I guess I can accept that some warm-fuzzies are an acceptable way to compensate for yet another drama-free episode of “The Amazing Race.” I wouldn't want to trade emotion and sentiment for tension and excitement very often, but at least Friday's (March 6) “Amazing Race” Leg got something out of what is normally a situation that leaves me frustrated, so…
Let's skip to the recap after the break so I can get to spoiling…
So Friday's “Amazing Race” episode was a Non-Elimination Leg and it always had the feel of a Non-Elimination Leg, because the process of escaping from Nagano in Japan to Phuket, Thailand proved absurdly difficult and “The Amazing Race” usually doesn't like to send teams home as a result of travel circumstances that are totally unavoidable. And this was a situation in where there were at least four flights departing Japan at wildly different times and even with an attempted equalizer in Phuket, it still wasn't enough to bring Jonathan & Harley into the pack.
Jonathan & Harley didn't really do anything wrong leaving Japan. They just got screwed on flight availability and then couldn't do anything to catch up and if they were eliminated, it would have been the second straight episode in which the last place team started in last and never came close to passing even one other pair.
Just as there was never any way for the editors to convincingly make it look like CJ & Libby weren't doomed last week, Team New Kids were off on their own for this entire episode. In fact, I feel like Jonathan & Harley have spent a lot of time alone through three episodes this season and that has been an effective way to help them stand out as a team. I like Jonathan's various phobias and insecurities and I like how well Harley handles him. I'm rooting for Team New Kids, so I was glad they weren't eliminated, even if I figured they were never going to be eliminated in this episode.
And just in case you were always convinced this was a Non-Elimination Leg, at least we got some emotion at the end when Matt got down on one knee and proposed to Ashley and she said “Yes.” The last “Amazing Race” proposal — Or the last one I remember? — came back in Season 17 when Chad proposed to Stephanie. Well, Chad was a pill and I really had hoped that Stephanie would say “No,” not that it was ever likely. In this case, Matt's engagement came after a pressure-packed close to the Leg in which he forgot his fanny-pack and they had to rush back to a Route Marker, putting them in potential jeopardy. He was freaking out. She was a rock. It was endearing. Without that panic, which never was serious panic for viewers since we knew where Jonathan & Harley were, I probably wouldn't have felt as simpatico with Matt & Ashley and the proposal wouldn't have hit home. That's good editing, then. Give us a reason to care and then we get happy. So yay for Matt & Ashley, I think.
[The proposal also featured the very sweet for Kurt & Bergen to give up the Date Night Reward that they got randomly. This Date Night Reward thing is nearly as stupid as the show's new Selfie obsession. “The Amazing Race” isn't a show that should be giving prizes away at random and that's all the Date Night thing is. As it stands, it appears that a team could get the random Date Night Reward at one point, fall behind and get eliminated and still somehow get to keep the reward. That's just wrong. I'm also not sure how to feel about Bergen making Matt & Ashley's engagement all about him by crying about how he wished he could find love. There's no question that the “Amazing Race” producers made a botch of that couple and it's a little sad to see how disappointed that Kurt and Bergen have been that they got stuck only with a potential friend and it's a reminder that when it comes to match making, the “Amazing Race” casting directors had no clue what they were doing, even if Jeff has started calling Jackie “babe.”]
And yay for Jonathan & Harley not going home, even if my instinct is to “Boo” for Non-Elimination Legs.
It was, in general, an odd-but-interesting Leg.
How often does it happen that teams are encouraged to just hang out and get hammered while killing time? There was one season that the teams had a lot of time to waste and went to the beach in Barcelona. I remember that. But in this case, as part of the attempted equalizer, “The Amazing Race” booked the teams five hotel rooms in a party neighborhood and just said “Free play till tomorrow!” That doesn't happen often.
The Leg also was the third in a row in which the disparity between one Detour and the other verged on absurd.
The choice? Ski or Tree.
