At this point in last season’s Race, Final Four meant final episode, and we were gearing up to watch the finale and queue up our Netflix for a long, cold hiatus. But here we are, 10 episodes in, with two to go. On the plus side, this means an extra blog and an extra set of podcasts this season. It can certainly be difficult to pack in two hours of information into a podcast made for one hour. On the minus side, the finale is less of an event…oh, who am I kidding? There is no minus side. More episodes = more coverage.
There is beauty in diversity, in life and on the Amazing Race. The best Final Fours always seem to be the most diverse, because they give everybody someone to root for, and this may well be the most diverse one we’ve ever seen in terms of backgrounds, personalities, and relationships. But when you have this many different personalities (and this many different strengths and weaknesses) in the mix, it increases the likelihood that someone, somewhere on the race, is going to feel as though something isn’t tailor-made for them.Might be the team to root for.[/caption]
How a team responds when they are faced with such a task is a good measure of their character. Do you put your head down and do your best to brute-force your way out of it? Do you try to outsmart the problem? Or do you cry foul?
This week I have to specifically call out two racers – one I’ve been pretty hard on in recent weeks, and one I haven’t – for taking the lowest of low roads. They have both broken the same rule that got Ryno banned from Rob’s Fantasy Football league: whiners need not apply. But this was a very specific kind of whining, and arguably a much worse kind. It was the whining that anything about the task should have been made easier for either Dave or Rachel.
Look, I know there are conspiracy theorists out there who enjoy speculating on whether or not the producers changed a non-elimination leg at the last minute to benefit their favorites, or added a specific destination to the route to benefit one particular team, but the fact of the matter is that the Amazing Race is a pretty damn egalitarian enterprise from start to finish. Everyone is faced with the exact same set of obstacles, and it’s up to them to use their strengths to figure out how best to get past them. If they can’t get past them, it’s not because they’re too old, or too female, or too whatever. It’s because they suck at the task.
Bottom line: it was equally inappropriate for Dave to complain about the bulls targeting an old guy as it was for Rachel to complain about the bulls targeting a woman. The bulls were targeting Racers, plain and simple. When you’re running the Amazing Race, be a Racer first. Everything else is secondary.
Which is why I was severely disappointed, much to my surprise, to see the Cowboys go, because they embodied this rule. They never compromised their Race to make alliances, get caught up in drama, or clown around for the camera. They truly raced like a million dollars was at stake.
You would be well within your rights to dislike the Cowboys on the basis of off-color remarks they’ve made outside of the show, or on the basis of CBS trying to force a bunch of teams down our throats that you maybe didn’t even like the first two times they were on, but honestly, as racers, they were, and are, pretty damn good.
The competition is tight, though. I can’t actually point to any team now in the Final Four and say that they should not be there and Jet and Cord should. Everyone’s been up at the front of the pack most of the time, even the country singers, much as it galls me to point out. (They’ve just been fortunate to be at the back of the pack at the best possible times.)
Jen and Caroline’s racing skills sort of petered out at this point in the Race last year. Once they hit a task that wasn’t in their wheelhouse, and wasn’t something that allowed them to team up with another team, they were out of it. I want them to have learned from this, and to have practiced confronting their fears, in the intervening year. Nothing would impress me more than if they pulled a Beekman and rock-starred their way to first place at the last possible opportunity.
Once free of their alliance, the Afghanimals might be the team to root for, but who knows how much Jamal’s injury might slow them down. Also, while they are certainly the least ensconced in the Accidentalliance (yeah, I’m going to make that a thing), they are certainly not invulnerable to getting sidetracked by helping another team, especially if it looks like helping another team might lead to Brenchel’s elimination. This leg, there were a lot less of those kinds of shenanigans, so maybe they’ve concluded that now it’s time to, y’know, actually race.
As for Brenchel, with three other teams gunning for them and an emotionally intense leg still causing aftershocks, they definitely have the odds stacked against them. Still, under the right circumstances, they could definitely pull an upset. You don’t make the final three out there with a cast like theirs in Season 20 without doing something right. I wouldn’t even call them underdogs. They’re in suboptimal race circumstances here, but if anybody can stare down reality show adversity like pros, it’s the Brenchels.
Dave and Connor, though, seem to have this locked down. They have won the most legs, they’ve never seen the back of the pack, and they’re definitely the strongest on all levels. The only possible hiccup next week will be the fact that Dave now has to perform all of the remaining Roadblocks, and given that he has come down with an acute case of The Old, that could be problematic.