Sunday (May 9) was the finale of “The Amazing Race” and one team won a million dollars and two other teams managed to make it to the final pit stop, running through the gauntlet of their eliminated comrades, enjoying respect and admiration.
I should be wanting to congratulate the winners, who ran a generally decent Race and weren’t to be blamed for a lamely designed final leg. I should be a little disappointed, but not outraged, that the only team I really liked finished second, never losing their composure or their sense of humor. And I should be generally ambivalent about the team that finished third, since they didn’t have an especially admirable “Amazing Race” departure.
Instead all I want to do is make fun of one of the show’s many losers, the biggest loser of all: Pathetic, bitter, ignorant, conceited Brandy. Yech.
I’m not sure if Brandy is at fault for being the awful person that she clearly is (or has been showcased to be), or if the show’s producers and editors are at fault for not only giving her a soapbox, but for letting her ugliness be the final and lingering thought from the season. I’m almost inclined to believe the latter, since there was no reason at all why the season couldn’t have ended happily and triumphantly for the Top Three. Nobody cared what Brandy had to say and nobody had to see it.
Thus, this season of “Amazing Race” ended sourly and that was the choice the “Amazing Race” producers made.
[Full recap, with results, from Sunday’s “Amazing Race” finale after the break…]
I feel a little bit sad for Dan & Jordan, actually. They were the “Amazing Race” winners and I almost don’t care anymore, because Brandy decided that the traditionally gracious procession to the pit stop was going to be all about her (or, again, the show’s producers decided that).
Dan & Jordan finished first and Carol & Brandy were both overjoyed and high-fiving. Jet & Cord finished second and Carol & Brandy were both overjoyed and high-fiving.
Viewers knew that this was all a set-up. The editors didn’t think we needed to see reactions from 80 percent of the teams to the arriving winners and runners-up, but Brandy & Carol got multiple reaction shots just so that we could be waiting anxiously to see how they’d react when Brent & Caite arrived, a distant third.
And Brent & Caite arrived and Carol clapped slowly and sporadically. Brandy crossed her arms and pursed her lips. That was poor sportsmanship, but it could have just ended there. But for some reason, Phil Keoghan decided to make sure that the awkwardness continued, letting Caite make her obligatory speech about proving her intelligence (cut to Brandy muttering disparaging words under her breath) and then letting Caite know that *nearly* everybody was happy for her, but not everybody. Without hesitation, Caite turned to Brandy & Carol and began an apology. Whether you reckon Caite was being genuine or not, it was an apology that she had no reason to make. She and Brent chose to U-Turn a rival team that had been tormenting them from Week One and they successfully got that team out of the game. That’s not poor strategy. That’s perfect strategy. But Caite started to apologize and Brandy interrupted her and again began lecturing her on game strategy and common sense.
“Maybe y’all should have treated people a little nicer,” Caite finally said. On the list of things I might have told Brandy in that moment, not a single one would have been anywhere near that polite, generous or, frankly, accurate. All Brandy had to do was not be a disgusting person and she and Carol never would have been U-Turned and they would have lost the Race due to their mediocrity.
Caite did say “y’all” and I want to emphasize that while Carol was a poor sport and while she certainly enabled Brandy, there was nothing in any way memorably bad about her.
So anyway, “The Amazing Race” production team decided to let that be the closing image of this season. They could have just as easily cut straight from Caite’s “I’ve proven I’m not dumb” monologue to the boring talking heads and then the closing credits and we’d have ended on a happy note. I don’t blame Phil for trying to facilitate a hollow reconciliation, but once the producers knew how that conversation went, it should have been trimmed.
Bad choice. They decided that in lieu of a heroic winner, they’d focus on a loser.
Dan & Jordan won, but as much as anything they won because of a couple early travel choices — one very smart, the other pointlessly underhanded — and not because of anything that happened on either the Roadblock or the Detour in San Francisco. To my mind, if neither finale task has any real bearing on the eventual result, that’s shoddy Race architecture.
What put Dan & Jordan ahead? Well, they cut ahead of the Cowboys in line at the airport. The Models and The Cowboys got to the airport three hours before Dan & Jordan and camped out at the ticket desk. Jordan saw there was a gap between where the Models were sitting and where the Cowboys were sitting and he decided to throw his bag into that gap and claim second position. This is a point that Jet & Cord probably should have pressed more strongly, because the move was shady and either of them could have taken Jordan in a skirmish. The producers didn’t give us a very good sense of the airplane geography to see how much of an advantage the Brothers gained over the Cowboys, but it was an icky, junior high move that Jordan got away with because he took advantage of a team too amiable to fight. So that wasn’t very good, but the part where Dan & Jordan talked a flight attendant into letting them sit in an empty section of First Class? That was brilliant. If the rules don’t prohibit it (and I guess they don’t), that was just clever and put the Brothers into a significant lead coming out of the San Francisco airport, a lead they never relinquished.
