Category Archives: Racing

Amazing Race 19 – Ep 10 Commentary – Leggo My Eggo

The Race picks up where it left off last week with the Peytons learning that this leg ain’t over and getting their next clue from Phil, with Control Freak and Jeremy 2.0 heading to the Mat, and with the Dudes and Geritol still struggling to impress the American Idol for Van Damme impersonators panel. What will unfold will sadden those who have taken a strong liking to our favorite grandparents from the farm.

As is the often the case, teams lagging behind find it hard to come back when equalizers are not to be found. Again, this goes back to the whole bunching vs. non-bunching debate, and as fans we can’t have it both ways, just hope for a good balance. Without a bunching this week, things became a bit scary for Geritol as they ran from behind throughout the leg. They certainly got close at the Detour and the Roadblock, but make no mistake, even though they arrived while other teams were still there, they were still far enough behind. Neither task had the luck option attached to it which could help make up time. Their only hope was that one team would screw up very badly at a task, or get wildly lost, while they played a perfect leg. That almost happened, but not quite.

Personally, I was starting to believe that Geritol were on their way to being the best older team in Race history. Meredith and Gretchen bumbled their way to the Final Four in Season 7, and Fran and Barry lingered (although they did win a leg) long enough for a fifth place finish in Season 9. Other than that, the older teams have not fared well. Donald finished third with his grandson in Season 12, but that was only half the team. The oldest Final Three team was Teri and Ian, who are middle aged, not of grandparent age. But Geritol was only able to match Franberry, thus sadly leaving Meredith/Gretchen as the senior standard bearer.

Other than the sadness attached to losing what may have been the most likable team remaining, it was a fairly fun leg. Personally, my favorite part was the waffle task. Why? and follow us on Um…because of the waffles. I’d walk 500 miles for a good plate of waffles. And I like these tasks – mostly started in the later years of the Race – where teams have to recreate something to the smallest detail. In this case, Ernie excelled, while Jeremy 2.0 almost managed to self-destruct over a breakfast pastry.

Ernie commented that you never know how the task is going to go until you get in there with Cindy. In a hysterical mini-montage we see her rattle off comments, criticisms and worries at Ernie as he tries to make the waffles and deflect her comments. “They made it manually first.” “The chefs didn’t use a ladle.” Yada yada yada. They made their display, with only one waffle imperfect thanks to a missing strawberry. That’s a great job by Ernie, and coming on the heels of his struggles with the Ford Mustang slalom earlier in the leg.

Meanwhile, Jeremy struggled to get the hang of the waffle making at first – probably because he’s a pancake man, and George Carlin taught us, there are issues between the two delicious breakfasts. They made their waffles and had two of them reversed. They could not figure this out, with Jeremy even commenting on how it was perfect. The poor Belgian kid who had to judge it kept shaking his head. Sandy even suggested switching challenges! That would have been a terrible choice. They had already basically finished this one! At that point, they had to go over to the display and methodically compare each waffle. Which I assume they wound up doing in the end.

The Belgian roads also played a huge part in the episode as it seemed each team – with maybe the Dudes being the exception – had issues with navigation. I loved how Control Freak and Peytons each managed to ask the same guy for directions. It was so confusing that during the third, seemingly random, task with the carrier pigeons, Cindy approached a guy and asked for help, stating they were looking for a pigeon house. The guy hysterically answered that he was the guy they were looking for! You know you are really turned around when you find your destination and don’t even realize it!

I don’t want to spend too much time on the Roadblock because you know my aversion to giving the product placements too much attention. I will just say that perhaps working in politics for as long as I have makes me notice these things but … was anyone else pissed off a bit that we were looking at a Ford testing area in Belgium when there’s a 9 percent unemployment rate back home? Just me?

The task was cool – drive really fast, do a slalom course and then spin a couple of donuts. Mmmm…donuts. Ernie struggled mightily with the slalom, finally getting it on the 16th try. I did dig the instructor driving with him whose non-chalance made me think of him as a bored Euro Super Villain. I also wished that one of the ladies had done the task – having the dudes all do the driving task was a little stereotypical.

And speaking of the tasks, just exactly how did the teams help release the pigeons?

So we come to the Final Four teams and the race to get into the final sprint to the Mat. This is probably not the strongest group in Race history, but at the bare minimum, none of them would be a terrible team to win. I am really finding it hard to think of a scenario where the Dudes don’t win this one. They would have to make a big error in the manner of Colin/Christie or Rob/Amber to lose this one. I think the other three couples are all kind of on equal footing – each one is capable of having a great leg, but all continue to make big errors. One good leg is all it takes – just ask Eric/Danielle about that – to win it once you’ve made the finals.

Personally, I think I am pulling for Control Freak at this point. They have grown on me over time, and while I like the Dudes and Peytons, the atheist in me is turned off by the Dudes’ religion and the football fan in me is already jealous of Marcus as it is. I can relate to Ernie quite a bit – I married a wonderful, strong and opinionated woman as well. I don’t think we could ever Race together as someone, likely me, would not come out of it alive.

The Amazing Race, Nov. 27 – “That’s How You Drive”

There were questions left unanswered after last week’s The Amazing Race episode. For one, it was a leg of the Race that ended without a period of rest following it. Marcus and Amani got to the mat first and were told the race was still going on and handed the next clue. Would it be a non-elimination leg? The only team not shown racing in the previews were Bill and Cathi. Were Ernie and Cindy going to get some type of penalty for riding the train without tickets? We don’t know. These questions should be answered in the first ten minutes. 
Amani and Marcus have a short celebration on winning the leg and receive their clue telling them to go to the Ford Proving Ground in Belgium to find their next clue. They take off seemingly a little shaken. He says now they have to work twice as hard to fight to the end. The next team in is Ernie and Cindy who are officially team number two, and do not receive a penalty, but get sent on their merry way. They search for a hotel in order to get directions. They’re told to take the E40. 
 
