The travelers fly south to sell sunglasses, carry coffins, and bring TV to the masses

By Darren Franich
October 04, 2010 at 04:28 AM EDT
John P. Filo/CBS

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the first President of independent Ghana. He is also the first Marxist to ever appear, indirectly, on a CBS reality show (unless you consider Big Brother to be an exercise in technocratic communism, in which case get a job, hippie). The Kwame Nkrumah memorial park was the first stop on last night’s episode of The Amazing Race, which put Europe in the rearview and sent the contestants south to visit the great African nation that ended America’s admittedly fragile World Cup hopes. (Listen, everything was going fine for the first 1/30th of the game, but then Ghana actually decided to score. Not cool, Ghana.)

Jill and Thomas were the first to depart. Jill was out to prove her worth, and that seems to be her sole character trait. “It’s not just him that has to be full-force, and me in the background,” she said. (The Prince of Darkness said nothing, but he looked at his lady love as if she were a particularly insignificant little dot.) Nat and Kat earned more nerd-crush points when they instantly knew that Accra was in Ghana. Nat offered us some helpful notes for telling the duo apart: “If we were boats in the ocean, Kat would be the Ocean Liner, and I might be the dinghy on the side.” So now we know who runs that partnership!

Team QVC, Team Glee, and the Volleyball Valkyries formed an alliance and instantly got lost. Fortunately, an Englishman passed by on a tractor. Brook asked him for directions, and offered him a little reward for his troubles: “I’m going to give you a big sloppy kiss. Have you ever been kissed by an American before?” The tractor-man gave them directions, and Brook bestowed a kiss upon him. She yelled, “I just kissed an Englishman in a tractor!” which I’m pretty sure is prison lingo for something dirty. Claire said, “You’ve kissed worse!” I’ve decided the proper way to enjoy Team QVC is to imagine that Brook thinks Claire is her best friend in the world, and Claire thinks Brook is the most annoying person on earth. (This is also how I interpret C-3PO/R2-D2, Bert/Ernie, and Bill/Hillary.)

There was only one flight to Ghana, which instantly flattened the field. A quick thought on this matter: The airplane-mediated ties are the only major gripe I have with Race. What’s the point of winning one leg, if everyone’s going to be on the same airplane tomorrow? I guess the only solution would be to disallow plane travel, which would turn Race into a months-long odyssey with lots of balloon travel and makeshift sailboats. (Wait, that sounds incredible.)

NEXT: A spoiler about the power of good karma. (Hint: It’s apparently not very helpful in reality TV.)

In Ghana, the teams raced for taxis and had to find various ways to awkwardly say “no” to beggars. Mallory patted one on the cheek, Harry Potter rolled into the fetal position and begged the cabbie to drive faster, and Andie actually gave one of the kids a dollar. “It might give us good karma,” said Jenna. Spoiler alert: Nope.

The contestants followed the clues from the park to the Makola Market. The first competition of the night was a great bit of local hucksterism: contestants had to try to sell sunglasses. (They had to earn 15 cedi, which is about ten dollars, and couldn’t sell a single pair of sunglasses for less than 3 cedi.) Brook had a braingasm when she heard the challenge involved selling something. She ran around the market, begging locals to try on her sunglasses. “That looks gooooOOOOOOooood!” she exclaimed to one. “You look like a gangster! Like a rapper!” Ouch, my cultural sensitivity hurts! (She also made a point to kiss them on the cheek. I hate to say I like this girl’s spunk, but I like this girl’s spunk. Am I the only one who loves that her catchphrase is “C’mon, Claire! C’mon, Claire!”?)

Brook’s hard-sell combo of used-car-salesman and junior-high-sex-symbol easily won the day. Chad claimed that he was using his sexuality as a sales tool, which meant he was getting on his knees and begging, which is exactly what happens when I try to use my sexuality for anything. Nick’s sales technique was walking around and yelling out, “Big race! Big race!” Jill’s sales technique involved staring blankly into space while the Prince of Darkness screamed “Jill! Jill!”

The big surprise of the night was Michael, whose mode of salesmanship was pretty much 180 degrees from Brook. With some subtle salesmanship, he managed to reach 15 cedi. (“I’m not a stranger to this kind of market,” pointed out Taiwanese-born Michael.) Also, maybe it was just the editing, but Connor seemed to make 15 cedi in about three minutes off of just two big sells.  (Connor seems to be the alpha male of the tenor section.)

The next stop was Peace Motor Spare Parts, in the June Fourth area of Accra. (Based on ten minutes of Googling, I think “June Fourth” refers to the June Fourth Uprising, a 1979 military coup. Please let me know if I’m wrong/how utterly wrong I am.) The two detour options were:

Tune In: Get a TV Antenna from the Electrical Supply Store, find a house requiring an antenna, and install it.

Check Out: Grab a beautifully designed coffin from a local woodworking shop and carry it across town to its display area.

Team QVC opted for the antenna. Brook carried the antenna, climbed the ladder, and hammered in the nails. Claire stared at a local child’s food and said, “I’m hungry.” So now we know who runs that partnership! (For a brief moment, I thought Claire was going to fall off of some unsteady buckets. There’s a concussion in her future, people, we all know it.) Chad and Stephanie also chose “Tune In,” since Chad’s good with electronics. Chad immediately made up for last week’s douchebaggery when he pointed the lost Kevin and Michael in the right direction of the marker. Class act, dude.

