(In advance: Feel free to comment on this post so I know exactly what I'm doing right and what needs improvement. Otherwise, this is going to turn into Survivor with all its overdosing on Russell and Parvati and physical violence and whatnot.)
Yes, I know I was supposed to do the Racers Revealed episode. I also know now that it's pretty much impossible to make the same thing sound interesting when you're pretty much trying to recap the words "they are very interesting" ten different ways. Seriously? Not very interesting. I'll probably try and do it at some point, but I'm already four episodes behind, plus all the episodes of China Rush and The Amazing Race 17 I thought I was going to have time to recap. It's time for moving forward. (Please never let me say those two words again.)
Previously on Stuck In The Middle With Wu: The season opened with a Very Special Episode where we learned that this race is going to be one of those unremarkable ones where there's nobody we really, really want to see lose, but also nobody we really, really want to see win. And unfortunately, nobody decided to strip off and provide a literal meaning to the words "Racers Revealed", IVAN. On the bright side though, everybody's favourite nipple pony Allan did give us an early start on this year's Cavalcade O' Tank Tops.
The same music that introduced us to Bangkok for last season's premiere episode pulls itself out of retirement and welcomes us back to Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. This time, they've decided we don't need to be told the city is modern enough to have a shiny monorail. It does, however, have many cars and big buildings, and is controlled by editors who seem to think our Attention Deficit Disorder is so bad we can't even pay attention for long enough to say Attention Deficit... oooh, glittery! Allan "I Know You Like My Chest, But Stop Calling Me 'Chairman Wow', Dammit!" Wu introduces the country as only he can, with a spiel comprised of advertising hyperbole and giant arm waving. This season, the country is "a land of intriguing contrasts", which I suppose is better than his back-up script telling him to call Kuala Lumpur "a city not quite important enough for people to pronounce correctly". It's also "a melting pot of diverse cultures", which may or may not impact the taste of your fondue. Kuala Lumpur was apparently once a tin mining town, but now has realised that tin doesn't exactly work too well when building skyscrapers, and have switched to steel. It's now also the starting line of this season, where another ten teams of lucky famewhores will be busily trying to not wear out their welcome too much. At least not until they get to be contestants on Dancing With The Stars. As always, the team who manages to do the best job of toeing the fine, fine line between pleasure and pain will win money. How much, I hear you ask? A hundred thousand US dollars. (Let it be known that I could not think of a funny way to mock the American economy's woes and celebrate the Australian dollar reaching parity. Finance is also Not A Very Interesting Subject.) Classic cars of a wide variety of makes are transporting the teams to the starting line. The ten teams are:
Dimple and Sunaina are Indian "glamour girls", and thankfully their relationship caption has changed from the "travel buddies" we saw in Racers Revealed to a far more relevant "Best Friends". Dimple is the first person of the season to claim that their team is going to be "underestimated", based solely on the misguided scientific belief that all of a human's strength is carried inside scrotums, and those people born without said body parts are somehow inferior. Sunaina believes it'll be a big relief not to have to be dressed to the nines all the time like they have to do in their "career". Which, by the way, is acting. Actors? On THIS show? Never!
Richard and Richard are Filipino "sports fans", and are probably my best chance this season to avoid accidentally getting the team members mixed up while recapping, if only for the fact that I can't put the wrong name down unless I decide I need to differentiate between one Richard and the other Richard. Anyway, OneRichard is a model (surprise!), while OtherRichard is a professional basketballer. I still can't figure out which is which, and the fact that they seem to be two halves of the same Richard personality-wise isn't helping, but I can tell you that they do have an impressive collection of ugly beanies. Their heads are like ski season at Lady Gaga's.
Indonesian father-daughter team Hussein and Natasha are next to be introduced. She claims that the reason they're on the race is to show the world that parents and their adult children can still have a functional relationship. He claims that they're doing the race to share some quality time together before she decides grow up and pursue a proper "career" in the entertainment industry like all the other contestants on this show. Neither of them sound particularly interested to be here, which is good, because I don't feel particularly interested in spending oodles of time talking about them.
Yani and Nadine are also from Indonesia, and are unsurprisingly also D-listers. Specifically, Yani hosts a television show while Nadine is the reigning Miss Indonesia Earth, which is apparently some sort of beauty pageant where all the questions in the final interview round have the answer "because global warming is caused by fat people". Nadine tells us that they've "been best friends three years running", and hope that the race will make them like each other even more. Well, just remember that if Yani is for whatever reason unable to fill the requirements of being a best friend, such as not being a crying crybaby who cries, Allan will be right there to take over the role.
We quite clearly haven't yet had enough actors, so here are Manas and Sahil, a pair of Indian cousins. It is at this point that I'm glad to have made screencaps of everybody's Racers Revealed bios to help me tell people apart. Because... seriously. As wrong as it is for me as a white man to claim that some of these Asian people look the same... some of these Asian people actually DO look the same. I can literally only tell these two apart because one of them has the lips of a fluffer. And while it is nice of this program to show us that there are more jobs in India than bureaucrats, call centre operators and cricket players, could they at least try to find something other than actors while they're at it? Both of this season's Indian teams are actors, and two of the three past Indian teams have also been actors. It's getting ridiculous, and not in the awesome Bollywood song-and-dance-medley kind of way. I'm sure they probably say something worthwhile and snarkworthy in their interview clip here, but I'm too annoyed by having to see so many actors to actually care at this point. (Still, they are at least more attractive than the other Indian men we've seen over the seasons.)
Awesomely, the next vehicle is a VW Kombi, and it contains Jess and Lani, two Aussie girls who are nonetheless representing the Philippines, as the casting lady has finally realised casting actual Filipinos and Filipinas doesn't seem to be working very well. Their plan to win the race is to flirt with everybody in sight. Because that's worked so many times in the past. I suppose the good news is that they aren't actors or models or anything like that, but "party girls" (read: "socialite famewhores") is not really much of an improvement. Moving on, shall we? Glad you agree.
Ethan and Khairie are here to function a lot like A.D. and Fuzzie did last season -- be ambiguously gay and give the casting people cause to say, "See? We didn't just cast hot people without ignoring their personalities! Look, a fat person!" Allan tells us they're "self-proclaimed social misfits", and if there's any way to know when people are desperate to fit in, it's when they start claiming how wacky and indie they are. Sigh. They're Malaysian to boot, which I'm sure I could find some deep metaphorical significance in if I cared enough to bother. (Disclaimer: Most of my favourite teams on this show have been Malaysian.) They seem to think it's hilarious to mock people behind their backs. Oh, good. Can't wait to see how long it'll take them to send me hate mail.
