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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wheelie Good Fun

... Spoiler Alert! ... Spoiler Alert! ...

If you haven't yet seen (and you intend to see) episode 6 of The Amazing Race Series 9 (TAR 9), do not read any further!


The last TAR 9 episode we saw here in Australia ended with the IMD or International Mom & Daughter (AKA Wanda & Desiree) being the third team to be eliminated. The pit stop was located next to that ‘monument for peace’ or whatever it was in Germany.

For the record, this was the order in which the teams reached Phil on the mat, and the order in which they started this leg of the race:

1. BFG – Buff Frat Guys (Eric & Jeremy)
2. FHG – Freaky Hippy Guys (BJ & Tyler)
3. BSC – Bigoted Southern Couple (Lake & Michelle)
4. DEC – Deceptively-Elderly Couple (Fran & Barry)
5. NDC – Nerdy Dork Couple (Dave & Lori)
6. DWC – Dating WASP Couple [“Team MoJo”] (Joseph & Monica)
7. TBC – Token Black Couple (Ray & Yolanda)
8. BBS – Blonde Bimbo Sisters [“The Dani Girls” / “The Double Ds” / “The Pinks”] (Danielle & Dani)

Note: If you're already ahead of this point in the series, please refrain from giving any spoilers in your comments. Thank you.

As always, I’ll provide my thoughts on each team in this episode, listing them in the order in which they arrived at the pit stop (hence the 'Spoiler Alert!').


1. Freaky Hippy Guys (FHG) - these guys continue to crack me up – I love them. (The problem I have is I know how much this means I want them to win, and never has my favourite team crossed the finish line first to win the money – I’m worried I’m going to cost them the game simply by barracking for them!) I’ve named this post after their antics at the start in the airport – doing wheelies in wheelchairs and creating an obstacle course to race against the BFG (who couldn't help but be all competitive about it, despite the FHG being better at it!) - and they even had time to book the best possible flights from Germany to Italy ... despite other teams having as much or more time to book the same flights! Their little wheelchair obstacle course was a fantastic way to show their light-hearted approach to the ‘bitchiness’ of the race. I just hope it proves they’re aware of (and won’t be party to) the other teams’ nastiness. I hope they’re not completely oblivious to the potential treachery that awaits them there. I guess time will tell. I loved the way they played this leg – sure, they had some examples of good luck, but they were also level-headed at all times (they seem to be relaxed to a fault, actually), and they’re always enjoying themselves. Game-play aside, I have to address a few things they did that made me laugh, in addition to the wheelchair obstacle course: Imitating Italians while some were watching them as they did the clothesline detour; saying “We bring you clothes, Laundry Woman” and kissing her; wearing matching T-shirts that read “Bowling” and “Moms”, which is a direct reference to the “Bowling Moms” team from a couple of season ago (probably the most recent series that had aired before this current season had aired, seeing as they only take a month to film and they seem to put two “in the can” each year); and asking Phil in an exaggerated Italian accent if they get to eat “a pizza pie” for reaching the pit stop first. I really hope these guys continue to do well – it would break my heart of they were eliminated. Actually, it’ll break my heart if they don’t win the million. One question that bothered me, though: Did they win a digital imaging set each? It didn’t say so, and I’m sure they’d make a point of boasting about it if they were giving away two sets of camera, printers, etc. It’s a bit rough to give them one of these packages to share, seeing as they’re not in the same family. When teams win a holiday, they don’t win one ticket!

2. Buff Frat Guys (BFG) - these guys are becoming more and more obnoxious and distasteful as the race goes on. They seem to be pleasant enough … if you’re a jock or a pretty woman (and in the case of the latter, they won’t speak well or respectful of you after you’re gone anyway, it seems). Their frustration that they “gotta beat those damn hippies!”, after the way the FHG have worked with the BFG, really irks me. I’m glad they came second to the FHG, and I hope this continues all the way to the finish line. That’d be a nice lesson in humility for them, and it sounds like they need it. Objectional points in their performance of this episode include Jeremy (the blonde one) checking his hair in the rearview mirror before starting the car (“Your hair looks fine,” says Eric), the remark “Holy hottie!” as they arrived at the pit stop and saw the Greek girl standing there with Phil, and how Jeremy reacted to hearing they had arrived second. It didn’t even seem like they were close behind the FHG, so clearly the hippies did a much better job of that leg than you did, boys! I’m glad Phil said, “Do you think you could be a little happier?” in response to the spoilt-brat reaction he received on the mat. However, all of that said, their comment at the clothesline detour that they’d found one of Phil’s turtlenecks was brilliant! :)

