“She’s a Little Scared of Stick…”
March 15th, 2009
I spent a great deal of this, the fifth leg of The Amazing Race’s fourteenth season, wishing that last week’s blind U-Turn hadn’t happened, or that Kris and Amanda had been able to make it past the Detour in time to keep it from affecting them. While I understand that it’s part of the game, this race is weaker without them: a team that were likeable, fun to watch and competitive is the kind of team you want to have while you get rid of the weaker teams who are, well, not those things. Kris and Amanda may have been a threat to the competitive spirit of other teams, but they were much better from my own perspective – selfish, I know.
This week did little to assuage my concerns that we’re dealing with a slightly less interesting race as a result, although I’ll admit that this remains one of the most genuinely inoffensive group of racers in a long time. While there are a few teams who are legitimately struggling, it seems less as if they are just really bad at this race but rather that their skills lie in certain areas that don’t happen to come into effect when the teams are trapped in the depths of Siberia. We’re getting to the point where frontrunners are quite clear, and where the people who struggle are becoming more clearly identified, but there exists no one team that I would U-Turn if I was running this race with them.
But, of course, I’m not in race mode, so perhaps my rationality would go out the window when the time came.
There’s something frustrating about everyone getting bunched like this, especially when it was entirely by design – they were told to go to that railway station, and if they had been given some free will they might have been able to try to get there sooner through some connections. However, the race often needs to pace itself, so it’s a necessary evil. Right off the bat, though, it was clear that the pit stop had been extended (no way did they arrive at midnight), so perhaps that was done in order to create the levelling? That becomes even more complicated, and is an ethical question that doesn’t bother me when it only helped the one team I’m notably rooting for.
That, clearly, is Mike White and his father Mel, who are pretty much some of my favourite racers ever. There is something about these two and their sense of humour that is making the entire race that much more enjoyable, and it goes beyond their quips to their general racing strategy. Mike admitted at the Detour, where the teams chose between driving snowplows and escorting a russian bride to her wedding, that he makes the decisions based on what sounds the most fun – as a result, they were off to a wedding instead of plotting a career clearing the streets. It’s just more fun to watch: whether it was Mel praising God that his son just quoted the Bible (“It’s a miracle!”), or Mike running 1.4 miles in winter boots, or their shared giddiness while escorting their bride, there’s just a lot of pleasure in their race strategy, demeanor, and everything else.
And to be fair, that’s kind of across the board. Yes, Victor continues to annoy me with his over-excitement, but now that he isn’t trying to destroy Tammy emotionally and their free of drama I find their likeable enough. Mark and Michael have kind of been isolated from all of the other teams, but on their own they almost got hit by some cars, made some disparaging statements about married life, and got lost finding Phil when he was about ten feet to their left with a cameraman beside him – that’s enough for me to enjoy watching them. Even Jen and Kisha, who struggled all episode and continued to show that people are still kind of insane not to learn stick before going on the Race, made even someone stalling a car pretty comfortable.
I’m a little less endeared by Margie and Luke, likely because of residual frustration over last week’s U-Turn, but as long as Mike White is around to discuss how Luke is creating the “sinister deaf kid archetype” I’m okay with their strong performance (here finishing first yet again). Jaime and Cara I am somewhat less endeared by: I hate teams who complain about other teams being competitive (Margie and Luke have the same problem, which boggles the mind considering their action last week), and I just find that they seem to lack enjoyment as they’re running the race. I want both of these teams to slow down and stop freaking out over dynamics with other team – just race, damnit!
Even Jodi and Christie, who were kind of awful early in the race but surged to a first place finish based on a smart Detour performance last week, deserve some credit: while they’re not actually good at this race as a whole (once they leave airports they seem to do nothing but struggle, especially when driving themselves), they are quite clear that they have no use for fighting with one another, and they view the Race as work and expect to have to struggle a little. Going to the wrong Church, finishing in last (and clearly in last) could have broken some teams, but they shouldered through quite valiantly. I still wish that last week had been the non-elimination, and that Kris and Amanda could have been saved, but I guess I can handle that pain when I’m not fundamentally frustrated with the rest of the race.
As for the leg itself, Novosibirsk was not an easy place to have these tasks, either one of them. The Detour was pretty simple except for the element of driving around the city in manual transmission vehicles that were not built for people who don’t now how to operate a stick shift (See: Jen and Victor). The traffic was one thing, but the addition of the snow and ice caused a few dicey situations, and I am kind of shocked that there were no serious accidents considering the circumstances. The Roadblock, of course, was also weather dependent considering how cold it was, but let’s be fair: as someone who lives in Canada, -4 degree celsius is not THAT cold, so it’s not like it was unsafe. Still, the underwear element would have made things difficult, and there was some movement between teams, so it did make for some good drama.
- Phil got to have fun this episode: snapping and whistling to get Mark and Michael’s attention was great, but I don’t think it tops the sheer fun of Phil dressing down to his skivvies in order to demonstrate the roadblock.
- More crazy locals: Jodi and Christie were molested/accosted by some drunkards, and just about everyone got in on the ogling and hooting/hollering during the roadblock. My favourite? The local who did a total double-take as Mike ran by – it was kind of awesome, and I demand a GIF.
- The Brides had to put up with a lot in this episode – I felt especially bad for Jodi and Christie’s bride, who had to go all the way to that wrong Church – I’m presuming that they were just actors, but their reunions did seem pretty heartfelt, so maybe they were real young couples who (hopefully) weren’t actually waiting to get married on that particular day.
- There were so much better quotes for this episode title, I can’t even explain it – that’s why I didn’t even dignify it by putting it all above.