''The Amazing Race'': Love dies under desert skies
There's been a lot of focus this season on Sarah's artificial leg. How does it work? Why is it breaking down? Does it have a bottle opener? But there was another body part that she'd been neglecting until last night: her heart. Then, as she got eliminated from The Amazing Race this week, she finally looked deep inside of it and realized something important: Peter is a bit of a tool.
But let's begin at the beginning, when she and her pseudo-boyfriend were still in first place and it looked like there was hope for them after all. When Peter conceded that he had to be wary of pushing Sarah too hard, was I the only one who saw the potential for reconciliation? And the way they laughed together when they ran to a travel agent who Peter got to move faster by saying Sarah desperately needed medical attention? I haven't been that convinced that true love can exist since David Gest kissed Liza Minnelli at the wedding altar.
They weren't the only team a-tuggin' at my heartstrings, though. What about the Cho brothers, who at great risk to their own standing helped the coal miners get the fast-forward pass? How moved was I? So moved that I only rolled my eyes a half rotation when I saw Godwin wearing a ''Will Flex for Food'' T-shirt. Luckily, my eyes weren't stuck in an upward position, because I finished the rotation after reading Erwin's ''Let's Hug It Out'' tee. Thank you, Chos, for exporting the stupidest of American catchphrases to faraway lands. I look forward to their next goodwill tour, when they translate ''Bra inspector'' and ''I'm not as think as you drunk I am'' into 70 different languages.
Thanks to the Chos' bobbing, weaving, and bluffing, Mary and David were able to proceed unchallenged to the fast forward, and once again Mary followed up her kind words to her alliance by verbally crapping all over her husband. I wonder if Mary makes David wear a walkie-talkie loudspeaker when he goes to work, out of which his co-workers hear her voice all day squawking, ''You miners are the bravest men around in a thankless job, made only more challenging by the fact that you have to work with my dumbass husband, David! Don't come back without a diamond, you worthless turd! Oh, and thanks again, heroes!''
I liked the new nonelimination system of a 30-minute penalty for not coming in first on the next leg, but I don't like the way they rigged it so the next round had a fast forward. It gave David and Mary too easy an out to stick around. And the challenge itself gave me pause: facing an oil fire in Kuwait? Was this a loving homage to Saddam Hussein's order to set the Kuwaiti oil fields afire when Iraq retreated during Desert Storm? Seems a bit insensitive. Hey, Kuwaitis, remember that flaming period Saddam put at the end of the sentence of his reign of terror? Well, now the Americans are re-creating it as part of a game show! If you think that's a good idea, Van Munster, set a roadblock at a besieged replica of the Alamo and see just how fast you lose the Texas affiliates.
Mary and David passed it with ease, though. And in the midst of it, we got a clue as to what a small town they live in; when they were dressed in fire-retardant suits, Mary said, ''Maybe Steven Seagal will see me and want me to be in one of his movies!'' Apparently, deep in mining country, it's still 1991. Man, wait until they get home and they ask their kids, ''What'd we miss?'' and they are told about a new action superman taking the world by storm who goes by the name of Jeff Speakman.
Meanwhile, everyone else was left to climb up a ladder on the side of a 610-foot tower. Much like last week's alligator challenge, this sounded a lot more exciting than it ended up being. The ladder was high, yes, but relatively short, and the climbers were basically encased in steel rods. Don't get me wrong, I'm scared of heights, and if I had to do it, they would still be trying to pry my hands off the first rung. But no matter how many times they had Erwin repeat variations of the phrase ''This is my biggest fear!'' (''Biggest fear of mine, this is!'' ''My biggest fear? This is it!'' ''Hey, big fear, where are you? What, right here? Why, hello!''), it still wasn't that interesting to watch.
After this, maybe it was the Kuwait heat, maybe it was just the stage of the game, but everyone seemed to be getting more competitive. I'm referring to Lyn and Karlyn's aggressive blocking of their direction-giving Kuwaiti from the beauty queens. It started looking like it was all in fun, as the mothers told the man who gave them directions not to give them to the other women, but then they started manhandling their benefactor to keep the queens away. It nearly went from a game-show moment to an abduction. He was one million-dollar prize away from getting a pillowcase thrown over his head and tossed into the trunk of a taxi.
(The angry queens later grumbled, ''It's tough when you have the 'sistas' who are being big pigs.'' Boy, it's kind of hard to swallow their whole ''we want to show that beauty-pageant contestants should be taken seriously'' spiel when they go from telling travel agents that they need to be helped because they're ''Miss California and Miss New York'' to calling lesser beauties pigs. Exactly what stereotypes are they trying to erase? Because they're one case of bulimia and a dumped high-school sweetheart away from confirming every one of them.)
The final detour was middling; having the contestants fill up sacks with camel feed was less glamorous than climbing the tower, but their looks of heatstroke and exhaustion made it look grueling. It seemed to be so hot that no one's shirts were wet; the sweat was evaporating right off them. Are the producers working for the day when a contestant actually bursts into flames? I'm sure that when it happens, Bertram Van Munster will have a production assistant waiting nearby with some Kingsford charcoal briquettes to throw on the flaming teammate, because why should he pass up a great product-placement opportunity?
The other half of the detour was just weird: robotic camel jockeys? I'll bet PETA's collective heads exploded at this one: In order to not wear out camel riders, the inventors devised a way to gratuitously whip animals without any human involvement. Dammit, that's why America is slipping behind in technology we don't have our great minds thinking outside the box! Right now there's probably an Australian inventor developing a robot that can kick kangaroos in the balls, and what are we doing? Nothing! I beseech Congress to earmark $5 billion for creating a perpetual-motion machine that will never stop bitch-slapping orangutans.
It wasn't the challenges that made the end of the episode exciting; it was the way that the entire game flipped when teams got lost. That's my favorite part of the show, as it most reflects the real pitfalls of traveling. And so the models, so often at the front of the pack, found themselves at the end, although not as far back as Peter and Sarah, who finished after sundown. And with that, Phil asked for their takeaway messages. Peter frankly admitted they were better as friends, one of the least surprising relationship revelations since Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley got divorced. Sarah felt the same way, but put it in much franker terms: ''He is a strong go-getter, but he isn't a very kind, nurturing individual.''
While she summed up his personality in the most damning way, he did what he always did: stood there, squinting off into space, seemingly neither hearing nor registering anything she said. And that's when it hit me: Her leg wasn't the only robot. Peter was one too. So maybe the reason he never responded when she talked about him was because he was distracted, fantasizing about being alone with her leg, gettin' some hot piston action. So, good luck finding true love, Sarah, and know that when you do, you'll always have someone ready for a double date by your side.
What do you think? Do you hate it when relationships break down during the race? Do you like it when contestants help other teams? And who are emerging as your favorite pairs as the race goes on?