U-TURN IS THE SPICE OF THE RACE! (Episode 8 TAR 24 “All Stars”)

We find the remaining teams leaving la bella Roma in cute, fast, little Ford cars. I know, I know – some of you are rolling your eyes now: “spare us the product placement!” But! Even though Ford has nothing to do with this blog, it does sponsor The Amazing Race show. And with less than stellar casts there is potential loss of viewers –  so, God knows, TAR needs all the sponsors they can get! The least I can do as a fan is mention their sponsor here.

Anyway, while our teams are driving to an Italian town of Civita, we are being informed : Caution: Double U Turn ahead!” and it’s music to my ears! Of course it could mean disappointment if the teams – one by one – solemnly proclaim near the U Turn sign: “We choose not to U Turn!” But it also can mean spicing things up. Now, this spice can taste somewhat bitter to me – like when Travis and Nicole last season chose to U Turn my favorite Afghanimals for no reason at all (the Afghanimals survived though!). Or the spice can taste sweet to me – like when James and Jaymes from season 21 U Turned presumptuous and annoying Abbie and Ryan (they did not survive!). But no matter bitter or sweet – I would take it. Anything but bland and boring! And to me, the U Turn on The Amazing Race  is that much needed tool that can make things slightly more exciting. So – spice it up!

Episode 8 TAR 24 Detour

Team Brenchel is the first team to leave, and they make it to their destination without problem. They inform us that they plan to U Turn the Cowboys – to flush out the Express Pass. I might be mistaken, but I thought this leg was the last leg to use the Express Pass anyway, so – it would be “flushed out” regardless.

The look-alike blondes are next. They tell us how much they like team SobStory (aka Father&Son) and how much they want to work together. Team SobStory, in turn, tells us how wonderful and smart (?!) the blondes are. They all praise each other and leave together as a little caravan – with the blondes following the SobStory. I can’t even tell you how much I dislike it when teams work together. Collective efforts make this show soooo much less fun. Less fun, less exciting and less fair even. The show is about teams of two competing against each other, not teams of four or teams of six working with each other. It might be more convenient and safer for the teams to work together, but much less fun for the viewers. Wish it was disallowed by the rules! Luckily, the blondes got separated from their two-team caravan.

Team Brenchel is the first at the Detour. There are two options – “Donkey Run” (you have to ride a real live donkey) or “Donkey Build” (you have to build a toy donkey from provided  parts). Is it just me, or we have one too many toy building challenges this season (building a toy car in China, building a toy donkey in Italy?)

The live donkeys are fun though. Animal-related challenges always bring fun to the Race. Donkeys are very stubborn and somewhat unpredictable, and we have a few laughs watching our teams trying to ride them. Team Brenchel finishes their ride quickly, but team SobStory is hot on their heels. Brenchel is currently in the first place, and they want to keep it this way. So I was not surprised at all that – to distance themselves from the next closest team (which was the SobStory), they decided right on the spot to U Turn them rather than Cowboys (whom they originally planned to U Turn).

The U Turn seemed quite logical to me – the first place is desirable and there is a prize that goes with the first place. I would have done exactly the same to separate myself further from the next closest team (thus increasing my chances to get to the Pit Stop first). Very logical.

Episode 8 TAR 24 Roadblock

Yet team SobStory proved to be sore “losers” in this situation. “They never helped us!” – complained Connor – “remeber how in Rome they didn’t tell us where the clue box was?”  Oh, why should they, Connor? “How could she U Turn 60 year old man!” – lamented Dave. Oh please, Dave, no need to play the “age card” here!  If your age is such a handicap that you need a special consideration, why don’t you just enjoy this show from the comfort of your armchair? You area so boring anyway!

