Amazing Race 25

The Amazing Race 25: Fair and Balanced

Regular visitors to Rob Has a Website might be guessing that with the elimination of Team Nashville, I’d be basically throwing a party right about now. RHAP fans seem to have gotten the idea that I burn with a seething white-hot rage-on for Whitney Duncan. And I want to go on record as saying that while I have not been 100% kind to her — while I have made fun of the way she says “cement” (because that’s how the Beverly Hillbillies said it, and also because of its unfortunate phonetical similarity to a bodily fluid), I’ve disparaged her music, and I’ve made reference to a sketchy marital timeline with regard to her current relationship — I do not hate her. I don’t hate anybody who’s ever been on this show. Really. Whitney does not disgust me. Neither does Keith. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have an opinion at all if Amazing Race analysis wasn’t my gig, if I were just a regular old viewer.

And look, I’m not obligated to be nice to you just because you’re on television. I’m not even obligated to give everyone fair and equal exposure in this blog. Even CBS doesn’t have to do that. I am not sorry that Whitney Duncan is not my favorite reality TV contestant of all time, and I’m pretty sure she couldn’t get there even if she donated all her reality show loot to Amnesty International, penned a hilarious memoir that dished a whole bunch of CBS dirt, and personally wrote and performed a theme song for Rob Has a Podcast (actually, never mind, that last one would probably work, or at least she could tie with the guy who lets me be on his podcast every week).

But then, I’m also pretty sure Whitney doesn’t care what some nerd in New York City (not exactly a major market for country music in the United States) thinks of her. Still, I care what YOU all think of me, and I couldn’t go through life thinking you all thought I was some kind of single-minded hater who couldn’t look past her own prejudice to give credit where credit’s due. So in that spirit, I give you:

Jess Says a Whole Bunch of Nice Things about Keith and Whitney, and Maybe Now Y’all Will Stop Putting Her on Blast for Her Allegedly Unfair Biases

Keith Tollefson and Whitney Duncan Remember this? It’s not their fault if you don’t.[/caption]

1) They were much more interesting on TAR than they were on Survivor. It was probably an uphill climb to get airtime at all on a season that starred Coach, Cochran, Ozzy, and a Hantz, especially in this era of lopsided editing, so the fact that we didn’t know much about Keith and Whitney going into TAR25 is really not their fault. On TAR, we absolutely got to know them as characters in a way that Survivor didn’t bother with (presumably because they weren’t giving Jeff Probst a boner). We learned that Whitney is unfailingly polite (she even thanked the sheep!) but has some wicked sarcasm in her arsenal, we learned that Keith has a quick temper, and we learned that as a couple, they are not afraid to step on each other’s toes. They’re outspoken, they’re quick on their feet, and they are able to bounce back from adversity. Survivor: South Pacific might have been more entertaining if we’d had a chance to get to know them a little better. At least now I understand how they got cast in the first place.

2) Keith, not Whitney, appeared to be the volatile weak link, and Whitney knew how to handle him. In fairness to Whitney, most of the conflict these guys ran into with other teams – and even with each other – was started by one person. At several points it seemed like Whitney was running damage control after Keith’s brain-to-mouth filter broke. As we’ve seen in confessionals, she usually agrees with him about whatever caused him to lose his temper, but she’s mastered the fine art of tact in a way that he really hasn’t. The most successful couples can learn and grow from each other, and I think the Race probably helped them prepare to do that in their marriage, so they’ve got that going for them. Which is nice.

3) They performed many tasks well. Their first-leg quit and last-leg implosion aside, they actually ran a pretty strong race, finishing in the top three on two consecutive legs and landing fourth on another. Whitney turns out to have an excellent memory and eye for detail, which we saw last week in the restaurant Roadblock and the parklet Detour. Keith even pulled off a reverse five-hole when his energy-efficiency skills helped ensure that they were one of only a few teams to get from Denmark to Sweden on less than a tenth of a gallon of gas.

4) They seemed genuinely delighted to be on the Race, especially in Morocco. I never got the sense, as I have with one or two previous teams cast in the interest of cross-promotional synergy, that the show was an obligation for Team Weith**, or something they felt they were owed as big-time reality stars. They understood that even for people who’ve been on TV before, this show is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and they treated it accordingly. Whitney was especially excited that Africa was on their itinerary. And unlike some of their fellow Racers, they didn’t have a lot of Ugly American moments where they complained about the language barrier or strange smells or dirt.

Also, they made a lot of references that suggested their first exposure to the show was not the DVDs CBS gave them while they were sequestered in their hotel room during casting. As you know, being a fan of the show counts for a lot around these parts.

(**Incidentally, I know it makes our Survivor jokes less funny to say so, but I believe Whitney actually prefers “Team Keithney” as their portmanteau.)


Genuinely delighted to be there.

5) They were funny. I don’t think we got to experience the full extent of their sense of humor on the show itself, but there are some absolutely hilarious bonus clips that showcase some of their funnier moments. In particular, check out this week’s clip in which Keith does a spot-on Jim impression.

