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- We dip into an extra special, two hour edition of "Deal or No Deal," a game so easy to play that even a chimp could win the jackpot -- or for that matter, one of those chickens that picks stocks. Or a horse that counts by scraping its hoof in the dirt.
You get the point.
The "Deal or No Deal" format also happens to be so malleable that lends itself to any number of kooky themes.
Exhibit A: The "Star Wars Winner Take All" Extravaganza.
Now, television has given us a number of fine homages to "Star Wars," including two of them within the last 12 months. Robot Chicken (2001) had fun with the first trilogy, as did Blue Harvest (2007), one of the series' most memorable season openers. But..."Deal or No Deal"? Forgive us if the notion of marrying George Lucas's universe of a long ago in a galaxy far, far away with briefcase models seems a little, um, weird. As in, The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) weird.
On to the show.
The tribute begins in the pre-roll, as blue letters flash across a black screen: "A LONG TIME AGO IN A STUDIO FAR, FAR AWAY...." (But, easily accessible via a number of airline flights). Then, John Williams' triumphant score begins to blare! The chills that normally dance up one's spine commence to groovin'! And the "Deal or No Deal" title is replaced by the golden Star Wars Font. Chills gone.
The tribute continues. "Episode #361: Star Wars Winner Take All. (Not to be picky or anything, but shouldn't it be winner takes all? Anyhoo...) It is a period of civil unrest on Planet Earth. Two rebel contestants are about to face off in a galactic "Winner Take All" battle on "Deal or No Deal." The sinister banker plans to defend his evil empire, as Howie Mandel asks the question that will determine the fate of the galaxy. And that question is..."
Mandel appears on the screen and says, "Deal or No Deal"?
The crowd hoots and cheers. Millions of "Star Wars'" purists' inner children begin rocking back and forth, and weeping.
The rest of us switch off our thinking organs and settle in for a frothy good time.
As Mandel explains, the two contestants on this evening's Winner Takes All also happen to be huge "Star Wars" fans, and they have no clue that Mandel and the producers have planned a "Star Wars" themed episode. So there's some fun.
Out bound our contestants Elyse McCrillis and Brad Flinchum.
"Tonight we are doing a very special episode just for you!" Mandel says. Then he points to the Banker's corner to introduce the night's very special Banker: Darth Vader! The Sith Lord emerges in a cloud of smoke and television studio magic.
"Leave them to me. I will deal with them myself. I've been waiting for you, Elyse and Brad. We meet at last!"
He makes a lot of hand signals that would ordinarily be associated with the crushing of windpipes, but the audience and contestants keep on whooping.
Brad is whisked away to a sequestered area so he won't know how Elyse is doing...and Elyse starts crying. "I'm a huge 'Star Wars' fan," she says.
Ordinarily, the truly jaded would roll their eyes at contestant waterworks, and that's doubly true when the tears are shed on a show like this one.
But Elyse's tale really is heartwarming. She goes on to explain that she is a Vietnam war refugee whose family didn't have much money when she was little, let alone any left over to go to the movies. She had to sneak out of the house and walk three miles to see "Star Wars," and it changed her life.
"It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was so mind-blowing and it made me dream bigger and think anything is possible!"
Mandel assures her that her dreams are coming true today...if she walks out with $2 million. First, she'll faint, then she would help out some of her relatives still in Vietnam.
"The force is with me!"
So, you know the drill. Twenty six cases. One with a million dollars. But something's different -- where are the cases?
Darth Vader booms: "Elyse...prepare to meet the face of the Dark Side!" Then, instead of being greeting by a gaggle of hot models, out marches...26 Storm Troopers!
"Your dream came true," Mandel says. Dream? Nightmare? Whatever you want to call it, they're the ones holding the cash.
Anyway, Elyse consults the Force and chooses number six. Her mom considers six her lucky number. She had six children, and six grandchildren, and she's 66 years old! Go lucky six!