Alan and Wendy are both your Token Dating Couple and your Token Hong Kong Team, as well as another Team Of Actors. They seem to think they're probably going to be your Token Argumentative Dating Team, and considering they're the only dating team amidst a sea of same-sex pairs, it's a fair assumption to make. And since they're so determined to be a team with a relationship dynamic we've seen many times before and are now thoroughly sick of, there is quite literally no way I can possibly make this introductory footage of them seem interesting.
Claire and Michelle are from Singapore, and have been given the unfortunate relationship desgination "Rebel Pals". As much as I hate team descriptions that amount to "They Both Have The Same Wacky Job" (ie. things like "Flight Attendants" or "Harlem Globetrotters"), I hate lame pseudo-cutesy things like this even more. It's just unprofessional, in my opinion. Basically, their entire interview clip explains that they've decided that not being able to communicate with their parents makes them "rebels". Rebellious skills apparently involve proficiency with violins. Hmmm. Yeah, not so much. Also, I'm pretty sure people who are as rebellious as they're claiming to be would have at least changed their names to Clär and Meshel or something even more ridiculous to spite their parents. Frankly, they're trying to look like biker tatts, but they're coming off as Hello Kitty tramp stamps. Sigh. Where are Kynt and Vyxsin when you need them?
Our final team to be introduced is Ivan and Hilda, from Malaysia. While Hungarian Ivan is the first non-Asian to represent Malaysia -- and that may be partly because Malaysian teams have ridiculous levels of success on this show, while non-Asian competitors, um, do not -- it's also worth noting that they're also the first Malaysian team to not come from Kuala Lumpur (they're from Kucing, Sarawak, where the first season ended). They've been married for long enough to have a daughter older than this show, which hopefully means they won't be using this as a means of testing their apparently very stable relationship. Phew. Also, is it horrible that my first thought after hearing that they had a daughter together was that he might not have been able to fit it all in when she was conceived? (No, don't get up, I'll save you the energy and bitchslap myself.) Allan briefly mentions they're both academics, but it's not dwelled upon, and what isn't revealed here that we learned in Racers Revealed is that Hilda researches dragon cults for a living. As you do, I suppose.
Allan provides his version of the usual closing spiel, claiming that "these teams must race against the clock, against Mother Nature herself, and ultimately against their own fears". I can't wait to see who Mother Nature's teammate is. I bet it's, like, Papa Smurf or something stupid like that. She really doesn't need a partner who actually does all that much. Allan wonders which team will have the right combination of "strategy, strength, skill, and teamwork" to win the prizemoney. I'm actually sort of wondering that myself, which makes a nice change from those seasons in which I spend much of my viewing time wondering if any of the teams has even one of those things. Most of these teams actually seem pretty competent. It's a shame the editors ruin my good mood by making such a horrendous jump cut from Allan's voiceover to his location speech. It really wouldn't have been that hard to either get him to do the voiceover live or to get him to do some ADR looping at some point to make it less noticeable. (Hey, only three years into this film degree and I'm just beginning to sound like I know what I'm talking about. Yay!) So, anyway, which team will win the race... IN SEVERAL WEEKS?
Credits. I love that they've kept the old look of the credits while changing to the new theme music. It's just enough of a change that it's tolerable without being jarring, which was the problem with the original change when the American version did it. Also, was that a Pit Stop mat in the snow, right in the middle of that final montage? [BRRRR.]
The teams walk down a flight of stairs to the starting pavilion, and I make a mental note to mock Ethan's choice of muscle shirt when he really doesn't have that sort of body, before promptly realising that he's probably still more muscular than I am. As they finish lining up, Alan paces around, welcoming them to the Thean Hou Temple. It's a really pretty building, and it's a shame this'll be all we see of it. He confirms that this is going to be one of those shorter, eleven-leg seasons, which makes sense because, with having fewer teams, the longer seasons feel even more dragged out than they should. He puts on his fake angry voice and confirms that at seven Pit Stops, teams "WILL be eliminated!". As always, the first clue is on top of the luggage they've carelessly left out in the open in a public place. But the envelopes could be bombs! (This would make a short race, I admit.) The first team to the end wins money. Everybody else wins nothing but the assorted product placement pizes they've managed to accumulate along the way. Belgium wins nothing at all.
Ready? GO! The teams haul ass back up the stairs, somehow narrowly avoiding a spectacular mass pratfall, and with the editors somehow managing to avoid using either the William Tell Overture or Yakety Sax as the music here, and continue along some sort of porch and down another flight of stairs to their bags. The first people to arrive are Ethan and Khairie and OneRichard and OtherRichard, who reveal that teams must drive themselves across town to the Batu Caves. It's a pretty sacred Hindu temple, apparently.
The teams rush to the provided cars and we are treated to a montage of boot doors being slammed shut, before the editors decide you need to know that Ethan and Khairie are lost. Already. It's kind of... well, amazing that they can manage to get lost at a point where the producers are practically holding your hand, but there you go. In a stark contast, Dimple and Sunaina will be this year's Cheering Female Team, while Sahil and Manas have already lost their clue, which can't help anybody except for the other teams and so-called comedy writers. The former are soon doing the sensible thing and asking for directions, but forget to ask in a place Jess and Lani are unable to see them. Also cashing in on the Batu Caves being well-known are Claire and Michelle, who ask a cop, and Alan and Wendy, who get a taxi to lead them, because they haven't quite finished being a boring copy of every other team we've seen in Amazing Race history. On the other hand, Ethan and Khairie are taking advantage of being locals and doing their own navigation. Even though all these strategies have been done before, I think this might be the first time we've seen them all being used to find the same location, and it's actually pretty interesting to me to see how effective they all are against each other. (Unfortunately, none of the teams is taking public transport, which would have made this truly remarkable.)
Sahil and Manas are yelling at passing motorcyclists to help them, having apparently not realised that a Kuala Lumpur highway is somewhat less crowded than the typical streets in their hometown of Mumbai, and thus people are travelling so fast they can't do anything when two random people are yelling at them from the roadside. Probably not an effective strategy, but I suppose they deserve points for originality or something. They get the first confessional of the season, Manas telling us how they went "completely in the opposite direction". Dimple immediately echoes in her own confessional that getting lost was very easy.
