By airing the season's second episode on Oscars night, "The Amazing Race" forced me into a late-night recap on Sunday (Feb. 26), since I was live-bloging the Academy Awards during the show's ET airing.
 
I can't say if I would have felt this disconnected from the episode if I'd watched it on my normal schedule, but this is going to be a short recap [After-the-fact note: It was not a short recap], since I spent the last 20 minutes of the show thinking something that regular readers know I almost never think during "The Amazing Race"...
 
That thought?
 
Gee. I kinda hope this is a Non-Elimination Leg.
 
I had the thought even before a team I like started to struggle, but I swear on a small stack of Bibles that I'd have stuck by the thought even if Phil Keoghan had been on the verge of eliminating one of the teams I hate.
 
That was just a bad hour of TV to send any team home on. This would have been the rare NEL that wouldn't have gotten any complains from me.
 
Instead, naturally, this was not a Non-Elimination Leg and a team I like (kinda) went home. 
 
Add in the Oscars, which largely went to movies I didn't really love and this was a lackluster evening of non-stop TV viewing.
 
Click through for as much recapping as I can stand...
 
I know. I'm old-fashiong. I just don't think an "Amazing Race" elimination should be based on an out-of-their-control bus incident and a single long division problem. 
 
Half of that is the fault of fate. Half of it is the fault of the "Amazing Race" architecture for this Leg. But I'm less about placing blame and more about being slightly disappointed.
 
It was just a clunky Leg from start to finish, designed less based around creative or difficult challenges and more on getting the teams out of rural Argentina and back into a place from which the show can navigate going forward.
 
The Leg began with an equalizer, as the teams made their way from the previous Pit Stop to the local town square forcing Rachel & Dave to relinquish a very slim lead over the first small group of teams, but a lead of nearly three hours over Danny & Joey "Fitness." Since that lead was built mostly on that luck-of-the-draw balloon pull in Santa Barbara, I can't begrudge the equalizer at this point. [It was interesting that the teams from the second flight were in a really tight bunch, with only 12 minutes between Kerri & Stacy and The Nouveau Guidos, while somehow Elliott & Andrew dug themselves early a 90-minute hole behind Rachel & Dave. Yes. That only interests me, I suppose.]
 
That led to the teams all being together for the episode's Detour, which offered the choice between  Boil My Water or Light My Fire. In teams had to visit one of three villages and set up a solar kitchen using only the picture on the side of the box and then bring a kettle of water to boil. In Light My Fire, teams had to load a donkey with sticks and clay and lead it a mile to a pottery kiln to get a fire lit.
 
Y'all know the Detour rules. 
 
Rule One is always "Do the more photogenic Detour." There wasn't really a clear advantage here. Water had shiny domes, but it was just a bunch of people scurrying around doing basic assembly and then waiting for water to boil and not only does a watched pot never boil, but it's weak TV. So that probably gives an advantage to Fire, except...
 
Rule Two is, whenever possible, don't do the task that puts you at the mercy of animals, especially the task that puts you at the mercy of animals over a potential hike of a mile, which isn't a lot if you're jogging on flat land, but becomes a lot when you're tugging a potentially stubborn burro.
 
So I think the rules probably stated that you were supposed to pick Boil. And of the 10 remaining teams, nine of the teams picked that side of the Detour. They may have been wrong.
 
Border Agents Art & JJ got lost multiple times and estimated they wasted more than 20 minutes getting lost going to Light My Fire. They then proceeded to load up their burro and scoot him across the desert in no time flat, going from last to second place. Was this an example of a task that looked like it was harder than it actually was? Or was this an example of two men who are apparently experience dragging a different sort of mule through the desert and simply got lucky in this instance with an agreeable donkey and a cooperative sun?
 
It turns out that as cumbersome as animals are to rely upon, they're positive docile when compared to forcing the sun to shine early in the morning. So Art & JJ ran along, along comparing their donkey to an illegal immigrant and completed the task, rushy by the Boil My Water contestants who were just standing around doing nothing except for praying that the son would generate enough energy to eventually boil water. 
 
On the Boil My Water task, the only revelation was that Mark of Team Kentucky isn't as backwoods as we may have thought he was. It was a great episode for Mark, who took his team temporarily into first by using skills he claimed to have acquired by helping his kids play with Legos. Either way, Mark was impressive with the building of the solar kitchen. Nobody on any of the other teams was all that impressive and only the clowns, by failing to realize there were instructions on the side, and The Nouveau Guidos, by copying from Kerri & Stacy, came away looking less-than-intelligent. For some reason, Kerri & Stacy and Nary & Jamie were left waiting for boiling to occur, but we got no explanation for the delay.
 
The Detour just set teams up for a really, really long bus ride to Buenos Aires. The editors were very coy and withholding when it came to letting us know what the separation was between the first bus to Buenos Aires, the second bus and the third bus and we were never to get any perspective, because a disaster ensued.
 
