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Amazing Race 19 – Ep 6 Commentary – Toys From Trash For Tots

It’s taken me a while to put this week’s column together, basically because this was an empty calorie episode – fun to watch, but not really good for you. And you know how much I dislike criticizing the Amazing Race. It’s like when your mom does something to disappoint you – it just makes you feel sad.

It had nothing to do with procrastination, of course. But if you ask me about it, I’ll get back to you later.

This makes two consecutive weeks of subpar episodes, this one was done in by the lack of any real drama. For some reason, I just sensed a non-elimination leg this week. I have no idea why, I just did. Probably because it was a traditional slot for a non-elim, even though this season has bee unorthodox for the non-elims. This was the sixth episode and now there have been three non-elims. This may be a good thing overall – by my count there is only room for one more the rest of the season. That means the legs down the stretch have a lot of weight. However, it has led these early rounds to be rather dry.

So, despite the faults of the last couple of weeks, that gives some great hope for the rest of the way. And because it is The Amazing Race, even the dry, duller episodes are still quite fun.

This week they went to Malawi – a country whose claim to fame is producing additions to Madonna’s family. We see that Jeremy 2.0 was over an hour off the pace last week, so they really benefited from having one team falter even more. The teams go over 5,000 from Thailand to Africa which means we have an airport bunching negating last week’s standings. It is part of the deal, I know, but part of me misses the airport madness of the past seasons where getting flights played a part of the drama.

The Roadblock put the teams in a tobacco packing factory and required them to transport ten huge bales of tobacco across the factory floor. I can’t imagine this really helped them with production in the factory. It was also here that I first realized that there were no remaining all-female teams, because this task would have been rather tough for the Twins or the Showgirls. It also ends the fledgling all-female victory streak at two seasons. No one will be joining KNat or Kisha/Jen this time around.

In typical Amazing Race form, the workers circled around the Racers and got in their way, and danced and chanted in an effort to distract them. Again, I am sure that is not standard operating procedure.

The Detour had them decide between sewing together suits and constructing toys for a school. And when I say toys, I mean garbage. If you ever wanted an image – other than images we have seen of starving and diseased orphan children, of course –that encapsulated the suffering of children in Africa, this was a prime example. These children were happy to receive the homemade trucks made out of old milk cartons and buttons. Toys made out of trash – and happy about it. Think about that when you shop at Toys R Us this holiday season.

They toys proved to be the much easier task – and as a Survivor fan, I was thinking how unfortunate it was that Jenna/Ethan were taken out so early. If you recall from Ethan’ season, set in Africa, he and Lex had a memorable visit to a village in Africa. It would have been cool to see him interact here.

The sewing led to some difficulty – like when Geritol forgot to thread the needle – and some unexpected sewing skills from Marcus. However, the placement drama of the episode really came down to the Peytons being stuck at the front of the plane, getting a subpar cab, and fighting from behind the whole way.

The other plot development was Laurence’s slow evolution into this season’s villain. Hot off of last week’s scapegoating of his kid, he basically implied that sewing was women’s work. Clearly he doesn’t watch Project Runway – unless he thinks it is also gay work. The best part of his 1950s mentality was that it was offset with images of the former NFL player showing some mad sewing skills.

Lastly, there was a final random task where teams have to deliver handmade beds to a small village. First part is via truck, the rest of the way by hand. The big key to this task was to remember to pay your cab driver before heading to the mat. And no, this is not a repeat from two weeks ago. Some teams, forget, others don’t. The Siblings forget and lose first place, meaning that for the third time the Dudes win a leg because someone else got a penalty. Geritol also forgot and had a chance to finish last as a result. The Last Place Peytons were on their way to the mat when Geritol had to go back, however, the older couple was able to double back before Amani and Marcus made it to the mat. First to last in one week, but alive to Race another day.

Route Markers
• New credits this week with scenes from the Race – I like this touch from the last few seasons
• The Peytons have a special needs child, and Jennifer works in special ed. I have no jokes here, just acknowledging their hard work and strong love bonds. I also sense an alliance in real life waiting to happen.
• Good for Jennifer to acknowledge the beauty of Africa. As we all know, far too many Racers have focused on the poverty and sadness of the Third World instead of the splendor and humanity within. Cathi loves the spaciousness of Malawi – which is an odd complement, unless she’s planning on moving in.
• Not sure if it was bad editing, but did Jeremy and Cindy each think that THIS is what life is like in Malawi? All happy and dancing in warehouses? Very strange.
• More good Jenn moments – the tobacco factory smelled like their dad.
• Was it me or did the warehouse uniforms look like prison uniforms? Was the Race hiding something from us?
I wonder if anyone else thought of Rocky 2 as Marcus collected an entourage during the Roadblock?
• Tommy marveled that the kids of Malawi don’t need fancy stuff to be happy. I beg to differ, Tom, I am very sure these kids would love to have some Playmobile toys and are happy with the milk carton trucks because the alternative is playing with dirt.
• Cindy never felt less safe in her life – and I think Cindy must have a really, really nice life.
• Jeremy 2.0 bickering is annoying, of course, but it really pales in comparison with some classing Racer couple bickering. It’s almost cute.
• Sandy on being passed by Geritol – “If they pass me, than good for a 62-year-old woman.”

Roadblock – Haul 10 200 lb. bales of tobacco across a warehouse. Jeremy, Justin, Ernie, Laurence, Tommy, Bill and Marcus

DetourAll Sewn Up, go to a tailor shop and manually sew suits, or Not Grown Up, go to a school and build two toy trucks from scraps. Toys – Jeremy 2.0, Siblings, Dudes, Magellans, Sewing – Control Freak, Geritol and Peytons.

Order of Finish – Dudes (win a trip to British Virgin Islands), Siblings, Jeremy 2.0, Magellans, Control Freak, Geritol (dropping from third), Peytons (NOT ELIMINATED)

Next week, er, later today – Taxi on bikes, more Jeremy 2.0 bickering, and Marcus yells loudly.
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