The Amazing Race Season 13 – “Episode Three”

“Did You Push My Sports Bra Off the Ledge?”

October 12th, 2008

A Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers (I’m with Robin Cherbotsky, Canadian Thanksgiving is totally the “real” thanksgiving), but television does not rest (not that my holiday has been that restful considering my major presentation on Tuesday, but I digress), and The Amazing Race certainly doesn’t rest.

And on its third leg, the thirteenth edition of The Amazing Race has finally hits its first apex of interpersonal conflict, what will henceforth be known as “SportsBraGate” (Props to Daniel Fienberg, of Zap2it, for the phrase). There comes a time in every race where we start to come across events which make us ask questions about the circumstances: is it that these racers are just so justifiably insane that they would do these types of things normally, or is it the Race bringing out the worst in them?

For a few teams this week, this becomes quite a challenge, but for the most part it’s an entertaining one: with an extremely entertaining Roadblock, the dreaded appearance of the clue reading penalty, and the drama of SportsBraGate, it’s clear that The Amazing Race is cycling back around to where we start to identify with the racers, for better or for worse.

SportsBraGate

I want to address this entire issue directly, but first let’s put it in the simplest of terms. At the pit stop, which was apparently overlooking a cliff, Christy had set her Sports Bra on a ledge, and then she turned to find that it was gone. Now, her immediate presumption is that Starr purposefully pushed it off the ledge to give them some kind of advantage, or to act out her innermost hatred towards Kelly and Christy. I half expected her to go into some diatribe about how this is 1960s suburbia, and that she was judging them for being divorced, but in reality she’s just really, really convinced that Starr is out to get her.

The problem, and why this only continued to escalate as the episode went on, is that Starr is not the kind of person who knows how to use tact to keep these situations from exploding. Take, for example, the scene where Nick is trying to explain to Kelly and Christy that it was an accident while Starr applies makeup fifteen feet away – she needed to be there herself to try to talk some sense into Kelly and Christy. While I know that their persistence in hatred is quite similar to their persistence that they needed to dig into the sand last week in order to find that container, that doesn’t mean that Starr doesn’t need to be the one to make that effort.

I think that Nick’s biggest challenge in this race is keeping his own cutthroat nature (which we saw as part of the roadblock last week) in check in order to not give Starr any ideas: he spent the entire episode trying to smooth over her situations, and nearly had to restrain her from U-Turning Kelly and Christy. In fact, the one time when he couldn’t was when she, in the spur of the moment, begged Aja and Ty to U-Turn Kelly and Christy. She was only being defensive, I think, but she was trying to be defensive of their lead and her reputation, two things that (when you can’t pick which one you’re interested in) will only agitate situations. When it came down to it, and Kelly and Christy squeaked their way through, they are not irrationally angry but have been given some rationale within this episode that (in their mind) is part of a pattern of behaviour. It’s like their minds work like the Amazing Editors, crafting ridiculous narrative for the sake of telling stories, except that theirs are crazy instead of entertaining (although, in the hands of the editors, their craziness does kind of shine).

Fortaleza, Brazil to La Paz, Bolivia

We’re headed to La Paz, which is the capital of Bolivia, which I knew instinstively since my university Spanish course was kind enough to teach me that (once they’re out of South America I’m screwed on this front, at least in Africa). There’s zero drama getting there: while two separate flights leave, we get no airport finagling despite the teams arriving in a very strange order that doesn’t match up with how they arrived at the airport in the first place.

What we do learn about La Paz, though, is simple: it’s high. Very high. The altitude wreaks its havoc almost immediately, and as night turns to day it becomes even worse. It’s not often that killer fatigue takes quite so literal a toll on the racers, but it really knocks a few of them out here. While I don’t know if Mark and Bill can blame their time penalty, accrued shortly after they started running and moving around, on the thin air, I will say that they were probably the most impacted by the differences. The tasks this week required a lot of physical exertion, which would have been fine if not for the atmospheric factors: in those conditions, they were downright deadly.

The only other notable factor here was that Terence and Sarah picked up a Fern named Ana Maria, who was dropped quite quickly during the detour after she wasn’t able to join them on the bike ride. Really, it was a very impractical leg for a Fern, so it was more an element of them having too much free time before the newspapers arrives in order to complete the tasks.

