The Amazing Race is back in every sense of the word. I absolutely loved the season premiere, thanks to a diverse cast of teams that put Survivor: Cook Islands to shame. It was almost an absolutely flawless premiere — airport intrigue, navigational woes, gross-out foods — but one very nasty, very ill-advised twist kind of dampened my love-fest (at least, temporarily). I won’t get into the details now, but this surprise felt more like a cheap ploy than anything else. Still, I don’t want to carp too much. I was able to put this unwelcomed misstep behind me, and with any luck, the producers won’t try any shenanigans like that again (but of course they will). Enough complaining. On to the race!This season’s adventure began where season three’s concluded: Seattle (the horrific sight of Flo winning her share of a million dollars. It still smarts, years later). For a moment, I thought there might be a wonderful Phil Keoghan/Dr. Frasier Crane cross-over, but then I realized that Frasier no longer exists — but the fantasies live vibrantly in my head.
Anyway, it looked like we’d be in for the standard arrival-by-ferry intro (like Family Edition) as we saw Phil riding one of the seafaring vessels through glorious and rainy Puget Sound. But ah ha! Just when we thought we knew our elaborate Race entrances, Betram & Co. pulled a fast one on us and had the teams arrive via an armada of seaplanes! How wonderfully bombastic!
The first team we met were Peter and Sarah, newly dating triathletes. They’re just your average, active couple, but oh yeah, Sarah has an artificial leg. “I was born with one leg shorter than the other,” she explained in what seemed to be a massive understatement (basically, she had no left leg below the knee). Anyway, turns out that Peter actually makes artificial limbs — including Sarah’s — and thus it was love at first prosthetic for these two. Kind of puts a new meaning on “screwing your girlfriend.” Rimshot! (That joke was all J-Unit).
Next up were Bilal and Sa’eed, two fathers who were just like any two suburban dads, except they were devout Muslims (big beards and all). They promised that no matter how hectic the race was, they were going to pull over and take five minutes to pray. Sounded promising enough. Might be slightly inconvenient during, you know, a footrace or a Roadblock, but hey, at least they have their priorities.
Proving to be our first generic aspiring actor duo of the season were Rob and Kimberly, two delightfully bland Los Angelenos who have a penchant for walking dogs and being snippy. Rob seemed to be slightly melodramatic in his relationship with Kimberly, saying, “She can’t control me. I’m a human being! She needs to learn that!” If you prick Rob, does he not bleed??? HE’S A HUMAN BEING, DAMMIT!
“I am flesh and blood, you dragon woman!”
Of course, what’s a race without two blonde girls? Filling in that role this time around were Dustin and Kandice, or as they’re known in pageant circles: Miss New York and Miss California (don’t ask me which one is which). Dustin noted that “Kandice is one of the most competitive people that I’ve ever met in my life.” This was evidenced by the girls randomly sprinting through a park. Makes sense. When my competitive itch kicks in, I too can’t help but run full speed through municipal areas.
“FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, WE CAN’T STOP!!!”
Next were David and Mary, or as I like to call them: my favorite team of the new season. David’s a coal miner, and Mary’s a housewife. And together, they’ve got two sets of phenomenal teeth. They make British people seem like the paradigm for dental care. Superficial appearances aside, there was no way I couldn’t love these two — even if Mary’s voice was a bit, uh, shrill. These two were the epitome of the term “slackjaw yokel,” and I couldn’t wait to see their minds blown by their impending international adventure. I was slightly perplexed, however, when Mary called her near-mute husband “so cute.” Then again, coal miners may have a whole different standard of beauty. For all we know, David’s the Fabio of hillbillies.
Increasing the diversity were Asian brothers Erwin and Godwin (a win/win situation, as Double L mentioned in the forums). Godwin told us, “I think that when people look at my brother and I, and especially mme, they say, ‘There’s a meat head.’ But the difference is I studied at NYU for my Masters.” Of course, “Asian” and “meathead” aren’t really two things that are usually associated together. I think if I were to see Godwin on the street, I’d probably say “Hey, look at that really jacked Asian. He’s probably smart.” I’d probably then ask, “Why is he molesting his brother’s bosom?”
Next up were Duke and Lauren, father and daughter from Rhode Island. They were amazing, only because Duke told us, “When I look at Lauren, I mean, I love her to death. I mean, there’s just a teeny bit of disappointment as a father looking at Lauren.” And with that, he then began to cry on camera. What the hell?
