'The Challenge' Field Study, Entry 7: Paranoia Sets In As The Herd Shrinks

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

It has been 1,176 hours since I've exposed myself to the tropical treachery that is documenting the subjects of "Rivals II," and nearly half of the herd has succumbed to the crushing power of spiritual leader TJ and The Jungle. The remaining rivals have entered a state of heightened tension and paranoia, as dwindling numbers mean the chance of avoiding The Jungle has also greatly decreased. The pecking order of the herd, that for so long had been a firm and respected construct, has also begun to crumble, as the first-year members challenged the veterans and their familiar methods of manipulation.


This most recent nest competition was by far the most fear-inducing, as TJ was inspired by the immense bravery of ancient canine creatures who look in the face of terror every time they try to escape their ruler's yard. Each member of the herd was blinded with a blessed cloth and outfitted with a divine wristband, not unlike the jailing kind used on the four-legged beasts. They were then required to move together through a maze of bamboo, using only the intense shock emitted from the bands to guide their direction. The closer they came to the exit, the more intense the shocks became, as if the maze itself was trying to keep them trapped forever. Some teams flourished in tandem, while others failed to get in sync. Ultimately, Leroy and Ty were not able to overcome the factors working against them, and their disorientation led them straight to The Jungle, while Frank and Johnny were kept safe from their win.


Since male sacrifices were required for this week's fight to the death, heightened testosterone levels intensified the scheming to control which pair would compete against Leroy and Ty in the muggy hellscape. With there already being animosity between Frank and rookie Jordan, the former tried to use his immunity from The Jungle as an opportunity to exile the young blood. He attempted to influence the females to send in Jordan and Marlon, but hyper-aware Jordan caught on to Frank's campaign, and confronted him about this accepted but somewhat unfair method of pre-Jungle lobbying. Frank -- along with the other veterans -- appeared visibly shaken by this upset in the "Challenge" caste system, while Jordan showed behavior wise beyond his years by remaining calm and collected. However, the herd stuck to tradition, and the women voted the rookie duo in so they might earn their stripes.


The first-year partners dove into The Jungle head first, and omniscient Jungle forces pitted the teams in a brutish wrestling lock-up, so that one could hopefully get free from the human blockade to ring a sacred bell. While Leroy and Ty were ostensibly stronger, Jordan and Marlon's determination and collective pain threshold made for an equal match-up. After two very close rounds, the teams were tied, but rookie spirit trumped brute strength, and Leroy and Ty were exiled from the nest, much to the chagrin of the veterans, especially Frank. Jordan and Marlon's victory solidified them as viable contenders for nest dominance, and as the herd faces the final weeks of this cruel, cruel summer, it also may have shifted the social hierarchy of future herds. Careful, veterans, the ways of old are dated for a reason.

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