A few blogs back I made a poll asking the readers to name the most boring team this season. The poll is made in such a way that multiple votes are not allowed. Of the 117 people that voted so far (as of this day), a third finds team SobStory (Father&Son) the most boring team this season (they share the top 3 with now eliminated team Oy Vey and the lookalike blondes):(https://amazingracefan.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/the-only-all-stars-were-the-elephants-episode-6-tar-24-all-stars/)

While Dave is whining about being U Turned, the Cowboys and the Afghanimals arrive to the U Turn sign. Dave promptly chooses to U Turn the Afghanimals (since the Cowboys had already used their Express Pass to skip the Detour completely) with teary explanation that he was left no choice by that awful, mean Brenchel team. The Afghanimals – to their huge credit – take it in stride, not as a personal offense. “It’s the game,” – they say – and I can’t agree more. U Turn is a feature of this game you are all playing – why not use it? There is nothing awful, cruel or illegal about it. Kudos to the Afghanimals for recognizing this and remaining their usual cheerful selves.

Team SobStory – to minimize the “damage” they just did to the Afghanimlas – offer to work together. While they are working together, the lookalike blondes arrive and join the collective effort. Grrr! That collective work should definitely be disallowed! Take the blondes, for example – had they been doing all the challenges by themselves, do you think they would have still been here?

Meanwhile, we see a glimpse of the Globetrotters – lost and so hopelessly behind that it’s all but certain that (unless it’s a non-elimination leg) they will be going home.

While the Globetrotters are finding the way, team Brenchel arrives to the Roadblock. The Roadblock “The write stuff” involves diligently copying a page from an ancient manuscript. It requires attention to detail, steady hand and patience.

Rachel finishes first and off they go to the Pit Stop (although not before hearing David’s sarcastic “thank you”). Brandon tries to explain to Dave that the U Turn was not personal (they want to be first, they want to get the prize – what’s not to understand?) yet team SobStory is still bitter. So bitter in fact that 60-year-old Dave resorts to mocking Brenchel behind their back with some silly pantomime. It all looks clumsy and  pitiful. And still – can I say it often enough? – sort of boring. Team SobStory and fun are mutually exclusive. Yes, I hear it – they are nice people in real life. Helpful. Gentlemanly. But -alas – it does not translate to entertaining or fun. I don’t really care what they are in real life. They bore me to tears on the show.

Team Brenchel gets what they hoped for – first place at the Pit Stop. And $7500 each. Try to tell them it was not worth it to U Turn the SobStory! 

The Afghanimals survive the 3rd U Turn in their Amazing Race history. Good for you, guys! Way to go!

The Globetrotters are the last team to arrive (soooo predictable) and are eliminated from the Race. The Globetrotters used to be one of my favorite teams. They delighted me in their first Amazing Race. I still liked them in their second season. But now – I couldn’t care less about them. Despite their impressive sizes, they were largely invisible on this Race. And not entertaining at all. Keep in mind though – they are professional entertainers! If the professional entertainers cannot entertain – there is a problem. Or maybe it’s just that 3rd time on the Race is a little too much, even for the team that was fun in the past. Anyway – no tears here at their departure.

Now – there won’t be any blog next week or the week after. I am going to Europe for a couple of weeks, and I doubt that I’ll have access to watch (or time to write about) TAR. I don’t think I’ll miss much – if it were not for animal-related challenges, U Turns and maybe perhaps the exuberant Afghanimals, there wouldn’t be much excitement anyway.


The preview of the next episode shows that team Brenchel becomes “enemy # 1” while teams SobStory, look-alike Blondes and Afghanimals make a pact to be the final three. I know Rachel and Brandon are fighters, so I would not discount them so easily. Still – I am afraid the final three will be  just like that preview – SobStory, Blondes and Afghanimals.

I have high hopes for the Afghanimals. The other two teams of this new alliance are sooooo undeserving. The blondes just rode coattails most of this (and their past) season. The SobStory might be strong, nice, “gentlemanly” and all that in real life, but they have been boring most fans to tears (for the 2nd season now!). For that alone – their victory would be a letdown. Much like the previous season’s victory of that nice but so boring couple whose name most of us don’t even remeber.