3. Dating WASP Couple (DWC) - the only thing I’ve got written in my notes on Team MoJo is a frustrated “Baby, you’re doing so good!”, because she should have said “… so well!” I don’t know how or why this kind of poor grammar has weaved its way so deeply into the American education system – no one seems to have been taught how to talk properly. It’s a terribly uneducated way to speak, and makes everyone who talks that way sound like a hillbillied hick. Thankfully not all Americans speak that way (and I’m sure any Americans reading this speak perfectly!), but replacing ‘well’ with ‘good’ and dropping the ‘ly’ from the end of words like ‘bad’ in phrases like, ‘I want to do it so bad’ (unless they mean they wanted to do a bad job of it) are the sorts of things that anger me – but I’m a bit of an obsessive-compulsive, so you’re going to have to excuse me. Anyway, by way of coming up with something else to say about the DWC, I’m happy to say that they’re doing very well for themselves in the race. She’s not as dumb as you might first suspect (if you were unfairly judging her on the stereotype often attributed to those with her hair colour), and he’s not the bad-tempered meathead I seemingly-unfairly presumed him to be in episode one (I’m happy to say). True, he yelled at her very briefly in this episode as they were carrying the bell (and the ads for the episode showed that snippet as if it was a huge part of the race for them), but it really was only the three words “Pick it up!” when she put the bell down to discuss strategy, and then he didn’t yell at her again. She needed him to slow down, and he was rushing to beat the other teams, but after this tiny moment of angst, they seemed to find their stride again, so I don’t chalk that up to anything major at all.

4. Deceptively-Elderly Couple (DEC) - I rolled my eyes when they walked straight past the clue box again. I thought we were going to spend another three hours walking up and down the street to no avail, but thankfully they found it fairly quickly. Barry was quick to point out (for the camera’s benefit, no doubt), that “they only lost five minutes; no biggie”, but for all they knew it could have put them into last place by four minutes! A word of caution to the DEC, though (even though the whole series has been filmed and finalised before I type this) … you’re in danger of making dangerous enemies of Lake & Michelle with your constant “I can’t tell you” comments! Even Lake & Michelle tell (some) teams what to do and where to go (particularly when it comes to buying plan tickets and starting a detour or roadblock that they’ve already completed – ie. when there’s no threat to Lake & Michelle and they can afford to look like they’re being helpful … in order to leech of that goodwill if they need it in the future – oh yes, I know what they’re up to). I’m sure the time will come when Lake & Michelle take great pleasure in returning the favour of you not letting them know where they need to go next. But this is only a word of caution – I’m not suggesting they play it any other way. In the same position, I’d be tempted to do the same (I certainly wouldn’t lie, but I wouldn’t want to give any other team an advantage and perhaps even the chance to overtake us!). But back to the DEC. There wasn’t too much to go on in this episode, although they did manage to hold on securely to their fourth place position from the start of this leg.

5. Bigoted Southern Couple (BSC) - okay, this is the first thing I wrote in my notes while watching the show: “Lake is a jerk.” His initial interview to the camera, telling the world that “Michelle has a way to go, there” (I can’t remember what he was talking about, but critiquing her efforts like that when she has nothing but the best to say about him – which is too generous of her by far – is pretty disgraceful). Then he carried on like a pork chop* when it came time to book their flights from Germany to Italy, saying, “I can’t do the Internet.” And why would that be, Lake? Can’t you spell? The problem was, he was then breathing down Michelle’s neck as she was booking the flights, and wasn’t happy with the resulting flights she booked (because the others got ahead of them). Well, cowboy, if you were going to be picky, you should have booked them yourself! He’s a pig of a man. And let’s not gloss over his reaction to the other teams catching up with them during their stopover to Italy. What a baby! He literally threw a (relatively controlled) tantrum! “None o’ them sum-bitches are on our flight” and “Dang it, they all darn caught up with us now” being amongst my favourite quotes of the episode. But for all the wrong reasons. As for the Yield, it turned out that the BSC didn’t need to Yield the girls, because there was still another team well behind them – but to be fair, the BSC didn’t know what was ahead, or how closely the last team was on their trails. And everyone takes different lengths of time at the roadblocks, so I guess it was a ‘fair fear’ that the BSC felt they could be overtaken. It was a little mean from the BBSs’ perspective, but that’s the game. If the BSC hadn’t Yielded the girls, though, the TBC would have almost certainly been eliminated. I wonder if the BSC would consider that a better or a worse scenario. Either way, I’m happy, because it made my elimination prediction from last week accurate! But Lake’s comments when he starts to feel safe, running to the pit stop (“Fat Dave is behind us”), are as piggish as those he makes when he feels under threat, such as when they arrived at the hill in their car, hot on Dave & Lori’s tail (“That’s Dave! We caught up to you, Dave! I got you! I got you!”), and that just makes him a horrible person, in my book. Michelle should really stop overcompensating for his outlandish ego and unpredictable temper by lavishing him with (unworthy) praise to placate his volatile behaviour as she does. Until she puts him in his place, she’s just adding to the problem and making him worse – and just asking for her own special brand of ‘Lake trouble’ further down the track (in their lives after the race has concluded, if not on camera in a future episode).

