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Well, The Amazing Race: Family Edition has been fairly lackluster so far, but I have to admit, I did enjoy this past episode quite a bit (relative to this season, at least). First of all, the teams traveled farther than twenty miles, and secondly, the “Rah Rah Rah America!” vibe was toned down a notch. Not that there’s anything wrong with lovin’ this great big ol’ country of ours, but Family Edition has been getting excessive with its super patriotism. It’s almost like the producers hoped a fervent love for the U. S. of A. would somehow compensate for the lack of challenges associated with language barriers, culture clashes, and general foreign travel anxiety. Still, last night’s show delivered those great trademarks: inventive challenges (at least the Detour) and dozens of notable quotables. And sometimes, that’s all I’m looking for.
But still, CBS, never do Family Edition again…This week’s leg of the race began in Virginia with the Weavers heading out first. Their next mission: fly to Charleston, South Carolina. And yes, that was a trip of 500 miles. I know, crazy right? That’s like a one hour flight!!! But hey, at least it beats a fifteen-mile trek down the road. As the Weavers ran to their taxi, one of the daughters told us, “We’re not in it for any drama.” No, of course not. Meanwhile, these girls scream and cry if they find a bird sitting on a branch. Okay, okay. I’ll be nice to them. They are, after all, traumatized from the death of their father, and that’s not a joking matter. Let’s just hope no runaway buggies haunt this leg of the race.
The Linz family left next, and headed off to Washington/Dulles airport, or as Megan and her oddly Staten Island-y voice called it, “Washington/Dulls.” I’m a little hazy as to who headed off next — probably those wacky Godlewskis, owners of the worst midwestern accents EVER — but what I do remember is that the Schroeder stepmom, a.k.a. “Char,” came on screen and said with an air of self-delusion, “Even though the kids are my step-kids, I’m their friend.” Uh huh. I’m sure. She continued, “I’m happy that they think of me that way instead of, ‘Oooh! It’s a stepmom,’ and that negative connotation that typically comes along with that.” Yeah, isn’t this what every step-mom tells herself?
Later, in the car, Char’s stepson Hunter scoffed at Charleston, saying (or slurring, really), “It’s all historical. I don’t know my history.” Luckily, BFF Char was on the case, telling him to focus, to which Hunter replied with a massive rolling of the eyes. Yup, getting along like old college chums. You hit it on the nose, Char!
The Gaghans left the mat soon after, with little Billy saying, “Deep breaths. In and out. 1, 2, 3.” Surprisingly, that’s the same thing he says every night before his bedtime beatings. Oh — that was cruel. Actually, the Gaghans seem like pretty nice, wholesome people, and their kids, though scary and robotic and Dakota Fanning-ish, are fairly winning. As the fam headed off on the latest adventure, Tammy informed us that “Bill and I have tried to raise our children more like little adults on this race.” Really? We couldn’t tell. Bill Sr. then added, “If anyone thinks kids don’t belong in the Amazing Race, they’ve gotta check out these kids.” Okay, don’t try to sell us, Bertram Van Munster. We don’t like Family Edition. No matter how many times Bill Gaghan reminds us how wonderful his kids are, we’re never going to like having them around. Bill then added, “They are doing a top notch job.” Well, let’s see how Billy and Carissa fare in Bangladesh or Siam or Senegal. Kinda different than running around in Amish Country.
Let’s check in on the Linz family. They were regrettably stuck behind a wide load, causing the guys to joke, “I hate wide loads.” And, “Wide loads are the worst.” What juvenile, stupid humor. (Cut to me making the exact jokes every time I drive by a wide load.)
WalDER and the Bransens headed off next, and the mystery surrounding “Washington/Dulles” continued as one of the daughters pronounced it “Dullés.” Dulls, Dullés — I’m surprised no one’s called it “Dulleese” yet. For those of you wondering, it’s pronounced, “dull-is.” Yeah, that’s right. Dulles snobbery at its finest. I’m not even from DC.
So the race was going along just fine at this point, but I was just waiting for the Paolos to enter the fray because honestly, Marion is just too hilarious to be kept bottled up. Sure enough, the bickering was nearly instantaneous, with Marion barking, “Don’t argue with me now.” Crossing fingers for another great night of Marionisms.
“It’s Amazing Race — American Style!” she declared moments later. Oh, she’s gonna be en fuego tonight!
