Joebaldassare_billbartek_amazingracThe first 90 minutes of Sunday (April 1) night’s two-hour Amazing Race: All-Stars were a pretty grueling combination of missed flight connections, tone-deaf piano tuning and the rare break in the game for quiet reflection (at Auschwitz-Birkenau). It was intense, but not necessarily pleasant, per se.

The final 30 minutes? Probably the funniest thing I can expect to see on TV all week, if not all month. Packed into a limited time, Amazing Race managed to deliver a fantastic eating-based Detour, as well as a Road Block that devolved into watching wee Charla get dragged around a country road by a horse while wearing a suit of armor and falling on her face repeatedly. Incidentally, it’s not that I find dwarves in armor falling down to be consistently hilarious. No. That would make me prejudiced (or perhaps Terry Gilliam). I do, however, find Charla Faddoul falling down in a suit of armor to be consistently hilarious. If that makes me a bad person, then I’ll just have to live with that.

But what cold-hearted person couldn’t see the humor of a sausage eating contest in which the cocky Alpha Male Frat Boy (Eric) managed to get out-stuffed by a gay couple he’d previously called a pair of queens (The Guidos), two beauty queens (Dustin and Kandice) and one Mirna. I guess Eric deserves credit for beating Charla, but in another inspired comedy bit, Charla wasted quality eating time (and tasty sausage) jamming a knife down her throat to induce vomiting, complete with gory sound accompaniment and intercut scenes of all of the other players covering their ears and wincing. Throw in a slew of Charla and Mirna comments that, in the sausage-based context, I’ve decided to reinterpret as double-entendre, and you had enough mirth to salvage an otherwise heavy episode.

If you’re one of those Amazing Race viewers who can’t stomach eating challenges and couldn’t find the funny in Charla becoming the worst Weeble-Wobble ever, the episode had ample travel-bases annoyances. Who knew that officials at the Kilimanjaro airport won’t hold connecting flights for four ticketed passengers? File that one away for future reference. Who could have guessed that the Beauty Queens would see an early lead dwindle from two hours ahead of everybody, to a three-way tie to a deep deficit due to a variety of in-game contrivances and an ill-timed Intersection? That kind of stuff irks me. Who could have guessed that Mirna wouldn’t be able to take the parking break off her car without assistance? Well, I could have guessed on the last one, but the other two are just signs of fickle fate.

As for the rest of the two-hour block, it was actually two episodes. In the first, Eric and Danielle beat the Guidos to the finish line, but they were spared by the second non-elimination leg in three weeks (everybody gets a second chance but Romber). In the second episode, the Guidos actually narrowly made it to the mat first, but due to their 30-minute Marked For Elimination penalty, they were eliminated.

Highlights from the episode:

  • Dustinseltzer_kandicepelliter_amaziWhen it comes to the Beauty Queens, I’ve always been a Kandice man. No longer. Dustin had one of the all-time great episodes for a Racer. I loved her initial excitement about seeing a Chopin impersonator in Warsaw ("We’re going to get to see Chopin play piano!" "For real?!?!?" "Well, he’s dead.") and the comparison between seeing this Faux-pin (Get it?) and visiting Santa. Then she was the only contestant who seemed even vaguely capable at the piano tuning challenge. And finally at the sausage-eating challenge she delivered a funny opening prayer and then ate her sausage with great gusto, waiting until the end to vorf. Even in that gross moment, she provided an opening for the first inoffensive and funny thing Eric has said all season, when he announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, Miss California." Go Dustin.
  • Go Polish people! I’m Polish on my Mom’s side, so I had a soft spot for them to begin with, but how can you dislike a people that went out of their way to shun Charla and Mirna at every turn? I don’t know why nobody would help them in the street or why the cabbies got into a money fight with Mirna ("You think I’m made of money? I’m a young girl. I don’t have $100."), but I support the sentiment.
  • When they weren’t making me laugh (at them, not with them) Charla and Mirna were at their very worse this week. From the travel agent when Mirna called the booker "my sister" and offered her a commission for not showing the good flights to the others to the piano tuning where Mirna blamed the pianist for the out of tune piano, they had me swearing at my TV. The part where they badgered their Warsaw cabbie about whether he loves Polish hot dogs was both quintessential Ugly Americanism and foreshadowing.
  • Yes, Danielle both asked how long as 24-inch sausage was and asked if Warsaw was nearby their African starting spot. At least she, like everybody else, was admirably respectful at the concentration camp.

    I could go on. It was a long episode filled with highlights.

    But what’d you think?

  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg