Monday, November 5, 2012

Amazing Race 21-06 reacp: "Get Your Sexy On"

Last night's Amazing Race was equal parts impressive and maddening. At this point, I'm beginning to receive a better picture of each team's strategies, strengths and weaknesses, with plenty in each category.

We pick up where we left off: Lok Shilpa Jadughar in Sonargaon, Bangladesh. Rock 'n roll professionals James & Abba depart in first place with instructions to fly to Instanbul, Turkey, where Europe meets Asia! As the duo board a taxi to a travel agency, we're reminded how Abba's knees have been bothering him and it's a struggle for him to run at this point.

Abba: "As Sir Barton said 'I am hurt, but I am not slain.'"

James: "My God, this race has taken on Biblical proportions!"

Dating couple Abbie/Ryan begin the leg next; "Goodbye Bangladesh; it's been real, it's been real hot, but it hasn't been real fun," Ryan says. "Next time you're at home and your Samsung 52' starts to go fuzzy on you, don't bitch about it, go to Dhaka," he adds. Twin sisters Natalie/Nadiya depart next; Nadiya states, "We love the fact that Abbie & Ryan are a competitive team, but Ryan rubs everybody the wrong way. I've no animosity, but they just... two weirdos!" Married monster truck drivers Rob/Kelley leave next and take the time to pick out a taxi they like before heading to the travel agency. Rob explains how, "People don't know me; they don't understand that I use the cockiness and the aggressiveness to make myself overcome any obstacles that might be put in front of me. I don't get drive from other people; I make my own drive."

At the travel agency, teams quickly learn there's only one flight to Istanbul so every team is going to be on it. Ryan grouses at having to be around "the two most annoying teams on this race: the rockers and the twisted sisters. Their hair is all the same length. Get them off the race already. I'm tired of them, I'm tired of them all." It was probably more clever inside his head. Note his derision of long hair, for you see Ryan is a manly man.

Young dating couple Trey/Lexi and Chippendale dancers Jaymes/James are the next teams to start the leg. Rob/Kelley arrive at the travel agency just as Abbie/Ryan depart; Ryan doesn't want to stay there with the other teams: "There's nothing they can do; you put those six heads together, you get about three braincells." He'll soon be proven wrong.

Life partners Josh/Brent begin the leg in last place, knowing they're hours behind the others and will have to complete a Speed Bump later in the leg; they liken this to the struggle they faced when they lost their jobs and had to save their farm, a trial which they overcame. At the agency, teams are vying for the use of the computers, when Nadiya sees a wad of money; Natalie quiets her before she can tell others about it and instead the sisters enter into a huddle with their allies Trey/Lexi; Natalie is even asking questions to Nadiya in Sinhalese so others can't eavesdrop. Says Natalie, "I have a good conscience, but when it comes to stuff like this, the drive gets stronger and stronger as you come closer to the Finish Line." I assert you do not have a good conscience if this is how you react when tested. Lexi likes the idea of keeping the money while Trey is against it, but the others hush him up (which couldn't be too difficult - he's usually a reserved, quiet fellow). The four conspirators depart the agency, leaving behind James/Abba, whom they're pretty sure are the ones who lost the money. Sure enough, Abba realizes the money is gone after the teams leave, but he assumes it fell out in a cab. They need money to reach the airport and continue the leg, but now it's all gone. With no other prospects, they head into the streets to start begging for money, heading past genuinely impoverished beggars as they look for "prosperous" folks in the business districts.

At the airport, Natalie feels guilty about taking the money and suggests they split the money between themselves and Trey/Lexi: "That way, the guilt can be split up, half and half. And they're Christians so they'll pray for us." Natalie does "wish it was Abbie & Ryan's" money, which Trey/Lexi agree to. On the streets, James/Abba fortunately find some locals who offer them some money; one man declares, "this is my country, you're my, uh, guest." It's heartwarming, but so unnecessary. At one point, Amazing Race would force teams who came in last on a non-elimination leg to beg for money, but some fans called this "mugging" and objected to seeing otherwise-well-to-do Americans begging for money from people who were often on the poverty line. Now, rather than production enforcing a mugging, it's the teams themselves who are inflicting this on each other! Ultimately, James/Abba lost $100 to Natalie/Nadiya, but the locals donated $100 back to the rockers. "Bangladesh good, not bad," judges the duo's cab driver; they quite agree. With this accomplished, everyone boards the flight to Instanbul.

