Brian vs. Jake the Edgic Guy: Quarter Season Mailbag Pt. 1

(Editor’s Note: Over the last few days, Brian and Jake exchanged e-mails discussing various Challenge related topics. These included Klay Thompson, Amber B., the current season, and so much more. These lasted from Wednesday morning, until late Thursday night. In between e-mails Brian had multiple internet issues, he made a lasagna, and drank two bottle’s of Napa Valley Cab. Jake flipped pharma stocks, sipped margarita’s poolside, and watched Steph Curry branded content the entire time. This is the result.)

Brian: Greetings, Jake, from sunny Chicago. After multiple attempts at connecting to a local coffee shop’s wifi, including pleading with the maybe-a-bit-too hipster barista for the official office wifi. And when all that didn’t work, as well as my personal hotspot not working as well (what am I paying you for Sprint?) I’ve returned home to safe, internet filled shores, to officially kick things off.

So, let’s kick things off. How’s it going out there on the West Coast?

Jake: Brian, Great to hear from you. Things are going good out here on the West Coast! It’s a gorgeous day out. At the very least, we have extremely functional wifi at the moment. Getting myself all mentally prepared for Challenge day!

Brian: Yeah, things are looking up for you guys! Klay Thompson looks healthy and happy, the Giants are in first place (Editors Note: This did not age well), and well at least Jimmy G is handsome as hell! But that’s not why we’re here, obviously. Jake, the reason I reached out is because I’ve been loving your Edgic posts! And truly I’m just super interested in the concept of “edgic” in general. Sometimes, while reading your stuff, I totally buy into every word of it. And sometimes I think that it’s complete crazy talk. But that’s a good thing! We very clearly watch this show from two different perspectives, so I wanted to kind of dig in here and bounce some idea’s back and forth to kind of paint a larger picture.

So why don’t you just take thirty seconds and explain what the concept of “edgic” is and how you apply it to The Challenge. But remember, I’m a moron, so speak slowly and avoid multisyllabic words.

Jake: Man if you want to talk Klay Thompson I can do it all day! Haha. Absolutely though, love reading your posts and the lens in which you watch the show from. Your posts truly make it feel like America’s 5th sport! I was extremely happy when you reached out.

So, let’s talk Edgic. Edgic is a concept that comes from Survivor originally; the idea is, if you watch the show with a very editorial lens, you will find clues that lead you to the winners, outcomes, storylines, etc. The editors are telling a very specific story from the moment they introduce players. They know the outcomes, and it is their job to show us a story that will align with the outcome. The name comes from a combination of Editing and Logic — hence the name, “Edgic”. Since the system was originally intended for Survivor, it is not exactly the same with the Challenge. However, many of the same principles still apply when analyzing how players will perform. For how I do Challenge Edgic, there is a 2 part rating system. Rather than get into the nitty gritty of the rating system, we are basically accounting for 2 things: How the player is portrayed from a behavioral standpoint, and how the tone around the player is received. Just for one example of a player and a rating this season, let’s use Devin. Devin has had some really key confessionals where he gets to explain his strategy, his alliances, his moves, etc. That would be a “complex personality.” If a player is consistently complex, that suggests they have longevity in the game.

Ok, I know that was a ton of words and I hope most of it made sense. In total layman’s terms: I watch the show with a very careful eye for exactly what the editors are trying to tell us in terms of how players are being portrayed to predict the outcomes. And it is the MOST fun I have ever had watching the Challenge.

Brian: Well let’s get right into that last sentence there. You say it’s the most fun you’ve ever had watching The Challenge, which was going to be my exact first question for you before I get into some specifics. For me, this is by far my favorite show, so despite me spending (wasting?) all my time writing about it, I’m a fan first and foremost. But ultimately I’m the type of person who loves just letting things come to me. I rarely if ever look up the menu ahead of time before I go to a restaurant. Let a playa play type of thing.

But by focusing on the storylines in the way you do, I always wondered whether that took away any of the pure enjoyment. But I guess you answered that question for me organically.

