Just in time for All:Stars.
11. Ally & Ashley – NHL Ice Crew (5th place)
I feel like these two were absolutely the apex (and hence the nadir) of the show’s need to cast a pair of somewhat-dim and ultimately inconsequential young blonde women every series. They did very little of note other than trail about 5 metres behind the “Afghanimals”, squirping merrily about being their “Race Wives”. Or, more usually, remaining mute and letting them do it. This wasn’t really a great series of The Amazing Race for feminism, with more or less every woman on it presenting as some sort of cartoonish stereotype right out of a Daily Mail op-ed, but this pair of Cheerleaders-In-Skates managed to be dizzily inept (never finishing higher than 5th on any leg, and finishing second-to-last a dizzying five times in a row before their departure) in a way that was neither charming (like the TAR 13 “Southern Belles”) nor compelling (like the TAR 17 “Beach Volleyball Partners”), or even incidentally hilarious (like all-time legends of the Dumb Blonde casting niche, TAR 5’s “Kwins”). By the time their last leg rolled around, 24 hours of non-stop bickering in Indonesia, I was beyond ready to see the back of them.
10. Leo & Jamal – Cousins/”Afghanimals” (4th place)
I guess it’s a relief when a team coming in saying “we really want to change America’s stereotypes of *X*” doesn’t attempt to do it by acting as blandly pious as possible? That’s about as positive as I can bring myself to be about the self-proclaimed “Afghanimals” who arrived with a mission to change the way Americans viewed Arabs, and then subsequently managed to alienate the entirety of the rest of the cast in the space of two episodes, apart from their giggly “race wives”, via lying, cheating, sub-Nick-Spangler “manipulation” and by being really really loud and infantile. The show transparently tried to turn this entirely understandable shunning into some sort of underdog “poor picked on Afghanimals, they’re not that bad” storyline towards the end, sometime around the point where it was revealed that they’d been cast on All-Stars 3 because Tim & Marie had turned it down. Hmmm.
9. Brandon & Adam – Childhood Friends (8th place)
Brandon & Adam were childhood friends who lived out in the woods in a tin shack and ate only berries and squirrels and made all their own furniture out of fallen oak trees and string and worked whatever horny-handed son-of-the-soil job the people of the town gave them and played the fiddle down at the local biker bar for tips every Thursday. Or so it seemed they said every episode. I had no real problem with them, but the show seemed so excited to get a pair of authentic woodsmen on the show that they wouldn’t allow them to talk about being anything else. They get some bonus points for having to suffer being eliminated dressed as mermen.
8. Chester & Ephraim – Former NFL Teammates (9th place)
Chester & Ephraim seemed both nice and enthusiastic, but were sadly underedited due to being both early boots and also being early boots who went out due to the age-old Amazing Race problem of incompetent airport staff. So there’s not a lot to say about them, other than I appreciate Ephraim’s efforts (revealed in post-show interviews) to get the Afghanimals to realise that it was kind of annoying to other Muslims to have them turn up on tv, professing a desire for America to learn about people from Islamic cultures via them, and then act like flaming doucheholes.
7. Jason & Amy – Dating (Winners)
On the whole I think this was a fun series, and like a lot of fun series (TAR 12, TAR 2, TAR 17, arguably TAR 5) it was one of the duller teams that ended up taking the prize. Jason and Amy were a competent team and mostly fine, and I am beyond glad that their connection to “Boston Strong” wasn’t played up any more than it had to be, but I’ve got a feeling that a lot of their more…Republican moments might have been edited out in order to make them more palatable winners for both coasts of America. Not that I’m sorry that Jason’s palpable discomfort with going to the UAE (or indeed, the Middle East in general) wasn’t more explored, but it did rob the team of the sort of depth that it needed to elevate itself above the ranks of recent winners. Instead we got the usual rote “oh look we’re a good team who have somehow managed to not quite win a leg yet” stuff, which surely everybody’s over by now? It was left up to Amy really to make the team likable and endearing which she managed to do in the last few legs, when, pushed to beyond the brink of her tolerance by Marie’s antics, she angrily declared that Marie better watch it, or “PROVIDENCE AMY” was going to come out. Needless to say “PROVIDENCE AMY” has been a term of endearment/abuse in this house for the last two months. What could be more terrifynig than PROVIDENCE anything?
