Dancing, butter-churning, a Double U-Turn and... bunnies!
Here I was terrified that Sunday (November 13) night's "The Amazing Race
" would continue this season's every-other-Leg pattern and be a Non-Elimination Leg and while I was bracing for annoyance, a really excellent episode broke out.
There was travel intrigue, a solid Roadblock, two photogenic Detour options, a Double U-Turn that was actually used and... BUNNIES!!!!
Oh and best of all... A team went home. Huzzah, "The Amazing Race." Huzzah.
Full recap, devoid of much of my typical irritation, after the break...
We'd spent a rather long period of time in Malawi over the past two episodes, so it was good that Sunday's episode picked up almost immediately and sent the teams off to Copenhagen or, as Zac pronounced it... I have no idea what Zac thought he was reading.
There was a travel catch. The teams were told they'd been booked on a flight arriving in Denmark at 8:20 a.m. but that they were invited to try to find a faster route. When the clue tells you that, you're well-served trying to find a faster route. Unless you're not. How many times have we seen teams try the, "Well, I'll go to [Insert Hub X] and I'm sure there'll be more options there" only to arrive in [Insert Hub X] and discover that they were screwed.
So let's just be generous and pretend that that's what Marcus & Amani were thinking. After nearly being eliminated two weeks ago, you'd think that the couple would be racing with champing-at-the-bit intensity. Nope. While each of the other teams scrambled around making alternate plans, Marcus & Amani ended up chilling in the Amsterdam airport overnight. In contrast, Zac & Laurence were rewarded for their guts plan to head to London and find a new flight from there and they arrived in Copenhagen nearly 12 hours ahead of schedule. The other teams all booked alternate flights out of Amsterdam and made it to Copenhagen a few hours after Zac & Laurence, but well ahead of the original schedule. Meanwhile, realizing that their "unwind time" was going to cost them many hours, Marcus & Amani assumed they were out of the Race.
It wasn't that simple.
The teams got to a church in Copenhagen and discovered that it didn't open until 7:30 a.m. Part of me feels sad for Zac & Laurence, who gambled their way into a huge lead and then had "The Amazing Race" turn that lead into a tie with every team other than Marcus & Amani.
But from here, the Leg became a "Who Wants To Lose This Most?" competition, which normally wouldn't be evidence of a good "Amazing Race" Leg, except that the total number of teams engaging in the "Who Wants To Lose This Most?" sweepstakes was three or four.
Jeremy & Sandy took first dibs and they went wandering off in the wrong direction from the church. Rather than seeing both halves of the clue, they saw one half, made a stupid assumption and had to turn around. And that's how Marcus & Amani got back into the Leg.
The Roadblock was one of those "Learn a local dance" challenges of the sort that invariably causes serious problems for at least one male contestant. In this case, the participating dancers had to get dressed in period-appropriate costumes -- and make-up -- and then learn three different sets of steps.
"The Amazing Race" is often guilty of over-splicing and over-explaining and over-amping tension with music, but this Roadblock was beautifully shot in an almost verite style. Almost. Let's not get crazy here. But the only accompanying music was the music being danced to, the talking heads were at a minimum and we got to see long and uninterrupted shots of Ernie and Zac and Cathi learning to dance, as they were the first competitors to the Roadblock. We also got a very sweet conversation between Cindy and Bill that had Bill telling the history of his relationship with his wife, who he met back when they were in junior high. "We just met in a bar," Cindy said, somewhat disappointed. In the moment, the Bill/Cindy conversation was just a nice sentimental aside, but it became important just a few minutes later.
The bottom like was that Zac was this season's Inept Male Dancer. Ernie started first and finished first, but Zac was passed by Cathi and then by Snowboarder Andy, who was so good he had his instructor asking if he'd done it before.
Zac finally finished with his team in fourth. Laurence was less-than-generous.
"It would have taken me a little while, but I probably would have landed it a little quicker," Laurence said, with his son sitting next to him.
At this point, it was Marcus & Amani's time to try to lose the Leg AGAIN. They went in the wrong direction and ended up out in the country, with Marcus saying all that while that he's stubborn and doesn't like to read directions. They finally did the strangest thing possible and pulled over to the side of the road basically on a freeway and tried hailing people down for directions. When you're in a country where basically the entire population (at least in an urban area like Copehagen) speaks at least some English, that should never, ever happen.
"In football terms, we just had a big turnover," Marcus said. By the way, did anybody know that Marcus played in the NFL?