Jeremy and Sandy are next to arrive on Phil’s mat and are called team number three, then sent to the next clue. Andy and Tommy are still working on their bodybuilding, and this time get a passing grade of three 4s. They head to the pit stop, leaving Bill and Cathi as the only team behind. Amani and Marcus have also stopped to get directions. They try to get it printed out, but it won’t print. Marcus knows they lost time in writing it out from the non-English speaking people, rather than printing it. 
 
Bill and Cathi are trying one more attempt at the bodybuilding, and they finally get passing scores. Seriously, these two have decent physiques for their age. Bill admits to the judges that he does work out. Jeremy and Sandy are at a stationery store looking for directions and he calls it “Sweet” to get a great map.  
 
Ernie and Cindy are the first to arrive at the Ford Proving Ground and find a Roadblock. One person from each team must suit up and put the latest model of Mustang through a series of performance maneuvers. Firs they need to reach a speed of 100 mph, then break hard, and go through a slalom class in sixty seconds or less, followed by a double victory doughnut. When a professional driver feels they have mastered the Mustang, they’ll be given the next clue.  
 
Ernie agrees to do this one, yet Cindy is jumping up and down about the Mustangs. She’s also surprised to not see Amani and Marcus, knowing they left before them. This leaves her knowing it was worth it to stop and get such good directions. Ernie is driven around the track and gets worried the driver is going to take his life with his driving.  
 
Andy and Tommy hit Phil’s mat, are called team number four, and sent on with the clue to the Ford Proving Grounds. They’re psyched to still be racing after their humbling experience in the bodybuilding challenge. They know two more teams have to be eliminated before the finale, and they want to be in that finale. 
 
Ernie is now behind the wheel and getting directions from the professional driver. He takes off with a huge grin on his face. Bill and Cathi know there is a good chance they’ll be eliminated once they reach the pit stop, but he figures they’ve had “a good go” and that it’s been “exceedingly fun.” They’re indeed the last team to arrive, but are given the next clue. She exclaims, “Hot diggity!” She knows they need to “put a little pedal to the metal … safely … and legally, if we can.”  
 
Ernie begins the slalom part of his road test, and fails. He’s told to go again. Amani and Marcus are still driving around looking for Ford. They get help from someone with a GPS whose face gets blurred out. He apparently objects to appearing on American TV. Jeremy and Sandy get there before them, and Jeremy decides he’ll be tackling this one. Ernie does the slalom again and hits the car where he needs to break … again … and again … and again. He admits he’s “not a big car guy” and having to do it about fifteen times trying to pass.  
 
Jeremy has never been in a car going that fast before and calls it awesome. He starts the slalom while Ernie is hitting a cone in the slalom. The puts Jeremy into the rotation, of people waiting to take a stab at the course. Ernie is nervous knowing that Jeremy is “like a big car guy.” Jeremy hits the car too and has to redo it, giving Ernie another chance. This time, he finally passes. He has to do the double victory doughnut, and does it well. The bad part is that Jeremy passes too.  
 
Cindy pulls Ernie’s helmet off, and they read their clue telling them to drive to the city of Gent and search the Hoofdrbrug for their next clue. Jeremy and Sandy take off right behind them. Ernie tells Cindy it was “crazy nuts” and that he never felt so scared in his life. Sandy tells Jeremy he killed it. 
 
Amani and Marcus finally arrive, and to no one’s surprise, he decides he’ll be doing this Roadblock. Andy and Tommy arrive just behind them and can’t believe their luck to be behind the team that came in first on Phil’s mat. Tommy will be the one doing it, leaving Andy feeling very challenged, as he really wants to put these Mustangs through the course, because he has a passion for driving. Tommy had a hard time with the poem challenge, and they’ve decided Andy should do the mental tasks, leaving the physical ones for Tommy. Marcus takes off on the first part of the course, and calls it an “absolute blast” and “right up my alley.” Tommy is just behind him, and Andy is very antsy on the sidelines.  
 

Amazing Race 19 – Ep 9 Commentary – That’s A Whole Lotta Skin

Within 24 hours we witnessed the death of the Super Committee in Washington and the rebirth of the Super Leg in the Amazing Race. Ending speculation that there was another non-elimination leg before the end, the Show has produced a Super Leg where Phil sends the Racers back on the course and likely on their way to some sleep-deprived mistakes.

This week’s installment produced some high comedy and loads of fun before the Peytons won their trip to Panama and the cold realization that this leg was not yet over. It also produced another bunching point, and I assume at least another one next week. I know some of my brethren have been lamenting the bunching this season, but I ask if there has really been more this season than in past ones. I don’t think so. It is a very tough spot for the producers – plot the course to account for several spots where teams can lose leads and make up deficits, or suffer the fate of Season 1.

The first, and I if may add, incredible season of the Race had within it something that could have been a fatal flaw for the show. The flaw was not as big of a deal that season because the sheer novelty of the Race overshadowed it. As the final stretch began, the Final Five gathered in Thailand and due to some teams’ errors, other teams’ good fortune and stellar planning, and to the layout of the Race, there was a major separation. It led to a couple of episodes where editing had to create tension when there really was none. Two teams were fighting for the win, and the other two (following the sad Thailand elimination) essentially fighting for third place. This carried through to the end, with third place being over a full day behind the leaders.

