On ''The Amazing Race,'' the spectacular scenery of Utah fails to enliven an episode that focuses on the Weaver family's self-obsession

”The Amazing Race”: Showing a family’s bad side

For such an uninspiring season, The Amazing Race: Family Edition has managed to consistently spark one debate on this column’s bulletin board: Does God favor the Weavers for their constant prayers and piousness? I’m not sure, but I can say one thing for certain: If God does, then it means he’s watching the show, which means the Amazing Race producers are going straight to hell.

Why? Because they so unrelentingly highlight the family’s stupidest comments, and it’s gotten worse as the season has progressed. It’s as if the producers were using the Weavers to take out their frustration with how little is happening on the show. I can see them sitting in the editing suite, watching footage and grumbling, ”We paid all that money to rent a giant bear and it didn’t maul anybody? It just danced around and held a clue in his mouth? We could have gotten Miss Latin Utah to do that and halved our guest-star budget! Well, just see if you can find me a moment where Mama Weaver mispronounces a city name or one of the kids insults an entire state. At least that’s something.”

The problem is, the producers don’t have the strength of their own convictions. They spent an entire episode making the Weavers look bad by showing them disdainfully saying that they’re the sole deserving team because the others would only spend the million bucks on boob jobs; proclaiming that the rest of the world isn’t as loving and kind as they are; and mocking a Utah hill by calling it a ”pimple,” a provincial, rubish comment underscored by its following the Linzes oohing and aahing over nature’s glory. But at the end, when the Weavers seemed glum after barely avoiding elimination, the producers had Phil give them a big pep talk about how they shouldn’t care that everyone hates them, they can still win, win, win! Next week, having elevated the Weavers’ spirits, the Race editors will go back to making the family the star of their own little show within a show, America’s Funniest Outcasts. The producers are like the school bully who, after tearing a nerd’s underwear giving him a wedgie, buys him a brand new pair of Hanes just so the bully will have something to grab on to the next day.

I’ll admit that I’ve been mocking the Weavers all season, too. But this week I started getting the feeling that I was being set up. When one of the daughters said that Utah was so boring because God spent a little less time on it, sure, it made her sound like a narrow-minded rube. But when I drove cross-country 14 years ago, I had many long, boring stretches of driving where I probably said a lot worse things about a lot more states. God bless America and all that, but there are parts of Illinois so dull that they make you want to drive your car into a tree. And there are no trees on the side of the road, which just makes it doubly frustrating. People of the Heartland, I know you’re what make America great, but would it kill you to put the occasional curve in the road just to break the monotony?

Am I rooting for the Weavers now? Hey, don’t get ahead of yourself. Just because the producers only show their annoying side doesn’t make that side any less annoying. Right now, with the bickering Godlewskis proving to be the anti-Satellite Sisters (and oh how it must infuriate the Weavers that they have the word ”God” in their last name), I’d like the Bransens to edge out the Linzes in the final two, just because a father-daughter victory might be slightly more touching than watching the Linz boys celebrate with a ceremonial pulling of the finger.

As for the rest of last night’s show, it was the usual string of anticlimaxes. Other than the ski-jump challenge, no event seemed like any effort whatsoever. Ride a helicopter? They might as well show the contestants having escalator races. Meet a happy bear? This was what Legends of the Fall would have been like if Mr. Rogers had played the Anthony Hopkins role. Look at it this way: The most dramatic moment came when the teams had to make a U-turn. What’s in store for us on finale night: parallel parking? Or just waiting in line at the DMV?

We saw rappelling and biking, both of which we’ve seen too many times before. A commercial-break cliffhanger made it seem like the Weavers were going to quit biking, but that was resolved quickly when Mama Weaver pointed out the daughter was in the wrong gear. Last week’s ”next on…” clips made Christine Godlewski slipping on the first lip of the rappelling descent seem life-threatening, but it turned out to be a minor hiccup, and she made it down the rock face uneventfully from that point on. Methinks I saw another false promise when, at the end of last night’s episode, they teased next week’s ”midair collision” in hot-air balloons. Are they just messing with us now? Because two balloons bumping at slow speeds is about as dangerous as coma-victim wrestling matches.

Ultimately, the episode was just another water treader, since there was no elimination, even with the Weavers getting yielded by the Linzes. The only thing that generated any suspense was an unanswered question: Why did the Weavers go from bemoaning the time lost to their failed shortcut to stopping at McDonalds? We’ll never know, but we can be sure of this: If the producers have their way, next week’s episodes will begin with them all getting the runs from their Big Macs, and blaming it on the entire West, except someone will pronounce it ”Woost.” Better start atoning now, producers, just in case.

What do you think? Are the Weavers being edited to look worse? Have you noticed other examples of exaggerated suspense in the ”next on…” segments? And is any team really worth rooting for?

Episode Recaps

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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