Yani and Nadine are encountering engine trouble. I do believe that's our first Blunt Metaphor Alert of the season! Congratulations, girls! A celebratory anvil drop is imminent.
BothRichards are correctly figuring that they should probably have followed "the Malaysian guys". Making its first appearance on this show, the New And Unnecessary Splitscreen Effect Of Useless Screen-splitting (seriously, editors, cutting straight to them works just as well, perhaps even better, and saves you a precious few seconds, just like I'll be saving time be using the initials NAUSEOUS to refer to it in future) arrives to help clarify that they mean Ethan and Khairie, not that the teams have yet had a chance to figure out each others' nationalities. They've already arrived, having made short work of the Malaysian road network, but having not managed to give Alan and Wendy's cop a false lead, as they're already able to see the imposing stairway. Anyway, the boys do indeed reach the clue first, and open it to reveal a RoadBlock.
If you've only ever watched the season premieres of The Amazing Race Asia, you would not know what a RoadBlock is. Luckily, Allan is here to dumb it down for you, and confirm that, as the rest of us already know, "a RoadBlock is a task that only one person may perform". This time, that team member's got a pretty hard task ahead of them. They have to carry a ceremonial offering (read: plate of food) up the stairs to a temple at the top of the Caves. Not only is it likely to be pretty exhausting, but... well, the jump-cutting audio is back and also somehow manages to jump cut over the most important part of this task, which is that they've got to count all the steps as they go, in order to get the correct number of 272. At the top, they've got to tell a priest their guess, and will be given their next clue in exchange for the offering if they're correct. If they're wrong, they've got to go all the way back down the stairs and try again. Also, there are "frisky" monkeys present, prompting Allan to make the pun "going bananas". Sigh. Can't we leave the puns to the clues for a while?
Going off the clue "Who can you count on to deliver?", a pretty straightforward hint compared to some from the past (Die, "Who wants to bathe in Rose water?", die!), Khairie takes it, as does Alan, but only after Wendy (1) asks him who he wants to do it and (2) points out the big honkin' flight of stairs right in front of them when he says she should. Basically, there was no way in hell she was going to do this, but she wanted him to officially make the decision. Boy, we've never seen that on this show before. Yawn.
In NAUSEOUS news, Yani and Nadine's car is officially deader than pay phones. Dun-dun-DUN!
Commercials. This season of The Amazing Race Asia is brought to you by the letters AXN and the concept of shameless product placement. Notably, Nokia has been dumped and replaced by the Axiata telecom group, which I'm sure will lead to many interesting tasks in call centres across Asia (and an India visit is a bit of a cliché at this point, so it'll be both offensive and expected. Hooray!). Standard Chartered has also been dropped and replaced with Hilton hotels, which will probably make the Pit Stops a bit more comfortable, I suppose. There's nothing worse than trying to sleep and being woken up by a pen on a chain jabbing you in the back.
When we return, Yani and Nadine are still in a dead car. With absolutely no new scenes or information to resolve the cliffhanger, the NAUSEOUS transitions us back to the lead teams at the RoadBlock. Alan (I think) is accosted by a monkey, which brings up one of the main difficulties with this task. Aside from being a cheap, obvious excuse to fit something approaching local culture into a bland, generic task, the offering is large enough that you're forced to use both hands to carry it. What this means is that not only can you not use the handrails to help you climb or to assist, but you're also probably holding the offering in front of you, restricting how well you can see your feet. So when you've got your hands full and a mild inability to see where you're walking, and wild monkeys trying to steal stuff from you, it's not exactly going to be hard to fall. Add in that you're trying to count the number of steps you're climbing, especially when you can't see said steps, and this is really a very hard task. Of course, Allan didn't explain it like this, given he was too busy making lame banana puns. Hell, he was too busy making bad puns to explain the task properly to begin with. We can't expect him to explain what actually makes it challenging.
Anyway, BothRichards are the next to arrive, so apparently haven't really lost that much time by not following Ethan and Khairie around. Ivan and Hilda are also already here, Hilda yelling all the while. OneRichard takes the task, as does Hilda. I hope her legs are long enough to make it all the way up. Ivan wishes her good luck as she leaves, and... damn, if something ever happens to them as a couple, I want him to have my number. Just sayin'. Considering the guys I've been out with recently consider good manners to be asking before you grope someone's crotch? I'm jealous of her. Anyway, she very quickly gets to 100 steps.
Natasha takes the task. Interesting that there's only five teams still searching for the Caves at this point, and four of them are all-female. Doesn't bode well, I'm afraid.
Khairie's at the top already, and correctly guesses the total on his first attempt. Good for him. I am struck by how much this Hindu priest (or whatever the right term is) sounds like Kamahl. Alan is up practically right behind him, and somehow manages to guess 381. I could undestand being a few stairs away from the right number, but... a hundred and nine? Really? Was he counting each step for both feet?
People dance, including someone in a skintight leopardprint number. Huh. While they're doing so, both OneRichard and Hilda arrive at the top. At the bottom, Ethan and Khairie open the clue to reveal instructions reading: "How well do you know the race? Drive yourselves to the Pit Stop from Episode 8 of The Amazing Race, season sixteen." So we're about to be able to divide the teams up into groups here, I think. Firstly, there are going to be the teams who don't watch the show, having applied only to further their own fledgling careers in the entertainment industry, and who are going to have no idea what to do. Then there are going to be the teams who watch the show enough to know they'll need to drive in the general direction of Penang, the city from that leg; the teams who pay attention enough to know the exact location, Penang Peranakan Mansion; and the teams who are so obsessive that they'll be able to point out that the Batu Caves themselves are also a past Amazing Race location, having appeared in the Kuala Lumpur leg of The Amazing Race: All-Stars, and that the number of steps at the Caves was specifically mentioned in that episode. Allan adds in that the mansion is a four-hour drive away, which might be a bit hard to make up if you accidentally get the episode order mixed up and drive to Singapore by mistake, and that the teams must search for "Baldwin" in order to find their next clue, which must be sung. (They are apparently not told that "Baldwin" is the brand name of the mansion's piano, or that the show has shiny new long-distance travel graphics, which are better than the American version's dreadful Google Earth stuff, but still less fun than the Amazing Yellow Line.) Anyway, Ethan and Khairie seem to fit into the first category, immediately deciding to go to an internet cafe.
