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


Spirituality and Sacrifice

You’re still racing”¦

That’s where we left off last week when Rob and Amber arrived at that dingy building only to hear host Phil Keoghan say that he had their next clue.

Once everyone realized they were still racing, it certainly was demoralizing for them, but as you’re supposed to do in The Amazing Race, everyone sucked it up and moved on. After all, it’s a race around the world for a million dollars”¦

And we’re glad we did because we saw an amazing example of both spirituality and sacrifice in this week’s episode.

Wikipedia.org defined being spiritual is “often discussed as goal-directed, with aims such as: to simultaneously improve one’s wisdom, willpower and communion with God/universe, which necessitates the removal of illusions at the sensory, feeling and thinking aspects of a person.”

Joyce improved her wisdom and willpower after removing the illusions of sensory and feeling and thinking aspects alright.

When she chose to have her head shaved, she didn’t think about it. She didn’t debate the point in her head or with her partner Uchenna. She didn’t whine or complain about it. She knew she was in a race for a million dollars and if she didn’t do it, her team would have lost. It had to be done; she forgot everything else and just did it.

Jonathan called her the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the race and was really affected by what she did.

“That was one of the greatest moments I have ever seen in The Amazing Race. I was blown away by the spirituality of that moment,” he said.

How could you not be? You saw the focus in her face and in her mind when she said “I’ll do it.” Even Uchenna was shocked by Joyce dropping everything so quickly and realizing what she had to do.

Jonathan saw that too.

“I saw her become this spiritual person and rise to the occasion,” he said. “Uchenna was really affected by that and it affected all of us watching.”

In its definition of “being spiritual Wikipedia.org also said that “Other spiritual proponents indicate that spirituality is a two-stroke process. The upward stroke relates to inner growth and the downward stroke relates towards manifesting improvements in the world/reality around us as a result of the inward change.”

Maybe Uchenna and Joyce will improve the world around them by giving away part of the prize money they win to people across the world who need it. But that part of the definition applies more to Joyce’s inner growth. Her inner growth was learning about sacrifice.

In this case, the multi-pronged definition of sacrifice applies to Joyce’s act of shaving her head. According to Wikipedia the actual definition of sacrifice is centuries old and refers to people offering the lives of animals or other people as worship to the Gods they believed in. Sure, it may be a stretch, but couldn’t you say that Joyce offered her hair as a sacrifice to The Amazing Race Gods? If she hadn’t done it, she and Uchenna would have lost their place in the race the same way the people of certain religions think that they will die if they don’t sacrifice a person or an animal.

Of course, the “metaphorical definition” of the word sacrifice applies to Joyce better because that’s in reference to “selfless good deeds for others.” She gave up the look she loved, cared about and worked hard to maintain to keep her team in the race. It might be easier for a man considering most of them wear their hair short and don’t consider it a fashion accessory. But for a woman to go out there like that? It really is a big deal.

Jonathan saw how big of a deal that was too. The moment really affected him.

“That moment makes them deserve to win,” Jonathan said. “They went from being bores to being endearing. That went from taking of leap of faith. That affected me so much that I dreamt about it when I went to bed.”

If it wasn’t for Rob and Amber, Jonathan would probably rooting heavily for Uchenna and Joyce now.

“They’ve taken the moment and taken it to the next level and you’ve got to really respect the fact because every girl would probably say they wouldn’t do it and every guy would do it,” Jonathan said. “The woman doing it is what makes this empowering. She did it and he’s already bald . The stars were lined up for them.”

This even came up in an argument Jonathan had with his wife and former The Amazing Race partner, Victoria Fuller. They certainly disagreed about what the right thing to do was.

“I got in a huge argument with Victoria about it,” Jonathan said. “She wouldn’t do it. I said ‘I never want to run this race with you again.'”

Jonathan also said he wished that we saw more of this as opposed to so much of the tasks, which he finds boring.

“That’s the game we want to see, he said. “We don’t care about the tasks at hand. We care about human drama and putting normal people in unrealistic situations and making them come through and be amazing. If you’re not willing to do ANYTHING to win, then why bother running the race?”

If there was one complaint Jonathan had about Joyce’s Amazing Race coming out party, it was that we didn’t see enough of it.

“It could have been played up a bit better,” Jonathan said.

