The Amazing Race recap: All the Wrong Moves
Once again it's clear that the contestants need to stop and really read the directions, as a time penalty costs the comic-book guys their spot
Last Thursday evening, as I do every night before leaving work, I doffed my jockstrap, rinsed it in the sink, and left it hanging on my office doorknob to dry. The next morning I came in, and what was lying in a damp heap on the floor? You guessed it, my jockstrap. About ten minutes later, who walks by but my next-door-office neighbor, Dalton Ross. Or, as I now call him, “my deadliest enemy ever.” Does Johnny Jockstrap Knocker-Over not think I see right through him? It insults me that he thinks I’m so dumb that I won’t realize that this was not the act of one of the many, many people who walk past my office door and could easily have accidentally brushed past my undergarment. No, Ross, I know it was you. And if you want to play dirty, you’re gonna get something else. By which I mean that for the next three days at work I am going to talk about nothing but my crazy unfounded grudge against you for doing something completely innocuous, something that you probably didn’t do anyway. Advantage mine!
Oh, Christy and Kelly: When they suspected Starr knocked Christy’s sports bra off a hotel ledge, it was the dumbest motivation for a blood feud that I’ve ever heard. This is a story line that would be rejected by The Hills for being too superficial. After two weeks of watching The Amazing Race and listening to Christy and Kelly talk about what jerks their ex-husbands are, I’m now starting to get the other side of the story. What were the ladies’ grounds for divorcing their spouses: cruel and unusual sock losing?
It’s hard to believe anyone could race with Sportsbra-gate hanging over the game, but race they did, jetting to Bolivia. To quote every Big Brother contestant ever, it was “game on!” Especially for Sarah, who finally had the realization that every team was out for themselves, and “This is not a popularity competition. It’s actually us against the other teams.” Who filled her in on the definition of “race”? Here are some other epiphanies that will dawn on Sarah during the race: Santa Claus isn’t real; those rave reviews in the ad for Beverly Hills Chihuahua aren’t exactly from the best critics; and Las Vegas isn’t a nonprofit entity.
When the teams jetted to Bolivia, they immediately had to sleep outside to wait for their clue. In the morning, the cameras seemed to take a perverse pleasure in catching the women applying their makeup, though we did not get to see Tina etch on her eyebrows. I have a feeling that is a process that involves industrial waterproof markers, a protractor, and a welding torch. It was odd to see Kelly drawing on or at least darkening her beauty mark. If she and Starr ever end up nose to nose, poised to fight, I would love to see Starr very slowly lick her own thumb, reach over, and slowly rub off Kelly’s fake mole. Oh, the bloodshed that would ensue!
The teams madly paged through the morning’s newspaper, searching for an ad that directed them to a local hat store. I don’t know much about Bolivia: Is it particularly renowned for its silly hats, or is that just a new tack their tourism board is trying out? (“We need a hook, boys, because ‘Come for the scenery, stay for the oxygen tanks!’ isn’t working. What’s that, Hector? Make everyone wear a hat like Mr. Peanut, only three sizes smaller than their own heads? Well, it beats hypoxia, let’s try it!”)
The frat guys were the first to find the newspaper clue, and they took off. Earlier in the show, while discussing their lack of athleticism (they realized that lifting weights does not an athlete make), Adam said, “I’m happy with myself. I think I look pretty sexy.” But it was delivered without any of the identifying intonations of knowing self-parody. Boy, I really wanted it to turn out that Adam and Dan are doing shtick and are actually trying to satirize frat guys, but it’s just not gonna happen. If you check out the Amazing Race deleted scenes from last week on CBS.com, there’s an incredibly awkward moment at the mat where Phil tries to hook up the frat guys with the Southern Belles, and a nervous Andrew and Dan can barely spit out anything but “Girls pretty.” I haven’t seen anyone with this little game since the last Red Sox rainout.
The Detour choices this week were “Musical March” or “Bumpy Ride.” For “Musical March” you had to assemble a marching band and then lead them to get the next clue. The frat guys did this in their usual tense, joyless manner. Not even Dan’s refusal to take off his ridiculous bowler hat could inject any whimsy into their demeanors. And their lugubriousness seemed to spread into their band; the musicians plodded slowly behind, while the happy-go-lucky Belles, with their inane clapping and cheering, quickly caught up to and then passed the fratters. Jeez, Andrew and Dan could depress K.C. and the Sunshine Band.
