We’ve said for years (literal years now!) that it’s very hard to compare The Amazing Race to Survivor. The strategies you employ on one, especially when it comes to how you relate to your competition, won’t necessarily serve you on the other. That said, though, I think there are numerous situations on the current season of TAR that are at least a little bit analogous to situations on Survivor: Second Chance, and since this site was originally conceived as a Survivor fansite, I’m guessing the majority of you won’t mind if I draw a few comparisons between how a few of these racers are approaching their competition and what we’re seeing over on that other show.Just like Shirin, Alex and Adam each have an awesome cousin who loves reality TV.[/caption]
And what better week to do it than a week in which we’ve seen superfans go out on both sides? Adam and Alex have more in common with Shirin than just some pretty cool cousins: like Shirin, their stint on the show was the culmination of years and years of being hardcore fans. And in both cases, I think luck of the draw played a huge role (an Argentine cab and a Brazilian loose cannon). Possibly there was nothing either eliminee could do to change their fate. I don’t fault hubris (judging from their perfectly fine Leg 1 performance, Alex and Adam seemed as prepared as they could have been), and you guys know I’ve already gone on record as saying that superfans are definitely not cursed in this game. Sometimes it’s just not your day.
So let’s talk about another situation that shares some common ground with that other show that people in the RHAP world are into: this week on The Amazing Race, we saw a slightly nerdy superfan team targeted by a team of testosteroney Texans. (Say that five times fast.) Slightly nerdy superfans made a faint allusion to game strategy, and from this, the resident alpha males, who already knew they would never, ever work with the nerds, extrapolated that the nerds had no moral compass and vowed to eliminate them.
Sound familiar yet? That’s right, the green team has found themselves backed into kind of the same corner as our own Big Steve Fishbock. And Tanner and Josh are working from a particular set of preconceived notions about how one wins The Amazing Race: be good at the challenges and get rid of the strategists…one that looks a lot like the playbook Andrew Savage has been looking to since way back in Survivor: Pearl Islands.
However, if I had to put money on either Stephen or on Diana and Justin, I’d probably put my green on green, for the simple reason that TAR contains way fewer places where it’s even possible for another team to screw you. Sure, they might get U-Turned, but if they stay at the front of the pack, they’re going to have little trouble bouncing back from it. What else can Tanner and Josh realistically do? There’s no voting on TAR.
Still, on both programs, there is something to be said about maintaining your morale when you know someone is actively gunning for you. Some reality contestants are fueled by this knowledge and it makes them more determined to outlast their enemies. Others let it get into their heads. In both of these cases, I think keeping your head down, giving the challenges your all, and just trying to stay out of the hot seat until circumstances change (a tribe swap, a well-timed U-Turn or Fast Forward, the right challenge, a disillusioned former ally who realizes their chances are better against someone who’s NOT exuding pure masculinity) is about all you can do.
And Tanner and Josh’s best bet is the same as Savage’s — back off from actively alienating people. You never know who you might be forced to work with down the road, or who might refuse to work with you.
Incidentally, I absolutely see why we’re seeing so much of Justin — he’s easily the most polarizing personality since Marie, with the added component of being a superfan. (And ironically, when it comes to the show’s core fan base, superfans on TAR tend to be viewed the same way as superfans on Survivor: not as a stand-in for the viewer, but as a punching bag for people who think they’d have been so much better competing in that person’s slot.) However, I wish we’d see a little more of Diana. She was perfectly charming in the Amazing Proposal Video, and clearly she rocked the tango Roadblock, but most of the time we almost feel like Justin’s running the race by himself. Kind of like when there was an odd number of kids in your elementary school class and one kid was left to work alone (or worse, with the teacher) when it came time to pair up for projects. I’d like to see Diana steer the ship every now and then. I’d like to see her reining in Justin’s histrionics (as she no doubt does in real life) and maybe attempting to smooth out the conflict he’s party to.
We could stretch these already-thin Survivor comparisons to their breaking point if we wanted to. And boy, do I ever want to. Where we’re constantly bombarded with the subtext that Kelley Wentworth was weighed down by having to compete with her dad (and subsequently impressed with the great game she’s bringing to Survivor now), and beginning to realize that she’s here to play hard, we may have also underestimated a certain Amazing Race team who bridges the generation gap. James Earl and Denise are going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I don’t think anyone could have predicted how utterly hungry these two are.
It remains to be seen how much actual game we’re going to get out of Keith Nale, or if he’s just there for the experience, and of course, to entertain us with his huge personality — much like Ernest and Jin.
And Monica Padilla and Ciera Eastin are young, cute girls with a lot of game in them, but we just haven’t seen enough of them yet to know how much of a threat they really are — much like our cheerleaders and track stars.
Exactly how unhinged am I with all of this? Do you see any other common threads between CBS’s two best currently-airing reality shows? Let me know.