“Oh good, he didn’t die.” –Logan, regarding her husband, not seeming entirely sincere.
This has to be one of the more stressful episodes of The Amazing Race in recent memory. Everyone is freaking the freak out. And they’re all doing it in perhaps the worst place to have an accelerated heart rate and distracted mind: In extremely close proximity to free-roaming apex predators. The Texans have cooled their jets about the Green Team, but they’re still beating themselves up about wasting the Express Pass; Denise is pretty much always operating at level-crazy-eyes-100; and the Runners made enough careless mistakes to fuel the entire season, let alone one leg of the race…
But no one—no one—is more frantic than Team Paparazzi. You probably stopped rooting for The Paps to win around the time you heard the way they speak to each other; if you’re like me, you actively started rooting for them to lose when they donated $20 of the $175 leftover from the Rose of Charity Orphanage when everyone else had happily emptied out their purses. But in this rrrrrrace around the world, attitude isn’t everything.
Sure, the Cheerleaders are constantly making themselves have good attitudes and seemed to jump up three places as a result, but Team Paparazzi spent the majority of leg 5 compulsively telling the other to shut up, and they still weren’t eliminated… but we’ll get there. First, it must be said:
This. Leg. Was. Amazing. To have competed in it would have been the experience of a lifetime and it makes me appreciate teams like Justin and Diana who are, uh, aggressively trying to win, sure, but also seem to be soaking up every second of their extended stay in Zambia/Zimbabwe. This episode picks up where last week’s To Be Continued left off, with the Green Team in first and Texas right behind them, deciding whom to give their Express Pass to. They decide on Team Alabama because they’re middle of the pack, so they won’t feel like they’re responsible for whichever of the bottom teams ends up being eliminated.
But, in fact, no one is eliminated at the mat because it’s a continuing leg. None of the teams use the U-Turn—except the Cheerleaders—and they head into Leg 5 as follows: Alabama, Reporters, Chac Attack (I’ve decided to embrace this name), Paparazzi, Runner, Cheerleaders. They’re off to where it all began in season 1, episode 1, at the Batoka Gorge for the ROAD BLOCK: TAKE A BIG SWING. As with the racers who preceded them 27 seasons ago, one person from each team must swing over the Zambezi River, which involves free-falling for three full seconds and then swinging 95 meters over the river. The Texans continue to pray for the important things: Dear lord, just help me not scream like a girl.”
Like everything else on this leg, it looks incredible, but it presents a bit of a problem for Chac Attack and Team Paparazzi. After getting the clue at Bakota Gorge, Chac hopes back in their taxi to zoom off to wherever they think the Road Block is, but the Road Block is, in fact, a few yards away from them. Logan and Chris, presumably calling on their paparazzi instincts, just follow them, letting the Runners and Cheerleaders swoop in the five and six spots, and leaving them in last once they follow Chac—who’ve figured out their mistake—back to the Road Block. The editors have a juxtaposition field day with these two married couples as Chac kisses and gets excited about the river swing, relieved that they’ve recovered from their mistake, and Team Paparazzi alternate between chanting “We suck,” and “It’s over,” on a loop.
NEXT: It wasn’t over—it still isn’t over![pagebreak]
But that’s just crazy talk, because it’s not even close to over. Team Paparazzi may have seven teams in front of them, but there’s still a DETOUR to get to: CROCS OR CANOES. And one of them just involves going underwater in a cage and not becoming a crocodile’s lunch. In Canoes, the teams must dodge crocs and hippos making it across the Zambeze, hoist one partner up to a vulture’s nest that holds the next clue, and paddle back across the river. Only Team Green and the Texans choose this detour, probably because Crocs, where teams simply have to wetsuit up, hop in a protective cage, submerge themselves into the home of three hunger crocodiles, and feed them two raw chicken shish kabobs—all the while tucking their toes, of course.
There’s no skill involved in Crocs, but there is a bit of a traffic jam as the Cheerleaders, Chac Attack and Paparazzi arrive in close proximity to each other, and the teams can only go down one at a time. So, naturally, Logan and Chris start running around like chickens with their heads cut off—these headless chickens are somehow still screaming—ripping their wetsuits on and off as they manically try to decide whether they should switch detours. The logical answer is that they should not, and whether it’s logic that ultimately guides them or not, they stick around to take their turn in the croc-cage, and that’s where their luck kicks in…
Or rather, the Runners’ luck gives out. After the Detour, the teams are to proceed to GET THE ROYAL TREATMENT, where they’ll walk with lions to retrieve their next clue, then onto the PIT STOP at MASUWE PRIVATE GAME RESERVE where the walk to Phil is significantly slowed down by each team member having to balance a bowl of fruit on their heads like the local women do—this is a very full leg!
When the runners arrive at the fork that has the Lion Encounter in one direction and the Game Reserve in the other, they run straight to the Game Preserve, throw baskets of fruit on their head and start walking. But when they spot Phil, they know they’ve made a mistake and book it to the Lion Encounter, where they get back in the lineup just behind the Cheerleaders.
The Runners don’t collect their clue on their Lion Encounter, and therefore have to wait for the next expedition to go out, putting them behind both Chac Attack and Team Paparazzi. Balancing the fruit baskets almost gets the best of Rick, and it looks like for a moment that the Runners might stand a chance of making it to the mat before Chac, but alas, attitude might not be everything on The Amazing Race, but these teams live and die by their clues.
What did you think of the major shifting of the lineup in this leg of the race? Could the Cheerleaders stand a chance now? Will the Texans make it back on top? Will Team Paparazzi ever learn to calm down? Best guesses at why Denise calls James Earl “Spud”? Sound off in the comments!