MTV’s ‘The Challenge: Total Madness’: Episode 2 recap
Welcome to the recap for Episode 2 of “The Challenge: Total Dee.” What’s that? It’s “Total Madness?” Well, you wouldn’t have known it from this episode, which was dominated by one of the least entertaining people in the entire cast. And even though Wednesday’s episode gave us insight into how the nominations, Tribunals, and interrogations will go the rest of the season, MTV still spent an awful lot of time on just one of the 27 remaining cast members.
Well, four of the 27 remaining cast members. Rookie Jenn was all over this episode, too, and she provided us with one of the all-time cringiest moments in Challenge History. Tori and Jordan were also prominent players this week, but not for any positive reasons. It’s rare that a 90-minute episode with almost the entire cast can be so uneventful, but with zero hook-ups, one notable argument, a suspense-free elimination, and a whole lot of strategy/game talk (that, again, was largely centered around just a small handful of people), this episode was a letdown after a solid season premiere. Perhaps this is the Most Dangerous Season EverTM because viewers might die of boredom?
MORE CHALLENGE: Season 35 cast breakdown | Best competitors of all-time
We’re not saying a competition/strategy-based episode is always a bad thing — far from it — but if you tuned in hoping to see Kailah and Bear hook up, someone throw a punch, or Kaycee appear on screen for more than two total seconds, well, better luck next time. Let’s break down what did happen on the second episode the “The Challenge: Total Madness.”
“The Challenge: Total Madness:” Episode 2 recap
***NOTHING BUT SPOILERS AHEAD***
The episode starts with everyone talking about the new must-win-an-elimination-to-be-in-the-final twist. Jay doubles down on the fact he’s the only one eligible to run T.J.’s final right now, which is what someone who doesn’t know how the future works would say. CT and Ashley both complain that this will blow up their strategies, with CT explaining that his entire Challenge career was about intimidating people so he wouldn’t get put into eliminations. This isn’t exactly true because there was also that time he hooked up with Shauvon on a roof.
Still, CT pretty much has the strategy figured out: Be nice to people so they put you in an elimination against the opponent of your choosing. He also points out that no one will put Jenny in an elimination unless they’re an idiot. (Dee: Hold my beer…)
Tori says she wants to go in first, and Big T says she has been training hard in the offseason and wants a chance to show people how strong she really is. Chances are, most of the females would also like to see how strong Big T really is because they still don’t think she’s very strong. Her wig game in the talking heads is on point, though.
Jenn and Rogan are flirting/talking strategy, and Dee is watching like an attentive koala. (We’ll pay that off later). Rogan acknowledges that because Jenn has no alliance, it’s probably not smart to associate with her, but he also admits that sometimes he “likes to think with his penis,” so you can see his dilemma. It was a rare moment of self-awareness and one most guys reading this can relate to. Maybe the gals, too. It’s a boundary-less world nowadays.
Dee, who has intimate knowledge of Rogan’s penis-centric thought process, isn’t a fan of it this season, and after a pep talk from Tori, proudly proclaims she’s not OK with Rogan moving on yet. Not sure it’s her choice, but fortune favors the bold.
DAILY COMPETITION: AIRDROP EXTRACTION
The cast assembles in front of giant letters that spell out “Challenge,” and as is the case every year, we’re left to wonder if they fly those over from the States or have a company in their host country make them. It really is one of the most enduring mysteries of the show, along with with T.J. does all day and how Aneesa keeps getting invited back.
The cast is randomly divided into nine groups of three. (Why random? Pick nine captains and let’s do this schoolyard style). Each team has to transfer 15 “heavy” military crates one mile between two “missile launch platforms.” The top three teams advance to Round 2, which is where “all the fun happens,” according to T.J. The three remaining teams will board a helicopter and drop their nine bombs on targets on the missile launch platforms. The team that has the “most accurate bombs” will make up the Tribunal. Missiles? Bombs? Helicopters? That’s right — some real Most Dangerous Season EverTM s***.
Wes/Jordan/Jenny (Team Is This Rigged?)
Josh/Bayleigh/Jenn (Team CBS)
Kaycee/Jay/CT (Team Eye Chart)
Cory/Swaggy/Dee (Team Heavy D and the Boyz)
Fessy/Kyle/Melissa (Team Best Looking)
Ashley/Bear/Jenna (Team New ***s and a Brit)
Nelson/Kailah/Tori (Team New ***s and a Dimwit)
Bananas/Aneesa/Nany (Team Past Their Prime)
Rogan/Big T/Mattie Lynn (Team Funny Accent)
Already, we have problems, as clearly teams with two females are at a disadvantage. I understand that we, in fact, live a boundary-less world nowadays, but there’s also a common-sense world that says three of the four teams with two dudes are gonna advance. (Spoiler alert: That’s what happens.)
