Somehow, Scobie pulls the team together in time for the first debate. Ignatius speaks first, then Razza, then Scobie—and somehow, they win. Ignatius is a lifeless speaker, while Razza relies on his wit and charm (this is a bad idea). Between those two and the three guys on the other team, the whole debate should’ve been a disaster. But Scobie saves the day. He takes apart the opposition’s poor argument and shows clearly why his team is right. The winner is obvious.
When the team wins thanks to Scobie’s debating skills, it suggests that someone like Scobie (who understands how to effectively use language) can, in some cases, cover up the fact that the team isn’t working well together. But this is also a lot of pressure on Scobie. In this way, the novel indicates that the others are going to have to step up—they might not always be able to rely on Scobie.
After this win, the debate team has some idea of what they’re supposed to do. For the second competition, Bill Kingsley goes first—he won’t have to rebut at all, and Bill is incapable of formulating counterarguments. His usual response to anything is that it’s a good point, or that everyone can have their own opinion. Even though Razza is rude to one of the girls on the opposing team and Bill just reads his speech, they win this debate as well. This is, again, thanks to Scobie—he’s like having Michael Phelps on a kids’ swim team. The team wins their third debate as well, which qualifies them for the semifinals. But of course, things don’t stay so perfect.
Having won once, the team starts to get the hang of debating and of working together. They’re starting to get to know each other and their strengths and weaknesses, as evidenced by putting Bill first so he never has to rebut. So the team is still struggling, but they’re also figuring out how to play to their strengths. Ishmael, though, introduces some tension when he notes that things won’t stay so great—something bad is going to happen.