The Amazing Race

The Wife:

And another season of The Amazing Race comes to an end, this time in Maui. Tammy and Victor would have had a pretty good lead, if it weren’t for the fact that the airport became the great equalizer for this leg of the race, as each team found out they had to line up at 6 a.m. to get tickets to Maui and not a moment before. Once on the islands, they hit the ground running to get to Beach Access 118, where each team had to prepare a pig for a luau and carry it 200 yards to the luau site, as well as properly prepare it for cooking.

I was really surprised at how difficult teams found it to carry pigs, which typically weigh about 230 lbs before slaughter, and presumably less without entrails. Now, I’m not saying I could do that on my own, but between two people, I imagine it wouldn’t be as hard as it looked like it was for these teams to accomplish. Margie and Luke were the only ones who carried theirs like anyone who has every carried a heavy object before (with the poles over their shoulders, as to better balance the weight on their torsos rather than in the limbs). Jaime, as expected, grew angry with Cara for dropping the pig repeatedly, whereas Victor turned his frustration into encouragement for his sister. Because encouraging people to do stuff usually makes them want to do stuff more than yelling at them.

Youre honestly telling me these girls were never in 4H? I am SHOCKED!

You're honestly telling me these girls were never in 4H? I am SHOCKED!

Once the pigs were delivered to the luau sites and the cooking scenarios properly prepared, teams headed out to McGregor Point, where they swam out to some waiting jetskis and searched a buoy field for submerged clues, which lead them to their Road Block at the surfboard fence along the Hana Highway.

There, one person from each team had to reconstruct the race based on pictures on vintage surfboards. Luke and Margie were the first to get there and Luke was very eager to do something for his mom for once. I wanted him to do well, too, because it was easy to tell that he had a lot to prove. He was also very prepared, as he said before the challenge that he’d regularly reviewed things they saw in each leg of the race when they got to the each pit stop. He did really well, actually, nailing every single leg in order . . . except for the last two in Beijing, which he had so much trouble remembering that it allowed Victor, who got there significantly later, to surpass him. (I appreciated both gentlemen stripped down to their undies to do the challenge, though, as television generally needs more skinny man thigh.) Victor also had a really good strategy of grabbing anything he knew he needed and piling it up before trying to discern the order, which ultimately meant less back and forth from the pile, thus saving a little bit of time and energy.

They may not have won, but at least they got to ride jetskis.

They may not have won, but at least they got to ride jetskis.

Once Jaime got there, she immediately freaked out and complained about not recognizing any of the images on the surfboards (which was the point, to throw in irrelevant things to confuse people like Jaime), but she eventually got the hang of it. She, too, had trouble finding one last surfboard and after Victor left and both remaining teams realized they’d lost, she and Luke worked together to solve each other’s missing piece problem. Jaime technically finished first when Luke showed her the St. Christopher surfboard, and Cara had to remind her huffy friend to help Luke, who spent so much time on his own trying to figure out that the Reflexology surfboard should have been in the 10th position only to completely blank on the fact that the last leg of the race involved eating scorpions on a stick.

Luke was visibly upset that he’d failed to remember everything on the race, and I was pretty sad for him as well. I know that he can be very needy and childish sometimes, but that’s what made me root for him in this challenge, because I wanted him to show everyone that he can do things on his own, without his mother’s help. Even Jaime was upset that she’d fucked up, and then she and Cara came in second place on the mat, she put all the blame on herself. Not on the taxi driver who got lost on the Hana Highway. Not Cara, who dropped the pig repeatedly. But on herself. And that’s pretty big of her.

Not required to win TAR: pants.

Not required to win TAR: pants.

I am very glad that Tammy and Victor won, though, as they learned how to communicate with one another over the course of the race and I think their relationship has only improved through their participation in a 3-week race around the world.

The Husband:

Don’t worry, friends. I’m pretty damn sure that Margie and Luke will be invited back for the next All Stars race. It’d be stupid not to. I would perhaps give them up to see Mike White and his father again, but I have a feeling that a.) Mike’s schedule doesn’t clear out very often, and b.) I don’t know if Mel could go through this again.

But no, do not invite Kisha and Jen. The Amazing Race does a good job of not rewarding assholes, for the most part, and that’d be sending out the wrong message. While Jeff Probst often tries to battle the network and his producers on making Survivor a more honest show, it’s still a competition of lying and backstabbing, so that goes with the territory. But TAR is almost entirely based on the effort and cooperation of two human beings, and that’s what makes it fascinating, exciting and, in the end, very uplifting. I was definitely pulling for Margie and Luke, but am 100% glad that such a positive team made it through to win the big prize. Not only were they great competitors, but they were good people. And that’s why this show works so well.

That, and Phil’s eyebrow.

And yes, keep making the final challenge related to the entire race. They didn’t really start doing this in its complete form until the Family Season (shudder) and is a great symbol to the show’s quest to make Americans less xenophobic. (See? The show is educational, too!)

The Wife:

With no time to enjoy their victory for coming in first on the last leg of the race, Jaime and Cara headed up the second half of this double-length leg. Teams were first sent to a local street mall to find heir next clue, which asked them to search through several stores to find the Travelocity gnome, which they would have to carry with them for the rest of the race. I sincerely enjoyed the gnome sitting atop a mannequin (where its head should have been) in a clothing store, as well as the gnome sitting in a bag of nuts, wearing a tiny paper chef’s hat.

Margie and Luke and Tammy and Victor were close on the girls’ heels, and with gnomes in hand the teams headed off to Gu Gon Xi Bei Jao to get electric bikes and transport themselves beyond the Forbidden City and through Tiananmen Square where they received their Detour. Teams could either take a stab at Chinese Opera or play Chinese Waiter in a local restaurant.

  1. In Chinese Opera, teams had to go to the opera house and paint each other with the traditional operatic facepaint for a princess and a gentleman and don the correct costumes in order to receive their next clue.
  2. In Chinese Waiter, teams had to go to a nearby restaurant, take orders in Mandarin and turn those orders into the chef. When the orders given were correct, the chef would then cook the dishes and teams would deliver them to their customers.
Mom, Im sorry Im not a girl, okay?

Mom, I'm sorry I'm not a girl, okay?

As any sane person would, any team that didn’t already know how to speak Mandarin chose the opera challenge and spent time putting on makeup and clothing. Margie got a little upset with the way Luke was doing her makeup (see title of episode), but the Chinese opera workers didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect and eventually Luke told his mother to stop fighting him just because he was never taught how to put on makeup as a kid. (Frankly, for all Margie’s coddling, I am surprised Luke doesn’t know how to do his mom’s makeup.) Kisha decided that she got to be the princess, because she sees herself as the least feminine of the two, while her sister wore the gentlemen’s makeup. Rightfully, Jaime also chose the princess makeup, because she is princess of people who yell at cabbies . . . especially cabbies who take her to the wrong opera house because the only instructions she gave them involved singing horrible scales in his general direction.

Meanwhile, Tammy and Victor took on the Chinese Waiter challenge and got through it faster than anyone working on the makeup challenge. They mispronounced one order, turning Good Luck Fish into Good Luck Squid, and had to restart, but still managed to make it to the U-Turn site before anyone else and U-Turned Kisha and Jen, which was totally the right move.

The opera teams all had trouble finding the U-Turn site, even though it was in the costume museum of the opera house all along. They wandered around for, if Jaime is to be believed, three hours trying to find the location before Margie and Luke struck off on their own and found it to see that they hadn’t been U-Turned. From there, it was on to a local street market where teams faced a Road Block in which they hate to eat deep fried Chinese delicacies such as scorpion, starfish, cricket and larvae. Victor totally powered through those less-than-ideal meals and he and his sister headed off to the Pit Stop at Niao Chao, The Bird’s Nest, long before everyone else, taking first place, a spot in the finale and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

So, that was Monthly Use Taiwanese Chicken to go, right?

So, that was Monthly Use Taiwanese Chicken to go, right?

