Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Amazing Race in Tanzania

Wow, tonight's episode of THE AMAZING RACE goes a long way toward demonstrating why it's one of the best shows on television and maybe the most exciting. Anything would be hard to beat the season premiere for pulse-pounding tension, but this episode came pretty close.

All six teams were neck and neck for the entire leg. It's unusual to see all of them so close coming down to the end. Typically there's one or two teams straggling behind the others, not all fo them working at the same time on the last task before the pit stop. I've been rooting for the twins, Kami and Karli, so their showdown with the love-'em-or-hate-'em cousins Mirna and Charla put even more on the line as far as I was concerned. Kami pulled it out for the twins, scarfing down the scrambled ostrich egg--the equivalent of two dozen regular eggs, according to show host Phil Keoghan--and allowing them to head for the pit stop before the cousins.

As exasperating as Mirna could be, she was a much stronger player than I ever expected. Charla always put forth a can-do attitude, so her competitive spirit and success wasn't as surprising. OK, she wasn't going to win any foot races, but Charla didn't complain all the time or have quite the persecution complex that her cousin exhibited. Although Mirna came across as flighty and whiny, one show after another revealed how cutthroat and clever she was. Her Spanish wasn't so good, but she communicated well in other countries, leading me to believe she was at least conversant in a few languages. Tonight's episode featured prime Mirna behavior when she tried to convince the airline agent in Cairo not to sell tickets to the other teams and did so in his language. As much as Mirna groused about other teams being out to get them--well, duh, you're in a race--she stooped to some low tactics to try and get an advantage. I won't miss the cousins, but the show won't be the same without them.

Tonight's episode was thrilling not only because the race was so tight but also due to the precarious situation it appeared that the twins and Brandon and Nicole found themselves in. They boarded a bus to take them to a stop in Tanzania, and the driver was obviously scamming them out of a lot of money. The teams put up a fight and tried to get off but didn't appear to be able to do it. They continued to be hassled that they needed to pay $100 per team, even after they were dropped off. (Other teams on two different buses paid $3 or $4 from the sound of it.) Potentially it looked like it could get ugly, although the presence of cameras probably kept the situation more under control than it might have been otherwise. (It reminded me of when a Philadelphia cabdriver locked me in the car and demanded to be paid cash when I thought I was in the cab that I ordered with a credit card. That sounds more dangerous than it was, but I was sweating it for a brief period.)

Kami and Karli may be the team I'm backing, but I wouldn't mind seeing Chip and Kim do well. Unlike many of these teams, they're enjoying themselves and not constantly bickering. After the last few episodes, I thought that Colin and Christie were prohibitive favorites. They have been on the ball making travel plans and usually complete tasks in a timely manner. His temper is surfacing more and more, which could be what sinks them. Still, I had to laugh when Christie was trying to hurry him along when he was having trouble eating the ostrich egg. (For those who don't follow the show and are still reading, Colin gave Christie a hard time when she had difficulty getting down all the caviar in an earlier episode.)

If you haven't seen THE AMAZING RACE, check it out. It has well-defined characters that you love and hate, and only a superior episode of ALIAS or 24 can beat it for heartpounding excitement.

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