The Amazing Race Season 15 – “Cambodia”


“Sean Penn, Cambodia, Here We Come!”

October 11th, 2009

The job of being an editor on The Amazing Race is really a tough one. In each episode, you need to turn the unsuspenseful into the suspenseful, and emphasize the zany in the mundane. Of course, it helps that often The Amazing Race is suspenseful, and that it is often extremely zany, and that the cast of characters involved can often enhance both of these elements. As such, it is likely every editor’s dream to receive a team like Zev and Justin, who deciding that Phnom Penh is actually Sean Penn, and who strike up a hilarious and fantastic relationship with their cab driver Thierry.

However, the editors also have to come to terms with how, precisely, they’re going to send someone home. Last week, Marcy and Ron got sent home after struggling with a Detour (they were just too slow, plain and simple), so Marcy got a lot of talking heads about her father’s time in Vietnam. The episode was a sendoff, albeit it a slight one, a last hurrah. In other instances, the editors love playing up irony or the impact of a single mistake, and sometimes they even play a game of Schadenfreude.

But as the teams race through Cambodia, the editors have the toughest job of all: turning triumph into adversity in a split second. It’s a chance of pace the episode handles with the grace of a newborn giraffe, heightening my sympathy for the difficulty of the editors’ job while also lowering my interest in this season, all in one fell swoop.

We were shifting emotional gears without a clutch in that scene where, after Zev and Justin check in after a leg both hilarious and triumphant, moving from the back of the pack into first place even after falling behind at the roadblock, we find them searching through their bags. The previews from last week told us that someone was going to lose their passports, so I spent the entire episode scanning to see if they had their fanny packs, but it was a single piece of paper that was misplaced somewhere in the leg that was missing. Chances are they had been racing without it all day, falling out somewhere in the labyrinth of the Russian market or perhaps even back at the airport. There’s no way of knowing where it fell out, and with the sun starting to set we finally see the team that was getting me excited about this season giving up: there was no way they could find it before the other teams arrived, so they are forced to walk away from the race in the worst way possible.

Really, this wouldn’t have had any impact if it had happened to another team, but these two were on fire all episode. Their relationship with Thierry was legitimately fantastic to watch, as the cab drive took to their discussions of karma and their legitimate kindness. Justin got called “a very nice man” by the woman at the standby counter, Zev had a few great one-liners, and overall I was just plain charmed. They’re like an odd couple comedy pairing that gets along enormously well, and while Zev’s patience temporarily disappeared during the Roadblock they got back on track quickly until finally being derailed. Zev chalks it all up to a mistake that can’t be fixed, while Justin blames himself and his sense of carelessness, but neither of them are at fault: careless or no, they ran a fantastic leg that was enormously entertaining to watch, and you could see the editors having fun with it. Sometimes, you presume we saw so much of one team because they were leaving soon (Marcy and Ron, for example), but these guys would have dominated this episode regardless.

Seeing them go home this early is honestly painful. They were one of the teams that really stood out, emerging as something different than what we’ve seen before. Mika and Canaan? Megan and Cheynne? There’s nothing that draws me to these teams except for their incompetence. I wanted to see Zev and Justin succeed, whereas I only want to see most of the other teams continue to not recognize Jackie Kennedy. I think that the editors managed to make the other teams pretty engaging here, but only because of their mistakes: this was a very funny and enjoyable hour of television until things turned sour, and at that point it was just unmitigated sadness.

I won’t stop watching, as I like the race and I do want to continue to see great sequences like Flight Time and Big Easy running down a fleeing woman and then nearly crushing her against a stall. That kind of thing is still kind of great, and next week’s trip to Dubai seems like the kind of diverse leg that would definitely challenge teams. However, just as I was starting to really root for a team, they disappear: it’s Mike and Mel all over again, and I just wish there was something we could do to keep this from happening.

So, if I don’t blog for a while, it’s because I’m patenting to a tattoo passport.

Cultural Observations

  • In the words of Seth and Amy, REALLY? These people didn’t know who Jackie Kennedy was? I’m Canadian, and I knew who Jackie Kennedy was. In fact, I knew from the long-shot of the image in the newspaper, yet alone the close-ups that the players would have been afforded. I know they’re in a race, so they didn’t look at it quickly, but the episode got a lot of mileage about people believing it is Queen Elizabeth, or a Queen, or someone who CLEARLY looks Cambodian in a black and white photograph.
  • Brian and Ericka aren’t my favourite team on the team by any means, but I thought that their team name of Jungle Fever is so bad it’s kind of clever – I’ll be curious to see where they go from here, as after some early struggles they’re a strong male/female team that could go far.
  • Lance’s performance at the mat gave us another classic Phil reaction (although one edited in after the fact, although he had one similar in the long shot we saw), but he seriously needs to leave soon.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but the Harlem Globetrotters gear seems like cheating to me: unlike Rob and Amber, who would actually be recognized no matter what clothes they wore, two big black men could be something other than Harlem Globetrotters, so the gear is an unfair advantage for luring in American-born helpers.
  • The Roadblock and the Detour were kind of interesting: the former was way too easy and ultimately irrelevant, but the latter had some real strategy. The “Cover” option would have been really challenging if a lot of teams had done it, but when only Lance and Keri did it this wasn’t the case. It’s one thing to find one family, it’s another to find four or five, so the scarf option would be safer in terms of potential numbers if potentially more challenging.

1 Comment

Filed under The Amazing Race

One response to “The Amazing Race Season 15 – “Cambodia”

  1. Not being aware of a potential passport fiasco, imagine my dismay at the reveal. What a punch in the guts – just as I’d decided Justin was going to be my TAR boyfriend this season. Sometimes, as much as I love The Race, I really hate The Race.

    Pinky and the Brain had better step up, ’cause this season just became a whole lot less interesting.

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