In discussing Sunday (March 22) night's episode of "The Amazing Race," I wish to discuss the issue of adherence to the printed clues and whether or not very small infractions should be penalized.

On the Roadblock in Sunday's episode, players had to water and feed a pack of camels. The clue clearly read "Using native tools" and contestants were provided with metal buckets meant for transporting water and thatch baskets and rakes for accumulating and transporting feed. That was how the task was  meant to be performed.

More than a few teams, though, had trouble with the literacy portion of the clue and, at least for a while, attempted to carry the feed using the metal buckets, in violation of the intent of the task, if not the letter of the law. 

Well, using the pail was harder than using the basket, so is the inconvenience penalty enough? Or should teams have incurred some sort of sanction for their blunder? I mean, we're supposed to be teaching teams to read the clues and slapping them on the wrist if they fail, right?

[Recap and spoilers after the break...]

Obviously I raise this issue on Sunday night's episode, Jodi and Christie were eliminated from "The Amazing Race." I have no reason to like them and wouldn't care so much about their exit, except that despite facing a Speed Bump that required them to put makeup on an elephant (a bit like putting lipstick on a pig, I suppose), they finished only minutes behind Michael and Mark. And watching Michael and Mark, I'm astounded they don't fall down more. They're the stupidest team in this game since Dan and Andrew and yet they keep skating by. 

Their offense this week came on the Detour. The choice was between Movers or Shakers. Shakers required teams to put on makeup and horse costumes and entertain in the street for a few rupees. Movers required the transport of several huge containers on a bike rickshaw and then searching through the contents of the containers, hay in this case, for a tiny elephant.

As much discomfort as I feel with any task that forces people competing on a frivolous American reality show with a million dollar prize to beg for money from people in a largely Third World country, there could be no question that Shakers was the only viable Detour choice. Regular readers know I detest Detours where the choice is an obvious one and this may have been the most obvious choice in recent memory. The task that requires no precision, no physical exertion, no skill and almost no effort is pretty much always the task you take, especially if the other task has a distinct needle-in-haystack (almost literally) component to it. Not only that, but Shakers also fulfilled Mike White's "Do the task that seems the most fun" requirement.

It was such a no-brainer that six teams picked Shakers without hesitation and the team without brains picked Movers. I guess that if Movers had been deceptively easy and the finding of the elephant had been a breeze, I'd have owed Michel and Mark an apology and I'd certainly have needed to find a different lede to this recap. Fortunately, it was every bit as unnecessarily complicated as anybody with sense would have figured it to be, while Shakers was every bit as easy. Jodi and Christie picked Shakers and appeared, unless the editing was all lies, to finish their task before Mark and Michael. So maybe the only advantage to the Movers task was that it was slightly closer to the Pit Stop?

Either way, I wanted Michael and Mark to be punished and since there's no way to punish them for being stupid and taking the clearly wrong Detour choice (and for reliably doing everything possible in this game in the dumbest way way possible), I wanted them to face a tiny penalty -- 5 minutes, maybe? -- for using the wrong tools in the Roadblock. Since Jodi, who made up a lot of time on the Roadblock, appeared to be doing it correctly, they wouldn't have been punished and they'd have survived. Maybe.

I don't actually want Jodi and Christie around either, mind you. They finished last last week and got lucky with it being a non-elimination week and heaven knows how they fell into last almost instantly this week as well. The flight attendants started the show boasting about all of their insider knowledge and travel savvy, but did we ever get an inkling of that moxie? Not that I saw.

Sunday's episode began in Siberia an equalizer at the airport, so Jodi and Christie at least had the chance to get back to the front or at least the middle of the pack, but they fell behind at the airport in Jaipur and just never caught up. You have to have bad karma of some sort for that to occur. 

Similarly, what to make of Tammy and Victor's good karma since the event Victor refers to as "the travesty in Romania" (which sounds like an unfortunate nickname for a dud of a heavyweight title bout)? This week, they just happen to have landed Babu, a fast cabbie who knew exactly where they were supposed to go to get their first clue. They were also fast to spot the clue note attached to the red telephone under the Tree of Life and they were smart to get Babu to listen when they couldn't instantly understand where they were supposed to go to next. And Victor just performed the Roadblock task without problems or hesitations, realizing almost instantly which transport tools he was supposed to use for the feed and water. They finished first, got their ocean kayaks and must have thought this was just about the easiest leg in "Amazing Race" history.

I'm back to rooting for Tammy and Victor again. They've come through the travesty in Romania and they most just seem to be enjoying themselves. 

They're my second favorite team after Mike and Mel. Poor Mel took on the Roadblock task not realizing it was going to require so much effort. Admit it, you thought he was going to die with all of that huffing and puffing and moaning and groaning as he moved the pails of water. Mike could hardly look as his dad struggled and fell behind several other teams. But then Mel instantly realized he was supposed to use the baskets to move the feed and, before anybody else realized their blunder, he'd caught up and passed several other teams.

Huzzah for Mel. Again!

And then Mel got the "Awwwwwww..." Moment for the episode. After they finished second, Mike proudly boasted that his dad had smoked the twentysomethings in the Roadblock.

"I love this kid anyway, but when I make him proud, that's the prize in this race," Mel declared.

AWWWWWWWW!

What'd I tell you?

Mel and Mike are good people.

The third team I'm growing to enjoy more each week is Jaime and Cara, especially since I now know that Jaime is the hot one and Cara's the one who isn't Jaime. I enjoy that Jaime finds a way to get annoyed and offended about nearly everything, but she does it without seeming stupid or racist or xenophobic, even if her problem is with cabbies who don't speak English. She just comes across as surly and disagreeable. Her problem isn't with their language deficiencies, just with the fact that they're inconveniencing her. I don't like Jaime (Cara's hardly memorable), but she entertains me. I just don't think she likes people very much. How else to explain that she was brought to tears by all of India's dispossessed animals, while everybody else was sad for the impoverished humans?

Jaime's observation, "I used my boobies to transport the hay" should have been the episode's title.

Other thoughts on this week's episode:

*** If the Shakers Detour hadn't been such a breeze, this might have been the first time Luke faced a disadvantage due to his deafness. There was dancing to music and panhandling was required, but nobody was grading how well they stayed on the beat and Margie was able to make the requests for money. One more reason Mark and Michael deserved to be eliminated for not just taking the Shakers detour.

*** India never brings out the best in "Amazing Race" teams. They're always astounded by the poverty, the cows in the street and the poor children. Nobody said anything blatantly racist that made it into the episode, which is a rarity for Indian episode. Kudos! Since this episode was filmed before "Slumdog Millionaire" became an Oscar-winning juggernaut, I wonder if we'll see different attitudes toward India in the future.

*** There was a lot of confusion leaving the Tree of Life and heading to the Roadblock, mostly because teams didn't understand the thick accent of the man giving their destination. Although several teams appeared to have heard incorrect information or passed along incorrect information to their cabbies, nobody got messed up as a result. In that case, what was the point of the phone-in clue?

*** It was a rare fake-out ending courtesy of the editors, who made it look as if Jodi and Christie had pulled ahead of Mark and Michael and were going to make it to the Pit Stop first. Then they didn't. That makes the timeline for the end of the episode a bit confusing, though.

*** This was the second episode now to reference "a caravan of idiots." Has it been Mike White both times? 

So, should Michael and Mark have been eliminated just for being stupid? Or was it time for Jodi and Christie to go?

 

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