After that, she chooses case 11. ($75K) Case 16 ($50). Case 26 ($10K). Then...case three. $50. Woo to the hoo! Case 12...$100,000...not so good.
And...Case 1: $75! Darth Vader prepares to make an offer that does not include psychic strangulation. But first, commercials.
Also, the audience gets the chance to vote on which of three pneumatically built and unnaturally tanned women will become the next briefcase model.
When we come back, Howie catches up everyone who didn't tune in from the start. Elyse, Brad, "Star Wars" fans, Darth Vader banker, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Elyse reveals that Princess Leia was her favorite character because, as an introverted young girl, the idea of a fearless woman made her feel empowered. It's a very nice moment.
Darth Vader begins to speak. "The ability to find the million is insignificant next to the power of the Force."
Elyse says, "I have the force within me, Darth." Vader instructs her to step away from the button and wow, the cover flips of its own accord! OMFG, it's the force!
Elyse struts around the stage and says something about having been to the Dagoba system and training with Yoda, and it is at this point that your friendly IMDb recapper would like to remind you that we watch these things so you don't have to.
Darth's offer: $68,000.
Elyse shows was she can do with the Force: No deal!
Case 21: $10. Case 15: $400. Case 19: $200. Case 10: $1. She's on a roll! Case 17:....$500,000. The Empire Strikes Back!
Darth says, "Impressive...most impressive." He offers $88,000.
Wow!!!! Elyse brings out her force: Her husband, friend and personal banker. (Personal banker??? Eh???)
Team Elyse says, "No deal!" Elyse struts around the stage as if she's really thinking about it, and then: "In the words of Yoda? No deal there will be!"
Actually, this is starting to feel a lot like "The Star Wars Holiday Special."
Back from commercial, Howie Mandel informs Elyse that she has an extra special member for her team: The woman who inspired her to be the woman she is today -- Carrie Fisher!
Elyse gets a hug from Carrie, who's looking good in her black outfit accessorized with scarf, and Elyse starts crying. Again. She had Leia's trading cards on her wall, Elyse says. "There's no way I can lose. There's just no way!"
Personal Banker pipes in with an observation that Elyse really was a Princess Leia when she was a kid, running from war. The audience, suitably touched by the spirit of liberty, applauds warmly.
Once that's over with, it's back to opening briefcases for cold, hard cash.
Case 14: $750. Carrie Fisher is pleased! Case 5: $1 million -- oh no! The rebellion is crushed!
But, Elyse sails on. Case 8: $5,000. One more: Case 22: $500. So, she's not completely hating it.
Darth pipes in! "You are unwise to lower your defenses. The offer is $111,000."
If she opens up three more cases, she has a shot at more cash. Her banker says keep going. We say, what the hey? The million's already gone, and this episode already has scarred us more than the first time we saw Anakin and Padme skip through fields of daisies with space hippos in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002). Therefore...
She asks for Case 24: $300,000. Smack. Case 9: $400,000. Yipes! Case 4...Howie says it's the most important case of the game. If she knocks out one of the low numbers, it's still her board. If a high number goes out, it becomes Darth's board.
Let's cut to commercial.
When they come back, Carrie Fisher tells Elyse that she's there only for her, and she has her back. Howie milks the family in Vietnam story a little more, and then the case opens. One cent!
Darth has his say...and, amazingly, nobody chokes! "I find your lack of faith disturbing. The offer is $98,000."
The team and Carrie Fisher tell her not to take the deal.
"Look Howie -- I've done scarier things than this. I've been in scarier situations than this. So I'm going to say...NO DEAL!!!!"
She goes for Case 25: $100! Happy joy joy! Darth glowers, but then again, he always glowers; blame the mask.
Elyse asks for Case 20. Long pause. The audience holds its breath....$750,000. Chu-cak-cak-ack! Somebody here know the Heimlich?
Darth: "Search your feelings. You cannot beat me. You know this to be true. The offer is: $30,000."