That can’t happen again, and the only solution is to bunch them up several times. Last week, Magellans lost a huge lead and it led to their demise. This week, Control Freak had a several hour lead that went away on the train. Like Magellan, their own error put them in danger. Unlike Magellan, they got a stroke of luck (or two) to save them from themselves.

I think for full Race enjoyment you have to accept the bunching so we get dramatic moments. Look at the Race this way – you have to get from task to task, never knowing if you are going to make up time. Enjoy each task as presented knowing that the results could be moot – but not always. The Race is then divided into tiny races from task to task and then to the mat. The goal is to get on the plane taking you to the final city. Getting to the final bunching means that you survived. Or think about it in terms of sports – each series of stops leading to a bunching is like a mini-playoffs. You won just by getting there and now all teams start from zero again.

Hey, bottom line, you can get frustrated by the bunching or you can accept and rationalize it. I choose the latter because I like the Race too much to do otherwise.

If it were a scripted show, you would have to say that this week was an Ernie/Cindy-centric episode. They really moved the plot along and had the most happen to them. I fully expect a Flo-like meltdown from Cindy before all is said and done – it’s almost as if the show is leading us down that direction. She had a roller coaster episode. She had the highest of highs as she really rocked the Roadblock, and the duo banged out the Legoland challenge with relative ease. Then she had the lowest of lows as she discovered she was the one who lost their transfer ticket to Brussels. Amazingly enough, and I really don’t want to go the conspiracy route, the conductor on the train to Brussels failed to check tickets and thus crisis averted. I have been on a train where they didn’t check tickets, so I know it is possible, if highly unlikely that this took place.

Cindy did some top-notch panicking and self-torture regarding the loss of the ticket. And as often is the case, when one part of a couple is tightly wound and prone to meltdowns, the other one is cool as a cucumber. I loved the moment on the train as they realize their error was not a killer one where Cindy acknowledged that she was a ball of stress and Ernie knowingly looked at her and us. If a look was worth a 1000 words…

However, my favorite part of this episode was not the Race structure issues, or the Ernie/Cindy dynamic – it was the super, awesome, fun challenges. Next to the exotic travel, the wacky challenges are by far my favorite parts of the Race and I envy anyone whose job it is to come up with these ideas.

Task #1 – One of the most famous Danes is Hans Christian Andersen. Teams had to go to his statue and, as a Roadblock, memorize the plaque and then bike to a theater. The map to the theater was printed on the tire! Once there, they had to recite the poem to the satisfaction of what appeared to be an animatronics representation of what Christopher Reeve would have looked like if he had lived, not had the accident, and was Danish. If overacted well enough, they got a clue.

The poem – “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float. To gain all while you give. To roam the roads of lands remote. To travel is to live.” Great poem, especially for the Race. It led to some hysterically bad performances that would have been appropriate in any of the new sitcoms replacing Community and Cougar Town on the schedule. Yeah, bitter. Only Cindy and Amani did it right the first time. Cathi blew a word, while Tommy and Sandy elected to robotically recite the dialogue, you know, like in Twilight. Cathi’s English teacher past does not help her as she’s the only one to fail in memorization. The three of them had to circle back, not an easy task as Cathi and Tommy got wildly lost the first time, before doing it again.

Fun task.

Task #2 – Legoland. I would fear the army of the Kingdom of Legoland. Once you destroy the soldiers, a few hours later they can be rebuilt. Anyway, the Danes created Lego and for that our children are eternally grateful. Just not our air ducts and other crevices. And our ER doctors would have far fewer cases to work removing Lego pieces from the noses of toddlers.

The Amazing Race, Nov. 20 – “Copin’ and Hangin'”

It will be interesting this week on The Amazing Race to see if the U-Turn choices last week will have any affect on the remaining teams. Choices were made last week without thought of the social game that is played here. Ernie and Cindy chose to U-Turn Bill and Cathi not to stay in the game, but just to win first place on that leg. If they question Ernie and Cindy, other teams might question them for choosing the Laurence and Zac, who ended up getting eliminated. No one thought to instead U-Turn of a more competitive team such as Andy and Tommy.

Fortunately for them, Ernie and Cindy suffer no repercussions from the others and are the first team to leave Copenhagen, Denmark, at 9:01 AM. Once again, it doesn’t seem like it was just a twelve-hour rest period, as it didn’t look like 9:00 at night when they landed on Phil’s mat. They get a clue telling them to drive themselves to the Hans Christian Andersen statue to get their next clue. When Cindy’s China-born parents first came to America, she’s sure they would have chosen for her to marry a Chinese guy, but she hopes her parents will now see that she and Ernie have a very fun relationship.

At the statue, Ernie and Cindy find a Roadblock. One person from each team must memorize a poem by Andersen. Once they do, they’ll choose a bicycle and follow a map over the spokes on the front wheel to the Theatre Museum. Inside the museum they will need to recite the poem to a theatre critic with a lot of dramatic flair. If not good enough, they’ll have to return to the statue to start again. Ernie hands this one off to Cindy, making her nervous. Ernie knows she has a good memory, but thinks her short-term memory suffers sometimes.

A tour bus lets out right in the middle of Cindy’s memorization session. She says it out loud as she drives the bike to the museum. The “dapper” guy watches Cindy’s performance and gives her a “Bravo” and the clue. She is glad to get it on the first try and compares this to the audition of her life.

Bill and Cathi leave at 10:34 AM, and she explains they don’t like to think of the first leg when they couldn’t find the clue on the billboard. While they still have apprehension every time they open a clue, they just tell themselves they can figure it out, and have been able to do so. Andy and Tommy leave five minutes later, and Tommy asks his friend if he’s “Copenhagen” in there. Andy claims he’s copin’ and hangin’.

