Friday, November 02, 2007

Amazing Race 12 – The Teams

Okay, I know it's Friday and the show doesn't come back until Sunday, but since I anticipate being busy on the weekend (doing a couple of things like writing my Short Takes piece and not turning any clock in the house that adjusts for Daylight Savings Time to what the time really is here – we don't do Daylight Savings Time in Saskatchewan) I want to get this written now.

You all know that I love The Amazing Race with a passion that outshines the sun. It is the only reality-competition show that I would love to be on if only it weren't for the pesky fact that I'm a Canadian and you have to be an American to be on the show. I, rather immodestly, consider myself something of an expert on The Amazing Race and so I take it upon myself to try to rate the teams.

Teams in The Amazing Race can usually be split into several categories, and the groups' track record of winning allows a certain amount of handicapping of current contestants:

  • Alpha Males – the dominant group. Of nine races run (not counting Amazing Race 8: Family Edition or Amazing Race 11: All Stars) Alpha Male teams have won five (TAR1, TAR2, TAR4, TAR9, TAR10). An Alpha Male Team is defined as male, under 40, and generally physically fit. There are no Alpha Male Teams in this edition of The Race.
  • Married Folk – the other prime group. They're under 45 and either married or in an extremely committed relationship (including separated). Although there is some overlap with Alpha Males (Reichen & Chip described themselves as married) for our purposes they are a male-female couple. Married Folk have won TAR5, TAR6, and TAR7 and finished second in TAR1, TAR2, TAR3, TAR4, and TAR7. There are no Married Folk in this season of The Race – at least not by this definition.
  • Trust Issues – For some reason a number of couples have gone on The Amazing Race to strengthen their relationships. Or to see if they actually have a relationship. Only one team from this group has won The Race – TAR3's Zach & Flo or as they were sometimes known, Zach & Dead Weight. Usually squabbling destroys them. There's at least one Trust Issue couple in this season, possibly two.
  • Next Level Daters – They're a couple who are in a relationship but who are wondering if they should take it to the "next level" although what that means is frequently nebulous. It can range from moving to the same town to moving in together to getting engaged. The Race puts a lot of strains on relationships, but if they can survive it can make for a strong partnership. None has won by a couple of teams have come close. There are at least three Next Level Daters this time around.
  • Flirty Girls – No all woman team has ever won The Amazing Race but in recent years they've come close. Flirty Girls are where both women are under 30 and have the desire to use their feminine wiles to win The Race. Best performance by a Flirty Girl Team was probably Dustin & Kandice in TAR10, who finished fourth. Flirty Girls have a tendency not to do well, most spectacularly Heather & Eve, Team Legally Blonde in TAR3. There is one Flirty Girl team this season
  • BFFs – Women between say 30 and 45. They tend to be more level headed than Flirty Girls and so perform better. They sometimes struggle in physical tasks. Best performance by a BFF Team was Lynn & Karlyn who finished third in TAR10, but my personal favourites were Tian & Jaree in TAR4. None in this season though.
  • Older Women – No woman likes being describes as "older" but in this case they are over 45 and getting a bit of adventure in their lives, perhaps for the first time ever. They can do very well or fall flat on their faces. Best performance by an Older Women Team was by Linda & Karen, the Bowling Moms who finish fourth in TAR5. Generally though they don't do so well. There is one Older Women team this time around.
  • Older Guys – Over 40, usually not in the best shape try to make up in guile what they lack in fitness. Sometimes they go pretty far but often physical woes stop them. None in this Race.
  • Older Marrieds – My favourite group because although none has ever won they usually put up a great fight. Personal favourites include TAR7 fourth place team Gretchen & Meredith and TAR9 fifth place team Fran & Barry. Best finish though was by Terri & Ian in TAR3 – they finished second. None in this Race though.
  • Parent/Child combos – They tend to be trying to "reconnect" somehow, whether because of philosophical differences or because of the parent being not as present as he (inevitably a he) would have liked to have been during childhood. Tend not to do too well – best performance was by Nancy & Emily in TAR1; they finished fifth. There's a father/daughter and a grandfather/grandson in this Race.
  • Siblings – There have been a couple of great sibling teams, notably Blake & Paige from TAR2 and Ken & Gerard in TAR3. Both teams finished third. In general though sibling teams don't do well in The Race and frequently don't finish in the top half. Sisters tend to do well but tend not to do quite as well as other all women teams. There are two sibling teams – one mixed gender, the other sisters in this Race

So let's look at the teams and try to figure out where they'll finish.

