I'm a big enough cause-and-effect fan that it annoys me to have an episode of "The Amazing Race" in which one team manages to do something wrong at every single step and still manages to avoid elimination. I know. I'm a bit of a purist.

Sunday (Oct. 4) night's "Amazing Race" was, alas, not a very good episode, unless you happen to be a big fan of Lance & Keri (Team Meathead). And unless you're actually related to Mama Meathead or Papa Meathead, I find it hard to believe that anybody could be cheering for them. They did dumb things whenever possible, they yelled and shrieked at each other whenever possible and yet they were spared by a team that skipped a volume of stupidity in favor of pure severity.

Recap of Sunday's "Amazing Race," complete with spoilers, after the break...

In a nice twist, Sunday's episode began with the first moving Pit Stop that I can remember (my memories may be faulty). The teams went to bed on a ship on one part of the Mekong Delta and woke up further down the river and they were never properly briefed on their new location.

For most of the teams, this wasn't a problem. They got their clue, which told them to go to a location in Ho Chi Minh City and were driven to said destination. Only Team Meathead got off the boat and decided they obviously had to already be in Ho Chi Minh City and set to asking people how to get to the puppet theater for their next clue. Ooops. 

Then, at the puppet theater, the teams had to snag their clues from the mouthes of swimming dragons, which was made to look complicated, but hardly impossible. Actually, it was simple. Reach out and grab the clue. The people who had problems were the ones who over-thought the task. Like why did Mika and Canaan (Team Jesus or Team Nashville) decide they were supposed to lure the dragons by dancing? And why did Tiffany of Team Poker think she could sweet-talk the dragon? She quickly realized, "I could have blown him kisses. The puppet didn't care."

Team Meathead didn't blow that part of the task, but the when they got the clue from the dragon's mouth, they saw it was just a bullet. Every single other team was able to immediately look inside the bullet, find a stamp and determine the location of the stamp was their next destination. Except for Team Meathead, who approached every Asian-looking person they could find asking for the real clue, as Keri shrieked "Where's the clue? Where's the clue?" Then, even when they eventually figured things out, they still arrived at the next destination and ran right past the clue box. In all of these instances, Lance yelled at Keri and blamed her. 

But Lance and Keri got lucky with the Detour.

The choice: Word Play or Child's Play. 

In Child's Play, the teams had to collect a large ceramic animal and wheel it through a park, collecting balloons, then deliver the balloons and the animal to one woman to receive their next clue. The last required only endurance and physicality (though Team Meathead had trouble finding the right woman to take their animal and their balloon).

In Word Play, the teams had to go onto the roof of a hotel and, looking down at a rotary, identify six letters. Having correctly IDed the six letters, they had to take them down to the street and get them descrambled to form the word Doc Lap, Vietnamese for "independence."

Since every team but one decided to go with Child's Play, I can only make one assumption: The other teams must have assumed that Vietnamese has an entirely different alphabet system. It doesn't, though there are mighty clear differences in punctuation and whatnot. The only team to take Word Play was Marcy & Ron (Team Old or Team Crazy Woman and Boring Guy). For a brief moment, it looked like they'd made a brilliant choice. The letters were easy to pick out and other than one brief error confusing a "D" with an "O," they wrote down all six letters in no time.

Then they made a peculiar choice: Even though the clue told them to get help deciphering the word puzzle, Ron and Marcy walked down to street level and decided that the task expected them to learn Vietnamese. So they stood and looked around, trying to identify words on signs that might match with their six letters, trying to guess ways that Vietnamese letters go together. They didn't ask anybody for help and made educated guesses like "Old Cap." Huh? When they finally got around to showing the letters to people on the street, they were helped in no time. If the editing in the episode is to be believed (and I'm always skeptical), Ron and Marcy might have been in fourth or fifth if they'd just asked somebody immediately. Maybe higher. Instead, they left the Detour in last. And that was all she wrote.

The Roadblock -- Who's ready for a complete breakdown? -- didn't impact position very much. Actually, neither did the Detour. Really, while some teams made big moves in the episode -- mostly Brian & Ericka (Team Miss AmEricka) -- there was no task in the episode that rewarded being especially strong, especially fast, especially intelligent or especially handy. It was a spin-your-wheels leg.

In the Roadblock, one player had to disassemble two VCRs using a pile of tools and put the pieces in several piles for reassembly later. It wasn't really a challenge. Matt (of Matt & Gary, Team Pinky and the Brian) arrived and looked like he was a whiz and started disassembling like a mad-man, but his team arrived in third and left in third, so his aptitude amount to what, exactly? The only team that made up time was Team Meathead, who got lost going to the Roadblock, and I'm not convinced they didn't deserve to be penalized.

The clue said "using the tools provided" and it made clear that recycling was important, but Lance arrived and started ripping the VCRs apart with his hands and bashing at the casing with a hammer. So he used *one* of the tools provided and I'd be curious how many of his pieces were usable, but nobody questioned his workmanship. So even getting lost again going to the pit stop, Team Meathead came in next-to-last. There, host Phil Keoghan gently (because he didn't want to get hit) chided Lance by making a call-back to his line, "We're the lions and some of these teams are running like a pack of gazelles or zebras. We're going to take them down."

Meanwhile, even though the editing tried to imply some proximity, Ron and Marcy were last and I'm guessing they were last by 15 or 20 minutes. And they lost because they made the assumption that "The Amazing Race" expected them to learn Vietnamese to finish a Detour. I didn't much like them either, so I wasn't saddened to see them go. But I'd have preferred they'd lasted instead of Team Meathead.

Not a very good leg, so there really isn't all that much to talk about.

A few other thoughts:

*** Flight Time and Big Easy (Team Globetrotter) won the leg mostly because their cab driver got them to the puppet theater in Ho Chi Minh City first, but we never saw how that trick was pulled off. It was good that Big Easy is running the race in tribute to his father, but that information was strangely utilized in the leg, as Team Globetrotter decided to draft off of Meghan & Cheyne (Team Tetherball) after failing to find a cap post-Roadblock and Big Easy decided they'd outrun Team Tetherball in tribute to his late father. They succeeded, but only because Meghan isn't all that fast.

*** An odd whitewashing of the Vietnam War (or war-type-military-engagement) in Phil's History of the Mekong Delta voiceover. Did he really mention the thousands of American soldiers who died but not the Vietnamese soldiers *and* civilians who were killed?

*** Hard Roadblocks or Detours are good television because when teams face adversity, you get better character moments. I challenge anybody to tell me anything that Mika & Canaan or Brian & Ericka did this episode. Both teams made slight moves up the ladder, but not because they did anything well. Brian & Ericka were just proficient, I guess. And Mika & Canaan took advantage of Team Aspy's (Zev and Justin) minor misadventure with their ceramic giraffe.

*** That misadventure with the ceramic giraffe? Not as dramatic as the teaser for this week's episode made it look. It fell. Its ear broke up. Zev picked up the ear. Nobody cared. They were the only team that made the mistake of taking a tall animal, with the others all selecting sheep and rams and dwarf zebras. Ooops. But not a big deal.

 

I'm at a loss. Were there exciting things in this episode that I missed? Or was it a real dud of a follow-up to an exciting two-part premiere?