A double-leg episode shows just how capable season 30's teams really are
There were 7-foot men in 5-foot boats, there was the second ever Head-to-Head, there were upwards of 100 puns, there were marriage proposals, there was A CHIPPED TOOTH. When The Amazing Race comes with a two-hour episode, it doesn’t come to play…
But these eight remaining teams sure do, which is to say: They play ferociously and with seemingly endless energy. I had my reservations about the actual competitive spirit of these teams, but they’re all shaping up to be a mighty competent bunch all around. When one member of each team had to construct a giant medieval trebuchet, I just kept thinking how in almost any other season there would surely have been someone who just melted down before working very slowly to figure it out. But we have ourselves a race here, folks. Even those twins. THOSE TWINS! They don’t always seem to be the sharpest sailors in the boat, and they stone-cold pushed a car for two straight legs because they couldn’t figure out how to reverse it, but just like every other team left in season 30, they are fighting constantly to stay in this race.
In fact, every elimination felt a little painful tonight, because I’ve grown to like all of these teams much more rapidly than normal. Usually, when someone says they’re “the most competitive person ever” or some variation of the phrase, they’re kind of just looking for an excuse to be a bad sport. But these are a bunch of supportive sweethearts for the most part. The couples are always reminding one another how much the love each other and the friends are always good-natured in both failure and defeat. It’s a regular love fest, and I’ll take 100 more hours, please!
They may make it looks easy, but last week’s leg was one of the tougher ones I’ve seen in a while, and this week’s double leg included such wonderful features as “learning to sail without instructions,” “medieval construction,” “sleeping outside on rocks,” “doing bleachers in a coliseum,” and “French bocce ball.” Okay that last one wasn’t hard, but it was the season’s second Head-to-Head, and though the (beloved) team that lost would have ultimately lost anyway, I’m with those of you in the comments from the first Head-to-Head who said you could appreciate its addition much more if it was in the middle of the leg.
But we watch the rrrrrrace we’re given, and tonight we’re given double. The teams are flying from Tangier, Morocco, to Nice, France, where they must then drive themselves to Saint-Tropez to rub elbows with the rich and the famous. Just kidding, they’re going to be tortured on their ROAD BLOCK: WHO’S READY TO BREAK WIND. One member of each team must take a small Optimist sailing dinghy out onto the water and collect the two halves of their next clue from two buoys. Now, the buoys are pretty far out there, and other than some guy mentioning to them what direction the wind is blowing, they get no instruction on how to steer these itty bitty boats.
Even Kristi, whom I suspect may have been bitten by a radioactive spider at some point, has trouble getting the hang of it at first. But the key is to find the direction the wind is blowing, let your sail catch that wind diagonally, and then use the tiller to steer toward the buoys. Alex gets the hang of it quicker than most…and then returns to shore after only getting the first half of his clue. “Normally when you read a sentence, you just summarize, and you’re right,” he says afterward. “But here, every single “and,” “it,” and “each” makes a really big difference.
But for some people, it’s not about the language; it’s about the fact that sailing is really hard. Evan goes out on the water for Team Yale, and she just cannot get the hang of it…and then the sail comes around and cracks her in the mouth, breaking her front tooth. Y’all there is a reason I write about this show instead of compete on it because that would have been it for me. I would have jumped into the Mediterranean Sea and swum directly to a dentist. But Evan barely flinches — I don’t even think she cries — she just keeps trying until she finds the wind, gets her clues, and gets back to shore, where Henry says, “She looks amazing. Cutest chip ever.” All together now: AWWWWW! (Recap continues on page 2)
Since the Ballers were saved by the Non-Elimination Leg last week, they have to complete a Speed Bump that requires them to move 15 boats from the shore to a rack. It’s basically manual labor, and they beast it because they’re two huge dudes. And that’s when you realize…these are two huge dudes! And these are tiny sailboats. Cedric has to basically lie down every time he needs to move the sail, and completely capsizes a number of times. From shore, Shawn thinks there’s no way, but just like everyone else, Cedric figures it out.
The Ballers are trailing shortly behind the Twins for last place as they head into the DETOUR: BREAD vs. TREAD. So, much like last week, a pretty physical Road Block is followed by a pretty easy Detour, but at least these are fairly evenly matched as far as how long they take the teams. In Bread, each team must use 30 pounds of gorgeous dough to make 50 traditional French baguettes to the satisfaction of the master baker (who is a bit of a snack himself). After a slight learning curve on how to roll the baguettes for the Indy Boys and Big Brother, they cruise through it.
Just about everyone else chooses Tread, where the teams must craft a pair of traditional Tropezienne sandals, and it’s mostly about attention to detail, which a lot of these teams have in spades. Except when it comes to directions for the Ballers, and knowing how to reverse an unfamiliar car for the Twins, so they remain in last place as the teams head toward the Pit Stop at Place des Lices square, where they’ll compete in the second Head-to-Head of the race. This one is less physical, but left to just about as much chance as the last one. The teams are playing Pétanque, a French yard game where teams toss steel balls toward a smaller ball, and whoever gets the ball closest to the jack in the end moves to the mat. The last team to lose…
- INDY BOYS vs. TEAM XTREME: two athletic teams face off, taking the lead from each other throw after throw, but in the end, the boys get closest.
