Recap: ‘The Amazing Race’ – ‘Working Our Barrels Off’

04.28.13 5 years ago 27 Comments


I feel, and I’m sure that 18th Century Scottish poet Robert Burns would agree with me, that people who don’t like haggis are fundamentally untrustworthy. 
Sure, you can hear what haggis is and get a little freaked out. If you’re a wimp. I mean, haggis isn’t anymore terrifying as a concept than most sausage products and it’s a good deal less sketchy than most hot dogs that regular folks nosh on all the time. But if you want to hear “It’s offal stuffed in a sheep’s stomach and get freaked out? I guess that’s fine.
But once you have bite of haggis, steaming, meaty and rich, if you make a face and call it “awful”? Sorry. You’re just not entitled to the finer things in life. 
In that spirit, I’d like to say that leaving aside which team did or didn’t actually get eliminated in Sunday’s (April 28) “Amazing Race,” Derby Moms Mona and Beth have been eliminated from my heart. And they were never actually in my heart, since through 10 Legs, I remain incapable of telling them apart or giving any minor differentiating detail about their personalities, either as individuals are a pair. 
No, I’m intolerant of haggis intolerance. 
[Full recap after the break.]
Unfortunately, the Derby Moms remain in “The Amazing Race” and they’re competing with Caroline & Jennifer to attempt to become the second consecutive team to win the million dollar prize without winning a single Leg until the last Leg. It seemed strange and a bit confusing when the Beekman Boys did it last year, but it could now be nearly commonplace.
Or Bates & Anthony or Max & Katie could win and all Beekman comparisons would be moot. 
The Hockey Brothers have been this season’s dominant team, with four Leg wins and two second place finishes. They’ve been physically dominant, exactly as you’d expect from a pair of professional athletes, and they’ve also been exactly smart and courageous enough to get the Race job done. 
Newlyweds Max & Katie came into the season as self-appointed favorites, but quickly slipped to the back of the pack. After initially wowing to be ruthless and mean, that hasn’t been a defining characteristic for a while and they’ve now won two straight Legs and they also fit one of the more common molds for “Amazing Race” winners. 
We’ll get to the Finale next week, but I can say that I’m rooting pretty hard for Bates & Anthony, while also acknowledging that there may be a certain unfairness to their success that we maybe haven’t really dealt with in the past. But I’d be OK if Max & Katie won. 
I’d make peace if the Country Blondes won. 
But not the Derby Moms. Know haggis, know peace. No haggis, no peace. That’s my motto.
Anyway, though, let’s talk a bit about Sunday’s Leg, which was simultaneously a pretty fun Leg, but also way, way, way too weighted for any real drama. 
The die was cast from the beginning as teams departed Berlin and had to fly to Edinburgh, a city whose name few of them could pronounce. 
All the teams were clearly going to be equalized at the airport, so Max & Katie went to a travel agent and booked a flight arriving in Edinburgh at 10:40. The other four teams went to the airport and waiting at exactly one ticket counter. YouTube and the Derby Moms rushed up and booked passage on a flight arriving at 1 p.m. and they were positively giddy. The other two teams, miserable, were forced to go to another counter where they were SHOCKED to discover that sometimes when you do comparison shopping rather than only inquiring in one place, you get better deals and they ended up on the 10:40 flight with Max & Katie. Conveniently, the three teams on the first flight were in an alliance together and they’d all agreed to use the promised U-Turn on the other two teams, so from that point, the Leg was pre-determined. Either YouTube or the Derby Moms would go home, with the Derby Moms facing a Speed-Bump.
As “Amazing Race” is wont to do, Sunday’s Leg was all about reveling in the stereotypes of a foreign land, so if we were in Scotland, that meant kilts, bagpipes, whiskey and, as you’ve already heard, haggis.
The Roadblock combined the first two elements. One player from each team had to get dressed Scottish-style and hold a single harmonic bagpipe note on a two-minute circuit around a manor house. The two frontrunners had no trouble. Displaying more analytical thought that he’d shown in the entire Race up tho this point, Max instantly mastered the combination of lung-power and press required. They took the lead. Bates tapped into his ancestral roots as a half-Scot and didn’t take much more time. 
Other teams had more difficulty. Caroline drew the task for the Country Blondes and while Jen was convinced that her status as a singer proved she could blow, it because an orgy of double entendres, “My mouth is not working anymore,” Caroline complained after discovering that excessive blowing caused her to use muscles in her face that she wasn’t accustomed to using. “She’s freaking out and she’s blowing too hard,” Jen agreed. Caroline finished after seven shots and collapsed on the floor in a relieved heap. She also swore she’d found love with a 70-year-old piper named Jim. Poor Bates and Anthony, so swiftly usurped by an older man. Oddly, this was only the first time in the episode that we learned Jen & Caroline liked their meat well-seasoned. If you know what I mean.  [Old dudes. I mean they like old dudes. Probably rich, too, though that never came up.]