Well, the teams eventually arrived at Washington/Dullés where we finally tasted our first morsels of traditional airport drama. Who would get the fastest trip to Charleston? One plane would arrive at 10:04 AM and another would arrive at 10:06 AM. Clearly a hotbed for intrigue. Actually, my sarcasm was unwarranted because there was a tiny bit of scandal. You see, everyone had booked their flights, but the Weavers, in their undying quest to learn about airports, decided to ask some airline workers random questions — and, you know, thank the lord too while they were at it. Well, all the other racers assumed they were sneaking onto an earlier flight, and things quickly escalated to ugliness (yes!) when the Aiellos asked the Weavers if they’d found another flight. Shockingly, the Weavers ignored them and simply walked on… perhaps overwhelmed by the newfound closeness to Jesus an airplane afforded them. To be fair, the Weavers actually didn’t do anything wrong. You see, careful Tivo viewers will notice that the Aiello guy only asked about the flight when most of the family had already walked by, and plus, he asked in such a quiet, non-assertive way that it was clear the Weavers simply hadn’t heard or registered the question. So in the case of Aiello vs. Weaver, we side with the defendant. Might as well give them some support, especially since it’s clear that Jesus hates them (we won’t even talk about the previews for next week’s show).
Nevertheless, the Aiellos didn’t have a personal Tivo for their life, so they started up an anti-Weaver hate campaign, the centerpiece of which was them saying, “I hate them.” And soon the gossiping began. Did you hear? The Aiellos asked them a simple question and they walked right on by! That’s not very Christian!!! “They drive me up a wall!” exclaimed one of the Aiellos. Soon the Schroeders had caught the anti-Weaver bug, with Char noting, “I think they’re just playing mind games… They’re silent but deadly.” Did she just compare the Weavers to a fart? I think she did.
Well, the ban may have been on, but that didn’t stop Hunter Schroeder from becoming fast friends with the Weaver son, who according to the website is named… Rolly? The two had a festive game of “let’s slap each other on the knees” going on, and as I watched them bond amidst the craziness of the race, a certain warmth entered my heart — not seen since my cyber child on The Sims first played in the yard with her new friend (I don’t remember his name, but he was Bella Goth’s kid). Sad follow-up: my Sim child had failing grades and since I was too busy becoming an astronaut and trying to pick plates up off the floor, my child was sadly shipped off to military school, never to be seen again. Also, an unfortunate accident with a poorly placed barbecue and some hedges resulted in a fiery death for my wife. I tried to call the fire department, but dammit if my automatic compulsion to pick up plates didn’t stop me.
Hunter may have found a new friend in Rolly (a name that makes you want to go up to him and tussle his hair lovingly), but Char was not about to have it. She full-on platonically cockblocked Hunter, totally ruining that awesome knee game. Later, when she left, Hunter rolled his eyes again and muttered, “She’s a bitch.” But seriously, they see her more as a friend than a stepmom…
Anyway, the families all left on their planes. Well, everyone except the Paolos, who wound up on a third flight that wouldn’t arrive in Charleston until half an hour after the others. This was great for us because we then got to see more Paolo fun, especially when the older son complained of being tired. Marion immediately jumped on him, saying, “Hello! You should have gone to bed when you had to go do this. I don’t want to hear it from you…” I just really like that she employs the sarcastic, “Hello!” Note to self: make a Sims version of the Paolos.
After the commercial break, we saw the teams arriving in Charleston and what the hey? No airplane diagram? This is blasphemy! Anyway, teams went running to their new SUVs, and amidst the fray, one of the Aiellos called out to their father-in-law, “Tony, get your wheels on!” Hey, wait a second. That’s Carissa’s cue. That’s like telling Superman to get in the Batmobile.
The teams drove to the next clue located in a gazebo (or “Gazébo” as the Gaghan father called it) and found themselves facing the next Detour: Forest Gump or Muddy Waters. Oh so clever, you producers! In Forest Gump, teams had to de-head 200 lbs. of shrimp. In Muddy Waters, teams had to drive thirty-seven miles away (whoa! That’s like a whole leg of the race!) and drive through a mud run, facing the distinct possibility of getting stuck.
