The philosopher and Atlanta Snowman, Jeezy, once said on a Fat Joe track “Welcome to the home of the home invasion” which is a really great line unless it’s your home being invaded. I’ve been singing that to myself nightly before bed ever since I heard that this Challenge season is called Invasion of the Champions. My dream is that if I think about the Challenge before I fall asleep then I can dream about it but then wake up in my dream even though I’m still sleeping like it’s the Michel Gondry movie about lucid dreaming which is all of them and then I can talk to TJ about the time he wasn’t scared of disqualifying CT against Brad on The Duel and finally ask Laurel if it was really her voting behind me on the Upper East Side in 2012. We all have dreams, these are mine.
The Invasion of the Champions combines all the best elements of previous Challenge and Real World seasons:
1) The living conditions of The Island: 18 cast members are dropped off a boat onto a beach in Thailand. And when I say dropped, I mean literally. My girl Anika from Bad Blood falls off the boat like that scene in Mr. Destiny when Jim Belushi is in his alternate life and he falls asleep in Linda Hamiton’s tree, wakes up, and hits every branch on the way down. Usually, there is a nice mansion. But not this time. It’s a hut with some crates and pallets and mosquito nets and a stray dog that has clearly seen way too much, you can tell by looking at its eyes. Tony finds a hammock immediately and part of me was like oh Dione Pepperoni from Go Big or Go Home must be here because he’s the only person I’ve ever seen pack a hammock to go on Real World but I was wrong.
2) Everybody competing for themselves a la The Duel: There aren’t any teams. Everybody is riding solo on this one. Which is the purest way to win. You can’t be protected to a victory. Everyone who has ever been on a Challenge is my best friend so I won’t shade any winners but some got carried to the promised land like Radio Raheem’s boombox. This season the only way to get out of The Shelter and into the fancy house that is The Oasis is to win a challenge or go into the elimination and win your spot there.
3) Trickery and lies used as a twist per Explosion, Skeletons, and Bad Blood: None of these contestants have ever won a season. TJ tells them that the people who always win are not there. What a lovely chance to finally get that W. I mean as long as you don’t care that you didn’t have to beat any of the greats, which if we’re being honest and for real the only lying I’ll ever do is in the bed with you shout out Pharcyde, I wouldn’t care if my win came because the rapture actually happened and everyone else was taken to the holy kingdom leaving behind only piles of compression gear and me, I would stroll to the top of whatever mountain the final was on and pick up my giant check off the pile of TJ’s Monster Energy Drink apparel because a champion is a champion is a champion. Dario called it “a level playing field” but Dario is also sleeping on a couch at in real life so he’ll do whatever it takes to get a win, I’m not mad at him. Of course, it is all a lie. The champions are going to invade. And champions invading are great, unless it is your home being invaded.
And that’s when we find out that the champs, the great ones, are all at home training. My goodness, these training videos are good. It’s CT, Johnny Bananas, Zach, and Darrell—the original GOAT. Cara Maria, Ashley from San Diego, Camila, and Laurel, who definitely voted behind me in 2012. Why is it so much better to have them arrive as a surprise? Why do I cry like Ben Stiller at the end of There’s Something About Mary whenever they show one of these workout montages. Everyone looks strong and ready to destroy. The producers know the drama I need. Like, they could’ve just had all of these people on there from the jump and it’d be really good. Even great. I love Darrell. Darrell said a while back that he wouldn’t compete unless it was in another The Duel type conceit where everyone was solo. He’s got kids and he’s still jacked and I just want him to still have it. But this twist, them showing up as a surprise? It’s like that episode of Sex and the City when Mr. Big tells Carrie he’s not going to show up to the dinner with her friends but then he surprises her. Wouldn’t a better guy just tell her he’s going to come from the start and then have a nice dinner and not do the part that hurts your date’s feelings? Why all the drama, Mr. Big, then you get all that extra credit because you set low expectations? I hate you Big. But it does make it more exciting.
And then we find out that CT has a kid! Johnny in typical Bananas fashion said Sarah bought him a house. Cara Maria talks to Abram but is single! Ashley won a challenge! The best info. In the meantime, the underdogs are celebrating and having a fine old time. Theo wishes Bananas was there so he could go against him but Nelson knows better than to agree with that. Bananas is an OG. Of course the one fate Johnny has to suffer no matter how many wins is someone bringing up CT as the real monster of these shows, which Cory does. And then anytime one of the underdogs mentions a champ, they cut to a training video. It’s perfect. It’s like Rocky in the snow while Dolph gets all the machines and injections except one set of people are at home in a gym and the others are drinking vodka on Gilligan’s Island if the Professor drowned. Tony even gives the toast “out with the old and in with the new.” Sober Tony, I might add.
There’s already alliances forming in the camp because all of the Skeletons are like let’s stick together and add in Jenna and Kailah but then it doesn’t go according to plan because how do you plan for a challenge that is you running around in mud in Daisy Duke gym shorts, hopping over walls and digging under fences like you got nowhere else to go shout out An Officer and a Gentleman. Cory and Kailah flirt and somehow manage to evade the cameras which is nearly impossible and they should get an award just for that. They still have their mics on and its a noisy hookup but no video so did it even happen? Also, everybody in the cast seems to have an already assembled numbered list of who they want to hook up with. Cory’s like “she’s not even in my Top 7” and I’m like thank goodness MySpace is dead because I can’t even think of eight people I know, let alone would want to hook up with but it’s an honor just to be nominated I guess. Also, not that this is a trackable stat but Cory has hooked up on every season of every show he’s been on so I guess the list system works for him.
The larger group of girls which is basically everyone except Jenna, Kailah, and Nicole plus the other dudes that aren’t Tony and Bruno convince Sylvia to backstab vote in Tony to face Bruno in elimination. Tony is not happy about this at all and feels very betrayed. Kailah is nominated against Marie who also came in last. The elimination is people running into each other at full speed so that’s good. Tony beats Bruno, who I was very excited to finally have on a Challenge because Bruno’s soul burned with the fire of a thousand stolen sandwiches. Seriously, he didn’t talk to his brother for years because of a tuna fish sandwich incident. But Bruno reveals that he has been living in his car for a little bit. And in his interviews he seems super melancholy. And really someone please check on him and let me know if he is okay but I’m kind of worried and these are all my actual best friends. Marie also lost.
Since Nicole and Dario won the challenge, they have a space in The Oasis along with Kailah and Tony. The larger alliance is not thrilled to see those two come back but I am because Tony is good TV. Also shadily good tv, Theo gets off the slyest sick burn on Jenna, hitting her with the “I don’t even remember your show.” That’s a fatality in this world like yo what season were you even on, who brought you here. Jenna is my girl and I’m sorry she caught that one because now she has to leave immediately. But not really. Not before her ex, Zach shows up. That is worth the pardon. All the champs are coming. Welcome to the home of the home invasion.