The Cast of 'The Challenge: Battle of the Exes 2' is Proof That Emotional Baggage Always Makes Great TV

Battle of the Exes is one of the best team concepts The Challenge has in its arsenal. In an ideal world, as it was with the original Battle of the Exes, the Challenge cast serves up matchups like Camila and Johnny Bananas or Ty and Emily who alternate between loving each other, hating each other, trying to murder the other with a wicker chair, and "killing it" in challenges. For exes, the emotional hangups from their pasts are just as important as seeing who can bodily apply the most honey to their partner and walk across a tight rope or whatever.

Battle of the Exes II exists in a less than ideal world, though; the sobering fact that two competing cast members have passed away since the show's filming — and that both Diem and Knight are involved in Ex pairs that have real feelings involved — is sure to bring a whole new emotional element to to Battle of the Exes II. But... MTV has also lined up some truly absurd couples to ensure that this is a season worth watching for Challenge reasons (someone will punch his or her hand through a mirror, shotgun four beers, and then run a mini-triathalon the next day that ends in a polar bear plunge/spelling-bee hybrid) and sentimental reasons (honoring Diem and Knight's legacy). But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's meet the Exes (or at least let's meet whatever details they put in their MTV bios), and recall their varying degrees of Ex-dom according to actual memory...

Image: MTV

Zach & Jonna

Ah, yes, the epic romance of Zach the puppy dog conservative and Jonna the wild child. These two didn’t make any sense, but when they locked eyes at Battle of the Seasons, it was all over: Jonna called it quits with her then boyfriend and Zach continued to become less of a tool than he had been on his Real World season. But, according to MTV, and their awkward interactions in subsequent Challenges, things went south when Zach broke up with Jonna suddenly, leaving some lingering trust issues. Trust is huge, Zach is a bit of a loose cannon, and Jonna isn’t particularly athletic, so a top-half finish would be a real miracle for these two.

Image: MTV

Wes & Theresa

The sass on this team — I’m ready for it! Challenge vet Wes met fresh meat Theresa on Fresh Meat II, and even though they messed around a little, it never seemed like they were a particularly great match in the first place. But they did both hate Kenny, a bond that has brought together so many in the past. Wes tells MTV that Theresa was hurt when he didn’t pursue her post-Challenge, but Theresa says she just can’t stand him. A little fire can be a good thing, especially for two good competitors, and these two are giving me a Camila/Bananas pull-it-together-for-the-challenges vibe.

Image: MTV

Thomas & Hailey

Thomas and Hailey are real deal exes… like, they didn’t even meet on a Bunim/Murray show or anything. As former high school sweethearts, Hailey was brought in as Thomas’ titular Ex in Real World: Ex-plosion, where they didn’t exactly recover any of the love lost. Thomas tells MTV that the relationship was “toxic,” and Hailey says Thomas can’t just forgive her for being a bad girlfriend (when she was, presumably, 17-years-old) and move on. That emotional baggage sounds too heavy to carry across a tightrope while holding the other on their backs, which they will inevitably have to do.

Image: MTV

Leroy & Nia

Leroy and Nia’s entire former relationship is based on ”suspiciously leaving a bathroom” during Free Agents, according to MTV. When confronted about their suspicious toiletry behavior on the Free Agents reunion, they denied it, but they might be singing a different tune when it’s time to really pair up without the comforting presence of a toilet paper roll dispenser. But I don’t even care if they’re not really exes, because I love Leroy in a way that you shouldn’t love a stranger, and we deserve a performance out of Nia that lives up to her original hairdryer-wielding ways on The Real World. These two will draw blood on the first night or win the whole damn thing; there is no other way.

Image: MTV

Knight & Jemmye

These two are as ex-y and as unpredictable as they come. Knight and Jemmye met on Real World: New Orleans and have been pushing each other’s buttons ever since. Through out many Challenges, neither has ever been a great physical player, but they always manage to stick around longer than you’d expect. Perhaps when paired up they might finally be able to get along again… though that picture wouldn’t suggest it.

