The Benefactor 10/25/04 Recap: I’ll See Your Serious, and Raise You a Dead Serious
Why hello there, my friends! Welcome back to tonight’s finale of The Benefactor! You see, I call you “friends” because if you’re still faithfully watching the show and reading my recaps, you are very good friends, indeed. Either that or you’re all insomniacs. Which pretty much describes my friends anyway.
But never mind all that! It’s finale time. The time when the winners win, the losers lose, and everything comes to a nice, tasty conclusion. Or does it? Only time or I will tell you, so let’s get this crazy train rolling. Someone’s going to become a millionaire, someone gets called out for a humongous lie, and someone is bound to be flummoxed at every turn! Me.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
No bones about it this time, because we mean business. No top-secret underground lair spying. No recapping the last episode. Only a fleeting shot of Dallas at night. Mark drops the veritable bomb of the next test on the contestants right off the bat . . . it’s time to get out of the mansion, so he’s going to visit their homes. That’s right, it’s time to scrub down the bathrooms and pile all that junk into the closet, overtop of the skeletons. Mark’s coming to see who you really are. Think of it; if you’ve been playing the demure act, and someone comes to your home and meets your family, what are you going to do when your mom tells them that you never shut up in real life? Punch out your poor mother? After Mark has visited everybody, they will all return and one more will be cut.
Mark’s first stop is to visit Linda’s house. Linda, he says, has been one of his favorites since the beginning, since she’s not just out for herself—she’s out to get a prosthetic leg for her mother. Who wouldn’t appreciate such a generous act? And what is this “foreshadowing” thing that I keep hearing about?
A Liar Should Have a Good Memory
Flying into Boston, Mark is greeted on arrival by Linda and her fiancé, Dan-in-the-Van. They enjoy some nice minglage in the van, and they head off to finally meet Linda’s mother, Teresa. Mother Teresa? Hey, come on. If that’s not funny, maybe you need to try less sleep. Mark takes an instant liking to Teresa, a spunky lady who seems to enjoy life and such diverse hobbies as collecting velvet Elvis paintings and stealing perfume from her daughter. What’s not to love? She is in a wheelchair and missing a leg. Sadly, no Jonny Fairplay here, afterall.
Finally, it’s time to go home. To Linda’s home. Will this be tough to watch? Will this reveal why Linda is so touchy about poverty and her “humble roots?” Well . . . off they drive, leaving inner-city Boston behind. Telephone poles and streetlights are replaced by lovely trees and oceanfront views. I can feel the rent progressively getting higher and higher. When they finally arrive at Dan and Linda’s home, Mark is flabbergasted. It’s nicer than the mansion he put the contestants in, for goodness sakes! Each room is furnished lovingly and expensively, and a flat-screen, high definition TV hangs over the fireplace. The bed has Ebenezer Scrooge-esque curtains surrounding it. Nearly every wall in the house is adorned with a framed picture, but they are all blurred out. Original Monet artwork? Or more Elvis paintings? It’s always the important questions that remain unanswered.
Mark is furious with the huge facade that Linda has clearly been playing up until this very moment, and he just barely manages to remain courteous and friendly. Things only get worse . . . or better, if you’re a cynical, sarcastic, or snarky viewer (which I know you all are) when one of Linda’s friends reveals that Linda spends all day instant-messaging and is an “internet geek.” We flash back to Linda’s professing to be computer-illiterate in an earlier task, and Mark is not amused. Dan-in-the-Van desperately tries to change the subject, but “How ‘bout them Patriots?” isn’t going to fool anyone now. Mark says he’s seen enough, and the next boot is blatantly obvious. So obvious, we aren’t even shown the footage of Mark visiting the other contestants, and we just hear him say that they were just as he expected them to be. I guess Dominic lives in a giant neon “Las Vegas” sign. . . .
So, are you all ready for a bombshell? The contestants and Mark meet back at the mansion, and Mark, donning a white rapper look with backwards baseball cap, eliminates Linda without much fanfare. Yep. Linda says she’s disappointed, and she should have taken him to a different house or something. I think it’s safe to say that she’s not feeling any remorse about her tactics.
A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent. –William Blake
Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Some Great Reward
With that drama coming to a close, we enter . . . the final countdown! It’s come down to the final round—Femia vs. Dominic. Even the math-challenged can tell you that each one now has a 50/50 chance of winning! Mark congratulates them both on lasting this long in the game and gives them the details of their final test. “Tomorrow,” he says, “you will each meet with me at the AA Center, where you will have one minute to convince me why I should give you the million dollars.” Yes, it’s the million dollar question, and they have the night to think about what their answer will be. Gah! Femia and Dominic, obviously lacking the fortitude to go out to Chili’s tonight, are having take-in and pondering what to say to Mark. I bet neither of them gets too much sleep tonight. I’m hoping they would find this recap pretty darned funny in their deliria, too.
Well, no rest for the weary. The sleepless night passes during the commercial break, and just like that, it’s time to face Mark, who looks more intimidating than ever in the weirdly-lit room. The first to arrive is Femia, who is dressed for success and looks very confident, whether she really is or not. She wanders the maze to the Chamber of Judgment, where Mark pops the long-awaited question. No, no, no . . . not that one! The one about why Femia should win! Femia’s answer is superb, very well thought out, and delivered with two seconds to spare. She speaks of realizing that she wasn’t just competing against the other contestants; she was competing against herself—to step outside the box and do her best to shine in this opportunity.
