“Bad directions are worse than no directions.”
Those words of wisdom came from the Boston firefighter I believe was Mike during Friday (October 10) night's episode of “The Amazing Race.”
There's the usual litany of things we/I always tell “Amazing Race” contestants to do: Learn to drive stick. Make sure you can swim. Read the freaking clue. Etc.
Mike's piece of advice is a good one and one that should be added to the permanent list. But maybe it should be amended somewhat. Yes, bad directions are worse than no directions, but a better phrasing might be: If you ask stupid people for directions you'll get bad directions. Because Friday's “Amazing Race” Leg didn't really come down to “bad directions” at all. The eliminated team got perfectly acceptable directions that just happened to lead them to a ridiculous place that had no connection to the desired destination.
More from Friday's Leg, which featured my new all-time favorite greeter, after the break…
It's either funny or sad or silly that Mike & Scott weren't done in by the sprained ankle Scott got leaving Oxford, an injury that left him swollen and contused in ugly ways. Had anything aggressively physical been required in the Leg, it might have doomed Team Firefighter, but they got surprisingly lucky. One of the Detour options involved no physicality at all and while there were a complicated Route Info task that many teams turned into a strenuous challenge, there was ample evidence that nothing of the sort was required.
Nope. Mike & Scott — The name only makes me think of “The Office” — were eliminated because they exited the Route Info task with the same puzzle as every team: They'd been handed a pin and they had to go to the place the pin was found. There was a museum in the immediate vicinity of the task and nearly every team walked into the museum and the nice old man at the counter told them something about St. Ninian's Isle. Easy.
Food Scientists Amy & Maya actually made a sillier decision. They asked advice from three construction workers who had no awareness at all, but professed feigned confidence on the location. While the Food Scientists went the wrong place, I don't think we saw how they got right again, because it didn't matter. Even after the misstep, they were steered to St. Ninian's and finished in the middle of the pack.
Team Firefighter didn't just choose a silly location to get directions. They went to a local bar, which was relatively full, so somebody ought to have been able to help them. However, they walked in having convinced themselves that they were supposed to go to the place where the pin was “found,” as in the silver foundry that produced the pin. So rather than leaving the question open for the denizens of the bar, they steered the patrons to tell them the wrong place to go and then they went that way, before stopping at a jewelry store, a much more reasonably location to find out the origins of the pin, and being told they'd gone to the wrong side of whichever Shetland island they were on. Ooops. By the time they turned back around, they'd fallen into last behind even Tim and Te Jay, who aren't especially good at things, but at least knew to get directions at the museum.
So “Bad directions are worse than no directions.” True. But you get bad directions by getting the wrong people to give you the wrong directions.
Otherwise, it was a mixed bag of an episode, beginning with a multi-stage Equalizer as the teams headed to the Shetland Islands via train, Ford Focus, ferry and Ford Focus again. They had to briefly meet up with a mascot in a giant puffin suit, a dude so awesome and so wasted that I was terrified we'd never see him again, but then the puffin ended up holding court with Phil Keoghan at the final Pit Stop. Kudos, man-puffin or puffin-man.
The Detour was the choice between Pony Up or Light My Fire.
In Pony Up, teams had to cut 50 blocks of peat and then take two loads of peat up a hill with the help of a pony.
In Light My Fire, teams had to make a Viking torch.
I think the descriptions were intentionally misleading. You hear Pony Up and you think “I don't know how much 50 blocks of peat is, but it *sounds* like a lot and having to rely on animals for assistance is always chancy,” while Light My Fire basically read like a one-step process.
What the clue didn't say about the torch-making is that Viking torches apparently weren't just sticks with gasoline-soaked rags at the end. They were very precisely wrapped and composed pieces of torch-like engineering and each step had to be approved or disapproved by a Viking judge. It was a process. It wasn't a televisually interesting process unless you enjoyed watching Keith & Whitney bicker over wrapping a stick, or you found it funny when the Firefighters mocked Wrestler Robbie for not knowing how to bend a nail. I'm right there with them: Wrestler Robbie is silly and prone-to-defeatism Brooke is sillier. But it was a dull task.
And Pony Up wasn't much better. At first it looked like the peat-cutting process might require strength and that the Flight Attendants or the Food Scientists might be forced to change. Nope. They just had to figure out the right angle and then it was easy. And although Dentists Misti & Jim had some problems with a “sassy” pony, that was a minor distraction and didn't really hurt them at all, while none of the other teams had even that minor distraction.
So I didn't love the Detour, but I quite enjoyed the Route Info challenge that required the herding of eight sheep around a series of turns and into a paddock.
I liked that challenge for a couple reasons.
First: Sheep are fun. They're bouncy and springy and when you add a little “sproing!” sound effect to their jumping, sheep are woolen balls of manic adorableness.
Second: The task was pleasantly counter-intuitive. The Dentists go there first and they ran around screaming and sprinting and basically trying to terrorize the sheep into their pen. And it worked. But it worked because Jim & Misti are wicked intense and when they set their minds to something, they get things done and you could practically imagine Jim grabbing each sheep by the scruff of its neck and throwing it to the destination if that were what it took. It didn't. Actually, what got the job done with greatest ease was quiet assertive gesturing and cutting off angles. If you positioned yourself correctly, the sheep would eventually just walk themselves to their destination. They've been there before. It's where they're prone to go. You just need to guide them, not try to scare them what they want to go anyway.
Sadly, nobody was smart enough to know that the fastest way to get sheep to follow your lead is to whisper “Bah-Ram-Ewe” to their leader.
The sheep task was entertaining, both for the frustration it caused and for the misguided ways people attempted to complete it. Tim & Te Jay's meticulously constructed fence of outer-garments was extra-ineffective.
From there, teams were given the pin and told to go where it was produced, which led to Mike & Scott's downfall. I liked their accents and I like rooting for teams from Boston, but there's no way Scott's ankle was going to get better, so just as well they went down here.
A few other thoughts:
*** I continue to like The Dentists because of the chance that they're as good or nearly as good as Jim thinks they are. They've got sparkly white smiles, but they have the eyes of cold-blooded assassins. I'm either waiting to see if they will, indeed, prove to be one of the best teams in “Amazing Race” history — 3 Legs and they have two wins and a second — or if they'll melt down. I don't know which one I'm rooting for.
*** Whitney wasn't likable on “Survivor” and she hasn't been likable here. When Phil wants to caution you about your communication skills, listen to Phil.
*** The Wrestlers are the worst, but every episode they screw up royally early and then recover and end up in the middle somewhere. Eventually that order will get reversed.
*** I don't love the Bikers, but I like that they went out and danced in the street and played with night-ducks and all the other things they did while the other teams were napping at the Oxford train station.
*** There weren't many memorable lines in this episode, which is why we had to pluck the episode title from the Route Info task name. That always feels like a cheat.
*** Anybody else read Enid Blyton's “Adventure” series? With Kiki the parrot? And they met two friendly puffins who they called Huffin and Puffin? No?
You gonna miss the Firefighters?