May 30, 2011

Australia 1x02: Hue, Vietnam

Previously on The Australian Race: Last week's episode. (Oh, you want more? But I figured this would be better than the weird recap/season precap/recap/episode precap combination they actually tried in this episode.) (Really? *sigh* Fiiiine.) As Twitter lasted approximately six-point-four seconds into the episode before idiots started complaining that Grant wasn't Phil, and then another six-point-four seconds before they all decided Grant was being too much like Phil, eleven teams of Australia's most nauseating and therefore fascinating people -- including Lucy-Lawless-lookalike models who are even more interchangable than the usual models we get on this show, a father-and-son team with a truly fascinating and therefore totally ignored relationship, and Big W ladies Tracy & Anne-Marie, who really should be called Giggle and Cackle respectively -- set off from Melbourne on a race around far more than the Mallee and Tamworth, but not before they were pushed over the edge... of a 75-metre-high light tower. As you do. Wallace and Grommet were so far ahead of the pack (probably due to the cuckoo clocks embedded into their fugly hairdos to constantly remind them of the time) they managed to take an entirely different flight to Bali, but were bunched overnight due to an unfortunate incident with their boogie boards. The next morning, teams spent way too much time searching for a clue hidden in a small village and not nearly enough time getting pelted in the eyes with rice. FBA focussed on their belief that they weren't managing to alienate everybody in Australia by being racist tools at the Detour (good going, Jenius), and managed to achieve the respectable placing of tenth. Out of eleven. You just know that at the Pit Stop, Jenius was bragging about how they meant to suck. By comparison, beardy biker Dave (while also kind of annoying) hugged everyone in sight and managed to finish second. Just worth noting, guys. Mo & Mos were kind of slow to begin with, and the final task requiring them to count the money hidden away in some offshore holdings doomed them into last place, but they were saved by yet another first-leg non-elimination. As a result, eleven teams still remain, not a single one of which decided to claim they were going to be underestimated. Which will prove their appreciators wrong... TONIGHT? Or in one of approximately thirteen repeat screenings THROUGHOUT THE WEEK?

Credits. Made much more fun when you mute the actual poorly-remixed theme music and instead play one of the worst songs to have ever been entered in the Eurovision Song Contest. [BOOM BANG-A-BOMP.]

Commercials. I would like to take this opportunity -- because trust me, I'll get hate mail if I don't -- to openly state that my self-imposed mission (such as it is) with these recaps is to present as complete an analysis as I can of the events we are shown. That means sometimes I have to discuss things from points of view that are not how the cultural and societal 'majority' would react. I'm not necessarily justifying, supporting, or condoning their behaviour. What I am trying to do, however, is understand where they're coming from when they do the things they do, and when they say the things they say. So... shall we? (Also? Typing with a dislocated finger, so... hooray?)

Right. And. We open back in the Gili islands, off the coast of Lombok. Or, as I like to think of it, "not Port Lincoln, thank Jeebus". Grant tells us they, or rather the largest of the islands, was "the first Pit Stop on the race around the world". Oh, great. Nice to see whoever writes Allan Wu's grammatically-incorrect copy is also working on this version. No, whoever you are, this is A race around the world, like twenty-seven others conducted during the past decade. This is not, nor will it ever be, THE race around the world. But what would I know? I'm just the recapper.

After the mandatory rest period (eating, sleeping, and mingling apparently all optional, but maintaining the time differences between teams' arrivals at the end of the last leg still mandatory), the Lucys (aka Sam & Renae) will be the first team to depart, leaving at 5:52am. Leaving without the Pit Stop mat underfoot (doesn't the budget extend to cover another sheet of lino or vinyl or whatever cheap substitute it is?), they learn that they're off to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Grant and the Amazing Red Line and Amazing Pretaped Footage add that they'll need to find the conveniently named Ho Chi Minh Square, then search among hundreds of ladies walking around in cone hats for the one holding a fan with their names on it. Then they've got to take the fan to a different woman waiting nearby, who will give them their next clue. When we return, the Lucys are already back on the mainland and in their cab, reading a bit of the clue that says they can either take a fastboat back to Bali (where there are more flights), or fly directly out of Lombok. In a travel agency, we see that they've decided to fly out, and are now currently looking for the fastest way out of town. I've always wondered how it would feel to be one of these guys, just sitting there while a bunch of loudmouth twits with cameras are basically saying, "Your city isn't amazing enough. Get me to Abbottabad right NOW." They provide a confessional in which they tell us that the Express Pass has left them with "a massive target" on their backs. Makes a nice difference from the twin targets on their front, I'm assuming.

Splitscreening back to the beach, an excited Dave & Kelly leave at 6:12am. They seem to head for the fastboat, but I have no idea why the fastboat ticket office looks like it's in a little shack in the woods. Eleven minutes later, Frakus (I'm sorry, having to shift in the middle of a word is... not happening with my fingers right now) and Liberty depart. Liberty tells us that the race isn't going to change her relationship with Frakus, so suck it, CHRIS. But not in so many words, obviously.

At what the legend tells us is the Lombok Travel Agent, because there is totally only one travel agent on the whole tourist-friendly island, the Lucys have been told of three different flight routes that will take them to Vietnam. This, undoubtedly, makes it quite confusing for the travel agents when Frakus and Liberty rock up and demand the same tickets.

In a montage, Jeff & Luke (7:16am), the farmers (7:18am), Wallace & Grommet (7:21am), and Muscles & Bambi (7:30am) all head off, Bambi informing us that everyone's getting $110 for this leg. As all of these teams head straight for the boats, Muscles and Bambi somehow finagle their way onto a boat that leaves before The Boat Taking Everyone Else, causing Dave to unleash his inner bogan. I know, it's hard to believe he had one. Dave tells us in an interview that "Christ just doesn't do it for [him]. He gives her no credit for anything at all and just walks all over her." And we have our first Pot Meet Kettle moment of the season. I have to admit, I thought we'd be waiting longer. But I did get the person causing it right, so half a point for me. (Current total: Six billion, five hundred and twelve million, four hundred and thirty-seven thousand and eleventy-two and a half points, because I said so.) Dave, remember, talked over Kelly as she tried to pick a Detour last week, then yelled at her for trying to make the counting task easier in the middle of one of his hissyfits, so he's precisely who you should consult on Racer Etiquette. Dave continues ranting about how Muscles "can lift heavy things but I doubt very much that he can spell 'things'", which I'm totally taking as a shoutout after making the same basic joke twice in the last recap. On the other hand: It is Dave. He ends this little lesson in diplomacy by snidely calling Muscles 'white trash'. And they probably would be, were it not for their ridiculous fake tans or their Greek heritage or the fact that they're being compared to Dave and FBA.

Lombok Airport. Frakus and Liberty explain to the Lucys that while they searched all over for another flight that didn't make them look like they were stealing the Lucys' plans, it turns out that there were none. Which would all be perfectly believable, were it not such an obvious crock of shit, given what we've seen in the last three minutes.

8:06am. Melana depart, Mel telling us they're probably only going to fight when one of them fucks up as an individual. So if they're both imcompetent, they'll be fine, apparently. Alana tries to make it all about the effort rather than the result, but Mel literally quacks at her to get her to shut up, adding that "trying is not good enough". Wow, CONSTRUCTIVE. The editors then follow it up with a comment from inside their taxi where she tells Alana that if they need to climb a mountain, she'll need to be pulled up. Good to know.

8:15am. G'morning, Giggle and Cackle! Giggle tells us that they're regular people, not models or athletes. In their universe, "people who are normal" and "people who can race without ambling" are mutually exclusive, apparently. Luckily, they manage to get back on the fastboat without falling flat on their arses again, so that's nice.

At 8:22am, we experience this week's first uncomfortable reminder of FBA's continued presence in the race. One can only hope there really is a "Ho Chi Minch City" in Vietnam for them to go to. Jenius tells us they "play hard" and "make decisions that are hard". Such as which annoying matching outfits to wear this week. After being told that there's more than one harbour on the kind of large island of Lombok (hard to believe, I know), they manage to get there in time to share Fastboat #3 with Giggle and Cackle.

Two minutes later, and over two and a half hours after the Lucys, the Mos depart. They seem to be the only team to actually investigate the two options for getting out of Lombok before heading out, and learn that the boat is faster. Not necessarily what I would have expected, but then again the boats are more frequent and you can pretty much jump aboard straight away and stuff. Mo gives us the season's first "The Other Teams Will Underestimate Us" speech, but does concede that running in an airport might be hard as Muslims. Or presumably as humans, in this day and age. More importantly, this interview takes place in/at/on/from Southbank in Melbourne, which strongly suggests to me that the editors were consciously trying not to have any such speeches in the "Let's Meet The Teams" footage, for which I thank them. Having been abandoned by the other teams, they share the last fastboat with... pretty much just themselves and their crew.

Grant helpfully explains that while the Lucys and Frakus and Liberty are sitting around waiting for a flight, everyone else is crossing the ocean like the cast of Speed II, except this time I'm sad to see some of the cast survive. Muscles and Bambi are the first to actually reach Denpasar, but are very quickly followed by The Boat Taking Everyone Else (Except The Slow Teams). The surfers provide the most wooden, stilted confessional ever seen on any television show not airing on Channel Ten when Grommet says, "Yeah, I'm so stoked to be on The Amazing Race Australia," and Wallace responds with, "Who gets to travel around the world for free and see all these places while doing challenges with a good friend, you know? I think that's huge. It's, like, life-changing." Seriously? They had more applicants -- at least more viable applicants, given how many people applied for Idol as a joke every year -- than any other reality show in Australian history, and you come up with a team who can't even read an idiot card without sounding like they've been hypnotised? (I realise at least part of the problem here also lies with whoever wrote that dreadful, DREADFUL copy, but still.) I mean, I know the idea of a casting a team of stereotypical bogan beach bums must have appealed to the prospects of being able to sell this show to the overseas markets and all, especially given how much this thing is costing, but couldn't they have found someone who can at least try and fake enthusiasm? It's not like their sexual histories are interesting enough to counteract how motherfucking DULL they are. Anyway, everyone gets into cabs.