“Bumpy Ride” involved coasting down cobblestone streets on pedal-less bikes that looked like they were carved out of tree trunks. And just in case they didn’t look silly enough, the racers were made to wear feathered helmets and gloves. You know the old maxim that you should always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident? It’s even more important not to wear feathered helmets and gloves, but that seems too obvious for anyone to make into an adage.
I thought Christy would prove this rule in her mighty wipeout, where she bloodied her hand and it looked like she cracked her head against a wall. But nothing short of decapitation could stop her from continuing the race: Her bike was powered by gravity and hatred for Starr. Later, she would find out that Starr, when passing Aja, asked her and Ty to U-Turn the divorcees. It was a strange and pointless request by Starr: Why make trouble at this point, especially with Aja and Ty, a team that you have no great allegiance with? Now I don’t know which team to root for in this standoff: I’m gonna go ahead and root for neither of them.
Next came the Roadblock, a wrestling match in which one teammate would, said Phil, “have to set aside all decorum and fight a girl.” (Wow, there’s a description that seemed like it was brought to you be the year 1953.) Each participant had to learn six moves in a staged wrestling match against a female wrestler (a Cholita), and then enact the routine in front of a cheering crowd. I’m not sure how they got the crowd to cheer, though. If you were a wrestling fan, and came to the fights only to find out you’d be watching nine lumpy Americans in unfortunately tight-fitting catsuits repeat the same six rudimentary moves, I think you’d feel fairly ripped off. Imagine if you went to see the Lakers play, only to find out that instead you’d be seeing chubby Bolivians taking bucket shots from the foul line.
The moves included “the slingshot,” “kicked,” “the duck and flip,” and…”taunting”? That’s a move? Man, the challenges this season really are easy, aren’t they? Ken easily finished the challenge, and his enthusiasm was infectious. It even made Tina smile, and they shared a rare friendly moment, powering them to finish first in their second leg in a row. (Incidentally, I’ve been harsh on Tina — and, who am I kidding, I’ll probably continue to do so — but after reading this recent article on Ken, I understand her a little better.) Dallas finished next, thrilling his mother (but what doesn’t thrill her about her number-one son?) so much that she yelled, “Gimme a kiss. You were great!” I really have to keep reminding myself that they’re mother and son.
Dan also finished the task on the first attempt. Though he finally took his goofy hat off for the ring, he did wrestle half the match with his cape on backwards. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superdweeb.
At this point we knew Mark and Bill were doomed: After the hat store, they took a cab to the Detour, even though the clue said to go on foot. (Sarah and Terence did the same thing but realized their mistake and retraced their steps.) We the viewers knew they were obliviously hurtling towards a time penalty, but up until the wrestling, they were far enough ahead that said penalty wouldn’t be enough to knock them out. But then Mark donned his Lonelyman tights, otherwise known as the Outfit of Solitude. How ironic that the biggest comic book fans are the ones who look the worst in a superhero costume. Not only couldn’t he master the routine — Duck and Flip, you are Mark’s kryptonite! — but he was also laid low by the lack of oxygen. Nothing quite says “bad athlete” like a guy sucking on an oxygen mask after attempting six moves in a staged sport. This is like rubbing Ben-Gay on your wrist after thumb wrestling.
Phil stood on the mat with a woman who was wearing what looked like the carcass of an exploded peacock on her head. As the rest of the teams trundled in, Mark and Bill realized their earlier mistake, but it was too late to do anything about it. They arrived second to last, and were given a 30-minute penalty. Arriving last were Kelly and Christy (and was it just me, or did it look like Christy was sucking on a bottle filled with her own urine?). Anyway, the women were still running on rage fumes: “If we’re going home, I’m gonna scream obscenities at Starr,” said Kelly in the back of their cab. Fortunately for them, they arrived within the 30-minute window, thereby staying in the game while the comic bookers got bounced. Goodbye, Mark and Bill: You’ve left with memories, but you’ve also left South America with some things to remember you by — a trail of sweat and a unitard that needs serious dry cleaning.