Now that the team to beat has left ''The Amazing Race,'' the remaining pairs try to pick up the slack with half-hearted rivalries; meanwhile, a rat roadblock brings up issues

By Josh Wolk
Updated March 19, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Amazing Race
Credit: Amazing Race: Robert Voets/CBS

”The Amazing Race”: New rivalries

For the past two weeks, as soon as The Amazing Race has begun, my wife has demanded I make an early, unfounded prediction of who will be bounced off. Last week, thinking that the commercials proclaiming the Most Exciting Ending Ever were a red herring, I chose Charla and Mirna. Clearly, I was wrong. This week, I thought, ”No surprises were promised, which means there’s no way these permanent back-of-the-packers will survive,” and I picked Charla and Mirna again. And they came in first. First! Are my predictions only magically making them succeed more and more? If I choose them again next week, will the episode end with them being named to the Senate?

With Romber gone, the show needs a new rivalry, but the best it can scare up is Team Guido versus Eric and Danielle, and, really, who can have any investment in that? That’s like Papua New Guinea declaring war on Bhutan as a way of grabbing headlines away from the U.S. and Iraq.

Team Guido began this episode announcing that they were trying to be a ”kinder, gentler Guido,” and they certainly showed their frivolous side by sharing underwear secrets with Teri and Ian. I haven’t been introduced to a mental image that scarring since the time I accidentally downloaded the podcast ”Hooray for Colostomy Bags!” I’ve wondered why we haven’t seen the Testi-phils this season, and I realized tonight it’s because they shrank five sizes when Phil heard this conversation. Really, how is someone supposed to ever muster a sex drive again when the vision of Ian and Teri making love after ripping off paper underwear has been introduced to their brain?

Later, a whimsical Bill doused himself in some kind of fragrance spray at the airport, saying he now smelled like a French whore. ”Doesn’t matter to me! ” said Joe, which I suppose was sweet and devoted, but there was also a lascivious overtone that didn’t merge well with their earlier confession that they wear thongs. Those two have ruined French whores for me forever.

But then things got tense. On their way to the roadblock, Eric urged his driver to try to pass Team Guido’s car, which threw Joe and Bill into a tizzy. ”You need to watch your speed, guy,” Joe said threateningly to Eric, and followed it up with ”You need to watch your jokes, guy.” You can read all these bon mots and many more in Joe’s new book, Speed, Jokes, Language, and Your Step: 101 Things Guy Needs to Watch.

Everyone was neck and neck at the rat roadblock. Was anyone else struck by Ian’s comment that he’s been very, very scared of rats ever since he was in the military? There’s a comment that begged for elaboration. What could have happened? I hope he didn’t get sent to the stockade in a regiment that had read 1984 too many times. When the challenge was over, however, he said that now he kind of liked rats. I hope he elaborates on that when he subsequently brings it up to people, because the sentence, ”Ever since I went on a game show, I’ve really loved rats” raises just as many questions.

Then it was off to the detour, in which teams either had to fill 45-pound bags with coal or try to get money in a market by painting people’s nails. I wonder if the eliminated Dave was really pissed when he saw the coal challenge; that could have been his time to shine. When he watched last night’s episode, do you think he was cursing like a pro basketball player watching a junior high b-ball game? ”That’s the way you put coal in a bag? You dadblammed amateurs don’t know nothin’ about putting jagged rocks into a sack. And you call that inhalin’ dangerous coal dust? You got to put yer heads right in the bag if you want to end the day hockin’ up a decent black loogie.”

The manicure choice ended up being the far smarter pick, but I probably would have gone with the coal, too. There have been too many similar salesman challenges on the Race that have taken forever. But everyone sailed through, even Teri and Ian, who was pretty negative about his chances starting out. I could see why: Even in a culture where male nail painters are more common, Ian’s wouldn’t be the first face you’d trust for a beauty treatment. Well, except for waxing backs — he kind of looks like he’d be good at that. But don’t mention that to him: He had a bad experience with back hair in the military.

This challenge proved so easy that Charla and Mirna ended up in first place and celebrated with some hectoring about what underdogs they are. I’ve noticed that whenever Mirna talks about how they’re disrespected, she’s always careful to blame it on Charla’s height: At the beginning of the episode she said, ”Somehow Charla and I muster our strength, no matter how tired we are, or that she’s out of breath.” (Emphasis mine.) And then at the end of last night’s show, she contributed a morality tale about how their first-place finish should teach people not to underestimate others ”just because someone’s a little shorter or a little skinnier.” So Charla’s downside is her height, and her own is that she’s too skinny? That doesn’t sound like a negative at all. That’s like people at a job interview who say their weakness is that they care too much. What other handicap does Mirna have? Porcelain skin, soft, bouncy hair, and an accent that drives all the cab drivers wild?

Oh, and as for Charla’s line about the cold Argentinean temperatures — ”We’re a popsicle; someone will need to suck us,” — you’ll have to find someone else to comment on it. After all that talk about Ian’s paper underwear, my penis retreated into my body so far that it’s cowering somewhere near my gall bladder, so I don’t dare venture into this territory lest I lose it forever.

After the nail painters all came in (the beauty queens and Teri and Ian followed the Schmirnas), Danny and Oswald were the first coal haulers at the pit stop. Those two are really carrying this show when it comes to witty banter. ”You look like a faggy raccoon,” Oswald said to the coal-smeared Danny as they drove to the pit stop. And when they arrived, they chased a frightened Phil around the mat, threatening to hug him with their dirty arms. It was nice to see Phil get some exercise other than the occasional purposeful stride he enlists when describing a detour. In fact, it might give the show some new energy if from now on Phil describes challenges while being chased in circles by a filthy contestant. ”A detour is a choice between two tasks — ewww, get away from me! — each with its own pros and — come on, these are my dress khakis! — cons….”

Uchenna and Joyce offered no hugs when they arrived in last place. At the beginning of the show, Uchenna said he had to follow his intuition, because to not do so would be like saying, ”God, universe, I’m not trusting you.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God and the universe have nothing invested in The Amazing Race. And if I ever find out they are letting other things slide because they’re too busy figuring out who will win a roadblock, then I would like a different universe and God, please.

I’m not sure what instinct Uchenna and Joyce trusted to end up in last place, but God and the universe decided to give them another shot with a non-elimination round. They’re now ”marked for elimination,” which means if they don’t end up in first place next week, they’ll get a 30-minute penalty. I hope the producers haven’t scheduled a fast forward, as they often did last year, making it too easy for the marked team to survive. Then again, if they do get to the mat early, it would give them plenty of time to jump in a mud puddle and then chase Phil around.

What do you think? Will Uchenna and Joyce survive their last-place finish? Will the Schmirnas hold on to their lead? And should all the teams stop over-sharing about their choice in underwear?

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