Early front-runners fell to the middle of the pack after an overnight bus to Bangkok. Also? Elephant rides!

By Lanford Beard
October 24, 2011 at 06:00 AM EDT
Sonja Flemming/CBS
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So let’s just get it out of the way, shall we? There has always been something vaguely off-kilter about Team Dad and Lad’s Laurence hasn’t there? Couldn’t you feel it lurking in the subtext? Well tonight was his ego’s night to shine. Even after one blowhard mistake after another, he still managed to make Phil’s ribbing about how wrong he was a chance to say, “But see how right I was?” Ugh. Laurence was the ugliest of a night full of ugliness, with the next instance being Team OCD (Ernie and Cindy) at the cab depot… more on that later. Striking the universal balance were the ever cheerful (read: oblivious) Team Ma & Pa (Bill and Cathi) and the  surprisingly sunny Team Twins, who have aged like fine wine over the course of these five legs, save for maybe the confession that “Marie hates fish.” Not to eat, just… in life. Who hates fish?

So we returned to Koh Panyi for the beginning of the fifth leg. The teams were instructed to use “local transportation” to reach their next Road Block. By “local transportation,” I mean elephants! So cool. As the teams made their way to the Road Block, Laurence made it very clear things would be his way or the highway from here on out because Zac is but a young boy who knows nothing of the world. Take note, folks. Take note… At any rate, the teams got to the location, a waterfall where they would have to retrieve a clue from a murky pond while a traditional Thai flautist played “Footloose” or “Fireball” or whatever the kids are jamming to these days. It was easy work for everyone involved. Of course Cathi fell down a few times. She’s the Deena Nicole Cortese of TAR 19, and who doesn’t love a bit of physical comedy now and then? In last place were the Twins, who had to wash all the teams’ elephants before retrieving their clue. To their credit, they had the most fun ever as they frolicked with the elephants. It could scarcely be put in words how excited they were to complete this Speed Bump, but it could be expressed in a series of shrieks accessible only to dogs’ ears. Hey! If you’re going to be held up, that‘s the attitude to have.

The next challenge, led by Team Olympians (Andy and Tommy) was to disassemble a spirit house (Thai shrine) and carry it to a local temple. The supposed surprise was that they’d have to reassemble it at the next location, but at least one member of every team cottoned on to this fact with the notable exception of Dad (despite Lad’s pleading) and Team OCD’s Ernie. The only true catch in this Road Block was that the person who completed the waterfall challenge had to sit out the next task, which effectively scuttled any reliance on teamwork. A weird interlude sprang from the completely new fact that the Olympians are devoted Christians. Perhaps of their own accord (or, more likely, prodded by the producers), they made some comments at the temple about how they knew there is only “one true God.” At the least, their comments seemed unnecessary; at worst, disrespectful. Discuss…

NEXT: Bus-ted!

Overall, the shrine challenge wasn’t a big deal because most teams had the foresight to draw diagrams in their notebooks — or, in the case of Team Sibling Rivalry (Justin and Jennifer), take a camera phone picture. Long story short, Dad and Ernie screwed their partners. Ernie was at least remorseful/fearful when, after his double back, he said, “I think I got it, but if I don’t have it, Cindy’s going to kill me.” Laurence, on the other, hand coldly told Zac, “Don’t blame me. You’re responsible.” Again, ugh.

The Olympians continued to lead the charge on the next part of this leg: A 13-hour bus ride back to Bangkok. They were the first to learn that the trip from the shrine to the bus was a serious wallet drain, costing 4,500 baht ($150 of their total $187 for the leg). They took it in stride and boarded a 4:30 p.m. busy along with the Siblings and Divorcees (Jeremy and Sandy). Dad and Lad were also in this pack, but they randomly boarded a first-class bus. Only after the other teams’ bus had left and Dad and Lad were several miles into their trip did Laurence begin to worry they’d be penalized for taking first-class transportation. They hopped off and ran back to the station, narrowly missing the 5:30 p.m. bus carrying Teams NFL (Marcus and Amani) and Ma & Pa.