In theirs, we hear Jeff call their driver a "good boy" (yuck), before Luke tells us in a confessional that "Dad's sixty, not that anyone realises" because he's so fit. I think the implication here, what with how completely irrelevant the confessional otherwise is, is that we're supposed to excuse the "good boy" remark based on the fact that he's old. Which I find completely offensive, and yet kind of funny, albeit not much. You know, like most comedies these days.

And then it happens. Or, at least, the first "it" of the episode, since there are going to be quite a few. The farmers enter a travel agent in Denpasar, and kindly ask the guy behind the counter if he could get them to somewhere to "catch a bus to Ho Chi Minh". He sounds like he's going out of his way to avoid asking where they can catch a bus from Bali to Ho Chi Minh City, which makes me think he might just not be familiar with the name "Ho Chi Minh City", and is therefore thinking it's the sort of place that's fairly big but not big enough to have its own international airport. As dumb as it sounds, I think it's kind of understandable. It's only been relatively recently that the name has been officially changed from Saigon, and (as we'll see) people still use them interchangably, so it's genuinely possible they've only ever encountered the name Saigon before. Especially when they're not living in big cities. It's sort of somewhere in between being "If you don't know the new name, it's offensive!" (Beijing and Peking) and "Really? They're the same place?" (Chennai and Madras), and I don't believe for a second that they're too stupid to know the closest foreign country to where they live is an island archipelago, so... you know. Dumb, but not unforgivable, despite what the Drums Of Stupid try to get us to think.

Holy crap, I'm an optimist. When did that happen?

In related news, I paused the video at exactly the right time to realise that Matt really is much better looking than the unfortunate publicity photos have given him credit for. (Relax, dude. Not hitting on you.) (Wait, he's the one who doesn't use the internet. Why am I apologising for thinking he's almost hot? He'll never find out.) Even more unfortunately, the editors shoehorn in that damn "never been overseas travelling" line again, not realising that Bali and Lombok are indeed overseas, before the farmers manage to book themselves on a flight arriving at 6:05pm. Even assuming based on nobody being shown riding back to Lombok that they were taken back to the mainland during the Pit Stop (probably departing on this leg from the beach they left for the snorkelling task from, and thus having to avoid explaining why they're leaving from a market or a temple), I still figure they wouldn't have gotten the tickets much before 11:00am. So... not bad, but there's certainly room for improvement

The third fastboat arrives. From their taxi, FBA borrows their cabbie's mobile phone and begins trying to book their flights over the phone. They have at least apparently done enough planning to know where some major regional hubs in the area are, but still I'm not sure why they would have thought anywhere in Malaysia was preferable to, say, Singapore or Bangkok. In their own cab, Giggle reminds Cackle that they've still got a set of flashcards they brought on the trip with them to help them find their way around with pictures. Hmm. It's good that they had the forethought to make flashcards, but at the same time, it was fairly common in the early seasons to hear after the race that anything that could conceivably help them (including, in one case, a novel with a mock treasure map of a fictional location on its back cover) was confiscated before the race, so I'm not going to compliment them for being some of the smartest racers ever, since we don't know for sure whether anyone else has tried. Then again, nowadays teams can pretty much bring everything you want (aside from maybe rocket-powered rollerblades), so... congratulations, Giggle and Cackle, you're officially smarter than the lady who somehow turned a question basically asking "Why are Americans too dumb to find their own country on a labelled map?" into a commentary on places like "The Iraq"... without ever mentioning a certain President. (Lotto results: 42, 33, 26, 38, 22, 21, 10 and 20. Oooh, colorful.)

Jeff & Luke join the farmers at the travel agents, and we get a clear shot for the first time of Luke's tribal band bicep tattoo. (Dumped.) They also get the 6:05pm flight.

Muscles and Bambi, on the other hand, have decided to go straight to the airport, as have Dave & Kelly. Oh, this'll be fun. The latter join Wallace & Grommet at the Garuda counter, where Dave claims he doesn't care whether he's "gotta fly through the South Pole, mate". In that case, why isn't he at the Jetstar counter? (Then again, Garuda's not much better with its shocking safety record. The South Pole might actually be a very real possibility. Hopefully.) As we learn that the Garuda flight is full, Dave complains in a confessional about not having any control over what he does. Great. Get eliminated, and you'll have a month to enjoy a hotel somewhere. Quit boring us with your whining.

FBA arrive at the airport and quickly realise that everyone else is also having trouble finding flights, and decide to sneak into the domestic terminal while nobody else can see them. I hate them and all, but I have to admit I wouldn't expect anyone to try taking a domestic flight from Bali to Ho Chi Minh City. Inside, Jenius tells Richard to stay out of eyesight. We do not see whether he decides to award her a medal for her stunning display of intelligence.

Back in the domestic terminal, Muscles and Bambi are at the Air Asia counter and being told that their next available flight to Ho Chi Minh City will get them there at about 4:00pm... tomorrow. Yikes, that's a bad one. As soon as she hears this, Bambi knows it sucks and tells Muscles to move it, pointing out either an apparent rule of this version of the race or a part of the conversation we weren't privy to, claiming that they can't refund or cancel their tickets. Teams have definitely been able to book tickets on multiple flights in the past -- at one point, a team booked over US$50,000 worth of tickets from Cancun to London and filled so many seats that another was eliminated because they got stuck without a flight until the next day -- so I'd bet it's an airline issue. Air Asia's already a cut-price carrier anyway, so it makes sense to me that they can't offer, to quote yet another contestant on the same season as the aforementioned teams, "full-fare, fully-refundable" tickets. (The other basic rule of booking flights on the race? Economy only. You can sit in another class if they let you due to an empty or oversold flight or whatever, but you've got to pay for economy seats.) She tells him they should check for a flight connecting in Darwin. Because Darwin is known for having non-stop flights to Vietnam, apparently.

Muscles tells us from the safety of their prerace interview that their relationship is "like four seasons in one day. It's up and down very quickly." Bambi confirms that they're seeing the race as a big relationship test, which is... not a good idea. By all means, expect your relationship to change on the race. But don't go into it expecting to "test" whether you're right for each other. I'm not sure of the actual numbers, but I think something like 80 percent of "Let's See How Wrong We Are For Each Other" teams have since broken up, when there's, like, only two or three "Let's Prove We're Right For Each Other" teams that have done the same. More importantly, most of the teams who fall into the former category are twats. For whatever reason, when we return from their interview we see them walk to... the exact same counter, so it looks like they were actually fighting about something else and the editors have tried to shove it in here thinking nobody would notice. Nice work, guys. We then cut to outside the terminal, where Bambi is telling Muscles she doesn't appreciate being called an idiot back at the counter. Fair enough. He tells her that if she doesn't act like an idiot, he won't treat her like an idiot. Good to know. Asshole complains that she's making a scene, and she again reiterates her desire for an apology. The next thing we hear is Asshole calling her "an evil woman", but since (1) he's offscreen, (2) it's subtitled, and (3) in a markedly different tone of voice, I very much doubt he said it there at the airport. Possibly not even to Bambi, even at a different point. Still doesn't necessarily excuse him for saying it to anybody, but what we're being shown is quite clearly not what actually happened at that point, so who knows? (And before the feminists complain, there ARE some evil women in the world. One has even had the flower named after her featured in a task on the American version of this show.) I'm not denying Asshole would have said it at some point -- there's no noticable cuts in the audio in the important part of his quote, though there is one to add "right now" to it -- but he didn't say it here.

So, to recap, it looks like what REALLY happened up to this point is: They enter the terminal arguing about whether Bambi thinks something (unknown) is funny, Asshole calling her an idiot. They try to book flights, but she immediately refuses when the best Air Asia can offer them is a flight that would almost certainly eliminate them in stunning fashion. He follows her outside, where she demands an apology. Still not great, but fairly tame stuff when you put it in order, right? But since this is all about drama, this is where we must cut to...

Commercials. I'm sure the Supremes and/or Diana Ross are just THRILLED their music is being used to advertise products for incontinent babies.

When we return, we see the last little bit of the same argument, this time accompanied by confessionals from both of them. Bambi explains that neither of them is a pushover, while Asshole says, "she's driven by more of an imagination, while I'm driven more by rationality". That's... fair enough. Probably the wrong choice of words, but I don't see anything particularly sexist or misogynistic in what amounts to "she's an arty person, while I'm more science-y". Outside, he bitches that "ninety percent of my stress is you, ten percent is this airport." I think that, when you're with someone 24/7 in a stressful situation like the race, and you know you argue a fair bit anyway, that's certainly probably close to where the actual mix would be, since it tends to be that external factors influence your relationships more than your relationships influence external factors. Maybe he's exaggerating a little, but from a psychological standpoint I can understand that the teams -- not necessarily just Asshole and Bambi -- are more stressed by not having any private time as opposed to by having to book their own flights. They continue arguing about how whether Bambi self-admittedly causing a scene by demanding an apology shows she has no discipline, and... again, poor choice of words on Asshole's part, but deep down there's something approaching a valid argument there. Or, at least, the "here's why" kind of argument instead of the "shut up before I slap you, bitch" kind of argument. In a confessional, they both agree that while they do bicker more than the other teams, their fighting really isn't that bad. They're fighting really is on the tamer side of things as far as past Amazing Race teams go, once you work out what's actually happening, but even then a lot of what makes Asshole seem so horrible is his choice of words, rather than the actual intentions.

