Here’s a conundrum for you:
Let’s say you hate Non-Elimination Legs of “The Amazing Race,” but you somehow find ways of accepting them when they save teams you like. But then say that the team that you like so clearly deserved elimination that you find yourself resenting the team you like because you can’t even find any way to enjoy having seen them skirt death. But you can still find pleasure that it was the team you like that dodged elimination, rather than the team that you hated that would have otherwise survived, because at least the Non-Elimination leg didn’t have to be wasted on that team you hate.
Does that make sense? Because that’s the way I felt at the end of Sunday (March 28) night’s “Amazing Race.” I was relieved, but frustrated and also a bit disappointed. That’s too many darned emotions for one man.
Full “Amazing Race” recap after the break…
So Sunday’s episode was Non-Elimination, a suspicion I had from the beginning of the episode, a feeling which just got worse and worse as the episode progressed. Adding to the sinking sensation was the certainty that Carol & Brandy were about to finish last and I’d have been happy if they’d gone home and irked if they survived. But then Jet & Cord fell behind and I became temporarily pleased with the turn of events, before thinking back over everything that Jet & Cord had done during the leg. I couldn’t dismiss that all things being equal, they screwed up enough different things along the way that going home wouldn’t have been at all unfair as a punishment.
Jet & Cord, definitely my favorite team remaining, had a weak leg and everything that went wrong was completely in their control. They couldn’t say they were unlucky. They somehow just took their eyes off the prize.
And it started from the very beginning. As they departed France and the previous Pit Stop, the teams were told they were all flying on the same plane to Seychelles, which meant that the lead accumulated by the Detectives was about to be a thing of the past. They were told that once they got to Seychelles, they’d have to rush to a point and take a number, which even a team as generally dumb as Dan & Jordan — they derisively said they’d never heard of Seychelles, as if that were the fault of the islands — knew meant a footrace getting off the plane. Somehow, once they got to the airport, Jet & Cord suggested to the Detectives that they should go get breakfast, while four other teams rushed to kiosks and tried to make sure they got seats at the front of the plane.
And get this: The three teams at the front of the plane got to the clue box first and, as a direct result, those three teams gained a one-hour advantage over the competition. Brent & Caite, Steve & Allie and Dan & Jordan were on the first set of helicopters because they knew to properly book seats. Jet & Cord were an hour back because they prioritized breakfast. So that was one big blunder.
The helicopters took the teams off to the island of La Digue, where they arrived at the Detour.
The Detour was the choice between Turtle Toddle and Ox Trot.
In Turtle Toddle, the teams had to use a banana to lure a giant tortoise across a field and then they had to carry a heavy bunch of bananas 1.5 miles.
In Ox Trot, the teams had to fill a cart with coconuts. In the clue, host Phil Keoghan carefully emphasized “without losing any of their cargo.” Think that might be significant? And then the teams had to get an ox hitched to the cart and had to steer the ox to the dock.
On a pretty basic level, these tasks were a wash. Dan & Jordan did Ox Trot quickly, while Steve & Allie did Turtle Toddle in no time at all. We were led to believe that Steve & Allie got a spectacularly cooperative tortoise, because Carol & Brandy struggled with their tortoise and ended up quitting the task. I’d imagine that Carol & Brandy’s problems were human-driven, rather than tortoise-driven, but any time you’re relying on a cantankerous 100-year-old turtle, predictability isn’t always an asset.
With Ox Trot, the challege was exactly what Phil’s emphasis warned us it would be. Of the five teams that ended up doing Ox Trot, only two — Dan & Jordan and Mike & Louie — did it without misplacing a coconut the first time around. And only one stinking coconut. No team mislaid two or three coconuts. Two teams — Jet & Cord and Carol & Brandy — were even vocal about making sure to include every coconut. But with three teams, they made it to the docks and the man with the clue shook his head and said they didn’t include enough coconuts. Carol & Brandy and Jet & Cord were incredulous, but didn’t waste time arguing. Brent threatened to quit, threw off his bag and stomped around like a five-year-old, while Caite misused the word “unfair” a couple times before they accepted their fate and went back. The forgetfulness led to several wild swings of momentum. It looks like Brent & Caite were in trouble, but then other teams made the same gaffe and they were easily safe. Then it looked like Jet & Cord were doomed, but Carol & Brady lost a coconut under a wheel.
There wasn’t much room for momentum to shift after that, because the Roadblock was a real dud. Swim a couple yards, dive down a few feet, get a bottle and swim back? Why even make that a named challenge? The teams would have done it for fun. Other than the most minor of difficulties, nobody lost time getting their bottle and taking the boat near the shore. From there, the teams had to swim to shore, assemble a map and take it to Phil. There was a tiny bit of struggling there, because several contestants — Louie, mostly — aren’t in great shape. But it couldn’t have been much easier.
