From the newly revised American 2010 Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and also women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator (or by evolution, in the case of a Godless universe) with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of a million dollars on the unscripted TV show of their choosing.”
I took it upon myself to do a little Jeffersonian overhaul after watching Sunday (March 14) night’s episode of “The Amazing Race” and pondering how the show’s producers ended up with this pack of contestants who seem not to feel any urgency or excitement at being a part of this globe-trotting game show with a massive cash prize.
At least half of the remaining eight teams on “The Amazing Race” aggressively appear not to have any desire to win and, in addition, seem to have an almost anhedonic inability to enjoy what they’re doing. At the very least, that’s some dreadful casting work on a show which has thrived on pitch-perfect casting over the course of its Emmy-winning run.
So while Sunday’s episode was tense and rather thrilling at points, I spent less time excited and more time eager to throttle the alleged competitors.
Click through for a recap of Sunday’s Race…
Seriously, “Amazing Race” producers. How do you end up with a Carol & Brandy? Yeah, I guess there was a bit of amusement in showing the world a different sort of lesbian couple. Different from what? I’m not exactly sure. But Carol is uninteresting and forgettable and Brandy is just about as unlikable a contestant as the show has ever had. And yes, “The Amazing Race” is a show that has featured plenty of racists, both virulent and understated, plus plenty of abusive partners, both aggressive and passive aggressive. So I’ll definitely say that Brandy is better than the worst of the racists and better than all of the abusers.
But here’s a woman who gets to be out in the French countryside, gets to participate in a damn cool looking World War I reenactment, gets to have a 1-in-8 (kinda) chance at a million bucks and all she can do is complain?
“I don’t have to prove myself physically, nor do I want to,” Brandy whined.
“Seriously, I’m so pissed off about this right now,” Brandy moaned.
“This is not what I choose to do,” Brandy bitched.
Well, in response to the last one: Actually, yes you did. I’m not sure if your choice came when you decided which Detour to do or when you decided to come on “The Amazing Race” in the first place, but this isn’t “Running Man” or “The Long Walk” or “Death Race.” Society has yet to progress to the point of mandatory reality TV participation. And Brandy hasn’t stopped her carping since the first week. I can’t believe that we’ve got at least another week of watching these two sourpusses grouse their way around the world.
Know why I rooting for Jet & Cord? It’s easy. The Cowboys want to win the million bucks, but even if they didn’t, they’re having a terrific time with each and every obstacle put in their path. When they have to get to a task, they run to get there, which allowed them to rush by Carol & Brandy on the way to the Detour and then rush by Jordan & Dan on the way back. Jordan & Dan are like the male versions of Carol & Brandy, only with a tiny bit more enthusiasm and a tiny bit more urgency. But they aren’t trying all that hard and Dan has already admitted that he doesn’t enjoy the traveling.
How could “The Amazing Race” not have found two alternative teams that actually were excited to be on the show? Dunno.
Anyway… Let’s look at how this week went down.
The episode began with the teams being transported by bus from Hamburg to… a Mystery Location (France, not really so mysterious at all). Along the way, we heard Joe’s lamentations about his knee, as he and Heidi gloated to all who would listen that even with his injury, they still hadn’t been tested. It was hubris, but it was more than hubris, since it had a direct and causal effect — rather than a karmic effect, or an effect rendered upon them by the Gods — on what came next.
Once at their destination, the teams were realigned, with Louie & Michael going off 20 minutes ahead of Steve & Allie at the front of the pack. Jordan & Jeff, spared by last week’s Non-Elimination leg, departed more than two-and-a-half hours after the Detectives and more than 40 minutes after the next-to-last team, Caite & Brent. That seemed like a lot of time to make up, especially since Jeff & Jordan aren’t so great with directions. So their plight looked even worse as the other teams all had no trouble getting into a nearby town, getting to a boulangerie and finding a clue in a freshly baked baguette, while Jordan & Jeff somehow found themselves trapped in a series of rotaries leading Jeff to make a surprisingly savvy “It’s Big Ben and Parliament.”
[Yes, I’m grading on a curve if I consider a “European Vacation” reference to be an erudite allusion, but coming from Jeff, I was semi-impressed and semi-amused.]
This was a Roadblock-free episode. All we had was a Detour, with the choice between In the Trenches or Under Fire, both set against the backdrop of a very “Paths of Glory”-esque series of trenches, explosions and German fly-overs. It was one of those instances in which “The Amazing Race” made good use of the geography and yielded some of the show’s very finest cinematography. So as I praise those things, let me note that the Detour, in general, wasn’t all that great.
In “In the Trenches,” the teams had to use a field guide and a communications set-up to decipher a message in Morse Code.
In “Under Fire,” the teams had to crawl across a 100 yard field, going over and under barbed wire and trying to avoid the distraction of said explosions and fly-overs.
Of the remaining teams, not one team even gave a second’s consideration to doing the Morse Code challenge and we later saw exactly why. The Under Fire challenge was both the most photogenic challenge and the one that simply required crawling. So no matter how much complaining Brandy did along the way, all that was being asked was crawling. Even Louie, whose level of physical fitness doesn’t speak well for his police department, was able to do it with a little coughing and some spitting.
