I’m a little distracted by Game 4 of the World Series, so I may need to make this recap really simple.
Sunday (October 27) night’s episode of “The Amazing Race” was a clean and solid hour of TV, without delivering anything truly spectacular. The Detour options each had advantages and disadvantages. The Roadblock offered the potential to be exhausting, even if it was built entirely on luck. The Double U-Turn came into play the way the producers wanted it to (even if I remain frustrated by the logistics of its implementation) and helped add drama to the episode. And a team I mostly like went home, which was disappointing, but at least they were gracious about it and they have nobody in particular to blame other than themselves.
So yeah. A decent “Amazing Race” episode is a decent thing to have, even if it isn’t nearly as decent as if the Red Sox could figure out where they left the best offense in the American League.
More after the break…
If I sound a little disconnected from tonight’s “Amazing Race,” I’m positively awash in enthusiasm compared with Tim of Tim & Marie. “The Amazing Race” always requires harrowing and exhausting travel and one thing that exit interviewees always tell me is that nothing can prepare you for that level of exhaustion. But usually, the contestants are able to either mask the exhaustion, because they know they’re on TV, or flush the exhaustion away in a river of adrenaline. I’m not sure if I’ve ever witnesses a contestant go from “fully participatory” to “walking dead” as quickly as Tim did in this episode. Maybe he got a cold or the flu? Maybe a long stretch being chained to Marie would suck the life from any of us? Or maybe there’s just a toll that a 34 hour ferry ride, following fast on the heels of several long flight days, less than a week after a 24 hour bus ride up Chile’s coast unavoidably takes.
Or maybe Marie is literally a wraith and after Tim functionally agreed on her behalf to give Travis & Nicole the second Express Pass in exchange for directions to the Viking Lodge at the end of last week’s “Keep on racing…” continuation episode, she slurped his soul out through his ears, leaving her with a really tall prop as her “Amazing Race” partner.
I’m not sure why Tim’s spiritual vacation from his body was the part of tonight’s “Amazing Race” episode that I found most notable, but it was. It was so absolute that I really suspect there will be a flu-based explanation, because I’m not sure what he could have accomplished this episode if he’d needed to accomplish anything. Even attempting to banter with his perpetually feisty partner was a clear chore and, in that context, it was probably a mighty smart move for Tim & Marie to play their Express Pass. I think if Tim had been required to learn choreography, or even stand still, he’d have fallen flat on his face.
Those were the choices in the Detour: Pose or Polka.
In Pose, teams had to dress up like a statue of Neptune in some main square in Gdansk, Poland and they had to post and still get 75 zloties for their troubles. In Polka, teams had to dress up in traditional dancing garb and learn some choreography.
Although we maybe haven’t seen exactly these two tasks, it was still a choice where the teams knew exactly what they were getting into. Learning a local dance is an “Amazing Race” staple and it’s the kind of thing where if you’re good with that sort of thing, you can always knock it off fast, but if you’re awful at that sort of thing, it can become a Mark & Bopper situation and somebody might nearly die. And the Pose Detour was perhaps the least involved variant on the regular “Beg locals for money” task that serves to annually teach us that if you have enough enthusiasm, people will empty their wallets for you, regardless of how impoverished the country happens to be, a fact that is doubly or triply true if you’re an attractive woman.
Gdansk, it should be noted, is a not-poor city in a not-spectacularly-poor country, so unlike many of the show’s begging-in-the-streets tasks, I didn’t find this to be at all problematic. The contestants were explicitly just asking people to give their ice cream or candy money. But if you were Baseball Wives Kim & Nicky, the task was easy enough to push you from middle-of-the-pack to first, because who wouldn’t want to throw large sums of money at attractive women who call each other, “Bunny”? Exactly. But then when Beardos Adam & Brandon attempted to do it and stood around and barely engaged with the crowd, the task suddenly became really hard. The key is always knowing if yours is the kind of personality that will allow you to make fast work of a begging challenge, or if you have dignity. And if you have dignity, what are you doing on a reality show competing for trips and prizes?
Of course, there’s a difference between having a surplus of dignity and just coming from a background in which masculinity is evaluated in very specific ways. So oil rigger Danny of Team Oklahoma, he wasn’t especially happy that the Polka task required one player to wear male attire and the other to wear female attire, nor was he pleased with Tim’s not-incorrect assessment that of the two of them, Danny with the one with the more traditionally feminine frame. Danny didn’t make a huge fuss about having to prance around in a skirt, but he also wasn’t pleased and there’s little doubt that his lack of pleasure led to frustration and the Polka task definitely benefited the teams with one-or-more choreography-amenable participants. So Jason & Amy made short work of the Polka, because Amy can dance and she steered Jason around the floor with a high level of efficiency. And we barely got to watch the Ice Queens at all, but they’re professional dancers and even if Ally jokingly quibbled about having to dress like a man, we all know that she thought she looked adorable.