“I’m gay,” Lauren then explained. Ahhhh. Later, as we saw her and her girlfriend in the kitchen with Dad, she said, “We’re trying to work on our relationship. And let’s face it, nothing heals a wounded relationship like a huge pot of lobster. Today, they shall feast on acceptance!
Duke prepares his world-famous Lesbian Mending Lobster.
Maybe Duke is just disappointed that Lauren’s pants-to-torso ratio is so low.
Here’s a shocker: did you know that real Indian people actually exist? Yup, they do! Not that we’d ever know by the general dearth of them on reality TV. Well, The Amazing Race was gonna change all that with Vipul (pronounced VEE-pil) and Arti, a wonderful husband and wife, who just might be the nicest, kindest, most loving couple on reality TV this year (yes, nicer than the Nerds from last season). They also became one of my instant faves.
Next up were Kellie and Jamie, two best friends and cheerleaders from South Carolina — not to be confused with the beauty queens. Here’s an easy way to tell them apart: the beauty queen spend their free time sprinting through the park. The cheerleaders spend their free time saying really dumb things like “You could put us in a cardboard box, and we’d find a way to have fun.” Funny, I think I once saw a porn that started that way. (It was called Cardboard Whores — really crappy.)
A little later, Jamie noted, “We both have the personality that we could have a conversation with a doorknob.” I’m not sure if that’s such a great attribute. Usually, if you’re talking to inanimate objects, we refer to that as “crazy.” That being said, I would, however, really love to see the girls conversing with a doorknob.
Generic Los Angeles team #2 then arrived on the scene in the form of Tyler and James, two pretty boys who we discovered were recovering… gay people? Nope. They were “recovering drug addicts and models.” Does that mean they were recovering from modeling? Probably not. So what’s the story on these two? James explained, “Tyler and I, we actually met through HEAVY DRUG USE.” At that point, Tyler’s face kind of dropped, as if to say, “Did you really need to say that?”
The dark days of gettin’ high and cuddling with helium canisters.
But look at them now!
The next team were two lovely black ladies, Lyn and Karlyn. They were both life-long friends and single-mothers, which of course begged the question: where were their kids? They seemed nice enough, and later on, they forged the first rivalry; so you can’t overlook that.
And finally, the obligatory gay couple: Tom and Terry. They were fortysomething boyfriends, and oh yeah, they were fuh-LAME-ing (said in the most fuh-LAME-ing voice). Imagine Nathan Lane in The Birdcage split into two and looking disheveled. That was what they were like. They pretty much were the phrase “light in the loafers” brought to life, and just in case we didn’t fully understand their sexual orientation, we saw them giggling like little girls in a nail salon (somewhere, stereotype-busting Reichen is probably stewing in anger).
Sadly, there was no old couple this season (I would have gladly swapped out a generic couple for some fogeys), but aside from that, this cast seemed to be one of the strongest in quite some time. And honestly, that’s essential with this show. You know it’s going to be a good season when you can barely stand to see a team go home, and that’s the way I already felt just three minutes in.
Anyway, with all the introductions made, Phil went over some ground rules. There would be eight Pit Stop elimination points, and furthermore, “In this race, there WILL be surprises you never expected!” he warned. For instance, now when teams check in, they’ll have to dance a jig with Phil until he feels they’ve honored his art form with the appropriate levels of deference. Okay, no, I just made that up. I have no idea what’s in store for this season.
Finally, it was time to start this thang. Phil raised his arm and after a few tense moments yelled “Go!” Sadly, this sendoff did not include the patented eyebrow-lift that we so love, but we can always sub in something from last season:
Nice, but no eyebrow…
Ah, much better.
The teams all ran past Phil, down a hillside, and to their bags where the first clue waited. Unlike previous seasons which have started in South America or Europe, the stakes got real high real fast as everyone learned they’d be traveling to Beijing, China. An extreme language barrier right from the start? I love it!
Teams had to take one of two flights: United, which left at around 1:20 PM (I believe) or Korea Air, which left at 2 PM. Six sets of tickets would be available for both. I immediately thought this would be the standard Amazing Race trickery where the flight that leaves later arrives first, but nope — United was better through and through.
