Unlike “American Idol,” “The Amazing Race” isn’t a show that I consider myself to be a scholar off. I’ve watched regularly for 10 seasons (and done recaps for nearly as long), but I often forget teams and challenges and historical precedent. The longer I watch, though, I become more and more convinced by the idea of “Amazing Race” karma and its centrality to the game.
No, I don’t believe that you’re every going to win “The Amazing Race” by helping the other teams and tipping cab drivers above and beyond the custom of the land or patting small children from impoverished villages on the head. Nor do I think you’re likely to lose simply because you complained about the way a foreign country smelled, got into a fight with an airline travel representative or gave a bum clue to a rival team.
But it probably can’t hurt to put positive vibes out there into the universe. At least in the first four or five legs. Then you can move into, “This is a race and I’m not here to make friends” mode. Also, I’m probably going to like you more if you do the former things and I’m probably going to hate you more if you do the latter things.
That’s why, one week after losing the only team I was actively able to root for — Poor Zev and Justin! — I at least found another team to tacitly support. I never would have guessed I’d say this, but “Go Team Miss AmEricka!” OK. That’s an overstatement, but if they win? Karma!
[Sigh. Yes. I had a hard time coming up with an intro for this recap that wasn’t just me gloating with excitement about the lame team that got sent home… It happens sometimes.]
Full recap of Sunday (Oct. 18) night’s “The Amazing Race” after the break…
Yes. I know. I’ve spent a month complaining about Brian & Ericka. She’s a bit of a shrieking busybody and he’d displayed all of the personality of the unfrosted side of a Frosted Wheat, plus, I didn’t like how they kept bringing everything around to their status as an interracial couple, as if patting themselves on the back in the most random of situations.
But in Sunday’s episode, which took the teams from Cambodia to Dubai, Team Miss AmEricka gave me several reasons to like them.
I applauded their actual intelligence. The clue told them they were going to the world’s tallest building and that they were going to the Persia Gulf, but team Gay Brothers didn’t know what or where the Persian Gulf was, even though we’ve fought two wars there in their lifetimes. But Ericka, without the benefit of Internet resources or anything, announced, “I think that’s in Dubai.” I know. I’m a softie when it comes to people showing any kind of brains. Go Ericka!
I applauded Brian’s altruism. Yes, he announced that he was being nice to people because he believes in “Amazing Race” karma, which isn’t the same thing as doing an unmotivated good deed, but throughout the episode, He did perform three or four different mitzvot. Good on him.
I applaud Brian & Ericka mostly, though, for not being Team Meathead, Lance & Keri, because it was another subpar “Amazing Race” episode, but at least we did away with the season’s most annoying and obnoxious team.
No team in my memory “Amazing Race” history — remember that I’m not a scholar — more consistently screwed things up than Dan and Andrew of “Amazing Race 13,” but there was a real chance that if Team Meathead had continued much longer, they’d have usurped the bumbling frat boys.
Lance & Keri nearly got eliminated in the Los Angeles River Basin before the season even left the USA. Maybe that would have been a blessing. For every subsequent leg, they seemed to get lost wherever they went. They seemed to do every task wrong. And all the while, they yelled at each other, redirected blame and complained about every little thing. They kept getting spared because no matter how many little things they were doing wrong, another team would do something worse.
Team Meathead’s elimination on Sunday’s episode wasn’t caused by any one thing, though the big thing probably came when every other team went one way towards an underground parking structure (going to the Roadblock), but they decided to go a completely different way. Then they went the wrong way driving to the Roadblock and driving back from the Roadblock to the Detour. They were behind every step of the way, with Lance taking out his frustrations on both inanimate objects — a shattered urn on the Roadblock and a threatened snowman at the Detour — and on the semi-animate object that is his bride-to-be. Nobody is going to miss them.
But like I said, it wasn’t a very good episode. Again. And it’s sad because the locations were fantastic. Of all of the alien cities in the world, Dubai is among the most fascinating because, as Gary observed “I don’t think there’s a recession going on here.” It’s an oasis of excess and materialism that becomes more concentratedly wealthy with every year, allowing them to construct structures like the Burj Dubai, the aforementioned tallest building in the world. Great building. Waste of an “Amazing Race” location. They had the teams go to the building, wait at the base overnight, go up the elevator to the 124th floor and then? They sent them back down with a clue in their hands. I’m not saying they had to bungee jump off the top of a yet-to-be-completed tower, but something?
Then the Roadblock — “Who thinks they can beat the desert heat?” — was a dud. One player from each team had to wander around a small segment of the desert looking for urns, filling a bag of water. There was nothing steering them and no real logic to where the urns were located and which had water and which didn’t. The task was so arbitrary that you couldn’t blame Brian for helping several teams and for other acts of charity. None of the players felt like there was any real advantage or disadvantage to be gained from the needle-in-a-haystack exercise.
And nobody learned anything from the frustration of the Roadblock.
The Detour choices were Build a Snowman or Find a Snowman. In Find a Snowman, the teams had to sled down a hill at Ski Dubai (a better utilized location) and then find tiny snowmen hidden in a giant snowbank. In Build a Snowman, they had to build a snowman, with the only catch being that they had to take the snow from inside Ski Dubai out into the 120 degree heat.
To me, this choice was a no-brainer. You make the darned snowman. You don’t want to get stuck with a needle-in-a-haystack search for a tiny tchotchke. Instead, every team initially decided to do the Find a Snowman, which meant they got to sled down the hill, and then all but three teams got frustrated by the searching and went and made the snowmen, which was every bit as easy as it sounded.
Oh and the leg was won by Team Tetherball, Cheyne and Meghan, who remain blandly likable and untroubling. They saw the Fast-Forward option first and, thus, were the only team that attempted it. All they had to do was go to an Autodrome, where one of them had to do a lap in a race car, finishing in under 45 seconds. Cheyne had no trouble completing the task.
Of the non-Fast-Forwarders, Team Miss AmEricka was first because Ericka got lucky and found a snowman. Ah, skill.
Other thoughts on this week’s episode:
*** Impressive that Mika, who was terrified of water just two weeks ago, also turns out to have a fear of heights. If we assume that her real fear is of open air, that’s two elements down. Next week, will she have the chance to shy away from fire? Actually, somewhat awesomely, it looks like next week Mika will have to go on a high water slide. That should be fun.
*** Gotta keep picking on Mika, because the line of the episode was, “Isn’t it funny that you can drive 120 miles per hour here and it feels like 60?” Even Canaan, not the sharpest pencil in the box, gave her a withering glare and told her about kilometers.
*** Lots of self-stereotyping tonight. When the Poker Girls accidentally backed over a wooden stake and destroyed the radiator on their car, Maria announced, “I have an excuse, because I’m an Asian female driver.” Tammy and Victor played the same card with more charm last season. And then Ericka went through both her distaste for heat (“Chocolate melts”) and cold.
*** Speaking of the Poker Girls, they survived a non-elimination first leg, escaped elimination last week when Team Aspy’s documents went missing and lost no real ground for tearing up their car this week. That luck’s got to run out eventually, doesn’t it? And it’s not like we’ve seen the good deeds to justify this kind of absurd karma.
*** Single best moment of the episode: Host Phil Keoghan’s pause after telling Team Meathead that they were the last team to arrive. He paused and cracked a grin and 95% of viewers yelled, “Not a freakin’ non-elimination leg?!?!?” And then told them they were done. Phil was just messing with us. That’s why we like him.
How relieved are you to see Team Meathead sent packing? Who are you rooting against now? Me? I’m ready for Mika & Canaan to go home…