The Amazing Race recap: 'It's Gonna Be a Fragrant Day'
The return of the Travelocity Roaming Gnome marks a hellish (and kind of adorable) Road Block for the nine remaining teams
Welcome back to Morocco, The Amazing Race‘s home away from home (its first home is a crowded taxi where two sweaty people are trying to non-verbally tell a driver to take them to the water). Tangier, Morocco, is the perfect location for a leg of the Amazing Race: It’s crowded, it’s hot, and there are a handful of languages that the locals might speak. That it’s bustling with beauty and culture is completely beyond the point when there are Travelocity gnomes whizzing past your head in itty-bitty harnesses.
But the producers didn’t just count on the natural elements of Morocco to take their toll on the racers; they really tipped the scale into “tough” territory when they planned the third leg of TAR’s 30th season. This was one thrilling, brutal Road Block where, even though people were often working together, there were so many moving parts that the lineup was changing constantly. And the Detour was the opposite: There was very much a right choice and a wrong choice. If you chose to bare your belly and wiggle around a little bit while playing a live-action word search, no matter where you finished in the Road Block, you were going to be one of the first to get to Phil. If you chose to drag pumpkins and raw chicken up the hills of Tangier, well…
Thank goodness this was a Non-Elimination Leg. I am, admittedly, a fair-weather fan of the Non-Elimination Legs, completely dependent on how much I like the saved team, but even putting aside bias, I just felt like the Ballers deserved to make it through this leg. Cedric, the oldest (and tallest!) person in the competition, absolutely beasted a group of youngsters who were working together to find a tiny gnome two different times on the rooftops of Tangier while wearing his backpack. (Why, oh why, was he wearing his backpack?!) And, yes, he eventually fell behind trying to find his way back to yet two more destinations within the Road-Block-From-Hell, but later, he also causally mentioned that he’s had THREE HEART ATTACKS! We need to see more from this man and this team, so I’m glad we get to.
This week, the nine remaining teams fly on the same flight from Antwerp, Belgium, to Tangier, Morocco, where they take a taxi to The Fish Port. There, they’re to find the TAR-marked bins, sort through a fisherman’s daily catch, and stack one bin full of fish exactly as the fishermen show them. That means manhandling a lot of tiny, slippery fish into line, all facing the same direction vertically and horizontally. In the taxis on the way to the port, we learn that Cody of Team Big Brother speaks a little bit of Arabic from being deployed in both the Air Force and the Marines (and Jessica didn’t know!), and Evan of Team Yale speaks a little from studying abroad in Marrakesh.
That’s a definite advantage as other teams struggle to communicate with their taxi drivers, especially Team Xtreme, who arrive last after a long journey to the port, some of it on foot. And yet! Kristi and Jen continue to show that they are physical specimens, even in a niche sport like fish stackin’, because they manage to lap the Indy Boys who arrived well before them. Now it’s on to the Kisariate Jbala Souk, but first…
Let’s just take a quick moment of silence for how truly terrible these teams must smell right now.
At the souk, the teams must greet the merchant with “As-Salaam-Alaikum” to receive their Travelocity Roaming Gnome that will be accompanying them like the tiny little terror it is for the rest of the leg. From there, one person from each team competes in the ROAD BLOCK: WHO’S READY TO ROCK THE KASABAH?
ROAD BLOCK: WHO’S READY TO ROCK THE KASBAH? The Kasabah of Tangier is made up of narrow alleyways and rooftops that Phil thinks we might recognize “because you’ve probably seen Jason Bourne performing death-defying stunts here,” but I feel like that’s a little like saying, You might recognize the Space Needle from Frasier. I mean, sure, but also — other stuff! Anyway, while one team member relaxes at the souk, the other has to cart this damn gnome to the Tangier American Legion Museum, send the gnome out on a tiny li’l zipline from the roof, then go back down to the ground to find where he landed on foot. Then they have to do it all over again from the roof of the Kasbah Museum. (Recap continues on page 2)
In this Road Block, there’s a lot of room to get lost, to get ahead, to get behind, to pass out in an alleyway where no one will ever find you again…but I was really impressed with just how much endurance everyone showed. Jessica, Henry, Chris, and one of the Twins (I’m sorry!) take an early lead getting to the museum and finding their first gnome, but once they have to find the second museum, Cedric laps them, and Conor catches up to them. Then everyone is working as one kind of big mass finding the second gnome location, with Cedric in the front, and Brittany and Jen working together in the back to gain time. But once they find the gnome for the second time, there’s still more…
Teams must find a hidden old school telephone at the Tele Boutique, deposit coins from their gnome’s itty-bitty coin pouch, and receive a secret message. This is where things really go haywire, with Cedric getting lost and slipping all the way to the back of the pack, and Jen, Chris, and Conor hopping to the front — it’s mayhem. And that’s before Brittany even forgets her gnome! Listen, some might disagree, but I don’t think Jessica purposefully held Brittany’s gnome for her while she used the phone so she would forget it, and I definitely don’t think it’s bad that she didn’t tell her she left the gnome when Jessica was in second-to-last place and Brittany took off in front of her. The previews made it seem like Jessica stole Brittany’s gnome and took off with it, but that just wasn’t the case.
Brittany gets her gnome back from the Tele Boutique without too much time lost, and all of the Road Block players have to make their way back to the souk to retrieve their teammate and their clue for the DETOUR: DROP IT OFF VS. SHAKE IT OFF. And this is where these halfway-exhausted teams are made or broken. I was shocked to hear so many teams choosing the dancing detour until I realized that Shake It Off wasn’t a choreographed dance challenge (the stuff of my absolute coldest, sweatiest, panickiest nightmares), but a challenge where the teams simply had to dress in belly dancing costumes and dance around a room with actual belly dancers, looking for words that made up the clue to their next Pit Stop. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to find the three words, hidden on a tambourine, a belly, and a jacket…but it wasn’t particularly difficult.
Even Drop It Off wasn’t so difficult in comparison to some other, more physical detours, but for the teammate who had just carted a woodland creature around most of Tangier, it seemed particularly hellish to have to literally drag carts of squashes, oranges, and chickens around on the ground. At each of the three drop-off points, a vendor gave the teams a receipt with a word on it that eventually told them the location of the PIT STOP: MOULAY HAFID PALACE.
1: TEAM YALE: After starting this leg in second-to-last place thanks to a grueling head-to-head last week, these two smarty-pants ran their way back to the top, winning a trip for two to Switzerland and generally being very admirable young people.
2: THE INDY BOYS just barely missed first place. Phil asked them regarding their ousters, Yale, “For a smart team, they’re pretty physical, don’t you think?” to which Alex didn’t miss a beat responding, “For a physical team, we’re pretty smart, man!”
3: TEAM EXTREME: As if I couldn’t admire Jen and Kristi anymore, this week, we saw their abs.
4: TEAM WELLSTRUNG: And their abs!
5: TEAM BIG BROTHER: It really is unbelievable that they’ve only been dating three months outside of Big Brother and are competing in this race. Like Jessica said, it doesn’t get more “outside world” than The Amazing Race.
6: TEAM CHOMP
7: THE TWINS
8: TEAM LIFESAVER
NOT ELIMINATED: THE BALLERS! While pulling himself through the Detour, Cedric announced, “You’ll have to drag me out of here, Phil!” And Phil must have heard him and known even his finest beaten leather jacket was not up for that task. Because when the Ballers arrived at the mat, he told them, “I’m very sorry to tell you that you are the last team to arrive,” waited for them to say a million sweet and inspiring things, then made a basketball pun and told them they were still in the game. Never change, Phil.