Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-06 recap

This week's Amazing Race: Australia has an odd course design which - because of last week's events - robs the episode of some suspense.

We resume the Race in Istanbul, Turkey as workmates Paul & Steve depart the Pit Stop in first place. Their first clue directs them to a nearby Turkish Bath, where they're told to rub each other with soap until their clue is revealed; they're actually trying to run down the bar of soap until the word "Detour" is unearthed from inside, but the racers don't know the full details.

Paul describes how pleased he is to be in first place at last, saying it's "a long time coming." At the baths, Paul & Steve begin scrubbing each other with the soap, which is "awkward." Both are concerned about breaking the soap when it falls to the ground - evidently there were rules about dropping the soap to keep teams from "accidentally" exposing the clue. Twin sisters Michelle & Jo depart the Pit Stop a half hour behind the leads; they mention how badly they want to beat Paul & Steve. Back at the baths, Paul gets Steve to lie down, making it quicker for him to immerse the soap in water, having deduced the water will make the bar dissolve more quickly. Steve supposes this task will be uncomfortable for siblings Joseph & Grace, moreso than any other team.

Steve finally discovers the "Detour" inside his soap and an attendant gives them their next clue: sure enough, it's time for the leg's Detour, a choice between "Shine" and "Design." In "Shine," teams must go to a streetside shoeshine stand and shine 10 shoes (5 pairs per team member) for 4 Turkish Liras.

In "Design," teams journey to a carpet store and choose a picture of a rug design, then search through seven marked piles of rugs (hundreds of rugs) until they find an exact match. However, before they can begin the Detour, teams must journey to a nearby Yield board. The Yield used to be a feature on the US version of Amazing Race, but was replaced with the U-Turn after season 11. It's interesting to see the Yield & U-Turn both in effect on this series! The Yield allows one team to choose to stop another team which is behind them; the targeted team must turn over an hourglass and wait for the sand to run out before moving on from the Yield board.

As Paul & Steve head to the Yield board, at the baths, Michelle & Jo begin scrubbing each other with the soap. They both look great in bikinis, which is probably what production was hoping for when they came up with this challenge; in fact, the cameras seem to make a point of lingering on them as they soap up. "This could be someone's fantasy, the twins rubbing down each other." Michelle savvily notes. Flatmates Sticky/Sam and Joseph/Grace begin the leg and head to the baths. Sticky & Sam are agog when they see Michelle & Jo in their bikinis; Sam asks if they could swap partners! Soon, Sam is watching the twins and asking them, "Can you do it real slow?" I think Sam could have a future on the production team of Amazing Race: Australia! Joseph & Grace do indeed find the soap task a little odd, but Grace enjoys being scrubbed.

Paul & Steve arrive at the Yield board and decide to Yield Michelle & Jo because they're the nearest team; they don't see the point in Yielding teams further behind them because they can't guess how the teams in the back will perform, but by Yielding the team directly behind themselves, they can consolidate their lead. This actually sounds like the best option, given the circumstances (the other good idea would be to Yield the team in last place to guarantee their elimination, but the last place team is Ross & Tarryn, who already have a penalty).

Paul & Steve begin "Shine" and quickly discover the trick to the Detour is convincing people to be their customers. Police officers Shane & Andrew begin the leg with sisteres Lucy & Emilia beginning almost half an hour later. Shane finds himself talking about his family and describes how he and Andrew try not to discuss their families while racing because being separated from them is so painful. At the baths, Michelle & Jo find the "detour" marker and head out.

Lucy & Emilia describe how nice it is to be racing alongside other teams, rather than being trapped in the back with no idea where the competition is. Joseph spends most of his efforts scrubbing Grace on her legs, which he claims are rough from her lack of shaving; Grace asks him to scrub between her toes but he refuses. At "Shine," Paul & Steve have some trouble with customers as one man pays only 2 lira after they shine his shoes; he doesn't count towards their total. At the baths, Sticky & Sam find the "detour" clue; Sam's hands are so soapy that he tears open their clue envelope with his mouth. Joseph/Grace & Shane/Andrew finish the soap task soon after them.

