NO RECAP TODAY BUT A POLL INSTEAD!

For those of you who regularly visit this humble blog – I have to apologize: I am on the road, so there won’t be the Episode 5 recap. In fact, I have not even had a chance to see the episode, and as of right now I have no idea how the yesterday’s episode ended and which team (if any) got eliminated. Nobody spoiled it for me yet! ūüôā

For those who stumbled upon this blog by chance – please do come back next week or stay around and browse the previous posts.

I promise to return with the next week’s recap; meanwhile, let’s take a poll!

Time to Vote!

By now we got to know our teams well enough to make an “informed choice”. Voting can be entertaining and educational, so – vote early and vote often! (KIDDING about the “often” part!!!).

WHICH OF THE REMAINING TEAMS YOU WOULD WANT TO WIN THE RACE?

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THE BEARDS HELP YOU FLY! (Episode 4 TAR 23)

There are two types of news we get from this episode – good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad news: unfortunately, ¬†this was one of those teasing and disappointing “To Be Continued” ¬†So – we would not know until the next episode which team will be eliminated. The news can go from bad to worse if nobody at all ¬†is eliminated next time (give us some blood after that teasing!).

The good news actually is a collection of good but small moments rather than one big good news. The teams travel to Norway, to the Arctic Circle. Even though TAR has been to Norway before, I find the location unusual and fascinating. So – definitely good news.

I am a huge fan of mentally challenging tasks on The Amazing Race (they are just more fun to watch), but even though the Detour in this episode was physical rather than mental РI really-really enjoyed it.  So Рgood news once again.

Detour Episode 4 TAR 23

This Detour was a choice between “Hang your heads” and “Hammer of ¬†the Cods“. In the former you had to string huge, heavy raw fish heads and then deliver and hang them at a designated place. In the “CodsDetour you had to collect a certain number of big heavy dry fish from a designated place and pound them with a hammer to make 1 kilogram of ¬†jerky.

I found it sad rather than funny that none of the teams seem to know what “kilogram” means (or else confuse it with “kilometer”). ¬†I mean – if you are going to travel the world, you should not only know that the whole world uses metric system, but also know (at least approximate) conversion from an archaic American system to metric. And here I am – hoping to see mentally challenging tasks on TAR!

Everybody except team Oklahoma and “baseball bunnies” (they actually call themselves¬†“bunnies”!) choose to string heads. A good news here is seeing Marie crumble under pressure. She cannot get it why all the other teams’ work gets accepted while hers is rejected. And it takes her deliciously long to figure out that she needs to hang the fish heads where there are yellow and red TAR markers.

Another delicious moment here is when she is trying to manipulate our bearded hippies into helping her (by vague promises of the Express Pass), and they actually tell her where she should stick her Express Pass. Having told her that, they fly away – I am sure their beards help them fly!

And fly they do. In fact, they are the first team at the Roadblock where one of them has to jump of the bridge and swim to retrieve the next clue.

The clue tells them to hook up a huge boulder to equally huge¬†Ford¬†vehicle (just like TAR does – I place the sponsor’s name prominently in this blog – after all, who do you think provides prizes and money for the show?).¬†Once the boulder is moved, something will be revealed underneath. This “something” is a bunch of small puzzle pieces to be used at a later time and a separate clue with the location of the Pit Stop written on it.

Here we are treated to another good moment. It has to do with Marie. Like her or not, but you have to agree that most “interesting moments” have Marie involved one way or another. So here Marie grabs the puzzle pieces but forgets the clue with the name of the Pit Stop. Then she (or rather her silent sidekick whatever his name is) proceeds driving aimlessly around.

