Monday, April 9, 2012

Amazing Race 20-07 recap: "I Didn't Make Her Cry"

After a week's absence, the Amazing Race returned last night with a new episode! In spite of some childish bickering, this is another fine program thanks to some beautiful locations and people. Further, now that the Race is down to just six teams, there's more time to see each player's personality, which is all for the better.

We resume the Race in Baku, Azerbaijan and we go straight back to business as Rachel & Dave depart in 1st place, directed to travel to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. The couple visit a travel agency and book a flight which leaves in the morning with a connection via Nairobi. Wow, Kenya and Tanzania?! This show makes me so jealous of the Racers. Each of the teams seem to be very excited too, which is good to see.

As Art & J.J. leave in 2nd place, J.J. talks about the competition: "We're hopin' that some of the dead weight jumps off, ie, Big Brother team. I'm so tired of them following us. And we're getting to the point where we're kinda getting a little cranky about it." This does go back to the first leg, in fact.

At the travel agency, Art & J.J. ask their travel agent to avoid sharing information with Brendon & Rachel. Noting the animosity between their two teams, Rachel remarks, "We didn't even do anything to them, they just don't think we deserve to be here." Er... I only have what footage CBS chooses to edit into the program, but based on what's been aired, it was Brendon who started the feud back on the first leg with his "I'm half-Mexican and I hate them for a reason" comment.

As Bopper & Mark enter the agency, Bopper sees a candy dish. "Ooo! Free candy!" and grabs all the candy he can muster. It's pretty funny and a gentle reminder of how the Racers are on a budget when it comes to luxuries like food. As Nary & Jamie depart in 5th place, we hear a story about how Jamie once shot herself with her gun, shattering her femur; Nary stuck with Jamie through her recovery, which is the basis of their tight friendship. It occurs to me now, Jamie does most of the talking for their team, Nary seldom seems to pipe up.

Before Nary & Jamie arrive at the agency, Art & J.J. start chatting up Bopper & Mark and Brendon & Rachel about them, opining "they're not teachers." Nary & Jamie have been pretending to be schoolteachers since the start of this Race, but it seems during the last leg, they slipped up. While talking to Art & J.J. about UC operations, Jamie asked "what kind of UC operations do you have in Border Patrol?" Art was certain no schoolteachers would know about UC operations and believes they're some sort of police officers.

Nary & Jamie arrive just as Art & J.J. leave; the border patrol agents note even if Nary & Jamie aren't cops, it will "stir the pot," creating problems which might benefit their own team. Brendon & Rachel and Bopper & Mark do confront Nary & Jamie about what Art & J.J. claimed, but don't really seem to care what their jobs are; Jamie confides to the camera, "finally the gig will be out that our agency's better than theirs! Hah!"

As Vanessa & Ralph arrive, Rachel muses aloud how she wishes there was an earlier flight than "10 AM," although her flight is actually 8:30. Vanessa sees right through Rachel's bad acting and calls her on it. Well, kudos, Vanessa. All six teams wind up on the same flight.

At a connecting flight, Brendon pushes past Vanessa & Ralph in the hallway; the cameraman is filming from the rear as it happens, but Ralph claims as Brendon ran past he flipped him the middle finger. All six teams wind up in line at the transfer gate and an argument breaks out when Vanessa & Ralph start relating what Brendon & Rachel did. Brendon responds to Ralph with a cocky, "I'm here to play, baby." Prompting this delicious response:

Art: "Naw, you're here to follow." J.J.: "You ain't played the game yet.

So, because this is a conversation involving both Big Brother's Rachel and Vanessa, it quickly descends to the level of junior high school taunts. Ralph tries to maintain some decorum, observing he's not getting loud or angry. Suddenly, Rachel begins denying any shoving or finger-flipping occurred and inverts it, claiming Vanessa shoved her! Long-time fans will be reminded of the original Amazing Race's Joe & Bill causing an altercation and then claiming they were victims... except, Joe & Bill were deliberately playing head games, Rachel really does seem to think she's a victim.

Nary/Jamie, Bopper/Mark & Rachel/Dave seem to do their best to ignore the other teams. It's weird how these three teams don't wind up in these constant squabbles. Ralph finally tells Vanessa "Just stop." Vanessa promises she will, but when Rachel starts another tirade, Vanessa can't resist:

Rachel: "I hope insulting people makes you feel good about yourself." Vanessa: "I hope running your mouth makes you feel better about yourself." Rachel: "How old are you? Aren't you like, 38? Grow up!" Vanessa: "Yes, I'm 38. And somehow I still look younger than you. Honey, get your nose done before you get your boobs done. Do everybody a favour."

J.J. sums up Brendon & Rachel: "That they're even in the same race as us is disgusting." Rachel is seriously losing her cool and is once again, near tears, leading us to the title of this week's episode:

Ralph: "You made her cry?" Vanessa: "I didn't make her cry. Her lack of self-esteem made her cry. If you can't take it, don't dish it out."

