Welcome to The Scholar, ABC’s first-ever Jacuzzi-free reality show! Ten intelligent, over-achieving high school seniors will compete in a series of challenges in order to win a college scholarship worth up to $250,000. All of these students have the brains, but not necessarily the financial means to go to the colleges of their dreams.
The students will compete both as teams and as individuals while being judged by the Scholarship Committee, a group comprised of three college admissions experts. The contestants will be judges, not on intellect alone, but also on their creativity, ethics, potential to learn and grow, leadership, and the ability to stand up for what they believe in.
So get out your protractors and let’s meet the contestants!
As the students arrive at the Scholar residence - an older, dorm-like house located in Los Angeles, CA - we learn a bit about the contestants through their voice-overs and captions under their names.
Max – Oakland, CA
Max wants to major in political science because he is going to make a difference in this world. He sees a lot of negativity going on in Oakland – drugs, gang warfare. He believes that college is his only way out of it. GPA: 4.0. Valedictorian.
Amari – St. Charles, MO
She wants her voice to be heard. GPA: 4.0 SAT: 1550
Scot – New Freedom, PA
Scot feels it is very important to be your own hero. He has been home-schooled his entire life and never went to high school. He is not used to having classmates. GPA: 4.0 SAT: 1580
Milana – Fresh Meadows, NY
Milana is a stem cell research assistant. She wishes to be a bi-lingual scientist or doctor and wants to find the cure for cancer. (Author’s note: You go, girl!) GPA: 4.6.
Liz – Buhl, ID
Her first choice college is Yale University. GPA: 4.0 Math prodigy
Jeremy – Westminster, CA
His life embodies the American dream. GPA: 4.6 academic decathlon
Alyssa – Yuba City, CA
Alyssa feels that one day, she will walk on the moon. GPA: 4.67 Poetry silver cup winner.
Davis – Memphis, TN
He wants to be the president because he wants to see a change in American culture. Davis thinks he is the most practically smart person he knows, and given any problem, he is more likely to solve it than anyone. He wants to win, and he will. He manages to earn the dislike of Scot within moments of meeting. GPA: 4.6 Political activist.
Gerald – Commerce, TX
His intelligence doesn’t define him; it is just a part of him. GPA: 3.91 Varsity mascot.
Melissa – Tarzana, CA
Her goal in life is to have a positive effect on the lives of others. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at age of 10 and had a serious surgery to correct her spine, but hasn’t let it get in her way. She feels she has been very fortunate throughout her life and wants to give back in a small way. GPA: 4.2 Produces charity events.
As the students arrive and greet each other, one can’t help but notice that they are all very polite and well mannered, exchanging introductions and compliments. I notice that their residence is seemingly bereft of the usual swimming pools and hot tubs that grace the sets of most reality shows. Hmm, what will they do for fun? My question is quickly answered as the students check out the laptops provided to them, shouting out specs to each other and proclaiming their satisfaction. Ah, a show after my own tech-geek heart.
Let the games begin!
The scholars arrive at the USC campus and meet the show’s host, Rob Nelson, Juris Doctor, Stanford Law School. He explains that the contestants will be judged on their intellect, creativity, character, and leadership abilities. Ultimately, their fate will be in the hands of the scholarship committee, comprised of the three admissions officers, Marquesa Lawrence, Shawn Abbott, and Peter Johnson.
Each week’s competition will have three rounds:
1. The Captain’s Quiz
2. The Team Challenge
3. The Admissions Showdown
The Captain’s Quiz is a timed test where all of the contestants will compete individually. The two individuals with the most correct answers and the best times will win, and become the team captains for round two.
The two captains will select their teams for participation in the Team Challenge.
The captain of the winning team moves on the Admissions Showdown and competes against two others chosen by the Scholarship Committee. The winner of each Admissions Showdown will win one of the five finalist spots and compete for the ultimate prize, the full-ride scholarship.
