I guess Sunday (October 7) night’s installment of “The Amazing Race” was meant to teach us all an unpleasant truth about overcoming adversity, right? And an unpleasant truth about what happens when you put your fate in the hands of strangers, right?
I’m trying to think of what else, if anything, I learned from the episode, which was pointlessly mis-titled “Long Hair, Don’t Care.” But this is all I’ve got: You can be as heroic as you want, proving yourself a deserving inspiration to thousands or millions, but in a race for a million dollars, sometimes all of the individual achievement in the world ceases to be relevant in the face of the outside forces of ineptitude.
More after the break…
By any imaginable standard, Amy Purdy is a terrific story. As a child, she beat meningitis and the amputation of both legs. She became a championship snowboarder. In two Legs on “The Amazing Race,” she and her on-again-off-again boyfriend Daniel finished second and then they were racing in second again after a Roadblock. They’d even seemingly secured at least *some* “Amazing Race” karma after helping Abbie & Ryan find a key clue in the last Leg, costing themselves a shot at two million in the name of sportsmanship.
But in Sunday night’s episode, Amy & Daniel got a clueless cab driver going between challenges and that cab driver dropped them from second to 10th and, as a direct result, he caused them to go from a position of power to elimination in a matter of hours.
What went wrong for Amy & Daniel? Apparently “Wijaya” is a popular name for Indonesia business, so they were taken to a Wijaya Tire and possibly other Wijayas before eventually ending up at Wijaya Motors for the last Detour so far after the other teams that they never had a chance. Why didn’t Amy & Daniel get another cabbie? No clue. Why didn’t they stop at a hotel? No clue. Why didn’t they seem to do any of the proactive things that can reverse that sort of damaging situation?
I have no clue and that, fortunately, means I’ll have things to talk to Amy & Daniel about tomorrow. It wasn’t their fault… But was it?
Amy was such an impressive and admirable figure that I had this pegged as a retroactive Non-Elimination Leg from a very early point. As Amy & Daniel were going around in circles and sympathetic (if not really likable) super-fans Gary & Will were flailing at the Roadblock, this definitely felt like the sort of situation in which the producers would want to cut one of those two teams a little slack. That is, of course, a conspiracy-minded view of the game that assumes Non-Elimination Legs aren’t predetermined well before the Race begins. Take that, conspiracy theory!
It was a mixed bag episode, wasn’t it? I liked many things about it and many things about it caused me to cringe. These days, that counts as “positive” by “Amazing Race” standards.
Let’s break down both sides.
The Bad: We dedicated 20 minutes of the episode to travel drama that amounted to nothing. I love travel drama. I wish travel drama produced more tangible results. But if you know that travel drama is going to barely impact the order of the Leg, you don’t need all of the gratuitous cutaways to teams saying, “I wonder where Team X is? Do you think they got a better flight?” Team Monster Truck Rob & Kelley made what was, simply put, a stupid play. They took a flight from Shanghai to Indonesia that left multiple hours earlier and decided to roll the dice on a four-hour delay stop-over in Hong Kong. The other teams all took a flight through Jakarta that left later but was scheduled to arrive multiple hours earlier. There was no percentage whatsoever to the bet that Rob & Kelley took other than “If disaster befalls the other teams, we’ll take advantage, because at least we’re not with them.” That’s a bonehead move. James & Abba, in contrast, made a good move and got on standby on an earlier flight in Jakarta and got an hour-plus head-start. In the end, though, the teams were basically equalized at a stand-in-line challenge.
The Bad: Speaking of… The stand-in-line challenge, which turned what should have been an hour-plus advantage for James & Abba into minutes and turned what should have been an hour-plus deficit for Rob & Kelley into minutes, should have been awesome. The bull-racing looked manic and terrifying, like riding a rickety chariot attached to two completely unruly bulls. Except that the contestants didn’t actually get to ride the bull-chariot and they didn’t actually get to race the bulls. Instead, they rode alongside the bulls on a scooter that didn’t even have to beat the bulls. And they didn’t even have to drive the scooter. They just clung to bikers and it didn’t matter how fast or slow they went. That was lame.
The Good: The Roadblock was limited in scale, but it was simultaneously cute and it wasn’t a task that each team completed in the same amount of time. One player from each team had to operate a bike-powered carousel for four small, adorable children while simultaneously making four balloon crowns and four balloon dogs. Did the task reward certain skills? I don’t know. But it definitely wasn’t as easy as waiting for a junior ping-pong player to eventually make an unforced error. Lexi was enthusiastic and happy and made up time in completing the task quickly. Nadiya had fun and also finished fast, making up a ton of time and setting her team up well. Amy was fine, making the taxi fiasco all the more tragic. On the other side of the coin, James struggled with the size of the pedals and squandered the lead from that earlier Jakarta flight. And Will proved to be dreadful at making balloon animals and Team Fantasy Island slipped into last and seemed headed for elimination for a while.
The Good: I like Detours that split the teams. Y’all know that about me. If there’s a no-brainer choice, I don’t like it. But I also like Detours in which clearly different skills are rewarded in each task and in which an expected advantages can be gained. So I liked this Detour. The choice was Ice by the Pound or Fish by the Barrel. In Ice by the Pound, teams had to deliver 10 huge ice bars of 65 pounds apiece to a market stall. In Fish by the Barrel, teams had to take two big barrels of fish to a market stall and set up an elaborate display. Team Longhorns arrived first and they opted to take advantage of Trey’s long-snapping guns by doing Ice, which was exactly the correct choice. Team Sri Lankan Twins, in contrast, decided to do Fish. Team Longhorns chose the right task and did it quickly, but what they didn’t count on was the gung-ho attitude of the Twins, who practically dove into the barrels of fish and never once complained about the smell or slipping and falling and being laughed at by the locals. The Twins won the Leg and deserved to and probably one or two of the other teams — Blondies, I’m looking at you — should have done the Fish task as well. Instead, the Twins were the only Fish-ers and they now have the Express Pass for their troubles.
Other thoughts on this week’s episode:
*** Teams I’m Liking: Natalie and Nadiya were both funny this week and they performed well at the Detour and Roadblocks. I like them. I think that Jaymes is genuinely goofy and amusing and I think I’m finding myself liking Team Chippendales as a result. Trey & Lexi seem to work well together and even though the Twins beat them, they seemed happy for them.
*** Teams I’m Disliking: Sorry, Gary and Will. I get that you’re underdogs, but your interactions annoy me. And Gary, if you’re a superfan of the game and you don’t SPRINT to every single Pit Stop, I’m not especially impressed with your enthusiasm. I think Rob and Kelley still have a bit of goodwill after Rob’s double fallopian tube eating last week, but I didn’t especially like their attitude with the cabbies in Indonesia.
*** Why were Caitlin & Brittany chosen for this show? Neither seems to have a personality of any kind.
*** I’m no closer to being able to tell Caitlin and Brittany apart and although I get the “Hair Down versus Hair Up” thing with Natalie and Nadiya, I still can’t tell them apart on the fly. I do, however, think I’m able to distinguish between Jaymes and James. Maybe.
*** Why use “Long Hair, Don’t Care” as a title for the episode when it was a comment about the Rockers that amounted to nothing because their travel advantage amount to nothing? The title of the episode needed to be “There’s No Information in Indonesia.” Or, if it’s OK to use a Phil Keoghan quote, you could have gone with “Thank you for sharing your smell with me.”
*** Gotta love the long-nailed greeter.
That’s about all I’ve got to say about tonight’s episode. Were you sad to see Amy & Daniel go? Are you annoyed by Legs determined solely by cab drivers?