The Amazing Race: Family Edition - Episode 7 Part 1

You Look Ridiculous

By Reagen Sulewski

January 16, 2006

We liked it better the first time when it was called National Lampoon's Vacation.

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After successfully bonding as a family through a combination of brute force and jumping off a 100-foot bridge on a thin, elastic cord (and really, who wouldn't that work for?), the Paolos have managed to work their way to first place in the Amazing Race and in the process making mortal enemies of the Weavers. They leave at 7:27 am from Quepos beach in Costa Rica. The first clue of the day directs them to Playa Maracas (there's a really cheap joke about merengue bands that I'll pass up here, if you don't mind) where one team member will have swim to a buoy to retrieve their next clue.

Marion wastes no time in setting the tone for the day by complaining about her legs; there's really just a tone here that she has that transcends ordinary whining. It's not hard to see why she and DJ don't get along; their combined whining and bitching reaches a level only bats can hear. Their latest source of conflict? She wants to decide now who's swimming, and DJ just wants her to die already. Granted, it's something that should be decided eventually, but it's not a crisis. Some teams just never learn to think on their feet.

The Linzs are next just one minute behind, and are showing some uncharacteristic modesty and humility. They have been the strongest overall racers to this point, but acting like that is usually one of the surest ways to get a team in trouble.

The third-place team in last week's race to the finish was the Bransens, who are just one more minute behind. In a side interview, Lauren expresses that it's necessary for all the team members to share an equal role in their race. Why mention such a banal, obvious statement? Because when Wally volunteers to do the swimming task, his daughters respond with an astonished, "Are you sure?" Apparently his share is really to just be the chaperone and hold the money. On second thought, give that money over here, too.

After Tony's impressive display of manliness last leg on the banana-carrying task, he's chosen to swim for the Paolos. Nick is the choice for the Linzs, and he starts closing the gap on Tony quite quickly. Wally starts the wrong way but corrects himself and is catching up when there's suddenly some distress from Tony. He calls for the rescue swimmers (! – I suppose letting him drown would be bad PR for the show), who come to him and give him a lifejacket to swim back with.

This commotion gives Nick the opportunity to pull into the lead, and he gets back to shore first. The clue sends them to the town of Grecia, where they need to find a historic church. Wally also sneaks ahead, putting the Bransens in second. It amounts to nothing as no one on these teams speaks enough Spanish to call a taxi. When the Paolos finally catch up, they ask Tony to call for one, but wouldn't you know it, he gets an English speaker. He calls three taxis for the group and they are then all on their way.

Back to the starting mat; the Godlewskis are next out at 8:32 am, or over a full hour behind. Sharon swims out and retrieves the clue with no problems. They're still suffering from losing all their gear, and their plastic bag luggage isn't really doing the job. The Pharisee family, I mean, the Weavers are finally out of the gate at 9:00 am and have settled in nicely to their role as the heel of the show. "It's greater to be hated for who you are than loved for who you're not," says Rebecca, and you know, she may be right (aside: "greater"? She card read good). But then, lots of jerks say things like that so that they don't have to account for their actions. I mean, they didn't want to be friends with the rest of the group anyway, and those grapes look really sour. A melodramatic moment as Linda doesn't miss the chance for prayer as Rolly enters the water to swim for the clue – listen lady, you're using up all the God! Miraculously, nothing happens to him and they have their next clue.

Sharon is a bit shook up from her swim (seriously, is the wimpiest group of racers ever, or what?) as they get in their taxi, with the Weavers seemingly close behind. As they chant cheers at their taxi driver, I'm sure he's trying to figure out if he can get ransom for this group.

The three leading teams arrive at the church in the middle of a funeral procession; can you say "awkward"? The clue here is the Detour, which is a choice between decorating a painted wheel or loading up a sugarcane truck and transporting it to a rum factory. It's arts & crafts versus hard labor, but the more physical task looks appealing to me in this case.

