A relationship falls apart on ''The Amazing Race'': Traveling with Kelly through the African desert, Ron seems to be missing that Iraqi prison; meanwhile, the other couples grow closer

By Josh Wolk
Updated June 14, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Amazing Race
Credit: Brian and Greg: Tony Esparza

”The Amazing Race”: A relationship falls apart

The Amazing Race posed an interesting philosophical question: If a couple with zero chemistry splits up, does it count as heartbreaking? I’m referring of course to Ron and Kelly, whose relationship has the combustibility of wet socks.

They never seemed to have much of a spark. It appeared to be a relationship of necessity: Beauty queen Kelly needed an escort, and ex-POW Ron was just happy to be around someone who wasn’t calling him an American dog. They were like Romeo and Juliet — if Shakespeare hadn’t come up with the whole ”warring families” angle and had fallen asleep halfway through writing act 2.

I knew the adversity of the race wasn’t bringing them closer together last week, when they came in first: Kelly gave Ron the kind of polite hug and peck on the cheek that pageant queens robotically give when they get the key to the city from the mayor of Craptown. On this episode, Kelly confessed that to strengthen their strained relationship, she was reading a passage from the Bible and substituting her name for the word ”love.” I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the episode she had moved to a more secular tome and inserted Ron’s name in Green Eggs and Ham. She does not like Ron in a box, she does not like Ron without socks, she does not like Ron at a bash, she does not like this redneck trash!

The Race producers clearly wanted to indicate Kelly’s annoyance with Ron, but there wasn’t much in her expression to indicate that she was that annoyed. We would get these quick zoom-ins to her face while angry, dramatic music crescendoed, but she looked totally unfazed. Even the explosive moment when she thought Ron told her to ”shut the F up” and she called him a redneck seemed oddly disconnected. The whole thing sounded and looked strangely edited, as if words were pulled out of disparate sentences and shuffled around to create the illusion of an outburst. And the illusion of a personality.

Granted, Ron did seem a bit prickly. He kept picking at her about bailing out of the head-balancing challenge, even though he didn’t seem to be faring very well, either. But then again, he was a POW. That’s like an automatic ”Get out of blame free” card. During the presidential election, we all saw what happens to people who are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as not supporting the troops. So good luck taking Kelly’s side; you might as well change your name to Uday.

At the end, Ron and Kelly were barely speaking. Ron said that they were ”starting to get up under each other’s skin — finally!” which leads me to believe that either Ron just saw Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and utterly missed the point or he has desperately been looking for an out. As for Kelly, she said that she hoped to help their relationship by putting the Lord first. Oooh, sorry, Kelly: God’s busy right now trying to help Jerry O’Connell’s brother get lucky on The Bachelor, and then he’s got to help Tonya get some on the Real World/Road Rules Inferno 2. But as soon as that’s done, he’ll be right over to sort out your love life.

Meanwhile, the other teams are just getting pulled closer together. Uchenna and Joyce had a relatively smooth ride; their botching of a task (by pulling a ribbon off a post instead of taking the whole post) didn’t upset their standing at all. And Lynn and Alex stayed calm even through two car breakdowns. I admired Lynn’s supportive words to Alex that even if they lost, he had done a great job. So much so that I will choose not to negatively interpret his statement that Uchenna and Joyce were ”born” to carry objects on their heads.

As for Gretchen and Meredith, it’s impressive that they’re still hanging in there. Gretchen looked awful for this leg, all bruised, battered, and filthy. After the abuse she took last week, I cringed every time she came onscreen, expecting more disasters. When she and Meredith were driving through the back country, I was convinced that she was going to fall out the car door and have her head stepped on by a passing elephant. And then Phil would drive by, make her give him her shoes for coming in last, and then speed off again as the vultures started circling.

And of course, Rob and Amber kept calm and had the audacity to seem like they were having fun, which must make Lynn and Alex’s heads explode like their car tires. But the most touching teammates were the ill-fated brothers, Brian and Greg. I still don’t know who was who, but they really seemed to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company. Maybe Kelly should look to them for guidance: They’re not God, but they give each other really cool handshakes. And as the man says, dudeliness is next to Godliness.

What do you think? Are any of the teams growing on you? Do you like it or hate it when the show focuses on bickering couples? And could your relationship survive The Amazing Race?

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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