At Instanbul, teams race out of the airport; everyone grabs a taxi except for Jaymes/James & Rob/Kelley, who both choose the metro, thinking it will be faster than street traffic. The two teams are on the same train and can see each other, but are located in separate cars. All the teams are headed to Beyoglu, a ferry terminal.

James/Abba reach Beyoglu first and their clue welcomes them to Europe... then tells them to return to Asia! They must board a ferry to Uskudar, which will bring them across to the Asian side of Istanbul. The duo are the only Racers on their ferry; "just like being back on tour," says James. Abbie/Ryan, Natalie/Nadiya, Trey/Lexi & Josh/Brent wind up on the 2nd ferry across, while Jaymes/James & Rob/Kelley are still on the metro. On the metro, the Chippendales ask a local about how fast the train is and he observes because it's early in the morning, there isn't much traffic to delay taxis. Realizing the metro is a mistake, Jaymes/James exit at the next stop. Rob/Kelley see this, but Rob opines: "The reason the Chippendale guys got off the metro is 'cause they think they need to group up with the other people, they think the other people took the taxi, I'm sure, because they're followers. We're not followers, we're gonna go our own way."

In Uskudar, James/Abba find the next clue, which directs them to travel by taxi to the Misir Carsisi shops, where they must find stall#14. James notes Abba's leg wrap is coming undone: "you look like a mummy." The next four teams arrive just as James/Abba are boarding their taxi. The four teams are actually being helpful to each other, promising to reveal where the next cluebox is when they find it; when Ryan reaches the box, he actually throws a clue at Natalie before opening his own. As Jaymes/James arrive at Beyoglu and see how many clues are missing from the cluebox, they realize they've fallen behind; "wouldn't be us if we didn't somethin' a little off," notes Jaymes.

James/Abba & Trey/Lexi race into Misir Carsisi together and find stall#14, where Josh/Brent's Speed Bump sign is visible. A clerk hands them their next clue inside a package of Turkish Delight! It's time for the Detour: "Simit" or "Scrub It." In "Simit," teams must deliver simits (a type of bagel) to three locations, carrying a tray of simits on their heads the traditional way.

In "Scrub It," teams must participate in a Turkish bath (much like contestants from last summer's Amazing Race: Australia). Obviously, this is a much easier task, it's just a question of whether teams could power through the simit delivery faster than it would take to lie back and be bathed. Trey/Lexi, demonstrating the "follower" mentality we've seen so much this season, ask James/Abba what to do; the rockers vote "Scrub It," so Trey/Lexi stick with them.

Natalie/Nadiya, Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent race into Misir Carsisi at about the same time; while the latter two teams head to "Scrub It," Josh/Brent must perform their Speed Bump: find a marked ice cream vendor stall outside the bazaar and eat two scoops of ice cream (if this sounds lame to you, then you must not be familiar with Speed Bumps - it's pretty typical). The couple begin searching for the ice cream vendor, but head in the wrong direction, ultimately choosing a different vendor stall. It's actually interesting to see how the ice cream is served, as the vendor plays around with the cones, tricking Josh/Brent to grab for cones which are deftly put out of reach or replaced with an empty cone. Jaymes/James arrive in Uskudar and head to Misir Carsisi. Jaymes observes, "We don't got a clue where we are in the race right now. Just look at the bottom of the screen right now, it'll tell you what place we're in, we ain't got a clue." On cue, "Jaymes & James Currently in 6th Place" appears. Rob/Kelley have only just arrived at Beyoglu, but realize they've fallen behind (extra clues in the box keep them from knowing exactly how far). Josh/Brent finish their ice cream and return to stall#14, but learn they didn't do the Speed Bump correctly; they search again for the right vendor.

James/Abba, Trey/Lexi, Abbie/Ryan & Natalie/Nadiya head to the Turkish Bath at about the same time. Ryan laments, "I better not get a dude," in case we forgot Ryan is a manly man. As Abba sits down to begin the bath, he declares "I feel very Baccanalian right now." Wow, I wouldn't have guessed Abba for being the most well-read of this season's Racers, but twice now this episode he's surprised me. "This is horrible. So much torture," James kids, later adding, "I haven't had this done since I was five." As Ryan's attendant washes his feet, Ryan declares "Look at that! Abbie won't do that for me! You gotta gimmie your number, dude." Because Ryan is, uh, manly...? Strangely, the women are all dressed in flesh-toned tops, perhaps because production hoped wandering viewers might think they caught a glimpse of nudity?

