Tag Archives: Business Ethics

T.J. Lavin’s Masterpiece Theatre: Episode Four

17 Feb

[Our ongoing Swanky coverage of The Challenge: Battle of the Exes.  For an introduction, go here.  For the episodes: One, Two, Three]

The Art Of War

Secret meetings, tentative alliances, public betrayals.  If mastery of these elements is the key to political success in today’s society, then there are some Challenge veterans who should seriously consider running for their local government office.  The constant maneuvering and manipulation of relationships is a central component of every Challenge, and this week’s episode of Battle of the Exes gave us the first taste of this season’s particular brand of political mischief.

Johnny Bananas was at the forefront of the scheming this time around, which shouldn’t be a surprise.  He’s a successful vet, and has learned how to pull the strings in his favor.  He may not be particularly subtle, and it’s yet to be seen how this particular game works out for him, but he is definitely a formidable force in the House Politics that every contestant must survive.

It’s unclear if Johnny has studied Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” prior to every season, but we sure have, and this week’s episode has led us to examine how Sun Tzu’s timeless principles can be applied in the cutthroat world of The Challenge.

The philosophy of battle strategy put forth in “The Art of War” is broken down initially into five basic factors.  For any Challenge Warrior striving for that prize money, this is a good place to start.

1)   Climate/Timing:  Sun Tzu spoke specifically about the actual weather changes, but these particular principles can be applied to The Challenge in the way contestants should monitor the momentum swings in the house.  For all the pre-game alliances someone may have going into a particular season, they can’t totally control aspects of the game such as challenge victories and simple accidents.  These uncontrollable events can shift momentum from team to team or person to person, and a skilled Challenge Warrior should be able to recognize these shifts.  Timing is crucial when you’re deciding whether to make a bold move, or lay low and wait.

 2)   Moral Ethics:  Few and far between.  Move on.

 3)   Terrain/Ground:  Tzu refers to these in literal terms, discussing the importance of your geographical location on the battlefield.  For The Challenge, this can pertain to the knowledge of your current status in the house hierarchy.  There can be many factors behind who is currently the ‘power team’ or ‘power player,’ such as dominance in physical challenges or pre-existing alliances, and for a newcomer it can be difficult to fully comprehend the unspoken rankings at any given moment.  But even though unspoken, these power positions are very real, and can affect who faces elimination every week.  Knowing where everyone stands can be a huge asset for a Challenge Warrior as they attempt to pull strings and climb to the top.

 4)   Leadership/Command:  This aspect of the “War” philosophy reasons that success on the battlefield is greatly dependent on the strength and wisdom of the person or persons in leadership roles.  For all the craziness going on in the world of The Challenge, there are still some intelligent and capable competitors whose track record of success reflects the importance of these qualities in the game.  Especially in a game like Battle of the Exes, where there are all kinds of situations with potential for emotional breakdowns, having a clear head and the willpower not to black out every night will take you far.

 5)   Methods:  Tzu emphasized that no matter what methods one uses in war, they should always be effective and efficient.  For a Challenge Warrior, this should mean that you have the freedom to bring your own personal style to the game, but if you want to get far, you’re going to have to keep things consistent and under control.  Contestants who have had success in the past have done it with different styles – Kenny’s unmatched egotism, Wes’ near-pathological dickishness, Laurel’s unhinged aggression – but they’ve all shared a confidence in their strengths are and a dedication to their initial gameplan.

Liner Notes

There’s no way that  the small-town bars the contestants get ferried out to every week are prepared for what’s coming their way.  At full strength, this group’s substance ingestion is fearsome, and the destruction they leave in their wake would put some rowdy frat houses to shame.  Some quiet owner of a local Dominican Republic bar probably jumped at the chance to host some “celebrities” from MTV for a few nights, and they got a Category 3 slurricane as a result.  Here’s to hoping they were properly compensated for the several weeks of cleanup duty they likely pulled.

At one point, Paula mentions that she ‘cannot’ (those quotes are intentional) hook up with Ty because she has a ‘boyfriend’ (those are too).  Now, Paula seems like a very nice person who means well.  But I would pay $10-15 to see and speak to her boyfriend, just to gauge what his game is.  He must be okay with open relationships, right?  Or has never seen MTV before?

We sincerely hope that CT is currently holding auditions for his new speed metal band Dome of Nagging Gremlins.