‘The Amazing Race’: I left my integrity in San Francisco

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Is it just me or is the final leg of ‘The Amazing Race’ often a complete and utter letdown?

I don’t just mean because the ultimate victors--though that did kill me as well this week--but because for some reason the producers aren’t usually able to produce very much drama once the final three teams return to the United States. Previous seasons have had teams eat pizza (Chicago) or visit a doughnut shop (Portland); here, the teams had to climb a building, visit a virtual computer world, carry a trunk and unscramble some posters.

Did the producers of ‘The Amazing Race’ learn nothing from ‘Up’? Namely, that adventures can happen right in your own backyard?

Final legs shouldn’t be a collection of head-scratching and often mundane tasks like they were here. Would the Lucasfilm/Industrial Light and Magic task have been interesting and dramatic elsewhere on the race? Sure, if it fell somewhere in the middle of the season’s run. But for a final task in the last leg with $1 million riding on the outcome, it felt pretty lame.


But that went for most of this leg, really. After one team managed to get off the plane first, it seemed as though the entire ending of this around-the-world scavenger hunt really came down to which team was sitting in first class... Which, throughout the entire series run of ‘The Amazing Race,’ has been strictly verboten.

Granted, Jordan and Dan didn’t purchase first-class tickets and were able to persuade a flight attendant to move them from coach to the front of the plane. Which is really an ingenious move, so long as it didn’t invalidate any of the rules of the game. I’ve always been of the mind that the reason why contestants weren’t able to sit in first class was because of significantly higher pricing and certain inequalities with the other passengers that would happen as a result. (If, say, there were only first-class seats on a plane that was otherwise sold out.) But it does create an unfair advantage as well when it comes to deplaning as one team found themselves in a completely different class and exited the plane significantly before the others (and therefore were able to clear customs and immigration much more quickly).

Then there were Jordan and Dan themselves. Never before has a team that I didn’t have a problem with transform seemingly overnight into complete and utter jackasses that I wanted to see eliminated straightaway. There was last week’s mental breakdown in a taxicab, culminating in Dan actually threatening physical violence against the driver.

But this week, the duo--who had previously played with a good deal of sportsmanship and camaraderie with the other players--decided to make enemies for no real reason. Why did Jordan put his backpack down in front of Jet and Cord at the airline ticket counter? What was gained by attempting to cut ahead of the cowboys, given that they all ended up on the same flight, other than escalating things between the teams? Was it sporting of him to do so? He claimed that it was cool. It wasn’t. ‘Hate the game all you want,’ he said to the cameras, ‘just don’t hate the player.’

But was it necessary? What did he really gain except suddenly, in the final leg of the race, prove that they weren’t as good or nice as viewers had perhaps thought all along? There’s a time to be strategic and a time to infuriate people and Jordan picked the wrong time all around.

I do believe that because the brothers were in first class on the flight to San Francisco that they had an advantage and a major early lead that neither of the two other teams were ever able to make up. As there were no equalizers on the leg and no Detours, the outcome of the race was all but decided as a result of where they sat on the plane. So I’ll go ahead and say it: unfair.

Maybe I wouldn’t be calling shenanigans if I had a better feeling about these two, but the mere fact that they must have called each other ‘bro’ about 700,000 times this leg just got under my skin after their behavior at the airport.

Sure, they weren’t as bad as the truly loathsome Brent and Caite, who once again managed to make themselves look worse than ever as they insulted their cab driver, each other and the entire audience’s intelligence. (Caite’s favorite word this week was ‘dumb ass.’ Way to go proving to everyone just how intelligent you are!) And Brent continued his streak of showing the world just how ethnocentric he is, bemoaning, ‘Why are we in America and no one speaks English?’ Wow.

Before this and the leg before, I would have been fine with Dan and Jordan winning (especially over Brent and Caite), though it has been clear to anyone that I’ve been rooting for cowboys Jet and Cord since the beginning of the season. But it’s a game that’s often decided for you by inept taxi drivers, bad recall, or an inability to swallow a deep-dish pizza in under a minute.

Once Dan had reached the top of Coit Tower (the sole Road Block this week) before Cord had even strapped on the vertical ascender, I knew that the two brothers would be crowned the winners. And I have to question why the producers thought that the Lucasfilm virtual reality exercise would inject any sense of drama, though I do have to wonder why they made the route so convoluted that Jet was stuck waking for Jordan to stop spinning around at the end so he could advance to the next round. (I did, however, love how Cord attempted to sabotage Dan by shouting inane directions at Jet, who hadn’t even arrived on the sound stage yet.)

From there, the teams had to write down a long clue that sent them to the Tonga Room, San Francisco’s oldest tiki bar, where they grabbed a trunk and carried it to the American Music Hall. (Yawn.) There, they had to unscramble some ‘psychedelic’ posters depicting the racers in order to get their next clue. Jordan had written down each team that had been eliminated all along so they breezed through the challenge and figured out a child-like riddle that sent them to Candlestick Park, the finish line for the race.

A final attempt at false drama--would they get a cab in time?!?--didn’t create any real sense of urgency since it was clear that they were way ahead of the cowboys. And ultimately, Dan and Jordan crossed the finish line first, with Jet and Cord landing in second place. I do have to say that I’m really bummed that the cowboys weren’t the winners. They played the game well and with a real sense of humor and honor. They were very sportsman-like and, as Jet said at the finish line, that they had played the game’ with their character and integrity intact.’ Which is more than I can say for Dan and Jordan, really.

Brent and Caite came in last as Caite said that she had been successful at her goal on the race: to ‘prove that I am an intelligent person.’ But any efforts to apologize to a much aggrieved Brandy and Carol resulting in the ousted duo raining down hellfire on Caite in the final moments of the season. Ouch.

What did you think of the season finale? Depressed the cowboys came in second? Were you surprised by Dan and Jordan’s suddenly cutthroat behavior this week? Did they break a cardinal ‘Amazing Race’ rule by sitting in first class? Think that Brent and Caite need to head to sensitivity training? Did the right team win? 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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