Sunday, May 9, 2010

THE UPGRADE: So after all that -- 23 (that's it?) days -- whatever faults the rest of this season of The Amazing Race had, at least we had a worthy winner. [Rest is spoilers below the fold.]

Worthy in terms of the whole season? No. The only leg Dan & Jordan won was because of a Fast Forward, and even though the Race is don't-be-last until the final leg, it's still not impressive to see. But worthy in terms of racing the hell out of this leg, absolutely. The backpack shtick wasn't determinative, but asking to be moved to first class certainly was. From that advantage off the plane, they had a nice head start to the first task, found it easily (googled from the Shanghai Airport?) and impressively handled the rest of the race, including a too-easy-to-prepare-for-especially-if-you-could-tagteam-it memory challenge at the end. At least Brent and Catie were nicely crushed by their cab driver.

Not a great season for the Race overall, and I'm trying to figure out why. Overall, I'd attribute it a lack of impressive racing -- there are no Colin/Christie or Mirna/Schmirna teams looking to out-race the Race, and I feel like they're casting more for backstory and easily identifiable traits rather than racing abilities. But even more than that, the tasks weren't demanding enough -- physical challenges were basically gone in favor of a whole lot of "find that and do something easy," and I don't recall much long-distance driving or navigational challenges.

This season just wasn't must-see-it-right-now tv, and I'm wondering what it will take to resuscitate this franchise the way that this All-Star season has for Survivor. Thoughts?

added: Dan wants to focus on the post-victory ugliness, about which I can only say: double-true.


  1. Actually, I think Dan and Jordan had a bigger grasp of Race strategy than you give them credit for.  They clearly understood two things:

    1.  That what matters is not being first in any leg other than the final one, but being Not Last.  They smartly played with other teams when it made sense to do so (pairing up with the cops in an earlier leg, with an eye to the cops having a speed bump ahead of them).  They repeatedly said that was their goal, and they played it smartly.
    2.  They played the final leg perfectly, with a lot of knowledge about what they could expect to do and playing by the rules.

    As for fixing it--I thought the Race was decently structured, but suffered from casting problems and that interesting teams on paper (or even in interviews) didn't pan out.  For casting in the future--avoid "dating/models" (or "anything/models"), former reality stars (including pageant stars), and teams who clearly aren't competitive.

  2. Andrew12:08 AM

    If there's one thing about Dan and Jordan that made them decent racers, it's that they (or at least one of them) is a huge fan of the show. But all in all, this was a very lackluster and unmemorable season.

  3. The Pathetic Earthling12:56 AM

    I was hardly a fan of Caite, but great googly moogly was that lesbian woman unpleasant.  Bummed the cowboys didn't win it, but happy for a well-structured San Francisco leg.  The Coit Tower and ILM/Lucasfilm stuff was pretty obvious, but I've never been to that coastal defense battery, so kudos for choosing something a bit off the beaten bath.

  4. Heather K9:38 AM

    I too wish there was more room for ground gaining in this leg.  And I feel like almost all other memory of the whole race challenges have been harder than actual pictures of your fellow racers (like tiny pictures that symbolize something about the countries! or finding the real ones in a sea of red herrings).

    But I really enjoyed the last leg in spite of all that and inspite of angry lesbians--although could've done without.

    I too wish they cast better this season.  I did like that there were quite a few nice and happy people (the cops generally, the cowboys), but I miss people who were serious and good racers.

  5. The Pathetic Earthling11:08 AM

    Another thing about this season that I missed was there were a lot of *wrong* choices to be made in terms of navigation.  One of my all time favorite segments from TAR was in the Bowling Moms season (I think), where they were in the Philippines, and had to get their boat to navigate them to a beach where their clue was under the flag of the Philippines -- and the other choices of flags included the Czech Republic flag (very similar vexillogic) and Malaysia (which is where I think they had been just previous).  So you could take the wrong path and lose a bunch of time.  Here everything was very linear.

  6. Were Brandy and Carol really that unpleasant to them during the race? Because the editors just kept showing the one clip where they made fun of Caite's tiara, not to their face. I feel like, if you're on TAR entirely because of your youtube notoriety, you can't get super mad when people reference it. And if you're going to build a narrative arc around one team being mean to another team, find more than one clip in which it happens. I didn't like the end either, but I felt like the tension between them was extremely forced.

  7. Meghan12:14 PM

    I think Brandy and Carol were more passive-aggressive.  I remember hearing little barbs slipped in here and there.  I just thought they were totally irrational in lashing out at her.  It's the GAME.  They got there and could U-Turn whomever they wanted for whatever reason.  Suck it up, ladies.  Life is like that. 

    I'm bummed about Dan and Jordan, not because they didn't deserve to win but just because I didn't like them (BRO) and I infinitely preferred Jet and Cord.

  8. Genevieve1:58 PM

    Really wish Jet and Cord had won, but I enjoyed the episode.  Jordan ticked me off with the backpack bit, mostly because it was a nasty and unfair thing to do (I know, it's the RACE, but it made me mad at them for the rest of the episode) -- clearly Cord was in line behind the models, he'd just left some room -- and partly because I couldn't see what the cowboys could do to neutralize it.  Cord couldn't really get physical and push in front, without sparking a physical confrontation that could get them kicked out of the airport.  I was glad that the backpack bit didn't seem to really gain much advantage (much more so from the smart request to move to first class).

    And yes, there didn't seem much room to gain ground here -- nothing really tricky with the potential to take a long time.  I liked the greenscreen challenge very much - and again, was there anything Cord could do to move through to his goal while Jordan was standing right in front of him?  If he pushed him out of the way, would that violate the rules?  It's true, though, that the cowboys lost crucial time here while Jet failed to figure out that Cord had to spin in circles the way Dan had done. 

    Very glad to have Brent and Caite off of my TV.  They did do better with the greenscreen than I expected -- I didn't think either would be patient enough for the give-and-take of directions, but they did it.  But I'm glad to never hear their voices again.

  9. They speak:

    Jordan: My brother and I had a pretty set strategy from Day One: We wanted to fly under the radar and we wanted to not have a target on our backs … avoid those U-turns, not rub the other teams the wrong way. It wasn’t about coming in first every leg, it was about not coming in last. You never know when an elimination leg is, so it’s about not coming in last. And in that final leg, we said, “This is what we’ve been waiting for” and we put the pedal to the medal and we’re going to make it count. And we did that. And as far as the whole race, that was by far our most flawless and stress-free leg even though we had so much emotion and so much on the line.

  10. Two comments:

    1) Re: the backpack thing -- seemed very out of character, and didn't really make any sense.  Did they think there would only be two seats left on that flight?  The plane was empty -- the cowboys were one row behind them (until the upgrade)!

    2) I've spend the last month on an internal investigation near Berkeley and have been flying in and out of SFO every Monday and Friday, so I had a nice bittersweet moment yelling out "the taxi stand is downstairs and to the left!" as they ran throught the airport.