As the 23rd season of The Amazing Race approaches its finish, some cast their eyes towards the next season, which is being run even as I type this. The format seems to be back to "Unfinished Business," with teams that have run in the past getting another shot. I've found out the cast, and I have some feelings on them.
Jet & Cord McCoy (Cowboy Brothers)
Herbert "Flight Time" Lang & Nathaniel "Big Easy" Loften (Harlem Globetrotters)
. . . and immediately, we have problems, as we get Racers getting a third shot at a million bucks. Really, Worldrace Productions? This ain't Survivor. Both teams probably have huge fan bases, and they're not assholes . . . unless you count the Cowboys getting steamed over Dan & Jordan Pious winning, to the point where one or both of them reportedly uttered a gay slur about Jordan. On the flip side, it's easy to tell them apart . . . Jet: Black hat; Cord: White hat. And Big Easy is taller than Flight Time. On the downside, if you hate listening to "Sweet Georgia Brown," this might be a long season.
Margie & Luke Adams (Mother/Deaf Son)
A lot of fans have a mad-on for Luke, who caused friction in his initial season (TAR14) with other Racers. I don't think he's evil. At his worst, he's merely obnoxious, and his distorted voice doesn't help matters. I'm amazed that these two are back because on two occasions, Luke has been to a place I like to call Racer Hell. In TAR14, he squander a huge lead over eventual winners Tammy & Victor, blowing the final Roadblock so badly that cheerleaders Jaime & Cara wound up having to help him out of pity. In exchange, he and Margie gave their friends second place. Four seasons later, Luke suffered through a tea-sipping Roadblock that likely played havoc with his bladder. I guess he's a glutton for punishment.
Mallory Ervin & Mark Jackson (Um . . . Kentuckians?)
This is the team that makes the least amount of sense. Mallory had run TAR17 with her father Gary, getting a sixth-place finish. The following season, they improved to third in "Unfinished Business." Are you with me so far?
Two seasons later, Mark ran TAR20 with his best friend, William "Bopper" Minton. Yes, there was a grown man that answered to "Bopper," and he was awesome. The guys stumbled and bumbled, but they managed to place first in the eighth leg. The following leg showed another example of Racer Hell, as Mark wilted like a dying plant in the scorching sun of India, trying to complete a Bollywood dance routine. He and Bopper finished last in the leg, but were spared by a non-elimination. The boys wound up taking a Fast Forward, where they had to get their heads shaved. Actually, Mark was spared due to his bald dome; Bopper got shaved, and he was happy with it . . . and this came after Brendon & Rachel refused to do it in order to ensure their survival. Even after being able to skip through the other tasks, Bopper & Mark wound up getting eliminated, taking the last bit of class out of an otherwise dismal field.
Mallory & Mark would be the second gestalt team to play in an "all star" season. Eric Sanchez & Danielle Turner joined forces in TAR11 to win it, and to make me use the term "all star" with quotation marks. I don't know what happened to Gary and Bopper to keep them out of the game, but I know both will be missed . . . especially Bopper, who probably would be consider the best of the "good ole boys."
Brendon Villegas & Rachel Reilly (Big Brother Contestants)
I don't remember them beyond Rachel bawling out of the head-shaving Fast Forward. Honestly, is there such a thing as a bearable Big Brother contestant? If your IQ hits three digits, I reckon you're too smart for the show, which is the longest-running trainwreck on the CBS schedule. According to the Wikipedia page for TAR20, they got married last September. Big whoop.
