Pooling The Game

Well, the NCAA Tournament is over, and your annual foray into gambling with your officemates has ended — in abject failure, as usual.  You’re feeling a bit wistful about it.  In fact, you acknowledge, you don’t really care all that much about the money element of the office pool — it’s the social interaction, and the trash talking, and the possibility of getting bragging rights, that’s the real attraction.  It’s been fun following your brackets and talking to your friends about how you’re doing, and you’ll miss that.

hand-of-the-king-pin-replicaSo how about scratching that itch by getting together with your friends and combining the concepts of office NCAA pool, fantasy sports league, and everyone’s favorite big-budget quasi-medieval/sword-and-sorcery/dungeons-and-dragons HBO show?  Except, unlike the NCAA pool where you’re trying to pick winners of basketball games, in this pool you’re trying to select the characters who are most likely to get killed and earn your team valuable points.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the Game of Thrones Death Pool.

It’s straightforward.  Identify fellow rabid fans of the show, figure out how many of your pals will be in the pool, and set a time for your draft.  Come up with a list of characters (there’s a lot of them, by the way).  Figure out what you’re going to kick into the kitty and how you’re going to allocate the money — whether it’s after each episode, or at the end of the season, or both.  Decide how many rounds the draft will go.  Prepare a grid that people can use to keep track of who’s drafted whom, and appoint a commissioner — being a Game of Thrones pool, perhaps Archmaester or High Septon is a better title — who will keep track of the scoring, provide a brief recap, and let players draft from the list of remaining (and new) characters to replenish their roster and replace the characters who’ve been killed.

And then get together with your friends, have your draft, and enjoy an adult beverage or three while you’re deciding whether Brienne of Tarth is more likely to get knocked off early in the season than, say, Varys or The Mountain.  There’s some strategy and skill involved, because even if you’re reasonably sure that a character is going to get rubbed out at some point — like, for example, Cersei — if you think they’ll last through the first few episodes you might want to hold off on drafting them in favor of a more minor character that could easily meet their maker in an earlier episode.

We had our Game of Thrones Death Pool draft last night, and it was a lot of fun.  We each are kicking in $45, points and money will be allocated after each episode and at the end of the season, and the ultimate winner will get an authentic knock-off Hand of the King pin purchased from Amazon.  There were five of us, and we had five rounds in the draft.  I drafted second and am pretty happy with my team, which consists of Melisandre, Qyburn, Baric Dondarrion, Yohn Royce, and Gilly.

Let the GOT Death Pool begin!

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Wading Into A New Death Pool

Thomas Wolfe famously observed that “you can’t go home again.”  His saying seeks to convey the wistful notion that things that you once enjoyed, years ago, can never be fully recaptured and will never have the same magic again.

That may well be true — in the abstract.  But I’m guessing old Tom wasn’t a 24 fan.  If he was, he would have agreed that you should at least try to go home again — in the sense of giving a shot to a new series that seeks to recapture the most over-the-top, terrorist-frenzied, mole-addled, conspiracy within a conspiracy within a conspiracy TV show ever broadcast.

So when our group of 24 diehards heard there was going to be a 24 reboot called 24 Legacy we couldn’t resist the idea of resurrecting the 24 Death Pool.  Sure, it won’t have blood-soaked, torture-happy Jack Bauer at the helm — the new hero is a tough dude named Eric Carter — but we’re hoping it will have the same awesome, jaw-dropping body count, the same mayhem, the same blood and gore and maniacal focus on catching terrorists bent on destroying the country and ferreting out every scheming conspirator seeking to install a new regime even while everything happens within one no-bathroom-break 24-hour period!  (Whew!)

So tomorrow we’ll be having a beer at a local tavern, peering at the cast of characters and trying to decide who is most likely to get knocked off in the first episode, which airs immediately after the Super Bowl.  Will it be a security guard?  An innocent bystander?  A hardass CTI agent who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Who cares?  We say:  let the bloodbath begin!

The Death Pool Lives Again

In a few short minutes, the new season of 24 will begin.  We celebrated today by reviving the 24 Death Pool.

This year we decided to start the pool without watching even a single episode of the show, or even knowing anything about the characters.  We got the list of the characters from the wikipedia and imdb websites and know only their names.  We don’t have any idea whether those websites even know what they are talking about when it comes to characters.  But, because it’s 24, we know that deaths will occur — inevitably and in droves.  Along with mayhem, torture, conspiracies, moles, Jack Bauer screaming, evil and clueless Presidents, and the failure of American intelligence agencies to maintain a “hard perimeter.”

When you don’t know anything about the characters you are drafting as likely future corpses, you can only fall back on tried and true 24 plotlines.  It therefore is not surprising that the first three people drafted were identified as “Agent” X, Y and Z.  If 24 teaches us anything, it’s that otherwise nondescript “agents” are as likely to be promptly knocked off as the red-shirted security guys on the original Star Trek.  Because I drafted last, all the “agents” were gone when I made my selection — so I chose “Pete,” a member of a hacking group.  I’m speculating that we know his name only because another character yells “Pete, look out!” before a bomb goes off and “Pete” is blown to kingdom come.

I’m ready, baby!  Bring on the deaths!

5/5 24

One of the few notable things about the lopsided Super Bowl was the debut of the trailer for the new season of 24, which explodes onto the airwaves on May 5, 2014.

The new season of 24 will be set in London, where a fugitive Jack Bauer hooks up with Chloe O’Brian to try to foil another dastardly terrorist plot. From the all-too-brief brief trailer, we know two things we knew already: no mere explosion can have an impact on Jack Bauer, even if it knocks Chloe O’Brian senseless, and Jack will somehow be armed and ready to scream and fire off shots at any time and anywhere, even in England where private ownership of handguns is forbidden.

