For those of you who might wonder why the initial concept of The Amazing Race: Canada struck trepidation into the hearts of hardcore TAR fans, I must rewind the clock back to the fall of 2005. The U.S. version of the show was coming off of its highest-rated season yet, and instead of sticking with the formula and building on the goodwill they’d engendered with season 7, they decided to take a big risk with season 8. Instead of teams of two, families of four (including children as young as 8 years old) were cast, and instead of running a race around the world, they mostly drove around North America in RVs. It did not go well. The show lost a third of its audience and ended up back on the cancellation bubble. The much-maligned “Family Edition” holds up better than you might imagine, but it’s still less exciting than the most boring season of the regular show. So when it was announced that the Canadian edition of the show would not be leaving Canada, that made a lot of fans uneasy. Sure, Canada’s an amazing country, but is it amazing enough to sustain an entire Amazing Race without degenerating into Family Edition territory?Improving every leg.[/caption]
These fears, of course, have turned out to be completely unfounded, as this Race course has not only been an incredible showcase of Canada’s natural beauty and cultural diversity; on the whole, it’s also turned out to be more difficult than your average American Amazing Race. Regina wasn’t an aberration – grueling challenges just kept on coming this week as the teams headed to Iqaluit, Nunavut, where cold temperatures, two highly physical Detour options, and a lot of hiking around the tundra exhausted even the fittest teams. Everyone was excited to check the third Territory off their list, but that excitement might have faded a little bit once they saw the tasks they had to perform.
Last week, I wondered how Jet and Dave would react to real adversity. I’m not sure getting caught up in a too-tough Detour constitutes real adversity, but it’s closer to it than they’ve been, and their reaction was basically to shrug, say, “we suck at this,” and get on with their day. I was a little puzzled at the fact that they even gave the igloo task a shot in the first place, when the more physical-seeming task appeared to be much more in their wheelhouse, but maybe they were trying to pick the one that sounded more interesting. They do strive to constantly entertain themselves, after all. It was an unusual mistake to make from a team who generally seems so aware of their collective strengths and weaknesses. It only caused them to drop two places in the rankings, but after three consecutive first-place finishes and three nearly flawless legs, that’s got to sting a little. Only a little, though. It is going to take a seriously incompetent cab driver or a flight delay of epic proportions to keep these guys out of the finals.
The only racers, in fact, who ran a perfect leg this week were Jody and Cory. Yet again, it was easy to forget that Jody is running the race on prosthetic legs. Barring a little trouble on the final trek to the finish line (the same trouble that many other racers had on non-prosthetic legs), he kept up with Cory just fine. It has taken the Mitic brothers awhile to find their groove, but after second place last week and first place this week, I think they may have risen through the ranks to become Jet and Dave’s biggest competition to win it all.
You might not know it from listening to them, but Vanessa and Celina ran a great leg as well. Despite crying and complaining through the hunting Detour and being overtaken by Jet and Dave on the final slog to the mat, they got in and out of challenges without stumbling, were the second team to decipher the airport clue and find a taxi, and generally kept pace with many stronger-seeming teams.
The difference between Vanessa and Celina’s whining and, say, Holly’s, is that Vanessa and Celina have never once said they couldn’t do something. Sure, they whine and cry their way through the course, but they have never once let it get in the way of finishing a task. Instead of “I’m never going to be able to do this,” or “this is hopeless,” they say, “I’m going as fast as I can,” or “this is hard.” And they’re not shy about telling each other to suck it up, because it’s rare that they’re both whining at the same time. Giving up does not occur to them. Nobody enjoys watching a whiner, but I think this difference makes the sisters slightly easier to watch than Holly was, and I think it might be the reason they’re still in the race and the doctors are not.
Look, I can’t be too hard on Holly. I know for a fact that if I ran the Amazing Race with my significant other, I would make Holly look like Bruce Willis. (My partner will vouch for that. Every time I get the idea that we should apply, usually when I’m drunk at TARcon, he merely invokes the time we got lost in Amsterdam and it shoots that idea right back to reality.) When she raced well, the team was a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, there were just too many times she had no confidence in her ability to perform a task, and in the end, that’s what killed their Race more than any actual or perceived nonathleticism. While I will not miss her defeatism, or Brett’s constant “Hol, Hol, Hol,” they were good strategic thinkers and gave great confessionals, and they were incredibly supportive of each other no matter what was going on around them. Teams with this much whine in them in the U.S. version have frequently said some terrible things to one another in the heat of the moment; Brett and Holly never got mean with one another, even at their worst moments. At least they finished strong, and they’ve raised more than $12,000 for the Montreal Children’s Hospital so far, so they’ve definitely got plenty to be proud of.
Finally, let’s visit the underdogs of the leg, and maybe even of the entire race. The Tims, who finished in a triumphant second place, speculated that they might have been the first Amazing Race team to be saved by two non-elimination legs. That’s not quite true, actually. It happened in each of the first four seasons of the U.S. version, in fact, when the second-to-last leg of the race was reliably a non-elimination one, and it’s happened four other times since then (which means it’s happened in just over a third of U.S. seasons). A couple of teams have also come in last place on the first half of a double leg in addition to being non-eliminated.
What’s more unusual is that the Tims are only the fourth team not to immediately blow their second second chance. Of the U.S. teams who’ve survived two non-elimination legs, only Chris and Alex (season 2), Flo and Zach (season 3), and BJ and Tyler (season 9) managed to survive the leg following their second non-elimination. They all went on to win their Race, in fact. So history suggests that we can’t count the Tims out. Luck is an important component of the Amazing Race, and if it stays on their side, they’ve got a great shot at winning.