''The Amazing Race'': Nice guys finish last
Sure, I have a good time making fun of the Amazing Race contestants every week. The Linz boys are the Baldwin brothers for people who think Stephen is the talented one; the Godlewskis are the aural equivalent of driving cross-country on the back seat's hump; the Paolos have all the charm of a cock fight....You get the point. So I can see why you'd think I have no heart. Which is why I feel compelled to confess that when the Gaghans got eliminated, I got a little choked up.
How could you not? Did you see Carissa's little lip quivering as she tried to hold in her tears? It would be one thing if she had burst out crying, but she was quivering. I think she was created by a scientist who melted down all the orphans in the musical Annie to create one supercherub.
Why oh why did they have to be such a nice family? It would have been so much easier to see them go if any of them had been bastards. But no! It was ''Good try!'' this, and ''Great teamwork, kids!'' that. And then, when Mama Gaghan squandered their entire lead in a fruitless search for one red coffee bean, there was no ''Dammit, woman!'' Just a ''You did the best you could.'' The Rogers dad would have never stood for that kind of squandering! Which is why I had to search my memory for that family's name. I will never forget the Gaghans'. Every time I see a lost puppy, or read a Hallmark card, or just see a rainbow, I will think of them. Fair thee well, sweet family! Perhaps some day we will see you again on Family Fear Factor! I wonder if Carissa will be as tear-jerking when her lip quivers around a mouthful of sheep bowel.
But now onto the more mockable parts of the race. It stayed outside the country again, but only by the strictest definition. Costa Rica why not just go to Epcot Center? When you can get directions from a guy who looks like an ex-roadie from the Grateful Dead's 1972 tour, as the Paolos seemed to at a roadside café, it hardly qualifies as international.
The entire first quarter of the race was an utter time waster. By now we're all used to moments when everybody bunches up waiting for a landmark to open or a flight to leave. And often these little equalizers can make the game fun. When it occurs, it's usually from a fluke. But this week's congregation seemed orchestrated that way. Three charter buses were scheduled to leave from Panama to Costa Rica a half-hour apart, and much was made about the race to get the best times. (Which raises another issue: Because of the sheer number of contestants, they've had them all riding in private cars or on charter planes and buses instead of public transportation, which only further insulates them from the countries they're supposed to be experiencing. Why not just ship them around in cages, sticking yellow envelopes through their bars at different Fed Ex way stations?)
Anyway, after arriving in Panama, the teams all grabbed vans to drive to a park that was closed, bunching them all up again, so the charter times they had struggled for were rendered irrelevant. In other words, for the first quarter of this episode, there was no way anyone could have been left behind, which was the opposite of suspense. Had the producers arranged the charter vans to leave much later, or added an extra step after that trip, the teams would have arrived at the park the next morning, and it wouldn't have been the second group sleepover in a row. If I wanted to see that, I would rent the movie Sleepover, and I don't want to do that. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, maybe. But not Sleepover. Say, any chance of the teams all wearing traveling pants? I believe they call them ''pantalones de viaje'' in Costa Rica. No?
But I digress.
I also think they should stop stripping teams of their money in nonelimination rounds. If it occurs in a poor area, you just feel bad watching game-show contestants panhandle from people who sometimes can't afford vision, let alone a television. And if it's at a resort, like last night, it's just pointless. Gee, how will four women ever persuade drunk guys at a bar to give them some money? It will take all their smarts and wiles and...oops! Some guy in town for a dental convention just stuck a $50 in one of the sisters' mouths. Never mind.
And the mass hatred for the Weavers continued. The Paolos yielded them to the cheers of the other teams, even though the Weavers were in last place and of no threat to anyone. Boy, if anybody is prone to a Christ-like persecution complex it would be this bunch, and I kind of hate the other teams for enabling it. If they come in first next leg, and the prize is four Travelocity ™ Travel-Size Collapsible Crowns of Thorns, there will be no living with them.
The Weavers were all over the map biblically, however. At the beginning of the race, the daughter said that they were raised not to trust anybody, only family. So apparently their Bible says, ''Love thy neighbor...but watch him like a hawk, because I don't like the look of him.'' Perhaps according to the Weavers, the reason Christians have a New Testament in addition to the Old is so you have a bigger book to knock someone on the head with when they show up to screw ya. Because they always will, those godless bastards. Amen, and watch your step.
And then, when yielded, the Weavers said they were above the teams' petty grudges since they were Christians. But later, within that same hourglass, they were calling the younger Paolo son a ''retard'' and mocking the Godlewskis' alleged breast implants. There you have it, folks, courtesy of the Weavers: a simple demonstration of the troublesome paradox of self-righteous sanctimony:
1. If you're going to hold yourself above others because of your spiritual beliefs, then you need to be flawless.
2. Nobody is flawless.
But thanks to the Gaghans' damn red bean, the Weavers eventually overcame their deficit and squeaked into fifth place, which will only encourage them in thinking that they are all on a charter bus to the finish line, and their driver's initials are J.C.
The Paolos once again took first place, and each won a choice of four extreme-sports gadgets: a Jet Ski, an all-terrain vehicle, a Segway, and a Vespa. Somebody should be running to VH1 right now to pitch a new reality show: ten weeks of the Paolos trying to ride their new toys. I'd watch it. Just putting Mama Paolo on a Segway is a two-hour premiere right there. It'll be hilarious, it will involve some great pratfalls, and most important, it definitely won't make me cry again.
What do you think? Do you have a new favorite team? Why does everyone dislike the Weavers so much? And do they deserve it?