Over the years on The Amazing Race, many contestants have faced and overcome their fears, including fear of heights, fear of exotic foods, and in one memorable instance, fear of baldness. In the seventh season, Uchenna and Joyce won the Fast Forward when Joyce, after much consternation and deliberation, agreed to have her head shaved. Perhaps fueled by the competitive spirit she showed, they went on to win the race and the million dollars.
A similar moment presents itself on tonight’s episode, the title of which is the first clue that things go in a rather different direction this time around. Rachel and Brendon are the first team to arrive at the Fast Forward, which once again offers the opportunity to skip all tasks if only both team members agree to have their heads shaved. Brendon, of course, has no problem with this. Rachel, showing the competitive fire that she no doubt brought to her months of sitting around the Big Brother house, refuses. “I paid $500 for hair extensions,” she sobs. The gentlemanly Brendon opts not to retort with the obvious: $1 million buys an awful lot of hair extension.
Let’s try to see this from Rachel’s point of view, shall we? Bopper and Mark are obviously hours behind everyone else. By forfeiting the Fast Forward, Rachel and Brendon are giving up an easy first place finish for this leg, but they should still make the final four rather easily. That may have been her thought process, anyway, but if so, she’s overlooking one crucial factor: None of the other leading teams have gone for the Fast Forward, leaving it fair game for the trailing Mark and Bopper. (And given that they’ve been spared elimination twice already, conspiracy theorists must be wondering if someone from the production whispered in their ears that the Fast Forward was still available.)
In truth, Rachel’s decision provides just about the only drama this penultimate episode has to offer. I certainly would have liked the opportunity to get an eyeful of Bald Rachel, but if she had agreed to shave her head, that would have left absolutely no doubt that Mark and Bopper’s stay of execution from last week was only a temporary one. We would have spent the hour watching people decorate elephants, shovel poop, and spin 40 feet of coconut rope, with absolutely no tension or suspense whatsoever.
Even with the Fast Forward still in play, I couldn’t quite convince myself that Mark and Bopper had a shot at staying in the game. They spent the first half of the episode in their hotel room, and the image of Mark receiving an IV drip seemed like a visual metaphor for the state of their game: on life support. At least we got a couple more fun moments with Team Holler, painting a tiger face on a dancer’s belly and getting their domes shaved (a much easier task for the already-bald Mark than last week’s Bollywood dance-a-thon).
Aside from the Fast Forward controversy, most of the potential drama fizzled quickly. Vanessa fell on her face, clutching her ankle in agony, but was up and hobbling in no time. J.J. tried to goad Rachel into doing the Fast Forward after all, but proved unpersuasive. Vanessa thought she caught Brendon and Rachel cheating on the manure task, an opinion she expressed to Phil when both teams arrived together on the mat. This led to another spat between Rachel and Vanessa, who rehashed their past grievances before patching it up in rather unconvincing fashion. Art and J.J. chose a particularly grueling and tedious Detour option, but despite their “blood, sweat, and tears,” they still beat out Mark and Bopper for the final spot in the finale.
A question for Amazing Race historians: Is this the first time a team has used the Fast Forward and still come in last? The elimination of Mark and Bopper is a bummer, but really, they’d already been given a second and third chance in the race. Any victory by them would have come with an asterisk. Unfortunately, they’ve left a generally unlikeable crew of finalists for us to sift through in search of a rooting interest. I guess I could cheer on blonde Rachel if I knew she’d use her half of the million dollars to hire a good divorce lawyer. Other than that, I’m left to hope for an exciting finish, at least.
- Vanessa: “Ralph is one of my few boyfriends who have not cross-dressed.” This may explain a lot.
- Dave: “I don’t need positive reinforcement, babe! Silence is golden!” And Dave is a dick.
- Speaking of which, Art and J.J. earned a little goodwill from me with their mockery of Dave’s verbally abusive ways.
- Next week: Controversy at the finish line, as a bunch of people we’ve forgotten about look on.