This entire recap is being written with Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” playing in the background on repeat. Initially I’m finding this accompaniment to be jazzy and cute.
I expect to be thoroughly annoyed by the time I reach my second paragraph and to be slightly insane by the time I get to the page break.
Meanwhile, the only “Baby Elephant Walk” clip I can find from “Hatari!” is dubbed into Italian, which is only making me crazier.
This is all appropriate, because Sunday (October 23) night’s episode of “The Amazing Race” was at least partially dominated by baby elephants and it ended up being one of the most confounding legs in recent memory, a mixture of travel confusion, rules confusion, challenge confusion and currency confusion.
It was one of those episodes that proves how fun “The Amazing Race” can be even without any mystery associated with the results.
More after the break…
I stepped away from Sunday’s episode scratching my head and wondering how much of the disorientation was generated by the producers as a way of obfuscating a leg in which the last place team — spared only by a Non-Elimination Leg last week — never had a chance of getting out of last place for the entire episode.
Yes, we said farewell to Adorable Twins Liz and Marie on Sunday. And part of me is fairly confident that despite some tricky and not-very-suspenseful editing at the end, they may have finished four or five hours (or even a couple days) behind all of the other teams. No, I never believed there was any chance that the Twins could get saved, but the irritation from other in-Race oddities had me watching with a raised eyebrow throughout.
The leg started off as innocuously as could be. Despite the slew of equalizers in the last leg, Snowboarders Andy & Tommy somehow got out to a lead of nearly an hour over Justin & Jennifer, who were a solid 40-ish minutes ahead of the rest of the pack, all by virtue of having successfully completed the coral Detour last week. Liz & Marie, who struggled with wind-swept umbrellas last week, began the leg roughly three hours behind the Snowboarders and well over an hour behind Bill & Cathi.
The opening task required teams to go on what seems to have been a long elephant ride into the Thai jungle, followed by what may go down as the easiest Roadblock in “Amazing Race” history, as one player from each team had to wade into the water at the base of a waterfall and pull out a clue while ignoring a flutist. Thrilling, right?
The teams then departed, with six of eight teams having already left by the time Liz & Marie arrived. The Twins greeted their Speed Bump with more joy and squealing than has ever accompanied an “Amazing Race” penalty and probably more joy and squealing than has ever accompanied the shoveling of elephant dung. Their task: Clean the animals. I’m pretty sure this was a much more time-consuming penalty than what Bill & Cathi faced on their Speed Bump, when they had to untangle a rope, but Liz & Marie couldn’t have been happier to be spending quality time with Dumbo and his friends. I’m still unable to tell the Twins apart — that’s gonna make for a fun exit interview tomorrow — but I’m pretty sure it was Marie who was so stoked by her pachyderm experience that she called this one of the best days of her life. And yes, their glee was a little high-pitched and possibly frenzied, but if you can’t find pleasure in attractive sisters finding pleasure in cleaning after elephants, you’re a stranger to me.
After completing the first Roadblock, teams had to go and disassemble a shrine at a local shop and transport the pieces of the shrine to a Buddhist Temple. Everyone once in a while, you get a challenge that’s so clearly a prelude to a follow-up challenge that even the least experienced of Racers can figure it out. In this case, it took only a little awareness for teams to realize that if they were disassembling something and taking it to a second location, reassembly couldn’t be far behind. But even that was easier said that done, especially since the reassembly turned out to be in the form of a second Roadblock, forced upon the player who didn’t do the Wade-and-Life waterfall task.
Take the Snowboarders. They knew that reassembly would be required, but they decided to each concentrate on one half of the shrine. So when Tommy discovered he had to do the entire thing as a Roadblock, he easily put together the half that he knew, but he was stymied on the half he hadn’t memorized and had to go back to the shop and look again, wasting crucial time.
Or take Zac & Laurence. The Father-Son Adventurers arrived at the shrine shop after Jeremy & Sandy, but when Zac suggested that maybe they should take notes, Laurence chided him and they rushed off without any records, leaving Jeremy & Sandy behind taking notes. Naturally, Zac was stuck doing the Roadblock and naturally he was clueless and had to return to the shop. “Don’t blame me. You’re responsible,” says Laurence in a moment of paternal ass-ery that guarantees I’ll be rooting against him the rest of the way.
Or take Ernie & Cindy. The episode began with Ernie lamenting his lackluster intellectual background when compared to Cindy, but then Ernie insisted on rushing through the disassembly without notes as Cindy protested. In this case, Ernie was hoisted by his own petard and had to return. Cindy stopped short of telling him not to blame her, which was just as well since Ernie totally knew whose fault it was.
So the first Roadblock was mighty easy. The second one was a bit harder.
And neither Roadblock ended up having anything to do with the results of the leg.
This was a travel leg and things were about to get crazy.
