'Amazing Race' recap: The blond leading the blond
Quiet, please. I’m scanning the executive-producer credits to see if I can find Tiger Woods’ name. Can you remember any other edition of “Amazing Race” so aswarm with blonds? Between Jill the blond hairstylist from Marina del Rey and Stephanie the blond hairstylist from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Nat the buff blond anesthesiologist and the two blond ex-beauty queens and the matching pair of blond beach-volleyball players (who cannot, at this point, be distinguished from each other), the best title for Episode 2 might be “Gentlemen Prefer You Know Who.”
For Exhibit A — and also B and C and D — call up Brook, the blond home-shopping priestess, who first used her sexual wiles to extort directions from a British tractor driver (“I just kissed an Englishman!”) and then, after previously boasting she could sell ice to Eskimos, proved it by offloading black-market sunglasses on Ghanaian citizens who clearly knew better.
No amount of skepticism could withstand Brook’s blond ambition. With a bandana covering her flaxen locks, she looked like "Liberty Leading the People," and one could only pity Kat, the dark and lissome doc, whose years of medical and athletic training proved drastically unsuited to the task of selling folks something they didn’t need. Kat is, in other words, a creature of the World Outside Television, a world Brook has perhaps heard of but never visited. I was in no way surprised, then, to see her clambering over a Ghanaian man’s roof to install a TV antenna. What greater charitable office can one perform for one’s fellow man? And what better way to extend the spirit of Brook-ness across the globe?
Brook and token brunette Claire rode their comet to a first-place finish and afterward took great pleasure in calling themselves “the ditsy La La girls.” (Although my 10-year-old son, still haunted by Claire’s recent collision with flying fruit, prefers the title of “watermelon people.”) Kat, meanwhile, skipped the antenna installation in favor of a more existential chore — dragging a coffin through the streets of Accra — a pastime that suggested some midnight crossing between reality TV and Ingmar Bergman.
And who should bring up the rear, finally? The brown-haired mother-daughter team, dragging shards of family history after them. Andie gave up Jenna for adoption years ago (and then raised a family of 10 kids, according to the CBS website), but the poignancy of their story sits uneasily against action sequences of taxis careening through crowded African streets. “Oprah” might have been the safer vehicle.
Lest we think that blondeness is strictly an advantage, “Race” did offer the cautionary example of Mallory, the hugsome Kentuckian who, upon learning that her taxi’s engine was dying, offered up prayers before realizing she could hop into another cab.
Nevertheless, the prevailing winds are Scandinavian, a trend that may tap new reserves of wiliness among the other contestants. Does anyone but me think that nerdy middle-aged dad Michael is working his weakness like a fox? He offloaded his sunglasses almost as quickly as Brook, through the simple expedient of presenting himself, in all his pathos. It wouldn’t shock me to see him dancing on everyone’s grave at season’s end.
As for the Princeton singing boyz, their major-third harmonies continue to irk, and I’m still not sure they’re in on their own joke. Harry Potter look-alike Jonathan did win Unintentional Laff Honors for trying to high-five a young African boy and receiving nothing for his pains but a look of pure hoarfrost. The only sound I could hear in that moment was Graham Greene’s spirit, guffawing at another well-educated Yank abroad.
-- Louis Bayard
Photo: Brook selling sunglasses on "The Amazing Race." Credit: Jeffrey R. Staab / CBS