HOLLYWOOD─I have always been a fan of the MTV reality competition series “The Challenge.” I’m from a time where I recall the old school formula, where it used to involve cast members from “The Real World” going toe-to-toe with cast members from “Road Rules.” Yeah, some people might recall “The Real World” which I cannot remember the last time a new season aired, and when it comes to “Road Rules” people might be scratching their head trying to think exactly what that show is.

Anyways, things have evolved quite a bit in recent seasons with BMX rider T.J. Lavin. Lavin has truly made his mark on the series as a notable name and one who is not afraid to push the boundaries for the players. I am extremely happy to see with this latest season, ‘Total Madness’ players cannot hide behind the scenes. If you want to make it to the finals you must enter ‘purgatory’ and defeat an opponent. For so long, players always focused on playing a numbers game and relying on alliances, that all changed this season.

Why? Well, if you don’t win a Red Skull, you cannot compete in the final. So instead of players being petrified of going into an elimination match, they are now clamoring to get into an elimination match to prove that they deserve to remain in the game and compete for the ultimate prize money.  Yes, it totally changes the dynamics of the game and I’m ecstatic that Lavin issued this threat. A true competitor is not afraid to compete, and to all those who have skated by season after season after season, that is no longer possible.

Just one slight twist would impact the game even more if you ask me: if a person wins an elimination match, they cannot be immediately voted back in. Why is this good? It would force players to build alliances with players who might be on the bottom forcing a game that is not solely dominated by a select few players.

I will admit as much as I hate Johnny ‘Bananas’ as a character, the guy makes for fascinating TV and has been a staple on this series for what seems like forever. I mean there has only been a select few seasons where Bananas has not competed as a contestant, and his rivalry with Wes reached a feverish pitch last week. Wes and Johnny came face-to-face in an elimination match. It suddenly dawned on me: these two have never competed against each other, but were always angling to get the other out the game whenever they competed against one another. It was a close match, but ultimately it was Johnny who claimed the victory sending Wes packing.

Think of “The Challenge” like “Survivor” and “Big Brother,” but with competitions on a much grandeur scale. This is not a walk in the park, and you’re not just sitting in one spot or answering trivia questions to win the top prize people. Are there showmances? Of course, but this game really looks at the ins and outs of alliances, deception, backstabbing and rivalries that tend to boil over in epic ways. I mean we’ve already seen notable players like CT, Jordan and Tori already get  booted from the game, whereas you have players like Kyle, Nany, Josh and others still in.

Look, the game used to be reserved for players who previously appeared on MTV, now those who have appeared on other reality shows in the US and across the pond have been thrown into the mix people. The series does sometimes have pacing issues where an entire episode can drag without an elimination which is NOT fun to say the least. Yeah, the drama leading up to it can be exciting, but I expect someone to get the boot, no matter what transpires people.

The house voting is something that annoys me because we never see any deviation from it from season to season. Once someone’s name is put out there, it seems to stick like glue and rarely changes. I mean I cannot remember a moment where an actual blindside transpired during the voting process. Beyond that, you can expect something exciting from week to week, and it never hurts that the audience has no idea how the elimination will unfold. There is NO PREVIEW of what to expect and when you have titans going against underdogs, it’s always fun to see people on the top of the totem pole crash and burn people. “The Challenge” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on MTV.