Well, everyone got in their cars and sped off towards the airport, and we heard our first religious uttering of the season as one of the Muslim guys praised, “Allah is the greatest!” Deep spirituality is perfectly fine — but let’s just hope that these guys don’t turn into the second-coming of The Weavers.
Over with the Winners (Erwin and Godwin), Godwin made an affable joke about returning to the homeland, even though he wasn’t Chinese, and elsewhere, David & Mary, Kandice & Dustin, and Duke & Lauren all struggled to start their cars. Just the standard Amazing Race pandemonium. Luckily, man triumphed over machine, and soon all the teams were on the road, trying to navigate their way to the airport.
The single moms were particularly excited about the upcoming trip to China, and not just because they’d never been before. “Remember what I told you about… what I said about people from Alabama in China?” Karlyn asked, adding, “They like us because of the movie Forest Gump.” Unfortunately, I guess that means the Chinese must also think people from Alabama are IDIOTS.
Anyway, everyone seemed lost and/or caught in traffic, and while I don’t know what this is in reference to, I’ve got written down in my notes, “Vipul and Arti — aww, so nice.” I don’t remember what was said or done, but honestly, you can’t argue with that. They really are so nice!
Meanwhile, David and Mary struggled in this non-coalmine terrain. Them highways be tough! And speaking of highways, there was some dreadful accident on I-5, causing traffic to back up for miles. Ever the risk taker, prosthetic genius Peter decided to get off the highway and take a side road around the traffic. Would this risk pay off? Yup! It did! Looks like Peter and Sarah had a leg up on the competition! I mean, er, never mind.
Mary and David continued to struggle with all these crazy roads and such, causing Mary to tell us that where they come from, the man calls the shots, but on this race, they were gonna be equal. I really did love these two. If they were out first, I was gonna cry. Literally cry. Okay, just kidding. No tears would be shed. But I’d certainly be crestfallen.
Well, somehow, despite their total confusion, David and Mary actually arrived at the airport in second place, just behind Peter and Sarah. Actually, it’s not that they arrived at the airport. It’s that they arrived at the remote Thrifty parking that was designated on the instructions. From there, they took a bus to the terminals, and while on the shuttle, David and Mary talked with Kandice and Dustin, who also had shown up. When the girls revealed that they were beauty queens, a starstruck Mary covered her mouth and gushed, “Ooooohhhh!!! Yer beauuuutiful!!!” To which David added… silence.
Anyway, Peter and Sarah, Dustin and Kandice, and David and Mary easily booked seats on the earlier United flight. Out on the roads, however, several teams made the dreaded mistake of following the signs to the “rental car returns” area. We knew this was wrong because the shot slowed down multiple times whenever anyone followed this sign, almost as if to say, “OMG!!! They’re going to the rental car returns where they shall DIE!!!” Apparently, the rental car returns area was different than the Thirty parking lot (an understandable mistake), and suddenly, the cheerleaders and the Muslim guys found themselves prowling through a garage with the Asians and Robberly (Kimberly + Rob) not far behind. The teams soon wound up in a slow-moving line, and as we headed into the first commercial break, Rob wondered if they’d even make the flights in the first place. Dunh dunh DUNH!!!
Well, here’s a shock. A helpful airport worker pointed everyone in the right direction and disaster was magically averted. Recovering junkies Tyler and Jamie, meanwhile, made it to the airport sans Thrifty fiasco and wound up fourth on the United flight, followed by Duke and Lauren, and Lyn and Karlyn. The rest were stuck on the slower Korean flight. With the hustle for tickets now at a close, it was time for the teams to get to know each other. Vipul introduced himself to the Cheerleaders as “Vipul of the People,” which the girls absolutely adored. The Cheerleaders then asked Duke and Lauren what their relation was — “Are y’all like brother and sister, or y’all dating or what?”
“This is my dad,” Lauren said, adding “My very, very disappointed, ashamed father.” And with that Duke began bawling right there. Okay, that didn’t happen, and quite honestly, I’m surprised it didn’t. The Cheerleaders then extended their outreach program to the Muslims, but whoa whoa whoa, even though he had just given a hearty handshake to Vipul of the People, Bilal was not about to touch the womenfolk. Apparently, this was against his religion (although, last time I checked, Kaysar happily allowed contact with the fairer sex). The Cheerleaders didn’t seem to mind this rejection, and later, they asked each other, “Do Muslims believe in Buddha?” Oh, sweet uninformed cheerleaders. How regretfully wrong you are. Funny thing about Buddha: it turns out that Buddhists believe in Buddha.
