Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Amazing Race: Australia 2-05 recap

According to blogger, I receive more hits from Google Australia than any other of the other search engines... combined! So, I hope you're enjoying this blog, Aussies! Please learn to accept my lack of experience with your culture and mannerisms, as well as this blog's considerable comic book-related content.

We resume the Race in Dubai at the Four Points Hotel Pit Stop. Dating couple James & Sarah depart in first place at 5:47 AM and are told to find a boat called the Dubai Pearl, which docks at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel marina. This is a neat idea, a clue which arrives by boat; I don't recall if we've seen it on the US version of Amazing Race. James & Sarah are surprised at how well they've done and seem strongest when focusing on the things which "hold them together." Well, that makes sense.

Flatmates Sticky/Sam are 10 minutes behind James/Sarah and siblings Joseph/Grace are 10 minutes after that, suggesting Joseph/Grace made up a lot of time after their car stalled last leg.

Grace: "The way that we want to race is, like, I've got to learn to shut my mouth and Joey's got to do all the talking."

Joseph: "She's learned that everything she's done has been wrong so, and everything I've done has been right!"

This is an odd exchange, it's the opposite of what Grace said she hoped to prove on the Race. Perhaps they're making a joke? Grace would seemingly be the stronger of the two just now because of her ability to speak Arabic. She does admit she's not very well-traveled. James & Sarah arrive at the marina and find out the Dubai Pearl won't arrive for another 3 hours.

Twin sisters Michelle & Jo leave only 1 minute after Joseph & Grace, indicating to me the times between last leg's horse races weren't all separated by 45 minutes (or else Michelle & Jo are wizards at making up lost time). At the marina, Sarah wants to "disappear" to keep other teams from figuring out where the Dubai Pearl lands by simply heading to their location. However, they're still out in the open as Sticky/Sam & Joseph/Grace arrive. The arriving teams ask if there's a sign-up sheet and James starts telling them everything they know, much to Sarah's irritation. Sarah takes James away from the other teams and reams him out, trying to impress on him the importance of keeping secrets from the competition who will "step on our heads when it comes to it." When James calls her "dramatic" she counters he's "not dramatic enough." Sarah extorts him to remember which team he's on: their team.

Police officers Shane & Andrew depart almost an hour after Michelle & Jo. Unfortunately, once again they wind up with a taxi driver who doesn't understand where they want to go. Workmates Paul & Steve are about 45 minutes behind Shane & Andrew's departure time. Paul launches into the first of many rants about how he's going to show up the other teams; I'll spare you reading this one, there's better quotes to come, such as "It's time for Evil Paul to come out, which is the same as Sexy Paul, which is actually the same as Normal Paul."

Father/daughter Ross & Tarryn leave a half hour after Paul & Steve, even though they left for the Pit Stop ahead of them last leg; how did they manage to lose so much time en route to the hotel? When the taxi driver brings Shane & Andrew to the wrong location, Shane gets frustrated, realizing they're wasting valuable money. They dismiss their driver and look for a new cab. Thus, Paul & Steve beat the cops to the marina. The teams already at the marina note Shane & Andrew's absence; "They're probably in Abu Dhabi," suggests Michelle.

Grace describes how "Because we were so bored, we wanted to muck around with the teams that were coming through." Grace has noticed how short-tempered Paul is and had the idea to play off that. When Paul & Steve start asking the other teams if they need to do something else, Grace tells them "Read the clue." It's a pretty harmless statement, but it does drive Paul & Steve batty as they wander around, trying to find a Race marker, suspecting all the while they're being toyed with. This leads to a minor revelation from Paul:

"Growing up I had a bit of a weight problem, so I had a lot kids picking on me back in the day. It has become a very strong motivation for me to prove I can stand up to bullies."