The Captain’s Quiz
The first Captain’s Quiz begins immediately. This first test is a history quiz, focusing on space exploration. The test will consist of eight events and sixteen years, which need to be matched up accordingly. The two with the most correct answers will win, and the fastest time will be used as the tie-breaker.
I’d love to share the questions and answers with you, but unfortunately, a weather-advisory was running across my screen during this portion of the show.
Several of the contestants are concerned that their knowledge of the space program is very limited, but Davis is bursting with confidence, having recently read many books about John F. Kennedy that contained a lot of relevant information.
At the end of the quiz, Rob announces the results:
Davis, Alyssa, and Jeremy each had the same number of correct answers.
Alyssa completed her test in 2 minutes and 14.3 seconds.
Jeremy’s time was 1 minute and 34.5 seconds.
Davis is the winner, with a time of 1 minute and 34.1 seconds – merely 4/10 of a second ahead of Jeremy.
Before sending the students off for a lunch break, Rob reminds them that they’ll return to compete as teams. He also adds one bit of new, and very exciting information: the person who wins the Admissions Showdown will win, not only a coveted position in the final five, but also a $50,000 scholarship courtesy of everyone’s favorite corporation, Wal-Mart. Jaws drop all around and the kids are obviously excited to learn that five of them will win $50,000. While it isn’t the big prize, the money will still make a sizable difference in financing their education.
Jeremy is especially moved by this news, and is determined to win this first scholarship and fulfill his dreams. We learn a little more about Jeremy, who is very proud of his Vietnamese heritage and comes from a close family. His parents had a rough immigration to the US, spending seven days in a boat with very little water to drink. He is very appreciative of the sacrifices his parents made, including their own educations, to provide a better life for their children.
During their lunch break, the students begin chatting and getting to know each other. Melissa poses the question, “How do you label yourself, and how do others label you?” Gerlald says he is in the band nerd/theater group (hey, that was my group!). Scot says he is the home-schoolster, and Melissa falls in with the musician crowd. Davis says that he is the person that everyone knows, and they either love or hate him. He claims to like it this way. We are privy to a confessional from Alyssa who says it is simple; Davis just rubs her the wrong way.
The Team Challenge
After lunch, the contestants regroup and meet up with Rob and the committee. Rob explains that the team challenge will consist of a series of puzzles and brainteasers directly related to a college curriculum. They will have to solve these puzzles from a number of locations on the USC campus and email their answers to Rob, using the laptop provided.
Davis and Jeremy, having won the Captain’s Quiz, come forward to pick their teams. Davis’s team will be the Gold Team, and Jeremy’s team is the Red Team. Creative, huh? Actually, the names were chosen for them. I’m sure Davis would have named his team after himself if given the opportunity. Since Davis had the fastest time, he gets to pick first. He chooses Liz as the first member of his team. The rest of the picks are as follows:
Neither Gerald nor Milana are especially thrilled to be chosen last. This method of choosing teams seems to bring back childhood nightmares to even the most confident of contestants. Milana, however, is not surprised to be chosen last because she doesn’t know her fellow contestants yet, and she did finish last in the quiz.
The teams gather their laptops and clue envelopes and begin hustling. They huddle around the campus maps trying to locate their destinations. When they believe they know where they are going, they get moving quickly.
Both teams are shown working on the first challenge. They are provided with a stick puzzle of a cow. Moving only two sticks, they must rearrange the puzzle so that the cow is now facing to the right instead of to the left. After a bit of brainstorming, Gold Team’s Melissa seems to be on to something when she suggest that they move two sticks that cause the cow to look back over its shoulder. The rest of her teammates find this solution satisfactory and they race off to the next challenge after emailing their solution to Rob.
Meanwhile, the Red Team struggles with the same puzzle and comes up with a different solution. They move a different set of sticks than Team Davis did and come up with a slightly different figure. They worry that their cow is not looking to the right, but feel that they can explain this by claiming that the cow is upside-down.