- BIG BROTHER vs. TEAM XTREME: Jessica gets one of her first throws within an inch of the jack, and there’s never any catching up for Xtreme.
- TEAM XTREME vs. WELLSTRUNG: In their third try at Pétanque, Kristi and Jen finally get the hang of it. Plus, Trevor is very bad at Pétanque.
- TEAM CHOMP vs. WELLSTRUNG: “Trevor really has not got a feel for this game.” – Phil
- WELLSTRUNG vs. LIFESAVERS: Lucky for WellStrung, both members of the team are playing, and Chris eventually gets a ball close enough to carry the team.
- YALE vs. LIFESAVERS: I felt for the Lifesavers, but I was also very relieved to see Henry and Evan make it through on their first try after all they’ve been through.
- TWINS vs. LIFESAVERS: The Lifesavers are on their third try, feeling stressed, and the Twins, who are nearly in last place but seem to have never experienced stress in their lives, can’t help but exclaim how much they love yard games. It shows!
- LIFESAVERS vs. BALLERS: It all comes down to throwing balls, but the Ballers point out, this is a very different game than basketball, and one that Brittany and Lucas have now played three times. Cedric rolls an incredible curve ball that nearly wins it for them, but then Lucas nails the jack with his own ball, moving it along with him to victory.
ELIMINATED: THE BALLERS I’m going to miss Cedric and Shawn, who always brought a dynamic energy to the legs, but Cedric says he can’t complain: “I’m not even supposed to be here. God has blessed me to fulfill another dream.”
And the TAR gods have granted us another leg, all in one episode… (Recap continues on page 3)
The teams must now drive to Les Baux-de-Provence, an area 120 miles inland famous for its medieval history and landscapes that inspired many famous artists. Speaking of artwork, Evan got her tooth fixed after the Pit Stop, and I am utterly relieved. She also seems to have…gotten full bangs and a septum piercing??? Did she have those things before? In addition to some new looks, we’ve got some new sweeping music when Lucas and Brittany talk about all that they overcame in the last leg, so you know that proposal he touted in the premiere is coming.
After driving through the night and then sleeping outside a fortress until it opened at 8 a.m., the teams head into their ROAD BLOCK: WHO WANTS TO GO MEDIEVAL? Phil is in a chunky turtleneck to explain that Le Baux was once the site of bloody battles dating back more than 1,000 years that used weapons like the trebuchet catapult to launch 200 pound boulders at enemies. So now one member of each team has to construct a big-ass trebuchet out of wood and metal while the other team member waits in stockades. Both things seem awful, but the Road Block certainly requires more brain power. Lucas and Cody are both builders, and Kristi is really strategic about the order in which she constructs the catapult, so their teams are all out early.
It’s Tim from Team Chomp and Indy Boy Conor who struggle the most with identifying which details they’ve gotten wrong that are preventing them from moving forward. For Tim, it takes reconstructing, um, the entire middle of the catapult, and for Conor, he’s forgotten two tiny wheel nuts. With those in place, they’re off to Café de la Fontaine for the clue to their next DETOUR: FULL OF BULL vs. COLORFUL.
I should tell you now that every single team except Team Chomp chooses Full of Bull, which is a truly bizarre challenge that is technically based on French bullfighting: The teams have to run around a huge coliseum checking little pouches hung ’round the necks of variously sized bull replicas to collect a red ribbon, a blue ribbon, and a white ribbon. There’s not a lot of skill or strategy involved, but there is a lot of running, and between that, Team Chomp way off at another, more complicated challenge, and some directional troubles for Big Brother and Team WellStrung, it’s a close race to the Pit Stop at Hotel Benvengudo…
- THE LIFESAVERS: What a turnaround for these two, from nearly last place in the last leg to a solid first place in this one. Lucas said he would know when the time was right to propose to his girlfriend of nine years, and after hearing that they’d won a trip to their dream honeymoon spot, Bali, the time was definitely now. Brittany, Jen, and myself all burst into tears, because once a crier, always a crier, especially when there’s a diamond.
- TEAM XTREME
- THE TWINS
- TEAM YALE
- THE INDY BOYS
- TEAM BIG BROTHER
- TEAM WELLSTRUNG: Phil pulled the usual “it’s hard to imagine anyone could have been slower than you today” trickery, but today, another team was slower…
ELIMINATED: TEAM CHOMP struggled with a tiny aspect of their Detour puzzle, and that put just enough time between them and WellStrung to eliminate them from the game. I appreciate that they let themselves be disappointed but still found the strength to make one hell of a pun: “I guess we weren’t wieners today, Phil.”