Within the first few minutes of tonight’s episode, Marcus and Amani inform us that they have a special needs child, while Jennifer mentions the fact that she teaches special-ed students. Could this be foreshadowing of some sort? Let’s find out, as we make our way from Bangkok, Thailand, to Malawi, Africa, all on the same flight. That’s right; there’s no airport drama to be seen this week, and it’s yet another leg of the race that will see its outcome largely determined by the luck of the taxi draw.
At the Roadblock, one member of each team will be forced to don a Breaking Bad meth-cooking suit and transport 10 bales of tobacco weighing 200 pounds each through a warehouse, while actual tobacco workers run interference with their own carcinogen-loaded dollies. This looks like it would actually be a lot of fun, aside from, y’know, the backbreaking weight of the bales. And the workers look so happy, you’d hate to see any of them lose their jobs. The lesson here is obvious: Keep on smoking!
While the first five teams are bunched closely together, the grandparents and Marcus and Amani are trapped behind an engagement party procession, which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the episode. By the time these last two teams arrive at the warehouse, the others have moved on to the Detour: All Sewn Up or Not Grown Up. In the former, teams must tailor a jacket and pants for a cheerful local. In the latter, they must build a toy truck for children at a local school (Ding ding ding! Foreshadowing payoff!) out of milk cartons and bottlecaps. (Although I couldn’t help but notice that the cartons had “Beer” on their labels. Does beer come in cartons in Malawi?) Laurence remarks that the ladies will no doubt all choose the sewing task and whip right through it, and... yeah, he’s kind of a dick. In fact, I just figured out who he reminds me of: Piers Morgan. That’s not a good thing at all.
The toy-building task reminds me of those Survivor rewards where the winners bring soccer balls and Frisbees to a local village, and we’re supposed to forget for a moment that they’re all fame whores trying to cut each other’s throats for a million bucks. Granted, The Amazing Race isn’t as ruthless as Survivor, but it still feels like a forced heartwarming moment. And besides, those are some sad-ass trucks. As soon as the teams take off, those kids are gonna junk those pieces of crap and go back to their iPads.
The final stretch of the leg offers a modicum of suspense, as teams must transport a pair of beds to the Pit Stop—beds which they’ll be sleeping on that night. The Dudez appear to swipe a truck from another team that had finished ahead of them, but it doesn’t count against them as they are awarded first place after the actual first arrivals, Justin and Jennifer, must return to their truck and pay their driver. That same mistake appears certain to doom Ma and Pa, a turn of events I was happy about at the time, as I thought the lagging Marcus and Amani would be saved at the last minute. Unfortunately, Ma and Pa managed to slip past them for the sixth place finish. Bummer. But wait! Once again, this is a non-elimination leg! How many of these freakin’ things are we going to have this season? Oh well. I’m not going to bitch too much about that, as I’m relieved Marcus and Amani are still in this thing.
Relieved, but still not thrilled with the season as a whole, which continues to be disappointingly linear and over-reliant on random cab selection. This episode didn’t even offer any cryptic clues, which had at least added a slightly higher degree of difficulty to earlier legs. Not to mention the fact that there isn’t even a purely villainous team to root against. Granted, I don’t like Laurence much, but Zac seems okay. This season needs some kind of shakeup, but I’m far from confident that’s going to happen.
- I’d completely forgotten that Ernie and Cindy had the Express Pass. Weren’t they kind of in trouble last week? I guess they couldn’t have been too worried, so they’ve still got it in hand.
- Apparently, building trucks out of cartons and bottlecaps is a lot like performing surgery. Remind me not to schedule my next appendix removal with Justin.
- I do enjoy the evolving opening credits sequence. As opposed to Survivor, which has done away with opening credits altogether.
- Next week: More Africa.