But before we get into specifics, I have kind of a macro, big picture question about, well I guess about you personally. Which would you prefer, and maybe you can use Double Agents as an example…would you rather have your reading of the edit ultimately be exactly right, or would you prefer to be wrong and ultimately be surprised?

Jake: Oh no, for my overly analytical brain, it makes watching even more fun. Even the boring episodes that drag in the middle of the season become fun to watch because it becomes a game:it is my analysis against the editors. The question is can I figure it out?

This is an excellent question BTW that I have not been asked before, nor have I really thought about. I’ll start off by saying that I watch each episode about 3–4 times in order to do the writeups, so while it is extremely hard to surprise me, whenever the edit can genuinely shock me, I love it. That being said, being correct in my analysis also of course gives me great joy as it is a lot of work.

Let’s talk Double Agents as an example. Going into the final, my predictions were as follows: It was 50/50 CT/AmBer Vs Kam/Cory. CT had the best individual edit (by a very small margin over Kam), but Kam and Cory as a partnership had a far stronger edit, as AmBer was very quiet early on. Based on the fact that the last 2 finals that were run as M/F partners (Final Reckoning, and Rivals 3) had steal the money twists, I thought that there was possibly going to be a steal the money twist involving CT am AmBer. That is the only way that I thought they won, and the explanation for AmBer’s small edit is that they did not want us to get attached to her as she was going to have money stolen from her.

IF that twist was not to take place, my bet was on Kam/Cory. So when AmBer and CT won together, and AmBer did NOT have money stolen from her, I was genuinely shocked. I was happy that I had voiced in my write ups during the middle of the season that AmBer had more legs to her edit than we thought, I was super happy that I was genuinely shocked, but I was definitely bummed that my analysis steered me wrong in a way, if that makes sense.

Brian: You know I’m glad you brought her up, because if I’m being honest with you, asking about Amber B. was roughly 64% of my motivation for doing this. So let me ask a few questions about her, and then we can move on to more pressing matters…

I see what you mean when you say that you noticed Amber’s second person edit, and how that led you to believe as you say there were more legs to her than we thought, but, um…..what the fuck? Why did they edit her out, I just don’t understand it.

It’s genuinely bugged me since it happened, and outside of the people making the decisions, it’s entirely possible you’re the only person in the world who might be able to give me a satisfactory answer. So…what gives? Why basically edit her out completely. I understand they can only really show what’s given, and while I disagree that if there was a money steal twist editing her out makes it hurt less when CT does it, but I disagree. They didn’t make us care about her at all. In fact the podcast she did with Levi and George shined more light on her personality than 19 episodes and one championship ever did.

What’s your theory on it? Not necessarily the nuts and bolts side of the “edgic” perspective, but just the straight up, simple question of ‘’why?”

Jake: I honestly have zero idea. I remember listening to a podcast after the season, and Amber mentioned how she had experienced some hardships just prior to coming on this season. We hear her get emotional during the reunion, and I believe that is what she was referring too; and I believe I heard that on George and Levi’s podcast now that I think of it!!

I think the biggest problem is that this is not the first time this has happened. Jenny had a very small edit in Total Madness relative to a normal winner. Now, part of that surely had to do with the Dee situation, and part of that was because Jenny is not great in confessional (she admits she loves to ramble and talk). However, this is not the first time we have seen a rookie female dominate in the final and we feel we know very little about her. Now, the male winners in those seasons were Bananas and CT. That shouldn’t shock anyone that they received large edits. However, if you compare AmBer or Jenny to Turbo, a male rookie winner who literally cannot speak English fluently, the two females are drastically under-edited for whatever reason. I hope it is something that we will see change this season.

Brian: Hmmm, that’s an interesting thought. I guess I still don’t have a satisfactory answer though (God, Jake, why can’t you just tell me exactly what a bunch of complete strangers were thinking!!!), but maybe one day I’ll find a genie in a lamp and receive my answer.

