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'The Amazing Race' recap: Stop talking and go

February 20, 2011 |  9:17 pm

Amazing “Are you ready to race around the world one more time?” asks Phil Keoghegan.

“Yes!” you cry from the depths of your futon sofa.  “Yes!”

Silly goose, Phil’s not talking to you, he’s addressing that strangely familiar crowd of folks gathered around the wind turbines of Palm Springs.  All those also-rans and coulda-wons and shoulda-wons who, in the current parlance, have “unfinished business.”  Which is a nice way of saying that, in some previous installment of “Amazing Race,” they blew it.  Who can forget LaKisha and Jen pausing for that fateful bathroom break?  Zev and Justin misplacing a passport?  Gary and Mallory wandering like Paul Bowles characters through the wilds of Oman?

Yes, for the first time ever, “Amazing Race” is going back for the ones left behind.  The guys who picked the wrong taxi or ticked off the wrong team or came a-cropper on some fiendish Road Block.  “There’s not a winner among any of you,” Phil sweetly declares, but in time-honored American fashion, all 11 teams get a second chance.  And what do we get?  Why, the chance to spend more time with people we never expected to see again.  Oh, sure, maybe you thought you’d had enough of the “dating Goths” the first time around, but now you can marvel all over again at Kent’s teeny-weeniness -- the way he folds into Vyxsin’s body like a pale pouty handbag.  And isn’t it nice to gaze once more on Ron’s kindly Yoda face and Kris’ granitic pecs and warm ourselves in the competitive kindling that is Margie-and-Luke?

How little has changed, really, since these folks first sprawled across our TV screens.  The Globetrotters are still grinning; Jaime is still thrusting out her “girls”; and that pious little firecracker Mallory still vomits up prayers when the going gets rough.  It remains to be seen whether she’ll seek counseling from evangelical-minister-turned-gay-activist Mel White, who is still trotting good-naturedly after his goldfish-eyed son. 

And, best of all, those cheeky “Race” producers are still up to their old tricks.

KRIS: Amanda’s good at word puzzles.
Cut to AMANDA, staring slack-jawed at a word puzzle.
AMANDA: Whaaa?

This wouldn’t be “Amazing Race,” after all, if contestants didn’t cling to some threads of self-delusion. 

Lifetime, for instance, can speak of his basketball team’s “winning tradition” as if the Globetrotters actually win their games.  Jaime and Cara declare themselves “redheads,” although the peculiar copper-vermilion they sport has no immediate parallel in nature.  (Mars may have it somewhere.)  And Mallory, in all innocence, utters the following sentence: “You’ve been to Kentucky before.  You know we don’t lie there.”  Yes, dear.  We know. 

At least some of the contestants recognize their limitations.  “Not to fulfill any stereotypes,” says African American Jen, “but no, we cannot swim.”  And then there are Jet and Cord, who stole back into my heart the moment they said, “Qantas Ay-er.”  Things are not lookin’ good for our cowpoke brothers, who began flailing the minute they hit the Sydney tarmac and who looked about as comfortable on Shelly Beach as a bucket of krill.  Regardless of their final destiny, I will always cherish their ability to keep their hats on in all forms of weather, not to mention Cord’s reaction to the idea of trawling through a shark tank for a compass.  “I’m from Oklahoma.  I don’t do water.  I don’t even take baths.” 

He may just be taking the next flight out, but as Phil reminds us, “Second chances don’t come free.”  Although, as adages go, I prefer the fatherly advice Phil doled out to Mallory at episode’s end: “Stop talking and go!”

-- Louis Bayard

Photo: Jet and Cord in "The Amazing Race." Credit: Robert Voets/CBS.