“Don’t leave me hangin’ bro!”
Meanwhile, in an effort to disprove the meat-head stereotype wrong, Godwin and Erwin headed into the airport bathroom and filled up water guns. They then proceeded to squirt the hillbillies and several other teams, who laughed good-naturedly but inside were probably thinking “Um… seriously? What the hell?” (Because that’s what I was thinking). Unfortunately, the Winners didn’t realize that brandishing fake arms in an airport isn’t always a great idea. An airport guard (specifically, the tallest airport guard in all of Washington state) confiscated the water guns and revealed that they were absolutely not allowed. Man, if it had been Bilal and Sa’eed with the water guns, they’d already be locked up in a back room, suffering their eighth hour of interrogation.
“These water guns belong to people only seven feet tall and higher.”
Finally, it was time to hop on the planes, and because Sarah had leg issues, she was allowed to pre-board, raising the ire of several other teams, particularly the single-moms. They didn’t think it was particularly fair that she received special treatment, but then again, did it really matter? It’s not like Sarah got better seats as a result of her leg.
We then zipped across the world to China where teams had to make their way to the Gold House restaurant. Since it was night time, I just assumed the restaurant wouldn’t open until 8 AM the next morning, but as I later found out, I was wrong. Anyway, everyone reeled in the culture shock, with Duke and Lauren particularly wowed over. Unfortunately, after a few moments of euphoria, Duke remembered that his daughter was a lesbian and began crying again. Poor guy.
Of course, the best part about China was the massive language barrier — as best evidenced by David and Mary who for some reason thought “Quack! Quack!” was Chinese for “Fast! Fast!” It also explains why Mary always calls ducks “Chinamen with beaks.” Okay, I made that up. Nevertheless, the change of scenery certainly bowled over David and Mary, the latter of which said, “It’s like dropping a thirty-year-old baby into the world and telling them, ‘Just go!’” Of course, she said it in that charming Kentucky accent of hers — the kind that made me smile fondly and say “I LOVE THEM.” Other teams had similar reactions, like dullards Tyler and James. It’s kind of too bad they’re not on heroin anymore. They probably were a lot more interesting then.
As for Lyn and Karlyn, their mild irritation at Sarah and Peter had somehow ballooned into fullscale hatred, and I rubbed my hands in anticipation of another wonderful Amazing Race rivalry. We didn’t really have any good ones last season (the Hippies vs. Jeric doesn’t count), but who could forget the Linzes vs. the Weavers or Rob and Amber vs., well, everyone? That’s what this show is all about: cold, vitriolic rivalries.
Meanwhile, Godwin — who’s not a meat head — made his official observation about China: “It’s a lot like Korea; just, uh, more Chinese characters.” Another bombshell discovery! He later went to Spain and noted, “It’s a lot like America, but with Spanish instead of English.”
Well, the teams finally arrived at the Gold House restaurant where they found this season’s first Roadblock. Yay! And even better, it was an eating challenge! Bold move having one of these in the first episode, but since I’m partial to watching pretty people gagging to tears over local delicacies, I was quite fond of this Roadblock. Anyway, for this go-around, teams had to eat fish eyeballs, which they’d have to pluck out of the fish skulls with chopsticks. We then cut to Phil, happily sitting at a table of strangers, enjoying his very own bowl of fish eyeballs. Surely his dining companions were grateful for this experience. I could think of no greater honor than to have Phil Keoghan feasting away your table!
“Why, hello. Care to join me for a ravishing meal?”
This probably wasn’t the grossest thing I’d ever seen, but it did make me cringe slightly to watch the teams pokin’ their chopsticks in the fishy eye sockets. It was like a really lame version of Un Chien Andalou. I have a thing about eyeballs though: they gross me out, especially when they’re impaled, removed, or sliced open. Don’t even get me started on House recently.
Well, the teams all got to work with their fish eye banquet, and most of them had difficulty. Duke gagged so much I wondered if maybe he had discovered that the fish were all lesbians. At one point, he had hanging from his lips a string of saliva so long it looked like a bungee chord for insects.
