Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-11 recap

Welcome to the second of our three nights of Amazing Race: Australia! Just four teams are left, so by the end of the hour, we'll know which teams will bring it all home in the final leg!

We resume the Race at Banff Springs Hotel with police officers Shane & Andrew departing the Pit Stop in 1st place at 2:02 AM and directed to fly to Beijing, China! First, they have to travel via bus to Calgary (my home!) and use its airport. Siblings Joseph/Grace leave next, followed by twin sisters Michelle/Jo and workmates Paul/Steve and all catch the same bus as Shane/Andrew. Michelle & Jo are holding out hope to be the first all-female team to win Amazing Race: Australia.

The teams arrive in Calgary and it's nice to see them running through the ever-familiar Calgary International Airport (I think last visited by Amazing Race in season 5 of the US version?). At this point, we learn Shane/Andrew have had an alliance with Michelle/Jo "pretty much the whole way." Well, this is a fine time to tell us about it, producers! Grace declares "We don't want Paul & Steve in the top three. They don't deserve to be," which picks up on her animosity towards them for the first time in quite a while. Paul, however, believes he and Steve have fought "an uphill battle" and therefore "deserve to be in the top three." Of course, one can't "deserve" this honour, one simply achieves it. Ask some US fans if Flo "deserved" to win season 3 then watch the fur fly!

All four teams wind up on the same flight to Beijing. Arriving there, they grab taxis and travel to a marked stall on Ghost Street. Paul notes he & Steve's taxi driver quotes a price which is virtually all the money they were given for the leg! Man, the teams are really strapped for cash this season! Paul gets upset at this and decides to find a different vehicle. Joseph & Grace are already en route in their taxi when they learn how expensive it'll be; they have exactly what the ride will cost, no more... and what are the odds this is the only time they'll need money in the leg? When they arrive at the location and try to pretend they can't cover the entire fare, the driver is a little irritated. When he reaches for something in his glove compartment, Grace panics, thinking he has a gun; they still wind up paying less than he asked for, but save a few dollars.

Michelle & Jo are the first to the marked stall: Detour! The options are "Waiter" or "Wheel." In "Waiter," teams must travel to a restaurant, dress up as waiters and correctly take down the orders from a table of customers, present the order to the chefs and deliver the correct plates to each customer (fans of the US version will recall this from season 14).

In "Wheel," teams spin a Lazy Susan wheel then eat whichever delicacy lines up with the wheel's arrow; they'll have to do this four times. Michelle & Jo choose "Waiter," while the other teams choose "Wheel." This suggests Michelle & Jo have no idea how much time it took teams to overcome the waiter challenge on the US version!

As Paul & Steve begin spinning the wheel, Steve notes how he was rooting for the most disgusting items to land on Paul when he spun because then Steve wouldn't have to eat them when he spun; Steve chants "Testicle! Testicle!" as Paul spins, but Paul lands on scorpion; Paul claims he enjoyed it. Shane gets cicadas, while Grace lands on starfish. At first, Grace is excited, assuming she'll be eating a small starfish: nope, it's jumbo-size! At the sight of it, Grace shrieks, jumps out of her seat and declares, "I'm not eating that!" Hoo-boy. At this, Joseph declares they're doing "Waiter," because he doesn't think Grace has any hope at finishing the challenge.

Michelle & Jo are steadily figuring out Mandarin as they collect their orders. At "Wheel," Steve & Andrew each wind up eating Bird's Nest Soup. Paul takes fish heads. Paul is a little unnerved but thinks he has to prove to his own ego that he can do it. Shane gets springroll with duck anus... is this a typical dish or some arcane joke? Steve gets sheep testicles, much to his disgust. At "Waiter," Joseph notes how difficult the task is and asks Grace to please eat her starfish; she refuses. To solve the dilemma, Grace starts composing her own rap songs by sounding out the orders, thus committing them to memory - it works!