NEXT: The Valkyries display superhuman strength.

Back at the Market, Nick got into a minor situation with a woman who refused to pay him. (Or perhaps she paid him in dance form? Are there any countries with dance-based economies? And if not, why isn’t there a Broadway musical about that yet?) “I think I just got jacked for some sunglasses,” said Nick uselessly. Mallory, for her part, continued her transformation into the second coming of Shirley Temple by reacting to everything with gaping eyes and adorable squeals. “You want to buy allllll the sunglasses? Bwwahhhhh?” Stop, stop, we’re charmed, we’re utterly charmed!

Jill, meanwhile, was suffering from an attack of the conscience:

Jill: (with tears in her eyes) “Money is tight here. I don’t want to sell them bad sunglasses.”

Prince of Darkness: (pausing from devouring the souls of heretics and usurers) “I hope you’re not worrying about people’s feelings on this race.”

The Valkyries opted to carry a piano-shaped coffin, and since they have superhuman strength, they reached the goalpoint in about two seconds. Is it just me, or did the coffin challenge seem way, way easier than the antennas? I get that Accra has lots of winding roads and busy streets, but isn’t it always better to pick the challenge with a clear goal (“Carry this coffin to point A”) versus the challenge with a vaguely defined goal (“Get these citizens static-free TV service”)?

Team QVC quickly polished off the antenna challenge, and raced off to Kaneshie Market. That put them in first place for the day. Claire said, “People Look at us and think, ‘They’re cute, but they’re high maintenance, and they’re not going anywhere.'” I mean it as a complete compliment when I say that I don’t think any of those things when I look at her. The Valkyries came in second – I still can’t really tell them apart, since they’ve been given the least amount of camera time of any team, but they can clearly own the physical challenges. That put Team YouTube in the number three slot, and Chad/Stephanie in number four.

Connor and Jonathan tried to mount the antenna. The division of labor went something like this: Connor was up on the rooftop turning the antenna. Jonathan helpfully yelled,  “Connor, we have color! Color, color, color! Never mind, it’s black and white and blurry.” They decided to switch to the coffin challenge. (Jonathan adorably apologized to the homeowner for their failure, and then adorably offered a boy a high-five. He was rebuffed.) They were carrying a coffin shaped like a fish, which led Jonathan to a Godfather reference, and they were led to the showroom by a child, which led Jonathan to a Book of Isaiah reference. Just ahead of them, Jill and Thomas were carrying a coffin shaped like a camera. “Probably memorializing someone who was a photographer,” deduced the Prince of Darkness, just wiping his college education in our face.

NEXT: Huzzah! Connor does not soil himself!

(Deep-Thought Question of the Day: if you could have a vanity coffin, what would it look like? My coffin, of course, would be carved and painted to look like the original cover of The Great Gatsby. Before you ask: Yes, my funeral will be really, utterly pretentious. Like, readings-from-Being-and-Time-in-the-original-German pretentious. Thankfully, I won’t be attending.)

The Gilmore Girls, the Doctors, and Shirley Temple & Papa all suffered from lost cabbies, though the Mother/Daughter team definitely suffered the most. Kat/Nat lugged a lobster-shaped coffin across town, while Mallory/Gary and Andie/Jenna installed the antenna. This cued up a truly exciting car chase. Terrible traffic filled the streets of Accra. The Doctors’ cabbie took evasive action and drove down the middle lane, passing Gary/Mallory first, and then Team Glee. “We just passed our little brothers,” said the Docs. Team Glee’s driver followed after them. (Connor: “I want my mom. I’m just so glad I haven’t soiled myself.” Jonathan: “I think I might have.”) In a true nail-biter, the a cappella boys just barely reached Phil first, although the Docs were all smiles behind them. (So far, all the contestants seem to really like each other, which I assume is only because Nick hasn’t talked to anyone.)

Nick and Vicki lazily strolled into eighth place. Mallory and Gary ran in behind them. Mallory was halfway to a coronary: “Just gimme the bad news! Or any news! Before I have a heart attack and die on this map! Has that happened before? Swoon! Just tell us!” They made it! The Gilmore Girls weren’t so lucky, and though I’ll never forget their preciously awkward interactions, Andie’s last lines were moving. Talking about her decision to give up her daughter to adoptive parents, she said, “I’ve gotten a piece, after 21 years, of just knowing this beautiful person that I brought into the world… You are who you are because of that family.” Oh hell, viewers, I cried. Who didn’t?

Race fans, how’d you feel about this leg of the race? Are you charmed by Brook’s unflappability, or turned off by her “Loud-is-better” approach to life? I’m personally inclined to bump up my appraisal of Team YouTube (since Michael is a stealth competitor) and temper my appreciation of Team Doctor (since Kat seems a little bit too shy to be a real Race closer). Which couple do you think will implode first? By the way, did you all notice that, apparently, the only show on TV in Ghana is People Playing Drums?

Follow me on Twitter for constant (and constantly important) updates @EWDarrenFranich

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