Ooops. Somebody forgot to include the drama in Friday (February 27) night's episode of “The Amazing Race,” which was edited with less of an exclamation point and more of an unconcerned shrug.
Starting a whopping 29 minutes into the episode, teams started popping up at the Pit Stop and I expected Phil Keoghan to say something like, “Really? We're done?”
Instead, Phil was asking people things like, “Is there any romantic connection do you think?”
Ladies and gentlemen… Season 26 of “The Amazing Race.”
There were good moments in Friday's episode, titled “I Got The Smartest Dude,” but they didn't add up to anything, because by the time the eliminated team reached the Pit Stop, they'd been in last for the entirely time and they were just smiling and laughing and happy and ready to go home.
And if they don't care, why should we?
Let's get down to recapping business after the break.
The teams started the Leg in Tokyo and there was already nearly three hours between Jelani & Jenny in first place and CJ & Libby in last, which didn't bode well for action, especially since, in a minor miracle, this wasn't a Leg that included an Equalizer.
Instead, teams had to start off by taking a bullet-train from Tokyo to Nagano. There was sufficient spacing that teams ended up of five different trains, though mostly the trains were arriving pretty close together.
The only real gap came because CJ & Libby were in last and then they also made things worse by missing their train because they were in the process of taking a selfie as part of this season's utterly obnoxious Selfie-Cam. I didn't make fun of Selfie-Cam during the first episode, mostly because I forgot. It's bad. And annoying. And depending on how close you honestly believe things were at the end of the Leg, it may or may not have gotten CJ & Libby eliminated from “The Amazing Race.”
If you believe the cross-cutting, CJ & Libby were in a close sprint to the Pit Stop with Team Run For The Hills Blair. I don't believe the cross-cutting at all. But if you believe the cross-cutting, those 15 minutes that CJ & Libby wasted by missing their train could have made all the difference.
While they were solidly behind, CJ & Libby appeared to get to the Roadblock as two other teams were still finishing it. I'm not exactly sure how they did that other than that Hayley is presumably not very good at puzzles.
The Detour was a puzzle that had to be solved while stereotypical Japanese cacophony — gongs, samurais, etc — was happening behind them. The puzzle was a small box and there was no way for the cameramen to give a visual representation of either what had to be done or what was causing difficulties for some contestants. Instead, the Roadblock became less about the person doing the puzzle and more about the reactions of the partners.
So we saw that Blair really stinks at giving positive reenforcement.
“Try to make progress,” was the best he could do to inspire Hayley. To Hayley's credit, I expected the puzzle to freak her out — I forget she's a nurse, which means she's got brains even if she's putting on a bubbly persona for the date side of this — and she didn't.
And we saw that Bergen wanted reenforcement, but Kurt didn't know how to cheer for him.
And there was the amusing banter between the Blind Dating Girls as to which of them got the smartest dude as Tyler, Jeff and Jelani tried to do the Roadblock. At least for this task, the answer was Ashley, as Tyler finished quickly, with Jelani close behind.
There was a lot of stuff happening in the background of the Roadblock, but no stakes to the task itself.
The Detour was better, but perplexing.
The choice? Share or Chair, a decision teams had to make without additional description.
In Share, teams had to go to a noodle house and feed each other a bowl of ramen noodles using chopsticks. Nobody had to eat the broth. Boo. Oh and they had to do the feeding while a big fan blew the noodles around.
In Chair, teams had to put on skates and they had to do two circuits of a track, each pushing the other in a speed-skating training chair. The circuits had to be completed in 3:55.
It's here that I remind you that one of our teams this year, Aly & Steve, is made up of two Winter Olympic medalists, with her medal actually coming in speed skating. I acknowledge without hesitation that hockey skates make this challenge different for somebody accustomed to racing skates and that bobsledding, Steve's discipline, isn't skate-based. Still, this is the biggest home ice advantage for an “Amazing Race” pair since Adam & Bethany won a Leg by surfing last season.
Aly & Steve completed the Detour in a single try and in 3:31, but I saw that time and immediately made the assumption that if the two Winter Olympians were only beating the time by 24 seconds, nobody else stood a chance.
That ended up not being the case. Nobody else finished in a single try and, in fact, two of the teams that finished completed the laps in exactly 3:55. But only Mike & Rochelle quit the Chair Detour and only after Rochelle had to have medical come out and look at her wrist after an ugly spill. You could sense Mike hoping this would inspire Rochelle to quit, but when she was willing to give it one more try, he had to pull the plug due to exhaustion. [Rochelle does roller derby. That doesn't help you skate in circles. I get that. But I'd think she's taken enough falls to know that if you can move your limb/joint after a fall, you're probably mostly OK. Or if you're not OK, you're OK enough to wait until you've completed the Leg before asking about treatment.]
Mike & Rochelle surrendered on Chair and went to Share and it was pretty easy for them largely because… it was pretty easy. Even if you didn't know how to use chopsticks properly, there were plenty of other ways to get noodles to your partner's mouth, especially since nobody was being graded on style points. There were some small learning curves as the blind dating couples had to discover how their partners liked having noodles jabbed in their faces, but only Kurt struggled because he thought the noodles were gross, which pretty much ended any chance I had of cheering for them.
Ultimately, Laura & Tyler finished the Detour first, but they hadn't made sure to secure their cab long-term. Jenny & Jelani were close behind and still had their cab. That was the whole difference as Jenny & Jelani won their second straight Leg.
Harley & Jonathan were fourth, but they won a spa date randomly I don't like that. [Also, did I mis-see, or was there at least one moment when Harley was eating his own noodles? My eyes might have been deceiving me.]
CJ & Libby were lagging behind the entire time, but they did the much faster and easier Share, while Blair & Hayley did Chair and struggled a little. I still don't believe things were close in the end.
A few other thoughts on tonight's episode:
*** Odd Detail: Wait. They're CJ & Lebya now? That's what the official site says. It was definitely Libby last week.
*** Frustrating detail: The CBS press site has a picture of CJ & Lebya attempting the Chair challenge. So that pretty much makes a total lie of the editing that was always a lie. Blech. No wonder the editors didn't care.
*** Phil tried hard to see if he was setting up any love matches. Jelani & Jenny, who actually seem like a really good team, said they were focused on the Race. Ashley & Tyler, definitely not a bad team, said they have their eyes on the prize. Hayley gave no signals that she was loving Blair nearly as much this week. And Phil didn't ask Bergen & Kurt anything about sparks. I'll pause and let you decide if that seems problematic to you.
*** Lots of other odd Phil banter this week. He pronounced Bergen & Kurt's name with a Germanic accent. He praised Mike's beard. Etc.
*** Line of the week: Ashley's “We're like Lady and the Tramp. But I think I'm the Tramp.”
*** Disturbing line of the week: Bergen's “I normally don't date people who look like me.”
*** Second most disturbing line of the week: Jonathan's “We're the old guys.” If a New Kid on the Block calling himself “old” doesn't make you feel old…
*** There was a lot of redundancy in this episode, character-wise. I didn't need Rochelle's joke about the Race as her relationship fast-forward with Mike. I'm not sure I needed more wedding insecurity from Libby.
What'd you think of Friday's episode?