”The Amazing Race”: Role reversals
Last week, time seemed to slow down when Charla did her magnificent, memorable face plant while dressed in a suit of armor. In fact, halfway through her topple, when she was tilted at 45 degrees — a vapor trail of sausage-vomit breath still hanging in the Krakow night — I thought to myself, ”After this, whatever happens on The Amazing Race will be a step down.” Little did I know just how far a step it would be. Though I cannot speak Malay in honor of the Kuala Lumpur leg, I’m sure ”yawn” is the same in any language.
But how could it be anything else? Once you had a single team so far behind that the producers couldn’t even fake that they were ”still in it!” via editing, what possible suspense could there be? Think about it: The fact that we didn’t see Uchenna and Joyce once between when they missed their connecting flight in Frankfurt and when they drove to the first challenge after everyone else had checked in at the pit stop meant the producers didn’t have a single frame of footage in which the team or a ticket agent said anything that might have registered as a glimmer of hope. Usually they can pluck out an airline worker saying, ”Oh, here’s something…,” even if those words were actually followed by ”and it’s in three days.” The AR editors are wizards of misdirection; they could take footage of a doctor telling a patient he has a month to live and make it look like the doc was advising him to start training for the Olympics. But making Uchenna and Joyce look like contenders? They’re not magicians, people.
It’s kind of a shame — I guess. Uchenna and Joyce struck me as nice people; there was just something about them that always seemed like they were succeeding by accident. Perhaps it’s because whenever they ran out of an airport, they looked dazed, like they’d just been thrown from an amusement park teacup ride. Some will argue that it was their kindly, no-nonsense attitude that made them deserve to win, but it was that very attitude that made me indifferent.
And what of the people who were actually in contention this week? First, let’s discuss Eric and Danielle. Specifically, Danielle. More specifically, Danielle’s chest. I have resisted making comments about it until now because that just seemed too cheap. But it’s become unignorable: Is it my imagination, or were they bigger than ever on this leg? Did she cheer herself up after Auschwitz by getting a quickie boob job? I hope that the producers don’t send her to Masada, or she’ll end up with a pair of double G’s.
Apparently she grew tired of everyone staring at her chest, because she came up with a way to lure people’s eyes up higher: When she got on the bike to do the recycling roadblock, she put her bike helmet on backward. What was the thought process there? ”I’ll show these people I’m more than just an object. I’m an idiot, too!”
Oddly, at one point, the camera cut to her with the helmet right side on but very quickly returned to her wearing no helmet at all, and then for the rest of the challenge, the helmet was backward again. (I found that irritating in the same way that I go crazy when people on Survivor don?t know how to hold a paddle.) This was just one of the things that made it very difficult to take Danielle seriously. Another was her thick Staten Island accent. After the beauty queens yielded her and Eric, she tried to talk big about the revenge she would reap, but with that accent, she just sounded like a hairdresser yapping about getting a bad tip for a full perm. Granted, this was preferable to hearing Eric call the queens ”dirty pirate hookers,” an insult I’m not entirely sure I understood. What are pirate hookers? Do they throw the parrot in for free? What will they do with their peg leg if you offer up a couple of extra pieces of eight? And do they warn johns, ”Just don’t get it in my eye patch!”? So many questions.
And then there were Danny and Oswald; last week’s coming attraction made it seem they would be practically brawling in the streets. Their actual disagreement was low-key compared with other teams’ past intrasquabbles. Even amid the bickering, they seemed to work well together. Well, except for the fact that they couldn’t decide whether to stick with the cookie-tasting or batik challenge. Back and forth they went; I was surprised that they didn’t decide to go back to Krakow to get in a suit of armor again.
As for our Team Schmirna update, here’s what I learned: They are equally insufferable when they’re winning as when they’re in a panic over losing. Mirna was in high spirits on this leg, even when blowing out cookie powder by the ounce. (And did the cameramen need to get so close to Charla as she let the cookie shrapnel tumble out of her mouth? The poor woman was just seen jabbing a knife down her throat to throw up undigested sausage; can’t she have a get-out-of-shame-free pass for a week?) But the worst moment came when a Malaysian recognized the cousins, giving Mirna the opportunity to talk of how grateful she was to have fans all around the world. Yeah, just wait until this season airs, then come back to Malaysia and see what kind of fans you have. I can already picture them walking down the streets, waving to their public, while the entire population of Kuala Lumpur awkwardly whistles tunelessly, looks down at their feet, and hurries their pace.
When Mirna the goodwill ambassador finished her roadblock, she shouted encouragement to the youths who helped her (”the future Charlas and Mirnas of the world!” she called them). She yipped out guidance for the future: ”Don’t do drugs! Win more medals in school!” If she really wanted them to be future Schmirnas, she should have given them some more advice: ”Always carry a chip on one shoulder, and a misguided sense of superiority in your backpack!” ”Don’t forget to affect a weird, generic third-world accent when talking to foreigners!” And, most important, ”If at first you don’t succeed, frighten a local taxi driver with your desperation!”
All that advice stood Charla and Mirna in good stead, landing them in second place this leg. They were right behind the beauty queens, about whom I don’t have much to say. They weren’t annoying and were perfectly warranted in giving out a yield. (Some might think they should have gone after Danny and Oswald, because they knew the two guys were right behind them. But it made more sense to just expand their lead from someone who was already farther back.)
After all the teams were in, Uchenna and Joyce reappeared, sad and accepting of their fate. ”You can’t win ’em all,” they said, and professed a rediscovered love. Which, granted, is exactly what they said after they won season 7. I hope this time it sticks, although if things get shaky again, maybe we’ll see them trying to reconcile while competing as newbies on the next Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Then maybe they can adopt Timmy; somebody’s gotta finally give that guy a home to go back to, just so he has something else to do.
So what do you think? Are Danielle’s assets increasing? Should Charla and Mirna keep their advice to themselves? And will Oswald and Danny get back to their clever repartee and leave the head-butting behind?