You know, I was all excited to see The Amazing Race: Family Edition finally leave the country on Tuesday night, and yet, the episode still seemed rather forgettable. What’s gone wrong? I mean, the challenges were hokey but nothing more ridiculous than anything else that’s appeared in seasons past. The language barrier was in full effect; so that problem was no longer an issue. And the casting isn’t at fault because we surely have a wide swath of enjoyable characters running around the screen. Maybe it’s the sheer volume of people — I still don’t know all their names — that’s making it hard for us to create a connection. Or maybe we’re still reeling from this season’s massive stumble out of the starting gate. Nevertheless, Family Edition may be dull, but it’s still heads and shoulders above lots of other televised offerings. And hey, with heartwarming touches like this week’s two-hanky Paolo story, it’s nice to see the show can still blindside us with an unexpected dose of true emotion. So I guess what I’m trying to say is… I don’t know. I’m tired.This week’s episode opened up where we left it: in New Orleans (and yes, Phil was sure to do his whole “This is dedicated to the memories of the victims” bit before the opening credits). It was sad and creepy to watch footage of the once-vibrant city, but luckily, the “ick” factor was short-lived as teams learned they’d be heading to Central America. Woohooo! Finally! I have to admit, I was quite relieved. As the Bransens opened that first clue, I fully expected some stupid command like “Drive three miles and find the world’s largest toothbrush.” But no. Instead, they were to fly down to Panama City, Panama and then trek out to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. There, they’d have to take a boat out to an island and find a man in a hammock named Ricardo Diaz. Ooh, this sounds like a low-rent John LeCarré novel. Now all I have to do is read a John LeCarré novel to get my own reference!
Anyway, the Paolos were the second to leave the Pit Stop, and as they happily bounded to their car, we cut to an interview with matriarch Marion Paolo as she said, “My ideal situation by the end of this race would have DJ put his arms around me and say, ‘I love you Ma.’” And with that, she choked up and let out such a sweet, loving hiccup of a noise, that I couldn’t help sighing like an emotional housewife watching an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition marathon. Of course, I laughed too.
Having a less sentimental time was the Linz family, who hit the road all full of eager excitement. “I love high school spring break. I hope we can check out sixteen year old girls!” said Tommy.
“That’s the wrong Panama City, isn’t it?” corrected Megan.
“Not Florida,” added another one of the brothers. It was a funny clip and all, but I personally was more amused that the Linz family seemed more preoccupied with Tommy’s geographical errors rather than his apparent penchant for statutory rape.
Meanwhile, the Godlewski family came pouring out the starting gate, and within seconds, they were piercing my eardrums with their accents. “You guys, we’ve got to get to the street lamp and look at the mayap!” one sister insisted. Then Christine, famous for bawling over last week’s backpack controversy, popped up on screen to say, “I may be bossy, but my ideas are also the best.” For instance, her latest great idea was the new charity, “No Backpack Left Behind,” an organization dedicated to raising backpack awareness. Because sometimes, you just really really really want your backpack.
Up next were the Weavers, and man, this family really has me conflicted. I really want to vilify them, but some small part of my conscience keeps holding me back. I mean, Linda Weaver is clearly a nut job, and I’m not saying that because she’s overly religious. She genuinely seems like a woman on the verge. And I kind of feel badly for her because you know at any moment, the producers might just find her in some dusty corner of the Pit Stop, rocking in the fetal position and whispering some random phrase over and over again. Plus, even though her kids don’t seem like the sharpest tools in the tool shed, they’re also just kids — and kids reeling from the loss of their dad. So how can I in good conscience rail on this mentally fragile clan? Well, I guess I’ll do what I always do: let them say something stupid and then point my finger and laugh (blogging is so fun).
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for the Weavers to say something dumb, and in this case, one of the daughters revealed her theory about alliances: “I understand alliances, and I understand that they might help, but they’re ssstupid!” What about an alliance with THE LORD?? Yeah, gotcha!
