[This recap of Friday (October 3) night's “The Amazing Race” may be a bit rushed. I've got some Yom Kippur atoning to do. But I still want to do some honor to a decent enough Leg.]
As you may have heard from a unshaven, drunk, pot-belled WWII era manager, there is no crying in baseball.
Nobody has ever made the same claim about “The Amazing Race.”
In actuality, there's a lot of crying on “The Amazing Race.”
And I'm not entirely without understanding.
Let's say you're an “Amazing Race” superfan and you've actually taken the time to study Race strategy and accumulate some of the skills that normally pay dividends and then you find yourself actually on “The Amazing Race” and in only your second Leg, you find yourself falling victim to a semi-unavoidable combination of current and lack of upper-body strength?
I guess I can allow for some sniffling, especially if your commitment to remaining in the hunt goes so far as to let you put self-consciousness aside and urinate in a river while tittering Brits point and shame you.
On that note, though, if people are falling into the river left and right, why would you not just feign a topple into the drink, whiz away and then climb back up? On the scale of embarrassment goes, surely clumsiness is superior to public micturition.
The problem with not doing “Amazing Race” exit interviews this season is that I'll never get to ask Nici about that decision.
[More after the break… With spoilers]
Actually, I may drop back into the exit interview cycle toward the end and Flight Attendants Shelley & Nici are still in the Race, narrowly avoiding elimination in a Leg that ultimately hinged on making a successful punting circuit in Oxford. And I like Shelley & Nici. They're funny and they seem to know their “Amazing Race” stuff, but between a punting wrong-turn, Nici's full bladder and Shelley's muscle cramping, they had a lot of cause for emotion as they narrowly held off Dennis & Isabelle.
I'm glad we learned that Dennis & Isabelle were also “Amazing Race” super-fans this week, because otherwise I wouldn't have had a clue what to say about two of the duller Racers we've seen in recent years. They went home because Dennis wasn't especially strong and they kept drifting the wrong way in the current as other teams punted around them. They also weren't great on the Detour, but the Detour was only very loosely determinative in this Leg, although it required effort and yielded amusement, so I'm cool with it.
The Leg began with teams departing the Virgin Islands and headline to London, with six teams on a first flight and four teams on a second flight, arriving an hour-twenty later. That's a big gap, but teams from the second flight moved up as far as fourth in the Leg, so it wasn't insurmountable.
And why did teams have to take cabs from Heathrow into the Tower Bridge? I don't know. I just know that I would never take a cab from the airport to the Tower Bridge, for reasons of both time and money.
The Detour choice? About Face or Pancake Race.
In Pancake Race, teams had to participate in what we're told was a 500-year-old tradition, making pancakes and then running around a circle in a park in under 1:15 (that's a minute and 15 seconds), flipping their pancakes all the way.
In About Face, teams had to get dressed as members of the Queen's Guard and learn a parade routine and properly execute it in front of a harsh task master who liked to refer to their efforts as “abysmal” and “disgusting,” while criticizing them for failing to take his “worldly Yoda-like advice.” The Head Guard was awesome and should be encouraged to judge on “American Idol” in the future, or at least convey his disapproval during several other tasks this season.
When selecting between these two tasks, I'm pretty confident the choice was an easy one and I'd have been confident even if I hadn't seen how it played out.
I know how long it takes to make a pancake. Not very. I know how long it takes to run in a circle in under 75 seconds. Yes, that's right: Under 75 seconds. So I see that task and my sense is that in a perfect world, you can finish in like five minutes, 10 if you take a long time to get dressed and you require extra instruction on pancake preparation. The time is absolutely and totally finite and “Amazing Race” very rarely has timed challenges in which the times aren't somewhat easily achieved. [They used to have more difficult timed tasks. They don't anymore.]
Given the choice between one task in which the time for proper achievement if finite and another in which it's infinite and judging is involved, I would NEVER take the task with judging and a potentially infinite time window.
Oddly, of the six teams in the first flight, five of them chose to do About Face.
Only Soul Surfers Bethany & Adam chose Pancake. They started the Detour in third or fourth. They completed the pancake preparation and the 1:15 circle in basically as little time as it could possibly take. They went from a small deficit to a massive advantage and they were never tested again. Not only did the Surfers finish the punting with a big lead, but they were able to secure an Express Pass by visiting a London bar. As Bethany correctly observed, this is terrific insurance for whenever they get a task that she can't do because of her arm. How much, for example, might Margie & Luke have wanted an Express Pass last season when they found themselves picking between a DJing Detour he physically couldn't complete and a bartending Detour that he emotionally couldn't complete. “Amazing Race” doesn't cut differently able contestants any slack, not that I imagine Bethany is going to need any slack. She remains impressive.
So now the Soul Surfers have a big advantage and the Dentists have a big advantage, with The Save still in their back pocket from last week. Misty and Dennis had a rough Leg, by which I meant that they failed once at the About Face Detour and then they accidentally screwed up the punting by having Dennis punt from the front. Dennis & Misty never would have passed the Surfers and gotten the Express Pass — Boy, they'd have been powerful with that — but they almost certainly would have taken advantage of the Surfers going for the Express Pass to make it to the Pit Stop in first for the Leg. And since the prize for the Leg is five nights at the Ice Hotel in Sweden… Damn. I wanna go to the Ice Hotel in Sweden.
I'm not sure what else to say about the Leg. Because of the Head Judge, About Face could be difficult and he enjoyed picking on Wrestlers Robbie & Brooke. And who can blame him? They're annoying. It didn't end up mattering all that much because the punting task so heavily favored teams with upper body strength that even though the Wrestlers and Firefighters were last leaving their respective Detours — The Firefighters really struggled with Pancake Race for some reason — they made up the time because they were strong and the Fight Attendants and Dennis & Isabelle were not. It's a little sad when that's all an “Amazing Race” episode comes down to, but that's what happens, I guess.
I have to go atone for my sins, but some quick additional thoughts on the episode:
*** We're had four or five straight seasons in which teamwork played, in my opinion, too large of a part in determining some Legs, if not the entire Race. As a result, I was completely comfortable with how many times we saw teams rooting against their competition in this episode. I don't like the Wrestlers, but I'm find with them hoping other teams failed their marching orders. And Whitney and Keith weren't very good on “Survivor,” but I've got no problems with their competitiveness hoping other teams dropped their pancakes. They weren't YELLING for the other teams to fail, but they weren't holding hands and skipping around together. I like that change of pace.
*** You know Shelley's a super-fan, because she's got super-cliches, whipping out both “We're not here to make friends. We're here to win” and “You don't have to outrun the bear, you just can't be the last one” within 30 seconds.
*** The Firefighters had a lot of problems with the Pancake thing, including multiple dropped pancakes and one run failed for “insufficient tossing.” I'd have loved to do an exit interview where I asked a team about going home for “insufficient tossing.”
*** The Pit Stop clue being at the bottom of the bowler could have been cooler than it was. But only the Bikers didn't understand where they were supposed to be looking and even they only misunderstood for a few seconds. I wanted bumbling hilarity. There was none.
*** The Food Scientists didn't do the food-related Detour? It's like I don't even know people anymore.
*** The punting thing, that *wasn't* a Roadblock, right? So the teams could have switched punters? It just seemed like nobody wanted to? And why would you want to switch punters if one person had to punt and the other personal literally had to stand at the front of the boat waving a little flag and, in Whitney's case, occasionally falling in.
*** While Cici's peeing gave the episode its title, her drop-and-squat had no impact on the Leg. This wasn't a Jen & Kisha situation.
OK! I'm off to temple. What'd you think of Friday's Leg?