Race Around the World…(Commentary From Jonathan Baker & Steve Coogan)


Jonathan Baker, the highly controversial contestant from The Amazing Race 6, is back working with me breaking down the latest episode of The Amazing Race’s seventh season. Similar to last week, the conversation revolved a lot around the colorful reality TV veteran team of Rob and Amber, Rob specifically”¦

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Should The Amazing Race be called The Amazing Game instead?

“Most people run it as a race and not play the game,” Jonathan said. “This is something I’ve said all along.”

It could be argued that Rob Mariano, of the now famous Survivor and The Amazing Race duo Rob and Amber, isn’t the most philosophical man in the world. He may be from Boston, but he didn’t pursue any graduate degrees at Harvard. He may know who Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are, but he’s not meeting them at the Massachusetts State Capital to offer his well researched political commentary and advice.

But even after just the first few episodes of The Amazing Race, it’s almost as if “Boston Rob” has become a connoisseur of the way the race should be run or, more importantly, how the game should be played. Maybe it will even change the game is played in future seasons.

Jonathan pulled out two quotes that came out of Rob’s mouth that he found most telling and most important to the strategy of The Amazing Race:

1. “I found a way to plot and scheme in The Amazing Race.”

2. “Without taking any chances you can’t have any luck.”

“I found a way to plot and scheme in The Amazing Race.”

Looking at the first quote, Jonathan said “I loved every second of it. It’s everything I tried to do and more. And be really entertaining about it.”

Rob was up to some his plotting and scheming Survivor-esque ways in Episode 3 of The Amazing Race as well first stealing a cab Debbie and Bianca reserved early in the leg of the race saying “That’ll teac’em for accusing somebody of lying,” a clear reference to Rob paying bus station employees to not tell other racers where certain things were.

Rob’s charm and ability to get other players to see his way also came in quite handy at the roadblock where Rob decided early on that he couldn’t eat the four pounds of various barbequed animal meat and decided to take a four-hour penalty from the point of the next arriving team for not completing the task. Since the other teams actually were able to complete the task, it all but assured Rob and Amber they weren’t going to win that leg of the race and the prize that came with it. To them, that it wasn’t the issue, it was about not coming in last.

From there, Rob essentially convinced Rob and Deana to take the penalty and because they took it later, they were automatically stuck behind Rob and Amber before getting their next clue. Gretchen and Meredith followed Rob and Deana to take the penalty making Rob’s strategy pay off all the more.

Jonathan liked the way Rob handled that part of the task, noting that if he had handled it much differently (in terms of timing), he could have been in real trouble.

“If you wait too long, it’s not worth it,” Jonathan said. “If he didn’t get anybody, it would have still taken a couple of hours to do. If he had waited any longer, it wouldn’t have worked.”

It’s a valuable point. Rob knew he couldn’t finish the task and instead of doing the typical alpha-male thing and trudge on until he finished no matter the consequences, he realized his limitations and quit while he was ahead. From there, he used his energy and swooped in like a hawk and got two other teams to follow his lead ensuring his place in the race.

Jonathan liked the strategy since it worked for Rob but said he probably would have handled that particular task much differently.

“I don’t think I’d have the balls to take the penalty,” Jonathan said. “I would have taken apart grounded it up in my hand and put it in my stomach. You have to throw up at least once. Like eating corn flakes instead of meat so your stomach could fit and digest it.”

Jonathan also noted that Rob probably got that style of play from watching him and the way he tried to play the game during the show’s sixth season.

“I created the voodoo yield alliance,” Jonathan said. “His play spawned off what I did. He saw me do what I did. He’s the same type of thinker. He’s just doing it better. The only thing Rob’s not doing that I did was beg and panhandle.”

“Without taking any chances you can’t have any luck.”

Whether it was quitting the food challenge knowing the penalty was upcoming or using what limited money they had to make tasks that much harder on their opponents, Rob and Amber have been taking chances and been getting lucky with the results of those chances.

“These guys are making their own luck,” Jonathan said. “That’s what the first 3 episodes have been about – what Rob has been able to pull off.”

