Hi there! Welcome back to The Benefactor. Last week, we were introduced to a new show rich with symbolism, “interesting” competitors, and the most dramatic game of Jenga ever. Three contestants have already been flung from the competition . . . let’s say we get rid of a few more, eh? Who will pass the tests of success? Who will be sent home? Will the forces of evil continue to flummox the innocent? The answers to all these questions and more lay before you.
We kick off the episode with Mark, who is kicked back in the secret control room, watching the contestants eat breakfast on one of the TV screens. Today, they will be put through another series of tests, and several contestants will be sent reeling from the game. So, be prepared to expect the unexpected and all that stuff. If you’re just tuning in with us, or you weren’t paying attention the first week, Mr. Cuban has devised a series of tests modeled from the qualities that he feels one needs to be successful . . . first impressions, living up to expectations, handling pressure, and so forth. What’s the Cuban Surprise on the menu today?
There’s No “I” in “Team,” But There’s an “M” and an “E”
Mark races up from the Batcave to stately Wayne Manor, where he explains the day’s events to the chillin’ contestants. The first test is centered upon “responsibility.” Three contestants—Linda, Dominic, and Shawn, are picked by Mark to be “team leaders.” These three leaders will, in turn, pick another contestant to join their team, until there are three equally-numbered teams. But wait! There are thirteen contestants! That means that there will be an odd person out, and that poor person will be sent home. Good heavens. This is worse than sandlot baseball.
Kevin tells us that he’s so nervous, he reflects the old saying, “like a corncob without niblets.” Now there’s one I hadn’t heard. With proverbial tension in the air that you could cut with that proverbial knife, the schoolyard pickin’ begins:
Linda: Picks Chris, Kevin, and Spencer
Dominic: Picks Tiffaney, Femia, and Christine
Shawn: Picks Latane, William, and. . . .
Only Kathy and Mario are left on the couch, their fate left in Shawn’s hands. Now, many of the contestants feel that Shawn is perhaps a little . . . “abrasive.” (Read: a biotch.) Shawn, on the other hand, feels that if being a strong, independent woman involves being said biotch, she’s fine with that. Remember, this is the second-grade teacher whose favorite pastime thus far has been bashing the other contestants. I wouldn’t really want my fate resting in her spindly little fingers, either. Who does she pluck to safety, and who does she mercilessly crush? Her pick is Mario, because he “left his family as I did, and made a huge sacrifice.” Mario is relieved, but this means Kathy is going home.
Aw, sad! Kathy seemed like a sweet person. She’s very disappointed to be eliminated, and tells us tearfully, while packing up, that the other contestants probably targeted her because she’s young and looks to have a good future. She’s also upset that Shawn didn’t seem to like her. Shawn’s choice again echoes weirdly in the background. Ack . . . creepy. Farewell, Kathy! I wouldn’t take any dislike from Shawn personally.
Now, here’s a question for you. Why, while living in this gigamungous mansion, are many contestants apparently arranged in the same room for sleeping? Or was Kathy just packing in a random room with eight beds? Something to ponder.
Meanwhile, a smirking Shawn feels no remorse for eliminating Kathy. Why, you ask? Because she hates women, of course. She despises them. Her strategy is to pick off the “catty ones” (and they’re all catty) and eliminate them one by one. After cleaning off all that venom from my TV screen, I decide that she should perhaps begin with herself.
Fritter and Waste the Hours in an Offhand Way
Back in the main room, Mark tells the contestants that making these cuts isn’t easy for him, and unfortunately, there are more to come. Soon! It’s time for the three teams to begin focusing on their next test--one that deals with time. Time, according to Mark, is much more valuable than money, and the best thing to do is to use it to gain a competitive advantage. This task is simple . . . the teams each get $2,500 and three hours with Mark, and they may do whatever they want. But remember . . . don’t waste his time. Linda’s team will get to spend time with Mark in the morning, Dominic’s team gets the afternoon, and Shawn’s team will get him in the evening.
Coffee and No TV
Team Linda is all hyped up and ready to go as Mark arrives at 9:00 A.M. Linda tells us that they’ve prepared a spot of breakfast, because a hungry person is not a happy person. That’s right. Just ask any college student, and they will confirm these words with morning-class notes, filled with sketches of muffins and coffee. Mark and the four contestants sit down and begin chatting. The four are happy that they get Mark first and are proud of what they have planned . . . Mark tells them to not be too proud of themselves just yet. The party is precariously close to crashing and burning right on the spot until Kevin brings the “ultimate icebreaker,” his ardent adoration of Oprah. As it turns out, he even has a picture of Oprah in his wallet, which he swears he didn’t know was there. I’m just curious why it was blurred out on television . . . but the more I think about it, maybe I don’t want to know. Kevin further tells the contestants that he’s making a big sacrifice being on the show, with no TV in the mansion to watch his idol’s show. (Once again . . . mansion? No TV? Something to ponder.)
