Many viewers felt like last “Amazing Race” season, in lieu of anything else of interest to recommend it, spent perhaps too much time hammering home the potential significance of a win by an all-female team.
For fans with that sort of hypersensitivity, alarms may have gone off when, at the start of Sunday (April 10) night’s “Amazing Race,” Mallory expressed an earnest excitement about the possibility of becoming the first parent-child team to win. This wasn’t the first time we’ve heard this possibility mentioned, especially since the season started with four parent-child teams out of 11. But Mel & Mike went out early and Luke & Margie went out in the last new episode, which only aired two weeks ago, though I had totally forgotten about it until the pre-credits recap.
That left Gary & Mallory and Ron & Christina carrying the banner for fathers and daughters.
Was Mallory’s comment a piece of earnest foreshadowing? A piece of ironic foreshadowing? Or a piece of misdirection?
Click through for a somewhat quick recap of Sunday’s “Amazing Race” episode, which wasn’t exactly a bad one, but also failed to generate any real excitement…
In answer to those previous questions, Gary & Mallory remain in the running to be America’s Next Top Model… errr “Amazing Race” winners, but they’re now the only contenders from their particular relationship subset. We’re left with two sets of malel buddies, one set of brothers, one set of sisters, one set of whatever the heck Kent and Vysxin are and one parent-child team, after Ron & Christina were eliminated for… well, nothing too exciting. Ron & Christina were eliminated for being slow, which wasn’t surprising given previous difficulties they’ve had and wasn’t dramatic given the editing of this particular episode.
The episode began in The City Formerly Known as Calcutta, with the instructions that teams were supposed to fly to Varanasi. One after another, the teams went to either the airline or travel agents and they were told that the fastest flight to Varanasi got in at 10:45. In my notes, I typed “Wow. We could save a lot of time if we didn’t have to watch EVERY TEAM book the same flight.” I typed too soon, because they reason we watched each and every team get told the exact same flight was so that we could shake our heads in predictable disapproval as Cowboys Jet & Cord walked to the wrong airline and were told that the fastest flight to Varanasi got in at 11:45.
This is the way the Cowboys roll. They’re like the amiably dumb equivalents of Boston Rob on this season of “Survivor.” If you’re watching, you know that Boston Rob has been frequently bored to tears by attempting to play “Survivor” with a bunch of silly girls and lunatic former federal agents and so he’s set up little games-within-the-game to entertain himself. The Cowboys similarly like to (unintentionally) set up obstacles for themselves through silly travel blunders and mental gaffes, only to prove that if they eliminated these little mistakes entirely, nobody else would stand a chance against them. At times, it feels like the Cowboys are much too good for this show and at times, you wonder how they successfully navigate getting out of bed in the morning. That was the case in this episode, where they gave themselves a one-hour handicap and yet still managed to finish comfortably in the middle of the pack, never in any actual danger of elimination. It’s a weird way to play.
The Cowboys made up all of the time they needed to at the Roadblock in Varanasi, which asked “Who’s ready to search for the meaning of life?” In a relatively decent — or at least geographically specific and visually appealing — task, one player on each team had to wander through a crowded area — Everything is crowded in India, doncha know? — looking for six colorfully dressed sadhus (holy men). They got words from each holy man and then had to find a seventh and uncover that the meaning of life is “Once you’re over the hill, you pick up speed,” the rare quote to be simultaneously attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer and Charles Schultz (rather than any school of Hindu thought). It wasn’t a Roadblock that really favored any player. Jen finished first, with Justin and Big Easy close behind. Those were the only three teams to have finished when the Cowboys got to the Roadblock, basically negating the Stupidity Penalty for their flight error. Cord definitely finished fast, but he couldn’t have made up the time if Ron wasn’t wandering in circles muttering “Sadhu? Sadhu? Sadhu?”
I could end this recap right there. Ron & Christina were eliminated because Ron took too long finding the Sadhus.
