The tears were flowing on last night’s Amazing Race: Family Edition. It seemed like everyone was crying, and if they weren’t, they should have been. The race took some sad and morbid turns as it forced the poor Weaver family onto a race track (thanks, JESUS) and then wound up right in the heart of New Orleans. Aaaawkward. On the plus side, with fewer teams, I’ve now learned about one or two more names. It’s pretty impressive if you think about it. Maybe by the final episode I’ll actually know six of the twelve remaining racers. And who said this season wasn’t personal?Last night’s show started off on a grim note. The sort of grim note that features a black screen, white text, and Phil’s voice. Yes, The Amazing Race would be heading to Mississippi and Louisiana, which meant CBS had to put up a disclaimer to dedicate the episode to the memories of those who died in the hurricane. Well, I’m officially sad now. I’m starting to think The Amazing Race might be cursed. Let’s not forget what happened to Sri Lanka after Phil & Co. set foot there (a little bitch I like to call Sue Nammi). And hey, didn’t the show go to New York City in 2001? Very fishy. That quake in Asia last week? I think we know where Bertram Van Munster sent the racers for season nine…
Anyway, after the credits, we found our dearest Phil standing amidst the rockets in Huntsville, Alabama. With giant a striped shirt blazin’ in the Southern sunlight, he welcomed us back to the race we know and usually love (depends on if it sucks, like this season). We then met up with the Bransens who were first to depart that afternoon. Their mission: travel more than 100 miles (gasp!) to the world’s largest office chair in Anniston, Alabama. Yes, Anniston — “like Jennifer,” as Char Schroeder later clarified.
Well, the Bransens headed out to the big chair (although not before dissing ‘Bama) and following them were the Linzes, who passed away the travel time with an old game of “Slappy!” — popularized by Rolly and the Schroeder kid last week. Having a less joyous time were the Godlewskis who started this trip with some old fashioned midwestern bickering. Oh my gad. After the Desperate Housewives hit the road, the Weavers emerged next, and OH NO. Somebody remind the lord that they’re ready to race! “Somebody pray!” commanded Linda. Luckily her daughter was right there with some pronto religiousness as she whipped off the little known “Amazing Race” prayer found in Jonathan 18:23.
Now, I like to rib the Weavers because of their kooky reactions to nearly everything, but I don’t actually hate them. By and large, they’re harmless, and while their religious devotion seems insanely high, I do respect that they’ve gone through a collective tragedy and need to find strength and guidance in some form. That being said, it was pretty funny to watch the Schroeders completely mock Linda et. al. Pater familias Mark called them “The White Trash Family,” whereas Stassi chimed in with “The mom’s a wicked witch.” Char-Char then added, “At first we’re like ‘We feel so bad, they lost their dad,’ and then we found out they’re eeevil.” Be careful, Schroeders. You never know what will happen when you mess with the Jesus team…
Next out of the Pit Stop were the fun-lovin’ Paolos, and it literally took them about one second before they were a mess. This time, they had lost their information, resulting in screaming, yelling, and various iterations of “MA!” Hot on their heels were those cute Gaghans, and just when I had started to come around to the wiles of young Carissa, I became scared all over again when she announced, “Other teams underestimate us by our size… but I’m smart, I’m funny, and I can keep the team going for a long time.” She then added, “WITH THE POWER OF THE DEVIL!!!” Here’s an idea: let’s make the first ever religious-horror-reality show. Stick Carissa in a house with the Weavers and watch the insanity ensue. I mean, that little girl already has a solid horror name: CARISSA. And as for Linda Weaver? You know who else was named Linda? LINDA BLAIR. This calls for pea soup and Max Von Sydow.
We then rejoined our beloved Paolos, who were now in stage three of a paper cut meltdown. The chaos began when Brian asked, “What’s the name of the place?” causing Marion to bellow, “ANNISTON!” That would have been good enough for me, but the bickering continued. As Brian tried to sound out the name, Marion yelled, “A-N-N-I” and then bopped him on the head with the clue. Well, Brian may be 16 years old but that didn’t prevent him from yelling, “Ow, and you just gave me a PAPER CUT!” He hates PAPER CUTS! Amusingly enough, Marion retorted with “No, I didn’t,” to which Brian replied, “Yes, you did.” Faced with this compelling argument, Marion relented, saying “sorry,” and rubbing her son’s injured neck. See, all’s well that ends well with the Paolos.