Meanwhile, the Godlewskis approached the airport, and as they pulled up, one of the sisters ordered, “Put your backpacks on!” Wow, they really do have quite the strong pro-backpack agenda. Are they moles from North Face? They are, aren’t they?
Last to leave the Pit Stop were the Gaghans, who have struggled to stay in the game for the past few weeks. I have to admit, I was fairly turned off by this family at the start of the race, but sometimes if you see enough pluckiness, you eventually cave in. Fine fine FINE! I like the Gaghans. They’re not my favorite though. Actually, come to think of it, I kind of like all the teams that are left. Ain’t that a dilly of a pickle? Anyway, as the Gaghans bounded to a taxi with their usual perkiness, young Carissa said, “I’m excited that finally we’re getting out of the U.S.” Wow, for once I actually agree with Dakota. Now run! WHEELS! WHEELS! WHEELS!!!
Over at the airport, everyone lined up at the Continental counter, and as the Paolos began their latest round of bickering, the Godlewskis suddenly piped up and said, “If you’re gonna argue, please step out of the line. Take it elsewhere, please!” If this were an ’80s sitcom, the audience would have applauded. Remember when that used to happen on sitcoms? Mary would finally muster up the energy to tell someone off on 227, and then when she did, the audience would reward her with a kind round of applause. Especially if said moment involved slamming the door in someone’s face. Man, I miss that. Another thing I miss about sitcoms: humor. (Although, I firmly believe Everybody Hates Chris is seriously one of the funniest sitcoms to air in years.)
Anyway, the Godlewskis weren’t done wagging their finger. “He’s absolutely cruel to you. What are you doin’? Be nice to your mom!” said one of the sisters, putting DJ on the spot.
“I haven’t been that bad,” the typically rude son replied. Yeah, not that bad. Except for every single time you open your mouth..
I have never seen an airline worker so happy to say “I’m sorry, this flight is full.”
Well, at long last, the teams boarded their flights, and we were treated to the first airplane diagram of the season. Much better than those dinky roadmaps we’ve been sitting through for the past few weeks. Anyway, everyone touched down in Panama, or P. Ma, as I like to call it, and then it was a race to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
“If anyone ever would have told me I’d be in Panama with my mother crossing a river with crocodiles, I’d tell them they’re out of their minds,” DJ Paolo said as his taxi crossed said bridge. And I’m sure the driver was thinking, “If anyone ever would have told me I’d be in Panama driving this douchebag and his mother over a river with crocodiles, I would have shot them.” So you see, you never know what hand life with deal you.
Meanwhile, the Weaver family helped reinforce the asshole/ignorant American image by condescendingly blurting out Spanish words in the backseat of their limo. “Burrito,” “Conquistador,” “El Speedo,” the kids all said as Linda Weaver happily smiled on the sidelines. That’s like a bunch of foreigners coming to the U.S. and randomly saying “Cheeseburger,” “Coca-cola,” “Disney World.” Fairly insulting, yes? Unless, of course, the Lord told them to act that way — which is entirely possible.
Well, the groups all arrived at the Smithsonian place, but wouldn’t you know it? The boats to the island of Ricardo Diaz would only be leaving at 7 AM. Yup, a time equalizer. Oh well. No biggie. The teams spent the night in a random building nearby, and the next morning, they hopped into their boats and sped off across the Panama Canal. And you know what that means: more Spanglish! “Por favor rapido when you can!” Christine Godlewski told her driver. And I’m sure he really understood the “when you can” part. Kind of reminds me of this cleaning lady in my old office. She would come in at night and talk to me in Spanish, and I would respond to her in English, and we’d both smile and nod, but clearly neither of us knew what the hell the other person was saying.