The Schroeders opted for the shrimp, which meant we got to hear mommy dearest Char complain, “Aw, shrimp juice in my socks, what’s up with that?” She then added, “Even though I’m pulling off their heads, the shrimp really see me more as a friend.” Meanwhile, over in the mud pits, the Weavers — renamed Team Fruit Loop by the Aiellos (in honor of Boston Rob? Bostonians LOVE the term “fruit loop”) — arrived, and before anything even happened, Linda had already uttered, “Thank you, Lord.” Well, the Lord thanked them back by immediately letting them get stuck in the mud. Weavers: figure it out. You + vehicles = bad news.
Meanwhile, their rivals, the Aiellos, showed up to tackle the mud run, and as they sped through the course, it looked like it would be a quick and simple victory. That is until the Weaver’s lord smote them too, causing their car to get stuck right before the finish line. “We were going great guns though,” said one of the guys. Not sure what it meant, but I’ll assume it was akin to “We were doing really well.”
Well, the great Weaver/Aiello Battle of the Mud continued as both teams attempted to power through again, but, well, that Weaver curse is hard to shake. They both wound up stuck again. Should have done shrimp instead. Not only was it easier and faster, but the chances for romance were out of this world. Yes, it looked like Tommy Linz had found love as he feigned making out with a shrimp. He cooed some inaudible, high-pitched sweet-nothings, and of course, to highlight the moment, the producers supplied us with that funky “Hey, we’re havin’ fun here on CBS!” race music. Needless to say, the entire scene was just splendid.
Over on the Godlewski’s boat (each team did the shrimp challenge on their own vessel), the sisters were breaking into a competition, but even more importantly, their accents continued to screech out of control. “Which side is going fayaster?” asked one sister. “I don’t know why you’d even ayask!” replied another. Oh my gaaaad! These girls are ganna drive me bayatty!
Back at the mud bogs from hell, the Gaghans showed up to try their hand at some South Carolina off-roading. “Let’s go 120 mph so we can just go on top of the mud!” said an eager Billy. For the record, Carissa could still run faster. WHEELS!! WHEELS!!! WHEELS!!!
Before the Gaghans could take their turn, however, they had to wait for one of the teams to finish. The Aiellos were on their sixth attempt, and the Weavers, well, they just gave up. “I don’t think it’s feasible,” Linda muttered. The lord HATES you!
Anyway, as teams finished up the shrimp challenge, they learned they’d then have to go to the Charleston Visitor Center and sign up for a charter bus traveling to a mystery destination. Of course, there were two buses — and early one and a late one; first come, first serve. Meanwhile, as the Paolos finally boarded their shrimp boat (they were a half hour behind, don’t forget), Marion immediately put up a warning. “I don’t want to stink!” Bad news: you’re gonna stink.
At the mud bogs, the Gaghans zipped through the challenge on their first attempt, further infuriating the Aiellos. Seriously, I think the Gaghans are robots. Lovable, but robots nonetheless.
Elsewhere on the streets of Charleston, the Bransens and the Linzes found themselves racing for the charter bus in the face of physical setbacks: WalDER was exhausted, and Megan, well, her heart was hurtin’. It was very Nashville Star. Ultimately, the Linz, Schroeder, Bransen, and Godlewski families wound up on the first bus. As they drove off, we then went back to the mud bogs — AGAIN — to watch the Aiellos try this challenge for the umpteenth time. This time, it was clear they were gonna make it. I mean, the momentum was with them. “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” yelled the Marine son, banging his head and going as nuts as anyone who’s made it through Marine hazing. But alas, it was not meant to be. The car sputtered to a halt, stuck in the mud once again. Could you even have imagined Marion at this task? She would have been a-freakin’ out. NOBODY EVER EVER LISTENS TO ME!!!
Speaking of Marion, she was actually already freaking out on the shrimp boat as she forced everyone to take a shrimp. “Here’s a shrimp! Here’s a shrimp!” she yelled. I couldn’t tell if she was joking or not, but I decided I didn’t care because I love every word that comes out of her mouth. “I’m full of shrimp? You’re all getting full of shrimp!!” she yelled at her family as more bickering ensued. “Full of shrimp” — I’m totally using that expression from now on. “You know what, Jeff Probst has to calm down. He’s getting full of shrimp!”
