The Amazing Race Season 14 – “Episode Three (Romania)”

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“I’m Not Wearing That Girls Leotard!”

March 1st, 2009

The major change that we’re getting during this season of The Amazing Race is that there is no rest for the wicked – while before there were often legs which were constructed so as to require no planes at all, staying within one city or one country for a second leg, this year they’re mixing things up. Just as quickly as the racers had flown into and raced around Germany and Austria, the teams were back on a plane to Bucharest, Romania, and off for another leg of their adventure. It’s something that is going to catch up with teams very quickly, the spectre of killer fatigue preparing to play an even more substantial part in this race than in years past.

Unfortunately for one team this week, though, it’s not early enough yet for this to start to happen. And when it comes down to flying at the start of the leg, there are various problems that can crop up, and when things add up just wrong for you the leg isn’t going to give you a chance to catch up – there’s no suspense in this one, and it’s a sad story for a team that really didn’t deserve to go home at this stage.

But this isn’t to say that this is a momentum killer for the season, in fact quite the opposite: there is still plenty of heartwarming moments from Mel and Mike, finally a chink in the armour of too perfect Kris and Amanda, some redemption of sorts for two all-female teams who proved they’re not quite as incompetent as we first thought, and one team even gives the editors a freebie to be able to make it seem at least theoretically competitive. It’s a very even field right now, and despite the unfortunate loss there’s a lot to look forward to.

I’m going to start with the elimination, because it was clear from the beginning and was built from a difficult decision that made sense at the time but, ultimately, was never going to be the right call. If Brad and Victoria had been thinking, they knew that there was going to be a task as soon as they got to Romania, and that all teams (themselves included) would be getting there around midnight. Even if they got in a half hour sooner, the chances of the following tasks taking place deep into the middle of the night were unlikely, and the chances of an “hours of operations” holdup or the reality of the train departure time should have given them pause from deviating from the safe, direct flight to the one with the connection.

Unfortunately for them, things just got worse when Amsterdam was hit with fog: their flight had left early in order to get out before the fog truly rolled in, I gather, and the result was that they were stuck there all night. It was what they had been concerned with, but it was the risk they took. At this stage of the game, to be honest, this wasn’t a team that needed to take risks: they were strong with the tasks, good with directions, and were at a point where they looked capable of going a long way. Unfortunately, they underestimated themselves at one turn (listening to the family who said they couldn’t make the Tarom flight which even groin pain-sufferer Mel was able to make it to on time), and then were so concerned about missing that flight that they took a risk (completely out of their hands once they got on the plane) to try to gain it back. It was a sad way for them to go, and despite the editors’ best efforts it was never even close. I wish they had gotten to stay around longer, as I preferred them to most of the teams left on the race.

They were, however, not the only team to suffer from a bit of poor race strategy and bad luck combining, although the other team gets to live another day. Tammy and Victor did suffer from some awfully poor luck this week, as being in first place well ahead of the other teams actually hurt them, as they arrived to the Munich airport in order to catch an earlier flight that, unfortunately, would be turned around in the air due to technical difficulties, and that would be late enough arriving back that they were unable to catch the other afternoon flight the other lead teams were on. The result was them being bunched back with the other teams, something that did not sit well with them. At that point, though, it’s out of your hands: through no mistake of your own, you’re at the back of the pack, and while it sucks that you got punished for being faster than everyone else there comes a point where you’ve gotta own it and realize that you’re better racers than the people around you.

Or so you would have though; as it turns out, Tammy and Victor crashed and burned in an unimaginable fashion, bungling both tasks in what would eventually boil down to a veritable trainwreck of sibling tension. As soon as they landed in Romania, it started: Victor has them get out of the taxi too early, and they’re running around for an extended period of time and end up in “last” (Brad and Victoria still being in Amsterdam). Then, Tammy struggles with the Roadblock, and Victor’s reproachable brotherly tone emerges, lecturing her on the various moves and failing to be anything even close to helpful. Yes, Tammy sucks at gymnastics (no offense, Tammy), but Victor was more or less taunting her, something that is never effective and that she realizes by the end of the leg needs to be treated with more distain if that is going to get through to him.

It all culminated, of course, with the next day’s epic breakdown where Victor follows what are apparently nature trail markers, which are plentiful and all over the place, as opposed to searching for the Yellow/Red arrows that are consistently used to mark the paths. Tammy is immediately skeptical – heck, even Victory notices that it seems strange they would be asked to go straight uphill. And while we’re thankful for a wonderful view of the castle from high atop this hilltop, their legs and Tammy’s patience are not so pleased. They fight it out, and after going on for quite some time she finally gets him, only after he breaks down crying, to turn around and head back down. There, of course, they find the arrows, and begin the second half of the detour. After managing to lose a key (I actually thought they were searching for a key that didn’t exist, but who knew their bad luck would just pile it on), they were able to stumble their way into “last” place – not actually losing the leg, but certainly losing their confidence and a part of their relationship. As Tammy says, she is going to have to be more persistent in terms of letting his gut control everything, or else this is going to keep happening over and over again. It was a messy and almost sad leg to watch, and you hate to see a team fall so far, even if Victor was annoying me last week.