Teams eventually made it to the island — although the Gaghans nearly faced disaster when their boat driver wanted to turn around and fetch a random person. Seriously, who do you pick up in the middle of the Panama Canal? Nevertheless, they too arrived, and then the hunt for Ricardo Diaz was on. And yes, I fully expect the feature-length adaptation of this episode to star Ricardo Montalban as Ricardo Diaz. Anyway, teams raced through the preserve, stumbling across Fake Ricardo Diazes lying around in hammocks. Who knew scientists were so lazy? Meanwhile, the Weaver bothered Jesus with yet another prayer of grave magnitude: “Lord, please lead us to Ricardo Diaz.” The Lord then replied, “Yeah, sure. I’ll get right on that. Top priority.” Who knew the Lord was so sarcastic?
Eventually, the Godlewskis found Ricardo first, and as Christine approached him, he said, “Yes, I am Ricardo Diaz, and here is your clue.” Not that Christine heard any of it. She snatched the clue out of his hands and ran away before he could even get the third word out of his mouth. I noticed that afterwards, with every other team, he held on tight to the clue until he finished his little line. Look, he may be a scientist in a hammock, but he has things to say, people!
Anyway, Ricardo’s clue was actually the next Detour: Rhythm and Coos. And wow, I just now as I’m typing finally got the pun (Rhythm and Blues? Rhythm and Coos?). With either choice, teams had to take a Red Devil bus — or Diablo Rojo (the preferred bus for Antonio Banderas) — and ride to a destination. In Rhythm, teams had to go into town, find four different musical instruments scattered in various buildings, and then deliver them to a club. In Coos, teams had to go to an observatory, locate wooden bird replicas with binoculars, and then successfully identify them on a bird chart. But wait! There’s more! This leg of the race featured the one and only fast forward of the season. Teams would have to perform a tandem bungee jump off a crane. Eh. Not the most innovative Fast Forward I’ve seen. Besides, I really don’t like the Fast Forwards where the first team to arrive essentially gets it. I like when multiple teams could be hammering away at the task and first to complete it wins (like in season three when Terri and Ian hunted through hundreds of rugs to win the Fast Forward). Nevertheless, the Paolos decided to go for the Fast Forward and uh-oh, so did the Gaghans! The Godlewskis, meanwhile, were simply trying to figure out some basic fundamentals about geography. Christine asked a random guy where the buses were, and he sternly reminded her, “This is an island.” WELL! Not one to have the wool pulled over her eyes, Christine told her sister, “I don’t believe him Trish!” Uh… you’re surrounded by water. Luckily, Christine came to her senses and said, “This is an island. That’s right. There’s no way off. This is an island. We knew that.” Way to go, Chrissy! Maybe someday she too can play on Celebrity Jeopardy.
Down at the docks, our first controversy surfaced as Linda Weaver told the Linz’s boat driver to go slowly. Um, Linda? Just ask the Lord. Duh. Anyway, Tommy Linz was pissed. “That Florida lady was telling ‘em to slow the boat down. BITCH!” he seethed. Sounds like somebody’s still a bit cranky about missing the 16 year old girls (although, ironically, isn’t that how old one of the Weaver girls is?). Later, one of the Linz guys said, “That lady needs to take her crazy pills.” Crazy Pills? Please, we call them “Jesus Candy.”
Elsewhere, the Bransens opted for “Coos,” but Dad was a little nervous. “Don’t know anything about birds. Hopefully, they’re not going to be that hard to spot!” Oh WalDER… Walter is such the sitcom dad. He’s totally playing a part in my 227 scenario.
On the mainland, the Linz and Godlewski families joined up to work together on “Rhythm,” and of course this turned into a general Weaver bashing. Tommy told the girls how Linda had told his driver to slow down, causing the Godlewskis to scoff, “Oh my gad, they’re rude!” Me likey the rivalry!