Both teams hustle to Room Two, which contains three numbered switches controlling three lights on the opposite side of the wall. They must determine which switch controls which light, and they are allowed only one trip to the other side of the wall to view the lights. Both teams discuss a number of alternatives and try to do their best deductive reasoning. A voiceover narration informs us that they key to this challenge is the fact that light emanates heat. If they turn on two switches, and then turn one off, they should find that of the three bulbs, one is on, one is warm but turned off, and the last is off. It is unclear if either team came to this conclusion, but they send off their answers and move on to the last part of the challenge.
The two teams arrive at the third puzzle, a cryptogram. For those of you unfamiliar with cryptology, a cryptogram is a word puzzle where each letter is represented by a number or symbol and must be decoded to reveal a familiar phrase. I’ll hide the answer below if you’d like to try and solve it. The puzzle is as follows:
15-8-7 10-22-6-17-2-26 25-22-1-20-18-5-6
Team Jeremy (Red) arrives first and begins working furiously. When Team Davis (Gold) arrives moments later, both teams lower their voices and begin to whisper and gesture to avoid revealing their answers to the other team. Jeremy and Scot work quickly and lead their team to a fast finish. Highlight the following to read the answer:Click to see Spoiler:“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.”
Red Team emails their answer and scurries off to the finish line. When Gold Team realizes their opponents have departed, Davis wisely suggests to his team that they take their time. The other team will have beaten their time, so it is important that they make sure that their answer is correct. They arrive at the same answer and head off to meet the other team and Host Rob.
Rob congratulates Red Team on being the first ones back and tells them they got answered every question correctly – they begin clapping excitedly – EXCEPT, he says, for one. Psych! (Now Rob, that wasn’t very nice. Tsk, tsk.) Red Team quickly deflates as Rob informs them that they did not do the cow puzzle correctly.
Rob addresses Gold Team and explains that since they arrived behind Red Team, it is imperative that they will have answered all the questions correctly…and they have. Gold Team celebrates their victory with high-fives and a quick huddle. As the captain of his team, Davis automatically advances to the Admissions Showdown. Jeremy looks crestfallen since he did not lead his team to victory, even though he, like all the others, is still eligible to be chosen for the Showdown.
Rob asks Davis to identify the member of his team that helped him the most. Davis answers that since the cow puzzle’s being completed correctly was the reason that they beat the other team, he would have to say Melissa. She was the person who came to the right answer. Melissa looks very pleased and confesses she is very honored to have been chosen as MVP, even though she feels she slowed her team down by second-guessing herself. Turning to Jeremy, Rob asks him to answer honestly and pick the person who hindered his team the most. Looking at his team, Jeremy says that they all did a good job. As the leader, he believes it was his responsibility to ensure that his team answered correctly, so he identifies himself as the biggest hindrance to their success. Rob seems impressed with the young man’s willingness to shoulder the blame. Red Team gathers around their leader and let Jeremy know that they don’t believe he was at fault – no one person in particular is to blame. Obviously, they are all grateful to have not been singled out for their flaws, and Jeremy has earned some favor with them.
Getting to Know You
Back at Casa de Scholar, a perky young woman who identifies herself as Francine greets the contestants. She is their R.A. (resident advisor), and will be there in the house with them should they need her assistance. As anyone who has been to college knows, she is really there to put an end to any raging keg parties and to make sure that no one is hung up on a hook by their underwear. This doesn’t look like that kind of crowd, but you never know. Francine is also in charge of posting the list of contestants chosen to participate in the Showdown.
The kids head off to have dinner in Hollywood, excited to be there. They dine on what appears to be Asian cuisine around a large steamy table. Alyssa’s irritation with Davis bubbles to the surface and she asks him if he thinks he is hot. He says, of course, everyone is always telling him that. The others look on in amusement. Alyssa tells Davis that while confidence is great, the level to which he thinks of himself is very unattractive. He is not bothered by her comments and there is no love lost between these two. My instincts tell me that we can look forward to further confrontations between them in the next few weeks. Oh goody.
