Apologies all around for the tardiness of this Amazing Race recap. Turns out I’ve spent the past day or so on my own adventurous journey, although a transcontinental flight from LAX to JFK (followed by a mixed bag of monorail, shuttle bus, and parental transportation) pales compared to the twenty-four hour train ride teams endured this week. Still, I now write to you from my mother’s laptop, a hunk of machinery so old, I half expect to find a steam engine on the back of it. As such, I have no spell check, and the keyboard has this annoying tendency of inserting “2″ into random words for no reason other than to drive me mildly insane. That being said, let’s revisit this very hairy episode (me holding pinky to mouth) of The Amazing Race.The episode began with newlyweds Rob and Amber receiving their next clue from Phil, who, as you may remember, was taking sadistic glee with his Pit Stop fakeout. Romber (I used to call them “Ramber” but I had to bow to the cultural zeitgeist) were told to head across the street to the Lucknow train station and board the train on platform two. Only then would teams receive their next clue. Oh, so mysterious. Part of me feared they were being sent off to join Phil Koegan’s black market sex-slavery ring, but then I remembered that no train could reach his Mediterranean island harem.
Anyway, various teams checked in at Phil’s mat (a euphemism used to describe the three foot radius around his manboobs), and as can be expected, most everyone was somewhat surprised. Ron was particularly disappointed, but I was relieved that he didn’t somehow relay the moment to another adventure in the military (“Learning that the leg wasn’t over was almost as disappointing as the time I was caught by Iraqis and held as a POW. Man, that was disappointing.”). Thankfully, Ron kept his army babble to a minimum this episode, but still, even with his relative silence, I couldn’t help thinking that military service is the new band camp. “This one time, in the military…”
Meanwhile, the plucky old duo of Meredith and Gretchen continued to power through their roadblock from LAST episode with the usual cheery aplomb. Eventually they delivered all the tea they needed (they even gave one lucky guy a bonus tea! Insert Gretchen coo of joy here.) and headed to the mat with the help of their friendly, mustachioed guide. Gretchen once again commented on how lovely and nice the locals were, an observation that was immediately followed by Meredith noting “I think these are gay guys in front of us.” Sure enough, their guide smiled back at the old couple as his male friend gently placed a loving hand on his back. “He was pretty cute, the one who was helping us,” said Gretchen. WELL, then it’s proven!
After a little jaunt through Lucknow’s Boystown (or Ladke-town, as its known locally), Meredith and Gretchen arrived chez Phil where our host happily told them they were the last to check in, BUT the race was still on. He then added “I’ll still take all your belongings though. Just for fun.” Actually, that didn’t happen, but what did occur was Gretchen letting out another of her trademark “Ooooooooh!”‘s. I swear, she must have been a Furby in a past life.
Anyway, all the teams arrived at platform 2 of the Lucknow station, only to discover that the train would be arriving many hours later. A time crunch? On the Amazing Race? Why I NEVER! Eventually, the choo-choo arrived, and everyone boarded, only to discover they’d be riding the rails for the next twenty-four hours straight. With little else to do, everyone found a sleeper car and caught some shut-eye. Sadly, this slumber was rudely disrupted by a creepy guy who seemed to be India’s answer to Pete Postlewaite. The man quietly glided up to each team, poked them awake, and then delivered the next clue which directed everyone to a local market in Jodhpur, the train’s ultimate destination. Actually, I guess it was at this point teams realized they’d be on the train for twenty four hours. Whatever. Point was, it was gonna be a long ass trip.
The next morning, teams seemed to relish the time on the train as everyone got a chance to kick back and socialize. Lynn expressed extreme discomfort at not having his facial creams and beauty products while Joyce wrapped Uchenna up in her headscarf and declared “You look like shiek!” Yes, it was a grand ole time on the train, and thankfully, teams reached Jodhpur before any puppet shows or charade games could bust out.
Upon arrival in Jodhpur (which at a population of 30 million people only qualified as a quaint hamlet in India), teams immediately scurried to the market which of course was closed until 10 AM the next morning. Not wanting to rough it out in the streets of Jodhpur, everyone checked in at a local hotel across the street and caught a few more zzz’s before the inevitable craziness the next morning. As they checked into their room, Rob and Amber immediately chummed it up with the hotel manager, Sanjay, who offered to be the team’s guide free of charge. Cut to CBS producers quietly stuffing $100 bills into Sanjay’s back pocket.
Meanwhile, out in the streets, some sort of wedding or parade was taking place. Alex and Lynn went out to observe when suddenly they were yanked right into the proceedings. “Next thing we know, we’re getting pulled into the middle, dancing with these men!” Lynn described. I sort of enjoyed the producers’ attempts to make India seem extremely gay this episode. Sort of a unique take. I wondered what the Detour would be: a choice between Greco-Roman wrestling or cabaret singing?
