Monday, May 14, 2012

Amazing Race 20-10 recap: "I Need Hair to be Pretty"

Welcome back; I'm well behind on the Amazing Race now, but there are just two episodes left to recap in season 20; here's the episode from two weeks ago.

The Race resumes in Cochin, India with Rachel and Dave departing in first place, sending them to the town of Chandiroor to receive their next clue from a temple. Rachel is now very confident about their combined power as a team, thinking their biggest enemies are each other. As Brendon & Rachel leave next, they remark on how other teams (Art/J.J. & Vanessa/Ralph) have been making fun of them and Brendon wants Rachel to keep from getting "emotional." As Art & J.J. depart, J.J. reveals he's suffering from a cold; I've just returned from my own international adventures with a cold so I know how it happens.

As Vanessa & Ralph depart, Ralph describes their strategy as racing "as if we're in last place." Vanessa knowingly adds "which typically is the case." Ralph worries about having to endure physical challenges since Vanessa isn't at her best at demanding work; Vanessa calls herself "old." Bopper & Mark are three hours behind the other teams and still waiting at the Pit Stop; Mark's near-heat stroke is still keeping him down.

At the temple at Chandiroor, Rachel & Dave see there's a Fast Forward available on this leg, but they can't take it, having performed a Fast Forward before; instead, they follow their next instructions to Pattanakkad. As Brendon & Rachel arrive at the temple, Rachel notes "this isn't necessarily my religion," which is a very odd way of describing her beliefs. Perhaps she's a Universalist? Seeing the Fast Forward option, Rachel decides they should pursue it, which sends them to a different temple. Vanessa & Ralph correctly surmise Brendon & Rachel have gone to the Fast Forward and decide not to pursue it.

At the Fast Forward, we discover the task is a "Switch Back," meaning a task which we've seen on an earlier season of the Amazing Race. The Switch Back debuted on season 15 as a way of bringing back particularly notorious tasks. This particular task requires both team members to shave their heads. It debuted on season 5 when models Brendon & Nicole attempted it, but ultimately refused the task because they thought shaving their heads would ruin their modeling careers. It was brought back in season 7 and couple Uchenna & Joyce opted to use it; they went on to win the Amazing Race and became one of the all-time most popular teams in the series history (including a favourite of yours truly). A few clips from season 7 are brought out as Phil describes the task.

Brendon is eager to shave his head, having done it before as a swimmer, but Rachel, as is her idiom, begins to sob: "I don't want to shave my head. I paid $500 for extensions. It would be so sad!" Y'know, this task was also used last year on Amazing Race: Australia and the woman who had her head shaved also had extensions; it didn't really faze her. Anyway, Rachel doesn't want to shave her head; she asks Brendon at least twice whether he wants her to shave her head, but, as is his idiom, Brendon refuses to take charge of the situation, telling her it's her choice; they give up on the task and head to Pattanakkad, having lost some time.

At Pattanakkad, Vanessa & Ralph have some taxi luck and arrive first; it's Roadblock time and one team member must weave 40 feet of rope from cocoanut husks. Ralph takes it on, but other teams soon arrive with Dave and Art joining in. Even Brendon & Rachel catch up; "It's a Roadblock. You have to do it." Rachel declares to Brendon. J.J. is flummoxed to see none of the other teams went for the Fast Forward and realizes it means Bopper & Mark could claim it, seize first place and thus the other four teams might be fighting for last place.

Regarding her decision to avoid the Fast Forward, Rachel offers this description of season 7's Joyce: "I know another girl in another season did it, but, she was really cute and skinny and pretty and I need hair to be pretty." It's weird how Rachel can turn "really cute and skinny and pretty" into something of an insult. Personally, those aren't the words I'd use to describe Joyce; she was beautiful, no doubt, but skinnier than Rachel? I don't think so. Gorgeous, perhaps, but not "cute." Having her head shaved was a difficult moment for Joyce, not something she went into lightly and she was ashamed to show people her head afterward; she wasn't all right with having her head shaved because she was confident in her own appearance (note back in season 7 her repeating "inner beauty" to herself as the hair comes off), but because she really, really wanted to win the Amazing Race.

