Has this show been getting bad ratings? Are competitions based on intellectual achievements not captivating enough for the general public? Nothing like a little instigated romantic jealousy between contestants to spice things up, eh? Two women, one man, and a generous dose of booty-grinding. All we need is some roses and a hot tub, and we’d have ourselves some ratings!
The show begins with a little slumber party in the Scholar residence. Everyone arrives ready to bond in his/her pajamas. Francine has them sit in a circle and each write down a question for the group. I’m sure they threw out the boring questions and picked out the ones that were likely to get folks a little riled up. Francine reads the first question aloud: “Out of everyone in the house, who would you hook up with?” We only hear from one person: Melissa. She answers that at first, she would have thought Jeremy, but since he hasn’t given her much of a challenge, she’d have to say Davis or Max. The next question is what do you think is each person’s sexiest body part? Who wrote these questions, Dr. Ruth? Again, we only hear from one person; this time, it’s Max. He says that with Alyssa, he would pick her eyes. Alyssa looks pleased (you know, eyes being the windows to the soul, etc.) until he says that with Melissa, he’d have to pick her booty. You can almost hear her thinking, Hey Max, look at me! I’m a piece of meat too, really I am! And with that, a romantic triangle is born. That would be an isosceles romantic triangle, of course (in keeping with the theme of the show).
While Melissa and Scot can rest easy, having won a guaranteed $50,000 with a chance at a full-ride scholarship, Liz worries that the competition is almost halfway over and she hasn’t earned a place in the finals. Alyssa shares that she is accustomed to excelling, and the fact that she has yet to do that in this experience has her worried as well.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This week’s Captain’s Quiz is a word puzzle. Rob explains the rules while standing in front of a sample puzzle – a large circular board divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant contains some jumbled letters, just one letter shy of making a word. The same letter is missing from each quadrant. The contestants have ten minutes to figure out the missing letter. The two to finish the fastest will be the team captains.
Which letter would complete each of these words (and what are the words)?
Milana is first to buzz in. Jeremy, who, oddly enough, is wearing a shirt that says “Dazed and Confused”, buzzes in next. He says that although he didn’t know the answer, if no one else figured it out, then he would have the second fastest time. Hmm, that’s pretty smart, actually – given his understanding of the rules. Way to think on your feet, bro. Melissa buzzes in mere moments before the time is up.
Rob announces the results…
Milana – had the correct letter, and three words unscrambled correctly
Jeremy – did not have the correct letter
Melissa – did not have any of the correct words
One of the contestants who did not manage to buzz in, like Milana, had the correct letter and three correct words - that would be Max. Milana and Max are pleased to learn they will be the team captains. Answers: (highlight to read)Click to see Spoiler:The letter is “Y” and the words are “yardage”, “yearn”, “youth”, and “ivory”. No, I didn’t get it right, either.
Cure for Cancer, Here I Come!
Milana says she is here to prove that the American dream is not just a fairy tale, but can be a reality. It would be her dream come true if she could go to her dream school without being encumbered with many loans.
Let’s take a video trip home with Milana, shall we? Milana lives with her family in Fresh Meadows, NY. She explains that because she was not born in this country, she doesn’t have any family money to rely on. In fact, her grandparents are dependant on what her family earns here to survive. She has a great deal of support from her grandmother, who taught her how to speak Russian. The language is obviously of great importance to her, because she again mentions her wishes to be either a bi-lingual scientist or bi-lingual doctor. She works as a stem cell research assistant at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Her professor states that Milana came up with her own independent ideas of how to fight brain tumor cells, which are now being used in their research. Not too shabby for a high school senior. Milana has her heart set on going to medical school, and while her grandmother tells her she can go wherever she wants, Milana knows that realistically, finances are a barrier.
Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms
While the rest of the students goof off and have fun, Amari keeps to herself. She is very disappointed in herself for not having yet won a quiz. She is taking the loss to heart, and confesses for a second time that she feels like the stupid one in the group. She tears up on the confessional cam as she explains that the others have such great achievements and activities under their belt and the more she hears about it, the more stupid she feels. Now, come on, Amari – you made it on this show; think about everything you’ve achieved to get here! *sings* Always look on the bright side of life...*whistling*
To cheer herself up, Amari calls home and receives a pep talk from her mom, who tells her to just be herself. Amari’s spirits seem to be lifted and she explains that at home, she is known for being quite the achiever. Apparently, rejection has been an unfamiliar concept until now. Back in St. Louis, MO, Amari’s teacher says that while Amari is very intellectually serious and competitive, she is as fun and creative as any student she has ever had. Amari doesn’t want to burden her mother with having to pay for college because she has a very large family to support. As she hangs up the phone, Amari pledges to assert herself more in the upcoming team challenge.
