It's the season of travel on "The Amazing Race." 
 
The premiere was determined largely by seven teams taking one prohibitively early flight to Chile, while the other four teams were basically left battling to stick around. And Naina & Hoskote, one of those four lagging teams, were eliminated after one faulty cab right. In their exit interview, Naina & Hoskote lamented the inability to their their travel in their own hands. 
 
The second Leg saw Rowan & Shane struggle with one bum cab ride and then they did what Naina & Hoskote could not and they tried to break from the pack on a long bus ride across Chile. They didn't succeed but, heck, they made the effort.
 
Sunday (October 13) night's "Amazing Race" was the most travel-centric episode in recent "Amazing Race" memory, as it turned out that getting from Santiago, Chile to Lisbon is surprisingly easy, or at least that there are a surprising number of possible ways of making the journey. We had smart travel moves. Stupid travel moves. And, sadly, we had a team get utterly and totally hosed by a booking agent and attempt a bold move to recover from that blunder. And for the second week in a row, we learned that sometimes it's healthier to stick with the pack, rather than attempting to game the system. 
 
I don't remember the last "Amazing Race" episode to end with Phil Keoghan greeting a team before they had the chance to do even a single task because they were so far behind, but in this case, Phil greeted the eliminated team at the airport, told them they were eliminated and suggested that since they were in the airport still, it should be easy for them to find their way home. Ouch.
 
Meanwhile, at least three times per season I complain about the actual Non-Elimination Legs and at least once or twice, I lament an episode in which I'd totally have approved of seeing an NEL. This is one of those.
 
More after the break...
 
The impressive thing about the construction of Sunday's episode is that there was a pretty good amount of tension and fun generated despite a result which was never really in doubt from at the least the half-hour mark on. Chester & Ephraim were probably doomed several times, but once they couldn't make their flight in Sao Paolo, they didn't have any chance of finishing anywhere near the pack, so their only salvation was an NEL and we couldn't even get tension on that front, because once Phil showed up at the airport, we knew they weren't going to be spared.
 
So you had a really good episode in which the elimination was an afterthought and then it was also an episode in which, honestly, the tasks weren't all that hard. The Detour offered one relatively easy mental task versus one relatively easy arts and crafts task, in which both options were only as hard as you made them yourself. And then we had a Roadblock that was a total nonfactor. The episode got its title from Jason's comment about a task that several people finished on a single attempt and most did without any real stress.
 
Actually, the person who appeared to be having the most difficulty with the Roadblock, which asked one player from each pair to don medieval garb and fire a ballista and hit a target 150 feet away, was ER doc Travis, but for all that the episode tried pretending that he wasn't doing it well, it only put Travis & Nicole seven minutes (they estimated) behind Amy & Jason, who briefly looked ready to win the Leg, but instead slipped to second due to a travel blunder of their own. I have absolutely nothing more to say about the Roadblock, so let's flashback and look at some of the highlights of the episode's travel fun.
 
Actually, the first thing to know or remember as that there was a wide gap between the teams as we started this episode, a gap stemming from the bus journey to Santiago last week. Chester & Ephraim, who went from first to last, started at 6:27 p.m. Baseball Wives Nicky & Kim, who went from near-elimination to third, left more than six hours later.
 
So Chester & Ephraim had an advantage and they succeeded in finding a flight getting into Lisbon at 7 a.m. And that was the only available seat on that flight at that moment. Yay! But there was a problem. The friendly travel agent who found them that flight, while several other teams were booking flights getting in at noon or 11 in Lisbon, made a bit of an oopsie and booked a flight one day later. Because of that goof, plus a couple other teams getting less effective assistance, the ER Docs grabbed those last available tickets. Other teams would have a chance to get on stand-by, but not until later. That might become important in a paragraph or two.
 
The Afghanimals, who slipped to second because of last week's cab-paying mistake, were second to try booking, but for some reason they only got a flight getting in at 11. They, of course, invited their Race Wives Ally & Ashley to join them. Then, figuring that they'd prefer not to be going head-to-head in case they were in last, they attempted to bring Team Oklahoma in on the flight so that they'd have somebody they could beat. Now this was a good episode for Team Oklahoma, which has been pretty invisible other than some minor struggles in the premiere. Danny was able to guess exactly what the Afghanimals had as an agenda and rather than just following, he and Tim investigated until they found a flight getting in an hour earlier, where they were joined by the Beardos. Why were Leo & Jamal more invested in finding stooges to lose to them, as opposed to finding that better flight, which they had a lot of time to find? I don't know. But I want to emphasize that time again: The Afghanimals left at 6:38 and they had six hours to NOT get on that flight getting in at 11 and get somebody to find that 10 a.m. flight for them. They did not.
 