Detour, Episode 4 TAR 23

Luckily they encounter Nicole and Travis. Or maybe it is luckily for Nicole and Travis, because Nicole has a chance to obtain Marie’s Express Pass – she demands it in exchange for information. Good for you, Nicole! Marie is left in deep thought “to give or not to give?”. And we unfortunately left guessing what would happen next. Because right at this very moment we see “To be continued…” on the screen…

Do you want to know how I wish the future events unfold? In my “ideal TAR” so to speak? Please let me indulge in this fantasy…so – Marie can’t think of anything better to do (like going back to retrieve the clue, for example) but to give Nicole the Express Pass in exchange for the info. Nicole basically tells her the obvious – that she has to go back and collect the forgotten piece of info.¬†Somewhere¬†along this super long leg of the Race¬†there is a U-Turn waiting, and Marie happens to arrive there before the doctors. She U-Turns Nicole and Travis, and they have to use their Express Pass to survive. Meanwhile, Marie gets lost (or encounters a bad taxi driver or whatever), so she, too, has to use her Express Pass to survive. From that point on – it’s the “survival of the fittest”…or the luckiest…fun, no? ūüôā

But I digress…Where were we? Oh, our bearded hippies reach the Pit Stop first and win $5000 each. They don’t have much time to celebrate though, because Phil says that they have to keep racing. It is one of those long legs, so off they fly again.

Meanwhile the rear of the group is brought by those who unwisely chose the “Cod Detour – Oklahoma and “hunnies-bunnies” (aka “baseball wives”). Hunnies-bunnies, as per usual, continue their blabber about how it was the hardest thing they had ever done in their life (and I thought the paragliding in the Episode 1 was the hardest, at least according to them!), how they are not quitters, how they would do it for their (very unwieldy named) children…and on, and on, and on…*yawn*…*another yawn*…and yet *another yawn*…I think my jaw is locked now from all the yawning – why can’t they just disappear from the Race?

Well, I guess we’ll have to somehow survive until the next Sunday to learn which teams survive, which team “dies”. But if after the long torturous week of suspense it turns out to be a non-elimination leg – then I guess I’ll have to shoot myself! ¬†One way or another – someone shall die! ūüôā

Till next week!

And here you can find the most up-to-date links on all things The Amazing Race:

http://www.sirlinksalot.net/amazingrace.html

SOMETIMES YOU WIN, SOMETIMES YOU LOSE, SOMETIMES THERE ARE FLIGHT DELAYS (Episode 3 TAR 23)

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains…by paraphrasing this Bull Durham quote about baseball and adding to it the idiom “when it rains, it pours” – we pretty much can summarize this whole episode in one sentence.

All the teams leave Chile for Lisbon, Portugal. They can go to a designated travel agency or arrange their own flight connections. Chester and Ephraim – who are the first (!) team to depart – do not get the flight they want because of a travel agent’s mistake. From one mistake, it grows into a comedy of errors – delayed flights, missed connections…the teams behind Chester and Ephraim still manage to get on more advantageous flights, so I really don’t understand how it went so downhill for the ex-NFL players.

Chester and Ephraim, TAR 23, Episode 3

One of the surprising moments at the airport was seeing the “baseball wives” making a smart move – getting themselves on a standby list at an airport lounge instead of waiting at the gate to do so. Good for them, but even this clever move cannot mitigate the fact that overall they are so bland and utterly uninteresting.

Another surprising moment was when team “Oklahoma” declined the offer by the “Afghanimals” and their “Race wives” (aka cloned blondes) to take the same flight. Team “Oklahoma” realized that they were only needed as an insurance against the last place. So they declined and found a different flight to take¬†(why couldn’t Chester and Ephraim?!).¬†Good for them that they could see through the “Afghanimals”!

The teams arrive in Lisbon and (eventually) to the Pit Stop pretty much in the order determined by their flights. The ones with more advantageous flights arrive in the front of the pack, the ones with less advantageous flights arrive in the middle, and so on.

The Detour in this episode is “Tiles” or “Miles” – you either have to assemble a big puzzle from ceramic tiles (“Tiles“) or measure on a big map the distance that Magellan¬†traveled¬†while circumnavigating the Earth (“Miles“). Since the latter involved a map and a minimal knowledge of arithmetic – the “Afghanimals” and their “Race wives” majorly flunk and switch Detours. The rest of the teams finish whatever task they chose originally.