6) They didn’t quit their final task.  If Keithney didn’t know they were in last place when they got to the U-Turn board, they certainly knew it once they looked down at the tassel-spinning and saw that they’d be the only ones there. At that point, there would have been very little downside to packing it in and going straight to the mat. It’s not like quitting a task was a new concept, and this time, there wasn’t anything at stake either way. Mastering the spinning was making Whitney miserable for good reason (go ahead, try it at home – spin your neck around in circles for a solid minute and then tell me how you feel), and I’m sure they were tired, hungry, and needed showers by that point.

But instead of throwing in the towel, in the interest of soaking up every little last bit of experience in Morocco, and of not wanting the Race to be over, they stuck around at Twirl Time until they nailed it, and I believe if they hadn’t, they’d probably have stayed there trying until Phil came to get them. That, my friends, is classy.

7) That song with the bushes and the tushes is actually pretty catchy. There, I said it. It’s definitely better than “Sticky Situation” in terms of songs by ex-Survivor contestants with music videos involving picnics. (Come at me, Baylor Wilson fans.)

Now, if I worked for casting, it would not have ever occurred to me to consider Keith and Whitney for a spot on this show. Having seen them in action, I’m still not prepared to say that they are better than the 49,999 other teams who would have killed to go in their place. But their presence in this season, even next to all of these other extremely well-cast teams, isn’t a blemish on it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that given a weaker cast, I might not have had anything to complain about.

But this cast…you guys, this cast. Not since Season 17, at least, have we seen a cast this diverse, this interesting, this relatable, this funny, and this weird. There’s nobody left that any of you could accuse me of hating unfairly, because all of them are great and I can’t pretend otherwise.

Jim and Misti Raman

Clearly they know their JL Rules.

Even if Jim and Misti somehow got eliminated in two weeks after burning off their Save, these guys are future All-Stars for sure. I feel like I should be rooting against them, like maybe I’m supposed to be put off by their intensity and afraid of Jim. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely afraid of Jim, but I really can’t find much to dispute about the way these two are playing the game. Some dominant teams never run into a major setback, and thus they’re never tested. But Jim and Misti were able to get through a rough patch and keep on truckin’, because they know the game and they know what they need to do to keep themselves going.

As I said on the podcast last night, there are a few rules that this columnist/podcaster (who has never been on the show and is pretty sure she’d be terrible at it if she was) believes are essential to a successful run on the show, and it was very cool to see Jim espousing some of those exact rules. I don’t realistically think that means the dentists are devout followers of the “JL Rules,” but knowing how much preparation and research they did before going on the show, I have to imagine they dabbled in listening to and reading the vast wealth of series analysis that is out there on the Internet, and whether or not it was mine they found, they took whatever they found to heart. And even if they have no idea this blog exists, it’s just gratifying to be proven right that, for instance, a perfectly logical Racer won’t use a U-Turn to make an enemy out of a team they expect to see again, and a good Race partner always makes sure their co-Racer feels confident and supported. (Now, if they could just stop missing those tiny details…)

But let’s make sure everyone gets a turn at the Warm Fuzzies I’m handing out. Quickly, since I’ve already burned a thousand words praising Keith and Whitney:

Kym Perfetto, Alli Forsythe

The USA’s answer to TAR:Canada’s hockey girls?

Kym and Alli are also All-Star contenders. Not only are they starting to show Spooner and Mikkelson levels of dominance, they’re also managing to be the goofy comic relief while they’re kicking butt. I can’t say they’re my favorites to win until I see how they handle it when the Race throws them a huge curveball, but they’re definitely in the mix.

Also hilarious? Brooke and Robbie. I don’t know how much of Robbie’s dense comments are an act, but either way I love it. Though they did have a couple of Ugly American moments this leg, they’re up for anything. Brooke is more of a stealth goofball, but she’s funny in her own way, and every single time Robbie performs a task he says something to crack me up. He’s a total ham, but he’s a fun ham. (Mmmm…fun ham.)

Tim and Te Jay are a little high-strung, but they’ve proven that they’re extremely smart. Any challenge that involves a puzzle of any kind (whether literal or figurative) is up their alley. They also relate to each other really well and you can tell they have a strong bond outside of the Race. Their relief at discovering they hadn’t been U-Turned was adorable. Plus, anybody who makes terrible puns, like the one that ended up as the episode title, is A-OK in my book.

Adam and Bethany…well, what can I say that isn’t obvious? They’re such a strong team it’s easy to forget that they’re the season’s obligatory Triumph Over Adversity team. Nothing fazes them, and while they’re not immune to the odd screw-up, they’ve dominated most of the tasks put in front of them. (Then again, I have to imagine that after a shark bites your arm off, not many things in this world have the power to stress you out.)

Amy and Maya are dorky in the best possible way, and by far they’re the most relatable team left on the show. I love that things like lab work and marching band have helped them succeed so far. Also, they are taking great pains to maintain cultural sensitivity and tact, which is nice to see on a show where we’ve so frequently seen people yelling “ENGLISH!!” in a crowded public space.

And Shelley and Nici, who have also borne a fair amount of criticism here at RHAP (and deservedly so), sorted out their differences and managed to have an incredibly successful leg in which they supported each other and worked together. Their chat with Phil on the mat was incredibly touching. Even the big man himself seemed moved.

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