On ''The Amazing Race,'' Danny and Oswald yield Eric and Danielle for money, setting off an endless debate about ethics

By Josh Wolk
April 24, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Amazing Race: Robert Voets/CBS

”The Amazing Race”: A big drop-off

You know what I like to hear Amazing Racers talk about? The yield. I just can’t get enough of it! Is it ethical to use it? Is it poor sportsmanship? Is it sleazy? Does it bring on bad karma? Please, teams, don’t ever stop talking about the yield! It is one of the great socio-philosophical questions of our time!

Oooh, I just took a little trip myself…to the land of Sarcastia.

It’s a good thing I take public transportation to work, because if I were driving this morning, I’d be in danger of smashing straight into every yield sign I passed on the commute. That’s how viscerally sick I am of that triangular yellow bastard after last night’s episode of The Amazing Race. With all the incessant chattering about the moral ramifications of using the aforementioned stalling technique, you would have thought they were debating abortion. I’ve said it in past weeks, I’ll say it again: The yield is a legitimate tool of the game; it’s not like someone hobbled Danielle and Eric with a golf club to the kneecaps.

How established is it? Phil is so accustomed to introducing the damn thing that he went on autopilot, giving his age-old spiel that teams ”need to decide on the best time to use it,” even though this was the last yield, and thus there was no strategizing necessary. (Except on the part of the beauty queens, who had — as we all know — already used theirs; for everyone else it was use it or lose it.)

It was inevitable that Phil would eventually botch one of his old chestnuts; after 11 seasons of being forced to introduce segments the same exact way, the guy’s gotta be demoralized and on autopilot. I wonder if every time he stands at a pit stop, he ponders a detour of his own, each with its own pros and cons: Paycheck…or rain check: ”With paycheck, I stand on this godforsaken mat for four hours making awkward conversation with some local in a serape whom we’re paying $10 an hour, then play the old ‘I’m pretending that you’re last, but you’re actually still in it!’ game with the teams, and then when they clap and hug each other, I resist the urge to hit them over the head with a Travelocity gnome so hard they’ll be picking white beard out of their hair for a week. With rain check, I tell van Munster there’s a roadblock only one of my boots can perform, and it’s going right into his ass, and then I’ll walk away from this endless semester abroad, go home, try to shake my six-year-old case of jet lag, and audition for Bob Barker’s job.” Then he sighs, picks paycheck, and steps onto yet another mat, trying to muster enough enthusiasm to raise one eyebrow.

But back to the episode.

When the first-place but cash-poor Danny and Oswald yielded Danielle and Eric (in exchange for the beauty queens’ giving them money), Team Cha-Cha found themselves questioning whether they’d done the right thing. Mirna also weighed in: First she said it was stupid strategy to use a yield at the beginning of a leg, when people still had plenty of time to catch up. Wait, wouldn’t that be stupidity on the part of the producers, who put the yield there in the first place? And also, why not take any advantage wherever you can? She later changed her tune to the usual warnings of bad karma hoodoo and said that working with the beauty queens was like making a deal with the devil. (As opposed to allying with her, which is like getting a timeshare with the devil’s irritating older sister.) And Eric, of course, couldn’t appear on camera without ranting that Danny and Oswald were cowards/backstabbers/unworthy of respect.

With all of this superior proselytizing about the evils of the yield, I was hoping the episode was setting up to be a delightful morality tale. As Eric and Danielle gained more and more ground, eventually landing in second place — but having to wait out their 30-minute penalty as a result of being marked for elimination — I thought of how wonderful it would be if Danny and Oswald arrived just minutes before Johnny Colege could check in. This would prove to Mirna and Eric that it was good strategy for Oswald to have used the yield — if he hadn’t, he and Danny would have been last. And the moral is: Good strategy will always triumph over sour grapes!

I did get a morality tale, but it was the wrong one. Team Cha-Cha didn’t catch up; they arrived last, after Eric and Danielle’s penalty ended. (Though they were saved by the last non-elimination round.) So now Mirna has had her karma theory confirmed, and Eric is secure in his opinion that God smote down Danny and Oswald for their backstabbing ways. Even the Cha-Chas bought into the myth that they were evil, evil people, saying that karma bit them and it was their own fault. No, no, no! That’s not the lesson at all! The lesson is, if your cab driver takes you to the wrong place, don’t get back in the car with that cab driver, let alone have him shuttle you around all over China!

Believe it or not, there were a couple of challenges scattered between discussions of the yield. The first one was at Macau Tower, allegedly home to the highest sky jump in the world. Now, far be it from me to underestimate a jump: I have a horrible fear of heights and have been known to demand being airlifted off a stepstool. That said, purely speaking as a spectator, there’s a big difference between freefalling for 660 feet and being lowered on an elevator cable. This was like the world’s highest production of Peter Pan.

Then came the noodles-versus-dragon challenge. I loved Danny and Oswald’s reason for picking dragon: They knew they’d be good at it because they’d had a similarly themed challenge back in their original season. I’m not sure that delivering a dragon head is that specific a skill — it’s really just lugging, even if it is a slightly more ornate object than usual.

And did I dream what I think I saw at the noodle challenge? As each team struggled to pat down dough with a giant stick, I thought I saw Charla humping the table in a cloud of flour, while Mirna rode the stick like it was a dragon trying to flick her off its tail. It looked like they were recreating a Lucy and Ethel scene from I Love Lucy. (When the boys get back from the club and see what a mess they made, oooh, they’ll have some splainin’ to do!)

I held out hope that Danny and Oswald would pull ahead when, upon leaving the noodle factory, the gearshift-deficient Mirna drove the Mini Moke into a curb and couldn’t back it up. Snapping at Charla for never driving, she even got out and tried to pull the car backward with her hands. We haven’t seen the desperate, illogical side of Mirna for a few weeks now, and it’s good to have it back. All this scene was missing was her pleading with the car in a hybrid Sino-Turkic-Swedish accent and stuffing dollar bills into its gas tank as an incentive to drive itself.

Alas, Mirna’s frenzy was not crazy enough to make the Schmirnas lose out, and Danny and Oswald were the final team to arrive, though they were saved by a final non-elimination round. Which, of course, made no sense, considering that this week Danielle and Eric were marked for elimination. Marked for elimination in a non-elimination round? Maybe Eric should consider that the next time he’s whining about the game taking an unfair turn.

So what do you think, Race fans? Was all the talk about using the yield much ado about nothing? Will Danny and Oswald make it into the final three? And do you believe in karma?

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