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So who else here just did a double take? You know what I’m talking about. The season finale of The Amazing Race is next week. Pardon me, NEXT WEEK! Wow, sucky teams be damned: This show can just speed right by — even when it’s sitting completely still, like Jon and Kris’s taxi. (Did you like that? That’s what we call a “segue”)… (And that parenthetical aside is what we call “self-aware humor”. It eases the awkward segue). Great. Now I’ve ruined my segue on annoying parentheses. Hmm… I’ve managed to write about five lines without saying anything at all. Maybe I should just skip the intro and jump right into this crazy episode…As usual, the show began with a little introduction to the Pitstop. In this case, Phil announced “This is Sri Lanka.” Damn him! Has he no sensitivity?? That country’s name is not to be uttered without a disclaimer! Anyway, the producers afforded us a lovely pre-tsunami montage of Sri Lanka where apparently the latest craze is hurling yourself off a cliff and into water several hundred feet below. I suppose this is called “diving”, whatever that is.
Kris and Jon were first to depart the WASPy comfort of Phil’s Pitstop as they set out for Yu Yuan Gardens. Huh? Is that the little Chinese place in Manhasset next to Lohman’s? Because if it is, do NOT get the Egg Foo Yung. Actually, Yu Yuan Gardens was not a Chinese restaurant in Long Island. Turns out they were real gardens in Shanghai, China. Yup, it was time to skip to another country, or “not America” as Kendra might be apt to call it. “Guess we’re going to the airport!” Rebecca surmised. I think that’s a safe assumption to make. Unless, of course, you want to try your luck at the paddleboat docks. Nevertheless, Rebecker was in a jolly mood as she joked, “I wanted to go there [Shanghai] since I saw Madonna and Sean Penn in Shanghai Surprise.” Adam giggled, happily adding, “That’s funny to me on so many levels… well, mainly just a gay level.”
Having less of a jocular time were Freddy and Kendra who seemed to be traveling in an oversized coffin. These two are such dullards. Kendra just yammers on while Freddy explores new depths of humorlessness. Then again, maybe Freddy’s just pre-occupied with his personal inventory: Poncho? Check. Buddy Holly glasses? Check. Falling gates? Negatory. Proceed.
Blandness be damned, the models arrived at the airport and flew, along with the other teams, to Shanghai on Dragonair. Kendra later complained that the flight did not include any dragons or “creatures of dragon-likeness” such as Gila Monsters or iguanas. She therefore deemed the airline “ghetto” and “not like eating a croissant in Paris.” Okay, she said absolutely none of that, but I’m sure she complained about something. Unless they showed “Little Black Book” as the inflight entertainment. You know she LOVED that.
Once in China, teams struggled to find cabs. Everyone (ahem, Adam, ahem, Hayden) acted as if it were the locals’ fault for not catering to the lost, obnoxious Americans, but leave it to Kris to explain sweetly that it wasn’t the cabs’ fault the racers don’t speak the native language. She then smiled for the camera, her teeth sparkling with a Ding! Seriously, Kris and Jon are like the best people ever. Less agreeable were Freddy and Hayden. Nothing new there. Freddy drawled on and on about Rebecca and Adam, saying she seems to always latch on to another team. I think he was trying to insult them, but his “Gosh, gee willikers!” inflection had me wondering if he was just babbling about Mayberry. Hayden, on the other hand, was blatantly cranky as she scolded Aaron for their cabby’s fare. If the team ran out of cash, “I have to ask for money!” Hayden complained, adding “I didn’t get these breasts for attention! Oh wait…”
Eventually all the cabs deposited the teams near the gates of the Yu Yuan Gardens. Confused exploration ensued. Kris called the neighborhood the “Harlem of Shanghai” while Kendra bravely marched on, suggesting “Let’s go down the ghetto street.” Which was her way of saying “Let’s go down ANY street”. After a bit of “Huh? Where?” and aimless wandering, the teams all reached the Gardens, and wouldn’t you know it? The darned place didn’t open up until sometime in the morning. Surprise surprise. There have got to be more twenty four hour landmarks in this world.
