Hello, armchair racers! Your regularly scheduled reviewer, Scott Von Doviak, has taken the night off to battle confused taxi drivers, complex road blocks, unexpected detours, and apathetic locals at the Amazing South By Southwest event in scenic Austin, Texas! In Austin, it is a local custom for half of the population of L.A. to descend upon the city every March in order to celebrate the magic of queuing outside, talking during movies, and utterly ignoring up-and-coming bands. Scott’s challenge is to keep his sanity while getting himself out of bed every single day before they quit selling breakfast tacos at the place around the corner. Can he make it? Tune in next week!
Like the rest of you, I was sad to see Mike & Mel go last week, but this week featured one of those legs that are unending, seemingly unbearable grinds. If Mel found last week’s leg tough going, this week would have been sheer misery for the man. Many of the racers still in the game, even those who were not 70-year-old men, looked quite unhappy through the latter half of the episode.
We start in Japan, and here we should pause to mention the unhappy synchronicity with the events of the past week. Our intrepid host, TV’s Phil Keoghan, who hails, incidentally, from near Christchurch, NZ, which I mention with significance, asked viewers to give to the Red Cross during the first commercial break. Not a bad idea.
The racers depart the pit stop between 8:45 p.m. and 12:45 a.m. with a required flight at 10 the next morning to Kunming, China. The trip appears to take about seven hours, and most of the racers arrive in plenty of time. Kent and Vyxsin, however, do not figure out until daylight that they are driving the wrong way. This disrupts the positive mental attitude that they told us about when leaving the pit stop many, many hours earlier. I missed their prior season, but here, Vyxsin has a remarkable meltdown while Kent showers the women he allegedly cares for with tender stony silences and lovingly passive-aggressive recrimination. A parallel is drawn for us of how they came to leave their prior Amazing Race.
The flight to China takes all day, and while Ron and Christina get a slightly earlier train to Lijiang, the rest of the teams, Zev and Justin especially, rest secure in the knowledge that Kent and Vyxsin are quite a ways behind them. Kent & Vyxsin finally get to the airport and get on a plane. Vyxsin hugs her man. He looks bored and vaguely nauseated. Aww.
So the teams ride a yak across some gorgeous waterfalls. Back at the airport, Kent tells his lady love he’s going to shoot her. The cowboys act like cowboys. Everyone rides the Jade Dragon Gondola to a spot some three miles above sea level to get to the Road Block. Three miles! The lack of oxygen in Denver leaves me breathless, and that’s only a mile high. (Tokyo, incidentally, is 59 feet above sea level.) The Road Block involves going through tens of thousands of wooden charms looking for ones printed with the 12 images of the Chinese Zodiac. Some teams appear to pull it off in no time, while others (Zev!) take forever. Meanwhile, Team Goth arrives in China, books a flight to Lijiang, rides the yak, and arrives on Jade Dragon Mountain, all while Zev works on the Road Block. Turns out that a goat and a horse are two different animals. Go figure.
The other teams have raced to Old Town Lijiang to put a wish in a prayer wheel, call out the names of their Chinese Zodiac sign, and face a Detour. In this Detour, some teams smash candy while others carry a tremendous horn across town. Smashing candy seems easier, but what do I know? I’ve never been to China. Team Globetrotter has trouble figuring out the mysteries of the Chinese Zodiac because they have apparently never been to a cheap Chinese restaurant. They take the horn detour, but they’ve been flanked by everyone but Team Buddies and Team Goth while shouting out animal names, so it’s hard to tell if the horn detour was worth it. Team Cheerleader is behind them at the end, but they switched Detours, which must have cost them time.
Back at the charms on top of the mountain, Vyxsin is freaking out again. She appears to do this a lot, which may be why she prefers the drama of dating outside of a heteronormative relationship.
All the racers then head up a million flights of stairs to Wangu Pavilion, all arriving visibly out-of-breath and exhausted, only to learn that this Pit Stop isn’t the end: They are still racing. Some are more excited than others by this news. As the episode crashes to a To Be Continued close, Team Buddies are carrying a horn, possibly lost, and Team Goth has just realized that Kent has left the fannypack with all of their passports and information on the Jade Dragon Gondola. I just hope that Vyxsin is exactly as supportive of him as he was of her!
Although I would have cringed to see Team White on this leg, I have to say that I always enjoy the grindstone episodes. There’s just something about watching frantic, confused, overtired, underoxygenated people losing their minds in utterly gorgeous locales that is just so refreshing for those of us watching at home, lazily reclining on a comfy sofa while breathing air with just the amount of oxygen that we’re used to. The challenges are still not quite as heady as those in the early episodes, but at least the racers have to suffer. And that’s what’s important.
Next time: Double U-Turn!
- “‘Where are Kent and Vyxsin?’ is literally a million dollar question.”
- I don’t know where Mallory gets her endless supply of goofballs, but she must have some sort of goofball dealer mojo to find them in the Far East.
- Justin’s right. Lev is rocking an Elmer Fudd hat. And that’s not entirely inappropriate for him.
- Mike White is way nicer to his dad than Christina is to hers.