Holy crap, Claire and Michelle are here. How did that happen? More importantly, why is Michelle trying to attack her door like a snake? Is this a new kind of rebellion?
Back in the world of the NAUSEOUS, Yani and Nadine have had a mechanic arrive to check out their car. I think it's interesting that this show seems to have a different approach to vehicle breakdowns than the original does. Admittedly, this is the first time we've had a car crap out on The Amazing Race Asia (as opposed to the racers getting in minor crashes), so it's not entirely clear whether there was a replacement car waiting if they needed it, but still. Also worth noting? It's the fourth season premiere, and a loud all-female team has had a provided car become inoperable on the way to the first location. And what happened to a loud all-female team on the premiere of The Amazing Race 4? That's right, their boot door wouldn't slam shut and they couldn't drive their car. Coincidence? Yes. Funny? Also yes. Yani claims that once the car broke down, she "just knew things weren't gonna go that way I wanted to". Oh, karma. Being a bitch already, I see.
Jess and Lani have finally given up on doing their own navigation and have decided to "abduct" (their choice of words, not mine) a local guy to help them.
As Dimple and Sunaina approach the Caves, Dimple is surprised that a competition like this would involve any significant amount of walking, while Sunaina just laughs like it's all a bit cliche. Which I suppose it is, given that it seems like we get a counting challenge on The Amazing Race Asia every few weeks. Counting challenges are this show's Fear Factor Feasts.
Anyway, Claire takes the task, as do Sunaina and either Manas or Sahil, I can't exactly tell for sure which. I'm fairly sure it's Manas, but... why, oh, why did they have to wear matching outfits? They're not Team Guido. (Regardless of which of them is doing it, they appear to be delirious already on their run to the cluebox. Probably not going to help them in the long run.) Very quickly, apparently, the girls are climbing confidently and not having any trouble counting, while ProbablyManas is stopping any time a monkey even gets close to approaching him. Manas tells us he was losing count because he was scared of the monkeys. Awwww.
So here comes the montage in which we learn that none of these teams are as smart as they first appeared. Remember how the magic number is 272? Well, Alan guesses 382, OneRichard guesses 368, Hilda guesses 257, Natasha guesses 375, ProbablyManas guesses a whopping 505, and Sunaina guesses 365. Seriously, how can these people be so far off? Are they counting the flights of stairs from the start line as well or something?
Luckily for her, Michelle simultaneously lives up to her fake reputation as a rebel and manages to put some signs of intelligence back into proceedings, and is given her clue as a reward. Thank God. I was beginning to think the "smart Asian person" stereotype was a myth. She confessionals that Claire was shocked to see her get the task done so quickly, and that they now have a huge lead. Possibly not for long, because OneRichard gets the clue on his next attempt. Hilda whines that she has to do the thing again because she "forgot", and Ivan does exactly the right thing by offering her support without yelling at her or complaining that they're going to fall behind. Which, let's face it, they probably won't, with how everybody else is sucking the bag at this task. Natasha is also correct, as is ProbablyManas, who reaches in to whisper into the priest guy's ear, possibly also taking the chance to ask him what he's doing later tonight. This apparently does not stop Alan and Sunaina from hearing him and also telling him the right number.
Hilda is now at the point where she does the "378? 77? 76?" thing, trying to zero in on the target number. She's got a long way to go, though, and it's not helping that she guesses 378 twice in very quick succession.
At an internet cafe, the three lead teams all arrive in close proximity and do the obvious thing by checking the Amazing Race 16 page on Wikipedia. (I am not kidding. We actually see the screen and everything.) It's a good thing reality shows are one of the very few things Wikipedia provides reliable information about, because otherwise these people who clearly aren't overly familiar with the show would have felt like idiots. OneRichard tells us that they found out where they were going, "got some decent directions... and still went the wrong way." Hee! It's about time a Filipino team actually made me laugh on this show.
Speaking of Filipino teams, Jess and Lani have finally arrived, beating only the team whose car wouldn't work. That's gotta be a bit demoralising, I would think. Passing the departing Alan and Wendy as they go, Jess takes it.
ProbablyManas comments upon arriving back at the bottom of the stairs, clue in hand, that "[his] legs are shivering right now". You know what might help with that? Getting off your feet and sitting down somewhere instead of whining about it.
Yani confessionals to tell us that when she arrived, she realised that they were the last team to arrive. Big surprise there. *snort* Nadine corrects her, calling themselves "one of the last ones there". Nadine, she was right the first time. Sad as it may sound, I have the spreadsheet to prove it. Anyway, Nadine takes the task, because she just hasn't had enough of being wrong yet. Hilda has, and gets the clue. She cries tears of happiness. Awww. Sometimes I just want to reach through the screen and hug some of these contestants.
Hussein and Natasha are searching for their next location on TV.com. Hussein is surprised that they've got to go to Penang, which is "far away from here". Natasha correctly points out that it's the next location, and the distance to it is irrelevant. I love her already. As they leave, Alan and Wendy drive past, deciding that they're not going to help. Because they're not here to make friends. Or something.
Hilda starts crying on her way down and eventually resorts to having to sit down to get down the stairs without collapsing, Ivan telling her to "be strong, baby". While she's literally scooting down the stairs on her arse. Sometimes, you just can't make this shit up. She confessionals that she twisted her ankle on the way down. Yeah, I'd probably go so fast I'd injure myself too, if I had Ivan waiting at the bottom. While Dimple and Sunaina figure out where they're going, Ivan carries Hilda out to the car, while she complains about her leg and about how she hasn't eaten breakfast yet. These are very pressing concerns. Eventually, next to their car, he gets fed up and drops her. Hooray.
Jess is correct, and so is Nadine, and we are done with this RoadBlock. And not a moment too soon. While it was a very well-planned task, it's one where it's really pretty much impossible to tell how people are going until they make a guess. I think even the editors worked this out, given how little stair-climbing we actually saw. Especially when you've got things like the massive discrepancies with the guesses and the actual numbers, Alan's multiple attempts, and Manas managing to pass multiple people on his way up, it did seem a bit odd that we saw none of it, to be honest. On the other hand, watching people climb stairs is not exactly conducive to snark, so I'm not sure how to feel. But moving on.