I do see one major difference in Jenny and Turbo though, although you’re right they were similarly under-edited. With Turbo, he was always involved. He won a bunch of daily challenges and it was always clear he was a threat. Similar situation with Jenny, as it wasn’t so dominant, but it was always pretty obvious that if Jenny got to the Final, she was probably going to win. Her oblique muscles were doing all the work making the outcome clear.

But with Amber, none of it was obvious. I don’t think she ever even won, and even the drama they did show her get involved in she had by far the least to do with it all. It’ll just always be something that baffles me I guess.

Jake: Understandably so to be honest. Her edit was that small, and really did not let us explore much of her game. The only reason I had eyes on her was because I needed a female contender other than Kam, and Kam herself had confessionals saying “AmBer is smart, we need to watch out for her”. I figured why not listen to the most reliable narrator we have? Kam herself. That being said, I would not be surprised if AmBer goes down as the smallest winner edit that we have for the foreseeable future. I really hope they don’t make that mistake again with any future champion, as we the viewers deserve to understand the path the winners took to get there.

Brian: Maybe my Nany colored glasses were too thick, but I guess when I subconsciously did that calculation in my head I thought it was either between Kam or Nany. But I totally see how you came to that conclusion.

Speaking of conlcusion’s, let’s move on to Spies, Lies, & Allies. Take off your edgic hat for a second, what are some things Jake the person has enjoyed so far this season?

Jake: The eliminations. My favorite elimination rounds have two factors; a clever trick, and the “heart” aspect of simply who wants it more. The first elimination definitely had a size factor, but to me it mostly came down to who wanted it more. Corey L. wanted it more than Rennan, and that was enough. Both of the next two eliminations really came down to who can figure out how to control your body and staying calm under pressure. Ed & Emy + Berna figured out “it” (it being the “trick”) out in their eliminations before their opponents. That was why they won. I LOVE those of eliminations.

Besides that, I am super happy that we are back in a warm location again. I don’t think I could deal with another dark and depressing season. I think the daily challenges have been pretty good, but nothing crazy yet. I like the fact that the vets are smart enough to work together but the lack of vet drama has been very boring. Even Tori VS Big T felt more fabricated than it was. I’m ready for the real war to begin.

Brian: Consider me shocked that something Tori did felt fabricated.

I could have used a little more involvement by literally anyone I gave a shit about in these first three eliminations, but I see what you mean and that’s a fantastic way to put it. The games that have an “it” to figure out are always the ones that end up being the most entertaining to watch. That explanation is also the exact reason the Bananas has won seven of these but that’s another e-mail exchange for another time.

For me the thing that’s stuck out the most is the charisma of this rookie class. Especially Tracy.

But all jokes aside, they really managed to snag some real characters. Emanuel and Emy have me legitimately wanting to take a vacation to Romania this spring. I’ve been spinning Emy’s rap records on my commutes to and from work the last week or so. I really like Corey L’s awareness too. A lot of the time either they hide it or genuinely have no idea, but rookies are rarely presented as smart in quite the way Corey has. Usually rookies come in hot with confidence, and this season has it’s fair share of that, but Corey already speaks fluent Challenge and the jargon comes so easy to him.

Jake: I am actually thoroughly enjoying some of the rookie class. I agree with you on Corey L; he came in as a huge challenge fan ready to play. Emy is hilarious, and has so much potential to do well. I love the mindset that Ed is playing with, and I think he will has returnee potential. Even ignoring Edgic, Esther has been a phenomenal narrator, and the show needs those. Michaela (RIP) and Michelle came to play as we knew they would. I am hopeful that all of them will return. However, Emanuel is my favorite rookie by far, and based on his early season showing, I am hopeful that he has mainstay potential. He seems like a true competitor who also loves to have fun.

Brian: Not only does he like to have fun, he’s got some killer ink. It’s been only three weeks, but I’ve been desperately trying to figure out what his neck tattoo is. The only thing I can come up with is some sort of mutated rabbit/spider hybrid that might be the fuel for my nightmares for the entire winter.

