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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Nice Guys ...

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

If you haven't yet seen (and you intend to see) episode 11 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 DEC, or Deceptively Older Couple (AKA Fran & Barry, "The Franberries"), being eliminated. The pit stop was located at the Fremantle Sailing Club, near Perth in Western Australia.

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

1. BFG - Buff Frat Guys ["The Frats"] (Eric & Jeremy)
2. DWC - Dating WASP Couple ["Team MoJo"] (Joseph & Monica)
3. FHG - Freaky Hippy Guys ["The Hippies"] (BJ & Tyler)
4. TBC - Token Black Couple ["No Alternate Nickname"] (Ray & Yolanda)

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. Token Black Couple (TBC) - these guys did very well to come out of last place and take the lead at the end (although, really, this episode - almost more than any other - had very little to do with skill and a lot to do with pure chance). But let's not take anything away from them arriving in first place. The prize they got for doing so (a year-long lease of a Mercedes-Benz ... each ... was a freakin' good prize, even though it's not theirs to keep), so I can totally understand Ray's uncontrollable grinning at the end, there. Speaking of Ray, he had a moment of mock-nastiness in this episode when all teams were on their way to the Crocodile Farm, saying that the crocs would have a tough time eating Barbie doll plastic and find themselves choking (referring to DWC's Monica). They had good fortune at the didgeridoo task, finding the right Aborigine fairly soon after arriving, and getting out of there equally quickly. The fact that Team MoJo didn't pass them on the way in and clearly didn't arrive while they were still there (because there were no other cars in the carpark) shows just how far ahead the TBC had sped. Remember, the DWC were delayed by an hour and still managed to stumble across the FHG and the BFG (this shows not only that the TBC were ages ahead of everyone else, but that the 'wet' detour was the wrong one to pick). All-in-all, this episode was largely about the other three teams, so for two episodes in a row, I find myself with very little to say about the TBC (apart from 'congratulations').

2. Buff Frat Guys (BFG) - things started to take on a very different look for these next three teams this week. First of all, the mind games started coming out, and the dirty tricks weren't far behind. Once this happened, no one could trust anyone else, and paranoia mixed with panic, anxiety and frustration make for some high-level arguments and unforgiving (and sometimes unfounded) resentments that just cannot be resolved. Although most of this was between the DWC and the FHG, the BFG seemed to start it all off by canceling the TBC's and FHG's taxis. In a brilliant stroke of karma, the BFG's taxi didn't show up either (adding a whole new level to the word 'karma' that more witty bloggers may have turned into a clever pun on the taxi car/karma thing). Additionally, although not part of Eric & Jeremy's plan, their lack of a taxi shone the light of blame directly onto the only team whose taxi did turn up; the DWC. And from here on in, the FHG and the DWC (in particular) were at war. But we'll come to them later. What I found amusing was Eric calling the taxi company and canceling the other teams' taxis. Although I don't want these guys to beat either of those teams, it was a brilliant move, strategically. Unfair? Sure. Cruel? Absolutely. But a stroke of pure genius? Without a doubt. A good idea to bear in mind for teams playing this game in the future would be to have a couple of 'fake names' that they don't let the other teams hear at any point, for the calling of taxis. And then try to cancel other teams' taxis that are booked under their real names. A great ploy that can easily work to one team's advantage if they know how to play it and choose to do so at the best time. You're not going to make any friends by doing it, but that's not why you're there anyway. The funniest thing these guys said this week was when the teams were talking about being embarrassed by their partners and Eric said, "I don't let Jeremy out of the house". The stupidest thing they said this week was when the teams were about to wade into the crocodile pools and Jeremy said, "I hope those things don't bite". They bite, dude. The scariest thing they said this week was when Eric and Ray were in the planes ready to skydive and Jeremy and Yolanda were waiting for them on the ground. Jeremy turned to Yolanda and said, "If you were single, you'd be in trouble". You could see that she was thinking, "How do I take that? As a compliment? Or as a creepy 'stalker-style' threat?" As usual, when it came down to the final footrace, both of these buff boys managed to reach Phil on the mat first (out of the three teams scrambling to beat each other there). That'd be right! Thankfully, their lead on the two teams who are behind them next week will be minimal. I'm just glad they weren't the first team to the pit stop.