Right on cue, the editors cut back to them yelling much louder than before about yet another thing we aren't privy to, but they seem to calm down by the time Asshole points out that they shouldn't try flying through Darwin for the same basic reasons they're not about to take that AirAsia flight. Good call. Bambi tells us in a rare solo confessional that she and Asshole decided, in this case at least, that while she would tell him what she thought, she would leave the decision up to him. She adds that she thinks "that works well with relationships, you know. Um, the man feels better about himself as well, obviously." Hmm. I was fine with her entire argument up until that last sentence -- to do well on the race, you need someone to make decisions, and at least she's telling him what she thinks (as opposed to quite a few past contestants on this show) -- but that last sentence... I don't know. I think it's worth considering that, per an interview during the week, she moved from Greece to Australia when she was 8 (which would have been about 1997, since the presskits claim she was 21 at the time the race took place), and that feminism in Greece isn't as advanced there as it is here -- women got the right to vote in 1952, and dowries were only abolished about five or six years before Bambi was born, for example -- and that as we've seen with over the past couple of decades, there's a "you're one of us" kind of thing going on in society where minority groups tend to form their own little sub-communities that stick together to almost make it feel as though they haven't left their former homeland. So it's quite possible between the living in Greece, the ostracism Bambi would have faced at her new school (because you just know it happened), and still living in the Greek community that she genuinely has been raised with a belief (however misguided) that the man in the relationship should make the decisions. This is probably why all those gay ancient Greeks died out -- they couldn't agree on anything. And it does take time for most major social changes to affect how people think. Look how long it's taken people to realise that Not All Muslims Are Bad People after 9/11. Bambi's spent most of her life in a post-apartheid world, and yet there's still shanty townships all over South Africa. It took millions of deaths, almost two thousand years, and a guy with a stupid moustache to realise that Jewish people weren't responsible for all the world's evil. Sure, this is small potatoes compared to those examples, but the precedent is still there.

Asshole's still a bit of a douche, though (especially with his "they don't make women like they used to" remark), but he's certainly not as irredeemable as they're trying to get us to think.

Giggle and Cackle arrive at the airport and head straight for the internet cafe, where they get some help booking tickets online. At the same time, Dave & Kelly are at an AirAsia self check-in counter (slogan: easy, fast, and convenient), Dave pointing out that it's only easier, faster, and convenient-er for the actual airline staff who don't have to deal with the system. Heh. He's a whiny tool, but occasionally he says something worth agreeing with.

Meanwhile, Asshole and Bambi have somehow managed to stop arguing and book themselves on a flight. Grant informs us, with the oh-so-helpful splitscreens showing all three teams and a plane's wing to illustrate the difficult concept of "flying", that the two teams who decided to fly out of Lombok have both made it to Denpasar and will be connecting with Asshole and Bambi for the direct flight to Vietnam, which will get them there at 12:30pm that afternoon. Wow, fast. Though we don't know who's on which flight yet, the Amazing Purple, Yellow (!), and Green Lines simultaneously display the remaining teams' routes through Kuala Lumpur (arriving at 3:30pm), Singapore (4:20pm), and Jakarta (6:15pm) respectively.

At 12:30pm, we see some basic stock footage of Ho Chi Minh City, the most confusing shot of which is that of the Soviet-era hammer-and-sickle flag. Um? As the three lead teams get in their cabs and head off, we learn from Liberty that the clue says to "search for your Miss Saigon", so... you know. For future reference. I think the whole point of the random reference is to confirm that they're looking for women, but why not just tell them to "look for a woman holding a fan", then? In their cab, the Lucys learn that they're looking for ladies in cone hats (having only been told the Vietnamese name for said hats in the clue). They are the first to arrive at the square, and begin looking, but not before Sam helpfully exposits that the girls they had to search through were indeed wearing other clothes beside the hat and the fan. Asshole and Bambi arrive next, and we see them both realising that there are more people in the area than just those right in the middle of the square, right as Frakus and Liberty arrive. Basically, there's quite a lot of searching and it's all very repetitive yet tense and I'm really not even sure how to make this sound funny and the Lucys find theirs first. Whee! They take it over to another cone-hat-wearing woman waiting in front of what looks like it's the Saigon Opera House (seen in two other versions of the show, and possibly giving another irrelevant explanation for that stupid Miss Saigon reference).

Anyway, the clue tells them to headback to the airport and fly to Hue. (Correct pronunciation: "Hweh.") Nice fakeout, although I'm sure Seven is happier with it increasing the overall distance of the race rather than with the actual twist itself. When teams land, they'll have to "make their way" (read: take a taxi) to the TrĂ¢n Thanh M?i garage. Simple enough.

Asshole and Bambi find Melana's fan, but also manage to find their own pretty soon afterwards. Meanwhile, Frakus and Liberty continue to struggle, having overthought it by trying to read through all the little writing on each fan instead of the fairly large names they need to look for. It's not too much of an issue though, since they still find it before the next flight even lands. As they run over to the clue lady, Liberty wonders how stupid they look, and... well, just wait until you see how bad the others fuck it up.

As all three lead teams get back to the airport and grab tickets to Hue, we see a shot of a departure board. There's only two problems, though: It lists only flights that departed before any of the teams even landed in Vietnam, and not a single one of them is going to Hue. So, you know, helpful.

At 3:20pm, the second plane (the one from Kuala Lumpur) arrives, and we learn that it contained Melana, the Mos, and Wallace & Grommet. The former and the latter comment on how it feels like every single person in the city is currently riding past them on scooters. And you know it's packed when Wallace calls it "crazier than Bali, dude". In their cab, Mel tells Alana to "get [her] game face on" in order to avoid getting booted. Alana makes a completely phony Concentration Face in response. You know, I don't think Mel's necessarily as nice as she could be to Alana, but the dynamic they've got going on is kind of hilarious.

Wallace & Grommet and Melana arrive at the square at basically the same time and agree to work together. That... makes no sense, for this particular task. Each team only has one fan among the hundreds of people walking around, so there's nothing they can really help each other with, is there? At least not without giving up a lead. The surfers confessional that they thought it would be easy, being a small area, while the editors cut to a lovely overhead shot showing that it is neither particularly tiny nor particularly quiet. Then they're all searching and it's still not very entertaining... until Wallace and Grommet decide that, solely because they're having trouble finding any of the teams' fans within, like, two or three minutes (while it's not a small area, I don't think it would have taken THAT long to find at least one team's fan, even if it wasn't theirs), then their names MUST have been written in Vietnamese. Of course. Never mind that there's nothing else suggesting it, or that Frakus and Liberty would have literally been here forever trying to figure out what his name was, IT MUST HAVE BEEN IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE. It still continues to be rather boring even with them looking for completely the wrong thing, but Melana at least save themselves the boredom of having to keep searching by finding theirs. When they read the clue, we get that confessional that's been in the preview commercials about how they were shocked to be leaving so soon after arriving. In their cab, Mel celebrates beating the surfers. Without too much drama, both they and the Mos manage to find the golden fans with their respective names on them. Yawn. Wallace gives their fan lady a giant hug, picking her up off the ground. Thankfully, he confessionals about whether he's not sure if it was the right thing to do with regards to the local culture. On the other hand, (1) if he wasn't sure, he souldn't have done it, and (2) it implies he thinks his accented English, though not nearly as bad as Jenius's last week, is perfectly fine. They and the Mos head off again.

The third plane (from Singapore) arrives at 4:20pm. Dave & Kelly are the only team on it, and he tells us from his cab that they'll "probably crack the sads" if they lose. Which is at least a step up from his usual shit-cracking.

Back at the airport, the Lucys and Frakus & Liberty learn that the flight they were supposed to take, which based on their reactions looks like it had already been delayed significantly, has been delayed because of the bad weather. Right on cue, all the teams from the second flight into Ho Chi Minh City arrive at the airport to catch up. Convenient.

Dave & Kelly struggle to find their fan. Dun-dun-DUN!

Commercials. The number of irritating Lady Gaga fanboys failing to realise that "don't be a drag, just be a queen" seems to be a deliberate sly dig in their direction is astounding. Or maybe not.

They find their fan. Crisis averted. The sun sets before they can get to the clue lady and read the clue.

The last plane (via Jakarta) arrives at 6:15pm, containing Giggle & Cackle, Jeff & Luke, the farmers, and FBA. Jenius is shocked -- SHOCKED, I tell you -- that another team has decided to follow them. How dare they stop her from getting too far in front of them! In their cab Tom asks Matt whether he'd be able to live in a city as densely populated and noisy as the one they're in, and he just shakes his head silently. Heh. In a confessional, Tom explains that "Asia's a little bit busy for us poor country kids". (They are, of course, only using the collective name because they're not sure whether Vietnam's changed its name from Taiwan recently or something, I'm sure.) Matt says something along the lines of "too many people around here for me", though it's hard to tell between his strong Strine accent and the other noise going on and his lips being turned away from the camera and the fact that he's kind of mumbling to begin with, and Tom giggles like it's the funniest thing he's ever heard.

OH MY GOD. They're not a copy of Those Other Cowboys. They're just Zev & Justin with Akubras. Still a bad copy of a team that wasn't interesting enough to justify their ridiculous amount of screentime to begin with, but at least I don't want to punch both of them in the face any more. (Now it's only one of them.)

Everyone arrives, after Matt's "we're not in Australia any more, Toto" line, and begins searching. Unfortunately, we now have to let Jenius strap on her "Asian" accent and watch her desperately ask everyone in sight if she's their Miss Saigon. I can't fault her for the Miss Saigon bit, given it's actually written in the clue, but that accent is just getting more and more annoying with every attempt. And considering it was at 'Gwyneth Paltrow singing' levels of annoyance to begin with...

