On ''The Amazing Race,'' it's bye-bye, Jonathan and Victoria: The long-awaited departure of the dysfunctional duo makes the world safe for reality TV -- maybe too safe
The Amazing Race
Credit: The Amazing Race: Tony Esparza

”Amazing Race”: Bye-bye, Jonathan and Victoria

Great moments in television history: The Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan. The Crystal-Alexis catfight in the pool on Dynasty. Susan Hawk’s fireside speech on the first Survivor. Any time George Clooney appeared on ER.

Jonathan and Victoria’s elimination from The Amazing Race. To be honest, I saw it coming. I’m not talking like me, the Race fan, but me the TV reporter — one of many who attend the network press conferences held in Los Angeles each winter. On Tuesday, CBS said it would screen the Race episode for TV critics at lunch — which seemed awfully suspect since it wasn’t offering to screen last night’s episodes of NCIS or Judging Amy. Then again, nothing quite as exciting or cheer worthy was happening with Mark Harmon or Amy Brenneman.

And oh, did we cheer!

Sadly, the celebration ended as soon as it began. Though I am elated that Race‘s most vile contestant ever is finally gone, I do believe his legacy will continue long after he puts his damn trousers on and spares us another look at those heinous undies (who wears red underwear, anyway?). No matter how much the Race officials want to deny it, I believe this classy series took a major credibility hit by allowing Jonathan and his whiny wife, Victoria, to continue running. Not that executive producer Bertram Von Munster feels that way. In an interview I did with him two weeks ago, Munster said Jonathan’s behavior was only a bad reflection on Jonathan and not on the show. ”We?re not here to annoy people in the living room,” Von Munster said. ”Jonathan is a compelling character, as long as he keeps his hands off everybody else. This is a true reality show — very unsuspecting things happen.”

Call me naive, but I do believe the network and the producers were genuinely blindsided by the entrepreneur and his blond bimbo. Von Munster said that Jonathan was ”generally an enthusiastic, articulate, fast-thinking guy who wants to win” when he was first cast. No one could have predicted how he would act under pressure. (Just as I’m sure no one at CBS thought an airhead like Kendra would be such an intolerable dolt while visiting Third World countries — and no, I’m no more forgiving of her just because she wanted to take the little Ethiopian kids home last night because they were sooooo sweet to hold her bags.) So I’m sure it was a complete surprise when Jonathan finally did what he did to Victoria in Berlin. Push her. While she wasn’t looking. While she was breaking down in tears. While the cameras were rolling.

Did he deserve to get the drop kick? Well he definitely deserved a bitch slap from Phil to say the least, if not a one-way ticket back to the States.

As it turned out, Jonathan was never violent again, but he remained as verbally abusive as ever. But maybe CBS seemed to think it was all balancing out in the end because Victoria started to return his abuse with equal vigor. No, no, I’m not suggesting that she deserved some of the crap she got. It’s just that . . . well . . . put a cork in that whine, already! She was at her worst last night when she screamed at Jonathan for not helping her read the directions that required them to pull not one but two donkeys. She screamed at him for not moving. She screamed at him after he started moving. And damn if I wasn’t with Jonathan when he stood by speechless and stunned as Victoria went off in a crying tizzy during that mud-slinging detour. While Kendra screamed, ”Help her Jonathan!” I, too, wondered what was wrong with Victoria because (a) I couldn’t tell if she was crying or giggling over something involving her hand and (b) I really didn’t care because I was still in a state of shock over seeing Jonathan in those red underpants. Anyway, she appeared to be okay because she soon began yelling at Jonathan again over forgetting the damn ass. (Speaking of which, how much did you love Aaron when he said, ”I’m good at guiding asses,” before pointing to Hayden? Nice!)

Bottom line: CBS has said that no new rules will be needed to insure that guys like Jonathan won’t continue on Race if they get violent, but I think it’s safe to assume that the folks in casting will be watching their p’s and q’s when looking for their next ”villain.” The network is waxing on and on about how the cast of the next Race (premiering Tues., March 1) is the best ever, and I feel pretty confident we won’t see another Jonathan — or Colin, for that matter — for a while.

And you know what? There’s something kind of sad in that prediction. I don’t want my beloved Race to lose its unpredictability. Fact is, we all paid attention when Jonathan and Victoria were on screen. We loved to hate him. Can this franchise survive without his kind?

And now, a footnote to the episode that will forever be known as ”The One Where Jonathan and Victoria Went Down”: I love how Race takes us to exotic places, but last night was the first time I actually cringed in sheer embarrassment over how it was invading sacred territory — and by that I mean the road block where the players had to go down into an 800-year-old buried church to receive a freakin’ necklace. A necklace! The minute Hayden made her way into this extraordinary place, my heart skipped a beat — like oh, crap, we really shouldn’t be here, and please oh please, don’t embarrass us, guys.

Lori was the first to disappoint. Though she kneeled to the first ”worship” she found, she called the whole thing stupid as she walked past these spiritual men. And Adam didn’t so much as utter a ”hi!” to the guy who helped him match his necklace (though Rebecca was at her cattiest on the outside, muttering, ”Never send a woman to do a man’s job” as Adam finished the detour). I had a sick feeling through this entire road block and was so happy when it was over — if only because it got me that much closer to the end, when Jonathan and Victoria were finally eliminated!

Oh, and yeah — Hayden and Aaron came in first. Like it matters right now.

What do you think? Are you going to kinda miss He Who and She Who, or do you think they should have been booted earlier? What team are you rooting against now? And what team are you rooting for?

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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