I don't think anyone watching the show doubts Paul's ability to assert himself; in fact, his youthful insecurity is probably the whole reason why he overcompensates so hard as an adult. It doesn't excuse this behaviour, but helps explain it. Shane & Andrew arrive as Paul & Steve wander about. They finally head to where the other teams are waiting for the Dubai Pearl. Grace offers Paul a high five, but he leaves her hanging. "I'm just sick of bullying smartasses like Grace picking on people like me." It's on! People like what, exactly? Paul doesn't like being picked on, but teams pick on him because of his attitude; he's aware he's not a people-person, so why the whinging? You're either a strong team everyone should be afraid of or the picked-upon underdogs; you're not both. Again, this is probably just how Paul bolsters his ego to give himself the drive he needs to succeed. Paul says, "I think bullies are petty, I think they're insecure, I think they need to justify themselves by making other people feel bad." Those of you playing along at home may think Paul just described himself, not Grace. Grace offers Paul a hug, he refuses saying her touch "sickens" him. She asks to speak with him and Steve finally intercedes, suggesting she stop trying to engage Paul. She agrees, but wishes Paul wouldn't "look at me like you were going to kill me." Sticky/Sam & Michelle/Jo find the whole situation awkward.

The Dubai Pearl finally pulls up and the first six teams run aboard to find their clue; it's time for this leg's Detour!

In "Count 'Em Up," teams go to a spice market in Dubai and sort a bag of dried limes into a basket, counting the exact number of limes in the bag. When they give the correct number to a shopkeeper, he'll give them the next clue.

The other Detour is "Price 'Em Up." Here, teams visit a jewelry store and arrange seven pieces of jewelry in order from least to most expensive. This sounds like it wouldn't take too long to exhaust the possibilities, but all six of the teams at the Dubai Pearl decide they'll head to "Count 'Em Up." As they taxi to the market, Paul tells Steve if anyone gets in his way he'll "bowl them over." This becomes a little more relevant later! Grace decides, "the fact that I can kind of push his buttons, I kinda like it." Paul compares it all to high school, to being "bullied, picked on, excluded." It's a pity, he's made such an effort to be likeable, friendly and inclusive.

Sisters Lucy & Emilia finally depart the Pit Stop in last place, about 1.5 hours after Ross & Tarryn. Their taxi driver thinks the Dubai Pearl is a building; the sisters note that doesn't match their clue stating they have to "wait" for it, unless, Emilia suggests, "you wait for it to be built?"

Teams arrive in the market and begin counting limes; each team comes up with their own strategy. Shane & Andrew's style is to call their numbers out loudly, which distracts the other teams so much that some of them begin covering their ears. Michelle & Jo finish first but are told their number is wrong and have to start over. Sticky & Sam's taxi driver can't find the market, so they decide to try "Price 'Em Up." However, they have no clue how to arrange the jewelry in order, having little experience with jewelry. Joseph & Grace finish counting limes, but their number is wrong; so is Ross & Tarryn's. At the jewelry store, Sam asks for a jeweler's eye piece to magnify the jewelry and the shopkeeper complies, but he doesn't know what he's looking for so it doesn't help at all. James & Sarah finish counting, but get it wrong.

Paul, reminding us he's an accountant, claims his IQ is in "the top 2% of Australia" and gets the lime count correct on the first try! Paul & Steve are directed to travel on foot to a U-Turn board; unlike last leg's U-Turn voting, this is a traditional U-Turn, execept it's "Anonymous" ("Blind U-Turn" is the US title, but "Anonymous U-Turn" is more self-explanatory), meaning the team who uses it don't have to identify themselves. Paul has no idea which team to U-Turn since they have so many enemies! Shane & Andrew finish the lime counting soon after them, getting it right on the first try despite noting they're "not accountants" (a dig at Paul).

Shane & Andrew successfully beat Paul & Steve on foot to the U-Turn while the latter run back to their taxi for their bags and decide to U-Turn Paul & Steve, even though the latter are watching as they perform the deed, so it's hardly anonymous. They choose Paul & Steve because of Paul's rude behaviour towards Grace. Paul & Steve head to "Price 'Em Up." Paul claims being voted for a U-Turn for "social reasons" is "cowardice." He needs to acquaint himself with the history of U-Turns on the Amazing Race; half the time it's tactical, the other half is social, ie, "I need to U-Turn someone, doesn't matter who, might as well be the team I like the least." Shane & Andrew's next clue directs them to fly to Istanbul, Turkey! This is an interesting development, travelling to a new country halfway through the show; it reminds me of the format the US version originally used.

