MTV’s The Challenge Season 34: War of the Worlds 2 is Big, Bad, and Addictive

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

Illustration by Marc Boudreaux, ES ’21, YH Staff

I’m going to be honest. I have no idea if the Americans or the Brits are going to win this season. The Americans are a ridiculously stacked team (Laurel and Jordan are back from retirement?! And I know Kam hasn’t won a season yet, but she’s strong as f*ck and a strategic god). But they’re all type A personalities, and the infighting began before the first elimination — they don’t need alliances in a team game this early. The Brits are almost all rookies, which at first glance is terrible (some of these rookies seem terrible, too. And, yes, I know he’s been around forever, but CT is not going to provide the strategic advantage that he thinks he will). But at least that gives the good players easy targets for the first half of eliminations, and, more importantly, they’re loyal only in the way people new to the show can be.

I’m going to be honest again: The Challenge is a terrible show. I learn nothing of value from it. My morals have been squashed and squandered. It’s not a feel-good show, unless someone you’re rooting for makes a heartwarming return from an elimination round, but even those are suspect. The show spends a lot of time filming people trying to hook up (living in a house with no electronics or distractions will do that to you), and the relationships that form in a Challenge house are usually ridiculously toxic and end in hideous breakups either on- or off-screen. There’s truly nothing to be gained from it. Or is there?

The premise itself is fairly simple. A bunch of reality “stars” (no Kim K to be found over here) are shipped anywhere from Bodrum, Turkey to Swakopmund, Namibia to compete for their share of a million dollars. There are “challenges,” which everyone competes in, and “eliminations,” which competitors are thrown into, sometimes randomly and sometimes by vote. Whoever loses the elimination leaves the show. The cast dwindles until there’s a handful left, then they compete in the “finale”: normally in a different location, usually a multi-day trek filled with obstacles to test their endurance, intelligence, and strength. It’s great fun, except for those who have to get medi-vac’d out or are voted off the show in tears.

With the show on its 21st year and 34th season, not all of them are winners. (Who can forget the disappointing finale in Germany?! Definitely not the Smithtro family.) But this season promises to be the most compelling yet. After a disappointing lull a few years ago, the challenges and eliminations have bounced back to concepts that are deliciously painful to watch, let alone (I imagine) compete in. It feels rather like sitting high in the Coliseum watching gladiators fight tigers, except instead two adults hold their hands above their heads for five hours or toss each other into trash cans. The more certain I am that I couldn’t do what the cast is doing, the more entertained I am. Watching superhumans is so much more fun than real people, and the cast of War of the Worlds 2 are some of the strongest, most talented veterans the show has. Even watching the inexperienced rookies in eliminations thus far has been entertainment enough.

But, God, do I love when they act like real people. When money and pride are on the line, every single relationship — every hookup, every friendship, every alliance, every feud — is magnified, all with the help of good camera angles and edits, of course. You could use The Challenge as a case study for political strategies, intimidation tactics or betrayals, sped up by the timeline of the show as well as the high emotion of sharing a home and abundant alcohol with over a dozen intense personalities. Nobody lets anything go, because there’s no incentive to do so. They’re television stars. They’ve got to make drama.

If you’ve never seen The Challenge, War of the Worlds 2 is the perfect season to start with. Why? It’s only two episodes in (only two episodes! You can still start now! Stream it on Xfinity on Campus!) and already smacks of drama. The show’s going to ooze with it.

This is the first season since 2009 to structure the game as a two-team competition. After years of calculating how to win as individuals, all of the veterans on the American team have no idea how to fight together without fighting each other. You’ve got Wes and Bananas, who hate each other, Laurel who hasn’t been on a season in forever, and Cara Maria who absolutely hates her British ex-boyfriend Kyle. But that’s forgetting the drama that has already started this season, like how Team USA pushed an American who’s been on the show longer than anyone over to the British team or how Wes has been making deals with the British. The Americans are strong, but as soon as they lose a challenge, the shaky united front they have promises to crumble, and all residual drama from every season before this will inevitably spill out for our viewing pleasure.

But, maybe even better, the two-team format means high-volume British content. The Brits are new to the series, and starting the season now means that you’re in the know about all British drama now that will set the groundwork for seasons to come. I’m fully convinced that MTV is starting a new era of The Challenge, and it’s already begun: with War of the Worlds 2.

It’s just like TJ Lavin, The Challenge host and BMX legend, always says: this is the biggest season of the Challenge. Ever. He says it at the start of almost every season. Thing is, this season? I actually believe him.

The Challenge airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on MTV.

MTV’s The Challenge Season 34: War of the Worlds 2 is Big, Bad, and Addictive was originally published in The Yale Herald on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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