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Thursday, January 10, 2008

And then there were (still) four

Each week, I'll attempt to break down odds as "The Amazing Race" continues to shed dead weight and move towards its usual thrilling conclusion in the race for a million dollars.

What a difference a week makes.

First turned to worst in Osaka, Japan, with TK and Rachel nowhere to be found during Sunday's episode. All four teams were still within an hour of each other as their two planes departed Mumbai. But something went terribly wrong for the first-place tandem, who booked an earlier flight with two stops instead of one, and didn't even show up on-screen in Osaka until the other three teams were finished and the sun had already set. With the drama deflated, "Race" producers could only stop short of playing Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye" as TK and Rachel casually completed the challenges by their lonesome. But just as the hippie duo looked Phil dead in the eyes and prepared themselves for the inevitable kick to the curb, they were graciously spared in the show's final non-elimination round. Oh, CBS, how you love to tease!

The standings: Ron and Christina, first; Nate and Jen, second; Nic and Donald, third; TK and Rachel, fourth.

Nate and Jen's Weekly Moment of Romantic Bliss: Runner-up: the odd exchange in a taxi cab where Jen recounted her difficulty during the previous driving challenge while an oblivious Nate -- thinking of strangling his girlfriend, perhaps? -- stared blankly ahead before saying, "I'm sorry, it's hard for me to pay attention when he's driving.'' Jen proceeded to give him the evil eye (stink eye? crook eye?) and presumably, began having the same strangulation fantasy.

But the winner is the "did he or didn't he" push into a second taxi cab. Having asked two other Japanese drivers if they knew the final destination -- only to get rebuffed both times -- Nate and Jen were noticeably frustrated by the lack of directional know-how from Osaka's finest. Finally, they found a dude with MapQuest, though instead of letting Jen casually get in the cab, Nate -- assisted? inadvertently brushed? violently shoved? -- Jen, causing her to throw a hissy fit in the backseat. Geez, I hate to see what physical violence Nate is capable of when she forgets to restock the fridge with his favorite beer.

For the record, he totally pushed her.

Break. Up. Now.

The X-Factor: Because they came in last and should have been eliminated, TK and Rachel must complete a Speed Bump, or a separate challenge (the last one was yoga) that'll only eat more time on the next leg. As this episode demonstrated, weird things can happen in the air. But they're pretty far behind, and unless another team commits a colossal blunder, probably won't be able to make up the difference.

Also, is it too much to ask that CBS actually show the holdup on TK and Rachel's end? Did their flight get delayed at a stop in India? Did the team screw something up at booking? Did a crazy gremlin start meddling with the plane's instrument panel? The fact that the show never revealed what happened and then did an odd going-away montage before pulling the "fooled you!" card at the end was not only disappointing, but kind of shady. Makes you think the "Race" crew was somehow responsible for TK and Rachel's massive delay ... hmmm.

Next episode: According to CBS, "all one racer wants for her birthday is a spot in the final three. Will her birthday wish be granted? The gloves come off as one team tries to convince an airline employee to not sell tickets to another team. Will the employee comply? One team becomes the brunt of attacks and criticism from another team."

Also: TV Guide has an interview with last week's losers, "the goths," Kynt and Vyxsin. They still can't adequately explain why they chose to U-Turn the wrong team.

Who I'm rooting for: No predictions. So much can change with one brutal twist, claiming to know how the "Race" is going to shake out is as pointless as being a political pundit in New Hampshire. TK and Rachel are hanging by one arm on the edge of a cliff, so Nic and Donald get my vote. They communicate. Cooperate. Have a good sense of humor. And Donald's from Elkhorn. That deserves some love.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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