Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen'
Tensions rise over chocolate gnomes before a rules-bending conclusion
I'm one of those guys who watches sporting events and yells at the TV as if the little men trapped inside the screen not only can hear me, but would follow my advice after hearing my obscenity-filled words of wisdom.
I yell at football players to tackle better. I yell at basketball players to recognize when they have a man open at the three-point line. I yell at baseball players to have better strike-zone recognition. And I yell at hockey players because I have absolutely no idea what's going on in a typical game of hockey.
Sunday (May 1) night's episode of "The Amazing Race" found me bellowing at my Slingbox and using words that would earn a TV-MA rating, which isn't unusual. The unusual part was that I was yelling aggressively for one team to cheat, just so that they could incur a penalty and go home. Thus, in my mind, I wasn't rooting for poor sportsmanship. I was rooting for an excuse to see good sportsmanship rewarded.
Much of this "Amazing Race" season has been so sluggish and sterile, it was a pleasure to have a reason to cheer.
Full recap of Sunday's gratify episode after the break...
Kent & Vxysin should have gone home weeks ago. I can forgive Vyxsin's coddling of her whiney boyfriend, but I can't forgive the game's coddling of Kent & Vyxsin. They weren't strong competitors. They weren't likable. They weren't good TV. And they presence added nothing to this season other than annoying me on many occasions. So yes, I screamed at my computer for them to cheat on Sunday night, but I probably didn't need to. The Goths were sent home for exactly the kind of dumb error they've made on several occasions this season, only this gaffe was made with no margin for error. And with the Goths out of the way, I can go into next Sunday's two-hour "Amazing Race" finale without any team that I'm actively rooting against.
Yes, I'm rooting *for* Justin & Zev and the Globetrotters, but if Kisha & Jen win, I won't complain. And even if goofball Mallory and her awesome dad Gary win, I'll figure that Gary worked hard enough on his own for his team to deserve the big prize.
Sunday's episode was very tightly contained, but also very cinematic, as teams started off in Zermatt, completed a Detour in the Alps under the shadow of the Matterhorn, and then returned to Zermatt for what was apparently an impressively time-consuming Roadblock.
The Detour, which had me wishing I was watching in HD instead of on a postage stamp Slingbox screen, required that the teams take a helicopter ride into the Alps and choose between Search and Rescue.
In Search, teams had to use an avalanche beacon to find a dummy buried deep in the snow and then they had to dig the dummy out of the snow.
In Rescue, teams had to use a specially designed cable/pulley device, with one player rappelling into a crevasse to help rescue a trapped hiker.
This was the rare Detour where no amount of clear logic would have assisted in selecting the right task. The difficult part of Search sounded like it could be finding the dummy in the field of snow. In contrast, Rescue sounded like it had the potential to be physically arduous. Wrong and wrong.
Finding the dummy took no time at all, but he was deeper under the snow than I would have guessed and digging at the proper angle to get him out proved a major challenge. Justin & Zev and Gary & Mallory both did Search and neither team had trouble isolating the dummy, but both had trouble getting him out, partially because both teams had one player participating extensively (Justin and Gary) and another player essentially tossing snow back in the hole. In both cases, they ended up mauling the dummy in order to rescue him. In Rescue, meanwhile, there were no real difficulties. The three teams that opted for Rescue all finished comfortably ahead of the two teams that picked search, with Justin & Zev falling from first to last due to the poor task selection. I know that the two teams who did Search did it in exactly the wrong way. I don't know if there was a right way to do the task that would have made the two options equal.
Before the Detour, the leg began with all five teams getting condensed within a 20 minute window, a big assist for the Globetrotters, who began the leg nearly two hours behind Justin & Zev. Then, the three teams that picked Rescue and Gary & Mallory were equalized at the train station back to Zermatt, with Justin & Zev missing one train, but only falling 25 minutes behind.
That led to a chocolate-themed, product-placement Roadblock. In the Roadblock, one player from each team had to create a Travelocity Gnome made of chocolate. The task required painting two halves of a gnome mold in the proper Travelocity colors, letting the painted molds set, pouring chocolate into the molds, taking that into the snow for at least 30 minutes to set and then neatening up the finished gnome.
