‘The Amazing Race’: Playing dirty

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This week’s episode of ‘The Amazing Race’ brought up one of the race’s eternal questions: Is it right to play dirty when there’s a million dollars on the line or should you take the moral high road?

This week, the four remaining teams jetted off to Prague (which, contrary to Sam and Dan’s beliefs isn’t a country nor do they speak Spanish there) and each made their own decisions about engaging in duplicitous gamesmanship to get ahead.


Some of those decisions were minor while others had major implications about not only how the race is being run but also about the racers themselves. Is it right to steal another team’s taxi? If you agree to work with another team, can you just ditch them?

Yes, with the grand prize within spitting distance of the four remaining teams, things are bound to get heated. These are pretty competitive teams, and none of them want to walk away empty-handed. And yes, it’s a race, so there shouldn’t be any alliances or understandings. But when does it become acceptable to actually engage in malicious behavior?

Cheyne proved this week that he’s not willing to follow Meghan’s lead and make nice with everyone. After accusing Flight Time of deliberately climbing down the scaffolding to slow them down (I’m still not sure why Flight Time was allowed to climb down first at all, considering Big Easy was still on the ropes), Cheyne and Meghan opted to work with the Globetrotters to get to their next destination via tram ... only to ditch them when a taxi came by. Meghan was horrified by Cheyne’s behavior, but I have to say I don’t think it was as bad as Meghan made out. Yes, they had pacted to work together, but really a race is won or lost on your own. It would have been foolish to not take that taxi, in my book.

But taxis provided much of the conflict this week. Was it wrong that Sam and Dan stole Ericka and Brian’s taxi? Hell yes. Sure, we’ve had uber-competitive teams on the race before (cough, Rob and Amber, cough) that have engaged in some pretty nefarious behavior, but the brothers’ action made me even more angry because the two of them have just been getting on my nerves these last few legs. Their whiny attitudes during the Detour -- during which they performed both the white water rapids simulation and the overhead rope course -- and their constant arguing and spiteful needling of each other got under my skin in a major way this week.

I was glad that Ericka and Brian managed to catch up to them (after making a monumentally wrongheaded decision about taking a bus and the underground rather than hopping in a cab) and was hoping that they’d manage to pull ahead of the brothers, who only made it to the Detour because they saw Meghan run over to the vintage Praga car (when only minutes earlier, the brothers believed a vintage Praga to be a ‘jacket’ or a ‘robe’) and thus were able to keep right behind them. But sadly, Ericka took much, much longer on the ropes and the brothers were able to get ahead ... and happily waltzed off with the couple’s taxi.

Brian has attempted to run the race by remaining true to himself and not engaging in bad behavior. Sometimes taking the moral high ground takes longer and is more difficult terrain, but he’s made it this far by playing fair. Hell, ever the eternal optimist, he said that they won’t be working with the brothers ‘much more’ in the future, to which Ericka chimed in, ‘Or ever.’ And he assumed that the brothers would be eaten away by their consciences after taking that cab. Wrong. Meanwhile, Brian should have done the Roadblock, which forced the contestants to search through a huge opera house for a miniature mandolin, which they then present to a singer performing an aria from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni,’ who would laugh heartily when given the wrong instrument. (Or a bag of coins as Big Easy offered him.)

Sam and Dan had previously accused the Globetrotters of playing dirty, but nothing Flight Time or Big Easy had ever done thus far on the race compares to stealing someone else’s cab. I was hoping that karma would catch up to the whingeing brothers, but they managed to get to Prague Castle behind Meghan and Cheyne and come in second place, with the Globetrotters right behind them.

But clearly karma has a sense of humor as well. Despite Sam and Dan writing off the married couple as goners after leaving them way behind at the Roadblock, Phil informs Brian and Ericka that it’s a non-elimination leg and they’ll stick around for another leg before the field gets narrowed to three teams. Will they be able to catch up and make the brothers pay for their dirty dealings? Or is it curtains for this team?

What did you think of this week’s episode? Is it acceptable for teams to use underhanded behaviors to gain an advantage? Should they play fair? And which team will be the next to get eliminated? Head to the comments section to discuss.

-- Jace Lacob (Follow my musings on television, food, and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

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