6. Hoskote & Naina – Father & Daughter (11th place)
Hoskote and Naina’s whole thing was that Hoskote was an overbearing Stereotypical Indian Father who wanted his daughter to have an arranged marriage to a guy who would look after her and protect her, and that Naina was a spunky Modern Indian Girl who was perfectly capable of looking after herself and marrying for love. Then Naina sucked and blew the entire race for them in the first leg via her inability to read or to navigate, leading Hoskote to decide he was right all along and that Naina needed to be got up the duff and in the kitchen forthwith, rather than being left to wander calamitously through the world any more. Grimly hilarious.
5. Rowan & Shane – Theatre Performers (10th place)
Rowan and Shane have one of my favourite two episode-arcs in Amazing Race history. In the first leg of the race, on the beaches of Chile, they proved surprisingly competent for a couple of ageing drag queens (what is it about this show and getting drag queens on and NOT having them run the entire race in full sequins and gown?), finishing 3rd out of 11, in front of a bunch of teams half their age. This then led Rowan to go mad with power and delusions of grandeur, leading him to try a super-reverse double-twist bus trick on the next leg…leaving them in dead last, hours behind everyone else. Rowan then tried to make up for this on the final task of their stay, transporting a shoe-shine chair around the streets of late-night Santiago, frantically over-compensating and barging the thing around like an old lady with a shopping trolley during the sales, with a furious look on his face. It wasn’t enough. Shane didn’t really do anything, but I would welcome Rowan back on a hybrid team with Josh Beakman. IN DRAG this time though.
4. Tim & Danny – Best Friends (7th place)
On paper, Tim and Danny are basically a more telegenic Mark & Bopper (as much as you can describe a team containing a guy who looks like David Cameron’s long lost nephew as telegenic).. Best friends and “Real Americans” racing for a sick daughter, having their most triumphant moment grinding through a dancing task, before ultimately being taken out midpack by younger, more athletic, and more worldly teams. But they had a vibe all of their own, which showed itself most when Danny, a leg after gently talking Tim through the transvestite polka, utterly tanked their chances by being completely tone-deaf in a singing task with the Vienna Boys Choir. Mark & Bopper were always, despite their obvious friendship, slightly distant, but the sympathy between the two of them as they realised that they just weren’t cut out for the race was genuinely heartwarming. After the volcanic fireworks of Chuck & Wynona last series, it was nice to have a less…fractious pair representing the Real People Who Are Not Mactors of America.
3. Travis & Nicole – Married ER Doctors (3rd place)
So Travis and Nicole had by far the most fully realised arc of the series. Starting out as gamebot bad-asses who handily dominated the early running of the race, their gradual descent to the point where Jason & Amy kept them in over Leo & Jamal for the final leg solely because they’d be much easier to beat was precipitous in the extreme. The main reason for this decline being Nicole, who started off as a Type A overachiever and the only castmember capable of finally bludgeoning the Express Pass out of Marie’s hands (I still occasionally revisit the gif of her face after doing that and smile), and ended up scrabbling round in the dirt failing at every single task, desperately trying to cheat off the other teams because she couldn’t do anything right any more. Fortuitously for the editors, this decline came immediately after they both declared that they wanted to be good Christian role-models and teach their kids about playing honourably and never giving up. So of course this led to a lot of shots of this sort of pablum quote being played over Nicole nigh-on bodychecking Leo to try to see how he’d constructed his Indonesian Angklung or collapsing wheezing after 5 seconds of cycling. The only reason they’re finishing this ranking in third is because by the end, their relationship was really hard to watch, as Travis decided he couldn’t handle Nicole’s sudden incompetence, and the best way to remedy it would be constantly berating her about her lameness. Watching her fail at that final Roadblock time and time again as he twisted his mouth up and shook his head could only safely be done behind a cushion. And this is why you don’t marry your teacher.
2. Nicky & Kim – Baseball Wives (6th place)
Nicky & Kim managed to be the adorably incompetent female team that Ally & Ashley were supposed to be, somehow without being blondes. Who would have thought it possible? To be honest, if you didn’t know you were dealing with Amazing Race gold when it was revealed that one of them was called “Kim DeJesus”. I don’t think it would be possible to have that name and not be amazing. Kim delivered in spades throughout the series, being constantly upbeat, cheerful and friendly (particularly in the episode where she made friends with an entire Polish block-of-flats) whilst at the same time having a sharp edge buried not so far beneath the surface. A sharp edge that was thematically appropriate, as she got revenge on Marie for not honouring their early alliance by deliberately holding up her efforts to flight-book by wasting time chatting to the booking agent about whether they had delicious snacks on the plane and doing yoga. Nicky and Kim also get bonus points for being the most ambigiously homosexual female team in Amazing Race history, surpassing Debbie & Bianca. The constant kissing, hugging, nick-naming, and butt-patting in bikinis, was male fanservice of the worst kind and I loved it. In summary, here are my favourite quotes from Kim DeJesus’s Amazing Race website profile :
- “I support my husband’s career by going to a lot of baseball games and events”
- “I love laughing, hugging, watching movies, baseball and having FUN!”
