Recap: ‘The Amazing Race’ – ‘Donkeylicious’

I don't know if you've heard me mention this lately, but I hate the Double U-Turn. I say the same thing every season.

I debated it with executive producer Elise Doganieri, who smiled and ignored me. 

If you get to the U-Turn and discover you've been U-Turned, you should be bounced directly to the other side of the Detour. When you get sent directly to jail in Monopoly, you've been sent DIRECTLY TO JAIL. You don't get to collect the $200 if you happen to pass Go, because it occurred in the process of the act that was sending you to Jail. The second the card says “Go to Jail,” you've been boomeranged on your way to Jail. Period. Full stop. If you hit the U-Turn mat and you've been U-Turned… BOING. Off to the other Detour with you. The first act is to step on the mat and see if you've been U-Turned. If you have been? Done. No further action is allowed. The second act is to decide if you want to U-Turn somebody. When you say “Yes” or “No,” your next act is to leave. But you don't get to penalize somebody else before you serve your own penalty. 

I totally get when people say, “But if we do things your way, it pretty much means that the team being U-Turned is sent home and that's why we do Double U-Turns now instead of Single U-Turns.”

I don't care. That means that the U-Turn is a bad device, even if it produces  drama. Either fix it, or do away with it!

And I will not complain about the structure of the U-Turn again in this recap.

Click through for my full discussion of Sunday's (April 20) “Amazing Race.”

Sunday's “Amazing Race” was a great Leg if you find it fun to keep yelling at nearly everybody, “Stop being idiots!” 

That's a totally acceptable way in which to watch “The Amazing Race,” so I'm not going to judge you if you thought that Sunday was a superior “Amazing Race” Leg, because boy oh boy were people being idiots and dunderheads and whiners.

The first thing that has to be said, and this has nothing at all to do with my feelings regarding the Double U-Turn, is that Brendon & Rachel did nothing wrong and if you're going to take Dave & Connor's side in this, we can't be friends anymore. I'm not saying Brendon & Rachel were RIGHT. But there's a big difference between being silly, but ultimately vindicated, and being wrong. 

There's no background required, but I'll set the stage, because that's what I do in these recaps: Brendon & Rachel started the Leg in first and they drove the 80 miles to Bagnoregio in the lead by 38 minutes, which is nothing if you get lost on a long drive, but which is quite substantial if you don't get lost. Brendon & Rachel didn't get lost.

The went to the gorgeous Civita di Bagnoregio and the Detour was the choice between Donkey Build and Donkey Run. 

In Donkey Run, you had to ride a donkey around a circle three times while a band played. It put you at the mercy of a donkey and it was the second straight Leg in which one of the Detour task was the choice of going around in circles on or navigating a member of the equus family. That's boring, redundant planning, “Amazing Race.” 

In Donkey Build, you had to Geppetto's workshop and make a donkey from various pieces of wood. Then you had to use that donkey to transport more wood to Geppetto, who wasn't in his workshop for some reason. There were two catches here, one that ended up mattering a lot and one that ended up mattering a little. The first, was that there wasn't a sample donkey, so you had to guess on where the wood pieces went. Nobody actually messed up that part of things. The second was articulated clearly in the second half of the clue, but nobody cared. The wood for the donkey came in a basket, but the basket had to be put on the donkey's back, or you couldn't transport wood with the donkey. This last part was very challenging for everybody. I'll get back to this.

So Rachel & Brendon did Donkey Run and the first time around, Rachel was hilariously tossed from her tiny donkey and ended up running the last lap chasing after it yelling, “My donkey! My donkey!” Brilliant! The second time, Rachel clung to the donkey for dear life and they finished. That's nice. As they were finishing, Dave & Connor showed up, asked where the equipment was and Brendon & Rachel wouldn't say. It was the same thing Rachel did in the previous Leg at the Spanish Steps, when Rachel vaguely hinted at where the clue box was, but wouldn't use her words. Look, it's not KIND of Rachel & Brendon, but why is teamwork and kindliness a part of “Amazing Race”? It never used to be. Boston Rob & Amber wouldn't tell another team where to find something. Harumph. 

Rachel & Brendon decided they were going to U-Turn the Cowboys if they had the chance, because they wanted to make sure that if the Cowboys used their Express Pass — as they had to do this Leg — they would still have to do one of the Detours. [I don't know how I feel about that aspect of things, since it had never come up previously. If a team plays the Express Pass on a Detour, aren't they eliding the entire Detour, both ends of it? Dunno.] Brendon & Rachel's first priority with the U-Turn was to use it to build their lead and win the Leg, not to hurt a strong team. For some reason, though, Brendon decided that Rachel's stumble on the donkey had cost enough time that they no longer wanted to U-Turn the Cowboys. They decided to U-Turn Dave & Connor instead. 

Bottom Line: Rachel & Brendon had a lead. They wanted to protect the lead. And… they did. They won the Leg. They got $7500 apiece. That's not enough to get Rachel her baby, apparently, but it's enough to buy lots of stuffed animals for the baby. You might say that the goal of a U-Turn should be to get out a strong team, but in a season of alleged All-Stars, why not use it to cement victory? 

Dave, however, was pissed. And went off on several long rants about his hatred for Brenchel. And for the second time this season, Dave whipped out the old-age card.

“Come on. You U-Turn a 60-year-old man?” He whined.

And he did it twice in the episode.

The first time he did it, a couple episodes ago when a faster team ran by him, I thought there was a 10 percent chance he was joking.