Interestingly, as much as Jonathan loves the Rob and Amber team (most recently he said “They are putting up or shutting up. You couldn’t get a bigger fan than me,”) he doesn’t think the two will last until the end of the race, thinking that their constant risk taking will
eventually lead to their luck running out. After all, the race is known for not being kind to its players.

“The luck factor is going to do them again,” Jonathan said. “It’s what going to knock them in the end. The Amazing Race is notorious for that. As much as I’d like to see them win, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Their luck is going to run out.”

Not only that, but even though Jonathan appreciates Rob’s confident risk taking, he’s not confident that it will continue through out the rest of the race. He might be a little too confident”¦

“I think Rob is too cocky and he’s going to get his leg shot out from under him,” Jonathan said.

With that said, what about the rest of the teams still in action?

The Teams

As of this point in the race, Jonathan has narrowed down his top five teams. The lucky five are (in NO particular order):

1. Ray and Deana – Despite not really taking firm control of any legs of the race and kind of staying in the middle of the pack, Jonathan is quite high on the on-again/off-again dating team.

“Ray and Deana are the most competitive team,” Jonathan said. “They’re too competitive not to do well. Their only downfall is that they fight too much — similar to Victoria and I.”

2. Brian and Greg – Now that the cute blondes, Megan and Heidi, have gone on their way, The two brothers seem to have their heads in the game a little more. And they have one thing going for them. They’re young and their male. That boost of testosterone may help them in the ultra physical tasks.

“They are alpha males. They haven’t been there since Season 4,” Jonathan said. “They will be an extinguished series if they win it . They were out in 5 and 6. Of the six seasons, half the winners have been alpha males.”

3. Uchenna & Joyce – If there are any more eating tasks, Uchenna will definitely be a front-runner through out the rest of this thing. He devoured that four pounds of food quicker than anyone else and because of that, they almost placed first. Jonathan thinks they will be a forced to be reckoned with for the rest of the game.

“Uchenna and Joyce will be a Top 3 team,” Jonathan said.

4. Patrick and Susan – As one might expect, the role of mother/son seemed to get in the way toward the end of the eating part of the race. Patrick almost clammed up like a 14-year-old boy deliberately trying to disobey his mommy and Susan tried to backtrack when she realized when he was starting to act like a child.

Despite, the bump in the road, Jonathan saw something in Patrick that still makes him believe these two will be around for a while.

“That fierce determination led Patrick to do it,” Jonathan said.

5. Rob and Amber – Hey”¦Jonathan may not be picking them to win, but
they’re still playing pretty damn well right now. But here’s another aspect about Rob. He may be playing “sneaky” or “underhanded” but he’s largely getting away with it”¦

“Rob was a snake – not being seen or heard,” Jonathan said.

What about Lynn and Alex? After all they went through to finish first, exerting a competitive spirit to beat Rob and Amber in the water and Alex going as hard as possible to finish all that crazy, nasty food. Should they be in the running at all? Jonathan isn’t convinced that they are as strong as they were in the last leg of the race.

“I love them. They’re the comic relief. They bring comedy to the table. I’m not convinced that they are that strong of a couple,” Jonathan said.

And we haven’t talked about retired couple Gretchen and Meredith or Ron and Kelly. What about them.

“I don’t think they have a chance,” Jonathan said about both teams.

And we say ‘good bye’ to”¦Debbie and Bianca

Their boneheaded mistake at the beginning of this leg of the race ended up costing them big time even though they made up time at the end. They said it themselves when they realized they should have only been on the main highway outside of Santiago for about 10 minutes, not the two-plus hours they were on it.

“You check your facts, double check your facts and keep checking them,” Jonathan said. “I was blown away by their mistakes. They were a top three team for me.”

Despite the boneheaded play, Jonathan isn’t happy to see them go because he saw the potential in them.

“I’m sad to see them go,” Jonathan said. “They had what it took to be the first all female team to win.”

But unfortunately, Debbie and Bianca’s run ended and now, so will this column”¦

— Steve Coogan

— Jonathan Baker
The Amazing Race 6

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Remember”¦make sure you visit JonathaBakerandVictoriaFuller.com for the latest from the happy couple. This week, Jonathan has his own separate comments about the latest episode of the race and a link to The Amazing Race rap song. You don’t want to miss that!

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