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The Amazing Race recap: The Frog in the Mud Pit

The competition moves to Japan, where teams get some spinning-horse archery practice and experience the scandal known as Fannygate

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Amazing Race
Robert Voets/CBS

The Amazing Race

TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Phil Keoghan
Jerry Bruckheimer
Current Status:
In Season

“We need a cool nickname,” said Zev, and he was right. So many other contestants on this season of Amazing Race come with ready-made brand designations: the Cowboys, the Globetrotters, the Dating Goths, the Cheerleaders, and of course, Bubbly Undersized Blond & Great American Superdad (or BUBGAS for short.) But what does the Zev/Justin brand stand for? Zev’s personal vote: “I guess we’re the Special Kid and His Friend.” Ha! I love how Zev and Justin are both funny in their own way — a vintage Odd Couple, these two — and I henceforth christen them Team Zinger.

The Race contestants all seemed to be in a generally giddy mood as last night’s episode got started. Kent was rocking some Ol’ West headgear, explaining that he wanted to “show Jet and Cord they’re not the only ones who can rock a cowboy hat.” (“He’s like my little urban cowboy,” said Vyxsin.) Mel appeared to have recovered from the exertion of the double-leg. “We’re stronger every time we stay another hour, another day,” said Papa White. “I’m old, but we can make it.” (Famous last words.) Fellow patriarch Ron had cheered up a little bit, and we learned that there’s a bittersweet subtext behind this second go-round with the father-daughter team: Christina recently got engaged, and this is their last big trip before she gets married. (Fun fact: Christina’s fiance is fellow season 12 contestant Azaria Azene. Somebody should really graph the history of reality-show contestants getting hitched.)

As much as I enjoy watching Amazing Race, there is one part of the show that I find exhausting: the Airplane Ticket Melodrama. Last night’s episode dragged us through an extended sequence in which teams had to choose between two different flight options: A Cathay Pacific flight that was leaving earlier but would involve a layover, and a QANTAS nonstop flight that would arrive 15 minutes later. The noble lads in the Race editing room always do their best to make such plane-jockeying look like high drama, but stuff like this always grinds the show to a halt. I guess this problem really isn’t solvable – the only other option would be to always force everyone onto the same flight, which would have the adverse effect of always flattening out the competition. (Although there’s always option 3: Balloons! Balloons for everyone! Who doesn’t love balloons? Satanists, that’s who.)

The Cheerleaders, the Goths, Team White, Team Zinger, and Margie/Luke all opted for the slightly-earlier Cathay flight. The Globetrotters actually let Zev and Justin get on the earlier flight, paying them back for helping them out with the Flag codex in Sydney. Some payback — the Cathay flight was grounded in Hong Kong due to engine trouble, allowing the QANTAS teams to jump into the lead. God, isn’t plane travel awful? I’m telling you, the future is balloons. Balloons!

Once they landed, teams made their way to a rotating parking garage. (A rotating parking garage? God, Japan is awesome. It’s like Blade Runner without all the steam, but still with terrifying robots.) The Cathay flight arrived about 90 minutes later, and because they arrived last at the parking garage, Zev and Justin had instantaneously sunk from first place to last place. You’ll remember that Team Zinger was my Ridiculously Early Pick to Win It All. Suffice it to say, at this point of the episode, I was an anxious mess.

NEXT: They Shoot Wooden Horses, Don’t They?

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