Well, that was hard to watch.
I’ve made no secret of rooting for Mark and Bopper this season, but for much of this hour, I was hoping they’d just pull the plug and call it quits. The episode opens with what may have been a first, as Bopper receives medical attention at the pit stop. With his knee threatening to take him out of the Race, it looks for a moment like we might be in for a Survivor-style medical evacuation. One knee brace later, however, and Bopper is good to go—or good to hobble, anyway. But his injury will have negative consequences later, both for the team and the viewing audience.
First, though, it’s off to India, site of some of the worst ugly-Americanism in past seasons. Thankfully, we were spared any overt disparagement of the local culture this time around, although it’s probably safe to say a couple of the teams are unlikely to become Bollywood fans in the near future. The travel to India proceeds largely without incident, although the tension between the Border Patrol and Rachel and Dave over last week’s silliness with the U-Turn is still simmering. Nothing much really comes of it, though, unless one team giving another the silent treatment is your idea of high drama.
Also not particularly enthralling: Mark’s latest bout of motion sickness. Note to Bertram van Munster and company: When your commercial-break cliffhanger is “Will Mark puke?,” you’ve probably got a dud episode on your hands. Still, Mark’s illness, combined with Bopper’s injury, will serve as the main source of drama for the remainder of the episode. The Roadblock requiring one member of each team to learn a complicated Bollywood dance routine and perform it on the stage seems tailor-made for the energetic Bopper, but as he’s physically unable to do it, the hoofing falls to the woozy Mark.
The task does provide some measure of comeuppance for Art and J.J., as Rachel is able to breeze through the routine on her first attempt, while the hapless J.J. is forced to prance around in colorful robes over and over again, to the displeasure of his director. In fact, all three female team members complete the task before either of the males (even with Big Brother Rachel squeezing another good cry into the action). Once even J.J. has managed to pull it off, only Mark is left to either complete the task or die of heatstroke trying.
Mark persevering through failure after failure without keeling over is inspirational, I guess, but the whole sequence just made me uncomfortable—especially when Bopper finally gets him to agree to quit for the sake of his children, then talks him into trying it one more time anyway. I suppose if Mark had really been in any danger, someone from the production would have stopped him (as in the all-star season with Mike White and his father), but it was still a grueling stretch of television. The Detour tasks—driving an auto-rickshaw through a test course or hitting a ball with a cricket bat—barely even registered with me. (Rachel and Dave could only muster a low-intensity squabble, and ended up cruising to another easy first-place finish.)
And of course, after all of this, we have another non-elimination on our hands. (Given that there are only two episodes of season 20 left, I thought we’d be spared this, but now I see that the finale is going to be a two-hour deal, presumably starting with four teams still in contention.) I do hope Mark and Bopper can rally, given the lack of other rooting options, but it doesn’t look promising.
- I’m sure the producers were as disappointed as I was that we were denied the spectacle of Bopper busting a move, Bollywood-style. In fact, the dancing task wasn’t nearly embarrassing enough for the racers, especially when compared to the flexing-in-a-thong challenge from last season.
- Rachel (of Rachel and Dave) actually said, “We’re not here to make friends.” I thought we’d all agreed that those words were never to be spoken on a reality show again.
- Next week: Vanessa falls on her face, while BB Rachel cries about her hair extensions.