Anyway, single-moms Lyn and Karlyn finished the Roadblock first and then headed off to the Forbidden City where they’d have to find the Meridian gate and subsequently a kiosk where they’d claim one of three departure times for the next morning. Ah, but that wasn’t all. Phil revealed that the teams would also learn the first big surprise of the race. I couldn’t imagine what it’d be, but I was excited! Who can deny a PhilSurprise™?
Meanwhile, the Miss Americas languished in the middle of Beijing after their cabbie dropped them off at the wrong location. They walked into some building that they assumed was the restaurant, but quickly learned that they were sadly mistaken. I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty certain they may have wandered into a whorehouse. Or a tea house. Either/or.
Back at the restaurant, Mary faced her most challenging multi-cultural task: mastering the fine art of chopsticks. She sort of used them like two big knitting needles, which meant it was slow going for the eyeball consumption. I was fairly amused that using chopsticks was more daunting than eating fish eyeballs, but then again, I’m assuming that they don’t eat fish eyeballs in backwoods Kentucky (I could very easily be wrong).
As for the Miss Americas, they were still roaming around Beijing, trying to find the damn restaurant. It looked like all hope was lost for them, but then after the commercial break, wouldn’t you know it? Someone showed up and led them to the fine dining establishment. Of course, we had gotten so wrapped up in this beauty queen navigational crisis that we had forgotten that they were merely in the middle of the pack. Several duos still hadn’t even arrived yet. All that worrying over nothing!
Over at the Forbidden City, Peter and Sarah arrived first and plucked off a 7 AM departure time from the kiosk. Other available times were 7:15 AM and 7:30 AM. And then there was one box that ominously said “Last Team.” Something didn’t seem right about that. Well, taking the remaining 7 AM departure times were Duke and Lauren, Lyn and Karlyn, and James and Tyler, who, by the way, happily exclaimed “Ninja land!” when they entered the Forbidden City, despite the fact that Ninjas are Japanese, and not, you know, CHINESE. Looks like these recovering models have been spending a bit too much time in IDIOT LAND.
You know, it’s been a while. Let’s see what our generic couple, Robberly, is up to. Sure enough, they were bickering, just like all the wannabe actors that come on this show. Kimberly seemed to be haranguing Rob about his eyeball eating skills, and I was shocked that he didn’t slam down his chopsticks and yell, “I AM HUMAN!!! YOU CANNOT CONTROL ME, BEAST WOMAN!” But sadly, he did nothing of the sort, and Kimberly continued to harp on him with dismissive frustration (btw, I may switch their name to Kimberob if Kimberly continues to be the dominant alpha-male of this relationship).
As for our lovable Indians, Vipal of the People was attempting to eat his way through the Roadblock, but it turned out that both he and his wife had weak stomaches. Arti was throwing up, and she wasn’t even eating. Ah, but she did gag in the most affable way. ARTI CAN DO NO WRONG!
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Fried Team of David and Mary had somehow persevered over the great chopstick dilemma of 2006 and moved on towards the Forbidden City. Unfortunately, they somehow wound up on a dark stretch of the road near nothing at all. You know what they say about thirty-year-old babies on dark Chinese streets: never seen again.
Speaking of lost, Erwin and Godwin managed to pull a Miss America and wound up in the wrong part of town, but that was okay because Vipal was pretty much retching over his eyeballs still — as were the Muslim friends, or as Arti pleasantly called them, “The Beards.” In time, however, the Indians and the Muslims finished the Roadblocks, and they too were off to the Forbidden City, with Bilal and Sa’eed in eleventh place (everyone else had taken a departure time by that point, even David and Mary, who had successfully managed to reach the Forbidden City, despite being stranded on the side of the road).
Luckily for the Winners, they eventually found the restaurant and had no trouble whatsoever downing the eyeballs (after all they are from the motherland adjacent). Soon they too were zipping off to the Forbidden City, and even though we had no idea what fate was in store for the last team to reach route marker, the frantic editing made me feel like we were heading towards something climactic — like an elimination. But surely The Amazing Race wouldn’t pull a cheap trick like that, right? The idea crossed the minds of one of the teams, but even they couldn’t fathom such a silly, malicious twist…
We then saw all the typical pre-Philimination editing tricks we’ve come to know and love: one team lost and asking for directions (Vipal and Arti), one team hopelessly lost and confused (Bilal and Sa’eed), and one team magically forging ahead from behind (Erwin and Godwin). So was this all massive misdirection? Kind of. Of the final three, Vipal and Arti arrived first, which meant it would come down to the Muslims and the Asians for that last departure time. And who managed to slip in at the last second? Erwin and Godwin! Yes, they managed to pull ahead when it mattered the most, which meant that Bilal and Sa’eed were stuck with the first big surprise of the game. And what, pray tell, did CBS have in store for their prized token Muslims? Let’s just say, it wasn’t good.
