Season Eight, Episode Six: "I'm Sick Of Doing Stuff I Can't Do"
A.K.A. Ban Red Beans, Indeed
Wait. Hear me out.
Yes, this is from the despised Family Edition. Don't get me wrong; it's a dumb, boring season with almost nothing to redeem it. Almost nothing. What's more, it's a tragically sad episode in which the upbeat, lovable, hotly parented Gaghan family -- Papa Bill, Mama Tammy, and kids Billy and Carissa -- was done in, beaten out by the execrable Weaver family, precisely the kind of result that makes viewers gnash their teeth and weep and throw shoes at the television.
But with luck playing the role that it does for so many teams starting out the race, the fact is that most teams lose. Most good teams lose. Most beloved teams lose. Thus, in most cases, the story of a great team on this particular show is, in a larger sense, the story of how they lost.
As the teams ran around Costa Rica, they encountered the Roadblock that will live in infamy: one team member had to search through a huge pile of coffee beans (like, a small-room-sized pile -- 800 pounds, specifically), looking for a single red bean. This is the kind of task that introduces an enormous element of luck, because as much as we'd all like to think there's a methodical way to search 800 pounds of coffee beans, in reality, all you're doing is spreading them out as best you can and hoping you stumble across the red one. Of the six teams still in the race, the Gaghans arrived in a five-way tie for first. The chosen Roadblockers started hunting for their beans, and everyone found them...everyone but Tammy. Nightmarishly enough, even though the despised Weavers arrived at the Roadblock last and had to wait out a Yield before they could start looking, they still managed to find the bean before Tammy found hers. ["Again, for the record: not my doing." -- God] While the Gaghans eventually found their bean and finished the leg, they just couldn't catch up.
It sounds horrible, right? Well, it was horrible, kind of, in that it's not what anyone wanted to see. But in a trio of fabulous scenes, the show -- so blunderingly off its game all season long -- painted a really nice picture of how this one family ignored all the cynical rules about the importance of turning into a spiteful asshole when things don't go well. First, while Tammy hunted for the bean, Papa Bill discussed with young Billy how difficult it was to watch and not be able to help. They managed to share immense frustration without assigning blame, and if every team on this show could master that skill, you'd have a hell of a lot less fighting. Second, in the car after the bean debacle, Bill worked to buck up the kids while Tammy stared out the window, wrestling with guilt and embarrassment and everything you know you'd be feeling if one of those needle/haystack tasks went bad on you. And on the mat, of course, as Phil broke the news of their Philimination, everyone in the family coped just the right way -- Mom and Dad praised the kids and smooched, Billy went big-brother, and Carissa pressed on her cheeks to will herself not to burst into tears. It was horrible, but it was also great, because the battle is the game show and the war is not sucking, and if the team you love can only win one of the two...well, you know.