Natalie & Nadiya Anderson (Twins)
I get the hate for them . . . they're loud, shrill, and they yell "TWINEEEEEE!" a lot. However, I don't see them as evil . . . not even when they picked up $100 dropped by fellow players James & Abba and refused to give it back. I'm not into the darker aspects of gameplay, but I saw the Rockers as clumsy . . . especially when Abba lost his passport in a later leg. I'd be the same way . . . I'm constantly dropping stuff out of my pockets so often, I could be considered a walking trust exercise. Anyway: Twinees? Not evil. It isn't like you look in the bathroom mirror, say "Sri Lanka" three times, and get your soul taken away by those two. I do acknowledge that I'm probably in the minority on that. I'm surprised they're the only TAR21 team in the mix . . . I count five other teams that could've been cast: James & Abba, Amy & Daniel (double amputee athlete and boyfriend; lost a round of Taxi Roulette), Abbie & Ryan (dating divorcees; lost their chance to win $2 million after nine legs), Trey & Lexi (non-alpha dating couple) and Jaymes & James (Chippendales; eye candy for the ladies and some of the fellas).
Dave & Connor O'Leary (Father & Son; Cancer Survivors)
There was a bit of a backlash towards these two on the Television Without Pity forums. Their "story" was 90 percent about their respective bouts with cancer, a subject which caused Dave to cry. A lot. Like football coach Dick Vermeil walking through tear gas. The team was competent, winning two legs overall, but Dave suffered an Achilles tendon injury, and the team had to bow out after five legs. I like these two, and their inclusion was a no-brainer, tears be damned.
John Erck & Jessica Hoel (Dating Couple)
Along with Dave & Conner, these two had the best chance to challenge eventual winners Bates & Anthony ("Super Hockey Bros.," as I called 'em). They won the first leg, entitling them to the Express Pass, allowing them to skip any task. They would rack up two more top-three finishes . . . but then they got bogged down in the fourth leg, and John refused to use the Express Pass. Then John got stuck on a Roadblock, and he refused to bail out. I think the rationale was that he figured Dave would have to bow out from his injury. The end result: the couple got eliminated, and Jessica looked at John like he was a complete idiot. Oh, and host Phil Keoghan threw his arms out at the camera and muttered, "Oy vey." That had to be the highlight of TAR22.
Caroline Cutbirth & Jennifer Kuhle (Country Singers)
Do you remember anything about these two? Caroline is a descendant of Daniel Boone, while Jennifer is the granddaughter of John Wayne. They flirted with Bates & Anthony. They averaged a placement of 4.91 per leg, which is worse than all but two other four-place finishers. And that's about all I can tell you about these two. I guess Pam & Winnie were too busy to fill the all-female slot. Ditto for roller derby moms Mona & Beth.
Joey Graceffa & Meghan Camarena (YouTube Stars)
These two laid on the quirk too much during their fifth-place run on TAR22 . . . especially Joey. There isn't much else I can say about them. There is a funny story . . . recently, Joey had his car towed, and he whined about it on YouTube. That led to a response from the guy who had it towed. Even if you like Joey, this video has to put a smile on your face.
Leo Temory & Jamal Zardan (Cousins; "Afghanimals")
The so-called "Afghanimals" are another polarizing team. They tend to lay on the manliness too thick, as if they want to get their own reality show about wild-and-crazy Afghans. As of this writing, they are in the hunt to win TAR23, averaging a 4.13 placement through eight legs (third-best in the field of five). Anybody who hates them can take heart that an "Unfinished Business" format would suggest that the cousins didn't win TAR23. Also, the original token TAR23 team was originally rumored to be Tim & Marie, known as "Pinky & No-Brain" by a few of the other teams. As much of a putz Tim can be, Marie is the bigger pill. These two are exhausting to watch, and I'm glad I'm not getting a double dose. Now . . . the possibility of their winning TAR23? That's a far bigger and far more bitter pill to swallow. Here's hoping that's not the case.
Reaction to this cast has been mixed. Between seven Racers getting a third shot and polarizing teams with little middle ground, TAR24 might be skipped by discouraged fans. Right now, I'm okay with the field. However, I feel like one team got cheated . . . home shopping hostesses Brook & Claire from TAR17. From what I heard, they were slated to do "Unfinished Business" the following season, but Claire found out she was pregnant. They were plucky, they managed to eke out a second place finish . . . but, more importantly, I get to run this clip. Poor Claire. Three years later, this is still one of the most memorable moments in TAR's illustrious history.