Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The ever-lovin' ever-expandin' film collection

I pride myself at keeping current with the luxuries of modern technology; this is why I have an extensive VHS collection! To this end, I just picked up a massive set of VHS tapes, courtesy of a donation to a good cause. The tapes I picked up include a lot of older titles which are hard to find on DVD; some are major favourites of mine, while others I wouldn't normally want for my home collection, but the cause (and price point) were right; the list of titles in full is:

Also, these episodes of the Twilight Zone:

  • "Death's Head Revisited"
  • "The Dummy"
  • "The Fever"
  • "The Four of us Are Dying"
  • "The Fugitive"
  • "A Game of Pool"
  • "I Sing the Body Electric"
  • "The Invaders"
  • "The Lateness of the Hour"
  • "The Lonely"
  • "Long Distance Call"
  • "Mr. Dingle, the Strong"
  • "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"
  • "Nick of Time"
  • "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
  • "Nothing in the Dark"
  • "The Obsolete Man"
  • "The Odyssey of Flight 33"
  • "Once Upon a Time"
  • "A Passage for Trumpet"
  • "The Passerby"
  • "Perchance to Dream"
  • "The Prime Mover"
  • "Probe 7 - Over and Out"
  • "The Purple Testament"
  • "A Quality of Mercy"
  • "Shadow Play"
  • "Steel"
  • "Third From the Sun"
  • "Time Enough at Last"
  • "The Trade-Ins"
  • "Two"

It's at least a month's diversion.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-05 recap

According to blogger, I receive more hits from Google Australia than any other of the other search engines... combined! So, I hope you're enjoying this blog, Aussies! Please learn to accept my lack of experience with your culture and mannerisms, as well as this blog's considerable comic book-related content.

We resume the Race in Dubai at the Four Points Hotel Pit Stop. Dating couple James & Sarah depart in first place at 5:47 AM and are told to find a boat called the Dubai Pearl, which docks at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel marina. This is a neat idea, a clue which arrives by boat; I don't recall if we've seen it on the US version of Amazing Race. James & Sarah are surprised at how well they've done and seem strongest when focusing on the things which "hold them together." Well, that makes sense.

Flatmates Sticky/Sam are 10 minutes behind James/Sarah and siblings Joseph/Grace are 10 minutes after that, suggesting Joseph/Grace made up a lot of time after their car stalled last leg.

Grace: "The way that we want to race is, like, I've got to learn to shut my mouth and Joey's got to do all the talking."

Joseph: "She's learned that everything she's done has been wrong so, and everything I've done has been right!"

This is an odd exchange, it's the opposite of what Grace said she hoped to prove on the Race. Perhaps they're making a joke? Grace would seemingly be the stronger of the two just now because of her ability to speak Arabic. She does admit she's not very well-traveled. James & Sarah arrive at the marina and find out the Dubai Pearl won't arrive for another 3 hours.

Twin sisters Michelle & Jo leave only 1 minute after Joseph & Grace, indicating to me the times between last leg's horse races weren't all separated by 45 minutes (or else Michelle & Jo are wizards at making up lost time). At the marina, Sarah wants to "disappear" to keep other teams from figuring out where the Dubai Pearl lands by simply heading to their location. However, they're still out in the open as Sticky/Sam & Joseph/Grace arrive. The arriving teams ask if there's a sign-up sheet and James starts telling them everything they know, much to Sarah's irritation. Sarah takes James away from the other teams and reams him out, trying to impress on him the importance of keeping secrets from the competition who will "step on our heads when it comes to it." When James calls her "dramatic" she counters he's "not dramatic enough." Sarah extorts him to remember which team he's on: their team.

Police officers Shane & Andrew depart almost an hour after Michelle & Jo. Unfortunately, once again they wind up with a taxi driver who doesn't understand where they want to go. Workmates Paul & Steve are about 45 minutes behind Shane & Andrew's departure time. Paul launches into the first of many rants about how he's going to show up the other teams; I'll spare you reading this one, there's better quotes to come, such as "It's time for Evil Paul to come out, which is the same as Sexy Paul, which is actually the same as Normal Paul."

Father/daughter Ross & Tarryn leave a half hour after Paul & Steve, even though they left for the Pit Stop ahead of them last leg; how did they manage to lose so much time en route to the hotel? When the taxi driver brings Shane & Andrew to the wrong location, Shane gets frustrated, realizing they're wasting valuable money. They dismiss their driver and look for a new cab. Thus, Paul & Steve beat the cops to the marina. The teams already at the marina note Shane & Andrew's absence; "They're probably in Abu Dhabi," suggests Michelle.

Grace describes how "Because we were so bored, we wanted to muck around with the teams that were coming through." Grace has noticed how short-tempered Paul is and had the idea to play off that. When Paul & Steve start asking the other teams if they need to do something else, Grace tells them "Read the clue." It's a pretty harmless statement, but it does drive Paul & Steve batty as they wander around, trying to find a Race marker, suspecting all the while they're being toyed with. This leads to a minor revelation from Paul:

"Growing up I had a bit of a weight problem, so I had a lot kids picking on me back in the day. It has become a very strong motivation for me to prove I can stand up to bullies."

I don't think anyone watching the show doubts Paul's ability to assert himself; in fact, his youthful insecurity is probably the whole reason why he overcompensates so hard as an adult. It doesn't excuse this behaviour, but helps explain it. Shane & Andrew arrive as Paul & Steve wander about. They finally head to where the other teams are waiting for the Dubai Pearl. Grace offers Paul a high five, but he leaves her hanging. "I'm just sick of bullying smartasses like Grace picking on people like me." It's on! People like what, exactly? Paul doesn't like being picked on, but teams pick on him because of his attitude; he's aware he's not a people-person, so why the whinging? You're either a strong team everyone should be afraid of or the picked-upon underdogs; you're not both. Again, this is probably just how Paul bolsters his ego to give himself the drive he needs to succeed. Paul says, "I think bullies are petty, I think they're insecure, I think they need to justify themselves by making other people feel bad." Those of you playing along at home may think Paul just described himself, not Grace. Grace offers Paul a hug, he refuses saying her touch "sickens" him. She asks to speak with him and Steve finally intercedes, suggesting she stop trying to engage Paul. She agrees, but wishes Paul wouldn't "look at me like you were going to kill me." Sticky/Sam & Michelle/Jo find the whole situation awkward.

The Dubai Pearl finally pulls up and the first six teams run aboard to find their clue; it's time for this leg's Detour!

In "Count 'Em Up," teams go to a spice market in Dubai and sort a bag of dried limes into a basket, counting the exact number of limes in the bag. When they give the correct number to a shopkeeper, he'll give them the next clue.

The other Detour is "Price 'Em Up." Here, teams visit a jewelry store and arrange seven pieces of jewelry in order from least to most expensive. This sounds like it wouldn't take too long to exhaust the possibilities, but all six of the teams at the Dubai Pearl decide they'll head to "Count 'Em Up." As they taxi to the market, Paul tells Steve if anyone gets in his way he'll "bowl them over." This becomes a little more relevant later! Grace decides, "the fact that I can kind of push his buttons, I kinda like it." Paul compares it all to high school, to being "bullied, picked on, excluded." It's a pity, he's made such an effort to be likeable, friendly and inclusive.

Sisters Lucy & Emilia finally depart the Pit Stop in last place, about 1.5 hours after Ross & Tarryn. Their taxi driver thinks the Dubai Pearl is a building; the sisters note that doesn't match their clue stating they have to "wait" for it, unless, Emilia suggests, "you wait for it to be built?"

Teams arrive in the market and begin counting limes; each team comes up with their own strategy. Shane & Andrew's style is to call their numbers out loudly, which distracts the other teams so much that some of them begin covering their ears. Michelle & Jo finish first but are told their number is wrong and have to start over. Sticky & Sam's taxi driver can't find the market, so they decide to try "Price 'Em Up." However, they have no clue how to arrange the jewelry in order, having little experience with jewelry. Joseph & Grace finish counting limes, but their number is wrong; so is Ross & Tarryn's. At the jewelry store, Sam asks for a jeweler's eye piece to magnify the jewelry and the shopkeeper complies, but he doesn't know what he's looking for so it doesn't help at all. James & Sarah finish counting, but get it wrong.