Anyway, the Bransens arrived at the giant office chair first, and well, this was one of the stupidest landmarks I’ve seen in quite some time. At least build an oversized stapler or coffee machine. The next clue directed teams to Talladega, AL, home of the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame. The Bransens had one of the larger understatements of the night as they said, “That wouldn’t be good for the Florida team.” No, it would not. Just about the only thing worse would be if they had to do something crazy like drive a lap around the world famous Talladega Speedway…
Well, as the Weavers headed out to (NotJennifer) Anniston, they passed signs for Talladega, instantly striking fear in their hearts. Linda explained that in the wake of her husband’s death, the family has stayed as far away from racing as possible. They don’t even look at it on TV. Ah, repression. Always a healthy way to grieve.
Meanwhile, the Bransens arrived at the Hall of Fame and learned they had to… take a lap around the speedway. Oh, this was gonna get tricky for the Weavers. And for a moment, I thought Phil might suffer a Weaver-esque fate as he introduced this next challenge right there on the track. “The biggest motor sport facility–” he said, pausing dramatically while race cars zipped by him, “in the world!”
What Phil then told us was that teams wouldn’t be driving a race car. No, they’d be riding a “Party Bike” — which in case you didn’t notice the massive closeup on the web address, is located at PartyBike.com! What’s a Party Bike, you ask? Well, a seven person bike, duh! As soon as the teams began piling onto these big, red, circular contraptions, I instantly wanted one. In fact, my thoughts and dreams have been haunted with the idea of riding through Los Angeles in a Party Bike, getting those neck cranes and puzzled looks usually reserved for jackass Segueway people.
Phil! Watch out!!!
Phew! Close call!
Anyway, the Bransens hopped onto their Party Bike and began their two and a half mile trek around the course. “This is probably like a halftime show at these places,” said one of the girls. God, I hope not. But then again, I’m sure it was more entertaining than the last Chargers game I went to: halftime was four high schools from Mexico playing sloppy football for ten minutes.
It’s like a party… on a bike! Party Bike!
Back at the giant chair, the Gaghans arrived and sent wee Carissa up the ladder to fetch the clue. Do you ever get the feeling that they just don’t care about Billy? Everything’s all “Look at Carissa run! Look at Carissa climb! Look at Carissa’s outfit! Billy, hold Carissa’s bag.” In stark contrast to the Gaghan perkiness, though, were the Paolos, who arrived at the chair with typical bickering. “Shut up, I’m tired of you guys telling me what to do!” Marion yelled, shoving Brian. Oh man, The Amazing Race and shoves: the love affair continues.
Well, over at Talladega, the Bransens finished their tour de Party Bike first and learned they had to find the Southern Colonel in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. What they didn’t know — as Phil LOVES to say — was that the Southern Colonel was a trailer park. The Bransens headed out (and let’s give a shout out to WalDER for keeping up with everyone this episode), and as they hit the road, the Godlewskis ran out to the speedway, constantly yelling, “Come on! Come on!” — or as it’s pronounced in Godlewski-ese: “Come AN! Come AN!”
As for the Weavers, they finally arrived at the Hall of Fame, causing Linda to shout, “Let’s get out of here as quick as we can!!!” Look, the place isn’t about to explode. Besides, you’re gonna make your kids basketcases anytime they see a car going over thirty miles per hour. Well, the nightmare scenario came true for the Weavers, and as Linda read that they’d have to race a lap, the blonde daughter let out a crushing squeal of “No, mommy we can’t!” Say what you will, but I really felt bad for this wounded family, and as the visibly shaken kids walked out on the track, I was actually proud of Linda for putting her own neuroses aside for a second and stepping up to play the role of parent. “Your daddy loved racing. Just let it go. You’re above all this,” she told her kids. It was very touching. Aaaand now we can go back to making fun of them.
Elsewhere on the track, the Schroeders struggled to get their party going at full speed. Mark insisted that they stop and readjust their seats, causing the family to react with exasperation. “One minute makes the biggest difference, why can’t you understand that?” complained Stassi. Meanwhile, the Godlewskis finished up the task and read the next clue. “Find the Southern Colonial in–” started one of the ladies. Thankfully, her sister corrected her, and I couldn’t help wondering if the “Colonial” girl was the same one who thought a hangar was an airplane. If it was any consolation, Linda Weaver made the same mistake, except she never realized that “Colonel” is pronounced like “Kernel.” Then again, this is the same woman who wasn’t sure if Pennsylvania was a state.
