Call me Murtagh because I’m getting too old for this shit. Not the Challenges, I still love them like people love their stories, but this “showing the finale PLUS the reunion” stuff sets my whole evening out of whack. I should be playing video games right now! Anyway, enough complaining. The previous episode ended with Tyler and Derrick, Paula and Emily or Red and Blue respectively waiting to play Pole Me Over a game in which the contestants are tied to a opposite ends of a pole and have to push their opponent into barrels, knocking them over to win. Not once but twice. I was wondering if they’d bring the man and woman in black CT and Tina back out to battle the finalists, but alas, it was not meant to be. I’m still shocked and pretty puzzled as to why they bothered to bring those two on for one single episode, well, they stretched it out to two, but you get the idea. And no, they had nothing to do with the finale. So, Gulag time. Boys are up first. Everyone was talking about how big Tyler is, but I still assumed Derrick would win because, well, I always assume Derrick will win, dude’s TOUGH. But, I was wrong. No sense burying the lede I guess. Tyler started off strong and just kept pushing Derrick down and back. Both times he scored, he got D so far back as to hit the barrels but not knock them over and I half expected a power surge and the little scrapper to pull out a win, but it wasn’t meant to be. Him losing meant that Blue could only have a maximum of two players in the finale and possibly one because Emily was still on the chopping block. Of course, no one really thought Paula was going to beat her did they? She put up a pretty good fight, but Emily kept knocking her back and was close to a legit win when Paula grabbed the chains a second time (a third really if you were watching) and got disqualified. TJ had warned her about that, but it didn’t stop her from doing it again. Them’s the breaks, you gotta follow the rules. As you might expect, Jenn was ecstatic that Emily won because otherwise it would have been her unproven ass all by herself. Actually, after seeing the final challenge, it would have been interesting to see how they would have handled her being by herself. Even with two people they had to make a few alterations. More on that later though.
First a few comments about the players that made it to the end. Luke, Abe, Cara Maria, Sarah and Laurel proved that you don’t have to like or respect your team to make it work and bring in huge amounts of money. I hope Sarah and Laurel learned a lesson about being bitches, but I think only one of them did. As always, Luke played the game to his best ability and with honor, which is impressive. Blue was just Jenn and Emily. I think Emily really kicked ass and earned her spot. I believe she was a rookie this time around though I can’t remember for sure. Jenn on the other hand never went into the Gulag once and seemed to just scare everyone else into not voting for her. When will these young kids learn that they can band together and work against the old meat? Red was interesting because I wanted to see Tyler make it and prove that he’s a great competitor. I think he’s made it further than any other out gay man on one of these challenges. I really don’t mean to throw any accusations around, but gay dudes have a tendency to get thrown in very quickly on these things. Paula didn’t deserve to be there and proved that by losing. Dunbar played the game well by allying himself with the married couple and didn’t have any real freak outs. Long time viewers will remember that he’s had some anger management issues in the past. That leaves Brad and Tori. Tori really talked a lot of shit and basically said she didn’t want to be there, but then flipped the script and stayed around. At least she won her Gulag and proved herself. Brad on the otherhand kind of skated through. I like Brad, but he didn’t impress me much this season and played the game behind a wall of people who were deemed expendable, riding them to the finish line. But hey, I guess that’s how the game is played, right? They still should have chilled out and kept Camilla around. Just saying. Okay, so after the Gulag, we go back to the house where everyone’s hanging out and having a seemingly fun dinner. Jenn and Tyler decide to have superlatives for the remaining cast members. Here’s how they broke down. Abe won something about being the best mutilator. Cara Maria got Most Likely to Die in a Sex Act Gone Wrong (that should get some interesting and confused search results on Google). Emily got Rookie of the Year and Most Patient. Laurel and Sarah got Most Likely To Still Be Hated by Their Team in 20 Years. And Brad and Tori got King and Queen of the Challenge. Blech. Before that, Brad, Abe and Dunbar were talking about the final and Abe said he wants it to be long and grueling. Brad said this will be his last challenge and he wants to win. Both are prophetic. There’s also some nonsense after dinner between Abe, Laurel and Sarah about motivation, but it’s all the same shit we’ve heard a number of times so who cares.
