Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Amazing Race (TAR) notes

Now that Season 12 has ended, it's time to take note of a few things.

I was pleased to be at this season's TARcon in New York. That's where the big fans of the show get together to meet each other and watch the finale together. It was a strange-feeling schmoozefest at first, in that for the first hour most of those who I approached weren't at all talkative. The Race started while the Giants game was on, but fortunately the screens all shifted to the Race when it came time to start.

Anchorage, Alaska! I briefly saw a picture of a snowy, icy place earlier in the season, so I thought something like that was up. But I didn't think it would end there! Seeing TK in there with the crabs, trying to find the one with the TAR flag, I was ouching with him. Then to see all three teams at the final puzzle task together, that was tense. I was trying to figure out the puzzle myself as it unfolded on the screen, but no luck. They had to take items from each leg of the Race and put them in place according to a set of specific rules. There were, of course, more items than were needed, so it took a lot of thinking it through. They all struggled with it, apparently for about an hour, before Rachel put it all together, apparently by figuring out that the cleaning man, as a human being, counted as an 'animal'. As she had throughout the Race, her pluck and preparation paid off -- to the tune of a million bucks. (It turns out that the taxi ride to the final mat was bollixed by the cab drivers, but fortunately it didn't change the order.)

The Racers arrived at TARcon -- first Jennifer of Shana/Jennifer. Most people thought she was Shana at first, but soon figured out she was the 'other blonde' and that the guy with her was, I think, her husband. (Shana was in California, at a viewing party there.) But they stayed mostly in the background, because arriving at about the same time were Kynt/Vyxsin, the self-proclaimed Goths, and when they arrived all the attention went to them. No mistaking it -- their striking physical appearance, with the makeup and the black-and-red outfits, makes them the center of any circus, which is what PR appearances are. Kynt was, to say the least, very promotional, with the pre-made photo prints for signing and the red business cards. I wonder what he'll do when they start fading from view? Vyxsin was trying hard to be attention-grabbing too, with somewhat startling photo poses, but one got the sense that she'd rather get this phase over with. She's taller than me by a good bit, but I didn't realize how much until I stood next to her. I'm picturing her, say, twelve years from now, showing these pictures to her children, as their eyes shine with wonder.

Next, it was time for the winners, TK and Rachel. They were in New York City for the end-of-season winner's event on CBS' the Early Show, and also the next day for Regis's show. They walked in just as the Giants won the football game, causing a big combined cheer. This hullabaloo is something new to them -- he was a NCAA competitive swimmer, her a flower shop operator with her parents, neither of which prepares you for the burst of PR activity and the showering of love from adoring Race fans at TARcon. (Not to mention a half-mill each.) But they were handling it the same way they handled the Race, with calm collectedness and lots of praise for each other. (Maybe I'll post the photo of them with me, if I can get the darnded thing to upload.) They'd known each other from childhood (their mothers knew each other well), and went to the same high school (the same school as two other Season 12 Racers, Nate and Staella). But they'd only been dating for four months when they decided to get into the Race. They communicate with each other very well, even in a month or so of Race and a mob of fans. They were uncomfortable, yet eager to operate outside their comfort zone. During the Race I was especially impressed with Rachel, who was one of the best Racers they've had, as I see it. She has a level of focus and determination that tells me we'll hear from her again eventually, accomplishing something worth noticing that has nothing to do with flowers or winning money. In person, she was as I pictured her, except even thinner.

Last, of course, was the Amazing Host, Phil Keoghan. Totally at ease in a crowd, he went straight to the back and started telling stories, answering Race questions, and posing with a lot of people. He earned a reputation as an adventurer even before TAR, and appears on those cable channels that show adventurer-types. Those who think this stuff is not an adventure don't know how tired these people get, nor have they ever enjoyed sleeping in an ATM enclosure with a bunch of other teams. It's not easy for Phil, either, but "not easy" is his normal.

There's something that I find odd. TK/Rachel won by way of quiet determination and mutual supportiveness. Yet they are both quick to say good things about the team whose constant hateful words, poor communication and poor teamwork was the very antithesis of theirs, Nate/Jennifer. Especially when some of those not-nice words were directed at them and their approach to the Race. On that front, TK/Rachel let their victory speak for itself, while telling us how great and fun Nate/Jennifer were to get along with. They even mentioned some happy moments the two teams experienced together in Italy and Croatia. It seems the Race isn't all that TK/Rachel are winners at. I can only wish them the best on the road ahead.

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