3. Dating WASP Couple (DWC) - okay, my opinion of these two has taken a severe dive this week. I don't know where to begin. Let's start at the very beginning, for I hear 'tis a very good place to start. They accused the FHG of being deceitful and using trickery throughout the game, when in fact the opposite is true. I'm not going to defend all the mind games the FHG were playing (the Eric & Monica one being especially undeniable as a mind game), but I will say that I feel the Hippies have done nothing worse than (or even equal to) the ploys played by the DWC and the BFG. It is certainly true that when Monica in particular accused BJ and Tyler of being deceitful, she highlighted her own gross hypocritical nature and made herself look stupid and grasping at straws. It would appear that she doesn't know what the word 'deceitful' means. The animosity between the FHG and Team MoJo has been bubbling away beneath the surface for a few episodes now, and when the Hippies told the DWC that if they didn't leave them any money they'd be 'Yielded', they sowed the seed of panic in Monica and Joseph's minds which has been allowed to grow into full-blown disgust. Monica in particular verbalises this by calling the Hippies 'sleazeballs' - an accusation which is completely groundless and shows how jaded her opinion is as a result of the veiled threat of being Yielded they received from the boys. The idea that she and Joseph are now the closest to the real sleazeballs on the race - the BFG - only adds to their cluelessness. (I think Monica may be on something.) Things were only made worse between the DWC and the other teams by the complete coincidence of the BFG's taxi not turning up, because then it appeared to the other teams that Team MoJo were the sole culprits behind the taxis' cancellations. When BJ and Tyler began their 'Eric & Monica' rumour charade in the line at the airport, Joseph gave BJ the most evil silent death stare I think I've ever see. The editors knew it, too - they had the music stop and it was eerily silent while Joseph glared at him and shook his head as if to indicate, "Don't go there. Or you'll wake up with a decapitated Tyler's head in your bed one morning." It was kinda spooky. I got a great laugh out of the moment when the Aussie airline check-in guy asked Team MoJo what it was worth to him for the other teams not to find out about the flight the DWC was catching ... and when Monica offered a kiss (to which Joseph happily agreed, the disgusting pimp), the look of complete disinterest on the Aussie's face was priceless! You may think you're "all that", Monica, but not everyone agrees! Take that, blonde babe ego! I hope that made her rethink herself a bit. (By the way, did you notice the T-shirt she was wearing? It said "I ♥ Spinning". I wonder if she meant this.) When the teams arrived at the Crocodile Farm late at night and were talking to each other through the windows of Team MoJo's car, Tyler was again weaving his 'Eric & Monica' magic. Eric even went along with it playfully/sarcastically (at least he shrugged it off and didn't let it bother him). Meanwhile, Joseph and Monica just got angrier. Joseph's high school mentality reporting of his feeling to Monica later was utterly pathetic: "I can't stand BJ and Tyler. It's like, dude, ... shut up." Is it, dude? Is that what it's like? Is it like 'shut up'? Then the two lovebirds started arguing again (I think this was while they were at or in the crocodile pool, but my notes don't clarify this and their arguments are all starting to blend in to one in my mind's eye - oh, no, wait - it was after the Hippies Yielded them as promised), and Monica again complained in her usual style, "It's not fair!". I'm sure they were just about to Yield the Hippies, so I don't see what's so unfair about it. Perhaps that the DWC was too slow and stupid not to race from their car to the Yield mat as quickly as BJ and Tyler did it? Yeah, that's unfair. Deal. And about the Yield - good work, guys! Anyway, moving on - was anyone else highly amused at Team MoJo's continued arguing for the majority of the hour they were waiting, therefore missing the fact that the hourglass had run out because of their non-stop bickering and blaming of each other? It was a great moment, and one that I wish had gone longer. The cameraman even brought the camera right in close to show the empty hourglass, but they didn't get it for a few more seconds! That just summed them up right there, for my money. Idiotic and selfish and always angrily blaming others without paying attention. That being said, I must give full credit to Monica for doing all the really scary roadblocks. Not only did she do the bungee jump the other week, but she was eager as anything to do the skydive this time. I'd like to think I'm being fair in these reviews (they're more like recaps or opinionated summaries than reviews, though, really - aren't they), so although I have clear biases and favourites and teams that offend me with their disgusting attitudes and behaviors, I'd like to think that I still credit bravery and humour wherever it may lie. After all, I've credited the BFG with at least one hilarious line per episode (with only one exception), even though they're the sort of people I loath seeing prosper. And in the case of the DWC, Monica seems to have more balls than Joseph (except when it comes to keeping it together when they're not doing well or are tackling an emotionally demanding or draining task ... then she falls apart and starts crying/wailing/complaining, which is the sort of behaviour that - understandably - drives Joseph nuts and gets him even angrier and intolerant with her). I'm not sure what point in the race it was, but it was after the skydive and either before or during the didgeridoo task, but Monica was the person this week to whinge about them being doomed to fail: "This is probably going to be it for us." Uplifting talk! You know, we could probably invent a TAR drinking game. It'd be fun! Every time someone on the race says something along the lines of how they're going to be last, now ... or that they'll be eliminated for sure as a result of their current set-back ... or moans about how they're the last team for sure this time ... we knock back a shot of something. It happens all the time, at least once a week, and would probably result in a lot of drunkenness across Australia on Thursday nights. Anyway, once the DWC reached the didgeridoo task, and found the native Australian who was supposed to teach them how to use the instrument, I noticed (at the time, not in hindsight when they reached Phil on the mat!) that they failed to follow the instructions given to them. The native showed Joseph how to use the didgeridoo properly, but then Joseph proceeded to show Monica what to do. In fact, she never looked at the Aborigine once! Not even when he gave her the thumbs-up! She was looking to Joseph for all information on what to do, and the native sat there politely waiting for her to look his way so he could show her the 'pursing' motion she had to make with her lips. In my opinion, that should have given them a fifteen-minute (or even one-minute would have been enough!) time penalty for failing to follow the instructions. However, I imagine the show's producers would counter with the notion that if the team fails to complete the task properly, they will not receive the next clue from the 'supervisor'. If the native Australian was happy enough to give them the next clue, then the producers aren't going to interfere with that decision (I'm sure that's what they'd say if it was taken to them in protest). The same thing happened with the dancing task in Germany; the dancing instructor was very lenient with the teams' version of the shoe-slapping lederhosen dance. But wouldn't it have been wonderful (considering how things turned out for the last three teams as they reach Phil at the pit stop in this leg) if Joseph and Monica were informed that due to not obeying the instructions correctly, they were actually the last team and lost all of their money and possessions! Oh well, beggars can't be Hippies. Or they can, as it turns out. Twice. But getting back to the DWC ... as they left the didgeridoo task, they managed to meet up with the BFG and FHG on the road. Joseph really showed his immense immaturity here by 'flipping the bird' to BJ and Tyler in the car in front of them. That was twenty kinds of inappropriate childishness. I hope he was embarrassed about his behaviour when he saw it back later (although I doubt it very much). When all three teams arrived at the pit stop together, the race to the mat was probably the best one I've ever seen on the show (possibly second only to charming brothers Brian and Greg's frenzied footrace across the desert plain in season 7 against the slightly distasteful Ray and Deana, after the brothers' jeep had overturned - but that wasn't three teams all racing each other). Once the teams had sorted themselves out on the mat, Monica turns to the Hippies and sneered at them (showing her level of maturity) and taunted, "You Yielded us and we beat you!" How delightfully spiteful. Would the Hippies have spoken this way to Team MoJo (even Team MoJo) if they'd arrived a millisecond before them? Not on your life. Then as Monica whined to Phil about "the other teams" playing a nasty game, twisting the truth to suit her complaint about BJ and Tyler, I found myself getting really angry for the boys. Who's been saying disgustingly nasty things about whom? Don't be such a hypocritical cow, woman. These two are utterly repugnant. I hope they're eliminated this coming week (although it never works out how I want it to!). That being said, I'm aware that no team is working with "all the information" we're lucky enough to get by being privy to each team's discussions and actions. But still, Team MoJo and the Frats have outstayed their welcome in this race.

