Monday, December 3, 2012

Amazing Race 21-10 recap: "Not a Well-Rounded Athlete"

Last night's Amazing Race didn't feature the most exciting route or outrageous incidents, but demonstrated some surprising strengths and weaknesses amongst the four remaining teams.

We resume where we left off: Randsdorp in the Netherlands, near Amsterdam. Twin sisters Natalie/Nadiya resume in first place and their clue directs them to fly to Barcelona, Spain, then travel by ferry to the island of Mallorca. As the twins head to the airport, we're reminded how they have a decent lead on the other teams (they used a Fast Forward last leg). At the airport, they do a terrific job of lining up a flight and are en route to Barcelona before the next team has even begun!

Chippendale dancers Jaymes/James are next to depart; they U-Turned their friends Abbie/Ryan on the previous leg but don't actually know whether Abbie/Ryan were eliminated. Young dating couple Trey/Lexi leave soon after them, but they don't catch up at the airport. In fact, the teams each wind up on separate flights, just like last leg.

In Barcelona, Natalie/Nadiya head via taxi to the ferry port, but find the location is closed and won't open for... 13 hours! Oh my gravy. At this point, life partners Josh/Brent have only just begun the leg, more than six hours behind the leaders. "We have to be doing something right, I don't know what it is, but... it seems like we do everything wrong." Josh muses. He notes they've been in either last or 2nd to last for quite some time (since leg 5, if you can believe it). At the airport, they discuss Josh's ankle injury from the previous leg:

Brent: "Can you practice your Lamaze breathing?"

Josh: "I'm not pregnant."

Brent: "Breathe, breathe through the pain."

Josh: "...I'm breathing."

Brent: (heavy breathing)

Josh: "What was that?"

Brent: "I'm breathing through the pain for you."

Josh: "Thank you, it still hurts."

When it comes to his anxiety and sardonic remarks, Josh does remind me of Zev (from seasons 15 & 18). Josh remarks, "There's always that one team that somehow stays in to the end and you're like, 'how and why are they still here?' Rarely do they win, but, occasionally they have," which sums up he & Brent pretty neatly. They board a flight to Barcelona, ever hopeful.

Back to Barcelona: Jaymes/James head to the port where they find Natalie/Nadiya waiting; they're extremely excited to be reunited and the twins share what they know about the ferry. Not much later, Trey/Lexi arrive (confirming how they used the U-Turn last leg) and all six Racers perform a group hug. "Final three!" is shouted many times. With hours to kill before the ferry arrives, they switch to their swimwear and lounge about on the Barcelona beach; they've come a long way from Bangladesh! As time for the ferry draws near, they return to the ferry terminal and find Josh/Brent waiting. Overjoyed to see it isn't Abbie/Ryan (but instead, a team no one feels threatened by), they happily hug the duo. It probably hurts Josh/Brent a little to hear the teams express how proud they are of their U-Turn strategy, considering the bond Josh/Brent forged with Abbie/Ryan. Still, Josh/Brent are pleased to have caught up to the leading teams after being behind for so many legs.

The ferry finally departs with all four teams aboard. In Mallorca, teams choose taxis and drive to a cathedral in Palma where a group of men dressed as devils/demons and playing with fire have their next clue. Josh/Brent get lost in the shuffle as they can't find directions to the cathedral, but the other three teams stick close together. At the cathedral, Jaymes/James, Natalie/Nadiya & Trey/Lexi search the devils together until Trey finds the one with their clue: it directs them to board one of the cars waiting nearby and drive to Centro de Alto Rendimiento in Manacor. This must be the first time teams have been allowed to drive themselves since the opening trip to the airport in leg 1! As they depart, Josh/Brent arrive at the cathedral and obtain the clue.

The leading trio agreed to travel together, but the cars are manual (something which often comes up on Amazing Race) and Natalie/Nadiya fall behind the others. Nadiya trained to use manual before the Race, but only took one class because she thought it "seems easy;" not so, indeed. Natalie/Nadiya fall terribly behind the others. Natalie winds up backseat driving, even though she knows less about manual. Josh/Brent make up some time because they're good with manual and directions (they seem to be the one team who bought a map).