Roadblock (TAR 23, Episode 3)

The Roadblock – “Slings and Arrows” is more picturesque than challenging: ¬†you have to keep shooting arrows from an ancient sling until you hit one of the several shields ahead. Those with more luck finished a little quicker, those with less luck – a little later, but everybody finished sooner or later.

The race for the first place at the Pit Stop was pretty much between the doctors (Travis and Nicole) and Jason/Amy. No surprise here – after all, they were among the first three teams landed in Lisbon. The doctors had a little bit more luck with their taxi driver and got to the Pit Stop first.¬†¬†The last at the Pit Stop¬†were Chester and Ephraim.¬†Actually they didn’t even make it to the Pit Stop – looks like Phil got tired waiting for their multiple delayed flights and went himself to the airport to meet them.¬†Given their disastrous flight connections – no surprise here either.

What can I say about this episode? The Lisbon is gorgeous, the challenges are alright, the luck is fleeting, and you can get from first to last in the blink of an eye.

What else? Team “Oklahoma” are even nicer than they seemed…smart, too…team “Afghanimals” are as annoying as ever and appear playing for the camera more than genuinely enjoying the Race…if anything good came out of the whole “race wives/race husbands” silliness is that I am learning to tell the “cloned blondes” apart by their more visually different attributes – their “race husbands”…

TAR 23, Episode 3

Unlike some fans, I am not cheering for the doctors (Travis and Nicole). I didn’t like Nicole from the very beginning, and – if anything – I feel even more so now. The ER physicians who misread the clues, fall apart under pressure (remember Nicole’s nervous breakdown on the bike in the last episode?), get easily frazzled…well, it’s not that fun watching them on TV (let alone – ¬†imagining getting under their care in a real life ER!)

Another team I disagree about with many fans is team “Marie” (and I am not even counting her partner since – ¬†despite of being a strapping lad – he is largely invisible). Many want to see team “Marie” go. Not me though. Yes – she is bitchy and mean. Yes – she is loud and unapologetic. She would not think twice about lying and scheming. She would not give a damn about making friends and being nice. But! The rest of them more or less blend in while she stands out. A priceless quality if you want to have a memorable season.

Till the next episode!

And here you can find the most up-to-date links on all things The Amazing Race:

http://www.sirlinksalot.net/amazingrace.html

NOT ALL HAVE LUCK IN BINGO (Episode 2 TAR 23)

So, the Race continues. We find our teams departing in the middle of the night only to bunch up and spend the rest of the night together.  In the morning they will be allowed to get their next clue from a nearby ship.

Meanwhile, Marie-the-pink-haired-witch establishes the order in which the teams must board the ship. Surprisingly nobody protests much. I am getting ahead of myself here, but I must tell Рbased on the video and bio, I sort of liked Marie. She seemed opinionated, fearless, confident.  All the qualities I like in TAR contestants. But what we see so far on the show is shrill, rude, socially clumsy, unpleasant. I hoped for a charming villainess, but got a b*tchy witch instead (or witchy b*tch Рwhatever your preference).

On the way to Detour (TAR 23, Episode 2)

On the way to Detour (TAR 23, Episode 2)

But I digress. Once aboard, in order to get their next clue, the teams had to figure out the Spanish phrase that a Chilean hero said before sinking his ship. Ability to speak Spanish was not sufficient here – it was one’s¬†resourcefulness¬†that mattered. ¬†Actually I was pleasantly surprised to see that this task made teams spread out a little and arrive at Detour not as one big happy bunched-up crowd but more or less separately. Using bicycles in addition to taking taxis also helped reshuffle the order of arrival.

This Detour was a choice between two tasks – Mining (splitting huge blocks of salt to find the next clue) or Brining (saturating fresh water pools with salt until you are able to float so easily that you can read a newspaper while doing it).

