All hair vanity and strategic stupidity!
 
[Yes, that intro started off as a typo and became a pun and I'm sticking to it.]
 
Without vanity and strategic stupidity, Sunday (April 29) night's episode of "The Amazing Race" would have been possibly the least competitive in "Amazing Race" history. 
 
And even with vanity and strategic stupidity, the illusion that Sunday's Leg was competitive was generated largely by editing, so it wasn't an especially good episode.
 
But at least the episode featured lots of blood. I wouldn't necessarily think that'd be enough to redeem yet another dismal Leg for most viewers, but on the off chance that "Amazing Race" is huge in the hematolagnia fetish community... Winner!
 
Full recap after the break...
 
Farewell, once again, to Mark & Bopper. 
 
Team Kentucky was saved in two Non-Elimination Legs and finally went home for good on Sunday night with an episode that seemed designed to let them go out like the appealing, enthusiastic guys they were, rather than the way last week's episode would have sent them off, all out-of-shape and afflicted by sun-stroke. 
 
The first time Mark & Bopper escaped elimination and began the next Leg with a huge deficit, they were spared by travel-based equalizers and even with the Speed Bump, they were easily able to escape elimination. This Leg, they were so far behind that there was literally no way that they could come back, a fact that the producers presumably knew as they set the NEL and looked ahead to the next Leg. Mark & Bopper began behind by more than three hours and with only minor travel and even with reasonably time-intensive tasks, that wasn't a hole they could dig out of. 
 
We know that, because the other four teams (or two of them, at least) decided to hand Team Kentucky a golden opportunity.
 
This leg featured yet another Fast Forward, a Fast Forward that paid homage to the classic task from back-in-the-day in which Joyce, of Joyce & Uchenna fame, was reduced to tears, but eventually overcame her love of her own braids to get her head shaved for luck. Joyce & Uchenna ended up winning that season, so it was good luck indeed. 
 
As Fast Forward tasks go, it doesn't get any EASIER than the shave-your-head task. You sit down. Some priest cuts your hair. You collect some prize for winning the Leg. The only difficulty comes when you've paid $500 for your extensions.
 
Because this was the third Fast Forward of the Race and the first two teams to utilize the Fast Forwards were still around, only Rachel & Brendon, Ralph & Vanessa and Mark & Bopper were even eligible to try. Rachel & Brendon got to the clue first and had first shot at the Fast Forward. 
 
Now, relatively speaking, Rachel was fairly low drama at the Fast Forward. She said she'd be said. She mentioned the cost of her extensions. She mentioned how long she'd work to get her hair as perfect as she apparently feels it to be now. But on the Rachel Tantrum-o-Meter, this wasn't even a "1." There was no existential crisis involved. She hesitated and Brendon realized this wasn't a battle he could fight without tears and they left, having wasted no more than a couple minutes deliberating. 
 
The brevity of their indecision ended up being a problem of its own, because Team Big Brother got to the Roadblock very early in the task, which asked one player to create 40 feet of rope from coconut fronts and then wind up a huge spindle with already-completed rope. Because it wasn't a fast task and because Team Big Brother got there in a hurry, there was lots of time for Art & JJ -- mostly JJ, really -- to go through a JJ-esque rant about poor strategy and lack of competitiveness from his rivals.
 
JJ whines a lot. And he's often wrong. His outrage at Rachel & Dave about the Double U-Turn was pointless and silly and his battle with Jamie & Nary was entirely childish. But in this case, he was right. All four teams knew exactly how far behind Mark & Bopper were. They also knew that they had begun the Leg without having to catch a plane, so they knew the Leg was going to be condensed, time-wise. Art & JJ knew that any team completing the Fast Forward effectively would eliminate Team Kentucky from the Race. Art & JJ were perfectly happy to let another team win the Leg if it guaranteed them a place in the Top 4. Rachel definitely shared the nature of the Fast Forward with JJ, but do we think she also shared it with Vanessa & Ralph? Realistically, I doubt that Vanessa would have been cavalier about the head-shaving, but the other team should have been able to consider the options with full knowledge. But failing to take the Fast Forward out of play for Team Kentucky was, indeed, dreadful strategy from the four remaining teams.
 
It didn't matter. At all. Mark & Bopper started late and did their Speed Bump, which asked them to paint a tiger on the chest of a ceremonial dancer. Without pause, they went to the Fast Forward and they completed the Fast Forward in the fastest time humanly possible, since Mark required no trimming and Bopper required only an electric razor. 
 
And they still finished last. The Leg was over before it started, because Mark & Bopper got a nearly unimaginable best case scenario and couldn't make up the time.
 
The Detour was the choice between Pachyderm and Pack a Box. And it was yet another total no-brainer of a Detour, though I'm not sure if you would have known that from hearing the clue.
 
In Pachyderm, you had to decorate an elephant and then haul 15 wheelbarrows of elephant dung over a short distance. 
 
In Pack a Box, you had to fill, label and transport 10 crates of ginger. 
 
