Someday, when HitFix has made me rich and famous and I decide to leave the entertainment journalism game, I'm going to go back to grad school and get my PhD. When that occurs, I plan on creating a dual degree program in Religious Studies and Television Theory. My thesis will be titled "Keoghan and Krishna: Case Research on Karma and 'The Amazing Race.'"

Sunday (March 29) night's "Amazing Race" episode, whimsically titled "Gorilla? Gorilla?? Gorilla???" will probably get its own chapter, as it exposes both the power of "Amazing Race" karma, but also its sad limitations.

[Recap with spoilers after the break...]

If you've already read the first chapter of my dissertation, you understand that karma on "The Amazing Race" is as much a product of editing as the balance of spiritual scales.

Jaime, of Jaime & Cara, has been a misanthropic cuss since the season began. She's yelled at cabbies, complained about urban dissonance and gotten frustrated with other teams. Only in this episode, though, did her nature become a focus for clip packages and direct discussion with the camera.

As I've said before, I like Jaime and suspect that she and I would have a lot in common, except that she probably wouldn't like me. While she made several references to anger at people who don't speak English, I don't think that's really her problem. I'd guess that English-speaking cabbies and English-speaking shopkeepers probably grate on her nerves just as much.  She never complains about any of the tasks they have to do. She doesn't mind hard work and she doesn't seem to be scared or disgusted by unusual things. She just doesn't like people.

So she was fine in the task a Phuket Zoo, where the teams posed with a tiger and let an elephant step over them and squat on top of them.

"If I could just send my life in the wild with animals and never see people again, I'd be fine with that," Jaime said. I believe that.

Karma doesn't care, though, especially when your hostilities have been shown multiple times earlier in the episode. That's why even though Jaime & Cara were the first to arrive at the Phuket herb store, they were the last to find their clue, because the old vendor didn't speak English and worked at his own deliberate pace, but Jaime & Cara (really only Jaime) was the only one to raise her voice.

It didn't make a big difference in the leg, but some sort of cosmic force had a point to make. I don't expect that Jaime will learn a lesson.

How about Mark & Mike? Will Team Tweedle (Jaime & Cara's description is mean, but kinda appropriate) learn anything?

This week's Detour was the choice between 100 Barrels and Two Miles. 

Two Miles required teams to carry each other on a two-mile rickshaw trip and they were provided with pumps to make the task easier. It was a bit unclear if the clue made specific reference to the availability of the pumps or if the teams were just supposed to see the available pumps and know that they had the ability to make sure that their rickshaw tires were inflated. Mark decided to make their opponents work a bit and put all of the pumping tools in an unmarked box. Yes, teams could have noticed that their tires were flat, noticed the box and realized they could get their pump on, but if you don't know how rickshaw tires are supposed to be inflated, maybe you don't give it any thought.

Mark & Mike raced through the Two Miles challenge and finished comfortably in first. But, under the stern disapproval of Phil Keoghan, they were penalized two. They got one 30 minute penalty for the pump subterfuge and another for hiring their cabbie to lead them. As a result of the hour penalties, Mark & Mike had to sit and wait while Tammy & Victor and then Jaime & Cara moved ahead of them.

Actually, as I think about it, what happened to Mark & Mike wasn't karma at all. It was straight-up punishment for a misdeed. So maybe karmic retribution will come next week?

Was their penalty even enough? If you assume that the other teams should have been smart enough to recognize that their rickshaws had flat tires and that they were clearly supposed to be inflated, then maybe the penalty is too much. If, however, you don't think that and you factor in the amount of extra effort the subsequent teams had to go through to complete the same rickshaw journey on flat tires, maybe 30 minutes wasn't enough.

Ask Margie how she feels about the extra effort she had to go through and if she appreciates that Mark & Mike thought it was a funny trick to play. While Luke had more physical strength, Margie realized that she couldn't direct him, because he couldn't hear her or see her attempted signing. That left the fiftysomething mom rickshawing her far larger son for a great distance, leading to a terrifying scene where Margie collapsed from dehydration and Luke had to stand around in frustration and confusion unable to help. How much easier would the task have been for Margie if she'd had inflated tires on her rickshaw? I'm kinda rooting for Luke to beat the snot out of Mark next week. I won't happen. But I hope it does.

The sad truth is that while bad karma can be counted on to reliably kick teams in the rump, good karma often goes unrewarded. While karma absolutely justified the variable pummeling that Jaime & Cara and Mark & Michael took, the team that was eliminated has done so much good this season and been so consistently admirable and upstanding. If there were "Amazing Race" rewards for good karma, Mel & Mike would have been spared by a non-elimination leg or something. Alas, the team I was rooting for from the beginning got the boot and there was nothing Phil Keoghan could do to save them.

I guess that if I'm being fair, Mel & Mike have only themselves to blame for their elimination. 

The teams were sent off to Phuket without a specific destination. They were given only a picture of an angry-looking gorilla. This was a call-back to the way "Amazing Race" clues often used to be given out, before the producers amped up the level of hand-holding. I was glad to see the return to a clue that required at least a modicum of effort. 

As the episode kicked into gear, the teams were all tied arriving at the Phuket airport, but only Mel & Mike headed off on their own, without seeking any guidance and without any confidence that there cabbie knew where to go. While every other team sought instructions from Thai residents and went off to the Phuket Zoo in a caravan, Mel & Mike went unprompted to a beach and then ignored several people who tried telling them that the gorilla had to be at the zoo. Why were they so skeptical? Why were they so stubborn? I haven't the faintest. But they were behind at the Zoo, behind at the herb shop, behind at start of the Detour and behind at the finishing mat. 

"It appears that lady luck did not shine brightly on Mike and Mel today," Mel said. Luck, though, had nothing to do with it.

Mel & Mike will be missed. They did The Race the right way.

Other thoughts on Sunday's episode:

*** Gotta do a little self-pimpage here... If you want to know what Phil Keoghan thinks about "The Amazing Race" not being in hi-def (or what he thinks about his current bike ride across America), check out This Story.

*** Line of the episode: Cara on her partner's treatment of cabbies - "If I was on the other side, I'd be like 'Dude. You are a witch with a 'B.'" I don't disagree. But I don't care, either.

*** Second best line of the episode: Kisha on Mark & Mike - "They're bite-sized!" And the one-armed tiger wrangler was just too good for words.

*** Margie's collapse was one of the scarier Race moments I can recall and the editors made sure they caught every possible sign of dehydration as foreshadowing. Yikes. When a woman's sweaty, shaking, begging for water and complaining that her limbs are freezing, GET HER SOME HELP.

*** The herb shop find-a-clue task was one of those devilish games that got harder and harder with each team. If you were there with a group, you could keep track of which drawers had been pulled, but if you were last, not only were you on your own, but most of the clues were gone. That makes me wonder just how far behind Mel & Mike really were when they got to the Detour and just how far they were behind Kisha & Jen after finishing.

Thoughts on this week's episode? Were Mark & Mike punished too much or not enough? And were you sorry to see Mel & Mike go?

 

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