* If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it’s an Australian slang expression, meaning that the person carried on like an idiot, a lunatic, a spoilt child, etc – but you were probably able to work that out for yourself from the context!

6. Nerdy Dork Couple (NDC) - they finally won me over completely with this episode. Until now, I simply haven’t had a problem with them, but in this leg of the race, they became my second-favourite team. They’re so sweet and lovely! They had a rough time of it, too. I’m not sure what Dave was thinking by his comment “… this is hard …” as they were doing the clothesline detour: It’s just laundry!! Take one off, check the label, and put it back! Instead, he was making a pile of them behind him, and then when Lori told him that they’re meant to put them straight back on the clothesline (they don’t want other teams to know where they shouldn’t bother checking, after all!), he said, “I know” while the camera panned down to show the pile of clothes behind him. He got flustered and gave this episode’s obligatory “We’re finished” face. He didn’t say it, though, and when Lori found the label, they were off and running again. They got a little snippy with each other as they were running up the hill to the detour, but their emotions were high and they didn’t really say anything too terrible anyway (in fact, it was kinda witty, with the “Please don’t say that” and the “Please don’t say that”). When they reached the roadblock at the top of the hill, Lori accepted the challenge because she’s good at puzzles. I felt really bad for her as she tried to put the statue together. A quick word on the roadblock: Having extra pieces is fun and interesting, and made for a great ‘outside-the-box’ kind of challenge. But it was mean. I know the producers were trying to toy with the contestants’ heads and see who amongst them could think laterally enough to ask their minder to check the statue even though there were two extra pieces. But there were a couple of different problems I had with this. First, only when they started to reach the end did they see that they had extra pieces, so telling them in advance that there’d be extras left over would have been playing with their minds all the way through it (and also had them second-guessing each and every piece!). Second, as teams were potentially going to be situated fairly close to each other as they put the statues together, one team finding out that there were two extra pieces was inevitably going to benefit other teams by having them see or overhear this fact without going through the same turmoil and possible time-wasting decision the producers were obviously going for here. Including the ‘extra pieces’ information in the clue would mean that all teams would have had the same level of awareness and self-doubt as each other, and that would not only level the playing field, but also enhance their panic as each team strove to work out which two pieces were those pesky redundant ones. As it was, teams got to the end and knew that whatever was left over was extra, because until then they didn’t realise there was any cause for concern about that, … do you know what I mean? Letting them stew over it the whole way through would have been more fun to watch. So it was with a sympathetic ache in my heart** that I watched Lori lose it and get upset with herself. Here she was, great at puzzles, but due to the day she and Dave had been having, coupled with the encroaching darkness and the panic of finishing quickly, she didn’t stop to think outside the square. To a point, this is fair enough, because normally the clues tell you everything you need to know, and teams are told to go by the letter of the law as stated in each clue. So departing from this would not have been expected; hence many of the teams being unsure of themselves when they’d finished but still had two pieces to go. I’m glad she finally asked her minder to have a look and tell her what she was doing wrong (not that they would have done that last bit), but it was what the minder needed to hear in order to tell her she was finished. That’s me looking at the situation while wearing my Kind Hat. Now I’ll just quickly pop on my Cynical Hat: Maybe there’s a reason that “… it doesn’t FIT!!” I’m glad she got through it, though. Dave’s tears at the pit stop because he doesn’t like “feeling that way” about Lori was just too sweet for words. Clearly he loves her a great deal and didn’t like how his frustrations on the race manifested as (fairly minor) grievances towards her, so I think that shows what a good man he is at the core, and how terrific a partner he must be to Lori. It also throws into stark contrast the relationship Dave has with Lori, as opposed to (oh, say …) the relationship Lake has with Michelle.