Giggle and Cackle grab their fan first, followed by Jeff & Luke and the farmers (who take the smart step of getting off the damned road before reading their clue), leaving FBA in a position they're now very used to. (I mean the OTHER kind of position they're used to. Get your mind out of the gutter.) The lotto results come up again for no discernable reason. Still the same numbers, still the same losers.

Jeff & Luke appear to have gotten the wackiest cab driver in all of Ho Chi Minh City, and they both seem to really enjoy it. I move that we have that guy travel with them for the whole race. I mean, the whole thing Luke's got going on with his nervous sadness is fascinating and all, but... he really needs to smile more.

FBA get their fan and their clue. Whatever.

So, basically, we next head to the airport to find out that all eleven teams are taking the same redeye to Hue, and the Mos are annoyed that their good work to date has been ruined. More importantly, Luke could not possibly be happier to see Tom without overdosing on whatever the equivalent of Viagra for people under the age of 63 is. The censors are probably lucky he's wearing The Amazing Bumbag in front of his crotch.

Well after dark, the flight lands and it looks like the teams immediately head off on foot for the garage, which suggests to me they've been told at some point that it's within walking distance from their airport. Everybody and their dinky headlamps finds the garags without much ado, but nothing's happening there in the middle of the night. It seems the most confusing part of the challenge here was that the race flag pointing out that the garage was indeed THE garage wasn't the usual red-and-gold, but rather an alternate green-and-gold design. They haven't mentioned why they do this in Vietnam since the first visit, and even then glossed over the actual reason, but basically: The red-and-gold raceflag is very similar to the flag of the former South Vietnam (which was the same shade of yellow with three thin red stripes in the middle), and the current government is kind of trying to avoid Mubarak-like levels of dissidence if they can, so they force the crews of the various versions to substitute their flags. Kind of an odd choice for a country to visit in the second episode when you're trying to avoid confusing new fans, but... eh. I'd still rather see it than a country I'm sick of seeing every couple of seasons.

Commercials. Ways This Show Could Be Worse: Muppets. Or Grant Denyer, they're pretty much the same thing. The only real difference is Kermit doesn't have to pay to have a hand stuck up his... never mind.

It's suddenly the next morning already, and it opens at 8:00am with the teams all rushing to the cluebox. The teams read that they've got to pick a waiting jeep, then change the oil and the tyres before the driver will give them their next clue. Grant helps us out by reiterating exactly what the teams just read verbatim. Nice to see he's serving a purpose.

I'm going to be totally honest here: This recap's already way behind schedule (it's Sunday morning right now, when by this time last week I was halfway through the final task), my taped fingers are giving me the shits by putting capslock on every time I need the letter A, I barely know the difference between a brake and an accelerator to begin with, and the task's really not very interesting to begin with, beyond mocking Wallace for thinking it would work to kick the wheel into place and almost everyone for failing to get out of the way of the oil rushing out beneath the car, so I'm kind of just going to ignore it. We have far more pressing things to get to, like Jeff & Luke being the first team to be given the clue for this week's Detour.

As you know if you were paying attention last week (or, indeed, to Grant trying to explain it to you right now), a Detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. This time, because everything's funnier with animals, the choice is between the ridiculously-named options Carry Fowl and Carabao. Teams picking Carry Fowl have to make their way to the Bang chicken farm (mysteriously moved almost a thousand kilometres from Cai Be since its appearances in both the Asian and Israeli versions of this show), where they must catch twenty free-range chooks from a pen, put them into basketlike cages (five each into four cages), attach them by ropes to a narrow plank to make something approaching the shoulder baskets seen throughout the country, then carry the chooks to a stall in a nearby market. The idea here is that grabbing twenty cocks in a pen will be fairly easy (though it might overwhelm poor Tom), but carrying them around and having to navigate in an area where English isn't really spoken will be hard. Teams picking Carabao must make their way to some field somewhere, where there are eleven carabao hitched up to wooden plows. Grant adds that a carabao is a breed of water buffalo, just in case you thought it was, like, an ox or something. Because this is a totally different task featuring a totally different animal. And these ones aren't broken... yet. Anyway, once you arrive and pick a carabao, you've got to steer it kind of aimlessly around the muddy field trying to plow over one of a number of ropes with small raceflags attached, which you can switch for the next clue. The idea here is that it's not physical, but will require a fair bit of luck. In other words, it's your Hare option -- you can finish quickly, or you can end up hosed -- while Carry Fowl is your Tortoise option -- deliberately slower, but less risky. In either option, teams will ride to their chosen task in the jeeps they've just "fixed", so... you know. Teams who managed to accidentally cut the brakes will presumably receive penalties for the time gained or something. (In happier news? They've ditched the Cavalcade of Lame Puns. I'd still like Grant to explain what the producers think the actual pros and cons of these tasks are, but at least we don't have to sit through him doing his worst Croc Dundee impression each week.)

Jeff & Luke choose Carabao. Both the surfers and Dave & Kelly pick Carry Fowl when they finish. Meanwhile, the Lucys have realised that Renae's half of the tyre bolts have been affixed the wrong way around. Drama!

Commercials. You know what I learned from this year's Eurovision? Not everybody loves Belarus as much as Belarussian musicians love Belarus. (No, wait. Already knew that. Nice song, though.)

We rehash the same scene from before the commercial, again without a resolution, before a batch of teams finish. The farmers correctly realise Carabao is basically a needle-in-a-haybale task, and opt for the chickens, allowing us to see Tom's cock-handling abilities.

More car stuff happens. Most notably, Frakus & Liberty have trouble just opening their oil (you know what I mean). Anyway, Melana pick "Caraburrow" and Asshole & Bambi pick the same task. While the Mos are still trying to figure out which task is better for them (hint: it's neither), Alana complains in her jeep that she's sitting "on a bloody screw thing". Mel's response? To get up and wave her arse at the camera, showing it's covered in mud. I blame Sara-Marie. Meanwhile, Bambi asks Asshole if he thinks they've made the right decision (in other words, that SHE'S made the right decision), and he says he thinks they're both hard.

Cut to the Field Of Not Oxen, where Jeff & Luke are arriving. They make the smart move of taking off their socks and shoes for the task, as the local farmer lady tells them how to get their carabao to move right (ri, ri, ri) and left (duk, duk, goose). They seem to be able to get their buffalo to cooperate with them, even if a little slowly, but I think that's kind of the approach a team is going to need to finish the task -- if they go fast, the carabao is more likely to run wild, and they're more likely to plow over a flag without even realising it. (The other key strategy, of course, is to plow in a set pattern, but it's not likely the teams are going to be able to get that level of control with an animal that doesn't really have a narrow turning circle even when a plow isn't attached.)

At the chicken farm, Wallace and Grommet begin catching chooks, accompanied by the Pianolas of Wackiness. Wallace explains that he was grabbing the bigger chickens because they were easier, without thinking about taking the smaller, lighter options. Ordinarily, I'd say it'd be wiser to grab the ones that are kind of in the middle of the two extremes, but when the pen the chooks are in really isn't that huge, you're not losing too much time if a smaller one gets away from you. Dave & Kelly join them, and she confessionals that while "they were a bit gross, but the chooks were quite well behaved". Of course, she was given gloves to help her pick up said chooks, so she's really got no reason to complain. It's not like Geraldton is a huge city, anyway. Surely someone there keeps chickens as pets or something.

The Lucys choose Carry Fowl, while Giggle & Cackle and Frakus & Liberty pick Carabao. Cackle explains that it was "quite scary" to have to ride in the car they'd just fixed. On the other hand, it did look like they were getting a fair bit of "now do this" help from the locals and/or their driver, so. Probably not as dangerous as she thinks.

Naturally, this leaves FBA in last place AGAIN, and I couldn't be happier. Neither could Frakus, who is laughing in his car about Jenius getting oil all over her. I suppose the upside is she'd probably be used to getting slathered with lubricant by now.

Asshole and Bambi arrive at the Field Of Not Oxen. (No, you were not the only one who made a Quantum-Leap-esque "Oh, boy!" at seeing this.) Melana arrive hot on their shapely tails, Asshole's with a rather unfortunately-positioned mud stain, as Mel rants in her confessional about not knowing that a "cabarro" wasn't a tractor. Meanwhile, Alana sits there and looks directly at the camera, all "Of course it's an animal. What idiot doesn't know th... oh, right." They struggle to just walk in what Mel deems "poo mud". She's such a classy woman. *tear*

Jenius decides with no help from her husband that they will Carry Fowl. He's so whipped, I might as well start calling him Bitchard. In their jeep, she whines about how "crazy" it is that they're doing the dirty tasks at the start of the leg instead of when they're just about to head to the Pit Stop. She does remember that the rice war last week was essentially at the start of the leg, right?

At the Field Of Not Oxen, everybody complains about how they're not picking anything up. Meanwhile, the locals watching the task laugh at the teams. Oh, great. They've turned this into one of THOSE tasks. I'm so sick of the people who design the challenges deciding that basically every task happening in that sort of not-quite-in-private, not-quite-in-public setting needs a gaggle of paid locals standing around to mock them.