Anyway, the next morning, teams ran frantically around the Gardens until they found the next clue which sent everyone to a skyscraper. Once again, teams had difficultly hailing cabs, leading social commentator Kendra to ask “They won’t stop because we’re American?” Later she asked if the cabs were discriminating. Rebecca chimed in as well, saying that there must be some reason why the empty cabs were passing them by. Um, they do realize they’re in a communist country, right? Americans haven’t always had such, uh, pleasant relations with commies. Still, the teams were not happy with the service. I nearly expected Kendra to scoff “Gosh, it’s not like we crashed a spy plane into the country or anything!”
Like any minor Amazing Race obstacle, however, this predicament was soon resolved with the help of some quick editing. Cut to everyone in their cabs and then Freddy and Kendra arriving at the next clue. “This is not it. Oh yes it is,” Kendra said, overriding her personal Auto-Complain functions. While Kris and Jon sat in dense traffic, the other teams came across this leg’s Roadblock which involved washing windows atop a skyscraper. I have to admit, this was a pretty daunting challenge, and while the Roadblock proved to be fairly exciting, the best part of it was watching Phil explain the rules as he stood tethered to the tall building’s roof. I really enjoyed the implication that a) Phil might just blow away into the Shanghai afternoon sky; or b) Phil needed a restraint, lest he go crazy and attack any brave soul endeavoring to invade his rooftop domain.
Well, the models arrived first, and – oh by the way – there was a Yield at the Roadblock. Hmmm… who could Freddy and Kendra possibly want to Yield? Perhaps Rebecca and Adam, the illogical couple that idiotically Yielded the models previously? Why yes! Revenge is a dish best served cold! Or at least with a corny photo and an hour glass. Hayden, by the way, had a rare moment of Nelson Muntz glee as she cackled “Ha ha” at Rebecca and Adam’s picture on the Yield. However, her happiness was short lived as cartoonish paranoia seized her. “Adam’s coming right now, and I’m hiding behind the palm tree,” she whispered into her microphone. Moments later, she fled from her leafy hideaway, perhaps to spy from behind a George Washington portrait or maybe to blend in as a storefront mannequin.
Amazingly (Racing-ly), Kris and Jon arrived at the Roadblock last after their slow taxi finally meandered its way to the clue box. Shanghai: tearing down Asian driving stereotypes left and right. “Dude, you suck!” snipped Kris as the couple left their cab. Wow, she got mad! Could this have been the death knell for Team Smiley? Perhaps. But of course two seconds later, Jon snuck a kiss to his lovey before the Roadblock, saying “Good luck. Have fun.” Somewhere that moment was broadcast on a jumbo-tron, and twenty thousand people said “Awww…” together. Now repeat after me: “Every Kiss Begins with Kay.”
After teams finished the Roadblock, they were instructed to search “The Bun” for a group of old people doing Tai Chi (bonus points for finding Pat Morita or Ralph Macchio). Everyone seemed quite excited for this new task, especially Adam who claimed he knew his way around The Bun quite well. (By the way, if this location is not called “The Bun” just pretend it is, otherwise I have to rewrite that last joke). Not much drama happened in this little task, but the models did manage to baffle me again with more odd customs. As Freddy took a clue from a Tai Chi master, he sort of nestled his head in the old man’s shoulder. What was that? He did the same thing two weeks ago in that underground church. I guess it’s his way of showing respect to spiritual people, but I personally find the use of feline cuddling techniques to be rather bizarre. It should be noted though that moments later, Freddy became distracted with a wayward piece of yarn which he pounced and chewed on for the next five minutes.
Anyway, teams then zipped off to the next clue which was (cue the hand bugle) the Detour! Bricks or Ice. Teams could carry and then stack 300 bricks on a palette, or they could tote some ice blocks to a tiny marketplace. Both challenges were interesting to me, but sadly, no one chose the ice. “If your gut says bricks, we’ll do bricks,” said Hayden to Aaron in one of her signature passive aggressive moments. Translation: “I’ll defer to you on this one, and if we lose ground, I’ll liberally lambast you and possibly withhold sexual favors.” Yay teamwork!
