A double U-Turn raises the stakes; one team learns that yelling will get you everywhere (you don't want to be)

By Meredith Hoffa
Updated October 15, 2012 at 08:11 AM EDT
Cliff Lipson/CBS

The Amazing Race

S21 E3
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My dear friend Kelly, who is a seasoned world traveler, once told me a very, very cute thing: Every time she used to travel somewhere — beginning with her middle school’s field trip to visit Washington D.C. — her mom would say “Remember that you are an ambassador to your state, your country, and the entire Ewing family.” So adorable and so true. Unfortunately, though, it seems Brittany’s mom forgot to teach her daughter this lesson. This terrible traveler’s chastising, barking and whining basically provided the soundtrack for tonight’s episode; girlfriend was cringetastic and at several moments during this leg made me to want to bury my head under the couch cushions. But! There is a sunny side to all this: After last week’s disheartening dose of Nice Guys Finish Last vis à vis Amy and Daniel, this week it was pretty damn gratifying to see some sweet justice be done come Philimination time.

Leg three, y’all!

From the jumping off point at the bustling market in Surabaya, teams had to find Antika Jaya restaurant to pick up the next clue. The Twinnies headed out first and were not about to let their buddies Trey-Lexi head in the wrong direction. “Texas, Texas!” they shouted, shepherding them right. When the foursome found themselves momentarily stumped about how to proceed, the Twinnies suggested waiting for some other teams and tagging along with “the stupid Chippendales.” All of it seemed kind of sibling-ish, actually: the looking out for one another, the leaning on each other, the insults. I loved it.

We were treated to a few top-of-episode musings from a few teams this week. For instance:

• Ryan talked about the challenge he and Abbie face due to their extremely competitive natures as individuals. “It’s really hard to race as a couple because sometimes we’re competitive with each other? I just think that’s our nature, Abbie with dance and me with jiu jitsu?” he said-slash-inquired in what I’m now discovering is his very distinct Ryanian lilt. “Obviously physically and mentally we can handle the race — it’s can we handle each other?” For real though? Because we haven’t seen any fighting or tension from these two yet and I’d be delighted to. But I guess they won’t fight if Abbie never speaks. Will Abbie ever string words together into a sentence so that we can get a sense of who this enigmatic, bandana-sporting dancestress is? So far her main mode of communication seems to be that woot woot pump of the fist she so likes to do. WHO ARE YOU, ABBIE GINSBERG?

• Jaymes assured us that he and James are good people even though they live in Sin City. “We live in Vegas, but don’t let Vegas fool you! I’m a Virginia boy, that’s a Maine boy and we are good people.” Layered quietly underneath Jaymes’ monologue was James’ affirming, mumbly background track: “We come from small towns, yeah, peas and carrots peas and carrots.”

• The blondes bragged of their toughness. “I could get punched in the face and I still won’t cry,” Brittany said, adding, “I mean, there’s no crying in baseball.” But I guess there is snorting.

NEXT: So long, Surabaya

Lexi and Trey arrived first at the roadblock. “Who wants to serve a balanced meal?” the clue asked, forecasting a challenge that involved serving up 20 plates of padang food all at once and distributing them to a table of patiently waiting patrons. I liked how production arranged for an Indonesian dude to demonstrate what not to do. “If anything drops along the way –” here, Phil paused dramatically as the demonstrator smashed 20 plates into smithereens on the floor while patrons guffawed good-naturedly at this laugh riot — “they must return to the kitchen and try again.”

It was a pretty easy challenge, but Lexi, who was first, didn’t instill a ton of confidence right off the bat. First of all, did she have to do the challenge while wearing her 10-ton backpack? Couldn’t Trey couldn’t have used his huge, massive muscles to hold it for her — or even just keep an eye on it? Also, I found it almost unbearable to watch her inefficient plate-holding technique. Use your forearm, not just your hand! Clearly this girl has never waited tables before. But I liked that she was in full-on cheery waitress mode. “How are you guys?” she chirped Applebees-style as she approached a table of Indonesians. She’d be such a natural at selling mozzarella sticks and steak quesadilla towers! At one point Lexi’s plates crashed to the floor and the crowd chortled away like she was performing a hilarious slapstick routine. “Sorry guys, I’ll be right back!” she sang gaily. Lexi may be tiny, but she sure is mighty. Nothing can get this sweet lady down.

Brent, too, was the picture of graciousness, as seems to be his way. I enjoyed how he placed the plates down on the table and cried “Enjoy, everybody!” as if he was hosting a fabulous dinner party at his farm. Here’s the truth: Brent is a dear heart and I grow ever more disarmed by his man-child face with each week. And the two of them together: perfectly lovable Muppets.