The Detour was a choice between All Hopped Up and All Churned Out. In All Hopped Up, teams had to lead a bunny rabbit through a steeplechase course that they set up (the teams, not the bunny). All Churned Out required teams to turn cream into six sticks of properly mixed and formed butter. This is one where the two most common theories of Detour participation bumped heads. All Hopped Up was definitely the more photogenic challenge, because steeplechase-jumping bunnies are freaking adorable, but as several teams very correctly noted, it's always dangerous to put your fate in the hands of animals. In this case, "photogenic" definitely trumped "animals," because all signs were that All Hopped Up was a breeze, while All Churned Out at least required physical effort. But every team but one decided to make butter. Go figure.
Ernie & Cindy rushed through their churning and reached the Double U-Turn. Last week, they threw away $15,000 by not U-Turning the Snowboarders and this week they weren't going to let that happen again. They hadn't finished first since the opening leg of the Race and they decided to U-Turn Bill & Cathi, who were close enough behind that they could have been a threat reaching the Pit Stop. Bill & Cathi were a little grumbly and who could blame them? Bill had just told Cindy his entire sexual history while they watched their partners prance around in tights. And it wasn't like Ernie wanted to use the U-Turn. This was all Cindy. They did, indeed, finish first and they won a trip to Fiji. As far as I can tell, they did exactly the right thing and Bill & Cathi were just being snitty for no good reason.
Plus, Bill & Cathi turned around and immediately U-Turned Zac & Laurence for no particular reason. Just turning around and U-Turning an arbitrary team behind you isn't wrong, but if Bill & Cathi just wanted to insure their own survival, surely they knew Amani & Marcus were who-the-heck-knows-how-far behind them. Stick them with a penalty and move on, right?
Here's where things started to get weird. Jeremy & Sandy decided, for the second time in the Leg, that they were determined to go home, so they got badly lost going to the Detour. Sandy didn't provide proper instructions and Jeremy got to be typically passive-agressive. It was a whole thing.
So Bill & Cathi still end up in second, with the Snowboarders close behind. Marcus & Amani, as the only team to pick bunnies at the Detour (even if Marcus initially confused "bunny" with "goat") rushed along and finished fourth. Even with that U-Turn, Laurence & Zac were done with the Detour while Jeremy and Sandy were still churning. Game over, right?
After starting the Leg with gutsy brilliance, Zac & Laurence left the Detour going in the wrong direction and ended up getting caught in traffic. By the time they found somebody to correct their bearings, it was a foot-race to Phil Keoghan at the mat.
And here, the editors pulled a fast one. The construction at the end of the Leg had all the hallmarks of the usual "We're going to make it look like Zac & Laurence made a big travel error, just to create tension before sending Jeremy & Sandy home." They did the normal cross-cutting and the cheesy Running To The Mat Shaky-Cam shot and... BOOM! Jeremy & Sandy finished ahead of Zac & Laurence, sending the Adventurers home.
Like I said: Lots of back and forth, an actual elimination and... BUNNIES.
Definitely the best "Amazing Race" episode of the season.
A few other thoughts...
*** Did you know that Marcus played in the NFL? If you didn't, watching him coach his bunnies through the steeplechase course proved the amount of time he's spent in practices and training. He was hilarious.
*** The bunnies were, in general, spectacular. Did Speckles compete for two teams? That's one game rabbit. Anyway, tremendously happy with that Detour.
*** But the Churning Detour wasn't bad either, because we got Bill asking, "Do we get to eat it when we're done?" and Cindy responding, "I don't know if you want to eat my sweaty-ass butter." That was funny. And then Cindy stabbed Bill & Cathi in the back. Good for her. Unless you're afraid of Race Karma, there's no reason not to do what Cindy did there. Leg-winning prizes are pretty good. Enjoy.
*** Of all of the awesome bunny quotes in the episode, why was the episode titled "Super Shady
"? Yes, Laurence *was* being super shady in his particular way of not telling Ernie & Cindy about the London flight plans, but it wasn't a defining comment for the episode. I'd have gone with Marcus' "Is that a rabbit?" or "You've Got My Spirit In You."
*** Why do you think the editors gave the Snowboarders that one weird leg with the Uber-Christian edit? Before that leg, they'd been nothing but likable. Since that leg, they've been nothing but likable. And even within that leg, there was no reason why the insensitive comments needed to be there. Were they afraid that the Snowboarders might become too popular? I wonder.
Did you enjoy this leg? BUNNIES! And are you be sad to see Laurence & Zac go?
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