Sunday (October 9) night’s episode of “The Amazing Race” was an odd one, wasn’t it?
Part of me is annoyed by the amount of sharing that went on at the Roadblock and the fact that I couldn’t begin to explain to you exactly why the eliminated team was eliminated.
But most of me wants to celebrate an episode that was competitive throughout, where the results were in doubt until the last second, and a leg that ended with an emotional moment that I really wouldn’t have predicted ahead of time.
So “Don’t Lay Down on Me Now” was certainly my favorite “Amazing Race” episode so far this season, but who has time to over-analyze Sunday’s installment when there’s a “Breaking Bad” finale starting in 20 minutes?
Apologies, kids, but there’s gonna be a rushed-through recap after the break. Priorities!
When all was said and done last week, after eight of 11 teams failed to properly identify a clue at the end of the leg and had to repeat a journey to and from an orphanage, this week’s episode began with a spread of less than an hour between Snowboarders Andy & Tommy in first place and Amani & Marcus in last. That meant things were close from the beginning and in a leg in which there were no travel equalizers, things were tight at the end, which is what you want in an “Amazing Race” leg.
After an opening in which the teams had to ride with local bike clubs — notable only for Ernie & Cindy falling from fourth to eighth due to a faulty pedal on Ernie’s bike — the teams progressed quickly to the Detour.
The choice was between Rice Field and Grass Fed. In Rice Field, teams had to deliver lunch to a group of rice farmers and then plant 300 rice shoots in the mud. [Why do I feel like rice planting as been a part of an “Amazing Race” task in the past? Dunno. Has it?] In Grass Fed, teams had to fill two bags with grass, collect two lambs and then fill a trough with six buckets of water.
Perhaps fearing “mud” or, more likely, fearing the lofty number “300,” seven of the nine teams initially selected Grass Fed, which defies at least one key piece of “Amazing Race” logic: Animals are unpredictable and you don’t want to bring animals into the equation if it isn’t absolutely necessary. That’s the reason *I* wouldn’t have done Grass Fed, though it turned out that while the lambs were inconvenient and loud, they weren’t a crippling obstacle for anybody and most teams figured out that if an unruly lamb isn’t following your leash, you can just pick it up and run with it like a bleating football. No, Grass Fed was a problem because there was a lot of walking between the pieces of the task and the local judge wasn’t accepting nearly full bags of grass. There was also a catch with the need to only use two buckets at a time to fill the trough, which the Snowboarders noticed and tried to mention to Zac & Laurence, but more on that later.
It just happened that Rice Field was, simply, faster. It appeared to be closer by and it turns out that planting 300 rice shoots sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. While the Snowboarders and Zac & Laurence were ahead and in a pack of their own for the entire leg, there was a second middle pack in which Twins Liz & Marie and Showgirls Kaylani & Lisa were the only ones to pick Rice Fields and pulled ahead of all of their Grass Fed rivals. Amani & Marcus, who started in last and fell deeper into last thanks to an unfortunate cabbie, failed at Grass Fed and ended up doing Rice Field and they got back to the pack in a hurry.
Oh and did I mention that both Detour tasks were photogenic because people — Cathi, mostly, kept slipping off of the thin walkways and into the rice fields? Hilarious.
When it came to being camera friendly, though, the Detour couldn’t compare to the Roadblock at the ancient and stunning Borobudur Temple. This was another of those “Read the freakin’ clue” tasks that proved that all the producers need to do to slip up this group of contestants is make clues longer than a sentence and wait for everybody to slip up on their own.
The task: Count the Buddha statues around the temple, paying specific attention to the number of statues in each of four positions. Working together, Laurence and Tommy made pretty quick work of it, but subsequent players were stymied, counting either the wrong Buddhas entirely or just counting the Buddha statues and playing no attention to the part of the clue that asked them to break down that total number by hand-position.
