'The Challenge' Field Study, Entry 3: Mass Hysteria Causes A Surprising Departure

In addition to the cameras, this season of "The Challenge" was documented in print. Check out the latest behavioral analysis, straight from our anthropologist-at-large's Thailand field notes!


By Carey O'Donnell

The third week of this season's nest settlement in Thailand proved to be one of the most volatile, dangerous and downright ugly periods I have ever witnessed from studying this particular species subset. There were moments when I heavily contemplated relinquishing my own research duties to someone else in the field, mostly in fearing for my own life at the hands of these agitated and ferocious "Rivals." However, I MUST press on, if only for the sake of science. I will trample my own worries and continue to document the patterns of this terrifying herd.


Two spats broke out around the same time -- one male, one female. On the alpha male side, herd member Knight had been aggressively taunting fellow member Marlon for his mating preferences, specifically that he sometimes chooses to pursue fellow males. It's interesting to note that in this herd and herds past, the custom of mating preference is mostly regarded with indifference, so, witnessing this ridicule was extremely strange and very regressive. On the alpha female end, elder herd member Trishelle had made various comments offending elder herd member Aneesa, leading to Trishelle's sudden self-exile from the nest, and reverse migration back across the ocean, rendering her "Rival," Sarah, mate-less for nest competitions, and was asked by the angered spiritual leader TJ to also leave. Sarah had been forced out of past nests for similar reasons of weak competition partners. The reaction in the nest was mixed: While most were shocked by this forced exile, the majority was also relieved that this pair of strong contenders for nest domination were removed from the picture. TJ's disapproval of Trishelle's decision to quit, on top of having to exile Sarah, most likely fueled the grueling competition to come. The wrath of TJ is a terrifying thing!


In the first nest competition this week, the various pairs were required to shuffle across two ropes suspended high above the water below. With their legs spread over each side of the rope, the partners had to move in unison in order to reach the opposite platform in the fastest time. Because of CT and Wes' disqualification last week, as well as Preston's refusal to compete, TJ forced his subjects to scale the treacherous course first, demonstrating his omniscient power. Knight was the only male to fall from the course, immediately losing the competition for him and Preston. For the most part, the female side of the herd was more far more coordinated with their individual partners at mastering this ropes course than the males; in general, the females seem to harbor much less hostility and tension. Hopefully the males can follow suit.


It was then time to head back to the sacred Jungle, to determine who would face permanent exile from this nest. The females ended up determining that Robb and Derek would reprise their role as Jungle scapegoats, to face off against Preston and Knight. One member of each pair was blinded by blessed cloth, while the other directed them to smash the heads of the other "blinded" competitor. After two rounds, it was Knight who was able to defeat the very strong Robb, thus assuring his and Preston's return to the nest, while Robb and Derek began their long journey across the ocean.

The anger, aggression and manipulation is growing more with each week, and I can only imagine the chaos to come.

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