Teams dress camels for a beauty pageant and try to avoid the Double U-Turn in Abu Dhabi
Amazing Race
Credit: CBS

Welcome to episode 8 — brought to you by crude oil and the Ford Explorer — in which the six remaining teams race around Abu Dhabi and get kicked in the shins by local beauty pageant contestants. Turns out Toddlers and Tiaras have nothing on “One Hot Camel.”

Thwarted by a Speedbump and a U-Turn during this leg, Nicky and Kim finished last and have been eliminated from the Race. They were former bunnies who’d just transformed into ninjas. Weird sh*t happens in the desert. I don’t know how else to explain it. Suddenly they’d just broken bad.

The leg started early as the teams had to use the satchel of viking coins they hopefully still had in their fanny packs from Norway to decipher a five-digit sequence that would unlock Abu Dhabi’s fave auto: the Ford Explorer. Leo and Jamal embark first and right away Jamal just falls down out of nowhere. Good foreshadowing by the unforgiving desert floor.

Travis has taken to calling himself and Nicole the “Power Parents,” which is silly because their more accurate team name is obviously The RoboDocs. They’re just the most stable machine-contestants ever, spitting out the rest of the episode’s plot whether we want to hear it or not. “The ace is coming out,” they bot, confirming they will definitely be playing their Express Pass on this leg. Suspense deleted! Hope you didn’t want any.

“How do you unlock it with coins?” wonder Ally and Ashley. Well, first you hire a local blacksmith to whittle down the coins… no, just kidding. The coins have numbers on the back. The Ford Explorer is an advanced, highfalutin numeric-code car, not a fossil. This is a race, not an archeological dig. This isn’t Norway anymore. They’re not Ford Rangers. Get it together, ladies.

Amy, of Jason and Amy, had already memorized the code during her downtime. She’s speaking very quietly whenever she’s in the car lately, as if she’s about to fly off the handle at any moment. It’s unsettling. No, she doesn’t want to drive. They have trouble navigating to Sand Dunes, which to be fair does seem like a trick clue, because look around. That’s all there is.

NEXT: ‘That’s a cool way to climb a tree’ Teams must switch from Ford Explorers to little dune buggies, then scurry around the dunes, following flags into the desert. I begin to have terrifying flashbacks of World 2: Desert Hill from Super Mario Bros. 3 as Nicky and Kim encounter a dizzying quicksand field and all teams languish under the constant threat of the Angry Sun. Pinky attempts to help out her punching bag, who’s driving. “Try to, like, not be sideways,” Marie counsels Tim, surprisingly not screaming this time. Meanwhile, the poor Bunninjas spin so much sand on the side of a treacherous dune that they lose their clutch (…on the competition!) and get further delayed.

At Al Ain Oasis (which is also difficult to find — “This is worse than the laber-nith,” remarks Jamal), teams search for clues, which are high-hanging fruits up in the trees, then instruct locals to retrieve them. “That’s a cool way to climb a tree,” says Nicole in modest approval, and really there’s nothing else that could be said about any of this. Let’s move on.

The RoboDocs say hell no to this leg’s Detour and head right to the U-Turn station at Al Jahili Fort. They decide to U-Turn Leo and Jamal, who had previously denied U-Turning Brandon and Adam, like, eons ago. “The fact that they would just look us in our face and just lie to us — it was just like whatever, here’s your U-Turn,” explains Nicole.

It’s really absurd for any team to keep harping on this throwaway lie that never even affected them personally, but I guess that’s what happens when the season is generally devoid of that many mini-dramas. Phil Keoghan knows this, but still had to ask the RoboDocs to explain their U-Turn anyway, at the end of the leg. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with “running this race in an honest way,” but by that point the Afghanimals’ stupid little lie seems like even less of a big deal… and even dumber the more everyone keeps mentioning it! OH WELL.