Jordan says he wants to keep pace with Fessy because Fessy is a “D1 football player.” Again, D1 FCS football player. Don’t want to keep harping on that every week, but, you know, slight difference. Josh says Bayleigh “has proven that she’s a strong competitor”, and Bayleigh also says she’s a “strong competitor,” so clearly Bayleigh’s “speak-it-into-existence” plan is working because we haven’t seen her do anything (and that includes her “Big Brother” season). Josh is worried about Jenn, who’s worried about herself. She says if she’s not in the Tribunal, she’s “130 percent” going into elimination (let’s hope fractions aren’t involved). She then tells us she wants to start her own swimsuit line, and that’s when viewers should have known there was a 230-percent chance she was going into elimination. If a cast member ever talks about future business endeavors, you know right then things are about to go south for them.
Tori sees Jenn struggling and makes an analogy about jumping on her like a lion (no word if she was referring to the lion that stalked and presumably ate Natalie after her wrong turn during the “Final Reckoning” final). Aneesa says Jenn is “looking her best, trying her least,” which would carry a lot more weight if it wasn’t coming from Aneesa. So, yeah, Jenn sucks, and while we wait for her inevitable demise, we take a break to see Bear lust over Kailah for the second straight week. Just hook up and get it over with, please.
Big T is doing surprisingly well (according to Rogan), and Ashley realizes this just isn’t her day and decides to mail it in. We compared her to LeBron in our season preview because of the money she’s invested back into her body, and once again she reminds us of LBJ by conserving her energy for when it really matters. Pretty soon we might be having Ashley-vs.-Jordan for the greatest of all-time debates…just like we do with LeBron!
Team Is This Rigged? (Wes, Jordan, Jenny) is the first to finish, followed by Team Best Looking (Fessy, Kyle Melissa) and Team Heavy D and the Boyz (Cory, Swaggy, Dee). Team Is This Rigged? gets first crack to drop bombs from the helicopter — which seems like a punishment, not a reward, for finishing first — but much to everyone’s delight (especially Bananas), they don’t do well, hitting just two of nine targets. Even Wes, who’s on the team, doesn’t mind doing poorly because “there’s nothing better than seeing Jordan lose.” Man, Jordan must be a real dick, huh?
Team Best Looking follows, which means Melissa finally gets to speak this season. After a couple misses, they hit seven of nine targets. As Dee gets ready to board the helicopter with Team Heavy D and the Boyz, Bananas suggests this is a good time for Rogan and Jenn to hook up, though Dee might kamikaze out the helicopter to stop them. Rogan is a fan of the idea, pointing out they have 20 minutes, while Bananas says they’ll be good even if they have just five. And that wins the award for classiest exchange of the night.
Team Heavy D and the Boyz hit all nine targets, putting Dee, Swaggy, and Cory in the Tribunal. Swaggy says “he’s lit” (the second-most annoying thing he says this episode), and after Jordan throws a tantrum (and Bananas makes fun of him for dropping one of his boxes “in Germany”), everybody returns to the bomb shelter, where they will decide on the first female to go into the elimination round.
Dee pushes for the house to pick Jenn for three reasons (“She’s the weakest girl…her social game is s***…she’s flirting with my man/ex man, whatever he is, but I don’t like it”), and Jenny wants to get chosen by the Tribunal because she says this is an easy path to a red skull (she must have used a strategy app in addition to her equations app in the offseason). Fessy admits he has no clue what’s going on, which doesn’t come as a surprise if you watched his “Big Brother” season and saw him get led around like a donkey by J.C.
Jenn, in a misguided attempt to save herself, turns to Bananas and Wes, and so begins the cringiest 10 minutes of the entire season. The two “showmen” (Bananas’ word) convince Jenn she needs to have a speech ready for nominations, and they all but dictate what she should say, including comparing herself to a stock that will be at its highest when she’s losing in the final. Bananas sums it up: “I don’t think that Jenn actually understands what’s happening to her right now. It’s basically, like, we’re giving her a roadmap that leads directly off of a cliff into a pit of sharks and broken glass.”
Actually, Nelson sums it up best by sitting there with his mouth agape, undoubtedly shocked that he’s not the dumbest cast member this season.