4. Freaky Hippy Guys (FHG): SAFE! - I wasn't too worried during the dramatic last-minute-dash to Phil at the pit stop because I knew that even if these guys came last (which they did, courtesy of BJ's failed attempt to climb over rocks in his bare feet to reach the wharf sooner than Monica), they weren't going to be eliminated. I don't know why the producers continue to leave one non-elimination round until the four last teams are competing. Everyone knows the finale has only three teams left, so even Monica could have worked out that this was going to be the last non-elimination round. (Ouch - and I credited her a while back for being smarter than the average blonde! Sorry about that.) I also knew that the Hippies could bounce back from such a set-back because they proved it last time (asking for money brought them more than double what the other teams had been given!). And in Australia, everyone's going to love them.* When they called ahead at the Swan Bells to order a taxi, I thought they were doing a very wise thing. I don't know why they let on to the other teams about what they were doing, though, because I think that was a grave mistake (as shown by what occurred). Thankfully, one of the 'airport equalisers' in this episode was the airport itself (the others being the Swan Bells and Crocodylus Park), so all teams were able to catch up to each other before anyone had bought any plane tickets. Tyler's idea to bring mind games into play concerning Eric and Monica seemed amusing to watch and harmless enough at first, but it clearly led to bigger problems for them when it cemented for the DWC what they had mistakenly believed up until that point; that the Hippies were nasty guys playing a vindictive game and being sleazy. It still didn't prove the sleazy thing, but the other ideas were unfortunately thought to be 'proven', causing the rift between the two teams to grow exponentially.** The FHG's run from their car to the Yield was genius. They did the smartest thing they could have done at this point. Beating Joseph & Monica to the Yield just made the moment even more perfect, but there's no way choosing not to Yield would have been a wiser way to play that. As they ran through the field of 'magnetic' termite mounds, their jocular spirit re-emerged as they joked about not touching the mounds or the termites would eat all the wood in their bodies, such as Tyler's peg leg. It's just unfortunate that no one but the TBC seemed to know where they were going to find Lake Bennett Wilderness Resort, the pit stop for this leg of the race. It meant the other three teams ended up on each other's tails, and created the hurricane of panic that entertained us so in the show's dying moments. The problem for these guys now is that they have no money, no possessions, and BJ has no shoes. I doubt any team (even if the DEC were still in it at this point) would be leaving them any money this time, considering they've already had one second-chance at the game, and the result of the next leg determines who's in the final dash for the finish line and the one million dollar prize money. It's gonna be a tough ask for the Hippies to crawl their way back from last place on this one, but the good news is they only have a minute's gap between them and the team in front of them (instead of an hour or two). This is actually a pretty good development and consequence of the close finish in this episode. It means that the next leg will start out with the TBC out in front, but the other three teams all pretty-much neck and neck until they reach that leg's 'airport equaliser' (which will probably be the airport itself, seeing as they've been in Australia for so long already). I just hope the boys are able to raise enough money to get BJ some shoes and themselves to the airport, where they can hopefully walk up and down the aisle in the flight and raise enough money to buy a small island (like they did last time). I just hope they focus enough to get back in the game and avoid this last elimination!

