“Imagine this is your hometown. A stranger hands you a briefcase with $100,000 in it…”

With those over-dramatic words, Take the Money and Run — possibly the most brilliant reality competition ever aired — begins.

The show works on the premise that everyday, law-abiding folk like you and I would love to believe that they are master criminals. To that end, the contestants are given a briefcase full of money and told to hide it. They have one hour.

Of course, it’s not that easy. Two law enforcement officials then have two days to figure out where that briefcase is and find it. They’re assisted by interrogators, cell-phone data and GPS coordinates.

If the detectives find the money, they get to keep it. But if the “criminals” successfully pull off the heist, they get the $100,000 for themselves. It’s a game of wits! A game of intrigue! A game of betrayal!

Take the Money and Run wisely debuts with a pair of pleasant but bumbling brothers, Paul and Raul Bustamante. Their opponents in this reality-TV, cat-and-mouse game are police detectives Cliff Cook and Dean Taylor. Everyone wants the money — but only one side will get it.

The games begin with a “mysterious man” who handcuffs the briefcase to Paul and gives the key to Raul. Ah the potential for wacky key-loss disaster! The recorded instructions that play from a briefcase speaker (just go with it) instruct the young men that they have an hour and a show-provided car to hide the money. Then they’ll be arrested.

There is no way I’m going to spoil the twisted heist that follows, but there are a few highlights to watch for:

  • When making a clever plan to hide the briefcase from the cops, it’s probably best to make sure your devious and ingenious hiding place is open for business.
  • The helicopter shot footage of the brothers’ car driving in circles? Genius. 
  • “Work on your nails as you run!”
  • Criminals need really easygoing and understanding friends. Honestly, if any of my friends called up and said, “Hey, I’m coming by with a briefcase full of money. Tell the cops that when you talk to them,” I think I would ask a couple of questions. This is not the case with the Bustamantes’ friends. 
  • Somewhere, buried under the city of San Francisco, there is a dungeon. Seriously, a dungeon.
  • Apparently, the rules of Take the Money and Run state that the pair must stay together, that the briefcase can only be removed from wrist upon hiding and that everyone has to answer all questions.
  • Interrogators have an impressive ability to keep from laughing hysterically at the obvious lies they are told.
  • “You can’t make chicken soup out of chicken poop.”

How true that is…

Fortunately for Take the Money and Run, there’s no chicken poop in sight. The show works brilliantly. I spent the entire hour critiquing every criminal turn and devising my own strategies to keep that money hidden.

Would I succeed? It’s hard to say, but Take the Money and Run succeeds in making the viewer believe he or she has at least a fighting chance at a life of crime. And crime has never been so entertaining.

Could you commit the perfect crime? Would you like to watch others try? Let us know your opinions below!

(Image and video courtesy of ABC)

Laurel Brown

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Laurel grew up in Mamaroneck, NY, Grosse Pointe, MI and Bellevue WA. She then went on to live in places like Boston, Tucson, Houston, Wales, Tanzania, Prince Edward Island and New York City before heading back to Seattle. Ever since early childhood, when she became addicted to The Muppet Show, Laurel has watched far too much TV. Current favorites include ChuckModern FamilySupernaturalMad Men and Community. Laurel received a BA in Astrophysics (yes, that is possible) from Colgate University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and History of Science from Columbia University before she realized that television is much better than studying.