Actually, the Detour was quite different. Teams had to choose between Trunk and Dunk. In Trunk, teams had to transport a 600 lbs. elephant statue through the market. In Dunk, teams had to dye several sheets and find a hidden message. As usual, one was short but brutal while the other was long but easy. Ah, but that’s not all. Our old friend the Fast Forward reared its flourescent green head once again, and with any luck, it wouldn’t be wasted on a nonelimination leg. Phil popped up to alert us that in order to win the Fast Forward, teams would have to drive many miles away to take part in a traditional Hindu ritual. What teams wouldn’t learn until they got there was that they’d have to shave their heads. YES! Gotta love the Amazing Race. They’re trying it again! For those of you who may be uninformed, two seasons ago the producers set up the exact same Fast Forward, but when ultra-Christians/models/whiners Nicole and Brandon arrived, they immediately chickened out and returned to the Detour, only to be saved by a nonelimination round. Well, hopefully this time we’d get some shaved head action.
The odds were in our favor as both Uchenna and Joyce and Rob and Amber jumped for the Fast Forward. Man, remember the days of yore when there was a Fast Forward on every leg? There was rarely anything I liked more than watching two teams battling it out for the elusive ticket to success (a certain rug mission with Teri and Ian comes to mind — as do the NFL wives who inexplicably used the Fast Forward to advance from 5th place to 2nd place, in like the second episode of that season). Anyway, I was excited not only at the prospect of a Fast Forward battle, but given Uchenna’s already bald head, we knew he and Joyce would have the upper hand on Rob and Amber.
Sadly for me, Ramber decided to shun the Fast Forward and work on the elephant instead. Golden boy Sanjay proved to be slow as he led his reality stars to their Detour challenge. Luckily for them, Gretchen and Meredith were hardly the beacons of physical strength as they languished with their elephant. In one of their more bizarre follies, Gretchen actually climbed atop the elephant and commandeered the porcelain beast from on high. Didn’t really help much, in fact, I’d wager to say it actually hurt the team’s progress, but hey, it looked really cool. Then again, with Gretchen’s luck, you just knew that she’d go toppling out moments later and wind up with another gaping head wound. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but with all the other teams off and running with their pachyderms, Gretchen finally declared “We have a bad elephant!” Actually, it’s more like they had a bad strategy seeing as how the only people helping poor Meredith push were several skinny children who surely were of little use beyond the producers’ constant need to make the old couple appear like holy apostles.
Actually, the oldsters weren’t the only ones mining child labor for the purpose of reality treasures. Rob literally grabbed kids by the arms and stuck them on the elephant, nearly scolding them for their passive desire to simply watch the chaos unfold in front of them. “It’s tough organizing Indian labor!” joked Rob, clearly not realizing that India’s youth might wish to be doing other things like, I don’t know, NOT pushing a stupid elephant statue around. Meanwhile, Amber was doing her part by knocking off pieces of the beast, namely its tail. Way to break the elephant, AMBER!
Nevertheless, Romber finally arrived at the “elephant parking” where they received their next clue: head to a farm. Okay. Sounds good. Rob, Amber, and Sanjay boarded an auto-rickshaw or tuk-tuk or whatever and headed out to the countryside for more adventures. Hey Sanjay, don’t you have like, I don’t know, a hotel to manage??
Hey, remember Ron and Kelly? Well, believe it or not, they were not only in this episode but ahead of the unstoppable force that is Romber. Unfortunately for them, their forward progress was severely stymied when their auto-rickshaw couldn’t sneak around Meredith and Gretchen, who had become a full on roadblock in their own right. As Meredith teetered on the brink of heart failure, Kelly snapped at the locals and demanded that they help him. Help him, damnit! Well, no language barrior prevents a woman scorned from getting what she wants. The remaining locals all rushed to Meredith’s aid and helped him move the elephant. At first I was touched by this gesture – the beauty queen helping the weezing old man. But then I realized she just wanted him to get out of the way. I guess it was all for the best — Kelly got to move forward, and Meredith got to not die.
Later, when the old couple finally completed the Detour, Gretchen expressed regret about riding in the basket up top. I could have helped push, she rationed. Yeah, something you should have figured out BEFORE you finished the whole thing. On the plus side, Gretchen did receive Alex and Lynn’s highest compliment, mainly that she riding the elephant looked “FABULOUS!”
Anyway, as usual, the fearsome foursome of Rob, Amber, Kelly, and Ron led the pack to the next clue which revealed the Roadblock. In this task, teammates had to hop in a camel chariot (Chamel? Cariot? Camelot!) and race around a track for two laps. Kelly had no problem getting those camel toes moving as she took off down the route like a bat – or dramedary – out of hell. Amber, meanwhile, met instant resistance from her camel which quickly meandered off the track to deposit its passenger in some prickly bushes.
Elsewhere in India, Uchenna and Joyce zipped along in their taxi as they nervously awaited the Fast Forward. Joyce momentarily fretted that she’d have to chop off her hair, but her hubby laughed off the idea, noting that she’d never have to do that. Yeah – reality shows would never force you into an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation.
