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Laying odds on this season's ‘Amazing Race’

Former junkies, coal miner and wife, beauty queens still fighting, but who will win?
/ Source: contributor

It's hard to believe that “The Amazing Race” has been entertaining viewers for five years and 10 seasons. With notable exceptions, such as the boring that aired one year ago, the race has nearly always been incredible television, driven by the tension and action that comes from an actual race around the world.

The race has become an entertaining, engaging, Emmy-winning reality show in no small part because it's run by teams that often spend their time bickering, acting stupidly, or just by making us laugh. Sometimes their pre-existing relationships are strengthened, and sometimes that relationship implodes, but regardless of how functional or dysfunctional the teams are, they’ve helped the show survive and thrive.

This 10th season is no exception. There was even one extra team to amuse viewers this year, as, for only the third time in the show’s history, there are 12 teams of two (seven of the other seasons have had 11 or fewer groups). However, thanks to the first-ever double-elimination leg — perhaps the most obnoxious twist put into place yet by the producers — one of those teams, best friends Bilal and Sa'eed, was gone before we got to know them.

The latest to leave were Tom and Terry; the boyfriends were eliminated this week in Vietnam, crippled by the physical challenges and their emotional response to the challenge of the race. They ended both the last leg and this leg of the race in tears, although this week, it was because they were actually eliminated.

Many great teams remain, and they’re not yet even halfway around the world. Some of the teams seem like familiar archetypes, while others surprise us every moment they’re on screen. A lot could change as they take on future legs, but as of right now, here’s a look at how likely it is that they’ll run across the finish line in first place.

David and Mary
Chance of winning:
A lot less than everyone hopes

Nearly every season has a team that only the most cold-hearted people could dislike, and this season, those honors go to David and Mary. Identified on-screen as a “coal miner and wife” from Kentucky, they’re set up to be the ignorant, less worldly team.

But instead, they’ve turned out to be the team that sees the world with such earnestness that their ignorance is impossible to make fun of, and their honesty is commendable. A few episodes ago, Mary told us in an interview segment, “I’m making friends with people I would have never thought I would have met. I’ve never known an Asian person in my life.” A few moments later, she added, “Honest to goodness, we’ve never been around gay people. But buddy, I like ‘em!” Despite her willingness to make friends with people, Mary needs to work on her communication skills with David.

If they’re eliminated — and, sadly, they probably will be, sooner rather than later — it may be because Mary tends to put the race above all and snipe at David, who often fails at communicating with her. In Vietnam, David was telling the camera a story about his dad’s experience in the war, and she shouted, “Dave, if everybody’s passing you ... we’re in a race and I’m going to get angry.” Then again, that type of communication might be exactly what they need to stay in the race until the end.

Peter and SarahChance of winning: Fantastic, if Sarah’s leg is repaired and she trades in her partner for a new one

Sarah is a runner and triathlete, and that’s remarkable primarily because she’s an amputee who has an artificial leg. That leg’s hydraulic part started leaking early in the race, making it more difficult for her to run quickly. Unfortunately for Sarah, her biggest obstacle on this race is not her leg, but her obnoxious partner Peter.

His Dr. Phil-like pronouncements are infuriating; he says them as encouragement but they are appalling, as he’s either lecturing Sarah or ordering her around. As they ran during one leg of the race, he told Sarah, “You’re moving kind of slow on that. One kilometer — that’s a piece of cake!” The good part is, Sarah’s quite aware of the fact that her boyfriend’s a jerk sometimes. But between a leaking leg and an annoying partner, this might be one race Sarah doesn’t complete.

Dustin and KandiceChance of winning: Not that great

The race started with two sets of young, attractive white women, and “beauty queens” Dustin and Kandice are the only one of those teams remaining. They met at the Miss America pageant, and they constantly confirm beauty-queen stereotypes: arriving at one task, they walked past teams who were waiting outside and pushed hard on a locked door for a building that was clearly labeled as being closed.  “Why can’t we go in?” they asked, apparently unaware of such things as operating hours and door locks.

This week, they didn't read a clue well enough and paddled a rowboat around looking for the pit stop instead of getting back on their motorized boat to make the nine-mile journey to Phil. That sort of stupidity moved them from the center of the pack to the very end this week. Dustin and Kandice want to be the first all-female team to win the race, but they're going to have to get smart quickly in order to avoid elimination.

Lyn and KarlynChance of winning: Even

Lyn and Karlyn are the kind of team fans of “The Amazing Race” think they’d be if they ran the race with their best friend. They always seem to be having fun, even when they encounter obstacles or get frustrated. They’re also the team that often says things viewers are thinking in their living rooms.

Peter said in an interview that he and Sarah would use her disability to their advantage, and in the first episode, after Peter and Sarah pre-boarded a flight, Lyn and Karlyn pointed out the irony: “She can run the Ironman but she can’t stand in line?” But Lyn and Karlyn also said that they’d try to Yield Peter and Sarah if they could. If they let their friendship and laughter rule and ignore the temptation to let other teams bother them, they could do quite well.

Rob and KimberlyChance of winning: Greater than the chance of their relationship ever becoming functional

Peter and Sarah might have issues to work through, but the Dysfunctional Couple of the Season Award goes to Rob and Kimberly. They’ve been dating for two years, but snipe at each other constantly. He’ll yell, she’ll cry; she’ll snipe, he’ll get defensive. The greatest metaphor for their relationship came on their way to a Detour task. On horseback, they were trotting along until Kimberly’s horse took off and scraped her off its back using a tree limb. She fell to the ground as her horse galloped off. This barely fazed Rob, who turned his horse around and didn’t even get off to help her.

Instead, he just said something about the race being “crazy.” No, that’s just you.

Tyler and JamesChance of winning: Very good

Every race also has at least one team of strong, attractive young men who dominate physically and otherwise in the race, and this season, that team consists of Tyler and James. The show keeps reminding us that the two are former junkies who have turned their lives around, but that does little to mitigate how effortless the race seems to them. The first leg of the race, they placed first; in the second and third legs, they placed second, despite encountering obstacles along the way. They slipped a little this week, falling to third, but still barreled through all tasks.

They’re nowhere near as annoying as BJ and Tyler, the winners of “The Amazing Race 9,” and they also aren’t spending most of their energy trying to flirt with other teams, like Eric and Jeremy did last season. Thus, they will probably make it to the final leg of the race, unless they miss a flight or hail a cab with a driver who doesn’t know where he or she is going.

Erwin and GodwinChance of winning: Good, if they aren’t arrested for screwing around

The other alpha male team is Erwin and Godwin, who unlike nearly all other teams of 20- and 30-something men, are not, thankfully, models. They’re also brothers, which means that, unlike most of the other teams, they’ve known each other for so long that there’s not a whole lot about the other person that surprises or fazes them. They could use that to their advantage, but during the first few legs of the race, they were a little bit too careless; once, they thought it’d be funny to squirt other teams with water guns in an airport.

Guns of any kind + airport = dumb, and while they were dangerously close to last place the first two weeks, they pulled it together last week and came in first, and placed near the top this week.

is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.