We’re three weeks into this season of The Amazing Race, which must mean it’s about time for some previously inoffensive teams to really start annoying the hell out of us. Heading the list is Team Border Patrol, as Art and J.J. let their already healthy egos off the leash, at one point comparing themselves to Michael Jordan for their prowess in securing seats after waiting on standby for an early flight out of Buenos Aires. Yes, that is indeed an accomplishment on par with winning six NBA championships, especially seeing as how three other teams were able to do the exact same thing. Congratulations, guys! You are truly legends in your own minds.
Their destination is Paraguay, where the Detour tasks “Stacked Up” and “Strung Out” await. The first option entails building a pyramid of watermelons, while the second requires teams to string a harp (the national instrument of Paraguay, doncha know). Of course, I can never see watermelons on The Amazing Race without thinking back to that magical moment in the 17th season premiere when Claire launched a watermelon into her own face with a catapult. Good times! We do get a bit of a callback to that famous scene when Mark bounces a melon off Bopper’s head, but it’s just not the same.
Initially, all teams except the twins choose the watermelon stacking task, and that does seem like the smart play at first. Stringing instruments is a delicate business, after all, while stacking melons would appear to require only brute force. But constructing the required pyramid shape is trickier than it looks, and although the Border Patrol manages to finish its stack with little difficulty, the other teams find themselves presiding over sloppy piles of melons that fall apart before they can be completed. While Art and J.J. head to the Roadblock, the other three teams from the first flight (Rachel and Dave, Team Holler, and the federal agents, who are calling themselves teachers for dubious strategic reasons) abandon the melons and head for the harps.
That proves to be the right call, partially because the harp-stringing takes place in a cool, air-conditioned theater, accompanied by soothing string music (at least, when it isn’t drowned out by Bopper shout-singing his rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues”) instead of a hot, sweaty parking lot. Still, Rachel and Dave decide to bail and use their Express Pass,a decision made more out of panic than sound strategic thinking. Oddly enough, it’s the twins, one of whom is a musician with experience stringing guitars, who struggle the most with this task. At one point, they nearly throw in the towel and switch to the watermelon task. That would have been a disaster, although as it turns out, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of this leg.
The Roadblock is an elaborate dance that must be performed by one team member while balancing a bottle on his or her head. In what might be a first for The Amazing Race, there is an automatic two-hour time penalty built into the task should the participant break all of the allotted bottles without completing the dance. (Seriously, has this ever happened before? I’ve missed a season or two along the way, so it’s possible I missed it.) While the Border Patrol is able to pull it off and finish in first place, Dave goes through every bottle, incurring the two-hour penalty for himself and Rachel. Even so, they are able to finish in fifth place.
In the end, it’s a battle for dead last between two teams who seem incapable of completing their Detour tasks: the twins and dating couple Vanessa and Ralph, who refuse to give up on the watermelon-stacking, despite sensing that they’re already out of the race. Their persistence pays off, as they are able to catch up with the twins at the bottle dance, which Ralph completes in time to ensure their survival. Thus it is the twins, ironically undone by a music-related task, who are eliminated. Overall, this had to be the most grueling leg of the race in quite some time, as most teams were absolutely exhausted by the time they reached the mat. Given the lightweight nature of so many tasks in recent years, that’s a promising development for the rest of the season.
- During the watermelon task, it was either hotter than new love or hotter than Mississippi mud. I’m not sure it could have been both.
- There’s no love lost between Vanessa and Ralph and Team Big Brother. Vanessa in particular unveiled a nasty streak at the Detour, seemingly more concerned with the visibility of Rachel’s [censored] than the task at hand.
- Next week: Rachel cries again.