Daaang. I don't enjoy these schoolyard shenanigans, but I have to admit, that is one terrific put down.

Elsewhere, Art & J.J. confront Nary & Jamie about knowing "UC caseloads," demanding to know their real occupations. Bopper & Mark are listening in, making it less likely they'd fess up. Nary & Jamie refuse to give up their story, even though it's become something of an open secret. Art & J.J. hope they're stirring the pot, but Nary & Jamie think by denying Art & J.J. the information they want, they'll waste energy.

Finally, we head to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Teams have to head to a small airport and sign up for charter flights. Art/J.J. & Brendon/Rachel take flight 1; Bopper/Mark & Rachel/Dave take flight 2, 15 minutes later; Nary/Jamie & Vanessa/Ralph have the last flight, 15 minutes after this.

Vanessa: "It's kind of upsetting team Big Baby got ahead of us." Ralph: "We need to worry about us today. To heck with them."

Ralph is seriously climbing in my eyes this week; he was pretty immature back in Bavaria, but this time he's the adult half of his team.

Both Art/J.J. & Brendon/Rachel are fired up at the idea of racing against each other for first place. Rachel wants to "destroy" the border agents. Art remarks, "I think somebody's gonna end up crying by the end of the day." J.J. answers, "Just don't let it be you, Art." As the plane takes off over Tanzania we get some gorgeous photography, seeing vast planes, canyons, volcanoes, flocks of flamingos, herds of oxen. In the third plane, Nary has her head flung back, seemingly drooling at the sight of all they're seeing. That, or she's so tired she's fallen asleep with her eyes open.

Off the charter flight, teams have to take a safari jeep (with provided driver) to Ngorongoro Crater for their next clue. Art/J.J. find themselves following Brendon/Rachel's jeep as both teams ask passerbys for directions. Both teams enjoy the outfits the Masai wear, as well as herds of zebras. As Rachel & Dave choose their jeep Rachel tells their driver "We're your boss, applesauce!" Mark talks about his great-great-grandfather, who was a slave: "I think he come from this area." Uh, probably not Mark - while knowing nothing of your family, it's more likely he was from Western Africa, right?

At Ngorongoro Crater, Art/J.J. & Brendon/Rachel reach the Detour site! The options are to either throw a hunting club at a pottery target, or to perform a Masai courtship dance. Either way, teams have to ride on bicycles to the Masai village, then dress up in Masai garb before taking on the Detour. Art & J.J. opt for the clubs, but it's tricky to hit the pottery targets, which spin around on a bicycle wheel. However, Brendon & Rachel find the courtship dance is very easy: they just have to jump up and down for one minute. As usual, the clues don't tell all of the details, so while we viewers can see the dance is the quicker option, the Racers have no idea. Consequently, Brendon & Rachel leap into first place. Rachel even tries to sing along with the Masai as she dances! She does have her good moments, y'know. Teams have to remove their Masai garb then take their bikes back up to the crater before continuing to the next location, a campsite.

As Rachel & Dave take the bicycles they have a few words; Dave actually articulates himself rather well: "You're doing awesome! Don't misconstrue my support for yelling!" Rachel & Dave opt for the marksmanship, but as Bopper & Mark pass Art & J.J., their buddies advise them to take the courtship Detour, having seen it's the quicker option. Brendon & Rachel fall back into second place while leaving the Detour and once again, they choose to follow Art & J.J.

Bopper & Mark wind up loving the courtship dance. "White man can jump!" Bopper declares. "We coulda jumped for ten minutes, I believe." Mark decides. Rachel is pretty funny at her Detour, yelling "Die, rabbit!" and "Rabbit stew!" while trying to hit her pottery rabbit target. Nary & Jamie and Vanessa & Ralph both choose the marksmanship Detour, but Vanessa has serious trouble trying to ride the bicycle, which is evidently too tall for her. After falling off the bicycle several times, she finally has to walk with the bike.

Art & J.J. get lost looking for the campsite and come across a bunch of Japanese tourists visiting some locals. Art & J.J. keeping heading in the same direction, but Brendon & Rachel stop and ask the locals for directions; they find out they've been heading in the wrong direction, so they turn back, pleased their rivals Art & J.J. are in the wrong direction. Because of this, Rachel & Dave reach the campsite first, having received correct directions sooner. They begin the next task: build a campsite using a steel frame tent and outdoor shower, imitating a model provided. When they're done, they'll head to the next Pit Stop. This instantly left me assuming this is a non-elimination leg - who could imagine building this tent and then being eliminated? Also, this means there's no Roadblock on this leg... or there was a Roadblock, but they decided not to air it.

