Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-09 recap

This week's Amazing Race: Australia brings the series to my own homeland, Canada! There's a bit of nice scenery, some tough breaks for almost every team and another elimination. Sadly, I have no screen captures to share this time.

We resume the Race in Cuba, although the location of the Pit Stop has moved from Australia back to Havana; perhaps this was an extended Pit Stop, the 24-36 hour variety instead of the usual 12? Workmates Paul & Steve depart in 1st place with instructions to fly to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada! Once there, they'll have to journey by taxi to Stanley Park and find a First Nations chief by the totem poles; he'll offer a blessing to the teams, then give them their next clue.

As Paul & Steve head to the airport, we hear some reasonably humble assessing of their abilities from Paul: "Our confidence levels are pretty good right now, we don't want to get too ahead of ourselves and brag about winning the Race until it's happened." Both are looking forward to Vancouver; Paul hopes for some winter challenges. Police officers Shane & Andrew depart next and note how nice it is to be racing from the top of the heap. Arriving at the airport at night, Paul & Steve discover the Air Canada offices are closed, so the other teams will be able to catch up. As twin sisters Michelle/Jo depart the Pit Stop, we hear how they'd like to be the first all-female team to win Amazing Race: Australia "We want to stay top three until the final and then that's when we're gonna push forward." Dating couple James & Sarah leave next; as Sarah reads the clue she assumes "totem poles are those things you have to climb up." Sisters Lucy & Emilia leave next; we receive an explanation for Lucy's "Running 4 Mum," detailing how their mother is battling cancer and they look to her struggle as an inspiration for their own competition. Siblings Joseph & Grace leave in last place.

All six teams buy their tickets first things, taking a flight to Toronto, Ontario with a connecting flight to Vancouver. Paul gets a little testy with Joseph when he tries to push forward in the lineup for tickets. There's no more airport drama as the teams make their way to Vancouver, arriving at 4:56 PM, with the sun beginning to set. There's a mad scramble as teams try to find taxis. James & Sarah try to jump the taxi queue (as Michelle & Jo did in the Philippines back in leg 1), but the taxi driver refuses to pick them up. Emilia calls Vancouver "the home of Anne of Green Gables and Bryan Adams." She's not even half right, but I'll charitably assume she means Canada is their home.

At Stanley Park, Shane/Andrew & Joseph/Grace arrive at about the same time. When they see the chief has men playing instruments and dancing in costumes they all decide to join in on dancing, until finally the chief gives them their clue: they're to pick up two oars and travel on foot to the Vancouver Rowing Club. Both teams head to the club and the other teams soon follow, but it turns out the club is closed until 8:30 AM. All the teams decide to find somewhere to spend the night, then return in the morning.

In the morning, only five teams gather to wait for the doors to open. James & Sarah accidentally sleep in, getting out of their hotel 1.5 hours late and they both start arguing about whose fault it is. At 8:30 the gate to the club opens and the five waiting teams head in; they find their next clue, which includes a Fast Forward; host Grant Bowler explains this will be the only Fast Forward this season. As usual, a Fast Forward enables one team to perform a task, then head directly to the Pit Stop, bypassing all other tasks. Paul/Steve & Shane/Andrew both like the sound of this and run out of the park, each team determined to beat the other to the Fast Forward. "They were like the robbers and we were chasin' them down." says Shane.

The other three teams finish reading the rest of the clue: they're to claim a two-person kayak and use their oars to journey to Harbor Green Park Dock, where they'll find a message displayed using nautical flags which they'll have to decode. Michelle & Jo get into their kayak first and head out into the water. Emilia gets into her kayak handily enough, but Lucy is very nervous about falling in the water and starts panicking as she tries to climb in. Joseph & Grace come over and help steady both Lucy and the kayak so they can get in.

Somewhere in Vancouver traffic, Sarah realizes she and James forgot to pay their hotel bill. James insists they should back and pay while they're still nearby, but Sarah disagrees. I know there are rules for teams to pay taxis and I suppose there must be similar rules about hotels. Paul/Steve & Shane/Andrew both have some difficulty catching a taxi on the street as several go past them. Finally, Paul & Steve catch a willing driver. Shane & Andrew see this and decide to go back to the kayak task, rather than risk being eliminated by competing for the Fast Forward.

