Ohmigawd, look what they've stuck us with now. Out of all the teams who've ever run, stumbled, fumbled, and occasionally paraded around the course, this is what we wound up with for the best of the best? Right. How about 'The ones who were capable of answering their phones?' Do you know how some of this group made it back? They were home. That was it. Plus the producers lost the entire TAR4 contact sheet. Go figure.
We could have gotten a strong field. A competitive field. A field that could find a field. But no, we've got:
Dustin & Kandice: Because the producers are confident that if they just get thirty thousand more miles to think about it, they'll be able to figure out which is which. By the way, did you know that no all-female team has ever won TAR-Stars? Did you know that this is the first TAR-Stars and the point's kind of moot? Did you know that Dustin and Kandice will still be throwing this in our faces at least three times an episode? You may ask yourself why. You may beg for mercy. You may even say 'What did these two do to get back here?' And in the name of mercy, here's your answer. They're Rupert. They're the team no one else knows that well and isn't sure how to deal with. And they shave six times a day.
David & Mary: Because you know, the distance they got the first time wasn't at all the result of other teams dragging them along, a well-timed Fast Forward, dumb luck, and the 'other teams dragging them along' thing. It was all due to their incredible skill as Racers. A level of skill displayed by no one else on the course. A talent that brought them all the way to -- first place? Second? Third? Stop me when I get close... Why are they back? Because Mary needs more exposure to other cultures. Because there are still people in the world who haven't heard that accent and if we have anything to say about it, they're going to suffer to. And because if an infinite horde of monkeys can eventually recreate the works of Willie The Shake, an infinite number of races will allow David to make an intelligent decision. Let's see -- this would be #2 -- how many left in that particular infinity?
Eric & Danielle: Because sometimes, the sheer level of dumb cannot be contained by one original team. 'Hi, I'm horny!' 'Hi, I'm horny too!' 'Is that your only personality trait!' 'Why, yes! Yes, it is!' 'Let's date! But as soon as you get pregnant, I'm dumping you for someone I'll find more attractive!' 'I can totally live with that!' We have found a team that is less than the sum of its parts: somehow, zero plus zero now equals negative two. They're not here to win a million dollars: they're here to see how many countries they can have sex in. In fact, if the Race somehow passes through Four Corners, they'll lose time racking up some extra states. Given that we're dealing with Eric, this should put them behind by at least twelve seconds.
Uchenna & Joyce: You mean she's not pregnant yet? I thought that was the whole point! Win the million, spend it on treatments, have kid, resume lives! Or same thing, only go with lawyers and adoption fees. Boy, I'd hate to have their legal/medical provider: quarter-million dollars for the consultation fee plus one bankruptcy filing per billable hour... Hey, look: Jyoce is already prepared to share her head again! Because when you spend a million dollars for one medical bill, you just can't afford a good weave. (Ask Tiffany, who still has to decontaminate wherever she personally goes.) But at least they're morally upstanding, decent people who would never steer anyone wrong, unless they were breaking every post 9/11 flight regulation in the book. But they would never do anything like that. By the way, paid back that cab driver yet?
Rob & Amber: Well, there goes the whole strategy. 'Do you know who I am? Don't you want to help me?' No, because it's been more than five minutes and your faces have slipped everyone's minds, mostly because we were sick of seeing them and self-imposed amnesia is one of the easy tricks around here. (By the way, who's Tiffany?) But this is mercy, really it is: just not for us. They're addicts, you know, and if they don't receive massive amounts of attention, they may die. And who wants that? Everybody. But if CBS cared about what we wanted, we wouldn't even be having this fiasco. And Rob would like us to believe that he's here because he's sick of finishing second. I don't have a problem with this. Let's all do our best to make sure Rob doesn't finish second again. How about 'last', does that sound any better?
Charla & Mirna: And once again, we have a Racer trying to travel around the world carrying her supplies in her cousin-shaped backpack. I'm getting a headache just picturing it: maybe someone should call a doctoro. Now what did Charla do to get here? Well, she's plucky. And spunky. And should every last ticket on a flight sell out, she can play a card no other competitor can find in their deck by squeezing herself into the overhead compartment. Why is Mirna here? Because she wrapped explosives around herself and started whining. If she wasn't allowed to come along, she wouldn't detonate them at the end. And that's just not a chance anyone could afford to take. Say, as long as we're splitting and reuniting teams, why couldn't Charla go with Colin? C&C Noise Factory! And now you have the long and the short of it.
