“Do You Like American Candy?”
October 5th, 2008
The second episode of The Amazing Race is always one of the most awkward: there isn’t yet any really compelling stories yet between teams, within teams, or within the race itself. And yet, unlike the first episode, there isn’t the need for a lot of exposition, so the producers have to hope that in the distance between one spot and another in close proximity the racers fall into every possible cliche.
Well, the producers lucked out: while some of it disheartened me to see, as personal favourites took a turn for the race, everything from airline drama to clue misreading turned up for a leg that, even without anything close to a suspenseful ending, told us a lot of things about these teams, defined some new relationships between them, and even gave us a couple of lessons about Karma. In the end, it’s an entertaining second leg that bodes well for the season ahead, if not quite blowing us away with anything particularly mindblowing.
Salvador to Fortaleza
While we get to see a bit more of the teams we ignored last week in the early going (Anthony and Stephanie get a beat, Marisa and Brooke get to give out some candy for the episode title, etc.), it’s really all about the two teams with the most potential to implode: Ken and Tina, our separated couple trying to decide their future, and Terence and Sarah, who during the pit stop nearly broke up over her talking to other teams instead of him (since it was a sign that she didn’t want to be there with him).
This isn’t all that entertaining – as the teams travel to the airport in order to travel from one Brazilian airport to another, Tina is the first to one ticket counter and, facing a flight five hours later, manages to persist her way into making the airline switch from a tiny plane into a larger one. It’s logical economics: you have a bunch of people about to take a plane, so why not use a bigger one if you have it available? Tina, though, latches onto this as being the most amazing thing ever done, and uses it for the purposes of trying to move to the front of the line, and trying to get people to “owe her one.”
What this really shows us, though, is how smart Nick and Starr are. Yeah, I know I spent all of last week singing their praises, but they demonstrate here that they know when to be bullish and when not: they work with Ken and Tina to get the flight together, but they’re quick not to join in on the drama in line between Terence and Tina, even commenting on it to other racers as if to say “Wow, look how crazy they are being!” It’s a smart strategy because it means they can have the benefits of working together without being lumped in with their behaviour.
Detour: Beach It or Docket
It’s your traditional options: there is a very physical option, and one that involves absolutely no physicality. Only Mark and Bill, seeing the word “Computer” and getting very excited about it, take the latter option, what I call the “The Wire Season Two” option: searching through a list of storage containers at a shipyard and then searching for it. It gets them out in first place, actually, which goes to show you that there was another option here.
The Beach It option, for the most part, shows which teams are strong, and leaves plenty of space for some mistakes. Nick and Starr waltz through the detour from a physical and mental perspective, leaving first despite arriving in about sixth. Terence and Sarah, meanwhile, demonstrate their inability to pay much attention when they walk an inordinately long distance away from their Taxis. Their desperation is kind of endearing, if by endearing you mean pathetic and sad.
Then you have Kelly and Christie, who happen to fail miserably at clue reading by trying to find their container, as in their giant shipping container, at the opposite detour. It’s a sad moment as they just keep digging in the sand in vain, presuming that everyone else just isn’t bothering to follow the rules. That such a simple task could be such a liability to two separate teams demonstrates just how much of a mental game (even a really subtle mental game) the Race can be.
Roadblock: In Plain Sight
Okay, so let’s be plain: it’s a really, really stupid roadblock. The point is for them to keep things simple, in other words just listing off every possible place on the board instead of actually taking time in order to think about what they’re doing. There’s some sort of line about this being an example of “Embracing the laid back culture of Btazil,” but a lazy and thoughtless roadblock by any other name…you get the idea.
The only piece of really interesting story to come out of this is the extremely entertaining karma that is Kelly and Christie repeating, in unison, “we have learned to read the clue,” and then proceeding to not read the clue as it relates to having their taxi stay. The fact that their cab was sitting waiting for them right around the corner was the perfect karmic statement – hopefully, this time, they’ll learn their lesson.