Lucy & Emilia notice Paul & Steve running to the 2nd Detour just as they pull in for "Count 'Em Up." Lucy calls out, "Hello, sexy boys!" but they don't hear her; good thing too, Lucy wouldn't want to be called a bully! On Michelle & Jo's second time through the limes they get the same number; they guess a different number which is two less than what they got and it turns out to be correct! At "Price 'Em Up," Steve guesses at the correct order of the jewelry and gets it right on the second attempt! They lose only about 10 minutes on the U-Turn! Sticky & Sam finally finish "Price 'Em Up" a little later. Ross & Tarryn's 2nd attempt on the limes is correct. Joseph/Grace, James/Sarah & Lucy/Emilia are still trying to count limes.

En route to the airport, Michelle & Jo pull out a schedule for Air Emirates and use their taxi driver's cell phone to book their flight in advance. This is a great example of them using their flight attendant skills. At "Count 'Em Up," Sarah begins yellling her numbers out as loud as she can, telling James it's a "tactic." James opines, "It's a dirty tactic." Joseph & Grace get the limes wrong for a second time and decide to switch Detours. At the airport, Paul & Steve actually beat Shane & Andrew there, despite the U-Turn! Oy, the cops and their bad luck with directions. The cops try to engage Paul & Steve, but the latter team ignores them, refusing to converse with them. Paul calls their behaviour "patronizing." Well, we've all got opinions. Shane & Andrew aren't bothered at all - they don't internalize their issues the way Paul does.

Grace makes an error at "Price 'Em Up," placing the items in the opposite order, much to Joseph's irritation. At "Count 'Em Up," James & Sarah get the limes wrong again so they switch Detours. By then, Grace has already figured out the correct order and they finish the Detour. Lucy & Emilia count up their limes correctly, apparently on the first attempt! They're pleased to be ahead of at least one team as Lucy correctly surmises, "Botox and James" wouldn't have finished the other Detour yet. James & Sarah aren't that far behind, however. They're a little down to realize they've gone from first place to last place. Fortunately for the teams in the rear, the flight to Istanbul is delayed, enabling all eight teams to wind up on the same flight.

In Instanbul, teams head via taxi to the Blue Mosque; interestingly, this mosque was originally a Christian church. Istanbul by night looks utterly gorgeous! As Lucy/Emilia, Joseph/Grace, Paul/Steve, Michelle/Jo & James/Sarah run around the mosque together, Paul runs into Grace and knocks her down. Unfortunately, they'd run ahead of the cameraman so we can't judge how this played out. Obviously, this makes Paul look very bad since the teams were already aware of the friction between he and Grace; he probably did it by accident, but no one wants to believe that. It's nice to see Emilia fling herself between Paul & Grace, trying to defuse the situation and see that Grace is okay. "Are you that threatened?" Grace asks Paul. Within the mosque, teams receive the next clue: it's Roadblock time!

In this Roadblock, one team member journeys to Hagia Sophia museum and must memorize the precise order in which eight markers appear around the walls. Then, journeying by foot to the Basilica Cistern, the team member wades into the water to a post with moveable symbols; when they arrange the symbols into the same order as the eight markers, they'll receive their next clue. They can only return to Hagia Sophia once to check their work, so there's little room for error. Sarah, Sam, Grace, Jo, Andrew, Paul, Ross & Lucy take the Roadblock for their respective teams. At Hagia Sophia, teams begin coming up with memorization tricks to remember the order.

Paul is the first team member to head into the Cistern and begin placing the symbols in order. Lucy arrives at Hagia Sophia but doesn't notice the markers and walks right through the building without figuring it out; eventually, all the contestants have figured out where the markers are and have begun trying to replicate the right sequence at the Cistern. Ross realizes upon his arrival at the Cistern that he's going to have to make a second trip to Hagia Sophia to get it right. Grace gets it wrong and goes back to check her work. Paul notes "With the stress of the competition, I have an ego, I've bragged that I'm good at this sort of thing I felt that I'd better live up to it or I'm just gonna embarrass myself silly." Astute viewers may notice this is not the first time in the Race Paul has said words to the effect of, "I need to prove myself," it was his reaction earlier this episode at the Detour! Each time, he's gone on to get the task right on the first attempt and this is no exception!

