The producers of "The Amazing Race" definitely can't sue Zac & Laurence for being stupid, but they can certainly resent the Father/Son Adventurers for possibly screwing up the intended structure of the show's latest leg. 
 
Oh well. It wasn't a big deal. I don't think that Laurence & Zac's dumbness had any impact at all on the results of the leg, but they definitely contributed to an anti-climactic conclusion to what was otherwise a decent episode of television.
 
Click through for the breakdown...
 
Coming off of last week's third Non-Elimination Leg of the season, Sunday's (November 6) episode was structured so that the Double U-Turn at the end of the leg would force two teams to do a Detour in which one of the options had the potential to be crushingly difficult for most of the available teams. Instead, the Double U-Turn was reduced to being a non-factor, a real waste of a game-changing element.
 
No matter how you slice it, I'm pretty sure that Justin & Jennifer were doomed, which is a small pity. I grew not to mind the formerly bickering siblings and this wasn't the way you want any team to go out on "The Amazing Race."
 
The episode began with a travel equalizer as the teams were required to take a two-hour bus ride to a town on the banks of Lake Malawi. Generally, you know that I hate equalizers, but I don't get annoyed by equalizers when the teams are all within 40 minutes to start the leg. [On one hand, it's amazing that Marcus & Amani were that close to first given the trouble they had on the last leg. On the other hand, it didn't seem like they were nearly as close to Bill & Cathi as the editing of last week's episode made it seem.]
 
Last week I mentioned that several teams have built up wildly disproportionate Roadblock advantages in favor of the physically stronger member of each partnership. That meant that this episode's Roadblock mostly attracted the physical B-team, including Sandy and Cathi (who still lag way behind Jeremy and Bill in Roadblocks Performed), plus Jennifer and Cindy. It required only that players serve as bike taxi drivers for locals delivering fish. Complications came in three forms: Sandy and Laurence got lost, Andy's bike broke from over-exertion and Jennifer forgot to take the clue with her. It seems like an innocent mistake that Jennifer made, but that ended up being the pivot point for this entire episode, spinning the siblings from nearly first place last week (they squandered their win by failing to pay their driver) to elimination. Because Jennifer left the clue with Justin, she dropped off her fish and then didn't know what to do. For an unrevealed period of time, she stood and basically waited with her hands on her hips hoping that another team would come by and she'd find out what to do next. Now you might say, "Surely if you go *out* somewhere, your default solution in lieu of anything else would be to go *back* to that somewhere," right? That's one logic-based thought. A second would be, "I could stand here waiting in frustration, or I could go back to Justin and get the clue and find out what comes next, so that at least I'm not waiting helplessly," right? Eventually Jennifer cam to the second conclusion. But she didn't come to the second conclusion quickly. Jennifer said that she lost track of time, but I look forward to asking Justin tomorrow in our exit interview if he has a better sense of how long his partner was gone for. 
 
That was it for the leg. Justin & Jennifer fell so far behind on the Roadblock that they couldn't catch up. But they couldn't have caught up anyway, not really.
 
The Detour was a tough one. The choice was between Dugout and Lugout. In Dugout, teams had to take a dugout canoe, paddle out to a specific point and paddle back. In Lugout, teams had to help unload a cargo boat, including carrying eight passengers back to shore.
 
In a season of no-brainer Detour tasks, this was the biggest no-brainer of all. Dugout wasn't an easy task, but it was possible for any team to complete. The same could not be said for Lugout.
 
And I'll say it again: Dugout was pretty tough and was probably a very good barometer for how well teams can work together. Ernie and Cindy reached Dugout seconds ahead of the Snowboarders and immediately recognized that they were literally going around in circles, while Andy & Tommy were racing off towards the prize in their normal perfect tandem. This prompted Ernie & Cindy to use the Express Pass they've been holding onto since the premiere. I don't think it was necessarily the perfect time to use it and the decision looked even worse when even after punting on the task, they couldn't find the location to get the Pit Stop clue and their lead over the Snowboarders vanished. This lead to a very exciting foot-race to Phil Keoghan at the mat, with the Snowboarders passing Cindy within sight of the host, even as Ernie was carrying both of their packs. This was the fifth leg win for the Snowboarders and their second win without an asterisk attached. You might say, "Surely it would have been nice for the Snowboarders to give Ernie & Cindy the win," but the prize for the leg was $7500 apiece, which is more than I'd want to hand to Ernie & Cindy out of pure Christian charity. We only occasional get actual sprints to the mat to determine legs, so that was fun and the producers milked it, what with the lack of other tension.
 
