home Archive Jenga Anyone? – The Benefactor, Episode 1

Jenga Anyone? – The Benefactor, Episode 1

by aurora

Mark Cuban, self-made billionaire, wants to give away a million dollars. He’s invited America to apply for a shot at his money, hoping for a diverse group of people from all over the country. We get to see him watching tapes submitted by the applicants, including one from Laurel who takes out the garbage in the nude. Mark calls each candidate personally to tell them they’ve been selected for the show, and makes a point to inform them of two things: the game starts the moment they walk into the house, and to expect the unexpected.

The potential benefactors arrive at the mansion in Dallas, which is equipped with oodles of cameras, and Mark will be watching them all the time. Today, Mark is testing for three key parameters of success. One – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Two – whatever expectations you set, you’d better be able to deliver on. And three – you’ve gotta be able to deal with pressure.

The contestants are:

Tiffaney, from McAllen Texas. She’s the National Watermelon Queen.

Mario, from Glendale California. He’s representing the 40-ish, balding, wanting to adopt a child, Hispanics of America.

Grayson, from Portland Oregon. She’s a competitive poker player and wants to play wih Mark. (poker, I mean)

Rich, from Alpharetta Georgia. He’s a Harley-riding florist who will kick your ass if you don’t like his flowers.

Laurel, from Santa Monica California. She thinks her and Mark are kindred spirits. If she gets the money she wants to start a punk band. (Uh, Laurel, punk bands generally start out in someone’s basement with a bunch of teens banging on second or third-hand instruments.)

Spencer, from Atlanta Georgia. Spencer thinks he’s the smartest person in the group. He also looks and speaks remarkably like Jeff Goldblum.

Kathy, from Rochester New York. She’s worried that the show will be about lying and being manipulative.

Kevin, from Dallas Texas. He’s an Oprah-holic.

Shawn, from Hemet California. She thinks she’s adorable, but also sneaky and conniving.

Dominic, from Las Vegas Nevada. He’s a waiter/model and self-professed cool guy. He finds himself giving pointers to other guys about how to do their hair.

William, from Portland Oregon. He says he’s loud, obnoxious, and annoying.

Christine, from Boise Idaho. She doesn’t want to be the pretty, beauty-pageant girl. (good thing Tiffaney showed up!)

Linda, from North Hampton New Hampshire. She’s a pro football player who doesn’t mind cheating and lying a little bit.

Latane, from San Diego California. He’s a risk taker who wants to try everything.

Femia, from Las Vegas Nevada. She says she has the total package – she’s pretty, she’s smart and she’s athletic. She knows she’ll be seen as a threat, but that’s not her problem.

Chris, from Atlanta Georgia. He feels the need to share that he was adopted, but his real parents are the ones who raised him for the last 26 years.

As everyone is arriving, Rich comments that the game is going to be “stupid. But not stupid, stupid, ridiculous.” Mark is watching on the cameras of course, and hollers, “Is that Richard? Says it’s gonna be stupid?” Mark also catches Mario dipping into the snacks without being invited, and comments on Dominic’s choice of conversation topics – the situation in Iraq.

Mark walks in and reminds them that they’re all here to win a million bucks. He then tells him that the game started the minute they walked in the door, and that first impressions are very important. So important, in fact, that he’s going to eliminate someone right now, based on the camera footage he was watching as they all arrived.

Who will it be? Mark singles out Mario for helping himself to the snacks. Mario stammers something about wanting to make everyone feel more comfortable, and Mark likes that he took the initiative. As Mario leaves to change his underpants, Mark points out that Dominic turned a conversation about hair products into something political. Mark likes that too. Then he points to Rich. Rich had the audacity to refer to the game as ‘stupid’. Rich looks like someone shot his dog. He stammers and asks when he called the game stupid, but Mark is firm. Rich is gone. (Thanks a lot Rich, I picked you in the damn pool! Argh.) Rich comments on his way out that he blew it by making a stupid comment.

Back in the mansion, Mark points out that there’s now a 1 in 15 chance for everyone. They all look a bit shell-shocked, but Mark has more in store for them. He’s going to do one-on-one interviews with each person, and based on those interviews two more people will be leaving. He asks for volunteers to go first, and almost everyone raises their hand. This pleases Mark to no end – they’re ready to play.

The goal of the one-on-one interviews is to find out if these people represented themselves accurately in their application videos. Latane is up first, and he and Mark have a nice little chat. Latane admits that he likes the way Kathy and Tiffaney look. Dominic is up next. He says that if he didn’t have his great hair he’s still have a rockin’ body, so he feels blessed. He says that he’s always referred to as the ‘rock star’, and everyone loves a rock star. But he has morals and beliefs. Oh, so he’s a deep rock star. Bleh. Mark is inexplicably impressed with this dude.