So both Detours had their advantages and both produced tiny bits of drama, but nobody was reduced to tears. And sometimes I like tears.
The Detour was followed by a Double U-Turn. Y’all know that Double U-Turns are my nemesis and that I had a long talk with series co-creator Elise Doganieri about how strange I find it that you can get to the U-Turn mat, see that you’ve been U-Turned and U-Turn another team before you serve the penalty that you’ve received. I get that it’s supposed to add drama and prevent being U-Turned from just being a de facto elimination, but to me, the U-Turn mat is a route marker and you haven’t truly reached it if you have a penalty that you have to serve. But anywho.
On tonight’s episode, there was lots of talk about strategically interesting U-Turns. Tim & Marie had given the second Express Pass to Travis & Nicole and they had used their own Express Pass to avoid Posing or Polkaing. Marie threw out the possibility that they might use the U-Turn on Travis & Nicole, which I really would have respected. It would have been a gesture of pointless hostility, but it might have allowed them to get the second Express Pass out of the game. I think that would have been cool. They didn’t do it.
Instead, Team Oklahoma made correct and proper use of the U-Turn and, knowing that the Afhanimals were behind them at the Detour, they used it on Leo & Jamal. That was clean and smart. The flaw in the logic was that the Afghanimals are exactly the kind of team that performs well in money-begging tasks and, true to form, they hammed it up and got 50 zloties from a guy in a BYU shirt, even though they couldn’t name two historic BYU quarterbacks. [For future reference, guys, Jim McMahon and Steve Young are the easy ones, but Ty Detmer, John Beck and Robbie Bosco would have worked as well.] The Afghanimals didn’t need to worry, because even though they’d been U-Turned, they were still able to U-Turn a second team before finishing the penalty, meaning that they were able to U-Turn the Beardos, who quick Pose and were struggling with Polka. Things would have gone exactly the same way in my ideal U-Turn world, because the Afghanimals arrived at the U-Turn mat with their Race Wives. So as Leo & Jamal went off and did the other Detour, the Ice Queens would have U-Turned the Beardos to protect their sweet baboos. Easy peasy and I couldn’t complain about the structure. Oh well.
The Roadblock took place at the longest apartment complex in Poland, a mile-and-a-half building. The question was “Who’s got a sweet tooth?” and players had to run through the complex to 12 marked apartments to find the one that was serving rose-filled jelly donuts, rather than lemon-filled. The potential existed for a long of running. Or for dumb luck. Or, apparently, for teamwork. Amy and Marie agreed to work together and then Travis ended up working with them. The players had to visit apartments and meet real Poles and it was stated “You may be penalized for bad manners,” which seemed like it might cause problems for Marie. But honest, I think Marie is very much in control of her behavior, so she was all compliments and kisses on the cheeks for her various donut-providing hosts. I liked everybody’s enthusiasm and politeness in the Roadblock, but it wasn’t all that hard.
In the end, the Beardos went home because they wasted time at the first Detour, changed gears, struggled at little at the second Detour and then faced a U-Turn. This was the first time all season that a team has gone home for straight-forward “Amazing Race”-based reasons, rather than getting lost in a cab, taking a stupid bus or choosing the wrong flight. I’ll miss the Beardos, who became the second team this season to go from first to last. Oh well.
Some other thoughts on this week’s episode:
*** I liked the little bits of gameplay in this episode. So Travis was behind Kim and Marie, who were working together. He briefly was even with Kim, but she took the elevator and he took the steps. He pressed each floor’s button and she ended up taking the steps and coming up behind him. This let him join in a three-way alliance on the task. It didn’t matter and, in fact, it cost the ER Docs the Leg, because he was true to his word and told Marie and Kim where the right donut was. Marie & Tim ended up winning the Leg, making the value of the Express Pass roughly “A trip to Hawaii,” which isn’t bad.
*** The Baseball Wives cost themselves that trip to Hawaii by walking right by the U-Turn booth after finishing the Detour ahead of the other team. That and the three teams getting lost going to the Solidarity Monument were the episode’s only travel misadventures.
*** Line of the Episode: Brandon’s response to their black Neptune outfits: “I’d just be wearing a seashell around my crotch. I wouldn’t be wearing a black onesy.” It also was weird that the Beardos had to wear fake beards.
*** And I hope that tonight’s elimination for one group of wacky Beardos has no impact on Boston’s group of wacky Beardos.
Yeah. Seriously. I have to concentrate on the last two innings of this World Series game. No more writing about “Amazing Race.”