Monday, April 23, 2012

Amazing Race 20-09 recap: "Bollywood Travolta"

This will be my last Amazing Race recap for a couple of weeks as on Saturday, I'll be starting my own international adventure in Sierra Leone! I'll catch up on the two remaining episodes at some point after my return.

In short: last week's advertisements promised a major breakdown on Mark's behalf and they did not lie; this was a difficult episode to watch, but those same elements made it the best of the season thus far.

We resume the Race near Lake Manyara, Tanzania. Bopper is very concerned about his knee, which gave out on him near the end of last leg, opening up some problems he's had from earlier knee surgery. During the Pit Stop rest time, Bopper sees a doctor who confirms Bopper should be able to stay in the Race, provided he keeps wearing his brace. Bopper & Mark depart in first place and are directed to fly to Cochin, India, then ride a bus to Sacred Heart College and find their next clue. The duo head to a travel office, with Rachel & Dave leaving next, close behind them. Dave notes how Art & J.J. are upset with them for not using their U-Turn on the previous leg, breaking an an earlier arrangement the two teams had made. "If the relationship can be restored, then excellent, if not, Rachel and I will continue to race as we have." Dave seems very mature about this assessment. At the travel agency, Bopper/Mark & Rachel/Dave make their flight arrangements; they won't depart until the morning, so it seems as though all the teams will be caught up.

As Art & J.J. begin the leg, J.J. sums up his feelings about the U-Turn incident: "We're done, Major Dave. Take your Army ass and get out of my face." At the travel agency, Bopper & Mark see how Art & J.J. are treating Rachel & Dave icily; Bopper thinks they're acting like babies. "They are babies." Mark opines. And this is coming from the nicest, most easy-going team on the Race, the guys who Art & J.J. declared were their "friends for life;" check yourself before you wreck yourself, Art & J.J. As Brendon & Rachel depart, they note they're "over" being U-Turned by Art & J.J. It's interesting to see only one team seems to be acting petty about the U-Turn and it's the people who used the U-Turn, not the U-Turnees! Vanessa & Ralph leave in last place, noting Brendon & Rachel ("AKA Big Baby, Crybaby..." "...Duck-billed platypus." say Ralph & Vanessa) U-Turned them, but they haven't used their own U-Turn yet. Say, this would be a unique bit of revenge - no one on the Amazing Racae has ever been able to U-Turn the person who U-Turned them, since until the Double U-Turn's arrival, the U-Turned teams were always eliminated. Vanessa & Ralph find a different flight at the agency which will get them into India earlier than the top four teams! Cheese and crackers! They've finally outplayed the competition!

We move to Cochin, India, but while Vanessa & Ralph do arrive first, the other four team's flight seems to set down about 5 minutes later! So, teams head to the bus station and Rachel & Dave get the first bus, Art/J.J. & Brendon/Rachel second, Vanessa/Ralph third and Bopper & Mark, because of Bopper's bad leg, miss the first spread of buses and wind up on the fourth bus, quite a bit behind the others. The drive through Cochin is the team members' first real interaction with India and a few observations are made; "I feel like I'm so much bigger than everybody here, everybody's so small." is Brendon's contribution. He does seem to be about a head taller than anyone around him. Mark's recurring problem with motion sickness comes up again on the bus.

Rachel & Dave arrive at Sacred Heart College and find teams of dancers waiting for them. It's Roadblock time and the person taking the challenge has to become a dancer. After learning the routine, they have to perform in synch to the satisfaction of a judging film director. Dave quickly tells Rachel to take the Roadblock, knowing she's familiar with dace. Noting the clue, Dave says, "Thank God it alluded to dancing and I didn't inadvertantly select it." Art & J.J. arrive and J.J. thinks Art should take the challenge, but Art reminds J.J. of the bottle dancing Roadblock back on leg 3; in a clip from that episode, Art mopes "You owe me." to J.J. and it seems he's calling in the debt. Meanwhile, Rachel and Vanessa take the Roadblock for their partners.