The Team Challenge - Giving Back
The group gathers to learn the goals of their team challenge. Today’s task is to implement a plan to provide a positive and lasting impact on one of two youth-oriented community service outreach programs. The two team captains, Milana and Max, pick their team members. The picks are as follows:
Max –Amari (Amari is irritated to have been picked last, and is more determined than ever to outshine the others *shakes fist in the air*)
Team Max will be working at the Blazer Safe Haven and Team Milana will be at the Remedial Reading and Learning Center. The teams’ efforts will be judged by Lydia Templeton, founder of the Children, Youth, and Family Collaborative - whatever that is. As always, the judges will be observing the teams in action. The teams will receive $500 and a $500 gift card from Wal-Mart with which they are to complete their tasks. Host Rob must think that either the kids or the viewers are stupid, as he once again explains what is at stake (a place in the Admissions Showdown, the $50,000 scholarship, yada yada.) It occurs to me that if Ryan Seacrest is ever kidnapped by
Scientologistsaliens, Host Rob would be a shoe-in for the job with all the practice he’s getting at talking to people like they are morons. Don’t pick up your phones yet kids, wait until after the show. You’ll know it’s the end when we flash the incorrect numbers on the screen and play that evil music that stays in your head for the next 24 hours, when the show comes on again. And again.
Everything I Need to Know, I Learned on Television
Team Milana arrives at the Remedial Reading and Learning Center. Jeremy is particularly enthused to be working with children as he has had some experience in this field. The director shows the group around and they come up with a list of tasks to accomplish. Their goals for the day are as follows:
• Improve the tutoring program
• Make a reading area
• Build a partition in the restroom
• Renovate the play area by removing a fence
• Get new books
Jeremy consults the children to see if there are any particular types of books in which they are interested. One very cute and well-spoken child, whom I am guessing is about nine or ten years old, eagerly offers his input. He says he’d like to have some books where they can look up difficult words like “Emancipation Proclamation”. I’m impressed. But wait – in an unexpected and somewhat hilarious twist, he goes on to explain that he doesn’t know what that means, but he heard it on South Park. And to think that some people believe that cartoons aren’t educational – pshaw! I’ve learned all kinds of things from that show. All kinds of things. Like the fact that poop can sing and dance.
As Jeremy and Scot talk to the kids, Liz, Melissa, and Milana sit down to strategize and brainstorm. They realize they quite a few tasks ahead of them, and they’ll have to come up with a plan to effectively manage their time.
At the Blazer Safe Haven, Team Max starts out by sitting down with the children and asking them what things they would add to their center if they could. At the end of this session, Max’s team has come up with a list of tasks that includes:
• Create a reading program
• Get gardening supplies
• Get musical instruments
Davis thinks it is great and wonderful that they have spoken with the kids, but wisely adds that if they want to implement a change that will have a lasting impact, they’ll need to speak with the center’s director. After consulting with the director, they add an additional, and very valuable item to their list:
• Create a reading program
• Get gardening supplies
• Get musical instruments
• Create a tutoring program
Although Max is the team’s leader, he lets Davis step up and run the show with his idea for the tutoring program. Amari sees an opportunity to assert herself as well and jumps aboard the tutoring bandwagon, stressing the importance of getting a lasting commitment from the volunteer tutors. The team splits up with Max, Gerald, and Alyssa heading off to Wal-Mart to buy supplies and Amari and Davis staying behind to work on finding tutors.
Over at Team Milana, Melissa and Milana leave for Wal-Mart to buy their supplies. They seem to be well aware of their time limitations and literally run through the store to find the items on their list. In contrast, the trio from Team Max strolls leisurely and stands around in the aisles without much of a game plan. Shawn from the Scholarship Committee watches in disbelief and says he could have accomplished three years’ worth of Christmas shopping in the time they spent trying to make up their minds.
While the majority of their team is at Wal-Mart, Davis and Amari work hard to come up with a list of potential tutoring sources. Davis prepares the information that the schools and universities would need in order to sign up their tutors and Amari has the phone glued to her ear as she calls the various schools and cuts through the red tape to get their help. When Max, Alyssa, and Gerald return from their shopping expedition, they create some signs that promote reading, and lay out the various prizes they bought to serve as reading incentives.
