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Destiny Unbound

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With the final four now set, I would be remiss to not delve into the notion of deservedness (or lack thereof) for the members of this newly exclusive sorority. Lili Alvarez, Taryn Durham, Sara Brown and Carling Coffing have all taken decidedly different routes to arrive at this destination, but should they all be here? Really the only definitive answer would be that “they are the final four, so it doesn’t really matter.” But that’s no fun. In this TV/entertainment/sports-obsessed world we currently inhabit, every moment of every TV series/celebrity-sighting/free-agent-signing must be up for discussion/debate. So, instead of taking the high road around all this madness, I’ll be departing that increasingly less traveled route and drive directly into that irresistible traffic jam of obsessive analysis.

Let’s begin with Carling Coffing, our first entrant to the final four. One would be hard-pressed to argue that she doesn’t deserve to be playing for a spot in the semifinals. From the outset, she’s proven herself to be one of the most confident/outspoken players in the group and has “played the game” of the Big Break as well as anyone thus far. Of course, playing the “game” means more than just hitting golf shots. Dare I say that nobody has played the psychological angle (purposely or not) more so than Carling? Her treatment of the “Save/Send” card alone is evidence enough. It remains to be seen, though whether her strategy to save Taryn will work out in her favor over the course of the final episodes. Speaking of Taryn, she may be the most controversial participant in the final four.

At face value, Taryn is by far the most undeserving member of this foursome. She made it into the final four by being “saved,” eked her way through a number of Elimination Challenges, and has the least amount of professional experience of the remaining four. However, one thing not readily accounted for with Taryn, especially when taking in her sweet southern demeanor, is her fierce, tenacious nature. Her will to win rivals, if not exceeds any of her fellow competitors. I mean, it takes a special kind of competitor to take a dreaded “snowman” during an Elimination Challenge (which includes a whiff) and come right back, nearly hole out for eagle and in doing so, eliminate Ryann, one of the strongest competitors on the series.  (We’ll discuss the whole Ryann-not-in-the-finale debate in a few weeks.)

This leaves us with Sara and Lili rounding out the Big Break pledge class of 2010. As with Carling, there really isn’t much debate as to their place in the series thus far. Sara has been on her competitors’ radar screens since the start. Only this week has Sara been in any sort of danger of elimination. Carling’s thought of “sending” Sara with the “Save/Send” card had everything to do with performance, not personal differences (see: “bench dispute” two weeks ago).

Lili hasn’t had quite as smooth a ride as Sara to this point, but along the way, she may have proved herself to be one of the best pressure players still in the game. She’s survived 3 Elimination Challenges, all of them without much incident (except for an errant tee ball last week which made that much more interesting than it should have). As evidenced in this week’s episode, if Lili can stay in the present, she’ll be one of the toughest to beat.

So the question still remains: Is this final four deserving? To answer this, I will use the example of the most well-known “Final Four” in all the land: The NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

Rarely ever do you see a Final Four that is made up of the four best teams in the country. You normally see a few of the frontrunners with another team that made a bit of a surprise run through the tourney. Sure, the better teams are always given the advantage through seeding and matchups, but one bad game can instantly mean elimination. It’s the nature of the tournament and one of the reasons why it’s so great.

Now, take the format of Big Break into account. The nature of the competition has consistently lent itself to some incredibly unexpected outcomes over the past 13 seasons. Just the sheer nature of how the competition is set up makes pretty much anything possible. Sure there are twists and turns and a certain subjectivity that comes with the “reality” component of the competition, but ultimately it has always come down to performance. One bad week and you’re eliminated.

So, do Carling, Taryn, Sara and Lili deserve to make up the final four? Of course they do, every single one of them. Through all the challenges, the drama and the saving/sending (ok, so the “send” option never was taken advantage of), they’ve managed to navigate themselves thru the pitfalls of this incredibly grueling competition, and if that’s not deserving enough, then I don’t know what is.