** I missed my calling – I should have been a poet.

7. Token Black Couple (TBC) - these guys were going okay until they tried to get anywhere. I counted them getting lost three times in this episode (if you count them reverting to the map to find their way in the dark from the roadblock to the pit stop). Before they got lost the first time, though, I wrote this note down on my writing pad: “I’m liking the TBC more and more – they’re a nice couple and they work really well together”. Then, a moment later, they overshot their turnoff and I could tell it was all going to go downhill from there, so I added: “They need a map, though”. Like I said above, if the BSC hadn’t Yielded the BBS, I’m pretty sure the TBC would have been eliminated from this episode. They were really thrown a lifeline, there. Luckily for Yolanda (and nothing against her at all), Ray was able to shine on this leg of the race, and he pretty-much got them over the line. Ray carried the bell almost the whole way himself, and Ray put the statue together in what appeared to be record time. Yolanda was also the one driving them the wrong way and getting directions that didn’t appear to help the first time (although this means Ray should have been navigating, so …), and it was only when Ray asked for directions that they got back on the right path. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, though. I’m just saying. It was a case of ‘Everybody Loves Ray’. He (they) did well, and I hope they don’t stay in last place this coming week.

8. Blonde Bimbo Sisters (BBS): ELIMINATED! - at last! They’re gone! They were a stain on the landscape with their uselessness and stuff, although I admit to feeling a little bad for them when they were last to the seaside cluebox and one of them had to comfort the other (who was in tears), and then again when they were crying at the Yield. I would certainly feel that it was unfair as well, if it was me. But that said, they weren’t a strong team and needed to go. I don’t know what it is about so many teams on this show over the years not knowing how to drive a manual (“stick-shift”) car! Is it not common in America? It seems strange to me that the concept of a stick-shift appears so foreign to so many Americans. (Seriously, I’m asking a sincere question here – is it not a common option in American cars?) I think they embarrassed themselves by saying that Eric and Jeremy will be friends for life (or “forever and ever”, in their words). I got news for you, girls – just wait until you see the footage of how they’ve been talking about you behind your backs! In a way, I hope they’ve had as little regard for the boys as they have for you; at least then you’ll have deserved each other and won’t be insulted that they only wanted you to stick around so they could tongue-wrestle you during the pit stop … and then try to pick up other chicks on their travels! You’re better off out of the race, girls. And we’re better off for it as well.


Last week's tips:

First Team: FHG Correct!
Last Team: BBS Correct!
Yield? No (Wrong – darn it! I remembered to include it, but tipped it incorrectly)
Elimination Week? No (Wrong – as above, so below)
Biggest Argument: NDC (Wrong – I’d have to say that the BSC argued the most, and it was mainly just him. I actually don’t think the NDC argued very much, and neither did any of the others)
Smartest Team: TBC (Wrong – I think this was the FHG, pure and simple, for their flight bookings and keeping first place thereafter)


Next week's tips:

First Team: FHG (I want them to continue their good run)
Last Team: BSC (Oh, wouldn’t it be nice!)
Yield? No (Certainly not twice in a row – it’ll be much later down the path)
Elimination Week? No (I think it’s time to see someone stripped of everything they have except their passport and whatever clothes they’re wearing when they reach the pit stop)
Biggest Argument: BSC (Fish in a barrel, but it has to be said)
Smartest Team: NDC (I think they’ll get their groove back)


As the next episode of TAR 9 is tomorrow night, I hope to get my review of it posted on this blog sooner than it took for last week’s episode review to be posted (which is to say: Six days late). My apologies to the thousands of adoring fans who waited patiently for it to appear. My apologies also to the one impatient fan who emailed me to ask where it was (yes, I’m talking to you!). Hehehe. I will also try to post my TGYH recap sooner this week than last (which is to say: yesterday, also six days late).



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