Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Amazing Race Round-Up, 18-10

Famous director Akira Kurosawa once directed a film called "Rashomon", based on a short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa about the death of a samurai. The film makes an important point about the ambiguity of memory; even the most seemingly clear-cut situations can never be truly known, and all our attempts to bring order out of chaos by assembling events into a narrative are doomed from the beginning.

This will be important later. But for now, we start off in Switzerland, with our five teams setting out to a helipad for some good old-fashioned "hours of operation" bunching. Once that's out of the way, we start off with a Detour that involves trekking out into the trackless wastes of the Swiss Alps to rescue stranded tourists. (Or, more accurately, involves tourists trekking out to rescue actors/mannequins.) One option, Search, involves finding a buried mannequin and digging them up, while the other one, Rescue, involves one Racer lowering the other into a crevasse to "rescue" a probably very bored Swiss person.

Three teams (Kent/Vyxsin, Jen/Kisha, Flight Time/Big Easy) do Rescue. It's fairly easy, despite the editors' valiant attempts to recut Kent's whining into some sort of an actual crisis. It should be noted here that this is pretty much the point where killer fatigue and the arduous nature of the Race combine to boost Kent's natural whininess to intolerable levels. He's been getting gradually worse all season long, but this is the episode where it all goes off the rails and he hits "Perfect Storm" levels of general obnoxious whinging. He can't even put on his own hood when it gets windy.

The other two teams (Zev/Justin, Gary/Mallory) do Search...which proves to be longer and more difficult, to the point where I started to wonder if Zev and Justin weren't going to need to be rescued while they searched. Both teams managed to save their mannequin, though...if you don't count the tiny, insignificant fact that they broke him in half while "saving" him. This puts them at a major disadvantage when they get to the Road Block.

Which is another Travelocity-themed challenge (we usually get about one per season.) This time, they have to make a giant painted chocolate Roaming Gnome, using two molds that each team has one of their Racers paint, freeze, fill with chocolate, freeze again by putting in a snowbank, then split open to reveal the creepy misshapen parody of a human being within. Once they've done all that, they get a clue and a non-chocolate gnome, which they then take on foot to the Pit Stop.

This is where the Rashomon stuff comes in. Because the molds aren't labeled, the shelves in the freezers aren't labeled, and everyone is working at a frantic pace to get their gnomes painted. And one of the Racers, Flight Time, looks up at one point to find that what he thought was his gnome-half is actually Vyxsin's. Or, from his point of view, what Vyxsin thinks is her half is actually his. There ensues what could be the most confusing sequence in Race history; even the audience isn't clear on what happened to which gnome, at least judging by the Television Without Pity forum. All we know is that neither Flight Time nor Vyxsin got a penalty, so whatever happened, neither one took work that didn't belong to them. It seems pretty clear that Vyxsin put her work on the bottom shelf precisely so that she would know which one was hers, too. Beyond that, the universe simply does not allow us to know what happened. Narrative fractures and decoheres, and all we can be sure of is that both Big Easy and Kent were being whiny dicks to each other in accusing each other's teammates of theft.

We can also be clear that Kent and Vyxsin didn't read their clue carefully enough, because they took a taxi to the Pit Stop. (Still managing to arrive in third, impressively. Apparently some of the other teams are good runners.) Despite the fact that he was holding the clue when they got into the taxi, and that Vyxsin said repeatedly that something wasn't right about the situation when they passed other teams that were on foot, Kent insists for the entire half-hour that this is all Vyxsin's fault for not reading the clue carefully enough and that she's dragging him down with her negative attitude. That's right--the man who literally had to be carried through a Detour like a six-month-old is telling the woman who dragged his ass along that she's holding him back. This marks the official point where everyone in the world started rooting for their elimination simply so that Vyxsin could tell him to fuck off and never see him again.

And everyone got their wish. The half-hour penalty elapses, giving Gary and Mallory and Zev and Justin time to get to the Pit Stop while Kent is still explaining that he's being positive by blaming everything on his teammate. They're eliminated, and next week it looks like the last four teams go off to Brazil, then the last three teams go to the Florida Keys in a double-sized season finale!

Which will, of course, be broken up into two normal-sized episodes for subsequent syndication. But c'est la vie!

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