By Susie Meister
It’s been quite a week over here at the Brain Candy Podcast. With the not-so-grand finale of Rivals 3 airing on Wednesday night, we watched as Sarah’s victory was overshadowed by the shocking decision of Johnny Bananas to keep all the cash, leaving Sarah with nothing.
Before we go on, let me say that Rivals 3 filmed last fall, and Sarah came home just before Christmas. While that gave me a lot of time to think about what I would’ve done, etc… I watched the season and finale right along with all of you, so my position has evolved over time. Here’s where I stand now and how I got there:
Let me preface by saying, when we agree to go on these shows, we know that it’s not the Olympics; there is not even an attempt to act like anything will be fair in terms of gameplay and game rules (we do agree, however, not to do illegal drugs, but I’ll get to that later). The contract says everything (and I mean, everything) is at the discretion of the producers. They can change the rules at any time, they can change the game at any time, and they can manipulate anything and everything to make a better TV program. I have talked at length, both in a Salon article I published and on the Brain Candy Podcast about the various ways the show is produced to create specific outcomes, so I won’t go over that again. Basically, Sarah knew that going meant anything could happen, and the “best” (wo)man doesn’t always win.
I begged Sarah not to go. I know that she is better than the show, better than the toxicity and degradation they perpetuate, and certainly better than the few dollars they give to you in exchange for your rights, your soul, and your story. She decided to go for personal reasons (that she has discusses on the podcast), so I wanted to make the best of it. We pre-recorded our podcast so that it would continue to air, and off she went.
When I found out what happened, my heart broke for her as my friend, but I felt like Johnny just played the game in the way that it was designed, and since they were rivals, it made sense that he wouldn’t want to split it with her (at this time, I didn’t know that they had reconciled and become close during taping). If I had been paired with Johnny and won, I would have taken that money so fast his head would’ve spun, and I would have done a dance of joy and NEVER given it a second thought. In real life, John might be lovely, I don’t really know. On the show (at minimum), he is a calculating, sociopathic, hypocrite, who holds everyone to a standard to which he does not hold himself. He is truly the Donald Trump of the Challenge (and it’s no surprise that he is voting for him–I’m surprised he’s not his running mate).
So, in short, I felt like Johnny beat Sarah fair and square, it wasn’t personal, and that’s the name of the game.
During this time, we were attempting to get Johnny on our show, and I would communicate with him periodically to see if I could convince him to come on. I pitched various ideas of how we could do it (e.g. having a peace treaty that we all sign agreeing to not talk shit about each other, etc…). He said no.
In preparation for the reunion, I attempted to help Sarah secure more money to go knowing that MTV would not have a reunion show (with any drama) unless she showed up. She was contractually obligated to go, so her hands were tied, but she was NOT contractually obligated to speak on camera. So I told her to sit there in absolute silence NO MATTER WHAT. I wanted her to save everything for our show and stick it to MTV for forcing people to do things for pennies.
After the reunion, I spoke with Sarah about what happened and she said she couldn’t sit silently during the reunion while Johnny said horrible things about her. She described her “meltdown,” and I felt horribly, but I couldn’t figure out what made her snap. I realize now, of course, that she was essentially being forced to sit next to her abuser of sorts, so in retrospect I see why she couldn’t just sit there and be his emotional punching bag.
I texted Johnny, as you all saw, and asked him what made her snap. Among other things, I said Sarah should stick to civilian life, and some people took this to mean I was insulting her, but I was actually saying she is simply too nice and normal to be a part of a show designed for psychopathic behavior. Additionally, I said that her loss “isn’t that serious” and that his decision to keep the money wasn’t personal. I still feel that way. Sarah has a great life, and a loss of game show money doesn’t make or break her and never would. She doesn’t care about “stuff” and doesn’t measure her worth in money. It’s a game, and not serious. And I believe Johnny keeping the money wasn’t personal. He doesn’t care enough about anyone for things to be “personal.”
Incidentally, any time I interacted with Johnhy I have told Sarah and showed her the text exchanges. I don’t keep secrets from her, and she is well aware of my opinions about the show, him, and the reunion. She is my best friend, my family, and I love her.
Everything for me changed when I found out that Johnny was caught with Adderall at the final. A drug for which he did not have a prescription. After his win was announced, production confronted him and he admitted that it was his. He was fined $5,000. It was edited out and MTV has denied it. All the cast members at the final witnessed the confrontation, as did TJ, and it was filmed on camera in front of the production crew. Adderall, if you’re not familiar, is a drug meant for people who suffer with ADHD and other things, and if used illegally provides hyper focus, insomnia, and energy. Just the kind of side effects you’d need to perform well on a Challenge–particularly one in which the contestants must stay up all night. The two points John got by staying awake longer than Sarah gave him the win. He cheated his way to a win, got fined, and Sarah still got nothing.
All’s fair in love, war, and Challenges–except using drugs to cheat. MTV probably will never admit that this happened because Johnny is their mascot, their hero, and a caricature of their brand. They don’t care that he cheated. They only care that they got their show, and he provided them with the epitome of what these shows are designed to create: drama.
Sarah doesn’t care about money, so this isn’t just sour grapes. What she cares about is justice, friendship, and integrity. And I don’t like my friend being called a liar, which is what MTV did when they denied that this Adderral situation happened. This story isn’t over. Turns out the finale, is just the beginning…
P.S. I noticed John had my name spelled incorrectly in his phone. It’s Susie, not Suzie. So if you update my name, I’ll update yours to Doper Devenanzio.
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