ELIMINATION VOTE AND INTERROGATION
Bananas kicks off the elimination vote by having Wes read the docket for that week’s meeting, which is just an excuse to put poor Jenn in the spotlight. Jenn nervously starts by saying, “Hello…greetings, earthlings…” and that’s when even the most black-hearted “Challenge” viewers had to watch between their fingers. Words can’t do justice to how brutal it was.
She points out that everyone thinks she’s weak, but that’s really not that bad of a thing. Mattie Lynn shows up for just the second time this season (not a good sign for her long-term prospects) and says you should never call yourself weak even if you are weak. Jenn goes on to explain that they should keep her around so they can beat her in a final, which actually makes sense (shout out to Katie Doyle), but as she continues to give “one of the worst speeches in nomination history,” according to CT, she goes off the rails and says rookies shouldn’t go against strong competitors and everyone laughs at her.
Wes finally puts her out of her misery and votes her into Purgatory. Jenn is hilariously shocked by this. Everyone but Bananas, Rogan, and CT vote for her, with those three throwing their votes toward Big T. Wes says he’s had a fun couple hours and goes off to continue growing his beard.
Jenn then decides it would be a good idea to get into an argument with Dee, who holds the fate of her opponent in her hands. Did Wes tell her to do that, too? Jenn accuses Dee of watching her in her sleep, saying she peaks under her koala eye mask to make sure she’s not hooking up with Rogan. Night-vision footage seems to confirm this, which once again proves that Dee is a real D(ee)-blocker.
She’s also a T-blocker, as in Tori. Tori wants to go into Purgatory, but Dee says (numerous times) that her “No. 1 girl” is Jenny, and she promised her a spot in Purgatory this week. Tori isn’t about that life, and points out that Dee won $250,000 last season by riding her and Jordan‘s coattails. Jordan says if Dee doesn’t vote in Tori, then he’s done working with her, which seems a bit dramatic, but, as established, Jordan is a dick.
After a weird conversation where Tori and Dee stand in lockers like Screech on “Saved By the Bell” and production plays church music, Dee reaffirms that Tori is not her No. 1 and is now annoyed that Tori threatened her (which she knew because Tori started the conversation with “This is not a threat…”). Dee says for the second time this episode that she has big balls (hey, it’s a boundary-less world), and we’re off to the Tribunal.
The Tribunal decides to nominate Jenny, Tori, and Big T. It’s odd Swaggy doesn’t want to get Bayleigh in Purgatory in what figures to be the easiest matchup a girl can have all season, but she’s such a strong competitor (11th place on “Big Brother 20”) that she probably doesn’t have to worry.
Big T says absolutely nothing of consequence while being interrogated, Swaggy refers to himself in the third person when talking to Jenny (his most annoying moment of the night), and Dee and Tori go for a lengthy Round 3 about whether Dee owes Tori and Jordan anything because of last season. Holy crap, if it wasn’t for Wes and Bananas f’ing with Jenn, this episode would be instantly forgettable.
Later, Wes points out to Dee that it might not be smart to give Jenny a free red skull and ticket to the final, as that will make it more difficult for Dee to not only make it to the final but also win. This thought had definitely never occurred to Dee, but she pretends that it has and suggests if they get to Purgatory and see it’s a puzzle, she might pivot to Tori, who is “s***” at puzzles. Not a bad save, all things considered.
Also, we should note that we’re 75 minutes into the episode and Kailah, Jenna, and Nany, aka the “Holy Trinity,” have said fewer than four combined words…which kinda makes sense since it’s Holy Week.
PURGATORY (ELIMINATION COMP)
A buzzer sounds and we’re headed to Purgatory. The cast is very excited, and they get even more fired up when T.J. explains yet another twist: Someone in the Tribunal can vote themselves into Purgatory. He doesn’t explain how the voting process works for that (Can Dee be overruled by the two guys if she wants to go in? What would’ve happened if there were two females in the Tribunal?), but Teej likes to keep us on a need-to-know basis, so I guess we’ll find out later.
Everyone is pumped to see if Dee will take on her early-season nemesis, but she explains that she’s a “woman of her word” and has to vote for Jenny because they shook hands (boo!). If you’re keeping track at home, that means “big balls” Dee passed on the easiest opportunity she’ll have all season to earn a red skull. Care to take back your praise, Wes? To be fair, Dee also explains that she wasn’t mentally ready to go into elimination (valid) and that she was worried about dying of embarrassment if she lost. But she wouldn’t have lost, so she’s still an idiot.
The Tribunal votes in Jenny by a 3-0 margin, and we don’t even need to watch the rest.
