Monday, September 28, 2009

Letters to Pauly: The Amazing Race, Vol. 1

By Trisha Lynn
New York City

Editor's Note: Allow me to welcome Trisha Lynn as a special guest scribe to Tao of Poker. She joins the mix as our reality TV correspondent and guru.

Dear Pauly,

I've never seen a single episode of The Amazing Race before, so I'm going to be coming into this pretty blind because the Wikipedia entry sure as hell wasn't very useful in explaining what we'll be watching Maria Ho, Tiffany Michelle, and the rest of these folks put themselves through over the next few months--or less, depending on whether or not they're going to make it all the way through. However, I'm going to do my very best to help you figure out exactly what you missed when you were doing something more worthwhile than sitting on your couch on Sunday night.

The promo for the show right before Andy Rooney's segment on 60 Minutes started off with someone already breaking out the "We're not here to make friends" quote, and I swear my eyeballs hurt from rolling them so hard. When the show itself starts, Maria and Tiffany are the third out of the chute and their clip has them in an empty poker room executing some chip tricks and being shipped a whole bunch of chips. I am so glad that of the intros, theirs is the least annoying, cloying, self-satisfying, or heart-warming.

Tiffany Michelle and her Asian good luck charm, Maria Ho

Maria and Tiffany are among the last to reach the heavy backpacks to pick up the clue, but the first to get the puzzle right, which means their car is the first that's headed to LAX to board a plane for Tokyo, Japan. Tiffany says, "I brought my Asian lucky charm!" and I don't know if she means Maria or an actual piece of jewelry.

At LAX, the teams converse and our girls reveal that they're running a bluff on the rest of the teams by saying that they work for an organization that helps homeless people because they think that if they reveal that they're professional poker players and make a lot of money doing it, no one will want to help them. Pretty smart move, I think. Another cute moment is when they're in taxis heading to Tokyo Tower when they see the "two hot guys" in another taxi and we see them flirting and making faces at them through their car window. Of course, this is the moment where the brothers reveal in an interview that they're gay and are running their own bluff on the girls. Well played, GayBros.

At Tokyo Tower, they find themselves in a studio playing a game called "Sushi Roulette" where the aim is to spin a roulette wheel and eat whatever is in front of you. However, when you get a huge chunk of wasabi wrapped in seaweed, you have only two minutes to eat the whole thing before you can get your clue to the next section. Poor Maria is the one who has to take the wasabi bomb, and the expression on her face is like death.

"She loves wasabi!" exclaims Tiffany. Maria looks like she wants to hurl or kill her, especially when she doesn't finish it in the time limit... which means that she's going to have to eat another one... on the very next spin of the wheel.

"I can't do another one, Tiffany," she subtitles. However, like a true winner with one second to go, Maria shows how well she choked it down and they head off to lead a group of tourists (whom I cannot help but feel were drawn from Central Casting) through the Shibuya Scramble to a Shinto shrine.

The girls do a smart thing and dip into a hotel to get a map from a concierge, and end up sharing it with the GayBros. And then they do something foolish and lose two people from their tour group in the Scramble. That's the first time you hear Tiffany's claws come out when she snarks to Maria, "Can we not lose any more people?"--even if it was her job to keep the group together and Maria's to lead.

They are the last to arrive at the checkpoint, surrounded by all the other tourists and teams, and it is announced that by arriving last, they incur a 2-hour penalty and will have to perform a task that no one else in the race has to perform somewhere along the way. Luckily, this first round is a non-elimination round and the girls are passed on to the next destination: Vietnam. In interview, they break out a poker term and call this pass their "1-outer" to continue in the race.

Rather than spend some of their seed money on an Internet cafe to book a flight to their next destination, they decide to head straight to the airport, where on the way Tiffany says to Maria in the car, "I may be the brawn, but you're definitely the brains... and the boobs." Maria's expression at that is priceless.

I am rather sad that their bluff gets called so early when Tiffany gets recognized at the airport, and I have to wonder if that was deliberately done by the producers to even things out. The two Harlem Globetrotters' reaction is to say that it's "Game on" now, and I am officially scared for them. The GayBros get in on the act as well when they share a taxicab in Ho Chi Minh City and my heart breaks a little more. Hanging out on a river boat dock, the girls interview that their job is to observe people and gather information about them, and they say that Justin and Zev (who has Asperger's) are their least favorite team, and they can't picture the "meathead" Lance as being the lawyer he says he is. Um, whoops?

The speed bump is revealed to be a race to a local food stand where they have to get the ingredients for a bowl of pho and serve it to the dockmaster on the Mekong River. As they bounce back towards the dock, Maria carries the tray while Tiffany searches for the dockmaster... wait, didn't Tiffany say she was the brawn? The next task is to get mud from the river to fertilize fruit trees on a farm upstream and as they're slipping around in the thick deep muck, Maria Tiffany says, "Girls in mud is so sexy."

A bunch of laughing Vietnamese men agree. The girls move up to sixth place when other teams can't manage to herd ducks over a bridge and back into a pen--yes, ducks in a pen; I am not making this shit up--but wind up in seventh when the Blonde Duo end up beating them to the dock. They are going on to the next round.

Next time on The Amazing Race: Asperger Boy drops a plaster giraffe and the meathead rips up electronics. Aren't you riveted already?

Trisha Lynn

Trisha Lynn is a writer from New York City. She's also a contributor to Movie

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