Shawn says that she will spend the money on the kids she teaches second grade to. These are inner city kids who don’t even have enough money to buy kites. Mark asks her what the others are saying about her out there. She thinks Dominic thinks she’s an arrogant bitch, which she says she is, but she has a right to be. She’s educated and takes care of her family.

Tiffaney giggles about her Watermelon queen title, and says that it would totally make her day if Mark brought out a bunch of watermelons. She’s very religious and wants to be married with kids. She writes a journal to the husband she hasn’t met yet every night, and thinks that there’s a guy out there who will actually read this one day. She also says that people who sleep around and get drunk and stuff will one day have to tell their husband that they did these things. No honey, you don’t. You don’t have to mention ANY of it!

Spencer thinks he and Mark have a lot in common. The biggest risk that he didn’t take was going into a dot com venture, which would have made him a couple million. Then he says he’s a huge risk-taker and will take any risk.

Laurel meets up with Mark and he says “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!” She says she wants to represent 30-somethings everywhere, and do all the wild stuff now. Mark asks her about her electric guitar, and she says she wants to learn to play ‘Back in Black’ by AC/DC. She’s asked to do a few bars with an air guitar, but she’s too embarassed. The same girl who ran outside naked can’t fake air guitar.

Linda tells Mark about a horrific accident where her mother was squished between two cars by a drunk driver and lost her legs. She says she wants to ‘hook her mom up with a leg’ if she wins the money. Privately Mark says that you just can’t help but love Linda.

William considered turning Mark’s offer to be on the show down. He thinks he can make his own million. He thinks the others see him as energetic and fun, and Mario is his biggest competition for the life of the party guy. Mark hasn’t decided whether William cracks him up or annoys the hell out of him.

Grayson plays poker, and thinks her poker skills might come in handy with the game. She’s been unusually quiet this evening, and says that’s because she’s usually with a group of people who aren’t as fabulous as these folks, so she hasn’t had the chance to shine as much as usual.

It’s time for Mark to eliminate someone. Everyone is gathered together looking incredibly nervous. Mark doesn’t mince words or waste time – he immediately calls out Laurel. “You had so much energy in all of the pre-interviews, and I was hoping so much to see that when we sat down face-to-face.” He didn’t, of course, and feels she held back. He says he’s sorry, but she’s just lost her chance at a million dollars. “This girl won’t play air guitar for a shot at a million dollars?” Mark says. “It was inconceivable to me!”

One more person is getting cut, but Mark’s not sure who it will be. He tells everyone he’ll be right back, and goes back to look at everyone’s pictures. He has two of them set aside – William and Grayson. He feels that neither of them lived up to their application personas. William teetered over the the annoying side, while Grayson didn’t show her competitive spirit.

Mark decides to put these two in a situation that is incredibly pressure-filled to duke it out amongst themselves. To decide who stays and who goes, they’re going to play a little game – a game called Jenga. Winner stays, loser gets cut. William quips, “It’s all fun and games until you lose a million dollars!”

The game is set up, and the two are ready to play. Mark says privately that the game takes skill, but more importantly they need to be able to deal with the pressure. Jenga for a million dollars – the game is on. As the game progresses, William constantly eggs Grayson on saying things like, “Oh be careful! It’s gonna fall!”, and “That one’s not gonna work!”. He also dances around making weird gestures. Everyone watching agrees that they’re rooting for Grayson because Willian was so annoying.

The game goes on for quite a long time, and eventually Grayson is stuck. She gently pokes and prods a few pieces to try and find one she can slide out, and the tower starts to lean….and falls. William admits that he tried to act as sorry as he could, but it was indeed an act. Grayson says her goodbyes and leaves the house, expressing regret that she didn’t open up and let Mark see who she really is.

Mark says that William may be one of the most annoying people he’s ever met, but he dealt with the pressure amazingly well and earned the right to stay fair and square.

The rest of the ‘mansion-guests’ get to do their first confessionals. Mario is really funny, saying that the rest of the group are good-looking people, and while he’s on the show he’s going to be good-looking by association. Shawn is already irritated by Tiffaney and her watermelon pajamas. Kevin pats himself on the back for making it this far.

As the show closes, Mark is sitting in the living room with everyone, sharing a beer with them and saying that he wishes he could tell them more about what to expect.

The clips of what’s to come are intriguing – look forward to interesting challenges, in-fighting, accusations, tears, twists, and tons of surprises.

Incidentallly, you can check out Mark Cuban’s blog at www.blogmaverick.com – tell him Carrie at RealityShack sent you! 😉

Comments are welcome! Contact me at carrie@realityshack.com.


Freelance writer, webmaster of realityshack.com, chief editor at applemagazine.com, contribtor to TechLife News and maketecheasier.com, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.