Rob and Amber, it was nice knowing you. Not. Perhaps it's unseemly to gloat, even when it's the gloaters who become the goats. But really, how can you resist rejoicing when smug, painfully overexposed reality junkies Rob and Amber are shown the door, coming in last on the mat behind (get this) even the hapless Charla and Mirna, who had the bull's-eye on them throughout Sunday's episode of
The Amazing Race: All-Stars
. (If they're not ousted next week, it will be another minor miracle.)
For those who study things like how reality-show episodes are put together, one might have predicted Romber's downfall this week, given their interview moment early on when Rob fake-protested that he wasn't arrogant or cocky, then noted, "I'm not even close to my prime." Well, certainly not when it comes to spelling, he isn't.
Rob and Amber are unquestionably reality all-stars. I keep expecting one or the other to appear on CBS'
this summer, or maybe the next edition of
, since CBS clearly can't get enough of them. In the world of reality, they are definitely players. And to be fair, in the world of reality-competition shows, they are skilled players. Until this week, they had dominated this all-stars edition of the race, winning the first three consecutive legs. All of the other teams couldn't help obsessing on them, for good reason. Which made their sudden downfall as shocking as it was entertaining.
The first time Romber ran the race, they made a bit of perverse history by giving up on a challenge (a particularly odious eating task), but by getting others to quit as well, they were able to escape elimination despite the time penalty incurred. Thus being a quitter became, for a moment, a positive on a show heretofore renowned for celebrating the spirit of competition and taking on challenges. They were cheered for their strategy, except among those of us who despised them for bringing a twisted sort of
-style cunning to a show that had up to then been a relatively upbeat example of reality programming. (Even to the end, Romber stayed in character this season, lying to Charla and Mirna about having found a clue after taking one of many wrong turns this episode - and then when confronted with their lie, lying some more.)
This time around, their "can't-do" attitude backfired when they gave up on the "sign" detour, never noticing that a fateful misspelling was keeping them from getting the nod of approval. From there, it was all downhill. In short, it was a bad-luck leg for the usually lucky twosome. They were slow getting a cab. Rob was slow finding the letter in the mail-sorting challenge. (If he had found his letter before Mirna, there's no question they would have squeaked by this week.) It was a jolting reminder that
The Amazing Race
, no matter who runs it, is a game contingent on luck and skill. Any week you lack both, you're in trouble. And to this infamous team's credit, they bowed out with grace. They're anything but sore losers. They didn't blame anyone but themselves, and acknowledged how lucky and happy they truly are. When Rob said the thing he would miss most was the chance to compete, you could almost believe it. (If he had added regrets about losing the TV spotlight, then I'd have bought it.)
So now, with this unexpected but welcome reversal of fortune, I'm wondering if my overall take on the all-stars season will improve. I'm not yet convinced, although watching those delightful "cha-cha" pals Danny and Oswald win this leg was an absolute thrill. (Teri and Ian coming in third: also great.) Part of my problem with this season came in watching the predictably early flame-outs of underdogs like Kevin and Drew, and David and Mary. If this was a true all-stars edition, they probably shouldn't have been asked back. A game like this really ought not be a popularity contest. They may have won our hearts authentically the first time around, but watching them struggle again often felt like an unpleasant rerun. (The same can be said for Charla and Mirna so far. Their resolve: admirable; ratio of skill to annoyance level: not so much.)
Much of the pleasure of
The Amazing Race
any season is in making new acquaintances along the way while experiencing astonishing new locations. When the traveling companions are this familiar, it takes some of the joy out of the ride.