Romania Makes The Best Rookie Challengers

- The Challenge -
Romania Makes The Best Rookie Challengers

I have a long-held belief that The Challenge should be America’s national sport. It’s physically demanding, emotionally grueling, and prioritizes some of our most dearly held values: brutal individualism, hotness, and yelling.

On top of that, The Challenge beats out America’s other pastimes in just about every conceivable way. It’s more interesting than baseball, less frontal-lobe-damaging than football, and more accessible to the average American than basketball (don’t let these men on Tinder lie to you, the average dude in the US is 5’10,” not “over 6 feet, if that matters”).

The only real barrier to entry is your own self-respect, a hurdle we as a people are uniquely capable of getting over.

The Challenge has been casting a wide international net for a few years now, but this season I think we’ve finally found the true rivals for Team USA in the imaginary Challenge Olympics of my dreams. The unexpected contender whose players have truly embraced this game for every messy thing that it is? Romania.

The two Romanian Challengers this year, Emy and Emanuel, are cruising toward Rookie of the Year status. Now over half-way through their first season, it’s clear these two aren’t just surviving, they’re thriving, and across all the most important Challenge categories.

Actual Challenge Performance

Right from the beginning of the season, both Emy and Emanuel stood out as strong performers, with Emanuel crushing daily challenges and Emy surviving Lair after Lair.

In the last few weeks, Emanuel has been part of The Agency a whopping four times, and finished strong basically every other week. Emy hasn’t had quite that good a run of things, stuck in a Rookie/Rookie pair for most of the front half of the season, but she’s gone into the Lair 3 times now and crushed.

Neither of them looked particularly intimidating (other than the face/knuckle tats, I guess) but they’ve emerged as major physical forces to reckon with in the house. Honestly, it makes me wanna watch Romanian Survivor. What are they putting y’all through?!

Yeah, okay, so actual performance in the game as it’s designed might seem to the layman like the only category that matters but to truly EMBRACE this sport (yeah, I’m calling it a sport) you’ve gotta get into the SPIRIT of it, and that brings us to the next category.

Scheming & Politicking

While many Rookies come in with somewhat built-in alliances from their feeder shows, few have been as solid as Team Romania. These two have looked out for each other from the jump (well, Emanuel has mostly looked out for Emy) and it’s led to some successful moves!

This week, for the second time, Emanuel made sure his girl Emy got to control her fate in the Lair by making her the Agency pick. The first time, the elimination win got her out of Rookie/Rookie hell and this week it got her out of the possibly-doomed Ruby Cell.

Emy, to her credit, has pulled some strategic moves of her own. She started the first real drama of the season, outing Michaela for daring to... write things down?? Flimsy, but it successfully kept her out of the first week’s elimination.

She then lied straight to Berna’s face so she could steal her partner in peace, aligning with the All-Powerful Vets. Now this week, she took the reins on elimination to disrupt Bettina’s plan to choose her own opponent AND got herself back onto a team with her Challenge Uncle/Mentor CT.

Emy’s managed to do all this without compromising her lovable alien image, which is the truly impressive feat.

So they’re athletic AND decently wily, sticking together in a very drama free (non-Big Brother-y) way. A full package for making it to the final! But what about my PERSONAL enjoyment, the true measure of Challenge success? That comes down to category #3.

Emotional Outbursts & Hookups

And this is why Romania could be the Mighty Ducks to the US’s Team Iceland. Sure they’re scrappier, younger, newer to the game, but they’ve got a natural talent for this most critical element of the Challenge.

Right away, Emanuel had a sexy-but-approachable-Vampire kind of allure that piqued the interest of a few girls in the house, namely Michele. These two cozied up for the few weeks they had together, but once she got the boot, he quickly pivoted to Tori. These two seemed like an odd pair at first, until you realize that her big Theater Kid Energy and history with dudes that look like villains kind of makes her the perfect match for our goofy Transylvanian heartthrob. It looks like these two are still flirting in the post-season so I'm hoping we see even more of this romance bloom for the rest of the season.

Emy, while doing zero smooching I’m aware of, pulls her weight drama-wise by being an emotional powder keg. She cries when she wins, she cries when she loses. She cries when she’s right, she cries when she’s wrong. She’s on the edge of a meltdown pretty much 24/7 and there’s really nothing better. I mean this week she dragged Bettina for... what, exactly? For saying that she would maybe go into an elimination against her? Who cares!

Emy’s a weirdo on a hair trigger who plays an emotions-first game and makes for good TV. So what if she cries, on average, once an episode?

So yeah, in every single way that matters (to me), these two are killing the game. They’re both well-positioned at this point and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one of them make the final. If these two are any indication, Survivor Romania is one hell of a show. And if that doesn't convince you, this might:

I rest my case.

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Images: MTV

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