Mark nods and thanks Femia for the great answer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the answer that he was looking for, and he’s sorry to say that she hasn’t won the million dollars. Sadness! Femia is crushed, but thanks Mark for the opportunity and the great time on the show.
Enter Dominic, who is dressed . . . well, like Dominic, and looks utterly lost when he enters the maze of the AA Center. He somehow finds his way into Mark’s room, takes a deep breath, and delivers his own pitch. He says that he brought the rock star personage week in and week out, and if nothing else, he’s gained the most valuable thing in the world from this competition: a friend. Add a lot of “like”-s, “dude”-s, and “totally”-s, in there, and you pretty much have it all, with 20 seconds to spare. Mark grins and says that Dominic will, indeed, always be his friend. “But unfortunately,” he adds, “I’m sorry to say that that wasn’t the answer I was looking for.” Dominic has not won the million dollars.
Living in the Limelight, Caught in the Camera Eye
What!? You mean that there’s no winner? What is this new devilry!? Well, fear not, my friends, for after the dejected Dominic leaves, Mark explains the true final test of the game. He’s a sneaky one, he is! By telling them both that they have lost, he will get an opportunity to see how they react to failure, one of the most obvious marks of character. Mark says, “Now it’s the winner’s game to lose and the loser’s to win.” So back to the secret underground lair we go! Fly!
Both Femia and Dominic are utterly disappointed and are now faced with the daunting challenge of separately facing interviews and photographers in their depressed state. First is a photographer, who asks, “So, did you win, by the way?”
Dominic answers through his teeth, “No.”
“Oh, ok,” replies the photographer. “Well, I need you to give me. . . .”
“Loser’s pose?” finishes Dominic?
“Yes, exactly!” photographer-man confirms much too happily. Nice.
Femia must also pout for the camera, but she finds strength in reading a card from her boyfriend, and she’s reminded that life will go on. Que sera, sera?
Well, photographers are annoying, but not nearly as annoying as interviewers. Thus, we have George Pinocchio . . . er . . . Pennacchio from ABC here to grill them about what it’s like to be the big loser. Not that he’s trying to lead them with his questions or anything, either. “I don’t know, but if I were in your shoes, I’d be a lot more upset,” says he after a few questions from both Dominic and Femia. Unfortunately for George, neither one takes the bait, and both are very classy and gracious in their interviews. I have to give bonus points to Femia, however, for not making every other word in her sentences “dude.” Thus, George’s work in the set-up is done, and he goes off to let his nose grow in the privacy of his own home.
It Looks Like We’ve Made it to the End
Six hours later, it’s time for the reunion show! Except, not. Still ever the sly fox, Mark has told Dominic and Femia that he’s gathering all of the contestants back together at the mansion to toast the winner, but in reality, this will be the big reveal! *jazz hands* Femia says that she just can’t wait for it to be over, and Dominic looks none too thrilled, either. So imagine their surprise when they arrive and just find . . . each other! They say “hi,” hug each other, and Dominic congratulates Femia.
The puzzled Femia laughs and replies, “Congratulations to you!”
“For what?” inquires the equally puzzled Dominic. Then the two both claim to have not won, while Mark laughs in the control room. The rest of the exchange resembles this:
“I’m so serious!”
“I’m dead serious.”
Wishing to stop the madness before anything drastic occurs, Mark steps in with that Dr. Evil laugh we’ve been waiting for all season long. “The game’s not over until I say it’s over,” laughs Mr. Cuban. He explains the final test to the two flustered, yet giddy competitors, and holds up an envelope . . . the envelope with the name of the winner inside. “The good news,” says Mark, “is that I didn’t change my mind on the winner.” And it’s that dramatic time, dear readers. The winner is. . . .
Upon seeing her name, Femia collapses into a big, ecstatic, teary mass on the couch. Mark and Dominic both give her a big ol’ hug, and all is merry and blithe. Dominic laughs in confessional, “Like, I thought I was the loser, but . . . well, I am the loser.” Ah, Dominic, bless him. If ever there was a gracious runner-up, it would be him. Luckily for our rock star, Mark isn’t going to just forget about him . . . oh no. Mark mentions that Dominic will be going to college, and he will have help with his financial problems. Hmm . . . it seems that the title of the show is ringing true, indeed.
But as nice a guy as Dominic is, forget him right now . . . this is Femia’s moment! Mark then brings her family and boyfriend in to share in her glee, and there are group-hugs galore. Femia’s mom beams, “I’m so proud of you, baby!” She also adds, “Don’t cry, baby . . . it’ll mess up your makeup!” After being presented with the official million-dollar check, Femia, her dad, her brother, and boyfriend Cedric all run outside and jump into the pool in celebration. Femia’s mom decides to just cheer them on from the poolside, because she knows better than to mess up her makeup.
And with that, season one of The Benefactor has come to a close, and I can’t have imagined a more joyful finish. Thank you all so much for reading and keeping me company for these long nights, and a big thank you to Mark Cuban, himself, for hanging out on the board and answering so many questions. We’re all very, very appreciative. And if you ever feel like handing out any more money. . . . ;)
This recap isn’t over until I say it’s over. And I say, it’s over! firstname.lastname@example.org