Kynt & Vyxin – Described by CBS as "dating Goths" they're biggest worry is supposedly maintaining their make-up. I classify them as "Next Level Daters." They claim to have an "us against the world" attitude because they stand out in a world of "normal" people. This could be a problem if for some reason they antagonise local people in the countries they visit. I don't see them progressing into the top six and they could be one of the earliest teams eliminated.

Jennifer & Nathan – They definitely have a case of "Trust Issues" that they're trying to iron out. They claim to have broken up several times during their two years together and in the TV commercials for the show there have been allegations that he has cheated on her. Still, they're an athletic couple and if they can hold their personal issues in check during The Race, I think they have a chance at the top four or five.

Ronald & Christina – They're a father/daughter team and apparently the most travelled of the players in this race. The story with them is that he was away for most of her formative years so this is a chance for them to reconnect. He travels a lot on business and she is a policy analyst who used to work for the State Department. Travel experience normally doesn't mean that much in The Race because of the various challenges and the various bottlenecks that restrict advantages in airports. Could be a contender if they do well in physical challenges but mostly I see a dfinish in the bottom six.

Shana & Jennifer
– They're actually older than I expected from the commercials – their age says "BFF" but their attitude (in the commercials) comes across as "Flirty Girls." They're both intelligent and well travelled which makes me think that the "Flirty Girl" thing is mostly a pose. I think they can definitely make it into top five or six and might even pull off a win, given the absence of "Alpha Males" and "Married Folk."

Azaria & Hendekea – The "mixed gender Siblings," this pair definitely has an early elimination vibe about them. Personality conflicts could definitely be a factor with the team: "She describes him as confrontational and emotional while he describes her as irrational." They could definitely be the first team out and I don't see them going much beyond the bottom three or four.

Lorena & Jason – Another pair of "Next Level Daters" with more than a hint of "Trust Issues" between unspecified cultural differences and a description of the relationship that includes the word "volatile" (a word that Jason also applies to himself). This could be a tough one. Their fitness could make them definite contenders but if the relationship becomes too volatile they might fall apart. Beyond expecting a finish in the top five I'm not willing to make much in the way of a prediction.

Nicolas & Donald – Grandson and grandfather could be an interesting twist on the Parent/Child relationship. Nicolas (the grandson) is a 23 year-old airline pilot which if nothing else should give him a leg up on navigation. On the other hand his 68 year-old grandfather has a tendency to being opinionated and outspoken. For as long as they last (which I fear won't be that long) they should be fun to watch.

Ari & Staella – Hard to read these two. They come across as a mix of "Next Level Daters" and "Siblings" – he currently lives with her family but they've been best friends for eight years. More worrisome than whatever their relationship may be is Ari's description of himself: "mean, rude and hilarious." While The Amazing Race isn't a show where alliances generally come into play, it is never a good idea to antagonise other teams who may start working to help anyone but you. If his meanness and rudeness comes into play either with other players or with locals, this could be a short adventure for them.

Marianna & Julia
– Sisters but I wouldn't be surprised to see a bit of "Flirty Girl" asserting itself. On paper they could be a strong team. One is a self-described problem solver while the other is more athletic. They've travelled together in the past and they claim that they're modelling themselves on TAR9 winners BJ & Tyler. The question is whether their relationship as sisters (Julia claims that Marianna "doesn't have a censor button and that at times she can be quite mean") will undermine their ability to work together as partners. The strength of the BJ & Tyler relationship was that they didn't argue and they had qualities that complimented each other. If they work together well they could finish in the top five, maybe even the top three.

Rachel & TK – A "Next Level Dating" couple that could be my favourites to win it all. He was a college athlete (swimming) at UC Santa Barbara while she bought her own business straight out of high schools. They're both smart and ambitious, and based on previous seasons it never hurts to have significant swimming skills. They describe themselves as "free-spirited" which is never a bad thing. The big question is whether their relationship is sound enough to handle the stresses of The Race. If so, they could win (then again I picked Rob & Amber to win the All Star Season so what do I know).

Kate & Pat – The first openly lesbian participants in The Amazing Race they've been married for three years and both are ministers in the Episcopal Church (Anglicans to us Canadians). Male Gay couples have been a fixture in previous seasons of The Race, and according to Adam Troy-Castro's book on the show My Ox Is Broken, there have been lesbians on the show but they were not (at that time at least) "out." The big thing for me isn't their sexual preference but rather their ages – Kate is 49 and Pat is 65 – combined with their gender which puts them at a disadvantage. As I pointed out earlier, Older Women tend not to do as well in The Race as virtually any other group. Sorry to say it but I expect them to be an early elimination.

The Amazing Race 11 starts Sunday night at 7 Central and Mountain, 8 Eastern and Pacific. I can't wait!!!!

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