Rob/Kelley arrive in Uskudar and head to Misir Carsisi, where Josh/Brent have only just found the right ice cream vendor and have to eat more ice cream: "the second cone is not quite as good as the first," Brent observes. Finishing, they return to stall#14 to receive their clue and Turkish Delight: "Just what we need!" Brent declares upon seeing the candy. Josh thinks the more physical Detour will be the quicker one, so they decide to try "Simit." It's a decent theory as that's normally how Detours work. As they leave, Jaymes/James arrive and decide on "Scrub It." Josh/Brent head to the bakery to begin loading up simits and it does seem as though the bakery is closer to Misir Carsisi than the Turkish Bath is. They head out with Brent carrying the simits on his head while Josh asks for directions, but Josh can't find people who speak English in clear directions. Elsewhere, Rob/Kelley arrive at Misir Carsisi and also decide on "Simit."

Describing the massage portion of the Turkish Bath, James states they "pulled my heart out, showed me it was beating and said, 'here, it's going too slow, here you go.'" Trey/Lexi finish their Turkish Bath first and their next clue directs them to travel by taxi to another bazaar: Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami, where their clue lies near a fountain. Abbie/Ryan & James/Abba are right behind, leaving Natalie/Nadiya with a "private Twinny massage." This whole Turkish Bath Detour is just an excuse to give viewers a chance to gaze at the Racers' sexy bodies. But dang it, for thieves, Natalie/Nadiya are gorgeous thieves. Jaymes/James arrive at the bath as the twins depart; Jaymes seems surprised to discover the Turkish Bath is cold.

Josh/Brent are getting lost as they try to deliver simits and Brent is growing testy. Rob/Kelley begin the Detour (Rob dancing into the bakery when he hears the local musicians) and soon are wandering just as aimlessly. Josh/Brent finally discover someone who speaks English and directs them to their first delivery.

Trey/Lexi reach the fountain in the bazaar and discover it's time for the Roadblock; Lexi takes the challenge, which requires one team member to dress up in a costume (complete with fez) and sell 40 glasses of sherbet to passerbys for 1 lira each. Abbie/Ryan and James/Abba aren't far behind and Ryan & Abba take the task for their teams. "Abba-Dabba, you look fabulous, man!" declares James upon seeing Abba in his outfit. Ryan keeps dropping the lid to his sherbet jug. Lexi is clearly the star player at this contest, although her loud exclamations are just a little piercing.

Back at "Scrub It," James describes the massage as being "like a battle of wills." Jaymes believes the cold water isn't really part of the treatment, just an excuse for the attendants to laugh at them. At "Simit," Josh/Brent help encourage Rob/Kelley as they head to a delivery location. "If I had to do this job every day, I'd quit," shares Rob. Back at the bazaar, the twins begin the Roadblock as Nadiya reads the clue:

Nadiya: "'Who's ready to pour their heart out...?'"

Natalie: "I am."

Nadiya: "...Natalie, because she's single."

Natalie: (laughs) "What?"

Lexi notes "as a cheerleader, you have to be upbeat all the time, you have to attract the crowd," which is just what she does as a sherbet vendor. "I was just being loud and obnoxious like I normally am," Lexi admits. One man pays Lexi for a drink just to make her go away. On the other hand, Ryan observes "I've never sold sherbet. I don't know what the sales technique is." Ah, but does he have any history of selling to customers? He finally asks one man to help him sell sherbet, offering him a commission; I'm not sure how that's supposed to work, but it seems to pan out well for Ryan. Abba is struggling a little.

Lexi finishes the Roadblock and receives the next clue: travel by taxi to the Pit Stop, found next to the Savarona, a famous luxury yacht. Nadiya notes, "I'd rather Texas get it than Abbie & Ryan." Abbie overhears this. Jaymes/James begin the Roadblock with James on the task. Ryan finishes the Roadblock and Abbie gossips about what she heard Nadiya say. "They're so juvenile. They can suck it," is Ryan's manly and mature response. Abba finishes the Roadblock next. At "Simit," Josh/Brent and Rob/Kelley both finish the Detour, while Natalie finishes the Roadblock. Jaymes is a little apprehensive about how long James is taking at selling sherbet.

Trey/Lexi run into the Pit Stop where Phil awards them first place and a trip to Australia. No mention is made of a penalty for sharing in the theft of James/Abba's money. Abbie/Ryan arrive at 2nd place at the Pit Stop; there's no mention of Ryan being put out because he won't be able to match season 20's Rachel/Dave's record of 1st place wins, so I guess he's over that now?

