12/12/2012 05:40 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2013

'Take It All': a Mandelian Display of the Machiavellian

I've long suspected that Howie Mandel is a social provocateur, a rascal sage that tries to show us us. If you've seen the last (second) episode of "Take It All" then you know what I am talking about. The lessons are simple: when you try to screw others there is a good chance you are the one who is going to be screwed. Two contestants -- now infamous for lying -- looked each other in the eye and promised to share the wealth of the moment. And then they tried to screw each other by "taking it all." The result is a cliche: when you try to take it all, there is a good chance you'll be left with nothing.

Of course, it's not always like that: in the first episode of the show, in a pairing of two career teachers, there was a brief talk about the "god-given" blessing of the moment... and then one teacher got over on another, taking home $420,000 (and the notoriety of being a first-class liar). "Ends justify the means," "gotta do what you gotta do," right? It's comical to see contestants marshal rationalizations for their ruthlessness -- "buying books for the class," "sister with cancer," -- all kinds of reasons are introduced into the contestants' profiles as if to build up the moral justification for the zero-sum immorality that follows. What a Mandelian display of the Machiavellian in us!

Thank you, Howie, for edutainment!
Neural Tribe