Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'Funky Monkey'

Despite the misleading title, this episode includes no monkeys

<p>James and Mark of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

James and Mark of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS
I need a ruling on this, "Amazing Race" viewers:
 
Is the streak of "Amazing Race" Legs determined by cab failures over or is it alive at three?
 
Mostly, Sunday (October 21) night's "Amazing Race" episode was finally able to jettison a team that had been dead weight since the premiere, but I can't say with absolute confidence that a faulty piece of cab steering didn't play a major role.
 
My vote is "The streak is over and Sunday's Leg came down to ineptitude on the part of the Racers and not the driver," but if you want to take the opposing side, I can't necessarily argue.
 
We can discuss after the break...
 
Once could probably even make the argument that Sunday's "Amazing Race" episode was the first one determined by actual "Amazing Race" tasks, which is fairly remarkable and probably explains how Super-Fans Gary & Will were able to stick around so long. In the first Leg, Rob & Sheila got lost on The Bund in Shanghai. In the second Leg, Amy & Daniel had cab problems getting to the Detour, while Brittany & Caitlin had a whole slew of cab problems in the last Leg. In each episode, Gary & Will were the slowest team in completing basically every task and yet they were spared because of  either outside factors or navigational ineptitude (Rob & Sheila have nobody to blame but themselves, but they still weren't done in by a Detour or Roadblock).
 
Perhaps that's why I watched the entire episode absolutely certain we were heading for a Non-Elimination Leg. I just couldn't believe that "The Amazing Race" was about to send somebody home for failures in a competitive environment. 
 
Nope. Phil Keoghan took a long pause after telling Gary & Will that they were the last team to check in, but then he sent them packing.
 
Whew.
 
You can't point to anything Gary & Will did wrong in this Leg, other than to say that they were slower than everybody else at everything, which is enough to get you booted, sometimes. And it should be. Though it's not like there weren't plenty of little gaffes in the episode that briefly looked like they were going to help Gary & Will keep limping along. Team Longhorn, Trey & Lexi, had their cab break down in Bangladesh and they had to stand on the side of the road waiting as Gary & Will briefly passed them. And Rob of Team Monster Truck got mad at a boat driver and blamed him for costing them a million bucks -- Automatic elimination from the Race under the rule I proposed last week -- but really the boat driver's error in taking them to the Pit Stop and not to a nearby port cost Rob & Kelley one place, the difference between fourth and fifth. It was Rob who cost that team my respect, permanently. But I highly doubt he cares.
 
There were other little travel gaffes as well. Trey & Lexi's cab took them straight to the pre-Pit Stop boat station, rather than taking them to the docks to take a vessel to that station. They went back and boated over in time to tell Gary & Will that they'd also made the same mistake of skipping the boat. So if you wanted to, you could pretend that plausibly if Gary & Will had been taken to the boat directly, maybe they could have had a chance to pass Lexi & Trey? Somehow? But, like I said, I don't believe that.
 
While not a fantastic Leg -- No Leg that starts with a potentially massive equalizer will ever be "fantastic" in my book -- the tasks were pretty decent, both in terms of apparent difficulty, but also in terms of bringing out personality from several teams.
 
The Roadblock asked one player from each team to do refurbishing work on a beat-up Bangladeshi bus. They had to mix putty, apply putty to dents, send the putty down and then carry three seats from one bus to a different location. So the task involved both precision and VERY basic artistry, but also strength. See? Not bad. I like interdisciplinary tasks that take time. and effort. 
 
And what did we learn about the Roadblock? Abbie & Ryan seem to be good at most things, as Ryan completed the entire task, top-to-bottom, in first. We also saw that Abbie does a rather impressive Nadiya impression (Ryan's impression relies a bit more heavily on stereotyping and isn't quite as good). This was actually a really good episode for Abbie, who got karma points by helping encourage and calm James when he grew frustrated and then got laughs by mimicking suicide during one of Nadiya's lengthy, loud rants of encouragement in Natalie's direction. Yes, Nadiya remains The Annoying [But Often Funny] Twin, but Natalie reminded us once again that she's a total beast and, as the only woman doing the Roadblock, certainly proved worthy of ample admiration. Trey and James both struggled a bit with their puttying and Gary's just slow at stuff. 
 