- “Ellen DeGeneres is a sweet lady and makes people laugh without being hurtful; she has such a positive outlook on life and doesn’t judge. I don’t really admire a lot of celebs but she just makes me happy”
- “Everyone wants to be Nicky’s friend! She’s funny and is a natural beauty. I am so lucky to get to spend this much time with her!”
- “Whether it be through a hug, conversation or just being ridiculous, I can’t wait to meet people from all over the world and see who is out there!”
- “I also am proud that I can list off ALL 50 states in 15 seconds, and that I don’t eat things with a face.”
1. Tim & Marie – Exs (2nd place)
I have to admit, on the basis of the first episode, I was not looking forward to a whole series of Tim & Marie. She seemed far too aggressive, and their bickering had the distinct feel of people who were only doing it because it was their hook for getting on the show. But over time they softened and became more real and relatable. I thus present my favourite Tim & Marie things :
- Her spending the entire first half of the race lording their potential to gift another team with an Express Pass over the cast, using it as leverage I believe with every single other team at some point.
- The fact that said Express Pass was in the end gifted to Travis & Nicole in return for them getting Tim & Marie to the Pitstop a bit quicker on a leg that turned out to be Non-Elimination anyway.
- His constant flirting with Jason.
- Their official on-race nickname being “Pinkie & No-Brain”.
- That time Rowan tried to get them rejected from passing the shoeshine task because “she is El Diablo”
- “Did you puke? Did you faint? Did you die?” = Marie being motivational
- Stealing Leo & Jamal’s cab just because they could.
- Stealing Jason & Amy’s cab just because they could and then pretending to the cab driver that they WERE Jason & Amy.
- That time where Tim wished that the race could go to mosques more often because it’s the only place where Marie would shut her yap.
- Tim’s secret Performing Arts side, excelling at the singing task and musical instrument construction tasks and nothing else.
- Tim predicting that Marie would excel at the egg-boiling task because she always overcooks everything until it has no flavour.
- Her beating the combined efforts of Amy and Nicole at the robot-building task single-handedly with her freakish gym strength.
- Her revealing that they only raced together because she saw the application form at the last minute and he was sat next to her at the time.
- Her revealing that they had a 60-40 agreement for splitting the prize money. No prizes for guessing who was the 60.
- Their Fake Proposal after the race which fooled half the Internet.
So…to round this off, my brief thoughts on the All-Star cast before they show another side of themselves, maybe changing my opinions on them forever?
Brendon & Rachel : I didn’t think they were nearly as entertaining as their massive Internet Fanbase had it last time, but in this awful cast I am willing to give them a chance to be more than two or three soundbites and a whole lot of crying.
Caroline & Jennifer : I guess they really DO have to have a team of ditzy blondes every series, because they weren’t particularly good or memorable first time out
Connor & Dave : I’m not sure if the constant talk of cancer will be made better for being interspersed with “last time, when I fractured my ankle” every 5 seconds or worse.
Flight Time & Big Easy : Can I just say that I don’t get most of the threepeater teams at all. Didn’t the Globetrotters sully their legacy last time by “cheating” the Cowboys and pissing on a library? No?
Jessica & John : One of the two teams I am actively excited about see again (ZOMG WHAT AN AMAZING CAST) because I have faith that he has learnt absolutely nothing in the interim.
Jet & Cord : Ugh.
Joey & Megan : UGH.
Leo & Jamal : BLEURRRRRGH.
Mallory & Mark : The two lesser halves of two teams that I quite liked. I’m eager to see what the justification is behind welding them together when they have no history at all and I can’t imagine that they’re romantically linked.
Margie & Luke : Like Jessica & John, I have faith that he is going to be no better than he was last time. Unlike Jessica & John, I can’t see it being funny.
Natalie & Nadiya : ZOMG TWINNIES! I can’t believe that so many of TAR 21’s glorious cast were at one point slated to appear, and then were cut last minute, but I hope to God TWINNIE POWER can deliver again, because this lot need it.