I'm a huge fan of The Amazing Race and always wished I could participate, even though the last several years haven't been as challenging as earlier editions. They used to travel lots more in each episode, going from one place to another, giving the back of the pack a chance to catch up when leaders were direction-challenged or their car broke down.
Lately, it's essentially been a few situations over the course of the hour. They go to the airport, get to the next location, usually with everyone on board so they’re all even at the arrival, then teams participate in a roadblock and detour, maybe one more thing and that's it.
They edit it well to make it exciting, but production budgets have been reduced, which is somewhat odd, considering reality shows are much cheaper to produce than scripted episodes with major stars.
That's my gripe, but the point of this piece is to focus on the unusual circumstances of this season, wherein absolute strangers became teammates. The first challenge gave half of the contestants the chance to choose their hoped for soulmate, based upon their initial readings of someone's intelligence or perceived potential for physical challenges.
Which brings us to Brooke Camhi, 36, and Scott Flanary, 34, the latter of whom selected Brooke, perhaps because he believed an attorney would be steady and resourceful. What a disappointment that turned out to be when it became clear early on Brooke was a constant complainer, squealing over and over "I can't do it," whenever a challenge was physical, such as carrying an unwieldy object or bicycling over rough terrain.
Scott had his own issues and admitted being freaked out by heights, so naturally who wound up doing two such roadblocks: washing windows while rappelling down a building, and later he had to bungee jump from a bridge. He was apoplectic when he looked way down at the water below and wailed in anguish. He hesitated, while trembling, then bit his lip and plunged in terror.
I guess what I'm saying is he overcame what he needed to overcome, but Brooke continued acting like a three-year-old, screaming much of the time about her inability to perform functions, which the other women in the game mostly took in stride. Many of her roadblocks distressed her, and when she couldn't manipulate a tool to make a ladle strainer out of sheet metal, crying incessantly as she pounded it to no avail, other competitors kindly took the time to help her.
She performed less physical roadblocks okay and excelled at sport stacking in South Korea, switching cups around very fast in a certain order, allowing her and Scott to get to the next challenge quickly along with two of the four teams. The fourth, the previously almost unbeatable Matt Ladley, 25, and Redmond Ramos, 28, a duo I wasn’t thrilled with due to unpleasant comments they'd made early on, made a huge mistake, taking the subway to the first location, arriving behind everyone else who took taxis. Then, making matters worse, after finally getting their clue, they got the cab driver from hell who didn't know where he was going. Still, they almost caught up to the third place team of Tara Carr, 38, and Joey Covino, 46, at a video game contest.
In this roadblock one team member played Streetfighter V against professional eSport players. They were so proficient, if you couldn't beat them in ten attempts they tied one hand behind the expert’s back. After ten more losses the pro was blindfolded. Scott was stymied, as were Tara and the third team member London Logan, 27. Because Scott was more adept and took longer in each game until he was vanquished, London quickly tallied up twenty failures allowing her to play against a blindfolded opponent. So, she finished slightly ahead of Scott, but he and Brooke were right behind her and partner Logan Bauer, 27, and it became a race between whose cab would arrive soonest to greet host Phil Geoghan, waiting at the pit stop. At last, Brooke and Scott finished ahead of the pack, though without any reward typically given to the first team on the mat.
Meanwhile, Tara was flummoxed, and Matt caught up. Her partner Joey was annoying, muttering his dismay that the expert wouldn't give a lady a break, as if Tara should be given an edge over the other team. At this point I didn't want either team to make it to the finish line, but someone had to come in third for the finale. It was Tara and Joey.
How Brooke and Scott finally pulled it off is, to my mind, thanks to Scott's generally cool head, though he was often exasperated with her tantrums. There were so many times I felt they were toast. It was also fortunate he performed a couple of the very physical roadblocks, such as riding a bicycle laden with many shrimp traps that often tipped over. Then, the strapping six-footer had to paddle a boat as the local Vietnamese did, rowing the oars with his legs. Logan, much taller with even longer limbs had a very difficult time maneuvering the paddles from his position squat against the edge of the boat.
I’m rooting for Brooke and Scott, if for no other reason than Scott absolutely deserves it, and I wish, if they win, 3/4 of the money went to him. That said, I'd be okay with London and Logan. Tara and Joey lost my good wishes during his self-serving poor sportsmanship at the last roadblock. In any event, we'll know on Thursday night which team wins the million bucks.
UPDATE: They did it!
Michael Russnow’s website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com
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