Embargos and NDAs aside, in four or five months, I'll be able to let readers know why it was so amusing to me that “The Amazing Race” spent a second consecutive Leg traveling through Morocco on Friday (October 31) night.
That amusement held sway even though Friday's Leg was, as we've almost come to expect from “The Amazing Race” this season, a mixed bag of really good tasks, confusingly confusing tasks and gratuitously complicated tasks. It was a Leg that made me build more appreciation for the teams I already liked, gave a couple unexpected stars the chance to shine, but also failed to generate even an iota of tension or excitement surrounding its result.
But I liked the scenery, I liked the Greeter with the chicken on his head and I'm sure that this “Amazing Race” episode set a record for most goat teat close-ups.
And, staring down an impressive wall of exhaustion, let's talk a little bit more about Friday's “Amazing Race” after the break…
In honor of tonight's drama-free Leg, let's skip to the ending at the beginning.
Shelley & Nici will bicker no more.
After two episodes of fighting and glowering, the mother/daughter Team Flight Attendant was eliminated from “The Amazing Race” on Friday's Leg basically because they couldn't figure out how to get anywhere. Coming off of a fourth place finish last Leg, tied for their best result of the season, Shelley & Nici struggled on the episode-opening task involving carriage horses in Marrakech and then got permanently lost driving in their Ford Fiestas to pottery shop hiding the clue to lead to the Detour.
Well, maybe they didn't get “permanently” lost. The Flight Attendants aren't still driving around Morocco to this day, but they might as well be. In a Leg in which several teams had directional issues, at least one team floundered on both sides of the Detour and Brooke had to complete a puzzle, Nici & Shelley managed to get so badly lost before either of the main challenges that they were never again doing a task with another team on the Leg. How did they get so lost? Well, this is one of those things that “The Amazing Race” is rarely great at showing us. I don't have a clue. Why did they keep driving without any proper usage of a map or any hint of asking for directions? I wouldn't begin to know. They were so lost so early in the episode that nothing else mattered when it came to the Leg's elimination, which made for hollow viewing. Nici & Shelley were just waiting to be sent home and we were watching for an hour to see it happen. I guess there was the off chance that it could be a Non-Elimination Leg, but with The Save still in play, I feel like the NELs could be backloaded if Misti & Jim don't require Saving. No amount of cross-cutting could make it look like Nici & Shelley were anything other than screwed, as they showed up at the time-consuming Detour just as the last other team was departing.
It was a pretty good Detour, really. The choice? Camp or Cream.
In Camp, teams had to make a Berber tent. Period. It involved a lot of posts and pillows and rugs. If you were capable of doing Camp, it was easily the faster of the two tasks, but this turned out to be one of those rare tasks in which height was practically the biggest requirement at all. I'd say that Bikers Kym & Allie are stronger than Sweethearts Tim & Te Jay, but the Bikers couldn't get the leverage to put the tent together, while Tim & Te Jay could. The Dentists, who have proven themselves the season's team to beat as long as the tasks require zero attention to detail, completed Camp swiftly and rushed through the Roadblock on their way to their third win of the season.
Wrestlers Brooke & Robbie probably would have been better off doing Camp than Cream, but they did not. Cream wasn't huge on effort, but it was time consuming and frustrating in that way that tasks relying on animals often are.
In Cream, teams had to accumulate a certain amount of milk from a herd of goats. Then they had to go and learn the steps for traditional butter-making, mostly a lot of shaking of dairy in an inflated skin-sack. Nobody taught the teams how to milk the goats, but they did reasonably well with that, scurrying around the pen yelling for the goats with the biggest udders and squeezing with untrained hands. Poor goats. But then once you collected the milk, the butter-making was supposed to take around 45 minutes. It wasn't surprising that Kym & Alli quit the Detour when they heard the time, nor that they had to retreat from Camp and go finish Cream.
What was the skill to Cream? I don't exactly know, but Maya is getting her PhD in something tangential and she was able to help the Food Scientists make up a little time on the Detour.