Detour: Musical March or Bumpy Ride

So, at first it was very confusing just where the challenge was in either of these tasks – the bumpy ride seemed straightforward (they gave you a map), and the March sounded like walking. The real trick here was that they were about execution: about the marching bands being very slow unless you got into it with them, and the bikes being capable of going much faster than you might otherwise want to go. We got what we would want from both Detours: some spectacular (and non-life threatening) falls from Kelly and Christy along with some intense passing/U-Turn racing from Bumpy Ride, and Andrew and Dan failing miserably to embrace their band while Marisa and Brooke blow right by them.

Yes, the U-Turn is back – it’s an interesting thing, really, and much more interesting than a simple Yield. It also explains why the two tasks weren’t THAT difficult. The one thing I do wonder, though, is whether any team who were U-Turned could have ever caught up unless with Mark and Bill’s penalty: both seemed to take a fair bit of time, but that could have just been the editing making them into much longer stretches (Although Kelly and Christy sure had a lot of water breaks for a short bike ride). Ultimately, using a U-Turn here could have saved Mark and Bill, but since they had no way of knowing that at the time no team really had a reason to punish someone.

Overall, it’s a fun detour: some teams were certainly slower than others, but at the same time there was some funny headgear, some near images, and smart U-Turn play.

Roadblock: The Fighting Cholitas

This is an extremely fun, and potentially damaging, Roadblock, which is just how you want them to be. While it may seem at first to benefit the athletically minded (Considering how well Dallas and Ken do) and those who spent their childhood performing hip tosses on stuffed animals (This may or may not have been me), it was really about being smart – as long as you didn’t fail miserably and paid attention, you could suffer through looking like a fool but still complete every move.

So while some needed more than one try, probably rushing it, others like Nick took their time, taking one last runthrough to make sure that he’s not going to make a mistake and have to go through the whole process again. Poor Mark (Or Bill?) just had a lot of trouble with it, with the altitude playing such a huge factor in all the running around, and someone like Marisa just isn’t quite used to Mexican wrestling as opposed to say, wearing pearls and attending soirees. But for the most part everyone powered through well enough, and it was only unfortunate that none of what they did was really going to matter anyways.

The Pit Stop: So Long, Comic-Con

Mark and Bill’s departure was sealed as soon as it was clear the leg wouldn’t feature any real chances for making up thirty whole minutes, which was the presumed penalty for their mistake (As indicated by the horns of danger). They raced well last week, which makes it unfortunate that they would have their physical handicap multiplied by a mental error at this stage. After Kelly and Christy failed to read clues last week, and after Terence and Sarah came very close to doing it this time around (and got saved due to her insistence on heading back), it’s becoming more of a trend than it should be. Transportation is usually the #1 way people end up making mistakes, so I would think that (before jumping into something or running off) they’d make sure they’re reading it correctly.

But, the race doesn’t work that way, and most teams are just rolling along fine waiting for their chance for a major communiation misfire. Currently Ken and Tina are dominating, primarily based on his strength (driven out of fear of his wife castrating him for cheating on her) and her willingness to stick with him on that, but they will be just as prone to communication breakdowns (if not more so) once the Race gets down to the nitty gritty.

Cultural Observations

  • No team breakdown this week, I’m running out of time before Mad Men and want to work in a snack. But, for the most part, things are the same as before: only real difference is that Marisa and Brooke made their way from last to fourth, which at least demonstrates that (while they got lucky with a couple of great taxis) their strategy of taking the easier Detour option could be effective.
  • Andrew’s (or Dan’s, but I think it was Andrew) little speech about how he thinks he’s attractive feels like they’re stretching too hard to fit these two into that stereotype: they’re not really that obnoxious, which is why I am glad that most of these attempts to box them in are done entirely in isolation. As long as they’ve living in their own delusional bubble, there are some strong opportunities for humour in the future. That being said, though, props to the team for not being too muggy with the camera (or the editors for cutting it out) – it nearly murdered Project Runway this season.
  • From the scenes for next week: we learn that Ty’s been indoctrined to go right for Fidel Castro on his “Evil World Leader Allegorical Slandering of My Teammate” scale, and that Starr is not so good with simple directions (although, let’s face it, it looked like a lot of fun and natural instincts would take over) and might have broken her arm.
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