The farmers start grabbing their chickens. Matt tells us that it was no hassle for him to catch the chickens, 'cause he's been doing it his whole life. Strangely, it doesn't bother me so much that they've got what is essentially a choice between two farming-based tasks here. Usually, I'm the first to complain about teams clearly cast because of their occupation conveniently having a task directly suited to them in their season (among them: hippies getting "make ethanol", a Kentucky coalminer getting mining tasks in two separate seasons he appeared in, a Chinese team having two tasks based around Chinese being a different language than English within the space of three legs, professional poker players getting "count a million dollars worth of poker chips", Those Other Cowboys getting an entire leg of cowboy/horse-themed tasks), but here it doesn't feel like a deliberate attempt to give them an advantage, you know? It just feels like they've genuinely happened to come across a locally-themed task they're good at. Maybe it's just because of how blatant those examples have been. I mean, there's not a lot to do in Vegas without resorting to gambling-based tasks, but: counting poker chips? Why not actually playing blackjack or roulette or craps or whatever? Same with the cowboy tasks. They were in an Argentine town that had been used before with precisely zero mentions of the gaucho culture (the tasks that time had to do with summer adventure sports at the Patagonian ski resorts and the high number of chocolate factories in town), so it wouldn't have been impossible to come up with something mildly not-Wild-West-y, yet the closest we got was a task based around polo. (I'm discounting "win one hand of poker" since they were so insistent on tying it into Butch Cassidy that it might as well have been a cowboy task.)

But anyway. In summary: This actually feels like Stuff Locals Do, and it isn't blatantly designed to favour the farmers -- kind of like how the basket-carrying task last week wasn't a blatant attempt to favour the Lucys -- so I'm fine with it.

Even with Matt somehow breaking a pole (at least, that's what it looks like), the farmers still manage to head off for the market before Dave & Kelly. He has to tell her how to hold the baskets, not taking into account that (1) her arms aren't long enough to hold both baskets at the same time, (2) that's not how the locals do it, (3) the whole point of the pole is so they don't have to hold the baskets, and (4) that's not what he's currently doing.

A jeep drives down the street. HONK!

Wallace and Grommet have found the market, and don't seem to have any issue locating the stall. Of course, they're so dull we probably wouldn't have seen them struggling unless they fell over anyway, but. The clue (and Grant) reveals that teams must travel to the Khai Dinh Tomb in their jeeps. I'm confused. Did they move the jeeps over from the chicken farm? What if someone got partway through the task and switched? Would they have had to wait for their jeep to come back? Are these different jeeps entirely? Am I overthinking this?

In their jeep, Wallace complains about how heavy the damn chickens were. I guess he'd probably have been better at... wait for it... picking up chicks. (I'll be here until Thursday! Try the culturally-inoffensive dish of your choice!)

As the farmers leave the farm, we learn for the first time that the Mos have chosen Carry Fowl. They also don't seem to have much trouble grabbing the chooks, though Mo tells us in a confessional that he had to stop Mos from trying to eat them. Mmmm, feathers!

Dave & Kelly have finally started walking, as the Lucys arrive. Naturally, this is the catalyst we need for the task to start bring interesting, with the Mos' chickens escaping from their cages. No, don't escape! Then you'll have to go with FBA!

The farmers are not having even the slightest problem with their cocks. They ask someone where the "chook market" is, which... like, it's the wrong thing to do, because it's a slang term that isn't going to be known in the middle of Vietnam, but it's just so hilariously Aussie that I can't fault them for it, you know? There's a fine line between naivete and stupidity, and they're just managing to stay on the right side of it, I think. Then again, it may just be because it's them, and they haven't managed to annoy me yet. Like Dave, for example. He's still busy yelling at Kelly to not let go of the chickens, lest they work together to roll their cages into the river or something. Shut up, Dave. Meanwhile, the farmers get the clue.

Frakus & Liberty and Giggle & Cackle have reached the Field Of Not Oxen. The ladies correctly predict that they'll fall on their arses at some point during the task, as though their success in any task without falling over was an option, while Frakus is trying (apparently without much help from Liberty beyond her walking alongside him) to get their carabao to slow down enough to be able to control it. He must not be a fan of the matching pink shirts. Understandable. I'm certainly not a fan, though it is nice to see a Pink Team that isn't also a Vacuous Bimbo Team. Liberty confessionals, telling us that the buffalo did basically everything except what they wanted. They finally realise that they'll probably never get anywhere unless they have one person kind of leading the carabao around while the other follows behind with the plow. Meanwhile, Giggle and Cackle begin, and there is just as much giggling, cackling, and splatting as you would expect. While they set out to prove that the task is completely impossible, pretty much, Asshole proves exactly the opposite by finding his flag. Damn, I was hoping for a huge meltdown. In a confessional, Asshole tries to play down his exploits, and avoids claiming Bambi wasn't doing anything to help him, which makes me suspect he's genuinely less of a tool than he comes across at times. And by "at times", I mean "whenever he's on the screen". I think deep down he's a wonderful guy and all, but the stress of the race is getting to him more than it's getting to, say, Giggle or the Mos. Doesn't excuse him for that sexist comment before, though. Luke tells us in a confessional that he was pissed because how dare they finish a random luck task before him, pretty much. To the tomb!

The Lucys and the Mos are still in the chicken pen, though presumably the Lucys could have gotten out by now if only Sam wasn't spending so much time apologising to them for the fact that they're about to be turned into someone's dinner. On the other hand, if they keep stalling they might be able to delay FBA (now arriving) long enough to cause their elimination, so... feel free to keep doing it, Sam. Jenius is at least almost self-aware enough to replace her "Asian" accent with a condescending tone you'd normally reserve for misbehaving four-year-olds... or perhaps for yelling at nine-year-olds who've just dislocated your finger with their feet. Not that I would know what that sounds like or anything. The three teams loading chickens all finish at about the same time and are heading off in search of the market, with at least two dozen rent-a-crowd locals watching on, so naturally FBA have to bust out another of their "inspirational" "buzzwords". This time, it's "One Oh Five", which Jenius explains is her "record of squatting, a hundred and five kilos. I have a lot of friends who still don't believe I've done it, but I have." Yeah, well... Charla can lift Mirna. Just saying. And even ignoring the fact that she sounds like a compensating bullying victim being all "But... but... I have a blackbelt in karate!", WHY ISN'T SHE HOLDING THE BASKETS IN A SQUAT POSITION? SURELY THAT WAS THE ENTIRE POINT OF USING THIS PARTICULAR "INSPIRATIONAL" "BUZZWORD"! Back to the drawing board, Jenius.

While Jenius storms past an ambling Mos (and I really need a team nickname for the Mos to stop getting myself confused... suggestions?), we cut to Kelly, who has decided she needs a break. Dave tells her to be "careful" when putting it down, even though the throng of people riding behind them are all trying to get past HIM as he swings his shoulderbasket around. (Elsewhere, Mo decides he never wants to eat chicken again. Is chicken even halal?) As they get moving again, Kelly tells him that she hasn't seen anyone else, but reminds him they're all "way fitter and stronger" than she is. In a confessional, he complains that "that was a fair hike. It must have been a good K and a half." Wait. A K and a half is "a fair hike"? I walk that far to the train station every morning without any issues. I must be some kind of elite athlete! (We'll just ignore the asthma inhaler and the not-from-beer beergut and the fact that I can't even catch the dogs in my backyard without getting winded, shall we? Good.)

Jenius is once again struggling, and even Bitchard is getting pissed. So you know it must be bad. I would find them so much more entertaining if I didn't feel like we were supposed to empathise with them.

Frakus and Liberty are in the process of realising their commands to their carabao aren't going to work if they can't even get it going in a straight line to begin with. Liberty tells Frakus where she wants them to get their buffalo to, and he points out that he's only really holding the plow, he's not steering. Perhaps they should switch positions then, if it's not working? I mean, it is possible to steer with the plow, but they're having no luck and she's doing the brunt of the work right now, so... just a suggestion. For no reason other than to make us laugh at their inability to do the task, we now get to watch a few seconds of Frakus being dragged around in big wide circles. It's like mud figure skating. Now we just have to figure out whether the buffalo is Torvill or Dean. Or Karl Stefanovic.

The other teams are doing no better. Cackle confessionals about how she and Giggle just love to fall over (at which point, Big W's OH&S lawyers are busy trying to work out a way to fire them), and Giggle counters that the mud was "so deep". Cue a shot of Cackle trying to crawl her way out while Giggle catches her breath... in the ankle-deep mud. Oh, no! They might drown or something! Unsurprisingly, the three teams here who haven't displayed even a modicum of control over their beasts of burden all decide to switch and Carry Fowl. In their assorted jeeps, everyone except Alana complains about the task being too hard. Rock on, Alana. If I could make a fist right now, I'd totally be raising it into the air.

FBA passes the Lucys, repeating their other irritating mantra over and over. Soon after, she's complaining about how heavy it is, and Bitchard is yelling at her to, basically, suck it up and deal. I'm sooo sick of them already. Even more than I was the moment I saw them. As they and the Team That Needs A Nickname reach the market, I realise that they're being followed by some exceptionally slow-moving jeeps, which explains how teams are managing to avoid waiting for their jeeps to turn up at the end of the Detour. (This has no bearing on the actual episode, but it's still kind of interesting.) The Team That Needs A Nickname laugh in a confessional about how fat people like themselves, much less "fat Arabs", are kind of "a novelty in Vietnam". As these two get their clues and are leaving, the Lucys and Dave & Kelly arrive and join them on the way to the tomb.

Out on the field, Jeff & Luke are still plowing. Now accompanied by the sad music of You Are About To Be Eliminated, they begin having the world's tamest argument about trying to remember whether "ri, ri, ri" was right or left, and whether they're "duk, duk, gooses" for continuing with the task even as the other teams quit. As horrible as it must feel for them, I think they're doing exactly the right thing by staying at this point -- while they still might get hosed if they can't find the flag fairly quickly, if they switch they'll be behind everyone. They continue looking, having apparently realised that they're pretty much guaranteed a stay in the Loser Lodge if they switch at this point.