Going back again, while the ER Docs had the only guaranteed flight from Brazil to Portugal with a three-hour lead, other teams were on the same flight to Brazil and had the chance to get on standby. Various teams arrived, raced up to the gate and... waited because they were told the gate didn't open til an hour before the flight. Meanwhile, the Baseball Wives just went to the luxury lounge and got put on standby. This led to an epic pissing match in which The Devil Marie ranted and railed about how the Baseball Wives had done something shifty in getting to the front of the standby by not waiting complacently at the gate, while the Baseball Wives had to be defensive about having, you know, given some thought to the whole thing.
 
For this affront, Marie told the Baseball Wives that they're VERY short-lived alliance was over and they were dead to her.
 
People who hate Marie will hate her a little bit extra for this, but she knows her hypocrisy. 
 
As she put it, "They pulled a stunt that I would pull and I wasn't expecting that from them."
 
In Lisbon, the teams had to make it to a museum, where they faced the Detour choice of Miles or Tiles. In Miles, they had to use a giant... ummm... Sextant? Protractor? Thingie? They had to use a tool to measure the distance Magellan traveled between 10 locations. If you knew how to use a map and had a general sense of geography, it was pretty easily doable. If, however, you had to ponder whether or not Magellan took the Panama Canal -- Sorry, Afghanimals -- it could be complicated. The task looked bad for Leo & Jamal, who overcomplicated (and under-thought) things and the Ice Queens, who added nothing. It looked good for the ER Docs and Amy & Jason, but also for Team Oklahoma. Admit it, you thought they'd really screw it up, but they made a couple tiny goofs, laughed, corrected themselves and fixed it. The Afghanimals and the Ice Queens just quit and went to Tiles.
 
In Tiles. teams had to assemble a life-sized puzzle using dozens of fragile pieces. Mostly nobody had trouble with this one either, though Marie got to do a lot of yelling at Tim, because that's what tends to happen.
 
"We know when it's my thing and when it's his thing," Marie said, after taking control of Tiles. When Tim found this funny, Marie admitted that she knows that will never happen, but she didn't want to look bad. You may hate Marie, but I like that whatever she is, she's very proudly that. It's part of why I've always been the only person to like Jaime of Jaime & Cara. Lots of people are awful people and have no idea that they're awful. If you happen to be fully aware of your flaws? Well, at least you own it.
 
The Roadblock and Detour had almost nothing to do with final position for the Leg. Instead, everything was determined by those flights. And it all took place as poor Chester & Ephraim bounced from delay to delay and from city to city, hoping that they might get lucky. They did not. 
 
That's too bad. They were definitely my favorite team.
 
A few more highlights:
 
*** It should be noted that Chester & Ephraim were somewhat making their own choice. The agent who blundered their flight initially found a way for them to still get in at 7 a.m. only making two transfers instead of just one. "Sometimes you've gotta roll the dice man," Chester said. So lest you think that they just screwed, that's not exactly true. They had the choice of either going on the flight that got in at noon, looking for an earlier and different flight or taking a risk on connections for the big lead. They went with the latter. I admire it, even if it failed.
 
*** The NFLers were booked on a flight that got in at noon in Lisbon, which was also the flight Tim & Marie were on. Had they stuck with that flight, it's almost a sure thing that Tim & Marie would have just used the Express Pass to guarantee survival, had they had any doubt. Instead, Tim & Marie contemplated using it anyway, but held onto it and it'll probably be valuable later.
 
*** Speaking of Tim and Marie, how can you not be amused by a team that brings out Phil Keoghan's feistiness? "I'm sorry to tell you that you are the last team to arrive," Phil said when the Exes showed up. Long pause. "Except for one." Yup. Phil just likes messing with Marie. I think Marie and Tim are good TV and this is part of the reason for that. Oh and her dubbing Leo & Jamal and Ally & Ashley "The Iceganimals" was amusing.
 
*** The ballista Roadblock was a dud, but I liked the weird variety of reactions to it: Danny did it because he's Native American. Ally talked about her Portuguese grandfather who taught her to shoot. Tim proved his value to Marie temporarily by finishing in one shot.
 
*** My favorite line of the episode was Brandon's explanation for why Adam would be good on the Tiles Detour. "He lives in the woods, what else has he got to do other than make puzzles?" 
 
OK. I'm in Las Vegas and I've spent enough time on this recap.
 

Did you enjoy this travel-heavy episode?