Saturday, June 2, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-01 recap

Following on from yesterday's introduction, here's the recap proper:

We open the Race at Sydney Heads which host Grant Bowler helpfully identifies as "the world's largest natural harbour." The 11 teams of Racers are brought to the starting line aboard seaplanes. After Grant introduces them, the opening credits roll.

Through the magic of Youtube, here are the opening credits; the opening theme always revs me up!

With the teams before him at the starting line, Grant explains there will be 12 legs in this Race; the winner will receive $250,000, rather than the $1 million Racers win in the US version. He hints at a major reward for the winner of this first leg. The teams' backpacks are waiting nearby with their first clue envelopes; with this, Grant calls "Go!" and the Race officially begins! The clue directs teams to run down to a speedboat which will ferry them to Barangaroo Wharf, where they'll have to complete a task before they receive their next clue. Although the Amazing Race used to send teams directly from the starting line to the airport, recent seasons of the US (plus last year's Australia) have included a starting line task such as what awaits.

As teams run to the boats, dating couple James & Sarah fall to the back because Sarah is trying to run in high heels. Sarah explains for our benefit that she can't wear flats, instead preferring her "high heel runners: hunners!" The alpha males make it to the boats first: Shane & Andrew, Paul & Steve and Adam & Dane are first to the harbour. Donna (engaged to Kym) dubs Paul & Steve "boffets." I have no idea what she means. En route, flatmates Sticky & Sam take a moment to admire twins Michelle & Jo's good looks. Sisters Lucy & Emilia don't move too quickly to the harbour, but they're pleased to learn they outran James & Sarah.

The task at the end of the boat ride is rather like a full-scale version of the board game Rush Hour. Teams have to choose one of the 11 cars marked with an Amazing Race flag and drive it out of the lot by moving backward or forward - no turns! To do this, they'll have to clear a path by driving the other cars in the lot, which are also restricted to back or forwards. Shane & Andrew are the first to arrive and seem a little hasty at choosing their car; we non-Australians get to marvel at the "boot and bonnet" colloquialisms as they pop their car's hood & trunk. I should mention Shane & Andrew are wearing matching "Plain Clothes Cop" t-shirts, which are kinda funny. Paul & Steve take their time, figuring out an exit strategy before they choose their car. Shane & Andrew have to form an alliance with Adam & Dane to help move their car. Paul & Steve finish the task quickly and a parking attendant gives them their next evelope: they're going to Manila, Philippines!

As Paul & Steve drive their car to the airport, Paul reveals he's half-Filipino and very excited, not having visited the Philipines since he was ten, mentioning he has cousins over there he's never even met. "Maybe now you will." Steve suggests. Sticky & Sam and Michelle & Jo jump ahead of a few teams and leave the parking lot task second and third. Sticky is his team's driver and doesn't actually know his way around Sydney, quickly taking the wrong direction. Hairdressers Sue & Teresa spray themselves with their "aura cleansing spray" to give themselves good vibes; that's precious. Brother/sister team Joseph & Grace finish the parking task 4th, Kym & Donna 5th, father-daughter team Ross & Tarryn 6th. Shane & Andrew finally finish in 7th. Michelle & Jo make up some time on the road and beat Paul & Steve to the airport, while Sticky & Sam find themselves driving over the harbour, which they realize is entirely the wrong direction.

Cousins Adam & Dane help Lucy & Emilia get their car out of the lot. "We love to check out the talent" both sisters agree, referring to the cousins. They finish in 8th & 9th, while James & Sarah finish in 10th. Sue & Teresa are the only team still at the task. At the airport, Michelle & Jo's experience as flight attendants serves them well as they go straight to the right counter, but discover the earliest flight to Manila has been delayed for an hour; they opine if the flight left on time, they'd have been the only team aboard.

Eventually, all the teams wind up at the airport and on the same flight (even Sticky & Sam), so the task did absolutely nothing to affect the order. At the airport, Joseph is talking to Adam & Dane and off-handedly calls James & Sarah "The lady in the high heels and the son." Adam & Dane, choking back laughter, inform him James & Sarah are dating. Grace calls Sarah a "cougar," so I guess I was wrong with my earlier comment - a 9-year gap is enough to get labeled "cougar!"