Commercials. Or as I like to think of them, a chance to watch part of the episode without having to risk Dave's whining or Jenius's very presence.

Luke tells us that they figured that since they were already at the task, they might as well continue with it. And it pays off, since they continue the theme of easily-resolved commercial-break cliffhangers by finding their clue, it seems, within seconds. Hooray! Having dropped from first to eighth place in the course of the Detour, they leave for the tomb...

...Where the surfers are now arriving, just in time to start this week's Road Block. Grant struts his way between some life-size warrior statues as he explains that, yes, a Road Block is still a task that only one team member can perform. This time, the chosen person will have to ride in their jeep to the Minh Mang Tomb (and from a marketing standpoint, the Vietnamese government is either really smart or really stupid not to name it the Minh Mang Mausoleum), then search the mazelike grounds on foot for seven sets of coins. Each set of coins is on a table with a little placard explaining which of the Nguyen emperors (there were seven) it represents and providing a stub Wikipedia entry on them. They've got to take one coin from each table, then return to Khai Dinh to find out what they've got to do with them. Seems simple enough right now, but Minh Mang Tomb isn't exactly small, so it'd be pretty easy to get lost or something.

Wallace takes it, probably to avoid Grommet getting distracted by his hair's reflection in one of the pools or something. He reads a part of the clue advising him to take note of what the placards say. The farmers rock up, with Asshole and Bambi behind them, just before the Team That Needs A Nickname (how did that happen?) and the Lucys (again... huh?). Tom, Sam, Chris, and Mo take it. Dave tries to foist the task onto Kelly by whinily stating, "If either of us blow it, we're out". Well, that'll help her confidence, I'm sure. Every season, there's always one team that makes the crazy internet fans (not that that describes anyone reading this right now) start pretending they have the power to break the team up simply by using the words "Free [person]!" Of course, it almost always turns out that said [person] is just as annoying and apparently deserving of their bad relationship, and it is without fail more annoying than a bad case of crabs, but still: Free Kelly! She does at least get to escape temporarily while she does the Road Block, so let's hope she realises how good life can be without him whining for twenty minutes. On the other hand, Asshole and Bambi fail to read the little sheet they get with the clue that provides all the additional information (usually behind-the-scenes lawyer-y things like "we've tried to ensure all the rental cars work, but if it breaks down you won't get the lost time reinstated" or "pay attention to the safety briefing if you don't want to die" or "walk to means walk to, not take a taxi and walk into") until they get back in the jeep, which means they don't notice the bit that says whoever isn't doing the task has to wait in a little alcove at Khai Dinh Tomb until their partner finishes. As a result, Chris provides the first bleeped swearing of the season (what, shit's fine but fuck isn't?), just before he tells the driver to turn around. Note that he's not blaming her for fucking it up, incidentally. They get back to the tomb and, since they're not allowed to be more than a certain distance apart unless the clue tells them to (basically so they can stay in the same camera shot at all times), she has to run back up the stairs with him before returning to the jeep.

FBA arrive and Jenius decides she'll do it, even though she doesn't know what the clue could possibly be referring to. As we will soon see, had they known what the task entailed Bitchard would probably have done it. Or even had they managed to read the hint correctly. She sprints across the stone courtyard back to the stairs down to their cars. (Oh, please faceplant down them and make my day.)

At the Minh Mang Tomb, Wallace and Tom are busy collecting their coins. Wallace explains that he "pretty much wrote down the whole spiel about each king", which is pretty much the only smart way to tackle the task when you don't know what you're looking for -- grab everything. The most difficult part of this task, I think, is that there's nothing telling you which coin is which once you take it away from the table, so you've got to make sure you keep them in a certain order AND still remember to take the notes without forgetting which is which. I'd probably write the note for each coin on a separate sheet of paper and use the notes like bookmarks, but even then there's no way to guarantee you'll be able to work out which is which once you get back to the first tomb and do the next part of the task.

Entering the second tomb, Jenius does indeed fall flat on her arse, but sadly there are no locals around to laugh at her. Oh come on. The one time they're actually necessary and they're not there? Rigged.

Sam re-explains the task (this isn't The Biggest Loser, editors), as does Tom (still no, guys). He and Wallace are the first to head back to the first tomb. Meanwhile, everyone still at the second tomb, crowds around the one table just in time for Jenius to ask if anyone has a spare pen she can steal (spoiler!). Mo gives her one (noooooooo) and explains that he figure it would help to make a map of the tomb as he went, marking where he picked up each of the coins. Good thinking, but... not going to be helpful. Bambi finally arrives at the temple, and appears to have no trouble gathering her coins, since she leaves at about the same time as Jenius and Kelly. She apparently doesn't realise that she's left one of her coins on the table, but she must have noticed fairly quickly, since she arrives at the other tomb with all seven of them.

Everyone who's already started the task is now on the way back with their coins, but the first to arrive are Wallace and Tom. Grant explains that, now that all the coins have been retrieved, the person doing the task has to choose a solving station [tm Survivor] and put them in a line to represent the order the seven emperors reigned in. So you put the first emperor of the dynasty on the left, the last one on the right, and fill the rest in the middle. Fairly easy, and not too had to guess since it was basically the only information common to all seven plaques aside from their names. The only catch is that none of the plaques actually gave the teams the exact dates, all with things like "This guy followed this other guy and reigned for seven years" and "This guy was before the one with the longest reign". If you've written everything down and know which coin goes with which note, you're laughing, pretty much. If not, you can return to the Tomb Of Raiding Coins as often as you need to. Or you could just ignore the task part of the task and just shuffle them around until you get it right, either way works. Once you get all seven coins in the right order, you get the next clue. Simple enough. Or so you'd think.

Wallace and Tom both fuck it up on their first attempt, and decide to go back together. Aww, it's an alliance of the sublime and the ridiculous. Wallace probably has the rotting corpse of one of the emperors in his hair.

Hey, remember those teams who are losing? They're all only just rocking up at the chicken farm. They all seem to have far more trouble getting the chickens to cooperate than anyone else did, though the most surprising thing in this whole sequence is that Giggle and Cackle only fall down once each. (You know you're bad at racing when it's a shock for you to remain standing through a task.)

Commercials. Jedward: Twin brothers and Gaga impersonators from Ireland, or Twilight slash-fiction relationship name? Hard to decide which is the lesser of two weevils.

We get to relive Giggle falling down the slope again, because we totally forgot what happened three minutes ago, and Mel rushes to help her. Hey, an ounce of humanity! Maybe it's just Alana she hates. Giggle tells her she can't help, which makes me think it's in the clue for this task that teams have to do everything themselves instead of paying someone to carry the chickens while they walk next to them, for example. Giggle confessionals that she never thought she'd be doing stuff like this on the race. I know they were cast as diehard, seen-every-episode fans and all, but... has she actually watched this show? Meanwhile, Melana both struggle, and Mel tries to tell us that Alana was about to die. Never mind that she's also shown complaining, it is ALL ABOUT HOW ALANA SUCKS. Shut up, Mel. (Hmmm. That's weird. Usually it's "Shut up, Kochie.") She continues, telling Alana, "Well, if you've got little old ladies in front of you carrying chickens, you WILL carry those chickens." They all get to the market with no actual stopping for a rest. Suck it, Kelly. In their jeep, Alana tells us she hopes someone gets lost.

We splitscreen to Jeff & Luke, only just arriving at the Road Block, and as Jeff explains in a confessional, "It required accuracy. It required patience. It required detail. Luke was the right person to do it." Naturally. I mean, Luke will at least wait until his kids are old enough to drive before he skips town to live with his mistress. And by mistress, I mean "Tom". (You are not the only one who just thought something along the lines of, "But isn't Tom a bottom? Why would he need a riding crop?")

Jenius returns, and reads from the clue that she has to arrange the coins "in the correct order of the reign of each empire". So no mixing up the coins for the Romans and the British, Jenius. They're not fans of each other, but they will both turn on you if you get them confused. She soliloquises that she didn't put them in that order, and HOW DARE THEY NOT FIX THE TASK SO SHE CAN GET IT RIGHT ON THE FIRST ATTEMPT?! She continues to fail to achieve, and fails to focus, but Sam immediately decides after her first attempt to return to the tomb and do the task properly.

Kelly returns, and SHUT UP, DAVE. Also back is Bambi, and Chris is noticeably more silent, so... one point for Chris. (Current total: One.) As she starts to solve, Jenius decides that it's "a maths thing", and returns. Bambi's first guess is wrong. (The music, by the way, is incredible here. Just saying.) Rather oddly, Bitchard's encouragement takes the form of a standard "you can do it!" instead of a nonsensical nonsequitur like 105 or Smoked Octopus or Alex Krycek.

Back at Minh Mang Tomb, Tom and Luke share a quiet moment while Wallace runs around matching each symbol to the relevant coin, since he's apparently worked out the right order in the jeep or something.

So, basically, there's a bunch of running and writing stuff down and it's all very suspenseful if you're a Mennonite.

Frakus, Mel, and Cackle take it.

Asshole explains in a confessional that it was "very intense" (DRINK!) waiting for Bambi to finish, and that he "was worried she'd be crying somewhere up in that temple, 'cause she's too scared to come back and tell me she can't work it out, you know". On the one hand, she probably wouldn't be so scared if you weren't such an asshole, Asshole. On the other, it was revealed during the week that he'd only seen a few episodes back when he was 14 before he applied. Since he's listed as being 23 when the race was run (in November 2010), this would imply that he hadn't seen the show since the first season (in September-December 2001). As it happens, there was a Road Block in that season that was basically "climb the steps of the Eiffel Tower, use the tourist binoculars to find a race flag on top of a well-known monument, then climb back down and go there". I think you could argue that this is a similar task (especially with the solving stations being a staircase away from the waiting team member), and one of the contestants back then randomly decided that since the first binoculars he saw after climbing the stairs were pointed at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, that was where they were supposed to go, even though there was no flag (at least not until the next leg, when it was part of the Detour). It's possible he remembered that task and thought the task was something along those lines, in which case his theory about possible anger would almost make sense. Still not good, I'll admit, but... understandable, given the additional context. For what it's worth, she laughs merrily, so I suspect she was aware he wasn't meaning to sound like a woman-bashing tool.