* Of course, I'm kidding about everyone loving them. We might love them on TV, but those guys ferreting around asking for money when one of them doesn't have any shoes and they have strong American accents and they look the way they do? I think most Australians will steer well clear of them. I don't like their chances of getting much money out of any Aussies they encounter. And in the 'outback', how many Aussies is that going to be? They could very well be doomed, here. I hope I'm wrong, though.

** Well, okay ... "a bit more".


Last week's tips:

First Team: FHG (Wrong - so very wrong)
Last Team: DWC (Wrong - so close, though!) (I was right about them having a really bad leg, though ... the Yield and grumpiness were testimony to that.)
Yield? Yes Correct!
Fast Forward? No Correct!
Elimination Week? No Correct!
Biggest Argument: DWC Correct!
Smartest Team: FHG Correct! (Even though they came in last, I'm going to give it to them because of their dash to the Yield and their choice of team to Yield. Other near-winners of this award were the TBC for staying out of the furor and of course coming in first, and even the BFG for canceling the other teams' taxis)


Next week's tips:

First Team: BFG (Who are we kidding? It's a cert.)
Last Team: TBC (I reckon/desperately hope that the DWC will either be eliminated, or come in third instead of the TBC.)
Yield? No (Obviously - they've had both Yields now.)
Fast Forward? Yes (Looks like I tipped these the right way around last week.)
Elimination Week? Yes (We already know this, but I got it right last week so I'm entitled to this 'freebie' this week.)
Biggest Argument: DWC (That's a no-brainer because they're no-brainers!)
Smartest Team: FHG (Again, they need to be to come back from last place and having no money or possessions - or shoes!)
Two-Parter? Yes (I reckon Channel 7 will split the inevitable two-hour finale across two weeks, just like they did the two-hour premiere. If that's true, we won't know for sure if the long-suspected rumour of TAR: 'The Family Edition' starting up when this series finishes is true or not for another week.)



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