Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-07 recap

This week's Amazing Race: Australia feels like a callback to the early days of the US program, which is a good thing; every team is getting a decent share of the limelight and it looks like the show is gearing up for some increasingly difficult legs!

We resume at the Beyazit Square Pit Stop in Istanbul, Turkey with workmates Paul & Steve departing in 1st place with instructions to fly to Paris, France! It's a pity we seem to skipping over Africa, but at least the Race has come to Europe! Paul is pleased to be in first place and doesn't want to give it up. 6 minutes later, twin sisters Michelle & Jo depart the Pit Stop, excited to be heading to France; Michelle mentions how badly they want to come in first place, feeling they've already proven they're strong enough to accomplish it. Noting they were given $400 at the start of the leg, they hope they'll find time to shop in Paris.

A half hour later, flatmates Sticky/Sam & siblings Joseph/Grace depart the Pit Stop. Grace notes she hasn't done as much to impress her brother on the Race as she could and hopes to rectify it. An hour later, sisters Lucy & Emilia depart, utterly ecstatic to find out they're going to Paris, a place they've always wanted to visit and an opportunity for them to flex their muscles as French teachers! About a minute later, police officers Shane & Andrew leave the Pit Stop. They again ruminate about the families they've behind in Australia, especially because now they're headed to Paris, a place their wives really want to visit.

At the Istanbul airport, Michelle & Jo manage to get ahead of Paul & Steve in the queue and make it on a flight 8 minutes before it leaves! Paul notes how easily Michelle & Jo performed the task and feels threatened. I wonder, have Michelle & Jo not told the other teams they're flight attendants? It's definitely been helping them race and they should probably keep it a secret from the competition. Joseph & Grace arrive just too late to catch the first flight; instead, they catch a later flight alongside Sticky/Sam, Shane/Andrew & Lucy/Emilia.

Hours after the other teams have departed, dating couple James & Sarah leave the Pit Stop. They note at this point, they haven't seen teams in quite a while - Ross & Tarryn were the only team they saw all of last leg! James hopes to find the other teams at the Istanbul airport, but no such luck; they travel alone on a third flight, still fours behind the nearest teams.

In Paris, Paul/Steve & Michelle/Jo grab taxis at the airport and head to their next location, the cooking school le Cordon Bleu. The twins enjoy seeing a few of the sights as they taxi to the school; for those of us who remember season 1 of the US version, there are familiar sites like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe & le Grand Roue. Paul & Steve arrive first and discover it's time for a Roadblock; host Grant Bowler describes this leg's Roadblock while wearing a scarf, an unusual affectation which endures the rest of the Paris visit. Grant explains in this Roadblock, one team member must prepare a souffle by following explicit instructions under the watchful eye of a kitchen full of apprentice chefs. When the souffle is done, a judge will determine if it's fine or if the task needs to be done over. Steve elects to do the Roadblock, but it won't begin until 9 PM, a few hours away; Michelle & Jo arrive and Michelle signs up for the 9 PM class with Steve.

About 1.5 hours after the first teams' arrival, the next flight touches down, carrying Joseph/Grace, Lucy/Emilia, Sticky/Sam & Shane/Andrew. Lucy & Emilia's skill with French makes it very easy for them to arrange a taxi to the school. The sisters are overjoyed to be traveling through Paris and even arrive at the school before the other teams on their flight! Lucy elects to join the 9 PM class just as Joseph & Grace arrive and Grace signs up for 9 PM. The other teams will have to join the 10 PM class. Sam signs up for the 10 PM class, joined by Andrew, who is a somewhat better cook than Shane.

At 9 PM, Steve, Michelle, Lucy & Grace begin learning how to make the souffle, but they're all a little out of their depth. Lucy admits she does know how to make cakes (but not souffle). Grace notes this is an opportunity to prove if she would make a good wife: "If you have a wife and she doesn't cook, well, what else is she good for?" At this point, the cameraman zooms in on her posterior shaking as she mixes ingredients. Why? I guess the cameraman is a perv. Michelle notices her mix doesn't look like the other teams'. Grace forgets to add sugar to boiling water so sprinkles some in later; she winds up burning the sugar and has to start over.

Four hours behind the last plane's arrival, James & Sarah finally arrive in Paris; their major advantage is that the other teams were slowed down by the 9 & 10 PM class start times. At the school, Steve places his souffle in the oven, careful to note it only bakes for 11 minutes. Lucy even congratulates Steve on his baking!

Steve takes his souffle out and brings it to the judge. Although the judge notes it doesn't look very nice, he tastes it and likes it. The judge gives Steve's souffle a passing grade and hands him his next clue: they must journey via taxi to Rungis Market and find the shop of a particular cheese dealer, pick up a 30 kg cheese wheel and transport it safely to the Alleosse cheese shop 25 km away.