Yes, some teams with the body types that would float the easiest still chose Mining, but everyone deals with their chosen task more or less efficiently. Except the “baseball wives”, that is. Forget about Brining – whining is their thing! They whine, they cry, they proclaim this the “hardest thing” they ever had to deal with. Please! Working three jobs to get the ends meet might be hard. Spending sleepless nights caring for a sick relative might be hard. Coming to a new country with no language, money or friends in search of better life for your child might be hard. You are just playing on a reality show. So – don’t insult people who went through real hardships.

Detour (TAR 23, Episode 2)

Detour (TAR 23, Episode 2)

Having completed the Detour, the teams are taking a 24-hour-long bus ride to Santiago. A great opportunity to rest, chill, sleep and generally regroup. Everybody makes it to one of two buses, everybody but team Bingo. Actually, they have this opportunity, too, but they choose to forego it thinking that they can get on a faster bus. Except they are mistaken, and mistakes tend to put people behind.

Meanwhile on the bus two innocent lambs are selling their souls to the devil. The price? – well, the Express Pass, of course. She-devil with pink hair promises it to the “baseball wives” demanding in return that they do whatever she tells them to do. The lambs happily agree while the devil has nothing but the lamb chops in mind. The ride continues.

Once in Santiago, our teams are faced with shoe-shining Roadblock. We saw shoe-shining tasks on TAR before, but this time around not only shoes of a client have to be polished, but the whole shoe-shining stand has to be correctly packed and delivered to a designated place.

Several teams have difficulties here, especially team Bingo for whom the streak of bad luck just continues. Rowan (he performs this Roadblock for the team) ¬†gets to a random (instead of TAR-designated) shoe-shine stand and practically puts the local shoe-shiner out of work. Eventually he completes the task, and the Bingos almost catch up to the closest team – “baseball wives” (who are surprised that the devil did not keep her part of the bargain…seriously? – you are surprised?!)…

Roadblock (TAR 23, Episode 2)

Roadblock (TAR 23, Episode 2)

Unfortunately “almost” does not count, and the unlucky team Bingo is the second team eliminated from the Race. I hoped against all hope that it would be “baseball wives”, not Bingos, that have to go. “Baseball wives” are humorless, spindly, and whiny, and as interesting as a speck of dust. ¬†Seriously – how can a woman who defines her entire self by her husband’s occupation be interesting?! ¬†Alas, they are still in while the Bingos are out.

What else does the Pit Stop reveal to us? First of all, I am happy for the “Teddy Bears” – Chester and Ephraim – that were the first at the Pit Stop. ¬†I am glad the pink-haired she-devil and her semi-silent side kick arrived at the end of the pack – maybe it will be their serving of humility pie (although – who am I kidding?).

I still have no idea who Jason and Amy are or even if they can talk. I am mildly impressed with the cloned blondes but still can’t decide whether to call them “not bad” or “just lucky”. As for the Afghanimals…Well, their ululating might be annoying, but their fighting is truly scary. They do get at each other like wild animals – I know now where the nickname came from.

Well, let’s see what the future episode brings. Till then!

And here you can find the most up-to-date links on all things The Amazing Race:

http://www.sirlinksalot.net/amazingrace.html

AND THE RACE HAS BEGUN…(Episode 1 TAR 23)

This blog is coming out a little late because I just returned from Europe Рstill slightly jet lagged, still with Sangria swirling in my blood.  Meanwhile Рthe Race has begun.

Our contestants start at what looked like a Hollywood movie studio that produces westerns. I personally adore westerns, but I am torn between liking the visual effect and hating it being so obviously fake. While I am pondering the question “to like or not to like?“, the contestants are making their way to LAX airport to catch one of two flights to Iquique, Chile.

There is a few hours difference between the two flights, so getting on the first flight is the first challenge each team is facing. While they are arriving in Iquique, I am thinking that just spelling that name would make for a decent challenge.

cast1

This leg of the Race had 2 Roadblocks. The first Roadblock required one partner to do some paragliding from a mountain down to the beach while the other partner makes his way to the landing place. The second Roadblock required the partner who did the paragliding to take a rowboat and collect 5 fish from nearby boats. After that the teams had to make their way on foot to the Pit Stop.