Meanwhile, bus #1 headed off to Alabama, to the rocket capitol of the world in Huntsville. There, teams received their next clue. They had to drive SUVs to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and find a specific hangar. Okay, blah blah blah, they arrived and what do we have here? A Roadblock. But not just any Roadblock: a two-person Roadblock. Ah, a welcome addition to the Family Edition pantheon. Anyway, for this challenge, two people had to enter a centrifuge and experience 3 g’s. This, ladies and gentlemen, led to one of the best Phil moments of all time. We found our intrepid host strapped into the centrifuge with his body plastered against the wall and his face contorting in acceleration. Yes, it was Phil Keoghan at 3 g’s, and I’ll tell you something: you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Phil at 3 g’s. This was better than that time he stood on top of that skyscraper and had to be tethered down, lest he fall to his untimely PhilDeath™. Making this moment even more of an insta-classic was that Phil actually talked to us from inside the centrifuge, making one of his most hilarious understatements of all time: “If you haven’t noticed, gravity is currently pushing on me.” Funny, I hadn’t noticed! I thought he was only suffering from an incurable back injury.
Amazingly enough, the Bransens made it to the Roadblock in time and got to go first. Tommy Linz was ever so supportive as he yelled out, “Don’t puke!” Meanwhile, outside, the Godlewskis roamed around the complex, looking for the hangar. “A hangar is an airplane,” one of them declared. “No, a hanger is what an airplane is in,” corrected another. “Are you sure?” asked the first girl. Cut to me pulling my hair out. I can just imagine that Godlewski girl taking a seat in a hangar and waiting for the building to go airborne. “Oh my gaaash. Why aaaren’t we in the skayyyye?”
After the Bransens finished the Roadblock, they then had to run to “rocket park,” find the Saturn Five, and then a computer terminal featuring (trumpets, please) a huge product placement for AOL. Will this be a repeat of the internet café fiasco from season 6? Don’t know. In the meantime, the Linz brothers got in the centrifuge where Tommy, still basking in the afterglow of his shrimp hookup I’m sure, revealed some not so pleasant news. “Dude, I gotta fart!” he laughed as his brother grimaced. I wonder, do farts smell worse at 3 g’s? And would this emission be silent but deadly, much like the maligned strategy of the Weavers?
We then saw the Schroeders enjoying the centrifuge — “My arm is very heavy!” announced the dad with delight — and then we caught up with the Bransens who had arrived at their computer terminal. What delights would AOL have in store for our racers? Why, only the best delight ever: Phil! Yes, a little, unnecessary video of Phil popped up on the screen. “You are surrounded by the history of space exploration,” he announced. Gotta love SpacePhil. I bet he has a house on the moon. Anyway, Phil announced that teams then had to find the Space Shuttle Pathfinder where they’d find the next Pit Stop. Okay, it’s go time! By the way, Nick Linz wins the award of c-c-c-CRAZIEST AOL-watching eyes.
Anyway, the Bransens arrived in first place, despite papa Walter’s physical setbacks, and even better yet, they won possibly the greatest prize of all: free gasoline for the rest of their life. Yes, you heard me correctly. FREE. GASOLINE. FOREVER. Courtesy of British Petroleum and Arco. That was such an amazing prize, I couldn’t help but raise my Phil KeoKeoghanghan eyebrow in shock.
Speaking of gas, Tommy Linz and his siblings arrived in second place, and then we moved back to the open road where bus #2 was trekking on to Alabama. Unfortunately for the passengers, the Weaver kids had begun complaining. “It’s wrong that we got three hours of sleep, and we tried to push a Jeep out of a mud bog,” moaned one of the girls. Why was that wrong? Luckily, Marion was there for the color commentary: “She nervous. She’s very nervous.” Marion should totally do Monday Night Football. “Oh, Al, I don’t like the looks of this play. He’s very intimidating, that player. Hello! He should have passed the ball. No one ever ever EVER listens to me!”
Meanwhile, the self-victimization of the Weavers continued as Linda complained, “I am a prisoner on a bus.” Listen, it’s not like you’re on a charter to hell. Lighten up. Enjoy yourself. Oh, poor Mrs. Weaver. She’s a bit nutty and over-religious for my tastes, but I do enjoy her resolve and determination to keep her family together. With that being said, seriously, be quiet and let these people get some sleep. “They’re absolute puddles,” sneered David Aiello. Wow, you talk to your mother with that mouth?