I’ve already sent around the email seeking to reinstitute the 24 Death Pool and have received enthusiastic responses. True fans of the show understand that, if CTU still exists, its agents will die by the score, harbor a mole, and be unable to establish a “hard perimeter,” that hapless Brits will be shot, poisoned, gassed, disemboweled, blown up, and tortured simply by virtue of being in the proximity of a whispering Jack Bauer, and that Jack is unlikely to stop for a pint of bitter or a trip to the loo during his frantic 24-hour quest to stop the terrorists. Bring it on!

The Return Of 24?

Could we soon see the return of Jack Bauer, Chloe, implausible coincidences, and the deaths of scores of nameless, faceless innocents?

Fox apparently is in talks with Kiefer Sutherland to bring back 24, the rock ’em, sock ’em, “real time” drama about superman Jack Bauer, super-helper Chloe O’Brian, soulful Tony Almeida, and the otherwise horribly inept counter-terrorism team at CTU.  They’ve fought foreign and domestic terrorists, dealt with gas attacks and nuclear blasts, and watched as co-workers were knocked off, exposed as moles, or shown to be craven blowhards.  They’ve experienced countless plot twists, broken every constitutional right afforded to American citizens, and applauded as Jack Bauer has used torture to wring confessions from appalling evildoers (including his brother).

Sutherland’s current series, Touch, was not renewed.  It was a show with an interesting premise, but this season it became a lot more like 24, as Sutherland’s character and his son and their allies fought an ultra-powerful corporation that was using human subjects to advance its evil corporate agenda.  So why not just bring back Jack Bauer in full, give him his PDA and his Jack Pack and his pistol, and let the death pool begin anew?

Jack Bauer vs. The World (And Charles Logan)

24 will soon run its course, and it is clear the the writers and producers want to end the series with a bang.  Recently we’ve seen one character dispatched with a gruesomely slit throat, and another got plugged after unwisely enjoying a few moments of passion with Jack Bauer.  So now Jack, once again, is on his own and battling the forces of evil pretty much unaided.  The only difference this season is that the faithful Chloe, who has been bizarrely elevated to head of CTU, may not have Jack’s back as he breaks the rules and flouts her orders while he exacts his bloody revenge.

As interesting as that plot development may be — and it holds great promise for all participants in this year’s 24 Death Pool, because we can only guess at the spectacular body counts Jack Bauer will rack up in his zealous quest for “justice” — the real pleasure of the most recent episodes has been the reappearance of former President Charles Logan.  You have to give great credit to Gregory Itzin, who plays Logan, because he has given birth to one of the great characters ever seen on TV.  Logan is evil, corrupt, smarmy, arrogant, devious, and craven, all at the same time.  When he is on the screen spinning his conspiratorial webs the sleaze just seems to pour out of him.  He is fascinating and riveting to watch, whether he is trying to wheedle the formerly upright President into taking her first step down the path to perdition or ranting that some flunky didn’t pay him the proper respect.

I expect that Jack Bauer will take out President Logan before this season is over.  I suppose that’s only right, but I hope it doesn’t happen for a while.  The machinations of watery-eyed and unctuous Charles Logan make an old favorite much, much better.

Rising On The Implausibility Meter

I’ve recently posted on the boring nature of this season of 24.  The producers and writers apparently have heard such complaints, because the show has taken an abrupt veer into the random violence, outright implausibiilty, and general weirdness to which the loyal viewers of the program have become accustomed.

Last night’s episode was a good example.  Consider:

*  Jack Bauer and three other CTU agents engaged in a machine-gun firefight with a group of terrorists at some deserted industrial facility on the shores of the East River, near Manhattan, at 4 a.m.  The din of gunfire continued for a good half hour, without any sign of police or, for that matter, concern by local residents whose sleep was interrupted by the local equivalent of World War III.  (Pitched gun battles apparently are so commonplace in the NYC area that they aren’t worth bothering about.)

*  Minutes after CTU’s computer systems were totally fried by the explosion of an electromagnetic pulse device, the redoubtable Chloe O’Brian pulled a gun on an NSA engineer in order to try her hastily developed plan to fix the systems by “tapping into the trunk line.”  Surprisingly, the NSA geek would not allow her to try her improvised approach after she scowled a few times and waved a piece of paper with a scrawled diagram at him.  After barricading herself in the room, only to have security break back in, she is permitted to try her plan, her jury-rigged fix works and gets the systems up in seconds, and by the end of the show she is back at her desk getting a pat on the back from her boss.

*  The first CTU mole — a 24 tradition — has been exposed to be agent Blondie.  After being a mere annoyance with her idiotic subplot about her ex-boyfriend and his criminal buddy, she strangles a hefty Arkansas probation officer who had been bugging her for information about the ex-boyfriend and rolls him into a man-sized ventilation duct conveniently located at floor level.  (With ventilation systems that sizable, CTU probably is not very “green.”)  She then makes a phone call to the lead terrorist to say that her cover has been blown.  No kidding!  Makes you wonder what the lead terrorist thought about Blondie’s lengthy absences during the first part of the terrorist operations, as she haplessly dealt with her ex-boyfriend before finally sinking the corpses of the ex-boyfriend and his buddy into a deserted pond.

*  Chloe’s 4 a.m. call is fielded by a wide-awake, fully clothed former FBI agent Renee (Freckles) Walker.  Walker is told that Jack Bauer is in some vaguely described area, immediately heads there, and arrives in time to use a handgun, from a distance of about 200 yards, to plug two terrorists who are getting ready to splatter Jack’s brains across a parking lot.

Sure, it’s implausible, but I’ll take implausible over boring any day.