As Dave's Rachel begins the Roadblock, we learn she took dance from elementary school through high school, giving her the best qualifications of all the racers attempting the task. "Had I selected this, we would probably have been here for hours." Dave notes. Big Brother's Rachel manages to wind up with a team of dancers colour-coded green, which for some reason is Brendon & Rachel's team colour. "This is a great day to have a female partner on your team." is Brendon's observation as he sees J.J. try to learn the dance moves. J.J. growls at Art, thinking Art would have been better at the challenge. "I felt like a fat elephant." is how J.J. sums up his ability.

Bopper & Mark are still traveling by bus to the college. Mark notes the smog in the air is contributing to his ill stomach; trying to get air through the window just makes him more ill. They finally reach the college and Mark agrees to do the Roadblock because of Bopper's knee. "I feel like I'm about to let my partner down in the Race." is Bopper's instinct; he doesn't think Mark will do well at the Roadblock and wishes he could've been the one to do the task. Brendon chummily asks Bopper, "How's Mark's rhythm?" Bopper replies, "He ain't got much rhythm, but he's got heart."

J.J. is the first to try the Roadblock for the judge, despite Big Brother's Rachel summing him up as "a clumsy oaf." Sure enough, J.J. fails and has to resume training. "Dudes can't dance like chicks, man, just can't happen." is Art's justification for J.J.'s failure. Rachel goes up next and smokes it handily, proving her credentials and exciting Dave. Rachel & Dave receive their next clue, sending them via rickshaw to the Indian Coffee House to receive a clue from a head waiter. "Chicks 1, dudes nothing." says Art. The other teams continue to struggle with the Roadblock, especially Mark, who's feeling sick from the bus ride and suffering from the intense heat.

Rachel & Dave retrieve their clue at Indian Coffee House and it's Detour time: they can either "Cricket" or "Clutch It." In the first, each team member must hit a cricket ball with their bat and hit the boundary line. In the latter, each team member must navigate an auto rickshaw through an obstacle course without hitting the direction posts. Rachel insists they should try "Clutch It," despite Dave's wistful misgivings:

Dave: "I definitely would have loved to play cricket though."
Rachel: "You don't have skill and ability in cricket."
Dave: "I have skill and ability in nearly every sport."
Rachel: "Ugh!"

I can't do Rachel's eye-rolling "ugh!" enough justice; see the episode for yourself. They begin to try the auto Rickshaw out, although Rachel's first attempt sees her striking a post; she laughs it off but Dave, as usual, takes this all very seriously, so Rachel lets Dave try the Detour first.

Back at the Roadblock, Mark is struggling and still hasn't tried for judging. Bopper notes how badly Mark wants to succeed, noting "He's been a fan of the Race a lot longer than I have. He really wants this, I have faith in him." Meanwhile, Big Brother's Rachel loses out on another judging attempt and gets mad. Other teams take the opportunity to rag on her behaviour, notably Art saying "Rachel looked like the cheerleader who didn't make the cheerleading team but kept trying." Weirdly, it started out like an insult, but for some reason Art softened it by the end. Art has now come around to J.J.'s way of thinking: he would have been better at the Roadblock than J.J.

As Dave prepares to try the rickshaw, Rachel opines it's hard to turn "on a dime." "No it's not." says Dave, who has yet to actually drive. Dave hits one post on his first attempt, but on the second attempt succeeds. "I made it a lot more fun and I hit a bunch of poles." is Rachel's summary. As Rachel begins the Detour, Big Brother's Rachel whines to Brendon, "Please don't tell me I'm emotional, I'm a girl, of course I'm emotional, I'm frustrated." Here, Rachel wields her gender as a shield ("Don't criticize me, I'm a girl."); stay tuned for Rachel wielding her gender as a sword ("I did it and I'm a girl!"). Meanwhile, Art has another quip for his partner: "He looks like a gorilla in a chiffon suit. He's tryin' his ass off, though." Vanessa completes the Roadblock on her third attempt, while Rachel finishes after her fourth try. "Chicks 3, dudes nothing." saith Art, still keeping score.

