“Alright Guys, We’re At War!”
March 22nd, 2009
The worst kind of Amazing Race leg are the ones where nothing happens: the good teams are good, the annoying teams are annoying, and everything goes according to plan with the weak teams lagging behind and the strong teams rocketing forward. On the surface, this could seem like one of those episodes, where the leading teams don’t really change and where the outcome is one we could have predicted before the leg began.
But there’s been some subtle changes that have made this a better race to watch, and this leg continued that trend: teams that seemed to fade into the background before are becoming more distinct, while a team that was once impossible to watch has become more charmingly than frustratingly annoying. It’s not that the poverty and chaos of India immediately makes teams more likeable, and there’s a few instances of Ugly Americanism, but something about these teams are making them a really competitive and interesting group to watch.
So, despite nothing major going down, a building leg for the race.
India always brings out the tears, so it’s no surprise that after the bunching at the airport (teams left in the middle of the night, and were on the same flights all the way to Jaipur) the teams began to encounter things they hadn’t seen in Siberia. The extreme poverty was one of the recurring themes of the night, and while there’s been enough seasons of the Race that we’re used to seeing it the players aren’t, and it shows. Luke in particular breaks down at what they’re seeing, and I really wish that Margie’s logical but annoying insistence on narrating his emotions would have been edited out: he doesn’t need speech to explain those feelings, period.
It’s no surpise that Mel and Mike are the ones who seem to interact best with the culture, or at least with the most awareness: they observe during the Detour, as they are shaking their way for money on the streets, that there is a sad irony of such generous and energetic people being so wracked with poverty. Jaime and Cara are similarly shaken by the thought of livestock without anything to eat, but those attitudes didn’t ring true to their actions: doing the roadblock, Jaime is angry that the local won’t explain to her how to do the task because he doesn’t speak English (as opposed to, you know, because she should be capable of reading the clue she was given).
Mel and Mike just keep skyrocketing up my list of favourite Amazing Race teams – Mel’s “brains before brawn” conquering of the Roadblock, suffering mightily through the water portion of the challenge before surging ahead by being the first to realize that a bucket is not a traditional method for transporting hay in any culture on Earth, was one of those moments where we’re seeing genuine human perseverence, and Mike’s pride in his father was downright empowering. Yes, Mike had been doubtful of his chances, but so was Mel: they were being realistic, which is what Mel notes he likes about Mike. He knows his father struggles, but rather than getting angry he accepts the speed they need to travel and warns him about sand or about any potential concerns. Their moment at the mat, when Mel notes how his son’s descriptions of his Roadblock performance was worth more than a million dollars, pretty much guarantees that win or lose I will tear up when their race is done.
Christie and Jodi’s loss here was predictable, but I felt they took it well: both admitted that this wasn’t about the money, with one trying to prove capable of adventuring before having a family and the other proving to her daughter that she could do anything, which is how you want teams to leave. We’re getting to the point where teams can honestly say the Race changed them in a way, so the narratives are becoming stronger. We never got a really strong personal sense for Jodi and Christie, but they fought to the end and didn’t lose because of sheer stupidity – that’s something to be proud of. The Speed Bump was ultimately their undoing, coming too late in the leg for there to be transportation issues to stand in their way.
Tammy and Victor’s dominance of the leg makes them out to be another Nick & Starr, and while I found last season’s winners more fun to watch I don’t actively dislike this team as I did in Romania, or even the week after. They are not a great team, being a bit sheltered, but their narrative of coming out of their ancestral shadow and into more diverse life roles is emerging, and Victory is certainly being better to Tammy even if I want him to be less obnoxious at the same time.
The other teams, even, are just becoming easier to watch. Kisha and Jen are the type of team who never complains about a task, which is better than those who whine all the time, and I see them continuing to do fairly well as the Race continues. Mark and Michael, meanwhile, are becoming a laughing stock: choosing the physical task in that instance made absolutely no sense, considering it combined physicality and “elephant in the haystack,” and the fact that they took that long doing it shows a fundamental problem with their race strategy. They need to pick up the pace, as this is not the first time their struggles have placed them near the bottom of the pack.
So, a close leg (more caravans of idiots than you could count!), and one that brought the teams into clearer view, makes for a good leg at this stage of the Race.
- Jodi and Christie got unlucky early (having the only cab to stop for gas on the way), but that seemed to be the only thing that put them behind – they were actually 6th coming out of the Detour, though, so it’s not clear whether their cabbie was just slower or whether Mark and Michael’s Detour finish point was at a more accessible location compared to the Pit Stop. Either way, it was close, so the Speed Bump being gone would have likely kept them in the Race.
- Enjoyed that Tammy went against the grain in being excited about India; somewhat less enjoyed that it was only because she knew it would be warmer there.
- I’m with Jaime and Cara: if I moved to India, I would too buy the “Rockinest” horn ever. If that was Cara who said this, it was her second madeup word of the episode, so I’m glad they’re starting to become kind of distinct personality wise.
- Not much major camel drama, but did you SEE the guy in the background of a shot get kicked like three feet by a camel? It was awesome. The only other major camel shot was the rather great shot of Kisha standing directly beside the camel reading her clue, and then reacting to the camel’s insistence on a personal space bubble.
- I may have thought Margie’s narration ruined Luke’s emotional moment in the cab, but have to note that the editors did a great job of giving some idea of what it would be like to complete the “Shakers” part of the Detour while deaf. The dialogue about Luke dancing by using his eyes, holding back while his Mother handled the task, was one of those things that I hadn’t thought of going into the task, and made me reconsider things – I like that it was a small moment, and not an entire episode’s narrative, which is the way it should be presented – kudos, editors.