We have all heard the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Of course, we all like to think of ourselves as capable of stepping up and being tough – especially those of us crazy enough to want to run The Amazing Race. In reality, though, “When the going gets tough, most people give up.”
This week’s leg is truly tough. The four remaining teams travel to Hong Kong and arrive at the same time, but Vicki’s asthma causes her and Nick to miss the first ferry and puts them 30 minutes behind everyone else. They are able to catch up, though, because the tasks this week are not easy. At the roadblock, one team member must eat their way through an enormous Chinese buffet until they find one of five “fake” pieces of food. At the detour, teams must either find clues hidden along a bus route or find a specific boat in a harbor filled with hundreds of sampans. These tasks take hours. In the end, Nat and Kat edge out Jill and Thomas for first.
This is no longer news, but the women this season are tough. Even when they struggle, they stay strong. Claire eats, vomits, and continues to eat until she beats the roadblock. But we would expect no less from the woman whose face can explode watermelons. I was more surprised by Vicki. She arrives at the task last. Even though she has been berated by Nick all day, gags at the thought of Chinese food, makes repeated visits to the bathroom, and knows they likely are already eliminated, she will not give up, even though Nick encourages her to.
The toughness of the women is in stark contrast to Nick. At the roadblock, he becomes the voice of negativity. “Do you just want to wrap it up or what?” he says. “It’s supposed to be fun. This isn’t fun.” When they get to the sampan detour, Nick’s negativity becomes debilitating. When they aren’t able to find the boat, Nick again encourages Vicki to give up. When she refuses, Nick literally lies down and goes to sleep while Vicki tries to do the task by herself. She finally realizes the tough task for two is nearly impossible for one and relents. When Nick and Vicki make it to the pit stop, Phil tells them that this is a non-elimination leg and they still have a chance to race for the final three, although they now have a six-hour penalty and an extra speed bump to complete.
I Can Relate
I feel bad for Nick. Who wants to go down in Amazing Race lore as the poster child for giving up? The race is designed to break people, and Nick was broken this week. Who wants to hit rock bottom with millions of viewers watching you at your weakest? I can empathize given how I hit rock bottom myself in Romania during my season. I knew as the leg unfolded that the story of the leg would be “see how stubbornly stupid Victor can be.” At a certain point, there’s nothing you can do about it and there’s nothing you can say to redeem it. I knew that any complexity to the situation or mitigating circumstance would fade into irrelevance as viewers judge from their living room couches.
The last five minutes of the episode were painful reminders for me of my own race. I watched Nick’s emotionless face as Phil told them they were not eliminated. Nick was so resigned to his situation that it did not matter whether it was good news or bad news. He did not care. I felt the same way when Phil told me and my sister we were not eliminated in Romania. I sort of predicted that was going to happen (since I suspected another team had made a bigger mistake), but at that point I was so tired and angry at myself that I did not care.
It was also interesting to see how little Nick spoke in the “after the leg” confessional interview. When I hit rock bottom, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. When those interviews are being conducted, the emotions are real and are still raw. The viewing public wants a nice, tidy resolution. We all want Nick to learn from his mistakes, to realize that Vicki’s way was the right way, and to be more upbeat. But real life is much more gray. I suspect Nick’s feelings at that point were much more mixed. On the one hand, he knows he was an idiot for quitting. He knows Vicki schooled him in toughness. On the other hand, he knows how awful the day was. He knows how hard he did try to stay positive and exhort Vicki to keep trying. He knows there were moments where Vicki was the negative one and may have exacerbated the stress of the day. But he also knows there is no point in defending himself, since he was the one who quit. Anything short of “I apologize for being an idiot” will not satisfy us judging viewers. So that’s what he says – nothing more. That’s what rock bottom feels like. I’ve been there.
It is going to be interesting to see how Nick and Vicki rebound after this tragic leg. Even if they turn it around, it seems impossible for them to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves. But who knows, maybe I’m being the defeatist one and we will witness one of the greatest comebacks in history.