Jake: Your guess is as good as mine but now that you’ve phrased it like that, I can’t unsee it. And surely I will be having mutant rabbit spider nightmares now too.

Brian: Speaking of mutant rabbit spider nightmares, what do you make of all the vets we haven’t heard from yet? You mentioned Kyle earlier, but what about Amanda? Nany? Cory? Or even the biggest threat of them all, CT?

I know the focus has been heavy on the rookies, for very obvious reasons (they’re making a tv show after all), but it’s kinda been strange how little use some of the vets have been so far this season. We’ll get to CT in a minute, but you mentioned the bigger war coming as well. Who do you think starts the war, and who do you think at this moment has the strongest foundation to stand on once things get a bit shaky?

Jake: So, you bring up an interesting group there. I have CT and Cory in particular marked as “Sleeping Giants” ready to awaken when the real war begins. I don’t know when that will be, but I anticipate soon. You can’t rule either out, as both are logical locks for the finals. But they have been asleep so far. If i had to take a total guess on who starts the war, I would say that the edit has alluded to Tori taking that first shot. She is the only one so far; I think it really comes down to who has power once there are no more rookie-rookie teams left, which could be tonight.

Who do I think has the strongest foundation? A few people come to mind.

First is Devin. I know, please keep talking to me, I can’t believe I am saying it either. Devin has been presented as extremely “complex,” we constantly hear from him regarding alliances, strategy, etc. This makes logical sense too, as Devin is the piece connecting many different factions right now due to the ceasefire with Big Brother. So, Devin is in a good editorial and logical spot right now. I believe that Kyle and Amanda are a partnership that also connects two separate sides of the house, and that will provide them protection. Truthfully, even though Super Fans would know Kyle is a threat in finals and Amanda has endurance plus puzzles, the house won’t look at them as a super threat in the final. Not like a CT, or even a Cory. I think their partnership could last the whole game, and that isn’t even pure edit analysis. That’s my logical thought. Nelson has also been receiving a ton of focus this season and as a Nelly T fan, I am HERE for it! I would bet he has some longevity.

In terms of who is in trouble, I really worry for our boy CT. I mean, in a season with No Wes, No Bananas, No Jordan, No Leroy, and we BARELY are hearing from CT. BARELY. You would think the show would feature him relentlessly. Instead, we get like 4 total confessionals. I worry that CT is getting the same treatment that Darrell got last season from an edit perspective. Their threat level is only very lightly alluded to until someone takes a shot at CT in a partner elimination, and all the sudden we hear about how much of a threat he is. That would worry me.

Brian: I’m glad you brought him up, because if there is one thing that is driving me up the wall so far this season, just three episode in, is how CT is being treated.

I love CT. I respect CT. I’ve grown up with CT. I’ve known CT as long as I’ve known just about anyone in my life, and any success of his only brings me joy. I want him to accumulate as many W’s as humanly possible. So I don’t want you or anyone reading to take this the wrong way….

But why in the fuck is everyone treating him as if he’s just another guy? As if he’s just a normal competitor that they have to go against. We have literally decades of evidence that if CT is around, unless there’s some sort of chicanery from the Challenge Gods, that he’s going to beat you. He’s going to beat you, and not really even care about your feelings along the way. So while I understand that this “veteran truce’ protects everybody, so there’s no reason to rock the boat (shout out to Tori), but keeping CT around is just delaying your demise. And I don’t understand it.

Getting CT out should be priority #1, even over your own safety, because like I said in my Power Rankings, if CT’s around. nothing else matters.

Explain why I’m wrong.

Jake: You literally could not be more RIGHT. Why in the hell did Fessy not throw him in against Kelz? It seems like he didn’t even consider it. If CT gets to this final, he wins. It feels as simple as that with who his competition is and their performance records in finals.

