This season of The Amazing Race has been less about picking a rooting interest than reluctantly pulling for the least objectionable team. The likable people went home early, but who’s to say the likes of Chester and Ephraim or the weird-bearded Brandon and Adam wouldn’t have worn out their welcomes eventually? After all, we have evidence in the form of doctors Travis and Nicole that seemingly rootable teams can sour before the finish line. And I would argue (although I expect this is a minority opinion) that an unrootable team like Tim and Marie can achieve, if not likeable status, at least a certain respectability in the final stretch.
As for the other two teams remaining as the two-hour finale opens, we have Leo and Jamal, the “Afghanimals,” who have certainly entertained themselves if nobody else, and Jason and Amy, the dating couple from Boston who might well be the least objectionable team of the final four. Amy seems nice, anyway, even though Jason is sort of a dour presence and doesn’t always seem entirely tolerant of cultures where they don’t wear Red Sox caps or respond to the nickname Sully.
At the end of last week’s episode, the Afghanimals were spared elimination with the knowledge that, at some point in the next leg, they would incur a Speed Bump. Leo and Jamal gamble on a flight scheduled to arrive in Tokyo 10-15 minutes earlier than the plane everyone else is on. It seems like this ploy usually backfires, with the supposedly earlier flight either getting delayed or missing a connection. But in this case it pays off, and the Afghanimals get a head start on their tasks.
If you got all of your information about Japan from The Amazing Race, you’d assume it was a fictional place overseen by Willy Wonka. The country is, apparently, a wondrous fairyland of crazy game shows and robots and roaming vending machines and screaming men trying to capture giant fake animals. So naturally, the Afghanimals’ first task is to be human bowling balls in a giant game of 10-pin while a screaming audience and an excitable game-show host cheer them on. Tim and Marie also opt for this mission, while the other couples don tiny orange Speedos and dive into telephone booths full of goldfish. As you do in Japan.
For a while, it looks like Leo and Jamal are going to make the worst-to-first move they promised, but Jamal makes a crucial mistake while building a robot, and they end up being the last team eliminated before the final leg. If these guys were half as much fun as they thought they were, I would have been sorry to see them go. I don’t even care about their so-called “dirty play,” because that’s a bunch of hooey on a show like this. But they try so hard to be the wacky guys, and they’re so easily impressed with their own wild and crazy ways, that I wasn’t disappointed. Besides, you can bet they’ll be back on some future “all-star” edition.
The robot task is also where Travis completes his heel-turn, which has been building for weeks now. At first, he and Nicole seemed fine, but as the race progressed they grew increasingly sanctimonious (and, as the Afghanimals pointed out, hypocritical) about “playing the game the right way” and all that nonsense. And while Travis wasn’t outright abusive before tonight, he grew more and more condescending toward Nicole as the finish line drew nearer. Oh, how she disappointed him, time and time again, by not being as good as him! If only he could have done all the tasks himself, but (shakes his head sadly), alas, it’s a team game. Tonight Travis just snapped, basically yelling at Nicole for being terrible at everything. And yes—Nicole did suck at the last few tasks—but this was hard to watch.
The final leg was largely suspense-free once Amy hit the target with her helicopter drop on the second try, while Marie and Nicole struggled. Jason and Amy took a lead they never relinquished, although there was at least a small chance they’d fall behind on the last task, the traditional “remember everything you did on the race” challenge. (In this case, it involved correctly arranging totem pole puzzles marked with the currency used in each country.) I’m sure few were sad to see Tim and Marie lose, but I have to admit, Marie had won me over a little bit by the end. She treated us to no shortage of horrible behavior along the way, but she was a fierce competitor, and it was even a little endearing when she tried to boil eggs by holding them above the hot springs.
But their final push was not enough, and Jason and Amy indeed won the race and the million bucks. It’s a shrug-worthy conclusion, but it could have been so much worse. Faint praise, perhaps, but that’s about where The Amazing Race is at these days.
Tim: “They don’t seem to know where anything is if it’s not written in symbols.” Yeah, see, those symbols are the language of the country you are in. They are not in the wrong for knowing what those symbols mean and not knowing what the hell you’re talking about.
When people describe their time on The Amazing Race as “amazing,” they just aren’t trying hard enough.
Jason: “Do you speak English?” Cabbie in Alaska: “All my life.”
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