Meanwhile, the Paolos climbed into their Diablo Rojo and headed to the Fast Forward. Brian then told us in an interview, “I am proud to say that my dad is a garbage man. He’s been a hard worker all his life.” We then saw Dad giving a big shout out to his local union. Oh man, what’s with all the Paolo sweetness tonight? I just looked at the CBS popularity poll, and the Paolos have like no votes. People!! Don’t leave me hanging here!
Anyway, the best part about this Fast Forward was that it completely shut DJ up. He was so preoccupied with his fear of heights that he couldn’t waste his energy being a total brat. Instead, he was only a minor brat. “I feel like I’m gonna pass out,” he said. GOOD. It’ll be nice to have some peace and quiet for once.
At the Fast Forward, the Paolos and Gaghans had a minor foot race to be first in line, but the Gaghans lost, no thanks to Tammy who full on crashed head-first into the back of a van. It was simultaneously hilarious, painful, scary, and hilarious again.
That’s gonna leave a mark.
Well, Brian and his father jumped off the crane first, and in typical Amazing Race form, they whooped and hollered to the sound of triumphant strings. “This is UNBELIEVABLE!” yelled dad as he kissed his son on the forehead. Awww. Parents.
Having a more difficult time with their tandem jump were DJ and Marion. Surprisingly, Marion was all about taking the plunge, but DJ, well, he was a pussy. “It’s really only a split second when you think about it,” reasoned Ma, and after some false starts, the quarrelsome mother and son jumped off to the sound of bloodcurdling screams. As they settled down on their bungee cord, Marion happily said, “That was good, D! I’m proud of you!” and with that, DJ kissed his mother on her forehead! Whaaa? A new leaf?? Grab your tissues, it’s about to getting touching here in this joint.
When the family was reunited on the dock, Marion gave her son a huge hug, and he in return kissed her some more, causing her to say, “See! See! He loves me! That’s what I wanted to get out of this, my son to love me!” I don’t care if you hate the Paolos, that scene was heartwarming. The love! The maternal pride! The warmth! Their popularity better go up this week, dammit.
More touching than Michael Jackson in a… eh, I won’t go there.
Sadly for the Gaghans, they then had to turn around and head to the Detour. Meanwhile, the Bransens had picked up a local on their bus to guide them to the bird watching facility, but you know what they say about locals: they just want a free ride. Yup, this woman conned the fam into driving her to work. Sucks for the Bransens, but it was awesome for that woman. Can you imagine showing up at work and being like “I totally conned this reality show to give me a ride today!” Okay, that’s probably only cool for me.
At the bird sanctuary, the Weavers were busy finding wooden toucans, or tooo-caahns, as they called them. Linda Weaver then revealed one of her lofty goals: “I’ve always wanted to be a bird watcher.” Well, it’s a highly skilled hobby that only a few select people can participate in; so, sorry Linda. Looks like you’ll have to try something less demanding, like neurosurgery.
The Power of Christ compels you! (To give us directions)
Elsewhere, the Godlewskis and the Linzes continued to work together through the Rhythm challenge (although, it looked like the Linz guys were fetching and carrying all the instruments), and at the Pit Stop, the Paolos showed up in first place and even won a trip… to Panama. And oh god, here goes Marion again with the heartstrings: “It is nice to have a moment like that with DJ. You know, it only takes one little kiss like that to make you feel like yeah, they really love you, they do.” Question: whatever happened to Marion’s nifty little neck kerchief? That was the best.
After the Detour, teams then headed to a baseball stadium where they found the next Roadblock which had to do with baseball, or as Phil called it, “BBBBBAseball!” Basically, one member from each family had to hit a ball thrown by a champion Little League pitcher. After three swings, that person would then have to move to the back of the line. Sort of simplistic, but sort of fun. I approved. The Linz and Godlewski families ran over to the stadium, and on the way, the gals promised to make out with the Linz boys later. I can just imagine how they sound in bed: “Oh gad. Oh gad! Oh GAD! OH GAD!!!!”