Back at the Reading Center, Team Milana is busily working on their tasks. Scot takes the lead in the handyman department, with Jeremy’s assistance. They have a lot of work ahead of them with the items that need to be built and the fence that needs tearing down. The Wonder Twins come sprinting in with their Wal-Mart supplies and quickly get to work. The entire team works nicely with the kids, enlisting their help complete their tasks and be a part of the renovation. Liz takes on the task of calling up USC and enlisting their help with providing some tutors for the center. While she is on one phone, Melissa hops on the other line and calls up her school. Much to Melissa’s delight, the school agrees to donate books from the junior high to the reading center at the end of the year. The rest of her team is very pleased, and I agree that it was a very resourceful idea on her part.
Just as Scot is realizing that one of their cabinets has been assembled incorrectly, the judges announce that their time is up. Jeremy and Scot look crestfallen. They’ve worked so hard and done so much for the children, but they fear that the unfinished project will be the nail in their team’s coffin. In spite of the fact that they didn’t finish, the team seems very proud of their efforts and the director’s feelings of gratitude are evident.
Team Max has finished their tasks and the children come in to see the new additions to their center. They eagerly rush over and begin banging away on the new instruments excitedly. The center’s director and the children thank them for their hard work.
Lydia and the committee arrive at the reading center to assess Team Milana’s performace in the task. Lydia begins her evaluation by asking what the children did to contribute. Since they involved the kids in the entire process, the team members have no problem explaining how they incorporated the children’s participation into the decision-making as well as the implementation. They give Lydia a tour of the renovations and she points out a few areas in which the tasks were incomplete. While the team did give the center their remaining $170 with which they could hire a handyman to complete the assembly of the cabinet, they fear that their inability to finish everything will cost them the win.
At the Blazer center, Max greets Lydia and the committee and proceeds to give them a tour of the facility, pointing out the things that they purchased to restock and add to the children’s supplies. When Lydia asks the same question, “what did the children do?”, Max comes off as being a little tongue-tied. Realizing that they didn’t really involve the children after the initial brainstorming session, he explains that after receiving the children’s suggestions, they wanted to be able to surprise them with the results. The answer is pretty weak, but what could they do at his point? Lydia won’t let the issue die and asks Max to explain why the element of surprise was more important than allowing the youth to build their own program. Max doesn’t have anything to say except “they gave us the ideas”, and none of his teammates have the magic answer either. It is apparent that this choice will hurt them.
Lydia meets with the two teams as a single group and presents her thoughts on their performance. Team Max did a great job with establishing the mentoring program, which will be incredibly valuable to the center. However, she was disappointed that they did not involve the youth in their project. Team Milana implemented a large number of improvements, but left some projects unfinished. While it is a difficult decision, Lydia recognizes that one team had a distinct edge in terms of leadership: Team Milana. The winning team rejoices with a group hug and Milana is on her way to the Admissions Showdown.
The scholarship committee gathers to deliberate over who will be joining Milana in the Admissions Showdown. While they have perceived Alyssa to be a little on the quiet side, they have noticed that she works hard to get things done. They mention Jeremy’s enthusiasm and the fact that he is a veritable workhorse in every task. They note Amari’s diligence in reaching out to the kids and making the phone calls to pull the mentoring program together. While the committee had previously considered Liz as the dark horse, she seemed to work very efficiently. Marquesa says she was the glue that held everything together. They discuss the fact that Max wasn’t an incredibly impressive leader and let Davis steal the show from him. Although Davis does get the credit for having the idea for the mentoring program, he was obviously not in his comfort zone with the kids and didn’t relate to them at all.
Don’t Hate the Playah, Hate the Game
Feeling good about their contributions to society, the teens get ready for a night of dancing out on the town. Milana, pumped up about her win and placement in the Admissions Showdown, continues contributing to society by assisting Gerald with some eyebrow grooming. No bushy brows are going to come between this woman and a good time, I tell you. Melissa shows that there is a little bit of a seductress within the scholar as she teases Max and tells him that she would probably just end up playing him, in the event that they were to hook up. Max is speechless.
On the trip to the dance club, Max sits beside a heavily made-up Alyssa. He confesses that while he can’t deny that there is some physical attraction between him and Alyssa, he is really attracted to Melissa. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from dancing with both of them and, according to Melissa, kissing Alyssa on the dance floor. What the heck, where was the footage of that? Where was the tongue cam? Did they not hire a camera operator for the strict purpose of catching any lip-lock action that might occur? Couldn’t they borrow one off the set of The Bachelor? Geez. ABC, I’m disappointed in you.