While Ivan wants to forget about finding out where the location is and drive to... nowhere, it seems... the two girl teams bringing up the rear have found a business centre near the Caves and are using their internet rather than wasting time finding an internet cafe. It's strange to see a team at the back hauling ass rather than being resigned to their fate, but it's very welcome. I'm so sick of teams who figure "we're in last place, we'll be eliminated, let's take our time and enjoy this place". In other, never-before-seen news, Jess and Lani have realised that they can't drive all the way back into Kuala Lumpur to drop off their hostage, so have decided to offer him money so he can take the bus back. As much as they probably should take him back, I can't fault them for this. They're already at the back of the pack and heading into town again would probably cause them to fall even further behind. And it's not like they're just leaving him there with nothing. At least they're going to pay for a bus back for him. (Which, I might add, isn't really as far as it seems.) In a confessional, Jess thinks it's funny that the guy was probably "swearing in Malay" at them.
NAUSEOUS? Glad you thought so. BothRichards are driving on a freeway. They manage to pass Manas and Sahil, who themselves have somehow gotten ahead. This "four-hour drive" is over remarkably quickly, with Claire and Michelle arriving in Georgetown, and Ethan and Khairie already parking at the mansion. Sahil and Manas have decided that, because they took a turn the other teams within eyesight did not take, they are "completely lost". Ruh-ROH!
Commercials. You know who sucks? Humans.
Sahil and Manas get directions. "Crisis" averted. Yawn.
NAUSEOUS. Ethan and Khairie are searching at the mansion, and appear to be roughly within the vicinity of the Pit Stop mat from that episode.
Sunaina and Dimple are on the outskirts of Georgetown, and BothRichards are there already. Inside, Ethan and Khairie are in what looks like a medieval kitchen, metaphorically kicking themselves in advance for being unable to find Baldwin.
Ivan and Hilda give us a confessional, him telling us he doesn't like to drive fast, her telling us she keeps pushing him. It's interesting to me that she's very much a "get there quickly and we can spend time doing the tasks" kind of racer, while he's a "get the tasks done quickly and we can spend time getting there" kind of racer. I can't honestly recall if we've ever had such an opportune mix of the two, considering they seem to be doing fairly well so far. They're not at the head of the pack, sure, but they're also not at the very back, which is where most teams with a combination of the two strategies wind up.
In their car, Lani realises that they've caught up to Ivan and Hilda, surprising them because they "left 25 minutes after" the latter. As you know, once you fall even a second behind, you can never make it up on this show.
Ethan and Khairie have found the Baldwin piano, but still have trouble realising that the clue is the sheet music. When they do, they sing the clue, which has been carefully worded so as to fit in as alternate lyrics to Amazing Grace. (Bad Pun Alert!) They're a bit pitchy, dawg. All I can really tell from the "song" is that the next task involves football and penalties, which gets my hope up a little. Unfortunately, Allan tells us that they will not be making like soccer hooligans, but instead driving to "the futsal field" (futsal being second only to actual sports as Malaysia's national pastime, despite Allan seeming to think there's only one field for it in the entire country) and becoming goalkeepers. They've got to put on provided jerseys, helpfully and shamelessly designed with the Caltex star logo's appearance taking a high priority, and become goalkeepers. Because it's Allan explaining it, we don't know how many kicks they've got to block, but teams earn themselves a two-minute penalty for every goal they let slip past. Back in the real world, Ethan and Khairie squee like little girls as they leave. (You may notice that they don't particularly try hard to deny the assumption that their "friends" label should have a "boy" in front of it.)
BothRichards have arrived. OtherRichard decides that the only way to tell what position they're currently in is to count the number of cars they can see, not realising that (1) people outside the race drive cars, (2) teams in the race may have left already, and (3) it'd be easier and more reliable to just count how many damn clues there are when they find them. While Claire and Michelle rebel with the known location by searching for the Peranakan Museum instead, Dimple and Sunaina have made up a shitload of time, and are third to the mansion. Good for them. They and BothRichards keep searching, OtherRichard asking some old guy if he's Baldwin. On the one hand... no. On the other hand, it's not like they're trying to find a candelabra or the battlements, so... I'll give them a pass for now. BothRichards narrowly beat the girls to the piano, and begin "singing". Lord knows I can't hold a note to save my life (I actually broke Singstar, believe it or not), but... wow. We might be getting drunken soccer hooligans after all. Dimple has had enough public humiliation just being in the same room as that performance, and elects to read the clue normally. Heh. Let's see Claire and Michelle do that!
Manas and Sahil are driving. Quoth the backseat driver: "The mansion must be somewhere on the left hand side or on the right side. Just go straight." And just in case you didn't catch their navigational difficulties, it's subtitled for you.
In the car of our Hong Kong team, on the other hand, Alan bitches that Wendy's telling him to get off at Georgetown, telling her she doesn't know where she's going. Yeah, she only has the map and actually read the information you found on the internet. How is she supposed to know which way you should go? She counters that he doesn't know that it's not in Georgetown, which is a very good point, and tells him to shut his food hole. His reply, word for word: "Just shut up and... just shut up and sit there." Boy, it's a good thing this show never has any dating couples who use arguments as a means of communication, otherwise this might have felt rather repetitive and boring.
Oh, wait. (In fact, this whole argument is basically Jonathan and Victoria's "You've got to be the man right now, so help carry this"/"Well, you be the woman and be quiet, then" argument in Hungary, except in a car. I was bored then and I'm even more bored now, given we don't even have an amazing backdrop to watch instead. Can we move on, please?)
Claire and Michelle reach the mansion and immediately start asking people if they're Baldwin. If only Stephen Baldwin (that's the one that's turned up on pretty much every celebreality show in the history of ever, right?) was randomly sitting around in the mansion sipping a cocktail. In related news, I am amused that the Malay subtitles on my copy of this episode translate "Are you Baldwin?" to "Awak Baldwin?", like it's a little kid asking for an autograph.
NAUSEOUS. Ethan and Khairie are at the futsal field, and are happy to learn they're in first place. It sounds like there's a large crowd just cheering in anticipation of idiots making fools of themselves -- which really wouldn't be out of place at a futsal field, and the players wouldn't even have to do much -- but it looks like there's only about eight or nine people waving those stupid inflatable stick things around. Doesn't the show's budget allow for calling Rent-A-Crowd? Surely you'd get enough money with how much Caltex is paying you to shoehorn all this Caltex stuff in. Caltex!
