Race Around the World (Commentary on The Amazing Race from Jonathan Baker and Steve Coogan)


Karma: Sacrificial Lambs

As soon as he gathered his thoughts at the beginning of our weekly conversation, Jonathan didn’t waste any time coming up with a title for this week’s column.

“We should title it ‘Karma’ and then ‘Sacrificial Lambs,'” the former contestant from The Amazing Race said.

According to a Buddhist studies Web site karma is the law of moral causation. In part, it answers the question: “What is the cause of the inequality that exists among mankind?” It also goes beyond that as this excerpt explains:

“According to Buddhism, this inequality is due not only to heredity, environment, ‘nature and nurture,’ but also to Karma. In other words, it is the result of our own past actions and our own present doings. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own Heaven. We create our own Hell. We are the architects of our own fate.”

It goes deeper than just that one paragraph summary, but the idea of karma relates to The Amazing Race because as we saw in the latest extended episode of the seventh season, two teams saw karma catch up to them, big time. One of them ended up out of the competition and the other probably isn’t too far behind.

Looking at the team that did get eliminated first, poor Ray and Deana. Probably the most competitive of the group, for two solid legs of the race, Ray kept bitching about not wanting to finish behind “two 70-year-old people” in Meredith and Gretchen. He wanted and was fully expecting to finish ahead of them and did everything in his power to make sure that happened. He even called them “sacrificial lambs” at one point in the second half of the episode.

But what happened? Ray and Deana lost focus in the last part of the last leg of the race and when it came down to a foot race with the brother team of Brian and Greg, they lost by a landslide. It was obvious Ray and Deana were physically drained and mentally drained from the task and dealing with each other. In the mean time, the “two 70-year-old people” finished in fifth comfortably and as much Ray and Deana tried to avoid their fate, they walked right into it. So, what happened, Jonathan summed it pretty good…

“You’ve got two people trying to avoid being the lambs and they end up being the lambs,” he said.

Later, Jonathan emphasized that point when, in regards to Ray and Deana, he said: “They were trying to sacrifice Meredith and Gretchen because they thought they (Meredith and Gretchen) were expendable and they ended up getting bit in the ass.”

They created their own karma by setting expectations they tried to meet, but when it appeared they weren’t going to meet them, they completely fell apart with Ray being too demanding and Deana essentially giving up.

The idea of karma also came up in the actions of Lynn and Alex during the second part of the two-hour episode in two ways. First and foremost, them not allowing Rob and Amber to share a cab with them to the train station because it was “too full” (when the cab obviously could have held at least four more people) was them determining their own karma with their actions.

Remember…”We are the architects of our own fate.”

Thanks to their slick, albeit harmless, move they WERE the architects of their own fate. Now, Boston Rob very well could be the architect of that fate instead.

During the show, Rob made no secret of his disdain for Lynn and Alex slyly, but forcefully saying “Lynn’s got his head up his ass. He might be able to run Alex like a little farm boy, but he can’t treat everyone like that. I’m done being nice.”

Whether they like it or not, Lynn and Alex probably became sacrificial lambs themselves.

“I think payback is going to be a bitch,” Jonathan said. “Rob is going to get them.”

I certainly wouldn’t want to be Lynn and Alex going forward. Not only are they behind Rob and Amber in the standings, Rob will likely be thinking on his feet in a variety of ways to screw them over later on.

But that’s not the only way karma affected Lynn and Alex. When Brian and Greg flipped their vehicle and essentially threw themselves into last place, Lynn and Alex stopped their vehicle when they realized Brian and Greg flipped theirs over. Sure, stopping was a nice thing to do and if they end up losing because they screwed up their positioning, they can look back and confidently say to themselves, “When we stopped, we did the right thing. We’re good people at heart.”

I suppose they have a point there, but in looking at the human inequality and that people create their own karma with their actions or lack there of, by not maintaining a true competitive spirit, they’ve already determined their karma and it isn’t looking very good for them.

Meanwhile, Rob and Amber took heat from Lynn and Alex for their perceived lack of compassion. Host Phil Keoghan even asked Rob and Amber when they stepped on the mat claiming second place why they didn’t stop. Jonathan noted that Rob’s position was certainly an appropriate one.

“It’s still a race,” he said. “He said it straight. ‘It’s a race, Phil.”

Jonathan pretty much agrees with what Rob and Amber did, driving by and continuing to race.

“I would have stuck my head out the window and asked if everyone was OK,” he said.
Taking that further, Jonathan explained his drive as a competitor when he ran his race last season.

“This is a race for a million dollars,” he said. “You could have chopped my hand off and I still would have run toward that mat until I collapsed.”

Using an analogy related to the competition of sports and how it relates to THIS race, Jonathan also made this telling statement.

“There is no compassion in competition,” Jonathan said.

Lynn and Alex don’t quite understand that and many people who are more compassionate than competitive wouldn’t understand that philosophy. Rob and Amber’s drive to win and succeed and just about any cost help them carve out a certain karma that Lynn and Alex are obviously lacking. It could be a big reason explaining why they probably won’t win, where as Rob and Amber will continue to succeed.