The Twinnies got a late start because of a bad taksi, but after one plate-smashing incident, Nadiya seemed to get the hang of it quickly. “Chattaranga, Nadiya, Chattaranga!” Natalie called out in encouragement. “That’s our code-word for ‘relax’,” she explained to Caitlin who definitely did not understand what was being said to her.

The challenge seemed like a breeze for Gary. He’s so giant and Lenny-ish. 20 plates cradled in his arm looked like a walk in the park. Trucker Rob, too.

Next it was Surabaya Gubeng station to catch a train to Bangil. The teams to make it onto the first train — Abbie-Ryan, James-Abba, “Chipmunks” Jaymes-James, Josh-Brent and Trey-Lexi all seemed pretty relieved and proud of themselves, especially when they learned that the rest of the teams wouldn’t be catching the next train for three more hours. Natalie and Nadiya just missed that first train and ended up in The Stragglers, an indie rock band. No, not really. The Stragglers were just the gloomy gus group that comprised the four teams in the back of the pack. The Truckers and Teachers seemed basically unfazed to be in this group; it seems to be their lot in TAR life. Not the Twinnies though. Having won the last leg and then having just missed the first train tonight, they were determined to catch up as best they could and vowed to come in first out of The Stragglers. The Blondes also wanted out of the second-string group. As they put it “We’re a lot stronger than the three other teams. I mean, we’re smart, we’re mentally tough and we can do physical tasks – so we can easily beat them.” OK, Ambassadors, show us your stuff. How promising everything seemed for Brittany at the beginning of the leg with all that hope and freshly applied eye makeup!

NEXT: Keeping teacher happy

Side note: I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what on earth I’d do grooming-wise if I was on the Race. You don’t want to be vain, but then again you’re on national television so you can’t just completely phone it in. It’s tricky business. I’d definitely do some training runs in advance — like I’d want to make sure I was adept at applying eyeliner while holding a compact while possibly standing in the dark. Just in case. One thing’s for sure: I’d be all over tinted chapstick.

At the urging of Social Director Jaymes, the teams in the first group all agreed not to U-Turn each other. I think Jaymes was worrying needlessly when he expressed concern that Long Hair Don’t Care wasn’t part of the pact. Saddling someone with a U-Turn seems like a way too aggressive and, frankly, active act for these mellow fellows, at least at this juncture.

Speaking of aggressive, let’s talk about Brittany. I think we can pretty much trace the beginning of her downfall to the train station where she spoke to the ticketing agent as if the woman was a deaf martian. “ASK THOSE PEOPLE. IF THEY HAVE SEEN. PEOPLE LIKE US. EARLIER THIS MORNING. BUY TICKETS,” she instructed, barely keeping that ever-so-tiny stress-snarl from creeping across her pretty mouth. I have to admit I felt a tiny bolt of satisfaction as Brittany got the bad news that the other teams had left hours ago. YOU. ARE. THREE HOURS. BEHIND.

Team Teachers, on the other hand, was faring pretty well. Gary was in good spirits and Will was determined to keep it that way. As they exited the taxi at the train station, Will exclaimed “I found some money! I found some money on the ground! This could be our day!” Then I think he called Gary “Chief,” but I can’t be positive. It’s like those afterschool specials where there’s the parent who’s prone to rages or drinking or whatever and the child’s whole life revolves around trying finding ways to make and keep that parent happy to avoid an “incident.” But Gary seemed to be holding steady for the time being. When he arrived at the train station and found other teams waiting there, he was relieved. “God is smiling upon us today,” he announced. Phew, Will.

As The Stragglers waited for their train, the other group arrived in Bangil and got crackin’ on the detour. Crackin’. See what I’m doing there? The two challenges were Lion’s Head and Egg Head. In Egg Head, teams would pick up four eggs from the market and then rendez-vous with a magician who would place coconuts atop their heads, light the coconuts on fire, and cook the eggs on it for the racers to eat. Protein snack! In Lion’s Head, teams would take part in a traditional Javanese procession wearing a colorful costume — featuring a 40+ pound mask — and parade around the park in a loop, while periodically doing squats and spins.

NEXT: Brunching at the Alun-Alun

Jaymes and James had a pre-challenge challenge: to cram both their six-foot-four bodies into the same becak. “We look like we’re on a honeymoon,” quipped Jaymes, who is in it not only to win it but also to work out his standup comedy set. I liked how as the two put on their costumes they were all whaaaat, this is so crazy! but obviously were thrilled to bits to be donning fringe and shaking their Chips bodies. The mouthpieces = gross. Any other germaphobes with me on this other than Jaymes? “I don’t know how many dudes have had their mouth on this thing before me,” he said. “I’m tasting years of culture just by having this thing in my mouth.” *Shiver.*

Ryan emitted a strange, ecstatic “I did it, Abbie!” after completing his first lion dance moves. Then he quickly changed tacks and went on and on how proud of he was of her. Then he made a gym joke: “You don’t lift lion heads at the gym?” It’s is going to be included in a book of gym humor that is coming out next year. For people who love gyms and gym jokes.

