It’s looking like we’re going to get through this season without having a single team to mercilessly rag on. I know that a whole crew of likeable Racers strikes the fear of boredom in some of you TAR historians; but with the marriage proposals, blind-date breakdowns, and the men in drag, there’s plenty going on to keep us entertained. I am all in on this stranger danger season. Well, mostly I’m all in on Phil forcing himself to ask the blind date couples how the luuuuuv connection is going and having them be all, “Phil, we’re sweating. We’re annoyed with one another but have to be polite about it, and we’re not even physically attracted to each other…this is not going to end in a CBS wedding.” These blind daters keep it real.
That must be why they’re kicking all the dating couples to the back of the pack, one team at a time. Team Attractive think it’s because the couples who have been together longer butt heads and argue, whereas, a few days in to knowing each other, they’re still worried about being polite. But Tyler rightly points out that they’ve been in the lead the whole time—when you’re winning it’s not so hard to be nice to each other. As Team Medical found out on this leg, at some point, usually around the time one of you royally screws up, politeness goes out the window. And yet, this is the first time Blair and Hailey have finished at the front of the pack! Human dynamics, they cannot be contained.
On the third leg of the race, the nine remaining teams are heading from Nagano, Japan to Phuket, Thailand, which means planning their own flights. But by the time they get back to the Tokyo airport, all of the counters are closed until morning, so, even though the teams headed out in the order that they finished the last leg, everything basically gets flipped the next morning when the Truckers, Hairdressers, Jeff and Jackie, and Team Medical—last week’s last four finishers—make it on the first flight to Phuket, along with the Olympians. The Lawyers and Team Attractive make it on the next flight, and the Blonde Boys just barely make it out that night on a flight arriving at 11:59 p.m. flight. The New Kids, though, can’t get on a flight until the next morning.
In the end, the crazy flight times only really hurt the New Kids, because when everyone arrives at Patong Beach in Phuket, they find the next leg doesn’t start until the next morning. The first three teams get an 8:30 start time, then three at 8:45, and three at 9:00. With the New Kids arriving at 9:35 a.m., that really only puts them about an hour behind, and whereas they’re all rejuvenated from the hot springs date they won last leg, everyone else in Phuket was taking shooooooots. OK, probably just one shot, but that seems like about the last thing I would want to do after 24 hours in transit.
Luck is in the teams’ favor though, because they’re not facing a particularly physically demanding leg. Actually, it’s not really mentally demanding either. Now that I think about it, following last week’s similarly random leg, the challenges this season could use a little ante up. My theory is that the TAR team is luring all these couples into a false sense of security and then, just when they think running this race with a stranger is kind of a cinch, they’re going to hit them with the good stuff (torture massages, tight rope walking, and something that involves a stubborn barnyard animal).
Tonight, they start out with the Detour instead of the Road Block and there is definitely a right choice in SKI vs. TREE. In “Tree,” the teams must deliver a tray of food to waiting customers, traveling by zipline without spilling or losing any of their menu items. “Ski” is actually wake boarding, but wake boarding doesn’t rhyme with anything. The Olympians figure that water sports and winter sports are transferable skills, and they’re not wrong, but wake boarding just takes a while to get the hang of. They’re on about their eight attempt at the lap they have to complete by the time Jeff and Jackie get there, and after a few more tries, they decide they have to switch to Tree, followed shortly by Jeff and Jackie.
NEXT: Relationships with strangers are all about listening…[pagebreak]
So, that means everyone is completing Tree to make it to the next clue. The Lawyers and Team Medical get there first, but after the Lawyers decide that they only have to take one food and one drink item across the zipline, instead of all of the listed menu items, Blair and Hayley follow suit. Hayley questions the decision over and over on their way to the zipline starting point, but Blair insists that the other team is doing it, so it must be right. It’s not right. And really, one unsuccessful trip across the zipline hardly sets them back at all, but Blair not listening to her seems to be a more deeply rooted issue for Hayley. This is the second time we’ve seen him notably ignore her concerns, so who knows how many little things have been getting to her. But it’s also understandable that the little things about the way Hailey communicates would be enough to convince Blair to kind of not want to listen to her. They didn’t choose to the run this race together, but they are, so they have to make it work.
I give Hailey props for not letting Blair get away with his mistake out of politeness, and I give Blair props for not telling to Hailey to shut it when she proceeded to talk about his mistake for the rest of the leg and not agree to squash it until they were on their way to a second place finish. That’s right, the finish line gets a pretty big switch-up when the Truckers, followed by Team Medical, take an early lead out of the Detour—which is mostly fun and mostly easy, except for the Hairdressers, who seem to need a lot of repetition before they get the hang of something—and into the Road Block: DON’T DRAG YOUR HEELS.
Phil tells us that My Way Cabaret “might be the best go-go show in town,” and if there’s anyone I trust on rating Thailand’s best drag shows, it’s Phil. In Don’t Drag Your Heels, both the men and the women must don showgirl-style makeup and sequined outfits, memorize choreography, and perform for the audience of My Way. The Truckers are the first to arrive by a big leap, and after Matt applies some pretty bold eyebrows, they have plenty of time to attempt the choreography onstage before any other teams are ready. What they discover, is that this performance, unlike the choreography from their Japan detour, is more about performing with personality than nailing every move. Each team kind of realizes this as they watch the team before them go, meaning that the later teams mostly get it on the first try, putting everyone on a very even playing field.
The couples are filing in, applying their fake eyelashes, doing their dance, and filing out without a hitch, again, except for the Hairdressers—Matt is completely in his element clowning around on stage, nailing the performance on the first try, but in the cab on the way to the Pit Stop, Ashley realizes that he’s forgotten his fannypack and they have to turn around and get it. With the New Kids just completing the Tree detour, they were never in danger of being last, but it was sweet to see her keep him calm so that they can stay in the game. Keep that in minds as we arrive at the Pit Stop at BABA NEST ROOF TOP:
1: Truckers—from last to first, this leg was a great example of this TAR’s ability to flip in an instant. And they won a trip to Prague!
2: Team Medical arrived on the mat seemingly done arguing and immediately followed by…
4: Team Attractive
6: Hairdressers, just barely winning a footrace with…
7: The Blonde Boys, who are totally not into each other, and…
8: Jeff and Jackie, who totally are.
In a rare event, almost all of the teams are on the mat at the same time, and Matt, who has been especially appreciative of Ashley during this fast paced leg says he wants to take this time to make her a promise: To say, “I love you” every morning, kiss her every night, and he wants her to promise to make him the happiest in the world. And then he gets down on one knee and proposes! Oh, you guys, it is sweet. Other than controlling the lump in my throat, all I can think is, “OH MY GOSH, WAS THAT RING IN THE FANNY PACK?!” Burgen and Kurt offer the Date Card they won earlier to the newly engaged couple, and then the other super in love couple, the New Kids, arrive at the mat to find out this is a Non-Elimination Leg, and everything is just lovely and love-filled.
I can’t even rag on those damn selfie cams now either, because that group picture they took after the proposal was just adorable. What did you think of this leg of the race? Is the Blind Date season of TAR living up to its potential or fizzling out in a puddle of fake eyelashes? Were you glad to see the New Kids stay? And finally, what are your predictions for Hailey and Blair in the coming weeks? Is politeness really the key to winning this race as strangers, or could a little honesty pave the way for a win?