Teri & Ian: Because we just haven't had enough international incidents this year. Or paper underwear. You can never have enough paper underwear. You can also never have enough exposure to Ian, because he's going to remind you why we watch this thing in the first place: to find people who don't remind us of Ian. 'Okay, he looks like he's smiled once in his life. That's another one.' Did I mention the paper underwear? Are you picturing the paper underwear? Did you know that in the history of the world, ten wars have been started by paper underwear? And that Teri & Ian have been to every one of the countries involved? Coincidence? I think not. Who said this country couldn't produce terrorists?
John Vito & Jill & Jill's Dead Brother: Here is the grand sum total of their qualifications for making TAR-Stars. Jill is sort of cute if you happen to like that type. John Vito is sort of attractive if you happen to like that type. And much like a certain breed of politicians, the Race believes that everything can be justified if you can just link it to 9/11. And who can blame them? I've done it twice today and that's just in this post. They're not strong Racers. They have no real reasons to be here that are based in skill, strategy, or even the New Yorker's ability to find a cab when no one else can get one. But they are sort of good-looking. And moderately tragic in a worn-out kind of way. Plus they're no longer dating, so after Danielle gets pregnant, Eric can hook up with Jill! (Look for Teri to show interest in Jill's Dead Brother. She's about ready to try the quiet ones.)
Danny & Oswald: Because we cannot have the Powerhouse Gay Couple. We cannot have the Really Strong Male Racers Who Just Happen To Be (Formerly) Married. No, we must get the Power Shoppers. Think of all the money they've saved on airplane tickets! And since all of that cash goes right back to CBS, we know why they're here: to bring the Race in under budget. 'Okay, here's the plan. At every airport, Cha-Cha buys all the tickets. They then pass them out in random order, we fly them ahead to the next stop, and everything will work out from there -- what do you mean, Final Three?' Sure, they had a little tiff after their original run, but they're back together as best friends and they're ready to see what the rest of the world has to offer! Like low prices. Because when you're paying people twelve cents an hour, the retails tend to drop. And that's just the camera crew. By the way, guys? If you happen to pass through certain zones of the world, you may want to keep your mouths shut. It's a safety issue. Want an example? 'Texas.' Get the idea?
Joe & Bill: Or maybe we could get the Evil Gay Couple, how's that for an idea? Now that we're in that ratings-booster-just-for-bringing-up-9/11 period, maybe they could declare the other teams to be terrorists and really detain them at the airport! Hey, at least it would get rid of Ian... Now let's see, what were their main skills as Racers. Well, they were pretty good at living in places before running through them. And no one in the history of this game has ever packed a better backpack. Plus they were moderately evil. And determined. And had horrible taste in dogs, which we're all learning to associate with 'moderately evil'. Oh, and they fell a full day behind because they were in the original Race and no one had invented bunch points yet, so they may get really thrown off by the whole Future Shock issue. Plus it'll be cute to see their faces when they go looking for a Fast Forward on every leg and it just isn't there any more. By the way, are we carrying finishing times over from the original runs and applying them as starting penalties? We are? Okay, you two go find a hotel. Again. Don't worry about looking haggard from too much sleep: I'm told your blankets actually preserve freshness dating.
Kevin & Drew: Oh, thank gawd.
Eleven teams. One planet. No clue.
You should see what I'd say about my own cast.
Why do you think I said it was nasty? But it's an idea I've had since before that series hit the airwaves -- it may even be somewhere in the archives.
It's worse for our hypothetical Racers because they have more of the illusions of being the whole group. Start them off at seven or less teams, and they will have suspicions of a second squad traveling somewhere: there's just too few of them. Begin at eleven on a side, cut down them down to five the normal way, and all should be well until they hit the uniting point. And since the criteria for picking All-Star teams is so
incomprehensible mysterious anyway, the 'Why isn't X here?' questioning session should stop during the first flight.
The biggest key to keeping the illusion going is Phil's physical presence at each Pit Stop. The Lairdroid could set things up because no one knew what to expect from him and doing nothing but appearing on a cell phone was his normal. As soon as Phil isn't there at the mat -- oops. Some Racers might question all the extended Pit Stops, but that can be dodged by having extremely active legs, one where they need a day and a half of rest before they can even think about rolling over in bed.
The double-show aspect would be fun, though. How goes things with Racers East? What's going to happen to that alliance with Racers West when they see their proposed Final Three now has five more teams to beat? Can Phil avoid being seen at that airport? Ooooh, drama...
There are other shows where this could be done -- Survivor may actually be the easiest, as long as the islands are outside casual rowing distance -- but the time extension would start becoming too much of a problem. And it's easier when we know the players already, regardless. Given that EPMB can't be bothered to introduce us to twenty people, I'd hate to see how he'd handle forty.