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Amazing Race 20 – Ep 4 – The Million Santa March

This week provided the Tale of Two Shows. On the one hand, we had one of the most amazing moments of charity, good will and sportsmanship seen on a reality show. On the other hand, we had a meltdown of a team so intense that it had to be fake.
Last week, I gave JJArt some crap for their super-confident bragging. It was getting to be too much, and still is. I said that I really wanted to root for them, but they were making it rather difficult. It’s almost as if they heard me. Now, they are still bragging about how the other teams get dumber and dumber, but they also did something unprecedented (that we have seen) on the show. Coming off a week where they finished almost five hours ahead of the second place team, JJArt again won the leg. Of course, this time it took a goofy Fast Forward to get there. Heck, I’m just thrilled whenever we get to actually see a Fast Forward. Anyway, it means they won again.

The prize was ten grand. Nice. Earlier, we learned that the guys had struck up a friendship with the Boppers. In fact, when the good ol’ boys arrived at the airport without tickets, the Border Agents told them to get back out there and find a travel agent. They expressed to us their affection for the Boppers. Well, it was too little, too late as the Kentuckians were two hours behind and only barely caught up with the Cousins later on. The Boppers were in last place – and this coming on the same leg we got to see Bopper talk about their reason for racing…his daughter’s health. More than most Racing teams ever before; these dudes really need the cash.
Upon hitting the Mat, Bopper was already in tears. He had failed. And then, all of a sudden, Phil called JJArt back over. Wha!?! They are going to split the ten grand with the Boppers. That’s $2,500 for Bopper to use to help pay some of those medical bills. Holy crap. Game show contestants and reality show competitors never, EVER give up prizes or cash. With few exceptions, of course.

I remember reading that Colin/Christie from Season 5 gave one of their trips to Dennis/Erika, the first team out that season. If you recall, Dennis gave them a cab before taking one for his own team. It spelled their doom and helped keep the eventual runners-up in the Race. But handing over cash on the spot – without any after-the-fact thinking – was an incredible gesture. That move earns JJArt some leeway with the bragging. For now.
Of course, with the non-elimination, I wonder if they want the cash back! I also wonder if there will be a crisis of conscience later for the Boppers in returning this favor in the context of the Race.

Meanwhile, out of nowhere, Team Big Brother started to implode. I’m not really sure, but I think the only reason they started to bicker was because Brendon wanted to pay attention to parking. That’s it. Baby started to whine about how he talked to her – and trust me, having watched 20 seasons of the Race, there are far, far worse examples of couples treating each other worse than what happened there. In fact, in another part of Italy, Army Guy and Wife were proving my point.

But the BB Bicker continued to the next task, and their inability to decipher the two-cent Euro clue – the next location was the building on the coin. In the car, during the parking, Baby had said that this whole thing was not worth the million and thus threatened to quit over a parking issue. Later, while agonizing over the coin, Brendon called her on, asking if she wanted to quit. Amazingly, she blamed HIM for wanting to quit. She said he says this about everything, and expected him to do the same with his Ph.D. He didn’t think it was worth this kind of meltdown, and she even called up how maybe their marriage isn’t worth it.

That’s right – she floated the possibility of break up because he wanted to park a car and because they couldn’t solve a clue. This team is a therapist’s dream. For a smart guy, he sure is making a dumb move with this person. And seriously, why is she mentally a 13-year-old girl? I’ve never seen a grown woman whine and run away more than this one.

This argument felt so scripted, as if they planned to make drama when they came on the show. Not that these two were capable of that behavior, right? Anyone?

It’s so bad with them that I find myself agreeing with Stalker about them, and that’s really bad because she’s a piece of work too. First, the Stalker Lady mocked Baby’s sparkly green blouse. Yeah, not too catty. Then she implied that Baby has lots of experience eating salami – and I am sure she was not talking about cured meat. This is one classy chick – do I really have to pick a side in this fight, or can I root for them both to go away?

The other case of winning behavior came from Army Guy – who was a Grade A, Season 6 Jonathan level, ass this week. The flip side of his treatment of Army Wife was that I am really starting to like her. First, after getting crap about her driving she pulled over and said, fine, you drive. Good for her. Next, after several teams had already beaten them to the box and JJArt was clearly gone to the Fast Forward, Dave wanted to go to the Fast Forward anyway. Because it mentioned flying and landing a helicopter. Because he’s a chopper pilot. Logical right?

