I’ll start this post by saying that I’m not particularly angry at anyone on The Amazing Race, but I thought the title “Union Jackass” was cool; so I kept it. Yes, as my punnage suggests, the racers journeyed from Turkey to foggy London Town where they did all sorts of X-TREME British activities like… ride a ferris wheel and… stack boats and… take the Tube. Okay, so it wasn’t the most adventurous leg ever, but it still was fun, if only to hear Uchenna using a foreigner accent yet again, even in an English-speaking country.The episode began with Phil reminding us that Ron and Kelly would be broke for this leg of the race. You see, they came in last on a non-elimination leg last week; hence, they lost their money and their belongings, but not their bickering attitude. Meanwhile, Phil had other pressing questions to ask: “Will Uchenna and Joyce and Meredith and Gretchen be able to stay ahead of the competition?” Uh, I can answer that very simply: no. By some fluke, these two teams had managed to pulls in front of the unstoppable train that is Rob and Amber, but I doubted lightning would strike twice.
Anyway, Uchenna and Joyce headed off to the Sirkeci train station where they found their next clue in a room full of whirling Dervishes. You know, the Dervishes were quite graceful, and the scene was remarkably beautiful, but don’t they have any better places of worship than a back room in a train station? Or am I being just a naive American pig? Maybe next season we can find a religious group that prays in a sewer.
After checkin’ out the Dervishes, Uchenna and Joyce learned they’d be traveling to London where they’d have to find a “zebra crossing” (that’s cheeky British slang for “crosswalk”) made famous on a Beatles album. Let me guess… Yellow Submarine Way! Tally ho! To the Tubes! Well, this little mind teaser proved to be a simple task for Uchenna who figured it out, you know, immediately. Not that it’s any major feat. Anyone with even the faintest knowledge of Beatles trivia could figure it out.
Of course, that is unless you’re Gretchen and Meredith, the lovable but clueless senior couple who have managed to somehow survive in this crazy game. Unlike Uchenna and Joyce, they were stumped by this famous crosswalk riddle, causing Gretchen to lament that she’d be much better equipped for a Mel Tormé-centric clue. No need to feel down, Gretch. There’s always the chance of a London Fog / Velvet Fog reference (heh. Like that will happen, you crazy old bat). Oh, and for those of you still scratching your head, the answer to the riddle is “Abbey Road.”
Next to leave the Pit Stop were Rob and Amber who gave us not one but two different pronunciations of “Dervish”. “Find the room with the Deverish. Once there, the Devish will escort you…” said Rob, happily adding and dropping phonetics as if they were on his fantasy baseball lineup. Luckily Amber was there to regulate as she properly stated “Dervish.” (To Rob’s credit, it is a hard word, what with the two syllables and all.)
While Rob pondered if the Dervish was a topless woman (it’s a logical thought… if you’re an IDIOT), Ron and Kelly read their first clue which said that three teams have a certain amount of money for this leg of the race. “One team has zero,” read Kelly, and thankfully, we were spared the usual sarcastic “I wonder who that is!” or the defeatist statement of the obvious, “Well, that’s us.” Instead, the two hit the town and tried to drum up some funds for their latest journey. I personally was expecting Ron to chime in about how begging for money was like how he begged for food when he was a POW, but shockingly, he shunned the military references altogether. Luckily Kelly was there to fill the void with pointless nattering about getting married. You know how it goes — the race will really show Ron’s true colors; I’ll be able to see if this is the man I want to marry, blah blah blah. It’s times like these that I wish I were a big, black woman so that I could say “Honey, you ain’t gonna be marrying SHIT” with all the proper swagger it deserves.
Anyway, after all the teams had received their clues from the Dervishes, everyone headed over to the airport where the earliest flight to London was at 8:00 AM the next morning, arriving at 10:30 AM. Check that. The earliest DIRECT flight, that is. Clearly not learning anything from their triumphant leapfrogging of Rob and Amber last week, Joychenna and Team AARP (I really wish I had a better nickname for them) only researched direct flights to London. Sure enough, crafty Rob managed to snag a computer and book tickets on a flight that would arrive ninety minutes earlier. The only problem — there was a layover in Frankfurt, and the flight from Frankfurt to London was already sold out. Throwing caution to the wind, Ramber booked the flight anyway and added themselves to the standby list for their connection. Would this be the big break all the other teams needed? Probably not. In fact, moments later, Ron and Kelly grew wise to the situation and booked themselves on the flight too, hence ensuring that if this connection were a dud, Rob and Amber would still have some way to survive (yes, yes, reality TV pun, I know).