When Kisha and Jen found that they’d been U-Turned, they took it in stride and headed off to the restaurant to attempt the second half of their Detour. Let me just give you a list of reasons why this was my favorite part of the episode, watching people with no knowledge of how tone languages function woefully mispronounce things. Here are some of the dishes that would have been made if Kisha and Jen ran a Chinese restaurant:

Monthly Use Taiwanese Chicken (my next Guitar Hero band)

Good Western Heads Lack Fish (it’s true, at least they should lack fish)

Oil Comes Again to Please the Mouth (ummm . . .)

Good Doll Basket Drum

Light Competition Red Dishes I’ve Played Before (my next album)

But the most interesting thing here is that Kisha and Jen managed to succeed at this challenge before Cara and Jaime even found the U-Turn site, rendering a tense competition for last place, as Margie and Luke were well on their way toward eating yucky fried bugs and such. In fact, Kisha and Jen managed to get to the street market first, but Jen ate her share of the buggits so slowly that Cara was able to catch up by eating quicker. And then there was the problem of Jen’s bladder. In addition to eating slowly, she downed roughly four bottles of water during the process and by the time they reached the Bird’s Nest, she seriously had to pee, allowing Jaime and Cara to check in at the mat before them. Another contributing factor to Kisha and Jen’s loss was probably the fact that they were dropped off at a different part of the Olympic compound, rather than right in front of the Bird’s Nest.

Nonetheless, I’m glad they’re gone. I don’t care for Jaime and Cara, either, but even though Jaime’s mean to cabbies, she’s not mean to other players. And besides, Jen never would have made it through the variety of water challenges lined up for the Maui finale. So perhaps its best that her bladder did her in.

The Husband:

TARheads out there, answer me this: has anybody in the history of this show done themselves in as a result of their bladder? Because I can’t think of one. Bickering, poor communication skills, stupidity, bad sense of direction; these are all regular TAR excuses for ending up in last place, but having to pee might be the dumbest one so far. I know that terrible feeling one gets with an extra-full bladder, like you are about to explode. But this is for 1 million dollars, and no way in hell am I letting my bladder get the best of me. Even if that meant peeing as I ran and forever being known as “that guy who peed his pants on CBS primetime,” I would do it. And it’s not like she was in danger of getting a bladder infection within that, I presume, one hour between the food and the pit stop. (If it was less than an hour, then I’m even more confused.)

I also really hope that those were the actual translations for whatever it was Jen and Kisha were saying, and that Bertram Van Munster wasn’t just throwing in random words into the subtitles. Because it’s very likely that the pair weren’t saying words at all, like that homeless man on the sidewalk who wants your fingernails. But I still hope above all hope that the Chinese chef was seriously pondering the statements they were presumably making. “Why yes, oil does come, quite often, and pleases my mouth. Thank you for noticing.”

The Wife:

Wow. Just . . . wow. This episode of The Amazing Race was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to watch. And I am not talking about that near-torture foot massage participants had to face for their Road Block once they got to Beijing, but because Kisha and Jen were so bad in the water. Also surprising: Tammy and Victor aren’t very strong swimmers, which I find hard to believe, because they’re from the Bay Area and I’ve never met a person up here that doesn’t know how to swim. But at least Tammy and Victor didn’t need to wear life vests in eight-foot deep water or drag themselves down the lane lines as a means of conveyance. Seriously, there is nothing sadder than seeing two grown women don life vests in a pool.

Why swimming? Because the most recent Olympiad was held in Bejing, where Michael Phelps won his eight gold medals and the folks at TAR thought it would be cool to dress the teams up in his special shark LZR Speedo and make them swim the very pool in which he swam. But that was only the “Swim” half of the “Sync or Swim” Detour. The other half explored something that the host country of China had more prowess at: synchronized diving, in which teams had to perfect a synchronized dive and score a 5 from both judges.

Tammy and Victor and Jen and Kisha tried the dives first, but no one could figure out that the reason they were never scoring higher than a four is because they couldn’t keep their damn feet together and pointed down when they entered the water. So, eventually, both teams gave up on the dives and faced the lap pool, in which they had to complete two legs of a 400-meter relay, switching off with their partner. No one had to beat Phelps’ superhuman time, but we at home were allowed to see a comparison between the racer’s time and Phelps. That dude can swim 100 meters in under a minute. It took Jaime and Cara and Margie and Luke – all pretty good swimmers – just under 3 minutes per 100 meters.

There’s no real point in counting how long it took Tammy and Victor, or Jen and Kisha, because failing at the dive put both teams really far behind and their own fears and insecurities only put them even further behind frontrunners Margie and Luke and Jaime and Cara.

Trust me, girls, synchronized diving is harder than doing the backstroke.

Trust me, girls, synchronized diving is harder than doing the backstroke.

I realize that Jen’s fear of the water is actually quite a paralyzing fear, and I don’t want to make fun of something that causes someone so much anxiety, but somewhere in her, she had to realize that no one would let her die on national television. Dude, Salome didn’t even know how to breathe underwater on Make Me a Supermodel and she worked it out. She even learned how to stay submerged for an extended period of time. And were there stipulations that said the swimmers had to do a certain stroke on each part of the relay? Why couldn’t Jen have simply done the backstroke the whole way down, thus completely avoiding putting her head underwater and negating any fear that she’d forget how to breathe (or, you know, not breathe the water) and drown?  I just have so much trouble understanding the thought process that leads to a paralyzing fear of drowning.

But, hey, she got through it eventually, and it’s a double-length leg, which means all the more craziness next week as Cara and Jaime fight to keep their top spot!

The Husband:

Jen had clearly seen this terrifying clip from Jaws.

Seriously, though, it’s a pool, not the ocean, and the only thing that’s going to make you drown is yourself. Human bodies goddamn float, so even if you have your face down in the water, guess what? You liiiiiiiiift your heeeeeeeeeeeead above the water. With underwater cameramen there for protection in only five feet of water TOPS, there is no way anything at all is going to happen. Anxiety is one thing. Losing your common sense is another. Water is malleable. That’s the whole damn point of it.

I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Swimming is the easiest thing in the world. If, for instance, her brother died in the tub I could understand some kind of anxiety, but we were given no clichéd movie-style explanation of anything like that. So I just chalk it up to ultimate fail.

The Wife:

I missed last week’s TAR because I was having my own mini-version in the Pacific Northwest as I took a two-night trip up to Seattle to visit my soon-to-be home for graduate study. The experience was not comparable to TAR in any way other than I saw a part of a city in a day and was shuffled from place to place competing tasks such as meeting with professors, getting coffee or sitting in on a seminar during which a fire drill occurred. That was probably the most TAR-ish part, actually.

While I was in Seattle, the racers spent another leg in Thailand, flying from Phuket to Bangkok, where they had to taxi themselves to a boat yard to get their first clue. Jaime cemented my hatred of her by being completely mean and insulting to cab drivers. I’m sorry, bitch, but not everyone on the planet speaks English, nor do they want to. Just fucking learn to be patient and stop adopting the attitude that someone is less intelligent than you because they don’t speak your language. Seriously, if I were traveling with Jaime, I’d have punched her pretty little face about eight times by now because there is never a part of the race where she isn’t mean to cabbies.

Once at the boat yard, teams faced a Road Block in which one team member must attach a propeller to a long-tail boat. If done correctly, they would get a clue that would lead them to sail across the lake to their next destination. And this is where everything got totally fucked up for two of the five teams. Only Margie and Luke and Cara and Jaime had the foresight to bring their bags from their cab to the dock, just in case they weren’t returning to their cab. Once Tammy and Victor realized they were going to motor across the lake, they took the time to redock their boat and grab their things. Kisha and Jen and Mark and Michael didn’t think to do either of those things, with Kisha and Jen even leaving their passport and money bag on the dock and not turning around to get it. The part that truly baffles me about this is that it was a Road Block, so only one person was aboard the boat attaching the rudder, while the other sat on the docks. Why didn’t that other teammate grab their stuff and bring it aboard? It’s not like they didn’t have the time!

After that set-up for disaster, the teams eventually found their way to a Detour:

  1. Broken Teeth, in which they would search through 50 sets of dentures to find matches for five patients
  2. Broken Record, in which they would join a party taxi with three local ladies and sing the same karaoke song over and over until they reached their destination.

