Recap: ‘The Amazing Race’ — ‘We’re Not Meant for the Swamp’

11.15.09 8 years ago 6 Comments


 I don’t like non-elimination legs on “The Amazing Race.” Well, sure, I’d have gladly taken a non-elimination leg when poor Team Aspy lost their documents and went from first-to-last in an instant. And I guess I wouldn’t have turned the reprieve down any of the two or three times in the past that non-elimination legs have saved teams that I genuinely liked. But in general? I’m not a fan.

One thing I know for sure, though, after Sunday (Nov. 15) night’s “Amazing Race,” is that it’s time for the show’s producers to rethink the added obstacle faced by the teams surviving non-elimination legs. Because this Speed Bump thing has become a total failure.
[Full recap, with results, after the break…]
I have no doubt that a change is on the way, because the “Race” producers have always been pretty smart at mixing up the post-non-elimination punishments. 
There was the period that teams had to give up their packs, which used to lead to silly moments were teams suspecting elimination was neigh would put on as many layers as possible, perhaps providing inspiration for that dorky YouTube classic where the guy dons 100 t-shirts.  The loss of the pack contents almost never actually hurt the teams, which would probably explain why the producers did away with it.
There was also a period when teams didn’t receive any money for the next leg. This forced them to either cadge a few bucks off of each of their fellow teams (if the competition happened to be feeling generous) or stand in the streets panhandling. This always benefited all-female teams, because it’s easier for attractive women to get charitable donations in the streets. More problematically, though, this occasionally had teams begging for money in the streets of Third World countries, which was unsightly at best and morally reprehensible at worst. I didn’t miss that penalty when it went away.
And I won’t miss the Speed Bump either when the producers move on to the next penalty. The Speed Bump is an extra task that only the last place team from the previous leg has to perform. On its surface, there’s nothing wrong with the idea. It gives an extra opportunity for local color and it really out to provide a major obstacle for the losing team, like they have to do 50 percent more than any other team in their leg, which sounds fair, since they should have gone home anyway.
Last week, Matt & Gary, team Pinky and the Brain, were done in by the notorious hay bale challenge, finishing last. They were spared by the non-elimination leg. So this leg, after having taken an equalizing 16-hour ferry to Estonia, they were nervous about facing their Speed Bump. 
Their task? Find a well-marked Saunabuss — exactly what you’d guess it is, a sauna bus — and take a five minute sauna. They got to chill and enjoy their sauna, while Gary sang a sauna song and Matt ineffectively flirted with (or avoided staring into the eyes of) a very attractive Estonian model.
Pardon my “BSG” slang, but are you frakking kidding me? That was their PENALTY?
Here’s something to make clear: Gary and Matt didn’t just finish last in the last leg. They finished last by 85 minutes. They got destroyed. Their punishment for that deficit? After already having the game equalized for them by the travel? They had to spend five minutes in a sauna with a hot Estonian blonde. That’s not a Speed Bump. That’s taking a five minute sauna with a hot Estonian blonde. That’s not handling adversity. That’s living the dream. And the punishment came before either the Detour or the Roadblock for the leg, so they were able to take their five-minute sauna with the host Estonian blonde, comfortable in the knowledge that there were two full tasks remaining in the leg to trip up their competition. 
That’s ridiculous. Either come up with better Speed Bumps or find a new punishment. Otherwise, I shudder to think of the Hawaiian Speed Bumps where teams have to go to a luau and drink a mai tai and eat some suckling pig for 15 minutes. Or the Thai Speed Bump where the teams have to go into the streets and procure a… Oh, never mind.
Yes, Gary and Matt lost the leg and were eliminated, but they weren’t eliminated because they had an inconveniently timed sauna.
They were eliminated because Matt didn’t know what a “candelabra” is. At least he didn’t blame his lack of knowledge on being from Montana. Because even people from Montana had access to a little Disney classic called “Beauty and the Beast.” And even if you don’t know what a “candelabra” is as a concept, the logical leap Matt eventually made — It has the word “candle” in it, so maybe it has something to do with candles — shouldn’t have taken more than two minutes.
Then again, everybody was making the candelabra Roadblock a bit harder than it probably ought to have been. The task required players to grab a candelabra with an attached room number, find that room and figure out how to reveal the clue on a seemingly blank scroll. I give the producers credit for some quality misdirection here. The scroll came with a crayon, a superfluous crayon. The crayon was there to force players to contemplate doing exactly what Flight Time and Matt eventually did, which was attempt to color over the scroll to make the clue appear, “North by Northwest”-style. In reality, all you needed to do was hold the scroll next to the fire and wait for the clue to appear, lemon juice style.
So Matt lost time by not knowing what a candelabra was and he lost time by attempting the scribble solution. 