Look Phil, it’s time we talked about some loose-fitting pants…
Arriving at the Roadblock first, however, were the Weavers who sent Rolly to plate. “Oh great,” he said with resignation about five times in the span of thirty seconds. And yes, “Oh great” is the perfect Rolly tagline. The Bransens showed up next, and as Beth headed to the plate, her sister Lindsay called out, “It’s a chica! Be nice!” It’s funny — Lindsay’s suddenly emerged in the past two weeks with all sorts of little quotes and songs and dances comments. I think I’m developing a crush. (Call me…)
Well, poor Rolly struggled at bat (“Oh great!” — laughter and then applause. Rolly’s in the sitcom too now), and when the Linz brothers showed up, they taunted him with typical baseball ribbing. “Hey batter batter batter batter batter. SSSWWWWIIING batter!” they yelled out, incurring the wrath of crazy Linda Weaver. “You guys, hush!” she yelled, before telling her daughters, “They’re so rude!” Linda then yelled at the Linzes again, saying “We’re encouraging everyone!” Yes, just like how she encouraged the Linz’s driver to go slower. Eventually, Rolly hit a ball (“Oh great!”), and as the Weavers headed to the Pit Stop in their Red Devil Bus, Linda reiterated, “They were so rude to y’all, to Rolly. We were encouraging! That was mean!” Yeah, I hate mean, disrespectful people. You know, like the type that would show up in Panama and say “Burrito” and “El Speedo” to a local and then laugh. Oh wait…
Meanwhile, over in the Linz’s bus, everyone talked about how obnoxious they thought Linda was being. “I would have told her to screw herself!” scoffed Megan. Cut to me rubbing my palms together, salivating at the burgeoning rivalry. Mwahahaha.
Elsewhere, the Gaghans zipped through the Detour and were now headed to the Roadblock. “Thank you for running so hard, Carissa,” said Tammy. She then added, “We LOVE Carissa! Back to the attic, BILLY!” Well, the can-do family arrived at the Roadblock where Sharon Godlewski was struggling to hit the ball. Bill Gaghan (that’s the dad, not the son, Billy) stepped up and hit one out of the park, inspiring awe in his son (aww, cute), causing the Godlewskis to fall down into last place. Eventually Sharon connected with the help of some colorful prompting (“Pretend it’s that boss that wouldn’t give you a raise”) and soon they were off to the Pit Stop as well. Sadly for them, they had fallen way behind the pack, but the gals held out hope for a non-elimination round and put all their clothes on just in case. Uh oh — if this was non-elimination, would Christine lose her backpack??? Better get a Valium ready, just in case.
Well, the Weavers eventually showed up at the mat in second place and behind them came the Bransens who had to dig deep in the final stretch. Even WalDER was prompting his daughters along: “Come on, Meg. Hot legs! Hot legs!” Not as cool as “WHEELS, CARISSA!! WHEELS!!!!”
In fourth place was the Linz family and sneaking in at second-to-last (again) were the Gaghans. The Godlewski showed up last, but good news! This in fact was a non-elimination round! Good thing the gals suited up because all their possessions excluding the clothes on their backs were confiscated. And Christine came in clutch by wearing a, um, black veil? Or was that a beekeeper’s mask? Either way, I’m sure it was incredibly important…
Saved by the grace of Gad.
Phil then closed out the hour with one of his great comedy routines: “Did you know it was illegal in Panama to wear underpants on top of underpants on top of your pants?” Oh Phil. You’re just a regular Jay Leno, aren’t you?
Now, I have to register a mild complaint. Unlike many viewers, I’m not anti-non-elimination, but I am anti-Fast Forward (or Yield) on such rounds. I mean, what’s the point? At the very least, the producers should have given the Paolos an incredible prize for coming in first via the Fast Forward on this leg. C’mon Bertram Van Munster. You can do better than that.
What did you think? Happy that we’ve finally left the country? Or is it too little, too late?