I liked that the Detour was hard and time-consuming and that there were contingencies to consider — Jim wanted nothing to do with animals, while Robbie wanted nothing to do with building anything. I didn't like that once teams got to butter-making, there was no way to illustrate why what Maya was doing was better or more effective than what other teams were doing or had done.
As for the Roadblock, it asked one player from each pair to go across a series of rickety bridges and tightropes, solve a puzzle and zip-line. What did this have to do with Morocco? Well, it was high atop a stunning gorge in Morocco. So there's that. And why the puzzle? I don't know. The puzzle and its necessity to the process were ill-explained. The bridges and zip-lining stuff were just extreme sports for tourists. But then there was a puzzle and a guy who had to judge that the puzzle had been done properly, even though the judge mostly seemed to be thinking, “My job is making sure people are harnessed in properly. I don't know why I'm looking at your puzzles.” It was like a producer worried that the task wouldn't look hard enough if it was just a ropes course so they said, “Let's toss in a puzzle.”
The Roadblock, while beautiful to look at and certainly fun to perform, had no impact on placement for the Leg. It was just a thing people had to do, a thing Nici & Shelley got to do way after the other teams were gone. It was also a thing that proved that Misti doesn't inherently screw things up when left to her own devices. That's nice. And it proved that Brooke also isn't incapable of mental pursuits when backed against a wall, or a gorge. After seeing Maya shine with the cream, her puzzle-making proved disappointing.
And Bethany is awesome. Every episode you have to avoid condescending and going, “Wow, what she's doing is admirable for somebody with only one arm,” but you watch her perform a Roadblock that required balance, without the same resources to steady herself that the other competitors enjoy? That's absurd. And then she has trouble doing the puzzle because parts of it require the use of both hands? And what does she do? She takes off her shoes and uses her feet? That's a level of resourcefulness that just makes me want to cheer.
Bethany & Adam finished second for the episode, behind The Dentists and just ahead of The Bikers. Those three have established themselves as this season's top tier. Between them, they have all six of the season's Leg wins and four of six second place finishes.
Some other thoughts on Friday's Leg:
*** The episode-opening task with the horses and the hay and the carriages? The editors did a poor job of explaining why it was as hard as it was, why teams were so confused by where they were supposed to be doing things and what they were supposed to be doing. Again, it was a matter of tiers. The Dentists, The Bikers and Team Soul Surfer all did the task with ease. The other four teams couldn't find the marked hay, couldn't find where they were supposed to be taking it and generally didn't have a clue.
*** Yes, Brooke eventually persevered with the puzzle and I want to give her credit for it, but I really need both her and Robbie to stop trying so hard. I get it. You're professional wrestlers. You get paid to be a ham. But oy. The body-slamming of the hay? The “I'm the queen of the world”? Brooke's non-stop patter on the bridges? Enough. But I laughed at Brooke asking the confused puzzle judge if she could smash the puzzle when she finished.
*** Robbie had the episode title quote, but nothing beats Phil Keoghan greeting the Bikers with, “Let's go Brooklyn! Brooklyn is in the house!” An alternative quote of the episode was Kym's conversation with her horse about how even though his teeth were yellow, she knew a good dentist. Cut to Jim & Misti.
*** I mentioned Jim's problems with teamwork last week and you'll notice that in the first challenge, Misti wanted to carry a bag of hay, but Jim insisted on carrying both, because he's just not a good partner. At least Misti did the Roadblock this week all on her own, though I could have done without Jim slapping his wife on the butt to encourage her pre-Roadblock.
*** The double entendre stuff with Tim & Te Jay's grunts of effort inside their tent as the rooster looked on quizzically was beneath this show.
*** Phil tried hard to be enthusiastic about the progress Nici & Shelley made, because they were at least holding hands when they finished. “We didn't win, but yes, I have a better relationship with my daughter,” Shelley agreed without conviction.
*** Phil's got a big crush on Adam & Bethany. I'll let you decide if you want to be bothered by Adam's copying of the Berber butter-maker and his singing. Kym at least made up her own lyrics in English rather than mimicking at native tongue she didn't speak.
Thoughts on Friday's Leg?