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Well, reality – and TV in general – took a bit of a dive this week because nobody wanted to counterprogram against the Almighty Olympics. I'll admit, those beach volleyball outfits are pretty sexy, but come on! No alternatives?

Also, one tiny comment: leaving aside the idiot gymnastics controversy, why is it that with all our modern technology and "stro-motion" and thousandths-of-a-second timing, the athletes still have to wear cheap little pinned-on numbers on their costumes? You can't assign the numbers in advance? We've got computers now! You can't put them on sassy little velcro patches? Or adhesive numbers, which might not flutter and wrinkle during the performance? For that matter, can't anyone remember which guy is up there swinging around long enough to score him and then move on? His name and country are up on every giant screen in the stadium for the entire routine. Please.

(I admit, maybe in the case of twins, it's easy to get confused. But just follow Ray Romano's approach: scratch one of them on the nose. "Morgan has a scratch on his nose. And he's a crybaby.")

I hate the Olympics so much, I only watched 55 hours of it. That'll show 'em!

But, back to reality.

The Amazing Race

In an oddly dull episode, nothing really happens including no elimination. (Our in-house TAR expert Millie from the previous race tells us that leg eight is always non-elimination, so we shouldn't be shocked that the Twinkies are handed a free pass, then stripped of their cash.) Even Colin's big taxi fight that was teased in the Scenes turns out to be pretty uneventful, in the sense that it costs him neither time nor money. Nothing, really, except possibly the respect of the other teams, which Charla and Mirna proved is not generally a necessity to finish in the top three.

What happens is that Colin runs into the same problem that Brandon and Nicole did last week. He hires someone to drive him somewhere, and he expects that included in that cost is the stipulation that the vehicle is roadworthy. In Brandon and Nicole's case, the "out of gas" thing was most certainly a scam; in Colin's case, the fact that the taxi is driving on its only spare tire is probably just poor preparation on the part of the driver. In any case, after having to flag down a competing taxi, commandeer their spare, and help change the tire himself, Colin decides to help himself to a 50% discount, and offers the driver $50 or nothing at all. The driver keeps insisting, Colin keeps refusing, and the driver involves the local authorities. Colin goes with them to a nearby station – which appears to be on the airport property – and Christie gets a little upset. She doesn't see why Colin won't just pay the money and be done with it. Colin is sticking to his principles, and he's also aware that saving money where they can is worth it if it doesn't cost them their lead in the race (which it won't, yet; everyone's still waiting for their flights). Should he yell at the police, gesticulating wildly? No. He definitely gets carried away, there. These guys are acting pretty casual, either because that's how they are or because they don't understand him, and I think it allows him to forget that they're still the police. In America, he'd probably be hauled in for getting in their face like that. (Maybe, without the TV cameras, they'd have smashed his face in. Giuliani time, and all that. I don't know.) I think he forgets that this is another country and he's dealing with people who have the authority to detain him; he seems to believe he's at Disneyland or something, and as long as he keeps mentioning the flight he has to catch, they'll just leave him alone. He should be more respectful, but as long as he's just pleading his case and having a discussion and it isn't costing his team any time, I don't see any problem with Colin arguing this point.

Most of the time, though, he's arguing the wrong point. He's arguing that the driver was hired to deliver C&C to their destination in the same place among the other teams that they were when they left. Since they fell behind a few places, he wants to pay less. No, no. That's never been the deal. Taxis pass taxis all the time. The argument should be that the driver was operating with faulty machinery and wasn't properly prepared for a flat tire, which in the wilds of Africa must happen pretty frequently. (After all, he's already driving on one spare; two other teams had to stop along this drive due to car trouble.) Colin needs to stick with the "when we hire you to drive a cab, you certify that the cab is in good condition to get us where we need to go" tack. Either way, the police seem to be pretty open to listening, but after the screaming, things don't really go his way, so Colin hurls the $100 (again, Puffy-style) and heads on to his flight. (It's a good thing this is CBS; over on NBC, he'd have suffered a 0.002 point deduction for not sticking the landing after throwing cash at the cabbie.)

In the course of all this, Colin snaps at Christie a little because she's standing outside the police office and asking him to give up. In principle, he's right. She needs to voice her concern to him privately, be supportive, or be quiet. You don't want her queering the negotiations. If Colin were talking to a car salesman, anyone would agree that Christie would do the team a disservice by standing beside him and loudly declaring, "Let's go Colin! Pay him whatever he wants, I want to buy this car!" This is the same thing; by not presenting a unified front, she weakens his case to the police. He shouldn't snap at her at all, but I at least understand why he does it, and in the heat of the situation, I'm sure everyone says a few things they regret or raises their voice more than they should. As it turns out, before they board the plane, Colin and Christie have a brief talk and he explains more calmly what was going on and they both apologize. I'm not saying he's a prince, but I think these two have a pretty healthy relationship, especially for two people so competitive and driven (a near-necessity for succeeding on this show; ask Marshall and Lance). They're all right, they're going to be all right, and since I know Miss Alli is going to flip out over Colin's snippery, I just feel I should set the record straight: Colin's no angel, but he's not such a bad guy. He and Christie may have squabbles like any pair would under this strain, but they know each other well enough to get past it. Good racers!

