I’m an “Amazing Race” hypocrite.
It’s not like I don’t know this.
On one hand, I complain about the proliferation of travel-based equalizers that prevent dominant teams from extending leads and that allow lame teams to work their way back to the pack.
On the other hand, if you *don’t* allow for the occasional “All teams left on the same flight” or “The museum doesn’t open until 10 a.m.” equalizer, you end up with a leg like Sunday (Oct. 24) night’s “Amazing Race.”
In the episode, the team that started in first, ended in first, followed by a very slight realignment of the teams that began the leg in the lead pack.
In the episode, the team that started in last, ended in last, followed by a very slight realignment of the teams that began in the trailing pack.
And the result was a ridiculously suspense-free episode of “The Amazing Race.”
The leg was so devoid of tension, even fabricated in the editing room, that I almost don’t have anything to say about it. But I’ll try. After the break.
After last week’s exciting and fun and slightly sad episode, featuring the departure of Team Glee, Sunday’s hour saw us say good-bye to Katie & Rachel. Who? Exactly. The Volleyball Girls. Who? Exactly. The Jersey Girls? Eh? Exactly. With the exception of a few withering, sour comments about their rival teams, Katie & Rachel didn’t do anything notably well or poorly for the first episodes of the season, so it’s completely appropriate that they were eliminated in an episode in which they didn’t do anything notably well or poorly.
Katie & Rachel started in last. They were in last at the Route Marker. They were in last at the Roadblock. They were in last at the Detour. There wasn’t a single second in which they were in any danger of being anywhere but last. They weren’t eliminated for anything they did on the leg. That’s bad Race architecture, but do you want to know what’s worse? Even if Katie & Rachel had performed each leg with the athleticism of Olympic medalists, the brains of a nuclear physicists and and the reckless abandon of a “Jackass” star, nothing they could have done would have allowed them to even come close to making up what wasn’t even an appreciably prohibitive episode-opening deficit.
But heck… At least they got to enjoy a lovely day of outdoor activities in Norway?
Bad. Leg. Architecture.
There was also a Fast-Forward, which happened to take place on a leg where the lead team had a big enough advantage that only the most mentally addled of teams would bother to even consider trying for it.
Might as well get the Fast-Forward out of the way. Nat & Kat started in first and reached the gondola Route Marker with a notable lead and elected to observe what we were told was a Christmas tradition. The task asked the team to split a roasted sheep’s head. It wasn’t a massive roasted sheep’s head and the roasted goat head appeared to be well-cleaned and prepared, so the only challenge came from Kat’s status as a 22-year vegetarian. She expressed her minor concerns, but didn’t hesitate. Nobody had to utilize a barf bucket and Nat & Kat completed their second straight episode in first.
Good for them, though just once I’d like a team to take a little pleasure in one of these eating challenges. Was the sheep’s head well seasoned? Was the skin chewy and tasty? Was the eyeball a textural sensation? Who knows? Teams inevitably just complain about eating challenges, even when they’re easy. Like remember that season that ended in Chicago and forced the teams to go through the “arduous” “challenge” of eating an individual deep-dish pizza? Would it have killed somebody to say, “This is delicious and I’m getting to eat something yummy for a potentially large prize”? Sigh.
Like I said, every team figured the Fast-Forward was in the bag for Nat & Kat except for Nick & Vicki, who didn’t seem to understand what a Fast-Forward was. They missed the part of the explanation that said Fast-Forwards can only be completed by one team, so they got to the task, saw the “Taken” sign and stood around in confusion. Once upon a time, if memory serves, the Fast-Forwards used to be at far-flung locations, so if you went to do the Fast-Forward and a team finished it ahead of you, you were probably at least a tiny bit inconvenienced. Nick & Vicki did an idiotic thing and it turned out that the Fast-Forward was just on the way to the destination they had to go to anyway, so they didn’t suffer in any way. Boo! I’m not saying it was wrong for some team to go and check to see if maybe the Fast-Forward was something Nat & Kat couldn’t do. What if Kat’s vegetarianism was founded on a religious or philosophical principle and it was one that she refused to sacrifice for all the money in the world? That would have been valid and the other team that attempted to follow-up would have been rewarded. But similarly, there should be punishment.
Sorry. This just irks me. And there’s nothing else to discuss from the leg.
