Way back in the late 1960s, a Detroit radio station aired a call from a listener who said he knew a deep dark secret that would shake the pop music world to its very foundations. The Beatles were missing a member, he said. Paul had been killed in a traffic accident in 1967 and replaced with a lookalike. But the other three Beatles, consumed with grief and guilt over keeping the secret, were hiding clues in their albums to point at the fact that one of their own had passed on.
Suddenly, Beatles fans were playing records backwards and poring over album covers with a magnifying glass to get to the bottom of the mystery. Never mind that Paul himself did some in-depth interviews to try to dispel the rumor — it was here to stay.
Now, obviously Paul McCartney was not only not dead then, he’s alive and well today (albeit rocking a really bad dye job). And here’s the really funny thing about the whole Paul Is Dead hoax: if you look closely enough, you can find clues in the Beatles’ records to support a theory that ANY of them were dead. (“Baby’s in Black” is clearly an attempt to vent their grief at the loss of Ringo. Apparently.) In fact, there’s even an extensive website devoted to the theory that none of the Beatles ever existed, and instead they were portrayed by several different actors over the course of their tenure as a group. (The multi-thousand-word treatise on Paul’s eyebrows makes the site worth visiting all on its own.)Weird Al knows the best way to interpret what’s going on this season on the Amazing Race.[/caption]
All of this is to say that if you work at it hard enough, you can concoct enough evidence to put together a conspiracy theory supporting just about anything you want. And boy oh boy is this ever true when it comes to The Amazing Race in general, and this season in particular.
In seasons past, I’ve heard people complain every so often that the show’s rigged. But I’ve never heard that accusation leveled at it as many times as it has been this season. In fact, out in the world of TAR fans, there are conspiracy theories supporting a rigged Race in favor of EACH of the teams left. Get out your tinfoil hats guys — let’s take a ride through the Amazing world of conspiracy theories and talk about why all of them are about as true as that one about Paul.
The Race Is Rigged in Favor of Amy and Maya
After back-to-back female/female winners in seasons 17 and 18, the Amazing Race winner pool’s been kind of a sausage-fest — 9 men and 3 women comprise the TAR victors since Jen and Kisha took home the title. So it behooves Race brass to try to crown some more ladies, which might be why they’ve suddenly put up back-to-back non-eliminations and let four teams run the final leg for the first time ever…right as Amy and Maya were about to be eliminated. (You know, kind of like how the Hunger Games suddenly announced that two tributes from the same district could share the title if they both survived…and then tried to take it back at the end.)
It’s true that we got four all-female teams this year, which we haven’t seen since Season 17, but that’s probably all the thought TAR put into the idea that it might be time to have another team of women winners, and that particular casting decision probably has more to do with the fact that Season 24’s putative “All-Star” cast was ridiculously dude-heavy than any attempt to engineer a particular kind of win. (To that one guy over on the Sucks board whose sockpuppets write basically 90% of its TAR-related posts: your theory that CBS hates men and is constantly trying to push the feminist agenda really, really doesn’t hold water when you look at Season 24.)
Amy and Maya are adorable, and girl nerds are definitely not an archetype we’ve seen much of over the years, but if the Race really had that much control over which girl-girl team was going to go all the way, and they really wanted a pair of lady winners, don’t you think the Race might have tried a little harder to keep the female teams who went out early? Or thrown their muscle behind Kym and Alli, a strong team who was totally undone by game design? I’m just not seeing a compelling reason to make THIS the chosen team.
So why the big game twist, if it’s not to save the anointed girl-girl winners? Well, mostly because it’s never been done, and nobody would have been expecting it. Also, if you want to talk tinfoil hat theories, let’s start one about how it was all constructed to set up an elaborate pun about Manila envelopes.
The Race Is Rigged in Favor of Jim and Misti
The dentists had a Save, which they actually might have needed at one point…except Phil handed it right back to them! Why would the show do such a thing, given that the Save then basically became a free pass all the way to the end of the game? Theoretically, Misti and Jim could have come in last place five times this season — just under half the time — and still made the finals.