Back at the house, the students sit around and reveal their nerves and worries about the competition. Scot tells the others that as the days go by, he will begin to panic if he hasn’t had the opportunity to compete in a Showdown. The others nod in agreement, and the sense of competition begins to settle in. On the confession cam, Melissa worries and tries to face the fact that she may not win this competition. Meanwhile, Davis is cockier than ever, describing himself as the big fish in a small pond.
To Boob or Not to Boob
The next morning, everyone is squeezed into the kitchen getting breakfast together. Liz starts a conversation about whether or not the word “boob” can be used as a verb. Hmm, intellectual curiosity at its finest. The others look at her curiously and she demonstrates by thrusting her chest against Amari’s back, proclaiming, “I just boobed you in the back”. Okay Liz, I get it. But that brings up so many questions! For example, if she were to do it again, would that be considered “re-boobing”? And most importantly- can you play that in Scrabble?
Davis teases her and tells her that must be an Idaho thing. She replies with “yeah, so it’s cool”, and later, “I hate you”. This pleases Davis, as Liz is emerging as someone who clearly does not hate him. He confesses that he finds them very alike. Meanwhile, Liz tells the confessional cam that she feels closer to Davis than anyone in the house and that he gives her butterflies. Their flirtation develops, as most high school crushing does, into a pillow fight and tickling on the couch.
The students meet individually with the Scholarship Committee to determine who will join Davis in the Showdown. We don’t see all of the interviews, but just hit the highlights.
Gerald explains that his strategy in the first team challenge was to sit back and study the team dynamics. The committee members, less than impressed, remind him that he may never be with that team again, and ask if he felt he could have done more to help the team. They’d like to see more from him in future challenges.
The judges are impressed with Jeremy’s decision to “fall on his sword”. He tells them that at a time of failure, he feels that the leader must step forward and accept responsibility.
Max explains that some of the challenges so far have not been in his repertoire. When the committee asks him what his “thing” is, he is tongue-tied and nervous and struggles to come up with an answer.
The have observed that Alyssa is easily frustrated. She replies that it is in her nature to have a short temper, and she knows it is a character flaw she must work on. The judges express their concerns that this will hinder her in future challenges.
When Melissa arrives for her interview, the judges comment that she appears shy and uncomfortable with this situation. They ask if the recent win has done anything to boost her confidence. Melissa begins to tear up and admits that she had self-doubt when she came into the competition, but that she is starting to see a side of herself that she was not previously able to bring out.
The committee deliberates, reviewing the contestants’ strengths and weaknesses. They agree that Gerald, Max, and Alyssa failed to impress them and will not be further considered for the Showdown at this point. They turn their attention to the Gold Team and recall that Melissa and Liz worked hard for their team. On the Red Team, Jeremy showed good leadership skills in taking control and Scot also stepped forward to assist the team. They had worried that Scot’s home-schooling may be hindrance to him socially, but are pleased to find that is not the case. Amari also made an impression in that she was very interactive and helped keep the team on track.
Of the five people they are leaning towards, the judges all agree that Melissa was the star of the group. They conclude that Amari was not as strong as the others, and that the last spot should go to Liz, Scot, or Jeremy.
The Lucky Three
At the house, the students are excited to see Francine posting the results of the judges’ deliberations. The three contestants selected to compete in the Showdown are Davis, Melissa, and Jeremy. The topic for this first competition will be 19th and 20th century literature. Melissa’s self-doubts resurface, as she fears she is out of her league. Jeremy is scared, because literature is not his best subject. Davis isn’t worried. He feels he is at the top of the food chain.
