Yes, I'm aware that I am significantly behind in my Race recaps. I don't know whether or not I'll be able to catch up, but I thought it over and decided that I would rather have the entire Race three weeks late than have it abruptly cut out midway through. After all, these entries have ages to be there after they cease being relevant as live events, but failure to finish is forever. So with that in mind, let's recap Week Four!
We begin in Jogjakarta again, with the teams heading to Phuket, Thailand. The Race dwells on this for a long time, making a fairly big deal out of the lead two teams' mistakes (they didn't spend enough time researching flights at the airport and wound up an hour behind everyone else instead of maintaining their lead...) But since it turned out that there was a huge Hours of Operation stopping point, the sequence is only really relevant for Lawrence's statement that he "couldn't remember" if he'd ever been to Thailand (either he's a very well-traveled man, or a really ambitious partier) and some really amusing mispronunciations of "Phuket". Yes, I am sometimes mentally twelve years old. Your point?
Frankly, I know that there's a lot of complaints about "bunching" on the Amazing Race, and generally I disagree with them. I think that winning a leg should be enough of a competitive advantage that teams want it, but making it insurmountable takes a lot of the excitement out of the Race. So I'm fine with bunching, in moderation. That said, this was a bunching point that happened after the show had tried to make a lot of drama out of who was going to get to Phuket first, and red herrings in a reality show are a little more obnoxious than usual.
Still, they made up for it with an excellent Detour. One choice involved making an artificial coral reef and placing it in a lagoon, which was difficult but could be completed quickly if the team worked together and knew their way around boats and water, and the other involved setting up beach chairs and umbrellas according to a display set up elsewhere on the beach, which was time-consuming but rewarded patience and attention to detail.
Only three teams, Liz/Marie, Cindy/Ernie and Lawrence/Zac, went straight for the beach chairs. As it turned out, there was a fairly brutal sting to this one; a strong wind sent their umbrellas blowing all over the place. Advantage: Coral! ...um, except that it's also hard to paddle in a strong wind, too. Oh, and there's a strong current to go with that strong wind, which practically disintegrates several teams' coral frames. By the time it's over, only two teams (Andy/Tommy and Jennifer/Justin) have managed to actually succeed in placing their coral; everyone else has moved over to the other leg.
Advantage: Liz/Marie, Cindy/Ernie and Lawrence/Zac! Well, except that Liz and Marie turn out to be really, really bad at sticking beach umbrellas into the ground so they'll stay. Despite getting to the challenge first, they are passed by every single team one after another until they're left to scream at each other, all alone. When the going gets tough, the tough bicker at each other and fail!
From there, the episode loses a certain amount of tension through no fault of the leg design. The teams have to do some actual navigating to get to the Road Block, which is a fairly well done rock climbing challenge (they actually make it about the climbing, not rappeling or using a mechanical climber, so athletic teams have a chance to gain time.) They then have to navigate to the Pit Stop as well, with an actual map! There's quite a bit of excitement over who will wind up in which position...with the unfortunate and clear understanding that the Doublemint Twins will be dead last.
And so they are...but lucky for them, elimination is staved off for at least one more week by Phil and his non-elimination wizardry. They get to move on from Phuket to Bangkok and try to make up some of the ground they lost. (I gotta say, even without the benefit of a couple of weeks of hindsight, it seemed unlikely.)