Well that was an hour of TV! No. Really. Including commercials, Sunday's (Dec. 5) episode of "The Amazing Race" definitely took up an hour of primetime real estate. I say that with all confidence and sincerity.
Was it a more entertaining or efficient a use of time than a clip show would have been? Probably. Was the extra leg more fun for the competing teams? Probably. Would a clip show have been every bit as exciting and Sunday's episode? You betcha! In fact, a clip show probably would have included between five and 10 minutes of Watermelon Incident replays, which might have given it an advantage.
So there you go. Sunday's episode of "The Amazing Race" -- Better than a clip show, but only barely!
Full "recap" of Sunday's "Amazing Race" after the break...
Let's do the speed version of the recap up-front:
The team that should have just been allowed to quit last week was eliminated on Sunday's "Amazing Race." They never came close enough to even see another team, but at least they got to see South Korea, which means that it was very nice of the "Amazing Race" producers to pay for their plane tickets. Nothing else that happened in the episode will have even an iota of bearing on what comes next, so all that matters is the knowledge that your "Amazing Race" finale teams are Team Watermelon (Brook & Claire), Team Nat & Kat (Nat & Kat) and Team Last Penis Standing (Jill & Thomas). Those three teams have won 9 of the season's 11 legs, so probably that's a deserving Top 3. And it's a Top 3 where I'm not going to be passionately disappointed by any result (nor will I necessarily be passionately thrilled by any result, but I'll definitely be OK with any any result).
So that's it. Recap over! Shortest. Recap. Ever.
Alas, I don't play that way.
The recap in longer form:
Nick & Vicki never should have been allowed to finish last week the way they did. They effectively simultaneously quit and accepted a six-hour penalty. It's my guess, totally without corroborating information, that they could have finished that stupid barge/parakeet tasked in under the six penalty hours. Instead, the show allowed them to take the penalty, while simultaneously accepting the Non-Elimination Leg. You think the producers didn't already know what time the available flights to Seoul were the next day? Of course they did. So the producers knew with 100 percent certainty that Nick & Vicki were going to be unable (or highly unlikely) to make the 12:25 flight from Hong Kong to Seoul the next day. And if they knew that, they knew that Nick & Vicki wouldn't be able to fly to Seoul until 9 hours later the next day. So it follows that they knew, that that moment, as Phil signed and conveyed the "good" news of the Non-Elimination Leg, that Team Quitter was being flown to South Korea for the sole purpose of eliminating Team Quitter in South Korea the next day. They know with total conviction that they were facing a penultimate episode that wouldn't matter in the slightest, basically an hour of sight-seeing, punctuated by a Travelocity promotion at the end.
Sigh. Only one week to go.
The episode began with the teams flying into Seoul and immediately driving up to the DMZ to raft down the rapids to a United States Army Base. It looked fun and all three teams seemed to have at least some sense that North Korea and South Korea aren't particularly friendly and therefore it was notable to be up at the border between the two countries. I have no idea if Team Quitter knew this. Still, we don't usually think of the DMZ as the sort of place where one gets to shoot rapids and due to the utter irrelevance of tension in this episode, the editors were able to spend a lot of time on the rafting and on letting the competitors make jokes about the danger of their possible missions. Ha. Oh well. It looked like a fun thing to get to do, especially if you were on one of the three teams who probably had to suspect that it would be nearly inconceivable to blow their finale spot.
The Roadblock was decent, keeping in mind the lack of surrounding drama. On a vast stadium field, soldiers were practicing Taekwondo, which happens to be South Korea's national sport. Contestants had to run to the top row of the stadium, choose a headband and dodge in and around the soldiers trying to find one whose headband matched the one they'd chosen. It would have been more difficult if there had been real jeopardy to the dodging of punches and kicks. Nobody got smacked in the face or anything. The only complication was that if you guessed the wrong headband, your headband was confiscated and you had to run back and select a new one. From what we saw, only Brook, representing Team Watermelon, made an incorrect guess.