The Paolos go with their secret brute force weapon again and choose the sugar cane, while the Bransens and, surprisingly, the Linzs choose to go paint, although after some consideration, they realize where their strength is and turn around. Meanwhile, the Bransens seem to have caught the taxi curse for this leg, as their driver goes completely around in a circle. Finally, a policeman takes pity on them and points their driver in the right direction.

The Godlewskis choose the paint option once they reach the church, no doubt with plenty of practice from their children's art projects back in Illinois. Linda Weaver greets the altar boy with "hola, señora" (um...), and they choose the painting option as well.

The Linzs completely torch the Paolos, leaving DJ to wonder how they could finish their pile so much faster (some call it "ability"). Beyond his complaining, they actually seem to be having a bit of fun here, so I'll cut them some slack.

The painting task seems designed to open rifts in family harmony, so the already squabbling Godlewskis and the emotionally fragile Weavers could be in for some nice sharp words among them.

After being told that their next clue is inside a barrel, the Linzs start to tear apart the warehouse and are about to start smashing them before tragedy is averted, and whichever of them is the smart one (it's a relative thing) figures out that there is a plug in the barrels. Pulling out the clue, they find they're headed back to the United States, and Phoenix, specifically. Whew, that was a tough two-leg journey outside their home countries. Way to stretch those boundaries, Bruckheimer!

On the other hand, I give them full points for testing the new-found sanity of the Weavers (again, it's a relative thing) by sending them to yet another racetrack. Sure, it's a go-kart track, but it's got wheels and goes fast, so it's all the same thing, right?

The Paolos get their clue next, with Marion crying out, "What are we going to Phoenix, Arizona for?" Well, it's in the race, for a start. Was this not explained to you? For her part, she wanted to go to New Zealand. Hey, that's off the North American continent!

The Bransens are through next with their arts and crafts, with the Weavers sneaking ahead of the Godlewskis by virtue of the latter's perfectionist streaks. Choosing the boring task is punishment enough, why go blind over it?

At the San Jose airport, we get the ever-popular airline ticket wrangling, with the Linzs grabbing a flight via Atlanta that arrives at 9:35 a.m. the next morning. The Paolos manage to annoy the ticket agent and he tells them there's no space left. Sure, it's a security thing. Wink, wink. They move on to another airline that actually gets them in 15 minutes earlier, via New York City. The Bransens and Weavers remora onto this flight, getting them ahead of the game.

Meanwhile, the Godlewskis have finally finished their wheel, for which they are paid a shiny nickel, and get on their way to the airport. There's some drama going on there, as the Weavers pin DJ down and demand to know why the Paolos yielded them. When he's straightforward and tells them that they were trying to knock them out of the game (duh), they're shocked and say they just want to be friends. Didn't you say the opposite at the start of this leg? Linda remarks that "you don't have any yields left and we do", but I'm guessing she really doesn't have a great understanding of game theory. Nor does she have any clue, apparently, that there was almost a fight to see who got the honor. If not for the Gaghans' bad luck at the coffee bean task, the Weavers would be gone. I can only imagine DJ's horror at this whole experience, as he's at legitimate risk of being indoctrinated into a cult here.

The Godlewskis finally arrive and make the flight to New York, meaning that the Linzs' speediness has been completely erased and they have fallen crucially behind. It's more of an unfortunate quirk of the race than anything, but many, many teams have not just settled for the first tickets available. I don't see any evidence that they look for another flight once they're there, either.

Once the other flight arrives at JFK airport, the Godlewskis find out that the heretofore completely reliable Costa Rican ticket-booking system has lost their reservation and that their flight is completely full. They're told that a flight is available at the Newark airport, which is quite a hike away, but they try for it. By coincidence, it's scheduled to get in at exactly the same time.

