Tonight is the season finale of CBS’ reality show “The Briefcase,” which pairs two families in financial difficulty, gives each one a briefcase containing $101,000 — but neither family knows at first that there’s another family involved — and then the families must decide whether to keep all of the money or give all or part of it to the other family.
On Friday, June 26, the first-season finale features the pro-life, devoutly Catholic Moya family of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Vendely-Salgados family of Miami, Fla. Gabe and Krystal Moya are high-school sweethearts who’ve been married for 11 years and have six children, including two that are autistic, and young twins.
They’re homeschoolers and very active in their parish. The twins were the last pregnancy, and it was high-risk, so Krystal was put on extended bedrest. Gabe, an insurance agent, had to cut his hours to care for the rest of the family and his wife. Although their Catholic homeschooling community pitched in to help during the pregnancy and after Krystal gave birth in an emergency C-section at 32 weeks, the family’s income was drastically diminished during the crisis.
Despite their difficulties, the couple decided to try out for a TV appearance.
“I thought God put it on my heart to do this,” said Krystal. “With a lot of prayer, I found a casting company. … We got the email, and we thought we were doing a documentary about our family and our faith, and I thought, the Lord really does want to use our family.
“We really believe that God will take care of us, that he will protect us through all of it.”
But the Moyas were in for a surprise. Not only was “The Briefcase” not a documentary, but they didn’t know anything about the other family when they agreed to be on it — not that the identity of the other people was important to their final decision.
“Between me and Krystal,” said Gabe, “there’s no way we keep it all. That’s not in our nature. We love helping other people, especially people in need, with children. So, at no point were we going to keep it all.”
“Gabe’s the financial guy of the household,” said Krystal. “He handles it all. I’m like, ‘Give it all!’ He’s like, ‘Wait a minute. We could pay this off, and don’t forget, we could help the ministry and help other people that are in need.’ So it was a big decision for between both of us.”
Then they learned about Amari Vendely and Natalie Salgado.
Said Gabe, “We knew initially that they were a family of five, three children, and they were looking to get medical help, and they had some debt to pay off. That’s what we were told. For the first 48 hours, that’s the discussion we were having. They had children, and they were looking to get married.
“It wasn’t until we visited their home that we actually learned the truth — that they were a lesbian couple, and one of them [Amari] was transgender.”
“It was a wild ride,” said Krystal.
“Initially, it was a shock,” said Gabe. “But it makes good television. The minute we found out, there were three cameras on us. So they wanted an emotional response from us. It tugged at our heartstrings, because it’s exactly the opposite of what we believe and what we think is important.
“But all in all, our view of it, that morning — we had already made up our minds what we were going to do for this family, and even when we found out the truth, it didn’t alter our decision. we had to pray more about what they use it for.”
“Once we found out they were transgender,” said Krystal, “that they needed it to further the surgeries, we’re like, ‘Here you are, you can barely survive, take care of your children first.’ So all we can do is pray that, whatever we gave them, that they would use it to better and help their children and not for surgeries.”
Even so, although the Moyas went into “The Briefcase” in good faith, they didn’t feel as if those intentions were honored.
“Gabe, he’s a man,” said Krystal. “He doesn’t show much emotion. I literally cried like a baby. I mean, it was right on TV, and I showed how I felt. I felt betrayed. I felt set up for our faith.
“That night, we prayed about it. We had to be very secretive. We couldn’t ask about it. We couldn’t call, ‘Father, what do we do?’ ‘Hey, mom, help us out.’ We said, “We can’t do this. We were set up.’
“Then we said, ‘Lord, you want us here. Your will be done.'”
Incidentally, the show has been airing on Wednesday nights, but this episode airs on a Friday. One has to wonder if CBS had one eye on the Supreme Court as it was making its scheduling decision. But, who knows?
Here are a couple of preview clips of “The Briefcase”:
Image: Courtesy Krystal and Gabe Moya