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The malapert bookworm

Racing again at last!

Racing again at last!

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Yes, it's finally time for a new Amazing Race, lucky 13 this time. Have you missed The All-Powerful Eyebrow of Keoghan? I know I have. Sorry I couldn't post a recap yesterday after Sunday's premiere, but I was too caught up in the news. Imagine.

AKA, "They shoot hippies, don't they?"

But I get ahead of myself. Let's meet the teams. They keep emphasizing, in the show and on the website, that each of the 11 teams of two has "a preexisting relationship." Have they had problems in the past with people pairing up just to get on TV? Gee, that seems so... entirely expected for a reality show. What are they going to do, background checks? Not sure why this disclaimer is so important. It's not as if they've gone to central casting or anything. The teams are, as is becoming usual, considerably hotter than the general population, though with fewer Southern Californians than they sometimes pull. And boy, are they white -- I think this is the whitest season yet. What's up with that? Probably, in Hollywood parlance, including "nerds" counts as diversity.

Team Not Appearing in this Picture are, the TAR/CBS website reminds me, named Stephanie and Anthony. I remember that she, at least, wants to get married, and I noticed that they almost lost. And that's... about it. One nonentity out of eleven pairs, though -- not bad.

Aja and Ty: Dating. They get my vote in the TAR13 yearbook for "Cutest Couple." They've been dating long-distance, which according to them makes them appreciate what time they have together. I've been in long-distance relationships, and sometimes it works that way, sometimes not. We'll see. For now, they're adorable together and show a mix of dimwittedness and sharpness that makes it hard to predict which way they'll end up. (Dim? Waiting for ages in line at the airport despite having been instructed to buy tickets at the "MARKED" counter -- that means there's a distinctive red-and-gold banner, familiar to anyone who's seen the show. Sharp? Taking the carpool lane to LAX, thus creating a big lead. Which they blew by waiting in the wrong line.)

Kelly and Christy: Bitter divorcees. I do mean bitter. Apparently, they suggest, surviving ugly splits has made these Texans tough enough to win the race -- I can see that, if nothing else, the strong desire to wave their 7-figure winnings at their ex-husbands would be a powerful motivation. They're "pretty" in that reality-TV way, and they have that unfortunate tendency to dress alike that the hot-chick teams always seem to do. Why? Is it because they were once cheerleaders and find comfort in being with other hot, identically dressed gals? Kelly and Christy damn near lost, as well, having the bad luck to choose a tragically clueless cab driver.

I've said it many, many times before: It's all about your driver. Many a Racer has lost because s/he was in a taxi aimlessly circling a monument looking for the way in or careening through twisty streets miles from the destination. I can probably count on my fingers the taxi rides I've taken in my life, so I have no idea if there's any art to it, but most of the time on this show, rides are thin enough on the ground that you take what you can get. I do know it helps if you actually speak the same language as the driver, so those teams who were yelling "Rapido" at the Brazilian drivers maybe should have picked up a Portuguese phrase book, not just a Spanish one.

Sarah and Terence: Speaking of Portuguese, Sarah speaks it! And she knows in which countries one is likely to encounter others who do speak it, with the result that most of the taxi-taking and directions-asking went pretty smoothly for these two. They're dating, and supposedly they're a case of "opposites attract." She's a high-powered business-something or financial-whiz-something (MBA, anyway -- wonder how that's working out these days?), and he's a running coach. Sarah called him a "free spirit." You can tell they're "opposites," because in their intro segments, we see Sarah in her glasses and office wear, working on a laptop on the kitchen table, while Terence putters around at the counter wearing a t-shirt or something. The problem is that he doesn't seem like much of a free spirit; in fact, he seems to be pretty highly strung himself, has a tendency to make bad decisions quickly, and to generally fall apart under pressure. I don't care how fast you ran the New York Marathon (under 3 hours, according to the show bio online): If you panic when things go wrong, all the physical speed in the world won't help you. Also good for entertainment value down the road? Sarah, who is very attractive and seems pretty high-functioning, has a powerful bitter streak. She made an offhand comment to Nick and Starr while they were all racing around looking for taxis -- "Not so easy to find a taxi" -- and was so incensed at their lack of response that she now considers them enemies (I am not kidding). I will defer to EW's Josh Wolk to characterize this one: "It's like saying, 'Mosquitoes, what're you gonna do?' and being pissed that someone doesn't say, 'You can do nothing about mosquitoes. Well put.' I recently rode up the elevator with someone who said, 'Is it really only Wednesday? Feels like it should be Friday,' and I simply shrugged and stayed quiet. I thought nothing of it at the time, but now I'm wondering if that man is sitting at home right now planning different ways to kill me." So, yeah, Terence and Sarah are going to be fuuuuuuun to watch.