Sam & Andrew begin the 10 PM class while Lucy, Grace & Michelle are still finishing their work. James & Sarah arrive and Sarah elects to take the Roadblock; they're excited to see the other teams (although they still haven't seen Paul & Steve since leg 5!). Lucy forgets to note the time when she places her souffle in the oven and becomes worried. Grace makes the same error. Lucy guesses at the right moment to remove her souffle and brings it to the judge; sure enough, the souffle turned out right and the judge gives them their next clue; for the first time ever, Lucy & Emilia are in 2nd place!

While preparing egg yolk, Sarah spills some on the counter, so she gathers it up and puts it in the bowl. The head chef sees this, performs a facepalm, then tells her to restart the process. Michelle brings out her souffle, but the judge doesn't like the taste and rejects it; she has to redo it. It seems Michelle's earlier instinct about her mixture being wrong was correct (strangely, Lucy & Emilia are watching as the judge tests Michelle's souffle; get back to the Race, girls!).

Sam & Andrew put their souffles in the oven at the same time and make a point of noting when the 11 minutes are up. Grace guesses at what time to remove her souffle and brings it to the judge; the judge thinks it passes muster and gives her the next clue. At this point, it seems the judge is critiquing them on taste, not presentation. Joseph & Grace go looking for a taxi.

Paul & Steve arrive at Rungis Market and begin searching for the cheese stall, having to stop and get directions. At the school, Michelle's second souffle gets a passing grade and she departs with Jo for the market. By the time Sam & Andrew's souffles come out of the oven, Sarah's souffle is going in, so she made up serious time; she also notes she's been learning from all the mistakes the other teams have made. Andrew brings his souffle to the critic, who is pleased with both the presentation and taste of the souffle; "you are the number one tonight," he declares as he hands Andrew the clue. Sam brings out his souffle next and passes judgment, albeit without the praises Andrew received.

Sarah passes the Roadblock soon after and James is pleasantly surprised: "she actually completed a cooking challenge. It's like me completing a make-up challenge." At Rungis Market, Lucy/Emilia & Paul/Steve learn the cheese stall they're after is on a lower level and take an elevator to the location. However, Michelle & Jo have done some serious catching up and beat them to the lower level by taking the stairs. Michelle & Jo get to the cheese first and exit via the stairs; Paul & Steve see this and take the stairs to exit but Lucy & Emilia are using a trolley to move their cheese and stick with the elevator. All three teams head towards Alleosse.

Joseph & Grace have finally found a taxi and arrive at Rungis Market, but their driver refuses to wait for them, despite Grace insisting they'll need a driver all day and will gladly pay him extra. He sarcastically asks for "one million dollar." Man, what's his problem? I suppose his shift is ending and he can't be bothered to stick around; you'd think he'd at least call for another cabbie, rather than injure the reputation of his company (assuming he isn't self-employed). Joseph & Grace are upset by this since the clue tells them they need their taxi to wait at the market. Getting another taxi at the market is an unlikely feat.

Joseph/Grace, Shane/Andrew, Sticky/Sam all head to the cheese stall at about the same time, with James/Sarah arriving just a little later. Joseph & Grace go searching for a replacement taxi cab and decide to take the first one they see. It so happens the first they see belongs to James/Sarah, so they negotiate with the driver to pay James/Sarah's fare in exchange for his services. The driver agrees and they remove James/Sarah's bags from the boot (usually, tampering with another team's bags gets you a time penalty; we'll see what happens). While they're doing this, James & Sarah arrive and Sarah is right put out by the attempted theft, but Joseph & Grace are already inside the cab, trying to pull away. While Sarah is quite upset and adamant they won't get away with it, James thinks they're "wasting time" by debating the point, having evidently already conceded the taxi as lost property. James does note he couldn't drag them out of the car (physically molesting another team is also worthy of a time penalty). The taxi departs as Joseph notes "we're not breaking any rules." I'd sure like to know if he's right.

James & Sarah are left abandoned at the market with their bags and a 20 kg cheese; also, Sarah is mightily upset with James for not asserting himself. James insists on just getting over the incident and resuming the Race.

Sarah: "We've just been shafted."

James: "Yeah, ge- I was there, babe."

Sarah: "Yeah, well, were you? 'Cause it's like you weren't."

Grace admits she wouldn't have stolen Shane/Andrew or Sticky/Sam's taxis, given the same opportunity. She explains she's "not a big fan" of Sarah and James and wants them eliminated. See, I thought she wanted Paul & Steve eliminated... they're all fair competition, but she should pick her battles. It would be enough to say they took the cab because keeping their team in the game was important than inconveniencing James & Sarah; claiming they want James & Sarah eliminated is needlessly hostile.

