Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Amazing Race: “Beacon Of Hope”

Illustration for article titled The Amazing Race: “Beacon Of Hope”

Previously on The Amazing Race, a season barely distinguishable from most others of recent vintage unfolded. There was some brief excitement early when a father-son team with only three good legs between them managed a couple of first-place finishes, but we knew they’d have to pull themselves from the race long before the finish line. But most of the eliminated teams were unmemorable, and we were seemingly treated to more non-elimination legs than ever before. The final episode begins with three blandly likable teams and one obvious villain pairing, so it’s not so much a season with a clear rooting interest so much as one with a strong rooting-against component.

We begin in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the aforementioned villain team, Max and Katie, are the first to depart. Max and Katie certainly aren’t the worst couple to ever appear on this show—they’re not insanely dysfunctional or screaming, abusive co-dependents—but there’s just sort of a smug, unpleasant sheen radiating from them. If they win, it won’t be any kind of outrage, but it won’t be much fun. Anyway, they are followed out of the pit stop by the Hockey Bros, the Dixie Chicks, and the Roller Moms, who overcame a Speed Bump and a U-Turn to snag the fourth spot last week.

The ferry to Belfast provides another bunching point before the next Roadblock: bog snorkeling. One member of each team must don a wetsuit and swim through a muddy channel of water in under four minutes. Three teams manage to do this with time to spare, although Mona of the Roller Moms seems to be suffering from a complete break with reality the whole time. The way she carries on, you would think the bog was filled with piranhas, yet she does make it through the first time, which can’t be said for Jennifer of the Dixie Chicks. In our first indication that this will be an entirely suspense-free finale, she can’t get it done on either her first attempt or her second, at which point she breaks down, insisting she won’t be able to do it at all.

By now the other teams have moved on to what may well have been the most tedious task in Amazing Race history. We’re at the dock where the Titanic was built, which Katie helpfully describes as “a massive hole in the ground where you can imagine the Titanic being built.” Thanks, Katie! You really painted a vivid mental image there! Anyway, the task entails serving a five-course meal to a table of diners decked out in 1912 finery. What the teams don’t realize at first (and the Roller Moms don’t notice for a very long time) is that this is actually a two-part process: There’s a full menu listing the five courses, two of which offer options which must be deduced by examining a seating chart. The teams skip right to the chart without consulting the menu first, which slows down what is already a boring challenge to watch.

It goes on forever, especially for the Roller Girls, which would appear to leave the window open for the Dixie Chicks to catch up once Jennifer finally sucks it up and finishes the bog snorkel. Despite the best efforts of the editors to create some doubt about the matter, however, it’s clear that they’re toast long before they become the last team to be eliminated. Max and Katie finish first for the third straight leg, although Bates and Anthony are mere seconds behind them. This ends up mattering not a bit, as the final three finishers all end up on the same ferry to Liverpool, train to London, and flight to Washington, DC (“The capital of the United States of America,” Phil helpfully informs us) where the finish line awaits.

First they must complete a task that neatly encapsulates the lowering of expectations that has become part and parcel of The Amazing Race in recent seasons. The teams are told to take a cab to the White House to have their pictures taken with Barack Obama. But the address they are given is 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, and as anyone who has seen the Wesley Snipes classic Murder At 1600 can tell you, that is not the address of the real White House. Instead the teams are ushered into a crappy little souvenir stand where they are photoshopped into shaking hands with the President. Welcome to The Amazing Race, where the motto is “We really don’t try that hard anymore.”


Admittedly, the next Roadblock is amusing, as one member of each team wanders through a park full of “Secret Service agents” yelling a secret code phrase like “I did not dress warm enough for this weather” in hopes of finding the right agent with the counter-phase and a briefcase containing the next clue. And there’s some fun to be had at Nationals Park, especially if you enjoy seeing Max running around like an idiot in a giant inflatable baseball costume. The final challenge is a variation on an old reliable favorite, remembering the order of countries visited, but by this point, Bates and Anthony are so far ahead, it’s a foregone conclusion they’re going to win.

At least it doesn’t come down to taxi luck in the end, but there’s absolutely no suspense in the last 15 minutes or so. Still, the Hockey Bros are satisfying enough winners, even if they can’t think of anything to say about The Amazing Race other than that it’s… amazing! But it really isn’t and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s just coasting along on inertia at this point, and apparently Bertram van Munster and company don’t feel the need to shake it up much at all.


Stray observations:

  • Ulster Hall has hosted Charles Dickens, Led Zeppelin, and the Dalai Lama. But not all at once, which would be awesome.
  • I’m glad David didn’t have to have his leg amputated after continuing the race on his torn Achilles tendon.
  • Where can I find a good half-smoke with chili?