Meanwhile, with all the tickets booked, it was time to mill around uncomfortably. Meredith was kind enough to lend some dough to Ron and Kelly, causing the beauty queen to remark “Oh my gosh” so insincerely that you’d think she were attempting an exercise in monotone sounds. She could have a great career standing in a Post Office and saying “Next window please.”
I shouldn’t come down too hard on her though. Without all her clothes and makeup, she was bound to be a little crankier than usual. Luckily, Turkey is a country known for its compassion towards makeup-less women, and when Kelly reached a pathetic low of asking strangers for lipstick, the ticketing agent was more than happy to fork some over. Look, it’s important that she’s pretty for her flight. What if there’s a spontaneous pageant on the plane? Yeah, you can thank me later.
“Hey, this lipstick reminds me of the time when I was in Baghdad and I — shit, now I’m doing it too.”
Well, Ramber and Relly soon departed for Germany, and after deplaning, we once again were treated to this season’s umpteenth foot race between the two teams. As Rob mentioned, the first team at the standby desk would have priority. I guess we should have known that both teams would wind up on the plane though because CBS threw in a commercial break while the two duos were still scampering through the airport. Had only one team gotten on, the cliffhanger would most certainly be a slow-mo shot of which ever poor team was left behind. Sure enough, when we came back to the action, Rob and Amber easily snagged two tickets for the flight, and after a brief moment of suspense by the crafty editors, Ron and Kelly landed two seats as well. We then were treated to my most favorite of Amazing Race graphics: the airplane map. This one drove me a little nuts though as the airplane “lines” moved ever so slowly across the map. Go faster, dammit! I can’t sit and watch this animation creep along forever! (It’s sort of amusing seeing what annoys me, yes?)
Anyway, after landing in London, Rob and Amber managed to secure a lead when their subway car pulled away just seconds before Ron and Kelly appeared on the platform. You know, how many times do Rob and Amber have to sneak off on a shuttle or train before Ron and Kelly realize they should just stick on their asses? Nevertheless, once on the Tube, Rob and Amber met Stuart, a foppish Brit who seemed more than pleased to spend the morning with these two reality chums. “This guy’s pumped to be with us,” said Rob quietly to Amber. Luckily, Stuart was deaf to this comment — that or he simply would have only understood had Rob said “I’m terribly sorry, but this fine fellow is excited to be with us, Nigel!” In my world, all British people call each other Nigel and live on Pennythicket Square.
Well, Stuart turned out to be this week’s Sanjay as he guided Ramber to Abbey Road and the next clue: go to the London Eye. For those of you expecting a giant eyeball, relax. The London Eye is actually an enormous ferris wheel, or as it’s officially called – and I shit you not – the “British Airways millennium observation wheel”. In fact, if you go to The London Eye’s official website, the architects firmly deny that the structure is in fact a ferris wheel. It’s an observation wheel, dammit! Hmmm… sounds like a certain landmark is in the ferris closet. It’s okay, London Eye. Everyone already knows.
Anyway, once at the Eye, teams would have to enter a capsule and ascend above the city. They would then have to find a flag on a nearby building, under which would be a clue box. Man, the old people will so suck at this. With their new sidekick in tow, Ramber boarded a capsule whose futuristic design caused Rob to glow, “I feel like I’m in outer space over here!” Yes, that would make sense, if outer space looked like LONDON.
I was sure this challenge would stump teams for quite a while, but instead Rob and later Ron found the flag fairly easily. Oh man. That’s no fun. At least there’s always Gretchen and Meredith. I can just imagine them riding around and around again with Gretchen cooing “Oooooooh. Where is it? Ohhhhhh.”
With Ron and Kelly not far behind (but none too close either), Rob and Amber arrived at the clue box under the flag and pulled out the Detour: Brains or Brawn. Man, that’s the least creative Detour name yet. Have they simply run out of creative alliterations? And for crying out loud, they’re in England! Couldn’t they have come up with some sort of fish or chips Detour? Man, that would have been DOPE — or as dope as that sort of thing can be (which is not very dope at all). I also would have accepted the following Detours: Harry or William, Posh or Becks, bangers or mash, and “schedule” or “shhhhedule”. Honestly, the possibilities are endless.