Back at Harbor Green Park Dock, Michelle/Jo, Lucy/Emilia & Joseph/Grace begin trying to decipher the flags' code with little luck. James & Sarah arrive at the club and open their clue. They decide to go back and pay their hotel bill before starting the kayak task, but they realize their money for taxis is running low. Michelle & Jo are the first team to notice there's a line of 26 flags nearby the message they're decoding and realize it will help them crack the code. Joseph & Grace go to a nearby dock office and ask a worker for help; he Googles the exact nautical code being used by the flags and prints off a colour paper copy for them. Shane & Andrew return to the club and start paddling their kayak.

Paul & Steve arrive at the Fast Forward location, an art school in Vancouver. They're now given the full set of instructions and learn they'll have to pose nude for the art students! This prompts a lot of laughter from them. Paul reflects, "It was pretty funny because only one team could do the Fast Forward so we think, we'd better get naked as fast as possible in case the cops catch up and get naked before us!" Steve asks the school staff if they could raise the heat in the building before they undress.

Back at their hotel, James & Sarah pay their bill and, explaining they're low on funds, the staff grant them a discount. Being quite sharp, Sarah pulls out the clue concerning the nautical flags task and asks for assistance; the hotel staff print out a black & white guide to the flags. Shane & Andrew arrive at the dock and quickly realize how to crack the code.

Michelle & Jo finally decipher the full message: "Three sheets to the wind, splice the mainbrace, weigh anchor and set sail." They receive their next clue: Detour! Each Detour is lumberjack-themed and found in the Pine Forest. The first Detour is "Toss," in which teams must throw an axe at a target with enough strength to make it stick to the board; they'll have 40 attempts between the two of them, but they must make 10 successful hits to receive their next clue.

The other Detour is "Tumble." Team members must take turns logrolling and between the two of them, rotate the log 360 degrees 10 times. The Canadian champion logroller (such a thing exists?) will be judging their efforts! Michelle & Jo choose this latter task, despite not knowing what "logrolling" is! Back at the school, Paul & Steve disrobe for the class; Steve asks the students, "Do you have a good view?" as he and Paul lounge back in chairs and try to remain still... but they keep giggling.

At the dock, Andrew tries to finish the nautical phrase without actually decoding each flag; he's a little too eager and gets one word wrong. Lucy & Emilia finally realize where the key to the flags is and Joseph & Grace are quickly getting theirs deciphered with their cheat sheet. James & Sarah return to the dock and begin using their kayaks. Andrew corrects his error and departs with Shane to try the "Toss" Detour. Joseph & Grace finish the flags a little later and Joseph suggests "Toss" even though Grace will probably struggle at it - he notes they only need 10 hits with the axe between them, so he can try to get all 10.

James & Sarah arrive at the dock and begin using their cheat sheet, but have some difficulties because the lack of colour on the sheet makes it hard to recognize some of the flags. Before long, they're at each others throats and getting cross with each other, much like last leg's jigsaw puzzle task. Lucy & Emilia complete the flag task and decide to try the "Tumble" Detour. James & Sarah miss a single letter while decoding and have trouble getting back on track.

Michelle & Jo arrive at the Detour and don lumberjack gear. They're now face-to-face with the actual task, which is a little daunting. They note the water the log rolls in is amazingly cold; they start struggling. At the art school, Paul observes "I think it'd be awkward to describe our relationship as grown closer as a result of this."

Steve: "It's just fun. I never thought I'd say that. Sitting naked to Paul would be fun."

Paul: "Aw, it's always fun naked next to me."

They finish the task and are rewarded with directions to the next Pit Stop: Crab Park. "Take that, stupid cops!" says Paul as they depart. Paul & Steve's taxi driver is amused to hear his fares were just posing naked.

In the Pine Forest, Shane & Andrew dress in their lumberjack togs and sing the Monty Python Lumberjack song as they run to "Toss." Shane notes "as police officers, we're always looking at targets." When each man's first throw misses, a helpful judge says, "You want to hit that round thing there," indicating the bullseye. At "Tumble," Michelle & Jo finally start completing their rotations on the log; it's a slow and humiliating process, but it can be done. At "Toss," Shane finally scores a hit and soon he and Andrew are getting the job done!

Shane & Andrew strike their 10th hit and are rewarded with the next clue: Roadblock! In this Roadblock, teams journey to Grouse Mountain and the one performing the task must ride on top of a cable car as it journeys up the mountain. There are three flags resting along the path which the team member must collect to complete the task; they'll be given three attempts to gather the flags, if they fail the 3rd time, it will mean a 4-hour penalty. Shane offers to take the Roadblock and he & Andrew go to change out of their lumberjack clothes and get their taxi; they note it's "unusual" for them to be in the lead.

