The calm before the tragedy: It's a close finish, but with Jonathan and Victoria gone, an ''Amazing Race'' episode shot in pre-tsunami Sri Lanka is relatively painless

By Lynette Rice
Updated June 14, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Amazing Race
Credit: The Amazing Race: Tony Esparza

”The Amazing Race”: The calm before the tragedy

Now that He Who and She Who are gone, CBS must have thought we would miss having someone to root against, so the network has graciously announced that Rob and Amber will compete in Amazing Race 7. That has to be the only possible explanation for the Eye’s otherwise uninspired decision to cast the winners of Survivor: All Stars. (I say ”winners” because runner-up Rob, who really deserved the $1 million, scored in the end anyhow because he’s marrying the sole Survivor, the completely undeserving Amber.) If this is CBS’ idea of the best ever edition of The Amazing Race, then count me out. Sure I enjoyed watching Big Brother‘s Alison trip all over Europe last summer, but I was just as happy when she and her beleaguered beau Donny finally got the boot. Come on, Bertram — this isn’t The Bachelor, where they repurpose losers! Do a reunion special if you’re eager to get familiar faces on the course (and honestly, who among us wouldn’t be eager to see Chip and Reichen carry a side of beef alongside Charla and Myrna?). The only thing more nauseating then the prospect of watching a bikini-clad Amber traipsing through a Third World country (and you know she’ll be scantily clad, folks) would be seeing her and Rob married in prime time like Trista and Ryan.

Oh, right — CBS is scheduling that, too. TV is so going to hell.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I wish we saw more of the action at the pit stops. This episode began with an all too brief glimpse at the final resting place in Ethiopia — and it made me wanting more. How do the teams behave at these places? Is there yelling involved? Do they spar? What exactly did Kendra eat that had her wanting to retch for the next eight hours? These are the things I want to see.

I was also glad to see Sri Lanka — the next stop after Ethiopia. I have to think last night’s episode did this now tsunami-ravaged country a bit of a favor (the episode was dedicated to the flood victims). Up until now, scenes from that corner of the world have been devastating, but Race — doing what it does best — offered us a marvelous glimpse of this exotic locale, which, bar none, has just about the best ever modes of transportation in those tuk-tuks, which look like retrofitted gondola cars. Even the roads, where the locals drive on the left, looked like wicked fun — though I have to think the Race production team was on editing overdrive last month, furiously working to omit anything insensitive that might have been said (by like Kendra, maybe?) about Sri Lanka’s curious way of getting around. Other than Phil’s opening and closing comments about the tragedy, I didn’t think about the flood victims when I watched this episode, and I was glad. It just wasn’t the time.

Once in Sri Lanka, everyone managed to catch an old run-down train to the first detour — all except Rebecca and Adam, who used the downtime to argue and consider dropping out of the race for good. I really feel for Rebecca. You know sister sledge was sitting there on that dingy train, regretting the day at Gold’s Gym in West Hollywood when she walked up to Adam during spin class and said, ”Babe? Whaddya say you forgo that pride parade next month and we try out for The Amazing Race instead?” Rebecca’s a bigger stud than most of the guys left in this race, but Freddy’s right about Adam — he’s a damn nancy boy who’s become a huge pain in Rebecca’s buns of steel. If this team manages to win, Rebecca should get $999,995 of the prize money.

Fortunately, the slight delay did nothing to hurt their standing in the next detour, which required teams to either climb a coconut tree and retrieve some milky substance or play a game of polo while riding an elephant. Other than Freddy and Kendra, everyone choose the climbing task, which had an acrophobic Hayden yelling ”Aaron! Aaron!” every two seconds while she traversed some high-flying ropes. What exactly did she think he could do from the ground, anyway? Meanwhile, Freddy was on the polo course cheering his baby while yelling, ”You’re the master of the pachyderms!” — which immediately had me thinking that was the first time he had ever said pachyderms.

The leg’s road block was an awesome place called Lion Rock, where one team member had to climb 1,000 steps to the top and use a pair of binoculars to locate the final pit stop. Both Lori and Freddy misread their directions, and both had to run back to retrieve their admission tickets. Lori was much farther up the steps than Freddy, which is probably why she came oh-so-close to shouting the f-word when she returned to the bottom (after a quick hesitation, she shouted ”friggin’ ” instead). Her tirade was enough to garner sympathy from Kris, who patted Bolo on the shoulders and told him it was gonna be okay.

Yes, I know. She’s a nice girl. So is her nice boyfriend, Jon. Both of them, so . . . nice. I just wish we knew more about them. Like, are they really human? Or do they just seem that way, like something out of Spielberg’s A.I.?

Anyway, the wrestlers’ mistake proved fatal, because they were the last to arrive at the poolside pit stop. Yup, this was an elimination leg. Phil succeeded in baiting a visibly angry Lori, who immediately went off on Bolo for not reading the directions right at the detour and not telling her she needed the admission ticket. (A brief rewind of my TiVo was inconclusive; it’s hard to say how much or how little Bolo told Lori.) But even after his woman ripped him a new butthole, Bolo told Phil how she’s ”one of the strongest women I ever met.” Ah, the big lug. Stone cold, you’re not!

So now we’re down to the models, Kris and Jon, and, well, Rebecca. It’s time to ask ourselves: Are Kris and Jon unbeatable? Will Hayden stop the bitching and kick some ass with Aaron? Have we heard the last ”good job, baby?” And is that a damn poncho around Freddy’s shoulders? Jeez, talk about a nancy boy.

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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