Jeremy and Melissa quickly gather their books and help each other to prepare, while Davis does push-ups on the kitchen floor. As Alyssa steps over him on her way to the refrigerator, she smirks at his choice to workout rather than study. He eventually joins the others in their study session and feels sure he knows the matter better than his opponents. His arrogance is beyond unbelievable. I hope he is playing it up for the camera, but somehow, I don’t think so.
During their study session, Melissa mentions Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea at one point and also worries that she will mix up the existentialists. When Jeremy looks at her, clueless, she explains to him about the existentialists. She seems to sincerely want to help the others, while Davis seems less likely to offer up any information to his opponents. He picks up a copy of Gone With the Wind and jokes if anyone wants to read it really quickly. Oh Davis, your astounding wit and amazing hotness are killing me.
Before the Showdown, Jeremy calls his father and tells him about his opportunity to compete for $50,000. Jeremy says he will be crushed if he doesn’t win. The rest of the housemates offer their encouragement to the competitors as they leave for the Showdown. Liz says she thinks that Davis’s confidence gives him an advantage, while Alyssa says she is rooting for Jeremy. Scot believes that Davis, Melissa, and Jeremy all have different strengths, and doesn’t recognize a frontrunner at this point.
The Admissions Showdown
The students arrive at the Admissions Showdown to compete for the first $50,000 scholarship. Melissa, Davis, and Jeremy stand at the podiums while the others take a seat to the side. Rob explains the rules of the Showdown. The order has been randomly selected, and it has been determined that Jeremy will be first, followed by Davis, then Melissa. Each person will have a different question and one minute to answer. The first person to answer incorrectly will be eliminated, and the questions will continue until one of the final two answers a final question correctly. The questions are as follows (highlight the spoiler to read the correct answer):
Jeremy – Hester Prynne wore an “A” on her chest in what Nathaniel Hawthorne novel?
Click to see Spoiler:The Scarlett Letter
Jeremy answers correctly.
Davis – What American patriot was the subject of this Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem?
Listen my children
And you shall hear
Of the midnight ride
Of…Click to see Spoiler:Paul Revere
Davis answers correctly.
Melissa – What famous Mark Twain character convinced others to whitewash a fence?
Click to see Spoiler:Tom Sawyer
Melissa answers correctly.
Jeremy – What Jack London novel featured a kidnapped canine named “Buck”?
Click to see Spoiler:Call of the Wild
Jeremy misses this one, answering. He looks devastated as he is eliminated and takes his seat with the others.Click to see Spoiler:White Fang
Davis – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are sisters in what Louisa May Alcott novel?
Click to see Spoiler:Little Women
Melissa – The Telltale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum are short stories by what master of the macabre?Click to see Spoiler:Edgar Allen Poe
Davis – Who wrote the novel, Gone With the Wind?
Click to see Spoiler:Margaret Mitchell
Davis looks ill as he recalls his little joke prior to leaving the house. He tries to remember, but can’t come up with the answer. He turns and stares at Melissa, as if willing her to miss her next question.
Melissa – In what Ernest Hemingway novella does the character Santiago say the following? “I have never seen or heard of such a fish, but I must kill him. I am glad we
do not have to try and kill the stars.”
Click to see Spoiler:The Old Man and the Sea
Davis squeezes his eyes shut as he realizes that Melissa knows this answer. She pauses to reflect before answering. Maybe she is trying to psyche Davis out, but I think she wants to be very sure and not jump the gun, since she has a full minute to answer. When she finally speaks, she answers correctly and becomes the first winner of the $50,000 scholarship – as well as a guaranteed place in the final five!
The rest of the students spring from their seats and rush over to congratulate Melissa. Several of them are obviously happy that the oh-so-cocky Davis has been knocked down a notch. Jeremy is distraught over his loss and is afraid to call his parents and let them down. Davis is sure he will do better next time and be back in the Showdown again. Melissa is elated, knowing that the $50,000 is a guarantee that she will be able to go to college after all.
Next week: The competition continues. Jeremy is more determined than ever, and a second person wins a spot in the final five.
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