But let’s go past the unfortunate people and discuss the leg itself. Romania lent itself well to the series, giving us two tasks which highlighted stereotypical parts of its culture which, conveniently for our sake, offered boundless opportunities for humour. The Gymnastics roadblock was a lot of fun to watch, primarily because Mike White was wearing a leotard which meshed every so nicely with his shoulder tattoo, and it actually did seem quite difficult for some people. You have to be strong to pull that together, and unless you have balance, upper body strength and something approaching coordination it won’t be easy. It’s also something, though, that with enough practice could be done by just about everyone, and there’s that great feeling of accomplishment when some of them finish it, and it would be a good confidence booster for someone like Kisha, who along with Jen struggled with directions last week and needed something to keep them going.

As for the second task, it brought us the rather elaborate failure of Tammy and Victor but also the other side of the detour, which was much more enjoyable in terms of both imagery and humour. Teams chose between the coffin task (pulling a coffin down a hill, undoing its series of locks, and then impaling (Get it? Vlad the Impaler?) wooden frames on a big stick in order to find a flag embedded in one of them) and the Gypsy (Because Romania has gypsies!) Task (loading up a family’s very strange possessions onto a cart and then driving them down the road to their new place of residence). Neither task was simple, each requiring a certain amount of strength and resourcefulness, but there’s a big difference in terms of our enjoyment: which option has an audience?

Amazing Race audiences have always been fun to watch, but this season they’ve been featured in every episode. We had the great Swiss musicians who were drinking and making fun of everyone falling down the hill with the cheese, and then you have last week’s Bavarian party crowd witnessing the pie-throwing, and now we have the Gypsies, who were clearly entertained to no end by people’s attempts to pile the belongings, trying to keep them from falling off the cart, and pretty much by everything about them. It’s great to see local culture witnessing the madness of it all, and I love little moments like the woman whose eyes bulge as Kris goes all Donkey Kong with a barrel over his head. It’s just a lot of fun to watch, and the more of that we get the better the show is going to operate. The other side just wasn’t as fun until we came to Victor, who was clearly the angriest as he smashed those frames onto the stakes.

The one thing the episode did, though, was level the playing field: while Jodi and Christie have been struggling as of late, they ran a solid leg with a good performance at the Detour, and finished above second last for the first time just behind Mark and Michael, who bounced back from some direction issues last week. Jamie and Cara, however, seemed to struggle a bit more, and their alliance with Luke and Margie will break down if they can’t keep up. But Kisha and Jen finished a solid third this week, making none of the mistakes we saw previously, and while Mel’s injury might keep he and Mike (who remain a great team to watch and Mel’s various notes about his son are still so heartwarming) from really challenging Kris and Amanda (who despite losing their fanny pack ran a very solid leg yet again) it does feel like we’re back to a more level playing field. And that’s a good place to be three episodes in.

Cultural Observations

  • Looks like this was an 18-hour pit stop – these happen occasionally due to potential issues (scheduling, letting the production crew get ahead, etc.), and it definitely seemed like the extra 6 hours would make sense (the first team arriving at around 4pm and the last team arriving closer to 8pm as it got dark).
  • I have to wonder why, precisely, Brad and Victoria were covered in fake blood – was there someone at the church in Transylvania who was particularly interested in dousing them with it? Or was there a freak encounter with a local? Or did they just decide at the Detour to take the blood from the frames and pour it over themselves? Regardless, it made for a particularly gruesome elimination.
  • Kris and Amanda finally have a chink in their armour, as noted above: when they lost the fanny pack, Kris came back to where they thought they left it and proclaimed that “Someone stole it, obviously!” or something to that effect. So there’s our one bad thing to say about Kris: he has prejudicial opinions about gypsies stealing things.
  • Kind of sad to see us finally get more of Luke discussing his desire to be able to communicate better in this episode, and see him struggle with a roadblock next week. Never fun for any contestant.
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1 Comment

Filed under The Amazing Race

One response to “The Amazing Race Season 14 – “Episode Three (Romania)”

  1. Nice review.

    I always wonder about teams that team up together. At some point, one of the teams have to leave the other one behind. Plus, there may be instances where one team does a challenge they shouldn’t because their teammates are.

    Too bad about Brad and Victoria. I think they had the ability to be the highest ranking “older” team ever. I actually said that before this episode. Oops.

    My wife said they looked like they belonged in a Viagra ad.

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