Claire and Michelle are still searching, but luckily for them manage to find a guy who not only realises that the people who were singing out of tune in front of a TV camera before are probably part of the same show as the people in front of a camera now who are about to sing out of tune, but also knows the entire history of their piano. You want to know how rebellious they are? They actually kind of listen to him. They take the smart step of moving away from the piano to sing.
Futsal. Oh, Rent-A-Crowd has been called after all. Joy.
Holy fuck, Lenny and Karyn... um, Hayden and Aaron... um, Ron and Kelly... um, Brian and Ericka... um, whoever they are are here. Alan and Wendy! They get inside, as Ethan and Khairie both begin and continue getting their balls handed to them. (Yes, I realise touching soccer balls with your hands is frowned upon. Don't email me! About this, I mean.) They actually manage to find the clue pretty easily, but don't notice they've done it until Alan puts on his reading glasses and takes a closer look. Alan confessionals that he found the process of singing to be a cathartic release, not that he actually did all that much of it. Wendy agrees, knowing how narky he can get if you disagree with him.
Ethan and Khairie are waiting offside as part of their six minutes of penalty time. Khairie tells us that since they're in front, they're not going to stress out about missing three goals. Good plan.
NAUSEOUS. Mansion. All of a sudden, Hussein and Natasha have arrived, followed soon after by their compatriots Yani and Nadine, and Jess and Lani, who've both managed to leapfrog not only Ivan and Hilda but also Manas and Sahil. In a courtyard-y, hallway-ish sort of thing, Yani tells Nadine they still haven't found Baldwin. You know what might help? Looking inside. Back outside, the Indian boys have caught up, one noticing the parked rental Peugeots, which he rather brilliantly mispronounces to rhyme with "yoghurt". Twice! Inside, Jess finds the piano and takes a glance at the sheet music, but does not examine them (or the Baldwin name emblazoned on the piano) closely enough. The cameraman notices the Baldwin, and gets a nice closeup of it for us. They soon take a second gander at it, and realise that it's not just a coincidence that it's titled Amazing Grace. Cancel Mulder and Scu... oh, they're already on the plane? That's awkward. Maybe they could crash land and investigate the Lost island? They sing, unawares that Nadine is hiding just out of eyesight like a cougar on Ashton Kutcher. While Yani and Nadine sing, Hussein and Natasha come up behind them and grab the clue. This whole "search a comparatively small house for a clue and then sing it so the others can hear" thing probably didn't work out as well as the producers were hoping. I'd wager that they were expecting the teams to get more spread out after a four-hour drive, a cryptic clue and a RoadBlock. They certainly can't have been hoping for three teams to just piggyback and find it while another team was there singing. Sahil and Manas also find it in short order, Sahil deciding that the fact it has Baldwin written on it is more important than the clue itself.
Yani and Nadine ask a couple of sweet-looking Muslim women for directions to the North Sports Centre, which must be where the futsal is taking place. While they're distracted, Jess tells Lani to drive around the corner to avoid being followed. Crafty. I approve.
Inside, the boys finish singing and one figures there must be some sort of bonus for correctly guessing what the task entails. Congratulations! You win the right to not be surprised when you turn up! Ivan and Hilda finally arrive, Hilda correctly surmising that they're in last place.
Ethan and Khairie rip open the clue and learn they must now get back in their cars and drive to Swettenham Pier. Allan adds no more information.
Ivan decides it might be a good suggestion to search for the clue, and very quickly finds it. As in "I am looking at the clue as I tell you to look for it" quickly. It's good to know they're being efficient.
Futsal. Dimple and Sunaina arrive and begin blocking the goal, at which point Sunaina is promptly hit in the face. To add insult to injury, in the most literal sense you can imagine, it also counts as a goal. Heh. Goals continue being scored. And scored. And scored.
Ivan and Hilda absolutely. Cannot. Sing. Let's hope they tried teaching their daughter her ABCs with flashcards. Ivan confessionals that it'll "go down" as one of the worst musical performances by a contestant ever. Awww, it's nowhere near as bad as some of the performances on The X-Factor Australia. Trust me. Although: Some of the audience was probably too mesmerised by the concept of Ivan going down in any manner to care. As they leave, Hilda says she wants Ivan to do is because here legs are "like, really painful". I thought we already had a RoadBlock in this episode? (Yes, I am aware that is no longer a guarantee. Don't email me about this, either.)
Dimple and Sunaina have a penalty time of eight minutes. So not really too bad, to be honest. They only missed one more goal than the fat guy and his short teammate! And they even get the clue itself before the next team -- BothRichards -- arrives. OneRichard tells us he thought they could still catch up if they kicked ass at the task. They get one kick in before Claire and Michelle turn up. And... good lord, is OtherRichard doing the splits there? Awesome. (Apparently, Ethan and/or Khairie aren't the only men this season good at spreading their legs.) In a confessional, Claire and Michelle tell us the kid they picked to kick at them was a "fireball". And on that completely un-commercial-worthy note...
Commercials. Fun Fact Of The Week: 86 per cent of Americans still think all Aussies sound like Crocodile Dundee. Strewth.
So, basically, we return right back to where we were. Goals are blocked, and OtherRichard tells us, "I'm not going to let no kids take me down, or ruin my time, you know." OneRichard just puts his head in his hands, knowing exactly how it sounds pompous and ridiculous and exactly like the other Filipino teams on this show. But they've only got two minutes of penalty, so I suppose they've earned the right to be a little bit gloaty. As Claire and Michelle finish, Alan and Wendy arrive. Let's hope they can avoid kicking each other. Claire and Michelle have six minutes to wait, but BothRichards can leave now.
A NAUSEOUS Ethan and Khairie are at the port, and Ethan notices the flags, but Khairie claims he can't see them. Just to mock him a little, the editors cut to a shot containing more flags than a renaissance fair. (Oh, sorry. "Ye Olde Renaissance Fayre".) They grab the clue, and discover the season's first Detour. Allan, bless his heart, deems it important to remind us that "a Detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons". Yay! I really miss it now that Phil never bothers saying it. This week, the Detour is a choice between Flags and Rags. In Flags, not that anybody is going to do it, you find the captain on a cruise ship and use a clue given in "ship lingo" to locate five nautical flags scattered around the place. We won't get to find out, but I hope the producers made one of them a Jolly Roger, just for shits and giggles. In Rags, you get on the same cruise ship and go to Deck 10, where one person gets into a window-washer's platform (porthole-washer's platform?) and rides down to Deck 5 to clean a specific cabin's porthole, while the other person is given a camera and has to search the ship for the same cabin in order to take a cheesy picture. Shockingly, Allan mentions neither the camera being a Sony nor the cruise ship company paying for this episode. Because you just know they did. He also does not make any bad puns about either task, and for that I am grateful.
