Race Around the World… (The Amazing Race commentary from Jonathan Baker and Steve Coogan)

“Lions, Tigers and brothers oh my. They get the whammy and big bucks denied.”

Jonathan was astute enough to notice it, write it down and bring it up to me. And God Bless him for it”¦

During what would be their final excursion as part of the seventh season of The Amazing Race brothers Brian and Greg made one of the ultimate game show references that Jonathan noticed. In an ode to former host Peter Tomarken, Brian and Greg shouted:

“Big Bucks, Big Bucks, No whammys!”

Oh yes”¦a Press Your Luck reference.

One of the most woefully underrated game shows of all time, Press Your Luck debuted on CBS in September 1983 and, after several timeslot changes and despite little support from the network, managed to stay on the air until September 1986.

The show has managed to live on in syndication for almost 20 years, currently airing episodes on the Game Show Network (excuse me”¦GSN). The network has also modernized the show with its new edition, Whammy: The All New Press Your Luck.

The game has been able to live on because it’s exciting, pressure packed and one of the ultimate games of risks. It’s like legal gambling on a Hollywood studio. Many game shows let you keep what you earn. Others, like Press Your Luck, luck really does play a big factor. People on that show often throw away small fortunes before they even figure out which tropical island they were going to spend it on.

And unlike Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where you just hear generic comments like “Well, it looks like you ran out of luck.” that are supposed to explain how you lost 11 straight hands of Blackjack and next mont’s mortgage payment in the process, it’s different with Press Your Luck. The sign of luck running out is as clear as day. It makes you stop in your tracks and examine it even if you want to trudge on or not. You know what it is”¦

The Whammy.

If you’ve ever seen even just one episode of Press Your Luck (or Whammy as the current edition is called), you know what a whammy is. He’s that strange little animal that looks a little like a cross between Captain Caveman, the Noyd from the old Domino’s Pizza ad campaign and some sort of mythical rodent that gets his teeth bleached every Thursday.

Hell, the little guy is an onomatopoeia for the way you feel when you get hit in the face”¦really hard. It’s like the dramatic fight scene at the end of every episode of the old Batman series starring Adam West. As Batman hits the Riddler: WHAMMY!

People win oodles of cash and fabulous prizes in the game by getting cracks at the big board and missing the whammy when he pops up on the board. (They get chances at the board by answering trivia questions from the earlier rounds of the show.)

Avoiding the whammy is like sitting on top of the world. Luck is on your side. But when that Whammy comes up and dances on the screen in front of you and the audience, it’s obvious that what luck was there has completely disappeared, all in the blink of an eye leaving you demoralized and dejected.

Sadly, all this talk about whammys relates The Amazing Race, especially this week.

The same way Brian and Greg said that they didn’t want to hit the whammy, they ended up coming face-to-face with it, big time and missing out on the “big bucks.”

It could be argued that poor Brian and Greg actually hit their whammy in the second half of last week’s episode when they flipped their off-road vehicle and turned their cameraman into a blubbering mess.

When the two brothers appeared dead in the desert, Las Vegas gangster style, they discovered their cameraman didn’t have any broken bones and when they got their new vehicle, it was as if one brother threw his brain out the window and the other shared his for the rest of the trip. They were in sync. They ended up picking the right detour, finishing quickly and when it came down to a foot race at the finish line between them and Ray and Deana, they left the on-again-off-again couple in their dust. They proceeded to get really emotional and hug each other. It was as if someone told them Megan and Heidi were coming back to the race for just one night of blissful passion with them. I mean, they were REALLY excited about a sixth place finish.

From there, they vowed the play better for the next leg of the race.

And that could have been their problem heading into the episode that aired this week. They knew they were starting from behind and probably tried a little too hard to catch up and make up time.

They tried, but it didn’t work. After starting last, they tried to make up time. Then, after not realizing how many miles they had traveled and failing to read the directions carefully, they ran into their final whammy.

“They went to the wrong friggin’ water tower,” Jonathan said.

Already behind in the race and in a leg where every moment counted (since there were no plane flights with layovers or any businesses that were closed giving teams extra time), they didn’t realize that they went to the wrong water tower until they were there too long and by the time they caught up and completed the last task of that leg, they were too far behind. Even boneheaded mistakes by Uchenna and Joyce and Meredith and Gretchen couldn’t save them from their fate, going home in sixth place. They finished ahead of five teams but five teams finished ahead of them, not good enough to win The Amazing Race.

Jonathan noted that he was concerned about them constantly playing from behind and in the back of the pack.

“The fact that they trailed week after week concerned me. I thought they were going to play better than that,” he said.

Remember the rules of Press Your Luck, you aren’t out of the game until you get your fourth whammy. Brian and Greg probably got their first couple of whammys previously, got their third whammy last week and then picked up the game-ending fourth one this past episode.

Jonathan even joked that by the time they got to end looking scraggily with their winter hats, scarves and bathing suits on that they took the form of the whammy.

“They acted like a whammy when they came in,” he said. “Everybody finds the whammy to be funny and humorous even though you know what you’re getting with the whammy.”

And when it was all said and done, the same way the contestants lose their “Big Bucks” when the whammy takes their cash away, Brian and Greg lost their shot at a million dollars as well. Sure, they never had the cash in hand like in Press Your Luck, but when you have the chance at winning it, doesn’t it kind of feel like you have it?

Unfortunately, they’ll never know”¦

* * * * * *

Whether they looked like the whammy or not, Brian and Greg got eliminated from the game and Jonathan wanted to take this column and pay tribute to them, their performance and what they brought to the game. Sure, it’s strange to do it in the form of the whammy, but it was done out of respect. These guys were having fun and providing entertainment, why can’t we do the same thing?

