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<I>The Challenge: Rivals</I>: Keep Your Enemies Closer

How did The Challenge: Rivals start last night? With Robyn telling us the following: "You couldn't have picked a bigger group of assholes." Did she know she was voicing our thoughts exactly? Probably not. Did she know her statement could basically serve as a tagline for the entire Challenge franchise? Definitely not. She's not that smart. (That's why she's on The Challenge.)

So, now that you know the show revolves around a group of assholes, let's begin! The Challenge: Rivals is the twenty-first cycle in The Challenge series. If you live under a rock, here's how it goes -- alumnae from MTV reality shows The Real World and Road Rules are divided up into teams and compete against one another in physical challenges to win money. After the challenges, two contestants from each team are voted into an elimination round. Whichever two lose the elimination round go home. The rest of the time, the contestants just drink and fight. It's like a dogfight. MTV puts a group of angry, fame-hungry, inebriated dogs in a cage and watches them tear each other limb from limb. It's a hot mess. But it's our hot mess, and it's so bad it's good.

Last night the show started with host TJ Lavin (good to see him healthy again) explaining this season's premise -- your teammate this time around is your "rival." Yes, they all actually have rivals from past seasons -- that's how seriously they take these competitions. As the teams are announced, we see flashbacks to show us why exactly each pairing is a rivalry -- it's a lot of shouting and hitting and hair pulling. But now they have to work together. Pretty quickly a couple teammates realize they're going to have to start getting along to win. Some even shake hands, like Adam and CT. Is it cheesy that I want them all to be friends in the end? Yes. Yes it is. And it's unrealistic, too.

The actual challenge begins the next day; and as always, it's the best part of the show. It's like watching people go through boot camp, but they're psyched about it, and they're all also completely out of their minds. The challenge is to basically jump as far off of a cliff as you can. It's a suicide mission... but so is the entire show. (I'd be out of there in a minute.) Side note: you have to be in shape to do this kind of stuff. Props -- but not many -- to the contestants for that. Another side note: it's really nice that the producers are putting the contestants' names right on the front of their shirts. They see the contestants as nameless, faceless reality TV show hangers-on as much as we do! Any way, the rookies do extremely well, which is exciting, and CT takes losing well! At long last! Could it be he's finally grown up? (Of course not.)

After the challenge, there's a lot of deliberation concerning who will go into the elimination round, and a lot of drinking, too. You can cut the tension in the house with a knife, and everyone is just waiting for someone to say something wrong so they can start fighting. Someone does, and of course, there's a punch thrown the first night. How do these people function in real life? Do they have jobs? Do they even exist outside of the world of MTV? Are they real? We may never know. Some highlights: Wes tries to manipulate some rookies, but it doesn't work, which is brilliant. Also, Adam apologizes to CT because CT's brother got murdered this past year, and it's kind of cute and emotional; they're laughing and patting each other's backs. Man, if these two really start to get along, they are the team to beat. People going into the elimination round are decided on, and two go home. It's an easy formula, but for all of the drama in between, it feels like we've just gotten off of a roller coaster when the episode ends.

The Challenge is always the craziest show on during the summer, but this season looks like it's easily going to top the last. There's people getting thrown into the water, shouting in each other's faces, what looks like Wes screaming in pain, someone vomiting, Jasmine acting like the alcoholic she is, and CT with his shirt off -- but we wouldn't expect anything less.

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