The best, most intense reality TV elimination challenge so far this year

The Nerd Off challenge on last night’s King of the Nerds was insane: intense, hilarious, and full of actual consequence–a battle between good and evil that worked on every level a reality TV competition needs to work.

In this case, evil is Zack, this season’s villain. He’s prone to frustrated, angry outbursts during which he spews highly intelligent sentences that are overtaken by his ego. But he’s also capable of occasional moments of humility, and because he’s, at most, going to have smarty/bitchy eruptions, he ultimately seems mostly harmless, which makes his presence rather entertaining.

The challenge, on paper, seemed uninteresting. It was essentially Battleship, and here, the show’s producers did another great job of adapting real-life things into watchable and entertaining challenges. Last week’s Nerd-Off was Operation with some memorization of anatomy, but this week’s was straightforward Battleship strategy.

But there was more, primarily that two people, “Mighty Mike” Michael Murga and “Wee Matt” Matt McCarthy, were moving the pieces while dressed up as Vikings, maybe, with helmets and fake beards. More importantly and awesomely, they also smashed the shit out of the pieces and/or the game board tiles with giant hammers. Watching that never got old.

Best of all, it was a tight competition, and underdog Mary Kate even pulled ahead, despite her failure to roll a giant die (she seemed to keep dropping it so that 1 kept coming up). That made for an intense showdown all the way to the very close finish.

The outcome was disheartening, in the sense that I want to see Zack fail and be crushed, but his continued presence in Nerdvana and the game will ensure that it stays interesting.

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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.