The camera panned over to a quiet corner of the Forbidden City where we saw the dreaded mat, quietly lying in wait like a vicious velociraptor stalking its prey. Suddenly, from out of the darkness came Phil, who had an unusually evil look about him this eve. His intentions seemed impure, and I feared for the Bilal and Sa’eed’s safety.
If only there were a tumbleweed…
For a moment, I thought Phil might pull a sneaky move like taking the guys’ possessions, but no, he had much darker plans. With no warning or explanation beyond a perfunctory “I told ya it would be surprising!”, Phil summarily eliminated the best friends from the race. Everyone was shocked: the guys, the other teams, the viewers at home. What the hell, Phil? I’ll go on the record and say that I do not like or approve of the premature Philimination. Look, I know the show is eager to earn back the audience that eroded away last year, but this is not the way! There are certain basic rules that should not be broken! And when we’re dealing with the best cast in seasons, the producers should be doing their damnedest to keep these people around as long as possible! Boo!
But alas. There’s no use crying over spilt milk (unless you’re Godwin, who was tearing up at this development). The Muslim dudes put a quick perspective on their ordeal, saying, “Just goes to show you have no really control over anything. The Creator does.” Was he referring to God or just the creator of The Amazing Race? Probably God.
Afterwards, everyone expressed sorrow for Bilal and Sa’eed’s unexpected departure, but the sadness lasted all of two seconds as we powered on with the race the next morning. Teams had to ride in a sidecar and direct their driver on a motorbike to North Bank Road for the next clue. But before we could get going on this leg of the race, we needed to take a look at a leg in the race (see what I did there? I used leg in two different ways!). Yes, there were problems with Sarah’s prosthetic leg: it was leaking hydraulic fluid — a problem that Mr. Superman Prosthetic Maker Peter couldn’t fix (as evidenced in what may have been the series’ first ever black-and-white flashback sequence). The good news was that Sarah could still run on her artificial limb. The bad news was that it was a hell of a lot harder. Either way, it didn’t really matter because she and Peter arrived at the next clue first, and guess what? It was the first Detour of the season! Oh glorious revelation!
For this Detour, teams had to choose between “Labor” or “Leisure.” In “Labor,” duos had to choose a pedicab, go to a market, and use traditional Chinese bricks and methods to pave a forty-five square foot portion of sidewalk with a set pattern. The trick was that the obvious brick pattern was surrounded by a border of larger slabs that was easy to overlook.
In “Leisure,” teams had to choose a pedicab and travel two miles to a park where they’d have to participate in a relaxation exercise in unison to receive the next clue. What they didn’t know was that the relaxation exercise involved balancing a ball on a paddle, a difficult task for uncoordinated jerks like me.
Well, most everyone opted to do “Labor,” and sure enough, everyone overlooked the gray bricks that needed to be laid down first. As a result, no one’s patterns fit the designated areas properly — just another ingenious complication on behalf of the producers. I have to admit that it was slightly awesome watching all the teams struggle to figure out what the hell to do. But sadly, the party came to an end, as it will often, when the sober models showed up. The guys quickly realized there was another set of bricks to be used, and soon everyone followed their lead, effectively ending the parade of myopia.
Meanwhile, the Cheerleaders and the gay guys (remember them?) decided to buck the trend and go for Leisure, which could only lead to exciting things. And as for Vipul and Arti, well, somehow they managed to drive their sidecar off to the Gobi desert or something because next thing we knew, they were completely lost. I don’t know how they managed to do this — everyone else seemed to find the Detour just fine, but as we went to commercial, it became clear that they were far, far away from the other teams. Our lovable Indian-Americans in peril! Say it ain’t so!
The good news for them was that they did manage to get directions, but they were still stuck in last place and showed no signs of catching up. At the front of the pack, Tyler and James completed the Detour and learned their next destination: take a taxi to Juyongguan where they’d find the Pit Stop — or as I like to call it, the place where people should be eliminated.
