Once again, there were many things to recommend Friday (December 12) night's episode of “The Amazing Race.”
Yes, it was an episode that drew much of its drama and I know lots of fans hate that kind of thing. There were travel blunders and accompanying hubris. There were clue reading miscues and clue misplacing blunders.
But it was also a Leg that featured a few difficult tasks and that found all of the teams competing hard for a place in the Final 3, even risking their health in the Manila heat. There was dehydration and a contestant fighting through an injury.
It was close and competitive in the way that you want an “Amazing Race” Leg to be.
For the fourth time in 11 “Amazing Race” episodes this season, the Leg ended without a team going home.
Presumably this is the answer for the question of how the Save would be implemented. There was some question as to whether a Leg in which the Save was utilized would just take the place of one of the three Non-Elimination Legs, but we never got to find out because Jim & Misti never needed to use the Save. I guess we now know that the Race this season was built with three NELs and then an NEL-by-Save built into the first 10 Legs. In that situation, three teams would have been spared by NELs and one team would have been spared via Save. Instead, only three teams dodged elimination on NELs and the Save wasn't used and that left the show saying, “Oh, what the heck… Four team Final Leg!”
Or maybe that's not what it means vis a vis the Save.
Maybe they just thought it would be fun to have the same four teams racing unchanged for the last four episodes of the season. It's almost the reverse of the logic for a season-opening NEL, which is that it's better TV to actually give you a couple episodes to care about every team before we eliminate somebody, rather than getting rid of, say, Lisa & Michelle and having people two months later go, “Who?” [In fairness, Lisa & Michelle were semi-memorable, as season-opening bootees go. They were hot and also they were hypocritical, trying to play physical themselves and then whining up a storm when the favor was returned. A better example would be Dennis & Isabelle, who I think were super-fans, but might as well have never participated at all in terms of ongoing institutional show memory.]
So just as last week, Brooke & Robbie reached the mat and were relieved to be allowed to continue, Food Scientists Amy & Maya finished last, but were sent along. Rather than surfing an NEL and facing a Speed Bump next week, they just benefited from a “Keep on racing” episode. This wasn't even a Leg at all, was it? Brooke & Robbie finished first, but won nothing, while Amy & Maya finished last, but won't have a Speed-Bump. Instead, they're all off to Los Angeles and somebody will be eliminated during the next episode.
But enough about the end-that-wasn't-an-end! Let's, instead, look at how Brooke & Robbie came to make that worst-to-first journey.
The answer is simple: Three other teams did stupid things and while Brooke & Robbie did one dumb thing, they recovered from their dumb thing much faster than the other three teams were able to. And yes, it's a minor miracle that we're looking at an “Amazing Race” Leg and going, “Congrats to Brooke & Robbie for being the least intellectually deficient Racers.” But here we are!
The Dentists and The Food Scientists started the Leg in first and they were screwed before they reached their first task. And yes, these are the teams that have the most available degrees and advanced degrees, but somehow weren't able to get proper information on which jeepney to take into Manila. It turns out that on one side of the road, the jeepney would take you directly into Manila. On the other side of the road, it's unclear to me if the jeepney would eventually take you into Manila on the far side of a loop, or if you'd never get to Manila and you'd just ride on and on and on, like Charlie on the MTA.
So The Dentists and The Scientists teamed up, pooled their vast IQs, got on a jeepney on the wrong side of the road and sad smugly as they were taken farther and farther from Manila.
Meanwhile, The Surfers and The Wrestlers got on the correct jeepney and went into town.
The Wrestlers were delayed because they faced a Speed-Bump asking them to move stuff from one cart to a second cart. Brooke initially complained that this was a hard Speed-Bump, because Brooke complains about everything, but Robbie made it clear that it wasn't hard, because it wasn't hard.
The Surfers went straight to another Blind Detour with the choice of This or That. With nothing to go on, they went to This, which they were told was closer.
In this, teams had to play basketball against a local group of street kids, scoring 21 points. The kids weren't all that great and they apparently never got to be on offense, but despite Adam's inability to shoot free-throws and Bethany's relative inability to contribute — She in-bounded the ball, mostly — there was no indication this was a frustrating or difficult Detour. The Surfers finished it fast and departed just as Brooke & Robbie, who were also told this was the closer Detour, arrived. They also had no trouble with the Detour because Brooke used to play basketball and, after shaking off a decade of rust, she had hoop dreams, yo.