The Roadblock, which could have taken place on any bridge in any part of the world and had nothing to do with Norway other than the scenery, asked one player to Rappel & Ascend from a cable off a bridge. Going down was easy. Coming back up required a little effort. But not much. The total sum of difficulty required in the Roadblock can be summed up like this: Claire, the physically weakest female contestant remaining, didn’t have an easy time ascending. Because of her difficulties, Thomas, perhaps the physically strongest male contestant remaining, was able to pull ahead of her. Claire whimpered a little, caught her breath and succeeded before any more time was gained or lost. So the total amount of advantage or disadvantage gained or lost on the Roadblock was one position for one team.
The editors couldn’t even make it look harder than that.
As for the Detour? It was just as bad. The choice was Bike or Boat. In Bike, the teams had to ride through a course, memorize a four-digit lock combination and return. FOUR DIGITS. In Boat, the teams had to ride and boat and deliver two fish and a chainsaw to a nice old man.
The Boat task took a bit longer to do, but required no physical or mental effort. The Bike task required a little physical effort, but the “Memorize the combination” sub-task was a pointless afterthought, because if you have a mental task that Nick & Vicki can perform, it’s not really a mental task. [That, by the way, is not a slight at Nick & Vicki. They keep telling us how dumb they are and they’re right. That doesn’t mean they aren’t adventurous and fairly strong.] But even if Rachel & Katie had chose to do the Bike task instead of the slower Boat task, it wouldn’t have mattered.
Here’s something I might need to acknowledge: This season’s contestants may just be good at picking tasks. For example, Kevin has decided that he can’t trust his father to do *anything* physically and he’s right. I wish he’d stop blaming his father for every choice he has to make, but that seems to be Kevin’s way and that’s OK. Regardless, that team has determined that they’re content with finishing in third or fourth rather than first or second, just so long as they don’t accidentally pick an incorrect task. The only time that backfired on them was in Ghana where they missed the decoder on the mental challenge and were forced into the physical task (and Michael paid the price). Unfortunately, that was the time that the intellectual challenge had the advantage over the physical.
I apologize for whining, but I just want to see somebody do something awesomely. I wanted Thomas to roar through the Roadblock and do it so well that he passed both Gary and Kevin. But he didn’t. I wanted one of the teams to announce that they go mountain biking every weekend and then to go out and roar past three other teams. The rewarding of excellence is excellent TV.
Sunday’s “Amazing Race” was not.
A few other quick highlights of Sunday’s episode:
*** On my tiny Slingbox screen, I wouldn’t see what happened to Brook’s eye, but that was still an impressive gash. Team Watermelon seems to gravitate towards facial injuries. I think that’s why I’m still rooting for them.
*** Phil Keoghan hasn’t been given much to do this season, but I loved the double-eyebrow to let Gary & Mallory know that they were in second. Gary is like the Anti-Michael, in that he’s the father who has to do all of the tough Roadblocks and who insists they do all of the tough Detours. And it’s a little disappointing that teams probably couldn’t go head-to-head for the Fast-Forward, because I’d practical guarantee you that Gary & Mallory would have devoured that sheep’s head faster than Nat & Kat did.
*** The episode’s editing was just so sad and half-hearted at the end. We saw how far behind Katie & Rachel were at the Detour, so why even bother pretending that they were on the road heading for the Pit Stop at the same time as Chad & Stephanie? They weren’t. We know they weren’t. Cross-editing isn’t *always* required. Nor is that “Oh look… Shaky cam running to the mat. Who *will* it be?” We knew it wasn’t going to be Rachel & Katie.
*** And speaking of bad editing, those opening interviews are supposed to be foreshadowing, right? So if we start with Thomas talking about his lofty Notre Dame degree and how he always expected to be with a college educated girl and then we have Jill saying that she’s more capable that you might think… Shouldn’t the episode feature an intellectual component that either reinforces that Thomas is as smart as he thinks he is or that proves that he’s a puffed-up dolt? Or one that shows we’ve been underestimating Jill’s brain or that we’ve been exactly right about her? Instead, it was just an introductory non-sequitur.
*** And speaking of bad non-foreshadowing, Nat’s fear of heights didn’t amount to much in this episode, did it? She cried a bit on the gondola and adjusted her blood sugar. That was fine. But even if they hadn’t done the Fast-Forward, Kat probably would have done an acceptable job of completing the Roadblock and Nat’s fear wouldn’t have held the team back for a second.
Anyway, did you love this week’s “Amazing Race”?