Once Cindy arrives back at the statue, she reads the clue that tells her and Ernie to drive themselves to Legoland Park. Once there, they need to find a Carousel ride to get the next clue.

Bill and Cathi land at the statue, and Cathi decides she’ll do this challenge. Andy and Tommy arrive just after, and Tommy decides he’ll be doing it. Bill explains Cathi used to be an English teacher and graded kids on this poem, so “she better do it right.” She looks at the map, but can’t find the theater, so stops to ask someone. She takes off while Tommy is still working on memorization. Tommy finishes his memorization and takes off for the theatre as well.

Amani and Marcus leave at 11:43 PM, as he says he is very proud of his wife at this point. He couldn’t have asked for a better teammate. He knows she might not be Peyton Manning, or any of the other guys he’s played football with, but she can hold her ground. They get to the statue, and she decides to do the Roadblock. He yells out random words while she’s doing this, thinking if he can distract her now, she will be less likely to be distracted and forget the poem while she’s riding the bike to the theatre.

Tommy stops to ask for directions to the theatre, stating they speak English in this country, and she still can’t find it. Cathi realizes she went the wrong way and turns around. Amani finds the theatre before the others and starts reciting with as much emotion as she can muster. She gets a “Bravo” and the clue as the other two are still looking for directions. She makes it back to the statue before the others to the astonishment of the waiting teammates. Amani tells Marcus, “You don’t know who you’re runnin’ with, Dawg.” Marcus says they just took the opening kickoff and ran it for a touchdown.

Cathi finds the theatre and tries to deliver the poem. She’s probably the one with the most expression so far with it. However, she gets a word wrong and is told it is “unsatisfactory.” She has to go back and try it again. Tommy is lost and still looking for the theatre.

Jeremy and Sandy, whom I’d forgotten about by this time, leave at 12:08 PM. He calls it tough to be away from home and his 6-year-old son, as he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him. He wants to win this race for him. However, Sandy will be the one doing this Roadblock. Cathi comes back, only to tell Bill she didn’t do it. She takes off for the theatre again.

Ernie and Cindy arrive at Legoland and get to the Carousel ride. They get the clue, a small tub of Legos. They need to piece it together while they’re being spun around on the ride, and can only do it while the ride is in motion. Once it’s completed, it will reveal the next clue. Cindy admits while being spun around that she’s felling a little sick.

Amazing Race 19 Commentary – Ep 8 – We’re Gonna Go With Speckles

Now that is more like it.

This was a great episode of The Amazing Race following a couple of, forgive me, speed bumps the last couple of weeks. It had unbelievably bad mistakes – some of which managed to not be killer. It had curious decisions, great comebacks and the most kick ass rabbit since this guy.

Racers left the poverty of Malawi and made the Race’s first ever stop in Denmark. It is hard to believe that after 19 seasons there are still places left the Race has yet to visit, other than some of the more dangerous places in the world. And yet, Copenhagen for the first time. Perhaps because of the scarcity of many travelers desiring the Malawi-Denmark flights, the show spoon fed plane tickets to the Racers with the usual caveat that if they can find something better than they should do so. Most everyone who has ever watched an Amazing Race episode knows that these tickets usually suck.

Apparently the Peytons have not actually been paying attention over the years. While the other five teams worked hard to find new flights – and did – the Peytons took things easy. It led to the amazing job of cross cutting between the teams flying out of Malawi to either London or Amsterdam en route to Copenhagen with the Peytons napping in the Malawi airport. The Magellans took a big risk by heading to London to find better flights and managed to get a huge lead as a result.

They were extremely lucky – a common thread this season for this team – that they only trailed the others by 90 minutes as a result. This was flight related and on-the-ground bunching related. The first stop was not open in time to accommodate the Magellans, nor the other four teams when they arrived, but still opened up before the Peytons touched down in Copenhagen and got into their product placement cars.

Their luck continued thanks to Jeremy 2.0’s inability to follow the clue properly. In another classic Race technique, the teams had to climb up a building/old church/fort/whatever and find the clue out in the landscape. This one had a twist in that a flag perched at the observation point was half of the clue, and the other half was on a nearby rooftop. However, that part was omitted from the clue. Sneaky. It took keen eyes and a bit of Race knowledge to know to look out at the other buildings. Jeremy 2.0 did not do this and thus went to the wrong location before doubling back. This put them on par with the Peytons.

Despite getting lost again later on, and having Marcus fall into a seriously bad place with doom and gloom, the Peytons made yet another comeback thanks to the Double U-Turn and the navigation troubles of others. Seriously, this team has lady luck shining down on them. Let’s see if it lasts.

The Double U-Turn. Not gonna rehash much of last week’s column, but I am glad to see the teams use it this week, even if not completely correctly. Control Freak has its eye on the prize – albeit the wrong prize. After blowing the Express Pass last week, Ernie and Cindy wanted to win this leg. Really badly. So much so that despite arriving to the Detour first, they still chose to use their U-Turn. I am fine with that, but their choice of victim was curious. Because the Geritols were behind them at the Detour, they elected to U-Turn them in order to ensure their victory in this leg. Mission accomplished and the couple will be going on a trip to Fiji. After the Race, of course, and hopefully not anywhere near these people.

The problem was that this was a strategy designed to win this leg, and this leg only. The strategy should be to win the Race. And the bigger threat to them to do that is the Dudes, not Geritol. They had no idea how far back the Dudes were, for all they knew, a U-Turn against them could have eliminated the team that has already won five legs. This was the move to make – take your chances that your current lead over Geritol would be enough to win the leg anyway. I hope for their sake that this decision doesn’t haunt them when the Dudes cross the finish line ahead of them.