By the Always Take The Most Photogenic Detour rule, the elephant task was the clear winner, especially since generally docile elephants are the exception to the Don't Choose The Detour With Animals rule. But Pack a Box sounded really, really straight-forward, while Pachyderm had the variability that comes from any task requiring decoration. 
 
Pachyderm was the winner. We know that now. There was no precision required in the decoration and the distance being carted by the wheelbarrows was almost nothing. Pack a Box, in contrast, was drab, boring and weirdly difficult. Only Art & JJ did Pack a Box and they nearly paid the price, while the other three teams did Pachyderm and finished comfortably early. We'll see next week exactly how much time Art & JJ lost with their Detour choice. It wasn't enough to let Mark & Bopper pull ahead, but the editors tried to futz around to make use think it was a remote possibility, but they were attempting to use cross-cutting to collapse both time and space and they didn't do a very good job. Unlike a couple recent episodes, though, I don't blame the editors in this case. There was nothing they could do.
 
And that was the Leg. Mark & Bopper will depart with their dignity well and truly intact. They were spirited and inspirational Racers throughout and I don't think they need to worry about how Clay County will view them. They were my favorite team this season and I'm sure I wasn't alone. If Dave & Mary were able to make an All-Star season entirely on the basis of being semi-appealing blue collar Racers, Mark & Bopper are locks to be invited back. We didn't hear any mention of the money Art & JJ promised them, but I guess that'll be something to ask in my exit interview tomorrow.
 
Oh. Wait. 
 
BLOOD. 
 
Lots of blood!
 
The spindle in the Roadblock was held together by an exposed nail, which left all of the guys who did the task complaining (and showcasing) bleeding hands. Ouch.
 
Then, after Ralph made an impressive comeback and he and Vanessa were running to the Detour in first, Vanessa stumbled and went flying, ripping up her shoulder. She also did something to her ankle. Initially, she said she heard a pop and mentioned that she had a screw in that ankle, but she was hobbling around pretty quickly.
 
Vanessa wanted to emphasize that even though we might think she's a bimbo, "I'm so much tougher than I look. I have a really high tolerance for pain."  
 
We didn't hear anymore about the ankle. And I never thought of Vanessa as a bimbo. After all, any woman who announces "I love elephants more than anything, elephants and monkeys," is a woman after my own heart.
 
And finally, on the blood front, JJ sliced his hand open on the sheet metal topping the ginger crates. Of the three instances of blood in the episode, that was definitely the one with the most dripping. Ouch.
 
So there was blood. No real drama. But blood. 
 
And farewell to Mark & Bopper.
 
 
Other thoughts on this week's episode:
 
*** Rachel's extensions: $500. The prize for this Leg? $10,000 per Racer. I'll let Brendon explain the math to Rachel if he wants to. But I won't dispute the central premise: Rachel would have looked very weird without hair. I'll bet Vanessa still would have looked cute.
 
*** I need an answer and I need it NOW: *Did* Rachel & Brendon cheat in the Detour? At the mat, at Phil Keoghan's urging, Vanessa revealed her suspicions that Team Big Brother had skipped from 4 to 7 in their wheelbarrow counting. Phil and the producers surely had the tape and somebody had been watching the task from a rules perspective. If Vanessa was wrong and just causing trouble, why didn't Phil smack her down? Why didn't he say, "Well just to set your mind at ease, it's not that Rachel & Brendon cheated, but rather that you can't count." But he didn't. And I don't understand why not. 
 
*** I guess Phil had to bring up the animosity between Big Brother and Ralph & Vanessa since they reached the mat nearly simultaneously, but how hollow was that forced reconciliation? Both women agreed they were sorry, but also agreed that they weren't the slightest bit sorry. Whatever.
 
*** There was some annoyingly unfulfilled foreshadowing with the religious ceremony at the start of the episode. Rachel & Dave read the clue very clearly, especially the part about taking off shoes, as if that would be relevant. It wasn't. Then Rachel & Dave were admirably respectful of the religious ceremony. And, again, I expected that to set up some show of religious intolerance, like the Snowboarders exhibited last season. No, again. 
 
*** Yup. Definitely back to disliking Dave, who rejected his wife's encouragement with, "Babe, I don't need positive reenforcement, please. I appreciate silence." How many episodes this season *haven't* included Dave telling Rachel to shut up or threatening her to shut up. JJ's impression of Dave was typical JJ bitterness, but it was pretty on-point.
 
*** As they mentioned, Rachel & Dave have six first-place finishes this season. Meghan & Cheyne and Nick & Starr had seven wins apiece. Nick & Starr had three Legs finishing fifth-or-worse. Meghan & Cheyne had two. Thus far, Rachel & Dave have only one Leg finished in fifth or worse and, in addition to their firsts, they also have two seconds. If they win the Race with only two finishes worse than second, that would definitely put them in the running for Best "Amazing Race" Performance Ever. 
 
What'd you think of this bloody dull Leg?