Four of our ten scholarly contestants are resting easy, knowing that they have a guaranteed $50,000 scholarship, with the chance to win $250,000. One more spot remains in the finals and six students will battle it out in the final Captain’s Quiz, Team Challenge, and Admissions Showdown. For Melissa, Scot, Milana, and Liz, the pressure is temporarily off, but Alyssa, Amari, Davis, Gerald, Jeremy and Max are sweating it more than ever. As we’ve seen, Alyssa has been particularly distressed that she has not yet participated in an Admissions Showdown. She says that when she first arrived, she felt on top of the world, but she has now realized that a number of these people are much smarter and know a lot more than she does.
We go to Alyssa’s hometown of Yuba City, CA to learn a bit about her. Her mother prattles on about how proud she is of her daughter, and rightfully so. In addition to her school and community involvement, Alyssa also volunteers and works two jobs while maintaining her level of academic excellence. Dang, I feel like I’m doing well just keep the cat’s litter box clean. Alyssa’s Native American heritage is very important to her and she chooses to participate in activities that embrace that culture. Her parents are divorced and she admits to having some trust issues due to the failed relationship with her father. Aha, maybe this explains some of the short temper and frustration issues that have plagued Alyssa throughout the competition. I’m wondering, are we getting a glimpse into Alyssa’s life because she has not yet been featured or because she will excel in this episode’s tasks? Mr. Foreshadowing, what do you think?
We, the People…la, la, la
When the scholars arrive on campus for the Captain’s Quiz, Host Rob asks the four finalists to take a sit down. Since they have already secured their positions in the final competition, they will not participate in the quiz, in order to give a better chance to the other six who are still competing for the final spot. The topic is the US Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights. I instantly find myself singing, “I’m just a bill, yes, I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…”. What can I say? Everything I know, I learned from television. My family immigrated to this country when I was two, and I learned to speak English from watching Sesame Street – no joke.
Anyway – the contestants must take a list of excerpts from the Bill of Rights ands correctly identify which amendment each excerpt comes from. To test your own knowledge of the subject, go here.
When the time is up, Host Rob tells the group that Davis (Mr. Iknoweverythingthereistoknowab outpoliticsandhistory) finished first, with a perfect score in 34.7 seconds. Amari was second to finish, one second later at 35.7 seconds, but she missed two answers. However, no one else got more right then Amari, so she and Davis will be the team captains for the next challenge.
The Not-So-Great Debate
Over lunch, several of the students discuss Davis. Alyssa says that she didn’t like him from the beginning, but that she is trying to keep an open-mind. Jeremy agrees and says he is still trying to see the nice person inside. Alyssa privately confesses that she thinks nearly everyone in the group deserves the scholarship, but that she would like to see it go to anyone other than Davis. Thank you, Foreshadowing – you can sit down now.
The students assemble for the team challenge and learn they will be going on a field trip. They travel to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library where its director, Duke Blackwood, greets them. He gives them an introduction to the library and they see a model of the Oval Office. Davis thinks this is all great, because he aspires to be the President of the United States one day. I can hardly wait. Host Rob leads into the challenge by saying that whether you like him or hate him, no one can deny that President Reagan was a great communicator. Well, the dude was an actor, after all. Come to think of it, GWB could benefit from a few acting classes as well. Or from watching a few episodes of Schoolhouse Rock. Only a few though - I wouldn’t want him to hurt himself by thinking too hard or anything. Really, I wouldn’t. Honestly. Ahem.
For this final team challenge, the scholars will engage in a debate. They will be judged by Gordon Staples, USC’s debate coach and Tim Biblarz, a USC sociology professor. Like before, those already in the finals will sit out the challenge. Davis and Amari are instructed to choose their teammates. Davis chooses Max, Amari chooses Alyssa, Davis chooses Gerald – leaving Jeremy to join Amari’s team. I bet Amari was psyched to be the chooser instead of the one chosen last for a change. Since Davis had the faster score, he gets to choose whether he prefers the pro or con side of the debate. He chooses pro, leaving the con side for Team Amari. Host Rob announces the issue they will be debating: Should same-sex couples be afforded the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples?
Davis is pumped, saying this topic is right up his alley. Amari says this will be a challenge for her team, since none of them agree with the “con” side of this issue. However, she has faith in Alyssa’s and Jeremy’s speaking abilities and believes they can win, regardless. Jeremy is beside himself, not knowing how he is going to put aside his beliefs for the sake of the debate. I have to admit, I would have a really hard time with this as well, especially since the teams are only given one hour to research and prepare their arguments.
