The Game of Love
By Elena Lane
Date: February 25, 2021
Ch. 55

Simon Debuvoir called the contestants into the so-called “elimination room”, lining the contestants up to stand in rows. “Tonight,” Simon began, more to the audience than the contestants “three contestants will be eliminated.” Gigi was a little surprised at this. Each week, at least one contestant was eliminated, but up to three contestants could be eliminated each week. The scary part was that the number of contestants to be eliminated was seemingly random. One week, three people could be eliminated while the next week only one person could be eliminated. The contestants didn’t know this number until they were in the elimination room.

Three wasn’t a bad number considering that there were twenty-five contestants. Still, Gigi crossed her fingers, hoping that she wouldn’t be one of the eliminated ones. Simon spoke again, “Vincent had won our Photogenic Challenge. He is safe this week, but for the rest of the contestants, their dreams of winning one million dollars are on the line. For three contestants, tonight will be the end of the line.” The lights went down dramatically. “We’ll find out who America chose right after the break.” Then, the commercial break began and the contestants had a quick period to gather themselves together and prepare for the possibility of failure. Everyone was nervous and those three little minutes seemed like an eternity. Gigi was relieved, though terrified, when the show went back on air.

Simon began listing the contestants who had made it through. Kenzie was one of the first names to be called. Gigi looked at Kenzie and gave her a small smile of encouragement. Kenzie gave Gigi a nod of acknowledgement that was nearly imperceptible. Gigi’s hands were shaking and her throat was dry. She was just glad that she didn’t have to speak. If she did, she was sure that her voice would be croaky and inaudible. As more and more contestants were called, Gigi began to feel a little sick to her stomach. This was it, she thought. Gigi was sure that she would be going home, but then it happened, her name was called and went to sit on the couched in the corner of the room where the contestants who were safe went to sit while the other names were being called.

A few more names were called, but Gigi didn’t listen. She was too busy trying to get her heartrate back to normal. “And now,” Simon said, interrupting Gigi’s thoughts. “we are left with the five least popular contestants.” Simon said gesturing to the five contestants whose fates were still undetermined. Gigi noticed immediately that Rowan was among the bottom five. She hoped that he would last another week. Rowan was a good guy, but he seemed a little camera shy. So, America hadn’t had the chance to see Rowan for who he was. That was the problem with TV contests, people could be eliminated before they had the chance to truly shine. Gigi worried that would be the case for Rowan. Gigi didn’t know Rowan well, but she still found herself rooting for him.

“Two of you will move on, but the other three of you will be going home.” The lights went down once again.

“Janice, congratulations, you are safe this week.” Simon said to the retired grandmother. She smiled gently. Janice was a nice woman. There was a reason that America hadn’t let her go yet. Unfortunately, Janice wasn’t young and beautiful. So, she wasn’t very likely to win or even make it to the top five.

Simon turned to an accordion player from Minneapolis. “Jerry, unfortunately, you are not safe this week and will be going home.” No one was surprised to see Jerry go. He was boring and really, had no special feature. Most viewers probably didn’t even know who he was.

“Travis,” Simon said looking sadly at the thirty-five-year-old single dad. “I’m sorry, but you are not America’s Most Popular.” Travis looked devastated, but he tried to take the loss with grace and wiped his watery eyes before tears could fall.

“Rowan or Marilee will be going home tonight. We’ll find out who that’ll be right after our break.” Simon said, interrupting the intense moment with commercials.

Gigi felt bad for Rowan and even Marilee. Having to wait even just a few minutes longer would be agony. She walked over to Rowan, who was anxiously pacing back and forth in the elimination room. She stilled him by placing a hand on his shoulder. He looked at her desperately and said, “I just don’t want to be the loser who’s eliminated the first week. I’ll never hear the end of it if I do.”

“Rowan,” Gigi began gently, “Either way you’re not a loser. Don’t worry too much about it. No matter what happens, I think you’re a cool guy and I know that it doesn’t count for much, but I think that America would be foolish to send you home so early in the competition.”

Rowan gave a small, appreciative smile. “No, actually, that means a lot to me.” He chuckled lowly, “I’ll take any support I can get right now. Thank you.”

“Glad to help.” Gigi replied and scurried back to her seat. The commercial was ending and everyone had to go back to their spots. This was it. It was the moment they were all waiting for!

Simon did his usual after commercial monologue, but quickly got the meat and potatoes: the elimination. He cleared his throat, looking at each of the contestants. “Rowan,” Simon began, “I’m sorry, but you won’t be going back to Pennsylvania any time soon! Congratulations, you’re safe for another week.”

Then Simon turned to Marilee, “I’m sorry, but that means that you have been eliminated.” He said as if Marilee hadn’t already put two and two together. She was crying, clearly surprised that she had been eliminated. Marilee was a nice enough girl, but she was plain, really plain. Like Jerry, she was boring. Boring wasn’t the type of person that the viewers rooted for. Anything was better than boring: mean, pathetic, rebellious, angry were all more interesting than plain. Seeing Marilee being eliminated made Gigi more determined to make herself stand out. Gigi needed something that people would remember about her. She couldn’t let herself be the next contestant to be eliminated simply because she hadn’t stood out enough.

The next day Gigi was told by one of the interns that she was to meet one of the producers, Kevin Charles, later that afternoon. Gigi had no clue what Kevin wanted, but she was fairly sure that it wouldn’t be good. The producers only liked to have little chats whenever they wanted to mix things up on the show and usually, caused unnecessary conflict. Though Gigi had no interest in talking to Kevin, ultimately, it wouldn’t be wise to blatantly disregard the wishes of a producer. An angry producer could make Gigi’s life hell. An angry producer could easily sabotage Gigi’s chances in the competition. So, Gigi didn’t have much a choice in the matter.

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