Straight up, I would totally have gone to sing karaoke with Thai ladyboys. Oh yes, as Kisha and Jen realized but Mark and Michael never did, the Thai women they shared an intimate karaoke-fueled taxi ride with were, in fact, ladyboys, some of whom were much more beautiful and real than others, but all of whom were totally fabulous. I really do applaud the Thai for creating environments that welcome alternative genders and sexualities such as ladyboys. Recently, the government created a college just for them (similar to New York City’s Harvey Milk High School for LBGTQI kids) so that they could be themselves without feeling any potential pressure from factions of society that may not understand them. All of the teams seemed to be in agreement with me, except for Margie and Luke, who avoid things involving music and singing, for obvious reasons.

“I’m a bad singer, but he’s a really bad singer!” – Margie, on Luke’s inability to sing

So the mother and son decided to play with dentures, an activity described by Phil in the episode’s title as: “Rooting around in people’s mouths could be unpleasant.” Indeed. But Margie, being a nurse, was pretty fucking good at it. So good at it, in fact, that it got her and her son to the Pit Stop at Piya Thai Palace in first place, winning themselves a trip to Puerto Rico.

Mark and Michael got into some kind of row over whether or not to get their bags, and eventually decided to spend all of their remaining money to go back to their cab and get their bags before continuing on to the Detour. Sans cash, they had to barter their personal possessions to settle their cab bill. This would come back to bite them in the ass, as apparently you cannot barter your things for money on The Amazing Race? Surely, I thought they would have some penalties for not arriving at destinations by proper means (circumventing with cabs in place of feet or boats or whatnot), but apparently what I thought were mistakes weren’t and what I thought was totally okay totally wasn’t.

Jaime and Cara checked in in second place, followed by Kisha and Jen, who made it through on free cab rides from generous Thai people and, in Kisha’s case, without shoes. Phil couldn’t check them in, however, without their bags, so he sent them back to get them in a taxi. Officially, Tammy and Victor claimed third place. Mark and Michael then arrived and were penalized two hours for each instance of bartering, thus collecting a full four hours in penalties, which allowed Kisha and Jen to return and check in before them. Luckily, this was a non-elimination leg, so the wee stuntmen would have to wait out the remaining 3 hours and 10 minutes of their penalty at the beginning of the next leg, as well as complete a Speed Bump. Ouch. I mean, they made a really boneheaded move by forgetting their bags, but I had no idea you would be punished for bartering. Were Dandrew not punished in Russia last season because the cabbie decided not to take their shoes? I mean, where’s the consistency here?

For the next leg of the race, teams flew from Bangkok to Guilin, China and taxied to Qing Xiu Lu to find a hair salon where they would receive their next clue. Somehow, Kisha and Jen managed to get on their earliest flight out, putting them in the lead for this leg, while Cara and Jaime kept pace with Tammy and Victor by booking the same flight. I always end up liking the teams that have a second language in their arsenal, and it turns out that Tammy and Victor, like so many Chinese-American kids I know, were forced by their parents into Chinese school as children, and thus read, write and speak Mandarin. (Remember now much I loved Sarah, the Browbeaten Girlfriend of Terrance the Almighty Douchenozzle, just because she spoke Portuguese?) This definitely gave them a bit of an advantage on this leg of the race (summed up by Tammy as, “Now we know when our cab drivers don’t know where they’re going”), and smart teams stayed close to them to leech off of their knowledge.

Bitch, please!

Bitch, please!

In the previews for this episode, we knew that Jen and Luke were going to get into a major altercation at the clue box, and it was on like the break of dawn when Luke ran up to that clue box in front of the beauty salon and Jen slammed into him from behind. He put up his arm to block her, and she thought this was a “bitch move” so her sister said so, which really upset Margie and, when his mother later told him, Luke. What Jen has to remember is that Luke cannot hear her approaching, so when he put his arm up, it was just a natural reaction to someone you don’t know fucking grabbing you from behind. He wasn’t necessarily doing it to be mean or to keep her from the clue box. He was just doing what one does to protect oneself. So for Kisha to call Luke a bitch was definitely uncalled for in this situation.

From the salon, teams traveled to the #24 bridge, where they participated in a Road Block involving one of my fucking favorite things in the world: Cormorant Fishing. One teammate had to go out on the river and “train” the birds to retrieve thrown fishies. First of all, cormorants are ridiculous looking birds, and I love them for that alone. But I am also fond of cormorant fishing because there are so few people in the world that still practice it. In China, it used to be a profession that was passed down from generation to generation in the provinces where it is practiced. But as fewer and fewer children want to be fisherman for a living, there are now fewer and fewer cormorant fishers. I have some mixed feelings about the process used to train the birds (where their necks are tied with strings so that they can be brought back to the boat to deposit fish), but when the birds are trained, their handlers treat them very well and revere them. It’s kind of like using a hunting dog. And, like a hunting dog, the birdies might bite you, as they did to Luke. (By the way, props to the camera man who got the horror film shot of the bird approaching with venom in its beady little bird eyes. That right there deserves an Emmy.)



Before anyone could go out and play with the birdies, though, Jen had to go and be a bitch to Luke at the clue box again. He did run a little hard into her, but I think he was trying to beat her there and she just wedged herself in front of his momentum. She definitely pushed him away, though. And not defensively. And as though the bitch calling wasn’t enough, at this point Kisha announced that she planned to smile and laugh at them anytime the mother and son attempted to discuss the brewing conflict. Way to take the high road, Kisha.

After fishing with cormorants, teams headed to Ancient South Gate where they would face their Detour, involving two Chinese leisure pursuits of calligraphy and choreography.

  1. In Choreography, teams would join dancers in the park to learn and perform a choreographed ballroom dance routine. I immediately wished the local Chinese population did this in St. Mary’s Square instead of morning tai chi and afternoon games of go. It would be a lot more fun to watch, especially if random white people joined in and totally failed at dancing.
  2. In Calligraphy, teams had to visit four calligraphy stations in the park and copy the master’s brush strokes. If they copied them correctly, they would get a stamp. Four stamps got them their next clue.

Cheerleaders Jaime and Cara chose choreography, as learning choreography was basically their job for the entire time they were employed by the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, they totally failed at this challenge, leading Jaime to once again grow frustrated with people who don’t speak her language and flail her arms about screaming, “Does anyone speak English??” as though it were part of the routine she didn’t learn. Maybe you’re just losing your muscle memory, Jaime! Get your ass back to a dance class!

Luke being Deaf, Margie and her son chose to follow Tammy and Victor and Kisha and Jen to the calligraphy stations. I was a bit sad to learn that Tammy and Victor felt their Chinese writing was poor because, like every other Chinese-American kid I know, they totally didn’t pay attention in Chinese school. However, their spoken prowess was good enough to wheedle their way in front of the calligraphy master before all of the other teams and begged him to stamp them first. (Best tactic ever: “If we don’t win, our parents will cry themselves to death.”) It was smart of the other teams to follow Tammy and Victor in this case as each calligraphy station spelled out the Chinese name of their next location. All the easier to find those places with Tammy and Victor reading the names aloud, right? Much easier to ask someone for directions if you know how to pronounce the characters rather than trying to read the signs!

Once these teams completed all four calligraphy stations, they made their way to the Pit Stop at Banyan Lake, where they had to find the view depicted on the scroll handed to them by the calligraphy master. Kisha and Jen arrived at the mat first, winning a trip for two to Barbados, followed by Tammy and Victor and Margie and Luke, coming in third for the first time in the entire race. (Margie and Luke are always first or fourth, it seems.) As Phil ventured to ask these three teams about the pressure now that there are only a handfull of teams left in the game, Kisha and Jen smiled and pretended everything was copasetic, while Margie and Luke fiercely debated in ASL about bringing up their altercation with the sisters. I do not even fully know what to make of this situation, except that Kisha and Jen’s smiles and, yes, laughter at Margie and Luke really drove Margie over the edge. She took it as the sisters mocking her son’s strained speech. (Yes, when he’s angry, he does try to speak and, as you’d expect, it doesn’t go very well.) She lambasted them about how Luke has been made fun of his entire life for his Deafness and that they do not know what it’s like to be different. The girls rightly pointed out my astute observation that they have been Black their whole lives, and an angry Margie tried to explain how it was different to be disabled than it is to be non-white. Phil tried to ameliorate the situation by suggesting that, perhaps, the initial act of shoving at clue boxes had been misinterpreted (it had), but that didn’t really fix the problem.

