Rockers vs. rodents, plus a struggling team finally says goodbye

By Meredith Hoffa
Updated October 22, 2012 at 07:39 AM EDT
Cliff Lipson/CBS

The Amazing Race

S21 E4
  • TV Show

Tonight’s exhausting, entertaining episode was, among other things, a reminder that some things never change: The truckers still can’t follow directions, Jaymes is still talking over James, Gary is still berating Will, Ryan is still doing that alarming happy-growl when he completes challenges and Lexi is still talking about her mute boyfriend’s muscles. But some things do change. For instance, Abbie finally showed a glimmer of personality tonight, Long Hair Do Care finally got a chance to bask in first-place glory, and, most importantly, challenges finally seem to be getting harder.

It’s leg four!

From the starting point at the girls’ school in Bangil, Indonesia, the revved up teams bolted off into the night only to immediately have to skid to a grinding halt. This was one of those hurry up and wait situations where any lead gained in the previous leg became obsolete as the whole gang had to wait until the next day for a plane to Dhaka, Bangladesh. You can practically see the smoke pour out of Abbie and Ryan’s ears when things like this happen. Honestly, I feel like these two should do their own little mini-contests and bets amongst themselves during their down time because this show is simply not intense enough for them and they need to find a way to sate themselves.

The group arrived in Dhaka, where the chaos was so thrumming and intense it was almost palpable through the TV screen. All the cacophonous bustle did seem really overwhelming, and as everyone scurried for taxis, you could hear a few of the racers warning their teammates about not getting run over. I’ve never said this before and I will likely never say it again, but I actually thought Rob and Kelley did a smart thing; it was a good move to stop at the taxi stand, since the man working there spoke English and could get them where they needed to go. But as soon as they settled in to their seats and Rob said “We probably made the right move,” I knew trouble was ahead. Sure enough, they got lost and soon found themselves at a massive landfill manned (dogged?) by a lone, scavenging canine. And Team Truckers weren’t the only ones. Team Texas’ driver stopped to get gas, a foreshadowing of the car troubles that would follow them the rest of the leg. Taxi madness also plagued Gary, who’d been all go get ’em on the plane but quickly fell back into his dark, moody, Will-chastising place when their driver started taking them down a back alley. Really, Will should have thought twice before trying to stay positive.

In contrast to many of the teams, the Twinnies seemed kind of amused and jazzed by the madhouse environment. “Aggressive driving, woo-hoo!” they cheered. “Third world Grand Theft Auto,” Nadiya called Dhaka, and Natalie added “Minus the nice cars.” How long do you think it will be before these two have a show on Oxygen? Here’s what I appreciate about this team: they compete hard, but there’s always levity, and to me, this is what makes them so relaxing to watch – volume be damned. Team Beekman has this quality, too. Riding through the commotion of Dhaka, Josh spotted a bunch of goats and exclaimed “We’re among our peeps!”

NEXT: Long, strong and hard

The roadblock required teams to repair small swatches on the sides of dilapidated city buses, and I didn’t expect this to be a particularly fun challenge to watch, since people spreading putty and waiting for it to dry doesn’t sound like the most scintillating, TV-friendly spectacle on earth. But between the deceptively challenging nature of the task itself, the tedium and the oppressive heat, the frustration index here was high and the challenge ended up being totally entertaining. We got to see a lot of interpersonal dynamics at play here, both within and between teams. A few pleasurable nuggets:

Inter-team Friction! Last week, Ryan hinted that he and Abbie may soon be clawing at each others’ faces due to their deeply competitive natures, but tonight these two seemed more bonded than ever, in part due to their mutual annoyance at the Twinnies. “Like fingernails on a blackboard… It just doesn’t stop,” Ryan said, eventually gently suggesting to Nadiya that she take a no-talking time out so his nerves could calm down. Abbie’s eyerolls were off the charts, she shot herself in the head (just with her finger, y’all!) and she even did a little impression of the Twinnies during her post-leg interview. What? Abbie speaks?! Meanwhile I also really enjoyed when Ryan hoisted up a pair of bus seats and commented that there was no way the girls would be able to do it. Well, there’s the spirit, Ryan!