We spent a lot of time on the Roadblock, didn't we? 
 
Not as much time needed to be spent on the Detour, which at least was one of those Detours that rewarded very different skill-sets. Unfortunately, the Detour wasn't hard enough to punish any difficulties, but still... You can't have everything and at least the choice was such that there was a reasonable distribution between the two tasks.
 
The choice: Pound Metal or Pound Cotton. In Pound Cotton, teams had to break up a bag of cotton, fill a mattress and sew the mattress. In Pound Metal, teams had to go to a blacksmith and use a sledgehammer to make a spear-type-tool. 
 
There was no question that Cotton was the physically easier task, but from what we saw, signs pointed to Metal as being the more swiftly completed task. The chances for failure appear to have been minimal. While Abbie & Ryan raced through the task due to Abbie's Fashion Institute sewing background, they had a brief delay after leaving a small heap of cotton out of the mattress, an error that the Chippendales later repeated. We didn't see anybody screw Metal up at all and it looked as if the Twins weren't at a disadvantage due to relative strength (not that the Twins are weak, as Natalie proved). 
 
Of course, neither the Detour nor the Roadblock mattered in terms of winning the Leg, because James & Abba did a Fast-Forward that required them to go around Dhaka collecting dead rats. As Fast-Forwards go, this was actually much more time intensive than many we've seen. It looked like James & Abba covered a lot of ground in the city and hoisted a lot of dead rats. Now as for why James & Abba were still able to complete the Fast-Forward despite being the fifth team to arrive at the Roadblock? I can't answer that at all. I have no idea why Ryan & Abbie, The Twins, Rob & Kelley and The Chippendales decided not to do the Fast-Forward. I'm most confused by Ryan & Abbie, who would have reached the Roadblock and presumably seen that nobody else had arrived yet? I kinda would like to believe that it's cockiness on their part, that they got to the Roadblock, saw nobody else was there and decided that, all things being equal, there's basically no chance they're going to finish last in a Leg that includes several of these weak teams, so they decided to pass on this early Race Fast-Forward in the hopes of still being eligible to use a hypothetical Fast-Forward later? 
 
So James & Abba are in first and Abbie & Ryan are in second as we look forward to next week's episode, which almost *has* to be a Non-Elimination Leg, doesn't it?
 
I'm just relieved that Gary & Will are done, because I felt guilty for not liking them. They're Super-Fans! They're comically mismatched, size-wise! They're substitute teachers! They ought to be likable in every way. Instead, Gary seemed grumpy about almost everything and Will mostly let his larger, more gregarious partner set the mood. I know Gary said that "The Amazing Race" was the best experience of his life, but there was no joy in the way the team ran any of their four Legs and finishing 8th, 9th, 8th and 8th, elimination was just a matter of time for these "Comeback Kids." 
 
Other thoughts on Sunday's episode:
 
*** Lots of reactions to the chaotic driving conditions in Bangladesh, but the teams mostly avoided saying anything offensive. So... Yay! "This is Third World 'Grand Theft Auto,'" one of the Twins said. "I wonder if our goats would get along with their goats," observed one of the Beekmans. And Ryan called it "Funky Monkey," giving the episode its title, which was a big disappointment for this simian fan, who saw the title and hoped there would be monkey-based tasks. Oh well.
 
*** Do you think Ryan's sweaty hands will become important later on? He basically destroyed the task instructions at the Roadblock and had to team up with James, reading James' clue and giving the dancer lessons in putty preparation. Teamwork!
 
*** Josh or Team Beekman was a drag queen? Named Aquadesiac? Well, OK!
 
*** Jaymes continues to make me laugh, largely because everything sounds funnier with his Virginia accent, but also because he seems to be kinda funny. I liked his joining Nadiya in inspirational cheering at the Roadblock and then his musing, "Why in the world did we kick a sewing task? I have no idea" when they did Pound Cotton for the Detour. Why *did* they do Pound Cotton? I have no idea.
 
I think that's it for me... Any thoughts from your end on tonight's episode?
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Daniel Fienberg
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A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.
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