Robert Voets
January 07, 2008 at 11:46 PM EST

The Amazing Race

type
TV Show
genre
Reality TV
run date
03/08/01
performer
Phil Keoghan
Producer
Jerry Bruckheimer
broadcaster
CBS
seasons
29
Current Status
In Season

The detour was ”Sense of Touch, or Sense of Smell.” ”Touch” involved making a small robot kick two soccer goals with a cell-phone controller, while for ”Smell,” teams had to find the one real flower in a store full of thousands of fake, odorless ones. (”Teams without a delicate sense of touch might wind up kicking themselves instead of goals,” said Phil. Tortured wordplay like this is the best evidence yet of why the writers’ strike needs to end.)

Nicolas-Donald were the only guys to go with the robots. Because who’s better with cutting-edge technology than a 69-year-old man? Yet they finally got it done, mostly because the other players kept making their Battlebots take dives. Really, with the defense they were playing, they might as well just have thrown a bunch of broken Tamagotchis onto the table and then wandered away.

Meanwhile, the other two teams went to the flowers. Nate and Jen predictably devolved into bickering, though they did finish first. As they dashed into their cab, Jen accused him of pushing her. He denied it, and the producers actually went to the videotape: I found the replay inconclusive, as it wasn’t clear whether he was just nudging her along or shoving her. But here’s what I did find conclusive: These two need to break up — now! I mean, holy frickin’ shnykees, this union is unholy. If they’re not stopped now, I fear he will propose, and she will fly into a rage, snapping at him for trying to break her finger by putting that ring thing on it.

After Jen had found the flower, there was a clip from a post-leg interview in which she sunnily talked about how sniffing all those flowers was like being in a Pink Floyd video. Considering how upbeat she and Nate were, I thought for sure that they’d won the leg. After all, if they’d squandered yet another lead, there was no way she would be able to tamp down her rage enough to seem that happy. And yet, surprisingly, it was Christina and Ronald who finished first, earning themselves the weirdest prize ever: ”an electric vehicle that seats four.” And more oddly, this prize was clearly dubbed in later. Not only did Phil’s voice sound different, but we never even saw his mouth move. In the one shot of him talking about this vague ”electric vehicle,” his head was entirely blocked by Ronald’s. I found this completely mysterious, especially because he not only refused to specify a brand of car, but he didn’t even specify what kind of vehicle it was. Don’t ask questions: It’s a vehicle, and it has a plug. Now get off my mat. I think Ronald and Christina are getting a toaster with four wheels nailed on.

And then things got even weirder. Nate and Jen jogged into the pit stop, looking irritated, during the daytime. We cut to Phil watching them approach, in daytime. But then he started to talk, and as he did, we cut back to Nate and Jen, and behind them it was dusk. Then back to Phil, and it was dusk there, too. I replayed it to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but sure enough, in the first shot of Nate-Jen, there was an unlit Ferris wheel behind them; in the second shot, the lights were on.

Even weirder, in the daytime shot of Nate and Jen, they looked peeved, but in the dusk shot, they actually looked far calmer. What was going on here? Were they called back later for reshoots? And if so, why? In the second shot, where they didn’t look unhappy at all, Phil asked them, ”You guys are bummed right now, right?” It was like he was reminding them to be their usual pissed selves. Had something happened in between to cheer them up? Were they given an electric vehicle, too? It felt as if the show were edited by the guy who did the Watergate tapes.

As I tried to wrap my mind around this, the emotional coda of TK and Rachel’s truncated and tardy leg began. They were more than three hours behind, and we saw them leisurely breeze through all the challenges (poor cleaning man and cab couple, forced to wait hours for them to show up), all the while talking about how much they cared for each other. It had all the hallmarks of a let’s bid adieu to this loving couple montage, and yet after all that, it ended up being non-elimination. Why were we given this farewell tour with them if they were sticking around? This episode raised far more questions than it answered, and damn it, I want answers. Electric answers.

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