Michelle & Jo finish the Detour first, much to my surprise! Their next clue directs them to a foot massage parlor, where they must receive a foot massage for 10 minutes, 5 minutes per foot (another revisit of season 14). Of course, the trick is this is a very painful foot massage. Paul & Steve leave the restaurant right after the twins.

At "Wheel," Andrew gets the starfish and tears right into it. By the time he finishes, Joseph/Grace have finished "Waiter," which is again, quite surprising. Joseph & Grace ask Shane/Andrew how much they paid for their taxi; it was only 70 (Renminbi?), versus the 750 Joseph/Grace's driver demanded! They realize they made a huge mistake with their taxi. Grace declares China is "the hardest one." Joseph reminds her, "We just got here." At the parlor, Michelle & Jo begin their foot massages; this was a Roadblock in season 14, so it's a lot tougher to inflict it on both team members. Shane & Andrew start right after the twins. Michelle doubts whether Jo will be able to manage the pain of the massage when it's her turn, but Jo offers a comforting hand to soothe her tortured sister.

Meanwhile, Paul & Steve's taxi has become lost. They ask to be let out, then start looking for another taxi. Jo is in tremendous pain during her massage; Michelle, Shane & Andrew all try to encourage her. Shane recalls Jo's screaming sounds a lot like his wife giving birth to their first child (a comparison some teams in season 14 made). Andrew remarks, "I hope you were more supportive to her than you were to me!" Andrew finishes his massage and Shane begins his. Joseph & Grace begin the challenge next, with Grace going first.

Through tears, Jo points at her masseuse's button and declares, "You're mean. You have a smiley face on your front." She starts crying for morphine. Grace pulls her foot away after one minute, which means the clock is reset; she'll wind up going through six minutes on one foot! Jo finishes the task and Shane thinks there should have been a midwife present to show her her baby! Michelle & Jo get the next clue: travel by taxi to the Marco Polo Bridge and count all of the stone lions on the bridge. Shane & Andrew finish the massage a little later. Grace finishes her massage and Joseph begins; he thought Grace was making up the pain, only to discover how real it is. Paul & Steve finally arrive at the parlor, where Joseph warns them about the massage. Soon, Steve is in pain and holds hands with Joseph to get through the pain. However, Joseph soon finishes and leaves with Grace. Steve declares the pain of the massage was worse than being tattooed. Paul shows little concern, declaring, "you have to push yourself to get results." Steve wittily retorts, "Get stuffed!" Steve enjoys himself when it's Paul's turn, but Paul bottles up the pain and doesn't show it off.

Joseph & Grace are almost out of money as they head to the bridge. Their driver brings them to Marco Polo Hotel by mistake and they're officially out of money! The hotel staff give them a map so they start travelling there on foot. Michelle & Jo are first to the bridge, with Shane & Andrew right behind. However, the bridge is closed until 7:30 AM. Paul & Steve are also there when the bridge opens, but there's no sign of Joseph & Grace yet. They soon realize some lion statues have more than one lion in the sculpture, so they have to take their time to make sure they get every lion.

Shane & Andrew finish only half of the bridge then try to submit it, but to no avail; Michelle & Jo try the same thing with similar luck. Joseph & Grace are still travelling by foot. At the bridge, Michelle & Jo start shouting out random numbers to throw Paul & Steve off their game; it's worth an effort, I suppose. Shane/Andrew & Michelle/Jo fail again on their second attempts, but Paul/Steve get it on their first attempt.

It's now time for the Roadblock! Set at the Great Wall of China, one team member must pass through nine rows of warriors; only one warrior in each row will allow them to pass. If they're stopped three times, they'll have to start over. Michelle/Jo & Shane/Andrew share some information and soon both teams have the right number of lions. Paul, Jo & Andrew will be performing the Roadblock for their respective teams. However, when Shane/Andrew ask Michelle/Jo's taxi driver to help theirs with directions, they refuse. Shane & Andrew are a little stunned by this turn of events.

