On a leg like this one, it doesn’t take much to put you in the back of the pack. I chalk that up to poor design. Most legs need one good bunching point to keep things competitive. This one, unfortunately, had two, which effectively negated everything that had happened in the first half of an episode. Follow that up with an obviously much-quicker Detour option that only half the teams could go for at any given time, and if you ask me, three of the teams got a pretty crappy deal. Literally.
Rachel’s ridiculous screw-up.[/caption]
As a result of the extra equalization point, there were no repercussions to Rachel’s ridiculous screw-up on the Roadblock. She and Brendon started the leg on equal footing with everyone else, dropped back to last, and then got BACK on equal footing. Whether John clued Rachel in to the fact that she was reading the clue wrong because he needed that cab to finish the task or he did it out of the goodness of his heart, it was an extremely lucky break for the Brenchels that he stepped up to help them. With the way their performance has been slipping these past few legs, they need all the luck they can get. They just haven’t gained back the momentum they had early on.
On the opposite end of the luck spectrum were Jen and Caroline, who came in last place by what Phil has said was a very, VERY narrow margin. There isn’t one single thing you can pinpoint that spelled last place for the country singers, just a leg where just a few lost seconds here and there could spell doom on many levels. They didn’t get to the elephants quickly enough, they didn’t master the paper-making quite as quickly as they could have, they bled some time on the way to the Pit Stop. They actually did everything correctly without many mistakes — it just wasn’t a week where that was enough.
Which isn’t to say I think it’s unfair that Jen and Caroline are saddled with a Speed Bump in the next leg, or that they don’t deserve to be at the back of the pack. There was a specific learning curve to the paper-making task, and they just didn’t get the hang of it at the same rate that others did. But it also isn’t fair to say that they are in this predicament because they performed poorly. Simply put, this is not the same thing as totally imploding like the Twinnies did, or making a huge error and failing to recover from it like Mallory and Mark. This was just a matter of being slightly less good than six other good teams at the one task where it mattered. I think they are definitely capable of bouncing back from this. Their resilience is definitely better than Brenchel’s, all things considered, and Brenchel’s still alive and kicking.
If you hadn’t already figured out that Dave and Connor are a dominant team, this week hammered home the point that they are here to race and race hard. Whether we would have seen this side of them if Dave hadn’t snapped his tendon is anybody’s guess, but they are definitely rewriting their legacy as the sweet, wholesome, adversity-facing dad and son who’d be just as content skipping off to the fishing hole as they are running up to the mat. Dave, at least, is not afraid to throw some elbows and yell to get ahead. It’s nice to see another side of them. On a show that frequently pigeonholes teams into one specific role, seeing a team deviate from their assigned role so drastically is very, very welcome.
In fact, watching Dave and Connor trade barbs with the Globetrotters, arguably the second most affable team on the Race, was even more fun than watching Dave kick it into Beast Mode. The Globetrotters/Cancer Dad rivalry and the Cowboys/Afghanimals rivalry injected some levity and tension into what would otherwise have been a totally suspense-free, lackluster episode. If you ask me, every episode should end with heated sprints to the finish mat, whether teams are racing for first, fifth, or last. However the Race sees fit to accomplish this, I’m in favor. Maybe they need to seek out more cab drivers who are siblings to turn up the heat on the cab portion of the competition.
Anyone who’s seen any amount of the Amazing Race knows that a team who introduces new information about themselves in the first five minutes of the episode is either going to come in first place or last place. If it’s sad information, they’re done for. If it’s information that builds on their previous Race successes, that probably bodes well. So when the Afghanimals mused that they had been at the front of the pack but never actually in first place, it was pretty much a given that we’d find them in that exact spot come Pit Stop time. They picked the right cabs (apparently the green ones are faster than the red ones, if Jet and Cord are to be believed), found the right tasks, outsprinted the Cowboys, and added enough banter along the way to make this predictable ride worth watching. Well earned, guys. I have to grudgingly hand it to casting — this is a much better mix of personalities than I would have predicted when I first saw this cast list.
One final administrative note: many of you have been asking about TARCon and whether it’s happening this May or not. Sadly, I got the news today: TARCon is permanently dead. With the imminent demise of Television Without Pity as well as steadily declining interest in all things TAR, I guess it was inevitable, but the knowledge that I’ve been to my last TARCon is sobering indeed. Over the years, I attended eleven TARCons, where I’ve made connections that go far beyond a mere shared interest in a TV show. The fan community that has sprung up around this show is a remarkable bunch and I’m grateful to have gotten to know them, both before and after I had any presence on RHAP. Amazing Race finales just won’t be the same without it.
That said, if you think you would be interested in an informal viewing party in the New York City area that does NOT have an open bar or the allure of racer guests, do let me know. I can’t promise anything, but if there’s sufficient interest, I’ll talk to some bars.