All three of the teams on the 10:40 flight had completed the Roadblock when the other two teams arrived, confident that they’d pulled a fast one and that they were going to be able to have a leisurely Leg in Scotland, hanging with their Race Family. Instead, they got to the Edinburgh airport and discovered that three of five Ford Focuses were gone and they were in last. Ooops.
The Detour was the choice between Tasty Pudding and Rolling Whiskey. In Tasty Pudding, teams had to learn how to make haggis, construct a certain number of pudding orbs and taste the pudding, though not the actual haggis they made themselves, since haggis requires hours of boiling/simmering. In Rolling Whiskey, teams had to take eight 100-pound barrels and transport them 200 yards up a hill to an event. 
With those two options, the rest of the Leg was set out: The Hockey Brothers would do Whiskey. Everybody else would do Pudding. But because of the U-Turn, two teams would have to do Whiskey as well and that would be the difference in the Leg. 
In this respect, it wasn’t a great Detour. 
Tasty Pudding required nothing. You just had to go through the motions and keep your concentration while Robert Burns stood behind you and recited “Address to a Haggis.” I assume there was a finite period that Tasty Pudding would require of every team and it wasn’t much.
Rolling Whiskey, on the other hand, was an arduous chore, a task that would only be the preference of two professional athletes. Bates and Anthony initially struggled a little with the rolling, before Bates realized that he could pick up the barrel, throw it on his back and go up the hill. Putting 100 pounds on your back isn’t impossible, but these were big barrels and even Anthony struggled to perform the similar maneuver. When you think back over “Amazing Race” history, the number of contestants who could have performed this task in the way that Bates did is just about as limited as it gets. We had Marcus Pollard a few years ago. He, as you may recall him mentioning, played in the NFL. He probably could have pulled a Bates. But his wife Amani could not have. So the fact that Bates and Anthony both were capable or near-capable of throwing a 100-pound barrel on their back and running it up a hill verges on unfair. And yet, while I say it “verges on unfair,” it really wasn’t. Max & Katie finished the Roadblock with a slim advantage and then did Pudding. They did Pudding at what I assume was the uniform speed at which the task could be done. Bates & Anthony did Rolling Whiskey the fast that task could possibly be done, but they gained no advantage, or maybe they gained such a small advantage that it was lost when both teams were rushing to the Pit Stop. So if two professional athletes doing a task that only requires brute force can’t make up time on a task that requires nothing, the Detour hasn’t been well-conceived. If you ask me.
Bates & Anthony and Katie & Max both U-Turned the straggling teams, so what the Leg really came down to, apparently, was Meghan’s slowness figuring out the bagpipe on the Roadblock, even after she announced that as a trumpet player, she’d have an advantage. The Roller Moms finished the Roadblock first, got to Pudding first, finished Pudding and started on Whiskey first and finished Whiskey first. That was all there was to it. 
Joey & Meghan had moments where they were likable, even if those moments didn’t include any time Joey emitted a high-pitched squeal of happiness, fear or frustration. Meghan consistently tried hard and they both seemed to have a lot of fun. Oh well. 
A few other thoughts on Sunday’s Leg before it’s time for “Mad Men”:
*** I liked the Country Blondes flirting with Robert Burns — “Tell me some more stuff about the 1700s,” Caroline cooed. He was amusingly flustered and they had some fun, with Jen even giving the poet a kiss on the cheek.
*** I really don’t know if it was editing trickery that made it look like the Roller Moms got sufficiently lost that Team YouTube was able to finish the Detour and then possibly nearly catch up. It seems, however, to be a potential Achilles Heel, since directional difficulties almost sent them home last week.
*** Speaking of the Derby Moms, this week’s Speed Bump wasn’t so bad. On the surface, they just had to play skittles — bowling, but with balls without holes on somewhat tilted allies at a nearby pub — and get a single strike. But they had to go to a relatively distant location and it turns out that if you’re not that good at bowling an you’re playing a game that doesn’t have automatic pin resettling, it seemed like it could take a bit of time. Depending on whether or not Joey’s math was right or wrong, it may even have taken 30-ish minutes. By recent Speed Bump standards, that’s a lot.
*** Presumably we’re looking at an early Equalizer next Leg, because Mona & Beth have to be hours behind.
*** Dull title for the episode. I think Meghan got a string of quote-of-the-episode comments regarding her bagpipe instructor. “Like I basically made out with that guy,” she observed. “He was placing his mouth all over my bagpipe. Maybe his saliva will give me super-powers.” Come on. That’s much better than “Working Our Barrels Off.”
*** Bates comparing himself to Atlas was both appropriate and amusing.
What are your thoughts on the episode? And who are you rooting for next week?

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