”The Amazing Race”: A happy ending
The saintly Uchenna and Joyce have won! Let their victory be the refreshing mouthwash that finally cleanses the tinny aftertaste that has lingered since robomodels Freddy and Kendra won last season!
It couldn’t have been more perfect: The underdogs who learned to love each other again come in first; the villains you love to hate come in second; and then the woman who loves to love and the man who would love her to shut up wander in last. It was the ideal outcome for those who like to believe that real life plays out like a movie. Would it take anything away from you optimists’ post-finale euphoria if I pointed out that nine times out of ten, if you stick around to beg for money to repay a taxi driver while in a race, not only will you get passed, but the cab driver will likely have beaten you with a tire iron by the time you utter the words, ”We actually don’t have enough money but . . .”? Oh, it would take something away? Then never mind.
That said, even a cynic like me was glad to see Uchenna and Joyce win. They were polite to everyone, mutually supportive, and intent on paying their debts. To wish them ill would be like hitting a wounded baby bird over the head with another wounded baby bird. And who could begrudge them their victory after they proclaimed they would use the money to have a baby, whether through in vitro or adoption? I was rooting for Rob and Amber for a while, but what comparable goals would they have for the winnings? ”We’re gonna spend this money on a giant solid-gold vault to hold all our other money!”
All three teams were praying to God by the end (Rob kissed his St. Anthony medal while searching for the cigar store: Is he the patron saint of reality stars? Or of Massholes?), a disingenuous act that usually makes me cringe: The idea of someone really thinking God might invest anything in deciding who wins a reality show seems a bastardization of religion. And yet with this one ending so moralistically, I thought just maybe God had something to do with it. I mean, if I were God, I’d certainly think, ”I usually don’t get involved, but if Uchenna and Joyce don’t win this, then I’m really a douchebag.”
The one weakness in Uchenna’s game was definitely his begging skills, after Phil took their money away. He approached some people by telling them he and Joyce had lost their luggage and money. And the unspoken addendum they perceived was ”. . . and all we have left is our camera crew.” There aren’t many rules governing random acts of kindness, but I think one should be ”If someone’s currently on a reality show, feel free to ignore their pleas.” Seeing contestants beg to win a million dollars must be deeply offensive to homeless people: If these players don’t get any cash, the worst case scenario is they get sent home — to an actual home. It’s like a bunch of kids playing Army in front of an infantry division on its way to Iraq.
Though the final race between selfish Rob and Amber and selfless Uchenna and Joyce was exciting, the rest of the episode’s challenges highlighted just how flat this season’s stunts have been. Chop onions? Hit a golf ball? Why don’t they just hold the whole race at a Boca Raton senior-citizen complex? And when they had to jump off a bridge, it wasn’t even a particularly scenic bridge. It felt like the producers hadn’t bothered to plan ahead and Phil was just looking around, making stunts out of whatever he could see. ”Go jump off that bridge, and then, uh . . . climb that tree over there. And when that’s over, drive for . . . uh, a while . . . and get me a sandwich. No, seriously, it’s a local delicacy, ham and . . . superlocal cheese.”
Only two moments felt like we were getting authentic local tastes on this week’s show: First, there was the Jamaican beach activity of making a horse swim while you hold on to its tail. Still, I had a hard time believing that this was truly a tradition and not something a producer was once told by a drunk Jamaican who hates horses. The second example came in Miami, where the soundtrack swelled with a careful rip-off of the Miami Vice theme song: enough to remind you of the show, not enough to have to pay for music rights. I couldn’t wait for Brockett and Cubbs to show up.
Now that the season’s over, we know what the winning couple will do. But what of the losers? We’ll be privy to Rob and Amber’s wedding on CBS, the very promo for which makes me cringe sympathetically for the couple. Once you’ve seen someone survive on a desert island and dash around the world by his wits, seeing him panic about where they’re going to hold a rehearsal dinner is just sad. It’s like watching Rambo comparison shop for a sitz bath.
And then there’s Ron and Kelly, who sounded more and more like an episode of Mama’s Family every episode. Once a man has told a woman that he’s not interested in her in every country on the planet, where’s left to go? Perhaps someone could get them on a rocket ship, so they can see how his standoffishness and her desperation play on Mars. ”Wow, Kelly, your neediness drags me down even in zero gravity!” It seemed clear that Kelly didn’t so much want to marry him as she wanted to marry anyone: When she proclaimed that she was like any woman, in that she wanted to settle down and have kids, and he was like any man, in that he feared intimacy, I decided that she was like anyone who has read way too many Cathy cartoons.
But two of the three finalist couples will go home happy, and with a million bucks each, which is a fine way to end. But don’t count Kelly out yet: She and Ron did win one trip, which they may end up taking separately. But I’ll bet I know where she’s going: Straight to Iraq to track down Ron’s old jailers and get some advice on how best to control him.
What do you think? Did the best team win? Did the right team win? And do you think Kelly and Ron sat together on the flight home?