His threat level will surely rise as the season goes on but I’m with you, if I’m in that house, he goes in every time until we get lucky and he slips up.

(Editor’s Note: Around this time the episode began airing live. Our two hero’s took a break and enjoyed their evening. Jake continued flipping crypto and sipping margaritas poolside and Brian began pulling his lasagna out of the oven and company began trickling in.)

Brian: Jake!

Just when I thought this show had me wrapped up. Just when I started thinking to myself, “you know what? Maybe I like this show a little bit.”, we go ahead and get an episode like this!

Maybe it’s the lasagna, maybe it’s the copious amounts of Napa Valley Cab (I’d say I was popping those in honor of our first collaboration together, but I’ll be honest it’s the only region of wine I had at the house) that I drank tonight, but I’ll tell ya something….I really enjoyed that episode. That’s a piping hot take, let’s see how you handle it. Thoughts?

(Editor’s Note: The red wine is clearly getting to Brian’s head. Let’s see how long he can last.)

Jake: I loved this episode. This was the type of episode that was so messy you can’t look away. Truthfully, there are so many layers to discuss because there are so many layers of drama. From Kyle/Devin (or, Dyle, I should say) To Fessy/Amber to Josh/Fessy To Hughie/Corey to Ashley/Hughie, WITH an underdog elimination winner? I mean, what else can you ask for from an episode?

Brian: This episode is why we pay the price of admission for sure.

There sure was no shortage of interpersonal drama. My fascination with Amber got ramped up even more this week. For whatever reason, her edit before ultimately winning, then coming onto this season with all the accolades and cash of a winner, and none of the confidence of one. I cannot stop trying to figure her out.

Somehow, by showing her the least, she’s by far the most interesting of the “Big Brother Alliance” that…well…seems to be pretty wobbly at the moment.

I know you watch the episodes a few times before making your official opinions, but throw that edgic hat on for a minute. Who stood out this week? Good, bad, or in between. Just somebody that caught your eye.

Jake: Josh and Devin. Like, the words coming out of my mouth right now don’t make any sense given the history we have about these two players. Let us not forget, this is emotional Josh, and “Big Chaos Guy” Devin. However, how they are being displayed this season is totally different (fully different for Devin, half different for Josh). I also thought that Esther had a great episode, Kyle had a very controversial episode, and Ashley had an interesting episode. Fessy of course, received a decent opening edit, then a terrible ending edit as he makes arguably one of the worst moves (in my opinion) in challenge history. However, we really need to focus on Josh and Devin. Their scene in the club was substantial. Very meaningful to me, and Devin in particular has received a wild edit so far this season.

Devin is consistently being shown as game aware — he’s been a complex personality in every episode this season. For a large chunk of the first 4 episodes, we are seeing the game literally through Devin’s POV. He’s a good narrator in a season without a lot of them — for sure — but this is crazy heavy focus.

Josh, despite the massive meltdown (which, no way they’d cut that out) is being shown as loyal, strategic, and game aware. This was highlighted in the club scene with Devin and the elimination partner switch decision.

This episode has me asking the question: is this a world where Josh and Devin could both make the final?

PS: My computer auto-corrected that above sentence to CT and Cory 4 times before it worked. It couldn’t process the statement.

Brian: You know what’s kinda crazy? I somewhat get where Fessy was coming from. I agree, he probably pulled the trigger too early. But from his side of it, taking a shot at Amber makes sense.

Once the rookies are out of the equation, and vets start taking swings, who’s the first name out of Amber’s mouth if she wins? It’s obviously Fessy, because we both know that if there’s any reason to say a name, it’ll eventually get said.

Did he have to do it now? Definitely not. He could have waited her out she wasn’t gonna get twitchy. Her confidence is still weirdly shaky. But there was certainly a good amount of “I’m getting her before she gets me” going on.

As far as Devin and Kyle go, it seems to me like a situation where Kyles obviously just really tired and his brain synapses weren’t firing on all cylinders. He’s on his two hundred and tenth Challenge in a row, he’s got a baby on the way, and like all of us he’s been dealing with this never ending hellscape of the last 18 months so yeah I totally get it. I’m pretty beat too.