“Look! It’s Jesus!! Oh, wait. It’s just a KFC.”
Running up to the track next were the Paolos, who were more than excited to hop into a race car. “Man, can you imagine driving a race car?” asked the dad. Aww, he had all the optimistic joy of a child on Christmas Eve. Too bad Phil & Co. had to crush his dreams with the damn Party Bikes. Oh well. The Paolos were the last family to complete the lap, and as they scampered off, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled across the skies. Seriously, it was like the scariest thunderstorm ever on reality TV.
Out on the road, the Bransen and Linz families were having a blast. So much so that one of the Bransen daughters decided to up and moon the Linzes from the car window. I bet this was nothing compared to Phil’s wild and crazy youth. Anyway, the two teams arrived at the Southern Colonel and learned they’d be spending the night there. Before they could rest, however, they had to search the trailers for one of three departure times the next morning. Ah, one of my favorite Race devices.
Elsewhere on the road, the Schroeders seemed unable to process the notion that the Southern Colonel might be a trailer park. Even after Mark asked a police officer for help, he brushed off the answer, saying that it just didn’t make sense. This drove Stassi nuts as she yelled, “Shut up! Please shut up! Please shut up! Please! You are upsetting me so much!” And from there she just burst into tears and pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the night.
Over at the Southern Colonel, the Gaghans searched for the best possible time, but not before Carissa made her chilling remark of the evening: “I don’t like these trailers. They’re eeeeevil!” You just know she has an evil ghost twin who haunts those trailers — popping up in reflections, lurking in shadows, writing scary things on mist-covered bathroom mirrors.
Well, the Schroeders finally arrived at the Southern Colonel, and by the time they found a departure time (the latest one, btw), Stassi was just an emotional wreck. “One minute makes the biggest difference!” she wailed as the Godlewskis tried to calm her down. One minute? How about twenty? Yes, the Paolos arrived last at the trailer park, but they managed to get a twenty minute leg up on several teams by snagging an earlier departure time that had gone unnoticed. This of course made me quite happy as it improved the family’s chances of not being stuck at the bottom of the group. I tell you, if those Paolos get eliminated, I’ll be a sad man.
The next morning, teams had to find Les at a certain BP station, and good god, we know BP is a sponsor — RELAX with the promos. I mean, the shilling for Travelocity is bad enough. Next thing you know, they’ll be having a challenge where teams have to find Travelocity gnomes hidden in a BP mini-mart, which they’ll have to find via a map on AOL.
Well, once teams found this Les guy, they learned they’d have to drive to Louisiana and find Fairview Riverside State Park. So basically, finding Les was literally only a way to plug BP. That’s all. There was no challenge associated with the task; no scenic oddity like a giant office chair. Just a big glossy piece of product placement. I guess there’s nothing wrong with touting sponsorships. After all, without the sponsors, we probably wouldn’t have a race. But at the very least, make the product placements exciting. Running up to Les as he cowers behind a stack of Cheetos is hardly what I call heart-pounding television.
Anyway, everyone headed to Louisiana, and for some reason, we were treated to the arbitrary road map showing the teams’s paths. I don’t know why the producers show it for some highway trips but not for others. Just another flaw with Family Edition. Meanwhile, in the Schroeder car, in case we couldn’t remember, Stassi once again reiterated, “One second makes the biggest difference.” SHUT UP. WE KNOW. Technically, since Stassi has repeated herself about two times, we’ve wasted four seconds on her. Four seconds!!! Don’t you realize, Stassi? We don’t HAVE four seconds to spare. EVERY SECOND MAKES THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE!
To be fair, Stassi was stressed because dad had gotten the team lost, despite them being in their home state. Everyone else, however, showed up at the next clue, which was the beloved Detour. This week’s tasks were a choice between Work and Play. Teams could either use a handsaw to cut four slices off a big log or win three rounds of blackjack against a dealer. The catch with the blackjack though was that everyone on the table had to beat the dealer in order to win a round. Oh, and just for shits and giggles, the producers made the teams dress in period costumes. Yeah, it was funny and I sort of liked it, but don’t think we forgot about all that BP nonsense. TVgasm never forgets.