Later, the bus took a pit stop at a Waffle House, and the Weavers continued to lose their shit as they cried in the bathroom. Linda told her kids to buck up and just fake happiness, which meant we then watched the Weaver women dancing and acting goofy in the parking lot. I think it was supposed to be HILARious, but it was kind of dumb. Besides, once they hit the road again, they picked up where they left off: complaining about not knowing where they were headed to. And to make matters worse, they even began singing about the situation too. I’ll sing a song for them. I believe it’s called The Sound of SILENCE.
We then went back to Alabama where the Godlewskis had just finished the Roadblock. “That was so cool you guys!” they yelled, except it sounded more like “gayuys!” Dammmit, I wish there were a better way to convey insane midwestern accents. Well, the Pink Ladies arrived in fourth place, behind the Schroeders, who nabbed third. Meanwhile, the second bus arrived, and as teams drove to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, we saw Linda poring over a map, quietly imploring, “Dear Lord, please give us the wisdom.” At which point Jesus said, “Seriously, you have a map. What else can I give you?”
I guess the Weavers got some divine help because they managed to snag the next spot on the Roadblock queue while their arch-nemeses, the Aiellos, grabbed the last spot. I gotta say, as cool as it was to watch Phil in the centrifuge, this was sort of a lame Roadblock, especially since the mandatory ordering really dictated the final placements of the teams. Nevertheless, the Weavers made it through the challenge next and quickly found the AOL computer. “You’ve got mail!” announced the AOL guy, causing Linda to literally reply, “Oh, thank you lord.” Okay, c’mon. Do you need to thank god for receiving email too? I suppose a pious person will thank god for everything, but this was a bit much. Nevertheless, the Weavers snagged fifth place, and when they arrived, Phil basically asked them why they had been so grumpy before. Linda retracted her complaints, saying their spirits were up now that they were safe for another round. And you know what? They deserved to be happy. Seriously. With their luck, I’m surprised one of those rockets didn’t spontaneously fall over on top of them.
The Paolos finished the Roadblock next, but as usual, they managed to get lost almost immediately. The biggest shocker, however, was that the douchebag son actually gave Marion some positive reinforcement: “You’re doing good, Mom. You’re doing very good.” Looks like that centrifuge may have messed with their heads. Meanwhile, the Gaghans were also lost, but that didn’t mean they weren’t hustling. Poor Billy couldn’t keep up. Apparently he didn’t have WHEELS!! WHEELS!!! “Look at Carissa going!” his parents said, clearly forging a wonderful sibling rivalry. To be fair, even though Carissa had her WHEELS WHEELS WHEELS going at full speed, she wasn’t carrying any bags. Still, way to let down the fam, Billy.
At the computer, the Marion made a humble request: “Read it slow so we can understand it.” “Mom, it’s a video,” replied the son. Honestly, when I write that interaction, it doesn’t seem that remarkable. But on screen, it was like amazing. I’m totally buying my Sim Marion a nicer TV.
Well, as the show drew to a close, the producers tried to create some suspense as to who would be arriving last. To be fair, the Gaghans had caught up to the Paolos, but the Aiellos were still far behind, so either way, we knew both teams would be fine. The Paolos checked in sixth with an enjoyably botched routine that started with Marion declaring “Lift off!” and then the son echoing with a “Lift off, Phil!” You know they totally planned that all out, but Dad and the other son chickened out at the last second. That’s okay though because the dad made up for it by nearly tackling Phil to the ground yet again. And yes, Marion had yet another gem: “Don’t hug him, he’s full of shrimp!” No, YOU’RE full of shrimp! See? I used the new tagline from before. By the way, from now on, every time I write “YOU’RE full of shrimp!”, imagine a sitcom laugh track going nuts.
Unsurprisingly, the Gaghans took seventh place, which meant that yes, the Aiellos were eliminated. That’s okay though. They weren’t anything special. That David guy was cool, just because he hated things so much — especially the Weavers — but aside from Tony’s funky hats, I could take ‘em or leave ‘em. Good luck, Aiellos, and enjoy your new place amongst the Boston subset of reality stars.
What did you think about this episode? Is there hope for this season? Were you sad to see the Aiellos go? And what do you think about the Weavers? Am I nuts for loving Marion Paolo so much?