Going back to the Detour, though: Did nobody go to summer camp? Lemme tell you: I can't drive a stick-shift (I'd learn before going on "The Amazing Race") and I wouldn't be eager to do certain things involving heights, but I *know* how to stern a canoe, darnit. The Snowboarders either knew how to stern a canoe, or they were just in tandem enough to compensate. Bill and Cathi were also in tandem and I get the feeling Bill's probably done a little canoe tripping in his time. But I loved that Jeremy's coaching to Sandy amounted to "You put the thing in the thing and you turn it like that." Excellent. They struggled. Zac & Laurence also struggled for a bit.
 
But speaking of Zac & Laurence... So the Snowboarders and Ernie & Cindy and the impressively competent Bill & Cathi all finished. Zac & Laurence finished Dugout just as Marcus & Amani were finishing Lugout, the only team to make that choice. Nobody had used the U-Turn. Zac & Laurence got lost and Marcus & Amani finished, didn't U-Turn and headed to the Pit Stop, passing Zac & Laurence along the way. At this point, Zac & Laurence get to the U-Turn and they decided to U-Turn... Marcus & Amani. The team THEY JUST PASSED. We don't know where they actually crossed paths. The editing made it look like it was feet away from the U-Turn point in order to amplify the stupidity. But at that point, Zac & Laurence knew that Sandy & Jeremy were still doing the Detour and they *should* have known that Justin & Jennifer hadn't arrived at the Detour at all. Why on Earth would they have U-Turned Marcus & Amani? 
 
I blamed Zac & Laurence for taking the excitement out of the leg with the wasted U-Turn, but am I right that if they'd U-Turned Jeremy & Sandy, Jeremy & Sandy wouldn't have been able to immediately U-Turn Justin & Jennifer before they finished the second part of the Detour? So Zac & Laurence had the ability to attempt to eliminate Jeremy & Sandy instead of Justin & Jennifer if they saw fit, but that was it? I'm just saying once they decided they were going to use the U-Turn at all, they might as well have used it on a team they knew it would impact, rather than throwing the U-Turn away.
 
I have no idea if my musing here makes any sense. I just don't know if any team other than Marcus & Amani could have completed that Lugout Detour. The hard part was carrying the people on your shoulders, which essentially had to be done by the male member in mixed-gender teams. As he reminded us at least five times in this episode, Marcus used to be in the NFL. He's a huge guy. And carrying eight people back to shore was HARD for him. Do you think Jeremy could have done it? Do you think Ernie could have done it? Do you think Justin could have done it? I'm skeptical. This is the sort of task which, if the U-Turn had been used on them, would have guaranteed the elimination of already-departed teams like the Cute Twins and the Showgirls and may have been the straw that broke Bill & Cathi's backs. So the leg was designed to force two teams into doing Lugout and it probably would have been an advantage for Marcus & Amani, had they required it.
 
But I'm just rambling now, aren't I? It's been a long weekend of work. Sorry...
 
And next week? BUNNY DRESSAGE!
 
Other thoughts on this week's episode:
 
*** The Speed Bump for Marcus & Amani was a sliding tile puzzle. Those suckers can be hard if you're not good at them and it looked like Marcus & Amani were slowed down a little. They recovered because of Marcus' speed with the Roadblock and thanks to Jennifer's blunder. As Speed Bumps go, it wasn't the easiest or the hardest we've seen. It penalized them for a little, though.
 
*** Justin & Jennifer were dead meat from the opening moments of the episode when Justin, apropos of nothing, talked about how important it was for him to come out to Jennifer and how it brought them closer together. If that piece of totally gratuitous, but effectively humanizing biographical information didn't tip you off to near elimination at the very least, you've never watched this show before. Justin was very understanding of Jennifer's mistake and Jennifer clearly felt awful. Oh well.
 
*** Cindy had several Ugly American moments in this episode, complaining about the locals accents, complaining about how "primitive" Malawi was and even complaining about the smell on a bus that didn't look that crowded at all.
 
*** Marcus played in the NFL. Dunno if you knew that. [Marcus & Amani had a really good leg and I got a definite rush of happiness as Marcus returned to the beach with the last person on his shoulders and he encouraged Amani to get the people to cheer for his arrival. That was fun.]
 
*** Phil Keoghan has started to be impressed with Bill & Cathi. So far we haven't heard yet about how no "old" team has ever won The Race, but we may be hearing about that as soon as next week, as the producers search for storylines.
 
*** Terrific hair on that Pit Stop greeter.
 
 
Anyway, what'd you think of this leg? Are you gonna miss Justin & Jennifer?