Michelle & Jo arrive at the Yield board and are irritated to find they've been Yielded; they turn over the hourglass and start waiting. Michelle claims is Paul is playing "dirty," which is way off-base; for all his issues, Paul is just using the game-sanctioned means of intefering with the competition; hate the game, not the player. Shane/Andrew & Sticky/Sam both decide to try "Design," even though it would seem to be much more difficult than "Shine." Both teams start digging through carpets. At the baths, Lucy & Emilia find the "detour" and decide to try "Shine."

At "Shine," Paul & Steve finally get their 10th shoe polished and receive their next clue: journey by taxi to the fortress of Rumelihisan. Michelle & Jo finish their Yield and begin "Shine," quickly using their "assets" (as Michelle laughingly describes it) to attract customers for shoeshines; being good-looking blonde women, they find it pretty easy to get people's attention and soon have all the customers they need lined up at their shoeshine stand.

At Rumelihisan, Paul & Steve discover the next task is an Intersection, a type of challenge seen about every other season on the US Amazing Race, but seen twice on last year's Amazing Race: Australia. This forces two teams to voluntarily join forces until their clues tell them to separate. Consequently, Paul & Steve have to wait for another team arrive and know the nearest team - Michelle & Jo - have been delayed by their Yield. So Paul & Steve essentially Yielded themselves! Because of the voluntary nature of the Intersection, teams could theoretically refuse to work with Paul & Steve until the last team arrived, in which case they'd be forced to be allied with them. That would actually make for some interesting television!

Joseph & Grace begin "Shine" and Grace tries to flirt with passerbys to obtain customers, but she suffers a lot of rejections. At "Design," Andrew chances to find Sticky & Sam's pattern and hands the rug to them; Sticky & Sam receive their next clue, but offer to help Shane & Andrew keep looking for their pattern. What a couple of gents! Meanwhile, Michelle & Jo finish "Shine," just as Lucy & Emilia begin the same task. At "Design," Sticky & Sam intended to remain for no more than 20 minutes to help Shane & Andrew but wind up spending more than 30 minutes; Shane & Andrew find a similar pattern to theirs but when the judge tells them it's the wrong rug they decide to switch tasks and try "Shine." Sticky & Sam head to Rumelihisan.

At "Shine," Lucy has a lot of fun flirting with customers while Emilia states Turkey has "delivered" the sort of men they were hoping to flirt with. Both women are especially taken with one customer as Lucy even jokes about "If I lived in Istanbul, I'm sure we'd be dating by now!" and trying to get his phone number!

Back at the Pit Stop, dating couple James/Sarah finally depart with father/daughter Ross/Tarryn almost 30 minutes behind. Ross accepts all the blame for failing Tarryn on the last leg, failing to complete the Roadblock, giving them a 4 hour penalty and now faced with a 30 minute penalty if they don't come in first (so the 30 minute penalty is pretty much definite - they were out of luck when the leg didn't involve any planes, trains or hours of operation). Both teams work on the soap task at the baths. Sarah shows off a lot of her body to the camera, evidently pleasing the producers (and voyeurs everywhere).

Michelle & Jo arrive at Rumelihisan and decide to join forces with Paul & Steve on the Intersection because they didn't want to wait for another team who might not choose them (what? the nearest teams are Sticky/Sam & Joseph/Grace, who both dislike Paul/Steve and like Michelle/Jo). The two teams learn in this task, they must oil themselves up and head inside the fortress to face a four-man wrestling team. There's a lamp on a nearby pedestal which the team must obtain, but the wrestlers will try to stop them.

The four of them try to get past the wrestlers, although the twins don't even try to struggle (walking with their arms down, evidently hoping to slip past the wrestlers). They have to call a round after Michelle is pinned; on the next attempt, Jo gets the lamp, but Michelle is struck down by a blow to the neck from the wrestlers!

Michelle lies on the ground in pain as Jo calls for ice; Michelle apologizes to Paul & Steve, who have to stand by while medics come to check her out, although Michelle notes it's only fair to make them wait since they were Yielded (actually, this would be the second time today Paul & Steve had to wait on Michelle & Jo).

