Saturday, October 08, 2011

Amazing Race 19 Recap, Week Two

After a non-elimination leg last week, this week gives us the ominous Double Elimination on the Amazing Race. They spelled it out last week for the losing couple, and this week they make it clear to everyone; coming in 10th is just as bad as coming in 11th. This ups the stress level a little for everyone as they head to Indonesia, and we get plenty of reaction shots of people whimpering and panicking and generally saying, "Wow, this sucks!" (Maybe these people are a little under-ambitious, given how many of them seem to be worried about not coming in 9th.)

There's a lot of airport bickering, which is genuinely unfortunate; Justin and Jennifer have the kind of sibling relationship generally described in a Eugene O'Neill play, and we're stuck watching it. We get a long, brutally whiny sequence between the two of them, and then they blessedly go off to sulk at each other while we fly to Jogjakarta!

After that, we get what looks like a genuinely terrifying taxi ride to the Road Block (seriously, there are countries where you take your life in your hands when you get into a moving vehicle, and Indonesia looks like one of them. The taxi drivers looked like the only laws they obeyed were the laws of physics, and then only reluctantly.) Bill and Cathi, last week's last-place finishers, got a cute little Speed Bump where they had to untangle some climbing ropes, and then everyone went spelunking. (Personally, I think "spelunking" is a better term for throwing heavy rocks into deep bodies of water. Spelunk! Spelunk!)

The Road Block was decent enough--the Racers had to rappel down into a hollow lava tube, retrieve a ceremonial mask and dagger, and return--but it's really not the sort of thing that gave the later Racers a chance to catch up or the early Racers a chance to fall behind. It was more or less just a straightforward, "What order did you get here?" challenge. But the Detour...

Okay, the Detour wasn't that exciting either. It was a split between one of the Race's fairly blah "try to get money out of strangers" challenges, which I've never been a big fan of (something to do with the fact that people from an affluent nation who are also trying to win obscene sums of money are also begging for cash from people who probably can't spare it)...and another "try to get money out of strangers" challenge. Meaning that no matter which Detour they chose, we had to see people doing stuff nobody wanted to try to wheedle change out of strangers who had better uses for the money. If I wanted to see that, I'd go to New York. (Rimshot.)

But after the Detour, that's when the Race went from the mediocre to the absolutely sublime. Because when the Racers collected their cash, they had to go to an orphanage and turn it in to get their next clue. That's awesome in and of itself. The Race has done a few things like this lately, where the Racers actually have to do something constructive and decent for the people of the country they're in, and I can't approve enough. And what happened next was even better.

You see, there was a little sign next to the grateful orphans who all cheered and clapped at the friendly Americans handing them money. And what it said was, in essence, "Don't stop with the money you collected on the Detour; give all the cash in your possession to the orphanage before you leave." The orphans still gave the clue that led to the Pit Stop, mind you. You could still leave without reading the sign and you would know where to go. But when you got to the Pit Stop, Phil would (and did, several times) tell you to go back and give until it hurts.

And so, the actual question of who would get eliminated was determined not by luck or even physical skill, but by attention to detail and careful reading skills. Several of my favorite teams became even bigger favorites by stopping to read the sign like any good team should, and I got a little bit of a schadenfreude charge out of seeing a couple of my less-favorite teams get the "However" from Phil. (When Lisa and Kaylani showed up, Phil reversed it by saying, "You got here tenth...however...a whole bunch of other teams failed to read the sign you read, so you came in 3rd." The response, "I hate you so much right now.")

In the end, irritatingly gimmicky Survivor survivors Ethan and Jenna came in 10th, and adorable but out of their depth gay couple Ron and Bill came in 11th. Both are now gone, and short of seeing Justin and Jennifer get the boot, there's really not a whole lot that could improve my mood. Most of the remaining teams are nice, lots of them are interesting, and there's a lot of people I can root for here. I'm looking forward to this Sunday's episode!

(Which, from the looks of things, will involve an utterly brutal counting challenge. I always love these!)


Unknown said...

Of all the reality shows out there, The Amazing Race has always been the best. And the promos that talked about the being "the most grueling race yet" aren't kidding. Not physically so far, since climbing out of that lava tube was probably no picnic but certainly not the hardest thing the Race has ever demanded, but mentally.

You have to pay attention this year. The age of the easy as pie go from A to B to C clues is over. In back to back episodes you needed to PAY ATTENTION, and woe be those who didn't notice the yellow and orange billboard or read the sign!

I'd recently watched the first season on DVD, and it was amazing (NPI) to see how much harder it was than even the second chances shows were. You needed to figure more out on your own, and I'm glad they seem to be returning to that mindset.

Make it harder! EARN the million!

DeeB said...

^^^^^^^^ What he said!