Marisa and Brooke: Not as much fun are these self-proclaimed "Southern Belles," who are already shaping up to be dumb enough to be annoying. But dumb enough to be hilarious? I don't know -- one of them (they look and dress alike) -- was frustrated with not finding a button to press at the crosswalk in Brazil and sighed, "This isn't America!" Because, you know, having to wait till the light changes is so Third World. I do enjoy the cluelessness: "We're classy," one of them (again...which one? Does it matter?) said in their intro. The evidence for this is that they never go anywhere without their pearls. This is said while they are wearing skimpy halter dresses and enough bronzer to last through an entire season of Baywatch. Yup. Classy. (They do admit to liking cupcakes, though they were not shown actually eating any, just displaying them. Maybe they aspire to work on HSN.)

Ken and Tina: Separated couple. These guys are true entertainment value so far, with the combination of bitter in-fighting of the great teams of yore (Jonathan and Victoria, Nate and Jen) and the vacant intellect of the truly entertaining contestants (Mirna and Charla, Mary and Peach). See, Ken cheated on Tina, she kicked him out, and now she's giving him a second chance. On national TV. Wonder how that's goingto work out for them? They're going to be great fun to watch, and they might be a pretty tough team (coming in second this time). Physically, they're contenders: on the one hand, he's a former pro quarterback; on the other, she's had a lot of Botox. I believe it might make her more bouyant in water challenges. Emotionally, however, they're all set for self-sabotage. I predict there will be a lot of nasty, emasculating comments about Ken from Tina this season, incessant back-seat driving (literal and not), and a continual look of angry surprise. I know, I know -- that's the way she drew on her eyebrows. But you have to think she wouldn't draw them on that way if she didn't often FEEL angry surprise.

One choice nugget: In the cab in Salvador, Brazil, Tina berates Ken for not learning Spanish. Two things: 1) why the hell didn't SHE learn Spanish, then? And 2) they don't speak Spanish in Brazil. Ooops.

Nick and Starr: Siblings. They are very, very close. So close that they are about the same size, work out together and do dance-aerobics together. I think they might wear each other's clothes, too. They're attractive and fit, and they chose one of the (only two!) older teams to adopt into an alliance, calling Ken and Tina "Mom and Dad" (which is singularly inappropriate, considering that "Mom" and "Dad" might be divorcing soon). There is almost never a payback to alliances on TAR, because it's a race, not Survivor. (There was that one time my beloved Cho brothers did some elevator/Fast Forward mojo, but that's about it. And they all lost that race anyway.) Nick and Starr won this leg, and they are remarkably non-annoying and reasonably non-vapid. But there are lot of legs to go.

Note: Doesn't "Nick and Starr" sound like a country-music act? I think so, too.

Toni and Dallas: Mom and son. The other family pair are more obsessively close than N&S. At times, it's cute, as when Toni gave strapping Dallas a little peck on the cheek right before Phil gave them the starting eyebrow. At times, it's a little creepy, as when Toni, a single mom, keeps talking about how Dallas is the focus of her whole life. Happy family or dysfunctional apron strings? You decide. Starr has already started putting the moves on Dallas, having declared him the hottest guy in the race. (Bad news for her: Any guy who spends that much time on sculpting his muscles and moussing his hair is not going to have much time left over for Starr.) Still, they are athletic, and they seem nice enough. Not nice enough to keep me from making all sorts of Freudian (Elektran?) assumptions, though.

The three "stunt casting" teams are, predictably, my favorites. Each season there's some of this: Pro wrestlers! Goths! And they keep talking about whatever their label is, in case we forget. This time we have a trifecta: Frat boys, Geeks, and Hippies.

