Another week, another week of "The Amazing Race"! This time, we're off to Japan...well, eventually we are. The first half-hour of the show this week was really "The Amazing Hang Around Airports and Discuss Strategy". Not that I minded one hundred percent, because it was actually kind of interesting to see some of the strategizing involved in the Race. Basically, for those of you who missed it, the Racers had a choice of two different flights. One had a connecting flight in Hong Kong (not a tight connection, but a connection nonetheless) but got in at 6:00 AM local time. The other was direct, but didn't get in until 6:15. The question was, is it worth risking the complications of a connection for a fifteen-minute lead?
Long story short, no. It wasn't. The "leading" flight got seriously delayed, putting the five teams who tried to get ahead pretty seriously behind for the entire Tokyo leg. Which was a shame, because some of my favorite teams were on that second flight, and I spent a lot of the back half of the episode twitching. (Except for the time I spotted Zev's "Duck Whisperer" T-shirt, which was just pure awesome.) (It's a reference to their first time on the Race, when they had to herd ducks. If I ever go on the Race, I am wearing nothing but obscure geek reference T-shirts. "I'm Bill Pardy" for the million, baby!)
The next big chunk of the episode was, "Who can drive around Japan best?" This was not Jaime and Cara, who actually took the sideview mirror off a local's car. This was not the best team to be involved in a minor traffic fracas, given that the first time she was on the Race, Jaime expressed her frequent anger at people who had the nerve to speak only the language of the country they lived in. So getting into a car accident, even the most minor one, with someone who spoke no English and wouldn't just accept a wad of bills from a strange woman. (Not even one who said, in sing-song, loud, slowly spoken English, "Maybe if we give you some mon-ey?") Oh, this also featured one of the two...interesting editing choices of the episode. Jaime is explaining that they have to stop, "because..." and it cuts ahead to her already out of the car. Now, I'm assuming that they were editing out some sort of technical explanation of the rules on how Racers interact with local laws, but why keep the "because" then? Oh, well.
Finally, we do get to the Road Block, which is one of the "do as I do" variety. Racers performed a little samurai kata, then fired a bow at a target from a very short distance. (While being spun, admittedly, but still a very short distance. If anyone missed, they didn't show it.) They did show lots of people failing the kata, though. Repeatedly. This provided much of the excitement of the episode, giving many teams a big chance to catch back up.
Then they drove to the Detour, a choice between another "do as I do" task (this one involved performing a purity ritual under a freezing waterfall) and a "needle in a haystack" task, which involved rooting around in mud for a small ceramic frog, while being pelted with more mud by locals. Surprisingly, only two teams opted for the freezing waterfall. Yes, I understand, I wouldn't want to have to stand under a waterfall for a full minute in 45-degree water, shouting strange Japanese phrases either. But you know what? There's a little rule I have about the Amazing Race, which is, "If you can do something that's not a 'needle in a haystack' task, don't do the 'needle in a haystack' task." Because sure, you can find the frog quickly and be out of there in five minutes...but you can also spend two, three, four hours rooting around in cold mud until you get hypothermia and have to stop, and then another team passes you by and gets the frog. Hypothetically speaking.
Still, since just about everyone did the frog task, it wasn't such a big deal. Zev and Justin took first, the Globetrotters would have taken third but for an after-the-fact penalty involving them accidentally taking another racer's stuff...which resulted in the second interesting editing choice. See, when the Globetrotters checked in, the Race judges didn't know they'd done it. So they didn't have to wait out a penalty, as rule-breakers usually do. Instead, Ron and Christina showed up at the Pit Stop complaining about the Globetrotters, and Phil announced that he would give them a half-hour penalty as a result, putting Ron and Christina into third. Or, at least, he seemed to...but we don't see his face while he's making this announcement, and Ron and Christina are distinctly unmoved by their good fortune. Almost as if he actually told them he'd look into it, and the decision to penalize them was made afterwards and dubbed in. Could it be?
In the end, it's Mike and Mel who get the hypothermia instead of the frog, and Jaime and Cara who slip by them to avoid elimination. I'm sad, because Mike and Mel are genuinely class acts (and Phil clearly agrees...he doesn't choose favorites, but you can usually tell from his body language who he's having fun talking to and who makes his job more of a job than usual)...but on the other hand, I did not expect Mel to get far at seventy. The Race is intensely physical, and even a fit, athletic seventy-year-old is going to have trouble with that.
So now we're at nine. Next week, China, and what promises to be an epic tantrum from Ron!