Jill & Thomas finished the Roadblock first and raced off to get the clue for the Detour, which asked teams to choose between Full Throttle or Full Bottle. In Full Throttle, teams had to go to a speed skating course and do 24 laps together. Just 24 laps? Without any time limit? Gee, why would anybody bother to even consider Full Bottle? Exactly. Nobody did. Even Team Watermelon and Team Last Penis Standing chose to do Full Throttle even though Claire and Thomas really can't skate. [Full Bottle, incidentally, was one of those delivery tasks that show the producers have no real ideas up their sleeves, or else that a more exciting idea fell through at the last minute. Take a couple jars of ginseng from one play to another? Whee!]
You almost could have walked away from Sunday's episode thinking nothing at all had happened except that between the route marker and the Detour, the clue very specifically told them to take the subway. Team Watermelon took a cab and, as a result, made up a deficit on Team Last Penis Standing, allowing them to arrive at the Detour first. And Jill & Thomas were SO CONFUSED! Their confusion didn't last long, since they finished the Detour ahead of Team Watermelon. They temporarily lost that new advantage when they struggle to find the box with the Pit Stop location. As a result, Team Watermelon finished first, laughed when Phil told them they had a 30 minute penalty, and then ended up finishing second ahead of Nat & Kat, who were a tiny bit slow this week, probably because they knew there wasn't any reason at all for urgency.
Thus, heading into the finale, it's Jill & Thomas in first, Team Watermelon in second and Nat & Kat in third. A little over a half-hour separates the three teams and that will surely be erased with equalizers aplenty.
A few other thoughts on this week's episode:
*** I said this last week when Nick and Vicki were "saved"... There were only two options: Either several equalizers bring the field back to Nick & Vicki and things are close, but infuriating, or else they're never in the race for a second. It ended up being the latter, but boy was I ready to be angry if Nick & Vicki had somehow ended up on the same flight as the other three teams. Given the tiny spread between the top three teams, there's no reason to think that if equalizing had occurred Nick & Vicki wouldn't have had at least a puncher's chance of knocking one of them out (not that I think either Nick or Vicki would have been capable of the shape-recognition required for the Roadblock). The Speed-Bump appeared to be that they had to wash off a dirty tank, which is probably harder than sitting on an ice chair for a few minutes. I couldn't tell which things Nick & Vicki still had to/got to do and I wonder who had the discretion, since the leg was over before they reached the rapids. Weird.
*** Also weird? The scene where Nat & Kat flirted their way to having a guide book purchased for them at the Hong Kong airport. I kept waiting for that guide book to play a key role helping them succeed at the leg. Instead, it was just something we were shown because the editors had to fill time.
*** That's also probably how we got the "Thomas takes a long time to get dressed" meme, which included both his wet suit and his speed skating costume, though neither slow-change appeared to impact his team.
*** And that's also probably how we got stuck with the "Korean men did American chicks" meme, wherein both Vicki and Claire had to deal with flirtatious locals. Seeing that their guide was besotted with Vicki, Nick observed, "I knew you were good for something." You know what else Vicki was good for Nick? Effort. You? Not-so-much.
*** Brook was extra hyper this week. Why do I get the feeling that after the teams get back to the States, Claire is really going to want at least a week of Brook-free detox?
*** Phil Keoghan made a big show of telling Team Watermelon and Nat & Kat that they've got a chance to be the first all-female teams to win. It's almost like the entire season will have lost all value if Jill & Thomas win. What? There's nothing significant about the first win for a team featuring a Notre Dame graduate and somebody much less educated?!? I'm almost rooting for Jill & Thomas to win just to tear down the season's not-so-subtly orchestrated "An All-Female Team Will Win" lattice work. Of course, the finale will probably require both members of each team to do the splits or get pregnant or something, just to facilitate the desired result.
Anything else worth saying about Sunday's "Amazing Race"?