Funny thing about this Pit Stop: it was located on the Great Wall of China, and in order for teams to reach it, they’d have to scale a wall — another nice touch. Well, the models zipped off to the Pit Stop with Peter and Sarah not far behind. As soon as they were gone, the single-moms commenced another bitch session, amusingly complaining that Peter “tries to micromanage so much…” Bring on the hatred!
While Lyn and Karlyn struggled with their pattern (and this was after they learned of the twist), Sarah and Peter took over someone’s taxi, saying that they had an emergency and pointing to her artificial leg. Ah so. They’re that kind of team. Consider my empathy used up. What’s next? Will Sarah sneak onto a plane by saying she needs to see “El Doctoro?”
Unfortunately for the junkie models, they had no fake limbs to use to their advantage, and as a result, no taxis wanted to stop for them. Oh well. Off to the opium dens!
Back at the Detour, a second wave of Labor folk tried to figure out the pattern, and since everyone from the first round had already left, we now got to re-live all the excitement as teams once again overlooked the gray bricks. This time around, the hillbillies and Robberly found themselves duped by the challenge, and just as you’d expect, much bickering was had by all. Rob in particular bristled at Kimberly’s nagging ways, telling us he simply didn’t like her when they “take tones with each other.” Dammit, he’s a human being! Human beings don’t take tones with other human beings! Only monsters do that!!! And that’s what they were: AWFUL AWFUL MONSTERS!!! By the way, it’s official: I think they’re Kimberob now.
Elsewhere in the city, the Kellie and Jamie cheered (literally) their pedicab driver, and just behind them, Tom and Terry took their lead and joined in. Goodbye communism. Hello cheerocracy!
The two teams finally arrived at the Leisure challenge and immediately got to work attempting the relaxation exercise, which meant we got to see lots of silly antics involving balls flying everywhere. But enough about Tom and Terry (rimshot!).
Meanwhile, on the open road, Duke and Lauren’s cab managed to speed by Peter and Sarah’s. This was such a joyous moment that Duke actually kissed his daughter on the cheek, despite his massive, massive shame for her. But when he realized that his lips had touched a lesbian, he then screamed bloody murder and wept quietly in the corner for five minutes.
Anyway, teams started to arrive at the Great Wall, and when Peter and Sarah showed up, they immediately made a beeline for the stairs, not realizing that they needed to climb a rope up. Oh, and did I mention they were trying to preserve hydraulic fluid? Yeah, not so smart. They eventually reached the top of a massive staircase where a person alerted them that they had gone the wrong way. Oops! Luckily, Sarah had the encouragement of Peter, who suddenly turned into a sassy black woman as he encouraged, “You do your thing, sister!” That’s right, girlfriend! Two snaps to that!
While Peter and Sarah took the scenic tour of the wall, the druggie models showed up and promptly sped their way up the rope. The task wasn’t so easy for Sarah, however, whose artificial leg wasn’t the greatest accessory for wall climbing. Making matters worse was that she couldn’t get any sort of footing. Well, no one could. The rope came with a series of loops attached to it, and racers had to step in the loops to gain leverage. Again, not easy with a fake leg. Sure enough, Sarah looked like she was absolutely miserable on the ropes, and as we went to commercial, I had doubts about whether or not she could even overcome this challenge.
Luckily, as is always the case, the commercial break always makes things better. Sarah finally figured out how to use the rope to her advantage, and with Peter’s effeminate enthusiasm in her ear, she managed to finally make some headway. Up at the top of the wall, the models arrived on the mat first where Phil rewarded them with a prize: lots and lots of heroin. Oh, just kidding. They actually won $20,000 (with which they could buy lots and lots of heroin).
Meanwhile, Duke began climbing up the wall, and even though he was having a hard time, Lauren happily cheered you on, “I’m so proud of you!” she yelled to him, adding, “Unlike your lack of pride in my alternative lifestyle!” Okay, she didn’t say that, but she did start to cry with pride, which made me realize that they’re just a crying sort of family. I’d hate to see them after Life Is Beautiful.
Speaking of crying, Peter promised that he’d cry when Sarah makes it over the wall, but it turns out he was just a lachrymal tease. He shed not a tear when Sarah triumphantly reached the top, but I’m sure half of America was crying. It really was an amazing accomplishment, and although I can sense the producers are quietly setting these two up to be the villains of the season, I’ll give credit where credit is due: that was some good one-legged climbin’!
