CH 2 | ROUND 1: Introductions
"They say first impressions are the most important" The Boulder began once Katara was seated.
She reached over and picked up her cue cards and a notepad.
"You the contestants cannot, under any circumstances, reveal your identity to Katara- but that doesn't mean you can't introduce yourselves. Each contestant, please greet the lovely Katara by the nickname you think suits her."
"Hey 'Tara, I'm Contestant 1." Said a man's voice. It was slightly graveled, but also ripe with confidence. He was clearly a person comfortable with the audience. She liked it. "Hi Contestant 1" she replied, smiling and jotting a note in her notebook.
"Hey Kat" said Contestant 2. The audience liked this and provided a chorus of "woOoOoos". He sounded reserved and spoke in a raspy baritone. Very sexy. "I'll take that, contestant 2, thanks." Katara replied, now leaning more casually on the stool, ankles crossed and notepad in her lap.
Contestant 3 was a young woman with an energetic voice who spoke with affection, "Nice to sort of meet you, hottie!" 3 also earned some audience approval and a small, self-conscious giggle from Katara, who tucked hair behind her ear. "Hi 3." She said simply.
Contestant 4 was also a woman. Her response was deadpanned and humorous as she stated simply, "Foo Foo Cuddlypoops," provoking a wave of laughter and scattered clapping. Even Katara herself laughed. She also wrote this into her notebook.
"Hey Sweetie." Said Contestant 5. Her stomach somersaulted, and the rich honey of his voice made her feel warmer. She could hear the cheeky grin on his face, and it made her throat feel tighter. "Well, hi to you too, sweetie..." she managed as the crowd murmured and cooed.
"Based on your achievements, you don't seem like the type of person who would appreciate a silly pet name." Contestant 6 began. "So, I'll say, with deep respect, good evening Dr. Sanaaq." "Good evening contestant 6" she said, shaking her head with a soft smile. She appreciated his indication that he'd been paying attention to her intro and respected her work, but he was a bit off the mark. Katara adored pet names.
"Great, now we all know each other extremely well" The Boulder joked. "Let's begin our first round. Katara, ask your first question."
"I picked intro questions for Round 1. What's your BUT? The thing someone would say is the deal breaker when it comes to being with you? For example, you are fun-loving and kind BUT you hog the bed and snore." The audience chuckled and chattered as Contestant 1 considered his answer. Katara set down her first cue card and picked up her notebook.
"I am passionate. I will sweep you off your feet when I want a kiss. I care deeply about my friends and family—if you earn a spot, you can always count on me to have your back." Contestant 1 said.
Katara nodded, happily scribbling in her notebook.
"…Wait...are you seriously taking notes?" Contestant 1 derailed.
"I am!" Katara responded, unabashed. There were scattered chuckles in the audience as Katara explained, "I expect I won't need it to make a choice at the end, but if it ends up being difficult, I can use my data to generate a variance test that rates the compatibility of my answers to yours!"
Contestant 1 laughed exasperatedly, joined by some of the crowd. Katara knew he was trying to be light on his feet, but it was a little annoying. "So does that mean you're a math nerd, on top of everything else?"
"I'm the one asking the questions" Katara shot back with sass, earning a roar of approval from the stands. "You still haven't told me your 'but'."
Contestant 1 sighed lazily. "BUT...I can hold a grudge. I've survived some bad stuff. Forgiveness doesn't come naturally to me."
Katara nodded. She could understand the sentiment. "Thanks for your honesty, Contestant 1. Number 2, you ready?"
Contestant 2 cleared his throat "Uh, yeah. Uhm. I try show people I care about them through gestures—you know, like flowers. I'll make you soup when you're sick (awwwws from the simpering girls in the crowd). You know. Because I care, obviously." He concluded a little gruffly. "BUT, I am deeply involved in my work. I'm not really interested in play time, so if you like going out dancing, crazy thrill stuff like penguin sledding you can forget it."
Katara noted it, a little disappointed. "Then what do you like to do when you date?" she asked.
Contestant 2 paused thoughtfully. "I like to watch movies and cuddle. I like to relax on the beach. A private beach—crowds are awful." The audience provided scattered approval, probably more for the cuddle reference and less for the implication that Contestant 2 wanted nothing to do with his fans.
"Mmkay. Contestant 3?"
"Hi Katara!" the woman bubbled. "So... I'm pretty much the opposite. I LOVE having fun and like to do everything with my person...when I have a person. But I guess I can be a little non-committal? I don't know. Maybe?"