Except for if you left your bottle on the ship. Jet & Cord, holding a significant lead over Carol & Brandy, acquired the ship, boating to within swimming distance of shore and dove into the water without their bottle. They went guessed on the proper direction to travel and got to Phil by accident and were told they had to go back, by which time their boat seemed to have drifted farther away and they were also swimming against the tide. Because of that, Brandy & Carol reached the Pit Stop ahead of them.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, it was a non-elimination, but if you mess up the pre-challenge travel, mess up the Detour and mess up the Roadblock, your entitlement to continue in the game is really limited. It doesn’t seem like the Cowboys are very far off, so I doubt the extra task next episode will be what does them in, but if they’d been sent home tonight, it would have been hard to do anything other than shrug and gone, “Well, that’s fair.”
Overall, it was an episode of misadventures, as one would expect from “The Amazing Race: All-Stupids Edition. While the Cowboys made the ones that were potentially related to elimination, it’s possible that Steve & Allie’s oversight may have greater long-term consequences. They left their bags at the first step of the Detour, a blunder they realized as they were already at sea and headed towards the Roadblock. Since they had their money and their travel documents with them, they decided to leave everything behind, much to Allie’s sadness. “It’ll just strip me down and I’ll be raw,” Allie initially said, worrying about her makeup. Then she got philosophical and decided, “It’ll make us faster, that’s for sure.” We’ll see how quickly they suffer from lack of all-terrain attire. The last time something like this was an issue was when Dan & Andrew left their shoes behind. That led them to waste money on shoes the next leg and then have issues paying a cabbie.
It’s a pity that Steve & Allie made their stand and refused to go back for their bags in an episode that turned out to be Non-Elimination. At least they won the leg and got $7,000 apiece courtesy of 7-Up, which apparently sponsored the leg in some forgettable way.
More thoughts on the episode:
*** In addition to losing their stuff and winning the leg, it was a good exposure leg for Steve & Allie. We learned things about the season’s most enigmatic team. It turns out that Allie likes to pray. And Steve is a really funny guy. I liked his answer for choosing between Detour options: “I’ve never met an ox I can trust and turtles are cool, man.” They were likable and enthusiastic.
*** Meanwhile, we got more of the usual complaints from Carol & Brandy. Like I said, if they’d finished last and been saved, I’d have been angry. They’re just not good people. Their ongoing vendetta against Caite & Brent is just unseemly, because as dumb and pretty as Caite & Brent may be, they’re utterly harmless and they appear to have no capacity for malice. The only reason to hate Brent & Caite is pointless spite and Brandy has that in spades. Carol has mostly been the superior partner this season, but it was pretty ugly how fast Carol blamed Brandy for misplacing a coconut without any corroborating evidence. Boo, Carol.
*** Nobody likes Carol & Brandy. When Brent & Caite reached the Pit Stop with the Detectives right behind, Phil Keoghan asked who both teams wanted to see go home. Both teams agreed Carol & Brandy. As Brent put it, “It’s pretty anonymous among the teams” Phil corrected his word choice. By that time, I’d already become convinced it was non-elimination.
*** Since the episode title was “Anonymous?” that gets credited to Phil, rather than Brent. It always feels a bit unfair when Phil gets to name the episode. Following “Cathy Drone?” last week, it’s the second straight episode title based on a malapropism from the cast.
*** Favorite exchange of the episode: After noting their problems with details (again rearing its ugly head with the coconut flub), Caite said, “You can tell we were the bad kids in school.” Brent responded,
“I wasn’t bad in school.” And Caite’s eye-roll was classic. And no, Brent quitting wasn’t likable, but he quit for maybe a second and then they pouted their way back to the coconuts, neither blaming the other.
*** Line of the episode: Steve watching Allie lure the tortoise with the banana and cracking, “That’s what her mom does to me, but it’s usually a beer or something.”
*** I was a little worried that Louie & Michael breaking their bottle would be an issue, but they stuck to their guns and didn’t look at the map before hitting land. And even then, they didn’t assemble the map, just tagging along behind Brent & Caite in a really funny partnership.
*** Seychelles is one of those locations where *I* would probably mangle the pronunciation and therefore I won’t mock any of the teams for also doing so. Seems only fair.
*** There’s a musical sting that “The Amazing Race” has started to overuse, indicating every time we’re supposed to notice something dramatic. It sounds a bit like the sound effect that indicates that Jason Voorhees is lurking behind the tree getting ready to chop up the topless cheerleader. Know the one I mean? We must have gotten that sting 10 times this episode. And when Brent & Caite left their coconut, we saw no fewer than three close-ups of the poor, lonely, forgotten coconut. The producers may want to remember that just because the contestants are stupid doesn’t mean the viewers are.
Got anything to say about this week’s non-elimination leg?