Paul, reminding us he's an accountant, claims his IQ is in "the top 2% of Australia" and gets the lime count correct on the first try! Paul & Steve are directed to travel on foot to a U-Turn board; unlike last leg's U-Turn voting, this is a traditional U-Turn, execept it's "Anonymous" ("Blind U-Turn" is the US title, but "Anonymous U-Turn" is more self-explanatory), meaning the team who uses it don't have to identify themselves. Paul has no idea which team to U-Turn since they have so many enemies! Shane & Andrew finish the lime counting soon after them, getting it right on the first try despite noting they're "not accountants" (a dig at Paul).

Shane & Andrew successfully beat Paul & Steve on foot to the U-Turn while the latter run back to their taxi for their bags and decide to U-Turn Paul & Steve, even though the latter are watching as they perform the deed, so it's hardly anonymous. They choose Paul & Steve because of Paul's rude behaviour towards Grace. Paul & Steve head to "Price 'Em Up." Paul claims being voted for a U-Turn for "social reasons" is "cowardice." He needs to acquaint himself with the history of U-Turns on the Amazing Race; half the time it's tactical, the other half is social, ie, "I need to U-Turn someone, doesn't matter who, might as well be the team I like the least." Shane & Andrew's next clue directs them to fly to Istanbul, Turkey! This is an interesting development, travelling to a new country halfway through the show; it reminds me of the format the US version originally used.

Lucy & Emilia notice Paul & Steve running to the 2nd Detour just as they pull in for "Count 'Em Up." Lucy calls out, "Hello, sexy boys!" but they don't hear her; good thing too, Lucy wouldn't want to be called a bully! On Michelle & Jo's second time through the limes they get the same number; they guess a different number which is two less than what they got and it turns out to be correct! At "Price 'Em Up," Steve guesses at the correct order of the jewelry and gets it right on the second attempt! They lose only about 10 minutes on the U-Turn! Sticky & Sam finally finish "Price 'Em Up" a little later. Ross & Tarryn's 2nd attempt on the limes is correct. Joseph/Grace, James/Sarah & Lucy/Emilia are still trying to count limes.

En route to the airport, Michelle & Jo pull out a schedule for Air Emirates and use their taxi driver's cell phone to book their flight in advance. This is a great example of them using their flight attendant skills. At "Count 'Em Up," Sarah begins yellling her numbers out as loud as she can, telling James it's a "tactic." James opines, "It's a dirty tactic." Joseph & Grace get the limes wrong for a second time and decide to switch Detours. At the airport, Paul & Steve actually beat Shane & Andrew there, despite the U-Turn! Oy, the cops and their bad luck with directions. The cops try to engage Paul & Steve, but the latter team ignores them, refusing to converse with them. Paul calls their behaviour "patronizing." Well, we've all got opinions. Shane & Andrew aren't bothered at all - they don't internalize their issues the way Paul does.

Grace makes an error at "Price 'Em Up," placing the items in the opposite order, much to Joseph's irritation. At "Count 'Em Up," James & Sarah get the limes wrong again so they switch Detours. By then, Grace has already figured out the correct order and they finish the Detour. Lucy & Emilia count up their limes correctly, apparently on the first attempt! They're pleased to be ahead of at least one team as Lucy correctly surmises, "Botox and James" wouldn't have finished the other Detour yet. James & Sarah aren't that far behind, however. They're a little down to realize they've gone from first place to last place. Fortunately for the teams in the rear, the flight to Istanbul is delayed, enabling all eight teams to wind up on the same flight.

In Instanbul, teams head via taxi to the Blue Mosque; interestingly, this mosque was originally a Christian church. Istanbul by night looks utterly gorgeous! As Lucy/Emilia, Joseph/Grace, Paul/Steve, Michelle/Jo & James/Sarah run around the mosque together, Paul runs into Grace and knocks her down. Unfortunately, they'd run ahead of the cameraman so we can't judge how this played out. Obviously, this makes Paul look very bad since the teams were already aware of the friction between he and Grace; he probably did it by accident, but no one wants to believe that. It's nice to see Emilia fling herself between Paul & Grace, trying to defuse the situation and see that Grace is okay. "Are you that threatened?" Grace asks Paul. Within the mosque, teams receive the next clue: it's Roadblock time!

In this Roadblock, one team member journeys to Hagia Sophia museum and must memorize the precise order in which eight markers appear around the walls. Then, journeying by foot to the Basilica Cistern, the team member wades into the water to a post with moveable symbols; when they arrange the symbols into the same order as the eight markers, they'll receive their next clue. They can only return to Hagia Sophia once to check their work, so there's little room for error. Sarah, Sam, Grace, Jo, Andrew, Paul, Ross & Lucy take the Roadblock for their respective teams. At Hagia Sophia, teams begin coming up with memorization tricks to remember the order.

Paul is the first team member to head into the Cistern and begin placing the symbols in order. Lucy arrives at Hagia Sophia but doesn't notice the markers and walks right through the building without figuring it out; eventually, all the contestants have figured out where the markers are and have begun trying to replicate the right sequence at the Cistern. Ross realizes upon his arrival at the Cistern that he's going to have to make a second trip to Hagia Sophia to get it right. Grace gets it wrong and goes back to check her work. Paul notes "With the stress of the competition, I have an ego, I've bragged that I'm good at this sort of thing I felt that I'd better live up to it or I'm just gonna embarrass myself silly." Astute viewers may notice this is not the first time in the Race Paul has said words to the effect of, "I need to prove myself," it was his reaction earlier this episode at the Detour! Each time, he's gone on to get the task right on the first attempt and this is no exception!

Paul is done the Roadblock and is directed to reach into a nearby well full of leeches and pull out a piece of rock instructing he & Steve to the next Pit Stop!

This leg's Pit Stop is the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and Grant is standing outside in the open. Paul & Steve begin to run to the Pit Stop, but Michelle & Jo finish soon after and head out.

Paul & Steve arrive at the Pit Stop and are rewarded with first place! They've seemingly finally earned some bragging rights! Their prize is a trip to the Australian Rally Championship, sponsored by Honda. Boy, and I thought the trip to New Zealand didn't sound very exotic! Michelle & Jo take 2nd place.

Back at the Roadblock, Lucy, Sam, Ross & Andrew are all having trouble and have to revisit Hagia Sophia. Grace finally gets the Roadblock, but Sam finishes right after her. Andrew gets the Roadblock a little later. Sticky & Sam overtake Joseph & Grace en route to the Pit Stop, receiving 3rd & 4th place, respectively. Shane & Andrew are 5th.

Lucy, Ross & Sarah have now each used up their second visit to Hagia Sophia and still can't get the sequence correct, so they're left guessing at the right order. James & Sarah decide they have just one hope: give up and take a four-hour penalty, gambling at least one other team will also take the penalty. James & Sarah head to the Pit Stop, where Grant assigns them their four-hour penalty, which they wait out on a park bench.

Soon after James & Sarah's departure, Lucy finishes the Roadblock through some clever guessing! They're "devasatated" to leave their friends Ross & Tarryn behind. Consequently, Lucy & Emilia are rewarded with 6th place, their best finish yet!

Ross gives up on the Roadblock so he and Tarryn decide to take the penalty; Ross is crest-fallen at giving up. At the Pit Stop, Grant checks in James & Sarah as team number 7; Ross & Tarryn receive their penalty, but Grant informs them this is a non-elimination leg! James & Sarah exchange hugs with Ross & Tarryn, which is great to see. Grant warns Ross & Tarryn on the next leg they'll have to come in 1st place or suffer a 30 minute penalty. This was the penalty used last season on Amazing Race: Australia's non-elimination legs.

