|The Linzes (from left Megan, Tommy, Nick and Alex) won last night's "The Amazing Race 8: Family Edition." (Photo: CBS)
The good news is that the Linzes won on last night’s “The Amazing Race 8.” Even better, this failed experiment of a Family Edition is now officially over!
After a lacklustre season south of the 49th parallel, the remaining three teams headed to Canada for a couple exciting legs (OK, so we’re biased, but it definitely had its moments).
The families first flew to Montreal and ventured into the underground city, where their next clue directed them to the first Detour: Slide It or Roll It.
In Slide It, teams had to find McGill Arena and glide a granite stone 120 feet (about 37 metres) into a bull’s-eye painted in the ice, called “the house.” In other words, teams undertook the “popular Canadian sport” of curling. OK, it actually is pretty popular. We’ll give you that, Phil.
In Roll It, teams had to find Morgan Arboretum and roll four logs across a 100-foot (30 metre) log track using axes. In other words, teams undertook the “popular Canadian sport” of…log rolling? (Well, we do go birling down the white water, and that’s how us log drivers learned to step lightly…but there aren’t any axes. Sheesh!)
Both Detour tasks were somewhat difficult and required skill, a minimum requirement for a good Detour. Even better, though, was how each task required a different set of skills, which complicates the decision-making process and ensures some tense TV, assuming at least one team does a different task than the rest.
Slide It required precision, good balance, and a steady hand, with which the Linzes and Weavers had no trouble. The Bransens attempted to roll it, roll it, roll it, and they definitely held their own, once they got the hang of the awkward axe-wielding.
Teams then made their way to the site of Expo ’67 where they had to find the American pavilion, naturally. The spectacular geodesic dome (even the Weavers took the time to admire something other than their own piety) held their next clue, which directed them to an abandoned loading dock and the Roadblock: Who wants to fly through the air with the greatest of ease?
The team member with acrobatic aspirations (or, in the case of the Weavers, Rolly the Default) had to perform a circus stunt—hang by their legs from a trapeze and fling themselves across to a waiting trapeze artist swinging from the opposite direction.
Seemed like a relatively easy task—most teams had no trouble completing it on the first try (well, except for the Linzes, who chose to go with their heaviest team member). It was fun to watch, and at least it was something unique to Montreal (even though they didn’t ever mention Cirque du Soleil).
The families then headed over to the Olympic Stadium, where they searched among the 56,000 seats for one of three early-morning departure times. It was a daunting but not impossible task, but Rebecca, who wanted to give up along with the rest of the Weaver women, justified her attitude with this pearl of wisdom: “By not doing this, it’s not like I’ve not accomplished anything; it’s not like I’m less of a better person or anything; I just think that, it’s just stupid.” Once all teams eventually secured a flight time, they had a mini Pit Stop under the bright stadium lights.
Teams didn’t know where the mystery flight was taking them, but the CN Tower/TTC streetcar/Canada goose montage tipped off viewers that they were landing in Hogtown. Upon landing, teams were told to find La Tour CN, which actually managed to stump the Weavers and Bransens. That’s right. They realize they’re in Toronto, there’s an imposing tower sticking out of the city, and they’ve heard of the CN Tower, the largest freestanding building in the world, which happens to be in Toronto, and they’re stumped. Actually, perhaps they haven’t heard of the CN Tower. From what we’ve seen, barely any of these people have ever watched a PBS show, or, you know, paid attention. To anything.
After taking the elevator to the top, teams used binoculars (one pair per family) to search for a yellow-and-white flag. The Bransens spotted it first, followed closely by the Linzes. The Weavers, despite being RIGHT THERE when the Bransens were pointing at and describing the location to each other, still couldn’t spot the flag until the other teams were well on their way.
At the flag, teams found directions for the final Detour: Ship or Shoe.
In Ship, teams had to sail (with the help of a trained skipper) across Toronto Harbour to an old tall ship, the Kajama, where one team member climbed the rigging up 100 feet (about 30 metres) to take down a nautical flag and bring it back to the deck.
In Shoe, teams had to find the Bata Shoe Museum—where seemingly hundreds of barefoot women were ambling around—pick a pair of shoes, and then find the woman whose feet fit the shoes.
While Ship required teamwork when sailing, they really just had to follow the skipper’s instructions. And unless every single person on a team was paralyzed by a fear of heights, then the climb wasn’t exactly going to slow anyone down. The shoe-finding was clearly a hit-or-miss task, and though being methodical and patient would help, nothing was really in the way of teams NOT completing the task. And Phil? Sure, the Bata Shoe Museum is pretty unique, but these tasks don’t scream “Toronto” the way Casa Loma or finding the cheapest Thai food would.
Once they had completed the Detour, teams were on their way to Queenston, Ontario. There, each family got into one giant jet boat and rode the rapids to a buoy for their next clue.
After surviving the whitewater, teams docked in the United States and raced towards the finish line…only to be stopped by the last Roadblock: Who paid attention in Geography?
The geographer from each team had to complete a giant puzzle map of North and Central America. Each state, province, or country (for Central America) was an individual piece, and to complete the puzzle the team member had to place each piece in the correct position in the empty map space.
Definitely one of the better Roadblocks this season, and a great way to finish off the race. The task was challenging, for once, and it required some strategy: racers were able to complete the vertical puzzle faster if they started from the bottom, around Mexico, so that the remaining pieces had something to rest on—something Wally was quick to find out. (He seemed to think the pieces were magnetic and tried to stick a state smack in the Midwest, only to have it fall right off.)
