The Reality TV Guru

Take the Money and Run, Tuesdays 9:00, ABC

Tonight, it’s a new series! Take the Money and Run comes from the same production teams who are behind The Amazing Race and CSI and this show is like a blend of both. How does it work? A two-person team is given one hour to hide a briefcase containing $100,000 in cash. After one hour is up, they give themselves up for arrest. Then they undergo 48 hours of interrogations while local detectives from the venue city try to find the cash.

The local detectives are also assisted throughout the series by real life investigators Detective Paul Bishop and Deputy District Attorney turned author Mary Hanlon Stone. The detectives will have cell phone records, GPS coordinates and receipts to aid them in their investigations. If the detectives recover the loot they get to keep it; otherwise, the two-person team who hid it gets it.

This first episode of Take the Money and Run begins with two brothers, Paul and Raul Bustamante. Attempting to foil them in San Francisco are SFPD detectives Cliff Cook and Dean Taylor. We get a glimpse into the mundane home lives of the brothers and the grimmer side of the SF detectives’ everyday work lives.

The brothers get a call from a courier who will give them the cash. They meet near the Golden Gate Bridge, the courier cuffs the briefcase on one of the brothers, instructs them to push a button to replay the recorded instructions and gives them the key. The recording tells them that they have an hour to hide the $100,000 before they will be arrested and their objective is for it to remain hidden for 48 hours.

The brothers hustle to a SUV (with a GPS on board) given for them to use and they begin planning their getaway. They start by placing calls as decoys, starting with their first accomplice, Brian Burns. They go to the La Barca Mexican restaurant but find that it’s still closed. Oops, there’s wasted time. *bleep* They hustle on out of there and keep on the move towards Lafayette Park. Now only 35 minutes remain. They park and hustle up a block and onto the top of a hill in the park. Quickly, they dig a hole next to (but not quite completely under) a bush, put the briefcase with the cash in the hole and cover it up. They don’t do a very good job of this and anyone looking in the area for something buried should quickly find it, given all of the loose dirt lying around.

They’re better about cleaning themselves up after the dirty exercise of digging dirt. There’s still probably some dirt on their clothes as well as mud from the sidewalk on their shoes, though, even if their fingernails are clean. Now less than half an hour remains and they have to high-tail as fast as they can as far away from the stash spot as they can. They make some more decoy calls saying they’re going to hide the briefcase in the decoy’s apartment. It sounds staged and the police will probably see through it. Now the hour is up, the local cops show up and put them under arrest. Now the 48-hour clock ticks. One detective declares, “Game on, gentlemen. Game on! Here we go.”

Prediction: These guys get caught. The burial is sloppy, traces of dirt and mud will be found on their clothes and in the SUV. Also, their route isn’t long or circuitous enough to shake a determined search using the vehicle GPS and the sloppy burial was too close to where they parked. What do you think?

The two brothers are brought in, booked and locked up apart in their dreary cells. Now the two series detectives and two SFPD detectives get together and first have a look at the route taken by the two brothers. Meanwhile, one of the brothers is brought in for interrogation by Mary Hanlon Stone. Notably, she sits next to him instead of across the table from him, apparently to gain his confidence and put him at ease. They go through a few quick questions and then she catches him on a question he won’t answer. The questions continue about the route and the calls and stops but he hesitates with some Ummm’s.

Meanwhile, the street cops go snooping around in some bushes and see something odd (a burlap sack?), but not a briefcase. They ask some guys hanging around some baseball bleachers if they saw anything unusual going on in the area, but to no avail.

The next interrogation is the other brother with Paul Bishop. He also asks about the route and who they called. After catching the brother fibbing, Paul says “you’re digging yourself in a hole here”. (How prescient!) After it becomes obvious that the brother isn’t being forthcoming with the truth (no surprise, not with a $100,000 prize at stake), the questioning ends.

Mary and Paul trade notes on the interrogations and figure that the brothers are trying to distract them with decoy information. Mary decides they’ll look where the brothers are avoiding any talk about. The detectives are also looking through the cell phone records and see if the brothers’ answers jive with the records. The interrogation of the first brother continues, this time with both Mary and Paul doing the questioning.

By the way, there no reading the Miranda rights and no calling a lawyer! By volunteering to be on this show, you’re also volunteering to take 48 hours of heat. Those cells look cold and dank, too. No clips of food being served, either.

Meanwhile, the two local detectives make some calls and under a false cover, extract address information, and find out that it’s nowhere near the route these guys took, so they know it’s a decoy. The visit the Mexican restaurant and see that it’s not open until after 5:00, so the brothers couldn’t have gone in there. They do some questioning of local residents, carrying the photos of the two brothers, but without results.

Now 24 hours remain for the detectives to find the loot. They finally catch up with Carl Morino at an apartment. They talk in the foyer but he does not invite them in. Carl says “I’m not at liberty to say” some answers to their questions about phone conversations. Carl lets slip info about seeing the brothers carrying the briefcase, so the detectives rule out any place from the starting point to Carl’s apartment. But they’re trusting Carl. Did Carl actually see them?

Mary and Paul figure out that the calls are decoys and if the guys are going to spend time to hide the briefcase, they’ll be too busy to make calls. So they look for the time slice with the longest break in the calls and then determine where they were on the GPS map about that time.

With 19 hours to go, the two SFPD detectives see Brian Burns, yet another decoy accomplice. They find out the two brothers didn’t visit there. So now the local cops realize they’ve been sent “on a wild goose chase”. At wits end, they’re not sure what to do next except to keep looking.

Meanwhile, the interrogations continue. After more than a day of it, it’s no fun and the psychological pressure can lead to some odd behavior. The one brother actually starts looking a little afraid of Paul and Mary! Those two look like they could be seriously intimidating if they chose to be. The pressure builds as they tell him that he can “go home, go home right now, go home in 20 minutes”. Hmmm, less than a day away from winning $100,000 and you want to go home now? Funny, though, how people can react under pressure with a “reward” of no more interrogations singing in their ears. Paul breaks! He tells them where the money can be found — in some bushes in the park on the hill.

But for a while the local detectives are having trouble finding it, and then… they find it! Easy peasy, as poorly as it was buried. They dance and hug. Well, guys, if it hadn’t been for Paul and Mary breaking one of the Bustamante brothers under questioning, you’d still be driving aimlessly around on the streets. Give credit where credit is due.

The show ends with them all meeting, sharing notes and shaking hands and laughing, although it wasn’t really a very pleasant experience for the two bros!

Thoughts: The thieving duo have to plan on hiding the loot well and creating a long circuitous route with multiple decoys. They also have to hold up under the pressure of interrogation. The police have to piece the information together, but a good plan can thwart their efforts. Paul and Mary are intimidating as interrogators and they’re the ones that broke this case. This show looks interesting, but let’s hope success or failure will rest more with gumshoe work than breaking the thieving duo through 48 hours of pressured questioning.

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