The day of the race, we’re reminded of the stakes. Red and Blue have earned $40K apiece, so no matter what place they come in, they get that money. Gray has $100K. Then there’s the prize for first place which is $120K itself. No additional money is given for second or third place. We’re also told that it’s a 12.7 mile long race with a series of obstacles and smaller challenges thrown in that must be completed before moving on. Before the race, big tough Sarah starts freaking out and getting teary eyed. The missus and I were none too impressed by this and hurled “Oh shut ups” at the screen. Don’t expect sympathy when you hitch your car to the bitch train all season. The finale starts with your basic footrace. At first everyone seems to be going about the same pace. Red gets a bit of a lead, but they have to slow down because Tori can’t handle it. This allows for Blue to move ahead. Gray seems okay with staying in the back of the pack for the time being. Blue gets to the first mini-challenge first. It’s called Seeing Spots and the idea is that one person stands in front of a wall with five circles around the outline of their body and the other person has to shoot paintballs to hit those targets. The other two teams catch up pretty quickly, but no one seems to have great aim and Red actually comes out of it first followed by Blue and finally Gray. The next challenge is called So Tired. Each team has to roll two giant tires. This of course really screws Blue over because the other teams have more players to push those big bastards around. Now’s when the fate of the game is pretty much sealed. Blue falls way behind, leaving Red to get a pretty healthy lead with Gray behind them. Down and Dirty is the next challenge, though it’s more like a Double Dare game. They had to climb a ladder, go through a small square, go down a lubed up slide, land in a big box of what looked like dirt or sand but they said was feathers, crawl under a bar (to get good and trenched) and then let the next person have a turn. This might not have been the most physical of challenges (see what I did there?) but it definitely looked like a pain in the ass. Red gets this done first followed by Gray. This is when things start getting a little weird because Abe isn’t feeling great. After Down, there’s more running to Free Ride, which involves one teammate getting on a stretcher and the others carrying him or her. Red instantly throws Tori on top and they’re off. When Gray gets there, Abe really starts looking woozy. He collapses. After he seems a little better, they throw him on the stretcher and start walking. Meanwhile, Blue finally gets to Down and Dirty. We cut back to Gray team carrying Abe until they have to put him down because he starts vomiting profusely. At one point it looks like he’s completely lost control of himself and is just convulsing while he pukes. It’s not a pretty picture. TJ Lavin, who has been riding his BMX bike between teams giving them words of encouragement, tells him he’s not medically well enough to compete and tells Gray to carry on. But that’s not the end of Gray’s medical problems as Sarah starts losing it. First it looks like she’s just tired, but then SHE starts throwing up all over the place. I’m wondering if something was in those victory dinners they enjoyed the last few episodes. She got pulled too, so now Gray just had three players. I wonder how Laurel feels about talking such shit about CM and Luke while her partner in crime gets bounced. By the way, they had to convince her to call for medical help, saying that the longer she waits, the worse it will be for them in the race. CM brings up the good point that Sarah was super impatient with pretty much everyone the entire time and now she expected patience from her teammates while she was actively losing them money. The next challenge was called Hard Wood and involved transporting a pile of firewood to another spot up a hill. This didn’t seem to slow Red down much, but we are made to believe that Gray isn’t far behind. They take care of the challenge too and move on. Blue’s a non factor at this point. Just when you think Red’s got things pretty well wrapped up, there’s a pretty damn complicated challenge called Sign Language. There’s one of those signs with arrows pointing north, south, east and west with the names of different countries or cities on them. The team has to memorize the placement and orientation of the signs and recreate it. But, it’s not just that. They then have to run, go under barbed wire, swim through a lake and then put it back together the right way however far away that is. Plus, there’s another catch: there’s one more piece in the pile and it’s only one letter different than the correct place name. The team can put the puzzle together and let it be judged, but if they’re wrong, they have to go all the way back and do it again. Red seems very unsure of themselves and we’re lead to believe that Gray’s hot on their backs. As it turns out, though, Tyler took Russian, the extra sign is in said language and he’s able to figure it out. They continue on with the race.Gray has the same problem, but also come away with the correct answer and continue on, but at this point, it’s game over man. And that it is. Red wins. Brad talks about his Challenge montage in his head and then we’re shown that exact thing. Tyler says he’s going to pay off his student loans. Yadda yadda yadda. Meanwhile, Blue and Gray meet up on the course and Jenn can’t believe that two Grays got sent home. She calls Laurel out on doubting CM, which was kind of awesome. And there you have it.