Army Wife called BS on her idiot husband right away. First, another team was already there! Second, did he really think they were going to allow moron reality show contestants to fly and land an actual helicopter?!?! He passively and aggressively bemoaned this choice – and I hope he apologized to her afterwards upon learning that it was a toy helicopter. Meanwhile, she rocked the rappel challenge and enabled them to move up the pack.

It got better later when Army Guy decided to be a stereotype and decided he knew the best route to get to the Detour. In Italy. And he’s not Italian. Hysterically, teams deciphered the coin clue by asking a random group of about 100 Santas for directions. It led to some great visual humor – but it also led to a ridiculous car fight between the Army Couple. He said it was locked in his mind where to go, and she suggested that maybe they should follow the directions given to them by actual Italian people. “We should go where all the Santa Clauses told us to go.” HA! They got there- but we never really found out how well Dave remembered the directions; we just got the initial move in the wrong direction. At the end of the leg, they finished second and no harm was done in the short term. But in the long term…who knows.
Other than that, the rest of the leg was quiet. The teams went to the Olympic city of Turin, Italy, which is also Italy’s motor city. Imagine, that’s like us having the Olympics in Detroit. We got lots of car stuff – a car museum, a weird Escher-like building where they make cars, and a giant Ford Focus ad.

The Roadblock was to rappel down the garage of said building in two minutes to retrieve a hanging clue. If you failed, as several did, you had to run all the way back up and do it again. Army Wife figured out that using your legs on the wall was the trick to getting down faster. Danny also did the same. Meanwhile, Jamie and Vanessa failed but watched Rachel do it properly. Bopper later did it as if it was a ratchet wrench, which led to some visual humor. So, the task is done by Baby, Danny, Jamie, Vanessa, Army Wife, Stacy and Bopper

Fast Forward for first-arriving JJArt was to land a chopper. Cool!! But it was a toy. Not as cool. And the platform to land it via remote control was right on top of your partner’s head, as they wore a platform hat. JJ got to say, “Art’s gonna fly a toy helicopter around my junk and head.” Anyway, after many attempts they did it, and finished first.

Detour – the choice was Clean that Statue, where teams had to literally clean a statue using various tools, or Name that Salami where teams had to taste 14 salamis and then a half-mile away identify each one. This one should have been a no-brainer – clean the damn statue. But for some reason (perhaps the no brain part), BB chose the salami, later joined by the Cousins. This one just seemed so much more difficult to complete. The other one just needed elbow grease and patience.

Anyway, that’s the episode, and on to…

Route Markers
• I assume Team Dumbbell will just be talking about hot girls wherever the Race goes. Do they have more to say than that?
• That said, Fitness did re-tweet my article last week. As did several of the other teams – JJArt, the Cousins, the Golf Sisters, Elliot from the Twins. Thanks Racers!!
• Stalker Lady called the last leg the worst day of their lives. Really? Both of them are divorced – I am sure there were days worse than failing to stack watermelons properly.
• Baby said that she knows now why Italians hate Americans – we’re idiots. Well, you are partially right, you are an idiot. I think you may be confusing Italy with France – so there’s that.
• Cousins struggle driving stick. Sigh. Do I need to go on the same rant about learning stick before coming on the Race? Really?
• The in between task was to go to the Museum of Cars and find the 1916 Tin Lizzy. On the seat, were the coins. Most figured it out well – Brendon wanted to find a coin slot in the car. Because cars were coin operated 100 years ago, I guess.
• Stalker Lady – “Hey that’s my face, you know how much this nose cost?” Yay – vanity jokes!!
• The Santa Claus Pub Crawl. The Million Santa March. The Santa Convention. Nice job, Racers. Good ones. I personally would have gone with the Santa Clausterf*ck. But that’s just me.
• Mark expects Turin residents to speak English. Of course he does.
• Did Art really describe the Race as gnarly?!?
• It seems Danny likes dirty girls – and Fitness likes to make dirty girl jokes. I swear that these guys are reading from a script.
• BB called Vanessa and Ralph the Ogre and the Triflin’ Ho. Which is a long lost Grimm Brothers story. I wonder which one is the Ogre?
• Baby upon seeing the 14 salamis – “Let’s try the easiest one first.” How do you know which one is easy? You just got there.
• Loved the loose heads on the statues – led to some very funny moments as the air blasters knocked the heads right off.
• DiGorno!!! Well, it’s surely not delivery…

Next week – Bavaria and a fairy tale challenge. And Bopper yodels.

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