''The Amazing Race'' continues to putter through India, where Gretchen lets Meredith push her around, leading to worries that the old folks could be on their last leg

By Josh Wolk
Updated June 14, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Lynn and Alex: Tony Esparza

”The Amazing Race”: More heart-stopping tasks

It’s at this point that many readers will expect me to apologize to Gretchen and Meredith. I’ve been riding them hard for looking like they’re going to expire on every continent, but as Phil pronounced at the end of tonight’s Amazing Race — when they once again barely dodged expulsion, this time by beating Lynn and Alex — they are now the oldest couple to ever make it this far into a season. But if you listened to Phil’s voice, you heard the same tinge of shock and fear that I was feeling, as if after complimenting them, he wanted to add, ”So be happy with that and please quit, before you kill yourselves!”

I have nothing against older people, as some readers have accused. I love them. They’re soft and cuddly and always have mints in their pockets and usually keep a Reader’s Digest in their bathrooms so there’s always something to read when you visit. And I don’t think they make for bad competitors: Last season, were it not for some bad turns, Don and Mary Jean could have done well. My problem with Gretchen and Meredith is that it seems that their goal is not so much to win a million dollars as to find the best possible country to keel over in.

Meredith is 69 years old, and he was trying to single-handedly push a 600-pound elephant through the streets of India. (Well, 600 pounds plus whatever Gretchen’s body weight is. Why oh why did she stay on that elephant? Why not just hop on Meredith’s back for the whole detour?) He looked like he was going to collapse when he finished, and Gretchen’s incessant yelling certainly wasn’t helping matters: It sounded like someone was raping a camel. No wonder Meredith looked so scarred when he was subsequently made to run a camel race; it was the worst kind of déjà vu. And yet with all the abuse they take, they won’t quit. Every episode I find myself yelling at the TV, ”Stay down!” and they don’t. It’s like watching a Rocky movie, if Burgess Meredith had played Rocky.

But thanks to a bad cab driver — the game-killing variable that is to The Amazing Race what a pulled hamstring is to the NFL — Lynn and Alex fell behind and Team Deathwish stayed alive another day. I can’t say it was sad to see Lynn and Alex go. I wonder if their hatred for Rob and Amber will stay with them in their daily life. When they heard that CBS will be airing Rob and Amber’s wedding, did they say, ”Quick, we’ve gotta get to Massachusetts and get married first!”?

One other thing: When they were ejected, Alex kissed Lynn on the cheek, which seemed kind of demure for a longstanding couple. I’m wondering if the producers requested they not kiss on the lips so as not to throw the Parents Television Council into a self-righteous, FCC-baiting tizzy. The show tried to make up for this reticence with the gay-friendly move of introducing the Gay Indian Pedicab Couple: Stuck on inching transport in congested traffic, let them be a rallying cry for the world: ”In about an hour and a half, depending on whether or not that overturned chicken tikka stand gets moved, and if that cow decides to get out of the thoroughfare, they’ll be here, and queer, so get used to it! . . . Actually, come to think of it, you’d better allow two hours — that cow doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. So let’s all meet then, at which point they will still be queer, and you should then get used to it.”

The only consolation for Lynn and Alex is that they lived to see Rob and Amber get nervous. Up until now, Rob has been so confident that it must have been maddening to watch him nearly always land in first and look as if he hadn’t exerted any energy. But now you can see him start to worry: It’s not fun anymore; it’s a contest. After he hired Sanjay as his guide, he guarded him like he was the nuclear codes on 24: When Ron nearly persuaded Sanjay to get in his cab, I thought Rob would kill Sanjay rather than lose him. And then, of course there was the way he got help pushing his elephant by dragging young Indians off the street by their collars. Perhaps from now on he will have a different notoriety when he arrives at a new country: No longer will it be ”Aren’t you Rob from Survivor?” Now it will be ”Aren’t you that famous American who stalks the streets, forcing innocent passersby into stressful manual labor to help you win a million dollars? Your exploits are legendary! And annoying. Legendary and annoying. But mostly annoying.”

While everyone else battled with elephants, Uchenna and Joyce went for the fast forward, and Joyce got shaved. If you remember, Bertram Van Munster floated this challenge out in AR5, and religious models Nicole and Brandon chickened out, believing that without their luscious manes, they would not be able to perform God’s work by appearing in J.C. Penney catalogs. By stubbornly trying this challenge again, Van Munster tipped his hand that perhaps this was less about the game and more about his bald-head fetish. But hey, if a certain producer once had a major sexual awakening while watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I’m not one to judge.

It was a very touching moment to see Uchenna support and reassure Joyce as she wept through her scalping. This is when The Amazing Race really shines: when we see couples or friends able to be so caring even in the most stressful of situations. You see that with Gretchen and Meredith, too, even if it’s harder to hear amidst all of Gretchen’s yelling. See? I don’t hate those lovable old folks at all. They’ve got a lot of heart: All I want is for those very hearts not to explode out of their chests during the challenges.

What do you think? Are you worried about the old folks’ health? Is Rob losing it? Who could replace him and Amber as front-runners?

Episode Recaps

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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