Elyse's hand is chopped off at this point, but her banker says to keep going. So she does, because we should always listen to our personal bankers.
Plus, there's still $200k on the board. She jumps!
Coming back, Howie reminds us of the Winner Take All premise, including the fact that Brad's in the other room and has no idea of what Elyse is doing. Neither do we.
Whatever. Open another case. Case 13: $5. Great shot, kid, that was one in, um, 26. Hubby hugs her. Darth has his say: "You cannot hide forever, Elyse. The offer is $41,000."
She says something about trusting in the universe, and that the universe wants her to do things with her money. No deal!
The team helps her pick the next number: Case 23. We should mention that's her husband's idea. Good thing it was only $1000.
Darth makes his next offer. "I have you now. The offer is $59,000."
She hems and haws, because theatrical hemming and hawing is what makes this show last for an hour. So, no deal.
Carrie Fisher says, pick case 2. So Elyse picks Case 7: $200,000. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.
We're all so sorry. Darth drops the offer to $8000. No deal. Might as well play it out.
Elyse finds out that if she had listened to Princess Leia, she would have only lost $300. Darth takes it up to $13,000. Left on the board: $25, $25,000.
Elyse takes the $13,000 deal. She finds out that in her case was $25,000. Boo!!! And the moral of the story is, if you have a movie you love and cherish and honor, do not allow your memory of it to be sullied by jumping in bed with the Briefcase Show.
Brad's turn! Howie announces that they switched out the studio audience. He repeats the whole "Star Wars" theme, and reintroduces Darth. As if he needs an introduction.
Why does Brad love it so? Because his dad took him to see it in 1977, and his father passed away when he was 17, so it has great meaning. He's also seen each film in the series many, many times. If he wins, he'll retire. Or, open his own business. Brad's a dreamer whose reveries are haunted by visions of Cloud City and Billy Dee Williams with a perm.
After a little bit of banter, Brad offers to bring down the models with the cases. The "Star Wars" theme pipes in and out comes...twenty six Leias dressed like Jabba the Hutt's love slave in "Return of the Jedi"! Mercifully Carrie Fisher seems to have left the building.
"I've got to say," Brad remarks of the models, "that's the finest they've ever looked on the show."
Brad has given which case he wants to choose some thought, and he chooses Case 8.
So, he has to open six cases. He starts with Case 21. "May the Force be with you," the model coos. $50. "The Force is with you."
Then it's Case 20: $1. Four more cases. Case 7: $25K. Case 13: $500,000. Ouch. Case 24: $100,000. One more: Case 26 -- $400!
Darth has his first offer: "You don't have the million. Search your feelings. You know it to be true. The offer is $49,000." Darth does the button cover Force trick again. Brad says he wants to rent a bulldozer he wants to mow down his house and build a new one. So no deal.
To review: Elyse, war refugee, was going to use the money to help her family in Vietnam. Brad wants to knock down his perfectly good house to build a bigger one.
We're just sayin'.
Never mind! The Briefcase Show is not a place of judgment. It's all about luck here.
Five more cases. Brad opts for 22, Crystal, who "looks so good she can't do him wrong." Not so - Crystal loses him $400,000. Brad should be careful when visiting hotel bars in strange towns.
He recovers with Case 12: $5. Then Case 9: $100. Case 3: $75,000. As he chooses Case 11, Brad remarks that the penny's still up there, and lo and behold, he has picked the penny case.
"Deal or No Deal" -- pure magic tonight!
Brad then reveals that if he wins the million, he's gonna buy a new truck and, we quote, "take all my family out muddin'." We take back our implied judgment -- he wants to help his family out too.
Darth pipes in. "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't offer it any further." The offer is $85,000.
Mandel, insisting that Brad can't do it alone, tells him it's time to bring on his muddin' buddies.
His sister, cousin and wife are there. Brad's wife adds, "He never listens to me, so play smart." That's what we call supportive.