Ironically, at this same instant, Brandon and Nicole are fighting over money as well, and Chip has seen fit to involve himself in the discussion (for some reason). Nicole is arguing that Brandon isn't being careful enough with money – I think she still feels burned by the bus situation, and probably found out during the mingling exactly how much more she paid than the other teams – and should be more careful. Brandon's position (as best I can tell) seems to be that he's spending the money necessary to hire taxis, etc., that they depend on to stay in the race. Chip butts in, adding that it's a matter of karma. Chip has been tipping generously, and he feels that the goodwill he establishes with the practice is going to come back to help him. I don't see how this relates at all. I think it's a fairly dippy idea, but I don't see how it relates to the discussion because as far as I know, Brandon hasn't been overtipping, he's just been overspending (in Nicole's opinion). So, how is Chip helping? If he wants to randomly hand out cash to strangers, that's up to him. (In my opinion, he should come back and take his goodwill tour after the race, since money is a finite resource in the race, and it's probably more important to stay ahead than to give the taxi driver an extra $20 to spend on Hello Kitty stickers for his kids.) But it doesn't affect Brandon and Nicole's problem, so he should just stay out of it. Maybe he just likes yelling at girls. I like Chip and Kim, but... what a turd.

There's no Roadblock this week (?) so after some mildly uninteresting racing, the teams head straight for the detour, which is a choice between jumping out of a plane or driving an SUV over a lot of sand dunes. Pretty equal choices: in the skydiving case, there's a lot of time to get suited up and the flights only leave every 45 minutes, so if you aren't first there's a lot of waiting; in the trucks, you could get bogged down in sand and have to wait for a tow. Colin and Christie smoke the dunes and come in first, while Chip and Kim and the Moms both hit a few snags. Brandon and Nicole and the Twinkies opt for the skydiving, but Brandon and Nicole get there first, after employing the brilliant strategy of getting lost while the Twinkies are following them, and thereby leading the Twinkies astray. Both teams pass a red and yellow flag which seems to indicate the entrance to the airfield, but I guess they both think maybe it's just a marker along the road to let them know they're going the right way. I don't think this has ever happened before, but for some reason they think it. (The Twinkies seem to think it less, but because Brandon and Nicole don't turn in, they don't either.) Twin One (or possibly Twin Two) says to Twin Two (or Twin One) that she thinks they just missed the turn-off. The other twin tells her to shut up. Here, again, is a situation in which the twinness could be employed to solve the problem. If Twin One really thinks they should turn but Twin Two is telling the driver, "Straight," Twin One should just push herself over into the other twin's seat and say, "You know what, I changed my mind. Let's turn after all." Done.

As it is, Brandon and Nicole realize their error, and lead the Twinkies single-file back to the airfield, where they wait 45 minutes while Brandon and Nicole drop out of the sky into second place. After that, the other teams file in, then finally the Twinkies show up and forfeit all their cash to a gleeful Phil.

Next week, we get to see Colin get snippy again. But okay, listen. No, come back! See, he's clearly participating in a Roadblock, and she's clearly giving him unneeded "advice" which – as I've said – is a Roadblock no-no. She got a pass on the ostrich egg Roadblock because he did it to her first on the caviar Roadblock, but now that they're even (and it's later in the race), it's time for non-Roadblockers to shut their collective yap. It's not just unnecessary to the Roadblock process, it's an actual impediment. As long as he doesn't drop a C-bomb, I'm with Colin on this one.

Joe Schmo 2

The best reality show in history just gets better. The hyper-reality is dialed up to 11, the drama explodes through the roof, the twists are poured on in giant piles, and the big final reveal is glorious fun. Best of all, Valerie Azlynn, my newest TV crush, turns out to be an absolute sweetheart. She's just a doll. She gets very emotional about the fact that she made Tim (my other new TV crush – man, this guy is awesome!) fall in love with her but then she wasn't real. That would hurt. That would really hurt a lot. You spend all this time with this attractive, amazing girl. She really seems into you, she's constantly telling you how great you are, and then it turns out it was all a lie. Okay, that's a lot like most relationships, but in this case nothing about it is real. Not even her name!

Still, Tim is such a stand-up guy that he really handles it well. He's disappointed. Understandably so. But he rolls with it. ($100,000 has its way of smoothing things over.) I don't know how they find such great people to be on Joe Schmo. Matt Kennedy Gould was so excellent last time, and now Tim has just completely trumped him in the all-around-awesome department. It's understandable that Valerie feels bad. And I'm really glad she expressed it, and they aired it. It shows that the Schmos aren't the only one with a human side. The phonies are real people, too.

What an amazing show. I hope they never ever stop. Although maybe doing another romance show might be pushing it. If Tim wasn't such a mensch, they could've had some serious trouble on their hands.

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