Last week, I made fun of the constants on this season's "The Amazing Race
," referring to this as the "All-Stupid" season. I singled out several teams -- Brent & Caite, Jordan & Jeff, Jet & Cord, Steve & Allie -- for spectacular intellectual boners and anticipated a season characterized more by mental blunders than any smart racing.
At least temporarily, I have to pause and take off my cowboy hat to Jet & Cord, who were funny, likable and, dare I say it, smart in Sunday (Feb. 21) night's episode of "The Amazing Race," titled "When the Cow Kicked Me in the Head
." The other dumb teams may not be off the hook yet, but Jet & Cord have moved from my "The Jury Is Still Out" category into my group of favorites.
[More on Sunday's "Amazing Race" after the break...]
As I often say in these recaps
, people love "The Amazing Race" for many different reasons, whether it's for the scenery, for the thrilling challenges or for the inter-personal dynamics between the characters. For that other group of viewers who get a kick out of travel-based tension, Sunday's episode was top-notch, at least for its stellar opening 20 minutes.
When we left off last week, the teams were all in Valparaiso, with Jordan and Jeff starting in first. Apparently Team Big Brother's lead was so slim it wasn't even worth telling us how far ahead they were. All 10 teams were even at the bus station in Valparaiso and then in Santiago after a long ride. From there, they had to get to Puerto Varas and things started getting hinky.
Joe & Heidi and Carol & Brandy decided to create an arbitrary alliance and, as a result of illicit line-saving, they got on the first bus to Puerto Vara, a direct bus. Several other teams, after expressing frustration at the place-holding, got on two later buses, with Jody & Shannon, lucky-to-still-be-around grandma-and-granddaughter on the latest bus. Of the 10 teams, seven were completely satisfied to only search for direct buses to Puerto Vara, despite nearly a nine-hour wait for the bus.
But the Cowboys and Team Big Brother (with Caite & Brent drafting behind) realized they could take a bus through a different location and get in many, many hours earlier. Score one for those three teams!
So with the other teams sitting around not even inquiring about alternative routes -- like I said "Amazing Race: All-Stupids" -- the three teams (all maligned by me for idiocy last week) were off to Temuco. From there it got better. Team Big Brother and Team The Iraq and Such had an earlier bus than the Cowboys, but when the Cowboys went and checked on making that earlier bus, they discovered it was at a different depot. Would they clue in the other two teams or sit in cackling silence? The latter! Kudos, Cowboys. In a moment of well edited tension, the other two teams realized they were at the wrong depot, cabbed to the right depot just in time to miss the first bus and then raced back to the original depot exactly in time to miss the Cowboys' bus. As a direct result of that gamesmanship, the Cowboys went on to win the leg and earn sailboats that they'll never, ever use.
Ultimately, Jeff & Jordan and Caite & Brent got on a third bus that got them into Puerto Varas between the first two direct buses. So the Cowboys didn't cause either team to be eliminated. Thus, nobody can be truly unhappy. The Cowboys finished first because they outsmarted all of the other teams, which would be a bit like my taking my vintage 1984 Genus Edition of Trivial Pursuit into an elementary school and laying a beat-down on a bunch of first graders. So the Cowboys won a leg with their brains.
And Jody & Shannon finished last, because if you're an all-female team and the team with the oldest player in the game, you're on borrowed time from Week One. Why did they lose? Mostly because Jody was slow at the final Roadblock. I'd like to come up with a different excuse, but what else could we say? They were in last all the way up to the Roadblock, but when Louie & Michael missed the turnoff, Jody & Shannon weren't just back in the game, they had the advantage.
The Roadblock taught us that Chile has a large German immigrant population and asked teams to assemble the ingredients for kutchen. Mmmm... Kutchen. There were two potential points of difficulty: You had to know that a baker's dozen is 13 and you had to successfully milk a cow. Unfortunately, even in this traveling caravan of dunderheads, only Jordan didn't know that a baker's dozen was 13. I really assumed that that was going to trip somebody up. The cow milking was also only hard for the contestants who didn't know proper milking body placement. I'm not talking about "teats." I'm talking about positioning yourself far enough up that the cow can't kick you in the head. Jody and Monique had to deal with a little kicking.