But let’s see. I hope to be back from Europe in time for the Season Finale. Meanwhile – enjoy what’s left of this less than star-like “All Stars” and don’t completely defect to Survivor (although I must say – it is very tempting this season!) 🙂

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IV-XIII, MMXIV (Episode 7, TAR 24 “All Stars”)

I hope against all hope that there are at least some TAR fans who could decipher the title of this blog. None of TAR contestants (“All Stars”!) would. Not on their own anyway. If it were not for Roman passerby’s, they would be still in Rome, trying to make sense of the Roman numerals. By the way, IV-XIII, MMXIV simply means April 13, 2014 – the day that episode aired. “Mystery” solved.

I have a confession to make as to why I am writing this recap (or should I call it “musings”?) 5 days after the episode aired. I was not too busy. I was not traveling. I was not otherwise too occupied. I simply forgot to watch the episode. Forgot that TAR was on. It is sad to me – I watched every single season of The Amazing Race (except the family edition), and I would never forget. So that’s the first. Is it me or is it TAR? – I don’t know. But the “Survivor” this season has a whole bunch of memorable, daring, deliciously “evil” and very colorful characters, and that’s where my attention is diverted. TAR, on the other hand, might call its cast “All Stars” all they want, but if the most loyal fans forget the show is on, there is a problem.

All this being said, it’s not TAR production – it’s TAR cast that is the problem. I still think the production didn’t do a bad job with the challenges. The episode began with a puzzle the contestants had to solve : “you are going to the Eternal City”. You would say – what kind of puzzle is that? – everybody knows that it’s Rome that is called the Eternal City! But it’s TAR All-Stars we are talking about! Of course half of them have to consult the internet to find out what the “Eternal City” is (wish those who used help would incur at least some penalty to slow them down!). The look-alike blondes (the ones that called the Berlin Wall the Great Wall of China in their season) look at each other  with their expressionless (frozen by Botox?) faces: “Eternal City? What the …. it is?!”  and I can’t help but wonder once again: “how did they end up on this show? whom did they have to bribe to be there?“…

TAR 24 Episode 7

Anyway, the teams all end up on the same flight to Rome – zero excitement there. The Detour was so-so in terms of fun and excitement – you either had to impersonate a gladiator (wooden sword, ferocious facial expression – all that) or you could instead impersonate your 5-year old nephew (and operate remote-controlled toy chariot). But the Roadblock was great – kudos to TAR production! It was both fun and painful to watch.

I know Phil called it the most difficult task ever, but don’t be deceived by that. The task was very simple – to count the number of steps of the Spanish Steps in Rome (135) and add this number to the date written on the monument above (1789). That is all. Simple arithmetic. You don’t even need a pen to do this calculation. Then why, or why not a single “All Star” could solve it on his own?! Not even the “brilliant physicist” Brendon. Not even old (and supposedly wise) Dave. As for the Globetrotters – they had a deja vu, just like in Prague where they (unable to solve the task) had to take time penalty. If it were not for Roman passerby’s – none of our “All Stars” would be able to complete this Roadblock. None. Why? The date on the monument was written in Roman numerals. And the final calculation has to be expressed in Roman numerals. Yes, we don’t use Roman numerals routinely, but they are all over you – how could you not know them? Have you never seen “XX century” written with Roman numerals?! Have you never seen “King Louis XIV” written with Roman numerals?! Have you never seen “Chapter IV” written with Roman numerals?! Apparently none of the “All Stars” have.

I was cringing and felt shame for the fellow compatriots, but still – I loved watching this challenge! The only improvement I would make is that I would not allow contestants use any help from passerby’s. Or at least – make them take some time penalty for using help. After all, people who do know their Roman numerals (ditto for people who know their geography, history, art, etc.) should be rewarded. To show the viewers (whatever viewers are left) that knowledge is power is advantage on TAR.

It would help to choose more erudite contestants, too. And more fun contestants. And more memorable ones. And more entertaining ones. But that’s asking too much 🙂

Team “Oy Vey” was eliminated, by the way. But do you really care?

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