Frankly, I do think Kisha and Jen are being dicks about the situation, and I feel for Margie. No mother wants to see her child hurt in any way, and I can definitely see that name-calling is especially hurtful to someone who isn’t hearing. But I really think the bigger problem in this situation is that, because of Luke’s Deafness and his bold refusal to learn to lip read, he has become completely dependent on and been overly coddled by his mother. He’s never really learned to fight his own battles or to simply ignore things that do not matter, like being called a name or accidentally pushed into something. This shouldn’t have been a big deal, but it became one.

Anyway, Cara and Jaime eventually figured out that their dance routine and checked in fourth at the mat, leaving super-duper behind Mark and Michael to be Phileminated.

Next week, Jen pulls a Salome and cries about having to swim! Will someone explain to me why water is scary? Because your body is, like, half water. So . . . yeah . . . totally not scary. Not scary at all. (Husband Note: More than half our body, woman!) (Wife’s Retort: Technically, yes, up to 60% of the body is water, but it varies from person to person. “Like, half” is accurate.)

The Wife:

I learned some things during this episode of TAR:

1. Jaime is really mean to people who don’t speak English, and that actually makes me hate her. She’s symbolic of a problem that much of the English-speaking world has in which they think, for some reason, that everyone everywhere else in the world should also speak English. I am sure that this expectation is created not out of ignorance on the part of people like Jaime, but out of an expectation created in an age of globalization and the rise of English as the lingua franca of the business world. That said, a spice shop in Phuket, Thailand is not a regional headquarters of Microsoft in Jakarta. You have to have reasonable expectations when you travel.

2. Bandit is a super cool name, and it means “teacher” in Thai.

3. The Phuket Zoo looks like one of the craziest zoos ever.

Teams wound up at the Phuket Zoo after flying nearly 2,000 miles from Jaipur to the popular resort area and were told to find a statue of a gorilla with only a photograph as reference. Every team started this leg of the race on equal footing, as they all got on the same flight from Jaipur, but quickly, Mike and Mel got separated from the herd, who asked locals in the central square if they knew where the gorilla statute was and eventually got pointed in the correct direction, while Mike and Mel trusted their cab driver who took them way out to the beach (because that’s exactly where super white tourists want to go . . .). Once teams found the monkey statue, they then had the most fun day at the zoo ever as each team proceeded to take a picture with a tiger (whose handler only had one arm, incidentally) and participate in a traditional Thai performance in which an elephant pranced around them, massaged their backs and squatted over them.

After their fun zoo adventure, teams headed to the oldest herb shop in Old Phuket and had to ask the shop owner to open one drawer at a time in his 99-drawer cabinet of wonderments in order to find their next clue. Jaime got really, really frustrated with her inability to communicate with this man, as aforementioned. (I think yelling and waving frantically didn’t help her case much, frankly.) She and Cara were the first to arrive at the spice shop, but due to their complete failure to communicate and lack of a methodical approach to the drawers (writing down each number that had already been called, or methodically going down/across rows) they ended up leaving the shop only moments before a caught-up Mel and Mike made it there. The clues from the chest of wonderments presented teams with their Detour for this leg of the race:

  • 100 Barrels, in which teams would load a fishing ship with 47 barrels of water and 53 empty barrels for fish, enough for a week’s journey to sea
  • 2 Miles, in which teams would prepare a rickshaw and carry their teammate aboard it for 2 miles.

Mark and Michael, in the lead, chose the rickshaws, as did Tammy and Victor. Kisha and Jen, Jaime and Cara and Margie and Luke all chose the barrels, but wound up in the wrong place. Kisha and Jen decided to stay and look for the proper location, while the other two teams jumped ship and decided to go for the rickshaws. Mel and Mike eventually joined Kisha and Jen at the docks. Once their Detours were completed, teams raced to Wat Tep Nemet, their Pit Stop for the last leg of the race.

Stuntmen Mark and Michael were the first to make it to the mat, but somehow, they incurred two penalties that cost them an hour total in penalty time. I figured when I saw them ask their cab driver to lead them to the end of the rickshaw course that they would incur a penalty, but I had no idea what their second penalty would have been until Phil told us. Apparently, when they were setting up their rickshaw, they hid the bike pumps which Phil declared was “intentional tampering.” I think they likely just thought they were cleaning up after themselves and put the pumps all back in the box, but maybe I missed something and they really were being sneaky and evil. While they waited out their punishment, two teams arrived to oust them from their number one seat.

(Husband Note: Yes, you did miss something. They even told the cameras what they were doing as they tampered with the pumps.)

1st: Tammy and Victor, winning a trip for two to Ohau.
2nd: Jaime and Cara
3rd: Mark and Michael, able to check in after their penalty time had elapsed.
4th: Margie and Luke, continuing their streak of checking in either first or fourth. Dramatically, Margie fell victim to heat stroke and Phil was there to catch her, like any good sweaty Thailand-set romance novel would include (minus the ladyboys). I can’t think of many better places to have heat stroke than near the arms of Phil Koeghan. Margie’s a trooper, though. The production staff was set to take her to a Thai ER, but she wanted to press on, once she got some water in her system (and poured over her head).
5th: Kisha and Jen
6th: Mike and Mel, who were, sadly, Phileminated.



I kind of knew that Mel and Mike were screwed when they chose not to follow the herd, but I had hoped that they’d pull through – a hope that was especially renewed when I found out that Mark and Michael would have to wait an hour in penalty time. But, sadly, my favorite people on the race had to go home last night. I’m now rooting for either Margie and Luke (because while I don’t like Luke that much, I really love his mom), or Tammy and Victor (who seem to have really worked through their issues and are having fun together). I’m really going to miss The Whites, though. I leave you with a parting lame joke of theirs, that was totally priceless:

Mike: Do you speak any Thai, Dad?
Mel: Uh, yeah. Mai tai.

Ba dum ching!

The Husband:

Noooooooooooooooooooooooes! One of our best and quirkiest modern screenwriters and his gay father have finally fallen by the wayside, and I in good faith cannot continue posting little bits and pieces of his movies on this blog!

Oh well, I can at least leave you with this – Mike White’s best scene in The Good Girl, an incredible and incredibly sad indie film from several years back taken from White’s most dramatic script to date. (While Chuck & Buck, his breakout film, was a drama, too, it was more of the sardonic stalker variety and more awkwardly terrifying than anything else.)

The Wife:

If you wondered why we haven’t written about our usual weekend shows (i.e. Dollhouse, Animation Domination, ABC Sunday Night Chardonnay and Chocolate Fest, etc.) or even our usual Thursday night shows, it’s because we let our DVR collect morsels and goodies for us over the weekend as we headed to Arizona for Oakland A’s Spring Training. Let me tell you something, kids. Arizona is hot. My living room is much, much cooler. The first thing we watched when we got back was The Amazing Race, the safe way to travel to hot climates such as India without ever having to encounter abject poverty or leave your couch! Whee!

From the cold climes of Russia, racers flew to Jaipur, India, a place that I bet is as hot as Arizona, taking connecting flights through Moscow and New Dehli, therefore giving everyone a chance to catch up, which was especially helpful for Christine and Jodi, who faced a Speed Bump in this leg of the race after having avoiding Philemination last week. Once on the ground in India’s pink city, racers had to grab a taxi and head to a sacred tree outside the city, where they would receive their next clue by calling one of the red telephones guarded by an opium-smoking man who, for obvious reasons, made me think of the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. Mel and Mike got off to a bit of a rough start when their taxi driver abandoned them, letting all of the other teams jet off ahead of them. Mel further endeared himself to me by not only being the most polite person to “yell” at a taxi driver in a civilized manner that still conveyed his frustration and urgency (that’s why “yell” isn’t exactly the right word), but that he also felt terrible about having to say something negative to the cabbie at all and admitted that he would feel badly about it for the rest of the day.