Father/Son verbal abuse! So what if Will was just trying to offer words of encouragement – Gary was not going to take any of that bullshit. “I don’t want to hear you.” he snapped. “Alright,” Will said, and went to his room without supper. There’s a certain tragic kind of little jump Will does whenever Gary chastises him, and I cannot bear it. It’s not a real physical jump per se, just a tiny yet perceptible facial shudder that seems to originate in Will’s nerves or his eyes and, frankly, every time I see it, a chunk of my heart crumbles off and lands on the floor with a tiny, Will-sized thud. And what about when Gary was busy fighting with the putty and Will said to camera “We’re in last place again, we’re not happy. We’ve been in last place the whole race,” and then, suddenly, remembering to Stay Positive, quickly added “But we’re still in the race and we’re going to win it. Our time is coming.” Oh, Will.

The Women’s Movement! Early on, Nadiya deemed this task to be “a boys’ challenge” and from there did not let up about how Natalie was the only girl doing it and how she was doing great job hanging with the boys, which she was (Did you see her channel her inner Hulk and hoist those bus seats up?) The twins are the only all-female team left in the Race, and I loved the outpouring of support and pride Natalie showed for her sister. Though- aside from the setting of this very male culture, was this task much rougher than the other manual jobs they’ve done to date on the Race? Just saying – I think these two fierce Sri Lankan tigresses can accomplish any task they set out to tackle, of the “boys'” and “girls'” variety alike. So. Shazzam.

Oh and while we’re on the twins I have to say how much I enjoyed the community involvement re: Nadiya’s chant of “Long, strong and hard!” Jaymes joined in — naturally — and then came Ryan’s comment “Sounds like a Saturday night to me.” It reminded me a musical – like how one by one, the townspeople stop what they’re doing and join together in song. If only. But soon Jaymes put a muzzle on things: “This is a Muslim country, watch your mouth, girl.”

NEXT: The Goatee of Confidence

Alliances! Ryan finished stage one first, but had sweated through his paper clue rendering it illegible, so he struck a deal: The Chippendales would show Ryan their clue in exchange for his advice on sanding technique. Looking at Ryan’s demolished piece of paper, it was hard to believe that sweat was all that befell it. It looked more like he sweated through it, then offered it to that herd of Bangladeshi goats for lunch, then dipped what remained of it in the Indian Ocean.

Matchmaking! It was happening. “Do you have a girlfriend? My sister’s single,” Nadiya said to the Bangladeshi bus-spackling judge at the bus yard. Later Jaymes tried again with the same guy, re: the twins. “That’s right up your alley, huh? That’s your flavor, you like that?”

What’s fascinating — and kind of infuriating — is that trucker Rob had no issue whatsoever with this roadblock. Thanks to his experience repairing his monster trucks, he breezed through the task with confidence just spilling out of his mustache. It’s a little crazy-making to me that while Rob is not so adept at following directions, say, or interacting with other human beings, he sure can glide through certain tasks with the utmost of ease. Does this mean Big Rob is with us for the long haul? Or will his stubbornness and arrogance get him ousted first? These things I wonder. In the meantime I’m going to continue to try to analyze the interesting expression that comes over Kelley’s face whenever Rob speaks. It appears to be awe mixed with lack of comprehension mixed with excitement mixed with fear- but I’m still sussing it out.

Meanwhile, the rockers were sailing thru their disgusting fast forward by filling a bag with dead rats from around city. This was almost too much for me to bear, and when Abba accidentally stepped ankle deep into some sewage, I pretty much had to lay down. Man, I do enjoy these guys. They’re so game. “We heard you got a rat problem — We’re your guys,” James announced, hands on his hips superhero style when they showed up for duty. Nothing seems to rattle these two gentle lions. “Like we’ve never dealt with rats before in [the music] business.” Abba said. “No, this business is littered with rats and we might have even recognized a few of them in the bucket today.” And how about that impromptu parade that formed behind them as they soldiered along? That was so heartwarming, and the Rockers seemed to think so, too. I’m happy for their first place finish and am warmed at the thought of them sailing together into the sunset on a private catamaran off Antigua. Mellowly, of course.

The next task was for teams to go to a market and search big bags of dried fish for special “race-colored” ones. It was a typical needle-in-the-haystack challenge that didn’t take anyone very long at all, and the only noteworthy things were that 1) Nadiya’s braid fell into the sack, marking the second Twinny-immersed-in-fish event in as many episodes, 2) Will found the fish and held it for half a second before handing it off to Gary, and this appeared to be his primary contribution for the entire leg, and, 3) Jaymes could not possibly have been more Jaymes than when he likened the experience to “when you can’t find the spoon in the protein shake.” So amazing.