Now, since there were no Detours on this leg of the Race, please allow me to make my own rhetorical detour here.

To me personally the very first episode of each season of TAR is less about the tasks, challenges, excitement, and more about getting to know the teams better – getting to know them beyond their pictures, short videos and answers to standard questions.

So, what impressions did we get from this “first date”?

The pink-haired ex is shrill, loud and ruthless. I sort of expected that, so – no big surprise there. It wasn’t a surprise either that the exes came to the Pit Stop first, winning two Express Passes – one for themselves and one to give to a team of their choice in the future.

The Hippies and the dating couple seem quite bland so far, but I would be easy on them since it’s only the first episode.

The cloned blondes are all smiles, golden locks and undulating bosoms. The purpose for them being on the show is unambiguous – to lure young male audience away from other shows and to The Amazing Race. Whether they would fulfill this purpose or not – who knows? – after all, there are plenty of ¬†“beauties” on other reality shows (and on Survivor they wear less clothes!), and the attention span of young male audience is quite short. So – who knows?…

The ex-NFL “Teddy Bears” and the “Bingo Queens” seem quite funny. I liked how Rowan took the rowing challenge lightly : “They call me Rowan for a reason!” It is very enjoyable to see light-hearted¬†attitude and self-deprecating humor on TAR. And – speaking of Rowan – it’s also fun to watch someone less than athletic to hold his own (at least so far) on the Race.

As for the ER doctors – they seem to take the Race way too gravely which drains all the joy out of it. They also misread the clue and took a taxi to the Pit Stop instead of walking. And seeing ER physicians misunderstanding directions or misreading clues – it does give you a pause, doesn’t it?

The baseball wives – you can just gloss over them, nothing would grab your attention. Unless you are a fan of cliches and solemn proclamations. “I will face my fears!!! I will follow my dreams!!! I will do it for my son!!! I will be a role model!!!“…You would think they are talking about climbing Mount Everest, not some leisurely paragliding down to the beach. Please! *yawn*

The sweet and innocent boys from Oklahoma, well – guess what? – they are not in Oklahoma no more. They are in wondrous land where people do strange things and speak strange language, and everything is new and exciting. The boys don’t get eliminated. So – all is great. I like them. They make me see the world through their “just-out-of-Oklahoma” eyes, and it is amusing.

Now, “Afghanimals” – I thought they would be funny, but they are majorly annoying. Their jokes are anything but funny, their loudness is devoid of genuine joy, their enthusiasm comes across as fake. Perhaps I would have attributed it to cultural differences, but! they both are born and raised in America, so – here goes that excuse.

Who did we miss now? Ah, yes – father and daughter team! Well, they were the last team to get to the Pit Stop, and so they were eliminated before we even got to know them.

Let’s hope the second episode will give us more excitement.

Phil

Meanwhile I want to mention one thing. I do follow TAR fans discussion groups, Facebook posts and various TAR-related forums. I can tell that a lot of fans resent having so many “recruited” teams. In a way I agree, even though there is a huge difference between recruited “baseball wives” and recruited “Bingo Queens”. As long as the teams are fun and make the season exciting – I can live with “recruited”.

What I do, however, ¬†strongly disagree with is the common complaint among the fans that the teams should be chosen for the show based on who “really need money”.

Please don’t confuse the show with a charity. The show is supposed to entertain the viewers, not distribute prizes according to participants’ net worth. Whether a homeless person or a billionaire – if he is fun, entertaining and has the ability to glue me (or you, or the next person) to my TV set – then he deserves to be on the show.

As for the major prize – that “million dollars” that teams are salivating about – remember that it is divided equally between both members of the team…and at almost 40% tax, well – should we say it’s much less than a “million dollars”?

This is my humble argument that the joy and the excitement of the Race should come first. Money is good, and all of us need it, but how could it even compare to the thrill and fun of running the Race itself?! Or is it just me?!

Till next episode! ūüôā

And here you can find the most up-to-date links on all things The Amazing Race:

http://www.sirlinksalot.net/amazingrace.html