Category Archives: Racing

The Amazing Race, Oct. 6 – “Survivors and Thrivers”

There’s nothing better than great editing that shows contestants being pompous, only to end up eating those words later on. One team member starts out calling his team “survivors and thrivers,” then ends up having to deal with getting lost, misunderstanding a bus schedule, not doing a roadblock the right way, and even Marie, who should probably take the advice herself, telling him to “Zip it, Bingo.”

Departing from: Iquique, Chile


Tim and Marie: Exes from Morristown, NJ. Time of departure: 2:52 AM. She knows everyone thought they would be a disaster and the first ones gone because of their arguing, but here they are holding onto two express passes.

Nicole and Travis: Married ER physicians from Atlanta. Time of departure: 3:02 AM. Not coming in first was a missed opportunity and it’s time to just move on.

Rowan and Shane: Theater performers from Charlotte. Time of departure: 3:08 AM. They’re survivors and thrivers. You won’t see them on the red carpet, but might see them laying there.

Chester and Ephraim: Former NFL teammates from Houston. Time of departure: 3:13 AM. Ephraim says he is 6’8″ and 280 pounds, prompting Chester to announce, “We big!”

Nicky and Kim: Major League Baseball wives from the Midwest. Time of departure: 3:14 AM.

Ally and Ashley: NHL ice crew teammates from Long Beach, California. Time of departure: 3:20 AM. They are in an alliance with the Afghanimals who call them their race wives, as they have more of a commitment with them than race girlfriends.

Leo and Jamal: Cousins from Southern California. Time of departure: 4:00 AM.

Jason and Amy:Dating and from New England. Time of departure: 5:17 AM.

Tim and Danny: Oil plant workers from Cordell, Oklahoma. Time of departure: 5:28 AM.

Brandon and Adam: Childhood friends from Chico, California. Time of departure: 5:34 AM. Two hours and forty-two minutes after Tim and Marie.

First Clue: Teams will need to make their way by car to the deck of the Museo Corbeta Esmeralda where the officer there will pass them their next clue. The teams arrive before the Esmeralda opens, and Marie sets out the rule to leave their backpacks in order of arrival, wanting to make sure she and Tim keep their place of being first in line. Jamal nicknames them “Pinky and No Brain.”

Second Clue: During the Battle of Iquique in the War of the Pacific Chilean National Hero Arturo Prat uttered a famous phrase before the sinking of the Esmeralda. They need to find the phrase, then repeat it in Spanish to the officer. The phrase in English is, “Charge the ship, Men!” Order of Finish: Brandon and Adam, Ally and Ashley, Nicole and Travis, Tim and Marie, Chester and Ephraim, Rowan and Shane, Leo and Jamal, Jason and Amy, Nicky and Kim, and Tim and Danny.

Third Clue: Teams need to make their way to the Irlanda Salt Mines. They will search for their next clue near the Irlanda 3 roadside.

Fourth Clue: Detour: Teams will will need to ride bikes into the salt mines then chose between Mining or Brining. In Brining, teams will add enough salt to a pool of water to where they can comfortably float while reading a newspaper. In Mining, teams will break open boulders of salt until they find one with a hidden clue. Order of Arrival: Brandon and Adam, Ally and Ashley, Leo and Jamal, Nicole and Travis, Chester and Ephraim, Jason and Amy, Tim and Marie, Nicky and Kim, Tim and Danny, and Rowan and Shane.

Mining: Brandon and Adam, Ally and Ashley (they leave, switching to Brining), Leo and Jamal, Chester and Ephraim, Tim and Danny, and Rowan and Shane.

Brining: Ally and Ashley, Nicole and Travis, Jason and Amy, Tim and Marie, and Nicky and Kim

Order of Finish: Brandon and Adam, Leo and Jamal, Chester and Ephraim, Jason and Amy, Nicole and Travis, Tim and Marie, Ally and Ashley, Tim and Danny, Rowan and Shane, and Nicky and Kim.

Fifth Clue: The teams will travel back to Iquique and take a 1000 mile bus ride to Santiago. There they will make their way to Plaza de Armas to search for their next clue.

Catching the 1:30 bus: Brandon and Adam, Chester and Ephraim, Jason and Amy, Nicole and Travis, and Leo and Jamal.

Catching the 2:00 bus: Tim and Marie, Ally and Ashley, Nicky and Kim, and Tim and Danny.

Catching the 4:00 bus: Rowan and Shane.

Rowan and Shane take the 4:00 bus mistakenly believing that while the 2:00 bus will arrive at 6:00 PM, the 4:00 bus will arrive at 4:00. They are wrong; the 4:00 bus won’t arrive until 10:00. They think they will have a two hour lead, but will instead be behind by four hours.

Sixth Clue: Roadblock: Order of Arrival: Jason and Amy, Chester and Ephraim, Brandon and Adam, Leo and Jamal, Nicole and Travis, Tim and Danny, Tim and Marie, Nicky and Kim, Ally and Ashley, and Rowan and Shane. One teammate from each team will need to polish the shoes of a waiting customer, then figure out the puzzle of how to put together the shining stand and push it six blocks to the central storage area to get the next clue. A number of them either forget the mat that comes with the stand and have to go back for it or don’t understand how to pack up the stand correctly. Participating: Amy, Chester, Adam, Leo, Nicole, Danny, Marie, Nicky, Ashley, and Rowan.

Somehow there is yet another miscalculation of Rowan and Shane’s bus arrival time. They arrive at 7:03 PM, three hours ahead of when they thought they would. This catches them up with the teams that took the 2:00 PM bus. They lose some of the time they gained when Rowan chooses a shoeshine stand that isn’t part of the challenge. He has to repeat it again with an appropriate stand.

Order of Finish: Chester and Ephraim, Leo and Jamal, Brandon and Adam, Nicole and Travis, Jason and Amy, Ally and Ashley, Tim and Danny, Tim and Marie, Nicky and Kim, and Rowan and Shane.

Seventh Clue: Teams will make their way to the Cascada de las Animas in the Andes Mountains, the pit stop for this leg of the Race. The winners of this leg win a trip for two via Travelocity to Turks and Caicos.

Pit Stop: Order of Arrival: Chester and Ephraim, Leo and Jamal, Brandon and Adam, Nicole and Travis, Jason and Amy, Tim and Danny, Ally and Ashley, Tim and Marie, Nicky and Kim, and Rowan and Shane.

At the pit stop, Leo and Jamal don’t pay their cabdriver enough before they run onto Phil’s pit stop mat. The Race requires them to have their debt paid in full before finishing, so they end up losing what would have been a first place finish.

Express Pass: Tim and Marie give their extra pass to Nicky and Kim because of their common bond of Tim playing minor league ball with Kim’s husband. Nicky asks Marie for the Pass during the Roadblock, but Marie refuses to give it to her. Neither pass gets used on this leg and both are still in play.

Teams to Get Lost: Rowan and Shane on their way to the salt mines.

Sound Bites: Adam: We just jammed on those bikes like a Mac truck.

Leo and Jamal: We’ve got Afghanimal strength. Let’s go.

Rowan: I don’t want to talk; you’re using my air.

Marie: Zip it, Bingo.

Shane mentions that they took the chance, and you can’t have great success without great failure. After twenty-seven years, Rowan has finally learned how to appreciate Shane even more.

Next Week: Teams go medieval, and Marie goes up against Nicky and Kim when they argue over position on a standby list for a flight.

The Amazing Race, Sept. 29 – Looking for Quasimodo

Another season of The Amazing Race is ahead of us. We have the same cast as we usually do, as far as fighting exes, a dating couple, a married couple, childhood friends, performers, athletes, etc. It’s clear from the following cast who will be the frontrunners throughout the Race.


Chester and Ephraim: Former NFL teammates from Houston. They both went to San Diego State, and Ephraim shopped at a store where Chester was employed as a bagger. Ephraim convinced him to play football for the college, then ended up on the same NFL team with him.

Rowan and Shane: Theater performers from Charlotte. They make their living performing in a play called, “The Queen of Bingo.” The most important thing for them next to winning is to have fun.

Tim and Marie: Exes from Morristown, NJ. They dated five years ago and don’t get along, but continue to hang out. The minute they get on each other’s nerves it’s unbearable, according to her. They’re already arguing about why they don’t get along, so this is going to be interesting.

Leo and Jamal: Cousins from Southern California. They are known as the “Afghanimals.” To whom they are known as this isn’t clear. Perhaps it’s just themselves. The reason is quite obvious. Their parents left Afghanistan to give them a successful life in America, but they feel they are just as American as our next door neighbors.

Ally and Ashley: NHL ice crew teammates from Long Beach, California. They like to be bright and stand out, like “sparkly things.” They skate on the ice during timeouts. These blondes aren’t looking for love on the ice, and when Ally starts to explain why, she realizes she forgot she has a boyfriend.