When teams touch down in Manila they have to travel by taxi to Plaza Miranda to receive their next clue. There's a mad dash as all 11 teams search for taxis at the airport taxi stall. Michelle & Jo don't bother waiting at the queue and instead corral a taxi before it reaches the queue. Paul & Steve notice this and Paul, possibly the most intense player of the season, declares "That is a danger to us because I'm the forward thinker! I don't want any other forward thinkers in this game!" Still, this gives Paul & Steve the notion to do the same thing and before long every team has a taxi. As they drive to the Plaza, Adam & Dane take in the sights; Dane is surprised at how urban Manila is, evidently having expected something more rural.

At Plaza Miranda, Michelle & Jo receive the next clue: each team must consume a total of 8 balut, which are duck eggs containing an embryo. The twins balk at this, finding it immensely disgusting and difficult to eat. During the commercials, an ad for the Honda CRZ plays, identifying it as the car teams drove from the parking lot to the airport. Strange, on the US version Phil Keoghan is always careful to make the product placement within the episode itself when it comes to the cars (such as US season 20's Ford Focus episode). Back to the show, other teams arrive at the market and prove much more capable at the challenge; Paul & Steve demolish their balut. Donna can't consume eggs so Kym has to cover all 8 on his own. Kym admits it was "vile." Donna watches Paul & Steve roaring aloud to curious locals as they down their balut; this inspires her to call them "boffets" again. Paul has decided Donna must be a dominatrix and Kym her slave; eww. Keep us out of your head space, Paul. Paul & Steve finish the task before most of the teams have even arrived: now they're to head to a bus terminal and sign themselves in for one of three buses which leave 30 minutes apart. Obviously, you want to be on the first bus, but only 3 teams can book the 1st, 4 teams the 2nd and the other 4 must take the 3rd.

Grace turns out to be very good at the eating challenge and covers 5 eggs while her brother only takes 3. En route to the market, Sticky & Sam believe their taxi meter has run up all the money they have - $2,000 in local dollars. What they don't notice (but their cameraman does) is that there's a decimal point - they should've paid only about $200. Their taxi driver is confused, but probably very happy and doesn't correct their math. They're now out of money after just an hour in their first country! Teresa gets upset, even sobbing as she eats her eggs because she's passionate about animal rights. Man, she's determined to be a textbook hippie, huh? When Sticky & Sam finish the task they ask James & Sarah to loan them money for cab fare to the bus station; James & Sarah refuse and take off in their own cab. Fortunately, Sticky & Sam are able to convince a transit driver to give them a free ride to the station. En route to the station, Shane & Andrew's driver gets lost and they go well off route; "Let's get fair dinkum, eh?" says Shane to the driver. Yes! An Australian phrase I understand! Michelle & Jo, first to the task, are also the last to leave it. The locals take up the cause, one onlooker calling out to them, "Go, super twins, go!" They finally finish the task, but worry they might not make the 3rd bus because so much time has passed.

Paul & Steve, Kym & Donna and Adam & Dane are on the 1st bus; Joseph & Grace miss the 1st bus by just seconds and wind up on the 2nd along with Sticky & Sam, Ross & Tarryn and Lucy & Emilia. The 3rd bus carries Shane & Andrew, James & Sarah, Sue & Teresa and Michelle & Jo. The twins are elated to find the bus hasn't left, so they're still in the game.

The bus carries teams to Daraga at the Cagsawa Ruins, near a beautiful volcano. As the first three teams arrive they learn it's time for this leg's Detour, a choice between two different challenges; teams have to complete at least one Detour before they'll receive their next clue.

In the "Jig" Detour, teams have to perform a local dance routine alongside a troupe of dancers to the satisfaction of a panel of judges. Anyone who knows their Amazing Race will realize you should avoid judged tasks whenever possible because judges are notoriously hard to please.

In the other Detour, "Pig," teams have to be greased up then collect four pigs out of a muddy pen. Each team member can only retrieve two pigs. Something I've noticed about the Australian version which sets it apart from the US is that their Detours tend to split the chores evenly, whereas some US Detours have been performed by a single team member who's better at the task.

Paul & Steve and Adam & Dane choose "Pig" while Kym & Donna choose "Jig" because Donna is a former dance major. The pig Detour is definitely the most fun to watch as the two teams wind up covered with mud. At one point, Paul accidentally/intentionally slides into Dane. He needs to seriously chill out with the competitive attitude. Kym & Donna find the "Jig" is rather time consuming to learn so they switch to "Pig." Paul & Steve finish the Detour first and are directed to a waiting taxi which will bring them to Misibis Bay and their next clue; Adam & Dane are close behind. As they leave, the 2nd bus arrives.

