Thursday, July 19, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-08 recap

When last we saw Amazing Race: Australia, workmates Paul & Steve and twin sisters Michelle & Jo had arrived at the Hotel Nacional Pit Stop in Havana, Cuba, only for host Grant Bowler to provide them with another clue because this leg is a double-length leg! By the end of the episode, we hadn't learned what was in the clues Paul/Steve & Michelle/Jo received, nor had the other 5 teams arrived at the Tropicana, where the clues directing them to the Pit Stop awaited. It concluded over a scene of sisters Lucy & Emilia's car stalling over train tracks.

We resume as we finally learn what the next clue entails: teams must drive themselves in the beaten up classic Cuban cars they've been driving to the Marina Hemingway and sign themselves up for a charter boat service which will run in the morning. The boats will depart every half hour with a maximum of two teams per boat.

Police officers Shane & Andrew's car is still broken down but a local happens by and quickly fixes the engine, despite the man being seemingly unable to speak English. Elsewhere, siblings Joseph & Grace's is down, but they happen by a house party and one woman takes over repairs of the car, eventually replacing a wire. Shane & Andrew arrive at the Tropicana and receive the clue directing them to the Pit Stop. Lucy & Emilia's situation on the train tracks is quickly resolved as they get their car going again without too much trouble. However, Lucy notes: "We never, ever thought about giving up, but I certainly did think about abandoning the car."

Dating couple James & Sarah have made up terrific time, having been 5 hours behind the top 5 teams when they arrived in Cuba. Evidently because of the cab driver who started helping them on the previous episode, they arrive at the Tropicana just ahead of Lucy & Emilia. As both teams head to the Pit Stop, Lucy & Emilia assume they're in last place. At said Pit Stop, Shane & Andrew arrive and are pleased to learn they're in 3rd place, but then Grant hands them their next clue: the leg continues!

At the Marina, Paul & Steve are first to sign up for an 8:00 AM charter boat; Michelle & Jo sign up 2nd. Joseph & Grace arrive at the Tropicana and receive their clue, just as flatmates Sticky & Sam pull up. At the Pit Stop, James & Sarah arrive in 4th and receive the next clue. Lucy & Emilia are pleased to hear they're 5th, but are feeling worn out as they learn the leg isn't over yet; Lucy is particularly disappointed to learn they have to drive their Cuban car to the Marina. Sarah dubs the hotel a "Pit Pause," James a "Pit Continue." At the Marina, Shane & Andrew sign up for the 8:30 AM charter.

Sticky & Sam get lost en route to the Pit Stop and Joseph & Grace arrive ahead of them; however, Grant informs the siblings he can't check them in because back in Paris, they removed James & Sarah's possessions from their taxi, which is against the rules of the Race. I did expect a penalty for this, not on the halfway point. In season 18 of the US version, when one team incurred a penalty on the first half of a double leg, they were told they had a penalty at the halfway point, but didn't serve it until the real Pit Stop. Grant assigns Joseph & Grace a 2-hour penalty, which is at least harsher than the US equivalent; again, season 18 had a team penalized for moving another team's possessions, but only for 30 minutes. Joseph & Grace move to a nearby bench and begin to knock off the penalty. Grace just doesn't want to be beaten by James & Sarah: "We don't want to be eliminated over Sarah & James, that's for sure; I want them out of the game." I have no idea where this juvenile rivalry with James & Sarah came from; why has Grace decided to make them her enemies? Seriously, if you're eliminated over this then it wasn't James & Sarah's fault: it is your fault for breaking the rules.

As James & Sarah head to the Marina, Sarah notes she doesn't want to speak to Joseph & Grace again because of the taxi incident; they sign up for the 8:30 AM charter. Lucy & Emilia sign up for 9:00 AM and are a little surprised to see James & Sarah are ahead of them. Sticky & Sam finally get to the hotel Pit Stop after Joseph & Grace have served an hour of their penalty. After Sticky & Sam leave, Joseph & Grace's penalty ends and Grant holds them in suspense for a little bit before confirming they're still in the Race and will have to catch up; Sticky & Sam sign up for 9:30 AM at the Marina and are pleased they're at least within 1.5 hours of the other teams since they started out 5 hours behind at the airport. Joseph & Grace are last for the 9:30 AM.

8:00 AM: Paul/Steve & Michelle/Jo head out to their chartered boat and receive the next clue: it's time for a Roadblock! The team member performing this task must navigate the charter boat using a map and compass. If they lead the boat to the coordinates of another boat containing "the Old Man of the Sea," the old man will give them their next clue; otherwise, they can try to catch a fish and the boat's captain will give them the next clue. If they don't perform either task within an hour, they must endure a 4-hour penalty, the standard penalty for failing a Roadblock. Steve & Jo take the Roadblock as Michelle notes she wants Jo to "step up," since it's usually Michelle who takes the Roadblocks. Jo worries she'll let Michelle down because she doesn't understand how to use a compass (she utters the meme "Never Eat Soggy Wheatbix" while looking at it) and realizes the 4-hour penalty is almost certain to eliminate whoever receives it.