Nicole and Travis: Married ER physicians from Atlanta. They work together as a team both at home and work, and at work can’t have a down day, so he thinks this makes them the formidable couple of the race.

Hoskote and Naina: Father and daughter from Laguna Niguel, CA. He admits to still having the Indian mentality and would love for his daughter to have an arranged marriage. She doesn’t want this and says what she wants and thinks she can be what she wants realizing it doesn’t jive with what he wants. The arranged marriage gives her the heebie jeebies, but he promises not to link her up with Quasimodo.

Tim and Danny: Oil plant workers from Cordell, Oklahoma. They’ve lived in the state their whole lives, so they’re small town for the most part. Danny says they work seventy to ninety hours a week and live paycheck to paycheck taking care of their families. They realize the rare one out of eleven chance they have to win a million dollars.

Brandon and Adam: Childhood friends from Chico, California. They bonded instantly, both being nerdy outcasts. They realize they are off kilter, and some people get their self humor and some don’t. They get naked at the drop of a hat and believe they are dead sexy.

Nicky and Kim: Major League Baseball wives from the Midwest. They are the husbands of David DeJesus and Chris Getz. They’ve been friends for four years and say baseball doesn’t define them. They have their own personalities and bring much to the table.

Jason and Amy:Dating and from New England. They have a compatible competitiveness and drive and always want to be first at everything they do. He owns a snow and ice management company, and she graduated high school at 16, college in three years, then completed two Masters in two years.

First Clue: Starting from the Old Wild West, the teams will choose a Ford C-Max E-Nergi hybrid and make a call to the other side of the world to receive their first clue. They hear from Javier they are to drive themselves to the Los Angeles International Airport. There are only seats for seven teams on the first flight via American Airlines to Iquique, Chile. When they land, they must travel by taxi to Alto Hospicio and look for the Zona de Parapentes and Javier to get their next clue. Leo and Jamal leave in first place and arrive in the same place.

First Flight: Leo and Jamal, Chester and Ephraim, Rowan and Shane, Tim and Marie, Ally and Ashley, Nicky and Kim, Nicole and Travis.

Second Flight, 2-1/2 Hours Behind: Brandon and Adam, Jason and Amy, Hoskote and Naina, Tim and Danny. They end up four hours behind because of a layover in Santiago.

Second Clue – Roadblock: Order of Arrival: Travis and Nicole, Chester and Ephraim, Ally and Ashley, Leo and Jamal, Nicky and Kim, Rowan and Shane, Tim and Marie, Brandon and Adam, Jason and Amy, Hoskote and Naina, and Tim and Danny. One team member must follow their paragliding partner over rugged cliffs. Once they are reunited on the beach, they will get their next clue. Team members following: Nicole, Ephraim, Ashley, Jamal, Shane, Nicky, Marie, Adam, Amy, Naina, Danny

Ashley, Jamal, Nicky, and Marie get stuck, because they let their taxis go. Jamal calls and orders two for himself and Ashley, but Marie steals his. This isn’t a good way for her to start the Race, by making enemies with frontrunners.

Order of Finish: Rowan and Shane, Nicole and Travis, Chester and Ephraim, Tim and Marie, Leo and Jamal, Nicky and Kim, Ally and Ashley, Jason and Amy, Tim and Danny, Brandon and Adam, Hoskote and Naina.

Third Clue: Make your way to Muelle Prat to search for the next clue.

Fourth Clue: Roadblock: Order of Arrival: Travis and Nicole, Leo and Jamal, Rowan and Shane, Tim and Marie, Chester and Ephraim, Nicky and Kim, Ally and Ashley, Tim and Danny, Brandon and Adam, Jason and Amy, Hoskote and Naina. One teammate from each team will need to choose a rowboat and search Iquique’s harbor to collect a total of five fish from any of the the fishing boats. They will receive the next clue when they hand them to the fish monger. Participating: Travis, Leo, Rowan, Tim, Chester, Kim, Ally, Tim, Brandon, Jason, and Hoskote.

Order of Finish: Nicole and Travis, Tim and Marie, Rowan and Shane, Chester and Ephraim, Nicky and Kim, Ally and Ashley, Leo and Jamal, Jason and Amy, Tim and Danny, Brandon and Adam, Hoskote and Naina.

Leo and Jamal don’t read the clue correctly, as the person who does this Roadblock is supposed to be different than the person who did the first Roadblock. Leo tries to call Jamal back in to switch places with him. Hoskote and Naima also don’t read the clue correctly. She rereads the clue while out on the boat and comes back in to switch places with her dad. They were already in last place, so this isn’t good.

Fifth Clue: Make your way on foot to the Teatro Municipal De Iquique, the pit stop for this first leg of the race. The winner of this first leg will receive an Express Pass for themselves, and one for another team that they must hand over before the end of the fifth leg.

Nicole and Travis take a taxi to the pit stop instead of traveling on foot and incur an thirty minute penalty, losing their first place finish to Tim and Marie. If Jamal shares that she stole his cab, and that’s why they’re in first place, and one of the reasons he and Jamal are in seventh place, it could get interesting as teams start to form alliances.

Pit Stop: Order of Arrival: Tim and Marie, Nicole and Travis, Rowan and Shane, Chester and Ephraim, Nicky and Kim, Ally and Ashley, Leo and Jamal, Jason and Amy, Tim and Danny, Brandon and Adam, Hoskote and Naina.

Teams to Get Lost: Tim and Danny on the way to LAX.

Sound Bites: Tim: I didn’t know they made people’s voices as shrill as yours. Marie: I didn’t know they made people as dumb as you.

Rowan: Sally Field, The Flying Nun, ain’t got nothin’ on me, Baby.”

Naina cries realizing they will be eliminated. She’s proud of her dad for being out there and for being her biggest supporter. She is very devastated, as what she wanted to show her dad was cut short. She thinks he has a way to go as far as his “lightning grip” on her and his expectations. It’s still not settled as far as who gets to choose her future husband. Hoskote says in the end, “Father knows best.” At least she can be assured that it won’t be Quasimoto.

Next Week: Teams have to break up huge boulders and strip down to their swim trunks and bikinis, not necessarily together.

Amazing Race 22 – Finale – Skating Through The Finale In DC

Yeah, I know. I lied. Work and 150 hours of Survivor just got in the way.

The Two Hour Finale was basically structured as two stand-alone episodes linked as one. I’ll sum it up as one episode – albeit one with an unexpected elimination halfway through the leg.

For me, this was a fun finale – made more enjoyable by the romp through the city where I work each day. I’ve often wondered why the show hasn’t come back to Washington – with just a leg during the Family Edition taking advantage of the many interesting locales in DC. But we sure got a nice tour of the city, and just outside the city in Virginia, and for me, left the season with a really fun ending.

The leg begins with the Newlyweds leaving Belfast to ride on the nicest ferry in the history of ferries. I mean, it makes the Staten Island ferry look like the poop cruise. Slap Shot left eight minutes later and comment about how much the Moms scare them. I can imagine hockey players being afraid of moms. They hit the first train. 90 minutes later Underwood leaves and the Moms two hours after them. Boy, how can the Moms make up a three hour deficit? A ferry departure time bunching, of course. Underwood and the Moms get lost in Belfast and that allows the Newlyweds and Slap Shot to show up at the Roadblock first. They get to bog snorkel first.

What is bog snorkeling? It’s something very bored and lonely – and likely drunk – people do out in the hinterlands of Ireland. You have to strap on a mask and snorkel, cannonball into a bog and “swim” 100 yards in mud in four minutes. Needless to say…this is rather strange. Anthony talks about squeezing his junk before doing the task in just over two minutes. Katie’s mask gets fogged up and has no idea where she is – but she does it in just over three minutes despite clocking the clock. Meanwhile, Mona complains about being cold and in dirty water…she has no idea what’s coming. When she goes, she whimpers throughout the task and does it quicker than Katie. She ends by desperately begging her partner to unzip her.

Jennifer is the one who struggled. So much so, that it is this task which led to their demise. She does the course incorrectly and fails to get it done in four minutes. She fails a second time, and barely makes it the third time around.

At the Detour – they have to Tray it or Spray it. Tray it takes them to dry dock and the berth which once housed the Titanic. They have to serve five of the Titanic courses to costumed actors. One member preps the plates; the other runs the tray from one end of the berth to the other (it was far). They had to get all five courses perfectly accurate. The problem is – if they don’t notice the course order sheet, they are screwed. The second form indicates who gets what dish for a couple of the courses where the “guests” have ordered different choices.

