Saturday, February 24, 2007

TAR Stars: The First Cut Is The Deepest

Happier times: JVJ & Me, TARCon4 (2003)

While I was writing my post on Sunday, I was aware that something could go wrong with the first episode of The Amazing Race: All-Stars. In each season, there's never a team that you knew you could do without. We had somewhat blah pairs (Matt & Ana, Scott & John), nice folks who probably would've been toast if they lasted longer (Deidre & Hillary, Gina & Sylvia, Debra & Steve), and fun duos whose absence in subsequent legs made their seasons a little less fun (Avi & Joe, Ryan & Chuck, Vipul & Arti). Also, there were Dennis & Erika (the formerly engaged couple, she liked to skydive naked), the Black Family of Family Edition (perhaps the most unfortunately surrnamed team in reality show history) and Bilal & Sae'ed (cut out of TAR10 in the middle of the leg).

So there I was, painfully aware that a team I had liked in the past might be the first to be sent packing. I had the Frats, the Chas, the Guidos (had them to win) and Uchenna & Joyce (they did slay Ramber two years ago). The team that got eliminated first? Naturally, it was John Vito & Jill, the ones closest to me. And the worst part? They basically went out the same way as they did in their last outing

Here's the thing about JVJ: they showed strength in TAR3, as well as mental stability (looking at you, Flo), but they constantly bled time throughout the race. Some of it wasn't totally their fault, but they had lots of navigational problems. The biggest turning point came in the ninth leg. After finishing last in the previous episode, they went for the Fast Forward. You could see the wheels turning in their minds: Get the Fast Forward, win the leg, and don't worry about elimination for another two legs. Up until that point, there had never been back-to-back nonelimination legs.

JVJ broke off from the other four teams, hit a cabin in the Swiss Alps, and ate blocks of cheese to uncover the location of the Pit Stop. It seemed like everything was going to plan...until Flo & Zach got the break they needed when they didn't get eliminated. In the following leg, the teams went to Malaysia, JVJ struggled with the Detour, and couldn't catch up to Teri & Ian to the Pit Stop. As a result, JVJ got eliminated, and it was the start of the fall of TAR3...but that's another story.

Back to the current season: JVJ reached their bags first. They got to the ticket counter first, and they figured out that the flight that departed second would arrive in Ecucador first. At the end of the day, they managed to be in the front of the pack. Even better, in the "other teams talk about Rob & Amber" segment of the show, John Vito gave us this: "I've had enough of Rob & Amber, and I think that America may have also." As if I couldn't love the big fella any more than I already did.

The next day, the teams were let go in three groups, fifteen minutes apart. They had to go to Cotopaxi Park and make it to Hacienda Yanahurco...ideally at the north entrance. Rob & Amber and Oswald & Danny (the eventual top two teams for this leg) went for the same tact: speak Spanish and get taxis for themselves to follow. JVJ found a guy for him and Jill to follow. Eventually, JVJ finds out that they've been going the wrong way. While this is going on, every other team makes it to the park, and JVJ hit the south entrance. It came down to a race between JVJ and a struggling Kevin & Drew to not get eliminated...and since three people in there are Staten Islanders and proven fan favorites, I get depressed. If the editing is to be believed, the Frats managed to get to the Pit Stop before JVJ even got to the Detour. And just like that, my heart gets shattered every bit as bad as when they got eliminated the first time.

On Monday, I forced myself to watch Reality Remix, with commentary from unfunny and bitchy gay couple Lynn & Alex. They claimed that JVJ was the only team they didn't know about. So they knew who Teri & Ian were, but not JVJ? How does that work? They likened JVJ to the expendable slutty girl that gets killed off in horror movies. Then then declared that Kevin & Drew will be eliminated next, labelling them "the fat guys" and, according to Lynn, "they're going to roll themselves right off the track." As you can tell, I love to make myself suffer. Happily, the producers didn't want to punish their viewers by casting those twits, so they're stuck on Fox Reality where they belong.

It's been tough rooting for John Vito & Jill. First came the heart-breaking elimination in TAR3. Then came the news that they were no longer a couple. I mean, if the lovey-doviest couple around couldn't make it work, then what hope did the rest of us have? When I saw John Vito at TARCon9, I couldn't ask him for details. It wasn't any of my business, and I didn't have the stomach to ask if JV was dating Erika, or if he brought her to the party as a friend. And now, I have to settle for watching JVJ on "Elimination Station" on, where viewers can check out eliminated teams as they're sequestered. Seeing them wander the grounds by themselves was painful to watch, and I'm pretty sure they're not going to become a couple again. It's like have a favorite aunt and uncle divorce; they're cool as singles, but you can't imagine them apart, and you wouldn't want to do that. As a heterosexual guy, I should be thrilled that Jill is on the market (as far as I know), but she looked so much better with John Vito than she would with me.

There was a lot more to the first episode, but I'm not in the mood to going over Rob & Amber coming out in front yet again, Teri & Ian finishing in the top three (something they needed eight legs to achieve on their own merits in TAR3), David & Mary freakin' fawning over Ramber and finishing behind eighth-place Charla & Mirna (didn't finish below fifth until their elimination in TAR5), and poor Drew getting banged up as he and Kevin finished in tenth. Right now, JVJ is gone, and The Amazing Race: All-Stars is poorer for it.

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