I may need to take this up with Bertram Van Munster next time we’re at a TCA press tour party, but Sunday (Nov. 2) night’s “The Amazing Race” just didn’t seem fair.
Someday, an all-female team is going to win “The Amazing Race.” It’s not like women haven’t come close in recent years. I’m still sad for Dustin and Kandice. But it remains one of those currently insurmountable reality TV obstacles (except for in Asia, where I hear an all-woman team won an early “Amazing Race” season). And on Sunday night, we got to see at least one reason why.
[Full recap of Sunday night’s “The Amazing Race,” with spoilers, after the break…]
I just can’t see any way of interpreting Sunday’s results other than that Maria and Tiffany, the Poker Girls, got hosed. There’s an arbitrary group of viewers who have hated the Poker Girls since the premiere because they made the weird decision to lie about their occupations and I’m assuming those viewers will be gloating and happy. Those people stink. A leg of “The Amazing Race” really shouldn’t be designed to come down to a choice between two tasks that are both physically impossible for one of the teams. If that happens, the producers have done something wrong.
For the second consecutive week, one team was unable to even make it to the Pit Stop. Last week, we saw Mika and Canaan quit because Mika wouldn’t go down a six-story waterslide. There’s a reading of that result that says that Mika’s psychological hang-ups were so severe that she physically couldn’t perform that last task, just as the Poker Girls couldn’t perform the last task last week. I’d argue that it’s the responsibility of the producers to make sure that they don’t cast people who refuse to go down awesome waterslides. So really, it’s the producers who have blown two straight weeks of “The Amazing Race.” That’s bad news.
The Poker Girls were done in by Sunday’s Detour in the Netherlands. The choice? Farmer’s Dance or Farmer’s Game.
In Farmer’s Game, the teams had to compete on a strange golf course with giant balls and clubs with clogs as heads. I’m assuming this is a version of golf never played by an actual Dutch person and occasionally reserved for tourists. [Note: Two seconds of Googling was all it took for me to see that Farmer’s Golf is an actual thing, with these clubs and balls. Still a bit odd.]
In Farmer’s Dance, the teams had to go and learn a peasant dance and then eat a herring and some onions. Sounds easy, right? Indeed, the dancing and herring were both breeze. The tiniest of catches was that before doing the dance, teams had to do one of those strength tests were you swing a hammer and have to ring a bell.
The Poker Girls attempted to do the dancing first, but they were unable to ring the bell after a couple dozen attempts. With something like that, the key is using the weight of the mallet, rather than your own strength, but if they physically could have done it, they would have. So they quit and went to do the golfing, but the course was long enough that it seems to have been nearly impossible to even get to the hole without either strength or some measure of basic golf skill. The Poker Girls had neither. So they quit that after a a couple dozen attempts and went back to the dancing. They ultimately attempted to ring the bell with the mallet more than 70 times, with Tiffany seemingly getting close for a while before her strength waned. They quit that, again, and went back to the golf, where the wind was sufficient that they were unable to complete even one of the three required holes and, after much crying and hugging, they just called it quits.
The thing that was clear was that no matter how long or hard they tried at either task, they were never going to complete either of them. It just wasn’t going to be possible. And that’s a problem with the game, if you ask me. It wasn’t like they weren’t being entirely good sports about both parts of the task. They tried different strategies. They cheered each other on. They attempted to improve. It was never going to happen. They could have called it quits hours earlier.
If the strength test had been an organic part of the Farmer’s Dance challenge, I think I’d have tolerated it. But it had nothing to do with the native Dutch culture or with the dancing or with the eating of the herring. A producer said “This is too easy, let’s stick something else at the front-end.” And that “something else” doomed the less-than-brawny Poker Girls, who didn’t do anything to deserve elimination this week.
[I’ll accept that the Poker Girls probably shouldn’t have left the Farmer’s Dance the first time. Tiffany was coming close enough to hitting the bell when they returned that maybe if she hadn’t wasted strength on their first attempt at the golfing, she might have eventually pulled through.]
Team Miss AmEricka, Brian and Ericka, did several things to deserve going home and yet they’re still around, mostly because they had somebody on their team capable of ringing the bell before Farmer’s Dance.