Detour: Wedding Guests or Beauty Contest? In other words: Endure the dreaded food-prep Quickfire Challenge from Top Chef or identify a prize-winning camel and dress it in Arab finery? Most teams choose to play dress-up.

Amy in particular has got this, she promises us ever so quietly in the back of her Ford Explorer. After all, she competed in beauty pageants for 13 years. “So if I can’t dress up my contestant, I have some serious issues,” she says, immediately after which a camel is shown groaning loudly. My TV didn’t pick up any closed captioning here, but I believe the translation would be “Gurl, your dusty ass ain’t even anywhere near our league [FIERCE KICK].” Something like that. Again, I’m not sure.

NEXT: Tim marvels that a camel knows he’s hot (the camel, but they’re both pretty hot) Marie and Tim delivered the episode’s comic relief as they sized up the camels in their own uniquely talented ways. Pinky just insulted everyone flat-out — “He doesn’t even have any whiskers.” “Lookit, that guy’s knee is all busted.” — while Tim immediately warms up to the haughtiest camel who thinks, nay, knows, he or she is better than everyone else. “He knows it too — he knows he’s hot,” Tim marvels in the face of one camel’s self-satisfied sneer. He caters to the camel, providing encouraging pleasantries as they work together as a team. And how does Tim’s ungulate partner reward him for his efforts? Of course, the camel kicks him! And Tim LOVES it. “Damn, I just got blasted,” he says, rubbing his shin. “Scratch it off my bucket list and move on.”

“I bet you wish you had one of those for me,” Pinky comments, referring to their camel’s cozy sweater of a muzzle. She really gets it.

And Marie and Tim get the clue, well before pageantry expert Amy and the all-too-accepting-of-camel-flaws Jason. Jason wasn’t like, “Oooh, his eyelashes. He was like, “This’ll do.” But that is the WRONG attitude, Jason. You gotta get into the whiskers!

Tim and Marie then begin their endless quest to find the Al Jahili Tower even though it’s right there in the fort, passing through the Wedding Guest portion of the Detour on their way to nowhere. Leo and Jamal see how quickly the other task had been completed and abandon their food prep even though they’re at least halfway done. (It wouldn’t matter in the end, as they’d have to complete both elements of the challenge.)

But anyway, Tim and Marie are lost, plus they’re toting around their giant backpacks (Tim’s idea — God, she could PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE right now) about a half mile from the challenge. Tim and Marie are sweating out most of their internal organs as Jason and Amy drive by and revel in low-toned, sound-proofed delight.

NEXT: Never trust an (Afgh)animal Double U-Turn! Jason and Amy don’t U-Turn anyone (shhhhhhh), but Marie and Tim choose to U-Turn Nicky and Kim. See, sometime along the way in their transformation from bunnies to ninjas, Nicky and Kim dared to consult with a ticketing agent at the Sao Paulo airport in Leg 3, thus securing the first spot on the standby list for Nicole and Travis’ earlier flight to Lisbon. All they had to do was find a human being and interact with that human instead of gaping helplessly at the departure screens. How dare they use their noggins? PUNISH THEM! BURN THE WITCHES!

“Sorry, bunnies, but that little stunt at the airport cost you the U-Turn,” says Pinky. I almost wish she’d U-Turned Ally and Ashley instead, if only to provide a bit more suspense toward the end of the episode.

So back at the fort, the Afghanimals and the Bunninjas need to complete the food prep challenge and the camel beauty pageant. (Unable to tell the truth at any time, Leo and Jamal had lied to Nicky and Kim that the cooking challenge had only taken them 15 minutes. But in the end, the task order didn’t matter.) It’s a shame, not only because Nicky and Kim are so likable and it was clear from the start of the episode they’d be screwed in the long term — but because Nicky had so decisively and hilariously chosen what she assumed was the easier of the two Detour options. She thought they should do Wedding Guests, “because you don’t want it to be up to an animal.” I died at this. It’s so logical to me: “You can’t rely on animals.” Her conviction just really amused me. It’s cheap thrills all-around in Abu Dhabi!