Of course, those bricks were heavy, especially for Hayden who quickly knocked 15 years off her knees’ life span. As to be expected, she complained and scowled and neighed her way through the challenge, much to the delight of some local Asians who weren’t shy about pointing and laughing. Hayden: China’s new “Showtime at the Apollo”. No brick-stacking mission would be complete without some old fashioned counting, and for a moment I feared the ghost of Bolo would surface as teams tried to tally up their totals. 68… 69… 80… Eventually, Hayden and Aaron finished with the models not far behind. The two teams raced to the next Pitstop, located atop the Peace Hotel a few miles away. Hayden and Aaron arrived first (again — they seem to alternate with Kris and Jon), and Freddy and Kendra placed second. Phil greeted them along with his local sidekick du jour who said “Welcome to Shanghai.” Kendra, ready to have some coffee talk, immediately responded with “Thank you. It’s so beautiful!” Now, I don’t disagree, but why would Kendra ever say that to this woman? It’s not like the lady MADE Shanghai. At least not in this lifetime — Eastern religions in the HIZZOUSE!
So what about Kris, Jon, Adam, and Rebecca? Well, let’s just say there was a little drama. Adam and Rebecca reached the Detour late due to their Yield incident (which by the way resulted in many, many diva fits from resident “Nancy boy” Adam). Luckily for them, Kris and Jon encountered their first truly bad run of luck with yet ANOTHER crappy taxi. This time, the ever-happy duo nearly lost it, nay, they DID lose it as Jon forced the driver to stop by opening his door mid-ride. “Hey homes,” Jon said, trying to communicate with the cabbie. Unfortunately, the driver was unable to understand this American slang. I’m not really sure why, but maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was a Chinese man living in China who could only speak Chinese. Nevertheless, when the taxi finally did drop the sweet natured team off at the Detour, Jon shocked viewers nationwide by extending his money-filled hand to the driver and then opening it up to reveal… nothing! Oooh! A cab fare fakeout from the most unlikely of places! Of course, even the jilted cabbie fell for the sugary sweet team as he didn’t even bother to chase them down for payment. Later the driver simply turned to the camera and said “They’re just so nice!”
Even though Kris and Jon faced an enormous setback with their cab, the always reliable Adam proved to be a whiny bitch when it came time for brick stacking. Rebecca, attempting a crazy new technique called “positive encouragement”, kept saying things like “Good job, babe,” or “You’re doing really well, babe.” With fingers snapping and palms flapping, Adam hissed and demanded that Rebecca stop calling him “Babe” (unless of course it was in reference to Cher’s body of work, with an emphasis on “Believe”). Nevertheless, Rebecca momentarily revised her pet name for Adam, as she sneered “All right, ass.” Amazingly, he replied “Better. I prefer that.” Oh, so many easy jokes…
Ultimately, Kris and Jon left the Detour first, and after a hairy game of real life Frogger, the two managed to check in with Phil third. Phew! Of course, considering this was the penultimate episode, we all knew tonight would be the final non-elimination round, and wouldn’t you know it, we were right! But why place a Yield on a non-elimination round? Never mind. Rebecca and Adam arrived last, and as per the rules, they surrendered all their money. For some reason, Phil took some perverse joy in this, noting that in this country, they’d be facing a giant setback. He kept mentioning it, maybe to get a rise out of them, and at one point, I expected him to say “You’ll have no money. None at all. By the way, did I mention you’ll have no money? Oh, and funny story. I was eating lunch earlier today and the waiter came up to me and said you’ll have no money. Sucks, huh? Okay okay. I’ll give you a little bit of money. I have it right here in my hand and… psych! I learned that from Jon. Seriously, you guys are losers.”
Will Adam and Rebecker — I mean, Rebecca — dig their way out of last place? Will the models finally bite it after the season finale’s first hour? Will next season’s cast be at least slightly more interesting?
So many questions…