Jake: I do understand taking a shot at Amber. I don’t disagree with that.

Here’s my issue. In order to accomplish throwing AmBer in, he had to burn quite a few bridges. First, his number 1, Josh, has a GREAT partner! Like, if Josh is paired with Amber and they make it to the final, Josh would have a real chance to compete. Do I think he would win? No. But him and Amber clearly worked well together, AmBer is proven in finals, AND Josh wanted her… so why do that to Josh? If my number 1 came to me and said “Don’t do it, I want her as a partner” I would say done deal. No questions asked. Because I know he’s got my back.

Second, yes, the Vet alliance was bound to crumble. 1000%. But Fessy, after everything last season, should either be in full taking shots mode, or in full damage repair mode. By choosing Hughie and AmBer, it was a half ass move to throw ONLY 1 vet in. He had an opportunity to keep the peace and throw 2 rookies in, or betray the entire vet alliance and put a target directly on his back from everyone. To me, it was incredibly poorly timed and executed.

I agree completely on Kyle. I don’t read deep into it at all.

(Editor’s Note: The red wine finally defeated Brian, as his swirly head carried him directly onto his pillow in bed. The remainder of this conversation continued throughout Thursday morning/afternoon/late evening)

Brian: Well, like I said to my friend Amanda when she turned to me during the commercial and said “why would he do that?”…Fessy’s an idiot. Nothing he does to ruin his own chances would ever surprise me. He’s also the kind of stupid person who knows they’re stupid, but doesn’t really know quite how stupid they are. It’s an incredibly dangerous cocktail. At least he’s pretty.

So we’ve officially now eliminated 10 (!) people from the cast. Which means, as far as body count goes, we’re a little over a quarter of the way (!) through the season. Is it just me or is this flying by?

That being said, from an edgic perspective (and maybe the edgic doesn’t necessarily allow you to properly speculate on this), which of the eliminated ten do you see having a good chance of coming back? And don’t say Tracy, that’s too obvious.

Jake: I actually have been including this in my writeup’s. I 1000% believe that the edits rookies are receiving some sort of clue as to whether or not they will receive a call back.

Purely referencing the edit, my list for potential returnees is as follows: Michelle, Corey L, Tacha, Kelz, Michalea. I would say that those 5 rookies received enough focus before being eliminated to warrant a callback. That would leave Renan, Tracey, Lauren (who?), as edits that were quiet enough to me that I wouldn’t expect a callback based off of that.

Brian: So I don’t watch Survivor at all, and it looks like after the way that group petered out like they did it doesn’t really matter that I didn’t, but I didn’t really see the hype with the three of them. Especially Michaela. Everyone who was a Survivor fan was so pumped up for them, then they just fell so flat. What gives? Was it bad luck that they came in together, putting a huge target on them from the get go? Was it the rookie/vet divide in the house that ultimately screwed them? Or is it something else? Is there some sort of inherent difference between the two games that successful people from Survivor can’t or don’t want to wrap their heads around?

Corey L. and Kelz both will definitely get the call back, ultimately though, sometimes being too aware of your surroundings (as they both extremely were) that their game play might end up being a little too “smart” if you catch my drift. Smart games are boring. See: T,C

Jake: I’m a pretty big Survivor fan. While Michelle wasn’t able to show her skills in this elimination, I actually have extreme confidence that Michelle will make the finals in a future season and potentially even win. She is a winner; the girl just knows how to win and she adapts extremely well. I was very happy with her performance this season. I have no doubt she could keep her threat level a secret until the finals one season due to her social game.

Michaela showed the same thing she showed during Survivor: A ton of potential, but her threat level always precedes her. She will always get targeted early.

Tommy, I liked him, but obviously his edit was catering to his medical leave. I don’t know that he will be back.