Ross & Tarryn, Joseph & Grace, Sticky & Sam and Lucy & Emilia all choose "Pig." Grace's technique is hysterical - she goes into her pigs head first and drags them out of the stall because she doesn't think she could lift them. Ross also has a great quip where he compares the "Pig" challenges to his football days and "laying tackles down on pigs!"

At Misibis Bay, Paul & Steve and Adam & Dane learn they must construct a raft using provided tools and paddle it across the Bay to Grant at the Pit Stop. If the raft falls apart before they reach the other side, they must return to the beach and start over. For the first time, Paul & Steve lose their confidence; they have no idea how to build a raft.

Back at the Detours, the 3rd bus arrives. Michelle & Jo and Sue & Teresa choose "Jig," Shane & Andrew and James & Sarah choose "Pig." Michelle & Jo believed being professional cheerleaders they'd be naturals at "Jig," but soon discover the judges are immensely hard to please. While Sarah is collecting one of her pigs, she falls down at an angle which gives the cameraman an upskirt shot; it turns out she's wearing a g-string under her skirt and the editors have to blur out the image for the sake of modesty. Sarah winds up so muddy that she immerses herself in water before continuing to the bay; man, she's almost single-handedly bringing the "sex" element to this show.

Michelle & Jo keep failing the judges so they switch tasks to "Pig," concerned because the only other team remaining is Sue & Teresa and they're becoming afraid of elimination again. Switching Detours turns out to be the right choice, even though Jo has a lot of trouble holding her pigs; they finish ahead of Sue & Teresa, but the hairdressers decide to stay with "Jig" until they get it; good mindset, that.

At the beach, Adam & Dane finish their raft and take off. Paul & Steve have made a few attempts at setting out, but their rafts always fall apart as soon as they hit the waves. Kym & Donna arrive and bide their time, doing a careful job; they're experienced rowers. Kym notices Paul & Steve struggling but chooses not to laugh at them because he expects his own efforts might be laughable. Ross has similar thoughts and wants to take his time building the raft since he doesn't want to be turned around.

By now, just about every team is at the beach, building rafts (except for Adam & Dane, who have left and Michelle/Jo & Sue/Teresa haven't arrived). Kym & Donna finally finish their raft and set out, noticing as they go that Paul & Steve have made about 29 attempts. Adam & Dane paddle within about 100 meters of the Pit Stop - within sight of Grant! - when their raft falls apart! The cousins are devastated, realizing they might be eliminated.

Michelle & Jo begin the raft task, while Paul & Steve and Ross & Tarryn finish theirs and start rowing. Sue & Teresa finally arrive and are ecstatic to see almost every team is still there. En route, Paul & Steve's raft falls apart again and they return to shore, almost spent. Paul's confidence is shattered and he starts suggesting they quit and take a time penalty instead (the standard is usually a 4-hour penalty); Steve refuses to give up.

As Sticky & Sam set out, it's cool to see how Sticky manages to row with just one hand; never say die, that one.

Ross & Tarryn keep a steady pace and catch to Kym & Donna. They race almost neck-and-neck to the shore, then run to the Pit Stop; Ross & Tarryn make it first! Ross notes he's the single oldest person in the Race, making it an achievement for him. As their prize, they win $10,000 from Swisse, which is apparently a vitamin company. And the bonus prize Grant alluded to earlier?

Welcome to the Salvage Pass! Ross & Tarryn can spend the Salvage Pass in one of two ways:

  1. Begin leg 2 one-hour earlier, granting them a time advantage over the other teams, or
  2. Save the team who comes in last place from elimination

Grant says he'll call them back to the Pit Stop when the last team checks in, at which time they'll render their verdict. This is an interesting strategy, leaving it up to one of the teams to decide if someone is eliminated; it's certainly a power previous Racer teams have craved. Kym & Donna take 2nd place and appear very non-plussed. "You look too exhausted to be happy!" Grant opines. They agree - the rowing took a lot of energy from them.

Sue & Teresa manage to catch up, building a very good raft and then overtaking other teams in the water. James & Sarah, Joseph & Grace and Michelle & Jo have also taken to the water, while Shane & Andrew have fallen to the back. The police officers are very concerned about how heavy they are and fear their raft will collapse, hence taking so long to finish theirs; they lie face down on their raft to keep it afloat. Paul & Steve return to the beach to start over, the only other team with them is Lucy & Emilia.

James & Sarah arrive at the Pit Stop in 3rd place; Sue & Teresa claim 4th, a huge comeback from last place! This is, of course, why Racers should never just "give up" on the Amazing Race. Sticky & Sam are in 5th, while Joseph & Grace are 6th; Michelle & Jo are pleased to be 7th.