Steve, however, is pretty confident about using the compass and figures out where to start looking. At 8:30 AM, Shane/Andrew & James/Sarah begin the Roadblock, Shane & James taking the task for their respective teams, although James only takes it because he loses a game of paper, rock, scissors against Sarah; he can't use a compass. After passing one boat which isn't the right one, Steve finds another boat and approaches it: it's the Old Man of the Sea all right!

The Old Man of the Sea gives Steve the next clue: it's time for this leg's Detours! In the first option, "Che Puzzle," teams visit a courtyard in Old Havana where a giant-sized 90-piece puzzle has been laid out which will form an image of revolutionary soldier Che Guevara.

In "Daiquiri Guzzle," teams head to the El Floridita Bar in Old Havana, where they must each create six daiquiris then carry them one-handed on a tray to the Hotel Ambos Mundos and the room where author Ernest Hemingway stayed without spilling their daiquiris below a marked line on the glasses. Paul & Steve decide to try "Che Puzzle."

Jo sees Paul & Steve's boat leaving the Old Man of the Sea, so she simply guides her boat to the location and claims her clue; Jo is seasick by the rocking motion of the boat by now, so she vomits over the side while Michelle decides they'll try "Che Puzzle." Shane asks a passing boatman if he's the Old Man of the Sea; the boatman replies he is and keeps going, so Shane realizes it's not the right man. Rather than spend time looking for the Old Man of the Sea, Shane decides to set out a line and try catching a fish.

Paul & Steve head back to shore and load up their cars; all the teams have been given brand-new standard cars, it should be noted. Paul has no issue with running a double-leg since he'd rather just keep racing while they're in first place: "forget Pit Stops, let's just go all the way!" Michelle & Jo head to their new car, but they can't get it into reverse! At 9:00 AM, Emilia elects to take the Roadblock, but she has no idea how to use a compass. James is still unable to find the Old Man of the Sea. Michelle & Jo get a local to help them get their car into reverse and they head out.

Paul & Steve find the directions to "Che Puzzle" too confusing and decide to perform "Daiquiri Guzzle" instead. At the Roadblock, Shane catches a magnificent fish and reels it in, completing the task. Shane & Andrew decide to try "Che Puzzle." At 9:30 AM, Sticky/Sam & Joseph/Grace head to the boats just as Shane & Andrew come to shore, Shane proudly displaying the fish he caught. Believing this is a fishing task and knowing Sam is the best at fishing, Sam volunteers, however he doesn't know how to use a compass. Joseph takes the Roadblock for his team.

Emilia is getting seasick on her boat. While Shane & Andrew go looking for "Che Puzzle," they come across Michelle & Jo, similarly employed. They propose an alliance to find the Detour and the twins agree, noting they haven't worked with the police officers before because the cops are usually near the bottom of the ranks. Paul & Steve find the El Floridita, seemingly without too much trouble. Paul notes he doesn't drink alcohol, so mixing drinks is a little out of his element. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Paul, the world's only free-range non-drinking Australian!

Shane/Andrew & Michelle/Jo set to work building their puzzles; the outside border has already been built so it's not that tough (speaking as an experienced jigsaw puzzler). Back at the Roadblock, James asks his captain to visit two different boats; the captain replies James has only 10 minutes left on the Roadblock so he can only visit one. It's a dicey situation, but James chooses the right boat and receives his clue; he and Sarah decide to try "Che Puzzle." Emilia finds the Old Man next and decides with Lucy to try "Che Puzzle."

Paul & Steve finish making their daiquiris and start walking to the hotel, but the streets they walk through are crowded with passerbys, dancers, stilt-men and musicians, not an ideal locale to be keeping one's balance! Paul raises his left arm to help guard against people spilling his drinks. At "Che Puzzle," Michelle notes passerbys are interested in taking pictures of their puzzle so she invites them to help her and Jo assemble the picture. Shane & Andrew see this and begin asking locals for help. I imagine the locals were interested mainly because of the television cameras.

At the Roadblock, Sam finds the Old Man and they decide to try "Daiquiri Guzzle" because Sticky used to "run a nightclub" (like, as bartender?); Joseph sees them find the Old Man so he quickly snares the clue; Grace wants to try "Daiquiri Guzzle," despite Joseph's insistence it will be a very difficult challenge. Joseph finds Grace "has a listening impairment where she doesn't listen correctly," (which is probably more charming to hear if you're Grace; sibling humour isn't meant for outsiders) but she convinces him to perform the Detour she wants.