It was a precision-oriented task, but it was also a difficult task for the cameramen and editors to capture. We couldn't really tell who was doing the task quickly and who was going slowly. And when drama arose, there was such chaos that we never knew who was to blame. The trick was to rotate between molds, putting one in the freezer to set and painting the other and rotating. But somehow, somebody took Flight Time's bottom mold. We didn't see how or when, but we were led to believe that it had something to do with Vyxsin, who was working slowly as Kent kept yelling at her to put her mold in the oven. Because Kent is annoying. Because nobody properly labeled their molds, we didn't know who abducted Flight Time's mold or if Vyxsin was truly to blame, but Big Easy decided she was. Now the chatty Globetrotter may have been right and he may have been wrong, but he was certainly on a sugar rush, courtesy of the heaping piles of chocolate that the non-competing players were eating. Big Easy was bouncing off walls to begin with, poking Kisha and chattering with Gary, so once he decided that Vyxsin had cheated, he began talking heaping piles of trash, which pissed Kent off, because nobody's allowed to malign his girlfriend other than him and only passive-aggressively at that. It was a long and hostile sequence made peculiar for two reasons: We never got a conclusive and objective version of what really happened and then it didn't matter anyway. The first four teams to arrive at the Roadblock finished within seconds of each other and rushed out in the direction of the Pit Stop.
The clue said that they had to go to the Pit Stop "on foot." It so clearly said "on foot" that we saw the Goths' clue with the text highlighted in CG purple, using the same high technology that used to put an outline around hockey pucks back in the day. Four of the teams read the "on foot" part and scurried in circles to try finding where they had to go, but Kent & Vyxsin ignored the clue and hopped in a cab. As they looked at the other teams seemingly running, Vyxsin asked out loud if they needed to take a cab at all, but I was bellowing, "Yes! A cab! Take a CAB!!!" Because I'm evil. Vyxsin began having misgivings, to which Kent responded, "I put my blinders on and I don't really care."
Somehow, even though the Goths finished the Roadblock first and took motorized transportation to the Pit Stop, they still got there behind the Globetrotters and the Sisters. For disobeying the clue, the Goths earned a 30 minute penalty. Yes, that's the exact same penalty they got for taking an incorrect flight out of Japan, falling many hours behind the other teams, disobeying at least one other instruction for which they weren't penalized and eventually getting equalized thanks to bad leg architecture. In this case, the 30 minute penalty may have felt a bit extreme, but that first penalty was five or six hours too lenient, so that's just the boomerang of karma swinging back around.
Kent was unhappy.
"How did we miss that?" Vyxsin asked, with Kent leaving no doubt in his response, "I don't know. You read it first." As they sat waiting for the inevitable, Kent kept finding new ways to blame Vyxsin. Then, when she got pouty, Kent grumbled, "At least I always stay positive no matter what."
Of course, there was still some question of Justin and Zev were going to be able to catch up in time, especially since they took the long way to the Pit Stop. We didn't get a ticking time clock showing the Goths' penalty running out, but there couldn't possibly have been much time to spare. We figure Justin & Zev got on the next train from the Detour, which would have put them 25 minutes behind. Somehow Zev must have trimmed five or 10 minutes of that deficit off during the Roadblock? But we didn't see how. They made it to the Pit Stop in time.
Bye, Kent & Vyxsin. You could have stuck around, Vyxsin, but your boyfriend had to go. And maybe you had to go also, for closing with, "I do feel bad for all the teams that are left, because I'm taking the best teammate with me and they don't get to have him."
You're the only one shedding a tear.
"Every team goes home with our one fatality moment. This just happens to be ours," Kent said. It should have been a month ago.
So next week is finale week. Justin & Zev may be starting in last, but with four leg wins, they may be the favorites? Gary & Mallory have two leg wins, the Globetrotters have one and Kisha & Jen have yet to win a leg. It's pretty wide-open.
A few other thoughts on Sunday's episode:
*** The Goths actually ended *and* began the leg with cab problems. They got passed by several teams before the Detour when they were unable to find a cab (a problem no other team had). Kent was so angry that he started talking about wanting to punch everybody, causing Vyxsin to call him "over-reactionary and hypersensitive." It was pathetic. Kent couldn't even wipe his own boogers.
*** I can't explain why this week's Travelocity-themed Roadblock didn't offend me nearly as much as the Snapple and Ford-sponsored tasks earlier in the season. Have I just grown immune to the annoyances of Travelocity? Or was the gnome just more smoothly integrated into the task? Probably the former. The Travelocity Gnome is as much a part of "The Amazing Race" as Phil Keoghan, almost.
*** Line of the episode? Zev's observation that, "The Matterhorn was named after the Disneyland ride. Pretty mind-boggling to me."
*** Second best line of the episode? For delivery only, Mallory's frenzied "I wanna eat that gnome." If she makes it to the end of the Race without having a total breakdown, it'll be a true miracle. On a semi-related note, Gary's performance on the Detour, even tearing the dummy apart at the torso, was amazing.
*** The St. Bernard at the Pit Stop was a very good dog.
Who are you rooting for next week? And how glad were you to see the Goths go home?