Like I said, The Surfers had the lead, but as they got in the cab going to the next location, they realized they couldn't find the clue telling them exactly where to go. It's here that you have two choices: Stop, scour your bags to see if you can dig up the clue or progress in a foreign city to a cross-street in which you have a vague, Westerner's perspective on one of the streets, but no clue on the other or the length of the street that you half remember. The Surfers opted for the second and they went a random place, looked for a random street and wandered around for what has to have been an absurd length of time before pausing, looking through their bag and finding the clue. Sigh.
This goof let Brooke & Robbie catch up and also let The Scientists and The Dentists realize they'd been wrong on the transportation, get right and make their way into Manila, where both teams asked around for the nearest Detour and they were told to go to That. I don't know why. Anyway, That asked teams to ride a taxi-bike around four laps of a city street course in 17:55. As usual, why 17:55? Dunno. This had to have been the wrong Detour, the bad Detour. Scoring 21 points in basketball might not have been the easiest thing, but it required only casual effort, compared to the strenuous effort put forth to do the biking, with problematic navigation and nobody having a clue how easy or hard it was to complete the task in the allotted time. Answer? Easy. Or easier than they made it. They finished with nearly a minute-and-a-half to spare, suggesting the effort wasn't exactly worth it, especially with a tough Roadblock coming.
The Roadblock asked one player from each pair to deliver coconut shells and coconut brooms to three posted locations in a busy market street. Under the best of circumstances, the stuff you were carrying was heavy and it was hot. But somehow, the first three teams to arrive misinterpreted “posted location” and grabbed their stuff and just meandered in the hopes that they'd see signs with yellow-and-red flags or something. Robbie wasn't smart and wasted time and some of his lead on confusion, but at least he figured it out and once he figured it out, he was strong. Adam and Jim took a long time to figure it out. Amy, to her credit, figured out “posted location” easily, but she just couldn't find the location and the more she wandered while carrying the heavy goods, the more tired she became.
Here's where I note the obvious: This was a crappy Leg design for an all-female team and, specifically, for a physically weak all-female team. Do I think The Bikers could have rushed through it with relative ease? Yup. But Amy & Maya could not. With the two Detours, they were both physical tasks and the Roadblock was largely a physical task except for once Jim and then, way too late, Amy realized that there were dollies everywhere and if you just asked nicely enough and promised to return it, the locals would give you a little cart. At that point, the exertion required was less, but I'm sure it was still an easier task for a professional semi-athlete like Robbie.
By the time she figured out the dolly trick, Amy was dehydrated and exhausted and as they headed for the Pit Stop, unquestionably in last place and assuming elimination was coming, she was shaking and looking on the verge of passing out. After getting to the Pit Stop, Phil Keoghan delayed the results as Amy was allowed to sit down and have her blood pressure taken. It's my assumption that all four teams will be equalized on a flight to Los Angeles and that Amy will have a little while to hydrate either naturally, or to detour somewhere to get an IV. [Even dehydrated, Amy was the only Racer to link the manila envelope they were receiving to the city they were leaving.]
It was an eventful Leg. And a fun Leg. I just have trouble with the four non-elimination episodes built into the structure of the season.
A few other notes from this Leg:
*** Misti hurt her foot in the Ox Switchback last week. It looked like she got a cut. It didn't look very bad and I wasn't interested in pitying her, but that biking Detour had to hurt. I admired her willingness to go all Curt Schilling Bloody Sock if she had to, but if you tease us with something like that… Show us the bloody sock!
*** There was a ton of dramatic irony/hubris/foreshadowing in the early part of this episode, both with The Dentists and Scientists celebrating the intellect in their misdirected jeepney, but then with Jim saying how important hydration would be.
*** Men. Can't read posted instructions, amirate?
*** I will never like contestants urging cab drivers in variably impoverished countries to drive faster because they're in a race for a million dollars. It just always rubs me the wrong way.
*** The “Ben-Hur”-style bike-taxi crash in the That Detour was amusing, but not as funny as the locals on foot jogging and walking past the bikers at different points.
*** The Wrestlers weren't objectionable at all in this Leg. [OK, Brooke getting aggressive with the cabbie about turning on the air-conditioning was a little objectionable.]
*** I'm talking with Phil Keoghan pre-finale. If you have any pressing questions, I can try to sneak one or two in!
What did you think of the Non-Elimination penultimate episode? Who are you rooting for next week?