”The Amazing Race”: Sausages and spousal abuse
If you’re the sort of pessimistic person who believes that evil will always triumph over good, and you want to convince someone else of that fact, then your first exhibit should be the last two episodes of The Amazing Race. Look at kind, old Don and Mary Jean: so sweet to each other and everyone around them, no matter how stressful things get. The kind of people who, when stripped of their money, refuse to ask the poor Senegalese people to subsidize them. Surely in a just world they would conquer all! But no: Last week they were crushed and were given a second chance just so they could get crushed again this week and then sent home. It was as if the show were saying, ”Hey, oldies! You stink, but wait, we need a second opinion, so try again. Yep, we were right, you stink! Now get on your Rascal scooters and go home!”
It’s sad to see them go, but in a way it’s kind of a relief, since there were only so many times you could watch them wander around lost, and it became a bit heartbreaking. And every moment they were lapped around the globe by the horrific Jonathan and Victoria was to be presented with far too much empirical evidence that life is unfair.
This episode started with a tender moment, the kind that The Amazing Race should stop doing. The visit to the Slave House, the last place Africans saw before getting on ships and losing their freedom, was an incredibly emotional experience — plunked right in the middle of a game show. Why not gather the Big Brother housemates together and show them The Sorrow and the Pity? There’s something unseemly about slowed-down interludes like this when you know that the second the contestants leave, they’ll be screaming, ”Who’s got the envelope?” and dashing into a cab, the Slave House tossed over their shoulders onto the heap of memories that include tearing apart giant hay bales and roller skiing.
And, the Slave House behind them, dash they did. First to a travel agent to get tickets to Germany, where Hayden called Bolo a five-foot-five-inch steroid taker. Bolo didn’t mind the short crack, but he was a little too defensive about the steroid accusation, don’tcha think? Boy, did Hayden make him her Jason Giambitch.
Then it was off to the Berlin Wall, which the show thankfully treated like any other monument, except for Gus’ comment on how that and the Slave House proved how human beings can be capable of so much horror. (But more on Jonathan and Victoria later.) More noticeably, this destination gave far too many teams the opportunity to make a Fahrvergnugen joke. It’s good to know that even under this much pressure, players can still recall 15-year-old advertising campaigns. When the going gets really tough, perhaps someone will draw strength from an ”Avoid the Noid” reference.
The next two challenges weren’t all that compelling, in that they really didn’t trip anybody up. Whether they were delivering beer steins (steins are giant mugs, Kendra, you maroon) or squeezing out sausages, it was pretty hard to fail. (Although Lori and Bolo found a way, by making their sausages too short. There’s a complicated joke to be made about Bolo and steroids and the fact that he couldn’t get anything to be seven inches long, but in the tradition of the Ikea challenge, I’ll let you assemble it yourselves.) The only suspense in the beer challenge was whether or not Hera was going to be able to stop thirsty Gus from diving into a keg. Suddenly, Gus’ enormous gut makes a lot more sense.
My original thesis that life is unfair brings us to the episode’s conclusion. While the kind and loving Don and Mary Jean struggled to find an enormous statue in the middle of Berlin, the two teams battling it out for first place were the two most unpleasant in the race. We had Kendra, who had proclaimed in Senegal, ”This city is just wretched and disgusting. And they just keep breeding and breeding.” And just when you thought, ”I’d never root for her,” she ends up battling it out against the deeply disturbing Jonathan and Victoria, who are starting to look more and more like claymation figures. When your only choices as to whom to root for in a footrace are these two teams, you find yourself cheering for shinsplints.
Jonathan went from wailing that he couldn’t run with his backpack (with Victoria yelling at him to keep going) to dropping his backpack and screaming at Victoria for picking it up. She looked so agonized, perhaps because she was doing twice the amount of work on two fronts: Not only was she carrying Jonathan’s backpack and her own, but the bottom half of her face had to do twice the contorting to make up for the fact that the top half is immobile. Is it any wonder she was so tired?
This whole adrenaline-pumped footrace was foolish in its very premise, in that they were competing for first place in a segment where there were still six teams behind them. Did they really want that trip from American Airlines that badly? I’ve always thought that would be the worst prize ever for this game: Hey, you’ve been flying for hundreds of hours, now here’s a few more! After this race, the best gift would be house arrest and a plasma TV.
But Jonathan reached a whole new level of psychosis, even physically pushing Victoria at the end and screaming at her more in front of Phil, which so bothered our host that he broke tradition and said more than ”You’re team number _____.” Our finish-line therapist told Jonathan that he should talk to Victoria, and Jonathan took that suggestion and went over to browbeat her some more. Thanks, Phil, I almost let that one lie! Now where was I? Oh yeah, you’re useless and I hate you and you’re killing me… .
Earlier in the race, when Victoria had told Jonathan to leave her alone, he said, ”I never promised I’d leave you alone. That’s why I married you.” I think he meant it romantically, but instead it sounded like the kind of thing a psychotic husband says in a horror movie just before he kills his wife with a garden hoe. If Don had said it to Mary Jean, it would have come off a lot more touching, but there’ll be none of that: Those two lovebirds have been put on a fast plane home. There’s no room for that kind of sensitivity on The Amazing Race.
What do you think? Can the evil couples be stopped? Does the show need to intervene with Jonathan and Victoria?