At the Roadblock, Brent takes the task. "I may not be a Chippendale, but I can work a costume," says Brent. Rob/Kelley arrive next with Kelley taking the Roadblock. Jaymes is again unnerved: "You see monster truck, you see Beekman Boys, you know you in the back of the pack, you know you fightin' for last." We see an example of James' technique: "Afternoon, ladies, can I get you a nice cold drink? No? It's the hat, isn't it?" Brent tries to sell one drink by claiming to a customer he made it himself: "You made this, I don't drink," the customer replies. James finally finishes the Roadblock and departs with Jaymes.

James/Abba claim 3rd place at the Pit Stop. Natalie/Nadiya receive 4th place; again, no penalty is brought up. What's up with that? Perhaps they were penalized, but it didn't effect placements so it wasn't aired. I know before I began these recaps I reminded viewers not to demand penalties for any seeming infraction, but surely knowingly taking another team's money is a penalty? We've seen teams penalized for accidentally taking another's vehicle (season 6), knowingly hiding some bicycle pumps (season 14), moving another team's bags (season 18) and taking another team's bags out of a taxi (Australia, season 2). There are penalties for speeding tickets (season 13) but not theft? If this isn't a penalty, I hope there's an explanation offered online.

Brent finishes the Roadblock, but Kelley is seemingly very close behind; both teams start racing to the Pit Stop. Josh/Brent are slowed down by a traffic jam, but instead of waiting it out, they exit their cab and start directing traffic (reminiscent of season 7's Rob), enabling the jam to break up seemingly more quickly. It's good to see them take matters in their own hands rather than blithely bowing to fate. Jaymes/James arrive in 5th place at the Pit Stop, while Josh/Brent arrive in 6th place at the Pit Stop, keeping them in the game. "And we even took time out to eat ice cream, Phil," Brent remarks.

Rob/Kelley finally arrive at the Pit Stop in last place, forcing Phil to eliminate them. Rob is visibly upset by the elimination, practically moved to tears, a rare moment where he ceases being a performer. "I tell you what, without Kelley, I'm nothing. Uh, you might think that I'm this big strong bold guy, but I'm so blessed to have this woman in my life and for someone to love me the way she loves me."

I said last week Rob/Kelley needed to avoid major mistakes... the metro was their one great mistake this week. It's hard to tell how long the Detours took, but the Turkish Bath might have helped them save a few minutes - but the metro was a real killer. It's disappointing to see some teams succeed by being followers while others fail for obeying their own instincts; say what you will about Rob/Kelley, they never went with the crowd.

Thoughts on our six remaining teams:

  1. Trey & Lexi: I don't think much of Lexi worming her way into Natalie/Nadiya's theft, but at least Trey was resistant; it's nice to see them succeed after falling to the back during the last two legs, but their benefiting from the theft leaves a bad taste.
  2. Abbie & Ryan: Ryan's been snarky to other teams before, but this week he's become truly unpleasant about it, insulting teams who have, at times, been better Racers than he & Abbie. Abbie shows no signs of reigning him in, but next week ought to please those of us who want Ryan's ego taken down a peg.
  3. James & Abba: In the face of Abba's knee troubles and being mugged by another team, these two did a fantastic job of staying at the top of the pack. Gradually, these two have become my favourites; for a showman, there's a lot of humility to be found in James, as opposed to the way other teams mug for the cameras. And speaking of muggers...
  4. Natalie & Nadiya: Last week I opined I liked these two "in spite of themselves." Boy, howdy, does the money theft ever challenge my assertion. I love their personalities and competitiveness, but I am equivocally against robbing another team, especially if there's no penalty from production. I don't want them to win now.
  5. Jaymes/James: I can't imagine these two winning a single leg, but they did at least show some good judgment when they left the metro for a cab; despite Rob's assertion, it was the opposite of being "followers," and they were rewarded for rethinking their strategy. Still, their existence in this Race remains precarious.
  6. Josh/Brent: It wasn't until these two were racing to the Pit Stop that I realized I wanted to see more of them - mainly because I was impressed by their maneuvers during the traffic jam. I feel as though their elimination is just a question of time, but I'm glad they survived another leg.

I'm seriously bummed about the mugging, as you can tell. It might be a deal-breaker to me as to whether I'm coming back for season 22.

Next week: The series visits Russia as Josh/Brent & Abbie/Ryan get left behind on a connecting flight, James/Abba lose a taxi which has all of their gear and it looks like there's going to be a lock & key task similar to season 6; a Switchback task, perhaps?

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