One profession trumps all others in cinema history: the noble art of driving a cab. You’ve got Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, the best New York movie ever made, and Michael Mann’s Collateral, the best Los Angeles movie ever made. Bruce Willis had his best role and worst hair playing the air-cabbie protagonist in The Fifth Element. And then, of course, there’s the single most important film to come out of Hollywood in the ’80s: D.C. Cab.
I was meditating on these great films during last night’s episode of The Amazing Race, which formed an hourlong ode to the impressive skill and cruel power of cab drivers. Every team’s performance last night was due, in small and large parts, to how talented their drivers were. Some cabbies knew the quickest route to everywhere in Penang. Some cabbies were loyal. Some cabbies got lost. And one cabbie picked a deeply inappropriate time to stop for gas. Michael put it best: ”One bad cab driver can cost you a million dollars.” Before the night was over, one bad cab driver kind of did.
First, though, let’s take a close look at the comeback kids:
Jet and Cord
Next to Louie and Michael, the Cowboys are probably the most charming team in the Race. And whereas the Detectives are talented at deploying their charm as a weapon, Jet and Cord just seem like a genial pair of dudes. They keep finding themselves in ever-more-exotic environs, and they get by on luck, pluck, and a basic faith in human decency. In France they looked lost, though, and in the Seychelles they started to seem a bit lazy.
Last night proved validating for the Cowbro Faithful, despite a shaky start. Coming off a last-place finish, Jet and Cord seemed just a little bit nervous. On the 21-hour flight through Dubai to Penang, they played Optimist/Pessimist. ”We’re tied for sixth,” said Jet. ”And first,” argued Cord. Cord was proven wrong almost immediately, as the brothers were the last team to find a taxi to the Snake Temple. (Snakes… why did it have to be snakes?) Jet: ”How do you say fast in Malaysian?” Cord: ”Fast.”
At the Snake Temple, teams had a choice between two challenges that emphasized Malaysia’s diverse culture: Buddhist Tradition or Chinese Custom. The Buddhist Tradition was a classic feat of strength: carrying 12 giant incense sticks up 150 steps and lighting them on fire. The Chinese Custom was just the opposite, a classic equilibrium test: Teams would have to balance the tall Chingay flagpoles on their forehead and carry them across an esplanade. (Aside: Phil Keoghan’s accent is always face-meltingly awesome, but there was something especially wonderful about the way he pronounced ”esplanade.”)
Viewers, which challenge would you have chosen? I definitely would’ve gone for the incense sticks, but the Flagpole challenge was a clear spoiler — a challenge that could either take a minute or an hour. When the Cowboys were the only team to make a move for the Flagpoles, I figured it would be their Waterloo. When they couldn’t find a cab (their first driver abandoned them), I got even more anxious.
NEXT: Cabs, Cowboys