The teams split up and begin their research. Davis is directing his team and one of the judges comments that Team Davis is reveling in over-confidence. That’s an understatement. Davis carries on about how they will shoot down the other team’s arguments with this response or that response – never once noting how lucky they are to have chosen the side of the argument that is, in my opinion, clearly easier to argue.
Team Amari is not to be brought down so easily. They agree that even if they don’t agree with their side, they have to be passionate about the points that they make. Amari tries to lead them to make the best of their situation by thinking through their arguments and discussing the implications of changing the laws. She tries to anticipate the points the other team will make and come up with something to counter those points. Jeremy and Alyssa both comment that they fear the other is uncomfortable and anxious and will hinder their team’s performance. Much to Amari’s frustration is due to the fact that Jeremy spends a good portion of the hour complaining about how hard it is to argue a point that is completely against his beliefs.
Team Davis begins the debate with Gerald giving the opening statement. Alyssa gives the opening statement for Team Amari. Max gives the rebuttal for his team, and Amari for hers. All of the teammates participate in the cross-examination, and then Davis and Jeremy give the closing arguments for their respective teams. I won’t go into all the details, but the main points were health benefits, the separation of church and state, equal rights, the majority rule, tradition and Christian morality, etc. Overall, I wasn’t horribly impressed with anyone, but I have to hand it to Team Amari for managing to pull together some decent points for their side in such a short time.
The judges commend Team Amari for their discussion of the possible ramifications of legalizing gay marriage. They tell Team Davis that while Gerald brought up some great points regarding health benefits in his opening statement, there was no follow-through on the topic in the following segments. However, they felt that Team Davis did a better job overall at making their points and countering the points of the opposing team. Well, of course – because they had the side that was right. Sorry, I just can’t help but think that this debate topic wasn’t fair. Whichever team had the “pro” side would have won – maybe not at a Southern Baptist college, but at USC? Come on.
So, Davis moves on to his third admissions showdown. The other five sweat it out, wondering which two of them the judges will choose to compete against Davis for the final place in the finals. They each meet with the judges one more time in order to help them decide who deserves the chance to move on. When Francine posts the results, only Davis’s name is listed. The judges will not announce their decision until the students arrive at the showdown. This means that everyone must study and prepare. The topic for the showdown is American Presidents. Davis is in hog heaven, being the politics and history buff that he is. It appears that this showdown is designed to favor Davis, and the other students are anxious about being able to beat him. Davis is confident that he knows more than everyone else.
Third Time’s a Charm
Arriving at the showdown, the students learn that the two that will challenge Davis are Alyssa and Amari. Like Davis, Amari is happy to have her third chance at the showdown, while Alyssa is clearly excited to finally have her first chance. Jeremy, on the other hand, is crushed. In his confessional, he cries over the fact that his chance is gone. Don’t worry Jeremy, I’m sure you’ll do fine. Actually, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the students who don’t win are offered scholarships from other sources.
The showdown begins, with Amari going first, followed by Davis, then Alyssa. They answer several questions about presidents and vice presidents. Davis receives the question, “Who are the two presidents that were assassinated in the 20th century?” He answers, “Lincoln and Garfield”. Host Rob asks him if he is committed to that (an obvious suggestion that his answer was wrong) and Davis confidently says yes. Host Rob says, sorry, the correct answer is McKinley and Kennedy. Davis is stunned, as he was sure Host Rob had said the 19th century rather than the 20th. And with that, Davis’s chance to win comes to an end and he takes his seat. Bummer. Heh. A few of the other students try to hide their obvious satisfaction at Davis’s defeat.
The questions continue until Host Rob asks Alyssa, “In 1906, what US president was the first to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese war?” She answers that she knows it is one of the Roosevelts, and she’ll guess FDR. Unfortunately for her, the answer was Theodore Roosevelt. Amari takes her time with her next question and answers correctly, winning the showdown - earning $50,000 and a chance at the big scholarship. I’m very happy for her and truly believe that the final five are the right five.
Next week: The five finalists compete for the final prize, a full-ride college scholarship.
I won’t be voting for Davis for POTUS, how about you? firstname.lastname@example.org