Shattered glass, solar energy and bovine division makes for a meaty episode

By Joseph Brannigan Lynch
Updated February 27, 2012 at 08:34 AM EST
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The Amazing Race

S20 E2
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If you watched The Amazing Race last night instead of watching the beginning of the Oscars, you apparently missed George Clooney smooching Billy Crystal and a Justin Bieber appearance. I can’t provide any further details because I was watching TAR in real time.

After coming in first place last week, Dave and Rachel (Team Army) got an early start on finding the chasqui (messenger) in the town square of Cafayate, Argentina, to get the next clue. Unfortunately, their 2 a.m. head start availed them nothing — the messenger didn’t arrive until sunrise, by which point the competition had more than caught up with them.

The first task was a choose-your-own challenge scenario: “Light My Fire” or “Boil My Water.” The former required a team to load firewood and clay on a donkey and transport it to a village, while the latter involved assembling a solar panel and using it to boil a kettle of water.

Every team except Team Border Patrol chose “Boil My Water,” which seemed the safer choice given the unpredictable donkey variable. Although Art and J.J. freaked and chewed each other out while they desperately tried to find their challenge (which was further along the road than “Light My Fire”), they actually ended up finishing second for that challenge.

The teams managed to put their solar panels together easily enough with the notable exception of the clowns, who somehow didn’t realize there was an instructive picture on the side of the box. I can only assume they don’t do much shopping at IKEA.

Team Cousins took pity on the struggling Team Jersey* and gave them a tip on assembling their panel, a decision they almost immediately seemed to regret. Rachel apologized to Brendon, blaming her ineptitude on her entire gender. “I’m sorry — I’m just a girl,” she ingratiatingly chirped. “Just a girl“? Oh, I’ve had it up to here.

Being professional humorists (…sort of), the clowns made a point to crack the “watched pot never boils” joke, although that bit of wisdom didn’t seem to make their kettle whistle any faster.

Say what you will about Team Kentucky — they’re missing a few teeth and can’t pronounce one in 10 words — but these Southern best friends are looking like real contenders. Thanks to what Bopper described as “teamship,” he and Mark were the first team to finish that challenge. Oh yeah, and there was a dog with a Mohawk. Rad.

The next leg of the trip seemed simple enough: Get on a bus to Buenos Aires. Three separate buses embarked on the 18 hour (ugh) trip at staggered times, so it seemed that the final bus — containing Team Cousins and Team Feds — were in big trouble. Speaking of Federal Agents Nary and Jamie, they’re telling the other teams they’re school teachers because they want to be underestimated. Given their performance thus far, I don’t think they have to worry about anyone expecting great things from them.

NEXT: A busted bus window and finding out where the beef has been all these years

Important lesson: Don’t take the bus in Argentina unless you absolutely have to. A window on bus number two inexplicably shattered during the nighttime ride, causing the teams it carried to fall behind bus number three. I was sort of confused how exactly the broken window set them back so far, because the “fixed” window didn’t actually look much better than the shattered window.

That put Team Clowns, Team Jersey, Team Twins and Team Divorcees behind Team Feds and Team Cousins, although those traveling on the third bus didn’t actually realize their good fortune until they hit the mat.

The final challenge was a meaty one: Determine the average weight per head at a cattle auction. That meant dividing the total weight — which was periodically shouted out by a man in a raspberry beret — by the total number of cattle, which they had to count on their own. And this was at what TAR described as the biggest cattle market in the world.

Aside from proficiency with numbers, you wouldn’t think any one team would have an advantage here, but it turned out that Mark of Team Kentucky works at a cattle farm, so he was in his element. I wasn’t expecting too much from a duo that got carsick on day one, but these guys continue to surprise.

Not having watched her regularly on Big Brother, I’m just beginning to understand why Rachel grates on so many people. She kept shouting “I don’t know anything about cows!” Does she think cowhands are the only people who can count and divide? It was almost as if she were expecting a producer to step in on her behalf and say, “Okay sweetheart, we’ll give you a separate challenge — what would you prefer doing?”

After a false start, Rachel of Team Army worked with J.J. to give the correct answer to the gaucho on hand. Their respective teams actually met Phil on the finish mat before the final bus had even arrived.

That put Dave and Rachel of Madison, WI, as the first place team for the second week in a row. This time their victory didn’t give them any competitive advantage, though they did walk away with a trip to Grenada. Team Border Patrol wrangled a second place finish (which they seemed strangely saddened by) while Team Kentucky zipped into third place.

Team Big Brother snagged the fourth spot, but not before Rachel and Brendon had a big spat. Although it’s not much fun seeing reality TV melodrama bust in on a show that’s usually refreshingly free of it, Brenchel’s fight did provide a few choice quotes. “You know I’m not as smart as you,” Rachel moaned, and later said, “You have a booger,” as her way of wrapping up their fight.

In the cab ride to Phil, Brendon tried apologizing while Rachel sat tight-lipped, silently stewing with a look of red fury in her eyes. They’re so cute together! Almost as charming as the couple from Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

NEXT: No more clownin’ around and a cheerleading chant

Team Cousins came in fifth, and in their excitement over not losing they launched into a cheerleader-esque routine about how awesome they were. The fact that they have a premeditated chant about being awesome sort of disproves the central theory of their song.

The federal agents disguised as school teachers came in next, followed by the dating divorcees (who still haven’t gotten much screen time), Team Jersey and Team Twins, one of whom (the pro soccer player twin) was very excited to see the mulleted Argentinian soccer legend on the mat. It looked like Diego Maradona, but that would be surprising since he has stated he hates the United States.

That left the married clowns in last place, and it was not a near-miss for them. Number-crunching clearly isn’t a skill they teach at clown college, because Dave took by far the longest to solve the cattle question.

Dave teared up a bit when Phil gave them the bad news. My heart went out to the cancer survivor, even if he had come to the mat wearing a big red clown nose. And even though his wife made the same “tears of a clown” joke twice. They seem like a sweet couple, but their elimination was an inevitability.

With Dave and Cherie cartwheeling out of the race, that means there’s only two career clowns left: Brendon and Rachel.

I really enjoyed all of the challenges last night — they required brains, a cool head and a little bit of luck. I wish we’d gotten to know the twins and the divorcees a little better. I still don’t feel like I have a sense of their team dynamics. Maybe they don’t speak in made-for-TV quips.

As for Team Army, their two first-place finishes do not seem to be flukes. This married couple seems to have the right mix of know-how, athleticism and “teamship” to make it far. As for Team Feds, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get axed next week. Just a hunch.

*QUESTION: Is there a better name for Team Jersey? Although Joey “Fitness” and Danny self-identified as Jersey types, they’re originally from New York. As a lot of readers pointed out last week, New Jersey is getting a bad enough rap these days thanks to Snooki and The Situation, so why not give the state a break? They’ve suffered enough.

But what’s a better name? Team Long Island doesn’t have much of a ring to it. Team Fitness? Team Gorilla Juicehead? If you have a better alternative to Team Jersey, sound off in the comments below or “like” what other people suggest. And if you think Team Jersey is the most sensible shorthand, feel free to say so.

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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