Meanwhile, Geritol had to go back and do the second part of the Detour, which they did quite effectively. They did the right move first – they slapped a U-Turn on another team. This ensured that another team would have a challenge passing them. This is similar to the Boston Rob Meatblock technique – take the Roadblock penalty, but get someone else to follow suit so you know someone is behind you. The thing I have to ding Geritol on is the attitude. You can’t bitch about being U-Turned while you are U-Turning someone else. And make no mistake, they did complain. Pot. Kettle. Hello!

However, my favorite part of the episode came from the Detour and the choice I would not have made. I usually like to answer quickly as Phil gives the Detour choice as to what I would do if I were Racing. I immediately said that I would have churned the butter here. The reason is simply – and mentioned by another team – avoiding the randomness of working with animals. The butter seemed very straight forward physical challenge, and rabbits are not known for being a domesticated trained animal.
But then we would have never met Speckles.

The Amazing Race, Nov. 13 – Making “Sweaty-Ass Butter”

According to the previews, they’re pulling out the Double U-Turn again this week. Apparently last week’s didn’t have enough of an effect, so they need to double up their efforts to get their money’s worth out of the gimmick. I have to admit that’s kind of disappointing. Between all the U-Turns and non-elimination legs, the racers’ heads must be spinning.

The first team to leave Sunbird Livingstonia Beach in Malawi is once again Andy and Tommy at 3:12 PM. I have to say this seems odd and like more than a twelve-hour rest for them, as they definitely didn’t arrive there at 3 AM. Their clue tells them to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark, grab a Ford Focus, and drive to a Bell Tower to get the next clue from the rooftop. The news that there is yet another Double U-Turn ahead seems to worry the snowboarders a little, as they mention after five victories, people aren’t smiling at them as much. They have an 8:20 AM pre-arranged flight, but are trying to beat that.

Ernie and Cindy are the next to leave just one minute later. Seeing that there is another double U-Turn ahead, she comments, “We are so using it.” They feel the snowboarders stole first place away from them, and don’t want to make the same mistake again. Bill and Cathi leave at 3:26 AM, and she explains their excitement, saying it doesn’t get much different than going from Africa to Copenhagen.

Amani and Marcus leave at 3:34 PM, and his plan is to not be satisfied with their comeback that landed them in fourth place last week. She explains they’re kind of like the “Comeback Kids,” and that you can’t get rid of them. Laurence and Zac depart at 3:36 PM, and discuss their unwise decision to U-Turn Amani and Marcus who had already passed them up. Laurence knows they should have put more thought into it, and hopes it doesn’t come back to bite them in the butt. The last team to leave are Jeremy and Sandy at 3:42 PM.

The teams start arriving at the airport, and Laurence is checking on flights to London, realizing it’s a big hub for international traffic, and hoping they could get something sooner into Copenhagen. Cindy discovers what they’re doing and asks what time they’ll get in. Zac explains they don’t know yet. As Ernie and Cindy walk away, she calls it shady. Ernie figures they’ll get to their connection in Amsterdam and see if they can get an earlier flight. All the other teams make that same prearranged flight.

From London, Laurence and Zac make a flight that will get them to Copenhagen at 8:30 PM. Laurence is a little nervous about being away from the pack, but hopes they made the right decision. The other teams land in Amsterdam, and work to find earlier connecting flights into Copenhagen. Bill and Cathi find a flight arriving at 11 PM, and Ernie and Cindy plan to do the same. Andy/Tommy and Jeremy/Sandy try to get on one arriving at 10:35 PM. Marcus and Amani, meanwhile, are confident the others are all staying on the same flight. He asks what’s the rush.

Excuse me, Buddy. You’re in a race! That would be the rush. They plan to just sit back, get something to eat, take a nap, and get ready to rock and roll in the morning. They end up being the only ones to stick with the flight. Ernie/Cindy and Bill/Cathi believe they are the only other ones with an evening flight, not knowing the snowboarders and Jeremy/Sandy are due to arrive twenty-five minutes before them.

Laurence and Zac arrive in Copenhagen and realize they’re the first ones. They hop into their Ford Focus and take off. Amani and Marcus are camped out in the airport in Malawi and are still thinking they’ll see a lot of the other teams during the night. They still just want to unwind. Umm, if you don’t see other teams on this race, you should be very, very worried.

Helping the others, but not Amani and Marcus, is that Laurence and Zac arrive at the Bell Tower and find it closed until 7:30 AM, and hour before Amani and Marcus’ flight is due to take off. Even though a sign is posted about the hours, Zac still tries the door, and says, “It appears to be really closed.” Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Andy/Tommy and Jeremy/Sandy arrive in Copenhagen at the scheduled time of 10:35 PM. Tommy jumps behind the wheel of the Focus and asks how to drive a manual transmission. He wants to know what R means. Andy suggests it means “Real Fast.” Ernie/Cindy and Bill/Cathi arrive at 11:00 PM, and Amani and Marcus are fast asleep in Malawi still. These four teams find the Bell Tower and prepare to wait it out until the morning.

As Amani and Marcus wait to board their flight, they start to get a little worried when they don’t see any of the other teams. They’re all a continent away. Marcus fears that they’re out of the race, knowing the others must have all left last night.

The other teams race up over four-hundred steps to the top of the Bell Tower. They’re looking for two clues – a flag on top of the building they climbed, and a banner on top of a separate rooftop below. These clues will lead them to their next destination, the Fredriksborg Slot. I have to hand it to Laurence for being only younger than Bill and Cathi, yet being the first up the 400+ stairs. Then, of course, I looked up his age and found he was only one year older than me. Suddenly feeling like a good sharp cheddar … aged.

