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!

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