NEXT: An Aquadisiac mattress

The detour that followed had teams choose between “pound the metal” and “pound the cotton.” For “metal,” teams visited a blacksmith and used sledgehammers to beat an iron rod into into a sharp tool. In “cotton,” teams had to make a mattress by beating cotton clumps with a bamboo rod and then stuffing them into a fabric cover and sewing it shut.

The teams divided themselves fairly evenly amongst the two different tasks, though in retrospect, metal seemed like the easier challenge. Sure it was physical, but teams were working with locals who helped a lot. Plus the cotton fluff filling for the mattresses was unruly, making that option the more labor intensive one in the end, as is often the case with the non-physical challenges. This task did bring us some nice moments, though, including Ryan’s “One Year of Fashion Institute Just Paid Off” dance, and the exchange between Josh and Jaymes about Josh’s drag queen alter-ego Aquadisiac, which reminded me that I want to read his book. Plus, Gary “accidentally” punching Will in the nose! The sound effect they added made it even better. I rewound that clip five times and I could watch it 20 more.

The Pit Stop was next, and Abbie-Ryan and Team Twins were in a footrace for second place after disembarking the same riverboat. We somehow didn’t get to see that footrace, though, as all of a sudden Ryan was wearily taking off his backpack and the four of them were just standing together on the mat, Abbie and Ryan in 2nd place and Twinnies in 3rd. It’s hard to know if the tension between these two teams is real or just in the spirit of competition or a combination of both (Natalie had just referred to Abbie and Ryan as “the craziest couple here” and “almost psychotic”) but in the end, the two teams stood on the mat with their arms around each other and congratulated one another on strong finishes. My favorite moment here was Abbie’s eyebrow dance. Was that a little Browsie reference? To Browsie? Is Abbie funny?!

Getting to the Pit Stop was problematic for a bunch of teams, as some accidentally took a taxi directly to the mat location instead of first stopping at the launch dock and then taking a riverboat. Teams Truckers (obvi), Texas and Teachers all lost time when they had to double back and correct their routes. While I’m definitely ready for the Truckers to be gone, I do always appreciate the sugary slice of entertainment they provide, and tonight was no exception what with that delightfully awkward exchange between Rob and Phil at the mat. “You know what, brother? What do we got?” demanded Rob, jabbing a chubby finger at Phil. Amazingly, magically, Phil knew to reply “You got heart.” That was the right response, apparently. “That’s what I’m talking about,” Rob said. So Phil volleyed back “How big is your heart?” And Rob replied “Must be about 300 lbs,” while gesturing to his torso. Is Rob’s big-ass heart why he blamed the boat drivers for his inability to follow directions? Is this massive heart the reason he did not thank his driver at the end but instead said “You just cost me a million dollars”? The only people who ever say that are people who are nowhere near the million dollars.

NEXT: The teachers’ final bow

It wasn’t a huge surprise that tonight was goodbye for our big/small Teachers. They’d held on by a thread the past couple weeks, but could only eke out a last place finish tonight. I’m a little worried for the stability of their friendship moving forward, and a little worried that Will got severely grounded over this, but I do hope these guys have fond memories of their time on the Race and can be proud of what they did do. Like overtaking Brittany and Caitlin in Leg three, flying past them in a pedicab, action movie-style, on their way to a victorious finish! “I am SO disappointed in the way it turned out, ” said Gary, of their elimination. “We were representing the fans of the show and we let ’em down and we let ourselves down.”

Well, this fan begs to differ.

5 more of my favorite moments from tonight:

1) Will and Kelley’s exchange as they watched their teammates spread putty on the side of a bus. “I couldn’t even reach that high if I did it,” Will commented. “Yeah, Kelley replied, “They’d have to bring us stools.”

2) Ryan’s extra, lingering embrace of the cotton-challenge judger.

3) Jaymes tenderly cradling Nadiya’s head and saying “shhhhhh.”

4) Chippendales’ James explaining all earnest-like: “I’m normally not a bus fixer. I mean, I play guitar, I mean, that’s kinda my forte.” Wait, he doesn’t fix buses for a living?

5) Phil’s delivery whenever wordplay is on the table: “Once the job’s been [beat, then GO] laid to rest…”

So, what did you think of tonight’s episode? Also – when do you think we’ll see a non-elimination leg? Will Kelley ever do a roadblock? Will you miss our teachers/superfans? Did anyone else think Will was a little relieved to have been eliminated? I thought I caught the tiniest suppressed smile of relief flicker across his face…

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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