He's not. 

I'm curious as to when Dave thinks it will be acceptable for other teams to run hard or to use game-based strategy to defeat him. The penultimate Leg? The finale? Or is being 60 his ultimate version of the Express Pass?

Dave & Connor have won two Legs this season and they're the only team this season that hasn't finished worse than fourth. Under what circumstances should a team with that pedigree be treated as a strong and threatening team and under what circumstances should they be treated as The Team With The Old Man?

Once again, “Amazing Race” has forced me to be sympathetic toward Brendon & Rachel, who were racing to win the Leg and succeeded at winning the Leg. They wanted to make sure they had a cushion on the Roadblock and they did. 

They probably didn't much need the cushion. The Roadblock asked “Who has The Write Stuff?” and asked one player on each team to copy a page from a manuscript using ornate calligraphy and gold leafing. 

Rachel did it, announcing that she was a calligraphy veteran and calling herself “an artiste.” I'm pretty sure she was the only person we saw get her page rejected by the friendly monk-type-dude. It's possible that other contestants were rejected and we just didn't see? Dunno. If you go with what we saw, then Rachel had more difficulties and part of why they held onto win the Leg was that extra cushion they built up thanks to using the U-Turn. But that assumes that we need to excuse the behavior that really didn't need to be excused. 

But you won't find many people taking Brendon & Rachel's side, because everybody hates Brendon & Rachel and everybody loves Dave & Connor. Because when they aren't whining, making excuses and milking sympathy — Well-earned sympathy, I might add — Dave & Connor are stand-up guys. Arriving at the U-Turn mat with Jet & Cord, Dave & Connor certainly *could* have U-Turned the Cowboys, since they had to U-Turn somebody. They did not. Instead, they U-Turned the Afghanimals, who survived two U-Turns in their first season and then they proceeded to come down, explain their decision to Leo & Jamal and then they all went and worked together on the Donkey Build and when Leo & Jamal left early because they couldn't figure out the thing about the basket, Dave & Connor told them. Because Dave & Connor are stand-up guys! Sigh. Blech. Brendon & Rachel wanted to win the Leg. They U-Turned the team that was the closest threat to their first place position. That seems perfectly legitimate to me. But I'm also not sure how I feel about a father forcing his son to do a Roadblock because he didn't want to, against the son's protestations. So what do I know?

Things worked out fine for Dave & Connor despite the persecution against them and their venerability. And things worked out fine for Leo & Jamal, because Leo's mother made him copy books when I was young, allowing him to finish the Roadblock in third, as the Afghanimals became the rare team to not just survive being U-Turned, but to improve their position despite facing a U-Turn. And things even worked out well for the Country Blondes, who continued a season-long streak of getting people to do things for them, as they drafted off of Dave & Connor to get to the Detour, drafted off of Dave & Connor to complete the Detour and even got Dave & Connor to help them carry the not-especially-heavy donkey to its destination. 

Things worked out fine for everybody because — and it saddens me to say it — Flight Time & Big Easy are heading home, because the Globetrotters have now proven themselves to be the Washington Generals of “The Amazing Race.”

Flight Time & Big Easy did everything wrong in the Leg and were never really competitive and this after starting at almost the exact same time as the Afghanimals. They got lost going to Bagnoregio. They started off doing the Donkey Run and abandoned it after they each had a stubborn donkey. Then they went over to Donkey Build and they did the easy part, but they also forgot to put the basket on the donkey. Remember how last week, Flight Time read only half of the Roadblock clue and kept going up and down the Spanish Steps not understanding why the answer was something different, but never went back and read the clue? It was the same story this week. Rather than reading the clue over and over again until they realized they were supposed to carry wood, but didn't have anything to carry wood with, the Globetrotters tried entertaining the judge and posed and made jokes, but made no modifications to what they had done. They eventually quit and went back to Donkey Run, where they found the correct steeds and finished. 

By the time they got to the Roadblock, they didn't have a chance. I love the Globetrotters and have cheered for them for three Races, but they probably would have gone home last week if the Afghanimals hadn't shared answers. Realistically, they were doomed on tonight's episode from the minute they got lost going to Bagnoregio. Even with a fast Detour or Roadblock performance, they probably weren't catching up.

Some other thoughts on this week's episode:

*** Why is Leo's “Italian” accent just Borat?

*** “Donkeylicious” wasn't a bad episode title, but “Getting my Leonardo DiCaprio on” would have been better. I wonder if CBS tried to clear that name and it wasn't possible?

*** Cord and the monks and the cowboy hats? Awesome.

*** Brendon & Rachel can't help themselves. I was totally Team Brenchel in the U-Turn kerfuffle, but then they have to go all “You, me and God are unstoppable” at the church. Ick. Too much praying. Too much ostentatious, silly praying. I mean, when Brendon was pondering if his determination to U-Turn Dave & Connor was a decision that came from God? Come on. And then Rachel's snide disagreement with the monk who tried helpfully to tell her which letters were too thin and which were too fat? COME ON.

*** For Flight Time & Big Easy, this was their 31st Leg. They finished fourth the first time, second their second and sixth this time. Jet & Cord have a sixth and a second, so I'm assuming that they'll set an “Amazing Race” Leg record if they make the Top 3?

*** I will miss the Globetrotters. A lot. But so much could have been solved by rereading the clue!

Your thoughts? Will you miss the Globetrotters? Did Rachel & Brendon commit some grand faux pas?