It’s the “never relinquished” part that mad the leg so increasingly dull. Driving to Battery Godrey to get their first clue was only a challenge if you got into a bad cab. And only the Models got into a bad cab. Brent & Caite responded to this adversity with great ugliness, complaining about their driver’s lack of English skills, when it was his lack of San Francisco knowledge that really screwed them.
The Roadblock asked one player on each team to do a 120-foot vertical climb outside Coit Tower, which was pretty, but not meaningful. Dan, Cord and Brent were basically a wash, strength-wise, so the Roadblock had no impact on the leg. That means it wasn’t a well-designed Roadblock.
After the Roadblock, the teams had a Detour which was more hilarious and cool than difficult. Teams had to go to the ILM offices and basically ignore some of the most awesome “Star Wars” memorabilia imaginable to do an amusing task where one play donned a motion capture suit and and the other sat in a different room with a headset and guided their partner through a virtual environment. At the end, the motion capture player was surrounded by a swiftly moving text scroll that the directing player had to transcribe to see their next destination.
Leaving aside Jordan’s motion capture double-entendre — “I strap on this skinny suit with these balls all around me.” — the Brothers weren’t interesting at the Detour until Jet and Cord came in and Cord started wildly shouting out confusing directions in the hopes of messing the Brothers up. Cord was very funny — “Hope and skip! Turn around! Turn around!” — as was the situation where Jet was steering into a corner and couldn’t get past a wildly spinning Jordan. As much as I like the Cowboys, they basically blew a million dollars by not suspecting there was a reason Jordan was spinning — it helped slow down the scrolling task — and getting paralyzed at the end of the task. That gaffe dropped them behind and briefly allowed the Models to catch up, though Caite forgot their money and documents, forcing them to turn again. The Models were never seen again.
In the end, teams had carry a heavy trunk from the bar Tonga to The Great American Musical Hall and then arrange a series of posters with the eliminated teams in order. Am I wrong, or have the finale memory tasks usually been harder than that? It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Jordan’s a student of the game and he’d written down the elimination order and probably piles of additional information. The Brothers finished the memory challenge quickly, but the Cowboys didn’t seem to make any mistakes either. But it must not have been close, because the editors didn’t put an iota of effort into crosscutting that might fool us into thinking that the Cowboys might get to Candlestick ahead of the Brothers. There was no tension to which team was going to hit the field first.
And who needs tension when you decide to make Bitter Brandy into the centerpiece of a finale?
Other thoughts on the “Amazing Race” finale:
*** In the Detour demo, the player in the director’s chair was wearing a storm trooper costume. I was beyond disappointed that Dan and Jet and Brent didn’t have to do their half of the task dressed as storm troopers. Also, how could *none* of the six players have even slightly geeked out on all of that “Star Wars” stuff? I know it’s a race, but still…
*** So for all of the people complaining at Caite calling Carol & Brandy “The Lesbians,” was it completely acceptable that that’s what Jordan referred to them as in the memory challenge?
*** Dan showed real excitement when he figured out they were supposed to go to Candlestick for the final pit stop. That was good to see, because all season long, it’s been “Fulfilling my brother’s dream” this and “Fulfilling my brother’s dream” that. At the very end, probably when his mind started cashing his winners’ check, Dan gave some indication that winning might make him happy as well.
*** I like seeing smartness rewarded, so I wanted there to be more benefit gleaned from the Cowboys snagging a San Francisco guide book at the Shanghai airport. Yes, it was helpful for them, but no more or less helpful than the Brothers’ strategy of getting information from bicyclists.
*** Overall, this was not such a great “Amazing Race” season? I’d have had more enthusiasm if the Cowboys had won or if the producers had opted not to show Brandy at all. There were too many dull teams and too many dull tasks and too little rewarding of excellence or punishing of the stupidity that ran amuck all season long. This group of contestants got to see some great locations and do some great stuff, but nothing was hard enough or challenging enough.
*** Even a lame season of “The Amazing Race” is still better than most of what passes for reality TV. Perhaps, though, this “Amazing Race” installment has just paled in comparison to a classic All-Star edition of “Survivor” currently being played out.
What’d you think of the finale? And what’d you think of this “Amazing Race” season as a whole?