Katie shows how good she is at this race as she figures it out early. Anthony does not. Max says the team does well when Katie thinks and he does the bull work. At least he realizes it now. That marriage may work after all. Anthony figures out his problem with the second course and the missing course order. Mona doesn’t get it right for a long time. Beth winds up doing a LOT of running for this task. Bates does too, and boy, he gives Anthony an earful. Especially after Anthony is unable to determine what constitutes a chartreuse shaded dish. As if Bates would have gotten that.

The other task has them go to a skate park and have to recreate some graffiti art. Eventually Underwood gets there, but not before getting lost and winding up at some henge, but not THE henge, of course.

The show edits it to show Underwood finishing the task first, but I never believed it for a second. The Moms, however, had no idea they were not in last. They grab the third slot in the Finale.

Roadblock 1 – Bog Snorkeling. Katie, Anthony, Jennifer, Mona

Detour 1 – Titanic is all Newlyweds, Moms and Slap Shot. Underwood is graffiti.

First Order of Finish – Newlyweds (trip the D.R.), Slap Shot, Moms, and Underwood (ELIMINATED)

Penultimate Route Markers
• Max complains about being followed. This dates back to the first season, teams bitching about being followed. There is nothing you can do about it – you just have to hope that each time a team chooses to follow rather than do the work themselves that the gamble will backfire. And if you are the follower, if you lose the lead team, you are screwed. If the lead team is wrong, then you just managed to put yourself far behind the rest.
• Was it tasteless to have a guy dressed as the ill-fated Titanic captain handing out Race clues? I felt it might have been – even though the dude has been dead for 100 years.
• How about if I add the graphics showing the Titanic crashing every time they fail? Tasteless now?
• Con some? Really Beth? Never heard of consommé?
• Get a glimpse into the Battaglia household many years ago as Bates glared at Anthony while the little bro struggled with the menus?
• Bates can spin plates. What an odd skill set this guy has!
• I was surprised the Moms didn’t switch roles or even flip tasks after failing so many times on the task. They were lucky Underwood was so far behind.

They leave Northern Ireland, but stay in the UK as they take the ferry over to Liverpool, and then to London. They go to the Huston Tap and order a pint. There they learn the final leg is in Washington DC. We also learn the Moms were only 43 minutes behind the Newlyweds. Bates played for the Capitals in the NHL, so he is familiar with DC. Just what these guys needed…a power play opportunity.

They land at Reagan National Airport in Northern Virginia. They have to cross the Potomac and get to the Lincoln Memorial. Amazingly, I have yet to go there. Time to correct that omission. The Newlyweds are the first there and find the MLK plaque marking the spot where he delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech. Some random dude sidles up to them and gives them the clue. How utterly strange. Not even wearing Race colors!

They are told to go to 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue and meet up with President Obama. All three teams are geeked – even staunch Dittohead Max – to meet the POTUS. So many things should have clued them in. First, why would Obama be doing this? Sure, Michelle went on the Oscars, and the Prez has done stuff with the Super Bowl, etc. But those get some massive ratings. Amazing Race gets nice ratings – but not enough to squeeze into the busy schedule of the President.

Also, isn’t it fairly common knowledge that the White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? Didn’t NBC recently name an awful sitcom after that address? And, I hope they gave more info because there are four different 1100 Pennsylvania Avenues in DC – because this city was designed while on opium or something.

Anyway, the Moms go to the White House instead of 1100 Penn. The others make it to the right spot and run into some fake Secret Service agents. Inside they find no President, but a cheesy gift shop that makes photoshopped pictures of tourists with the Prez. Clever.

Next, they go to the Tidal Basin and find a marked car. Knock three times on the window if you want me. Then get a briefcase and a clue. We have ourselves a Switchback task.

In the Family Edition, teams had to find a spy. The Show had about 50 guys in dark suits and shades wandering the grounds. You had to approach one and utter your code phrase and hope you get the proper response. Essentially, it is a needle in a haystack task, but one where the needle keeps moving around. Max starts off first – and it is here at the Tidal Basin that the Race is decided. The codes:

Max – Where can I get a good half smoke with chile?
Bates – I did not dress warm enough for this weather.
Beth – The Cherry Blossoms are beautiful here in April.

The responses
Max agent – I’ve heard there’s a great place on U Street.
Bates agent – Perhaps you’d like to borrow my gloves.
Beth agent – I’ll have to bring my mother next spring.

Truth – these would be the most conspicuous agents in the history of espionage.

Max can’t find his agent, while Bates gets his rather quickly. The lead changes here. The clue to opening the briefcase is to remember what place your team finished in the New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam legs. Nice. Beth is so happy to finish when she does she offers to kiss the agent. And now we are into “Homeland” territory.

Next task – go to Nationals Park and take a zip line across the stadium. While one does that, the other dons a goofy baseball costume and has to catch a dropped ball. The trick? You really can’t see in the suit. Joining them will be Screech – the Nats’ mascot Eagle – along with the Presidents who race in the park in the fourth inning every home game.

Anthony zips and Bates catches. It takes a couple of tries. Katie zips and Max catches. It takes six tries. Mona zips and Beth catches – it takes 17 tries.

Next stop – Hains Point. A nice recreation area not far from the stadium. Here one member goes into a giant ball pit. Bazinga. They have to find the globes marking the countries they visited. The other member puts them in the correct order. Anthony finds all the globes and they leave with a comfortable lead. Max has no geography skills and thinks they went to South America. Katie replaces him. And I am resisting insulting Republicans. Mona and Beth switch off time in the tank.

We see Slap Shot heading to the finish line at Mount Vernon – George Washington’s estate in Alexandria, Virginia. Hains Point to Mount Vernon is not tough to get to – just getting to the George Washington Parkway basically. I assume the teams are doing these tasks at the crack of dawn on a weekend or something because we see no people in DC and there is no traffic. Two things that NEVER happen. Anyway, we see the boys curving on the highway. I know that curve. They are going the right way. They arrive at the grounds and win the Race. Newlyweds second and the Moms in third.

It was a solid Race – not spectacular, but solid. I thought Slap Shot was the favorite to win from the start and they did. My time has been stretched thin this season, I am unsure if I will be continuing with Race commentary next season – at least not on a week to week basis. Laura does a bang up job anyway – I’ve just been adding to it because I love the show. If this is it, it’s been a pleasure. If not, then we’ll talk again during Season 23 in the Fall.

Switchback – Max, Bates and Beth.

More Route Markers
• Glad Max respects Obama’s election. Jeez. What a national crisis we would have had to endure if he didn’t.
• Anyone else predict an appearance by the Family Edition? Ever? I assumed that was filed away in a giant End of Raiders of the Lost Ark room somewhere
• The great place on U Street? Ben’s Chili Bowl. And it is great.
• Katie is really smart, but boy, she has no patience. “We’re gonna finish in last because he’s an idiot.” I hope she regrets the things she says.
• Bates admits he would have no idea where the countries were before going on the Race. The Amazing Race. Teaching geography to jocks one by one.
• Nice use of “Ride of the Valkyries” as the Moms zip across the baseball stadium. I love the smell of horsehide in the morning!

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Amazing Race 22 – Ep 10 – I Smell Like Haggis And Sweat

Down to the Final Four of the 22nd Race Around the World. Well, 21st Race Around the World. One was a race around North America. And if you want to watch that race – it is on Hulu Plus. That’s right – Seasons 1-11 are available for those signed up for Hulu Plus – I am writing this as I enjoy the incredible debut season of The Amazing Race. I forgot just how perfect that premiere episode was and how unique the show was when it aired. Incredibly, it holds up all these years later. The formula works – even though it has been tweaked a great deal over time. Although starting with Season 2 it started to look produced – Season 1 almost felt fly-on-the-wall. So, if you haven’t watched the early seasons – do it. They remain my favorites of the whole run of the show.

Season 22 will be wrapping up next week after the five remaining teams ventured to Scotland. Slap Shot gave us the great Mike Myers deep cut by declaring that if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap. I think of Sean Connery and my boy’s former pre-school teacher. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the words “snips of paper” repeated back to you in a soft Scottish accent.

For once we have an old school Amazing Race factor deciding a huge portion of the show – the Airport Shuffle. The teams head to the airport with instructions to get to Edinburgh. Newlyweds leave first, and the Moms leave last, with about 2 ½ hours separating them. Newlyweds head to the nearby hotel business center to line up tickets on the 10:40 am flight. The rest head to the airport. YouTube and the Moms grab tickets on the 1 pm flight and gloat when they find out Slap Shot and Underwood were locked out of it and had to land a 4 pm flight. It was the gloating that makes it so easy to root against YouTube.

