tell he was pumped. When she opened the cooler and brought out the heart, my wife screamed, “Doesn’t somebody need that?!” My wife is the best.

Tara first appeared on the episode making an impression by popping out of the limo in Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots. She last appeared on the episode in a cocktail dress, KASLAMMERED in mid-panic attack, and, of course, she still received a rose. I mean, good TV is good TV, so there’s no chance the producers let Chris send her home. Every chick who didn’t make it past the first episode was at home watching with family, and, when Tara got that rose, pretended to go get a drink in the kitchen, then cried.

Amber is the black one. There is no other way of saying it. I don’t understand how season after season they continue to only have one or two minority contestants. It has been happening for years, the show has been very publicly criticized for it, and still, there are so few people of color on this show that you have to question the decision-making at all levels. Amber will last for three or four episodes because the producers would never let Chris vote her off the show early. Anyway, back to catty jokes.

Nikki is a former NFL cheerleader and has exactly that “Yeah, she’s probably a former NFL cheerleader” vibe that all former NFL cheerleaders have.

Amanda did this whole thing where … you know what, who cares, LOOK AT HER EYES:

amanda_eyes

Jillian is this woman who does all that CrossFit/steak-eating/egg-drinking/neon-wearing shit that is all the rage, and looks like if she were hit by a bus, the bus would wrap around her while she stood unharmed … and then the bus would apologize. I like Jillian. She will be great TV.

Mackenzie totally smokes weed.

Ashley S. is a 24-year-old hairstylist from Brooklyn. I doubt that any of that is even true. She probably is named Ashley. I believe that part because they don’t really let women on this show who aren’t named Ashley.

Kaitlyn is a dance instructor from Vancouver who walked over to Chris and said, “I don’t know much about you, I know you are a farmer, and you can plow the fuck out of my field any day.” I like Kaitlyn.

At this point in the show, Chris Harrison acted like these 15 were going to be the whole lot, and Farmer Chris did that fake-happy thing you do when you get what you asked for for Christmas but not exactly what you asked for. The girls were into it, getting settled in, doing their power rankings in their head about who is the hottest and all that, and then … more limos. Well played, Chris Harrison, well played.

Samantha is the 27-year-old hot fashion designer from Los Angeles who is dying to move to Arlington, Iowa, and live on a farm. Yeah, right.

Michelle is a wedding cake decorator. Wait, does she not bake the cakes? If she doesn’t bake the cakes, she should fucking learn.

Juelia is an aesthetician, which is a fancy way of saying she waxes butt cracks for a living.

Becca didn’t really strike me any certain way, but the three women I was watching with were all, “She’s hot” and “Shit, I would be intimidated by her” and “You have to be concerned about anyone that can pull off that romper”:

romper

They have a point.

Tandra rolled up on a motorcycle. It was a cheap trick, but there’s something about a woman in a nice dress driving a motorcycle that men just can’t resist. It’s like how women feel about buff dudes holding puppies.

Alissa is a flight attendant and brought a seat belt to put around Chris because it’s “going to be a bumpy ride.” She looked at her dress options and said, “Fuck it, can’t go home on the first night, I am going full cleavage.”

Jordan is the one who brought whiskey to do a shot with Chris in the driveway. She would have won the Drunkest First-Nighter Award if Tara weren’t there. By Episode 3, Tara will be melting down plastic forks and crafting hallucinogens.

Nicole came out with a fake pig nose on because she wanted to “ham it up” for Chris, “plus, I really love pigs.” She totally could have saved this whole awkward bit that fell on its face by finishing with, “I know you have a corn farm, so I tried to do the corniest shit possible.”

Brittany is a “WWE Diva-In-Training,” but we didn’t need the graphic to tell us that because her dress screams “WWE Diva-In-Training”:

wwe_diva

Carly is a cruise ship singer, so came out with a karaoke machine and sang Chris a song. Why doesn’t Carly just identify herself as a “singer”? “Cruise ship singer” just seems like a step down, not a step up. Has she never sung on land? Is she an exclusively nautical singer? How does she do all this nautical singing while living in Dallas? Carly makes no sense to me. Her song wasn’t that bad, though. For real.

Tracy is the fourth-grade teacher who brought a note from her student that said, “Dear Farmer, please like my teacher so she doesn’t end up lonely with nine cats.” Kids, man, they really break shit down on you, huh?

Bo is a plus-size model who mentions being a plus-size model waaaaay too much.

Kimberly is the one he sent … wait, WHAT? Why did he send this chick home?

kimberly

This was clearly some sort of mistake on his part. There is a 100 percent chance that when he watches this back for the first time he will be shocked that he sent the hot yoga teacher home, but he won’t say anything because his new fiancée will be next to him.

Kara walked up to Chris and said, “I think we would make the cutest babies.” Always a good opener.

Jade is the one who is naked on the Internet. It’s hard to see more of Jade than you can from a quick Google search, but I certainly expected to see more of Jade in the “This Season On” based on the fact that she is, you know, um, blessed.