Nevertheless, we were stuck with Brains versus Brawn. In Brains, teams had to solve three riddles in the London Underground which would then lead them to the famed address of Sherlock Holmes. And because The Amazing Race is never one to shy away from costumed locals, teams would receive their next clue from what appeared to be Ian McKellan dressed up as Mr. Holmes himself. What an honor!
It’s been a little rough landing an acting gig after Gandolf…
Brawn was much less interesting. It was just the standard break-your-back activity of pulling five rowboats out of a river and stacking them. Yawn. Surprisingly, Rob and Amber opted to take on “Brains”, and as long as none of the puzzles involved pronouncing the words “Dervish”, “Aardvark” and “Amber” (not “Ambah”), it looked like Ramber would be breezing through once again.
Meanwhile, over at Heathrow, the last two teams finally arrived, only to discover that Rob, Amber, Ron, and Kelly had already been through two hours ago. “We just gotta play the game really smart right now,” said Gretchen, whose previous forays into intelligent racing have included climbing on teak elephants and meandering up and down Turkish towers. Needless to say, my confidence in the oldsters was not high.
Back at the Detour, Rob and Amber successfully completed their first riddle which then sent them to another train station looking for “three naked men.” Turns out these gentlemen in the buff were but mere statues. Still, that didn’t stop Rob from scoffing, “What’s up with the British?” I know! NAKED statues? I’ve never heard of such a thing!
Once the shock of nude artwork wore off, Rob and Amber were able to finish up their Detour and head to the next clue, located at the Millenium Dome. The team hopped on the Tube where sadly, it was time for Stuart to grow his own wings and make his way in the world. “What are we gonna do?” asked Rob once his sidekick left. Yeah, how will he ever find help now? Where will he ever find an English speaking person in, you know, ENGLAND??
Speaking of English, Uchenna amused me to no end with his overly British way of addressing the locals. “Good morning! Might you summon a cab for us?” he asked one person. He then added, “Jolly good traffic this morning. Must have been ten lorries holding up the queue! Isn’t that so, Nigel?” To which Joyce replied, “My name’s not Nigel.”
Anyway, while Joychenna and the old folks toiled away at “Brawn” (odd choice for Meredith and Gretchen, but hey, if they were up for it, I was up for it), Rob and Amber arrived at the Dome where conveniently a Yield awaited them. After brief deliberation, they yielded Ron and Kelly, claiming that using it on Uchenna and Joyce would be a waste. No, actually, using it on Ron and Kelly would be a waste. With two other teams certain to be a few hours behind, there’s no way that using the Yield on Relly would cause them to be eliminated. It would only delay them a bit. Using it on Uchenna and Joyce, however, would ensure their elimination, and if Meredith and Gretchen were to get into the top three, the odds would significantly increase in Rob and Amber’s favor. But whatever. No use in ranting over it. Might as well enjoy the show.
Well, after the Yield, Rob and Amber found the Roadblock which involved driving a double decker bus through a course demarcated by traffic cones. If the driver hits a cone, he or she has to start all over again. Amber feared that the bus would be stick shift; so she had Rob do the challenge. Hey – aren’t teams not supposed to read the Roadblock description until after they’ve chosen who will do it? CBS CONSPIRACY!!! Nevertheless, Rob got to work driving the big, red bus, and in no time he knocked over a cone. “Watch where you’re going,” advised the instructor with that refined passive aggression we so expect from the Brits. The only thing that could have made the moment more PA (and therefore wonderful) would have been Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith appearing out of nowhere and simply saying “Teaching an American to drive a bus? I see… Pass the tea.” A harpsichord could play in the background too, if necessary.
Anyway, Rob managed to navigate through the cones successfully, and soon he and Amber were off to the Pit Stop for their umpteenth first place. I wonder if they’ll win a prize? I mean, it’s not like they did anything like cut off their hair, but they did manage to navigate through a city with reliable transportation and no language barrier. That’s got to count for something!
Back at the Dome, Ron and Kelly arrived to discover that they had been Yielded. Question: how did they fall so far behind anyway? Originally, they were just one subway ride behind Rob and Amber, but now they were trailing by seemingly an hour or more. Was Stuart the difference? Would they have been in better shape had they found a local sidekick? Maybe Ron stopped to explain to a woman how she reminded him of the women in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, over at the Detour, the oldsters struggled with the heavy boats, and while Gretchen has always been the weird noisemaker of the two with all her beeps, buzzers, and toots, this time it was Meredith who provided the strange auditory contributions to the episode. The old man let out a strange guttural noise that was something between a scoff, a growl, a grunt, and a cough. I guess it was sort of like the noise a horse makes when it sneezes. Either way, I feared that he might just keel over right there. Luckily, since I studiously watched my Amazing Race promos this week, I knew Uchenna would come along to help. Unfortunately, that’s not allowed in the rules, and so the much hyped helping-moment lasted all of five seconds, tops. But what a special five seconds those were. *Heart is melting with humanity’s potential for kindness.
