”The Amazing Race”: Playing war
With Danny and Oswald’s elimination this week, I realized that they were the Adam and Eve of The Amazing Race. Allow me to explain: Because Team Cha-Cha held on to their innocence by maintaining great attitudes and staying above the holier-than-thou sniping that plagued the other teams, God (okay, Bertram van Munster) kept them in the game, or paradise. Until the yield.
Now, in this metaphor, the yield was not forbidden fruit. If anything, the Amazing Race god wanted them to use it. It was one of his many glories, created on the third day, right after the roadblock, but before Phil’s supertight pants. Danny and Oswald’s original sin was that they allowed the snakes (the other teams) to convince them the yield was evil. So, after using it, they were made to discover shame, and paradise was ruined, just as it was when Adam and Eve felt self-conscious once they realized they were naked. (Danny and Oswald’s fig leaf was the phrase ”Karma is a bitch!”) And, lo, they were sent forth from the race and banished to Elimination Station.
Oh, and when Oswald saw Charla in an aviator helmet and said, ”Oh, my God, the Teletubbies go to war”? I think that was, like, something from Leviticus.
But enough biblical allusions, let’s get to a recap. Danny and Oswald started this penultimate leg at a disadvantage. Contrary to the end of last week’s episode, which made it seem like Danielle and Eric’s marked-for-elimination hourglass had just barely run out before Cha-Cha arrived, Oswald and Danny had actually arrived a good 60 minutes later, according to departure times. But the producers do love to build that tension. This week they were pulling all the tricks out of the false-suspense playbook to make it seem like Danny and Oswald wouldn’t catch up to everyone else as they raced through the airport for the flight to Guam: We saw attendants doing final checks, gates retracting, engines being fired up. I’m surprised we didn’t see a woman slowly dragging a baby carriage up the airline stairs as Cha-Cha dashed her way.
But everyone ended up bunched together in Guam for a day of patriotic fun and games. The trip was basically a tour of America’s finest (and seemingly most free-time-filled) military bases. Frankly, the episode left me with a sad feeling, as I kept envisioning the discomfort of one of the participating Air Force flyboys when he checked his e-mail at the end of the day and found a message from an old Army buddy who was now serving in Iraq. His friend would write of the harrowing things he’d experienced in Baghdad and the helplessness he felt, along with his determination to see this war through against growing odds. The embattled soldier would close his missive with ”What’s up with you?” and the Guam airman would stare at the computer cursor for an hour, unable to make his fingers type the sentence, ”Today I watched some beauty queens clean a plane for a reality show.”
The plane cleaning was for the detour, and every team picked it except Charla and Mirna, who opted for a ”humanitarian mission.” For that, they needed to pack two boxes with a total of 500 pounds of toys and food for ”locals,” then get aboard the cargo plane for a parachute drop-off. ”I like to help people who are in need!” chirped Charla, who then proceeded to haphazardly dump enormous bags of dog food on top of children’s toys to get the job done as fast as possible, while a nearby flyboy winced. After the drop, Mirna pestered the military personnel to tell the captain to get the plane back ASAP, as they had a million bucks to win. Apparently the ”people in need” Charla referred to was Mirna.
(Incidentally, most unexpected moment in the episode? When the C-17 cargo plane was not filled with Charla’s vomit during the dive bomb. The woman has puked twice on this show already, and I was convinced it was time for the hat trick. Perhaps she’s saving number three for something special, like letting it fly all over Rob and Amber when she arrives at the final mat.)
But the real fun came when everyone moved to the naval base for a roadblock using a GPS tracker to find a ”downed pilot” hiding in some bushes. Dustin did it with no problem, and Danielle panicked, but as usual, it was Charla who gave us the gold. She kept pushing buttons and screwing up the GPS, even as her soldier escort repeatedly told her not to. ”Ma’am, you’re not allowed to touch the buttons.” ”Ma’am, I told you not to touch the screen.” And this was only what got edited in to the show. I imagine the unedited version went something like this:
”Ma’am, please don’t touch the buttons.”
”Gotcha. But maybe this will help….”
”No, ma’am, that’s a button again. Please don’t touch it.”
”Right, right. But I sure can’t find my missing pilot. Maybe if I press this, he’ll turn up.”
”Again, ma’am, that would count as a button.”
”Sure. But how about just stroking a button gently?”
”That would be in the ‘touching’ family, ma’am. I really must beg you to keep your hands off those buttons.”
”And a tap? I think if I tap this, I’ll find the pilot.”
”Ma’am, I have been authorized to shoot you if you don’t stop touching those buttons.”
”Uh-huh, point made.”
”You’re still touching a button.”
”Oh, no touching. Now I get you.” [Pause.] ”Say, what do you suppose this button does?”
I was surprised the soldier was so patient with her, considering that their outing together had started with Charla complimenting him on his hard work by saying, ”No wonder there’s all these military, Navy discounts….You guys do too much good stuff.” Does Charla think that servicemen are in it for love of country and 10 percent off at the Gap?
(Incidentally, on the topic of Charla and Mirna, I can’t believe I haven’t yet addressed the quote of the night: Mirna spoke to a Chinese cab driver in a Russian accent, then said, ”You have to try to do the right accent; it makes all the difference in the world.” Did she really say that, or did I just wish it to be true? Because it seems too on-the-nose with its lack of self-awareness to have actually happened. It would be like Joan Rivers saying, ”The key to good plastic surgery is making sure it looks natural.”)
Ultimately, Charla was able to keep her mitts off the GPS long enough to just edge out Oswald. Granted, Oswald wasn’t much more talented with his tracking device. He wandered for a while looking for his missing soldier, who was in the bushes just a few feet away. Finally, the soldier just stood up and waved his water bottle at Oswald. It’s interesting that these soldiers are trained to keep their cool during terrifying battles, to remain silent during interrogations, and yet it’s a reality show that breaks their resistance. Here’s hoping that after the war on terror, Bush doesn’t declare war on Bunim/Murray, or we’re surely doomed.
Ultimately, Cha-Cha lost, and the beauty queens came in first yet again, winning generic, brandless ATVs. (Yes, after two weeks, the shovel-to-the-head plugs for the big Travelocity China trip have mercifully ended. That kind of plugging disgusts me — and you can read more about what disgusts me on my new website and blog, where you’ll also learn about my new book, Cabin Pressure, coming out June 5. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah: Boo, plugs!)
When the beauty queens arrived, Phil not only greeted them with Browsie, but he also dangled for the umpteenth time that they could be the first all-female team to win, something he never does for Charla and Mirna. There’s something kind of creepy about the way he keeps pointing this out to Dustin and Kandice; it’s like he’s hoping that if they win, they’ll make out on the mat and let him watch.
If Eric and Danielle win, I doubt they’ll make out. Does anyone out there believe they were ever actually dating? They’ve got about as much romantic spark as last season’s Peter and artificial-legged Sarah. Hell, they have as much spark as Peter and the artificial leg. Even when Eric and Danielle landed on the mat last night, securing their place in the final sprint, all Eric did was give her a side hug, the kind you’d give to a distant cousin. Thank goodness these two weren’t Adam and Eve, or the planet’s population would have stopped right there.
What do you think? Did the military officers show remarkable restraint around the contestants? Did Mirna’s comment about accents show a glimmer of self-awareness? And will the season end with the first all-female winners in Amazing Race history?