"Does anybody play the game strategically? Does anybody have a clue what's going on?" J.J. wonders aloud, voicing this audience member's thoughts. "I already feel enough about my big nose which Vanessa had to point out, I don't need a big nose and no hair." Rachel summarizes; well, at least she admits she has a big nose? I can't say I noticed.

As Dave nears the end of the Roadblock, his wife calls out "You're almost done, Dave." As is his idiom, Dave responds in a weary voice: "Babe, I don't need positive reinforcement, please. I appreciate silence. Thanks, though." Dave is just determined to be nobody's favourite Racer, isn't he? Ralph finishes the Roadblock first and they head out to find their rickshaw and head to the next location, Fort Kochi. However, as Vanessa runs to the rickshaw she trips and hits the ground, hard. Vanessa has a few scrapes on her body from hitting the ground, but more importantly, she's injured her left ankle and thinks she heard a "pop." She thinks she'll be all right as she limps back to her feet. Vanessa says, "People see me, they see big eyes, big hair, big boobs and they think, she must be a bimbo. I'm so much tougher than I look! I mean, I have a really high tolerance for pain." Having decided her ankle is just twisted, they carry on. I have a lot of respect for Vanessa for demonstrating some real toughness.

J.J. asks Rachel why they didn't use the Fast Forward and she reveals it was a head shaving task. J.J. claims he understands her decision and suggests she could have succeeded at the task. J.J.'s actually hoping he can convince Brendon & Rachel to go back and do the Fast Forward, just to secure he and Art's position in the Race. As Art and Brendon finish the Roadblock, Bopper & Mark leave the Pit Stop.

At Fort Kochi, teams arrive at the Detour options: "Pachyderm" which requires teams to decorate an elephant, then load 15 wheelbarrows of elephant manure into a truck; "Pack a Box" requires teams to sift ginger into 10 boxes, then deliver the boxes. Three of the teams choose "Pachyderm" while only Art & J.J. decide "Pack a Box," assuming a manual labour task will be to their advantage.

At Chandiroor, Bopper & Mark begin their Speed Bump task: they must paint a tiger face on the belly of a dancer. It's a fun little task and they have some fun with it, as is their idiom.

At the "Pachyderm" task, teams have a lot of fun decorating the elephants, which doesn't seem to be a very difficult task. On the other hand, Art & J.J. find the "Pack a Box" is a lot of hard work - it's definitely the slower Detour option, even if you do have the strength. When Art muses wistfully about the unused Fast Forward, J.J. remarks: "No one else has the balls to do it. So we thought we were playing with some people who had half a brain, but no, they are the laziest group of people I've ever met. It's astounding, somebody could give you a free pass to the end and you don't want to cut your hair for a million dollars? Then why are you even here? Why are you even on the Race? So let's see if Kentucky has half a brain 'cause if they do, they're gonna be in first."

At "Pachyderm," teams begin loading up their wheelbarrows of manure. Rachel yells her "Holy manure!" catch-phrase for the second time this season. Vanessa is trying to keep track of Brendon & Rachel's wheelbarrows in addition to her own and thinks Brendon & Rachel skipped several loads.

Bopper & Mark finish the Speed Bump and see the Fast Forward clue. They decide they should see whether it's been taken. At "Pachyderm," Rachel & Dave finish the Detour first and receive their instructions to the next Pit Stop: they must travel by ferry boat to Vypin, where Phil is waiting next to some fishing boats. Vanessa/Ralph & Brendon/Rachel finish soon after Rachel/Dave. However, Rachel & Dave luck out at the ferry, paying extra money to convince the ferry master depart just before the next team, giving them the time advantage they need to stay in first place.