The muddin' buddies tell him not to take the deal. So, No Deal.
After the commercial, Brad gets his special Star Wars guests: R2-D2 and Chewbacca - who enters with a friendly wave. Chewie. Friendly wave. What?!?
"How cool is that?" Mandel asks. We were asking the same thing, but with a slightly different tone.
Brad goes for Case 10: $5000. R2-D2 beeps his approval. Case 16: $1000. Then Case 18: $25.
Chewie high fives the team, and R2 beeps again. Brad verbally ogles the ladies - one more case! Number 4. "Yes, she looks very nice," Brad observes.
Oh, Brad. Brad, Brad, Brad. It seems fate wants to spank you every time you drool over the ladies, because waiting in Case 4 is...
One meeelion dollars.
Darth celebrates. Brad says he can feel the good in him. Darth counters by offering $57,000. There's $750,000 still on the board. Chewie blargs angrily! That means no deal! The wife says, "The Star Wars room you want to make in this basement for all your memorabilia? That's not gonna cut it."
Brad says no deal. The two hour, super, duper, extra-long geekathon...continues.
Three cases to open, and Brad chooses Claudia, and Case 1...He begs Claudia to open the case....
And they cut to commercial.
They come back. Howie delivers a sermon to remind us of the stakes, and reintroduces Darth Vader.
Oh, and Case 1 has $750. Chewie and R2 back Brad's choosing of Case 25: $10. Chewie sounds like he's happily wheezing up a hairball. That's right, Howie...let the Wookiee win.
Next is Case 14: $200. That makes the board a player's board.
Darth: "The Force is strong with this one." (We were wondering when he'd bust out with that.) The offer: $130,000.
Wife says no deal, so No Deal. There's a 38 percent chance his case holds $200,000 or more, says the pop up screen.
Brad picks Case 19. Brad hoping for $75, but gets $10,000 instead. Could be worse. One more case, last case in the round -- Number 17.
It contains....$300. Brad's thismuch closer to his basement Star Wars shrine and muddin'!
After the commercial, Howie inflates Brad's hopes, and shows Brad what Elyse is doing in her closed-off green room: She's pacing.
This show? So exciting.
Darth Vader: "If you could be turned, you would be a powerful ally." The offer: $161,000.
Howie asks...if he took the deal, would it be enough to beat Elyse? If not, he has to open another case, and risk losing the $750,000. Or $300,000. Or $200,000.
One more case. Brad picks Case 2. Aubrey, the model, closes her eyes and says, "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi..." It's beautiful that she has no idea that Obi Wan was dead long before her version of Leia strapped on that bra.
But in this case, her prayers were answered. $75.
Darth: "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you." The offer: $207,000. And all of us at home are thinking, TAKE IT, FOOL!
Howie fills time with a speech, and dangles the possibility of Brad walking away with more money than any other contestant in the history of the Briefcase Show.
Then comes...another commercial.
Coming into the home stretch, Brad looks at the remaining cases. Howie speechifies dramatically. Deal or No Deal?
Brad's cousin tells him that no matter what, he can't lose. And it's true, he does have a great board. Wife agrees.
Brad picks Case 5, and Ursula. Howie chats about the "one big land mine," the $750,000. And guess what? Ursula has...$300,000.
Darth makes another offer: $196,000. Cousin says it's a good place to stop. Wife isn't sure either. Chewie shrugs. Brad takes the Deal.
Never has any show's ending been so sweet, simply by virtue of its ending. We find out that if Brad hadn't taken the deal, he would have opened Case 6: $200,000. The bank offer would have gone to $285K. The next case he would have asked for contained the $750,000.
His case held $50,000. He made a decent deal.
Plus, he won the entire game, walking away with $209,000. More than enough for his "Star Wars" room and a truck for zipping around in the mud.
As for Elyse? Well, there's always "Millionaire" or "Jeopardy!"