By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnist

Whether you have tuned in for the first seven episodes of "Beg, Borrow & Deal" or just getting into it now, there's enough time to catch up and figure out which team you want to root for during the season finale on Tuesday night. (For all the info on the show -- full player bios, complete task lists and post-show commentary from every episode -- check out ESPN.com's Beg, Borrow & Deal site, Keyword: Beg)

Here's a primer:

Two teams of four strangers were dropped in the middle of Times Square in New York City. They have no money. (In fact, they aren't even allowed to handle money.) They have no cell phone. They have no change of clothes.

Each team is given a list of 40 sports-related tasks. The first team to complete 10 tasks, then make their way cross-country to Alcatraz Island is declared the winner. The winning team gets free trips and tickets to all the major sports events next year yada, yada, yada. The fun here is the process, not the end goal. And the process, as the title suggests, is to literally beg, borrow and deal your way across the country. And so they have, with mixed results.

Meet the teams:

Team Cobi

What's the team dynamic? As dysfunctional as their opponents are, Team Cobi is all about loving each other. No, no intra-team hook-ups (yet), but relatively easy success has kept everyone in bright spirits. At times, Juliet has alienated her three teammates with her self-absorbed attitude, but as soon as they complete a task, all strife is quickly forgotten.

Which tasks have they pulled off?

Cobi: (1) Got picture taken with an Olympic medal; (2) Caught a 35-yard pass from an NFL QB; (3) Gave a bath to a college mascot; (4) Shagged fly balls during MLB batting practice; (5) Scored on an NHL goalie; (6) Threw out the first pitch at an MLB game; (7) Led MLB crowd in pre-game singing of National Anthem; (8) Scored a goal on an MLS goalie; (9) Hosted a sports-radio talk show.

Where'd the name come from? The team's first completed task was to get their picture taken with an Olympic medal. In their case, it belonged to Summer Sanders. Asked to come up with a team name upon completing the task, Summer volunteered that the mascot of the Olympics she won her medal at was named "Cobi." The team adopted the name as a tribute to the person responsible for helping them nail their first task.

Meet the team members:

Josh
Josh

Josh: Josh is the Jason Kidd of "BBD" -- he makes everyone around him better, and it says here that if he was on the other team, the scores would probably be reversed. He's that much of a difference-maker, mainly because the guy is a Class A schmoozer with strangers. He's made the funniest jokes of any player and is never afraid to speak his mind. If there's a knock against him, it's that he knows nothing about sports, instead offering knowledge of showtunes and movies.

Juliet
Juliet

Juliet: A one-woman wrecking crew interpersonally, Juliet has nevertheless managed to do the most for the team with her family connections, which have included everything from direct-dialing Summer Sanders for her Olympic medals to giving the team a wonderful night in her mom's swank suburban Chicago mansion. She also hooked up with a friend of Kelli's in East Lansing, Michigan, and she did a mean impression of Meg Ryan from the diner scene in "When Harry Met Sally." What a moment for the show.

Bubba
Bubba

Bubba: A gentlemanly Southerner, Bubba turns on the charm when begging from other obvious Southerners. But aside from that, he's offered little to the team except some spicy flare-ups with Juliet and a type of consigliere role with Josh, as the two guys schemed over the team's next moves, allowing the two women teammates to do what they really want to do: Go for workouts and wash their hair. Nice luxury.

Kelli
Kelli

Kelli: Despite her innocent-Midwesterner routine as a way to bum cell phones from strangers, Kelli has been much more of a follower than a leader within her team. She heroically offered to flash a bus-full of NHL players, but -- sadly for them -- never had to go through with it. Just the fact that she would is enough for us. Her highlight was the way she manipulated her team into going to East Lansing just in time for her college-graduation party. She managed to BBD her way into sleeping with her boyfriend -- and giving Juliet first-class wingman treatment. Still, in the game's last few stages, she has been more luggage than leader.

Team Contact

What's the team dynamic? Couldn't be more dysfunctional. They all seem to hate each other, and they have rarely worked as a team. To their credit, coming by the tasks has been such a hardship that they really seem to appreciate them when they complete them (as opposed to Team Cobi, who all seem to take their successes for granted). Also appreciated is Team Contact's hit-the-after-party attitude when they complete a task. They may be getting blown out, but they know how to stop and enjoy the moment.

Which tasks have they pulled off?

Contact: (1) Gave a bath to a college mascot; (2) Caught a 35-yard pass from an NFL QB; (3) Beat an NBA player in HORSE; (4) Rode with a minor-league baseball team on their bus; (5) Got their picture taken with an Olympic medal; (6) Hit an NBA three-point shot.

Where'd the name come from? The team realized that its success would be dependent on their contacts in the outside world, not just on their ability to work as a team (an ability that turned out to be quite suspect).

Meet the team members

Aubrey
Aubrey

Aubrey: A professional cheerleader, Aubrey has been the team member most focused on knocking off tasks and actually winning the game. She regularly is the only team member who does any legwork once they reach a destination to try to set up a task. Coincidentally, she tends to celebrate completing tasks with cheerleader-like high kicks. She also tends to spend at least once segment per episode either crying or on the verge of tears, making every episode a "When's Aubrey gonna lose it?" adventure.

Tony
Tony

Tony: An obnoxious, mouthy kid from Connecticut, instantly recognizable by his frat-style backward-facing baseball cap and his 10-minutes-too-late "soul patch" facial hair. Tends to explode on his teammates - for not trying hard enough, for not letting him get food when he's hungry, and generally for not being enough about Tony. Once ruined his team's opportunity for a five-hour car ride by bumming a cigarette from the potential driver (a team is only allowed to accept one favor per person). His biggest contribution so far was to beat Nets forward Richard Jefferson in H-O-R-S-E, which says more about R-Jeff than Tony.

Julian
Julian

Julian: Up until Episode 7, this guy had been the definition of "no value." He never really set up any tasks and barely contributed to completing them, always seeming to be more interested in where his next cigarette would be coming from than where the team's next task would come from. Threatened to quit the team if they didn't make their connecting bus from Little Rock to Dallas. Then, in Dallas, he set the team up with a place to stay and even miraculously hit an NBA three-point shot to allow the team to complete their sixth (and most recent) task.

Katie
Katie

Katie: Really, really, REALLY wants to be the boss of the team, but is regularly shown up by Aubrey's effort. This has led to regular clashes between the two of them. Katie also had a blowout with Tony in the middle of a NASCAR RV park in Richmond, Va. After completing each task, Katie seems content to spend the rest of the night partying. Much like opponent Kelli, she seems to be obsessed with makeup and staying pretty during the road trip. Doesn't that appear to be purpose-defeating?

Current score: Team Cobi 9, Team Contact 6.

Outlook: Team Cobi seems to have an insurmountable lead over Team Contact, but currently Cobi is stuck on a Wyoming highway with car trouble. I really can't see Cobi choking so badly that they collapse so close to the victory. However, could Cobi's late-stage problems be the opening the usually dysfunctional Contact (currently in Oklahoma City) needs to make a surge and pass the front-runners at the finish line? I guess that's why they play the game. All will be revealed in the season finale on Tuesday night.

Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2. He has followed "Beg, Borrow & Deal" through the entire season via a weekly "Backseat Driver" column.




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