Season Finale Preview
It has been a few weeks since I last reviewed an episode of The Amazing Race, but you’ll have to forgive me. After this past week’s tragic events, and the previous week’s predictable non-elimination episode, the end of this season has been without anything even close to suspense. This isn’t to say that it has been bad television, or that the show has been off its game, but a series of circumstances outside of its control have led to a final three without anything approaching intrigue.
It’s also a final three, unfortunately, where I will only really be happy with one team’s victory. While Ken and Tina’s story of a marriage on the rocks would certainly make for a potentially emotional victory, her shrill attitude has been frustrating throughout the race and I don’t know if I necessarily want that to be their happy ending. Although Dan and Andrew want to make themselves out to be the underdogs, they really are the “Only left in the race because of sheer luck” dogs and don’t deserve to win a million dollars because of it.
No, Nick and Starr are the team that deserve this. And while some might feel that their prior dominance sucks all the fun out of their victory, I’d like to see a team with The Amazing Race that, well, actually ran a good race.
Even though I had been partially spoiled for last week’s episode, after learning that it made one of my Twitter follows cry and presuming that this could only mean the previewed loss of passport/money happened to the team with the most emotional capital, I was still devastated to see Toni and Dallas go home in the way they did. Sure, it could have happened anyways: Dallas really did struggle with the Stalin/Lenin roadblock (which, as a recent student of Russian history, I would have had a lot of fun with), and without Tina’s help he might have had to go back to the park anyways.
But for them to go out on a technicality is one of those situations that just plain hurts to watch, especially because the team had been doing so well the week before and had been such “good” racers. They were smart, they were level-headed, Dallas knew not to stretch too far outside of his physical role while not pushing Toni too hard to overcome her physical deficiencies…it was a well-oiled machine that had every chance of competing in the final leg. That it was something so simple as leaving a bad behind was all the more tragic: watching as Dallas was in that cab, you just wanted to scream at the television for him to check carefully before running out and grabbing the next clue.
Their tragic exit, really, leaves the door wide open for Nick & Starr. The team has had only one real setback, a poor taxi driver, but have proven extremely strong at picking the right detours, performing roadblocks, and playing strategy in the right places to put themselves on top. Their performance in this leg was just plain good: they thought things through, they bounced back from 3rd place extremely quickly, and they ended up with a near flawless leg by the time they hit the mat.
Some could argue that such dominance makes them too obvious a selection, no surprise or sentiment to be found in a team that raced well in the beginning and continued to race well until the end. I disagree: as a team, the two have demonstrated some really strong qualities that smart racers would be emulating in the future. While you could argue that Nick is the one who runs the team, making a lot of the decisions and spending much of his time calming down Starr or babysitting her budding romance with Dallas, Starr has kept up her end of the bargain – she was faster at the Fast Forward, and has certainly performed well in her roadblocks.
They’ve also been smart with their strategy: while it is true that Starr should have been a bit more careful dealing with Kelly and Christy, I can’t really blame her for not giving Sports Bra-gate the time of day. And while Nick has made a couple of dicey strategy moves, only his rather abrupt and rude alliance-making during that long wall roadblock was a sign of anything other than intelligence and observation. They have, in my mind, earned this victory through cooler heads and fast racing; anyone else winning feels false to me.
This isn’t to say that I would be morally outraged by Ken and Tina winning a million dollars, but I feel as if their journey never got to where it needed to be. They never really proved themselves as good racers (their lengthy and silly search around the Pit Stop for the clue box was just kind of sad), they bickered constantly, and I don’t know what the message would be if they won a million dollars. I don’t think they’re quite to Zack and Flo levels, but I think they are nonetheless one of those teams where their real victory should be a second place finish and a few life lessons about their relationships. And while I am no marriage counsellor, I think that the euphoria of winning a million dollars would just mask the deeper problems that we’ve seen emerge during the race – but that’s just what the editors are showing us, I suppose.
Meanwhile, the editors have had a field day with Dan and Andrew – not in a long time has there been two teams (Kelly and Christy being the other) that have been so inadequate at the simplest of tasks, or made so many monumentally silly decisions. Dan’s escapade performing that Russian march was probably the funniest moment of the race, and justifiably had me in fits of laughter, but it’s really just sad: these two are running a rough race right now, and they’re in this race because of Toni and Dallas’ mistake (although, they’d still be in the Top 3 even if Toni and Dallas had been 2nd due to Ken and Tina’s bus mistake). While they are claiming they are the underdogs, they’re much less than that: no one is rooting for them, as far as I can tell, and I don’t know how they can win this race with their pretty consistent struggles with even the simplest of tasks (from siphoning gas to marching in formation).
At the end of the day, it just seems like Nick and Starr fight less, make less mistakes, and have demonstrated a better head for this game overall. If they can continue that pattern, I don’t think they can lose: if they do, however, happen to get passed by someone, I won’t be crushed. I’ll just wait until the Spring, when we start the whole thing all over again.
The Season Finale of The Amazing Race airs tonight, Sunday December 7th, at 8/7c on CBS, potentially a bit later due to football overruns, and at 8 EST on CTV in Canada. Cultural Learnings will have a full recap and our reactions to the winner later this evening.