Katara smiled. "Thanks! How about you, 4?"
There was a creak as Contestant 4 leaned back in her chair. "Baby, when you're with me you don't have to worry about a thing. I take the lead, and I like it that way. But I know I can be a bit rough around the edges. And between the sheets. I know that's not for everyone. You should think of a safety word now."
Katara face went hot, and she made a bit of a show of fanning herself with her notebook for the crowd's amusement. "Wow! Uhm, thanks Contestant 4. That's...wow. Okay, Contestant 5?"
Contestant 5 spoke again in his melodious tenor. Katara was already quite taken with his voice. "I have a lot of love to give, and I really enjoy giving it" he began genuinely.
The crowd gave shocked little "wooooos" for the implied entendre, but Katara suspected Contestant 5 didn't mean it in a sexual way. She was half-right. "N-no!" he tried to explain to the crowd, "not like that! Well, yes that too. I just meant I really care about making you feel good, you know? But I really hate confrontation. I'm not proud that I tend to run away from my problems, and I'm still trying to recognize it when I do it and be better. But I need someone who can be patient with me."
Katara nodded, trying to make her face unreadable. She secretly thought 5's 'But' was quite charming. "6?" Katara asked.
"I am soft in my relationships, but hard on the surface. Not everyone is interested in balancing that type of dichotomy." Contestant 6 responded succinctly.
"Oh. Erm. Well thanks." Katara smiled sheepishly and wrote more in the notebook.
"Katara, will you now read the answer you provided earlier?" The Boulder asked, handing her the card she wrote Question 1 on: "I care deeply about the people in my life. I consider myself a giver and like to spoil my significant other. I'll give you massages, breakfast in bed...other things... (the crowd reacted scandalously and Katara blushed again). BUT, I'm still working on opening up to people. I've lost people I love and...it scares me to be vulnerable. I need someone who can be patient with me."
"The Boulder sees many similarities between your answers and every contestant. Please ask another question!"
"Okay." Katara said, gaining some new confidence as they sank deeper into Round 1. "A Seer once told me that I would marry a powerful bender. Are you a bender and if so, what's your best move?"
Contestant 1 sounded affronted at the question and responded simply, "I am not a bender."
"Oh. Okay. For the other contestants, I'm not saying being a non-bender is a deal breaker...in fact, if you aren't, then I'm just as curious to hear what that prediction means to you."
Contestant 2 cleared his throat nervously the same way he did on the first question. "I'm a Fire Bender. Bending is a responsibility, not a gift. I don't have a favorite "move" per se, but one of the hardest things I've ever done was re-direct lightning."
"Wow, that's amazing!" Katara exclaimed. "Did that hurt?"
"Yes...the whole situation hurt."
The crowd and Katara both seemed to note the seriousness of the response and there were no catcalls.
"Thanks for sharing that. That must have been a difficult experience for you... Are you a bender Contestant 3?"
"Hmmm..." Contestant 3 murmured. "I like to consider myself a People-Bender. After all, I am very flexible..." the crowd erupted into cheers and shouts as though the Contestant had demonstrated just how flexible she really was. "And I could show you how to bend like me, too."
Katara laughed and fake-fanned herself again. "I think the ladies here are pretty sexy..."
To that Contestant 4 responded. "I do have some sexy Earth Bending skills. In fact, my feet are incredibly sensitive to vibration. I already know which person you're going to pick."
Katara laughed openly this time "I highly doubt that..."
Contestant 4 asked her, "Can I borrow a piece of paper?"
Katara raised an eyebrow but said "Yeah, sure..." and tore out a blank page from the notebook. The Boulder walked it over to the other side of the partition and there was scribbling and the sound of the paper folding back up.
"The Boulder is going to hold onto this until the end of the show. Bet you 50 yuans I wrote down the right guess."
Katara was truly enjoying this. "You're on!"
"Okay, okay. Sorry Contestant 5. Do you have an answer?"
"Well...sort of" Contestant 5 said sheepishly. "I don't know if I can say I'm a powerful bender..." the crowd laughed conspiratorially.
So, he was known as a powerful bender and playing false modest? A pro-bender perhaps?