In Ski, teams had to wakeboard a circuit around a wake park. I don't know how hard it is to wakeboard, but I know that Aly & Steve are Olympic athletes and said they're experienced water-skiers and they didn't come close to being able to finish the Detour before quitting. Jeff & Jackie gave up even faster. It might have been nice to see somebody with skills finish the task, just so we knew it was doable, like how Aly & Steve finished Chair last week with ease, even though it was a disproportionately harder task than the one that forced people to eat a bowl of noodles. Nobody finished Ski and I'm forced to believe that if you didn't know the discipline, it wasn't doable.
Tree was completely doable and it was, thankfully, a lot harder than eating a bowl of noodles.
In Tree, teams had to load plays with food and drink and transfer the plates to diners at the end of a zip-line. So you had to be able to handle heights and you had to have balance skills. You also had to be able to read, which oddly caused trouble for Jelani, who led his pair to just load a partial order the first time around. Blair followed suit, even though Hayley knew Blair was wrong and told him over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Then when Hayley was vindicated, she reminded Blair that she had been right over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Hayley's shrill and annoying. Don't get me wrong. And she doesn't know how to let anything go. But this is the second time now, that we've seen, that Blair has willfully ignored her and then refused to even acknowledge her as she kept insisting that she was right. I almost can't blame Hayley for gloating and stressing the point, because Blair is so stubborn. It's impressive how much of a botch they are as an attempted couple. They can't even do paired talking heads together. It's funny. But also sad.
At least Jeff and Jackie are sharing a bed and “Babing” it, while Laura & Tyler seem functional as a duo if not a couple. Jenny & Jelani are strange, from what we've seen, because they're treating their partnership like lawyers and not even as friends. They have no dynamic at all, but they're proficient and tolerant enough as individuals that they can do OK.
Then I'm not sure how to handle that “The Amazing Race” brought the teams to Thailand and had them participate in a Thai ladyboy cabaret show. There don't seem to be any truly bad people on The Race this season, so the homophobia was more insinuated, for the most part, than articulated. But the episode-concluding Route Marker, in which teams had to get dressed for the aforementioned ladyboy show and then learn choreography and get judged, was so lengthy and involved that even people who were having fun initially grew fatigued. I'm just uncomfortable with an “Amazing Race” joint task that's effectively “Tee-hee. Men have to dress like women” and then the men complained about it and make jokes about it. The women in the respective pairs were, at best, props, but generally not even that. So in every single straight pair, the energy was identical: The girls got dressed and learned the choreography and giggled as the men complained about what they were doing. Mike & Rochelle won the Leg and they were able to finish pretty fast in large part because of all of the guys, Mike was the one whose amusement at the task never ran out, never became sour. In contrast, Blair was a bitter pill throughout. Tyler started off having a great time, but after a while grumbled, “Where do I get my nuts chopped off? Is that part of this?” It all became a race to embody different stereotypes, whether it was the total absence of drama for the two gay couples, or the fact that Tyler and Steve were only able to finish by making the dancing into an showdown of alpha masculinity. Nobody doing the task crossed the line into outright offensiveness and for that we should all be grateful.
So we'll start the next Leg with Mike & Rochelle in first, Jonathan & Harley in last and Matt & Ashley engaged.
A few other thoughts on this Leg:
*** Mike & Rochelle became the first previously dating couple to win a Leg. I like them. I can root for them. I just want Mike to get to meet Rochelle's kid.
*** The editors didn't do a good job of explaining how teams ended up on different flights out of Japan. I guess they decided it didn't matter.
*** Harley contributed the episode title quote, but I think he should lose points for hash tagging it.
*** I liked that the key to passing the Route Marker dance was to have spirit, rather than necessarily dancing proficiency. But after the Synch Steps Detour that teams inexplicably refused to leave in Tokyo, we've now had two episodes hinge on dancing and choreography. That's not ideal.