Max and Katie stayed the hell away from the other teams so they could board their early flight quietly. Meanwhile, as tends to happen when teams realize they are on bad flights, the Race lovebirds seek an earlier flight as YouTube and the Moms do a happy dance. They find the Newlyweds flight, so the three teams have a two hour and twenty minute advantage on the YouTube/Moms alliance. Big error by those teams in settling for the flight they had. If you ever go on the Race – scramble for a better flight for as long as you can. Never get comfortable.

So barring a major error by an early team, or a Race-induced bunching, we had two races this week – the one for first, and the one for last. Complicating things for teams…a Double U-Turn. The front-runners decide to U-Turn both the Moms and YouTube. This is one way to do it – it really ensures the first flight teams will survive the elimination by having the two stragglers do both Detours. Another way they could have done it would have been to target one team for the U-Turn that they wanted out and really handcuff them. Personally, I am fine with their strategy – just ensure your own survival, don’t worry about the other teams, just make sure you make it.

So, we’ll touch on the first group a bit later on, but the main crux of this episode took place as the 1 pm flight landed and YouTube and the Moms realize that they were on the slow flight. Now the two allies have to break up and battle for survival. The Moms hysterically state at the airport parking lot – “There should be five (cars). Maybe somebody was on a better flight?” Yeah. Maybe.

At the Detour (more on that later), the Moms finish it somewhat quicker as Meghan just took more time to master the skills than Mona. It was not a lot of an advantage, but it was just enough for them to overcome the Speed Bump and head to the Roadblock at an even pace. Again, the Moms beat YouTube at the task and just have to avoid getting lost in Scotland. They don’t get lost and grab the fourth position.

That means YouTube is out. I can’t say I’ll miss them – they were not a very strong team and were rather bereft of personality. Oh, they THINK they have a lot of personality, but what they have is a lot of noise and a lot of quirks. But tell me – do you feel like you know ANYTHING about these two at all? I mean, Joey is just a cartoon cutout of what a young, gay millennial would be if created from the mind of Mitch McConnell. And Meghan? I can’t tell you one thing about her – she seemed to like thrill rides? Anything else? They are the most non-descript team in recent memory – which is amazing because they are in the entertainment business, albeit way on the outskirts. If the entertainment business was Westeros, they’d be in the Basilisk Isles. Man, I am reading too much Song of Ice and Fire.

Amazing Race 22 – Ep 8 & 9 – The Amazingly Late Recap Posts

Friends. My apologies. I have been mired in a very busy couple of weeks due to important things at home and the office which have occupied my time. In addition, I have been completely engrossed in reading A Song of Ice and Fire the last few weeks and it has completely taken all of my free time attention. Sadly, my Amazing Race recaps have taken the worst hit. I had half of my Episode 8 one done before I realized that I never finished it. Then I blinked and most of this week had passed meaning Episode 10 is rapidly upon us and I haven’t even done Episode 9 yet!

So my apologies. I’ll try to do a better job – and hey, I’m on Book 5 now. Mr. Martin hasn’t written any others as of yet! Let me sum up Eps 8 & 9 right now. We are in Europe. We lost the Mullets. And now we have the Derby Moms facing a Speed Bump tomorrow.

Ep 8
Welcome to Switzerland and the Great Amazing Train Race! After multiple early bunchings, the remaining teams flitted about Switzerland going from train to train. And really, that’s much of what we saw – teams trying to get to, and then riding trains. The whole leg. It was enough to make CBS synergy executives longing for Sheldon Cooper commentary.

The Race leg came down to this – Wynona struggled on the Roadblock. Mullet and YouTube missed the train to the Switchback, where Wynona struggled again. The end.

The long, drawn-out death throws of the Mullets’ attempt to win the Amazing Race came to a merciful halt this week. How they made it to the Final Six, well, I have no idea. They needed so many teams to screw up – through fear of water (those twin doctors, who I think were eliminated way back in 2009), stubbornness (Dudes), injury (Ribbon), and bizarre errors (Pwinnie). And their exit from the Race comes from Wynona’s slow pace during a mountain-scaling task – the only one who took a while to do it – put them in position to lose. And then her failure to walk uphill in snow put them woefully behind. All the while her loving husband ridiculing her all the way. He even dragged her up the hill during the Switchback – making her literal dead weight for the team, instead of the season-long proverbial dead weight.

If you haven’t guessed – I am not shedding many tears that this couple is only going to briefly be on my TV once more at the Finish Line. Wait. Please, AR producers, don’t cast them on any all-star season! Please!

The other big thing this episode was the Switchback task. In lieu of a Detour (unless it was cut for time), the teams got a Switchback task. To refresh your memory, this is a former challenge from a past season. This iconic one was the first challenge from Season 14. In that one, teams had to scale a hill and bring four huge cheese wheels down using some ancient cheese dragging contraption. Well, insanity ensued. All of the contraptions smashed. Cheese was everywhere. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

This time, we have fewer teams, a sled instead of the ancient contraption, and a mountain full of snow to slow them down. And as a result – a lot less fun. They all basically make slow and steady progress down the mountain. Slap Shot is fine heading up the mountain, but the cluster of the Moms, Underwood and Newlyweds are held up by the Katie’s struggles in leading the group up the hill. Later, the Mullets struggle badly too.

The Mullets actually finish ahead of YouTube because of the younger team’s failure to catch a ride to the Mat. They wind up going on foot – almost killing Meghan. However, the Mullets chose to just fling the cheese down the hill instead of using the sleds. Mistake. The 30-minute penalty enabled the plodding YouTube to arrive and survive.

Ep 8 – Random Task – Transport an Alps rescue dog via train to a watch tower.

Ep 8 Roadblock – Scale the outside of the side of Mt. Eiger. They don’t have to go far – just from one observation window to another – and need to gather up a Travelocity gnome tied up on the mountain. How about having that job? Go out on the mountain and tie up ceramic gnome. Roadblockers – Katie, Wynona, Bates, Jennifer, Meghan, Beth. All do well except Wynona. The task is fairly easy – just overcome the fear.

Ep 8 Switchback – The cheese.

Ep 8 Standings – Slap Shot (trip to Bora Bora), Moms, Newlyweds, Underwood, YouTube, Mullets (ELIMINATED

Ep 9 – They must go from Switzerland to the Ministry of Finance in Dresden, Germany. They all get bunched on the early train – the only thing of note is that someone made off with Bates’ pack. Bad job by the camera crew in missing that theft. Jennifer offers him her thongs – which should have been hotter, however, it wasn’t. Anthony also offers underwear. That’s not hot.

Ep 9 Random Task – In the Product Placement Car, they must answer some random questions asked by the car. First, who said “Tear down this wall.” It makes me sad that so many of them could not immediately say – Ronald Reagan. I weep for our schools. Max thinks JFK – and then reveals his right-wing beliefs by claiming that Rush Limbaugh would be mad at him for getting that wrong. Oh, Max. I was beginning to like you. Sigh. The others are just as bad with the guesses – YouTube even thinks it could be FDR. The Berlin Wall was not even built yet.

Ep 9 Random Task 2 – Base fly 37 stories off the Park Inn Hotel. This is friggin’ scary. My biggest fear, subject of recurring nightmares since I was a kid, is to be on the outside of a building. Shudder. All Katie is worried about is that she has to pee. I would not have to worry about that – let’s just say, I would not have to pee for long. Meghan gives a cool battle cry down, Joey acts cartoonish (again), and Beth’s mouth turns gigantic.

Ep 9 DetourTrain Tracks or Font Follies – In Train, they go to the train museum and built a model train well enough for the train to make one circuit. In Font, they find a bunch of huge neon letters and carry them to the Museum of Letters. That’s right, there is a Museum of Letters. And yes, I want to go there. Only YouTube chooses the trains, although Slap Shot flips after Anthony drops their V and breaks it.

Ep 9 Roadblock – Go to some speakeasy and go into this underground creepy funhouse and find the clue. In order to enter, they have to answer another trivia question – who said Ich Bein Ein Berliner. Again, some cannot answer the question and have to ask a random barfly for help. Love that random drunk German guys know our presidential history more than we do. Joey says he doesn’t know German quotes. Sigh. It’s only one of the most famous quotes spoken by JFK. Even if JFK messed it up – he is not a donut.
Roadblockers – Katie, Joey, Jennifer, Beth and Anthony.

It comes down to the Moms and Slap Shot doing the Roadblock together. Slap Shot follows them to the Mat and overtakes them in the footrace.

Ep 9 Standings – Newlyweds (Two Ford Fusions), YouTube, Underwood, Slap Shot, Moms (NON-ELIMINATED)

And I promise to be better next week.