On their way to the sacred tree on the outskirts of Jaipur, everyone was very touched by the extreme poverty they witnessed, apparently for the first time in their lives. Even though parts of New Orleans were covered in garbage and people were living in shanties after Hurricane Katrina, I guess that’s just not as bad as seeing people who live that way when not as a result of a natural disaster. Luke cried. Cara shed some tears for all of Jaipur’s homeless animals, because she, like me, likes animals a lot more than she likes people. I remember Goth Girl Vyxen shed some tears when she visited India a few seasons back — does TAR only send racers to India so that they’ll weep about the poor? It’s starting to seem that way.

Victor and Tammy take a fast lead as the first team not only to reach the sacred tree, but also the first to quickly figure out the whole “using the phone” thing. From there, teams were told to drive to Amber Fort to get their next clue, a Road Block in which one person from each team had to care for a group of the Maharajah’s royal camels using the traditional techniques of carrying water to a trough and stacking hay. First of all, those camels sure looked purty wearing them headdresses and the like! Second of all, I sadly cannot say or hear the word maharajah without hearing this in my head. (I also think about the way Richard Roxburgh as The Duke sneers the word later in the film, with the appropriate hand gesture.)

Most people kind of sucked at following the directions on this challenge, using their water pail to carry hay when there were clearly larger hay baskets available, or, in Kisha’s case, stuffing hay down her shirt as a means of conveyance, which, though creative and functional, was definitely a strange choice. Some dude in the background got kicked by a camel, and Tammy straight up fell down, even though it was her brother who actually did this challenge. They finished first and continued their breakout lead, while Mike White worried that his dad, who chose to do this Road Block despite his age (and because Mike couldn’t do all of them) seemed to be struggling. Nonetheless, Mel White is hella gangster and finished the challenge second and, in Mike’s words, totally smoked the competition.

There is no such thing as a bad photo of Mike White.

There is no such thing as a bad photo of Mike White.

With the Road Block complete, teams taxied to a puppet stand in the local market where they were presented with their Detour for this leg of the race:

1. Movers, in which teams pedaled rickshaws 1.5 miles to a loading dock where they would unload the nine barrels on their cart and search through the hay contained within to find a tiny silver elephant.

2. Shakers, in which teams joined up with a local street band, put on horse costumes and danced for 100 rupees.

Mark and Michael chose to move the barrels of hay, although I have no fucking clue as to why. Why, when given the choice to merely dance like an idiot for coins on the street, a task involving no skill whatsoever, would you choose a task that involved you to ride a bike for 1.5 miles through Indian traffic, and then do some manual labor and then literally search through a haystack for a tiny thing? Why would you do that? That doesn’t even make sense, strategically. I knew when they chose this that they were going to come in last, or close to last, depending on how Christine and Jodi handled their Speed Bump, which, by the way, they had to do before they could do their Road Block. The Speed Bump? Painting an elephant so that it could be just as purty for an upcoming festival as the Maharajah’s camels. Honestly, that was the best Speed Bump ever. They looked like they were having fun, they didn’t even have to paint it that accurately and, most importantly, it seemed like the elephant really had a good time getting dolled up.

Once teams completed their Road Block, they taxied to Jaigar Fort, the Pit Stop for this leg of the race, which upped the cute animal quotient in this episode considerably as it was INFESTED WITH MONKEYS, which rival only koalas as the cutest infestation ever.

  1. Tammy and Victor, who won kayaks, which they promptly noted would be great for living in the Bay Area. (Fuck yeah, man. Kayaking in Drake’s Bay is AWESOME.)
  2. Mel and Mike, who I continue to adore. They’re just the nicest dudes, ever.
  3. Kisha and Jen.
  4. Margie and Luke. (Are they ever anything but first or fourth?)
  5. Cara and Jaime, which serves them right for yelling at their taxi driver and not in a Mel White kind of way.
  6. Mark and Michael, beating the flight attendants by just a hair.
  7. Phileminated: Christine and Jodi.

The Husband:

As aforementioned…

Me: Sick at home with what could be whooping cough.

Brain: Not working.

You: Watching this video from Disney’s The Jungle Book with Indian elephants.

Other You: Watching this even-better mash-up of that song from The Jungle Book, resulting in what it looks like when I have a coughing fit and start hallucinating.

The Wife:

Teams stayed inside the Russian Federation this week, traveling via the Transsiberian Railway from Krasnoyarsk to Novasibirsk, which, Wikipedia tells me, is Russia’s third largest city and the largest in the Siberian district. I learned nothing about Siberia in my college Russian classes, except that it’s very cold.

And man, that sure proved true on this episode – especially for the folks who had to run around town in their underpants!

I wish Luke could at least pretend to be happy about being in his boxer briefs! I mean, balloons! Whats not to love about balloons!?

I wish Luke could at least pretend to be happy about being in his boxer briefs! I mean, balloons! What's not to love about balloons!?

This leg of the race became and interesting leveler when frontrunners Christine and Jodi arrived at the train station and realized that their train wouldn’t leave for another 10 hours, giving every team a chance to make the train – the only one, in fact, running that day between the two cities. Even though the playing field was completely leveled, I’m sure everyone enjoyed having an overnight train with sleeper cars, except for maybe Kisha, who is such a tall lady that her feet dangled over the edge of her bed. I know Mel White had a good time, reading in the dark with his flashlight headband as a makeshift reading lamp.

Once in Novasibirsk, teams raced to grab taxis and get to their next clue, a Detour in which they could:

1. Drive a Russian Snowplow through a training course or

2. Find a Russian Bride and make sure she got to the right church to meet her groom and get married.

Both challenges involved driving oneself around in a Lada, a cheap and popular mode of transportation in Russia that, like most affordable cars, sometimes has some problems getting started. I’m sure Russians have their own little acronymic version of Lada, like how Fiat stands for “Fix It Again, Tony” or Ford stands for “Found on Roadside Dead.” (Fiat really is an acronym for “Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino,” or Italian Automobile Factory of Torino. Ford, as I’m sure you’re aware, is not actually an acronym, although their PR people like to promote that the proper acronymic form should be “First on Race Day,” rather than the less-laudatory version I proposed.)

Tammy and Victor, Margie and Luke and Jaime and Cara all chose the snowplow route and attempted to caravan to the site, only Tammy and Victor pulled ahead and left the other teams behind, making swift enemies of the mother and her Deaf son and the former cheerleaders. Once at the site, everyone seemed to have a hard time identifying exactly what a snow plow looked like, although it seemed pretty clear to me that the other pieces of heavy machinery were things that belonged on a farm tilling the soil. Mark and Michael also chose this task and didn’t have anywhere near as hard a time identifying the correct machine, and all of the teams only had to do the course once.

Mel and Mike, Christine and Jodi and Kisha and Jen chose to help Russian brides get to their wedding. Mel and Mike succeeded in this task without a hitch, and their bride even gave Mel one of her flowers to wear. Christine and Jodi took their bride to the wrong church, but eventually got her to her groom. I felt really terribly for this girl, stuck in a Lada with two crazy blonde Americans, at the mercy of traffic and people who don’t speak Russian at all to get her to her wedding. I was reminded of a show TLC used to run in which couples would let their friends and families plan their weddings on a shoestring budget. Those weddings never turned out well. They were always high on the tack factor. Case in point: I saw a fireman get married on that show, so his family thought it would be cute to put Dalmatian spots on the aisle runner, make centerpieces out of plastic firemen’s hats and even make an altar piece out of ladders. None of this was cute. It looked like a birthday party for a child more than a wedding. (Okay, the ladder thing is kind of inspired, but also kind of very bad luck.) Why, oh, why would you put your perfect day in someone else’s control? I then thought about what would happen to the brides who were not picked up by racers to make it to their weddings. There had to have been seven waiting brides, as there were seven teams that could have chosen them, but only three (including Kisha and Jen) did. So what about the other four girls? Did they just not make it to their weddings?

