As I watched this episode of The Amazing Racejust 28 hours shy of the new year, I wondered if the contestants were watching it too and if it sparked some resolutions for them. For example, I imagined Vyxsin turning to Kynt and saying, ''Hey, Kynt, here's one for you: 'I, Kynt, promise not to waste a U-turn on a team that has long since passed us by.' Or how about this one, my Gothy little pal: 'In 2008, I will not forget to get a receipt.' You like that one, Kynt? You know, so just in case we're in a similar situation next year, this time you won't cost us a million dollars.''
The episode would inspire many resolutions for Nate and Jen, too — if they actually saw it. I have a feeling they never ever catch the show when it airs. I imagine that 7:59 p.m. every Sunday night finds the remote control lost at Casa Muerte de Amor and the couple tearing their living room apart, yelling, ''This is frickin' unbelievable! Every tiiiiiime!'' ''Just help me find it, Jen!'' ''Where did you leave it?'' ''Shut up with the questions, Jen! Just find it!'' ''Aren't guys supposed to be the ones who hog the remote? Where's yours, in your vagina?'' ''Shut uuuuuup!''
Well, if Nate and Jen didn't see this week's episode, I'll recount it for them: It started on a rare happy note for the couple, who acknowledged that their moment of mutual destruction in the rowboat was embarrassing and disgusting. Sure, that's easy to point out in the restful oasis that is the pit stop. But I wasn't convinced that this change of heart would last longer than the next clue envelope. Nate and Jen make me think of the alcoholic who wakes up in a Dumpster without his pants and with a mysterious gasoline stench to his breath who says, ''That's it,'' as he shuffles home, clutching his pounding head. ''I am done drinking.'' And the following night, someone offers him a martini, and next thing you know it's 12 drinks later and he's bartering his pants for a shot of Exxon Hi-Test.
But this wasn't the only false epiphany of the show: Ronald also declared that that he hoped that their stay in Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, would be the renaissance of him. And yet, the subsequent challenge found him going right back to his unhappy place, stuck in a lather-rinse-repeat cycle of questioning all of Christina's decisions.
The five remaining teams were off to Mumbai, India, and their departure times from the pit stop were spread over five hours. But since the times ranged from 10:12 p.m. (Nicolas and Donald) to 3:23 a.m. (the Goths), it was all moot, as we knew the airport ticket agents would be closed when they all got there. The same suspense killer ruined their flights, too: For all the talk of TK and Rachel landing in India two and a half hours after everyone else, it was still in the middle of the night. We know from past races that whatever place they had to pass through next would be closed until the morning, anyway. I realize there's no way for the producers to get around this, but it does get frustrating for a longtime viewer to watch 15 minutes of airport shenanigans knowing full well that it will all prove to be inconsequential.
Sure enough, the teams all met up outside a Mumbai newsstand, where they had to camp out waiting for the owner to open and give them a newspaper in which they'd have to search for an ad providing their next clue. Most of the teams divided and conquered, splitting up the paper sections to search. Sure enough, this minor bit of problem solving was lost on Nate and Jen. I realize now that for all the crap I've given Jen for her acid tongue, Nate really does ask for it. He keeps about as cool a head as a hungry baby, making all challenges 60 percent more stressful than they need to be. Just as with the fence-post-counting task, Nate fell apart. With his constant jitters and panicking, he comes off like a combination of Bill ''Game over, man!'' Paxton in Aliens and a meth head.
Jen did remain calm for a little while. But when a little dog started jumping on her leg, it broke her: The couple quickly devolved into a ''You started it!'' ''No, you started it!'' fourth-grade squabble. I think a zoologist should be brought in to hypothesize about why all the animals in the world seem to love to torture Nate and Jen. The camel, the donkey, now a random dog — it's as if there's some viral e-mail going around the animal kingdom saying that if you piss off a blond woman and her itchy boyfriend, you'll get a free iPod.
The detour was ''Paste 'Em or Thread 'Em'': Pasting was posting a six-part Bollywood movie poster, while threading was making a garland of 108 flowers. We learned of yet another entry in Donald's résumé when he announced he used to be in the printing business. I was surprised he wasn't also a Bollywood star. Rachel, on the other hand, has been working with flowers for the past four years, so threading was the obvious task for her and TK. Then again, threading didn't really take an expertise in flowers so much as an expertise in mastering a simple, three-color pattern and not gouging out your own eyes with an enormous needle. I'm surprised Donald didn't take this one: He competed in the 1984 Olympics in the since-eradicated combo sport of biathabeep: part fencing, part playing the electronic game Simon.
Wow, that last joke was so labored I feel like I should look for the placenta. Moving on.
NEXT: The series' first speed bump