It was hard really rooting for any one team in this thing because each one had contestants I didn’t care about. Laurel and Sarah were such asshats, that I didn’t want to root for them, but with Abe, Cara Maria and Luke they helped balance things out. I disliked Blue from the get go because of Johnny, but they really played the game well. Then you’ve got Red who was a chaotic mess with weird energy because of Paula and Dunbar, Brad and Tori. In the end, the obvious team won and I hope Laurel and Sarah feel stupid for thinking that fewer people in the final would help them. I was a little surprised that, according to the math shown on screen, Abe and Sarah got an equal cut of the money that the people who actually competed the whole time did. I guess once you started you were guaranteed a certain amount. Eh, overall, I really liked the set up of this Challenge and hope to see more like it instead of something like Nice Guys vs. Bad Guys or whatever bullshit that was a few seasons back.
Which of course brings us to the amazingly awkward reunion episode. Highlights include Laurel still being mad about having to share money with CM and Luke, Brad confronting Johnny about calling his wife a bitch in an interview, host Maria Menudos actually yelling at Tyler and Big Easy confronting Laurel about not trying to get ahold of him to apologize for being a completely gross drunk jerk to him. In attendance are Luke, Sarah, Brad, Tori, Paula, Tyler, Dunbar, Derrick, Emily, Laurel, Abe, Cara Maria, Johnny and Jenn. Like assholes they do a freaking recap of the finale we just saw before we get into Paula/Tori drama and then Laurel saying she’ll never do another challenge unless she can go to the finale with her friends which is a stupid argument because you can’t control that kind of nonsense. I hoped she would have learned how much of a bitch she is from watching herself, but that doesn’t seem like the case for the most part.
Here’s some highlights. Sarah apparently apologized to Cara Maria and they’re cool now. Derrick thinks that Tyler and Johnny should have faced each other in the Gulag. Tyler revealed that he actually went up against CT for 40 minutes in that Gulag before quitting because he knew he had won at that point and had another challenge the next day. Johnny calls Laurel out for questioning Abe’s game because she’s still a rook. Paula sucks and she knows it. She also seems drunk. Speaking of that hot mess, Dunbar said Paula acted really freaking weird to him after the letter was written. Johnny actually wasn’t too sneaky or back stabby this time around, he just knows how to play the game. I still don’t like him though. For some reason Abe started the episode wearing a polar bear hat and shirt along with a super ugly blanket with a huge star over his crotch. Abe and CM are still together though not Facebook official. I wonder, and Maria questions as well, whether Laurel had a thing for Abe going into this (like she wanted to become a power couple) and she didn’t like CM because he had a thing with and for her. Camila apparently had a habit of getting drunk, mouthing off to her team and then going to talk to Johnny which is where all those rumors of them having an alliance came from.
The most time seemed to be spent on showing Laurel the footage of her being a complete and total bitch to Eric aka Easy. Laurel claims that she apologized to him on the stairs the next day, but he didn’t respond and that she talked to Katie as Eric’s friend. As you might expect, they bring Easy out and he’s pissed because Laurel apparently went on MTV.com to apologize, but didn’t actually contact him. He thinks she was doing everything for the cameras. Laurel says she called Katie to get Easy’s number and that she never got back to her, which Easy says is a flat out lie. For whatever reason, Tyler jumps in to say they need to move on and not rehash the past which brought Maria’s claws out. She yelled at Tyler, asking him to be quiet, let them talk and said that the whole point of a reunion show is (duh) to rehash the past. It’s the first and probably only time she’s seemed like a human instead of the pretty question asking robot I’ve seen her be on reunions past. They get back to it, Laurel apologizes to Easy and he accepts it, but he won’t shake her hand. Laurel says this whole thing because she feels like it was all very gross and vile and wasn’t proud of herself. At least she has a soul, but was it all for the cameras? Who knows.
The reunion ends with a nice message from TJ Lavin. He looks pretty rough, but he’s home from the hospital, surrounded by his family and friends and seems to be on the road to recovery. Good for him. I know I’ve questioned why he’s there, but it sounds like the contestants hold him in pretty high regard. It also seems, according to a montage, that he’s a lot cooler than they show on screen. By the way, I’m finishing the first draft of this at 1:21AM and watching The Miz on Jimmy Fallon talk about being in some Nintendo championship in Cleveland back in the day. I want to see him come back and have an “Everyone vs. the Miz” season of Challenge. Make it happen MTV!