Ep 8 & 9 Route Markers
• Anyone else expect the Mullets to be doomed the minute the show added the montage of them fighting?
• So tired of the fake relationship between the Underwoods and Slap Shot. Just tiresome.
• Derby Moms say that Colorado is not as good as Switzerland. Don’t mess with Denver, ladies.
• Of course Meghan made a Beethoven joke with the dog.
• The dog licks the singers on the mouth. Hey, that dog got further than Slap Shot has gotten!
• Of course Chuck let the dog drink from his water bottle. Who wants to bet that he drank from that bottle afterwards?
• How poetic is it that Wynona was dizzy in the cool looking tunnels? And seriously, those tunnels looked like a scene straight out of an old Bond movie.
• Am I crazy, or did Katie’s gnome move from the wind? Ok, that was a bit scary.
• The Moms think Dresden is a quaint town with trees lining the streets. Heck, every town looks that way. They could have been driving in almost any town in Maryland for all we knew.
• Does Underwood understand that they cannot share the Race win with Slap Shot? They need to stop feeling bad for racing.
• Moms doing the letter task – “We’re moms, we are used to schlepping things.”
• Loved the animated train wreck graphic when the toy trains crashed.
• Max – “The honeymoon continues here at the underground German speakeasy.”

Next Week – Scotland. And a Double U-Turn.

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Amazing Race 22 – Ep 7 – License And Registration Please

Needless to say, I was a bit peeved to see a team which I thought was starting to roll, AND a team for which I finally found a good nickname, managed to mangle the Detour so badly that they got themselves booted from the Race before the Mullets or YouTube. I had high hopes for Pwinnie – the Amazing Race has a great history of great kick-ass female teams, but the list of those great teams is just too small. Beauty Queens. Kisha/Jen. Knat. Pwinnie seemed like they could have joined that list.

Ah, but to be done in by a black cardboard cutout of a jungle animal. Alas.

It came down to this – the Detour had teams decide between leading a pack of donkeys to haul wood or to ride horses on a “safari” and spot 10 cutouts of jungle animals and then list them in order using tiles depicting the images. Both were fairly easy and straight forward tasks – except you had to make sure you saw and remembered all 10 animals and you had to get the donkeys started.

To me, the donkey task seemed the tough one. Donkeys are not the easiest animals to get along with. Just ask Shrek. The trick of the horse task was just to pay attention and split the memorization. Unfortunately, these are tired teams and Pwinnie had the misfortune of missing one of the cutouts. The final cutout was of a hippo with a bird sitting on top of its head. They rationalized their miss of the ninth animal by saying this hippo accounted for two animals, and thus their 10 was complete. Even when they had to go back and do it again – they still missed it and still used this logic. They must have thought their problem was in the ordering. By the time they failed the second time, the die was cast. They flipped the Detour but were woefully behind and doomed for last.

Their failure led to some relieved looks on the faces of the Newlyweds and YouTube – each of whom struggled mightily this leg with directions and with unforced errors. As did Underwood. It was one of those legs where most teams really were just trying hard to eliminate themselves. It reminded me of the AR3 leg in Spain where multiple teams put gasoline in their diesel tanks and thought they were dead. Just tons of errors this week.

The best one was the speed trap. To be perfectly honest, after watching Underwood and the Newlyweds fall victim to the Botswana police force needing to meet their ticket quota, I began thinking…it is amazing that this hasn’t happened more often. I mean, think of your own neighborhood – how many times have you and your friends gotten nailed by speed traps or hidden cameras? And you know the roads!! Plus you’ve likely gotten more than a few winks of sleep in two weeks and don’t have the pressure of racing for a million bucks on TV to worry about. You’re just trying to get home in time before The Bachelor starts.

Underwood was probably stunned they actually got the ticket. Not many police forces in the US would let the two tall, young blondes in form fitting jumpsuits open their checkbooks. If they were paying the bill, you know Max had no chance, even if he unleashed Katie on them. The teams had to actually pay right then and there and go to the police station. I guess they were a big flight risk for the court date. It seems the Newlyweds had enough local money to pay it, but Underwood didn’t. That made things awkward – Caroline was in the station and couldn’t leave. That meant Jennifer had to find someone willing to take $100 bucks and go exchange the money for them. That’s a lot of trust. They had no choice since team members cannot separate that far from each other. Luckily for them, the good Samaritan came back.

Max and Katie had no issues paying the bill, but that telephone pole sure had a lot to say about things. Max plowed right into it and would likely be paying his body shop a great deal of cash if it was his own car. Between the directions argument to start the leg, the ticket and the fender bender, Max was having some issues. And Katie was being the perfect backseat driver. I felt for Max here – this happens to me in the car sometimes. Once I make an error, I am extra susceptible to making another.

I should add, kudos to Wynona for warning her husband about speeding. No tickets for them.

YouTube just made the old fashioned wrong turn and went way out of their way. They were very lucky everyone else had troubles – I mean they were in the bushes and in someone’s backyard at one point. Their last minute donkey race with the Newlyweds must have been dreadful for those teams realizing they were likely racing for last. Of course, they weren’t. We knew that, but they sure didn’t. I must add, that a Newlyweds/YouTube feud will get tiresome fast. Oh wait, yep, it is officially tiresome. Man, that was pretty fast.

And now we are down to six teams – and can you tell me who deserves to win? I know. Pretty hard. The early legs were essentially dominated by the Dudes, Ribbon and Pwinnie. All eliminated. I’d say Slap Shot is a huge favorite right now because of the physical advantage. Mentally? Well, they play a sport for a living where hard concentrated rubber is often batted around at great speeds near your head. But they are probably the frontrunner now. The other teams, well, I am stunned YouTube and the Mullets are still alive. Underwood is pretty underwhelming. Newlyweds barely survived a non-elim. And the Derby Moms keep plugging along. Not exactly an All-Star season. No?

Fast Forward – Slap Shot got to the task first and grabbed up the Fast Forward. They had to waterski for one mile – and really ski, not get dragged – through crocodile waters. Now, if they were ever remotely near a real croc, I’d be stunned. But, nevertheless, they managed to do it on the first try. Granted, I think that boat could have gotten a ticket for going to slowly, but still. Task completed and first place granted.

Roadblock – Deliver two goats upriver in a traditional canoe-like boat. The Roadblocker had to gather up the goats and row the boat. The teammate held the goats and rode. Goats and camels are comic gold on The Amazing Race, and it paid off with the hysterical face off between the goats and Wynona. I was initially surprised to see the goats calmly riding the boats with the teams, but then remembered, you know, the crocs.

Wynona and Beth each struggle with the rowing, while my favorite was Caroline’s expression of excitement over the cute goats gradually disappear replaced with grim determination to capture them. I did kind of love the death lock that Jennifer had on the goats. Some comedy from Wynona sitting down will rowing with the long staff (shut up, I know what I said), and Joey actually using it as a kayak paddle!

Speed Bump – Newlyweds had to finish making and wear a beaded skirt and take part in a ceremonial seduction dance. Basically, Max and Katie had to shake their asses for a few minutes while wearing a grass skirt. And scene.

DetourBrains or Brawn. Brains was the horse and cutout task. Brawn the donkey and wood in the cart task. I said it before – the horses seemed the better option.

Sorry to see Pwinnie go – but as Pam eloquently said…Crying is for bitches. Boom.

Route Markers
• Bates sure likes to whisper the word, “Africa,” doesn’t he?
• Bates is also getting a bit too into himself – tone it back a bit, my friend. You’re not going to be threatening Ryan Gosling for magazine covers anytime soon, so chill with the boasting.
• I am actually pretty surprised it took this many legs for Underwood to start dropping some theist remarks. As loyal readers know, I can do without those. Now.
• I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see Bates unable to ski, since he can skate. Seems like the balance factor would be the same.
• And notice Anthony removed his teeth before skiing? Smart. Wouldn’t want to lose the plate in a croc ski accident.
• So close and yet…Pam was hopping up and down with excitement upon reading the Fast Forward.
• Things you never want to say to your wife on national TV, Chuck, “Spread your legs wide.” I mean, you are making the snark easy with that.
• Although I did love how they knew none of the animals but still got the task right. I mean, a groundhog?!?
• Can we talk about Joey’s pants and high socks? On second thought, let’s ignore them and hope they go away.

Detour – Horse group was Mullets and Pwinnie. However, Pwinnie flipped to the Goats to join Underwood, Derby Moms, YouTube and Newlyweds

Roadblock – Goats and Boats. Winnie, Wynona, Beth, Caroline, Joey, Max.

Order of Finish – Slap Shot ($7500 each), Derby Moms, Underwood, Mullets, YouTube, Newlyweds, and Pwinnie (ELIMINATED)

Next Week – We come to Switzerland and redo the cheese wheel roll. This time with snow.