Michelle & Jo arrive at Alleosse and deliver their cheese; the shopkeeper inspects the cheese to see it's undamaged, then gives them their next clue: they must find Debilly Footbridge and locate a man painting a picture. Paul/Steve & Lucy/Emilia arrive and collect their clues soon after.

Lucy: "Paris is certainly delivering everything we've asked for."

Emilia: "No, no cute Frenchmen though."

Lucy: "Almost everything we've asked for."

Near the market, James & Sarah finally locate a pub and call for a taxi; they begin arguing with each other even about where to stand while waiting for the taxi. Sarah even talks about "ditching" the entire Race over this incident. Meanwhile, their former cabbie brings Joseph & Grace to Alleosse.

Michelle & Jo arrive first the Debilly Footbridge and the painter gives them their next clue: fly to Havana, Cuba! Wow, this really brings back memories of early Amazing Race when teams would switch countries in the middle of a leg! Michelle & Jo head back to the airport just as Paul & Steve go running into the footbridge and receive the clue. Lucy & Emilia arrive soon after and are both excited to see Havana and disappointed to be leaving France, especially when they're finally doing so well. As Paul & Steve take a taxi back to the airport Steve puzzles over what the locals in Cuba speak: Spanish, or "Cuban?"

Shane & Andrew deliver their cheese to Alleosse and decide to travel to Debilly Footbridge on foot, having received directions from a local's iphone; I guess they hope to save a little bit of money. James & Sarah have finally boarded their taxi, but are still arguing as Sarah insists James should have dragged Joseph & Grace out of the taxi. Sarah says "Paris was not the city of love; it was the city of hate." Boy, I wish this season titled the episodes after quotes because that's a beaut!

Shane & Andrew find themselves enjoying the foot travel to the bridge. Sticky & Sam deliver their cheese and start looking for the bridge, but a taxi driver claims he can't find it without an address. The duo decide to travel on foot at first, then switch to the subway, thinking they know the route. At the airport, Michelle/Jo & Lucy/Emilia book their flight. James & Sarah deliver their cheese then proceed to the bridge via taxi.

Joseph/Grace & Shane/Andrew arrive at the footbridge at almost the same time. Shane notes the Eiffel Tower nearby and declares, "One of the highlights of today was the view. But don't tell our wives that!" James & Sarah arrive at the bridge not too much later. Sarah is glad that at least the travel to Havana will be an opportunity for them to catch the other teams. Sticky & Sam wind up switching trains three times before reaching the footbridge and realize it was a mistake; they're now in last place as they claim their clue and head to the airport, hoping they can still salvage their game.

At the airport, Paul/Steve, Joseph/Grace & Shane/Andrew join the same flight as Michelle/Jo & Lucy/Emilia. Joseph/Grace are particularly pleased to be on a different flight than James/Sarah. Sticky/Sam arrive at the airport next and book another flight. They see James/Sarah arrive and are pleased that at least they won't be alone. As James/Sarah tell Sticky/Sam the story of how their taxi was stolen (Sam calls Joseph/Grace's behaviour "awful;" Sarah indicates she has the memory of an elephant, much as Kym/Donna claimed back in leg 3 about Paul/Steve; remember that?), the two teams realize one of them is probably going to be eliminated soon.

After touching down in Havana, Paul/Steve, Michelle/Jo, Lucy/Emilia, Shane/Andrew & Joseph/Grace head to a parking lot where classic cars are waiting for them with their next clue: they must drive one of these cars to the Tropicana Nightclub in Old Havana. Teams quickly start choosing cars but soon discover while they're visually fantastic, they're extremely unreliable and finicky. Michelle & Jo choose a car with the same colour as the football team they cheer for, but Michelle has never driven a stick shift car before. Steve notes his car's fuel gauge and speedometer didn't work, but was still pleased to be driving a cool old car. Shane notes he and Andrew's car had no seat belts; if someone drove a car like this back in Australia he'd "slap a canary on 'em straight away."

Michelle needs help getting their car out of the lot, eventually recruiting local men to help push-start the engine. Lucy & Emilia have similar troubles with their car and finally switch vehicles before leaving the lot. Some time later, James/Sarah & Sticky/Sam arrive and choose their classic cars. Sarah compares their car to "a cross between a lawnmower and a truck or something." While James is driving, the key falls out; the car keeps running, much to James/Sarah's amusement. Lucy & Emilia hire a taxi to guide them, but find just keeping pace with the taxi is a major problem.

Shane & Andrew try to open their car's boot to get at their bags so they can use their flashlight to read a map, but the trunk refuses to open. Consequently, Andrew has to read the map in the dark by the light of passing cars.