The idea of helping fellow players came up even before Brian and Greg crashed their vehicle. Meredith and Gretchen did the right thing by essentially begging the other teams for money since the game prohibited them from having any after finishing last in the non-elimination leg of the race. Not only did they get some from most of the teams, Uchenna and Joyce actually gave them a set of clothes to wear as well. Meanwhile, Ray and Deana (pre-elimination) and Rob and Amber chose to let them play the game with the hand they were dealt.

Some might argue that as they are carving out this special karma, Rob and Amber (specifically) are ‘villains.” Jonathan doesn’t quite view it that way.

“Are they that evil?,” he asked. “Or are they just playing the game? My view is that you play the game as it is. It’s reality television for a million dollars. That’s what is at stake.”

Jonathan did note that Rob acknowledged that he didn’t want anyone to get hurt even if it did mean contestants were going to end up out of the race.

“Rob said ‘I don’t want to see anyone get hurt,'” Jonathan said. “What more do you want? Why does Rob have to be a ‘looky lou?’ I’m protecting him because I don’t believe he was wrong.”

He wasn’t wrong, he was just creating his own karma with the competitive juices he had flowing on Survivor and is using now as he competes on The Amazing Race. Unlike with Ray and Deana, it’s worked for Rob and Amber so far. They’ve remained very competitive, but level-headed, something Ray and Deana couldn’t seem to do since they both have pretty strong personalities, but Ray is much more competitive than Deana.

If that combination continues to lead them through, Rob and Amber will be awfully tough to beat.

As for Lynn and Alex, their noble attempt at a little strategy means their karma could very well be in the hands of Rob, not themselves anymore. I wouldn’t want to be them as the race progresses.

“We create our own heaven. We create our own hell.”

The Teams

Despite the good karma they have going for them, Jonathan is starting to see the kinks in Rob and Amber’s armor.

“I know Rob and Amber are getting tired,” he said. “It could work against them if he gets moody. Everyone starts out chipper, but let’s see what happens when the stakes are raised.”

That doesn’t mean the Survivor couple is doomed by any stretch. After all, Jonathan likes what they are doing.

“The only people running a great game are Rob and Amber,” he said.

We’ll have to see if that propels them into additional success as the game progresses.

Despite their monumental screw up and unenviable position for next week, Jonathan still likes where brothers Brian and Greg stand to this point.

“I think the alpha male has a good chance of winning,” Jonathan said. “I think they’re really competitive. Any time you get into a foot race with the alpha males, you’re going to lose.”

Especially after the stunt with the cab ride to the train station, Jonathan isn’t high on Lynn and Alex. He still thinks that Meredith and Gretchen is not a group worth taking seriously either.

“The next two groups our will be Lynn and Alex and Meredith and Gretchen,” Jonathan said.

Meredith and Gretchen? Even though they continue to beat their younger competition?

“They’re running on borrowed time unless they (someone internally within the show) know something that we don’t,” Jonathan said.

Hmmm…makes you think a little…

What about Ron and Kelly? Jonathan has not been high on them at all since the race started and really hasn’t changed his position despite their first place finish in the second part of the latest episode.

“They’re flying under the radar,” he said. “They’re boring. Every dog has its day. Are they bad racers? No. Are they good racers? No.”

Ron did note during the episode that they are in better shape than many of the other competitors (him complete with military training and experience) and that could be a factor later on. I’m certainly not rooting for them, but I think he has a point and they still need to be considered a top contender, even though Jonathan was right, they are boring.

Finally, there is the team of Uchenna and Joyce who continue to keep chugging along without any significant wins or top finishes, but enough to get them into the second half of this latest season.

“They look like they are in better shape,” Jonathan said.

Later, he offered another general comment about the way they are playing the game to this point.

“They’re really solid,” he said. “They’re running a good game.”

But remember, they may be playing a good game, but (to no one’s surprise) Rob and Amber are the only ones playing a GREAT game.

And we say good bye to Ray and Deana

I found Ray and Deana’s collapse very similar to that of Susan and Patrick’s last week. But instead of “optimism vs. pessimism” it was more like Ray being super competitive versus Deana who wasn’t in the slightest. Ray pushed and pushed and pushed and Deana eventually shut down, especially after Ray accidentally hit her with his stick and didn’t apologize. They couldn’t get on the same page after that and they fell hopelessly behind Brian and Greg as they appeared to share a brain for the rest of that leg after their accident.

When Jonathan saw Deana, he was reminded of his wife, Victoria – well, except that Victoria is a better competitor.

“He’s a competitor and she’s not,” he said. “Victoria got the job done. This one (Deana) really didn’t get the job done.”

Even though Ray and Deana completely melted down, Jonathan was also surprised by the result.

“This is very surprising,” he said. “I’m blown away by that.”

What isn’t a surprise is that The Amazing Race is always full of surprises.

Tune in next week to see what other surprises we’ll get to write about!

— Steve Coogan

— Jonathan Baker
The Amazing Race 6

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As always, I remind you to visit Jonathan and Victoria’s Web site at JonathanBakerandVictoriaFuller.com. Jonathan has a picture up of him with Brian and Greg and the forums are always a happening place!

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