With Michelle recovered, the two teams open their next clue: the Intersection is over and teams must now journey by taxi to a site in Istanbul where they'll be performing a Roadblock; there, one team member must perform a Whirling Dervish dance, spinning in a circle continuously for five minutes. Steve & Jo agree to tackle the Roadblock and both teams board taxis. Sticky & Sam arrive at Rumelihisan and have to wait for another team.

Back at "Shine," Shane/Andrew begin the Detour just as Joseph/Grace & Lucy/Emilia are wrapping up. Shane describes their product to customers as an "Australian shoeshine," as did some of the earlier teams. Seriously, an Australian shoeshine? Do the customers get to drink beer while they wait?

At the baths, Sarah begins scrubbing James, which she does by lying atop him. "Keep it clean, guys." Ross declares. Ross & Tarryn find the "detour" clue first, giving them a minor time advantage As they head to "Shine." At "Shine," Andrew compares shining shoes to his "academy days." At the baths, James & Sarah finally find the "detour" clue and depart to "Shine."

Joseph & Grace arrive at Rumelihisan and agree to work with Sticky & Sam; Lucy & Emilia arrive too late and have to wait for Shane & Andrew to arrive. Back at "Shine," Shane shines the shoes of a man who brought his little boy with him. Reminded of his own son, Shane gives the boy a toy kangaroo; seeing the boy smile gives Shane an extra boost. Soon, Shane & Andrew are done "Shine."

At Rumelihisan, Grace describes how distracted she was by the muscular wrestlers; Sticky/Sam/Joseph/Grace actually get the lamp from the wrestlers on the first attempt as Joseph calls on his jiu jitsu training, managing to push past one of the wrestlers and claim the lamp. Joseph & Sticky agree to take the Roadblock for their respective teams.

At the Roadblock, Steve begins the dance first, dressing up as a dervish and concerned about getting the dance right on the first attempt, convinced Jo would be superior because of her dance background. However, Jo begins to feel dizzy during the practice.

Back at "Shine," Ross/Tarryn & James/Sarah set to work, although Ross doesn't take the time to read the clue in full. Sarah starts offering free massauges to her customers to entice more business at their stall. At the Roadblock, Jo becomes too dizzy while spinning and falls over; she has to start again, while Steve manages to keep it together and continue spinning. He doesn't seem to match the movements of the other dancers, but it seems the teams are only judged on being able to spin for 5 minutes, not much else.

Shane & Andrew reach Rumelihisan and join Lucy & Emilia at the Intersection. Seeing the wrestlers, Shane declares "They looked like they should have been halfback in the All Blacks team." Lucy hugs one of the wrestlers and looks as though she's enjoying it.

Emilia: "You just wanted a cuddle!"

Lucy: "Yeah, I did!"

Andrew manages to knock the lamp off its table while Shane, despite being wrestled with, reaches out and grabs it with "the long arm of the law." With the task complete, Emilia & Shane agree to take the Roadblock for their teams.

Back at "Shine," Ross & Tarryn are up to 7 shoes when Tarryn notices they each need to shine 5 and Ross has being doing all of the shining. Tarryn is irritated to find her father didn't read the clue when she asked him to and now they need to make up some lost time they can ill afford.

Steve completes the Roadblock and receives the next clue: he & Paul may now journey on foot to the Pit Stop, Beyazit Square. Soon after, Jo finishes the Roadblock and the twins hope to catch up to Paul & Steve on foot.

However, Paul & Steve arrive first at the Pit Stop, where host Grant Bowler checks them in at first place and rewards them with a Bing Lee-sponsored home computer gift worth $5,000. Steve opines, "the only people that could really stop us is us." Michelle & Jo finish the day in 2nd place, right where they began.

Back at "Shine," Ross & Tarryn finish the Detour and head to Rumelihisan ahead of James & Sarah, but as we know, the Intersection means they won't actually get to maintain their lead. At the Roadblock, Joseph begins whirling and looks pretty bad, but again, they're not being judged on form. Sticky starts just after Joseph and even Grace notes Sticky's superior movements. James & Sarah finish the Detour, while Joseph finishes the Roadblock, followed by Sticky. Joseph & Grace head to the Pit Stop with Sticky & Sam finishing right after them.