Ultimately, I think Micheala and her “list” dammed Survivor before they even had a chance. And it really hurts my soul that they were dismantled.

Brian: Yeah they definitely got cut up quite a bit didn’t they? I’ll take your word for it on Michele. She had a high level competitive spirit for sure which I respect.

That list was so funny to me simply because Michaela’s mistake wasn’t even writing a list in the first place. It was the fact that a list even existed in the first place. I don’t think Michaela was quite ready for the idea that the truth has almost no bearing on reality. Which I imagine doesn’t exist on Survivor because, ya know, they’re surviving. Nothing’s realer than that.

Jake: It may be REAL life but that game is one dirty, dirty game, and Michaela definitely should have known better. She shot herself in the foot.

Here’s a hot take I’ll end with: If Michaela comes back on an individual season with Natalie Anderson from Double Agents, on an individual season, one of them will win. I’d bet the house on one of those two in an individual season. Michaela didn’t get a chance to show it, but she is very much the real deal from physical to puzzles to endurance, as is Natalie Anderson. I struggle to see who would be able to take either of them out.

Brian: Speaking of organic segues, let’s do a little thought experiment and compare the first ten eliminated on Double Agents, and the first ten this time around.

Double Agents (In order): Joseph — Nicole — Wes — Liv — Nelson — Natalie — Tori — Leo — Ashley — Jay

Spies, Lies & Allies (In order, kinda): Lauren — Nam — Renan — Michaela — Tracy — Kelz — Tommy — Tacha — Corey L. — Michele

Other than the fact that one side has all rookies and the other side, uh, doesn’t. What differences between this list stands out most to you and why do you think that is?

Jake: I think that comparing these two lists is an excellent example of cause and effect. Look at the top list, there are some seasoned vets/bigger names on that list: Wes, Nelson, Tori, Ashley. Let’s not forget the only rookie who was actually eliminated in that DA list is Joseph; the rest were DQ for one reason or another. This season, it was clear the veterans refused to let that happen again.

You want to know how I look at it? War of the Worlds changed the dynamic of The Challenge in a dramatic way. When that season opened with Ashley VS Hunter and Bananas VS Zach, all hell broke loose. The status quo had changed. Seasoned vets were the first targets. That obviously carried over into War of the Worlds 2. That didn’t completely stop during Total Madness, but the Bananas/Wes alliance forced rookies as the targets. With no key alliance holding everything together, Double Agents kind of reverted back to the era of early shots.

This season, the vets were taking no chances. The tested and proven strategy of Rookie massacre returned in a glorious fashion. That may have been a very weird connection, but it is how my brain processed it.

Brian: Those types of connections, imperfect and poetic, is right at the top of the list of reasons why I think this is the best show ever created.

War of the Worlds was obviously a huge shake up, and you’re right seeing all the big dogs go out so early (and if not early, not being able to lean on their vet status for protection in quite the same way) was paradigm shifting in it’s own way. Remind me a lot of that guy who started choosing Jeopardy answers in a completely random way hunting for Daily Doubles. What was shocking then has essentially become the norm now as you see savvy Jeopardy contestants using it all the time.

I also raise you the fact that on Double Agents, Leroy and Kam were playing with zero intentions on future seasons and taking that (looking back with how this season has gone) GIGANTIC shot at CT right away kind of threw Double Agents in particular for a loop, allowing some of the weaker rookies to stick around longer than they ever had any reason to.

But it’s getting late, and before you go, I’m going to put you on the spot. And then I’ll wrap things up with my answer to my own question…Give me your winner prediction. But with one caveat. It can be either male or female (who knows how this things going to shake out at the end), but it has to be someone I’m going to immediately and staunchly disagree with. Just as I would have immediately and staunchly disagreed if after four episodes last season you told me that Amber B. was going to win. I didn’t even think she was the best Amber that lived in the house.

So, Jake, tell me who’s going to win and make me think you’re completely batshit insane.