Lucy & Emilia are getting increasingly upset at their inability to build a raft. They finally have a brilliant idea: why not ask for help? They ask a local if he knows how to build a raft and could help them out. He does and soon they're getting a decent raft built for them. It's a clever tactic. Many previous teams on the Amazing Race have gone far by asking locals for assistance.

Shane & Andrew arrive in 8th place at the Pit Stop; Adam & Dane arrive in 9th place; "You blokes did that twice; you need rest more than anybody!" says Grant.

Paul & Steve see Lucy & Emilia receiving aid and decide to ask the same guy for help after Lucy & Emilia have left. Because of their superior uppper body strength, they catch up to the sisters before they reach the shore and beat them to the Pit Stop, claiming 10th place. Lucy & Emilia arrive last at the Pit Stop and Grant informs them the decision of whether they'll be eliminated is not preordained: rather, Ross & Tarryn will decide. Grant explains the Salvage Pass to them.

Ross declares: "I know how much Tarryn and I have dreamt of going on the Amazing Race, how much it means to us, I'm sure it means the same to Lucy & Emilia. We would love them to continue racing." The sisters collapse in tears, hugging Ross & Tarryn. Emilia recalls seeing Ross kiss Tarryn at the starting line before Grant started the Race and she declared to Lucy, "They're our kind of people." Ross & Tarryn using the Salvage Pass to save them confirms this. Grant doesn't assign any sort of penalty to Lucy & Emilia (like the "Speedbump" used in the US or the "Marked for Elimination" from last year's Australia), so I guess there is no penalty - they're simply spared elimination. I suppose it means an Pit Stop which would have otherwise been a non-elimination point will instead be an elimination leg.

My thoughts on our 11 teams:

  1. Ross & Tarryn: Sparing Lucy & Emilia definitely demonstrates how classy they are and coming in first, they demonstrated how capable they are at the Race. Strong racers and heartwarming? They might be my breakout favourites. Of course, it would have made more sense to eliminate Lucy & Emilia and spare themselves some competition, plus gain an hour (the hour would probably be meaningless, since legs usually begin at an airport where teams catch up, but one never knows). Still, they've got excellent friends in Lucy & Emilia for as long as they remain in the game.
  2. Kym & Donna: I do tend to like "oldster" teams, although they're not that old. I dig their sense of humour, even without an explanation for "boffet."
  3. James & Sarah: I'm not sure what to make of them; dating couples with underlying friction usually rub me the wrong way. Sarah's high heels are at least very amusing, but make it hard to imagine them lasting all 12 legs.
  4. Sue & Teresa: The in-your-face hippieness of these two has me taken aback somewhat, but outside of being very emotional, they seem nice enough and pulled off a huge recovery.
  5. Sticky & Sam: Sticky is simply fascinating by virtue of the things he accomplishes without a left forearm; it's entirely natural to him and cool to see, I hope nothing arises where two hands would actually be necessary.
  6. Joseph & Grace: I don't have a reading on these two yet, although Grace tackling her pig was immensely funny. I'm usually a fan of siblings so I wish them well.
  7. Michelle & Jo: I really like these two, I'm always game for the strong female teams; they were doing very well until the balut brought them down, but pulled themselves together again at the rafting. I'd like to see them go far.
  8. Shane & Andrew: These two seem to bleed time on everything! Having a lost cab driver was outside their control, but they made a bad call at the parking lot and took far too long with their raft; they finished as well as they did because of the problems other teams experienced; hopefully they'll get it together on the next leg - they seem like nice blokes.
  9. Adam & Dane: These two did well all through the leg, until their raft tore apart; I expect them to make a recovery next week and hope they last a good long time - they've got a great sense of humour and that's pretty necessary on the Race.
  10. Paul & Steve: Paul is way too intense about winning and hopefully the incident with the raft has brought his ego down a touch. If he demonstrates some humility I don't mind him hanging around, but I can take only so much of people who call themselves "alpha male."
  11. Lucy & Emilia: They struggled a lot through the leg, but had a pretty good mental attitude; going to a local for help with the raft was pure genius. I can't imagine them lasting very long, but I'm glad they had a reprieve for now. They're funny and charming.

Next week: Teams race to India! In the US version, India comes up in the last quarter... such are the perils of beginning in Australia! India is always a tough locale for Racers, so this should be a doozy; clips show teams at a milking challenge, James & Sarah start arguing and Grant has to turn someone away from the Pit Stop because they made an error! Yikes! I'll see you then with another recap!

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