Bambi tries again, and is still wrong. She tells us there's no point going back just to be behind everyone else (for much the same reason as Jeff & Luke stayed at the Detour). Just as Wallace arrives, she tries again and is lucky enough to get the clue. I'm sure she narrowed it down somewhat by thinking the task through carefully, but she definitely looked like she was shuffling through the possibilities towards the end there. As she runs back down the stairs to Asshole, waving the clue in the air, he starts cheering in delight and everyone else waiting starts clapping. Awww. I miss when the American version used to allow people to care about each other. Or maybe they're just happy Asshole is no longer stinkin' up the joint. He carries her back down the stairs to the road, where they learn they'll have to take one final ride in their jeep, to the Pit Stop at the Citadel. Grant provides the usual background information about the Citadel, and adds that "the last team to arrive WILL be eliminated." Let's hope it's one of the many teams I don't like.

Wallace is also done. Tom gay-runs back up to the solving stations, while Matt treats the walls of the tomb like his own personal network of balance beams. I'm SO glad these people are representing our country. Tom gets the clue. Yay!

There is more running at the Tomb Of Raiding Coins. Kelly and Sam are working together, which is one of those alliances that you would never expect that works better than you'd think, but still not very much. You know, like ham and pineapple. Mel explains that, while everyone else was able to write everything down, she didn't have a pen. Really? That's like turning up to an exam without having the answers written in tiny writing all the way up your arm. As Cackle walks across a courtyard, we see that Kelly and Sam are hiding behind the imperial Vietnamese equivalent of a picnic barbecue, trying to work out the right order. Because it wouldn't be a show unless she was trialling some new Wacky Scheme, Jenius shoehorns her way in, but they're not having a bar of it. Good for them. Focus on your own work! Believe in yourself! Jenius walks off without cracking the shits, which just barely makes her Better Than Dave. In a confessional, Kelly explains that FBA have "rubbed everybody the wrong way from Day Dot." Dave adds that their problem is that "they seem very motivated", then they back-and-forth about exactly how motivated they are. HOW DARE THEY TRY AND WIN A CONTEST WITH A LARGE CASH PRIZE! Elsewhere, Jenius whines about how they refused to be her personal fluffers, and right on cue a little dog walks past the Sam and Kelly as if to say "bitch, bitch, bitch". Back in her jeep, Kelly tries to claim it's because FBA haven't helped them in the past, ignoring that they've been well ahead of FBA for the entire race to this point and thus haven't had the chance to be helped by them. But since it's FBA falling behind again, I can overlook it.

Mo gets the clue. Mos kisses his forehead in the jeep, and Mo's completely nonchalant response is "I love you too, bro." So they're not just Funny Muslims, they're also Cool Muslims. This just can't do! Jeff also gets the clue, as we see Dave and Renae are also practicing for the upcoming Balance Beam Road Block (I am kidding... hopefully. The last one was horrible.)

Asshole & Bambi, Wallace & Grommet, and the farmers have all arrived at the Citadel, then run through it to the Hien-Lamb Pavilion (which I only know because it's been on the race twice before -- in the third US season for teams to pick up a clue, and in the third Asian season where it was also the Pit Stop), where Grant is waiting with this week's greeter, an old guy with an impressive beard. While Asshole & Bambi busy themselves by getting lost on the grounds, we cut to...

Commercials. I really hate it when they forget the basic rules of grammar when naming TV shows. For example, Australia's Got Talent really needs a question mark at the end.

Asshole & Bambi (him taking both of their bags without so much as a murmur, so: Two) are still trying to figure out if they're even at the right place, while the farmers and surfers are both managing to do all right on their own. As it turns out, Wallace & Grommet arrive as Team Number One, and win the perfect prize for two people from Sydney: tickets to "this year's" AFL Grand Final (which, given the Grand Final is the last Saturday in September and this was filmed in November, means they're going to wind up with a bumper sticker reading "Honk a year ago if you're a time traveller!"), and a tour of the National Sports Museum, plus all the flights and hotels to make its total value up to $5000. As they celebrate their win, the greeter casually fans himself. Hee!

In news that will surprise nobody, the farmers are Team Number Two. Before they can step off the mat, Asshole & Bambi come up behind them to check in as Team Number Three. They hug, probably just relieved they're in the right place.

Back at the Road Block, the graphics incorrectly list Mel as Alana. Helpful. She gets it wrong again and heads back once more, while Jenius and Sam return. Jenius tries to make small talk with Sam, possibly as part of a cunning ploy to distract her or something, but since her social skills are more comparable to a gnat's than a gnu's, nothing doing. Kelly arrives just as Sam gets the answer, and Sam runs over to whisper it to her. Perhaps if Jenius was focusing on paying attention, she could have overheard it. Instead, she believes that Kelly won't share anything with her. Gee, I wonder why. Kelly gets the clue in seventh place, leaving just FBA and the three Detour switchers working on the task. As Jenius wonders what she's doing wrong (is this multiple choice or essay?), Kelly tells Dave what happened with her. Dave immediately takes Kelly's side, as though there was a chance he wouldn't, and he confessionals that "Kel might have made a bit of an enemy today". As she responds with nothing more than an "Ooooooooops", they both snigger. Heh. That's totally what I would do, but I still don't like either of them that much. I mean, Kelly seems nice and all, but she's just kind of... there, you know? Not really doing much. She's a bit like Jeff & Luke, but less noticeable since at least Dave's hogging some camera time for them.

Sweet Georgia Brown (fuck you, Globetwatters) plays as Mo explains that Jenius still hasn't given back the pen she borrowed. As they banter back-and-forth about how it's Mos's "lucky two-pen" and he's "had that two-pen for, like, two years" and WHATEVER, we learn that they've decided it's a good idea to be prepared by bringing enough pens with them to put whatever the foreign version of Officeworks is out of business.

Jenius gives up and heads back again. She's achieving so much!

Cackle is back. Giggle explains that she was pretty much crying when she saw Cackle return, since "she's so tough". Yes, finding seven tables that were basically within eyesight of each other and taking notes was such a tough challenge. Once she gets up the stairs to the solving stations, we hear that "more stairs?!" line that's been in all the commercials, but unfortunately the dismissive "You work in LAY-BY, you should be used to stairs!" response is removed for some reason. Cackle gets it right on her first attempt. How did that happen? There is more giggling and cackling as they read the Pit Stop clue.

The Team That Needs A Nickname is The Fourth Team To Arrive, but they've got to wait another thirty minutes because of their penalty (they had to win, remember?). Even though they know they're pretty high up in the rankings at the moment -- and have done very well for themselves, it must have been the lucky two-pen -- they're probably still a bit nervous since everyone was at the Road Block at the same time, and it's the sort of task you can finish quickly if you're doing it properly. On the other hand, teams still racing include FBA, so... you know.

Frakus refuses to team up with Jenius. (I'm beginning to sense a theme.) Mel, on the other hand, teams up instantly. Yeah, there's only really four teams left fighting to stay alive -- the Team That Needs A Nickname, FBA, Frakus & Liberty, and Melana themselves -- and FBA are in theory the most likely to do well on their own, but... now that everyone's grabbed all the coins, there's nothing to compare anything to, so unless they team up with someone all three of them are only going to be able to solve the puzzle by shuffling the coins around randomly at this point. I think what the producers really needed to do here is to have one extra coin waiting at each table for the people doing this task to compare it to.

Jeff & Luke arrive and begin running, Jeff telling us, "All of a sudden, we had Sam & Renae on our tail". Despite the two teams never appearing in the same shot in the ensuing footrace, Jeff & Luke arrive as Team Number Four, and the Lucys arrive literally five seconds later as Team Number Five. Or at least, that is if the Team That Needs A Nickname's penalty clock is accurate. Dave & Kelly are Team Number Six, about ten minutes later. The penalty runs out before Giggle and Cackle or the losing teams arrive, making the Team That Needs A Nickname officially Team Number Seven. Giggle and Cackle giggle and cackle their way to the mat holding hands to become Team Number Eight. All things considered, they're actually not doing too bad for a couple of out-of-shape Women Of A Certain Age. The goal, really, isn't to win every leg (which is usually how teams like the surfers or the Lucys will get themselves eliminated, by running out of energy), it's just to stay out of last place. And if I recall correctly they haven't been in last place at any point during the race yet. Compared to, say, FBA, who practically have a holiday home in Loserville.

Jenius and Mel both return to the first tomb to try again.

Commercials. No, I really didn't need to see Grommet in his underpants. I know where that junk's been. (Also? Dude, buy a sock or a potato or something. You look like Ken.)

There is more solving and Joey still refusing to believe in herself. She explains that she knew "the first four were a hundred percent correct", but that "the last three weren't working out". Because, apparently, it takes a team effort to rearrange three coins into... what, six combinations maximum?

Ryot now has no coins left to compare them to. Damn.