Thoughts on the 8 remaining teams:

  1. Paul & Steve: They're finally demonstrating real strength, overcoming a minor U-Turn while claiming first place. However, they've isolated themselves from every other team on the Race. Is that a problem, given that they've beaten two U-Turns? It's hard to guess; I don't like Paul, but he makes this season more interesting to watch as he renders everything more incindiary.
  2. Michelle & Jo: They're still doing quite well, although they've never won the first place finish I feel they deserve. It's a pity their forward-thinking about flights didn't pay off in this leg, but perhaps the same maneuver will aid them in the future.
  3. Sticky & Sam: They seemed to be in a better state this leg than last. It's nice to see them spending a little time fraternizing with other teams - they seem to be making friends, albeit not alliances.
  4. Joseph & Grace: Grace antagonizing Paul was needless, but ultimately harmless to her; if it throws Paul off his game, then it's totally worth it - we've seen teams do much worse things in the US Amazing Race then simply call out "read your clue!"
  5. Shane & Andrew: They actually did rather well this leg, only getting lost at times when it didn't matter. They're agreeable enough fellows, they just aren't as fast on their feet as other teams.
  6. Lucy & Emilia: Each leg has been their best performance yet! It's great to see them hanging in, even doing better than 2nd last this time! Emilia's concern for Grace was nice to see and I love how they still try to keep a sense of humour about the Race.
  7. James & Sarah: They took a huge tumble from first to near-last; the four-hour penalty might really injure them on the next leg - then again, it might not hurt them at all. It was interesting to see them being friendly to Ross & Tarryn when I hadn't noticed them making friends on earlier legs.
  8. Ross & Tarryn: They sadly continued their tumble downward from last leg; I hope they can overcome all the barriers in their path, but with a four-hour penalty and being almost certain to endure another half hour penalty at the next Pit Stop, the outlook isn't good for them. They were one of the strongest teams, but they've had a run of rotten luck.

Next episode: The Race remains in Turkey as teams rub oil on each other and perform with whirling dervishes. Also, one of the twins takes a bad fall!

I backed a successful project; why am I not happy?

The Hero Initiative has just announced they were able to pay for a funeral for recently-deceased comic book author Robert Washington III, who died in poverty; 365 industry professionals and fans contributed to this cause - I was one of them.

I was not actually a fan of Washington's work; I learned about him and his plight when I bought this year's Hero Initiative fundraiser Hero Comics, which featured a one-page story written by him about how he'd been unable to sustain a career in comics and was living hand-to-mouth.

When friends first began to hear I'd been working in the comic book industry they would ask me if I was going to quit my "day job" and work in comics full-time. I always had to carefully respond no, because I knew whether in freelance or even staff positions, comics have more people who want into the industry than the industry could ever sustain. Turnover is quick and ruthless; I can still recall how shocking it seemed circa '99 when Herb Trimpe went public about how he'd been let go from Marvel and struggled to find a new occupation for himself. The internet has made stories such as Trimpe's common place.

None of which deterred me from supporting the fundraising for Washington's funeral. As I've indicated before on this blog, I now care more about the people who make comics than I do the comics themselves. Robert Washington III was the most recent tragedy of the industry - there will be others. It's not simply that people who toiled for years in the industry may die as nobodies, it's that they die as nobodies who can't afford a coffin.

"If I had it to do over again, I'd cut my hands off." - Wally Wood, one of the industry's all-time greatest talents; when faced with declining health, he committed suicide.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bitter Fruit#9: "Menace of Radiation Rogue!"

Our latest story from Archie's 1965 Shadow series seems to be missing an article in its title; "the Radiation Rogue," surely?

As the cover demonstrates, the Shadow#5 features a new villain! Hooray! ...Also, the fifth issue running to feature Shiwan Khan. Bleh. There's no rule stating the Shadow has to fight Shiwan Khan all the time, surely? Glancing at the new villain we see... Moltar? No, he wouldn't be created for another year. Radioactive Man? Possibly - he already existed, although I suspect he wasn't the first radioactive super villain in history.
In this very busy splash page, a lot of information is dumped in our laps. Shiwan Khan has employed the Radiation Rogue, who demonstrates his powers to kill a man-eating plant, while imagining himself doing the same to the Shadow. Radiation Rogue knows he'll die in a few days from radiation poisoning, but on the bright side, Shiwan Khan will be ruler of the world! Boy, he must really like the ol' Khanster.
Our story begins in earnest at Lamont Cranston's townhouse. We follow him around his home as he rises from bed and eats breakfast while Shrevy waits on him (Shrevy is a butler-chauffeur?). Entering his sound-proof Survival-Course Room, Lamont becomes the Shadow and goes on a tour of the survival course, dodging automated machine guns and arrows. A noose drops from the ceiling and tries to strangle him, but he uses the razor-sharp blade on his watch to sever the rope. Wait, since when has he had a razor-sharp blade inside his watch? And since when has the Shadow worn his watch on the outside of his glove? As of page 3, panel 4, I suppose.
The last challenge is a lion, which the Shadow defeats by hypnotizing it. Since the Survival-Course Room is kept secret from all of Lamont's staff and friends (no one knows he's the Shadow for no good reason), one wonders who takes care of the lion when Lamont's out of town. Finished with his morning "danger tonic," Lamont goes to work in his office alongside his secretary, Margo Lane. His work includes sending a check to a cancer fund and a series of checks to the widow of a heroic police officer. It's nice to find Lamont's business being charitable for a change.
"Thousands of miles away, on the island kingdom stronghold of the cruelly cunning tyrant Shiwan Khan..." Since when has Khan had this island? Or a kingdom? Shiwan examines a portrait of his ancestor Genghis Khan and remarks how Genghis' pillaging and looting was a "great inspiration" to him. Suddenly, the Shadow enters the room and attacks Shiwan, but Khan steps on a hidden trigger which causes the floor tile the Shadow is standing on to become a spring, vaulting the Shadow out of the castle. However, it turns out this isn't the Shadow at all, but Yukal Torrg, one of Khan's followers who was ordered to test Shiwan's resources against an attack from the Shadow. Shiwan isn't ready to destroy the Shadow yet, but thinks he'll get started by killing Lamont Cranston. Poor Shiwan! Always in neutral, never in first gear.
Khan orders his hireling Hans Gerling to fire an ICBM at Lamont Cranston's townhouse. Geez, Khan doesn't indulge in such overkill, usually adopting complicated plots to perform his assassinations. Hans is in a hurry to attach the ICBM's atomic warhead and is exposed to a deadly dose of radiation. To save his life, he quickly makes a serum which will keep him alive for a few more days; wow, the things you can when you're motivated! He soon notices his presence causes plants to wilt and die, so he dons a radiation-proof suit.
Just as Shiwan is readying to fire the ICBM, Yukal attacks him from behind with a dagger. Shiwan stuns Yukal with tear gas and demands an explanation; Yukal simply wanted to rule the world in Shiwan's stead. Shiwan orders his loyal men to carry Yukal away for a later punishment, then launches the ICBM.
At Lamont's townhouse, while continuing to work Lamont reminisces about the time he was summoned to "a meeting at the secret hollowed-out mountain sanctum of C.H.I.E.F.... the abbreviation for Command Headquarters, International Espionage Forces..." All of a sudden this series has become a Nick Fury rip-off! In the flashback, Lamont is known as "Zero-11," because he doesn't have enough identities, I suppose.
At this point, the story is really beginning to pile up and... man, this is a chore. Just as the conference begins, suddenly a gang of Shiwan Khan's men "got past our security measures, somehow! We'll be massacred!" one official intones. "How true!" Khan's men declare. Lamont ducks under the table to change his costume, because obviously Khan's men aren't going to pull the triggers on their automatic weapons within the time it takes for him to switch clothing and it's not as though his powers allow him to hypnotize people so they wouldn't be able to tell who he is and whether he's wearing a costume or not. Therefore, the Shadow leaps out from under the table and attacks Khan's men, then hypnotizes them so they think he's a "shadow demon." Khan's men were so terrified they declared they'd serve the Shadow from then on instead. Meanwhile, in the present, the ICBM is still en route to Lamont's townhouse.
Suddenly, the ICBM falls out of the sky and crashes into the ocean. One wonders why it was so important to rush the launch of the ICBM within a few minutes if there was no follow-up plan. The Shadow lives because his enemies are idiots! Shiwan is outraged and runs to Hans to kill him, only to discover Hans wearing his radiation-proof costume. Hans demonstrates his powers by letting a giant carnivorous plant grab him, then removes his glove and kills the plant with his touch. Khan declares with his power, Hans could murder the Shadow and become notorious, attaining fame which will endure ages after his death. Hans likes the idea and Khan dubs him "Radiation Rogue." Soon, Radiation Rogue is being ferried via submarine to the USA with Shiwan; Shiwan will kill Lamont, Radiation Rogue will kill the Shadow.
We move now to part 2: "the Sinister Triumph of Shiwan Khan." Lamont goes sunbathing on the roof of his townhouse, when a carrier pigeon arrives with a message from C.H.I.E.F. (I guess Lamont is an agent of C.H.I.E.F. now instead of the Secret Service?) The message for Zero-11 informs him an attempt will be made on the lives of Lamont and the Shadow but, "That is all we know!" Wow, intelligence gathering is weird. Lamont tries not to let this bother him as he dresses up for a meeting of the board of directors at the Cranston Manhattan Bank (Lamont owns a bank now?). However, when he enters his elevator he finds a man who looks just like him; Lamont's double knocks him out and ties him up, then enters Lamont's Rolls Royce, fooling Shrevy.
Via flashback, we learn this man is "Bugs" Burke, a "small-time hood" who looks like Lamont Cranston. Hey, we've all got a double, right? But does this story really need a third villain? Or another character pretending to be Lamont (after Yukal impersonated the Shadow)? Bugs intends to rob Cranston's bank while posing as its owner. While Bugs attends Lamont's meeting, Lamont gets out of the ropes with the razor blade in his watch. So, now we understand why it was introduced earlier.
At the bank, Bugs draws his gun on the board of directors, but then they unmask themselves as Shiwan Khan and his men. Must there really be so many alternate identities? Bugs recognizes Shiwan Khan and quickly explains who he really is, but Shiwan doubts his story and orders his men to throw Bugs out of the window. However, Lamont sees this drama unfolding from the top of the roof using his "transistorized electronic eavesdropper device." Wow, just like in Iron Man! Lamont becomes the Shadow and fortunately for Bugs, Shiwan Khan's men don't throw him out the window in the time it takes for Lamont to switch clothes then leap into the office.
The Shadow attacks Shiwan's men and creates a terrific hallucination, causing the men to think "A terrible shadow-porcupine-man" is shooting quills at them. Far out! Shiwan bugs out of the bank with Bugs, climbing aboard a helicopter. The Shadow isn't able to hypnotize Shiwan Khan because he isn't looking at him. Leaving Shiwan's men for the police, the Shadow exits and returns to Lamont's townhouse. Meanwhile, Radiation Rogue tests out his powers by destroying some bricks with a blast of radiation.
Shiwan Khan brings Bugs back to his submarine, but when he checks his fingerprints he discovers Bugs' story is true: he isn't Lamont Cranston. Bugs asks to be Shiwan's partner, but Khan refuses and kicks him into the water; Bugs swims to the nearby shore. Shiwan still hopes Radiation Rogue will finish off the Shadow, but intends to steal all the credit for the Shadow's death.
At a gymnasium, Radiation Rogue decides he needs to test his power some more because... I guess we haven't seen him test his powers enough times yet? He picks a fight with three big wrestlers and we see he can jump "like a kangaroo" and weaken his foes with radiation. Then he steals the wrestlers' trophies and throws them in the trash. Oh no you didn't! He leaves a message to the wrestlers to tell the Shadow he wants to meet him at midnight "at a very appropriate spot."
For once, we have an issue of the Shadow which doesn't contain a second feature; instead, we carry into part 3: "Doom Stalks the Shadow!" Radiation Rogue wanders into a construction site and dislodges some girders, then stuns some workers and gives them the same message he gave the wrestlers. He also picks their pockets, but throws their wallets into the sewer. Oh no you didn't!
Lamont Cranston sees the newspaper headlines about Radiation Rogue and believes the "appropriate spot" must be "the new experimental nuclear power plant being built out in the hinterlands." Sure, why not? At midnight, the Shadow enters the plant and calls out for Radiation Rogue to face him. Radiation Rogue suggests they make a deal: he'll sell out Shiwan Khan to the Shadow. The Shadow likes the sound of this so Radiation Rogue offers to shake his hand (removing his glove). Like a fool, the Shadow shakes his hand and is instantly overwhelmed by the villain's radiation; the Shadow collapses to the ground as Radiation Rogue increases his dosage. To save himself, the Shadow causes Radiation Rogue to hallucinate so he sees multiple Shadows; melting into the shadows, the Shadow escapes Radiation Rogue, then hypnotizes the villain. He orders Radiation Rogue to kill Shiwan Khan; Radiation Rogue takes the Shadow with him as they journey to a nearby island where Khan waits at an abandoned prison.
Radiation Rogue attacks Shiwan Khan, but his bolts of radioactivity cause a wall to topple over and crush him. The Shadow hypnotizes Shiwan then goes to check the rubble to see if Radiation Rogue survived, but, hilariously, between panels Shiwan Khan escapes back to his submarine, explaining he painted eyes on his eyelids to trick the Shadow into thinking he hypnotizing him. The Shadow is left to return to the mainland, wondering if Radiation Rogue is still alive. Um, isn't that the reason why you stopped to check the debris? Ah, well. The USA's greatest secret agent, ladies and gentlemen!