That leads to back to the question about editing we posed last week. What happened there? Granted four of the remaining teams were in one place racing camels and only one team was off getting their heads shaved, but the editing was so focused on those ridiculous camels and the various problems all the players were having trying to get them to go around the dirt track. They all had problems and Gretchen, the usually mild-mannered, nice lady even was rooting for Ambe’s failure, laughing at Ambe’s camel walking backwards at one point while she was trying to finish.

Then the production people aired two sequences involving Meredith and Gretchen showing them going at each other a little bit — one while Meredith was on the camel and yelling at Gretchen and one after when they were done and she uttered the line: “For God’s Sake, we’ve never acted this way to each other.”

As Jonathan noted, the circumstances surrounding the race can affect everyone, no matter how nice and calm they are normally.

“This is what happens when you have no food and you have no balance because you’re jetlagged,” he said.

It also showed that those in charge of getting the show on the TV screen are willing to do anything to generate what they believe is the human drama of the show. Jonathan has some strong opinions about the production team trying to get that “money shot.”

“It only confirms what I’ve said before,” Jonathan said. “They cheat, they scheme, they do whatever they can to get the money shot.”

You could probably say that while they were focusing on the older people yelling at each other and camels walking backwards, laying down and barking at a moment’s whim, they actually missed the real human drama in Uchenna and Joyce finishing the fast forward.

Sometimes the real drama isn’t associated with negativity. Sometimes it involves real spirituality and sacrifice instead. Too bad CBS dropped the ball on that one”¦

And the teams”¦

What can we say about Uchenna and Joyce that hasn’t already been said already? How can you not root for them? Not only are they nice, kind, great people, but they have proven themselves to be great players willing to do just about anything to win.

Jonathan thinks their stock has risen with the last task.

“Uchenna and Joyce have risen,” Jonathan said. “Their character arc has risen. They are now at the forefront. They are the epitome of reality TV.”

We haven’t talked too much about Rob and Amber yet this week. Interestingly, there wasn’t much of a need. This really wasn’t their show. They continued to play their game and continue to show why they have gotten as far as they’ve gotten.

Jonathan reiterated a point that came up in last week’s column.

“The guy (Rob) is playing the game outside the box and you have to like that,” he said.

As for Ron and Kelly, Jonathan talked about the alliance that they have forged with Rob and Amber. It’s almost as if they are becoming friends out of the race but race like hell against each other as soon as it’s time to begin.

But overall, he still thinks Ron and Kelly don’t bring much to the table.

“I think they’re competitive but they’re just there running a race,” Jonathan said. “They have no television value.”

As for Meredith and Gretchen, these crazy kids keep plugging along. It’s hard to believe their luck hasn’t run out yet. Or maybe they are so skilled that they really do know what they are doing?

Either way, Keoghan informed them that they are the oldest team to get as far in the race as they’ve gotten and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Jonathan isn’t quiet sure what to make of their constant success.

“Meredith and Gretchen are just cartoon characters at this point,” he said. “You don’t know if they are still in the race because of luck skill or a flip of the coin.”

And we say good bye to Lynn and Alex”¦

It’s time to say good bye to Lynn and Alex as they hit screwed themselves by going to the wrong castle at the end of the leg when they weren’t that ahead of Meredith and Gretchen to begin with.

Their problem through out the game was that even though they worked together well and managed to get through the tasks, they also didn’t appear as focused as the teams that finished ahead. They let their hate of Rob and Amber, their desire to finish ahead of them and their apparent view as the Survivor couple’s chief rival get the better of them.

Once the end came, they lost their patience, went to the wrong castle and were essentially done for.

People hate Rob and Amber for various reason(s) they may have. But the bottom line is they don’t lose their focus. They’ve made the right moves and don’t worry exclusively about any of the other teams.

As for Lynn and Alex, Jonathan summed up both of our feelings well.

“They took their mind off the game and karma caught up to them,” Jonathan said. “Going to the wrong castle and caring about rob and amber was the bottom line for them.”

And that’s why we’re saying good bye to them.

Just like we will say good bye now.

— Steve Coogan

— Jonathan Baker
The Amazing Race 6

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Check out JonathanBakerandVictoriaFuller.com to answer their poll question about Joyce’s sacrifice!

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