However, in a stroke of luck, it's incredibly early (must have found a shortcut) and is 45 minutes early, giving them a comfortable amount of breathing room. It's complete luck, but it's a not-to-be-underrated factor in the game. You also can't ignore a complete lack of observational skills, as the Paolos promptly get lost in the parking lot when they arrive, falling behind the Bransens and Weavers, and eventually the Linzs. Some crazy family exchanges follow including threats of violence, so business as usual. Thanksgiving dinners at this house must be an absolute dream.

The clue at the racetrack is the Roadblock, as expected, which will require a team member to take a car around the track for 50 laps, which is actually a bit of an endurance test for once, especially with the hot Arizona sun beating down on them. With a race this long, a driver who knows how to handle one of these cars could really make up some ground. Michelle takes on the task for the Godlewskis, with Wally taking it up for the Bransens, who are second in.

Shortly after them are the Weavers, and Linda has correctly deduced that this might have something to do with racing. She takes on the task and her apparent strategy for dealing with stress of "getting very angry" shows through. Caveat here: I'm sorry your dad died, but her children, the little drama queens, start to complain about her getting in the cart. Listen, these things go maybe 30 miles per hour. You're done far more risky things on this race, like, for instance, getting in a vehicle going faster than that.

A sort of unbelievable pathology is on display here, as the Godlewskis go over and offer a comforting shoulder in recognition of the circumstances (more than is warranted, mind, but the spirit is true). How does Rebecca respond? "I hate the Desperate Housewives. And they lie." Can you even begin to see why other teams might not like you? Is any of this sinking in? Argh. AHHH!! HULK ANGRY! HULK SMASH DUPLICITOUS WEAVERS! Errr, yeah. Got a little carried away there for a second.

The Linzs arrive and choose Tommy for the Roadblock, who wastes no time in catching up. The Godlewskis are almost done by the time the Paolos show up, where DJ grabs the reins and takes the Roadblock for himself. Poor brother Brian. He's still on this show, right? They didn't just leave him in Costa Rica, right? Michelle finally finishes and gets the next clue, which sends them to the next Pit Stop, at Fort McDowell, in the middle of the desert.

There's a bit of manufactured drama as Tommy makes a tight turn around Linda and nearly trades some paint. Of course, it's about as intense as bumper cars, so any frightening moments can only be the product of incredibly fragile psyches. Oh good, the Weavers have brought that.

The Bransens are second, with the Weavers third and the Linzs fourth, but a lot of time has been made up here. The Paolos have shed a lot of time so far and have time to make up. Then again, here comes the Foreshadowing Fairy, as a few teams seem to be having troubles with directions.

I hate to keep harping on the Weavers here... well, no I don't. But they just keep giving me ammo against them. They rail on Tommy for having the audacity to try and pass Linda in a race, and they crack wise about Tony Paolo's occupation when they pass a garbage truck. Get back to me when you've done a single productive thing with your life, okay? They then call the driver "Arizona's finest", pissing off an entire state while they're at it. You didn't even know which state you were in, you morons.

The Bransens appear to be driving off the map and have to stop at a hotel for directions. Wally wants to slow down and think about their route, but apparently that's a radical concept.

Three teams hit the ranch in pretty close proximity, with the Godlewskis having shed some of their lead, but not enough to lose first place. Their prize for this leg is a trip to Belize. The Weavers come in at second, with the Linzs sliding in for third.

The Bransens are forced to stop again for directions, leaving an opening for the Paolos. Paranoid about the non-elimination leg, they start to put on all their clothes after reaching the ranch. They're not so good at math it seems, with only three other vehicles in the parking lot. You'd think that would be a clue. They're in for a shock when the Bransens pull in behind them, and they're off like a shot. I'm not sure I can burn the image of Marion wearing her underwear on the outside out of my brain anytime soon, but they're in for fourth.

They then do a good deed in telling the Bransens to do likewise with all their clothes, as they know they're last. Phil tortures them for a second before confirming that it is a non-elimination leg. They are at a disadvantage now, but then the last team to get this penalty just finished first in this leg.



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