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''Amazing Race'': Attack of the killer tomatoes

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The Amazing Race
Rob and Kimberly: Robert Voets/CBS

The Amazing Race

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
26
run date:
03/08/01
Producer:
Jerry Bruckheimer
broadcaster:
CBS
genre:
Reality TV

”Amazing Race”: Attack of the killer tomatoes

Have you ever been at a wedding where you secretly believe that there’s no way the marriage will last? And you don’t want to talk about it at the reception with your friends, who you know feel the same way, because you don’t want to add any bad juju on the couple’s most special day. But as you watch the groom smear icing on the bride’s face, you know you’re all remembering that time at that bar when he dumped his spaghetti Bolognese in her lap because she just would not stop riding him about him being just 20 goddamn minutes late! So you and your friends all try not to make eye contact because it will only prove that you’re all thinking bad thoughts that you shouldn’t be thinking, at least not tonight, because it looks like on this one evening he may be able to get away with putting food on her without her screaming and throwing a drink at him and telling him he’s worthless.

Now, try to picture what that wedding would be like if everyone there had seen the spaghetti incident broadcast on network television. I wonder what a cake-cutting ceremony is like when everyone there, including the band, the caterers, and the valets, is uncomfortably staring down at their feet. I guess I’ll find out if I am ever invited to Rob and Kimberly’s future nuptials. Wow, what a couple, right? Are they for real, or has Edward Albee fallen on hard times and is now writing for reality TV?

When this episode began, I never thought that Rob and Kimberly would be the focus of tonight’s write-up, as all my attention was on the beauty queens. I’ve read all your posts, and I realize that my dislike of them is by no means universal. Many contend that they are upbeat, tenacious, and fierce competitors, so why should they be berated for it? That makes sense, so I went into this episode rethinking my position and trying to view them positively. I was impressed that they caught up to the first-place models after leaving 45 minutes behind. And then they dragooned some orange-shirted guy off the street to help them find their way through Casablanca, which I suppose was resourceful in an abduction kind of way. And then they finished the camel-cooking challenge without once forcing a local chef to come with them and tell Kandice what to do on each step of the recipe; considering they’ve done just that with cab drivers all over the world, this showed an admirable self-sufficiency on their part. I was feeling myself start to root for them….

And then they arrived at the airport. There, the queens asked the models to let them have first place if they arrived at the mat together, so the girls could avoid suffering the 30-minute penalty from last week’s nonelimination round. It clearly would be a terrible blunder for the models to aid their strongest challengers, but what made it so irritating is that the girls seemed to honestly believe it was a fair request. It was the ultimate display of entitlement, delivered in the same exact tones and with the same exact smiles that cheerleaders use when asking nerds to let them cheat off their physics tests.

As if that move weren’t reminiscent enough of Heathers, when Kimberly later tried to reserve a cab after the queens did, Kandice sniffed, ”Such copycats. Every single time we do something, they do it too.” You mean like every time you try to get transportation from one place to another, they do it too? And don’t even get Dustin started on the way everyone totally stole their breathing patterns: She inhales, the rest of them totally inhale! It’s like, hey, dudes, stop idolizing us so much and get your own mode of respiration!

But my obsession with the beauty queens kept getting eclipsed by my fascination with Rob and Kimberly. First, when unable to find the clue box in the Casablanca market, a frustrated Rob kept walking around with his arms outstretched. When Kimberly asked why, he said, ”Because we need help and we’re outcasts — let’s use it!” Angry despondency: What a brilliant strategy! I know that when I’m lost in a strange city, I like to sweat profusely and stagger around the town square looking as desperate as possible, howling undirected pleas for help in a foreign language. People don’t help directly, but they do call the cops, who tend to give good directions.

And then came the tomato challenge. At first, I thought anyone picking that side of the detour was nuts; the needle-in-a-haystack challenges are always so unpredictable and unrelated to skill. So when Rob and Kimberly went right for it, I knew we were due for some frustration, but never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted how much. What was so riveting was the way Kimberly seemed to have no idea why people were throwing tomatoes at her head, but reacted — at least at first — so offhandedly about it. ”I don’t understand it; we’re gonna get hurt,” she said, idly swatting at her head as if the enormous red balls coming right at it were fruit flies. ”They’re hurling cold tomatoes at us.” It was as if she hadn’t read the clue and the whole tomato-target-practice thing were a complete surprise to her, one that she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around enough to get truly angry. I guess when you’ve had Rob screaming at you across the globe, getting pelted in the head with a tomato barely ranks on the annoyance scale.

And what was the thought behind Rob’s strategy of not helping her but rather only throwing tomatoes back at the happy mob? Was he trying to knock the flying vegetables out of the air? Whenever I hear about the government pouring more millions into a system to blow up incoming nuclear missiles, it is my worst nightmare that the project will be headed by someone like Rob, running around a giant War Games-like room, pointing at growing green dots on a screen and yelling, ”Get that one! No, that one! Dude, you are blowing this for America!”

Kimberly’s oddly distracted reaction didn’t last, though. One tomato too many in the noggin, and she flipped out, though it took two quits before Rob joined her. I don’t think I’ve seen that kind of hysterical flameout since Flo was driven mad by a Vietnamese basket boat in Amazing Race 3. But at least Flo had the ever-placid, saintly Zach by her side: Kimberly had Rob, who screamed, ”Way to go, dude, way to cry, just because you’re hit by a couple of tomatoes. You just blew it.” Is this what it’s like to be married to Bobby Knight?

What was amazing is that they returned to the melee, got the clue, and went on to be the first to be greeted by Phil on the mat. (Quick Phil digression: Did anyone else see what he was wearing in Casablanca? A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, but what in God’s name is in Phil’s pants? At first I thought it was the testi-phils making their first cameo of the season, but it looked more like he had a whole codpiece — a Keoghpiece? — on under there. Come on, Phil, I just got HDTV, and I don’t need to see every contour of your big Philly!)

When Rob and Kimberly arrived first, Rob went from howling taskmaster to old softy. As he weepily professed his love for Kimberly, I thought, ”Is this same Kimberly who you were just berating for being such a pussy about taking a tomato to the temple?” He said, ”I want to win a million dollars to start a family with this amazing woman,” but the preceding hour proved that the unspoken addendum to his words were ”but if I don’t win the million, it will be her fault, and I will never ever forgive her.”

Plus, it was a little hard to find joy in the prospect of their starting a family when all I could picture was him in the bleachers of his future offspring’s Little League games, screaming, ”Way to strike out, little dude! You blew it!” Say what you will about the ‘Bama moms’ moment of tension last night (and I known the beauty-queen lovers out there will take me to task for not focusing more on it), but at least when it was over, Karlyn apologized, which I’ve yet to hear once from Rob.

Oh, one more thing: The beauty queens got eliminated. Sorry, ladies, I’d gloat more, but I’m too busy reliving Rob and Kimberly’s tomato moment in my head, and it’s put me in the mood to go make myself a big salad. And then I’ll yell at it.

What do you think? Are you sorry to see the beauty queens go? Are you happy with the final three? And was the tomato incident simply too painful to watch?