The Island Challenge strands MTV alum with alcohol and a familiar game

Last Wednesday, MTV debuted The Island, the latest The Real World/Road Rules Challenge season, which comes about six months since the last one ended. The show had fallen into a rut, so the promise of an entirely new game was appealing. Of course, that promise turned out to be a lie.

It started off well: The cast is now stranded on a Panamanian island, and not placed in teams of any kind. Making the show more like Survivor is intriguing, but as the first episode (which repeats often) showed, it’s nothing even remotely close. The cast is full of pathetic, spoiled babies who are used to their jobs as Challenge cast members involving staying in palatial houses that they seriously complain about only having rice and limited amounts of protein to eat, and not having toilet paper, butter, salt, or electricity (even though there are electric lights so we can watch them party at night without night vision). Even I’m a Celebrity–Get Me Out of Here was more of a survival challenge, and they had a tarp protecting them from the rain.

Speaking of partying, there is, of course, an unlimited supply alcohol, despite the lack of other luxuries. Big surprise, because with no challenges and no teams, where is the drama going to come from? Even as cast members complained about having no supplies, the cast suddenly had full bottles of hard liquor in their hands. And KellyAnne literally barfed next to her bed onto the floor and then just sat back and smiled. No shame.

The game involves constructing two boats to get to a smaller island, where this season’s prize awaits. But instead of just building a raft with natural materials, or just swimming there, which might make the show conclude in a day, they soon learned that they have to basically sit around and wait for air drops that are really just Army product placement in disguise. So the cast members are basically hanging out in their hellish accommodations–with sheets and pillows and mosquito nets!–and have nothing to do except drink, fight, complain about their environment, and spend their time auditioning for their inevitable future careers in porn.

But wait: About halfway through the episode, the game changed. First TJ “Slightly Better than Before at Hosting but Still Awkward” Lavin said repeatedly that there are no competitions or challenges. And then suddenly, he returned to announce that challenges are critical to winning the game.

Even more than previous Challenges, it seems like the producers are just making up the game as they go along. And their challenges are just as lamely constructed as always. There are also vote-off sessions that make the show seem a bit like Big Brother. Of course, the group has also divided itself into de facto teams, which right now is shaking out into sexist guys against the complacent women, and maybe rookies versus veterans.

Also, the prize is $300,000, but at various points was also mentioned as being “in gold” and “in treasure” (as in, $300,000 worth of sponsored prizes?), and has to be split between four people. Lame, and absolutely like every previous season. Even though there’s (alcohol-fueled) drama, there has to be point at which watching the same people do the same things season after season gets old, and that point seems to have arrived.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.