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HOME > EPISODE SUMMARIES

The Contender 1 - Episode 1 Summary

'Unusual Circumstances' By I_AM_HE
Original Airdate: March 7, 2005

Welcome, gentle reader, to the summary of the premier episode of Mark Burnett's latest subliminal reeducation program hit reality series. I imagine this show may attract a slightly different audience than the normal fare here on RTVW, so a brief introductory note explaining who we are and what we do here: a jab ain't just a short, quick punch, it's also what we summary writers take at reality show contestants. But remember always: we kid because we care.

You may also be wondering who I am, specifically, and if I'm qualified to bring you a true and accurate account of what happened on the show. Or probably not. But let's just pretend you are, because I've already written the joke. I'll admit to you this much: I'm no boxing expert. Hell, I’m stumped by that age old boxing riddle, “Which weighs more, a pound of heavyweights or a pound of featherweights?” But I have seen Rocky IV like XVII times, and I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

I trust your concerns have been adequately addressed, so since we have 90 minutes of reality goodness to cover, let’s get started, shall we? We open with a montage of as-yet-unnamed Contender hopefuls speaking about their motivations: to prove themselves, to fight their way out of the ghetto, to make a better life for their families. Lest the depth and sincerity of these sentiments seem foreign and frightful to you affirmative action hawks, let me assure you that the requisite quota of cliches provided for under Article 12, Section 8 of the Reality TV Constitution was met in this segment. I submit into evidence “It’s do or die time,” and, from the Boxer Soon To Be Known as Peter, “They’ll have to kill me or get me out of there." What to say about this formulation? First, maybe he should try and be a little more Rocky Balboa and a little less Apollo Creed? Second, I hope, if they kill him, that they’ll also get him out of there, because I think the smell of rotting corpse would be distracting for the other boxers. Climb back into the shallow end; the water's fine.

Here comes one of our hosts, Sylvester Stallone, striding across a bridge, the scene shot from above, as I suppose, so as not to ruin it with smog. He opines, as if this were the first time he'd laid eyes on the script, "Life is a fight. Everyone gets knocked down. What matters is how fast you get up.

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"That's what this story is all about. The Contender is about the lives, loves, hopes, dreams, and fears of sixteen heroes as they battle it out in a quest to become a champion. They come from across America, each with a different story to tell."

Some, Sly tells us, are heroic. Joey tells of his father, who is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy and is stationed at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.

Some are heartwarming, such as Anthony, whose kids’ hugs when he gets home from work and the look in their faces is “phenomenal.” He says, “There’s no two better reasons to fight than those two kids, and a dream I keep within my heart.”

Some are inspired, such as Miguel, fighting so his mom doesn’t have to work anymore. “It’s my turn to take care of her.”

We see clips of the contenders training and jumping rope, and then we hear from some of their families. Tarick’s wife says, “This is his last chance to show the world what kind of fighter he is, and he’ll always be our champ.”

Peter’s wife says, “He’s a family man. He’s going to work harder for us, to get is where we need to be.”

Joey’s mom says “You worry when your son boxes. I thought he would stop boxing, which was my hope, but I’m his mom, and I’m going to be there.”

Ishe’s wife says “When he gets in that ring, he’s not fighting for him, he’s fighting because he believes in something. He’s fighting for our family.”

We cut to clips of various and sundry would-be contenders boxing air atop Mount Hollywood, jumping rope, sparring, punching speed bags, doing pushups with their kids on their backs, and Najai recreating the famous scene from Rocky where he runs up the steps.

Sly continues: “Their abilities are unique, but their stories are universal. It’s about love, dignity, and courage. Sixteen men, fathers, sons, and brothers, with one common goal – to play live at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for one million dollars and a chance to change their lives and the lives of their families forever. Who will have the heart? Who will have the courage? Who will dare to be great?”

And finally, we roll credits. Mark Burnett has hired Wacky Wanda, who has made it her mission in life to be the first person kicked off of every last reality show on the planet (I heartily apologize in advance to fans of The Bachelor for killing off the series) to sing the theme song:

Contenders!
We'll beat our brains out!
Contenders!
If we lose we'll pout!
WE ARE CONTENDERS!

If you’re wondering why EPMB would do such a thing (besides the EP part), she fits right with the theme: she’s a little punchy.

Sly tells us that sixteen of the most promising professional boxers are headed to the Contender training facility in Southern California outside of downtown Los Angeles. They will have everything they need in this state of the art gymnasium, including an army of trainers, cutmen and sparring partners, but most importantly access to a legend, one of the greatest boxers ever: six time World Champion Sugar Ray Leonard. But he's much too real for this reality, so that's all we're going to say about him for now.

We are shown scenes of the contestants in various stages of departure and arrival, including a familiar flight board displaying the status of several planes, some on time, some delayed. The last Contender to arrive may be eliminated.












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