There wasn’t much to be gained or lost from the Detour, which barely played any role at all in the episode’s finishing order, as either task could be completed with an equal lack of achievement and neither task appeared to be screw-up-able.
The choice: Feed the Fire or Feed the Buffalo.
In Feed the Fire, teams had to play around with huge piles of buffalo poop, mixing the manure with straw and then making patties. After making 50 patties and sticking them to a wall, the teams had to start a fire using previously dried patties. The difficulty stemmed from the smell and the old judging lady who would occasionally whack a poop-pie off the drying wall if it happened to be too big or too small.
In Feed the Buffalo, teams had to take a water taxi across the Ganges, pick up bales of hay and make it through the crowded — Everything is crowded in India, doncha know? — streets to deliver the bales. The difficulty stemmed from… nothing really. The bales weren’t immense and although the streets were crowded — Everything is crowded in India, doncha know? — that wasn’t much of an impediment.
As has become a frequent “Amazing Race” problem in the past two seasons, neither task offered any real way to make up time. Justin & Zev and the Globetrotters reached the Detour choice first, chose Buffalo and reached the Pit Stop first, while Jen & Kisha got there third, chose Fire, and got to the Pit Stop in Third.
The editors tried to have a little fun in the end with some disorienting cutting tricks.
The Goths completed their part of the Detour seemingly comfortably ahead of Ron & Christina. They started to get in a water taxi to go to the Pit Stop, but they sensed that their conductor was taking too much time. At this point, after repeatedly asking to be brought back, Vyxsin jumped out of the taxi into the Ganges and dragged the boat back to dock, even as Kent gesticulated wildly and said her name in panic. We don’t know what kind of infections Vyxsin is going to get from this experience, but it seemed like taking a land taxi was the right choice, since other teams had done it. But then Ron & Christina finished their Detour and announced that the water taxi was faster and they headed off by water. Suddenly, it looked like the teams were even and the editors used their “Ron and Christina are about to reach the Pit Stop first” cutting, only to have the Goths get there safe and sound.
Good-bye to Ron & Christina. I liked them in their first season. They annoyed me (or Ron annoyed me) this season. But it was very nice and sweet that they took that time to have a relaxed, sit-down dinner in Calcutta before departing. Guess Ron just had to find his sadhus faster.
Some additional thoughts on Sunday’s episode:
*** The Roadblock was much funnier if you pretended the clue was “Who knows what is best in life?” instead of “Who’s ready to search for the meaning of life?” Am I right, “Conan” fans?
*** Wasn’t it great that we got to witness Gary & Mallory enjoying their Snapple-tastic reward from the last Snapple-tastic episode? It appeared that their Indian dinner was Snapplicious.
*** I definitely felt worried for Zev, whose reasons for disliking crowds are myriad. If he’d needed to do that Roadblock, there might have been real problems. I liked that “Mal-Mal” gave him earplugs and that seemed to work. Good for Mal-Mal.
*** The Feed the Fire Detour was probably the favorite of the producers, because not only do you get to make the contestants play around in manure, but you get to capture the inevitably quippy responses. Highlights included: “Let’s get to playing in poop.” and “This smells like perfume” from Kisha as the sisters were making gagging sounds and Vyxsin’s “I was worried about not putting on deodorant this morning. Ha ha.”
*** The best reaction to the Feed the Fire Detour actually came from Mal-Mal, who pointed out that she was wearing the exact same outfit last season when she encountered another manure-based challenge in Russia. As she said, “I tell you what, this outfit will go directly in the trash after I do this, because the next time I wear it, cow manure will be involved.”
*** I wonder what happened to the top of Big Easy’s head. That band-aid was distracting me. Yes, I’m easily distracted. Big Easy was very funny with the cab driver as the teams raced to the Roadblock. Position didn’t end up being relevant, but it was fun to watch.
I really have virtually nothing to say about this episode. That’s better than being irate about a bad episode, right? What’d you think?