Anyway, the Linz and Bransen families arrived first and opted for blackjack. Meanwhile, the Paolos showed up and got to work on the logs. The Bransens were on fire with their dealer, but the Linz kids had no such luck and decided to try their hand at the log instead. Amazingly, of this first group, the Paolos finished the fastest, and as they assumed first place, they learned they’d have to drive across Lake Pontchartrain and into New Orleans. There, they’d have to park on Esplanade, run through the French Quarter, and find the Pit Stop in Preservation Hall. Ah yes. The creepy sensation of watching New Orleans pre-massive disaster. Can’t think about heavy things. Must divert thoughts into reality television.
Well, our old friends the Weavers arrived at the Detour and opted for the very unchristian gambling challenge. Surely the lord would smite them with a rampaging buggy. But no, their luck turned golden in the Amazing Race casino. First off, the dealer’s name was Roy. “His name’s Roy!!” squealed the family, pointing at the reliably silent Rolly. Wow! They’re both named Roy. Clearly a sign from the Lord! Seriously, it was. The family won their first two hands right out of the gate, causing the winless Gaghans at the next blackjack table to abandon their plans and try their luck at the logs.
Meanwhile, on the open road, The Paolos had a solid lead on the other teams, but the Bransens were nipping at their heels, followed by the Linzes. Behind them were the Godlewskis who were presently having a nonsensical meltdown in the car. Actually, it was just Chrissy Godlewski who suddenly had an overwhelming desire to keep her backpack with her at all times. “I want to get my backpack,” she cried. This, of course, was a beautiful thing because not only was Chrissy being silly with the crying, but she chose one of those words that just asks for midwestern butchering (“bayackpayack”). Even better was that we then cut to an interview with Chrissy as she cried about crying. “A lot of times, crying for me is a release. Physically, when I’m tired, and I just have to like get it out and get a good cry in,” Chrissy explained. We then cut back to the car where she now cried about being made to cry. And again, it was made all the more glorious with her Illinois accent: “Thanks for making me cry, you guys!”
“Oh, you did it to yourself,” replied one of her sisters.
“I do not want to be crying at the mat, okay? Can you let me pull myself together? THANK YOU,” Chrissy bawled, gracefully transforming “mat” into “mayat.” In other news, I’ve gone deaf.
Oh my gad.
Meanwhile, the Schroeders finally arrived at the Detour amidst afternoon showers, and the race suddenly became a showdown between them and the Gaghans. And yes, Carissa looked about ten times scarier with her hair all wet and matted down.
Well, the Schroeders tried their luck with blackjack while the Gaghans slaved away at the logs. Eventually, both teams earned their next clue, and as the Schroeders realized they’d be heading to New Orleans, Char happily announced, “We’re going home!” Talk about unintentional foreshadowing.
Over on Lake Pontchartrain, the Weavers marveled at the length of bridge (longest in the world). “It’s one of the five Great Lakes,” announced Linda. Okay, she’s officially an idiot.
In New Orleans, The Paolos arrived in the French Quarter first, but they got lost in the streets, allowing the Bransens to sneak up and claim the top spot once again. They won a nifty travel package from Phil and then shared hugs with the Paolos, who in turn shared their usual bear hug with Phil. Coming in third was the Linz family, and Phil was only too happy to ask, “Is it my understanding that there was a moon out today?” Oh, YOU! Very clever, Phil.
Well, the Godlewskis checked in fourth, followed by the Weavers. Unsurprisingly, it came down to the wire with the Gaghans and Schroeders, but in the end, Stassi was right. Say it all together now: “One minute makes the biggest difference!” The Schroeders were eliminated, causing Char to break out into massive sobs. For the record, they’re the second team in a row that was sent packing after professing their hatred for the Weavers. Maybe all that praying is paying off after all. I had to admit I felt for the poor Schroeder family as they huddled in the corner with a group hug, but luckily Phil put on his best PhilConcern™ face, and the Schroeders walked off into the New Orleans afternoon with a new appreciation for each other. Hey, Char said they were going home. She wasn’t wrong.
“I suppose now would be a bad time to tell you about the Linz family getting mooned.”
What did you think about this episode? Is there hope for this season?