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.

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