This was also the point where Nick began to demonstrate that, while he’s playing a smart game in many ways with Starr, he does need to be a little bit less cutthroat. He ignores both Sarah and Andrew, after agreeing to help them, because he feels that they have no information to offer him. As much as Terence and Sarah bother me, her ability to finish the task before Nick is a bit of a karmic statement in itself: he was overthinking it, and perhaps maybe overthinking the game a bit considering his desire to create these strategic partnerships entirely for his own benefit (In other words, Nick, turn it down a notch. Please. I kind of like you guys, but this didn’t help that.)
Toni and Dallas – These two are going to do themselves some good here, especially since both of them seem to be really into enjoying the race. Their willingness to help Terence and Sarah shows that they’re willing to help people out, and her genuine excitement on the dune buggy (And his “Way to go, Mom” thereafter) was the kind of thing where watching them could actually be fun regardless of the task, and because of, as opposed to in spite of, their personalities.
Marisa and Brooke – The two southern socialites are going to have some problems in this game, considering their struggles here. They go to the wrong detour by mistake, and I do commend them for pushing their way through the log challenge even against their physical difficulties. This being said, I do think that the more physical challenges will stress them, and they’d be smart to maybe strike some friendships with other teams in order to bring out the parts of their personalities (see: Candy) that could benefit them on the Race.
Nick and Starr – I’m worried: after being so good last week, these two were a bit of a mess this time around. For every time Nick’s gameplay was smart, like not losing his cool over Sarah losing her cool when their taxi driver was lost, he was being a jerk about her shouting during the Roadblock, or interviewing about how he didn’t care about leaving some other guy in the dust if he didn’t have any information to offer him. It’s a vert short-sighted view of the race, the kind of living in the moment that will test their relationships with everyone and everything around them. I think they’re very strong, and their attitudes in some cases quite good, but their competitive nature is going to be an issue.
Mark and Bill – While Ken and Tina may have made it to the Pit Stop first after there was some bag rippage, one cannot say that Mark and Bill didn’t play this leg the smartest: first out of both tasks, the two are certainly overcoming any physical obstacles and are using, as they say, a lack of having to live with each other after the Race in order to be willing to challenge one another on things. They’re a team to watch, even with next week’s alcohol sickness.
Everyone else – Ken and Tina continue to bicker, and Tina continues to demonstrate that she’s very angry at him about a lot of different things; Terence got hit in the head by the back door of a cab, and then eventually got rebuffed by Sarah when he tried to kiss her (with an “emblamatic” kiss) when she was rushing to do the roadblock; Kelly and Christie are already starting to see Terence as their simile of choice for describing their ex-husbands; Aja and Ty are smart to not listen to Tina’s line about owing them, but they do need to talk to other teams a bit more; Dan and Andrew still aren’t living up to either their nickname or their pre-race designation as villains, which makes me think they’ll be sticking around for a while.
The Eliminated Team
Anthony and Stephanie were, without question, the weakest link. Their journey in this episode was perpetually being in last place, never moving above the pack, and always finding themselves struggling from behind. Neither has much of a personality, and their story (that they’re too poor to get married) never really resonated. This was most apparent when they started going into the “Look how poor Brazil is!” moment, but there was no heart in it: even though she was reflecting poorly on herself for it, forgive me for not empathizing with a couple because they can only afford to live in an apartment and not a house. They never seemed to interact with other teams in any interesting ways, so their departure should have little impact in the race as a whole.
- Loved Terence’s reaction to getting hit in the head with the taxi door, if only for its ludicrous: he had her blot it, and then blow on it, before finally bandaging it. I also loved his “Don’t you see me bleeding?!” followed by her very observant “…no.” It’s clear that she is going to be jetting out of this relationship after the race considering his complete and total mood swings between demanding and overly kissy.
- Love Marisa and Brooke getting mooned on the beach for giving them a high society wave: they were acting a bit like beauty queens in that moment, except that compared to Dustin and Kandice they just can’t measure up. They aren’t the kind of people who have used their beauty for any sort of life experience, but almost to avoid them: seeing them classify themselves as “daredevils” for finishing the Detour tells me that they have a really good chance to use the race as a growth exercise. And yes, Marisa or Brooke since I can’t tell them apart, you DID see their “butt.”