The Amazing Race Season 13: “Episode Seven”

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“My Nose is On Fire”

November 9th, 2008

I’ve heard a few people noting that there has been a disconnect this year between viewers and the racers who are running around the world this season on The Amazing Race. And I think it’s not wrong: I’m enjoying it, and the challenges have been good, but there’s been a few barriers to entry so to speak.

And this episode was very aware of that, because its real stars were the various locals who dominated the proceedings. Whether it was the guy at the sewing machine who pushes people away and gives thumbs down, or the festival revelers who threw paint and water at the racers during the roadblock, or the genius that was the Pit Stop Greeter running back to water the grounds as soon as he has said hello to the team in question.

It makes for an episode that actually featured some really interesting gameplay shifts and the continued proof that, eventually, poor racing is going to catch up with you. That’s a solid lesson for the show, and it’s been a season where, with five teams left, the teams who are performing the worst are the ones who are going home.

So if it isn’t lighting a fire, so to speak, I’d argue that the show is right within its wheelhouse nonetheless.

Delhi Madness

It became clear very early that this leg wasn’t leaving the confines of this Indian city, which meant that it would be tough goings for Ken and Tina, who are going to have to overcome a Speed Bump early on in the leg. Not only does it mean you don’t have an opportunity for bunching, but it also means that getting back and forth between the individual tasks will take time and could be a concern. You are pretty much relying on either getting very good luck with transportation or, conversely, people screwing up so horribly at challenges that you are able to catch up faster than you expected.

Roadblock: A Colourful Experience

And the mistakes begin as soon as we realize that the chaos overcoming this environment is, in fact, going to bleed into the individual tasks. The chaotic festival of “Let’s throw water and dye on one another” is a great setting for this task, but we get a sense that what was once a friendly sort of affair suddenly becomes something far more sinister once cameras are turned on them. Starr, who goes through first, gets plenty of dye on her but never really gets blasted: the group was fairly disorganized, and as a result she went up, got her clue, and took some dye in the back for good measure (Nick, dyed right at the end, got it worse than her).

But as the teams started coming, the group started to realize that this was a chance to live out their lifelong dream of tormenting Americans who are climbing ladders. They didn’t mess with Dallas too badly, probably fearing that he would hurt them, but they were far less kind to Kelly and Christy, who they outright destroyed. They were throwing water at them like it was nobody’s business, and they love it so much that every other participant received the same treatment. That gauntlet that Ken had to run when he did the task was terrifying, and Tina got it to the worst out of all of the non-participating team members. I don’t know if alcohol was involved, but these guys were totally out of control.

For the most part (we’ll get to the exception a bit later), though, teams were in and out of this particular task: it’s not an easy little job, and Terence was right that it was physically demanding in a weird way, but it transcended “Ha!” to “Uh-oh” quite quickly, even if it was over within minutes for some of the teams. The only real long term impact it has was on Kelly and Christy, who had sent their cabbie away and suddenly found no one willing to take two paint-covered souls to their next location.

Detour: Bleary Eyes or Teary Eyed

We have an interesting task here, where we learn that Terence and Sarah really do like picking the “alternative” Detour to get ahead. Picking the chilis task was a bit risky, but it eventually keeps them in their proper place despite apparently driving their quite crazy in regards to their senses. For the Bleary Eyed among them, it was all about paying attention and reading the clue, two things that Nick and Starr have proved very good at. They were the first to find a number, and were smart to run back and start at the beginning in case they missed one.

While some might argue that them lying to Toni and Dallas in the first place was dishonest, so what? They’re playing this game the smart way, the right way even, and the quick on the fly decision to work together shows their capability at playing this game the right way. They weren’t jerks about it, they even shared all of their information once it was clear that they were going to need some help themselves. They finished first and second in this leg because of their teamwork here, so this is precisely the kind of smart gameplay that will help both teams continues to move forward.