Image: MTV

Jordan & Sarah

Finally! Finally, Sarah gets a partner who might be able to keep up with her! I don’t care if Jordan is The Worst about 50 percent of the time, I just care that he also has the capacity to be freakishly athletic when he’s not getting a big head. And, if anyone, Sarah certainly has the ability keep him humble. Their hot and heavy relationship on Rivals II was ended when Sarah’s partner quit and she had to leave, and the romance is certainly dead now that Sarah is engaged. Maybe these two can just sit back, relax, keep Jordan quiet and compete; and finally get Sarah that win… or even just keep her on past he sixth episode.

Image: MTV

Johnny & Avery

How does Johnny do it? He wooed the coolest girl in the Real World: Portland cast, moved in with her, and then dominated Free Agents as a rookie. But according to MTV, his infamous luck was up at some point because Johnny broke up with Avery for allegedly cheating on him, an allegation that Avery denies. Johnny seems to be good at everything, and though Avery is unproven, she knew how to throw down in the Portland house, but things might still be a little to raw for these two to keep their heads totally in the game.

Image: MTV

John & Simone

I’m trying to stay optimistic about the idea of bringing in fresh Are You the One meat on The Challenge, but mostly I’m counting these teams as easy first-outs to keep the rightful Real World players there for a few extra weeks. Especially these two… “JJ” and Simone were kind of a wreck on AYTO : a weird-hookup, drink-throwing, window-shattering wreck. I don’t predict balancing on a block of ice for 24-hours at the finale in their future.

Image: MTV

Jay & Jenna

Well, this team photo certainly seems to say that real-life Real World: Ex-Plosion exes, Jay and Jenna can be pals, but their MTV bio predicts drama: apparently, Jenna falls ”in the arms of one of the most powerful vets in the game,” and that gets Jay trying to work up some new “partners” of his own. But hey, maybe if these two can get their kicks elsewhere, and with a powerful vet on Jenna’s side, they can get along and stick around.

Image: MTV

Dustin & Jessica

Ugh, Dustin and Jessica — maybe it’s that I was always rooting for Dustin and Heather in such an unhealthy way (see: strangers), but I was no fan of Dustin and Jessica as a couple, and I’m possibly even less excited about them as enemies. Even though they didn’t get that much time to develop their relationship on Free Agents, MTV says the girlfriend Dustin coupled up with once he returned home got a little nasty with Jessica on Twitter, so that should make for some fun, high-pitched, accented arguments in the Exes house.

Image: MTV

CT & Diem

Oh, this is just tough. CT & Diem have a real love story that fans have gotten to watch in real time over eight years of Challenges. Whether they were together or apart, these two have always held onto something for each other, and from what they’ve told MTV, it sounds like they went into Exes focused on each other and the win. CT said that Diem deserves this win and Diem was just glad to have him in her corner. Everyone has always rooted for Diem inside and outside of Challenges, and following her passing, we can only hope her storyline with CT will be treated with the utmost respect.

Image: MTV

Adam & Brittany

In the words of MTV, “The question isn’t if Adam has enough muscles to perform, but whether or not Brittany can keep her hands off of [Adam] long enough for either of them to compete.” In the words of me, “UGH.” I don’t have much of an investment in these two from Are You the One, but I do kind of hope they stick around long enough to prove that they’re not just stereotypes brought to life in some sort of Bunim/Murray robot lab. The photo bodes well, at least.

Image: MTV

Bananas & Nany

Should we just hand this win to Bananas and Nay now? They’re not even exes! ”Rumored to have hooked up outside of The Challenge,” is the best that MTV can pitch the two powerhouses, but apparently, one of them ”has a change of heart and old feelings surface,” which might be difficult to pull off, as those feelings are almost assuredly fake. But, who really cares; you can always count on these two to drive the storyline and give it their all in challenges, so if we have to flex the boundaries of Challenge truth a little bit to keep a few good players around, so be it. Can Bananas and Nany overcome their secret past? Will the weight of their undercover romance be too much?! Can these two get past their burning passion for each other and take home the win??? This season, on The Challenge

Image: MTV