Speaking of kindness, resident snakes Rob and Amber ambled up to the mat where a dapper gentleman greeted the two. No, not Phil – although he is quite dapper. Instead, it was a charming bloke from 1924 whose bowler hat prompted Amber to say that he looked nice. Phil merely raised his eyebrows high into the sky and gave her a look that seemed to say, “Don’t you think I look rather spectacular as well?” Unfortunately, he didn’t actually say that. Instead, he congratulated the two for coming in first place, and guess what? They won a prize! Okay, this is ridiculous. Rob and Amber have won a prize all four times they’ve placed first. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but poor Uchenna and Joyce. Need I say it again? THE HAIR! Ray and Deana take the fast forward, walk across a bridge and win two cars. Joyce shaves her head and she gets… a bandana? Phil, you’ve got to make it right. MAKE IT RIGHT, PHIL! (I’m thinking a custom turtleneck from the Keoghan collection)
Adding salt to the wound, Rob and Amber once again pulled the naive card by saying “We’ve had more luck than any other team.” And by “luck”, Rob meant “television exposure.” Again, I’ve jumped off the CBS conspiracy theory wagon, but man, they make it so easy to get back on. (However, for the record, I do think Rob and Amber have run a nearly flawless race so far).
“They say the more collars you wear, the more dapper you are. Might you agree, fair Amber?”
Over at the Roadblock, Kelly and Ron finally ended their Yield, and even though Ron claimed he could do it better, he let Kelly tackle the double decker bus. Meanwhile, the intrepid duos of Uchenna and Joyce and Meredith and Gretchen showed up, and soon we had all three teams battling it out. As Kelly, Joyce, and Meredith all literally went nuts in the driver’s seat, the producers were kind enough to pipe in some of that oompa music usually reserved for the finest old people follies. Kelly eventually managed to finish first, and as she and Ron rode over to the Pit Stop in a cab, she expressed her utter annoyance at Ron’s asshole comments. Luckily, he had a perfectly rational explanation:
“This is the women and men problem. You become a soldier, you don’t have to deal with it.” Man, we had come THIIIS close to going a whole episode without some military reference, but now he’s even comparing basic human relations to the military. You know, Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. I wonder what Ron writes to his mom? “Dear Mom. I love you so much. Our bond reminds me of the bond I share with my commanding officer in the Army. In fact, writing on this paper reminds me of the very paper I used in the service. It’s crazy how many parallels there are. Huh. ‘Parallels.’ I remember using that word once in the military.”
Nevertheless, a whole argument sprung forth with Ron bragging that he could have driven the bus better than Kelly. “I flew a $35 million helicopter. Highly, highly trained to operate a mobile machine,” he said. Um, except a helicopter isn’t a double decker bus. You know, that whole propeller and flying thing? Yeah, busses don’t have that.
“You just have this big ego thing,” claimed Ron, the man who just finished telling us about all the expensive and hi-tech helicopters he’s flown. Luckily, Kelly was on our wavelength, and she quickly threw the ego comment in his face, leaving him with little to do other than mumble “Military… Military… Military…”
Anyway, the bickering couple checked in second, and so we were down to Joychenna and the old folks. Joyce successfully completed the Roadblock first, but in a vintage moment of Joychenna, the two somehow wasted away precious time searching for a cab. It was clear that Meredith and Gretchen would be eliminated, but this was where the producers try to make it seem much closer than it was. We saw lots of footage of Uchenna and Joyce wandering around followed by Meredith and Gretchen looking like they’ve got their act together. The only problem was that the sky kept alternating between dusk and night, depending on which team you were watching.
Sadly, the old folks’ impressive run finally came to an end with Phil calling them an “inspiration.” He then added, “Here, take this pair of jeans as a souvenir. They’re mine, and they’re extra tight; so be careful.” This leaves only one likable team (for me) left. Hopefully Joyce and Uchenna can pull it out next week, but you never know what really will happen during those crazy Amazing Race finales, unless you read spoilers (or accidentally stumble upon one like I did).