Anyway, once Duke had reached the top of the wall, Lauren zipped up like a little monkey, and she and her father checked in second place. Third place went to Peter and Sarah, and down at the base of the wall, the single-moms were ready to attack the challenge. Unfortunately, the task was too daunting for whichever mom was up first (I don’t remember if it was Karlyn or Lyn — it was a Lyn/Lyn situation).
While the mothers struggled at the wall, the Miss Americas swiftly climbed up and over, checking in with Phil in fourth place. Meanwhile, teams at the bricklaying detour began moving forward towards the Pit Stop, and over at Leisure, both the Cheerleaders a and the gay guys successfully performed the relaxation exercise and could move on as well.
Back at the wall, the moms continued to struggle, with one of them asking, “How do you even get started?” Just put your feet in the damn loops! I couldn’t even imagine what this woman would be like with a ladder. She’d probably spend a half an hour falling off the first rung.
Meanwhile, at the Labor challenge, Erwin and Goodwin were now moving forward, leaving behind Vipul and Arti, who had since returned from their scenic tour of Beijing. The lovable Indian-Americans (a.k.a. Team Karma) struggled with the brick pattern, and it became obvious they were in big trouble. It’s never good to be the last one at the Detour…
But then again, maybe everything would be alright for Team Karma. After all, Karlyn and Lyn (who together become, er, Karlyn) were STILL at the first rung, and Tom wasn’t much better. He was about midway up the wall, but his ankle had become twisted in the rope, rendering him useless beyond a series of foppish swoons. By this time, the Hillbillies had arrived, and David was slowly making his way up the wall. Ever the helpful presence, Mary yelled out sweet encouragement to David AND Tom. Another reason why I love her so. I’m sure she would have sent some encouragement towards the moms had they managed to get to the third rung (which they hadn’t).
At long last, the struggling teams managed to get a grip of how to proceed (yes, even the single-moms). “You have to go straight!” Terry yelled to Tom, but if there was anything those yelps of agony told us, it was that going straight was not an option. Soon, everyone was at the wall: The Winners, Kimberob, the Cheerleaders. Yes, everyone was there… except Vipul and Arti. Unless there was some shocking turn of events, I couldn’t see this ending well for them.
Anyway, Rob and Kimberly quickly scampered up the wall to take fifth place. They were followed by Kellie and Jamie and Irwin and Godwin at sixth and seventh places respectively. Terry and Tom managed to persevere, and when they clocked in at eight place, they happily reaffirmed stereotypes with a wonderfully effete celebration.
As for our favorite coal miner and wife, despite their sizable lead, they now faced a dilemma: Mary didn’t think she could make it up the wall. Her sweet demeanor turned instantly crabby as she barked at David to shut up. As for me, a nauseating realization came over me: my two favorite teams were pitted against each other for last place. David and Mary vs. Vipul and Arti. Such is the cruel fate of The Amazing Race. The generic, pretty teams always push the colorful, quirky folk out first. Damn those models and their predisposition towards drug abuse!
While Mary struggled at the base of the wall, Karlyn and Lyn finally completed the challenge and checked in ninth, and then it was officially a race for last place. Occasionally, we’d cut back to Vipul and Arti in their cab, as if they were about to show up at any second, but we knew they wouldn’t. Sure enough, Mary somehow honed her inner drive and hauled herself up and over the wall. Once on solid footing, she continuously apologized to everyone, and when the two checked in at tenth place, she nearly lost it. “What??? David, you told me I was last!” Mary yelled incredulously. She then hugged Phil happily (he does loves human contact so), and since there’s more than enough Mary to go around, she embraced Phil’s Asian sidekick too.
“Why don’t you hug your husband here?” Phil suggested. He HATES un-hugged spouses!
Sadly, this meant that Team Karma was out. I really didn’t see the karma in the situation. These two had been nothing but wonderful this episode. Maybe they clubbed a flock of baby seals just prior to signing up. Either way, I was mildly devastated by their elimination, especially when Vipul turned to Arti and said, “My true love…” Sniff, sniff. Another Amazing Race doozy…
What did you think about the season premiere? What about the teams? And what about the surprise elimination?