A taxi snafu spells disaster for one team; Brendon and Rachel nearly drown; gnomes rule us all

By Annie Barrett
Updated March 10, 2014 at 04:35 AM EDT
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The Amazing Race

S24 E3
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In Leg 3, the nine remaining teams travel from Guangzhou, China to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on two flights three hours apart. Even though they’re the first to depart, “The Brenchels” (I somehow prefer this nickname to simply “Brenchel,” though neither is ideal) fall behind in terrible traffic as their driver takes a weird route to the airport. “I think your brain’s working a little too hard right now,” says Brendon in his condescending coo as Rachel freaks out. Whatever, Brendon. But also: Whatever, Rachel for those green sequined shorts and headgear. They finally arrive and no one can believe the reality superstars have to board the sad-sack second-string flight along with Jessica and John and Meghan and Joey.

“This is a prediction for final three!” announces Meghan delightedly. Does she mean the last three teams to make it onto the mat at the end of the leg? Because if she does, then she is RIGHT!

Upbeat ’til the end, YouTube sensations Joey Graceffa and Meghan Camarena have been eliminated.

Excerpt from The Afghanimals: A Guide to Life (in stores never): “If you don’t speak Chinese, just make random noises.” -Jamal

The six teams on Flight 1 touch down in Malaysian Borneo and blend seamlessly into the oldest rainforest in the world. “This is a beautiful place. Lush! The jungle,” Dave approves in his endearing personal brand of spoken-word poetry.

Road Block: Who will fall for this one? A team member must “join the Travelocity Roaming Gnome” (he’s baaaaaaack!) on a 10-story rappelling journey down a rough-and-tumble cascade. We get a lot of “face the falls” cams, literally, as the rappellers/gnomes are outfitted with personal cameras to map their splashiest and most horrified facial expressions. The gnomes look the least scared of anyone; gotta give them some credit there. Overall this episode was TEEMING WITH GNOMES.

River Delivery or Run Through the Jungle? All teams must build a bamboo raft, then brave treacherous rapids on their way to either deliver goods to a village chief or join a hunting safari and shoot down two fake targets (that made real imitation bird sounds) with blow pipes. Right away Dave makes me tear up as he and son Connor lovingly strap a life vest onto their gnome. “To have that beautiful river… to be healthy… with my son….” Oh, man, if only Dave’s ruminations on their tragic first season on the Race didn’t give my Achilles tendons such an ominous tingle, I could listen to that sweet man reminisce for hours. Lush! His jungle of words.

Jet and Cord are mechanical wizards and put together their raft with their eyes closed and hands tied behind their backs. Practically. They proudly announce they’re ready to deliver food to “any chief.” Not just the specified chief. You throw any chief at them and they will be ready!

In a precarious sport that depends largely on SHOUTING for survival, it’s nearly impossible for patient zen-goddess Margie and her agitated deaf son Luke to communicate on their shoddily constructed raft. Shouldn’t Luke be sitting in the back anyway? He’s heavier. Truthfully I know nothing about rafts. I was thinking about canoes. And I wasn’t factoring in the Travelocity Gnome placement. Maybe it isn’t even up to the players where they sit on these things and it’s really the GNOMES who are calling all the shots.

Speaking of which: So many gnome shots.

Interesting development: The Afghanimals won’t lie now. They want to, trust them! But season 23 — the basic/only plot point of which was “Leo and Jamal are dirty rotten liars” — taught them well, and the last thing they need this time around is to get Double U-Turned. So they’re not making enemies. Not yet. They direct Jet and Cord to the delivery drop-off point.

Meanwhile, Dave and Connor somehow miss the delivery drop-off and have to walk their 70-pound chest of supplies upriver. I love how Dave gently corrects his son’s word choice as they do this. “Holy crap, Dad, we’re toast.” “Well, holy cow.”

The setback didn’t seem to cost them any time; Dave and Connor still made it to the pit stop first. Same goes for Jet and Cord’s setback during the rappelling challenge, when Cord didn’t find the clue on the way down. No penalty! Let’s get some penalties in the mix within the challenges, right? I mean, Meghan and Joey lost this leg because of one of their own mistakes — not telling their taxi to stay with them. And that was basically the only real blunder of the episode.

Finally the other flight has arrived. Ehhh. Let’s not worry about them. Back to the rapids!

NEXT: ROLL that beautiful gnome footage! Everyone’s now struggling in unique and often hilarious ways at various traps within the whitewater cesspool of gnomes. Jen almost loses a finger (according to Jen) as they try to fix their raft mid-trip — which seems painful, but luckily Caroline’s there to tell her “don’t freak out” and compress the complete sentence “Jen I’m so glad you’re okay” into one syllable. The Globetrotters are just skeptically floating under trees, hangin’ out. And Leo and Jamal endure the best action sequence of any of the teams — at one point they’re about to tip over but they’re moving really fast and getting smacked in the face by low-hanging branches. And they do it all while smiling! They’d be perfect as live-in animatronic cast members in an Amazing Race-esque Splash Mountain ride. Gnome River? Sign me up. I’ll take a five-night stay at the nearest resort and don’t skimp on the couples massages.

Caroline and Jen follow “this beautiful bad ass girl warrior” into the jungle so she can show them how to hunt with a stick. Jen’s like John Wayne! Wayne is her last name. That’s cute. Update: She is the granddaughter of John Wayne! Flight Time and Big Easy also make quick work of the blow darts and resume their all-day dance party with the locals. Of course the Travelocity Rapids are equipped with surround-sound speakers to offer up the Globetrotters’ theme song at every bend and clearing.

Jessica/John and Brendon/Rachel make it to the river so they can build/destroy their rafts, as Joey and Meghan fall behind — their taxi didn’t wait for them back at Gnome’s Falls so they have to hoof it back to… town? A yellow van is not a taxi. Anyway, they’re running. They’re screwed. It’s too bad; if they’d had their taxi, these two carpenters’ offspring would almost surely have sailed right past the nearly-drowning Rachel and Brendon. Well, at first, anyway. Team YouTube’s raft comes apart eventually, too. But the taxi thing did them in.

“I just wanna not die,” pleads Rachel as Brendon must trudge upstream to find their missing stick and some vines to reconstruct their raft. She especially didn’t wanna die just then because she wasn’t wearing her sequined Rachel shorts, which would pretty much speak for themselves as her epitaph. But they had their gnome! What’s important is the gnome’s safety here. We could give or take a Rachel. We must protect the gnomes.

Dave and Connor win the leg! Plus a gnome-sanctioned trip to Budapest. Awesome. They’re adorable!

2nd place: Jet and Cord. Good effort on that Southern accent, Phil!

3rd: Leo and Jamal

4th: Margie and Luke

5th: Flight Time and Big Easy, who are like the definition of easy listening

6th: Caroline and Jennifer, who arrived on the mat just after Rachel was heard in the throes of near-death muttering “I would like to know how the country girls did this.” Ha!

7th: Pocahontas and John Smith a.k.a. Jessica and John

8th: Brendon and Rachel

Be sure to check out Phil Keoghan’s personal photos from Leg 3 over on EW.com’s Inside TV!

What’d you think of the episode? Were the gnomes really running the show? Discuss!

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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