But seriously – how on earth did tiny Lexi do this challenge? I’m not even sure she weighs as much as one of the masks.

Meanwhile the Beekmans breezed through Egg Head and you’re crazy if you think they didn’t toss out some bon mots along the way. “Should we put this in our next cookbook?” Josh asked while a flame swirled out of his skull. As they brunched on the fruits of their (non)labor, Josh commented “We’re farmers, we know fresh eggs. These were laid this morning.” You guys!

No one in the first heat used the U-Turn, so it was on to the Pit Stop at a local high school. Abbie and Ryan were the first to finish, and the only noteworthy thing about their arrival was that it was obviously re-shot. When they first ran up, Abbie’s hair was all helter-skelter from the lion mas, but when they cut from Phil’s co-greeter back to the couple, Abbie’s hair had returned to its smooth, I-mean-business bun. Team Texas finished next, and, typical of their sunny ways, Trey and Lexi seemed thrilled with their second place finish. Not necessarily typical of their sunny ways — but entirely welcome — was the brief claw-flashing moment in their post-leg interview when Lexi said they’d U-Turn Abbie and Ryan at the next opportunity. Bam! Also, do you think Trey will ever speak? Chippendales finished next, followed by the rockers who are now tossing around “lone wolf” references with reckless abandon. Josh and Brent arrived next and, because Brent is Brent, he commented on how pretty the setting was as he ran up to the mat.

Meanwhile, the second train had arrived in Bangil and our other batch of teams were rrrready to rrrace. I worried for Gary and Will when the train car they were in deposited them far away; I really thought this might be the beginning of their demise. So did Gary, apparently, because he began spiraling into Garyville en route to the detour. “We got screwed by the car.” “We just suck.” “Look how slow we’re going.” “I don’t see any other teams.” “We’re always behind.” It just occurred to me tonight: If he doesn’t do so already, Will may want to consider carrying around a stash of granola bars that he can feed to Gary whenever the going gets rough. Increasing that cat’s blood sugar just might make a difference.

NEXT: A nail-biting finish

The Twinnies seemed energized by their drive to finish strong, which they did: first place out of The Stragglers, just as they’d promised. I loved how one of them tried to avoid a “skinny” becak driver. But the best Twinny moment of the episode had to be when Nadiya lingered at the U-Turn kiosk, not because she wanted to U-Turn anyone, but because she wanted to check out their photo. These two badass Sri Lankan delights better be in this race for the duration. I need them.

I suppose the Truckers made a good move to U-Turn Gary and Will in order to assure their safe finish, but I felt a little pang of concern for our Teachers; this really seemed like it’d be the nail in the coffin. Rob and Kelley rolled up to the Pit Stop a safe seventh, and, speaking of rolling, it will just never be as satisfying to watch a person release their grip on a rolling suitcase handle before running up to the mat as it is to see a person fling off a 30 lb backpack and hurl it to the ground with a thud.

psycho eyes!

Anyway, it was exciting to watch the two-team race between the Teachers and the Blondes at the end of the leg. As Brittany screeched her way through Bangil (“HOW MUCH IS THIS RIDE? HOW MUCH IS IT?!“), the Teachers just seemed to get Zen-er. I really admired the way they were so calm towards the end. Even when they discovered they’d been U-Turned they seemed more baffled than angry. (“We’re not considered a strong team,” Will mused. “No, we’re not,” Gary agreed, in a strangely endearing exchange). I picture the Teachers in a series of snapshots: them jamming to the music in the park while chowing eggs, Will yanking his finger away from the U-Turn touchscreen like it was an explosive, their slap-happy optimism as they headed the Pit Stop with Will shouting “No brow, we don’t want The Eyebrow!” And that moment where they handed their driver a sweaty fistful of cash to inspire him to pedal harder. Yes, by the end of tonight’s episode, I was feeling some affection for these two fighters, and I realized, suddenly, that all I wanted was for them to stay.

What a great last few minutes of the leg. It was like watching an exhilarating end to a movie. An actual chase scene.

At the mat, everything happened the way it was supposed to. The Teachers prevailed and did a high five in which Will had to fully extend his arms over his head to slap hands with Gary. The Blondes arrived and brought with them a windstorm of blame, bitterness and poor sportsmanship and the contrast to Amy and Daniel from last week was stark.

“Well, we’re gonna miss having you on the race,” Phil lied.

Oh, Browsie.

Selamat tinggal, mean girls!

Next week: Bangladesh. Snakes. And Rob saying to a local “You just cost me a million dollars,” which is only slightly more ludicrous than his previous utterance of a similar comment two legs ago, and, of course, akin what our beloved Brittany said tonight (but minus the “bro” part).

What did you think of the teams and the episode tonight?

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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