Monday, February 23, 2009

The Amazing Race, "Your Target Is Your Partner's Face": We don't have to pray just to make it today

Thanks to CBS finally getting the rights to put "The Amazing Race" up on their website, I was able to watch last night's episode this afternoon. Quick spoilers coming up just as soon as the winds change...

New season continues to be strong, and to reward me for my decision to give the franchise another chance. A minimum of airport drama, a minimum of jerkiness (though both are inevitable to some degree due to the format and the stress it creates), some well-constructed challenges and a few lucky twists of fate have all led to two very good episodes.

In particular, the drama with the shifting winds led to one of my favorite reality show moments ever, in Mel White's refusal to pray for them to change in his favor. It's such a staple of reality TV (and sports, for that matter) for people to crassly assume that God cares about who wins a game show (or a football game) and will reward whoever makes the loudest/earliest/most frequent prayers in His name, that it's so refreshing to hear someone instead believe that God has more important things to worry about. It sort of reminded me of David Cook's refusal to pimp out his dying brother for votes last season on "American Idol," in that reality TV has so lowered the bar for what we accept as human behavior in certain situations that it's almost startling to see people behave reasonably, or in any kind of manner that favors dignity over personal gain.

Even without the non-prayer, it was still a suspenseful sequence in which Mother Nature, combined with Mel's bad groin, created something far more entertaining than if the challenge had gone as planned. And while the Segway part of the Detour didn't seem exceedingly difficult, the pie-throwing was one of the more entertaining needle-in-a-haystack choices they've come up with.

I like that Steve got his on-camera moment of tenderness and support for Linda before they were eliminated, and even them snapping at each other on the drive to the pit stop didn't get in the way of that. (Again, racing makes people crabby sometimes.)

What did everybody else think?

18 comments:

polkadotoes said...

Loving this season! Lots of good teams to route for, fun challenges and good twists. I am so happy there is less airport drama, it makes for a much more exciting show. Plus we get to see more of the places they are visiting!

Poor Linda getting lost, I feel her pain! On a side note: Do you think that if Linda and Steve had not been eliminated that they would have received a penalty for Linda getting a ride back?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about the penalty myself and I'm sure the producers were relieved that their last place finish rendered it moot.

My thoughts are they would have received a penalty although technically she did make it down the mountain but she required the aid of a vehicle in order to reach her final destination (likely a 15-20 minute deduction).

This season really holds a lot of promise and so far the challenges have delivered.

dez said...

So far, this season is rewarding me by 1) eliminating the bickering couple first and 2) eliminating the sad sack couple second. If the dumb blondes go next, I'll know God is answering *my* prayers ;-D But I did love Mel's non-prayer and the ep was overall very fun.

I want to know what happened to the teams that bled time last night. That "14 hours" caption was the first time they've told us how much time has passed from the beginning of a leg, isn't it?

BF said...

At some point this season, Victor is going to give us a long-awaited follow up to that classic TAR hit "New York Jews in Iceland". And it will be awesome.

I'm not a big fan of needle-in-a-haystack challenges, but at least this one devolved into a mess, so it wasn't as infuriating.

Myles said...

At some point this season, Victor is going to give us a long-awaited follow up to that classic TAR hit "New York Jews in Iceland". And it will be awesome.

If Victor doesn't start singing, I will punch him. Hard. I find him infuriating, his tone constantly in this "Woo, let's go! Excitement!" stage that is condescending and not even close to being fun to watch.

Right people went home, challenges continue to be strong, and Mike's moment on the hill makes this the kind of episode that you could see them submitting for the Emmy.

Alanna said...

While Linda and Steve seem like genuinely good people, I am SO glad they were eliminated. All the crying and neediness made me very uncomfortable, and that's not a feeling I want to have while I watch TAR. (I say this as someone who'd bawl her way through the first leg before being kicked out by a laughing Phil.)

Nicole said...

I noticed the 14 hours later caption as well... I am pretty sure they have not done that before. I wonder if the later teams were just that far behind when they started taking the trail.

I had to love the blondes just grabbing a piece of wood and trying to cut it themselves... it's so dumb and yet fooled me into thinking that Linda and Steve had a chance.

And the return of the brow was in full force this episode, especially when Mel's team had a hard time trying to get in the gate.

I am still a bit confused with some of the names of the teams... but following a few more eliminations I should be on track.

Anonymous said...

Mel White proved himself to be one of the smartest religious people on TV, without a doubt! That part made me SO happy!

Barbra

tabernacle said...

In just two episodes, Mel (and Son) has completely won me over. He's sensible, articulate, and funny. I think he's the only reality contestant whose mention of God hasn't elicited an automatic eyeroll from me.

This is the degree to which I find myself rooting for Mel & Mike: I am actually *grateful* for all the (seeming) cannon fodder we have this year (the flight attendants, the navigationally-challenged sisters, the stuntmen). Yes, please, continue being useless, all of you; I will laugh and rejoice in the continued presence of M&M.

kathy said...

My only quibble with this season is the casting of Linda and Steve. In theory, I appreciate the attempt to reach out and get different kinds of people on the race, but I think the first criteria has got to be "do they have a chance in hell of doing decently on the show?". It was clear 5 minutes into the first episode that Steve and Linda had no shot and I don't think it does people any good to pick them for the race if they aren't up to it. Agree with the poster upthread, I felt so bad for them, it was uncomfortable to watch.

But overall, it's shaping up to be a very enjoyable season. I love Mike & Mel and hopefully will find someone else to root for once Mel's bum groin does them in.

Mr. Kevin said...

I definitely think Team Cletus would have invoked a penalty for the ride but that poor girl really did try hard. They just weren't cut out for it. Last season they had that older beekeeping couple who I didn't think stood a chance either and they were easily eliminated the first week. They really should go for competitive teams above getting the widest range possible. I'm loving this season -- the more you see the scenery the better!

dez said...

At least Linda & Steve are getting a nice vacation out of this.

Michael said...

I think the "14 hours" thing is something they added because of how time compressed this season is. Normally the Race takes about 30 days, this time they're doing the same number of episodes in just 22 days, so the days and journeys are going to be longer. Fatigue is likely to play a bigger factor in later episodes than usual.

Alex said...

I feel like Mel's non-prayer was just a prayer in disguise, actually. "I know you got lots going on, God, so I won't bug you. But in case you noticed how cool I'm being about it...this wind does totally suck." Sorry Alan, I'm not buying it.

I do agree that this season is great, though.

tabernacle said...

Oh--awesome! A passive-aggressive prayer.

(Just shows you that once predisposed to liking someone, everything's charming.)

ebeth said...

I couldn't help but think of Linda Holmes's excellent "god's in the bathtub" response to players' prayers back in her recapping days on television without pity.

Linda (the racer) made me very uncomfortable...I was relieved to see her go.

Anonymous said...

Dear me, I feel for Linda and Steve. I liked their spirit? I don't know, but I felt really uncomfortable for both of them.

I did find it hillarious when they showed Luke was protesting his mom to not to do the pie throwing and then cut to a very annoyed pie-covered Luke going "I knew this was a bad idea." LOOOVE them and Mel and Mike.

As for Victor, god! He is too chipper.

Stef said...

I'm also in love with Mike & Mel! And now that those first two teams are gone so far I'm okay with all of the rest. There's a lot of sibling rivalry emerging, but as Alan said racing = fatigue = crabby. The editing in this ep was also great, as the above-mentioned cut from protesting Luke to pie-covered Luke and Phil's eyebrow when Mike was trying to climb the gate. And Bavaria is gorgeous! The travelogue aspect has always been the best thing about TAR for me.