This was a very fun episode, if not one full of intrigue. SPOILER ALERT right away!!!!!!
OK, you were warned.
The Volleyballers were last coming in and really didn’t do much to make up the time. If it was even possible for them to do so, barring a huge error by another team – something which never materialized. And this phenomenon leads to one of the most interesting dynamics in the Race, and one which produces much controversy – Bunching and Race costs.
Regarding Bunching, this is a fine line for the Race to walk – Too many bunch points completely undermines the urgency of the previous set of challenges. However, not enough leads to less-than-dramatic eliminations, as teams have less of a chance to overcome small errors, much less large ones. It is not easy to walk that line, and when it falls too far into one side, the fans are in an uproar. Remember, AR6? There were episodes which had multiple bunching! I also lament poor Dave/Lori (still!) from AR9 who started in last and couldn’t emerge from last even though they didn’t really do anything wrong.
This goes hand-in-hand with the Race costs. As fans, it is simply something we have to take if we want the Race to keep going. Cost cutting measures killed the Fast Forward – for the first four Races there was one on virtually every leg available to teams. If the decision was more Races vs. more Fast Forwards – we take more Races. Then we got an insane amount of corporate sponsorship – including the Travelocity gnome challenge. If the choice is more Races vs. Travelocity shilling – you take more Races. Now, the latest phenomenon is more intra-city legs – or in this case intra-region legs, with no airports and even no trains or buses. While it cuts down on production costs, and does what the producers deem necessary (more challenge coverage and “character” moments) in place of ticket wrangling, it gives bottom teams fewer chances to make up ground. Bunching points primarily come from airports and other terminals, and from Hours of Operation.
In a leg such as this one, the only spot where that may have come up was the gondola, maybe. Which means the Volleyballers needed a team to get lost to come from behind. And thus, a less-than-suspenseful outcome.
However, while we knew the girls were doomed, we did have lots of fun along the way. That’s one thing about this collection of teams – they are certainly interesting to watch. And now that we are down to seven, we can get a better feel for each:
YouTube – Smart and friendly, but can they overcome Michael’s complete inability to do anything physical? I can’t see it working well for them in the long run if they have to do every slower challenge on every leg.
QVC – These ladies are tough. Brooke may be all pep, sunshine and rainbows, but she’s tough. She can get whacked on the head with a car door, but still run to the Mat. Meanwhile, Claire muscles her way through tough challenges. Remember, she got smacked in the face by a watermelon and kept going. She struggled in the ascender challenge – but this has beaten many teams before (Bowling Mom’s anyone?). Not sure if they can overcome the female team jinx though, especially with…
KNat – I was so impressed by Kat’s attitude during the Fast Forward eating challenge. A 20-plus year vegetarian, she went into it the way you have to – you came on the Race, you knew anything was possible, so just do it! They made a fun game out of it (think scallops, salad, cucumbers), and plowed through the challenge. It “tastes like a million dollars,” indeed. Most likely to inherit the Beauty Queen’s crown as Female Team Most Likely To Win.
Tattoo Two – I am fascinated by this team. They are bereft of analytical thought. What of “Fast Forward Taken” is confusing? Did they think it was a proper name? Wow, what a coincidence that they would have a Fast Forward Challenge at the home of Mr. Fast Forward Taken. I wonder if Mr. Taken can help us find the challenge. Meanwhile, they ROCK on the physical challenges. Fans of the Race know how the ascender has treated women in the past – again, Bowling Moms – and Vicki volunteered to do it, and was as good, if not better than some of the men. And then she out-rode her boyfriend on the bike, despite him being a competitive dirt bike rider as a kid. Strange, strange team.
Garlory – Parent/Child teams have had a less-than-stellar history on the Race (except some, Margie/Luke, Ron/Christina, and a few others), but this one is certainly interesting. Mallory rivals only Brooke in enthusiasm and blondeness. Meanwhile, Gary is a quiet Race monster. He seems to be able to do everything, without actually saying anything. They could be a real darkhorse.
Chad/Steph and Jill/Thomas – The two teams without nicknames are the two traditional white, pretty dating teams containing a man with anger issues that are always on the Race. And who have often won, or come very close. To be perfectly honest, have either done much to impress so far? Chad/Steph certainly haven’t. They’ve been near the bottom more times than near the top, and Chad is going to go on a rampage at some point soon. Meanwhile, Jill and Thomas have been great – winning the first leg, and powering through this last one – and awful (the rest of the time). And I am already very sick of the “will Notre Dame boy Thomas accept hot beauty school Jill as his mate, or is she too dumb” plotline. Especially since he’s turned out to be much more of a dumbass than her.
Challenge-wise, it was a good episode. The Fast Forward was eating a sheep head – and the eating challenges are what they are, disgusting to watch, but full to revel in others’ misfortune. The Roadblock was the ascender off the side of a bridge – again, lots of schadenfreude , but we have seen it before. The Detour between a crazy ass bike ride and a random boat ride delivery was fun if only for scenery and of course, randomness of the task.
Regardless, I had fun watching, and isn’t that really all we as viewers need?