Anyway, Melissa tells Max, “Don’t think I didn’t see you kissing her” as the two of them work it on the dance floor. I wonder if Melissa has burn marks on her back after the hate that shoots out of Alyssa’s eyes as Melissa and Max dance. This isn’t the first or last time we’ll see this look on Alyssa’s face when it comes to her rival. I glare in your general direction! Managing to avoid Alyssa’s laser beams, the others seem to be having fun as well, shaking what their mamas gave them. Who says nerds can’t par-tay?
When RA Francine comes down to post the committee’s decision on the board, she announces that the three people who will participate in the showdown are Milana, Amari, and Liz. Judge Shawn says that as they debated between choosing Jeremy or Liz, they asked the people at the center about whose contributions to the program really stood out, and Liz was immediately identified. Amari was an easy choice because she really stepped up her game with her efforts for the tutoring program and validated their expectations. The girls are very happy and then the nervousness immediately kicks in as Francine announces that the topic is African geography. Liz looks like she is going to puke and says she knows nothing at all about the topic. Gulp. I guess I’ll be getting out my atlas for this one since my Geography…well, it sucks.
Heh, You Said “Booty”
They get to studying right away, helping each other as well as enlisting help from the kids who aren’t participating in the showdown. One thing I have to say for these kids is that they are truly interested in helping each other learn. They have an especially good time when they get to study about Djibouti, repeating it several times and deciding that from now on, it should be an exclamation. Djibouti! I have to chuckle to myself as I recall my own college days when several of my friends and I carried on and on about Djibouti, thinking we were hilarious. Ah, those were the days. And yes, believe it or not, I went to college - but it was a long time ago, and we, uh, didn’t have grammar back then. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Amari gives a quick call to her mom for good luck before the competition. Her spirits seem miles higher than they did earlier. It is obvious that the fact that her efforts were recognized is a great ego boost to her. You go, Amari.
The three nervous ladies arrive at the Showdown. Milana goes first, followed by Amari, followed by Liz. The questions and answers (that they show us) are as follows:
Milana – Cairo is the capital of what country?Click to see Spoiler:Egypt
Amari – Djibouti is the capital of what country?The three girls exchange grins after this one.Click to see Spoiler:Heh. Djibouti! .
Liz – Nairobi is the capital of what country?Click to see Spoiler:Kenya
Milana – Tripoli is the capital of what North African country?Click to see Spoiler:Libya
Amari – Tunis is the capital of what country?Click to see Spoiler:Tunisia
Liz – Addis Ababa is the capital of what country?Click to see Spoiler:Ethiopia
Milana – This mountain is the highest point in Africa.Click to see Spoiler:Mt. Kilimanjaro
Amari – The Kalahari is a great desert, name the other.Click to see Spoiler:The Sahara
There is a flurry of other questions we don’t see. These girls have studied hard and keep answering everything correctly. The judges and other students seem very impressed.
Milana – Name the capital of Somalia, which was featured in the 2001 feature, Black Hawk Down.Click to see Spoiler:Mogadishu
Amari – Rwanda is the capital of what country?Click to see Spoiler:Angola
Liz – Lagos, the most populous city in Africa, is in what oil-rich West African country?Liz finally misses one, answeringClick to see Spoiler:Nigeria. While disappointed, she leaves the podium and takes her seat with great composure and class. For someone her age, she comes across as incredibly mature.Click to see Spoiler:Algeria
The questions continue.
Milana – The city of Brazzaville is located along what river?Click to see Spoiler:The Congo
Amari – The Aswan High Dam controls the flow of what African river.Amari misses this one, answeringClick to see Spoiler:The Nile River. Milana must answer the next question correctly to win.Click to see Spoiler:the Zambezi
Milana – Meru and Mombassa are cities in what East African country?. Milana gets it wrong, answeringClick to see Spoiler:Kenya. So Amari gets another question.Click to see Spoiler:Malawi
Amari – The Gambia is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and only one country. Name it.. Amari misses, answeringClick to see Spoiler:SenegalClick to see Spoiler:Guinea-Bissau. I had to check my map for this one, and I have to say, she was very close.
Milana – The Krueger National Park is located in the northeastern part of what country?. Milana answers correctly, winning the $50,000 and a spot in the finals. Amari looks disappointed, but then quickly recovers and gives Milana a heartfelt congratulatory hug. She says that even though she didn’t win, she knows she performed well and is feeling more confident.Click to see Spoiler:South Africa
Group hugs abound, Melissa and Milana rejoice, and Milana calls home to share the good news. Even though they speak in Russian, the pride and emotion in her grandmother’s voice is undeniable.
Next week: The romantic triangle proves to be sharp and pointy, and Davis is faced with an ethical decision.
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