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Amazing Race 22 – Ep 6 – Putting Scorpions In Your Mouth Is A Thing

The things you learn on the Amazing Race. So, it seems if you put a scorpion in your mouth, you can calm it down so much that you can put in the hand of a freaked out gay web host or wife of a mulleted trapping expert. Not that there is any real reason why you should know that, or any real reason why it should ever be referred to again outside of the Amazing Race. But thanks to this show, we know it. And good luck removing the image of the Botswana Bushman shoving the alien-looking scorpion into his mouth from your brain.

One thing was certain this week – and was the first thing I wrote in my notes while Phil was doing the Previouslies – and that was the inevitability of this being a non-elimination leg. It was possible it could have been a standard leg, but usually this is around the time to have a non-elimination. And guess what? Non-elim.

The teams left Vietnam and had their inevitable bunching when they arrived in Botswana. And judging by the Magical Amazing Race Map Traveling Globe , boy, that trip from Hanoi to Maun, Botswana looked absolutely endless and hellish. This wiped out Pwinnie’s almost five-hour lead over the Mullets from the last leg.

Once in Botswana, all of the tasks were basically isolated events in the middle of bush country. There was little chance of getting lost or having locals – especially cabbies – screw things up. The performance in this leg was strictly based on challenge prowess. In the case of the Newlyweds, it came down to stubbornness. And this wasn’t even really egregious stubbornness – the kind that offed The Dudes two weeks ago. It was a fairly brief moment where they forgot the nature of their challenge.

The Detour was the deciding challenge of the week. Most teams were on the course at the same time and virtually all of them chose to do the same task. They had to either make fire the bushman way, or build a chicken trap to the bushmen’s liking. Clearly, none of the teams have ever watched Survivor – never volunteer to make fire unless you have to. Most of them struggled mightily and flipped over to the traps. The Newlyweds watched their competition bail while they struggled, but lingered just a bit too long on the fire. By the time they got to the traps, they were in a hole. They rushed the traps and Max’s didn’t work properly. Game over.

Except, it wasn’t. Because, as expected, it was non-elimination, so they are going to be around for at least another leg.

However, despite the Racers’ running around doing wacky things, by far the stars of the leg were the bushmen. Whether they were telling Slap Shot driving directions – “go straight, go straight.” Or scolding Wynona for digging too hard and threatening the life of the scorpion. Or commenting about how beautiful Underwood ladies are – watch out ladies, you may be betrothed after that scorpion business. One even said – “this one is mine, she will stay in the camp.” I even loved their exaggerated reactions to the successful traps, and especially loved them calling out Joey for being afraid.

Random Task – They had to figure out what country they were going to before the Race-imposed travel agent guard would let them in and book the flight. How awesome would it be if all Vietnamese travel agents had this feature? The first team to screw this up is Slap Shot – who thinks they are going to Kenya. Underwood and Mullets would make the same error.

Pwinnie gets internet, Derby Moms find a smart phone, while Newlyweds just tell Underwood the answer. And they in turn just tell Slap Shot. The Mullets just randomly guess countries – Kenya, Australia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Republic of the Paraguay, Westeros, Middle Earth, Coruscant, and the Planet of the Apes. Well, maybe not the last few.

Upon landing, the teams get to sign up for the tiny plane ride to Maun. Underwood and Slap Shot are first. Newlyweds and YouTube fly the Awkward Airlines 15 minutes later. A half hour behind are Derby Moms, Mullets and Pwinnie. Underwood see elephants and are thrilled. Joey fakes a frightened look. Seriously, this act is already old. Katie blames YouTube for ruining her safari. Chuck thinks they filmed the Lion King here. Pwinnie giggles and reminds them about the lack of Toon Town in real life Africa.

Roadblock – Join with some Kalahari Bushmen to dig for a scorpion, place it in a jar and hand it in. They actually see a lion nearby – which was stunning to me – the bushman scatter and climb a tree while Caroline cluelessly stands around and watches them. Joey is petrified of scorpions – one wonders how many he has actually seen in his life to develop such a phobia. Other than the ole Exaggeration For The Sake Of Being On TV Phobia. Max seems to envy the bushmen for their lack of day jobs. Survival is their day job, Max, disposable income may not be a concern for them. However, he is the smartest one there as he dons a glove to protect from the scorpion. Not the smartest? Wynona who kept digging incorrectly.

Detour – After arriving with the bushmen in the back of the van, they have to decide on – Fire or Fowl – In Fire, they walk to a camp and make fire with two sticks, zebra crap and grass. In Fowl, they walk to camp and build a tiny trigger trap to catch guinea fowl. As we learned in Survivor: Gabon from quickly-eliminated Gillian – animal dung helps in fire building. We also learned from Survivor – fire building is super hard without flint.

Needless to say, Chuck has trapped before, and his skills coupled with the other teams’ choice of fire enables them to earn a top of the pack finish. I still can’t see that lasting.

Route Markers
• Interesting to see the show acknowledge the curious choices of pro-Communist songs and downed American aircraft monuments in Vietnam. Good for them to essentially apologize to our brave vets.
• Max seems to refer to his wife as Big Brain Big Hair Katie – she of her secret doctorate. I will be calling her BBBH Katie.
• How tiresome will the Underwood/Slap Shot love affair get before too long? Yeah. Quite.
• New game – take a line of from Underwood and make it into a country song title. This week – Caroline’s “You Are Getting Bit In Your Mouth.”
• Tell me, has Wynona said anything yet this season that was not in the form of a complaint?
• Max’s reaction to the scorpion in the mouth was out of the Eliza Orlins School Of Facial Reaction Shots. His own words – “I better close my mouth before he sticks it in my mouth.” Also, a winning entry in the Underwood Song Title Game.
• BBBH Katie is skating super close to Ugly American status with her complaining about the bushmen’s odor. Be careful, this is not a road you want to go down.
• Pam – “I feel like we are smuggling Bushmen.” A new series on the Travel Channel.
• Loved how both Chuck and I live in the same country – at no point in time was the option of not working and selling trapped animals to the local fur exchange ever presented to me as a lifestyle choice.
• Understatement Award to Mona after Beth suggested driving to the Pit Stop – “Beth, this could be a bad choice.” Of course, they had to go on foot. Max proved his fandom after they finished the task in last place and read that they had to travel on foot to the Pit Stop. He knew their only real chance of avoiding last place just vanished – very little chance of getting lost there. Maybe in a complicated location – but not here.

Detour Fire – Slap Shot, Underwood, Derby Moms, Newlyweds, YouTube. Only Slap Shot finishes it. The rest flip over to Fowl and join Pwinnie and Mullets who did it initially.

Roadblock – Scorpion digging. Bates, Caroline, Joey, Max, Mona, Wynona (Finally), and Pam

Order of Finish – Slap Shot (Trip to Phuket), Pwinnie, Mullets, YouTube, Underwood, Derby Moms, Newlyweds (NON-ELIMINATED)

Next Week – Mullets on a boat, and a big donkey-related finish.

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Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 7 – The Vanilla Diarrhea Fest

I will say it right now. I love vanilla ice cream. I love vanilla ice cream so much, it would make my list of five foods I cannot do without. I will also say this – blasphemy to some – vanilla ice cream is infinitely better than chocolate ice cream. Not even close. As much of a mismatch as the Reward Challenge was this week. So, how did it get to be that vanilla has become synonymous with bland? Was it this guy? Actually, here’s a real theory.

That said, Cochran’s full quote about vanilla and how it relates to Julia was spot on hysterical. After the show finally unleashed Corinne last week, it seems it finally has done the same with Cochran this week. The removal of the big distracting personalities has helped a great deal. Message to Show – don’t hesitate to rest the entertaining confessional burden upon these two. They can handle it. The full quote: “I’m tempted to say she has a vanilla personality, but I feel like that would be doing a great disservice to the flavor vanilla. I mean, people actively seek out vanilla-flavored products. Children clamor to get a vanilla ice cream cone. Nobody is clamoring for anything Julia-flavored.”

One correction – I am sure there are many clamoring for Julia-flavoring. She seems nice and is pretty cute. However, for a reality show, she was snooze city. She’s not the first to fall victim to this – ask Brett, Purple Kelly, Carter, etc. Being nice may help you advance in the game, but it surely doesn’t help you get any amount of screen time.

Great line from Cochran though. Also, the Cochran/Phillip scenes were great. This is the draw of bringing back a large group of past players – seeing them interact with one another. In their seasons, both men were interesting, but neither were front and center in moving the action along – at least until Cochran flipped, but even that just shifted the control from one side to another. Cochran was always on his own. Now, both seemingly have some power – Cochran understands what to do with it, while Phillip seems to not have any idea how to advance his power in the game.

