Birthday girl gives everyone a present by getting eliminated on The Amazing Race 12

The penultimate episode of The Amazing Race 12 gave us something we haven’t had in a long time: A final three without a real villain. The editors and story producers have been playing up each team’s deficiencies (to the point where it now seems like they’re just reusing the same footage since the teams say the same things each week), and now we know why. There isn’t really someone to root against in the final three, which was revealed on Sunday’s episode, so instead of tension born of ugly personalities or interpersonal conflict, we’ll have tension from life lessons.

  • At the start of the penultimate episode, Nate said that he and Jen were going to get serious. “We’re like the Incredible Hulk. All the sudden we’re just gonna explode and tear our shirts off and, just, everyone’s going to be, Whoa!, and say, Watch out for Jen and Nate.” Because he’s crazy.
  • For some reason, Nicolas decided to declare that everyone wasn’t masculine enough for his tastes–including himself. “We’ve been playing the game like bitches so far, and so has everyone else. No competitors are left; there’s a bunch of pansies in the game,” he said.
  • Nate said, “Jen and I know absolutely nothing about Taiwan, except, we think Thai food’s pretty good.” That’s so dumb it doesn’t even deserve mocking, but I think he actually might have been kidding, since he looked and Jen and sort of smirked before the editors cut away.
  • “Do you see anything up here?” TK said. Did you notice your camera operator turning around and filming the clue box right as you walked by it? Clearly not. I still can’t believe how teams manage to miss their camera operators’ clues.
  • “I just can’t believe you’re being this mean to me on my birthday; I haven’t even done anything,” Jen said, as if they’re nice to each other on the 363 days that it’s not one of their birthdays.
  • One of the questions I’m most frequently asked about The Amazing Race is whether or not teams have to go through immigration, since we hardly every see that. They do, waiting in long lines with everyone else, which is boring and that’s why it doesn’t make it on TV. But we saw them in line this week when three teams bunched up at immigration (even though TK and Rachel arrived on a different flight).
  • TK’s competitors have some weird fetishistic thing about his body hair. “I wanna rip those dreads out of his head,” Jen said. I’ll give her that one, since that would be a violent, painful action used to express anger or frustration. But I don’t get Nicolas’ fantasy about TK’s hair, although whatever works for him is fine. “I really want to shave his beard off,” he said.
  • Introducing the Roadblock, which involved riding in two awesome but ultimately innocuous stunt cars, Phil decided that the thrill wasn’t enough. “If they’re still alive when it’s over, they’ll receive their next clue,” he said. Maybe he’s on to something with this life-or-death thing. Next season, maybe failing a task should result in death; that’d increase ratings more than just pretending it’s true.
  • Speaking of danger, the Speedbump required TK and Rachel to run through a field of fireworks being shot at them, which actually seemed like great fun, especially since they were wearing protective gear and helmets.
  • Jen and Nick aren’t the only ones paying attention to their competition’s heads. “I saw Nick’s big head coming around the corner, and I was the most fired up I’ve been on this race,” TK said.
  • “I just don’t understand why we’re working so hard. TK and Rachel just slack off and they caught up to us. It’s stupid.” Well, Jen, that’s because you only work hard at being a horrible person.
  • “You need to step up and make the decisions, because I can’t anymore,” Jen said. “I’m just saying you need to make the decision right now. Please, you’re the man.” She didn’t say that last part like “You the man!” but instead like, “Your penis wields powers that my vagina can only dream about, so decision-making is up to you!” However, Nate was not happy about letting his decision-making penis spring into action and decide to take a bus, so before they boarded, he screamed, “Honestly, Jen, I can’t stand you. All you do is freak out!”
  • After insisting that they take a subway instead of a cab, which turned out to not be the best idea, Jen pretended she hadn’t just done what she’d just done, trying to blame it on Nate. “You’re the one who said, subway, subway, subway!” he said. “Oh, I said that?” she responded, incredulously. Moments later, she said, “Thanks a lot for ruining my freakin’ birthday.” Her boyfriend said, “You make it impossible not to.” Ah, love.
  • Arriving at the Roadblock, Jen said, “We need to stay positive right now.” Well, now we have a good example for the dictionary entry of “too late, too late, idiot.”
  • Despite being three hours behind and having a Speedbump task to complete, TK and Rachel arrived at the pit stop in second place, giving conflict-averse people a team to cheer on. “Anybody who says we didn’t try or we got lucky or whatever, we’ve been trying our very hardest all day,” Rachel insisted. Ron and Christina arrived in first, again, after being very far ahead of everyone for most of the day.
  • After some tense editing, Nicolas and his grandfather arrived at the pit stop in third place, sending them on to the finale, and Jen and Nate home. “Fudge,” Nate said. “I think that we killed our relationship along the way,” Jen realized while they were standing alone in a giant plaza. Had they not been so abrasive for the past 11 episodes, I might have actually been touched by their subsequent displays of emotion and realizations about their focus on the game instead of their relationship. But instead I just touched the delete button on my DVR and they left my TV screen for good.