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'Amazing Race' recap: Enter the draggin'

November 28, 2010 | 10:34 pm

One mustn’t look to reality-show competitions to right the wrongs of an inherently amoral universe.  But even as I acknowledge this, a question surges up from the very depths of my soul:  Why?

Why, “Amazing Race” producers, didn’t you get rid of Nick the Swine when you had the chance?  Was it too much to ask that he be sent back to the sty that spawned him?  Did you really have to grant him a reprieve for the second freakin’ time?  Were you afraid that Thomas, with his healthy sense of competition and his unhealthy attachment to Notre Dame, wouldn’t rise to quite the same level of maleficence?

Oh, yes, producers, I hear your legalistic nattering: “Non-elimination rounds are determined in advance of the competition.  We have no say over who will benefit.  We do not intentionally privilege any competitor over anyone else.”  Et cetera post habeas corpus facto, and guess what, guys?  I ain’t buying it.  I think you watched the early rushes of Nick in Hong Kong, saw him scorching every last article of adjacent humanity, and decided that, divine justice notwithstanding, there was no way you could kick this creep to the curb.

Not when he’s screaming at his asthmatic girlfriend Vicki for making him miss the ferry.  (“I’m sick of your being sorry. ... I’m not stopping next time.  You better step it up.  Quit crying!”)  Not when he’s oscillating so dependably between ugly one-upmanship and prostrations of self-pity.  (“This is ridiculous.  God, I just want to choke somebody. ... I just want to quit.  I’m tired. ... I haven’t got any food today, I haven’t got any sleep in the last two days...”)  Oh, I get it, producers.  It’s been a long time since you’ve had a villain quite so un-Machiavellian, so nasty and ineffectual in the same breath.  Even the normally enabling Vicki was moved to say: “You didn’t deal with anything today good.”

What Vicki and the producers may have failed to realize is that Nick wants to be kicked off this show every bit as much as we want him to be.  “Get me outta this place,” he moaned.  “It’s 4 in the morning.  Get me outta here.  Can’t wait to be home.”  Yes, dreams of 12-hour sleep cycles and uninterrupted bong hits teem inside that doo-ragged head, and my suspicion is that Nick will put his six-hour delay and his speed bump to strategic use in the next episode and get the release he so devoutly wants.

Because, as he himself pointed out with uncharacteristic wisdom: “You can’t keep throwing up all night.  You have to draw the line somewhere.”  He was referring to the latest gustatory ordeal: a massive Chinese buffet -- “both lavish and sumptuous,” promised Host Phil -- that harbored five cunningly disguised items of faux food.  Pick the wrong one, and you had to eat it.  My dim-sum-loving son was salivating at the prospect, but the prospect of binge-eating in front of raucous Hong Kong diners and karaoke singers wasn’t quite so pleasing to the American girlz, and Claire’s face quickly assumed the pallor associated with raw tuna.  “She’s supposed to be on a diet for her wedding,” noted pal Brook.  Never fear.  Involuntary bulimia has now ensured that Claire will fit into (I’m imagining here) that three-quarter-sleeve Alencon lace gown with the silk satin waist sash.  And if she doesn’t, well, she need only recall the advice of Brook, home shopping priestess and cultural historian: “Just keep puking.  That’s what they did in Renaissance times."

And with that, I believe, the whole mystery behind Mona Lisa’s smile has been cleared up.  Puke, puke, me hardies!  But do keep a vomit bag handy.  You don’t want to walk that long Trail of Shame to the nearest bathroom.  Which brings up another point: Wasn’t Episode 10 a tad sadistic, even by “Race” norms?  Jill and Thomas’s needle-in-a-haystack tram-ride quest, with the camera gloatingly picking out the three signs that no one in a million years would have seen?  The lantern-lit, parakeet-laden sampan crawl through the Hong Kong harbor, with contestants squinting out registration numbers in blackest night?  It all had the feel of a not very edifying dream, presided over by the statue of Bruce Lee.

-- Louis Bayard