In other news, I think it's a shame they had a Flags/Rags Detour in a season without a fag/hag team. (Disclaimer: I'm gay and use the word 'fag' in the spirit of word reclamation. Everyone else? Still not okay.) But our ambiguously gay team decides, as will everyone, to do Rags, because it's much easier to find one large room on a cruise ship when you know which deck it's on and are having one team member lowered to it without having to do any work than it is to find five small flags on the same ship when all you have to help you locate them are the cryptic words of an old sailor.
Wendy and Alan are a bit touch-and-go with their futsal skills.
Ethan and Khairie, unsurprisingly, grab the number 1 when they reach the start of the Rags task. Ethan tells us he was wondering what he was "gettimg [him]self into" when he first put on the safety harness. Well, based on your level of discomfort, I think it's safe to say the answer isn't "a career in BDSM films".
The two teams currently at the futsal field get their clues after waiting out their penalties. Note that we don't find out how long Alan and Wendy's penalty was. In their car, Michelle hopes BothRichards get irredeemably lost. Admittedly, she's only hoping that because then it would make their arrival seem more rebellious, but still. It doesn't work, as the boys are approaching the pier already.
Epic, Pirates Of The Caribbean style music plays over a shot of the highly thrilling act of... Ethan being lowered down the side of a cruise ship on a barricaded ledge. Khairie's already down on Deck 5 looking for the room, but all the curtains are closed in the rooms. However will he manage to solve this confounding riddle? ...Oh. Never mind.
BothRichards pick Rags, because they are not stupid. Despite the beanies.
Ivan and Hilda are at the futsal. The hell? When she gets into the goal, Hilda manages to block a ball that managed to miss the goal entirely. The kid who kicked it is totally starting his next game on the bench. On the other hand, she lets the next kick sail right between her legs, so perhaps it was a good thing. Ivan does marginally better. By which I mean "he manages to block it".
Manas and Sahil arrive, Sahil yelling at the kid to kick it more softly next time. Yeah, kid! You might bruise his photogenic skin or something! Basically, the four of them all get balls kicked at them, and none really do very well at all, except Ivan. And... he's European. They would have tried to kick Hungary out of the EU if he'd failed at this. Soon, he and Hilda can begin their twelve minute penalty, while Sahil and Manas have sixteen minutes. Geez, these people suck. As they leave the field, Manas decides to pick the kid up and give him a fake kiss. He's going to get on really well with Ethan and Khairie at the Pit Stops.
NAUSEOUS. Not just us after that kiss, but Ethan on a little wobbling deck. While BothRichards are searching for Deck 10, Khairie is opening curtains. Exciting! He confessionals that he was getting panicky because "there were lots of doors". He and BothRichards wind up finding their targets at about the same time. Khairie continues his confessional by complaining good-naturedly about how Ethan was in the very last room he could have checked without repeating any of them. Anywho, he gets the photo.
NAUSEOUS. Hussein and Natasha. Yani and Nadine. Futsal. All sucking.
Back on the ship, Ethan and Khairie show the captain their photo and get the clue. It tells them, unsurprisingly, to get to the Pit Stop. Allan explains absolutely nothing about the Pit Stop itself, other than the cruise ship company that owns the boat is one of the largest in the region, and we have to read the graphic to learn that the Pit Stop is on Deck 12 of the same ship they're currently on. He does mention that it's the first time ever the race has had a cruise ship Pit Stop, as though it's a proud accomplishment to use what is essentially a portable building with approximately zero connection to the local culture of Penang and of Malaysia in general in such a fashion. Allan claims that the last team to check in may be eliminated, but... come on. It's this show, and that ain't about to happen.
OneRichard is looking for OtherRichard.
Khairie finds an elevator and has to shout out to Ethan, who was about to head down a flight of stairs. I'm beginning to sense a running theme in this episode, and for once it's not just "whoever writes Allan's copy needs to be fired". Ethan asks out loud "Why am I so stupid?", and I'm fighting the strong desire to ask whether the question is multiple choice or essay. Speaking of stupid, the editors try and build up some tension by contrasting Ethan and Khairie already well on their way to the Pit Stop with OtherRichard still searching, but... not going to work. specially considering the former are already at the mat.
A full-on Colonel Sanders lookalike in a nautical uniform stand with Allan on what looks like it's the ship's helipad, and welcomes the teams to Penang. Welcome, Ethan and Khairie, you are Team Number One! This time, the bonus prize is a PS3 and a TV (Sony, of course) to play it on. How many different sponsors can they fit into this fucking episode? Allan asks an unexpectedly brilliant question (coming from him, at least) about whether anyone figured they should follow the Malaysian team around. Ethan's response is pretty much what mine would be if I was in his situation: "Don't know, don't particularly care." I think I like them.
A clearly NAUSEOUS-looking Claire and Michelle are at the Pier, as are Dimple and Sunaina and Wendy and Alan. All three choose Rags, Alan remarking with surprise that clues appear on this show. Well, at least we know they're not deliberately copying the behaviours and arguments of past teams now. Still? Can't stand 'em.
OneRichard tells us he was able to narow down where the platform was within "a couple of minutes, because he "could hear it banging around outside". Do you think the flags from the other Detour option would have made as much noise?
There's a thoroughly non-exciting section here in which basically the three teams who've arrived at the Pier board the ship and begin searching for this mythical Deck 10. Yawn. They wind up pulling numbers in... exactly the same order, Claire and Michelle, then Dimple and Sunaina, with Alan and Wendy lagging again. Boy, I sure would have hated to see the order change due to bad navigation.
Ivan and Hilda can finally leave the futsal arena, but Yani and Nadine have a 16-minute penalty. Nadine, off-screen: "We're waiting here a long time, huh?" Yep. Not Hussein and Natasha, though, who apparently did well enough to overtake Sahil and Manas, even though we don't see their penalty.
Jess and Lani have arrived. Jess confessionals about the "good energy" the Rent-A-Crowd people provided. It's good to see the producers' money didn't go to waste, then.
Sahil and Manas finally get their clue.
