While many reality competition shows try to throw in twists and promise the unexpected, most of them actually rely on the same basic challenges season after season. Since we're tired of seeing contestants making the same idiotic, and totally avoidable, mistakes every year, we've compiled the three keys to success for every major series. Study up before you audition.
1. Get physically fit. There are always endurance tests where those core muscles come into play. Plus, America's watching you 24/7 and we don't want to see lazy slobs who don't have the energy to lift their heads off of a pillow for 14 hours at a time.
2. Think of good alliance names. Because 99 percent of the ones that houseguests come up are ridiculously stupid.
3. Don't be annoying. If your friends tell you that your laugh is horrible, or that you have a tendency to fly off the handle, work on controlling that, or at least saving it for the diary rooms, so that people don't evict you immediately.
1. Learn how to run. Since teams have now finally realized that you need someone who can drive a standard vehicle, this should be the next mandatory requirement. Getting from point A to B doesn't always involve a cab, so learning how to do a mile-long sprint (with a backpack on) is a necessity. The challenges aren't usually that physically demanding, but a run can make or break a team.
2. Learn to speak Mandarin Chinese. Almost every race heads to Asia at some point, and while most contestants can brutalize some Spanish, very few people know any Mandarin. It's a widely spoken language and could give a team a major leg up.
3. Pay attention to details. As we've seen time and time again, a missed clue or a lost passport can make a major difference in where a team finishes in the race. Read everything.
1. Balance your alcohol consumption/workout schedule. You know you are going to be physically tortured on this show on a regular basis, while being encouraged to drink copious amounts of booze, so figure out a happy medium so your giant beer belly (or hangover) doesn't get in the way.
2. Get over your fear of heights. Go to a hypnotist or spend days bungee jumping, because we don't want to hear you whine about being dangled from a crane.
3. Make an alliance before leaving your house. These shows are often about getting a team, so find some former "Real World"/"Road Rules" friends and plan on teaming up together so Kenny and Wes don't roll over everyone else. Again.
1. Learn how to start a fire/open a coconut/build a shelter. These are always the first things people have to do, and your uselessness in these basic survival skills could make you an early target.
2. Get adopted by a Hantz or a Mariano. It would really help if you were related to a former cast member, particularly Li'l Russell or Boston Rob. It would get you a lot of screen time at tribal council and stir up conflict among your fellow tribe members.
3. Understand how this game is played. You don't need to be a superfan, but watch a few episodes so you get the basic concepts of the show (like how to make alliances or the fact that people are going to vote you out if you are really annoying).
1. Pack on a few extra pounds. Before you head into the house, pack on some more water weight, so that you have a higher percentage to lose. Seems counterintuitive, but being able to shed 23 pounds the first week instead of 15 could make a huge difference.
2. Don't fear the treadmill. Spend some time getting to know this piece of equipment and how to use it without holding on to the sides, so that the trainers don't have to waste their breath yelling at you, and so you don't have to worry about falling off of it on national television and looking like an idiot.
3. Exorcise your demons. Most people go on this show to deal with the emotional aspects of why they got there, but if you can figure that out right after you get cast with a licensed therapist or health care professional, then you can get down to the business of shedding pounds without having to wait for a breakdown to happen.
1. Learn how to make beef Wellington properly. Even more often than poorly executed risotto, the chefs brutalize this pricey dish, which is the keystone of many a "Hell's Kitchen" menu.
2. Grow a thick skin. There's nothing worse than chefs who start crying because Gordon Ramsay belittled them. Have someone hurl insults at you while you are cooking at home to avoid this inevitability.
3. Start smoking. Normally, we wouldn't encourage such unhealthy behavior, but it seems that the majority of the chefs on this show smoke and strategize, so you don't want to be left out of the crowd.
1. Familiarize yourself with the basic dances. Don't be the moron in the intro package who has never heard of the samba before. At least watch some stuff online before you sign on.
2. Create a social media following. It may come across as desperate, but celebrities who beg for votes on their Twitter accounts (or get their friends/family to do it) tend to stick around longer.
3. Stock up on double-stick tape. You can never be too careful.
1. Cultivate a good gimmick/sob story. Be a single parent, have a dead relative, love to write songs for the girls who have broken your heart, wear a mask, etc. Actually, don't do that last one. But if you've got some sort of sympathetic tale or mysterious characteristic, you're a shoo-in for an early rose.
2. Be there for the right reasons. Let's be real, while you are not going to find your soul mate on this show, you have to at least pretend to be looking for one so you don't get voted out before you have a chance to become the next Bachelor/Bachelorette -- or at least land yourself on "Bachelor Pad."
3. Get a prescription for Valtrex. Better safe than sorry.
1. Model yourself after Tyra. We aren't all blessed with her genes, but if you can show her that you've got a forehead like hers or have some other characteristic that she holds dear, you'll stick around even without a good picture. She's so vain, this entire show is about her.
2. Don't be in love with your hair. There is always a makeover, or excuse us, Tyover, where hair gets chopped off. Deal with it.
3. Learn to smize. Tyra mentions this about 100 times an episode, so learn it, live it, love it in order to avoid being told that you look dead behind the eyes.
1. Study fashion history. So that when you are told to make something '70s inspired, you are in the right decade, and not an entire century off.
2. Learn to sew. While Anya seems to be the exception to the rule, most people who only know how to design and use other people as their seamstresses don't do particularly well on this show.
3. Practice with unconventional items. Have your friends surprise you with items from the farmers' market or the dollar store and give yourself a time limit, so that you whine and complain less when these types of challenges arise on the show.
1. Diversify your cooking. If you excel in Asian cuisines, make sure to practice with a few other flavor profiles, or else you will definitely get called out by the judges and your fellow cheftestants.
2. Come up with a catchphrase. This mainly applies to after the show airs, but the ones who have gone on to post-show fame (Carla, Fabio, etc.) have had some sort of signature phrase or gimmick.
3. Master several desserts. There is always going to be a challenge that involves creating a full meal. Memorize a couple of cookie or pastry recipes, because warm fruit is a cop-out.
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