Apart from the idea that maybe they have some compromising Polaroids of Phil, I can’t think of any reason the Race would throw its muscle behind these guys. If anything, a strong, win-obsessed team who’d won a get-out-of-jail-free card would be a more satisfying early exit than winner. They’re great characters, of course, and I’m happy they’re still here, but who among us could say that a leg that eliminated the Dentists would have been anything but must-see TV?
Also, apart from that one bad leg, Jim and Misti haven’t exactly needed the help. They’re good at everything but booking travel, and considering the sheer variety of tasks they’ve dominated, I think it’d be pretty impossible to say the tasks were set up to help them succeed. It wouldn’t have been easy for them to get eliminated while still hanging onto that Save pass, but it wasn’t exactly easy to stay at the front of the pack, either. You don’t win five legs without doing something right, even if the Race is giving you a hand up. Is the Save too powerful? Certainly. Is it powerful because the Race wants Jim and Misti to win? Probably not.
(And hey, if you DO have compromising Polaroids of Phil? Feel free to share them with me. I won’t tell a soul.)
The Race Is Rigged in Favor of Adam and Bethany
Bethany Hamilton may well be the most famous Racer the show’s ever cast. Certainly she’s the only one who’s had a movie made about her life. I have to imagine the show was counting on drawing in a bunch of crossover fans when they cast her, and what would be the point of casting a gimmicky team, only to have them get eliminated in the first couple of legs? Better make sure there are fewer tasks requiring the use of both arms, better give ’em a heads-up when there’s a task that won’t suit Bethany, and better throw in a surfing-related Fast Forward to help them out when the chips are down.
Trust me, the Race doesn’t care THAT much about cross-promotional synergy. (Just ask Jenna and Ethan. Or Amy Purdy. Or Alison and Donny, if you want to go old-school.) It recognizes that a good season will keep viewers around longer regardless of who’s on the show, and a bad season won’t keep even the most diehard of crossover viewers. In no universe would the Race be so extraordinarily invested in one team’s success that they’d rig the entire course for them.
But even if they were…where’s the proof? The surfing task is just about the only hinky moment, and there was no absolute guarantee that these two would even still be around to see it, rigging or no. If you are really concerned that your surfer team is going to be eliminated early, give them a surfing Fast Forward on Leg 3 or 4. A team that makes the final five on its own probably doesn’t need a boost.
In fact, I’d argue that they’ve actually taken MORE risks than they’ve needed to. Like Jim and Misti, the surfers are good at a dizzying array of things. If the Race were being spoonfed to Adam and Bethany, they wouldn’t have tried to, for instance, ride the bike in Copenhagen. (Why so many bike tasks in the first place, if you want a girl with one arm to win? Doesn’t that actually point to, say, wanting a team of professional cyclists to win? And aren’t they, um, not in the race anymore?) And there’s been more than one Roadblock that Adam would probably have chosen if they’d been tipped off ahead of time (the ropes course in Morocco, for one) and a couple of Roadblocks Adam HAS done that barely required the use of arms at all. There are plenty of times we could argue that a different path would have been easier for them. They have not taken the path of least resistance at every turn.
So to what do we owe their runaway success? Well, Bethany’s chief weakness is one for which she’s spent every day of the past 10 years learning how to compensate. She can put on a jacket, peel a banana, tie her shoes, and paddle a surfboard one-handed. There’s less she can’t do than you’d think. She’s a better basketball player than I am, that’s for sure. They’re young, smart, physically fit, and cool under pressure. These turn out to be more valuable Race attributes than “has both arms.”
I do have to concede that I have not heard one single person suggest that Brooke and Robbie are having the way paved for them. Which makes it all the more exciting to see them go from worst to first on this leg. (If the show was rigged for one of the other three teams, we’d have seen strong villains Brooke and Robbie get the boot when they were actually in the position to get it last week, wouldn’t we?) I was sure they were doomed this week, and it’s kind of nice to be proven wrong. The editing doesn’t exactly point to a Brooke and Robbie win (the winner’s edit…now THERE’S another tinfoil hat rabbit hole for us to go down) but at this point, it still wouldn’t make me unhappy to see them manage it.
Let the best team win — and at this point, there’s no clear “best team.” Despite what THEY want you to think.