The two eventually arrived at their destination, and jaws were dropped all around as they realized that they would, in fact, have to shave their heads. And by “they”, I mean “Joyce.” Uchenne tried to be Supportive Husband 2005 by asking if she really wanted to do this, and Joyce suddenly snapped like we’ve never seen her before, yelling/crying “LET’S GO!” Yes! Finally some female baldness. I was kind of bummed though because a) this would only really affect one person, and b) black women with shaved heads aren’t that odd looking. I kind of wish Romber had gone for it. Amber would have looked like the biggest activist of all time with her shaved head.
With little else to do, Uchenna simply moved to the side while the monks clipped away Joyce’s long braids (or dreads – I really didn’t get a good look). Every now and then, Uchenna made some preemptive moves just in case he wound up in the dog house later, but in general, these gestures seemed kind of patronizing, especially when he said, “Honey, I don’t want you to have to do this.” Um, the ritual has already begun. Half her hair is gone. It’s not like she was going to say “Okay, well, let’s do the Detour now!” Although… that would be pretty cool if she left only half of her head shaved. Then, at Halloween, she could be one of those “two-face” people – you know, normal attire on one half, crazy costume on the other half. Man, the possibilities are endless!
Eventually, Joyce emerged from the Fast Forward with a shaved head, and while the experience had been difficult for her, she slowly moved from crying behind her fingers to smiling with renewed resolve. And just in case we thought she was still mad, the producers were kind enough to pipe in the cheesy, uplifting music to guide our emotions. Must… Cry… Now…
Actually, I didn’t cry, but I was happy to see Phil return and introduce the next Pit Stop which was located in a castle or temple of some sort. Moments later, Kelly crossed the finish line with her camel and ripped open the next clue, which directed her and Ron to the next Pit Stop. Phil then popped up again to tell us that the next Pit Stop was still located in a castle or temple of some sort. Is there an echo in here? We know where the Pit Stop is, Phil. You JUST TOLD US! Don’t you love how I get mad at Phil when the real culprit is the editor? Way to make Phil your fall guy, EDITOR!
While Kelly had made short work of the Roadblock, other teams were not having such luck. Amber clearly had the most passive-aggressive camel simply because it acted stubbornly at first and then gave her a false sense of success by charging towards the finish line, only to grind to a halt and wander off the track again. Clearly this camel was not paid off by CBS. For a moment I had dreams of the other two teams catching up, and while Team Weho seemed adept at camel racing, Meredith was not. Surprise, surprise, the old guy’s camel up and sat down in the middle of the track, causing Gretchen to yell out “Talk nice to the camel!” Honestly, is she trying to get into Entertainment Weekly’s weekly TV quote list? Every episode, this woman has about four or five noteworthy comments. Anyway, Amber finally fixed her camel crisis and crossed the finish line with a healthy lead over the last two teams.
Alex and Lynn completed the Roadblock next, but they soon faced an entirely new obstacle as their cabbie drove them to the WRONG CASTLE! The two hopped out of their auto-rickshaw and scoured the location but quickly realized the lack of any Phil or PhilTraces meant they had made an unfortunate mistake.
Back at the right castle, Uchenna and Joyce checked in first. Surely they’d win a prize in honor of Joyce’s sacrifice, right? Right?? WRONG! Until they too appear on two seasons of Survivor, they are NOT entitled to any vacations!
Meanwhile, the race for second and third place heated up as Romber and Team Beauty POW ran yet another footrace to the mat. This time around, Ron and Kelly arrived first – by about a centimeter – and chuckles were had all around. Even Sanjay got into the moment, applauding happily on the sidelines. You know, Sanjay really sucked. He didn’t do anything helpful. There were times when Rob seemed to be leading him. This all leads me to believe that Sanjay is a con-artist from New Jersey whose real name is Roy.
Anyway, despite his whiney camel, Meredith managed to finish the Roadblock, and we once again were in the unagreeable position of having to watch two favorite teams battle it out for elimination. Eventually, Lynn and Alex’s castle mishap turned out to be fatal (well, detrimental – they didn’t die or anything) as the scrappy old couple snagged fourth place, much to their surprise.
Phil excitedly informed Meredith and Gretchen that they were the oldest couple to have made it this far in the competition, and blundering mistakes aside, I think we can all be pretty impressed with that. Then again, these two have benefited from other teams’s random mishaps. I kind of want them to run a leg really well for a change, maybe give the other teams a run for their money. But who am I kidding? It’s Meredith and Gretchen. With a near certain non-elimination round next week, we’re destined to have more tomfoolery for at least another two weeks.
As for Lynn and Alex, their elimination was bittersweet as they held back tears and babbled the usual spiel about how much they learned and how wonderful the people were and how great the experience was. It will be sad not having their colorful commentary peppering the show, but I guess now Uchenna and Joyce can step it up in the personality department. I mean, they’re affable and nice and everything, but seriously, give us something more to work with. At least Kelly and Ron shook out of their early season doldrums by complaining and whining. Next week’s episode looks sensational with Kelly stating that Ron’s POW status is a testament to his lack of commitment. Can’t wait to see her crawl out of that hole! Kind of reminds me of this one time in the military…
What do you think? Will Meredith and Gretchen every get it together?