On his fourth attempt, J.J. finally succeeds at the Roadblock. "You're a Bollywood Travolta." says Art, providing this episode's quote-title. Only Bopper & Mark are left at the Roadblock and Mark is trying his hardest, but he can't find the right steps. "I can barely raise my arms." says Mark, whose strength is seriously ebbing. Back at the Detour Dave asks Rachel, "Baby, can you listen to me when I tell when to turn?" Rachel answers: "If you're nice about it." After he helps her navigate a turn Dave proudly declares "See? Listen to your husband!" then later, "See? Listen to your frickin' husband!" He needn't be so small about these issues, although Rachel is certainly willful. Rachel finishes the Detour and they head via taxi to the Pit Stop, Bolgatty Palace. They've finished the Detour before anyone else has begun!

Vanessa & Ralph also choose the "Clutch It" Detour, even though Vanessa admits she failed driver's education. "Driving in San Antonio, I've hit a few things... trees, street signs, other cars, the Alamo... it was an accident." Vanessa's driving is seriously questionable, to the extent she looks like she could run someone down. Elsewhere, Brendon & Rachel and Art & J.J. both choose the "Cricket" task at about the same time and begin playing.

Back at the Roadblock, Mark has tried six times with no success. He's drenched with sweat and his strength and spirit have been drained. Bopper asks Mark if he's all right. "No, I am not Bopper." Bopper suggests Mark should give up on the task if it becomes so strenuous his health is at risk.

At Bolgatty Palace, Rachel & Dave claim first place for the fifth time and this time win a trip to St. Lucia. Summing up their ability, Dave notes "With regard to Art & J.J., we'll resolve the situation..." Rachel interrupts, "If not, we'll just beat 'em." This little spat is just giving them more drive to succeed.

At the "Cricket" Detour, J.J. tries some of his psychology on the pitcher. "I got you! I'm in your head now!" he claims. Back at the Roadblock, Bopper is very worried for Mark. "Just take the penalty." he advises. "I ain't takin' nothin', do or die." is Mark's weary answer. When Mark fails for the 7th time, Bopper demands he give up. "Hell with that money, I want you out, out, out, I want my buddy." says Bopper. Mark still refuses.

At "Cricket," Brendon & Rachel wrap up before Art can get his hit; Rachel gloats a little, providing the aforementioned "sword:" "And it was a good feeling to know that they both got beat by a girl!" Art finishes the Detour soon after them, while Vanessa & Ralph finish "Clutch It."

At the Roadblock, Mark says, "If it weren't for my kids, I would quit right now, 'cause it's killin' me." Bopper ponders, "If I'd knowed he'd be put through this I'd have tried it myself." Mark goes through his 11th attempt and still fails. Owww. Bopper again insists they take a penalty. "We might be able to catch up, man. I can do it man, I'm just sick." is Mark's response. Bopper pushes the issue, concerned Mark could suffer a heart attack. "We was given an awesome chance, we come here, we done our best, man. Come here friends, gonna leave here friends, blood. That's it." He reminds Mark about his three children and asks, "You have a heat stroke, what can you do for them?" Mark thinks he's close to finishing the Roadblock.

At the Pit Stop, Brendon & Rachel claim 2nd place.

At the Roadblock again, Mark intones "I had to sit back and reevaluate the things that's important in life and my kids went through my mind, what they would do without me and it got very, very, very emotional. I got three kids I gotta raise. I'm goin' home, man. Is it all right?" Bopper answers, "It's cool." Bopper is in tears, even as his dance choreographer tries to insist he resume the task. "It broke me down and I had to just stop. Was a million dollars worth not walkin' my kids down the aisle? Was a million dollars worth not goin' to my youngest boy's games and I just come to the conclusion that it wasn't." Mark removes his costume, but the choreographer pursues him, insisting "Only one more dance!" Mark sobs back, "No! I'm goin' home to my kids!"