Grand Comics Database again attributes this comic to Jerry Siegel & Paul Reinman, with Reinman drawing the cover. This is seriously beneath Siegel's capabilities, given what he was capable of over at DC Comics of the 1960s. It suggests Siegel's editors at DC had a firm hand to help shape the stories, but Archie doesn't seem to have cared too much about Siegel's efforts on the Shadow. Heck, it's only a children's licensed property, after all! Here, we see Siegel's trying to make the series a little more like the Man From U.N.C.L.E. (via C.H.I.E.F.), which isn't too drastic a step since the series premise is that Lamont is a secret agent. I was surprised to find this actually predates the more popular super hero/secret agent mash-up comics of 1965, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents! The Shadow predicted the next big trend! Radiation Rogue also provides a very Marvel-like super villain. Siegel seemed to have the desire to write something worthy of Marvel, but at best this comic is derivative; at worst, it's insultingly dumb. There's no seeming logic or even spectacle behind this story, just an apparent effort to crank out page after page post haste. Reinman did what he could, but this series needed a Kirby or Wood at its helm.

This issue also features the text story "the Adventure of the Shadow" chapter five. This continues the story of how the Shadow saved the life of Weston of the Secret Service, only we learn Weston sometimes aids C.H.I.E.F. and is investigating a threat to that organization. I suspect this is going to lead to the first flashback from this issue, so at least the series is finding a narrative for itself.

Next time: Bitter Fruit brings you the Shadow#6!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-04 recap

This week's Amazing Race: Australia features some serious shuffling amongst the teams as the tasks, self-navigation and various errors result in the teams' order being remarkably fluid; this is the most Amazing Race-esque episode of the season thus far!

We resume in Jaipur, India as front-running flatmates Sitcky & Sam are directed to fly to Dubai, but they'll have head back to Delhi to book their flight. So, last leg's relocation to Jaipur was done just to mess with the teams, eh? Perhaps the producers did this to give their staff time to set up tasks in Dubai before the teams' arrivals. Before teams can depart, they have to vote for this leg's U-Turn. This is a little odd to fans of the US' Amazing Race (or even people who saw last season's Australia), but evidently this version of the U-Turn was introduced on Amazing Race: Israel. Each team chooses who's being U-Turned at the beginning of the leg and the team with the most votes will find out they've been U-Turned after the leg's Detour; the U-Turned team will have to perform both Detour tasks before they can continue. For those of you not familiar with the standard version, normally the U-Turn is placed directly after the Detour and the first team there can choose to U-Turn anyone behind them, but can only use the U-Turn once per Race.

Sticky & Sam find this an easy choice: they pick workmates Paul & Steve, who have not been making any friends amongst the other teams (and consider Sticky & Sam "weaker" than them, despite Sticky & Sam finishing ahead of them on every leg thus far). Sam explains the choice came down to "we just don't like them." As they head to a train station to return to Delhi, father/daughter team Ross & Tarryn begin the leg and vote against Paul & Steve. Twin sisters Michelle & Jo leave next and vote for Paul & Steve. Engaged couple Kym & Donna leave next and easily choose "the boffheads" for their U-Turn vote. "Steve and Paul were the best choice strategically, but we chose them out of spite." Kym explains. Paul & Steve leave next and vote against Sticky & Sam, probably hoping other teams will feel threatened by them since Sticky & Sam have won 2 legs. Immediately after them, police officers Shane & Andrew vote for Paul & Steve, having decided earlier in the Race that when the U-Turn came up, Paul & Steve were the team to pick. See, this is why you aren't supposed to go out of your way in antagonizing other teams.