The task was also where we saw Andrew and Dan continue their increasingly entertaining streak of performing well in the Roadblock (where teamwork isn’t a factor, and where directions are usually more clear) and then totally screwing the pooch in the Detour. I don’t quite know what is wrong with these two, but it’s going to be an issue as they continue on the Race. Mistakes have a way of catching up with you, just as Ken and Tina rushed through their Speed Bump and blew right by Andrew and Dan. Chances are that they might still be there searching aimlessly for numbers if not for Ken and Tina’s kindness, so much of their second last place finish is dependent on another team entirely. Or, rather, two teams.

The Pit Stop: So Long, Divorcees

Kelly and Christy may be the most inept readers that the race has ever seen. They weren’t bad at racing, per se – when they knew what they were doing, they were capable enough at doing it. However, they almost never knew: they misunderstood both of the tasks in this week’s episode, on top of the numerous examples in the past of places where they have simply overthought, underthought, or just not thought at all about certain tasks. I still remember watching them digging in the sand for a container after that boat transportation challenge with the logs: they were reading the other detour’s clue, but never once sat back to think about it. In this episode, we saw Nick and Starr reach multiple points where they could have rushed to a conclusion, and instead the team stopped to figure it out.

Kelly and Christy never did, and it finally spelled their doom. I can understand the confusion during the Detour: the whole task was driven by the numbers idea, and they just went with the first number they saw without thinking that it should probably be attached to the power lines in question within the clue. That was a small mistake compared to their reading of the Roadblock, which was so scarily wrong that I wonder if the producers gave them a different clue just to improve the edit of them being incompotent at simple comprehension. The idea of completing the task that way was, honestly, completely ludicrous: how different would this leg have been, do you think, if their cabbie hadn’t gotten them lost (also part of their communication error: “yes” does not mean yes, it means “I’ll say yes so you stop yelling at me, but I just want your money”) they might have seen Dallas completing the task, and might have been safely at the pit stop before any of the chaos began.

In retrospect, perhaps they should have worked with Andrew and Dan, but they both sucked at the Detour so how do we know that would have actually helped anything? The fact of the matter is that it was inevitable: after going down in history as one of the most confused teams in the race’s history, Kelly and Christy ride off into the sunset after their mistakes were piled much too high. While I salute them for removing themselves from oppressive marriages, and believe that this experience was good for them, I just never felt like they were fun to watch: they were making fun of other contestants (their Andrew/Dan question was just petty), they were flipping out over a Sports Bra, and they couldn’t read even the most clear of task instructions.

And maybe that’s why this season of the race is strong, even without personalities we love: in the end, poor race technique lost them The Amazing Race. It’s often that luck or something approaching it secure one’s fate, but as it happens this time around the good teams who work hard, like Ken and Tina battling back instead of battling each other, are sticking around ’til the end.

Five teams, two non-elimination legs and one fast forward remain.

Cultural Observations

  • I can’t say enough amazing things about the two Indian men who facilitated the Detour and the Pit Stop. The sewing machine man was dismissive and hilarious: whether his grinning, or his hilarious pushing away of Tina as she read over his shoulder, he was just a funny guy. The Pit Stop guy, however…I have to wonder how that came to be. Was he instructed to do that, or did their original greeter fall through and he had to fill in? Or was he simply the groundskeeper who was so dedicated to his job that he waits for no team? Or, more likely, was he just really bored, as I’d assume most greeters would be. Either way, made for some great comedy.
  • Also, I loved the use of camera angles on the guy facilitating the Chilis task, and Sarah’s exasperated attack on his character: he really did look like an evil mastermind from that ground (ugh, sorry, unintended) perspective.
  • I think if Sarah was teamed with, say, her sister, I think I’d like her more: she was hilarious when she responded to Terence’s “Who’s my girl?” and she responded with “You are!” She could be really funny, I feel, if Terence wasn’t so dead serious about cleaning out his nose so often.
  • Tonight was the night of bad puns: whether it was Andrew and Dan facing “pressing difficulties” in the Previouslies, or Phil noting that teams in the Bleary Detour option would find “the speed of their success shocking,” the writers were having a field day with this episode.
  • Next week seems to bring the usual: teams rushing to get the fast forward (Terence and Sarah and Nick and Starr looked to be the two teams who get out first), and Andrew and Dan failing as a team (Shock/Awe).

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