The Amazing Race Season 13 – “Episode Five”

“Do it Like a Madman”

October 26th, 2008

As a race, the thirteenth season of The Amazing Race isn’t all that compelling. The show made very little effort to make the conclusion suspenseful, as they knew as well as we did that there was no other option.

What the episode did demonstrate, though, is that this season’s group of racers is trying their darndest to make a compelling episode of television at every turn. Whether it’s broken down boats, paranoid directions asking, extremely poor hand cranking or an editor’s wet dream of an ironic talking head to start the leg, this group is quite poor at actually running the Race in a way that’s less annoying than it is charming. When even those teams who looked like they could grate, just a little, have managed thus far to prove largely inoffensive, you’ve got the recipe for an edition of the Race that, if not reaching the heights of the show’s best, could prove fun to watch without having to hate someone.

I’m going to head to bed early, and am recovering from the fact that I’m delayed in seeing tonight’s Mad Men finale until tomorrow morning, but I do have a few observations to make about a few teams in particular.

First and foremost, I think it’s important that we acknowledge how Kelly and Christy may in fact be one of the most hilariously clueless teams in TAR history, and I make this remark knowing that they actually at one point found themselves clueless tonight. That the episode opened with their observation that they had been spending too much time worrying about going fast (Should that really be noted as a distraction during the race?) that they forgot to use their brains, essentially, was surely giving the editors pains of laughter viewed in the context of the rest of the episode. The girls aren’t bad racers, by any means, and if we’re gauging them on their ability to be gung-ho about things I’d say that they’re successful.

But the conclusions they jump to demonstrate that their impulsiveness is going to be the end of them: they rushed out of their taxi and even searched the restrooms at that first gas station, they went right to the Basketball Court as soon as they saw other teams without thinking that they might need a clue, and (in the night’s most hilarious moment) presumed that the Teeth they were supposed to get belonged to the woman being worked on in front of them as opposed to the novelty teeth on the table. They are, honestly, right: when they’re worried about losing, they lose any sense of common sense and start making really silly mistakes.

Of course, they had no chance of going home in this episode: Ty and Aja were getting eliminated as soon as it was clear that they had no chance whatsoever of making the flight. Whether Andrew and Dan would have been bunched up with them, and made this a real race, without the ticket counter’s help is interesting: we never know what kind of editing there was, and the distance between the teams was substantial enough that I think there would have still been some potential distance. Still, it’s no real loss: while they tried to become interesting by bickering last week, they were just a wholly decent set of racers that never showed any real aptitude for the race as a whole.

As for the rest of the episode, I really liked the locations that Cambodia offered, in particular the floating village. It’s always great when the show is able to really integrate into another culture, and while the tasks in the “Village Life” challenge were pretty lame (The Doll/Teeth choices were a bit out of place culturally) it was interesting to see how many people actually live in this type of environment. It’s such a nice slice of life moment, especially the idea of a floating basketball court. I always wonder, afterwards, what these communities think of a show like this coming in, and whether perhaps they got some new Basketball equipment out of the arrangement (Those nets looked pretty new). Either way, the floating village and its way of life was definitely one of the highlights of the season so far.

Cultural Observations

  • Interesting to see that we’re getting a showmance, or potential showmance, with Dallas and Starr. I have to wonder how much of this has to do with the fact that he’s named after the team she’s a cheerleader for, but I can’t imagine Nick is going to be happy that, on top of jumping out of the truck and asking for directions when they are clearly moving towards a body of water, she’s now going to be making googly eyes at another competitor. Plus, how will Ken and Tina feel about one of their kids dating?
  • Speaking of Ken and Tina, sad to see that the bickering returns next week – hopefully Tina doesn’t take his reaction as him not trying to make their relationship work, as I really don’t want to deal with that for as long as they’re around. The placement of the team certainly suffered after their struggles at the Roadblock, but they should be able to bounce back.
  • I still remember someone talking about how Dan and Andrew were going to be real villains this season, but unless their villainy will be staying long past their ability through luck I don’t really see it. Here, Andrew’s ineptitude at realizing he was just being too weak turning the crank was more funny and sad than it was villainous, and somehow I think that this trend is going to continue instead of them suddenly turning into snotty jerks.
  • Terence and Sarah had every potential to be this season’s Freddy and Kendra, but her enthusiasm and his (since early episodes) lack of outburts have made them tolerable. I’m curious why we got the added Phil VO about the speeding ticket. Did they forget to give them the penalty in the first place? Did they simply just not get it on camera? Or was it a network note that, in order to avoid sending the message that speeding is okay as long as you don’t come in last place, they needed to make note of it at the end of this episode and not just at the beginning of next week’s? Either way, it’s a bit strange.

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