Brian and Ericka had One Of Those Legs. First, they couldn’t figure out how to operate their Mercedes at the Amsterdam airport, falling into a deep hole. Then, Ericka botched the Roadblock.
The Roadblock — “Who’s got strong legs and keen eyes?” — had one player running up and down the steps of a minaret counting the number of bells in a carillon. It wasn’t hard. Every other team completed on their first guess with ease (even if Team Gay Brothers hadn’t given the Poker Girls the answer, this is the kind of task they did well all Race). Ericka, for some reason, wasn’t coming close to the required answer of 62 bells. Was she misadding? Was she skipping one whole room of bells? Who knows. Brian was a good sport and kept encouraging her and didn’t even get impatient when she had to take a five-minute break. She finished. There was relief.
Then, at the Detour, even though the clue clearly said to go to either choice on one of several provided bicycles, Brian and Ericka went on foot, with Ericka wailing and complaining the whole way. At a certain point, they realized they had to take bikes, but they didn’t. They walked by the Farmer’s Dance task and completed it, without going back to get the bikes. Then, realizing they didn’t have the required bikes, they had to borrow bikes and take them to the Pit Stop. For this, they received a 30 minute penalty. Really? Only 30 minutes? For stupidly misreading a clue and then willfully ignoring a clue? In my book, they should have been forced to go back and get the original bikes. It wouldn’t have mattered in terms of elimination, since the Poker Girls eventually just quit, but I thought more punishment was in order. This was probably one of those instances when the producers determined that since failure to read the clue cost them more time than any penalty ever would have, a token slap on the wrist would do.
[Going back to the Poker Girls, if Team Miss AmEricka only got a 30 minute penalty for their failure to complete the task as described in the clue, I wonder what would have happened to Tiffany and Maria if they’d just ditched the strength test, done the choreography, eaten the fish and gone to the pit stop. Would they have been denied the route information card? Would they just have gotten a time penalty? Would Phil have sent them back to do it again?]
I don’t have much else to say. The Poker Girls got jobbed. Again, they just *couldn’t* do the task. It wasn’t that they *wouldn’t* or that they kept doing things wrong. They were *unable* and they were unable because of a strength differential. That shouldn’t happen.
Oh and we have a new team in first place. The Gay Brothers, thanks to impressive Farmer Golfing, moved past Meghan and Cheyne, who entered the leg with a lead of nearly two hours, an advantage that was frittered away due to an equalizing flight from Dubai to Amsterdam. Team Tetherball still finished a solid second, followed by the Globetrotter and Pinky and the Brain. And Team Miss AmEricka was last and it’ll be interesting to see just how far behind they were.
Other thoughts on this episode…
*** I’m a bit disappointed that Mika & Canaan didn’t survive. Mika wouldn’t have done well with the carillon Roadblock, since I assume she’s also claustrophobic and afraid of bells.
*** The Gay Brothers are out of the closet! Huzzah! They decided to wait until the teams were killing time at the Dubai airport, after Big Easy told the story of how they psyched Mika out on the waterslide (“I didn’t want to see her cry, but I didn’t want to go home at the same time.”). Everybody was very happy for their gayness, even Maria and Tiffany, whose romantic hopes were dashed. Tiffany said they were still great guys and “Who they choose to date, we could care less, even though there’s a little teardrop that it’s not us.”
*** Should Team Tetherball have attempted to catch the first flight out of Dubai and let the chip fall where they may? This is a strategy that I’ve never seen utilized on “The Amazing Race,” at least not that I remember. But here Meghan & Cheyne were with this two hour lead, a lead they knew wouldn’t hold up if all of the teams went together on the same flight to Amsterdam leaving seven or eight hours later. Couldn’t they have just hopping on the first plane going in the right direction to a major international airport and tried to see if they could use that extra time to their advantage by making a smart connection? I know that we’d never see a team do that, but even if it had backfired, I’d have admired that decision to no end. Live dangerously!
*** What was up with Pinky and the Brain ditching the Farmer’s Dance because Matt doesn’t like fish? I’d have expected that kind of behavior from Mika with her ichthyophobia, but Matt? Weak!
So, did the Poker Girls get a raw deal? Were Brian and Ericka sufficiently penalized? And do you agree with me about Meghan and Cheyne at the airport?