Paul explains his philosophy this leg is "business like" and that "nice people finish last," which is why businessmen are so universally beloved. If Paul is right, then why are Ross/Tarryn & Sticky/Sam the teams who've won the legs so far? And why are Paul/Steve always in the middle or back of the pack? Oh, I get it... Paul & Steve are nice guys! It's everyone who's messed up! At the train station, Paul is a tough negotiator with his taxi driver, yelling at him; Shane & Andrew stand nearby, amused by the altercation. Shane does his Paul impression, which is pretty funny. Paul also demonstrates his nice guy persona by flipping off Shane for ribbing him. Paul dishes it out, but he can't... actually, he doesn't dish out very well either.

Meanwhile, Kym & Donna's taxi driver asks for what sounds like an outrageous fare; 1,000! I assume rupees, which would be a pretty decent fare ($18 CDN), but Kym & Donna are virtually out of money after paying the taxi; was that $1,000 USD? Back at the Pit Stop, dating couple James/Sarah & siblings Joseph/Grace depart. Joseph & Grace vote for Paul & Steve: "Steve we have no issue with, but Paul? He's actually playing the game too hard and he's not playing the game right. He's actually very selfish and everything's about him." So, Paul's strategy of letting Steve be the team's nice guy as a front for him seems to be working; pity he couldn't actually camoflauge himself behind Steve. James & Sarah vote for sisters Lucy & Emilia because they're the only team behind them. This would be a fine strategy in a regular Amazing Race U-Turn, but doesn't make as much sense here. Lucy & Emilia leave next and vote to U-Turn Shane & Andrew, believing they're strong enough to survive a U-Turn; they hope the cops will consider it a compliment.

All nine teams wind up on the same train to Delhi, but when the train lands, they all race off in taxis to the airport and get split up. Frantic airplane bookings ensue as Michelle/Jo, Sticky/Sam, Joseph/Grace, James/Sarah, Shane/Andrew & Kym/Donna wind up on the first flight. Paul/Steve, Ross/Tarryn & Lucy/Emilia take a different flight which connects through Mumbai and it's not clear to me why; was the first flight booked solid? Did they think this flight would arrive sooner? Are they not familiar with how many teams in Amazing Race history have been eliminated because they took a connecting flight while everyone else went direct? Steve helps get Ross/Tarryn & Lucy/Emilia on the same flight, which frustrates Paul. "It's just not thinking tactically." Paul claims. Evidently having allies - or ensuring you aren't the only team on a flight which is about to put you in last place - isn't considered "tactics." Shape up, Steve!

In Dubai, teams find marked cars for them to drive, along with their next clues: it's Detour time! Both Detour locations are out in the Al Faqa desert; the first is "Dune Bash," which requires teams to drive a dune buggy through a 10 km course.

"Camel Dash" requires both team members to ride on the back of a camel and locate four different posts with colored flags; when all the flags have been collected, the task will be completed. Joseph & Grace leave the airport in first place with Joseph driving; Joseph isn't used to driving a car with the steering wheel on the left. I wonder if he turns on his windshield wipers a lot? They turn out to have a major advantage because Grace speaks a little Arabic and obtains good directions to the desert. Grace is also ecstatic to see the desert and eager to tackle the dune buggy challenge.

Teams struggle quite a bit navigating their way out of Dubai and toward Al Faqa; they also struggle in pronouncing "Faqa," in ways you might suppose. Joseph & Grace start "Dune Bash" with Joseph driving the buggy. Michelle & Jo attempt "Camel Dash," only to find the camel is very uncooperative. After several attempts to make the camel move, only for the camel to repeatedly get up, turn around and sit down again, they decide to switch Detours. Joseph & Grace accidentally get bogged down when Grace accidentally hits the gear shift with her thigh; Grace knows nothing about getting the buggy out of the sand so Joseph sets to work alone; Grace makes sand angels.

Kym & Donna begin "Dune Bash," followed by Michelle & Jo, but the twins are soon bogged down in the sand. A car pulls Joseph & Grace's buggy out of the sand as Grace admonishes her brother: "No more showing off, there's no one to show off to. There's no hot girls around here, all right? Well, there is one, but I'm your sister, doesn't really work." Joseph & Grace finish the course, soon followed by Kym & Donna. The next clue directs teams to visit the U-Turn wall and see which team has been U-Turned, then carry on back to Dubai to the Wild Wadi Water Park.

Joseph & Grace learn they've successfully U-Turned Paul & Steve. Joseph sums up Paul thusly: "Paul is not a team player he's playing the game wrong, Paul is just like, I'm doing this, he doesn't help anyone, it's a poor game strategy and that's why he's on the U-Turn board." Kym & Donna are pleased to see Paul & Steve have been U-Turned.

Shane & Andrew try the "Camel Dash" Detour, but the camel won't cooperate with them either. Sticky & Sam have begun "Dune Bash" with Sam driving and pass Michelle & Jo, who are still bogged down, but don't stop to help them. Soon after, Sticky & Sam wind up in the sand, nearly rolling down a hill! James & Sarah begin "Dune Bash" with James driving because Sarah is a little nervous; Sarah freaks out and starts pawing at James' face, tearing at his goggles as he drives; "That did not help!" James explains.

The second flight has only just arrived and the last three teams set out to find Al Faqa. Shane & Andrew finally give up on "Camel Dash" and switch Detours. Michelle & Jo get their buggy back in motion and soon pass Sticky & Sam. "Karma, karma, karma!" the sisters declare, as Racers are wont to. Michelle & Jo finish the Detour.

At the Wild Wadi Water Park, teams have to take turns riding a boogie board against the wave machine to retrieve their clue from the end of the pool. Joseph & Grace quickly gain their clue and are directed to the Meydan Racecourse.

Elsewhere, Kym & Donna have become terribly lost and start getting upset with each other. Suddenly, Kym strikes the car against the curb, giving himself a flat!

Shane & Andrew begin "Dune Bash," just as Sticky & Sam are pulled out of the sand by production. However, Sticky & Sam are very quickly bogged down again and start arguing with each other; the important thing is to assign blame! James & Sarah finish the Detour. In Dubai, Kym is replacing his tire and notes the accident happened because he wasn't used to driving on the right. Being without any money, they can't buy a map to help them locate the Wild Wadi Water Park.

Michelle & Jo retrieve their clue from the Wild Wadi Water Park, just as Joseph & Grace arrive at Meydan Racecourse. Here, they have to pick a winning horse from the next horse race. If they pick a winner, they'll receive their next clue; otherwise, they have to wait for the next race which won't be for 45 minutes! This is a pretty terrible punishment to inflict on teams over something which is basically a luck challenge. If the racing day ends before teams can pick a winner, they'll have to carry themselves around the racetrack for their next clue. Joseph & Grace have no idea how to pick a winning horse and don't get it on the first race.

Shane & Andrew finish the Detour, just as Paul/Steve, Ross/Tarryn & Lucy/Emilia are beginning "Dune Bash." Emilia, as previously established, has only just recently learned how to operate manual drive; they're quickly bogged down in sand, but unlike every other team, burst into laughter at the situation. Sticky & Sam get out of the sand again and this time Sticky drives; they soon finish the Detour and continue on to Wild Wadi Water Park. At the Park, James retrieves his clue for Sarah. At the Racetrack, Michelle & Jo put their hair extensions in, hoping to put on a good appearance at the track, considering themselves "under-dressed." Michelle & Jo choose horses based on whether they're wearing pink. The second horse race begins, but neither Joseph/Grace nor Michelle/Jo pick a winner.

Paul/Steve & Ross/Tarryn finish "Dune Bash." Paul & Steve have a premonition they'll be in for at the U-Turn board; seeing they're the U-Turned team, Paul declares it a "moment of predictable truth." He also believes "I would've almost felt insulted if it wasn't us. I'd be like, 'shouldn't we be the threat?'" They have to begin "Camel Dash." Meanwhile, Lucy & Emilia keep getting bogged down.