At "Pack a Box," Art & J.J. have begun to realize they took the wrong Detour and their spirits are waning. To pick up their spirits, J.J. suggests he pretend to be Dave and Art pretend to be Rachel. Here's J.J.'s Dave impression: "Shut up Rachel! You need to hurry up! Just shut your mouth! You're my partner not my wife! Just shut up, you're so weak! Look at you! You don't do anything, Rachel! You're an idiot!" J.J. has officially topped Vanessa for title of most juvenile Racer, season 20 edition.

At the Pit Stop, Rachel & Dave arrive and receive the prize of $10,000 each. Rachel notes if they can win just one more time, they'll tie the Amazing Race record (set in season 13 by brother/sister team Nick/Starr) of seven victories; if they win both of the remaining legs, they'll set a new record.

Brendon & Rachel clock in at second place, Vanessa & Ralph in third. As both teams are at the Pit Stop at the same time, Phil engages their rivalry head-first when he asks if he has to hand out any penalties and Ralph says "I hope so." Phil asks for an explanation and Vanessa relates her opinion that Brendon & Rachel miscounted wheelbarrows. "Why are you starting drama on the mat? Honestly? Why even bring that up? That's not good sportsmanship!" Rachel declares, suggesting she needs someone to define "sportsmanship" for her. Phil wants to know why these two teams are always arguing. "She doesn't like my sequins." Rachel replies. Rachel relates how in the third leg, Vanessa made remarks about Rachel showing her posterior to everyone; which, Vanessa reminds her, is exactly what Rachel was doing. Vanessa tells Rachel she has nothing against her, "except for the craziness in the airport." Ralph asks them to drop the matter and Vanessa apologizes for the "big nose" comment she made in Tanzania. Rachel tries to apologize, but as is her idiom, she's not very good at it: "And I'm sorry for all the comments I've made, but it does offend me when you come to the mat and say that Brendon and I are doing something wrong because we're not trying to do something unfair. We're trying to play the Race as best as we can too." I have to hope Vanessa thought Brendon & Rachel made a mistake in counting, rather than a deliberate error. Whether Brendon & Rachel did something wrong is up for the producers to decide and it seems they didn't. There wouldn't be any drama at the mat if Rachel didn't wring drama from everything...

At the Fast Forward, Bopper & Mark agree to have their heads shaved: or, at least, Bopper will, since Mark has a shaved head. Both men correctly guess Rachel would have refused to have her head shaved. Elsewhere, Art & J.J. finish their Detour and head to the Pit Stop. Bald Bopper is a sight to see; "I tell you what, you don't look as good as me, but you look good, bro." They head to the Pit Stop, declaring now they're "twins."

At the Pit Stop, Phil kids around with Art & J.J., psyching them into thinking they're last; J.J. is brought practically to tears, until Phil admits they're in fourth place. Sadly, this means Bopper & Mark arrive in last place and thus, a lot of life goes out of the Race, along with most of my interest. Still, Bopper & Mark helped make this a pretty good season.

This leaves us with four teams going into the two-hour finale:

  1. Rachel & Dave: Throughout the Race, Rachel has held a fun attitude, always trying to enjoy herself at the tasks, think ahead and stay optimistic. Dave has been short-fused and short-sighted, complaining about her positive attitude and demanding she do better. It's hard to imagine how these two stay together, unless you consider how seldom they're in the same country. I don't dislike them, but I can't bring myself to enjoy them.
  2. Brendon & Rachel: I've begun to realize just how weighted this team is to Rachel as Brendon always defers to her; there's no equality in this relationship and only rarely a sense of fun. Still, they like each other and that's a leg up on Rachel & Dave.
  3. Vanessa & Ralph: Of the couples, these two seem the healthiest in terms of how they speak to each other and work together as a team. They just aren't the most competitive team on the block, which has been repeatedly dragging them down.
  4. Art & J.J.: A very smart team who have made some poor decisions. They focus too much on the meta aspects of the Race. Still, they love the Race and they're cool with each other, making them my favourite team going into the finale.

Next episode: the brawl for it all!

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