[protected-iframe id=”8d4fbde5e122207c1846fd66919a24c4-60203239-57735273″ info=”http://abc.go.com/embed/VDKA0_3g3ojh2e” width=”704″ height=”396″ frameborder=”0″]

Speaking of the “This Season On”: It wasn’t as inspiring as others, or, say, as the Bachelor in Paradise one, but it did have some highlights to look forward to. In a special GRTFL Top Five, here are the top five highlights of “This Season On,” listed from “Oh, cool, that will be fun” to “If I get enough pizza and diapers, I can just sit here for the next three months and watch the whole season, right?”

  1. Every Bachelor or Bachelorette gives the same speech about how serious this is for them, the right reasons, and blah blah blah. Here is Chris’s: “I’m here to find a wife, and if any of you question that, you are more than welcome to go home.”
  2. I’m going to feel really bad if Kelsey ends up having a serious medical problem and that’s why she’s lying on the floor getting oxygen from a machine, but most likely she is suffering from “The Bachelor isn’t paying enough attention to me–itis.” It is a common affliction.
  3.  A girl asks Chris, “Do you trust me?” and his voice answers, “Yeah, I do.” But his face answers, “Hell no, I would have dropped you a while ago, but I fear for my life.”
  4. Tent Sex.
  5. Chris can’t take a virgin into the fantasy suite.

Wrong. He can take a virgin into the fantasy suite. And he will. And we will watch. And you will talk about it with your friends and colleagues. And you will laugh. And laughing will make you happy. If you are new to the franchise, this is how it works. And it works well. Can’t wait for next week.

The Challenge Has Begun, and Should Never End

MTV’s The Challenge should be an omnipresent part of our lives; it should never start and never end, just go and go and go in perpetuity like an M.C. Escher staircase. There should be a The Challenge network, a The Challenge Association, a The Challenge Players Union, and a network of The Challenge theme parks around the world. We will get there eventually, but until we do, we’re stuck with enjoying this triumph of human artistic achievement though the traditional television series format. The premiere aired this Tuesday, and even as familiar with the cast and personalized Under Armour gear as I am, this episode raised a lot of questions for me. Questions that we will explore together in this column. It is only appropriate that the first question is …

Is There Any Event That Doesn’t Benefit From a Johnny Bananas Toast? 

At this year’s Super Bowl, at midfield after the 16 hours of pregame shows and the national anthem, there needs to be a toast by Johnny Bananas. He may or may not have given a toast at a Grantland party and it may or may not have been excellent. It only feels right to start this The Challenge recap the way all big events should start:

bananas_toast

Thank you, Mr. Bananas. You are an icon and a hero.

Is There a Right Way to Address the Deaths of Two Cast Members? 

Answer: no. The early, tragic deaths of The Challenge stalwarts Knight and Diem have changed the way we watch this show. Their presence on this season is not easy to watch, not easy to write about, and can’t be easy for the producers and editors who are crafting each episode. I like to keep this column light, so I will only say this: Diem and Knight will forever be missed, forever inspire us to better ourselves, and will never be forgotten.

Hey, Anyone Know What They Would Do With the Prize Money?

First off, these people get appearance fees. It’s not like anyone goes home empty-handed. But, like a No Limit Sports–negotiated contract, there are incentives to perform well. That fact makes the Bananas/Wes “I am going to vote you in” conversation a little more loaded than it appeared, but I would like to do the math on what the “largest award in The Challenge history” really means. $250,000 sounds like a lot of money, but when you take out your partner’s cut ($125,000) and then take out Uncle Sam’s cut (approximately $50,000), you’re left with $75,000. A nice chunk of change, but what will our winners do with it? Good thing they told us. Here is a list of what our heroes will bless the world with should they win: a hair-extension line, a CrossFit gym, a bar, a student loan paid off, and, OF COURSE, a really nice vacation with a dog. Wes is the one who would do the dog vacation. Am I the only one that felt like Wes has an “over it” vibe this episode?

Do You Think Jenna and Brittany Knew They Had an Audience When They 69-Cartwheeled Each Other by the Pool? 

cartwheel

No way. They would have done that anyway, they weren’t putting on a show for the boys, no chance.

Did Averey Cheat on Johnny in Boston?

I will just flat-out say it: I had a crush on Averey. Until this episode. Some quick backstory in case you need it: Averey is a gorgeous, fun, and talkative young lady from the Portland season of Real World. For whatever reason, she got into a relationship with her roommate Johnny. Sure, it might have been a “right place, right time” thing for Johnny, but he proved to be super likable as the season progressed. Here is what happened after they stopped living together to have their lives taped and started getting real:

Averey: “After our season, I decided I loved him so much that I was going to move all the way across the country for him.”

Johnny: “As far as I am concerned, Averey cheated on me.”

Averey: “There were a lot of situations where it really did look bad, but nothing happened and I was begging Johnny to believe me.”