Paul & Steve have the same problem with camels every other team has had; the only difference is, they can't quit the task. They manage to collect three flags on a single trip, only for their camel to head back to the start before they could obtain the fourth flag. At Wild Wadi Water Park, Sticky and Shane collect clues for their teams. At the racetrack, James & Sarah begin the task, with Sarah choosing a horse at random. In the third race, none of the three waiting teams pick a winner. At "Camel Dash," Paul & Steve collect their fourth flag and depart. Lucy & Emilia finally finish "Dune Bash" and carry on.

At Wild Wadi Water Park, Tarryn collects their clue, but Ross goes after the clue anyway because he's "a big kid." Shane & Andrew get a bit lost again, but meet a policeman on the freeway and ask him for help; he offers to lead them to Meydan Racecourse. Elsewhere, Ross & Tarryn are becoming lost; Kym & Donna are already truly lost and Kym starts talking about quitting the Race. Kym is especially frustrated at how the tension of getting lost is causing he and Donna to become cross with each other.

At the Racecourse, Sticky & Sam reveal they're big horse racing fans. Shane & Andrew arrive so the other four teams crowd them and start talking to them, hoping to distract them long enough that they don't get to choose a horse in the fourth race. However, Shane & Andrew do eventually break away from the others and pick their horse. Sticky/Sam, Joseph/Grace & James/Sarah all pick the same horse and it comes in, proving Sticky & Sam's credentials! They receive their next clue, directing them to the next Pit Stop: Four Points hotel rooftop helipad! Michelle/Jo & Shane/Andrew are left at the track.

As they reach their car, Joseph & Grace discover they can't start the motor; Joseph accidentally left the lights on and drained the battery. He realizes they've probably lost out on 1st & 2nd place. It's now a race between James/Sarah & Sticky/Sam. At Wild Wadi Water Park, Paul collects the clue for Steve and Emilia for Lucy.

Ross & Tarryn are still lost in traffic; Steve asks Paul if they could hire a taxi to lead them to the racetrack, but Paul thinks it's against the rules. Actually, it's not against the rules to follow a cab unless the clue states it's against the rules; so long as teams are driving their own vehicles, they're allowed to hire cabs. Paul refuses to ask people for directions, frustrating Steve. "Do you want to stay in it or not?" Steve asks. At this point I do feel for Steve, who seems much more grounded than his teammate.

At the racecourse parking lot, Grace talks a local into jump starting her car; she and Joseph continue to the Pit Stop. On the fifth race, Michelle & Jo pick a winning horse and depart, leaving Shane & Andrew behind. At the Four Points hotel, James & Sarah reach the roof first and claim first place, which is quite an achievement! Grant rewards them with a trip to Queenstown, New Zealand sponsored by Pump water and worth $10,000. I don't think trips to New Zealand are as exotic for Australians as for US citizens, but I don't think anyone would complain about a $10,000 trip. Sticky & Sam claim 2nd place.

Shane & Andrew fail to pick a winner on the sixth and final race, so Andrew has to ride Shane around the track. At the Pit Stop, Joseph/Grace are in 3rd, Michelle/Jo in 4th. Back at the track, Shane carries Andrew on his back; "This is why we're good mates, true?" Shane remarks. It's only 200 meters; they finish the run and head to the Pit Stop. The other four teams are still lost in Dubai.

Lucy & Emilia drive into a private location by mistake and are startled when men with machine guns run up to their vehicle! It turns out they've wandered into the royal palace grounds (you'd think there'd be locked gate!); police escort them to the nearest station and the sisters are very unnerved, being unable to communicate with the police in English. They worry that they're going to be arrested. Even in the midst of this, the sisters keep their spirits up.

Ross & Tarryn arrive at the track to find the races are over; Ross carries Tarryn on his back around the track, just as Paul & Steve arrive. As they wrap things up and head to the Pit Stop, Paul & Steve arrive. Steve rides Paul around the track and for once, Paul displays his sense of humor: "[Steve] was getting a bit enthusiastic because he knows he'll never get to do that ever again on me." They head to the Pit Stop. Shane & Andrew claim 5th place at the Pit Stop, their best finish yet!

The police let Lucy & Emilia depart with just a warning. Paul & Steve somehow get ahead of Ross & Tarryn and claim 6th place at the Pit Stop; they're genuinely surprised to have finished so relatively high. Ross & Tarryn are 7th. At the track, Lucy carries Emilia, with no small effort. "I'm sorry I ate so much ice cream as a child." Emilia offers. Lucy opens their next clue: "Detour!" she jokes; the sisters head to the Pit Stop, where Grant gives them 8th place, stunning them nigh-speechless.

With 8 teams checked in, Grant goes looking for Kym & Donna, who are lying in the back of their car, still lost in Dubai. Grant informs them all the other teams have checked in and eliminates them in the field. Donna notes with just $5 to buy a map, they would have been able to stay in the Race. "Race home to bed!" Donna declares, sounding a little relieved to be rescued from being lost in Dubai. It's all a little reminiscent of last season, when Grant had to eliminate "oldster" couple Dave & Kelly in the field, whom he found sleeping in the back of their car.

It's a pity to see Kym & Donna eliminated, especially when it's so needless. We didn't see all of their efforts to locate the racetrack, but there are always options. Find a post office; find a police officer; find a hotel; ask a taxi driver for directions (with the understanding you can't pay him); ask someone with a phone to look it up online or dial information. In an area of the world as advanced as Dubai, you shouldn't be forced to "give up." It looks as though Kym & Donna simply burned out earlier than most teams.

Thoughts on the remaining eight teams:

  1. James & Sarah: I had these two earmarked for an early elimination, but they made very few mistakes this leg and performed well in the tasks; I still can't see them lasting to the end, but I always seem to feel that way about fiery couples.
  2. Sticky & Sam: They faltered a little this leg, but the racetrack task gave them a neat advantage; it's good to see them persevering.
  3. Joseph & Grace: These two are the other big surprise this leg, moving way up to the front thanks to Grace's language skills and a good series of performances, faltering at the end only because of their car troubles. These two might do better than I supposed and I'd be fine with that; Grace has a fun, light hearted attitude about the Race that's entertaining to watch.
  4. Michelle & Jo: Still holding near the top of the Race, these two continue to be one of the strongest teams. I hope to see them claim a first place finish eventually, it's high time!
  5. Shane & Andrew: They continue to struggle with navigation, but they're aware it's their biggest problem and took the right steps to fix it. Their new problem seems to be how other teams have realized how to push their buttons - they're a bit too friendly and gullible where the competition's concerned.
  6. Paul & Steve: Paul is odious, but since his team has never even made the top three, I'm not that upset at their continued survival. Steve seems like a fine person; he should really rein in Paul though.
  7. Ross & Tarryn: After being a top team for three legs, these two lost a lot of ground thanks to their airline flight and somehow losing ground going to and from the racetrack. I hope they recover, they're one of the most pleasant teams on the Race.
  8. Lucy & Emilia: Wow, these two; they're not the strongest, not by far and yet circumstances keep enabling them to keep racing. I'm totally fine with this: may they last to the end! They laugh when things go wrong and seem to be enjoying the locales they visit. They'd be the perfect Amazing Race team if only they were competitive...

Next episode: Scheduled for Monday! The advertisement doesn't really hint at what's to come, but it does take a moment to make fun of Shane & Andrew's poor navigation skills and invokes Sarah's footwear with "get your hunners on!" Will "hunners" be the next big fashion craze in Australia? Tune in next week!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-03 recap

The latest episode of Amazing Race: Australia brings a bit of fussin', a bit of feudin' and only a bit of jockeying for positions.

As the episode opens, host Grant Bowler explains how the Pit Stop in New Delhi, India was relocated to Jaipur, a 5 hour bus ride away. I certainly hope the 5 hour trip wasn't subtracted from the Racers' 12 hour Pit Stop! The US Amazing Race has moved Pit Stops in the past, but either because of a storm (season 1) or the Pit Stop itself was a mobile location (season 15's ferry).

