“He Made Me Look Like Alice Cooper”
May 3rd, 2009
At the beginning of tonight’s penultimate episode of The Amazing Race’s 14th season, Kisha and Jen are elated to find out that they’re still racing, that last week’s cliffhanger meant the leg wasn’t over yet. Jen, in particular, is pleased: she had let the team fall behind with her fear of water creating a gap between them and the other teams, and she didn’t want that fact on her conscience should the team be eliminated.
The story that unfolds after the fact is an epic tale of Amazing Race karma, and results in an ending that needs to be seen to be believed. The rest of the episode, meanwhile, is more fuel on the fire for those who feel the race is unfair based on its current location and the language skills of one of its teams. And while I don’t necessarily agree with this assessment, I do think that some things need to be discussed in further detail…as soon as I run to the bathroom. I’ll be back after the jump, promise.
A bladder – she thought it would come down to the inability to swim, but in reality Jen and Kisha lost the race because Jen wasn’t able to hold it for a few more minutes after chugging a bottle of water during the Roadblock. Of course, we don’t know that for sure: they could have run around more than Jaime and Cara at the Bird’s Nest, and they might have never made it to the mat any faster, but considering how close the race apparently was it could actually be that someone lost their chance at winning a million dollars based on the fact that everybody pees.
What’s frustrating about this is that Jen and Kisha were the better story in this episode: they worked their way from fourth to second leading up to the Detour, got lost but managed to find their way back before Jaime and Cara, finished the second half of the detour after being U-Turned before Jaime and Cara could make it back to the U-Turn spot (so cleverly concealed, you know, right where they started), and managed to keep that lead getting to the Bird’s Nest. That they were done in by something so small, that Jen drank so much water during the Roadblock, is actually kind of sad. In reality, of course, the U-Turn was the real deciding factor: without that precious time there would have been time for a bathroom break, for example.
I was convinced that they were actually going to make it through because, otherwise, the rather mean “Let’s Subtitle the Mangled Mandarin from the Detour” treatment they were given in post-production would be a little bit harsh; however, I was proven wrong, and it made me a little sad. Yes, the team kind of stumbled their way through some early legs, and only the legs in which they were able to leverage their non-aquatic athleticism were really strong, but I felt they handled themselves admirably throughout the Margie/Luke debacle, and perhaps more importantly I felt they overcame some potential sibling rivalry issues in their interactions. They were, for me, a far better story than Jaime and Cara, and while I fully understand Victor and Tammy’s decision to Detour them it ended up being their ultimate downfall, and that’s just part of the race in the end.
Now, I’ve seen a couple of google searches along the lines of “Amazing Race 14 unfair” or “Tammy and Victor unfair,” which I presume are in reference to the fact that as Mandarin-speaking individuals they have an unfair advantage in China. I will admit that, this week, that Detour was built for them in a way that may seem unfair at first, but it is important to note that the other task was technically quicker: yes, Kisha and Jen eventually struggled with the language task, but the added element of waiting for the food made it a trap. The Opera task could be completely very quickly, but it just so happened that Tammy and Victor were good at the task and had enough of a lead going into it that they were able to get to the U-Turn first and take their lead straight to the pit stop.
I don’t think this is unfair because language is only one factor: some tasks will involve highly physical challenges that favour some teams, others will favour team members with iron stomachs, and anything else in between. If Tammy and Victor’s language skills gave them an advantage in EVERY leg of the race, then it is unfair: however, the producers knew they would be traveling to China in the wake of the Olympics, and they knew that it was possible that Tammy and Victor would get to this point, but they had no way of knowing. The same goes for next week’s preview: they had no idea whether or not a team like Kris and Amanda, who would dominate a physical task like the pig carrying, would be around in the end or whether it would be teams that might struggle slightly more. Every team on the race has their strengths and weaknesses, and part of winning the race is being able to overcome those obstacles.
As for why they’re spending so MUCH time in China, well, that’s a different question and one that I don’t think makes it any more unfair. As Tammy and Victor have said, they struggle with everything BUT the language barrier just as much as anyone else, so it’s not fundamentally altering 90% of the Amazing Race experience. While one could argue that Tammy and Victor would have an unfair advantage if they had gotten as lost as the other teams in search of the U-Turn, some of the patrons that were asked about it seemed confused even after reading the clue, so it didn’t seem as if it was a particularly logical thing that language alone could have solved. And since that scenario didn’t arise, and because the producers had no way of predicting it could arise, I don’t really know what could be done: it would be racist to ban people who speak foreign languages from the Race, and the producers plan things too far in advance to be worried about the possibility of language knowledge in their pre-production period.
It hasn’t altered what makes the show entertaining: the finish to this week’s leg was honestly exciting, up there with the most tense ever (which made the bathroom break even more insane in the eyes of the viewer), and the final three contains teams that have, at the very least, been competitors from the very beginning. The real test of the race is seeing which teams survive, as every team has their strengths and weaknesses: Tammy and Victor overcame some serious sibling issues early on to finish strong, Margie and Luke overcame less his deafness and more the effects of his deafness on their relationship and on Margie’s sanity (she almost broke down during the Detour, let’s remember), and Jaime and Cara overcame Jaime’s hatred of all things loud and human. No, I don’t have a particular emotional connection to these pairings, but I don’t feel as if it’s an unfair outcome or anything of that sort.
- Just to be entirely clear: I would pee myself for a million dollars.
- This was a much more fair U-Turn placement, speaking of fairness: Kris and Amanda were dealing with two physical and time-consuming tasks that took precision when they got dinged with it early. This time around, the two tasks were of similar lengths, and your disadvantage was likely at most twenty minutes as opposed to the seemingly far more substantial time required earlier. I don’t mind the U-Turn in situations like this, but earlier in the season it bugged me, and it’s all about where it’s executed.
- I really want to see the footage where Phil is told by the producers that Jen has stopped for a bathroom break within walking distance of the pit stop. Biggest eyebrow raise, ever?