Jake: I will say, had you told ME at episode 4 AmBer was going to win, I also would have thought you were crazy. It definitely took until closer to her elimination win episode for that to stand out. That being said, this season isn’t easy. My answer 4 episodes into Double Agents would have been CT or Kam without any question marks.

This season is much different. This is a very tough one to read so far. However, you asked for it, so I am going to give you 2 people you will forsure disagree with. Emanuel and Tori.

Here is a brief description of why for each:

Tori: It was very close with her and Amanda. Say what you want about the Tacha episode, but, Tori’s first 2 episodes from a complexity standpoint were phenomenal. She constantly reminded us she was here for the game, she was calculated, patient, strategic. She was our lead narrator for the entire first three episodes. It could be setting up a big downfall, but this is a much differently edited Tori than we’ve seen in the past. She was very in the background this episode which is exactly what her large edit needed after 3 extremely complex episodes. Look, I am not Tori’s biggest fan. But the question I ask myself is: If Tori DID win, and MTV was going to edit her as a winner, wouldn’t they just throw her in our face as much as they can? It seems like their dream.

Emanuel: While Tori’s edit I can compare to Tori’s previous edit’s, the only person I could try to compare Emanuel to when predicting him as a winner is a former rookie winner from a similarly structured season, which would be Turbo. WIthout getting into the nitty gritty, the Emanuel prediction comes as a result of something called SPV, second person visibility. Turbo also received a LOT of it during his winning rookie season. Devin has had 3 different scenes referencing how good of a competitor Emanuel is and this season Devin has been shown to be a reliable narrator. Thus, as Devin has his eye on Emanuel, I do too.

Again, these are way-too-early predictions that could bite me in my ass. Perhaps I am falling for the trap MTV wants to set. But I trust my gut.

Brian: You listen here and you listen good, Jake. If you think I’m gonna let you get away with that safe ass prediction than I’ll tell you what, you sir, slid into the wrong DM’s. Tori may be sandpaper to my soul sometimes, but I’ll quote myself from my pre-season Power Rankings, but “I guess Tori’s got as good a shot as any”.

And as far as Emanuel goes, during that helicopter/car/gratuitous explosion challenge, they edited a scene where they combined cinematic music that denotes Iron Man taking flight, but they shot him running from a above in a super wide lens, making him look like he got shot out of a cannon. So even my unfocused brain is picking up on his abilities.

So I’m gonna give you mine, then I need you to dig deep and take us out with a bang…

For me it’s the Warsaw War Machine Gabo. And here’s why…On December 8th 1995, Gabo was born in Hungary. Fast forward to September 22nd, 2019 and Gabo makes his debut on Warsaw Shore. Stay in Warsaw and let’s travel back, way back, in time…On March 6th, 1745 in the Pulaski Manor in Warsaw Poland, the same Warsaw that Gabo would tear the fuck up a mere 274 years later, a boy named Casmir Pulaski was brought into this world. And that same Casmir Pulaski would go on to do some amazing things. Or I think, to be honest I have no idea and never have. But every single year, from Kindergarten though Senior year of High School on an early Spring Monday in March, the students in the greater Chicagoland area would get Casmir Pulaski Day off of school. Why? To this day, none of us know. The teachers never told us, or they did but I was too busy doing something else to pay attention.

Either way, the mere mention of Poland gives me an endorphin hit remembering those magical post-winter Monday’s that we would get off for no reason once a year. And because of this pointless yet fruitful holiday, I think that Gabo is going to win this season.

Jake: I have wrapped my head around this for a few minutes now, and I have yet to come up with a logical reason that you would be wrong. You might just be a genius Brian, you might just be a genius.

Thanks for reading! We’ll be back in another four or so weeks to break down the halfway mark of the season. Be sure to check out Jake’s Egdic posts he does on The Challenge subreddit. He’s way smarter than me, as you could have gathered from the above exchange, and he’ll help you see the show with a different lens. See you all Sunday for my Power Rankings, and always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective. For inquires: brianbatty14@gmail.com