A tricky thing called "reading the instructions" proves to be the undoing of two teams

By Lanford Beard
Updated October 03, 2011 at 06:25 AM EDT
Sonja Flemming/CBS

The Amazing Race

S19 E2
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Man, TAR really shuffled the deck this week. In addition to the always-equalizing effect of destinations with no late-night flights available, there was a sneaky little sign that eluded eight of the 11 teams and caused them to circle back and lose their places in the Pit Stop queue. Improbably, Teams Olympian (Andy and Tommy), Sailor (Laurence and Zac), and Showgirls (Kaylani and Lisa) were the ones who actually paid attention to the rules and were not turned back. That left some lovely folks going home. I won’t lie, it gave me a little bit of the weepies. When Team Flight Attendants’ Bill said, “We can take it, Phil. We’re strong,” didn’t that tug at your heart strings? And for Ethan to be eliminated in a round all about charity. Cruel fate!

On a much happier note, Team NFL’s Marcus has officially become my favorite player by leaps and bounds. The man dances like Michael Jackson and talks to trees! Wonderful. Also, anyone who says things like, “We got the kind [of money] that jingles, we need the kind that folds” is aces in my book. A natural busker is that Marcus Pollard.

Elsewhere, two teams saw an inevitable implosion — albeit extremely early in the game. Team Sibling Rivalry (Justin and Jennifer) did just that — squawk and yell at one another throughout the episode: first because Justin wanted to explore other transportation options than the train that all the other Racers were taking, then because Jennifer wasn’t able to keep up with her brother’s pace. Over on Team OCD (Cindy and Ernie), Cindy had a meltdown when they learned they would be denied the power couple status they (or at least she) were so desperately were seeking. Yes, they arrived first at the Pit Stop, but they didn’t read the sign telling them to give all the money in their possession to the orphans, so they ended up much farther behind than they otherwise would have been.

Personally, I’m always a big fan of the eating challenges on TAR because they’re so very excessive, but this week’s spelunking task was pretty amazing. Most delightfully, no one had a crippling fear of heights that prompted him or her to indulge in histrionics. All in all, it was exhilarating, and you could see it on the Racers’ faces and hear it coming out of their mouths. This is TAR at its best, when the teams get a moment to take in the natural beauty of the far-flung destinations they’ve been thrown into, instead of just hurtling a watermelon in some random stadium, then operating an exhausting rickshaw, and finally collapsing in Phil’s arms. The moments when they actually realize how — pardon the term — amazing what they’re doing is, those are the moments when you can’t be too sore about the Emmy dominance. What you can be sore about is Jeff Probst’s Emmy dominance. Browsie is poised for the gold, y’all.

NEXT: An impressionistic retelling of the night’s events…

So, pre-apologies for how scattered this recap will be. Perhaps because Sunday is a day of rest — or perhaps in protest that it had to sit through Andy Rooney’s farewell curmudgeon-fest — my DVR decided not to record the entire eight o’clock hour. We recappers love a temperamental DVR!

At any rate, we rejoined the teams in Taiwan. Team Farmhand (Bill and Cathi) were most worried because they had to overcome a seemingly insurmountable time gap, plus an additional Speed Bump. Team OCD were the first to learn that they would be heading to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. They were also the first to learn that there were no flights until 8:45 a.m. the next morning, which effectively eliminated any time advantage they thought they had. As this information was handed down to the teams one by one, their reaction proved their good spirits. Instead of griping about the turn of events, more often than not they wondered, “Where’s Ma and Pa [Cathi and Bill]?” So, when Team Farmhand made their way to the airport, there was a rousing round of applause. I suspect this sort of goodwill won’t last forever, but it’s nice while you can get it.

Once they got to Indonesia, the teams were told they’d be spelunking. They had to retrieve a mask and a dagger, climb a bamboo ladder, and hand it over to receive their next clue. Team Farmhand, of course, had to perform a Speed Bump, which consisted of untying a knotty rope. Like last week’s uneventful Showgirl Hazard, it was child’s play. Bill and Cathi made quick work of it and headed on to star in what would be a fairly spectacular rebound, thanks in no small part to Bill’s blazing guns helping him climb that bamboo trellis. Get it, get it, Pa!

Once the teams completed the caving portion of the day’s adventure, they were given a choice: Shake it or park it. The Shake Your Moneymaker challenge involved one teammate performing a traditional Indonesian dance in a busy street intersection while the other banged out a musical rhythm on a native instrument. The “ticket takers” had to direct local moped drivers to a parking spot. The shakers would have to raise 30,000 rupiah (about $3.41 US) for a local orphanage, while the parkers had to pull together 15,000 rupiah (about $1.70 US). Other than Team OCD snaking Team Farmhand’s clientele at the parking challenge and the semi-scary masks Team Twins et al. had to wear during the Shake Your Moneymaker challenge, there weren’t that many noteworthy moments.

No sir. The real action began when the teams dropped off the money they’d earned at the orphanage. Or, as it were for Team Survivors (Ethan and Jenna), this was the part where everything fell apart. They were already behind after the spelunking; then Jenna accidentally left behind their clue on the way to the orphanage. So they had to backtrack, costing them valuable time. Meanwhile, three teams (Olympian, Sailor, and Showgirls) spotted the sign at the orphanage demanding that they leave behind not only the money they earned that day, but also all the money they had in their possession. As such, the Olympians won a trip to Ireland, and most of the teams were left scrambling to make up for lost time. In the end, though, the Survivors and the Flight Attendants had to go. They were a day late and many a rupiah short.

NEXT: Purple pants and pesky trees

Quotes of the night:

Tommy: Don’t ‘dude’ me, dude.

Amani (on the streets of Jakarta): This is like Detroit.

Marcus: Get away from me, tree. You’re bothering me!

Ron (to Jakarta street musician): Ooooh, look at your little purple pants — a little small! [I’m going to] pop a blood vessel.

Tommy: So we gotta give ’em all our cash?

Andy: Wow, good freakin’ eye man. Dude, who’s gonna blow that one?

Cindy (on missing the “leave all money” sign): I’m such a nerd, gah!

Bill: We have more than you could ever win on a TV show. People would pay millions to have what we have.

If nothing else, I feel like this episode proved (yet again) that there is no such thing as a front-runner in this competition. Even if you’ve won $2 million between you, that doesn’t mean you won’t be the first to go. Likewise, a consistently strong performance in the first two legs doesn’t mean you won’t be sent to middle of the pack for missing a tiny detail somewhere along the way. It’s kind of refreshing.

What did you thing, Race cases? Was this week’s double elimination satisfying for you? Were you pleased with Team Farmhand’s comeback? Or were you sad to see the Survivors and/or the Flight Attendants go? Who are emerging as your favorite Racers? Who do you hope goes home next? Overall, how is this season shaping up for you?

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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