The first bus had no issues, but the second bus, with four teams, had a catastrophe, as a window on the bus got blown out, scattering glass everywhere and causing a roadside delay that one player estimated took at least two hours. In the process, the third bus easily passed them, helping Team Mississippi and Team Secret Agents (Nary and Jamie are claiming to be teachers) escape trouble.
 
In Buenos Aires, the teams all had to go to a cattle yard, where the faced a Roadblock that required, as I mentioned a while back, the successful completion of ONE long division problem. Standing at a beef auction, one player from each team had to hear the auctioneer's estimate on the weight of a paddock of cows, count the cows and properly figure out the average weight of the cows. Yes. That's total weight, divided by number of cows, equals the answer to complete the task. 
 
JJ and Not-"Big Brother"-Rachel worked together and finished the Roadblock quickly, leaving "Big Brother" Rachel blubbering in total confusion.
 
"I don't know anything about cows except that they taste good in steak," "Big Brother" Rachel said, before realizing that bovine knowledge was less important than knowledge knowledge, to which she could only say, "I'm really bad at math." 
 
I'm convinced that left to her own devices, "Big Brother" Rachel would still be standing in Argentina crying, pointing at steers and yelling random numbers at gauchos as Brendon played with his Rip Van Winkle beard in frustration.
 
Instead, Rachel was saved by the most unlikely of sources...
 
Mark from Team Kentucky! Again! Turns out the dude works with cows and he's great with math. At Brendon's urging Mark solved the problem, on his second shot, and dragged Rachel by the ear (not literally) with him to the gaucho. They got their next clue and Mark ran off grumbling about how he messed up a decimal, which is exactly *not* what I would have expected. Now if you told me Bopper can't read? That I'd believe.
 
So anyway, this all means that the Leg came down to the last four teams from the ill-fated second bus hitting the cattle yards at the exact same time. The last person to solve one long division problem goes home. Vanessa, from Vanessa & Ralph, was supposed to have problems, because she was an English major, not a math major. She did not. She solved that problem fast. I really like Vanessa. Seeing the scenes from next week's episode with "Big Brother" Rachel insulting Vanessa only make me like her more.
 
It came down to Nouveau Guido Danny, Soccer Twin Andrew and Clown Dave. Sensing the clown was stuggling, Danny and Andrew teamed up and figured out the problem together, leaving Dave, a two-time cancer survivor, on his own. 
 
The Clowns were eliminated because of a broken bus window and one long division problem involving cows. Definitely teams have been eliminated for less. Misa & Maiya went home last week because they didn't look up and missed Phil. Still, it didn't feel satisfying for a likable team to go home in this way. 
 
 
Some other thoughts on this week's episode:
 
*** Cherie the Clown cried again and used the "tears of a clown" joke for a second time. I'm not gonna lie: That was gonna get annoying. Fast. 
 
*** Dave & Rachel have won two straight legs. They're a powerhouse. They're like "The Artist" in "Amazing Race" form.
 
*** Team Kentucky made a big leap to the top of my Favorite Teams list. They could blow that sentimental advantage in a second, but I love it when teams surprise me and Mark pulled a double-surprise this week. Both surprises were based on my own false assumptions, but I'm OK with having my ignorance exposed if it leads to entertainment.
 
*** I still can't tell how I feel about Art & JJ. Their vendetta against Team Big Brother would be irrational if Rachel weren't an awful, awful person. The Border Guards don't seem to hate anybody else, so they may be OK and as a USC guy, I liked Art mocking Brendon with, "He's a UCLA student, what do you expect?" Fight on, Art!
 
*** The Boil My Water task produced some of the weirdest colorful language I've ever heard. "Is it worth being crabby-pants about it?" "Son of a monkey's uncle!" "Boy, this is hotter than shenanigans" and "Just like baby bird soup, baby" were just a few of the things that were said.
 
*** And lastly: *Was* that Diego Maradona at the mat with Phil? They didn't  introduce him and even when Andrew -- a "professional" soccer goalie -- got excited, he didn't say, "Dude, you're Diego Maradona," he just called him a legend. I know what Diego Maradona used to look like, even as recently as the last World Cup. But the guy at the mat with the awful dye-job and the awful dyed goatee? I really don't know. I saw him next to Phil and I immediately thought it might be him, but if you have Diego Maradona, don't you introduce him by name? [UPDATE: Per Phil Keoghan's twitter feed, it was not, in fact, Diego Maradona.  So they let Andrew embarrass himself at the time and then the editors exposed the embarrassment for all to see. Oh well.]
 
 
Anyway, it's really late and I'm sleepy. Were you rooting for a reboot at the end of this episode or were you satisfied to send out the clowns?