Also, the task rewarded racers who were paying attention throughout the season, since teams had travelled over much of that territory in previous legs. Only one complaint: we didn’t get to see the Weavers, with their superb geographical knowledge, even attempt this task. That’s must-see-TV right there.
The Linzes and Bransens were head to head, with Nick and Wally taking it for the team as their teammates fidgeted, freaked, and stuffed their fists into their mouths so as not to shout out directions to their puzzled Roadblockers.
But in the end, Nick pieced the map together just a bit quicker than Wally, and the Linzes booked it to the final mat in victory.
Performance rating: A
The Cincinnati siblings missed a clue box AGAIN, let the wrong person do the trapeze Roadblock (perhaps the lightest person should defy gravity—just a thought), and mangled French (it rhymes with God, Megan), but they were mostly methodical, efficient, and energetic. And on this season of “Amazing Race,” simply having the energy to do “stupid” tasks seemed to be enough to get you ahead.
Best of all, the Linzes enjoyed themselves the entire way, continuing to tease each other and enjoy the scenery (as when Nick noted “there are lots of sexy babies running around here” in Montreal).
Nick was clearly the brains of the operation; he was always the quick thinker and more often than not knew how to pronounce things, which is a definite sign of above-Racer-average intelligence. Alex and Tommy were the brawn and the bonehead, respectively. And Megan was the detail-oriented teammate, spotting destinations first and making sure the team did their tasks properly.
They were fun, classy, and strong racers. And if you didn’t tear up when they celebrated at the mat, hugged each other, and Alex kissed Megan affectionately on the forehead, then you might want to speak to the Grinch about growing back your shrivelled heart. Sniff.
Performance rating: A
Dad and daughters
Finally, teams had the chance to fight for flights! Unfortunately, the Bransens didn’t figure out a faster route, and unluckily, had their flight delayed even further. That’s what you get for flying American! Yup, Air Canada came off looking pretty good.
But the Bransens had that mysterious quality the Weavers didn’t—the ability to keep walking—and they managed to luck out and get ahead when they found an earlier departure time ticket in Le Stade Olympique. They didn’t complete the task unscathed, though, when Wally freaked out in frustration and vowed to kick someone’s ass. Who, you ask? Just someone. Wally sure stays on message with his vague, vague vagueness.
Some highlights: their classy speeches at the end (particularly Wally breaking down and also eloquently saying that, as a parent, seeing young kids with integrity like the Linzes made him proud), Lindsay noting that Linda Weaver is a “whacko,” and their slip that they go to church (they compared walking through the aisles at the ballpark to walking through the pews at church). See Weavers? You can be a good Christian family and, you know, be NORMAL.
This team has a lot to be proud of, and Wally really was close behind Nick at the last task. They can console themselves with their many prizes from the race. And at least they know they’ve got fans, what with little Carissa Gaghan pumping her fist and cheering, “Go Wally!” at the end.
Performance rating: D+
Widow and three kids
Even though God seemed to be working overtime, blessing the religious Weavers with Ted the spiritual taxi driver and divine luck, they still managed to screw it up.
Whether it was trying out Spanish on the Montreal cabbie; searching for the Centre for Disease Control (CDC Centre) instead of the CDP Centre; trying to knock out the competition at a Toronto ticket counter; taking logic in strange, new directions (“Right is the most common. We should always take the left.”); or DECIDING TO NAP in the middle of a task because “it’s stupid,” the Weavers pulled off quite a pathetic performance.
For the second time this race, the Linzes and Weavers got in a right-of-way face-off while passing each other. This time, it was in golf carts just outside Olympic Stadium, as the Linzes were trapped between a low concrete wall and the Weavers’ cart. The Florida family just barely allowed them to squeeze by as Rolly called one of the Linzes “Thunder Thighs,” and in retaliation Tommy told “Roly Poly” to “shut it.” The righteous Weavers got on the highest horse available and denounced the Linzes for calling names. Dear Linda: Matthew 23:28. Look it up.
(They did have a few redeeming moments. Rolly was a surprisingly good curler, and they were smart to check for earlier flight times at the airport, which put them on the same plane as the Linzes. But that was pretty much it.)
And to wrap up their great race, the Weavers gathered with all the families at the finish line and stood sullenly in the back row as Rolly busted out the always enthusiastic slow clap. What an inspiring, motivated, amazingly pleasant family. It’s a wonder that Phil didn’t ask them to say something about their competitors, the way he did with the Linzes and Bransens.
And if they weren’t disturbing enough, what was with Carissa Gaghan making a beeline for Rachel, who scooped her up in her arms? To paraphrase Linda Weaver: “Noooo! Don’t touch her!”
Next time on “The Amazing Race”:
Eleven teams of two! Five continents! 60, 000 miles!
All you need to know is that “The Amazing Race” we know and love is baaaaaaaack!
(And if you really want details, teams of two—including girly-girls who go to the Rebecca Weaver School of Hairdressing, and a team of self-professed nerds—visit Japan, Russia, some amazing European ruins, and do death-defying, thrilling, AMAZING tasks. Yes, Virginia, there IS a God!)
Tune in…next February.
Approximate distance travelled
-- Quebec: Montreal
-- Ontario: Toronto, Queenston
United States of America
-- New York: Lewsiton
Team Bransen—3:04 a.m.
Team Linz—3:08 a.m.
Team Weaver—4:02 a.m.
For start-to-finish coverage of the race, check out JAM! 'The Amazing Race 8'.