Finale (7/18): Academic Snobbery and Social Responsibility
People slam todayís teenagers as being slothful and irresponsible. If nothing else, this show has shown that stereotype to be a gross overgeneralization. Every time I watch The Scholar I feel like I should be doing something more socially redeeming than watching a reality tv show. Who am I kidding? Iím way too old to reform my ways. Hopefully, these kids can save the world because if it is up to me you are all in a lot of trouble.
Now that the five finalists have been determined, itís time to determine which one will receive the full ride scholarship to the school of his or her choice. Rob greets Milana, Melissa, Scot, and Amari and tells them that the final competition will consist of three parts. In the first part, each of the five finalists will meet with the Scholarship Committee and be asked three very challenging and very specific questions. There will be no right answers or wrong answers. At the end of the first part, the Committee will pick three of the five to continue in the competition. All five of the finalists and especially Scot are apprehensive. Scot was hoping for an objective, academic competition to decide the winner. I was hoping for a competition where the average seventh grader wouldnít know most of the answers.
The finalists meet with the Committee where they learn the three questions. The questions and the finalistís answers to the extent we see are:
1. If you could have dinner with a famous person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Scot-I would probably meet with Jesus Christ because his preaching has been so central to our culture today. He is clearly nervous and stumbles a bit over his words.
Melissa-Plato. She studied some of his theories in class and wants to discuss them with him. Melissa confesses to us that she got concerned the theories she identified werenít actually Platoís.
Milana-Her godmother who passed away two years ago. Iím not sure that answer qualifies as someone famous. She does explain that her godmother chose to become a doctor which was unusual for a woman in the Soviet Union at the time and that she was the first doctor in her family.
Amari-Barack Obama. Amari sees him as the classic American dream coming from a humble background and becoming a politician. Iím hoping that if she does ever get to have dinner with Barack sheíll invite me because I find him fascinating. Not a chance? Damn.
Liz-Angelina Jolie. This answer generates raised eyebrows by the Committee. She tries to explain that she would like to have dinner with her because she has chosen a lifestyle that a lot of people choose just to become famous and wealthy and instead decided to do good things.
2. What is your greatest weakness and how have you overcome it and if not how are you planning on dealing with it?
Scot-When I was younger, I didnít have a passion to finish anything. I realized it was a serious problem, and it is a constant struggle I go through.
Amari-Paying too much attention to what others think about me.
3. What keeps you up at night, both a personal issue and a global issue?
Scot-Human laziness. He believes that people are basically good but it is human nature to find the path of least resistance. In Scotís mind, laziness leads to many of the worldís evils including war. I donít know about that, but I can attest that laziness and real life lead to late recaps.
Melissa-She says that she tries to think of how she can fix all the worldís problems especially with diversity and tolerating each other.
Milana-Stem cell research. She believes an open mind can lead to a cure for cancer.
Liz-The consequences of things like the Patriot Act. Amen, sister. *high fives Liz*
The finalists sit on the stairs and wait to hear who will go on to the next two parts of the finals. The Scholarship Committee deliberations get contentious. We learn that Liz basically sunk herself with her Angelina Jolie answer. I wonder what they would have said if sheíd said J.K. Rowling? Me thinks the Committee needs to embrace popular culture a little more. They also characterize Milana as a one trick pony. Iím not sure whatís wrong with being focused and determined to find a cure for cancer. Itís not like her one trick is juggling flaming batons. At that age, I didnít know what the heck I wanted to do with my life. More power to her for being sure of whom she is. Shawn and Marquesa get into it a little over Scotís human laziness answer, and we see just how nervous he was as he stumbles over words in trying to answer questions. In the end, the Committee members put their three choices in a ballot box.
Youíve Got a Friend
When we come back, Rob reveals that the three who will be moving on are Melissa, Amari, and Scot. Milana and Liz have been eliminated. Scot is shocked because he was convinced the Committee was not impressed with him.
Rob then tells them that the second part of the competition involves each of the three remaining finalists asking one of their former competitors to be a reference for them and speak on their behalf. The final part is a chance for each of them to speak directly to the Scholarship Committee.
Melissa picks Milana which is hardly a surprise given how close the two have grown. Amari chooses Liz to speak on her behalf. Scot has the hardest time choosing. He calls a friend and confesses that this is really difficult for him because heís been taught that if you want something you should do it yourself. In the end, Scot asks Jeremy to speak for him because he thinks Jeremy is honest and will put his heart into it. Jeremy is honored and says it makes him feel a little better about not making the finals himself.