The teams had to then rush to the Phuket bus station to catch a 13-hour bus to Bangkok. Three teams — The Snowboarders, The Siblings and Jeremy & Sandy — hopped on a 4:30 bus to Bangkok. I think what happened is that they asked what the first bus was? Zac & Laurence I think asked for the earliest arriving bus in Bangkok and they also got a 4:30 bus, but as soon as they realized they were on a first class bus, Zac began expressing concerns about first class buses and Race rules and perhaps because he’d just been such a dick to his son at the Roadblock, Laurence admitted his kid might be right and they hopped off of the first class bus several miles down the road and ran back to the station, missing multiple upcoming buses in the process and ending up on a late bus by themselves.
Ernie & Cindy, still smarting from Ernie’s Roadblock gaffe, were basically held hostage by a demanding cabbie and a stranger at the bus station, where they ended up paying a penalty of $150 American for not having enough Thai currency to cover the trip. “The Amazing Race” will always penalize a team for stiffing a cabbie, but the show won’t take action to protect players from highwaymen. Ernie & Cindy ended up on a bus by themselves.
Amani & Marcus and Bill & Cathi took a bus by themselves.
And having predictable problems were Liz & Marie, who didn’t change their currency last week, so they also ran into cabbie issues. Just trying desperately to get onto yet another bus by themselves, they cried and offered an assortment of currency including only $40 American. It turns out that if you’re pretty blondes in a foreign country, people will take pity on you and not only did their cabbie accept their low offer, but he made sure they had a ride to their bus, which left without them, but then paused and waited for them.
But this was only the beginning of the travel weirdness.
Ernie & Cindy were way behind earlier buses, but they got on an express bus — no idea how that happened — and they made it to Bangkok in first. The lead bus — featuring the Snowboarders, Siblings and Jeremy & Cindy — got in next. Bill & Cathi and Amani & Marcus followed.
Ernie & Cindy performed the day’s only task in Bangkok first, feeding some weirdly feral catfish. They seemed to have a big lead. Meanwhile, Amani & Marcus and Bill & Cathi got cabbies who knew a shortcut to the fish-feeding and they all moved ahead of the three lead teams. And then Amani & Marcus and Bill & Cathi pulled ahead of Ernie & Cindy when Ernie & Cindy decided to leave their cab behind in traffic and run to the Pit Stop. That’s how, again all logic, Marcus & Amani ended up winning this leg, followed by Bill & Cathi and then Ernie & Cindy. Justin & Jennifer were fourth, followed by the Snowboarders who lost ground when they sought out information on the Pit Stop location and accidentally gave their clue to a woman who took a mighty long time finding them an answer. Laurence & Zac were sixth and got a stern lecture from Phil Keoghan that the game’s first class restriction applies only to airfare. Ooops.
Jeremy & Sandy got lost in Bangkok and the editors tried to make it seem like their minor disasters might inexplicably let the Twins survive. As if.
No, the Twins arrived in Bangkok without any money and they refused to beg in the streets, which speaks well for them. They weren’t nearly as hesitant to ask for free rides from cabbies, but if you look like Liz & Marie, sometimes people will give you free stuff. In this case, they didn’t struggle to get their gratis transportation. It wasn’t enough.
Other thoughts on Sunday’s episode:
*** Leaving aside their aesthetic virtues, the Twins had such an endearing and likable leg that I was really sad to see them go and I got choked up when they got to the mat and talked, once again, about their desire to do right by their recently deceased father. Sniffle. They were happy with elephants and they realized that there was no dignity in begging already poor people for money in a race for a million bucks. I’m really gonna miss those gals.
*** Alleged factoid of the episode: Elephant dung doesn’t smell bad. That’s what Marie said, so I believe her!
*** Line of the episode: I loved Cindy and Ernie arriving in Bangkok, where they’d visited two years earlier, and announcing that their prior experience probably wouldn’t be an advantage. “Unless they tell us to find some ladyboys. We know where that’s at,” Cindy added. Excellent.
*** I don’t think any team has ever gone from “Like” to “Dislike” status in my book faster than the Snowboarders. If you’re a Christian? Great. Be a Christian. Have your Bible verses on your bags and periodically mention Jesus. By all means. The Snowboarders have been so spirited all season and so good at what they’ve been doing that I’m not going to turn on them about their religion. But going to a Buddhist Temple and belittling it — “We know the one true God and it’s pretty straight forward when you read the Bible,” Andy said — for no reason at all? Ick. Jennifer, who I disliked just two weeks ago, had EXACTLY the right response. Jennifer said that while she’s a Christian, she didn’t want to show disrespect to the temple. “It still warrants the same amount of respect. I wouldn’t want somebody coming into my church and disrespecting my crosses,” she said.
What’d you think of this week’s Leg? Were you as perplexed as I was by all of the travel juggling and drama? Did that make you enjoy the episode more and less? And are you also gonna miss the Twins?