My husband, of course, pointed out that these were probably not any actual weddings to take place that day, and he’s probably right. But given how happy Christine and Jodi’s bride was to finally make it to her groom, I can only assume that she’s either a.) the greatest actress in all of Siberia or b.) she really was just that happy to finally be out of the care of crazy women and in her strapping fiancé’s arms. I’m going to tell myself that even though they weren’t really getting married that day, those two did end up getting married. And as for the other four girls? I’d like to think that Phil picked them up and took them all out for a nice dinner and an orgy.

Once all of the teams had completed their Detour, they drove their Ladas to the amazingly beautiful library to get their next clue, a Road Block in which one team member would have to participate in a 1.4 mile winter marathon the way the locals do . . . in their underwear. Luke, Tammy, Cara, Mike, Mark, Jen and (I think) Jodi all took to the streets in their skivvies. Victor immediately wished his sister hadn’t volunteered for this Road Block because:

“I really wanted to run around the streets in my underwear.”

Victor, don’t even worry about it. Just sign up for Bay to Breakers in May. It’ll be way less cold in SF then, anyway.

I immediately noted the smart planning of many of the female racers, choosing to wear cute bikini briefs instead of thongs. My husband mentioned that he thought the teams were probably provided underwear, which turns out is true if you, like Jen, do not regularly wear underpants, but that free underwear is apparently not available if you, like Jodi chose to wear a thong that day. So Jen got free panties, while Jodi had to run around Siberia with her butt cheeks hanging out. CBS blurred them out, but I’m sure many drunken Siberian men were very happy. I mean, if they were sufficiently enticed by seeing Tammy in her underpants, imagine how happy they were to see Jodi’s bum.

Jen, in borrowed underpants, running her butt off.

Jen, in borrowed underpants, running her butt off.

The end of the race was the pit stop at Novasibirsk’s ballet theatre, where a dreary little robot ballerina girl announced each team’s welcome to her hometown. Racer’s teammates were already there waiting for them when they finished their very cool footrace.

1st: Margie and Luke, who won a trip for two to St. Lucia
2nd: Tammy and Victor
3rd: Jaime and Cara
4th: Mel and Mike
5th: Mark and Michael
6th: Kisha and Jen
7th: Christine and Jodi, who were mercifully not Phileminated this week, but will have to complete a Speed Bump at some point during the next leg of the race.

On another note, I finally got a good look at Mike White’s tattoo this week and I think it’s of a baby playing with a truck. What? If anyone out thee has any insight, I’d love to know.

The Husband:

I don’t have much to add, since all the teams acted pretty much according to their already existing archetypes and the challenges went just about the way you’d think they would. So I’m just going to post another video.

In honor of the glory that is Mike White, here is a deleted scene from one of his earliest scripts, the sorely undervalued Orange County. Yes, he has shown up as an actor in four of the movies he has written, and also made a great appearance on the first season of Pushing Daisies.

The Wife:

From the last Pit Stop, teams had to fly to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia and travel by taxi to a Soviet-era hydroelectric dam to find their first clue. Unfortunately, every team was required to fly through Moscow to get there, which meant that the connecting flights they took didn’t matter as they were all to end up on an 8:55 p.m. flight to Moscow. Except…

Only the connecting flights did matter because only three teams went on to make that 8:55 p.m. flight to Moscow: the Flight Attendants, the Stuntmen and Kisha and Jen, which meant that Mike and Mel ultimately lost their heavy lead gained on the last leg of the race.

There was a really odd moment on the way to the airport when the Stuntmen asked their cabbie to call Lufthansa, and he ended up calling another cabbie, whose fare happened to be Cara and Jaime. Hoping to fuck with Mark and Michael, who had thought ahead to call the airline and reserve tickets, they pretended to be Lufthansa agents and told them that there were no flights through Moscow. They couldn’t have possibly known that that information would be true, so it’s really weird that they even came up with it in the first place. And I’m still trying to figure out what kind of miscommunication happened that led Mark and Michael’s cabbie to call his friend, who just happened to be carrying other racers, rather than calling the airline. Was Lubovich in his phone right under Lufthansa and he just hit the wrong button? Or was he actually trying to fuck with these guys, being, perhaps, the only cabbie in Romania who has somehow downloaded episodes of TAR?

Once on the ground in Krasnoyarsk, teams headed from the Dam to a local church where they were presented with their Detour:

  • Stack, in which they would stack a giant pile of firewood using a traditional stacking method
  • Construct, in which they would build traditional wooden shutters and install them

For some reason I will not ever comprehend, every single team chose to stack. Seeing how high they had to stack those piles and how unstable and oddly shaped the logs were, and just generally thinking about being outside in the cold as well as the amount of time it takes to stack logs, I would not have chosen that activity – even with the good people of Siberia eating pickles and drinking vodka and singing accordion diddies to cheer me on. It’s just so much easier and so much less time consuming to build shutters. Haven’t any of these racers ever shopped at IKEA?

You ladies are very premeire wood stackers. I would very much like for you to marry me and stay here in Siberia. Da?

You ladies are very premeire wood stackers. I would very much like for you to marry me and stay here in Siberia. Da?

Amazingly, Kisha and Jen and the Flight Attendants managed to stack their piles without knocking them over, whereas Stuntmen Mark and Michael knocked over the demonstration stack, as well as their own and had to head over to the other activity. In the second group of log stackers, Mike and Mel, Cara and Jaime, Kris and Amanda all lost their stacks and had to start over. The Whites ditched this activity to go build shutters instead and made a pact with Mark and Michael that they would help the stuntmen find the installation site (which they’d been aimlessly looking for for quite some time), if the stuntmen would help them construct the shutters. The other teams who lost their stacks were dedicated to finishing them, while Tammy and Victor and Margie and Luke completed their work without knocking it down and forged ahead.

Once the Detours were completed, teams had to go to the local museum for the novel The Last Bow, where they were given the option to Blind U-Turn another team. Usually, any team who U-Turns someone has to place their photo on the board so the unfortunate team can know who to later exact their revenge upon. Knowing how far ahead they were, the first two teams out decided not to U-Turn, and neither did Tammy and Victor, figuring that the log piles would keep their competitors far enough behind. But then there were Margie and Luke, who decided it was necessary to U-Turn the strongest team, Kris and Amanda, in order, I think, to give their friends Cara and Jaime a fighting chance.

After the U-Turn stop, teams headed to Bobrovy Log Park where they met their Roadblock. One team member would have to bobsled down a track in under four minutes while maintaining a speed of 35 MPH. While doing so, they would have to collect the letters in Chekhov’s name and rearrange them at the end of the run to spell out the name of the playwright.

A few teams missed letters on their run and had to restart, and more than a few had difficulty spelling out Chekhov’s name, largely because they didn’t know the names of any Russian playwrights. I’m hyperliterate, I suppose, so I found it a little hard to believe that so many people had not at least heard Chekhov’s name before. I’m not saying they had to be familiar with their works, but to have at least, at some point, encountered the name. Barring familiarity with Chekhov himself, I find it extremely hard to believe that this many people are this bad at recognizing simple letter patterns.

Mel White, knowing things about things.

Mel White, knowing things about things.

Am I taking something for granted here about the way most people’s brains work just because I work with language every day? Do people really not notice patterns? I would think that, considering the vast number of ethnic groups in America, these contestants would go, “Oh, I have a ‘kh’ and a ‘ov.’ I’ve seen a lot of Russian names that have that letter combination. Just like every Polish person I know has a last name that ends in ‘–sky’ or ‘–ski’ and nearly all of my Armenian friends’ names end in ‘–jian’ or ‘–yan.’ That seems like a pattern!” I find it extremely hard to believe that, with the exceptions of writers Mel and Mike White and Harvard-educated lawyers Tammy and Victor, none of the other teams could figure out Chekhov’s name. I was especially surprised to see that Luke had exceptional trouble with this, as I would assume he would be more prone to pattern recognition since reading and writing are his primary form of communication. But I guess he doesn’t really like reading, or something, because Margie mentioned that getting him through an English lit class was difficult enough.