The next day, the remaining finalists and their references appear before the Committee. Milana speaks first on behalf of Melissa. She does a great job pleading Melissaís case and emphasizes that Melissaís teams won every team challenge. Melissa is pleased.
Jeremy goes second on behalf of Scot. He starts by talking about how Scot comforted him after he didnít make the finals and how it made him realize what a great person Scot is. He also mentions his spirit and interaction with the kids during the community service team challenge. Scot is glad that he chose Jeremy because he is such a great public speaker. He feels like he couldnít have asked anything more of Jeremy.
Last, Liz represents Amari. She focuses on Amariís performance during the competitions and talks about how Amari was always a cohesive force in the team challenges and how her general knowledge was invaluable. Amari also does not regret her choice of reference.
Next, Rob introduces a little surprise. Someone from home is there to also speak on behalf of each of the three remaining finalists. Melissaís music teacher James Whiting talks to the Committee on her behalf. Scotís home reference is Ram Goel Ph.D. who is his mentor. Amariís college counselor Annalee Nissenholtz Ph.D. is also there. All three give strong speeches on behalf of their finalists. The most memorable line is delivered by Mr. Whiting who says that if you give the scholarship to Melissa, sheíll change the society. Foreshadowing, anyone?
Pick Me, Pick Me!
Itís time for the remaining finalists to speak for themselves. Melissa goes first and says that although she had something planned she has been inspired to speak off the cuff by what the references have said. She then launches into an impassioned speech. Scot says that he had a vision of himself at 13 as one of the rare men who in one lifetime changed the course of the entire world. Whoa there Scotty. Amari analogizes her approach to life to preparing dinner. You can have macaroni and cheese or something else comfortable and familiar or you can open up the recipe book and look for something different and new. Afterwards, the rest of the scholars are split on whose speech was the most impressive.
The Committee is left with the difficult task of choosing the ultimate winner. Marquesa states the obvious by saying it is not easy. Peter says that for him, intellectual drive is the most important. Marquesa explains that academics are not the deciding factor for her. Shawn opines that what they should be looking for is someone who will engage the faculty. Shawn and Marquesa articulate the deciding factor as someone who will eat education alive. They review the final three and discuss that Melissa is not in the same class as Amari and Scot if you just look at test scores but is light years ahead in terms of community service. The meeting devolves into what is essentially a cat fight between the three Committee members. As we leave for commercial, the three still need to make a decision.
After the commercial, Steve Martin (yes that Steve Martin) talks about the importance of education and I learn for the first time that he is the Executive Producer of The Scholar. No, I donít know what rock Iíve been hiding under.
Itís time to reveal the winner. The scholarsí families and friends are seated in folding chairs just like at a graduation. Well, a graduation somewhere where it doesnít rain as much as it does here. Rob acknowledges that this has to be a big moment for the parents of the three remaining finalists. He also thanks the Committee for their commitment and professionalism. He then hands Milana and Liz their $50,000 scholarships from Walmart. Rob turns to the five scholars who did not make the finals and surprises them by letting them know that they are not going home empty-handed. Walmart is giving each of them a $20,000 scholarship. Hopefully, someone else will step up and offer some more money to these deserving kids. Max is thrilled and feels set to go to Columbia now.
Rob asks the seven to sit down. Itís time to bring the remaining three finalists up. Each hugs their parents in the audience as they walk up to the stage to applause. Rob reminds them that two of them will receive a $50,000 scholarship and one will receive a full ride from the Broad Foundation. Rob has the name of the winner in an envelope. Of course, he doesnít actually open the envelope yet. Instead, he introduces us to the founder of the Broad Foundation, Eli Broad. Eli started two Fortune 500 Companies and believes strongly in the importance of education. After Eli gives a congratulatory speech to all three, they hold hands on the stage. Rob then employs the dramatic pause and tells us this is it. More like this is time for a commercial.
Just Do It
When we get back, Rob continues to drag out the announcement of the winner. Everyoneís parents look like they are holding their breath. I am worried that it is going to be necessary to call 911. Rob finally opens the envelope and reveals that the winner is Melissa. Melissa screams and streamers mysteriously start falling from the sky. Melissaís mother is thrilled at the prospect of not having to pay for college and everyone including Eli congratulates Melissa. Melissa gives a nice speech in which she acknowledges how fantastic her competitors are and thanks Mr. and Mrs. Whiting.
As the show closes, we learn where each of the competitors will be going to school:
Gerald-University of North Texas (Iíd like to know more about why)
Spoiled Children Southern California
Iíve enjoyed this show a lot. I doubt there will be a second season, but I hope so. I wouldnít be surprised if we hear more about some of these contestants in the future. May they each attain their goals.
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