As Dave sets to work he muses, "This might be in the deep recesses of my Army skillsets, though. The attention to detail and emulating a model definitely is, I won't have any problems with that, especially with my OCD." Nary/Jamie & Vanessa/Ralph have only just finished the Detour, but Vanessa's inability to ride her bicycle is slowing their team down. Meanwhile, Art & J.J. finally learn they're heading in the wrong direction. Bopper/Mark & Brendon/Rachel arrive at the campsite and head to work. "I'm no African safari Bushmaster, but I've camped before." saith Rachel; honey, a Bushmaster is a snake. Lucky Vanessa isn't around to catch this quip. Brendon remarks "I feel like this a Kentucky challenge." which provides a nice moment of friendship between his team and Bopper & Mark. Hey, they don't just make enemies!

As Vanessa & Ralph head to the camp site, Ralph is feeling fatalistic, telling Vanessa they're out, so "enjoy this." Vanessa apologizes to him, but he makes his position clear: "You don't have anything to be sorry for. Baby, I'm not upset at you, I just hate losing. It just bothers me. I hate it. It's not just you. I'm proud of you. You did good." Once again, Ralph impresses me.

Art/J.J. & Nary/Jamie both begin working on the campsite at about the same time. Dave gets testy with Rachel as they work on their site. Dave seems to have a sarcastic remark to everything Rachel says; she seems to be blocking him out, reacting with a chirpy "Thank you!" to his attitude. "God, you're being annoying." says Dave (alias the pot). Vanessa & Ralph are energized when they arrive and see every team is still there and most of them are arguing. Even Bopper & Mark are getting testy! J.J. overhears some of Rachel & Dave's arguing and sums it up: "That's why we're not here with our wives."

Vanessa & Ralph pull ahead of Nary & Jamie; Nary & Jamie are the only team without a male member, thus lacking some of the sheer physical might other teams have and it takes a lot of muscle to get the steel frame set up. Vanessa is nearly crushed by a piece of the shower. Ralph assures her "Just relax, it can't kill you." Vanessa answers "Yeah, well... it came close." Bopper & Mark are almost finished first, but they don't have their shower filled with water. Thus, Rachel & Dave finish first, but Bopper & Mark finish next.

Rachel & Dave head out in their jeeps to find the Pit Stop, which isn't too far away; they take first place for the fourth time in this Race and win a trip for two to Travelocity. Bopper & Mark take second place, their best finish yet! Art & J.J. are third, which they're a little disheartened about. Phil asks the duo about the "rift between the teams" which they claim they want to minimize... uh, except they don't. Brendon & Rachel take fourth. Phil remarks how "the Race has taken a bit of a turn." and repeats this again, suggesting the producers have dictated he use it. Vanessa & Ralph take 5th place. Vanessa says she has no desire to speak with Brendon & Rachel.

As Nary & Jamie build their shower, Jamie says: "This is what a lot of guys at work have been wanting is Nary & I in the shower together, well, they got it but, we ain't lookin' so hot right now." They finally finish and head to the Pit Stop. En route, they see herds of elephants and stop the jeep so they can admire them, which is a beautiful little moment. Finally, they head to the Pit Stop, where Phil reveals it's a non-elimination leg, just as they were hoping.

My thoughts on the six remaining teams:

  1. Rachel & Dave: This is certainly a team of ups and downs. Still, their squabbling does feel authentic, like something they do in their normal lives. They don't seem to be genuinely offended by each other's behaviour, but it has made for some unpleasant moments.
  2. Bopper & Mark: Still lovin' these two, I only wish they'd won first place. Their upbeat attitude and supportive relationship puts all others to shame.
  3. Art & J.J.: These two make too much of the "political" side to the game, but I enjoy their gameplay. They're the most intense team in the Race, but they're very cool with each other and often rather funny.
  4. Brendon & Rachel: Rachel was actually on good behaviour this week, outside of the airport incident where she felt threatened by the other teams. When she isn't trying to put down her competition, she's actually not bad and seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself.
  5. Vanessa & Ralph: I wish Vanessa would avoid the catty and "quotable" dialogue - the video camera seems to bring out her worst side. Ralph, on the other hand, has shown a great attitude this leg in how he faces adversity.
  6. Nary & Jamie: I finally have a feel for these two and their friendship, I only hope it hasn't come on the eve of their departure. I love that they've hung to the fringes of the game, not developing explicit drama like other teams. Art & J.J.'s attempt to manufacture drama over their occupation led to a strong moment as they avoided being trolled into a confrontation.

Next week: We have the first double U-Turn of this Race! Judging from reactions seen in the previews, it looks like Brendon & Rachel are U-Turned; there's also something about Art & J.J. being upset at Rachel & Dave, suggesting they're the other targeted team. Next week could be a very heated episode! Plus, it appears they'll still be in Tanzania, which means more great African footage!

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