But in reality, in a season where 90 percent of the highlights have come from reality celebrities, Rob and Amber and not from the other teams, the tasks or the exotic locations most viewers will never get to see, watching the brothers finish last certainly wasn’t beneficial for the show going further. Jonathan was adamant about feeling that way.

“It’s going to be sad without the brothers there,” he said. “I really want people to know that there was an appreciation there for their presence. They really brought charm. They are never going to be forgotten because of that charm.”

Another part of the reason they were so loved is because they were funny. After all, this column started with in inane reference to a game show that 95 percent of people probably thought was off the air.

That wasn’t the only time they brought humor to the show and Jonathan wants people to remember that going forward. He even compared these to the very funny Rebecca from Season six of the series.

“The brothers have brought great one-liners and great entertainment this season. I was definitely sorry to see them go,” Jonathan said. “The only one who did it better was Rebecca in my season. I laughed. I told her that she needs to write a book with all her one-liners. I feel the same way about the brothers.”

With that, it’s time to say good-bye to Brian and Greg and look at the remaining lucky competitors still left.

And the teams”¦

With all this talk of whammys, and the team of Brian and Greg, it’s hard to believe we’ve only snuck in one reference to the real stars of the seventh season of The Amazing Race, Rob and Amber.

It seemed like business as usual for them as they worked fast, worked together and the roles they’ve carved out for each other thanks to their personalities (Rob being more take charge and Amber being MUCH more passive) have continued to lead them to victory. Milking the goat and finishing the strange task moving those tree trunks as quickly and easily as they did helped them considerably moving from second to first (and winning a third trip”¦I wonder if they’ll ever get tired of traveling”¦).

Jonathan believes they are getting into a good groove and are continuing to perform well.

“Rob and Amber were pretty much working together. You can tell that there’s a friendship there. They’re in sync. It truly is the Rob and Amber show.”

Though, he still thinks that even though they are performing well, to be careful when assuming they are on their way to victory. Jonathan thinks they are getting tired and that could affect them greatly as we get to the home stretch of this season.

“They’re getting tired. That’s why you see the lull. There’s a point you cross the threshold and then it unravels you. Even if you pull it together, it’s still hard.”

Though, Jonathan sees the show the same way I do (along with Bertram Van Munster and CBS executives I’m sure) if Rob and Amber actually end up getting eliminated before the final episode.

“If Rob and Amber get eliminated, the show is going down the tube,” he said.

Right now, if Rob and Amber are the stars of the show, then Uchenna and Joyce are just the solid contributors that are always there working hard, playing hard and doing a damn good job. Using a reference to The Apprentice, while they don’t “work for” Rob and Amber, you might say that the Survivor veterans are Donald Trump – glamorous, well-known and the obvious draw of the show – but Uchenna and Joyce are like George and Caroline — always there right by the sta’s side and not really going anywhere any time soon.

They have definitely grown on Jonathan over the last few weeks and he thinks highly of them.

“They are just the classic Amazing Racers. They have had a flawless run. They are working together as well as anyone as I’ve seen. They’re like Chip and Kim (the winners of Season 5’s race).”

When I asked him if he was making any predictions, he wisely shied away from that. I can’t blame him. If I was any good at making predictions, the Red Sox would have won the World Series a hell of a lot sooner than 2004.

Jonathan has changed his mind in regards to looking at Meredith and Gretchen as well. How could you not? It was easy to dismiss them at the beginning of the race because they were old. It was easy to dismiss them after Gretchen took the mother of all headers and gushed more blood than all the boxers in the first three Rocky movies combined. It was easy to dismiss them once they lost all their money and possessions.

Yet, here they are, in the Top 5 and showing no signs of letting down or giving up.

Jonathan loved their reference to them calling themselves the Energizer bunny and found it quite poignant considering the adversity they’ve faced to this point.

“I love how they called themselves the Energizer bunny. They keep going and going and going,” he said.

As for Ron and Kelly, it appears they suffered a major kink in their armor in this episode as Kelly was as sensitive and moody as can be. I refuse to make any “It must be that time of the month”¦” references though. I’d probably a bit moody too if I were running on no rest like they are.

Nonetheless, they were pretty much at each othe’s throats. Jonathan even found this boring though.

“Ron and Kelly are just boring,” he said. “What they’re fighting about is uneventful. You need to pick your battles wisely and it seems strange to me that they’re unleashing this.”

He figures that if you’re going to fight, then go all out”¦

“I just want to see them pump up,” he said. “If they are going to fight, fight. I don’t want to see them bible fighting ‘I’m mad at him, I’m going to go read the Bible.’ Wonderful.”

Not only is he funny, but he’s insightful too.

Finally, there are Lynn and Alex. It’s hard to sum up how they’re playing. As we get to the Top 5, it’s hard to say they are “under the radar” because it’s hard for anyone to be at this point. But they’re just going along, doing too little to win but doing enough to keep them active in the race.

Although, I did find one thing the two said to be funny and interesting and I had to ask Jonathan about it. That led to this exchange:

Coogan: Lynn and Alex said they are “sneaky.” Do you agree with that?

Baker: No, I don’t agree with that. Bitchy. They’re bitchy. I think they’re the ultimate bitches.

Yeah”¦they annoy me too. They make it a lot less fun to enjoy the Rob and Amber show. Hopefully, they won’t be doing that much longer.

We’ll find out next week!

See you then!

— Steve Coogan

— Jonathan Baker
The Amazing Race 6

* * * * * *
As always, I suggest you check out Jonathan and Victoria’s Web site at JonathanBakerandVictoriaFuller.com. Jonathan couldn’t resist mentioning the whammy in his poll question this week. Check it out!

Sirlinksalot: Amazing Race