Flatmates Sticky & Sam resume the Race in Jaipur at 9:00 AM; it's interesting to note we later learn the team in last place is leaving at 10:04, so the teams are within an hour of each other. It's a very tight Race at this point, which is probably how the producers prefer it. Sticky & Sam's first clue directs them to travel by rickshaw to the Red Elephant Temple; teams are given just $35 for this leg.

Sticky: "I'd say there's going to be elephants there."

Sam: "Red ones?"

Twin sisters Michelle & Jo depart the Pit Stop 22 minutes after Sticky & Sam; however, because their rickshaw driver gets a little lost, Michelle & Jo pull ahead. Elsewhere, hairdressers Sue & Teresa and father/daughter Ross & Tarryn depart the Pit Stop at the same time. At the Red Elephant Temple, Michelle & Jo arrive first and a priest gives them their next clue; it's Roadblock time! This marks the first Roadblock of the season!

In this Roadblock (very similar to one from season 10 in the US version), one team member must head to a driving school and receive instructions on how to operate in local traffic; then they must drive a taxi through the streets (with their teammate in the backseat) while an instructor rides shotgun and judges their performance. If the instructor deems their driving satisfactory, they'll receive their next clue. Michelle declares she'll do the Roadblock and the twins head to the Bharat Driving and Maintenance School. Jo remarks "Oh my God. She's only just learned to drive two weeks ago!" Sticky & Sam arrive at the temple next and Sticky decides to take the Roadblock; Sue/Teresa & Ross/Tarryn arrive next and Sue & Ross choose to take the Roadblock for their respective teams.

Back at the Pit Stop, engaged couple Kym/Donna & workmates Paul/Steve are just leaving. Paul remarks: "I am here to win at all costs, however, I wouldn't want the other teams to know that. That sort of information could actually be to our detriment." Cut to Kym declaring, "Paul and Steve had made it quite clear and obvious they're prepared to step on anyone that got in their way." Ha! I love it when the editors undermine the Racers' own conceits and Paul is surely one conceited player; so far Paul has made fun of Sticky/Sam, Michelle/Jo, Lucy/Emilia, Shane/Andrew & Kym/Donna to the cameras; I have to assume the other teams have picked up on those bad vibes, regardless of how carefully he may be measuring his words in face-to-face communications.

As police officers Shane & Andrew leave in 7th place they note they've been doing very well on the challenges, but they've had a lot of trouble with the travel side of the Race, particularly with taxis; it's good to see they're well aware of their shortcomings. At the temple, Donna tells Kym to take the Roadblock, while Steve volunteers Paul for his team. Shane & Andrew's rickshaw driver gets lost on the way to the temple... par for the course, eh?

Back at the Pit Stop, brother/sister Joseph/Grace & dating couple James/Sarah depart at about the same time; we haven't heard much about Joseph & Grace thus far, but Joseph talks a little about how they're doing, opining their relationship as siblings is actually improving on the Race because of how important it is for them to communicate. The two teams' rickshaws run almost neck and neck, so Sarah uses her "boozies" (seriously, Australia?) to distract Joseph & Grace's driver, waving her cleavage out the window of she & James' rickshaw in the hopes of slowing him down. Grace is appalled and tries to strike back by pointing at her own chest: "These are real! These are real!" Grace also claims Sarah is making their driver vomit; it's hard to tell how much of this is good-natured ribbing and how much might be actual animosity between the two teams.

Sisters Lucy & Emilia depart at 10:04 AM in last place; they declare they're going to show "a really positive attitude and show you can have a good time and be nice." Man, these two are fast becoming my favourite team, which I did not expect! At the driving school, Michelle begins her training. The instructor is a little humourous in his instructions (much like the US instructor in season 10). Michelle sets off in the taxi for the practical side of the test.

Joseph/Grace & Shane/Andrew reach the temple and choose (respectively) Grace & Shane to perform the Roadblock. As Sticky begins his training at the school, which involves learning the road rules of Jaipur he wonders, "what road rules?" As Sticky begins the practical, his instructor is noticeably taken aback to notice Sticky's missing left forearm.

I don't mean to keep highlighting Sticky's arm, but once again he excels at something you'd think he'd be poor at; just look at the above image where he's shifting gears! Says Sam, "Nothing ever surprises me with Sticky anymore." Sticky asks his instructor if he's scared; the instructor admits he is.

At the temple, James/Sarah & Lucy/Emilia arrive and Sarah & Emilia elect to perform their team's Roadblock. At the school, Sue & Ross begin their instruction at the same time - both teams still neck-and-neck. Tarryn notes her father always "hangs it on" her over her driving skills, so she enjoys seeing him sweat a little for the instructors. Meanwhile, Teresa keeps bothering Sue by being a backseat driver; Teresa pulls out their aura cleansing spray to help: "Now we're all feelin' the love!"

Someone drives into Sticky's car with their cart and Sticky is terrified, fearful he'll flunk the test. Michelle finishes the Roadblock and they receive their next clue!

Teams must load 75 clay pots aboard an oxen cart, then guide the cart to a marked location and unload the pots. If more than 15 pots are broken, there will be a penalty assigned before teams can proceed. Michelle & Jo set to work and are soon joined by Sticky & Sam, who finish the Roadblock without any difficulty over the accident. Kym & Paul begin the Roadblock just as Sue & Ross finish it. Paul is actually very nervous about driving in Jaipur and it affects his performance. While Shane begins the Roadblock, Grace, Sarah & Emilia begin their training at the school all at once.

Although Kym began driving his taxi before Paul, Paul catches up to him at a red light. Paul starts revving his engine, but only succeeds in stalling out his taxi. Kym surges ahead while Donna again dubs Paul & Steve "boffheads." Before long, Kym & Donna are well ahead of Paul & Steve again. At the oxen carts, Michelle thinks their ox is "confused by my Australian accent." Michelle & Jo's cart doesn't go very far before pots begin falling off and it becomes clear this is going to happen to a lot of teams (also, that the producers hoped this would happen). Sticky & Sam start driving their cart, also losing a lot of pots.

As Sarah begins her practical test, we learn she's only ever driven automatic, not manual. Emilia declares "My mother's Italian, we Italians can drive like Indians! Crazy, crazy!" Grace has some hysterical reactions to the driving, shouting a prolonged "MoOove!" the way only Australians (or New Zealanders) can. She adopts a sweet voice for her brother's benefit.

Grace: "Joey, how good do I look driving manual?"

Joseph: "...Just concentrate on the driving."

Michelle & Jo deliver their oxen cart with just 48 of the 75 intact. For breaking 15 pots, they're given a 15 minute penalty. Fortunately for them, Sticky & Sam also receive the penalty. Kym/Donna & Paul/Steve have only just finished the Roadblock and begun the ox cart. Sue & Teresa lose a lot of their pots before they even get out of the loading area. While Shane is performing his driving practical a dog runs out on the road and the instructor tries to grab the steering wheel from him; however, Shane sees the dog in time and avoids hitting it, then reassures his instructor he's in control. Shane & Andrew finish the Roadblock and begin the ox cart task.

As Kym & Donna set out with their ox cart, they pass Paul & Steve's cart, where Paul is standing with his back to them, apparently unaware of the rival team's cart. He does a bit of a jump when the cart comes near to him and tries to step aside, but his backpack brushes against Kym & Donna's pots, knocking some of them off, causing an entire cascaade of falling pots. Kym & Donna believe it was intentional, having already sized up Paul's character. This would be why Paul didn't want other teams to know how ruthless he is!

Kym: "I think we could be possibly the worst team to cross."

Donna: "We are old, we've got long memories.

Michelle & Jo's time penalty ends and the next clue informs them... it's Roadblock time again! Wow, they're making up for the lack of Roadblocks on legs 1-2! This time, one team member must journey through Amber Fort and traverse the staircase to locate a guru by taking only 41 steps down and 10 steps up. Michelle elects to take the Roadblock again while Sticky & Sam's penalty ends and Sticky again takes the Roadblock. In the US version when 2 Roadblocks appear in the same leg, it's usually stipulated that a different team member must take each one; I'm surprised it isn't the case here. Michelle & Jo's driver slows them down, enabling Sticky & Sam to retake the lead.

