Sunday (October 2) night was apparently a big deal on "The Amazing Race," as the episode marked the first double-elimination in the show's history.
 
In honor of the occasion, you'd figure "Amazing Race" would whip out some devilish challenges to task the players mentally and physically, truly weeding out the two weakest pairings.
 
If you'd figure that, you'd be wrong, of course. Then again, if you're an "Amazing Race" fan, you never would have figured such a silly thing in the first place.
 
No, Sunday night's "Amazing Race" episode hinged on only one thing and taught only one meaningful lesson: 
 
Do *not* screw around with Phil Keoghan where Indonesian orphans are concerned. 
 
That's how Sunday's episode came down to simple literacy and cost the show the season's highest profile team.
 
Click through for a full recap...
 
If you've read my "Amazing Race" recaps before, you probably know where my complaints about Sunday's episode are going to begin.
 
Last week we kicked off the season with a Non-Elimination Leg. I hate Non-Elimination Legs and I especially hate Non-Elimination Legs when they save teams who were a prohibitive amount behind the field and then protect them with minimal penalty.
 
As we saw when this episode began, Bill & Cathi weren't just a little behind the pack last week. There was a separation of roughly two hours between the first place team from that leg (Ernie & Cindy) and the 10th place team (Liz & Marie). That's a good-sized gap, though much of that was caused by a gap in arrival between two planes. The distance between Liz & Marie and Bill & Cathi? Nearly four-and-a-half hours. That's ridiculous. It's particularly ridiculous in a leg with only one task and a relatively easy and swiftly completed task at that. Sparing Bill & Cathi under those circumstances is almost offensive to the ethos of the Race.
 
But it gets worse. Sunday's episode began with an equalizing flight to Indonesia. So that means that the "Amazing Race" producers single-handledly erased a six-and-a-half hour gap between first and last after one leg. So, um, why did they even bother with the first leg of the race? 
 
Oh right. But Bill & Cathi had to incur a Speedbump, so you can be sure the punishment fit the multi-hour crime, right? That punishment? Well, they had to untangle some rope. And it ended up being no punishment at all, since somehow every other team landed a slower cab driver between a train station and the Goa Jomblang Cave. The other cabs arrived one-on-top-of-the-other, so realistically, how much of an advantage do we think Bill & Cathi's cab could have taken? Because that's how long their Speedbump took to perform. Five minutes? Ten minutes if you somehow think their cabbie basically teleported to the location while the others took surface streets? 
 
Why even bother pretending that there's any consequence to Non-Elimination Legs at all? This is especially true if you put the Speedbump at the beginning of the leg immediately after an equalizer and ahead of both a Roadblock and a Detour. You get more of a punishment for sneezing.
 
The Roadblock was a little bit awesome. It required one player from each team to go spelunking into the aforementioned cave, collect a mask and a sword and climb out on a steep bamboo ladder. There was nothing complicated in the task, but the cave was gorges... errrr... gorgeous and I'm sure it looked especially good in HD. There wasn't much room for anybody to gain an advantage or disadvantage in this Roadblock. While a couple players expressed minor fear of heights, nobody was paralyzed by their phobia. On the other hand, Bill's upper-body strength on the ladder was impressive and, as a result, Bill & Cathi actually ended up in first after the Roadblock, despite that diabolic speedbump.
 
Somehow Showgirls Kaylani & Lisa, Flight Attendants Ron & Bill and Adventurers Laurence & Zac fell to the bottom of the pack out of this Roadblock. None of them did anything especially wrong. That's just how it went.
 
Thus... On to the Detour! The choice? Shake Your Money Maker or Be a Ticket Taker. In Shake Your Money Maker, teams had to dance a little and collect tip money. In Be a Ticket Taker, teams had to park motor bikes at a mall. Neither task offered any particular advantage to anybody with any sort of skill, nor did either task produce any particular disadvantage to anybody without any sort of skill. Neither task was all that photogenic either. So really? Bad Detour. 
 
The only team that seemed to get any leg up at either task was Ernie & Cindy, who correctly figured out that the closer you get to the mouth of the traffic river, the more likely you were to get the money bikes first. So they was in first after immediately completing the Detour.
 
But HERE is were things finally got tricky.
 
The clue said to go to an orphanage and give the money earned at the Detour to orphans of a recent Indonesian volcano eruption. Easy, right? And pleasantly altruistic, right? But there was a catch: The clue at the orphanage instructed teams to give the orphans ALL of their money (including funds from previous legs of the race) in order to get the clue to their next destination.
 
The whole thing became an editing disaster, though, because it was impossible to distinguish between which teams were emptying their wallets of newly gained money and which teams were paying attention to the clue. Also, and this was more problematic, teams kept getting the badge that indicated where they were supposed to go for the Pit Stop. So one team after another kept rushing to Phil and the host kept sternly shaking his head. Sometimes he told them that they had to go back and sometimes he tauntingly asked them if they'd given ALL of their money to the orphans. 
 
The Snowboarders, fourth team to the Pit Stop, ended up finishing in first, because they were the first team to properly read the clue. Laurence & Zac were the eighth team to arrive at the Pit Stop, but finished second. The Showgirls were 10th to the mat, which would have meant elimination, but because they properly gave up all of their money, they were third.
 
The first eliminated team was Ethan & Jenna. It was hard to tell from the editing, but they definitely lost time when they left their Detour clue at the task and then they lost more time by not giving all of their money to the orphans. It looked like Marcus & Amani were only slightly ahead of the "Survivor" winners, so it's possible that the difference was, indeed, just the missing clue.
 
The second eliminated team was Ron & Bill, who were last coming out of the Roadblock and last coming out of the Detour. Had they read the clue properly, though, they'd have finished ahead of Ethan & Jenna and Marcus & Amani and they would have avoided elimination. So the entire result of the episode hinged on not short-changing Indonesian orphans. So let that be a lesson to you. What kind of lesson? I haven't the faintest.
 
Bill & Ron weren't a big loss. They weren't unlikable, nor were they all that appealing.
 
Jenna & Ethan, though? They were this season's celebrity-ish team. A ton of pre-season promotion was built around how Jenna's cutthroat attitude and Ethan's generous spirit would mesh. We never got to find out.
 
BOO.
 
 
Some other thoughts on Sunday's episode:
 
*** I guess I was supposed to know that the initial teams hadn't given all of their money because the camera kept cutting back to the sign, but it was hard to distinguish quantities of currency and I didn't understand why teams kept getting the clue to their next location.
 
*** Last season, many viewers disliked the way certain teams kept helping other teams, a factor of familiarity in an All-Star situation. Do you think that if this had been an All-Star season, one of the passing teams would have told Ron and Bill why they were passing them going the other way? And that that might have caused Ron and Bill to turn around earlier? I guess it wouldn't have made any difference, would it have? They were pretty much screwed. It was an anticlimactic end to the leg. The editors couldn't even try to make things look close.
 
*** Marcus & Amani are definitely my favorite team. You can imagine what it would be like to be in a huddle with him and he's reliably funny. Plus, he made a Big Easy reference!
 
*** Justin & Jennifer are awful. Well, Justin's not a problem, but Jennifer only appears to have one mode and that's whiney. There's absolutely nothing appealing about the sibling dynamic here. Blech. 
 
*** I still have no way of telling Liz and Marie apart, though I think Marie is an inch or two shorter. That does me no good.
 
Anyway, what'd you think of Sunday's episode of "The Amazing Race"?