Art & J.J. hit the Pit Stop in third place. "That's the most excited you've seen a third finish team in your life, Phil!" Art remarks. I'm assuming they're happy because they were in fourth - earlier in the Race, these two would be put out at ranking in third. Vanessa & Ralph arrive immediately behind the border patrol agents, claiming fourth place.

At the Roadblock, Bopper has had a change of heart and wants Mark to try one last time. Choking back sobs, Bopper says, "Let's finish this for our kids. Calm yourself down. You suit right up and we're gonna give 'em one more dance. Then we'll be out of here. Let's take what's been given to us right now. You hear me?" The choreographer stays with them through the ordeal, comforting Mark. It sounds like some sort of deal has been made - the choregrapher & Bopper are both so convinced Mark will succeed on the next attempt that I wonder if it's already been decided - no matter how good Mark's performance is, they'll let him go on the 12th attempt. Regardless, Mark agrees to try once more noting if he tries once more, "Our kids will be proud that we at least finished the leg and didn't quit on nothin'. I hope that it proves to my kids that your daddy loves you more than anything in this world." Mark makes his 12th effort and the director judges it fine, awarding him with his clue. The entire dance troupe cheers as they move on with the Race.

We don't see much of the remaining leg for Bopper & Mark, other than a brief clip of them running the "Clutch It" Detour while a montage of clips from earlier episodes play and the duo reflect on all the opportunities the Race has given them. When they arrive at the Pit Stop, Phil informs them it's a non-elimination leg! They still have a chance, despite the odds. "When I looked in his eyes and I see nobody home, he was that tired, and I knowed he was doin' it for me. For me and his family. We could use some extra money, but you can't replace this guy!" chokes Bopper, reflecting on his partner. Three cheers for Bopper & Mark! "Someone's gonna have to fight the Kentucky boys for the million dollar prize on the way home." says Bopper. I hope he's right!

Thoughts on the remaining five teams:

  1. Rachel & Dave: Not much has changed; Rachel continues to be a fun, vivacious personality and Dave remains an ol' stick in the mud. He was, however, superlative in his praise for Rachel at the Roadblock and kept his cool at the Detour; he's not all bad, but I hope seeing himself on television at home has awakened him to his behaviour.
  2. Brendon & Rachel: These two keep performing much better than I expect them to. It's also nice to see Brendon making friends with Bopper, contrary to the team's earlier self-declared "pariah" status.
  3. Art & J.J.: J.J. seemed pretty cool this week, not getting too upset about how other teams were performing or revisiting the previous leg's drama with Rachel & Dave. They were also pleased to be in third, which is a change from earlier behaviour. They're still my second-place favourites.
  4. Vanessa & Ralph: These two continue to slide by, making just a few less mistakes than other teams. Getting to India first showed some serious moxie, it's too bad it didn't pay off for them.
  5. Bopper & Mark: My heart goes out to these two; of all the teams on this Race, these two are really putting themselves on the line, taxing their bodies and emotions to stay in the game. I would have understood Mark's decision if he gave up on the Race, but I'm proud of him for overcoming the Roadblock. As I've said before, I like to see teams defeat tasks they don't think they're capable of. As Bopper has said, he and Mark have heart; they're not just my favourite team on this Race, I'm seriously considering them one of my all-time favourite teams in 20 seasons of the Amazing Race.

Next Week: Enjoy your Amazing Race people, I expect to be wrapping up about a day and a half of non-stop travel. What do the advertisements portend? Big Brother's Rachel freaks out over a head shaving task, evidently similar to the old Fast Forwards from seasons 5 & 7 (plus last year's Amazing Race: Australia). Also, Vanessa falls and hears her knee pop! This really is the season of the walking wounded!

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