At "Tumble," Michelle & Jo finish the Detour and Michelle opts to try the Roadblock. Joseph & Grace arrive at the Pine Forest and begin "Toss." Grace decides the challenge isn't too difficult. At Crab Park, Paul & Steve hug their taxi driver farewell and run to the mat. "Grant! He'll be happy to know we did put our clothes back on," Paul observes. I notice now that Steve keeps making a dramatic "leap" whenever they reach a Pit Stop; Steve compliments the local greeter on her accent and Grant checks Paul & Steve in for first place and rewards them with $10,000 from Southern Cross travel insurance. They're still feeling pretty good about their chances for winning.

James & Sarah finally finish the flag task and head to the Pine Forest, deciding to try "Toss." However, they have very little cash left for the taxi ride. At "Toss," Joseph finally lands an axe and soon even Grace is succeeding at landing axes. Lucy & Emilia arrive at the Pine Forest and Emilia starts acting like a hillbilly, perhaps unaware the Ozarks are not found along the Pacific Coast. They're looking forward to "Tumble" until they discover the log is set in freezing cold water. Lucy recalls, "I wanted to run for the hills and find a bear to wrestle." Lucy has zero confidence in herself and believes she has no sense of balance. Emilia tries her best, but Lucy's spirit is very quickly crushed, despite the crowd of locals trying to cheer them on; Lucy collapses in tears and has to be comforted by Emilia.

At "Toss," Joseph & Grace finish the Detour and Grace offers to take the Roadblock. At "Tumble," Emilia finally starts getting the log to rotate, but Lucy keeps falling in the water and crying. James & Sarah arrive in the Pine Forest and tell their driver they have very little cash but will need his help when they're done the Detour; he agrees to help them. They begin "Toss" and Sarah asks if she can throw the axe sideways instead over her head; a judge replies no, "You'll take every one of our heads off." James starts hitting the target pretty quickly. "My secret calling," he jokes.

At Grouse Mountain, Shane begins the Roadblock, riding atop the cable car while Andrew waits within. The view from atop the car is oustanding and Shane appreciates it. As the first flag comes up, Shane manages to grab it, but has to jump to reach it, despite his height. The second flag is located on a ladder above the car; I'm not clear as to why the teams aren't allowed to collect the flag on the ladder first, but so be it.

At "Tumble," Lucy has failed to complete a single rotation, but Emilia keeps her spirits up and finishes the task for them. When Lucy sees a Roadblock is next she asks to take it: "I can! You've done too much today!" But Emilia knows it will involve heights, which she's better at. At "Toss," Sarah manages to land a single axe, while James hits the other nine. Sarah offers to take the Roadblock. James & Sarah run back to their taxi and start begging for money from locals to pay for the bill.

At Grouse Mountain, Shane collects his 3rd flag and is rewarded with his next clue: head to the Pit Stop at Crab Park. Michelle begins the Roadblock and quickly begins collecting her flags. As Shane & Andrew depart, Shane sees Joseph & Grace arriving; he wonders if Grace will be the one performing the task and thinks it would be too difficult for her, considering she's much shorter than him (she's the shortest person left in the Race). Michelle collects her third flag and performs a victory dance atop the cable car. Grace tries to grab her 1st flag but fails; they have go all the way back to the bottom of the mountain and take another car.

Emilia begins the Roadblock just as Grace prepares for her 2nd attempt. Grace tries her hardest, but misses again! Although Emilia is better with heights, Lucy thinks her "Go-go Gadgets arms" would have come in handy on the task. Emilia notes "I'm not Tomb Raider here." Man, suddenly the pop culture references are flying fast and furious! It's here I also note Lucy's nickname for Emilia is "Bella." Something Italian, one assumes. Emilia misses the 1st flag and they have to retry the challenge.

At Crab Park, Shane & Andrew arrive in 2nd place. They tell Grant they're disappointed to have been denied a chance at the Fast Forward and would have been willing to try anything. When Grant explains the challenge was to pose nude, Shane insists it was "right up our alley." Michelle & Jo arrive in 3rd place.