As James & Sarah begin "Che Puzzle," we learn Sarah doesn't know who Che Guevara is: "Che, Cha, Cho, what's the bloke's name?" Lucy & Emilia begin the puzzle next. Paul & Steve reach the Hotel Ambos Mundos and find they have to climb five floors up a crowded staircase with just barely enough space for two lines of people. They find Ernest Hemingway's room, where a man dressed up like Hemingway judges their glasses; finding them satisfactory, he presents them with their next clue: "Drive yourselves to Australia!" It actually means to drive to Cienaga de Zapata, Matanzas in the township of Australia, a locale founded in Cuba by an Australian. Once there, they'll have to feed crocodiles from the crocodile farm and capture a live crocodile.

Shane & Andrew are the first to finish the puzzle and a cigar-smoking woman gives them their next clue; of the directions, Shane muses, "how the heck do ya drive to Australia?" Michelle & Jo finish the puzzle just minutes later; Jo's "What?" upon reading the next clue is cute. The sisters propose another alliance with Shane & Andrew: they'll split the cost for a taxi driver to guide them. At the El Floridita, Sticky & Sam begin making their daiquiris, with Sticky immensely confident of his prowess. It's also worth noting having to carry a tray with one hand is something Sticky's quite capable of, given that's his standard operating procedure.

At "Che Puzzle," Sarah gets annoyed with the locals who are trying to help them, finding the locals are just mucking up their work. She also gets cross with James over the locals and with how James is assembling the pieces. Boy, imagine how they'd perform at a crossword puzzle challenge! "Why do you butt heads with me? Just go with it!" Sarah declares to James, "I know I always think I'm right, but if you don't prove me wrong, then I am right!"

At El Floridita, Joseph & Grace begin making their daiquiris, with Grace dancing about like a gadfly as she mixes drinks. James & Sarah finish their puzzle; James notes "You know that saying, 'a good leader first has to learn how to follow.'" but it sounds like Sarah wants all the credit. Joseph & Grace begin carrying their drinks. Sticky & Sam deliver their drinks to the hotel and receive their next clue. Sticky jumps to the expected conclusion when he hears "Australia" as the destination, but Sam jokingly notes, "DRIVE yourself, what you thinkin'?" Lucy & Emilia finish their puzzle and pass out hugs to all the locals who helped them. Lucy observes "The struggle is never between us and that's probably one of the reasons we're still here." It's true, there are only three who don't quarrel with each other at all: Paul/Steve, Shane/Andrew & Lucy/Emilia. Lucy recalls hearing the next destination as "Australia" prompted her to react, "Aren't there a few legs left before we go home?"

After just a few blocks, Grace's arm cramps up and she adjusts the tray; just a few steps later, she drops the tray and breaks every glass; they decide to abandon the challenge and try the other Detour. Joseph doesn't let it go without saying "I told you!" to Grace three times in a span of 10 seconds, along with "That's the last time that you make a decision! I told you! I told you!" They begin "Che Puzzle," knowing they're in last place.

Paul & Steve arrive in Australia ("It doesn't quite look like Australia!") and quickly load up a wheelbarrow from a provided cart of fish; messy, bloody fish. Filling up the barrow, they shovel it into the crocodile pen where the creatures happily chomp it up. Shane/Andrew & Michelle/Jo arrive just minutes later.

Paul decides he'll be the one to capture the crocodile. This is performed by using a rod with a noose on its end (and plenty of keepers nearby to protect the Racers). Paul fails on his first attempt, but eventually gets it when a crocodile accidentally panics and flings its head through the noose. With the crocodile captured, the keepers present the next clue: travel by speedboat to the next Pit Stop, lying at a nature reserve on the waters of the town. Paul & Steve head out to find the boat.

Shane & Andrew feed their crocodiles then Andrew elects to capture the crocodile; he gets it on his first attempt. Andrew observes, "Shane caught his fish, I caught a crocodile!" they make haste to the Pit Stop. Paul & Steve arrive first at the Pit Stop where Grant presents them with another prize: a trip to Queensland worth $10,000 and sponsored by Pump water. Shane & Andrew claim 2nd place; Shane notes "we're climbing."

Back at "Che Puzzle," Joseph & Grace finish the jigsaw and head to Australia. Elsewhere Sticky & Sam realize they've taken the wrong road and have to turn back; they've lost about an hour. James & Sarah arrive in Australia and get the food ready, although Sarah is grossed out by the experience. Michelle & Jo capture their crocodile, each sister claiming credit for the roping; they head to the Pit Stop. Lucy & Emilia arrive in Australia without getting lost on the way; "Finally!" Lucy notes. Both sisters fling themselves into shoveling up the feed.