The competition is called “Flip the Switch”, and each competitor has to flip 10 barrels on strings over some poles. The first person to flip all 10 to their opponent’s side wins and is official fit to run “T.J.’s final” (something he says three times in the next four minutes).
Jenny throws her barrels over the poles with one hand, while Jenn “looks like a little kid at a birthday party trying to keep the balloon from touching the ground,” according to CT. He adds a faint “whee” to drive the point home of just how ineffectual Jenn is.
As the rest of the cast freaks out over Jenny essentially doing the comp with one hand, Jordan must have been like, “Yeah? Welcome to the club.” T.J. gets a little too excited over Jenny‘s performance and says she could “single-handedly smoke [himself] and anyone else up there.” Swaggy yells out, “Facts!” when Teej says this, continuing his quest to speak only in Tweets.
After T.J. congratulates Jenn on getting beat by Jenny (odd), Bananas hollers,”We miss you already” as Jenn leaves. Call me crazy, but I think he really means it.
Unlike the producers of this episode, Ashley has no time for Dee, saying, “Dee thinks she’s this great game player ’cause she learned from Wes, but she gave the strongest girl in the house the easiest ride to the final, and now she’s gonna have to compete against her in a final. Good luck, honey. Dream on.” (pause) “Pfft.” The “pfft” was a nice touch.
Jordan says Dee can’t be trusted, and she’s the “only one” on his and Tori‘s list right now. Great, does that mean we’ll have to endure another Dee–Tori–Jordan-centric episode this season? If so, I’d like to opt out. As the credits roll, Wes has a rare moment of humility and admits he doesn’t know what the right strategy is, which we already knew from when he was praising Dee.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Like all reality TV producers, “The Challenge” crew likes to foreshadow. Sometimes it’s for the immediate next one or two episodes; sometimes it’s for the entire season. Based on what we saw in Episode 2, a few things seem clear:
Jenny was talked up so much that you can almost book her appearance in the final. Fessy also got talked up by none other than Jordan, so he’s likely going a long way this season.
It’s not a death knell to get minimal screen team early in the season (after all, there are still 27 people on the show), but for Jenna, Nany, Kailah and Kaycee to get a combined one talking head is a very bad sign for all four. There’s a big difference in getting a little bit of time (like Ashley and even Bayleigh did) and getting zero time. Jay, Kyle, and Nelson were mostly no-shows tonight, too.
We also learned that Fessy “came to compete,” (thanks), Big T wants to be in “every single Tribunal” in the future (bold strategy), and Bear and Cory — two of the biggest cads in recent Challenge history — draw the line at being a sore loser (a man got to have to have a code).
We’ll see next week if the guys are smart enough to nominate Jay. He has a red skull, which means he’s taking someone’s spot in the final, and he’s likely the worst male competitor in the game. He should be a unanimous nomination, with one of the big players trying to manipulate the Tribunal to put him in against the rookie. Based on CT‘s rant early in the episode, my money’s on him going in.
OVERALL EPISODE RATING
From now on, we’ll rate aspects of the episode based on the daily competition prizes cast members used to win on older challenges. Here’s our rating system:
1=Freestyle Kite (this was actually a prize given out)
2=Burger King Feast (apologies to Turbo, who was very excited about this)
3=Blockbuster Gift Certificate (there’s one still open somewhere)
4=Zune MP3 Player (iPods were overrated)
5=Razor Scooter (these were cool for hot minute in the mid-aughts)
6=T-Mobile Sidekick (the best cell phone for getting a clue from T.J.)
7=Kicker Car Audio System (who didn’t want to win one of these?)
8=Plasma TV (this was a big deal when it was won)
9=BMW motorcycle (Brad’s finest Challenge moment…other than explaining that him and Britni weren’t on an “I love you” program)
10=Saturn Ion Quad Coupe (hey, a car’s a car)
Production: Razor Scooter (5). Nothing good, nothing bad. At least they gave us a duel talking head with Wes and Bananas and had footage of Dee watching Jenn.
Competitions: Plasma TV (8). The daily comp was demanding and looked fun, and the elimination comp could have been a good one with more evenly matched competitors.
Cast: Zune MP3 Player (4). Maybe we should blame production for this, but there wasn’t much brought to the table outside of Wes and Bananas mocking Jenn.
T.J. Lavin: Kicker Car Audio System (7). It’s tough to fault Teej for anything he does, but he was a little over the top with his praise of Jenny.
Overall: Razor Scooter (5). Our scoring system is weighted, so if it’s a bad production/cast night, that’s gonna hurt the overall score.
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