Jaymes/James & Trey/Lexi arrive together at Centro de Alto Rendimiento where they learn it's time for a Roadblock: these are the tennis courts where the world's #1 tennis player Rafael Nadal plays; now one of them must enter the court and return 20 legal serves from a tennis ball machine before the machine runs out. Trey & James take the task (it's surprising, considering James has a wounded ankle). Trey, on the other hand, plays tennis for recreation. The balls come fast, but Lexi advises Trey to strike every other ball, which sounds like a decent strategy. "They're definitely makin' him run for it, which I like to see," says Lexi. Jaymes notices how well Trey is doing and supposes "when you wear the Andre Agassi headband, you play like Andre Agassi." I don't know who that is, but it is nice to see someone pointing out Trey's ever-present headband. James struggles but keeps his humour up declaring "that was a home run!" after one hit.

Trey easily smashes out his 20 serves (the ringing noise when he succeeds sounds like a Price is Right effect) and receives the next clue: drive to the Campanet caverns and listen for music to find the next clue. James has to make a second attempt. En route to the court, Josh informs Brent how his ankle feels much better and when Brent presses the issue, confirms his ankle is "not an excuse." Nadiya continues to fumble with her car. Back at the court, James hits his 20th ball on the second attempt and sets out with Jaymes to the Campanet. Josh/Brent pass them in the parking lot as they exit. "I am not a well-rounded athlete, if you haven't noticed," James laughs (and titles this episode). Josh agrees to play tennis because of his supposedly improved ankle, but once he starts playing on the court, he quickly revives the injury. Josh seems both hapless and hopeless as he struggles at hitting the tennis balls. Despite this, Brent can't help a snarky remark on hearing Josh's vocal exertions: "Sounds like Monica Celes on the court." Again, I don't get the reference but it sounds funny! Brent notes how Josh needs to control his anxiety, but since Josh hasn't done this after 42 years of life, it's unlikely he'll figure it out on the Race. After failing his first attempt, Josh collapses and Brent wonders if it's even possible for Josh to succeed.

Just to compound Josh's anxiety, Natalie/Nadiya have finally caught up. Noting they're "the same in tennis," Nadiya takes the Roadblock. We soon learn what this statement means as the twins hated playing tennis while growing up and at school would douse themselves in water to avoid being allowed on the tennis court. Nadiya has to ask Natalie whether she's left-handed or right-handed, which is about the most ridiculous question I can imagine (then again, if anyone could answer, it would be your twin sister). "It's not bloody badminton!" is one of Natalie's many pointed remarks. Josh finally rallies his strength and fights back, while Natalie just criticizes Nadiya for holding her racket "really weird, like a cricket bat." Josh finishes the Roadblock, but Natalie/Nadiya aren't too far behind as Nadiya finishes the Roadblock. The twins ask Josh/Brent if they know where Campanet is, but they don't.

Nadiya: "He has a map though."

Natalie: "How do they have a bloody map in this place?"

Nadiya: "I don't know, they're super-prepared, they're gay."

At Campanet, Trey/Lexi & Jaymes/James arrive close together and agree to help each find the next clue. They wander through the caves carefully, listening intently for music. As Trey/Lexi find the musicians first, Jaymes encourages Trey/Lexi to take the first clue; they do, and simply hand it to Jaymes/James!

It's now time for the Detour: "Spin It" and "Bull It." In the former, teams journey to Sa Pobla and help attach two windmill blades to a windmill; actors dressed as Don Quixote & Sancho Panza will deliver their next clue.

In "Bull It," teams drive to Muro and perform a mock bullfight in an arena; dressed as a pantomime bull (the rear team member providing the eyes from the back while the front half can't see), they must correctly navigate eight matadors, then strike a bull's eye next to a mannequin matador, all of this within 2 minutes. Both teams agree to try "Bull It" and head out of the caverns to continue assisting each other. As Natalie/Nadiya drive on, Natalie laments, "We suck! Everybody's hours ahead of us, I feel! If we'd just kept up with everybody from the start we'd have been straight."

Out on the road, Jaymes/James choose a different direction than Trey/Lexi when they head for the freeway. The latter team are confident in their directions and keep going without them. In fact, Jaymes/James seem to be on the wrong path but chance to happen upon the "Spin It" Detour. They decide to stop and build the windmill instead.

Jaymes: "Workin' at Chippendale's, we may have seen a construction outfit a time or two."

James: "Yeah, I may have swung a, y'know, styrofoam hammer here and there."

