With one week to go before the two-hour finale of The Amazing Race, I’m starting to feel less convinced that a Rachel-Dave victory is foregone conclusion. I’ve still got my money on them for sure, but Ralph & Vanessa and Rachel & Brendon were surprisingly effective competitors last night. Sadly, I can’t say I care which of the remaining teams wins. Everyone left at this point seems like a pretty unpleasant human being, even by reality TV standards. Although it's worth remembering that days of exhausting manual labor and sleepless nights tends to bring out the worst in people.
For instance: The scene toward the end where Art and J.J. imitated Dave and Rachel. While their role play was spot on, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. “Shut up, Rachel,” J.J. said to Art, mocking the condescending way Dave speaks to his wife. “You're my partner now, not my wife. You’re weak!” What he was saying was barely an exaggeration of the derogatory way Dave addresses her, which reflects poorly on Dave. But J.J.’s vitriolic, bitter tone was nothing to be proud of either. It was more true than it was funny, and therefore the whole thing was just sort of sad.
The episode started out with serial first-place finishers Rachel and Dave taking a trip to an Indian temple, where some shirtless religious elders handed them a Race card in exchange for removing their shoes and bowing courteously. (Spoiler alert: All teams managed to accomplish that feat without incident.)
After Rachel and Brendon received their card from the elders, they opted to try the Fast Forward (which Team Army was forced to pass on). The Fast Forward seemed surprisingly easy -- find two priests at a temple -- but when Team Big Brother arrived, they learned the real challenge was a throwback to Amazing Race 7: They had to lose all their hair if they wanted to skip ahead to the finish mat. The last time this happened, Uchenna and Joyce went under the electric razor and went on to win the season.
Rachel took her invitation to Bald Mountain very poorly: There was whining, crying and face scrunching. “I paid 500 dollars for extensions,” she said. “It would be so sad. I've spent years and years trying to get my hair to look good.” I know Brendon is the PhD student in that couple, but you would think she could understand that a shot at one million dollars is worth wasting $500.
I expected it to be a tear-filled ordeal that she’d endure for the money and the glory, but apparently vanity and hair extensions hold a much stronger sway on her that most. She decided hair was more important than competing, which honestly surprised me. Sure, going bald would be humiliating for Rachel, but turning down the early start time you gain from a first-place finish is crazy when you're so close to the final leg.
Brendon, as usual, was laudably patient and kind with her. Although it was clear he wanted her to go bald, he refrained from trying to sway her and let the decision lie wholly in her lap. As irritating as those two can be, Brendon certainly treats his partner with a lot more kindness than other men on this season.
I totally agree with what Team Border Patrol said about the forfeited Fast Forward later on: “If you don't want to cut your hair for a million dollars, why are you even here?" I think the answer is pretty apparent: Rachel and Brendon are not in The Amazing Race to win, but to further their reality TV careers. Now I'm not saying every person should be willing to shave their head for a shot at a million dollars, but I am saying that if you volunteer for The Amazing Race and get that far, you should be able to swallow your pride, if only for your partner.
NEXT: Vanessa's crossdressing boyfriends and tygers, tygers burning bright