The "Frat Boys" are Andrew and Dan. And anyone who's ever been to a college with fraternities could probably guess which frat these guys were in. I didn't, so I can't, but they're schlubby dorks who are primarily interested, they say, in drinking beer and ogling "babes." You'd think this would make them pretty laid back, but you'd be wrong. Dan, in particular, has that anxious-nerd personality that doesn't generally serve a guy that well in Rush Week. He's more like Jonah Hill in Accepted than anybody who shops at A&F. Having missed the first flight to Brazil, Dan buries his heads in his hands, "This is huge!" he kept saying. Dude, it's the first airport of the first leg. Nobody gets out because they took the wrong plane out of LAX in the first episode. Nobody. He was earlier overheard chirping about his intimate knowledge of airport ticket counters, having worked in customer service. Nick sneered about him to Starr, and for once, I sided with the pretty guy against the nerd. That's how unappealing Dan is, poor guy. Andrew seems more laid back, but I may just be reading that into him because he looks a lot like Seth Rogan. A lot. 'Fro, wardrobe, and all. Gee, you think that's why the producers picked him?

The "Geeks" are Mark and Bill, who seem to be in better physical shape than the Frat Boys and wear awesome hats all the time so far. We know they're geeks because, well, c'mon, I have geek-dar, so I KNOW. For those mundanes in the viewing public who wouldn't recognize these guys as one of their own, Mark and Bill are helpfully shown playing Guitar Hero, playing chess and talking about how much they love comic books. Which kind of makes me wonder -- did they actually miss Comic-Con for this show? To borrow a phrase from Dan, That is huge. I like Mark and Bill a lot, but then I would. They seem to have a good sense of humor, about life and about their place in the show -- I mean, the Southern Belles *might* know why they were cast, but Mark and Bill do know. And they're OK with the stunt casting. They actually had the chance to use their amazing geek brain powers; Mark wrapped a jacket over the little candy cart they had to pilot through the cobbled streets, thus keeping the candy on board. Marisa and Brooke would never have thought of that, but they're still trying to figure out the crosswalks. (I predict, however, that one thing these teams do have in common is a love of cupcakes.)

Oh, and Bill looks EXACTLY like a cross between Adam Savage and the Comic Book Store Guy on The Simpsons.

Finally, the Hippies, Anita and Arthur, are the oldest team in the race and, as you might suspect, the mellowest. They sauntered around, lookig slightly alarmed and/or bewildered at the frenetic activity around them. While Nick and Starr are tearing through the airport looking desperately for a red-and-gold ticket counter flag, Anita and Arthur, who are beekeepers and farmers by trade, mosey on over to the counter. First flight full? Dan was quivering and sweating from the moment there was a bare chance the might not make it. Anita and Arthur are fine with the later flight. Means less rushing out to the gate. This easygoing attitude resulted in their losing, OF COURSE, and they were pretty calm about that, too.

Now, I should clarify here that these are real, actual, original hippies.  These are not TK-and-Rachel type hippies TK and Rachel, as I quipped to salvador_dalai , look like Ben Stiller compared to Anita and Arthur. Young hot people who choose not to work in 9-to-5 office jobs and do not wear matching Spandex outfits are, in TAR parlance, "hippies." Shaggily handsome young men who went to college are, in TAR parlance, "hippies." Oregonian beekepers who do not comb their hair and refuse to run very fast are truly hippies. Sadly, the hippie outlook on life is entirely incompatible with The Amazing Race. But I bet Ben and Jerry were on the phone as soon as this episode aired. What will Anita and Arthur's signature flavor be? Hippie Honey? Tie-Dye Royal Jelly? 

Speaking of sweets, I can't let this episode go by without noting the product placement. Sure, Travelocity -- they're always here on TAR. That gnome will, I guarantee, turn up in an actual challenge at some point. He always does.

No, the product in question is Blong Candy! Colorful boxes full of what must be delicious, considering how mch trouble it is to cart it around the streets of Salvador. I can't find much about it on the interwebs, since most Google hits either turn up this show or start guessing at it as "blond." (And guess what you find if you Google "blond" and "candy" and "Brazil"? I bet you know.) In the absence of any actual information, I'll make some assumptions about Blong! candy, based on the fact that it's Brazilian. It must therefore also be (a) fruit-flavored and (b) SEXY.

Next week? With the hippies gone, I'm counting on stupidity to knock a few pretty teams off before the inevitable physical demands eliminate my beloved geeks. I predict (hope, really) it's Terence and Stephanie, so I won't have to bother learning anything about them.
[Edited at 2:30 -- of course, the nonentity team was *Anthony* and Stephanie, not Terence. See how much we need to think the herd here? Sorry, Terence. Or Anthony.]

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