Sometimes, knowing the upcoming TV schedule can take a lot of the fun out of watching TV.
 
Because I was making plans for "Lost" finale day on May 23, I had to make sure that the "Survivor" finale was the week before, which led me to ascertain that the "Amazing Race" finale had to be May 9. And knowing that there were three episodes of "The Amazing Race" left and knowing that four teams remained and three teams compete in the finale, I didn't have much doubt that this Sunday's (April 25) episode was either a non-elimination leg or a "You're the first to arrive, unfortunately, this isn't the end of the leg..." leg. Stupid math and logic.
 
So as great as much of this week's episode was -- lots of good character moments, funny one-liners and potentially devilish tasks -- I never figured for a second that anybody was going home, so there was never all that much tension.
 
Oh well.
 
Full recap of Sunday's "Amazing Race," titled "I Feel Like I'm in, Like, Sicily," after the break...
 
After an early equalizer in Singapore, the episode took place entirely in and just outside of Shanghai, which continues to be just one of many Asian metropolises that I need to get to eventually. Nice of "Amazing Race" to remind me of that.
 
In a piece of "Amazing Race" history, Sunday's episode included zero Detours and two Roadblocks. Shocking, right? 
 
And when the teams got to the second Roadblock, Phil Keoghan intoned, "What they could never have predicted is that the person who sat out the first roadblock has to do the second."
 
Well, um... Actually, that's exactly what I would have predicted. Would there have been any point otherwise? 
 
Both Roadblocks were challenging and brought out interesting sides of the contestants.
 
The first Roadblock, in the canal-strewn town of Zhouzhuang ("The Venice of China") required one player to make noodles with the help of He Ping Ping, the world's smallest man. The Cowboys and The Models reached the Roadblock far ahead of The Detectives and The Bothers, who got stuck with a pair of confused cabbies.
 
It was hard to know what the secret of the noodle-making was. Perhaps this was proprietary culinary information or something? We didn't get much idea of what they were doing except that Jet was really good at it and finished first and Caite was being a goofball, which slowed her down. Then Louie "capitalized on his Italian heritage" (or something) to finish quickly and Jordan's hands got cold and he became frustrated. This produced one of the episode's very good moments with Dan coming over and hugging his brother, who couldn't hug back, hands all covered with flour. 
 
[Ping Ping got most of the attention in the Roadblock, just as Nelson de la Rosa used to get attention when Pedro Martinez brought him back to hang out in the Red Sox clubhouse. He produced all sorts of funny bemusement and dialogue -- "He was so adorable. He was so awesome," said Caite, who kissed him good-bye, while Jet added, "If he jumped out of your trashcan, it would scare you to death." With his natty attire and his giant cigarette and holder, Ping Ping was the star of the episode. And then the episode ended with a "In Memory Of..." title card. So sad! Poor Ping Ping.]
 
Between the two Roadblocks, each team had to go to a fashion house in Shanghai, get an illustration from a model, match up the clothing and accessories from a long line of options and then get the model dressed properly to get their next card. The only team to do it properly the first time was Brent & Caite, who know a thing or two about fashion as profession clothes hangers. Both one of the Cowboys and Mike made jokes about how well Jordan was going to do at the task, with Mike going so far as to say "Being the gay male that he was, he was in heaven." Do we feel like they were being homophobic or just making a good-natured joke? And does the discomfort of the possible homophobia get changed by the very real fact that Jordan got to the task and immediately got excited and took control? Probably not... Anyway, The Cowboys and The Models arrived at the fashion house first and left first. The Brothers made up some time on The Detectives, who somehow couldn't detective the location of the task.
 
Roadblock #2, the one we were supposed to be shocked had to be done by the player who didn't do the first Roadblock, took place at a huge soccer stadium and required players to put together a 96-piece card puzzle, the sort that get handed out to different sections at sporting events and make images or spell words when you hold them up? The complication was that 96 pieces is a lot and that the pieces were made of flimsy cardboard and, at least initially, it was a blustery day. Both Brent and Cord came close to finishing their puzzles and then saw all of their hard work blow away. True to their characters, Cord just scurried around, collected the pieces and practically played Twister in stretching his entire body of the pieces to hold them down, while Brent threw a temper tantrum and looked ready to quit. 
 
Cord finished first, then Brent and then Dan, leaving Mike, who struggled with visualizing the puzzle. He seemed to really struggle, because the sun went down while they were working. Even though I figured we were looking at non-elimination, we still got the sad music and voiceover with each detective professing love for the other.
 
They arrive at Phil, who told them, "I'm sorry to tell you that you are out... out in the cold."
 
Ha. Funny Phil. 
 
So nobody went home on Sunday. It looks as if The Detectives may be starting the next leg at a severe disadvantage in terms of time, so we'll see if they get lucky with either a potential equalizer or with a particularly amenable Speed Bump task.
 
Mike, upset that previous tasks have now favored Models and Cowboys, lamented ""Can we get some shooting? Kick a door in? Chase a crackhead?" 
 
So maybe next week, The Detectives will get to chase a crackhead.
 
 
Other thoughts on Sunday's "Amazing Race"...
 
*** While The Detectives and, to a much lesser extent, The Cowboys were really amused and impressed with The Models' U-Turning Carol & Brandy last week. The Brothers, Jordan in specific, were less impressed. Jordan said it was bad strategy and the Cowboys should have been the U-Turned team. I made the argument last week, and I stand by it, that as strong as The Cowboys are, they're also prone to mental errors, while Brandy & Carol's relative mental stability made them a perfectly legitimate threat. For tonight's episode, though, Jordan's fears look apt.
 
*** Shanghai looked cold. Part of me wishes that Steve & Allie were still in the race, sans packs, just to see how they'd be coping under the circumstances.
 
*** So far, this has mostly been a xenophobia-free season, but The Brothers and The Detectives walked the line with their increasing outrage a inept cabbies who couldn't speak English. Mike compared it to talking to Martians, while Dan said, "I feel like I'm in the movie 'Behind Enemy Lines.'"
 
*** Very little stupidity this week, though the episode title came from a Brent quote where we have to assume that he meant "Venice" instead of "Sicily."
 
*** Where'd the wind go for The Detectives and The Brothers on the second Roadblock? Or did they just see the way the other teams used articles of clothing and their packs to fight the wind? 
 
*** Once again, RIP, Ping Ping.
 
 
Did you enjoy Sunday's "Amazing Race"? Did you also make the early assumption that nobody was going home?