Sarah hangs back while James ropes their crocodile, dubbing him "mini-Steve Irwin," a reference which was bound to turn up sooner or later. They head to the Pit Stop. They pass Lucy & Emilia as they head out and Emilia gives Sarah a friendly hug; it's nice to see James & Sarah have friends on the Race, considering their relationship with Joseph & Grace. Lucy is so determined to get the crocodile feeding done quickly that she flings it into their pen bare-handed. Dang, that woman is tough! Michelle & Jo arrive at the Pit Stop in 3rd place. James & Sarah are 4th.

Sticky & Sam arrive in Australia, but Joseph & Grace are ahead of them and already feeding crocodiles. Emilia snags a crocodile for her team, Lucy dubbing her "the Crocodile Whisperer," a reference which turns up in a lot of Amazing Race tasks involving animals. They head to the Pit Stop. Grace notes there's just one team behind them, so she carries on, determined to stay in the game. Lucy & Emilia check in at 5th place. Sticky & Sam notice Joseph & Grace are still performing the task and have some hope of staying in the Race. However, Joseph has already roped his crocodile as Sticky & Sam start feeding the crocodiles. They realize they're bound to be eliminated now, but Sam ropes a crocodile and they head to the Pit Stop, their hearts in their throats.

Grant checks in Joseph & Grace at 6th place; as they head to the rest area, they run into James & Sarah for the first time since the taxi theft in Paris. Grace immediately offers an apology and Sarah seems to want to get over the matter, saying, "we're not going to have any more bull****, yeah?" Joseph & Grace say they're sorry and Grace hugs Sarah. However, Sarah's not moved by this; "I think you're more sorry," she says to Joseph, "and I think you're not sorry and I found it a bit fake," to Grace. Grace insists she's genuinely sorry; Joseph steps in and offers to help out James & Sarah in the future if they're able to. Sarah agrees to see what happens. Afterwards, Sarah sums up to the cameras: "If you are sorry then that's fine, but I would like to see how sorry you are in your actions." Grace similarly declares to the cameras: "I don't want to make it up to them, I-I apologized to them and that it's, you know, she should accept my apology and move on, let's get to the next leg. I'm not going to do anything for them." It's not the words that count, Grace, it's the spirit in which they're given... and your spirit is somewhat lacking.

Sticky & Sam arrive last at the Pit Stop, where Grant, sadly, has to eliminate them. Sticky says he never had any doubts about his ability to run the Amazing Race and Sam declares how proud he is of Sticky. "We're probably going to be mates to the end now." Sticky suggests. "Without a doubt." Sam confirms. Grant tells them it was a pleasure to have them on the Race; I concur.

It's an extreme pity to say farewell to Sticky & Sam; this season has been rough on teams, with every team eliminated thus far being one which was normally at the top of the pack! The teams who were in the middle or back of the pack at the start of the Race have shown the most staying power. Sticky & Sam won two legs and I had hopes to see them continue to the end, but as with the other eliminated teams thus far, it only took one bad mistake to blast them out of the running. Well, two mistakes if you count the 5 hours they lost in Paris earlier in the leg. The real problem I have is with the penalty Joseph & Grace suffered; it should have been brought up at the real Pit Stop, not at the halfway point where teams were already waiting overnight for the next task. For that matter, why were there two charter boats at 9:30 AM instead of at 9:00 AM?

  1. Paul & Steve: Once again, these two behaving just fine now that they're the leaders. I'd like to see them play nice with the other teams to put aside some of the earlier trash-talking, but they tend to outpace most of teams so I doubt it'll happen.
  2. Shane & Andrew: This is their best showing yet and I'm happy enough to see them continue, even though they've never felt like the sharpest tools in the shed. Ever since Ross was eliminated two legs ago, they've been the oldest Racers on the show and you can see it in the way they treat each and the competition with respect. It's good to have a balance of maturity.
  3. Michelle & Jo: They're still running at the top, although a first place finish still eludes them. Despite the stress of the Race, they seem to work out their problems quickly and bounce back; I really want them in the final three.
  4. James & Sarah: They showed a remarkable hustle this leg and could still be in it to the end. Although I can't fault Sarah's strong feelings about Joseph & Grace, overall I don't find these two pleasant to see, what with all the arguments.
  5. Lucy & Emilia: If only there had been a Paris Pit Stop so they could have claimed third place! These two are my favourite team and I'm stunned to see how well they've done at gradually transforming themselves into a competitive group and enduring their hardships with good humour.
  6. Joseph & Grace: Although these two run the Race fairly well and are pretty honest at how they deal with each other, the needless feud with James & Sarah has devastated my interest in them; Grace's fake apology was far too obvious and ill-becoming.

Next week: The series heads to Vancouver, Canada! This is the first time I've seen a new Amazing Race set in Canada since I became a fan! It should be nice to see the teams wowed by the Canadian wilderness, but there are also clips of teams breaking down from the pressures of the Race, including Lucy.

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