The duo actually seem to be doing well with this other Detour, simply attaching the fan blades in the same manner as the samples provided. "This might've been the fun one after all," Jaymes concludes. In contrast, Trey/Lexi arrive at "Bull It" and dress up in the bull suit with Trey guiding from the rear while Lexi wears the horns. You know, over the years Amazing Race has dressed up its cast as all manner of cows and kangaroos. It does wonders for their sense of dignity. They navigate the course very well, but they charge the bull's eye with too much force and knock it over. Not only does it mean they have to redo the task, but Lexi injured her finger in the tumble.

Back at Campanet, Josh/Brent locate their next clue; they choose "Spin It." Speaking of which, Jaymes/James finish the windmill and receive directions to the next Pit Stop: Castell de Bellver, a castle in Palma. Elsewhere, Natalie/Nadiya find their clue in Campanet and decide to try "Spin It." Back at "Bull It," Trey/Lexi switch parts of the bull and try the task again; on the second attempt, they succeed (the bull's eye makes another Price is Right noise) and receive a clue directing them to the Pit Stop. Josh/Brent start work on "Spin It," just as Natalie/Nadiya arrive, but have some trouble parking the car. Josh remarks how seeing the twins gave him strength because he knew he & Brent would be better at the task (having worked together on their farm) and having seen how Natalie/Nadiya were already having a troublesome time. In fact, the windmill reminds Josh/Brent of the wind turbine on their farm. Meanwhile, the twins struggle with the tools; one team is in their comfort zone, the other is not.

Trey/Lexi arrive at the Pit Stop in first place, which seems to indicate their Detour was nearer. At the Pit Stop, they're met by Phil and a greeter dressed as a headless person (why?). Phil awards them a trip to the Riviera Maya. Jaymes/James arrive in 2nd place; they declare they're the most motivated team on the Race because of how badly they want to help their families' health troubles.

Back at "Spin It," Josh/Brent complete the task, collecting their clue from Quixote & Panza. "I guess the two of us are better than each of them separate," is Brent's assessment of their besting Natalie/Nadiya. Natalie grouses, "This is why we're supposed to look at everything ahead of time, not just, Nadiya, just pin the tail on the damn donkey every time." Josh/Brent claim 3rd place at the castle. "It's just hard to kill us, I think," Josh remarks.

Of their performance, Nadiya notes "there was no master plan against us," seemingly a reference to Abbie/Ryan's fate last week. "We did this all by ourselves, to ourselves." They finally complete "Spin It," and head to a last place finish at the Pit Stop, where Phil informs them it's a non-elimination leg (which they seem prepared for - it had to be an NEL this leg or the next and the producers tend to prefer four teams in the penultimate leg). Thus, the twins still have a chance to win the Race, but will have to endure a Speed Bump in the next leg.

We remain with the same four teams as before:

  1. Trey & Lexi: I really did expect them to get lost while driving, given the problems they had making decisions in earlier legs. Lexi's injury didn't seem to cost them any time as they hammered out tasks as efficiently as usual. I wouldn't have predicted them as contenders back at the beginning, but they've been extremely reliable throughout.
  2. Jaymes & James: With so many of the formerly powerful teams gone, these two have stepped up to become a true powerhouse in the Race, handily besting a Detour which didn't seem like the better choice. They seem like obvious contenders for the $1 million prize and will probably please the largest possible portion of Amazing Race's fanbase if they succeed.
  3. Josh & Brent: Never give up the ship! I didn't expect to find these two in the Race for very long, certainly not long enough to develop any affection for them. I'm glad to have been proved wrong as despite their previous reality show experience, they are very down-to-Earth and keep the program grounded. Regardless of how the remainder of the Race pans out, their performance is a major statement to future teams on how far you can go by simply refusing to give up.
  4. Natalie & Nadiya: I'm still irritated with these two for stealing money earlier in the Race, but it was interesting to see them fail and only blame themselves (which I can't help but contrast against Abbie/Ryan last week). Their various remarks about Josh/Brent's sexuality were probably meant to be funny, but I think they've lost a few fans over it.

Next week: the final two legs of season 21, meshed together into a two-hour finale; first, teams will race to learn which of them are the final three, then it's a 3-way race to $1 million! Based on the footage, Trey/Lexi seem to be definitely in the finals. There's also some amusing footage of Brent spreading out his arms to seemingly prevent other team members from outrunning him. Thus, I'll conclude my recaps of season 21 a week from today!

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