Reacting to traffic during the driving pratical, Sarah remarks, "I tell ya, thank God for botox that's all I can say because my whole face would be like this right now." I'm surprised she admits to using botox. Sue & Teresa take a 15 minute penalty for losing many of their pots, while Ross & Tarryn avoid the penalty and head to the Roadblock; this time, Tarryn's taking the Roadblock. While James/Sarah toil at the pots, Kym/Donna & Paul/Steve finish the task and each receive a 15 minute penalty for pots broken. Sue & Teresa's penalty ends and Sue once again elects to take the Roadblock.

Sticky begins the Amber Fort Roadblock and soon finds it's a bit tricky to determine the right path to take on the stairs to wind up with only 41 down & 10 up. Elsewhere, Kym/Donna & Paul/Steve's penalties end; Donna elects to take the Roadblock while Paul loses a game of rock/paper/scissors and once again takes his team's Roadblock. Shane/Andrew lose 30 pots and begin their penalty. Grace is still performing the first Roadblock because she refuses to drive over 5 KM; still, they finish the Roadblock just ahead of Lucy & Emilia as both teams begin the ox cart task.

Sticky finds the right path to the guru and receives the next clue: head to the next Pit Stop! It's located atop Nahargarh Fort, the most popular tourist destination in Jaipur. Sticky & Sam exit the Roadblock just as Michelle & Tarryn begin; Ross & Tarryn have shown some terrific moxie, catching up to Michelle & Jo. As Ross sees Tarryn struggle with the Roadblock he starts to wonder if he should have taken it.

Joseph/Grace move their cart out ahead of James/Sarah because the latter couple is being particularly careful at how they pack the pots on their cart. If they knew the penalty was a mere 15 minutes, I don't think they'd worry so much. Tarryn finishes the Roadblock ahead of Michelle, just as Sue begins the Roadblock.

En route to the Pit Stop, Sticky & Sam become concerned about Ross & Tarryn catching up to them. Arriving at Nahargarh Fort, their rickshaw driver asks for more money than they expected to pay - once again, the boys are out of money! They have to beg to pay their taxi bill, knowing all the time they're in danger of losing first place.

However, Sticky & Sam do come up with the money and arrive at the Pit Stop in first place, their second first place finish! Grant rewards them a $5,000 home entertainment package from Bing Lee. Ross & Tarryn arrive soon after in 2nd place; I notice Grant says "you're the second team in," a phrase he's used in other legs. This "__th team in" business is a little odd to me, but only because Phil Keoghan doesn't use it in the US version.

Shane & Andrew finish their penalty and Andrew elects to take the other Roadblock. Joseph & Grace didn't lose 15 pots so have no penalty; Joseph takes the Roadblock this time. Sarah has trouble with children pinching her posterior as she guides her ox cart. Lucy & Emilia have major trouble with children knocking pots off their cart. In fact, Lucy doesn't even try to stop them; it's pretty funny. James & Sarah's pedantry with the pots pays off as they don't receive a penalty; this time, James takes the Roadblock. Lucy & Emilia take a 15 minute penalty.

Donna begins the Roadblock while Michelle finally finishes after about 7 attempts and heads to the Pit Stop with Jo. Sue is seriously struggling with the task, unable to find the right combination of stairs. As Paul reflects on the Roadblock he notes "I knew that all this gloating that I'm 'Mr. Mental Performer,' this is my opportunity to either make myself look really bad or actually show I'm not actually arrogant, that I do back my skills up." I don't think he's convincing people of his humility, but he does prove his skills: Paul solves the Roadblock on his first attempt!

As Kym & Steve wait outside the Amber Fort, Kym starts to complain to Steve about Paul knocking he & Donna's pots off their cart, but it's interrupted by Paul finishing the Roadblock. However, Donna finishes the Roadblock soon after. Returning to their rickshaws, Kym & Donna are frustrated to find Paul & Steve's rickshaw is parked in their path, blocking their exit. The two teams head to the Pit Stop neck and neck, while Michelle & Jo check in at 3rd place!

Kym/Donna's rickshaw passes Paul/Steve on the road and they claim 4th place at the Pit Stop; Paul/Steve are 5th, which is still their best showing yet. Shane & Andrew arrive at Amber Fort and are actually discouraged to see Sue still working at the Roadblock, thus assuming it's going to be very difficult for Andrew. Lucy & Emilia's penalty has only just ended and Emilia elects to take another Roadblock for her team. Meanwhile, Andrew finishes the Roadblock, surprising and pleasing Shane. Joseph finishes the Roadblock on his first attempt! James finishes a little later. This is very discouraging for Sue & Teresa as they see yet another team surpass them.

As Shane & Andrew head to the Pit Stop, Joseph & Grace's rickshaw catches up to and passes them. However, at Nahargarh Fort, Joseph & Grace take the wrong staircase to the roof and Shane & Andrew happen to see the correct path, marked with the Amazing Race colours. Thus, Shane & Andrew are in 6th place and Joseph & Grace in 7th. James & Sarah arrive in 8th.

Emilia begins the Amber Fort Roadblock and realizes either she or Sue is bound to be eliminated. Emilia takes a bit of time with the Roadblock, but she adapts much more quickly than Sue; Emilia finishes the task and heads to the Pit Stop. Lucy gives Teresa a friendly hug as they exit. Sue & Teresa still hope they might catch up on the road (as many teams have!); not much later, Sue finishes the Roadblock, so the Race is on!

...But! It's not enough. Lucy & Emilia maintain their lead and claim 9th place "by the skin of your teeth, girls." They respond "That's how we roll." Sue & Teresa arrive last and are eliminated. Grant's phrasing this season is also different from Phil: "This is a predetermined elimination point." Bit of a mouthful there, Grant.

Sue & Teresa feel they're stronger friends for what they've endured and they're pleased to have experienced India. They weren't a bad team all in all, it was just this one task which decimated them. Sue & Teresa weren't my favourite team, but I expected them to last 'til about midway through the Race at least. I could never warm up to their "aura cleansing spray" and other such hippie-ness, but they weren't offensive.

My thoughts on the remaining nine teams:

  1. Sticky & Sam: They continue to impress; they seem to have real staying power in the Race and could easily make it to the final three; I'd be fine with that, they're funny and friendly. Plus, watching Sticky manipulate objects with his left arm is never going to be tiresome.
  2. Ross & Tarryn: Their hustle was eally on in this episode, managing to overtake two teams by simply making fewer mistakes. They're solid performers with serious staying power, yet they seem to be enjoying the adventure of the Race as well. Another favourite!
  3. Michelle & Jo: They stumbled only a little this week. I still think they're one of the strongest teams mentally, but they could be just one rough physical challenge from being demolished; I hope they stick in, they have sharp attitudes.
  4. Kym & Donna: Speaking of attitude, Kym & Donna snarking on Paul & Steve has been fun so far, but I hope it doesn't become a real rivalry to bog down the program. They're another strong team and shouldn't allow themselves to be distracted by the competition.
  5. Paul & Steve: Paul continues to gloat whenever possible, but he actually came through on the Roadblock so this week wasn't as terrifically out-of-synch with his ego. I hope to see improved behaviour, but I suppose I'll settle for improved racing.
  6. Shane & Andrew: They actually overcame their Achilles Heel - travel - where it counted this episode when they took the right staircase to the Pit Stop. It's a little thing, but they were in control of the situation for most of the leg, rather than being almost entirely at the mercy of their drivers.
  7. Joseph & Grace: I'd still like to see more of these two, but they were decently amusing this time out. They seem like a middle-of-the-pack team, but maybe there's something surprising in the future.
  8. James & Sarah: Sarah shaking her "boozies" was just plain odd and off-putting. James was nearly invisible this week, despite being very competant at the Roadblock.
  9. Lucy & Emilia: These two continue to struggle in the back of the pack, but they're immensely funny and watchable while doing it. I love their positive attitude and only wish it were rewarded by keeping them in the Race. At least they aren't making enemies!

Next week: The Race heads to Dubai! Teams will be driving through sand dunes. Plus: Paul makes friends with Sarah (or, rather, Paul makes another enemy). Also, Kym & Donna's car breaks down and Lucy & Emilia are arrested by the police! According to Grant, one team won't make it to the Pit Stop! If said team turns out to be Lucy & Emilia, I'm going to be a bit peeved with the preview for basically giving it away.