Amazing Race 19 Commentary – Ep 7 – Y’all Got No Babies Up There?”


Well, tonight we learned a very important Race lesson – actually, we learned two lessons. Now, I am not sure that most of us really needed to learn these lessons, as at least I thought that basic logic would take care of it. However, two Racers seem to have needed a crash course in Friggin Obvious Race Skills.

The first lesson – don’t just stand around. Unless the Roadblock is a test of how long you can stand in one place – and I think the Speed Bumps may actually start being that simple – an important thing to remember is that you can’t actually go anywhere, if you don’t go anywhere. I bring this up because Jennifer seemed to think that the best course of action for her dilemma was to wait for inspiration to cycle up to her and smack her upside the head. It didn’t.

The Roadblock task required the Racer to get on a bike, with a guy and a fish on board (really, only on the Amazing Race), go find an address, and come back. Fairly straight forward. Unless you handed your clue to your partner and forgot what it said. Oopsie. That’s what Jennifer did during the Roadblock. Before she left on the challenge, for some reason, she handed the clue to her partner. Unsure why she did that – the clue doesn’t do him any good, but provides her with instructions.

Regardless, that’s what she did and so after she dropped off the man and his fish, she could not remember what the next step was exactly. She knew she had to deliver the payment, but could not remember where. So, she decided to wait for another team to show up and then to latch on to them. With only seven teams left, and three different locations to deliver the fish, this was a flawed strategy from the start. More importantly, waiting around for help from another team is just a bad idea. What she needed to do upon discovering she lacked the clue was to head back to get it. Doing so would at minimum get her the exact instructions, and potentially the starting point was where she needed to be (which was true). Worst case, she gets the clue and has to double back, but at least she would know for a fact, do it right, and not risk everything on random chance.

It was a bad mistake and it cost them the Race. Good for Justin for not blaming her – his first concern was her safety, not their Race positioning. A far cry from their early leg bickering, the siblings went out with class. Of course, learning early on in the episode that Justin chose his sister to come out to was doubly touching and telling that they were probably the one going home. It’s often stories such as that which foreshadow a team’s demise. I thought I would dislike this team, but as it turns out, I am sad to see them go.

The second lesson – pay attention to what just ran past you. The U-Turn has returned this week – and factors in next week as well – and I must quickly revisit my U-Turn rules. First, there is nothing wrong with using the U-Turn if you are using it to better your chances for finishing the leg, or eliminating a team you see as an endgame threat. That’s as much a part of the Race as finding a short cut to a task. It is provided to be a tool for Racers. It is not bad karma, it is not bad gamesmanship. Unless used for spite – which it has been used before.

Now, this week most teams arrived at the U-Turn and chose not to use it. Some made soapbox comments about the tool. Cindy said they didn’t want to be mean spirited. Based on next week’s previews, that sentiment goes away quickly. Anyway, using it on the Dudes at this point would have been a good use of the tool. First, it would have earned Control Freak a cool $15K prize, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Second, it may not have eliminated the Dudes, but it would have at least put them potentially in position to fail. They had a bit of a cushion thanks to the Siblings’ error, but Control Freak didn’t know that they were so far behind.

Jeremy 2.0 chose not to use it on the Magellans or Peytons – two teams that they knew were behind them. This would have been a choice moment to use the tool, as they knew others were there ahead of them. This could have been an elimination situation. The wise move for them is to U-Turn one of those teams. They wound up not needing it – but you never know.


The Amazing Race, Nov. 6 – “I Guess This Is Africa”

Is it just me or is The Amazing Race having a lot of non-elimination legs? It seems like they’re having them every other week. I was glad to see it last week, though, as Amani and Marcus have been running a good race and mostly just had bad luck last week. It seemed like there were only minutes between them and the first place finishers, Andy and Tommy. If that’s the case, even with a Speed Bump, Amani and Marcus have a good shot at staying in the Race if they run a good leg.

The teams were required to sleep on the beds they transported to the pit stop. Ernie, in particular, didn’t seem to enjoy the accommodations. Andy and Tommy leave the Kumbali Village in Malawi at 5:28 AM. Their clue tells them to take a bus to Salima to get their next clue. They are also informed there is a double U-Turn ahead. This could easily kill Amani and Marcus if the other teams want to get rid of them. Or, they could ostracize a different team as well. The snowboarders mention that after the first couple of legs they were under the radar, but there is no doubt now they’re on everyone’s radar after four first-place finishes.

Justin and Jennifer are the next team to leave at 5:39 PM. Justin mentions that he came out to Jennifer a few years ago. She was someone he knew he could count on, and he now feels they’re closer becuase of it. It made her feel good that he trusted her enough to come out to her, even though they do butt heads every once in awhile. She thinks he’s amazing and strong.

Jeremy and Sandy leave one minute after Justin and Jennifer, and Laurence and Zac one minute after Jeremy and Sandy. Laurence talks about being competitive, and knows they need to do whatever it takes to stay in the Race. Andy and Tommy are the first to arrive at Lilongwe Bus Station.

Ernie and Cindy leave at 5:44 AM, and know Andy and Tommy are definitely the team to beat. The couple know they keep making mistakes, but figure the snowboarders will see their mistakes as well. Ernie thinks they might need to use their Express Pass here just to jump ahead of the others.

Bill and Cathi leave three minutes later, and Amani and Marcus at 6:07 AM. This means they’re under a half hour behind the first place team. He’s shocked that they only get $1 for this leg. He wonders if they’ll be riding on a pachyderm. Their cab has a squeak in it, and she wants to make sure it’s not a big deal. They can’t afford another setback. He reflects back on his NFL career and always being advised to pay attention to the details, and when the big things come, they’ll take care of themeslves. He hopes they can apply that here.

