The Challenge is here to save your quarantine, and maybe the world

It’s day whatever of your quarantine. There is no end in sight. Your snacks are low and you’ve considered pulling off a heist on the Charmin truck scheduled to arrive at your local Publix later tonight.

I get it. Times are tough.

But I come bearing good news. MTV is here to save your sanity. Yes the channel that plays “Ridiculousness” 23 hours a day. That’s because “The Challenge” is back.

It’s just what America, and hell the rest of the World, needs.

The 35th season of the world’s greatest reality show premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET with the first installment of “The Challenge: Total Madness.”

The Challenge features everything you want in a reality competition show: athletic events, alliances, backstabbing and hook-ups. I know this what you want because I see your tweets about “The Bachelor” and “Tiger King.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I get more enjoyment out of watching The Challenge than I do some sports. Each season has a new twist and stands out on its own, but also carries the baggage and rivalries of past seasons in a way that’s truly unique to the show.

I’m very optimistic about this season’s entertainment value. In a serendipitous twist, this season the challengers will live in a post-apocalyptic underground bunker instead of the usual mansion by the pool.

Also a twist to the rules this season is that every competitor has to win an elimination to make it to the final. Which will eliminate some of the whining and avoid-elimination-at-all-costs politicking that has swallowed up some of the previous seasons.

The lack of Cara and Paulie this season is also a welcomed reprieve for challengers and viewers alike. Their drama has taken all of the air out of the last two seasons and really derailed the USA vs. Great Britain theme of last season.

But enough about who isn’t here this season, let’s break down who is going to being competing for the money.

Legends

There are four players who are no-doubt, first-ballot hall of fame players in Prague this season.

Reigning champions Jordan and CT are back after winning for the UK last season. It was Jordan’s show last season no-doubt. He got engaged to Tori, dominated eliminations and then switched teams to help the UK take down Paulie and the USA. He’s won the last three seasons he’s showed up for and reached a fourth final as well in his career.

CT’s win last season was his third (he’s also won the “Champs vs. Stars” spinoff twice). He’s fully transformed from Boston street fighter to Team Dad Bod. Last season was an incredible veteran display. After being jilted by Team USA for Turbo on Day 1, he refused to take sides all seasons until he had to and secured a strong Team UK in the final. Then he went beast mode in the final for another victory.

Mr. Challenge himself, Johnny Bananas, is back again of course for a 20th season. He’s has six wins, but hasn’t even reached a final since he stole all the prize money from his partner Sarah Patterson in an all-time moment on “Rivals III” after they won the final.

Bananas’ arch-rival Wes is back as well for his 13th season. Wes has two wins, and reached the “War of the Worlds” final two seasons ago. If he and Bananas can avoid mutual destruction early this season, they should be key players once again.

Other Champions

The other two reigning champions, Dee and Rogan, are also back for another shot at the title. They coupled up last season and then Dee became America’s sweetheart after Rogan led a movement for Team UK to throw her into elimination to avoid carrying her in a final.

Rogan’s push to have her thrown in lasted as long as his debut on “War of the Worlds 2”, less than episode. Then Dee survived a purge and made the cut inside the final to become a champion. We’ll see how much of their messy breakup from last season follows them into the bunker.

The only other previous champion competing this season is Ashley Mitchell, who like Bananas took all the money from her partner in her last challenge win. Although, it was a little different in that no one faulted her too much for taking Hunter’s money because of the way he berated Ashley all season.

Ashley is a made-for-tv star who is a great competitor when she wants to be. She may run out of steam early this season as none of her alliance members returned from last season, but everyone she voted in did.

The Bridesmaids

This next group of challengers have knocked on the door of a final, but never won the crown. Always the bridesmaids, never the bride.

Last season Tori came as close to winning a final as you can without taking home the cash. She was cut mid-final as Dee beat her in a puzzle for the fourth and final spot in the last leg. Still she had an incredible season that included an engagement and elimination wins over Team UK’s top girls, Jenny West and Georgia, which allowed her to switch teams. It was her second final in four seasons.

Another veteran who was painfully close to the check last season, only to leave empty-handed was Nany. Ashley eliminated her on the last challenge before the final. But she’s back for a ninth season.

My wife’s favorite challenger, Jenna, is starting to feel the heat of never winning a final. She’s on her eighth season, and has hit a bit of a lull after reaching the final in each of her first three seasons. I think not competing on the same season as her fiancée Zach will be good for her game.

Two-thirds of the Young Bucks are back in Cory and Nelson. Cory is on every other MTV Show these days it seems, but this will be his seventh challenge. He’s reached two finals, but unless they ask him to hook up with a puzzle I don’t see him ever winning a final.

Nelson is on his sixth season and has one final under his belt. He has better odds than Cory, but still not great.

Aneesa leads the way in this category with 12 seasons and no wins. She’s reached the final twice, but has never won the title.

Back Again

This next group of challengers are back for more, but haven’t been around long enough to really qualify as bridesmaids.

Kyle leads Brits in this group with this being his fifth season. He made the final his first season after hitching his wagon to Cara. Then he has subsequently spent the next three seasons fending off her and Paulie’s wrath because he didn’t want to date her after that first show. It will be nice to see him get his own storyline this season.

Mr. Emotional, aka, Josh Martinez is back for third season. The former “Big Brother” champion has made a splash the last two seasons and may finally be in a position to make big jump this season.

Stephen Bear is back for a third challenge, mostly for pure entertainment purposes because he clearly doesn’t actually care about the game. But he is funnier than he gets credit for.

Mattie Lyn has been on just one season, reaching the final of “War of the Worlds” as a rookie. She will be a challenge mainstay in the years to come in my opinion.  Like Mattie, Jenny West has been on just one Challenge and proved to be a physical boss last season. Now that she understands the political game better she could be a factor this season.

Its hard to believe this only the fifth challenge for Kailah, because like Cory she pops up on all of MTV’s other programing outside of Ridiculousness (seriously why is Roby Dyrdek on for 18  hours a day?!?) Kailah has reached on final, but the last time we saw her she was going home for fighting with Melissa who is back for a third season.

Tula “Big T” Fazakerley is back for a second season after trying really hard last time. She’ll need to make some waves this time because participation trophies don’t exist on The Challenge.

The Rookies

I continued to watch “The Real World” down to the bitter end for the sole purpose of figuring out who was going to be good on “The Challenge.” I also enjoyed “Are You the One” after it became the next farm system for challengers. But now MTV pulls cast members from across the globe after they have appeared on Viacom’s reality programing.

Thus I can’t offer any insight on the seven rookies other than what MTV lists as their previous shows.

  • Asaf Goren (“Big Brother” Israel, “So You Think You Can Dance”)
  • Bayleigh Dayton (“Big Brother”)
  • Christopher Jordan “Swaggy C” Williams (“Big Brother”)
  • Kaycee Clark (“Big Brother”)
  • Faysal Shawn “Fessy” Shafaat (“Big Brother,” “American Ninja Warrior”)
  • Jay Starrett (“Survivor”)
  • Jennifer Lee (“Amazing Race”)

So I hope you’ll join me on this magical ride “The Challenge” offers this season. And even if you don’t (I can’t imagine anyone would have read this far without being interested) then please just make sure you continue to FREAKING STAY AT HOME.

If we do that, then perhaps we’ll all know what it feels like to hear host T.J. Lavin say “You killed it” to us.

(Photo: Riccardo Giardina/MTV)

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