After all that fun, Team Linda reveals that they have arranged to visit the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and deliver some toys, and they head out with Mark in tow. Linda reasons that no one could view visiting a children’s hospital and bringing a smile to some patients’ faces as a waste of time. The quintet takes a tour of the hospital, and the guides point out the many donations of Mavericks memorabilia. Mark tells us via confessional that visiting the hospital is always an amazing experience, but the team may have overlooked the fact that he just might have been there before . . . like, a lot. Nevertheless, they all visit with the kids, deliver toys, and all is good. At noon, back at the mansion, Mark tells them that he was excited to visit the hospital, but was a little disappointed that they didn’t use their time wisely and let him see them shine a bit more.
See, Rock isn’t Quite Dead Yet
Dominic’s team has been christened “Team Rockstar,” and his strategy for picking the team was to snatch up all the beautiful girls and ruin the morale of the guys on the other teams. So, you know this is going to be good. Tiffaney explains their strategy: Mark seems to be a beer-and-pretzels kind of guy, and he already spends much of his time in business-type situations. How about a day of just goofing off and having fun?
Mark is excited to see a stretch Hummer limo pull up to the mansion, and he steps in with Dominic to find the three girls, awaiting in a very groupie kind of way. (Hey, I’m just keeping with the theme!) Our rockin’ band heads off to a site of much merriment and idealized teenage angst, the arcade. Mark and the four have a blast there, hitting everything from skee-ball to Daytona to Dance Dance Revolution, where Mark thrashes his opponent with groove. Soul power!
To cap off the afternoon, the group chills over some drinks, and Mark reveals that he had an excellent time. He gets so caught up in work, he hasn’t taken a vacation in seven years, and this is one of those things that he’s always wanted to do but has never had the time. “I would pay somebody to force me to do this,” he grins in a confessional. *Manny raises hand nervously*
Super Mario Kart
And now, “the evening hangs beneath the moon, a silver thread on darkened dune.” Yes, it is 5:00 P.M. and time for the last team . . . the team of Shawn. If that weird opening tuba music is any indication of what this experience is going to be like, I fear for Mark’s sanity and/or dignity.
The group piles into the back of what looks like a Suburban, which Mark notes is crowded compared to his earlier rockstar treatment. It couldn’t have helped that William was stammering on and on asking for investment advice from Mark, presumably, the whole way there. Mario does a great imitation of this stammering in confessional, and we gather that perhaps Mario doesn’t like William too much. Luckily, the mood brightens when they reach their destination . . . Malibu Speedway! Go-Karts galore! The five strap in and put the pedal to the metal, crashing and spinning out all over the track. I bet many innocent passersby were wounded, but it all happened off-camera. Man-over-loudspeaker announces that Mark is the winner, with Mario coming in second and William third. (Believe it or not, there are other people on this team. We briefly saw Shawn spinning out on the racetrack, and I’ve heard tell that this Latane guy exists, too.)
After hitting the racetrack and drag racer look-alikes, Mark is in high spirits, and they head over to the next entertainment event of the day. Now, if they had an air-travel equivalent in the Stone Age, this is what I’d picture it looking like. Team Shawn has led Mark to what resembles a giant slingshot, with seats attached to the middle of the big rubber band (luckily, the seats are in an enclosed cage so these cavemen won’t launch to the other side of Pangaea). So, you sit in this thing, get sprung up into the air, you fall, and you spring up again many times, and I guess you get cheap thrills from it. I wouldn’t know, because I’m afraid of heights and wouldn’t ever go near the thing. Incidentally, so is Mark! This is a problem, people. If he’s not going to do this stunt, there is about 45 minutes of extra time. What’s the backup plan? Nada. William channels the first eliminee from that “other show” and complains that this team’s project manager (if you will) was not a quality leader up to his standards. So there.
Team Shawn can’t think of anything else to do, so they head back to the mansion and talk about . . . pretty much nothing as the crickets chirp loudly in the background. Mark sees no sense in continuing to waste time, so he gives them his review: While he enjoyed the racing (of course he did . . . he won every time!), their sub-par time management will cost them. Mario sees the dark shape of trouble on the horizon for his team.
At the end of what Mark calls “a long, long, day,” it is time for two more to be eliminated. The team that performed the worst on the task will be taken away, and only two of its members will return . . . ALIVE! So, who is the unlucky team? Is it Linda’s, who took Mark where he’s been before? Will it be Shawn’s, who wasted 45 minutes of precious time? Will it be Dominic’s, who received rave performance reviews from Mr. Cuban? Hey, you never know. Mark says he learned a lot about the team leaders from what kind of people they picked. Linda picked the strongest team possible, Dominic picked a group that he felt comfortable with, and Shawn picked people she could manipulate. Surprised?