James & Sarah have only $25 for their taxi driver and already owe him about $45. He accepts this, so Sarah kisses him; he accepts that too. Sarah begins the Roadblock while Grace is on attempt 3 and Emilia on her 2nd. This time, Grace successfully grabs her flags. Emilia begins chanting "Do it for Mum," to bolster her confidence; she finally gets the 1st and 2nd flags. Sarah has a pretty good strategy, planting herself at the back of the cable car so the flags will be lower for her to grab.

Below, Joseph & Grace meet up with their taxi driver, who says he'd been watching them on the task. He's been running his meter the entire time! All they have left is $120 and it's not enough to cover the charges so far, much less a drive to Crab Park! When they ask the driver for a little leniency, noting they have no other money he just answers, "Well, you should have told me that before." The siblings start begging locals for additional money.

Above at the cable cars, Emilia is starting to enjoy the ride and sings Bryan Adams' "Heaven." As the 3rd flag nears, she chants "Do it for Mum" again; she catches the flag and yells triumphantly, "Mum, that's for you!" then crouches down and cries. The sisters sum up the entire experience with "This is a fun journey," despite the hardships they've endured. Sarah also finishes the Roadblock, but she and James are completely without money.

Joseph & Grace's driver finally takes pity on them after they've collected some (but not all) of what he needs. Lucy & Emilia find James & Sarah's former taxi driver, still hanging about. When they ask him for a ride to Crab Park he asks, "Do you have money?" Knowing nothing of James & Sarah's woes, the sisters respond, "Of course we do! I'll even show it to you!" One can only imagine what stories the taxi drivers of Vancouver told each other the day the Australians came to town. James & Sarah get another taxi, but are down to little more than pocket change; they hope the Pit Stop is close.

Joseph & Grace arrive in 4th place at the Pit Stop. James & Sarah arrive at Crab Park next, but their taxi bill is about $25 and they have less than $5. He asks them for a credit card instead, but of course they don't have one. "If you don't have money, why'd you take the cab?" the driver wonders. While they argue, Lucy & Emilia arrive and check in 5th place.

James & Sarah finally attract the attention of a police officer, who intervenes on their behalf with the cab driver. The policeman calls up the cabbie's boss and explains the situation; the boss claims James & Sarah will be let off the hook if they send him a case of Foster's from Australia! They agree to his terms and finally run to the Pit Stop. Of course, it's too late... Grant informs the duo they've been eliminated. Despite their arguments, they speak positively about the experience and believe they've grown through the struggles of the Race. "We will know each other 'til we're 85," says Sarah.

I'm not displeased by James & Sarah's elimination, but I certainly didn't mind them. Back when Sarah's "hunners" were introduced I was certain they'd be out sooner rather than later. They turned out to be pretty strong Racers, even winning a leg (which means now the only team to have won any legs and remain in the Race is Paul & Steve). They were pretty sharp about how to run the Race, but they bled a lot of time at the start of this leg and lost even more ground from losing their money. It's strange to see how many teams have been seriously deflated by lack of funds during this season!

Thoughts on the 5 remaining teams:

  1. Paul & Steve: They continue to be likeable enough. It's interesting to learn (via Lucy & Emilia's blog) that Paul isn't quite as bad as the program has made him seen - he's partly just a victim of editing. But it's been, what, four episodes since Paul's last bout of trash-talking?
  2. Shane & Andrew: It's interesting to see these two succeeding by their own efforts; if it hadn't been for the Fast Forward, they might've claimed first place! It's especially impressive considering how they fell behind the others from chasing the Fast Forward, then overtook everyone who had passed them! This is how I thought they'd be performing from the outset, honestly.
  3. Michelle & Jo: I definitely appreciate their hunger to win; I hope we get at least one leg with these two as the winners!
  4. Joseph & Grace: Fortunately, we were spared any reactions from Grace regarding James & Sarah's difficulties. They did well enough this leg, although Grace taking three attempts at the Roadblock sure didn't help their taxi bill! My interest in these two has waned since the Paris taxi incident, but at least they weren't upset with each other this leg.
  5. Lucy & Emilia: These two are exactly the kind of people I like to see on the Race. They seem more "real" than the others, having very natural reactions to their situations, an awareness of their shortcomings and having to push themselves to pass the challenges. Emilia crying atop the cable car was a perfect emotional moment, as was Lucy trying to claim the Roadblock to make up for her Detour performance.

Next time: In a double-length teaser, we see teams are now very determined to ensure Paul & Steve don't make the final three... not that it's made a difference thus far, even when six teams were aligned against them!

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