It was a task that apparently demanded working in groups. Laurence and Tommy succeeded together. Ernie, Jeremy, Some Twin and Justin were walking around making elaborately silly guesses before they put their heads together and Ernie realized what they were supposed to do. The only person who did the entire task as an individual was Bill of Bill & Cathi, an achievement that’s earned my respect for at least another episode or two.
No team, though, got more help than Marcus & Amani arrived at the Temple just as the Snowboarders were collecting their bags and headed for the pit stop. Tommy proceeded to tell Marcus & Amani the FULL answer to the count and hand positions. Of course, after climbing up to the very top of the Temple steps, Marcus didn’t remember anything he’d been told. The editing made what followed a bit confusing. Did Marcus figure out the answer on his own? Did he find a way to recreate what Tommy had told him? And then when he teamed up with the fairly clueless Lisa, did he give her the entire answer or did he just explain what they were looking for and then they worked together and raced through the task? To say that the editing was confusing would be generous.
All of that teamwork led to a series of jumbles at the Pit Stop.
Zac & Laurence reached Phil Keoghan first, but they incurred a penalty for using four buckets at the Detour, which Tommy tried to warn them about. So it was only fitting that the Snowboarders reached the mat and, for the second straight week, despite not being the first team to reach Phil, they were the first team to check in. Regarding the Snowboarders, they continue to marvelously confirm every possible stereotype one could have about professional snowboarders, though in a good way. They’re funny, wacky and they’re enjoying the Race so far. I’ll leave it to y’all to decide what you think about their giving the Roadblock answer to Marcus & Amani.
But then things got a little sticky. Jeremy & Sandy, still lacking even a single memorable personality trait between them, had their cab break down just before the Temple, which looked like a bad thing, but when other teams had to rush back to their cabs to get their stuff after completing the Roadblock, Jeremy and Sandy just walked to Phil and finished third. This also ended up benefiting Amani & Marcus, who were so pissed off at their inept cabbie that once they got to the Temple, they paid him and sent him on his way, assuming they couldn’t do worse. As a result, they moved from a distant last all the way to sixth.
That meant that elimination hinged on how quickly Bill & Cathi, the Twins and the Showgirls were able to make it back to their cabs and then to Phil.
Here’s where I don’t know what happened. At all. The Showgirls were eliminated, but I don’t quite have a sense of why their cabbie was someplace different and further away from where the other two cabs were. I don’t know if they did something wrong at some point, if their cabbie did something wrong or if they were never actually all that close to begin with and the other two teams just finished first.
But when they got to the mat, Kaylani started crying about how she didn’t want to disappoint her four-year-old daughter and Phil Keoghan listened so intently and quietly and reassured her so thoroughly that I got weirdly sniffly at the end of the episode.
Some quick thoughts on Sunday’s episode before I rush to my buffered DVR to watch “Breaking Bad”:
*** Jeremy & Sandy are SO boring. What is the dynamic between them even supposed to be? Why are they there? And it turns out that when Justin & Jennifer aren’t fighting, they’re insanely boring as well.
*** I’m always partial to a good “When We Were Kings” reference, so Marcus biking through the streets yelling “Marcus, bomaye!” filled me with happiness.
*** There’s a nice Odd Couple thing going on in the pairing of the Snowboarders and Zac & Laurence. I already liked the Snowboarders, but working with them made Zac and Laurence seem more interesting.
*** My favorite understated line of the episode: Lisa’s observation, “This temple looks like it’s been here for a really long time.” I also liked the way some teams were careful to ask about running in the holy space and took pains to just walk quickly. Other teams didn’t seem quite so respectful, but it didn’t look like there were penalties.
*** Ummm… Yeah. I’d rather just go watch “Breaking Bad,” if you don’t mind.
So what were your thoughts on Sunday’s episode? Did you have a clearer sense of what happened at the end? And what did you think of the various pieces of teamwork and answer-giving at the Roadblock?
OK… BREAKING BAD!