Joseph & Grace arrive at Marco Polo Bridge and start counting their lions. Paul & Steve arrive at the Great Wall of China, something Steve has already wanted to see. Paul starts working at passing the warriors. Michelle & Jo arrive next and are a little "devastated" to find Paul & Steve are ahead of them. When Paul is waylaid after three strikes, Jo begins alternating against him for the challenge. Elsewhere, Shane & Andrew get a local to help direct their taxi driver, who has brought them to the wrong freeway. At the bridge, Joseph & Grace seem to get the task in one attempt; Joseph agrees to take the Roadblock. Their plan is to take a taxi to the Wall then beg for money to pay for the bill.

At the Roadblock, Jo lands at the final row with just one strike left; unfortunately, she doesn't make it. Paul winds up in the same situation, but makes the right guess. "I got it wright. Naturally." is his modest response. Departing, he tells Jo he didn't get it; she realizes he's lying. Paul & Steve are headed to the Pit Stop: the Forbidden City! They head out in their taxi.

Jo finishes the Roadblock on her next attempt; she's both proud and angry to have finished the challenge, but not overtaken Paul. After climbing all the stairs Joe remarks, "I have a better bum than you Michelle, I can tell you now." Shane & Andrew arrive at the Great Wall and dismiss their perpetually lost taxi driver. Andrew begins the challenge.

Michelle & Jo's taxi driver is a little wiser than Paul & Steve's and they make it into the Forbidden City first! At the Pit Stop, host Grant Bowler rewards Michelle & Jo with 1st place! It's certainly high time they earned it, especially after their excellent work on this leg. They are in the final three teams now and Grant also gives them $10,000 from Southern Cross Travel Insurance. "We're ready for the final," says Michelle. Paul & Steve arrive a little later and take 2nd place. Paul notes they hoped for first place but "we can take this all the way and what an accomplishment to brag about after."

At the Roadblock, Andrew reaches the final row with two strikes left; he loses one, but luckily gueses right with his last guess! He and Shane make way to the Pit Stop, but have no taxi to carry them. Joseph & Grace fall asleep in their taxi and wake up at the Great Wall... but evidently nowhere near the right spot. Shane & Andrew finally get a taxi and head out. Andrew becomes a little emotional when he considers everything he gave up at home to go on the Race, but now considers they might be due for elimination. However, they arrive in 3rd place. "Now it's time to win," says Andrew.

It's dark and Joseph & Grace still haven't found the right location for the Roadblock. As they argue with their driver, Grant arrives to inform them they've traveled into Inner Mongolia. With three teams checked in, he eliminates the siblings by their taxi. This makes the second time Grant's performed this duty in this season. "I didn't think a brother/sister combination could survive this long, that's a severe challenge in itself," says Joseph. Overall, Joseph is impressed to have discovered how capable Grace is, while Grace admires how Joseph has kept her safe through the journey.

I warmed up to Joseph & Grace at first, even though Grace's toying with Paul was childish. However, ever since they stole James & Sarah's taxi in Paris - coupled with Grace's false apology - I've been indifferent to them. Overall, they were okay Racers who could have gone the distance, but Grace could have used an attitude check.

We're down to our final three:

  1. Michelle & Jo: They seemed very tense on this leg but it was great to see them find advantages in unexpected places (the Detour, the taxi) and finally take home the 1st place I felt they could have had at almost any point in this Race.
  2. Paul & Steve: Paul's old overconfidence is returning now that he's in "proving myself" mode, but he's not taking it out on other players, which is nice. His indifferent reaction to Steve's pain at the massage was not the mark of a good friend though, I think.
  3. Shane & Andrew: Like Paul & Steve, these two have fallen on old habits - getting lost, mainly. They're still pretty strong and could possibly even win; I'm just glad one 100% likeable team is in the finish.

Tomorrow: Back to Oz for the finale of Amazing Race: Australia season 2!

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