I just don’t understand why that challenge was so hard. Even if I pretend that the contestants on this show have never encountered the name Chekhov in a lit class and even if I assume that they’re all bad at pattern recognition, I’m sure they’ve all purchased guide books at the airport informing them about their next destination, as teams are wont to do on this show, and a good guidebook clues you in to the cultural history of a place. Any guidebook for Russia and Siberia that doesn’t include the regions rich literary history is a shitty guidebook. And, hey, these teams should be thankful that TAR used up Bulgakhov last year. That one would have been hard. You know what else would have been hard? If the letters they had to collect were in Cyrillic.

With their lesson in Russian theatre and spelling complete, teams headed to the Pit Stop, the Krasnoyarsk Comedy Theatre. Though it looked like Kisha and Jen were way ahead of everyone else, they had trouble finding the entrance so Christine and Jodi beat them to the punch, coming in first place for this leg and winning themselves some sweet motorbikes.

1st: Christine and Jodi

2nd: Kisha and Jen

3rd: Tammy and Victor

4th: Margie and Luke

5th: Jaime and Cara

6th: Mel and Mike

7th: Mark and Michael

Last: Amanda and Kris, who didn’t even suspect Margie and Luke of U-Turning them, suspecting this week’s first and second place teams of the dastardly trick. They were Phileminated.

The Husband:

I suppose, to be fair, they should have said that Anton Chekhov was a famous Russian playwright and a novelist, just in case anybody was thinking about his non-theatre works or his short stories. But I think I’m just overestimating people again, using this episode as evidence of that. Really, guys? You’ve never even heard the word “Chekhov”? Even if you weren’t in the know that he wrote such words as The Seagull and Uncle Vanya, you’d probably know that Chekhov was also the name of a main character on Star Trek. Walter Koenig is ashamed of you.

I, too, thought it was insane that every single team decided to stack wood instead of building shutters, but then I was reminded of a Detour in Season 6 – the season with the abusive couple Jonathan and Victoria, as well as Rebecca who broke up with her boyfriend on the show and later became lesbians lovers with that chick from Work Out – in Sweden that revolved, coincidentally enough, around IKEA. The choice was either to count the correct number of toys in a large bin, or to build a desk. And lord, the desk-building brought out the worst in people. Now, I’ve constructed my share of IKEA furniture, and while it can be tough to go entirely off of drawings of steps (since there are no translated words for us non-Swedes), but each time it has gotten easier, so I can only chalk this up to the contestants being completely unaware of this very specific part of my life in my 20s. I especially recall the wrestlers Lori and Bolo (thanks, Wikipedia) having such a tough time building the desk that they began fighting.

So, perhaps these s14 contestants had this very grueling challenge in the back of their mind upon making their decision. Still, stacking wood sucks balls.

P.S. And thanks to Wikipedia, again, for telling me that this s6 episode was the same one where a blockheaded female had to do a Road Block which involved unrolling bales of hay to find a yellow envelope within, but she took so long (eight hours) without finding the clue that Phil actually came to them to Phileminate them. That’s always been my most vivid example of complete TAR failure.

P.P.S. Oh shit, that s6 episode was called “It’s Not Rocket Science To Count Bears.” That’s goddamn brilliant, and only surpassed that season in episode-naming by “Are There Instructions On Donkey Handling?” Man, this show has great producers.

The Wife:

I always love when TAR goes to Eastern Europe. It makes me think fondly of the year I spent studying Russian (and subsequently forgetting almost everything, except for a story Magen and I wrote about Tom Cruise and gay/light blue elephants). My professor was the kind of woman who gets angry when she sees stereotypes of Eastern Europe, to the point where she nearly stormed out of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire after seeing the Bulgarian boys from Durmstrang march in draped in furs, silent and stern and spinning fire wands around. I often think about her when I watch TAR, and I wonder if she’s happy with the parts of Eastern European cultures TAR chooses to show. I think she would have been very pleased with last season’s Moscow two-parter, which chose to focus on the political and literary history of the city, but I’m not sure how she would feel about TAR’s trip to Romania and Transylvania in this episode.

Romania was basically reduced to one facet of Eastern European culture that’s actually quite prevalent throughout: gymnastics. After numerous airport shenanigans, which included Tammy and Victor’s plane getting turned around and grounded at the Munich airport (causing them to get on a flight with the second group of teams) and Brad and Victoria trying to take a shortcut through Amsterdam that backfired and left them grounded overnight in the Netherlands due to fog, teams made their way to the Sala Gymnastica where they faced their Road Block: learn and perform a gymnastics routine that includes balance beam, parallel bars and floor work. Most teams chose a female racer to do this, with Deaf Luke declaring, “I’m not wearing that girl’s leotard.” Margie looked pretty fucking good in that outfit, as did the two male racers from all-dude teams who took up the mantle of a gymnast and rocked the challenge. Gays of America, you now know what Mike White’s package looks like. If you are into that, call him. And call me if you were able to correctly identify the tattoo on his upper arm.

Seriously, wtf is that tattoo?

Seriously, wtf is that tattoo?

From there, teams have to travel by train to Brasov, Transylvania and taxi to the Black Church where they were given their Detour:

  1. Gypsy Moves, in which teams had to help some gypsies move from one encampment to another by loading all of their weird-ass accumulated belongings onto a carriage.
  2. Vampire Remains, in which teams had to haul locked coffins down a hill, unlock them, pull out the frames inside and impale said frames on a stake until they found on with a TAR flag inside.

Here I learned a very valuable lesson about American Sign Language. The word for “vampire” is signed by pointing to the neck and then making a stabbing motion with the hand. Can you guess which challenge Margie and Luke (and their friends, Cara and Jaime) chose?
Mike and Mel, Amanda and Kris, Kisha and Jen and Mark and Michael chose the gypsies, while Margie and Luke, Cara and Jaime, Christine and Jodi and Tammy and Victor chose the vampires.

And here’s where Victor started making really bad decisions, which could not be corrected, no matter how much prodding little sister Tammy provided. The issue with their plane was unforeseen, but it rattled Victor so much that he stopped thinking like a lawyer who graduated from Harvard and started thinking like a panic-stricken idiot. He jumped out of the cab too early on the way to the Sala Gymnastica back in Romania and lost time for he and his sister, and then followed the wrong path on the way to the vampire detour, forging blindly ahead as they trudged further and further up the mountain despite Tammy’s protestations about what Victor, in his heart, must have known: the signs they were following were not red and yellow TAR signs. But he was so desperate that he wasted probably hours of their time dragging his little sister up the hill, and nothing she said could change his blind determination. Dude lost it, man. Dude lost it.

Tammy and Victor, in dire stakes.

Tammy and Victor, in dire stakes.

Because of Victor’s bad leadership, he and Tammy dropped significantly from their number one spot last week, getting to the coffins long after all of the other teams had taxies to Vila Panoramic, the Pit Stop for this leg of the race, only to be further set back by a key that broke off of their coffin as it slid down the hill. Fortunately, they found it, and were able to finish their race. Amanda and Kris also suffered something of a setback on their way to the Pit Stop when they discovered that they’d misplaced their fanny pack. Kris instantly assumed someone stole it because, hey, they’re gypsies! Gypsies steal things! I imagine my professor storming out of the room upon hearing Kris’s accusation. I think she would have enjoyed seeing the gypsy encampment, with all of its amazing things made out of bicycle parts. (Seriously, don’t you need bicycle skates and a bike-on-a-wire? I do.) She would have even found the humor in the vampire challenge, which brought me great joy to see the racers sprayed with blood each time they staked a wooden frame. However, I’ve long heard her rail about how Gypsies get the shaft. And I was offended that the first thing out of Chris’s mouth was to accuse the people he had just helped, who were being filmed by umpteen television cameras, of stealing. He did find his fanny pack, by the way. It was at the other encampment to which he delivered the gypsy family’s stuff. They held on to it for him and returned it when he arrived.

