Amazing Race
The Nine Best Episodes Ever

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The Nine Best Episodes Ever

Exhausted, Derek and Drew endured the long, almost certainly futile ferry ride back across the river and then back to the finish line, at which point the glimmer of hope of non-elimination was extinguished and they were sent home. But the voice-over in which Ken and Gerard explained, with great warmth and a gratifying lack of bullshit, how difficult it was to abandon an alliance based on true friendship and affection -- something they knew had to happen sometime, and still dreaded -- lent a surprising and poignant grace note to an episode packed full of the opposite. The fact that Flo inadvertently put the hosing to her own putative boyfriend Drew, proving that indeed Flo Ruins Everything, was only the spiteful, petty icing on the warm, gooey cake.

Season Two, Episode Thirteen: "Follow That Plane (II)"
A.K.A. Wil And The Blowtorch

Some episodes are great because of their finishes, some episodes are great because of the personalities they display, and some episodes are great because one single thing in them is so heart-bustingly awesome that you feel like you have to call your friends and talk about it on its anniversary for years to come.

Most of the last hour of the second season was unremarkable. Evenly matched pieces of crap Wil and Tara began the leg having lost a clue they needed desperately, but it all came to nothing when they were able to follow the other teams until they got back on their feet. They then spent the evening grousing at each other around a campfire, during which Tara's giddily spiteful declarations that she'd almost rather not win the race at all just so that Wil wouldn't get any money set the stage for quite a bit of future controversy. Even the ending, a closely contested footrace in which Boston bouncers Chris and Alex passed Wil and Tara -- well, Tara, really -- with about thirty seconds of running to go, wasn't as compelling as you'd think, because...who really cared about any of them?

No, the genius of the episode isn't found in that down-to-the-wire ending. The genius of the episode is found in the Roadblock, in which the chosen team member had to use a hodgepodge of hardware-store tools to retrieve a clue from the middle of a globe of ice probably a foot and a half across. Wil first whacked at the globe with a hammer, making absolutely no progress whatsoever. He then went for a blowtorch, trying to melt it into submission. This also accomplished nothing, although he did manage to set the bag of tools on fire. He picked a power drill and put several very long holes in the globe. Nothing. More hammering. A chisel. Wil got the clue eventually, but for some reason, the sight of his hapless, beleaguered self -- set up early as a bully, but later revealed as also a victim of a partner who was equally bad -- madly assaulting a block of ice with a blowtorch and a drill like a pissed-off cartoon character was the kind of bizarre physical comedy act that transforms the pedestrian into the transcendent. Oh, Wil. How we miss you.

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Amazing Race

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