Monday, October 24, 2011

Amazing Race 19 Recap, Week Three

And so, after last week's Double Elimination, we are once again at the Episode 3-appropriate nine teams, all of whom are in Indonesia with only an hour or so separating the first place team from the one that barely squeaked by last time. And since they're not leaving Indonesia for this round, there will be no airport bunching, so that hour-long head start is going to matter a lot.

But not at the beginning, right? Because they start off with a bicycle ride through the streets of Jogjakarta, which is almost certainly just going to be a simple time-waster filled with local color, cute scenes of Andy and Tommy popping wheelies, and no chance for anyone to gain or lose spots going into the Detour...right?

Oh. Guess not. Looks like Ernie lost a pedal on his bike and by the time it was fixed, they dropped all the way to eighth. Well, that should put a little urgency into things.

And sure enough, it did. Not for Andy/Tommy and Laurence/Zac, who had a strong lead going into the Detour and made almost no mistakes as they went through the motions of feeding and watering a sheep(note the "almost", there; Andy and Tommy didn't fill up their grass bag all the way the first time, which gave Laurence and Zac a chance to catch up, while Laurence and Zac didn't read their clue all the way through and used extra buckets to fill the water trough faster, which will be significant later on.)

But the other teams had to move like crazy to get through the Detour. Lisa/Kaylani and the Doublemint Twins both decided to plant rice seedlings, while everyone else loaded themselves up with a pair of sheep and ran for it. They came out of the Detour in a very close pack...and then Marcus and Amani got there. This was kind of a theme of the episode, right up until the very end.

But before that end, there was a Road Block to get through, and this was the "brutal counting challenge" I mentioned last week. One member of each team had to climb to the top of an absolutely gorgeous Buddhist temple and walk around it counting statues of the Buddha...and recognizing, from the minimal hints given in the actual clue, that you had to not just count the statues but recognize that each one had a distinct hand position and you had to mimic that position when giving the count to the judges. The total number of statues was 69, but you actually had to give the judge a count of "17, 17, 17 and 18" while doing hand gestures. (No, not like that! Respectful and reverent hand gestures that the Buddha would make!)

Tommy and Laurence decided to work together, on the grounds that they got there at about the same time and get along well and are both nice guys and it's easier to do with two people counting. Have I mentioned how much more I enjoy the Race when it's got intelligent, competent, nice teams doing sensible things instead of starting pointless drama? They got the right answer on the first try, but it took them one more go before they figured out that they had to do the gestures. They sprinted off at the same time...but Andy and Tommy had to go pay their cabbie first, because they told him to wait. This was a) unbelievably significant for later, and b) why Laurence and Zac got to the mat first.

Only to get the Dreaded However from Phil. In this case, Phil finally mentioned that they misread their clue and incurred a 15-minute penalty. Not bad, but it was the difference between a comfortable second place and a trip to Dubai. (Andy and Tommy, by the way, were very sweet and apologetic to the other team when they checked in first.)

This left seven teams struggling to avoid last place. In theory, despite straggling in just as Andy and Tommy were leaving, Marcus and Amani should have had a huge advantage because Tommy just straight up told them the answer. Unfortunately, by this point in the Race, Marcus and Amani were already tired and frazzled enough that they just straight up forgot what Tommy told them by the time they got to the clue box, leaving them in the same boat as everyone else.

What followed was shot after shot of people wandering around, trying to figure out which statues they should be counting, how many there were, and how to report them to the judges. Numbers like 423, 201, and 68 got tossed around, but ultimately the teams had to pool their resources and work in groups to figure it out. Bill didn't join in, but he also figured it out on his own and got out of there before the other six teams. The Ernie/Marie/Jeremy/Justin axis figured it out not long afterwards, and bringing up the rear (but not by much) was Lisa and Marcus. After a pretty well-designed leg with clever challenges that actually force the Racers to think, it was still very close coming towards the Pit Stop.

Which is where that taxi thing came into play. Amani/Marcus and the Silence gained a huge lead in the final run to the Pit Stop because (ironically enough) their taxi drivers were so lousy that they figured they'd be better off getting a whole new driver if they had to go anywhere else. (In the case of the Silence, their taxi actually broke down about a half-mile from the Road Block and they had to hoof it.) Everyone else lost ground to one degree or another, which was why Bill got out of the Road Block in third but he and Cathi came in 7th, and why the Doublemint Twins dropped from the middle of the pack down to 8th, and why Lisa and Kaylani got eliminated.

All around, an exciting, close episode, and I'm looking forward to next week's Thailand leg!

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