On Netflix's 'Awake: The Million Dollar Game' Contestants Stay Awake 24 Hours To Count 4 Million Quarters

Awake: The Million Dollar Game on Netflix, contestants face tedious or uncomfortable challenges while sleep-deprived. In the first episode of the new Netflix game show, seven contestants stay awake for 24 hours to count out as many quarters as they can, from a pool of four million. By the end, a few took "buyouts" of a few thousand dollars, the rest won nothing.

The very first challenge opening Awake conveys the strange combination of mind-numbing boredom and enervating decisions that defines the new Netflix series—at least, for contestants. Host James Davis keeps audience energy high on a blue-panel lit set spliced from the DNA of every other game show.

The episode opens with contestants in a "secret room," where they have 24 hours to shovel quarters into moneybags, count them on a table, then dump the haul in their wheelbarrow. Their challenge was to not only maximize their quarter count, but also to keep an accurate tally in their head.

On Netflix's "Awake: The Million Dollar Game" contestants first spend 24 hours counting from a pool of $1 million in quarters. Netflix

"I've got four children at home. I am a Las Vegas firefighter, so I'm always sleep-deprived," contestant Laric Tolleson says during the count. "I don't have to listen to screaming kids, I don't have to listen to screaming patients, all I need to listen to is the clickety-clack of sweet, sweet money, I am loving this."

Other contestants broke up the tedium with push-ups, coin-flipping and, for J.C. Gallego Iori, an emergency dispatcher from California, kissing a photo of his infant son.

Brought out on stage, the contestants bumble and crack tired jokes, some more delirious with sleep deprivation than others. It feels like a bit of a put-on, but sleep scientists have compared 24 hours of deprivation to legal intoxication. "The first thing that goes is your ability to think," Dr. Joseph Ojile of the National Sleep Foundation told USA Today, who compared 24 hours without sleep to a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent. Sleep deprivation makes pain worse and weakens the immune system.

J.C., the eventual finalist, was straightforward in his intent.

"I heard that you stared at a picture of your son, to motivate you during the count?" Davis asks during the introductory segment. "So you're just looking at your son, like, 'Man, we need this?'"

"Yes, we do." J.C. Gallego Iori, an emergency dispatcher from California responds.

The first two contestants eliminated were those who counted out the fewest quarters and the contestant who was least accurate in their tally. Anne was the first to go. She counted out $10,546, but guessed she had counted $10,500. Xandrea, a California event planner, was least accurate, off by more than $5,000 dollars from than the $12,500 she guessed she had counted.

Afterwards, the survivors competed to chug as much cold slushy as possible.

At the episode's end, finalist J.C. won $138,718, burst into tears and lead the audience in a chant of his son's name, Preston. But then, after more than 24 hours awake, he risked it all for a chance at one million dollars. He lost the final challenge, because his coin count at the very beginning of the episode was off by $264.50. People in the audience covered their mouths in horror. "You're leaving here with nothing moneywise, but you got Preston," the host says.

"Keep watching, because the next episode starts in 5, 4, 3, 2—" the host says at the end of the first episode of Awake: The Million Dollar Game, as J.C. wipes tears from his eyes next to him.