With a comfortable lead, the Detectives raced to the next clue and discovered that this was a Blind U-Turn. After a long bus ride listening to Joe & Heidi talk trash, the Detectives decided that U-Turning them was a good move, even though it had no strategic value for them and even though the “blind” aspect of the U-Turn can’t really come into play when a first place team U-Turns a third place team. The Detectives couldn’t have thought they were about to eliminate Joe & Heidi. They were just trying to teach the blustery couple a lesson.
Instead, Joe and Heidi went off to complete the dreaded alternative Detour and they were proven incapable of doing the Morse Code. I’ll remind you that Joe & Heidi started more than two hours ahead of Jeff & Jordan. Then Jeff & Jordan got lost. Then Jeff & Jordan had to complete their Speed Bump — reinforcing the walls of the trench didn’t look hard, but it was still a bigger obstacle than having to do 15 minutes on the Sauna Bus. Then Jeff & Jordan had to complete their own Detour, which had to be done with Jordan mewling about her helmet and her shoes and her gun and Jeff practically yanking her along every step of the way.
Joe & Heidi just couldn’t figure out that darned clue. They started off close and it looked like they were going to skip off to the Pit Stop and kick the Detectives in the nads. But they kept getting further and further from the real answer, eventually just guessing for a while. By the end, they were huddled in the corner of a trench hugging and crying until Phil Keoghan came and sent them home. It was difficult to tell from the editing what they were doing wrong. Or where their grand mistake was, at least. Was the message just longer than they’d thought? Were they unable to tell dots from dashes? Was Joe the moron? Was Heidi the moron? No matter how you look at it, they were crushed by Morse Code and nothing more or less. It just amazes me that their learning curve could have been so steep, because they began in third place and had as much extra time as Jeff & Jordan would allow.
Heck, they also could have gotten a break from Caite & Brent, who had one of those classic “Amazing Race” moments where they walked in the wrong direction and missed the clue box, but still stumbled accidentally to the next task, where they had to dress as vintage bicyclists and ride four miles. They got to Phil, were told to turn around and get the clue, went back and got the clue, biked back to Phil and they still finished ahead of Jordan & Jeff.
I just don’t know how to process how disastrously Joe & Heidi performed at that second Detour, especially since whoever devised the task probably thought that it was the easier of the two options, the one that just required concentration and a little intellect, as opposed to the dirty, muddy and tiring Under Fire option. In any other season, In the Trenches might have been a viable option, but on “Amazing Race: All Stupids Edition,” it was like a cruel joke.
So Brandy complained, Jordan (of Jeff & Jordan) complained, Jordan (of Dan & Jordan) didn’t much care about another team jogging past them, Caite & Brent giggled their way through stupidity and Joe & Heidi quit on a task their little brains weren’t up to handling. You know who wants to win? The Detectives, the Cowboys, Jeff and Steve & Allie.
Other thoughts on this week’s episode:
*** A second straight win for the Detectives. They started in first and there weren’t any real opportunities for position shifting. I can’t help but feel like Louie’s conditioning is eventually going to do them in. Good on Mike for making that classic reality TV utterance, “”I didn’t come here to make friends. I came with one friend and I’ll leave with one.”
*** Once again, Steve & Allie finished second without doing anything especially TV-worthy. Steve appeared not to know what baguette was. Otherwise? They continue to be innocuously dull. They go out, they do their thing and since the house-painting fiasco in the premiere, they haven’t done anything dumb. That should take them far.
*** Was it Jordan or Dan who seemed to think they were reenacting World War II and commented on the attacking Nazis? American public education strikes again! Total number of contestants tonight who you figure were capable of telling World War I apart from World War II? I’m saying “three.”
*** Line of the episode? I guess I’m gonna give it to the reliable Jet, who noted “That’s why I like horses better than bikes. You don’t have to pedal a horse.” The Cowboys did some solid catching up this week and I’m still very much in their corner.
*** Exchange of the week: Caite, looking adorable in her silly cycling mustache, asking Brent, “Hey baby, do I look hot with the little mustache? Do you want to still kiss me?” and Brent’s response, “Yes, but after the race, please shave it.” These two are blissfully stupid, which is still better than being whatever Brandy is.
*** Unaware Double Entendre of the Week: “”I’m gonna each the crap out of it… Just shove it in my throat.” That would be Caite on the baguette. Then, after shoving it down her throat, she announced, “I’m really happy it doesn’t have any crazy crap in it.” Good to know.
*** Cute Girl Jordan won “Big Brother” last season. She’s got a lot of money in the bank. She’d been a good sport for the first part of the season, but tonight there was a lot of “My haaaaaaaat’s too big!” Jeff, on the other hand, really wants this. I’m giving Jordan a pass for tonight’s episode, but she could get annoying in a hurry if she becomes a blonder Brandy.
What’d you think of this week’s “Amazing Race”? Is Morse Code really that complicated? And how much are you hating Brandy right now?