Phillip is made at Corinne after Tribal, so he tells Cochran he wants her gone next. Sweater Vest wisely advises Phillip that to do so would hurt their end game – the other four Faves on Gota would see Corinne’s ouster as a betrayal should they attempt to reform the alliance at the merge. Later, The Specialist claims to have lost the challenge on purpose to oust Julia. Cochran sees through this delusion and tells us that he is sure that Phillip created that story in his head to account for the crazy reality that he lost. Earlier, he played to Phillip’s ego by letting him get all Alpha Dog and beat Cochran at arm wrestling.

All I can think about with arm wrestling is that there was actually a movie based around arm wrestling starring Sly Stallone. This was greenlit by movie executives who spent money to make a movie about arm wrestling. That still amazes me almost as much as the one based on Battleship.

Phillip has been having an overall good season. No one expected him to be more than the buffoon he was on Redemption Island. And while he has been ridiculous – I mean, come on, he’s still our lovable Specialist – he has been a huge part of the action and helped form the Stealth alliance which could go far if it reforms. However, we are seeing a couple of things shifting here which could seriously come back to bite him, and some other Favorites, if they are not careful.

As we hit the merge next week – and thanks to the previews for not trying to hint otherwise – we have seven Gota and five Bikal merging. More importantly, we have eight Faves and just four Fans making the merge. All things being equal, either the shuffled Gota or the reformed Faves could Pagong the other side and then turn on itself at the F7 or F8. However, I think we are going to see something completely different, and two subplots could indicate how it goes.

This week, Malcolm stepped up as a potential force. He just finished his Philippines season only a couple of weeks before this one started to film, and his near miss still haunts him. He went to the end with people who were not as fit as he was, and he still lost the minute he failed to win immunity. The fit guy who has a clue about strategy is always a potential target post-merge. Think about the last several winners of Survivor – the last three were all women. Boston Rob who was a rock star. Fabio who went underestimated as an airhead. Two more women. And then JT. That was the last young fit guy to win, despite the fact that all of his strategy was done by Stephen, who took the brunt of the jury ire. Go back some more – Bob, Parvati, Todd, Earl. Older man, woman, small strategic man, and while Earl was no slouch physically or strategically, he was no star either. Yul was the full package. Aras was close, but Cirie ran the strategy there. And going all the way back to Hatch, from Season 11 to Season 1, there was no young, fit, strategically-minded man to win any season. Ethan came closest, but he was far from the strategic mind in Africa.

Malcolm may have a point here. So, why not try something new. He gathered up Reynold and suggested linking up the Alpha Male Coalition. The AMC. The two of them, with Eddie and Erik. This way, Malcolm has some cannon fodder on votes later in the game. To top it all off, Reynold lets him know about the idol burning a hole in his pocket. Now Malcolm is the only one who knows where both idols are – in Reynold’s pocket and in his own. Malcolm has had his idol since Day 4 and only Corinne knows about it. Because he’s not crazy or stupid. Malcolm is getting ready to make a move. Except there is a pretty big problem – four people does not win a vote among 12 people. And he’s already in another alliance.

Cue Corinne. The Gabon villainess is going head to head against Phillip all the time now. She’s had enough – Phillip may be reaching Sugar levels for Corinne. However, she has Charlie 2.0 in Lord Snow and this mini alliance could be ready to join the AMC. That would split the merged tribe at 6-6, should Sherri join the other five Faves. Brenda is sitting there ripe for the persuading to join the AMC, Corinne and Lord Snow. So could the Cochran/Dawn mini alliance. Malcolm and Andrea had a good rapport as well, maybe they could add her. The only one without any other options than the old Stealth arrangement is Phillip. And I don’t think there is a Boston Rob in this bunch willing to carry Phillip to the Finish Line as an attention deflector and vote black hole.

This was mainly a filler episode – the tribe expected to win won both challenges. No alliance was blown up. The expected elimination happened. Probst had said before the season how awesome this one was going to be – and if he’s telling the truth the post-merge episodes are going to have to rock. I don’t count antics (Hulka, Brandon, etc.) as being awesome. I’d rather have interesting gameplay rather than train wreck drama.

Amazing Race 22 – Ep 5 – The Least Dramatic Double U-Turn Ever

This episode had some fun moments, but really, when we have a team give up early on anyone who has watched the Amazing Race all of these years kind of expected that we would be having an impromptu non-elim leg. Because that’s really what it was, even if it wasn’t a true non-elim. You can tell it was not a non-elim leg coupled with an injury elimination because the Mullets do not have a Speed Bump in the next leg. They were just a sixth place finisher – albeit a strange one. Either way, it severely cut into the drama because I was certain the Show was not going to send two teams home this week.

It’s a shame, because Ribbon was shaping up to be a very strong team and one wonders how far they would have gotten if Daddy Ribbon didn’t get injured. One good thing about the Show’s decision to reveal early on that they were not going to continue with the Race was that we didn’t have a farcical attempt at hiding the outcome of the Race. No feeble crosscutting showing them trying to get there – a la the Hairs last season, and other past passport losers and horrible flight getters. It was a clean cut and Amazing Race history for the second week in a row. No one had ever been taken out with an Express Pass before (granted, it has only existed for three seasons), and no one had ever voluntarily quit the Race due to health.

So, Ribbon’s journey over the last couple of legs has gone – injury at the mat, two wins, and falling on their sword. Daddy Ribbon gutting it out for a few days earned them a vacation and ten grand, so hopefully it was worth it and that ankle has healed well.

As for the Race itself, with Ribbon telling us that they were dropping right away, and visiting Phil at the mat in the first half hour, we knew it was going to be a safe leg for the others. The Race left Bali and headed to Hanoi, Vietnam – home of one of my favorite Amazing Race legs ever near the end of Season 3. Although this return to Vietnam presented one of the moments that made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

The teams had to go to the theater for the Roadblock. While there, the task involved watching a stage production of a Vietnamese patriotic dance. At the end, they had to read a bunch of words and then go find a matching political poster with the words to move along. However, what made me laugh was the song. The Amazing Race and CBS managed to slip into primetime American television a song touting communism. The song lyrics – shown to us in subtitles, but not known by the Racers at the time – included references to “communism is glorious” and “socialism is growing beautiful with time.” Could you imagine this on American TV in the 1980s? Much less the 60s or 70s. Put it in perspective – picture Racers traveling to Iran and watching an Iranian dance talking about the glory of radical Islam. Yeah.

Somewhere Glenn Beck just exploded. And it was the image of countless people who hold that us vs. them world outlook, with a Cold War mentality, watching their TV and doing a collective spit take that made me laugh.

As for the teams, Pam and Winnie need a nickname. And I think I have one that does the trick and makes an Amazing Race 21 callback. From this point on…they are going to be Pwinnie. At least we can be assured they won’t be saying it every four seconds. The team deserved a nickname, especially after these last two legs. Basically, after Pam struggled with the stilts they have been racing very well. This week was a strong leg for them. Pam’s set design skills come into play again as she completely rocked that Communism propaganda challenge, as she easily memorized the words and found the poster.

Also, with the elimination not an issue, we got extra airport and bunching footage. The teams that finished the previous leg early on had no idea the Dudes did what they did with the Express Pass. Max’s glee over their ouster was pretty amusing, as was the sheer horror shown by YouTube as they tried to mask their disgust with him.

Interestingly, with the Dudes out, the Fight Club Alliance is on the ropes and the others have banded together to finish them off. With Ribbon out of the picture, the other seven have divided up with five teams aiming to finish off YouTube and the Derby Moms. And the Double U-Turn was just the time to do it. YouTube got the hit, and said something very wise. They didn’t understand why they were targeted when Slap Shot was running behind and was a bigger threat. In theory, I understand that. Two big athletic hockey players – Race history shows that team is a threat. However, the performance from Slap Shot so far hasn’t really equaled that threat level. But I see their point…YouTube hasn’t exactly lit the course on fire either.

And another thing…YouTube could have U-Turned Slap Shot as well. So…there’s that.

YouTube wisely slapped a U-Turn of their own onto a team they knew was behind them. The Mullets got the hit and amusingly thought that YouTube got them because they saw YouTube’s photo above their own – not remembering this was a blind U-Turn. Also amusingly – they were correct, by total accident.

Meanwhile, the Mullets ran a horrible leg and have stumbled their way through this Race. Their elimination is long overdue but will have to wait at least another week. This week, they wandered aimlessly through the streets of Hanoi seemingly on a different show than the other teams.

Ribbon is out and Mullet is essentially out. That means the winner of the Amazing Race is going to be YouTube, Underwood, Newlyweds, Slap Shot, Pwinnie, or Derby Moms. Not exactly Murderers Row so far, are they? Let’s hope we get impressed in the second half of the Race. I have hopes for Pwinnie – their plan to keep Ribbon’s status a secret to keep the other teams comfortable was very wise. There may be hope yet.