Really, though, it appears that Matt and Gary lost most of their time by walking a full circle around the Detour clue box.
It wasn’t like the producers didn’t try to keep them in the game. Not only did they provide the equalizing ferry ride and the reward-penalty Speed Bump, but they also provided what could have been the easiest of catch-up Detours.
The teams had to head out to an Estonian bog and choose between Serve or Sling.
In Serve, teams had to go into hip-deep mudfields and play volleyball against a pair of Estonians. Since nobody could move in the mud, the task was arduous, but the teams only had to score five points, It wasn’t a hard task. Which is why four of the five teams chose that task on instinct.
In Sling, teams had to go out into the bog and, using a slingshot, fire radishes on a Moose X-ing sign. This task required precision and had the potential to be frustrating. But it also had the potential to reward sheer luck, with two teams just pelting radishes at a sign they only needed to hit once. It’s the sort of task that was designed to help a team in need of a Hail Mary. Unfortunately, Matt and Gary took so long getting to the task that they were already out of the game by the time they arrived.
The team that won the leg, incidentally, was Meghan and Cheyne, though it wasn’t made totally clear what gave Team Tetherball their advantage. Was it just Cheyne’s speed in figuring out the hidden clue in the Roadblock? Or were they just really fast getting to the Detour? However it happened, they finished the Serve task, and looked good doing it, before any of the other teams even made it to the task. How they managed that trick on an equalized leg with an easy Roadblock is a minor mystery.
Other thoughts on Sunday’s “Amazing Race”:
*** I don’t really get why Sam and Dan hate Team Globetrotter so much, but I’m rooting for the Globetrotters in this confrontation, which got heated at times on this leg. I’m certain the Globetrotters were in the right on Cabbie-gate. The Gay Brothers got into a lengthy discussion with a cab driver who refused to kick his fare out of his cab. They asked him to call them another cab and he said he would. Meanwhile, the Globetrotters ran past them to a cab coming down the road. Well, the Gay Brothers insisted that this was the cab that had been ordered for them. That only works if you assume that the cabbie called a colleague who arrived INSTANTLY and also if you assume that he called a cabbie from what looked to be a different cab company. That was Team Globetrotter’s cab and it was nice of them to let the Gay Brothers join them. As for the physical confrontation on the bridge? I’m not taking a side. I couldn’t tell if Flight Time tried to go around SamOrDan and fell, if he came up behind SamOrDan and an elbow was thrown, Flight Time attempted to pull SamOrDan down. Or what. I’m pretty sure the Gay Brothers don’t want to make Team Globetrotter angry, but I don’t know who was in the right here, so I’m not going to make a call.
*** The Service task was interesting because of how agitated it made the CBS censors. The task required the teams strip down, either to their underwear or into provided uniforms. For Sam and Dan, wearers of boxer briefs, this caused some of the most extensive crotch pixelation in show history. But what necessitated the crotch pixelation? Was it just a problem with wet undies? Did Little Sam and Little Dan come out to play? Or was it more than just idle talk when SamOrDan expressed appreciation for the pretty Estonians? Was there also arousal? Mid-game? I don’t know. I can assure you, though, that I wasn’t planning on looking at either of their crotches before, but once the pixelation began, it was hard to look away. The censors later had to step in to cover Flight Time’s butt crack, a much more logical cover-up. Meanwhile, the over-exposure was limited to the men, as Meghan rolled her eyes at the idea of doing the task in her underwear, but offered not further explanation, while Ericka emphasized that she was wearing a thong and would not be partaking. Team Miss AmEricka ended up having to do the Sling task anyway.
*** The editing of the episode was a mess. The first 12 minutes were dedicated to the teams catching the equalizing ferry, even though they had no choice in how to get from Stockholm to Estonia. I’d have preferred that extra time to be spent either showing how Team Tetherball gained their big advantage, or sitting in the Saunabuss with Matt’s new blonde friend.
*** Favorite moment that had no bearing on the leg: Gary & Matt, way behind, getting a cabbie who knew Team Tetherball’s cabbie. The cabbie called up his friend for a brief chat, but it amounted to nothing. In my imaginary fictional scenario, Gary and Matt’s cabbie had saved the life of Team Tetherball’s cabbie in some war. Now, to repay the debt, Team Tetherball’s cabbie intentionally got lost, allowing Gary and Matt to catch up. It didn’t happen. At all.
*** I liked Gary and Matt just fine. They weren’t all that smart or all that athletic, but they were good sports and worked well together. The early press releases implied that there was some kind of estrangement or at least distance between the two of them, but we never saw anything other than an encouraging father and happy-to-please son. I hope Matt got the Estonian model’s digits.
*** The show didn’t really do justice to the Brotherhood of the Black Heads. Read more here.
So do you side with the Gay Brothers or Team Globetrotter? And do you have any brilliant replacements for the Speed Bump?

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