Sunday (Nov. 22) night’s “The Amazing Race” included a difficult Detour, a ridiculous Roadblock and yet another opportunity to delve into “Amazing Race” ethics. There may well be yet another lecture on “Amazing Race” karma to come, but we’ll probably have to wait until next week to see how the fates conspire against several offending teams.
We’re down to the Final Four on “The Amazing Race” and on Sunday’s episode, three teams in that quartet exhibited behavior that was marginally questionable and, in at least one case, possibly shady. As a result, I may not know which time I’m actively rooting for as the finale approaches — that’s a lie, I’m Team Globetrotter all the way — but I can tell you which team I’m rooting against.
[Recap of Sunday’s “The Amazing Race” after the break…]
On an overall level, Sunday’s “The Amazing Race” was a dud. It began with an equalizing flight from Estonia to Prague and it ended with an easily anticipatable (since the finale is in two weeks, not next week) non-elimination leg. I’d thought that we were through with non-elimination legs for this season, so what I was actually expecting was one of those circumstances where a team reaches the mat and Phil Keoghan says, “You’re Team No. 1. But this leg isn’t over yet!” It amounts to the same thing, with the difference being that Team Tetherball, Meghan and Cheyne, won a trip to Hawaii for their troubles.
Team Tetherball has finished in first for five legs and in second for three others. That’s not quite a Nick & Starr-level of dominance, but it’s close. Team Globetrotter and the Gay Brothers have won two legs apiece. And Team Miss AmEricka? Well, they’ve only finished as high as second once. The last team to win “The Amazing Race” without winning a single leg beforehand? Danielle & Eric in the “All-Stars” season. Now you know…
Team Miss AmEricka was also the team saved by the non-elimination leg. I don’t know if anybody’s excited to see this team advance in the Race, but we’re all going to sit back and wait to see if they can wreak a little vengeance on the Gay Brothers, who have now become the only team I’m hoping flames out hilariously.
While there will be talk of ethnical violations in a few minutes, Brian & Ericka finished last because they were in last the whole way, starting at the Prague airport. On the plane, they’d inquired about the easiest way to get to the city square and some passenger told them that taking a bus and then the subway would be quicker than just catching a cab at the airport. Since one of my frustrations with this season has been that the teams have been in lock-step nearly the whole way, travel-wise, I was actually rooting for Team Miss AmEricka to have made a surprisingly savvy decision when they hopped on the bus and the other three teams grabbed cabs. I wanted there to be a reward for trying to go about the task a different way. Nuts. It turns out that the fastest way to get from the Prague airport to the city center is just to take a cab. Team Miss AmEricka was stranded on their bus and, sensing the race getting out of control, eventually hopped out and resorted to a taxi, by which time the other three teams were long gone. So any talk of whether Sam & Dan played a role in Brian & Ericka’s not-quite-demise is actually moot. Team Miss AmEricka took a calculated risk and it failed. Oh well.
The Detour? The choice between Slow & Steady and Fast & Furious. In Fast & Furious, teams had to go down a pretty rough kayak run, grabbing a ribbon and not wiping out along the way. In Slow & Steady, the teams had to pull themselves across a long ropes course.
The folks over at the A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago blog have a long-standing theory that when it comes to Detours, the most telegenic choice is almost always the fastest. It’s not illogical. The producers weigh the tasks based on which will make for the best TV. This may have been one of the exceptions to that rule, though. Fast & Furious was both the most telegenic task and also the task that seemed the most fun, but if you lacked prior kayaking experience, it was pretty clearly the wrong choice, as Dan & Sam discovered. The other three teams all jumped at the Slow & Steady task, which was slow, arduous and dull TV, mostly rewarding persistence. The most athletic teams had no real advantage, especially not the Globetrotters, who may be the fastest and strongest, but they’re also the largest, which caused problems.
Meanwhile, I could have watched Dan and Sam yell at each other and wipe out all day long. Alas, after three or four runs, they realized they were never going to succeed. A smarter team would have come to that conclusion sooner, but Sam & Dan have managed to prove their ignorance nearly every leg, including Dan’s response to Prague, “Do they speak Spanish there?”
The Roadblock was another needle-in-a-haystack task, with teams going to the Estates Theatre with one player attempting to find one of several tiny mandolins hidden throughout the opera house. These needle-in-a-haystack tasks are pretty lazy for the producers, especially since this is already the third or fourth one of the season. At least this one had some devilish panache. While they were searching, an opera singer stood on the stage rehearsing the same song from “Don Giovanni” over and over again. In addition, while they were asked to secure a tiny mandolin, the seats and luxury boxes were seemingly littered with a wide variety of full-sized stringed instruments, such that Cheyne appeared to have a different one in his hand in nearly every shot, a guitar one moment and a violin the next. Plus, there were a number of empty tiny mandolin cases scattered throughout. And whenever you brought an incorrect instrument to the singer, he laughed malevolently.