Meanwhile, Ally and Ashley have no trouble at all with the camel beauty contest. Ally explains why, trails off, and the editors just go with it because that’s all they need. “We’re really good at makeup and hair, so……”


Next stop: Wadi Adventure, home of the world’s largest man-made whitewater rapids. Roadblock: With the help of a buoyant (in personality and in terms of sea level) raft guide, one person from each team must collect three colored flags hanging above the water course. The RoboDocs have the joint to themselves, seemingly for hours. Uh oh: Nicole’s not tall enough to reach the flags. Bet a camel would be tall enough. Any camel. Even one of the busted ones. Oh, but no worries: Nicole’s second run goes off without a hitch.

For a moment it looks like Nicky and Kim might catch up to an aimless Ally and Ashley, who can’t figure out where they’re driving. “I drive like I’m in a race for a million dollars,” Ally reminds her poor navigator Ashley. “You gotta keep up.” Ally really is the only one who speaks, most of the time. “We keep on getting great information, but we don’t know how to follow it,” she tells the cameras in a confessional. It’s a non-offensive, diplomatic way of saying pssssst, my partner is not so bright. But, like, we get it. You go, girls.

NEXT: Bunnies, for real this time Anyway, nope, Nicky and Kim are the last to arrive at the rafting pleasure zone, plus they need to complete a Speed Bump since they finished last at the end of last week’s non-elimination leg. Really, what else is there to do in the desert than conquer various man-made obstacle courses — so the Bunninjas must swim from one end of a wave pool to the other and climb up a rope ladder. To good swimmers, this speed bump is laughable (though I do admire how the wave-as-threat provides the visual of an actual speed bump), but to a person afraid of heights, i.e. Kim, it is a nightmare. She sobs at the bottom of the rope ladder, “I hate this. This is so hard.” Oh, sweet non-ja. It’s really not. Not this.

Then the RoboDocs embark on a tranquil cruise up a winding highway with 21 corners!!! (you know The Amazing Race has run out of compelling options when a location’s biggest remaining challenge is “ride a Ford Explorer up what is considered by man to be the best driving road in the world”) until they arrive at Jebel Hafeet, the pit stop. Hey, speaking of Ford, the RoboDocs will each win a car — any vehicle with an eco-boost engine of their choosing, as long as it’s a Ford. Ford Ford Ford. Did you see how that Ford Explorer handled those 21 corners, corners so serene and dreamlike they could put you to sleep? Ford.

Second place: Jason and Amy. “Today was pure torture,” says Amy. Seriously? Did I miss a section in which teams must cook and eat a camel toe? And if she’s referring to their navigation woes, I still think that’s bogus. Do you know how blissful a Ford’s air-conditioning system can be? It’s a wonderful line of automobiles!

Third place: Tim and Marie. I didn’t it mention before, but as Tim was white-water rafting and heroically pulled down the three flags with no problem, Marie cheered for him by giggling, “Ha. He almost died.”

Fourth/Fifth: Leo/Jamal and Ally/Ashley. “Is there any potential for something [romantic] to happen?” Phil’s eyebrow wonders, as it’s been privy to plenty of the Afghanimals’ old “wives” tales. “I think we could work something out,” Jamal drawls nonchalantly as Ally reaches over and with all the chalant in the United Arab Emirates, fluffs Leo’s red and white scarf with all her might. She’s a feisty one! And I’m pretty sure she’s the one with the boyfriend.

So it’s goodbye to Nicky and Kim, who do not cry this time as all their tears have seamlessly blended into the wave pool and rafting course by this point. “I don’t like being a ninja,” says Nicky. “Maybe we can go back to being bunnies,” corroborates Kim. And then just like at the end of The Velveteen Rabbit (spoiler alert), they become real bunnies and scamper away.

What did you think of “One Hot Camel”? Discuss!

Episode Recaps

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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