The Ex Factor: Why 'The Challenge' Is Worth Watching This Season

Angel Cohn
Television Without Pity

It's a new season of the addictive MTV reality-competition series "The Challenge," and while some installments falter because there just isn't enough infighting and drama, it doesn't look like "Battle of the Exes" will have that problem. Jam-packed with personal chaos, hard challenges, and beautiful scenery, the show has always mixed the best elements of "The Amazing Race," "Survivor," and "Bachelor Pad" together. But we have particularly high hopes for this "Battle" after seeing last night's premiere. Here's why:

The Ex Factor
The competitors arrived and were immediately stunned by the news that they would be paired with a former hookup/significant other. It definitely makes you rethink your life choices when someone you had a one-night stand with is suddenly your teammate and your best shot at winning prize money. Plus, the ones who were in relationships had some good reasons for splitting up, and there is a lot of animosity between them. We expect lots and lots of partner meltdowns as these former couples engage in enormous blowouts. Get ready to see some dirty laundry aired out.

Beyond Thunderdome
We'll always love the battle ring on this show, and we don't understand why more competition shows don't feature similar head-to-head elimination bouts. "Survivor," for one, would be infinitely more exciting that way. This season's dome looks like an old-school metal jungle gym for giants, and is the stage for tasks that look like evil versions of "Wipeout" challenges.

They've Got Our Vote
One of the things that often slowed down this show in the past was the complicated process involved for voting one team into the elimination round to face off against the challenge's losing team. It used to require a group vote, but that's now been simplified to just having the winning team decide who goes in. That raises the dramatic ante on the scheming, alliance building, and general politicking, allowing players with outside relationships and long-standing rivalries to really stick it to each other. Case in point: Wes and his loud, obnoxious self was tossed into the first elimination by his nemesis, Johnny.

[Check Out More Photos of This Season's 'Challenge' Competitors]

Up on the Mountain
Before the real action of the first episode got underway, we got a quick glimpse of the final challenge, and it looks insane -- something to do with climbing a mountain with waist-deep snowdrifts. If nothing else, you just know someone will have to be medically evacuated. Probably Wes, if he makes it that far.

Upping the Sex Appeal
With the former couples coming into play, the challenges themselves are designed to put the competitors who still have a burning dislike of their partner into the most awkward positions possible. Having to wipe honey off very intimate body parts was just the first one; we expect people to be tied together on a regular basis. And with the exes as partners, it makes potential new hookups even more exciting, as they could really stir the pot.

Bring on the Fresh Meat
While this isn't a Fresh Meat "Challenge," they have brought on a bunch of first-timers from recent "Real World" seasons to infuse the show with new blood. And while Paula and Nate were instantly eliminated, probably because they were still drunk from "San Diego," the Leroy/Naomi dynamic and the Dustin/Heather team could throw a wrench into some pre-existing alliances.

CT Is in the House
You never know when he's going to bust out his sensitive side or punch someone or something for no apparent reason. He's the biggest wild card ever... as that cactus a few years ago can well attest.

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