There is some suspense, and the doomed team is . . . Shawn’s. For their insolence, they are driven to what possibly appears to be a church, and they will be sent into a room and interviewed one-by-one by Mark’s trusted board of advisors. The contestants’ fate is in their hands. The hands of . . . kids!
That’s right . . . meet the cherubic, uniformed second graders Katie, Mary, and Stuart. Mark thinks kids are an excellent judge of character and will see through any insincere fronts you may put up. Goodness, I hope so. The contestants shuffle in individually and face the veritable Inquisition:
William: Walks in with that creepy snickering that he often does. Stuart asks him what his favorite sport is, and why? William replies “scuba diving,” and tells the kids a story about *chortle* finding a moray eel with sharp pointy teeth under a rock. Katie cheerfully asks, “What would you do with a million dollars: give it to charity, invest it, or give it to me?” William laughs and says *snort* he can’t give her his money, and she is crestfallen. Nevertheless, William feels confident as he walks out and believes that kids *sniggle* are drawn to him. Hmm.
Latane: Finally makes an appearance! Yes. He starts things off well by calling Katie “ma’am” and says that he’ll give her his million dollars. His favorite sport is basketball, and he actually knows the names of some Mavericks players. He says he’s going to look into stopping mosquitoes’ biting of people and when asked about his favorite candy, he pulls some out of his pocket and lets the kids have some. This guy is a shoe-in.
Mario: Has been to outer space? Whoa. Actually, when asked this question, he says that he goes to space in movies—his favorite movies are the Star Wars series. To prove it, he has tattoos of Yoda and Darth Maul on his arms, which he shows the kids. He says that video games can be played as a sport, so thus, Halo is his favorite sport. Aw, Mario . . . these kids are too young to know about that just yet. He says that mosquitoes bite people because they’re like vampires. Overall, he does well if you ask me, but unfortunately, this probably all sailed over the kids’ heads like a TIE fighter.
Shawn: Believes that if she can’t do well with these kids, it reflects poorly on what she does for a living. And your behavior around the house doesn’t. “Why do mosquitoes bite us?” asks Stuart. Shawn replies, “Because they suck your blood . . . and it fertilizes the girls’ eggs so they can have more babies.” Hey! We don’t talk like that in class! *smacks hand with ruler* She gets majorly lucky when the kids ask her who her favorite Mavs player is, and she says, “Um . . . the number 13 guy.” This just happens to be Steve Nash, and Steve Nash just happens to be these kids’ favorite player. I’m so shocked by her luck that I have completely forgotten the rest of the questions and her answers, but she feels confident that she did well. “They saw into my heart,” says a moved Shawn. Aw. And they didn’t even run away.
From the Mouths of Babes
After Mary politely shoos away Shawn, the final interviewee, Mark goes in to see what the kids thought. They declare that there were some pretty smart people, and some were the dumbest people ever! They also make fun of everyone’s quirky mannerisms and Shawn’s having her eyes closed in the “mug shot” of her shown to the kids. Ah, I love kids . . . when they aren’t talking about me. Here’s the consensus.
William: They think he was kind of weird and a little nerdy, but Stuart thought the eel story was interesting. I’m glad he did.
Latane: Thumbs up, cheers and general mayhem abounds.
Mario: “It’s called cuckoo-odd,” says Mary. Stuart doesn’t like tattoos. Oddly, this doesn’t really surprise me coming from a second-grader clad in a school uniform.
Shawn: Katie says that Shawn was “a little over-the-edge.” Yes! “But, she’s a Nash fan! How could you argue with that!?” counters Stuart. No!
After the meeting, Mark thanks the kids for their excellent work, and next week, he says he’ll bring them back and “choose one of you to run one of my companies.” For a yooge salary.
Boys Don’t Cry
And so, my friends, it’s that time again . . . who’s going home? The children have spoken, and the unlucky adults are . . . Mario and William. Shawn is thrilled and says it’s the ultimate compliment, blah blah blah. Nobody cares. Besides, Mark says, she was very, very close to being sent home. Mario accepts the decision stoically, and reiterates that he’s eager to have kids, and this shows that he must need a little more practice. Best of luck, Mario! William says privately in confessional that he guarantees he’ll have more money than the winner of this competition in a year. Oh, so he’s going to be a bank robber, too? Awesome.
What happens next is almost too strange to tell . . . see the subtitle up there? Now, I love Robert Smith (and the rest of The Cure), but was he ever wrong on this one. William confesses that the hardest part of leaving is that he’s made some real friends here, and he might never see them again . . . and he sobs. Poor guy . . . I actually forget that he’s obnoxious and feel sorry for him. Hopefully, his friends will keep in touch.
And that, my friends, brings this episode to a close. Mark, Latane, and Shawn meet the other contestants at Chili’s, and there is a big toast to the remaining top ten. Be sure to tune in next week as the games turn to individual competition, and Dominic becomes the frontman for a rock band. Are they worth a million dollars? Join me and find out next week!
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