Shane & Andrew get lost on their way to the Roadblock when their taxi brings them to the wrong location. I'm sure we're all terribly surprised. Consequently, Lucy & Emilia get ahead of the coppers. While whirling, Emilia focuses on how the dance is supposed to be a prayer and actually prays aloud as she dances - nice touch, that. Joseph & Grace reach the Pit Stop in 3rd place, Sticky & Sam in 4th. Shane & Andrew are finally directed to the Roadblock location and Shane begins the Roadblock; he looks awfully awkward trying to dance and Andrew describes his stance as "a broken teapot," which is exactly what I thought.

At Rumeilihisan, James & Sarah arrive and join Ross & Tarryn at the Intersection. At the lamp task, the foursome quickly make short work of the challenge, with Ross ably dodging the wrestlers. Ross believes the wrestlers were "all show and no game" and proudly shows off his body, "trying to flex the muscles that used to be there," says Tarryn. James & Ross elect to take the Roadblock for their teams.

At the Roadblock, Emilia finishes the task, offering up thanks to God as she finishes. Shane finishes the Roadblock just a little later. Lucy & Emilia check in at the Pit Stop in 5th place, with Shane & Andrew 6th. Ross & Tarryn leave to the Roadblock first, but en route James & Sarah's taxi overtakes them and James begins the Roadblock first. Ross arrives just a little later. James manages to complete the Roadblock without any errors and heads to the Pit Stop with Sarah, claiming 7th place.

Ross & Tarryn, sadly, arrive last and Grant eliminates them. Tarryn is proud to have proved some of her abilities to her father. Ross believes he held himself to high standards and didn't live up to them.

It's strange to have seen how Ross & Tarryn opened this Race as the strongest team, remained near the top for the first three legs, then fell apart over the next three legs. They made some bad choices, but I never believed they couldn't regroup until this episode hit. Because of the leg design - the strange Yield placement and Intersection - there was almost no hope of teams overtaking each other, not unless teams had refused to work with Paul & Steve on the Intersection. The four hour penalties James/Sarah & Ross/Tarryn sure didn't help, but overall I think the producers are trying too hard to keep the teams close to each other.

Thoughts on the seven remaining teams:

  1. Paul & Steve: This is their best behaviour so far; Paul behaves like a sore loser, but not a sore winner. They're a lot less objectionable and I'm fine with that.
  2. Michelle & Jo: I'm not sure partnering with Paul & Steve at the Intersection was the best course of action (at least, not if they're as against Paul & Steve as they claim), but they made a lot of good decisions and survived two physical hurdles without being derailed, plus a Yield! I'd really like them to get a first place for once.
  3. Joseph & Grace: They didn't receive much focus this week but Grace had a few amusing moments. I like them, but see the next week blurb below.
  4. Sticky & Sam: Stopping to help Shane & Andrew was a terrible call for them as Racers, but reflects very well on them as human beings; Sam flirting with the twins was also funny enough. They've fallen back a little, hopefully they'll remain near the top of the Racers.
  5. Lucy & Emilia: Wow, these two really do improve every week! At this rate, they'll claim first place by episode ten! They're still having a lot of fun as they race; I'm impressed they've lasted this long and only hope they endure much further.
  6. Shane & Andrew: Shane talking about his family and sharing a toy with a child was the warmest this team has been thus far; they tend to come off as well-meaning oafs, always agreeable but never quite as competitive as you'd expect.
  7. James & Sarah: Well, the camera certainly loves Sarah; they were helped a lot by the structure of this leg, specifically how the Intersection forced Ross & Tarryn to stop racing. They've had good breaks and bad breaks; it's hard to judge how strong they really are.

Next: The Race heads to Paris! Joseph & Grace steal James & Sarah's taxi and Grace declares she wants them out of the Race... girl, pick one feud at a time.

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