So that was fun.
But let’s look at tonight’s ethnical gaffes, some tiny and some bigger.
Flight Time’s Stall Maneuver. Both members of Team Tetherball had finished the Detour, as had Flight Time, but Big Easy was still laboring on the course, his rear practically dragging in the water underneath. For some reason that I missed, Team Tetherball allowed Flight Time to go down the ladder first, which he proceeded to do extremely slowly. Was he buying time to let Big Easy finish? Well, Flight Time swore he wasn’t, but Team Tetherball was skeptical. Very skeptical. Ethical ruling? Totally kosher. Why the heck did Team Tetherball let Flight Time begin his dismount ahead of them? Whether he intended to delay or not, it was a good and solid play. And if he intended to do it? Just a little gamesmanship between two teams at the front of the pack.
Cheyne’s Divert-and-Dash. After completing the Detour and seeing no cabs immediately available, Team Tetherball got instructions to the Estates Theatre taking a tram. They told the Globetrotters what they were doing and went to the tram stop. At that point, Cheyne saw a cab and promptly grabbed it, leaving Team Globetrotter alone at the platform. Meghan? Displeased. “There’s no reason to be rude in that situation,” she said, apparently objecting to Cheyne’s failure to give notice to the Globetrotters. To that, Cheyne responded, “This isn’t a frickin’ hold your hand game.” The Globetrotters ended up taking the tram, which was slower than taking a cab. Ethical ruling? Well, it wasn’t all that nice of Cheyne, but it wasn’t like he took the Globetrotters out into the forest, hit them over the head and left them for lost. He didn’t see a cab earlier and when he saw one, he jumped at it. Plus, if Flight Time’s move was acceptable gamesmanship, this had to be as well.
The Gay Brothers Steal Miss AmEricka’s Cab. Arriving at the Detour, Brian & Ericka audibly told their driver to stay and wait for them. He agreed he would. Then, when the Gay Brothers finished the Detour, with Team Miss AmEricka still on the ropes, Sam & Dan ran up to their cab, offered the driver extra money and they raced off. On a basic level, there wasn’t ANYTHING wrong with what Sam & Dan did. I want to say that up-front. This is a race and they knew they were third and they were taking a step to cause a little extra annoyance for the team behind them. If this had been early in the race and one middle-of-the-pack team had done this to another middle-of-the-pack team, it probably would have been sleazy. As it stands, Sam & Dan didn’t want to be eliminated and they wanted Brian & Ericka to be eliminated. So there you go. Team Miss AmEricka’s cabbie? A bit of a tool. And I wonder how he got paid for the first leg of the journey. Did Brian and Ericka pay for the first part up-front? Or did Sam and Dan pay for double? But even if you accept that the cabbie is really to blame for his lack of fidelity, there’s a certain spirit-of-the-game violation here and I wonder what would stop future teams from bribing other teams’ drivers to leave or to steer them elsewhere? Never mind. I started off this paragraph feeling like Sam & Dan had done something wrong, but I don’t feel that way anymore. They did what they had to do and it worked, but they weren’t the reason Brian & Ericka were nearly eliminated. So I’m not calling a foul on Sam & Dan. I just don’t like them.
A couple other thoughts on Sunday’s Leg?
*** The task heading for the Roadblock read “Who can remain composed under pressure?” Brian’s response, “My baby!” I then loved the look of confusion on Ericka’s face when she asked, “You think I can?” We’ve had no evidence at all that Ericka can remain composed under pressure.
*** It’s another leg where I wish Mika had still be around. Can you imagine her pulling off either of the two Detour options? Plus — little known fact — Mika is terrified of mandolins.
*** I’m also guessing that Matt probably wouldn’t have known what a mandolin was and he’d probably have mispronounced it in a funny way. So I’m sorry Gary & Matt were eliminated last week.
*** Pressure has not worked wonders for Cheyne and Meghan, who are becoming more annoying with each leg. Cheyne has been willing to just sit back at let Meghan be in control, but then when Cheyne made a decision with the cab after the Detour, she wouldn’t let him hear the end of it. Also, as Flight Time and Big Easy both noted, Meghan’s shrill cawing of her man’s name at the Roadblock was mighty annoying.
What did y’all think? Where any of the questionable moves in this leg actually unethical or were they all part of the game? And will karma find a way to catch up with Sam & Dan next week?