Paul & Steve arrive at the Tropicana, seemingly without incident (I guess they picked the right car?). In the club they're lead by a line of showgirls to the lead showgirl, who presents them with their next clue: drive to the Pit Stop, the Hotel Nacional. As Shane & Andrew continue to drive, the bonnet (hood) of their car opens, seriously endangering their vision; they have to stop and close it. Joseph & Grace's car stalls out, but they get some locals to help them jump start it. Michelle & Jo arrive at the Tropicana, embarrassed to be seen driving their car to such a locale; Jo is a little envious of the showgirls, remarking she wants "her body, her head and her costume." They head to the Pit Stop.

Sticky & Sam stop at a service station for directions, but since they don't speak Spanish they don't learn anything. Michelle crashes their car into the gutter and they have to engage locals to help restart the engine. Michelle becomes seriously upset, screaming at Jo about how difficult the vehicle is to drive; this is the most tense the twins have been this Race! Michelle & Jo wind up hiring a local to sit next to Michelle and help her with the clutch & brake, which seems to solve her issues. James & Sarah ask a local for directions to the Tropicana and he turns out to be a taxi driver; they hire him to lead them.

Paul & Steve run into the Hotel Nactional and find Grant waiting for them on the mat outside the back of the facility. He congratulates the duo on being the first to arrive, then tells them their reward is... to keep racing! Yes, this is a surprise double leg. Paul & Steve grab the clue and head out, confident that of all the teams, they're capable of enduring another leg without a Pit Stop break. Michelle & Jo arrive just a little later and are pleased to learn they're currently in 2nd place after all their troubles, then resume racing.

Elsewhere, Shane & Andrew's car gives up on them and won't restart. Apparently the clue indicates if the car breaks down, it's the team's problem to solve - they won't get a replacement vehicle. Similarly, Joseph & Grace have some trouble: their engine is producing smoke and they have to abandon it. Lucy & Emilia are also in trouble and, for the first time, get cross with each other.

Lucy: "All right, now just stop the car..."

Emilia: "Really, y'think? Oh, that's funny, I was gonna keep going."

However, Emilia soon acknowledges her bad behaviour: "This is the point where teams break on the Race." Kudos to Emilia for catching herself!Lucy & Emilia's car gives out on them just as they're crossing a set of train tracks. As Emilia struggles with the engine, we fade to black: to be continued.

It's a cliffhanger, no doubt about it; not that I think Lucy & Emilia are actually in danger of being struck by a train, but I do want to see how they get out of the situation. For that matter, we've only seen Paul/Steve & Michelle/Jo receive their clues and we haven't heard what the next clue is; five teams are still driving through Havana, struggling with their cars as they search for the Tropicana. Next episode is going to be unpredictable I think/hope.

Thoughts on our remaining seven teams:

  1. Paul & Steve: I'm amazed at how watchable they've been since they took first place; I don't think I'll get over Paul's cockiness in the first 5 legs, but if it's in the past then we're well rid of it.
  2. Michelle & Jo: They're right, they are good enough to claim first place and have certainly come close to it a few times. The driving challenge frazzled them a little this leg, but I expect they'll be recovered for the next leg.
  3. Lucy & Emilia: I never would have guessed these two would wind up running against the leading teams and hold their own besides! Being in a country where their language skills were a major advantage certainly helped and it's just too bad the Pit Stop wasn't in France. Emilia's brief outburst at Lucy while driving in Cuba was quickly calmed down, which is nice to see; this leg was just about the most intense the Race has been for them thus far and they're still holding together.
  4. Joseph & Grace: Stealing the taxi cab definitely helped them and hindered an opponent, but I think it was a bad call; they should have had their departing taxi call in another cab when he went off duty. I'm amazed they got away with it - I can't imagine any other team just standing by and watching as someone stole their cab! For all the advantages they gained in the Race, they've suffered a huge loss of reputation amongst fans of the program. It's the first truly dirty play we've seen in this Race.
  5. Shane & Andrew: They handled themselves surprisingly well in Paris, making fewer mistakes than some of the competition. It remains to be seen just how badly inconvenienced their car will render them.
  6. Sticky & Sam: I'm stunned to see these two down this far. There's still time for them to recover, but I'm sensing they aren't quite as determined to win as some of the competition - they might not get a chance to regain first place.
  7. James & Sarah: The design of the leg did a lot to salvage these two's game, not that any team "earns" a break after electing to take a penalty. After James' lackluster response to having his cab stolen, I can't imagine these two making it to the final three. Then again, maybe he'll have his act together next leg. Speaking of which...

Next episode: Teams continue racing in Cuba; also James/Sarah get to confront Joseph/Grace about stealing their taxi. The fur will fly! And: teams must drive to... Australia? Sounds like an interesting challenge!

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