"...And I also can't tell you what I bend because it'll give me away. I have a cool marble trick, though!" He was apparently demonstrating it for the audience to uproarious laughter. "I would like to say though, that I believe everyone is capable of shaping their own destiny. If, at the end of the day you find a soulmate in a non-bender, I don't think you're invalidating the prediction, you're re-writing it." Katara was impressed and touched by this wisdom.
"I'm an Earth Bender, but I don't bend unless I need to. Which isn't very often, to be honest." Contestant 6 added blandly.
"Katara, will you now read the answer you provided earlier?" The Boulder asked, handing her the card she wrote Question 2 on: "You all know I am a Waterbender, but I am most known for healing bends. What you probably DON'T know is I actually trained in combat bending before I knew I could heal. My favorite is the Octopus move, but I also do some surfing for fun."
"I LOVE surfing!" Contestant 5 blurted out.
"Ha! Gotcha! You're a Water Bender!" Katara said victoriously. She wondered if that meant she might actually know him...that's probably why he didn't want to disclose his bending element!
"Welp...Yes. I technically am a Water bender..." he said, sounding embarrassed.
"Katara, you may now ask your final question before The Boulder asks you to...eliminate...the opposition" The Boulder flexed to rile the crowd.
"Okay, Question 3: Why are you here? You're all celebrities or well-known contributors to your field. Why would you look for love on a game show?"
"That's a great question, Katara" Contestant 1 responded with syrup. "I guess I'm just a romantic at heart."
Katara raised an eyebrow at what was obviously a disingenuous answer. "Uh huh...Contestant 2?"
"My Uncle made me." Contestant 2 sounded sullen. It was adorable.
"I like doing gigs like this! I do a lot of TV appearances, but I've never done a game show before. Plus, I love meeting new people!" "Me, too!" Katara agreed. She really liked Contestant 3's happy, perky voice.
"I hope you don't take offense to this Sugar Queen, but I signed up as a practical joke on a friend. That doesn't mean I'm not having fun, though!" Contestant 4 had provoked the crowd into laughter once again.
"Honestly Contestant 4, I haven't even met you and I'm still not surprised by that answer. How about you, 5?"
Contestant 5 was having trouble controlling his embarrassed laughter. "I love that this is a question!" he paused for a moment for a couple of breaths. "I'm probably not supposed to be here. A dating game show borders on inappropriate for someone...in my line of work. But I lost a bet to Contestant 4 so..."
The crowd AND Katara erupted into surprised laughter. "Wait...are you telling me that you are Contestant 4's practical joke friend?"
"...that is correct..." he responded. It sounded like he had put his embarrassed face into his hands. "Also, I'm pretty sure you're going to lose 50 yuans because she never loses bets...I learned that the hard way."
Contestant 6 cleared his throat and waited for some of the hub-bub to die down before giving a very forthright answer: "Dating isn't easy when you're recognizable. I knew that this show pairs people like us with highly successful people...like you. Meeting you in another context would probably make a relationship more challenging."
"Oh. Well, okay. Thanks!" Katara responded lamely.
"Katara, will you now read the answer you provided earlier?" The Boulder asked, handing her the card she wrote Question 3 on: "Oh jeeze. I know the audience is going to freak out...here's what I wrote: My friend Mai sent in an application about me as a practical joke. She then called in a ridiculous blood debt I owed her from childhood to force me to accept the invitation."
The response was uproarious. Her response being almost exactly the same as Contestant 5's seemed to heat the room to a low boil. Katara was blushing furiously and smiling behind her hands.
"Katara, it is now time to send a powerful, probably rich celebrity packing. Whose date are you going to pass on?" The Boulder asked. The crowd roared all manner of suggestions, many held up numbers on their fingers, but Katara already knew.
"Sorry Contestant 1, I'm going to pass." She said simply. He seemed like a bit of a douche-canoe, honestly. "Let's find out what you're missing out on. Contestant 1, come on down!"
A tall, slinky man appeared around the barrier. There were loud cheers and fawns from the audience. "You've given up Jet, lead singer of Freedom Fighters!" Jet hadn't even made his way over to Katara yet. He was busying himself with the audience, blowing kisses and stooping to grab hands from the front row. Eventually he sauntered over to her, chewing on a toothpick and smirking. He straight eye-fucked her, confirming beyond a doubt she'd eliminated the right contestant.
He turned off his mic and leaned into her ear, "Too bad, I would have had some fun with you..." she reached back and turned off her mic too. "Haha...you're a human-shaped Nope" and then turned it back on, fake smiling and shaking his hand.