Roadblock – Watch the song. Find the poster. The twist – they only had five minutes to run to the posters and pick the correct one. They cannot take notes at all to remember the saying. Pam nails it right away. Derby Moms and YouTube team up to find the poster – which was smart in a way, as each memorized half the quote. However, YouTube found theirs and elected to wait around for Derby Moms to get it too. Insanity. This isn’t the same thing as Team Apprentice last season with the Beekmans. There was nothing to lose for them. These teams were stuck in a scrum on this leg – just run the race.

Random Task – Do a local bamboo jumping dance with some costumed dancers in the park. The trick…the dancers have to be holding hands. The Mullets have to do the dance many times before realizing they have to hold hands. If that’s not a metaphor for a struggling relationship, then I don’t know what is.

DetourMake Your Move or Make Pho – Move involves playing a human chess game. Sort of. Not exactly Ron Weasley level of chess playing. They have to find four players who are wearing a specific Vietnamese letter on their chest. Then line them up in the correct order on the board while holding their team flags in place. In Pho, they have to go to the market with assigned baskets and a chicken cage. There they find a specific list of groceries and help a street vendor make a bowl of delicious pho soup. Really. It’s delicious.

Instantly, Mullet messes up by leaving the chicken cage behind. They get lost. They bicker. Wynona blames him for not listening. It is a slow meltdown taking place. Pwinnie discover the problem with chess is that the colors need to match. Newlyweds find a local – a Fern, for those who remember the first local to help out Racers – and get their groceries.

Route Markers
• Mullets departed four hours behind Ribbon. That’s how far behind they were.
• Pwinnie expecting not to see another team for the rest of the leg…well, sigh. There is always a bunching.
• Max’s Dude John impression was pretty awesome.
• YouTube Joey expected to see a jungle in Vietnam, not a city. Because he’s That Guy. A jungle. I mean, hasn’t he even seen Good Morning, Vietnam?
• Interesting insight into Dude John’s adamant stubbornness on keeping the Express Pass – he was holding it for use on the U-Turn leg. Clearly he was expecting to be a target.
• I will miss Ribbon Dad – he may have cried more than any past Racer.
• Ribbon Son did leave with a hell of a quote – “I’d rather run four legs with you than win $1 million with someone else.” Wow. Every dad wishes for that line’s emotion. Every. One.
• In addition to a Communist hymn, we also got to see a friggin’ memorial based around a downed U.S. B-52 plane. That’s right, an American television show just highlighted a memorial to a crashed American military craft. Wowza.
• Wynona carrying the baskets – “Wait, I got a wide load.” Oh, Wynona. She also again called herself the weakest Racer but said she can think smart. Unless it involves adverbs.
• Winnie said you can’t get super confident and let your guard down. Just ask John. I’m gaining respect for these two.
• Underwood totally struggled with the chess task and for some bizarre reason chose not to observe Derby Moms as they completed the task. If you can’t get it, just copy the others.
• Loved the mocking comments from the locals – Translated into, “Look at the Westerner selling chickens.” Heh.
• Meghan’s comment about how it is anyone’s game was interesting. It means when they got to the second Detour they didn’t realize that the Mullets hadn’t already completed the other one.

Detour Chess – Pwinnie, Slap Shot, Derby Moms, Underwood, YouTube. Pho – Newlyweds, Mullets.

Roadblock – Communism. Anthony, Chuck, Katie, Jennifer, Pam, Meghan, one of the Moms. I missed which one.

Order of Finish – Pwinnie (Trip to Whistler, Canada), Newlyweds, Derby Moms, Slap Shot, Underwood, YouTube, Mullets, Ribbon (QUIT)

Next Week – Botswana. Bushmen. Joey crying over scorpions.

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Amazing Race 22 – Ep 4 – I Can’t Believe That Actually Happened

That was amazing. For the Amazing Race, that’s saying something. Because, you know, it’s amazing. It’s in the name. Oftentimes, it is amazing in a very good way. In this case, it was amazing in a horribly bad train wreck kind of way. And it happened to the Dudes – specifically Dude John – so it made it all the better.

Throw in the fact that it involved the Express Pass and we finally understand why there was just so much drama over its usage this season. Watching the Dudes navigate this leg, it was difficult to watch, expect when it was hysterical. The one thing that I took away from it – boy, I wish there was Elimination Station again, because that’s going to be awfully uncomfortable between those two.

Sometimes on this show, we the viewer can see what’s going on around the teams, but they are awfully clueless as to what’s going on around them. When they are hopelessly behind, they may not know it. There are other times, when the reality of their situation is crystal clear. We had both of these dynamics in play for the Saga of the Dudes. Let’s trace their journey.

The episode begins with the teams learning that they are smack dab in the middle of a Super Leg. They must head to Bali, Indonesia, some 4000 miles away and head to the Monkey Forest. I had to pause the show because the concept of the Monkey Forest was overwhelming to me. There exists a place called the Monkey Forest. The Monkey Friggin Forest! It’s like a subdivision of Oz. How have I not heard of this before, and why am I not there right now? The Monkey Forest. Awesome.

The Dudes leave in second place, but after the airport shuffle they wind up on the last flight to Bali along with YouTube. They wisely team up and restructure the flight plan at the transfer and manage to wind up in Bali before the flight containing Slap Shot, Mullets and Derby Moms. They get to the Forest, get their clue and then it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

The Detour choices were basically between a grueling, physically task and one of the meticulous attention-to-detail tasks. For me, I would avoid the attention to detail tasks whenever possible. Especially after you have gone through a few tasks already – when you are tired, you make mistakes. It happens to everyone. It was brilliant for the Show to put this kind of task near the end of a Super Leg. Amazingly, most teams went for the attention to detail – building a fruit display for a blessing ceremony.

The Dudes have some trouble getting there – and in the car I really notice just how strikingly beautiful Dude Jess is, and how little she has really spoken in the first three episodes. Once they arrive, they have even more troubles as they wander into some Balian (Baliite? Balisian? No friggin clue) resident’s art project. Loved. This. Scene. The two of them get down and start making some sort of weird corsage, or something, thinking this was the task. They didn’t question the fact that this was a half-naked man with no Race-related things anywhere in sight. I loved how they noticed on the clue that they needed to wear sarongs – but never questioned the validity of the location. Amazingly, they actually got sarongs from the poor locals! It took the cab driver to point out they were in the wrong spot!

Dude John thought that arranging the fruit would appeal to his anal retentive nature. Interestingly, it didn’t. That side effect of anal retentiveness – paralyzing stubbornness – actually did influence the results of the leg. Jess kept telling him that theirs looked nothing like the other fruit hats, but he wouldn’t listen. His inability to hear the words being spoken to him by his partner would grow more prevalent as she suggests for the first time that perhaps the Express Pass will be a good idea.

Jess is correct. They needed to seriously consider it here. They knew they were not the first plane to land. They could also see other teams around them finishing the task. The choice here is roll the dice on being able to build the fruit, or do the other part of the Detour quickly and beat the few remaining teams, or burn the Pass. They choose to roll the dice and flip tasks. Not what I would have done, but still, not an egregious error. I just think it is too great of a risk.

Remember, there may not be any other tasks ahead where you have these kind of issues. Let me make a baseball example of something that drives me crazy in the game. If the road team is tied in the ninth or in extra innings, they hold their closer – their best relief pitcher – with hopes that they will score runs and bring him in with a lead. My point – you may never get that chance, and have chosen to leave your best arm in the bullpen with hopes that lesser pitchers will get you there.

The Express Pass is your closer – this is it. Use it.

But they don’t. Instead they arrive at the other Detour and have to haul river sand up a whole bunch of steps a few times. This is rough – especially on Jess. And it is not something you can complete in quick fashion. By the time they arrive, the Derby Moms are done and gone. As the Dudes arrive at the Roadblock while the sun sets, there is no one left except for Mullet.

NOW! Play the Pass NOW! It is dark – that is never good on the Race for tasks that began in the daytime. You knew this team was behind you to start with. You can put two and two together – this is crunch time. Just use the Pass. Dude John refuses to give up trying to figure out the correct surfboard to bring to Phil. Was this arrogance? No way he can lose to Chuck and his mullet? Was it stubbornness? Was it pride – using it on a surf task? I have no idea. All I could see was one partner mentioning multiple times that they need to get off the course, and the other repeatedly ignoring her.

To add insult to injury, he refused to stop – even asking Phil to see the correct boards. He did the task for over an hour. I can see him thinking maybe it was non-elim – but after a Super Leg? Doubtful. At the end, he tells Phil he has no regrets. What? That he doesn’t need a million bucks. Double What?!?! Welcome to Rationalization Station – if you depart the train to Denial, you can board the bus going to Oblivious Town.

To quote Phil – oy vey.