Rankings this week:

1st: Mel and Mike, who won a trip to Costa Rica

2nd: Amanda and Kris

3rd: Kisha and Jen

4th: Margie and Luke

5th: Mark and Michael

6th: Christine and Jodi

7th: Jaime and Cara

8th: Tammy and Victor

Phileminated: Brad and Victoria

The Husband:

Look! Some TV vampire humor! What would Futurama look like when mixed with Buffy?

The Wife:

I don’t have very many witticisms to toss out about this week’s edition of TAR, because the Oscars are long and hosting a party is tiring. Thankfully, Phil Koeghan and company were merciful and allowed me two things:

1. A miracle for Mike and Mel White, proving that Dustin Lance Black’s assurance that God does love gays is true. I would have been really sad to see Mike and Mel get the ouster because of some stupid thing like weather. More than anyone else on the race, they just seem so happy to be there, and completely awe-struck about nearly everything they do. I love them.

2. Last week I got killer cheese, this week I got the most awesome pie-throwing contest ever. Thank you, TAR. You. Are. Awesome.

From last week’s pit stop, teams flew to Munich, where they traveled to a little mountain village. I was surprised to see nearly every team hop in a cab and immediately borrow the driver’s cell phone to call the airlines and reserve tickets. That’s some pretty smart thinking and I haven’t really seen people do it on TAR before. The only teams that didn’t participate in this call-ahead madness were Margie and Luke, who were well ahead of everyone anyway, and stuntmen Mark and Michael, who left the pit stop third. This did not bite Margie and Luke in the ass, but it did toss a wrench in Mark and Michael’s plan, forcing them to get on an 8 a.m. flight instead of a 7 a.m. flight.

Once in the mountain village that I wrote down as RuPaulhing, which cannot be right, teams took a gondola up the mountain where they met with a Road Block: one member of each team must paraglide 6,000 feet down the mountain while their partner catches a gondola back down in order to meet them in the field below. Should the wind conditions be too high, the paraglider might be delayed indefinitely, in which case teams could choose to wait it out and see if the winds change or take an hour-long hike back down the mountain on a windy-ass gravel trail. Harvard grads Tammy and Victor were the first ones up the gondola, and were also the first ones down the hill when Tammy decided not to wait for the winds to change. Mel White, fearing that he would exacerbate his groin injury if he ran down the mountain, decided to wait. And wait. And wait. And hope that he could convince other teams to wait with him so that he would be sure not to lose. But, lo, after all the other teams had bailed and started running down the mountain, the winds died down enough for Mel White to take flight, effectively getting him to the bottom of the mountain before most of the teams who took the footpath route. Mel White is just that tight with God, I guess. Makin’ the winds change at all, much to the amazement of the flight attendants Christine and Jodi who marveled, “I just don’t understand why the winds would suddenly change like this.” Oh, I dunno, ladies. You’re flight attendants. Shouldn’t you know things about headwinds and tailwinds? Or, at the very least, that weather patterns change? Fuck, maybe they should be on Hell’s Kitchen.

Once at the bottom of the hill, teams had to drive to Schonan au Konnigse (which I guess is over the Austrian border?), where they got to choose their Detour:

1. Balancing Dolly, in which teams would ride a Segway on a 2-mile obstacle course or

2. Austrian Folly, in which teams had to throw pies in order to find one with a cherry filling . . . not knowing until they get there that the target is their partner’s face.

Tammy and Victor, Amanda and Kris, Margie and Luke, Christine and Jodi and Steve and Linda chose to toss pies, while Mike and Mel, Kisha and Jen, Jaime and Cara, Mark and Michael and Brad and Victoria chose the Segways. I was impressed with Mike and Mel and their Segway-riding proficiency, but I was reminded of strange Segway tours that have started cropping up in major cities throughout the world. Honestly, I’d rather walk. Walking on cobblestone is not that difficult, nor is walking itself a difficult activity. If you’re going to tour a city, you should be willing to fucking walk, yeah? Segway tours = creepy. Pie-throwing = amazing.

It took Steve and Linda a long time to even get to the Detour, because Linda made a wrong turn somewhere on her way down that giant hill and ended up by the side of the road, where she proceeded to cry about it and wail about how mad Steve would be with her. I understand being a little upset that you’d gotten lost, especially after jogging down a giant hill/mountain for about an hour, but I am more worried about the state of Steve and Linda’s relationship. She’s not upset that she got lost, but that Steve will be mad at her. I’m deeply concerned that he verbally abuses her, given the way she respond when she makes a mistake.

After their Detours were completed, teams had to find the Holtslagger, a traditional wood-cutting stall in the center of the town, and cut themselves thin slice of wood that would be stamped with their next clue. The flight attendants had a very difficult time finding this thing, although they were there at night, which would make it harder, and ended up in a barn, lifting up random pieces of wood and carrying them through the finish line for the Segway course. Eventually, they found the actual Holtslagger and got on their way. The stamped wood revealed that the teams’ next destination would be the Pit Stop for this leg of the race. They had to drive themselves to Salsburg’s Schloss Hellbrunn, where they would find Phil.

Tammy and Victor arrived first, winning themselves a pair of go-carts, which I hope they both decided to ride around their respective law offices in. Mike and Mel, after not being able to figure out how to open the door to Schloss Hellbrunn for some time, arrived second, followed by Amanda and Kris in third. Fourth place went to Margie and Luke, who for all his good spirits, really was not happy to be covered in pie. Brad and Victoria arrived fifth, followed by Jaime and Cara in sixth. (For Luke’s sake, I’m glad they didn’t get eliminated, because I like his little crush on them and he’s right — they actually are nice people.) Sisters Kisha and Jen came in seventh, even though Jen is wicked pissed at Kisha for treating her like a little kid, and stuntmen Mark and Michael came in eighth. Christine and Jodi followed in ninth place, which meant that hicks from the sticks Linda and Steve were to be Phileminated.



Steve and Linda, I’m very happy that you guys got to see 3, maybe 4, countries that you wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, but poor Linda clearly wasn’t ready for an adventure this big. Maybe they should have started with a drive to Canada or Mexico, or maybe even a romantic trip to the Bahamas to test their travel mettle before sojourning on The Race, because they just weren’t savvy enough to handle this. And Steve, stop getting so angry at Linda. I’m really worried about her. Show her you love her and take her on a trip, will you?

The Husband:

Dude! I’ve totally been to the Pit Stop. They didn’t show much during the package on Schloss Hellbrunn, but I have a couple very vivid memories of being there during my family’s Switzerland-Italy-Austria trip when I was 13. First, the palace is deviously serene-looking from the outside — and it’s a bit of a walk to get from the parking lot to the palace itself — but behind the walls and in the garden is the work of silly Austrian madmen. Whoever vacationed at the palace had a kind of goofy humor, and liked messing with his guests, so the garden is like this mess of fountains and hiding places and slipperiness. Inside one of the grottos is this deliriously cool fountain with a lion’s head, and I remember this best because I slipped on the rocks and fucking back-planted in front of all the tourists.

But the coolest thing is this outdoor dining table and seats, and all the seats had holes in the middle of them, so whenever the lord/prince/archbishop wanted to, he could press a button or pull a lever and the water would shoot out of the seat and get his friends’ bottoms all wet. Silliness abounds.

Ah…now that I’ve looked at Wikipedia, it is, in fact, the vacation house of the Archbishop. And they have a picture of the table.

Blowing water up your ass: like a bidet, only unwelcome.

Blowing water up your ass: like a bidet, only unwelcome.

Here’s the palace’s webpage:

I swear I wrote the first two paragraphs without researching anything. Honest! I don’t remember a great deal about Austria during that trip — I more vividly remember staying in Grindelwald when in Switzerland, that we all stayed at the worst hotel in Venice (but didn’t know that until after we left), and having Cinnamon Toast Crunch at a picnic table outside in Lichtenstein — but I definitely have thought about that mischievous stone table on occasion and always wondered where the eff it was.

Thank you, TAR. Another hole in my mind has been patched up.

Next Page »