All of the teams, save for Amani and Marcus, board the same bus that leaves at 7 AM. Cindy notes the crowd and smell, saying, “I guess this is Africa.” Bill talks about being packed in there like sardines. Amani and Marcus arrive, but are waiting in line outside, hoping the bus isn’t too full yet. Marcus tells the driver his friends are on the bus, and he and Amani are allowed to board. However, they’re at the very back of the bus, meaning they’ll still be a few moments behind the others. He enjoys watching the countryside as they drive through it, and realizes how fortunate they are.

The bus hits Salima at 9:28 AM. Andy and Tommy are the first to find the clue, a Roadblock. One person from each team must use a local bicycle taxi and deliver a passenger carrying a fish to one of three specific addresses. After they drop off their passenger and the fish, they must return to the bus station, where they will get their next clue. Andy, Laurence, Cindy, Jennifer, Cathi, and Sandy do this task. Jennifer notes that she’s horrible on bikes.

Once they finally get off the bus, Amani and Marcus must complete a Speed Bump. They will need to configure the new Malawian flag using a slide puzzle. Once it’s complete, they can move on. They don’t seem to have used slide puzzles before.

Andy is used to giving people rides on a bike, as when he was younger, he’d ride people on his bike both in back and in front. Sandy asks Laurence if he knows where he’s going, and he admits he doesn’t. He compares it to finding a hair on an elephant’s butt and doesn’t find the bike seat very comfy, talking about crushing something that the show bleeps out, making it pretty obvious what he’s talking about. Jennifer asks for directions, as does Cathi, right before she nearly dumps her passenger.

Cindy sees kids running all over the place and wants to know why they’re not in school. She finds the area more primitive and less developed than the other African countries she’s been to. She stops for directions, and notes that despite English being the official language of Malawi, no one seems to speak it, or just speaks it in bits and pieces.

Amani and Marcus are still working on the puzzle. Andy loses a pin in the pedaling system on his bike and announces the bike is “done.” Cindy is the first to get her passenger and fish delivered, and her passenger pays her. She now needs to find her way back. Amani and Marcus are still struggling with the puzzle, knowing that every moment that passes puts them further and further behind. Marcus takes over for Amani and tries to talk himself through it.

Andy gets some locals’ help, and they get the bike fixed. Laurence and Sandy are still working together to look for their address, but she feels it’s more like the blind leading the blind. They stop and get some directions. Andy gets his passenger and fish delivered, as does Cathi.

Cindy makes it back to the bus station and gets the next clue, a Detour – Dugout or Lug Out. In Dugout, teams will participate in a Lake Malawi Canoe Race. They must choose a traditional canoe and paddle out to drummers, then come back and get the next clue. In Lug Out, teams will unload cargo from a ferry boat, just like the locals. They will carry two boxes of cabbage, two bundles of sugar cane, two bundles of brooms, one chair, one fan, and eight passengers who expect to stay dry. When finished, they’ll receive the next clue. Ernie and Cindy decide to do Dugout.

Andy returns, and he and Tommy, by no surprise, decide to do the canoe race. Amani is now working on the puzzle again and finally gets it right. She lets Marcus takes off on the bike, as he explains that to get ready for the race, he trained by doing bike riding, putting an eighty-pound sandbag in a kid carrier and riding uphill, so for this, he’s just “zooming.” Assumably, though, the passenger weight more than eighty pounds.

Jennifer makes her delivery, but had left the clue with Justin, so doesn’t know what to do next. She knows after she is paid she’s supposed to do something with a “Bike Master,” but doesn’t know where that is. Laurence and Sandy finally find the right stop, as Cathi is arriving back at the bus station. She and Bill decide to do the canoe race.

Marcus is still looking for the address, and notes a language barrier exists, so for all he knows, he could be getting further and further away. A local ensures him he is headed in the right direction. Laurence arrives back at the bus station, as does Sandy. The only two who haven’t come back yet are Jennifer and Marcus. She’s just waiting where she delivered her passenger. She decides to go back to the main street to try and find another team. Marcus gets his fish and passenger delivered and heads back to the bus station.

Ernie/Cindy and Andy/Tommy arrive at the lake. They see monkeys everywhere. Ernie and Cindy struggle with rowing the canoe, while Andy and Tommy have no problems.

Marcus arrives back at the bus station, and he and Amani take off for the lake. Justin is still waiting for Jennifer and hoping she’s okay. She walks her bike asking the locals if they have seen any other Americans. She also watches the entrance to the village and waits, not knowing what else to try. Why doesn’t she just head back instead of waiting? She could wait there forever and never find anyone, or she can head back to the bus station and get the clue to find out where she needs to go, which will be right there. She eventually decides to do this, hoping she’ll see someone along the way with their clue.

Ernie and Cindy are still rowing around the Finish Line, not getting started yet. She asks if he wants to use the Express Pass, figuring it’s a good time since there is a Double U-Turn up ahead. They turn in the Express Pass and get a clue telling them to head to the Jamaica Shop, with the U-Turns looming ahead.

Andy and Tommy reach the drummers and turn around. Bill and Cathi arrive, and he announces, “Let’s rock this thing.” Jeremy and Sandy also arrive, as do Laurence and Zach, and all head out in the boats. Laurence yells at Zac, instructing him on how to row. Zac wants to be “frantic” with it, figuring that’s how to get it done, but his dad wants him to see they have to find a certain rhythm with it. Jeremy is yelling at Sandy as well, explaining that riding in the back, she’s responsible for the turning.

