Ladies and gentlemen…we have in the midst of this annoying season of the Amazing Race, arguably the best non-elimination leg in show history. I must admit that I was riveted by this episode, even though I rightfully predicted the non-elim, and that from the outset, it was obvious that Team Bopper was going to finish in last place. This could have been an awful, boring episode filled with the same collection of fairly awful people. But it wasn’t.
Because the theme was The Trials And Tribulations of Mark, and those guys S.O.L.D. it. And that’s why Team Bopper is so good, and that’s why The Amazing Race has been usually so incredible. They manage to find real people doing real things. Some are on there to mug for the camera and get attention, but the vast majority of the show’s Racers have been authentic, real people. And Team Bopper might be one of the most authentic ever. The obvious choice is to compare them to David and Mary because of the poor Kentucky thing. But while David and Mary were a bit insufferable and really not good Racers, Team Bopper is not. They show more affection for each other than some of the married and dating couples – including ALL of the remaining ones this season.
In this episode, I am going to focus on Team Bopper, even though there were some important things to talk about including JJArt’s small comeuppance and a lecture on sexism on reality shows. The Bopps’ leg started out with a first place departure marred by Bopper’s knee injury. Hinted at last week, it was serious this week. Bopper was not gonna be boppin’. So when they arrived in India and had to make their way to the bus depot, Bopper’s inability to run put them in last place immediately. Bopper was “walkin’ it, Blood.” Get this dude his own show.
The problem was compounded by the bus ride. As we learned earlier, Mark has terrible motion sickness issues. What started as a comedic moment turned into a real plot point and some budding drama and tragedy. Mark was going to have to shoulder the load this week, and he’s getting sick on a bus. At the Roadblock, Bopper was unable to do it, despite admitting that he is, in fact, the better dancer. And Mark struggled, and struggled. And it was probably even worse because he was sick, and it was about 100 degrees.
Getting back to the “real” aspects of Team Bopper, let’s focus for a moment on Bopper and his reaction to his friend. At first, he leaned on him, knowing that he couldn’t do anything. Then on the bus, he was clearly amused by his friend’s discomfort. Just as any of us would. He said, “(Mark) ain’t got much rhythm, but he’s got heart.” So, he was all in with Mark at the dance. And then Mark couldn’t do it. And Bopper started to get very concerned. He floated the possibility that I know I started to think of while watching – taking the penalty. It was clear that the other teams had passed them by and that Mark was nowhere close to being able to do the task. They were in last, and the pit they were in was close to a bottomless one. Their only hope was a non-elim, and they were going to be in last one way or the other, and who knows if you get to have an equalizer the next time around. It made sense.
But Mark didn’t want to quit. He tried and tried, and failed and failed. He was covered in sweat. Bopper told him “to hell with that money.” But Mark wanted to continue for his kid – either because of the money, or because of pride, or some combination. He failed for the 9th, 10tth and 11th times. Bopper told him they “came here as friends and were gonna leave there as friends.” It was the Tragedy of Mark.
However, as they gave up and planned on limping to the Mat, a very suspicious moment took place. All of a sudden Bopper is urging him to go once more, and a very involved choreographer was nudging Mark to get back on stage. It was to make it seem like they had one more attempt left, and lo and behold, Mark did it. I think that all of the other teams had arrived at that moment, and the producers knew it was non-elim and did not want Team Bopper in a giant, penalty-induced hole that would make the next leg impossible.
So the boys arrive at the Mat in last and Bopper unleashes this line, “Everyone can use some extra money, but you can’t replace this guy.” Nice. They are saved again – and before the conspiracy theorists come out, other teams have been saved by non-elim multiple times, ie: Chris/Alex, Flo/Zach, BJ/Tyler…hmm, notice a pattern?
JJArt’s small comeuppance – Look, I’ve gone on about this a lot; I have wanted to like these guys all season long. They’ve done great things, and then some crappy things. But this week I found myself enjoying a bit of schadenfraude with them. Watching JJ failing over and over at the Roadblock was tons of fun for me to watch after they repeatedly laid on the arrogance over the last few weeks. However, the best part of the JJArt story line was the head-to-head battle playing cricket against Team Baby. The task required both teammates to hit a pitched cricket ball to a certain marker, either on the ground or in the air. JJ and Brendon did it quickly, but Art and Baby struggled. And then I found myself rooting for Baby, and that was really disconcerting. She beat him and it was embarrassing to Art and that was comic gold.
And now a lecture on sexism on reality shows. This goes out to Art, Brendon and Dave. Just because JJ and Mark can’t dance, doesn’t mean men can’t dance. And because I know this is part of that crap – it doesn’t mean straight men can’t dance. Emmitt Smith won Dancing With The Stars – you want to mess with him? No, they sucked at the task because they have no skills. There are plenty of women with no skills – I direct you to the full body dry heave set to music. And Brendon, having a woman for her rhythm, but worries because of her emotions is sexist. If you said, it’s good having RACHEL on your team because she has rhythm, but bad because RACHEL is uber-emotional, that would be accurate. It ain’t women – it’s your woman.
And Dave, amazingly, you were not sexist at the dance – potentially because your wife wasn’t there long enough. But then you had to tumble out of a 1950s sitcom and goof about how your wife can’t drive and she needs to listen to her husband. You were literally a back seat driver. And incredibly, not remotely the most sexist person of the episode.
So, cool tasks, some real drama, some outrage and great comedy moments. Great episode, Show. Thanks.