Paul is done the Roadblock and is directed to reach into a nearby well full of leeches and pull out a piece of rock instructing he & Steve to the next Pit Stop!

This leg's Pit Stop is the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and Grant is standing outside in the open. Paul & Steve begin to run to the Pit Stop, but Michelle & Jo finish soon after and head out.

Paul & Steve arrive at the Pit Stop and are rewarded with first place! They've seemingly finally earned some bragging rights! Their prize is a trip to the Australian Rally Championship, sponsored by Honda. Boy, and I thought the trip to New Zealand didn't sound very exotic! Michelle & Jo take 2nd place.

Back at the Roadblock, Lucy, Sam, Ross & Andrew are all having trouble and have to revisit Hagia Sophia. Grace finally gets the Roadblock, but Sam finishes right after her. Andrew gets the Roadblock a little later. Sticky & Sam overtake Joseph & Grace en route to the Pit Stop, receiving 3rd & 4th place, respectively. Shane & Andrew are 5th.

Lucy, Ross & Sarah have now each used up their second visit to Hagia Sophia and still can't get the sequence correct, so they're left guessing at the right order. James & Sarah decide they have just one hope: give up and take a four-hour penalty, gambling at least one other team will also take the penalty. James & Sarah head to the Pit Stop, where Grant assigns them their four-hour penalty, which they wait out on a park bench.

Soon after James & Sarah's departure, Lucy finishes the Roadblock through some clever guessing! They're "devasatated" to leave their friends Ross & Tarryn behind. Consequently, Lucy & Emilia are rewarded with 6th place, their best finish yet!

Ross gives up on the Roadblock so he and Tarryn decide to take the penalty; Ross is crest-fallen at giving up. At the Pit Stop, Grant checks in James & Sarah as team number 7; Ross & Tarryn receive their penalty, but Grant informs them this is a non-elimination leg! James & Sarah exchange hugs with Ross & Tarryn, which is great to see. Grant warns Ross & Tarryn on the next leg they'll have to come in 1st place or suffer a 30 minute penalty. This was the penalty used last season on Amazing Race: Australia's non-elimination legs.

Thoughts on the 8 remaining teams:

  1. Paul & Steve: They're finally demonstrating real strength, overcoming a minor U-Turn while claiming first place. However, they've isolated themselves from every other team on the Race. Is that a problem, given that they've beaten two U-Turns? It's hard to guess; I don't like Paul, but he makes this season more interesting to watch as he renders everything more incindiary.
  2. Michelle & Jo: They're still doing quite well, although they've never won the first place finish I feel they deserve. It's a pity their forward-thinking about flights didn't pay off in this leg, but perhaps the same maneuver will aid them in the future.
  3. Sticky & Sam: They seemed to be in a better state this leg than last. It's nice to see them spending a little time fraternizing with other teams - they seem to be making friends, albeit not alliances.
  4. Joseph & Grace: Grace antagonizing Paul was needless, but ultimately harmless to her; if it throws Paul off his game, then it's totally worth it - we've seen teams do much worse things in the US Amazing Race then simply call out "read your clue!"
  5. Shane & Andrew: They actually did rather well this leg, only getting lost at times when it didn't matter. They're agreeable enough fellows, they just aren't as fast on their feet as other teams.
  6. Lucy & Emilia: Each leg has been their best performance yet! It's great to see them hanging in, even doing better than 2nd last this time! Emilia's concern for Grace was nice to see and I love how they still try to keep a sense of humour about the Race.
  7. James & Sarah: They took a huge tumble from first to near-last; the four-hour penalty might really injure them on the next leg - then again, it might not hurt them at all. It was interesting to see them being friendly to Ross & Tarryn when I hadn't noticed them making friends on earlier legs.
  8. Ross & Tarryn: They sadly continued their tumble downward from last leg; I hope they can overcome all the barriers in their path, but with a four-hour penalty and being almost certain to endure another half hour penalty at the next Pit Stop, the outlook isn't good for them. They were one of the strongest teams, but they've had a run of rotten luck.

Next episode: The Race remains in Turkey as teams rub oil on each other and perform with whirling dervishes. Also, one of the twins takes a bad fall!

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