We didn't see what really did Jody in, but I'm guessing we can assume it was probably carting the heavy bag of flower and just overall speed traveling between the different ingredients. It wasn't like Michael was fast. The detective couldn't find the pantry with the dry ingredients and he took a big fall in the kitchen and still moved ahead of the grandma.
Oh well. Jody & Shannon would have been booted last week if not for Adrian's cable-crossing failure, so they were just out on the road having a good time.
So the Roadblock didn't make much difference in team placement.
Unfortunately, the Detour also wasn't a big differentiator and, even more disappointingly, it failed to yield the sort of animal-driven hilarity that fans of "The Amazing Race" have come to expect from any challenge involving donkeys, camels or, in this case, llamas.
The Detour choice? Llama Adoration or Condor Consternation. Both were much too easy. In Llama Adoration, the teams had to put a scarf and a blanket on a llama. In Condor Consternation, they had to dress up as a bird, don a 16-foot set of wings and "fly" off a pier to a buoy for the clue.
Both, however, were cheats.
The problem with Llama Adoration was that half of the Llamas were somnambulistic. You just had to find the llama with the glazed eyes and once there, it was just a blanket and a scarf. Where's the challenge there? Interestingly, it was Jody & Shannon who took the most aggressive approach to llama maintenance, with Shannon using the scarf to lasso a more antsy llama.
"And I'm not even a cowboy!" Shannon said proudly.
Other teams, though, waited for a llama to sit down and take a nap, before dressing it up. What-ever.
With Condor Consternation, yes it was funny to see the teams get dressed up with their bird feet, but it was unclear if there was any way that the wings could be used to actually glide even the smallest distance over the water. Each of the team that picked that options jumped off the pier, failed to get any air and then swam to the buoy. That was probably uncomfortable because it was cold where they were, but it wasn't true to the letter of the clue. Nobody was penalized for failing to fly.
Between the two Detours, there was virtually no movement between any of the teams. Shawne & Monica found their comatose llama before the Detectives found theirs, but this was one of those tasks where you showed up, did the thing and left. Nobody struggled.
And that's why this week's episode started off strong and became a little lazy by the end. That didn't mean that the regional Chilean landscape wasn't stunning, but after a terrific beginning, the episode fell flat, especially since Jody & Shannon's elimination was a foregone conclusion anyway.
Other thoughts on this week's episode:
*** Dan & Jordan get to be this year's team that didn't bother to learn to drive stick before coming on "The Amazing Race." Good grief, even Barbie-Jordan can drive stick. Why can't Gay Jordan. Or is Dan the gay one? I can't come close to telling the brothers apart and their mannerisms aren't really that different. I laughed at their little back-and-forth about Dan not knowing the meaning of the word "fallacy," but they continue not to be even remotely likable to me.
*** We have to censor it when cows perform regular bodily functions? I'm not positive whether one of the dairy cows was defecating or urinating, but it sure got pixelated. Thanks for saving our delicate eyes, CBS
*** My favorite line of the night: "They seem like smart people. They seem more like us." That was Brent talking about Jeff & Jordan. I believe he was probably half-right. I also liked Brent's observation that "The cowboys are the most magical people ever." They're like leprechauns!
*** It must take every ounce of restraint in the show's editorial arsenal not to cue up crickets every time Jordan opens her mouth. Then again, it was Caite who couldn't read "consternation" and "adoration" and late tried telling the camera that she hopes people will start viewing her as smart.
*** I'm a bit confused by the sharing of the kutchen. Cord at a bite and tried to cover it up. But later, both Jody and Michael brought out little wedges so that their partners could sample the wares.
*** If you're keeping score, the order after the Cowboys goes Joe & Heidi, Carol & Brandy, Brent & Caite, Monique & Shawne, Jeff & Jordan (who lost time getting lost going to the pit stop), Steve & Allie (who almost weren't in this episode at all), Dan & Jordan and Michael & Louie.
*** I wonder how many grandchildren Jody has, because when she said, "Of all of my grandchildren, she's the money that I know the most closely and admire the most," that would really offend me if I happened to be one of those less admirable grandchildren.
What'd you think of Sunday's episode? Are you happy for the Cowboys? Are you surprised at the elimination?