The divorcées and Tina are not enough to make the racers compelling this season; even the trip to Angkor Wat seemed a little stale

By Josh Wolk
Updated October 27, 2008 at 04:44 AM EDT
Aja Ty
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

I started off this season optimistically, but I’m coming around to the fact that this year’s cast is pretty unimpressive. Everyone is either unlikable or unmemorable. I don’t mind unlikable, as long as they’re unlikable in a unique way, like, say, Mirna and Schmirna or Jonathan and Victoria. (Although I’m not sure if “abusive husband” qualifies as unique: Are they like snowflakes, no two alike?) But if a racer is unlikable in a way that I’ve encountered many times in my own life, why would I want to watch them for an hour? I’m speaking mainly of divorcées Kelly and Christy: Life has been pretty good for me since college, in that I haven’t encountered many smug, petty cheerleader types who will snicker about someone’s haircut from five feet away (“Doesn’t that hair remind you of Teen Wolf?” Kelly said about Dallas). I don’t watch any of Bravo’s Real Housewives of…series for the same reason: I don’t want to be reminded of this personality type. And now, here they are, clogging my race. It’d be one thing if they somehow pushed the bitchy stereotype even further, but no: They’re just run-of-the-mill jerks. Yawn. Hate, but yawn.

We had a little too much airport time in this episode of The Amazing Race, something we haven’t been subjected to very much this season. This focus was mostly in service of fleshing out Dan and Andrew’s sad-sack story line, which is a pretty banal one: Two pretty dull guys really, really want to be extraordinary, but it just ain’t in the cards. When they were told they just missed the second flight to Cambodia, Andrew (or “exhausted Seth Rogen,” as I’ve taken to calling him) glumly accepted their fate. But Dan would not accept defeat, so he raced to the airline’s check-in counter and did get them on the plane. It looked like a turning point, but then what happened? They landed in Cambodia and both stood around helplessly as everyone else got cabs, while they couldn’t figure out how. And then, later, when they had to fill up a truck with diesel fuel, they were the only pair that couldn’t get the pump to work, mostly because Andrew turned the crank like he was 80 years old, which I suspect — deep, deep inside — he is. Ken was bewildered by why they were having such trouble: “There’s no trick,” he told them, “It’s like pulling the zipper down and letting it flow.” And yet I fear an upcoming “take a leak” roadblock, in which we’ll see a yet-again-stymied Andrew weakly batting at his zipper as a stain of urine slowly spreads across the front of his shorts. These two guys are the Charlie Browns of this race. Auuuuugh, indeed.

Ken and Tina are slightly interesting to me, although less so when they get along. They began this leg with Ken going on about how well the couple is interacting, and that was almost enough to make me turn off the TV. Luckily, when he continued on with “What is an old man and an old woman doing out there…” you could see the anger switch get flicked in Tina as her eyebrows flexed from her standard angry angle to Super-Angry 5000, and she snapped, “Speak for yourself.” So I decided to stick around. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, Tina had me at “I hate you, Ken, and every word out of your mouth is poison to my ears.”

Then there’s hypersensitive Terence, who just exhausts me. When he got a speeding ticket in New Zealand, and Sarah said, innocently, “I always thought you were a slow driver,” he sighed, “Such an ass.” (It was unclear whether he was referring to her or himself, so I’ll have to let that one lie.) But he went on to say, “That’s the way you comfort someone who just got a speeding ticket?” Look, Sarah’s reaction was the kinder one: The correct response to someone getting a ticket is “You jerk, why’d you slow us down?” But it raised a bigger question: He’s a running coach, but why would anyone hire someone with such pathological neediness as a motivator? What does he tell his clients, “When I tell you to run a five-minute mile, and you can’t, it really makes me feel like I can’t do my job, which hurts me?” Does every session end with his clients coughing up blood because they’re trying to run faster than their bodies can handle, just to keep Terence from crying? If this passive-aggressive style of coaching ends up succeeding, maybe he’ll get a running shoe named after him: The Nike Sulk.

NEXT: Aja’s hot lingo

The main suspense in this episode came as teams kept passing each other in trucks, taxis, and boats. After a while, I couldn’t tell who was in the lead; it was just a series of shots of different teams yelling at their driver to go faster, and yelling, “Who was that?” “That was ________!” as someone zipped by. The only variation came when Nick and Starr passed Ken and Tina, and Tina yelled, “Gosh dang them, turkey lips!” Much like Terence’s “Such an ass” comment, it was unclear whether she was calling Nick and Starr or Ken “Turkey Lips,” or whether that was just a general down-home swear word, like “Bull feathers!” I have to be careful judging lines like this: You never know when you’re missing a pop-cultural reference. For example, when Aja said Cambodia was “hotter than Satan’s toenails,” I thought, “That’s creative,” but after Googling it, I found it was actually a quote from the movie First Sunday. So if I search for “Gosh dang them, turkey lips,” will I find it’s actually a line from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Or maybe it’s from one of Tennessee Williams’ lesser works, Simmering Wife on a Hot Tin Boat.

The first challenge was at the gas station, but from there the teams boarded boats to take them to a restaurant in the midst of a floating village. Mere yards from the clue, Terence and Sarah’s boat crapped out just as they were yelling, “Fast, fast, fast!” Terence began madly trying to push the boat with a pole, an approach I’m guessing he tried only after guilt-tripping the engine failed: “You know, motor, I’m in a race, and I really need to feel supported, and I feel that by belching black smoke and filling up with water, you really weren’t there for me.”

The restaurant was the site of a detour: Either take your boat around the village, picking up such items as a pair of fake chattering teeth (at the dentist) and a basketball (at a floating hoops court); or wade into the water to find two full fishing traps. The boat errands ended up being easier, although I felt bad for the woman in the dentist’s chair. She had to sit there all day in a human Primitive Dental Treatment diorama; every time a team ran in, the dentist leaned over her with a rusty clamp, yanking on one of her few teeth. I don’t know much about the acting opportunities in this particular floating village, but that seemed like a bad gig.

Once again, Kelly and Christy proved unable to follow a clue, as even before getting the detour clue, they reflexively followed Tina and Ken’s lead and began sinking baskets even without knowing why they were doing so. Later, Christy said, “We need to be in first place so everyone else starts to recognize that we’re a force to be reckoned with.” But doesn’t the fact that they never land anywhere near first place prove that they’re not a force to be reckoned with? That’s like me saying, “People will start to realize how smart I am when I win that Nobel Prize in chemistry!”

From there it was off to the massive temple of Angkor Wat to find a tiny chamber of echoes. There were amusing moments: A frustrated Tina ran right through the Chamber of Echoes without finding it; and Andrew stated that he had a great sense of direction, only to then literally look under a rock — Hey, no chamber here! Better check my pockets: Oh, chaaaaamber! While the roadblock was visually and culturally interesting, challenge-wise it was a bust: We’ve seen too many racers in seasons past darting around too many museums/multi-roomed landmarks to make this in any way new.

Ultimately, Nick and Starr came in first. (A team that I don’t have much to say about; they’re good competitors, but not particularly memorable.) And in no surprise at all, Aja and Ty were eliminated: Once they were an entire flight behind, and never encountered another team through the whole leg, it was obvious that they weren’t a factor. I suppose that’s why we never saw them bickering; instead Aja just kept mentioning how much she loved Ty. It was like they had this clarity of vision that they were not long for this game; it reminded me of the calm that Thelma and Louise exhibited before they drove over a cliff. If only they had taken some of the other teams with them.

So, how was it for you guys? What’s the verdict on the teams this season?

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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