And while Averey was explaining she made this face:

averey

Averey, are you trying to tell me you moved to Boston for a guy, broke up with that guy, and then stayed in Boston? Also, it wasn’t ONE situation that looked bad? It was A LOT of situations that looked bad? How many situations can you possibly look bad in without cheating when you are in a relationship for less than a year? Somehow, Johnny is still the apologetic figure. I am totally Team Johnny. I would never still be attracted to a cheating, sexually charged, super hot, former Hooters waitress like Averey after learning what she did to my man. Oh wait, those are all lies. My bad.

Did Jordan and Jenna Really Call Themselves “Models”?

I must have misheard that.

What’s Going On With Zach and Jonna?

From my Right Reasons pod partner Juliet:

“I’m feeling good about Zach and Jonna’s chances this season. What’s that old adage? A couple that dresses together, wins together.

Zach-Jonna
Either Zach is showing his ex some kind of sympathy by copying her horrible style from Rivals 2, or he was dared to dress like her and see if anyone noticed. Well, I noticed.”

 
Why Don’t They Have More Exciting Final Challenges?

They climbed a ladder this episode. A fucking ladder. Here are five B-list suggestions off the top of my head for future seasons (saving my A-list for when Bunim/Murray finally hires me):

  • Write and perform a play in 24 hours
  • Dance-off
  • Pictionary
  • Shark Tank–style business pitch
  • Write, shoot, and edit a short film
  • Boxing match

That took me 50 seconds. How hard is this? Why are these so boring? Let’s move on to the most important question of the episode:

What Did “This Season on The Challenge” Indicate?

:00-:10 While we watch traditional The Challenge fare — people falling off stuff into water, getting slammered, and pushing each other — TJ drops a bomb: “For the first time in the history of The Challenge, the losing teams have been competing in a secret losers’ bracket for their right to get back in the game.”

:10-:15 Jay The Hype Man says, “This changes the whole game,” and Sarah adds, “Now all bets are off.” And then, of course, someone falls off something into water:

fall_water

:15-:17 The aggressive, outspoken Nany goes in on Theresa: “You look at me like competition, that’s it, no friendship, nothing.” Theresa just sits there and cries.

:17-:20 Wes says to Dustin, “Theresa is a bigger bitch than you are an asshole.” Why all the Theresa hate? So far 25 percent of the entire “This Season On” has been dedicated to being mean to Theresa.

:20-:21 Bananas is now rubbing a couple of gallons of Pepto-Bismol off of Nany’s butt:

pepto_challenge I would watch a weekly half-hour show called “Rubbing Stuff Off Nany’s Butt.” A lot.

:21-:28 Bananas dropping veteran knowledge: “If you are in an alliance with everyone, you are in an alliance with no one.” And then Sarah goes in on Jordan: “If I weren’t on your team, I would vote you out because you are kind of an asshole.”

NOW, FINALLY, THE GOOD PART:

:30-:36 As Jemmye announces, “This Challenge house has turned into a swingers’ club,” we get the montage we have been waiting for:

  • Those two from Are You the One? make out. (Who cares?)
  • Averey smiling and looking hot. (Why add this to the “make out” section?)
  • Zach (in a summer winter hat) making out with … who is that? Jenna? jenna_makeout
  • Hurricane Nia smiling and looking like she is having a good time. (I think they are just peppering the clip with hot girls having a good time, and I am not mad at that.)
  • Jay making out with Jonna. (So it must be Jenna making out with Zach — that would create a full ex-swap.)
  • This happening: upside_down

OK, NOW THE FUN IS OVER, BACK TO FALLING INTO WATER:

:36-:45 This is the “generic competition” montage. First we see Leroy fall off something into water, then Jordan falling into sand, then Thomas and Hailey yelling at each other in the sand, then Averey and Johnny yelling at each other on a staircase, then Averey looking super hot in slow motion falling out of something into, you guessed it, water. Then we get JJ and Simone doing some weird semi-sexual softball spinning, and then …

:45-:47 Heartbreak. Diem is in bed, crying. Then CT is outside yelling (to what looks like the production), “Can someone take me to the doctor?!” That is going to be a hard episode to watch.

:47-:53 More falling into water, yelling, and tug-of-war. A LOT of tug-of-war this season.

:53-1:00 This is the “The Final is going to be impossible” montage. We see three helicopters flying around in the middle of nowhere, some climbing, some kayaking, and then we hear what sounds like Zach yelling, “This is hell, and you’re the devil,” and then what sounds like Bananas yelling, “LET’S GO!” Then they cut to a helicopter shot and we finally see the hellish landscape that our heroes must traverse just for a chance at a $75k (after taxes) prize:

landscape

Is that even Earth?

I am so excited for these seasons of television, but even more excited for this new column format. Who knows what you will find in next week’s “Lowbrow Highlights”? Oh, wait, I do: reality show recaps. But for real, down the road I will get freaky with it. Until then, listen to the Right Reasons, raise a glass Bananas-style, and, as always, enjoy the shit out of your weekend.