Ernie and Cindy are looking for the “Jamaica Shop.” Ernie mentions they wasted their lead while looking around for it. Marcus seems to be giving himself and possibly Amani a motivational speech, saying he doesn’t want to just barely finishing this; he wants to move up the game. Their time is now. The driver lays on the horn to get some goats out of the way, and Marcus tells him that’s what he did in the NFL. He just laid on the horn and said, “Get out of the way, Miami Dolphins. I am coming through.”

Bill and Cathi reach the drummers in the canoe. He notes they understand each other’s M.O. after so many years together, and she agrees, saying they don’t argue or blame, and that’s how they get it done quickly. Meanwhile, Jeremy and Sandy are arguing and blaming, and struggling. He’s embarrassed that the older couple is beating them once again.

Justin is still waiting for Jennifer, and at this point is just concerned that she might not be okay. She arrives and finds out this is where she needed to be all along. They get their next clue, and she apologizes and says she should have just rode back to the bus station, which is exactly what I said.

Ernie and Cindy are still looking for the Jamaica Shop, and are told it’s in Chigumukile Village. Andy and Tommy finally finish in their canoe race, and Tommy does a backflip off the canoe to the delight of the locals. They take off running for the Jamaica Shop and pass Ernie and Cindy. The couple end up finding it first and choose not to U-Turn anyone. This means they will proceed straight to the Pit Stop, Sunbird Livingstonia Beach. Andy and Tommy arrive just after and also decide not to use the U-Turn, and think they can overtake Ernie and Cindy running.

Amani and Marcus arrive at the Detour, deciding to do Lug Out. Amani carries the items while Marcus carries the people on his shoulders. Ernie and Cindy get directions to the beach, as do Andy and Tommy, who say it seems like a long way to run.

Jennifer and Justin are still on their way to the the beach, and know they have to be really quick with the Detour. She knows she should have done what she wanted to in the first place, and that was just head back to the bus station.

Bill and Cathi finish their canoe race, with Laurence and Zac getting into the good pace Laurence was talking about. Amani is moving the sugar cane as Marcus is dropping off a passenger. He says this is hard work today, and when he gets back to the boat, he asks if they have any babies for him to carry.

Ernie and Cindy are running, knowing Andy and Tommy are behind them somewhere, but don’t see them anywhere. Tbe snowboarders see the couple just ahead of them and start running faster. The four of them are just about even as they reach the beach. It’s a foot race, as they land in the order of Tommy, Ernie, Andy, and Cindy. This means Tommy and Andy get first place for the fifth time. They win $15,000 from Discover Card. Cindy thought their Express Pass would have gotten them first place. They feel they could have been in first place on three other legs if their decision-making was a little better. Tommy explains they weren’t going to give it to them and vice versa. “It’s a Race and the name of the game.”

Amani gets the last item delivered. as Marcus only has one more person to deliver. Laurence and Zac finish their canoe race. Jeremy and Sandy reach the drummers finally, as Bill and Cathi reach the pit stop to be named team number three. Phil tells the local on the mat with him that Bill and Cathi have nearly fifty years together. She thinks the secret is communication, and Phil thinks they’re inspiring others as they’re racing around the world and kicking some butt.

Justin and Jennifer are planning to do the canoe race when they get to the lake, and she knows she needs to give it everything she’s got. Marcus gets his last person delivered, and they’re done. Laurence and Zac are asking where the Jamaica Shop is, but Amani and Marcus get there first and decide not to U-Turn anyone, as there are others still in the water. They pass Laurence and Zac. The father and son decide to U-Turn Amani and Marcus, who they just passed. I don’t understand that. They think Amani and Marcus hadn’t been there yet and that they were going the wrong way. It’s all digital now, so they can’t tell who’s been there and who hasn’t.

Jeremy and Sandy finally finish canoeing and begin the search for the Jamaica Shop. Justin and Jennifer are just arriving at the beach. They don’t see any other teams and are very worried. He’s freaking out, but she tells him to relax, as they’re doing fine. Amani and Marcus land on the pit stop mat to be named team number four. Phil tells them they moved up from last place and completed the Speed Bump and did a terrific job. Marcus calls it a great improvement and thinks they’re figuring out what they need to do to get first place. Without his muscle, I don’t think they’d be there in fourth place.

Justin and Jennifer reach the drummers in the canoe, as Jeremy and Sandy reach the U-Turn. They choose not to U-Turn anyone once they see that Marcus and Amani have been U-Turned. Laurence and Zach land on Phil’s mat to be named team number five. Laurence says, “Ouch,” although I wonder if he means the run and not the placement, but it could easily be both.

Justin and Jennifer finish canoeing and search for the Jamaica Shop. Jeremy and Sandy land at the pit stop in sixth place. Jeremy says it’s been tough, but they’re doing the best they can. They’re trying to work together and not go around in circles.

Justin and Jennifer land on Phil’s mat and are Philiminated. She says they had a good time, but it would have been great to go all the way. It was a silly mistake on her part, and she’ll be feeling guilty about it for awhile. They’ve been talking about following their gut since the beginning, and it cost them the game. He knows she did her best and believes their relationship was strengthened by the race.

Jennifer is right. She should have followed her gut. In this race, the mistakes usually show up to bite you in the butt. And on a week where there is a Double U-Turn, you don’t want to be anywhere near the back of the pack. First place is even more important. Next week, it looks like they pull out another U-Turn, after this one had no affect, and Ernie and Cindy decide to U-Turn a team to ensure they stay in the Race. What will Laurence and Zac be thinking after they realize at the pit stop that Amani and Marcus were in fact in front of them and that their U-Turn had no affect?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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