''The Amazing Race'': The models' photo finish
I caught the ire of my fellow Amazing Race fans at the magazine the other day when I forwarded them a story in the National Enquirer about how an online betting site was forced to shut down after an inordinate amount of bets came in for Freddy and Kendra. Someone from the site started to suspect that some of those bets were the result of inside information as if someone from Race had leaked the real deal. Of course, everyone was immediately pissed at me for spoiling the outcome. How could I forward such a thing? What a knucklehead party pooper I was! And all I could think of saying was, ''It's the damn Enquirer! Who can believe the freakin' Enquirer?''
Now, if the Enquirer publishes a story saying that Jen, not Brad, is Angelina's secret lover and that they will both raise Angelina's little adopted boy, I will definitely know it to be true.
God, I have a sick feeling in my stomach. I'm not sure when I felt this way last oh yes, I do. It was a couple of summers ago, when the two least likable women of Big Brother (Allison and Jun) made it to the final two and the least deserving of the two (Jun) won the $500K. When you invest several months of your life on a reality show, I don't think it's too much to ask that the show return the favor by giving you a winner you actually liked all along. Take Chip and Kim. I felt a huge amount of satisfaction when I saw them show up first at the final pit stop last fall. Was some of that elation also due to the fact that they beat Colin and Christie? Well, yeah. But watching Chip and Kim throughout the race was a real treat, and they never once pissed me off unlike Kendra, who had something bigoted to say about pretty much every place she visited while Freddy overreacted over the silliest things, like somebody shoving a gate down on his head. And don't get me started on all that baby-honey talk.
But they did have my attention; I'll give them that. Be honest you remember far more about the models than about Jon and Kris. In fact, if it weren't for Jon's hard abs, I would have forgotten those two already. At least we know what Kendra and Freddy are two self-absorbed models who should never, ever be asked, ''What are you thinking'' because chances are the answer will be, ''Nothing.''
Going into these final two hours, I had high hopes for Aaron and Hayden. Despite her incessant whining (not to mention her terrible habit of calling out to Aaron over every damn thing), they're dogged players with enough anger to get them out front and ahead. But not in this episode. A series of taxi rides from hell only worked against the duo as they traversed the streets of Xi'an, China desperate to get to their last detour, on which they chose to spray-paint a car. Next stop was an extraordinary visit to the Terracotta Warriors Museum yet another reason why I love this show and yet another reason to get pissed because I'll never get to be on it. Unfortunately, most of the teams barely took the time to marvel at the 7,000 life-size clay figures because they were too busy searching for their next clue.
And then, it happened. I thought of He Who.
No, he didn't show up in the episode until the end but his presence was felt before that. During the commercial break, CBS ran a PSA from the Family Violence Protection Fund about how young men get mixed messages concerning violence against women. I can't help thinking it was more than just a coincidence that it ran only weeks after He Who and She Who were eliminated and one week before they are going to appear on a Dr. Phil special. A surprise warning about domestic violence during what should be a harmless, fun reality show? Another unprecedented low for the Race.
Back on the course, Freddy was getting busy calling his lost taxi driver a ''buffoon'' and a ''dumb ass'' while Hayden was elsewhere in the city, succumbing to a full-fledged mental breakdown that had Aaron shucking his backpack out of frustration. By the time everyone got to the next roadblock a hugely stressful task in which the women worked their way through 3,000 padlocks in an attempt to open just one Hayden finally decided to call it quits. Seems the utterly impossible task of sticking a key into a lock and trying to open it was too much for this delicate flower. (She actually broke one key in the process.) And yet damn, I hate when this happens I ended up feeling happy for her, anyway, when she came in last! Fighting back tears at the pit stop after the two were eliminated, Aaron proposed to Hayden. Now that's love, dude. And of course she said yes; any man who can put up with her calling out his name 90,000 times a day is definitely the man for her.
On to the final leg, but first, a warning from Kendra: ''We're not going to be the nice sweet people we've been on the race!'' (And that would have been . . . um . . . when?) The final three teams jumped a plane to Honolulu where the highlight was when the two guys and Hellboy sky-dived 11,000 feet above the water before flying on to Chicago, where it was an all-out foot race to the end. Boy it looked close. I was starting to think that maybe nice guys like Kris and Jon could finish first, but then, I started thinking about how the Enquirer broke all those incredible stories over the years so I figured they couldn't be wrong about Freddy and Kendra. Sadly, they weren't.
For a moment, I forgot how Freddy tried to convince a Chicago cop it was an emergency and he needed an escort, or how Kendra told a woman at the Hawaii ticket counter that she needed to get home quick because she had a sick kid at home. They got to the final pit stop fair and square, and they deserved the $1 mil.
Ugh, sometimes I hate how these reality show end.
It seems easy to write this Race off as one of the franchise's worst thanks, in no small part, to the deplorable behavior of He Who and the producers' decision to cast all those empty-headed models. But it's not gonna be me. Yes, I believe He Who irrevocably hurt the franchise. I call upon the producers to make changes now to ensure that any future racer who so much as raises a hand to his partner will immediately get the boot (or at the very least, I'm praying that host Phil finally grows some cojones and starts bitch-slapping any weenie who whines and says ''baby'' more than 10 times an episode). But I'll choose this show any day over other realities like The Bachelor and The Apprentice (that is, until Martha Stewart hits the boardroom, and then I'm so there, people). Bar none, Race's production quality is the industry's gold standard, and Phil acid tongue or no is the epitome of class. Best of all, anybody be it a trash-talking dwarf or a racist model has a fighting chance to make it to the finish line, which is what makes this show so bloody watchable.
So Rob and Amber be damned; I'll be there at the starting line next month.
What do you think? Are you happy for Kendra and Freddy? For Hayden and Aaron? And how can the producers change the show to make it better?