Alan and Wendy are on Deck 10, but still have trouble finding the number when it's doing everything it possibly can without investing in Christmas lights and showgirls.
BothRichards show the captain their photo, which has OtherRichard making a combination haka-slash-Village-People move. Off to see Admiral Sanders!
At the futsal field, there is much significantly less sucking than the other teams who've come through recently. As Yani and Nadine get released, we learn that Jess and Lani only have to wait for four minutes. Go, them!
Up on Deck 12, we learn that this all-male Filipino team will not resort to lame dancing every tie they reach the mat. Thank fuck for that. Welcome, BothRichards, you are Team Number Two!
NAUSEOUS. On dry land, Ivan and Hilda choose Rags.
Claire gets her photo, gasping when she opens the curtain to see Michelle. Being slightly scared is so rebellious!
Dimple finds Sunaina cleaning the window with her thighs. Probably should have tried for a better angle there, cameraguy.
Hussein and Natasha have boarded a car ferry for some reason. Huh? I swear I've missed something.
NAUSEOUS. Manas and Sahil choose Rags. Boy, what a shocker there.
Claire and Michelle get the Pit Stop clue, closely followed by Dimple and Sunaina. Not surprisingly, the order does not change on the confusing two-floor journey to the Pit Stop (Welcome, ladies, you are Teams Number Three And/Or Four!), although the former do get a bit of breathing room after the latter get slightly confused wile trying to find an elevator. You know, these two teams have really hauled ass today. It's expected that Ethan and Khairie would have done well with the advantage of being semi-local, however much of an advantage that actually is, but normally on The Amazing Race -- especially with some of the course design as of late -- it's very hard to make up time once you fall behind. But these two teams have gone from sixth and seventh to arrive at the Batu Caves to being third and fourth here, and both have been in second at some point during the day. It's very impressive to just see it happen once nowadays, but twice in the same leg, and both from all-female teams, is practically unheard of. I know this version has a history of casting strong female teams, but... da-yumn.
Alan and Hilda search. Hilda has to actually get onto a bed in order to open the curtains and see out the window. Probably would have been a smart idea to have Ivan do this pat of the task? Just a suggestion.
NAUSEOUS. Jess and Lani pick Rags, as do Yani and Nadine when they rock up. Hussein and Natasha? Still on the SS Titanic Fail.
Both Hilda and Alan find their respective partners. The other teams are just having enough trouble trying to find the start of the Detour. When they reach it and are preparing to go down in the deck, they try and figure out who the hell could still be behind them.
On the car ferry, Hussein looks pissed in the rear-vision mirror. Because, as you know, it's not dramatic unless the mirrors get involved.
Commercials. Yo momma so vain, she probably thinks this one-liner's about her.
We retun to the deck, where Alan and Wendy and Ivan and Hilda both get the Pit Stop clue. Ahoy, Admiral Sanders! Welcome, Alan and Wendy, you are Team Number Five! Welcome, Ivan and Hilda, you are Team Number Six!
Downstairs, Sahil and Lani search for Manas and Jess. It's about as exciting to watch as I'm making it sound. They take their photos without much trouble.
Without a word of explanation, Hussein and Natasha have somehow left the SS Titanic Fail and arrived at the Pier. On the one hand, good for them. On the other, this show seems to have a huge issue with not explaining things very well this season. I know it's only the first episode and all, but... is this the way you want to make a first impression, show? They pick Rags. Yawn.
Sahil and Manas and Jess and Lani return to get the Pit Stop clue, both trying to get the captain to comment on their excellent camera skills. Jess in particular is impressed that she's in a still camera shot, apparently unable to remember that she'll probably be on camera for a significant proportion of the next month or so.
In the bowels of the ship, Nadine looks out a window and comments that she's unable to see Yani on the deck. Possibly at the wrong window then, I'd suggest.
Welcome, Sahil and Manas, you are Team Number Seven! Welcome, Jess and Lani, you are Team Number Eight!
Natasha and Nadine search and search and search. This task? Is also Surprisingly Uninteresting To Write About. Nadine eventually finds Yani, after a brief period of "I've search every single fucking... never mind"-type frustration. While she leaves the room, Yani is still dangling outside, making faces so over-exaggerated I'm expecting a bunch of annoying little British kids to start yelling "She's behind you!"
Natasha also finds Hussein. Somehow, Nadine apparently manages to get lost on her way back up, and Hussein and Natasha get the clue first. Wind blows all over Natasha's face while she reads the clue, but it's completely dissipated by the time Nadine and Yani get theirs, so... it's probably not as tight a finish as the editors are trying to convince us. Still, at least they're not trying to match daytime and after-dark shots like the US version did that one time. They both seem to have significant trouble with the concept of "go up two floors", but as expected, Hussein and Natasha arrive first. Welcome, Team Daddy-Daughter Day, you are Team Number Nine! (Yes, I did just finish watching that episode of the Simpsons. Why do you ask?) As Natasha starts complaining about how they were "so stupid" (no disagreements here), Yani and Nadine run up. "They're behind you!" Allan promptly wraps it up by telling them they'll "be racing again", and the whole subtext here is that Yani and Nadine won't, which is complete horseshit, to be honest. Welcome, Yani and Nadine, you are The Last Team To Arrive.
In an incredibly obvious giveaway that the girls are sadly not about to be eliminated, Allan asks them about what did and did not happen in order for them to fall so far behind. Yani says through hyperventilatears that Allan really doesn't want to know what happened, and Nadine claims it was "a string of bad luck". Um, except for the fact that you didn't wind up in last place until you completely failed to navigate. That's not bad luck, that's just stupidity. And for it, you are Marked For Elimination, not that Allan will use those words to describe the fact that you're going to receive a thirty-minute penalty if you fail to win the next leg. Or that the show would update to having a Speed Bump (an extra task at some point in the leg that you've got to finish before proceeding as usual) as the penalty, given it was introduced at the same time as the show's second season. Yani confessionals that they're going to win the next leg by "praying to God", complete with spirit fingers. Because that sometimes works.
So, all in all, a passable first episode. It certainly wasn't as good as the first season's premiere, I don't think, but given the last two have involved gross food tasks and even more shameless product placement than we saw here, this was much better than either of them. Doesn't hurt that there aren't as many people I want to punch in the face, either.
Executive Producer? Michael McKay. Other production roles? Performed by other people.
Next week: Another episode. Probably.
(*checks* 10,827 words. Yep, I'm back in business.)