Along the way, Team OCD boarded another bus, but only after yelling the bejeezus out of their cab driver for the expensive (and apparently reasonable) fare. They felt they were being extorted and kept yelling, “But you were a horrible driver!” Forget the fact they were trying to pay him in a completely different currency. Long story short, some crazy lady got involved as a citizen advocate, and OCD angrily paid before making their way onto the bus. Cindy did ultimately admit, “It was not our finest hour.”

Some hours later, Dad and Lad boarded an 8 p.m. bus, which the Twins hoped to board as well. The Twins squeaked into the bus depot with very little time to spare and insufficient funds to cover their cab ride. It seemed especially strange since the Twins were the only ones to be incredibly grateful for money since they didn’t have any last week, and all the other teams managed to pay the fare (even if they were cursing and stomping their feet along the way). How was this possible? As the twins begged for mercy from an unrelenting cab driver, the bus took off. Now they needed another ticket for which they had no money. And then… a miracle! Not only did the bus stop for them, the cab driver they couldn’t pay drove them to the bus. Did anyone else smell a Showgirls-style intervention to keep the suspense alive?

NEXT: Koi and Ladyboys (at least according to Cindy)

And so the Racers traveled overnight to Bangkok. Team OCD’s lonesome bus turned out to be an express, and they arrived first. Commenting on their trip to Thailand a few years ago, Ernie said he didn’t think it would help. “Unless they ask us to find ladyboys,” chipped in Cindy. “We know where that‘s at.” No comment…  In another turnover, the 5:30 p.m. bus carrying Teams NFL and Ma & Pa managed to arrive earlier than the 4:30 p.m. bus carrying the Olympians, Siblings, and Divorcees. Dad and Lad and the Twins arrived last. The Twins were at a marked disadvantage since they had no taxi money, but they were determined to complete the leg no matter what since they were racing for their recently passed father.

One by one, the teams traveled to Bangkok Noi Canal to feed the koi fish and receive their next clue. It led them to the Pit Stop: M.R. Kukrit Heritage Home, which one housed one of Thailand’s former Prime Ministers. Many teams were held up in Bangkok traffic, but the race for first came down to a sprint between Teams NFL and Ma & Pa. Marcus warned, “They may look like Ma and Pa, but they can run.” Just barely beating the old timers, NFL won a trip to Bali to boot. Teams OCD and Siblings followed close behind for third and fourth place, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Olympians were horribly held up while searching for the Pit Stop after handing their clue to some random lady who worked in a strip mall (or something… it was unclear). Andy suggested they pace to pass the time, and Tommy rebuffed him with only a slight hint of irritation in his voice… and that was about as worked-up as they’ve gotten all season. They ultimately made it to the Pit Stop fifth and were joined on the mat by Dad and Lad in sixth. Even after Phil told Laurence that his decision to get off the bus in Koh Panyi was ultimately nothing but a three-hour delay for his team (since first-class penalties only apply to air fare), Laurence was essentially all, “But I could have been right!” Triple ugh.

It came down to the Divorcees and the Twins. The Divorcees’ mistake was trusting a local, who told them the Pit Stop was only a short walk away. While they lost time, the Twins made it up. Ultimately, the Divorcees eked it out, and the  Twins were eliminated. It was a tearful conclusion to the leg for both teams, and it seems certain the Divorcees (particularly Sandy) are going to have to undergo a serious attitude adjustment to steel themselves for leg six.

So what did you think, Race cases? Were you sad to see the Twins go? Do you like that the order of the race received a more significant overhaul this week? Did Team OCD’s bus depot meltdown make you cringe? Is Laurence the worst or what? What of the editors’ sudden choice to highlight the Olympians’ Christianity, particular in (dis)respect to the temple? How excited are you for next week’s journey to Africa? Who do you predict will go home next?

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Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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