Senior Assassins: and then, there were four


First, there were 240. Two weeks later, due to a considerable amount of espionage, stealth, and betrayal, the number was halved; 120 remained. Soon, only 60 were left. Then 30. 12. Eight.

And then, there were four.

A little over three months ago, Senior Assassins began. Approximately one third of the class of 2014 signed up. Each participant had high expectations and visions of glory.

“I was 100 percent confident I was going to win,” said JD Garnett, senior.

Among hundreds of hopeful seniors, there were four specific gentlemen, each dreaming of the day that they would make it to the final round of assassins. Only these four would see their dream come to fruition.

Seniors Keaton Tatooles, Shawn Brown, Aria Darbandi, and Jeff Larson are the sole members of this elite assassin group. They were the four that remained cunning enough, determined enough, and brutal enough to make it to the very final round.

Currently, these seniors are engaged in a free-for-all battle. For each of the contestants, an opponent could appear at any moment; all it takes is one dart or one blast of water to negate the progress of three months. Now more than ever, the surviving assassins must remain obsessively aware.

“I’m a lot more cautious and on edge when going out,” Tatooles said. “I’ve had to limit the amount of times I hang out with large groups of people because it’s really easy for an assassin to find out where I am if I’m surrounded by 30 people.”

Tatooles’ cautious tendencies are not unique to him; every other remaining assassin admits to similar behaviors.

“I’m just more aware of my surroundings and am always on the prowl,” Brown said.

However, this constant nervousness “is a part of the game.”

Tatooles and Darbandi formed an alliance at the start of the game and, together, have pushed each other into the final rounds. The two have worked together to assassinate each of their previous targets, and they plan on finishing the game “Hunger Games” style.

“Any of the four of us could win it, but I think Aria and I have the advantage since we’re the only alliance left,” Tatooles said. “We should be able to take first and second because of that.” His partner agreed.

“Keaton and I are an unstoppable duo,” Darbandi said. “We’ve been friends since we were 10, and we know every single in-and-out of this game.”

Brown and Larson remain alone in the contest. However, that is not a source of discouragement for either contestant. All four players still believe wholeheartedly that they can, and will, win.

“I’m dank – no one can stop me,” Brown said. “I am going to win.”

The lifestyles of these remaining few are drastically different than normal lives. Each surviving senior is constantly carrying a “weapon” and is always on the lookout.

“I always carry a (water gun), of course,” Larson said. “I also have an escape plan in any sort of scenario.”

Each contestant has a different style. Larson is cautious and vigilant. Brown is aggressive and determined. Aria and Keaton are skilled and organized. However, only one of these styles will be the winning style.

“Keaton and Aria are very, very good and aggressive in pursuing me, which is still a lot of fun, and Shawn is a very good assassin as well,” Larson said.

But, despite these different play styles, each assassin has utilized the same basic game techniques. They universally advise three things: have good connections, stay low-key, and put in the effort.

Keeping good friends is huge when it comes to staying alive in Senior Assassins. Each finalist was, at some time or another, a part of an alliance. And while only the Tatooles-Darbandi alliance remains, having “trustworthy friends” is key, according to Larson.

“Having people on your side that you trust is really important, especially towards the end of the game,” Tatooles said.

Of course, the easiest way to stay alive is to avoid their pursuers. That is why every participant stresses keeping their information on the DL. This often entails hiding, lying about locations, and blending into groups.

Darbandi recalls a time when he was nervous about being spotted Frisbee golfing with friends.

“I saw a couple of seniors from Central [at KLM],” Darbandi said. “I was thinking about leaving because I feared that they would tell their friends that I was there.”

Larson feels the same paranoia daily.

“I always assume I’m dealing with a criminal mastermind every round, which can be really exhausting, but it’s proven relatively successful,” Larson said.

While this paranoia seems extreme, it has kept both Darbandi and Larson sharp and, by extension, safe.

To win assassins, a person must put in the work. The final four have put countless hours, even days, into eliminating others and defending themselves. Winning takes constant effort.

Not many know more about getting “kills” than Tatooles. He currently leads the game, having eliminated six other players.

“For a lot of kills, you’ll end up needing to put a lot of effort into it,” Tatooles said. “Figuring out where someone is and waiting around to actually kill them can take up a lot of time, and you have to be willing to sacrifice your time if you want to go far.”

All four assassins have already interacted this round, heightening the anticipation.

“We [already] have had lesser run-ins with each other,” Larson said.

Although the game is difficult and stressful, each contestant still finds some enjoyment in the game.

“I think the game is mostly fun, even though it’s gotten very competitive and I’ve got to watch out everywhere,” Darbandi said. His partner agrees.

“It’s fun, and even though I really want to win, I’d be fine with making it as far as I have,” Tatooles said.

“The watching and waiting is dreadful,” Larson said, but all-in-all, the experience “has been really fun.”

There is over $500 on the line. The real game is just beginning.