Mel has it right, and Jenius begs for assistance again. Mel confessionals that she agreed to help her, but demanded a two-minute head start. Why not just tell her she'll help her on the condition that Jenius does not pass her until the end of the leg? She'll still be safe anyway, what with Frakus still having to solve the puzzle and all (which'll be nigh on impossible at this point). Mel tells her it's the order they originally had, and... why didn't Jenius try that order first? Did she think it was wrong to try and make Mel waste more time going back, but accidentally get it right in the process? I don't think there's been a villain more incompetent than Drakken, if that's the case.

As FBA read the Pit Stop clue, Frakus sprints across in the background. Jenius explains in a confessional (wearing different clothes, so probably taken from an interview later in the race) that she thought it would be two minutes by the time she runs down the stairs, grabs Bitchard, and gets back to the vehicles. Which: Firstly, it's not that far; and secondly, Melana had to do the same thing. You haven't given them a head start at all, beyond the time it took the judge at the Road Block to walk between your two stations. I know it was a stupid agreement and all, but... you didn't stick to it.

Frakus somehow has it correct. Oh, good. Of the three teams left, I at least don't hate him and Liberty, when I can't say that for Mel or either half of FBA. Liberty tells him they can still catch up, and then there's this whole big car race to the Pit Stop. Naturally, Melana's driver seems to pull over so FBA can pass, so... you know. Assy move from two of the biggest douches on the race, but I can't fault them for not being willing to lose when Frakus and Liberty are so close behind.

All three of the teams arrive at the Pit Stop fairly close together, or so the editors would make it seem. Mel tries to explain that she thought "we get a headstart" was universal code for "we get to stay in front of you". Because nobody has ever lost a race with a headstart. Which: No, but anyway. I'm sick of dealing with Jenius right now.

FBA! Melana! Frakus! Liberty! Grant! Greeter Dude! WHO! WILL! WIN!

Unfortunately, it's not the greeter or Grant, but FBA. Damn it. They're Team Number Nine, while Melana run up behind them to be Team Number Ten. Of course, this means that Frakus and Liberty are last. Immediately upon being greeted, Frakus thanks someone for having them, so either he really likes Vietnam or he knows what's about to happen. On the verge of tears, Liberty immediately says, "We did our best. I did my best." Awww. Awwwwww! She tells us in the exit interview that she'll get over it eventually, basically. Heh. As much as I was expecting to hate them based on the combination of their sister (who annoys me beyond belief) and his "name", they really did seem like nice people, and they were definitely enjoying the experience far more than certain other teams have been. Stupid buffalo, indeed.

Next week (or "in four hours", given when I'm writing this): Hong Kong. Oh, great. Jenius's "Asian" "accent" is going to be out of CONTROL. Also: Lanterns. Or possibly "Ranterns".

May 22, 2011

Australia 1x01: Lombok, Indonesia

Previously on The Mundane Disgrace: Many tasks including but not limited to sifting through a gigantic literal pile of bullshit for a clue, atoning for the existence of Borat by running around Kazakhstan's largest city in a pantomime cow costume, climbing bamboo scaffolding while being "attacked" by kung fu "fighters", running around Siberia in one's underpants, being a contestant on a fake Japanese game show, assembling Ikea furniture, rapping, and just watching the All-Stars season. On the other hand, Australian reality TV has given the world the basis for all of Survivor's repetitive "do this to get puzzle pieces, then solve the puzzle" challenges, as well as a Big Brother contestant named Hotdogs. Boy, we've got a lot to live up to, don't we?

We open on, of all things, a helicopter shot zooming across Port Phillip Bay to a random beachside Melbourne suburb. Because you know what helps stop people thinking this is going to be low-budget crap? Mentone. Luckily, we quickly cut to a different helicopter shot zooming in past the Sidney Myer Music Bowl into the centre of Melbourne. What, no Opera House? And no Harbour Bridge? I am shocked and appalled. And outraged. And offended. And in need of a better thesaurus.

The voice of one Grant "Quit Calling Me Denyer" Bowler tells us that Melbourne is Australia's sporting capital but, almost as if the editors were working on behalf of the Gold Coast mayor to ruin this reputation, it is overlaid on two shots of the city containing the distinctive Arts Centre spire. An obviously-fake reverb effect carries his voice as he introduces us to the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and to its equally hallowed roof. It's so important, in fact, that they need to use two separate fonts to tell us of his name and basic function on this show. Grant tells us, in case his exceptionally tight jeans made you think this was a Very Special Holiday Episode of Desperate Housewives or some such shit, that the 'G is taking a break from hosting whiny footballers and even whinier cricketers in order to temporarily host the eleven teams of two who will, I'm sure, make both Nicky and Ricky seem positively mature. There will certainly be bigger dicks on display. Said teams are riding in helicopters to the stadium, with the buzzing rotors helpfully stopping them from hearing Grant's booming voice telling them exactly how far this race will go: through 23 cities in twelve countries, and across almost fifty-thousand kilometres. So, you know. Sorry, Coffs Harbour, Ballarat, and Launceston. Maybe Getaway will have you.

The first pair are Perth "workmates" Anne-Marie and Tracy, dressed in watermelon. They and the show's preview commercials have made an enormous deal about the fact that they're regular people who work at Big W, which better be paying for all this free pimpage. As if to belabor the point, their interview takes place in front of several piles of delivery pallets. In their work uniforms. With clips of them pretending to price-scan Debbie Does Darwin. And failing to understand the touchscreen registers. Hey, it sounds just like my local Big W! Tracy (with the permier hair) claims it's the most exciting thing they've ever done. Well, after working for Big W for a cumulative total of 28 years, it would have to be close. Anne-Marie (with the straighter hair) tells us they are not exactly the running type. Well, that'll help them if and when their Speed Bump involves a bed of nails or something equally as lame and contrived. And you know it will.

In banana (-na-na-na na-NA-na-na-na), I hate Richard and Joey on sight. Their "married entrepreneurs" tag doesn't help, given that it is still yet to be proven conclusively whether or not "entrepreneur" and "porn star trying to get a real job" are in fact synonymous, and given the last and only other team in Amazing Race history to have the same designation got kicked out of a cab in Hungary, nearly got deported from Germany, and caused their own elimination by failing to correctly count the number of asses travelling with them. They are from Sydney, which will surprise approximately nobody from outside of Sydney. Amidst shots of Joey (who didn't order sausage on her pizza) and Richard (who will confirm my unabashed city-slicker status if I hear he ever played a lusty stableboy) making those bodies sing by auditioning for Aerobics Oz Style II: Boot Camp Boogaloo, they give us a half-assed version of the "our friendless life will help us win" speech we hear every season on this show, culminating in me deciding to start the unofficial The Amazing Race Australia Drinking Game based around the words "Focus, Believe, Achieve". But since I want to promote safe alcohol consumption, take one shot for every scene with these two in which those three words are NOT said. (Also, one shot for every time Anne-Marie and Tracy rock a challenge involving physical activity. I love 'em already, but they're this season's Gutsy Grannies, with the distinction of actually wanting to be on the show.)

The third team consists of "surfers" and ambiguously bisexual models Tyler and Nathan, and their hideous hobo-chic beanies. I literally get NOTHING entertaining out of their introduction, because I'm busy thinking about how Nathan is Erin McNaught's current boyfriend and Tyler is one in a long, long line of Paris Hilton exes, proving once and for all that stars ARE blind. I'm not even sure I care about working out which is which yet, even though they look totally different.

Dave and Kelly are "married bikers" from the fine city of Geraldton in Western Australia, and have chosen black as their colour. Nice contrast to the surfers' white, not least of all because these two seem to be interesting as opposed to Bogan Zoolanders. Kelly (pink hair) tells us that people think they've got an arranged marriage since they're such total opposites. Yes, because opposites NEVER attract. Dave has the third biggest beard in Amazing Race history, after beekeeper Arthur and Amazing Race: All-Stars winner Eric, and points out that their biggest problem is that while they're basically a Green Acres-style couple with a motorbike instead of a tractor, they don't spend significant amounts of time together in real life. Kelly adds that they're the sort of people who make it work, almost as if she's openly doing my job for me and mocking clearly incompatible couples coming on this race to test their relationship. (If they get annoying, I reserve the right to rename Kelly "Eva Gawhore".)

Queensland "farmers" Matt and Tom and their slowmotion horses ride into shot next, since Seven is clearly intent on milking the cowboy schtick they got with Jet and Cord for all its worth, and/or stealing some of the thunder from The Farmer Wants A Wife. Their introduction is the fairly standard I'm Not As Dumb As Thinkle Peep Me Isn't one, but what's more interesting is the stuff revealed elsewhere that didn't make the cut here. Among other things, Matt's (black Akubra) usage of technology in his regular life is so uncommon he might actually start witch-hunting the Amish, and Tom (white Akubra) thinks it funny that Matt is "paranoid that people will think we're the Brokeback couple". Probably shouldn't have agreed to arrive at the MCG in the form of common transportation most resembling an egg, then.

Descendants of Latvian migrants and "reunited sisters" Alana and Mel are perhaps the most unique and therefore cool minority any season of this race has ever had, but all that culture is glossed over for their other hook, which is that Mel (longer hair) ran away from their Adelaide home as a teenager and never came back until the opportunity to win large amounts of money on a glorified game show arose. Well, fine, they've been repairing their relationship for a few years now, and should thus know each other pretty well, but let's go with the show's decision to say that They Don't Know Each Other At All. Mel implies the reason they don't get along is because Alana (shorter hair) is a nerd. Alana, by the way, is ridiculously pretty. And you know it's true if a gay guy picks up on it without being paid.

Naturally, the next team are professional "models" Sam and Renae from Perth. Of course there's a model team. And of course their intro shows them completelt randomly running around in bikinis and sunbaking. What's the male equivalent of "titillation"? And why aren't we getting any? Unfortunately I can't tell them apart by looks, and will probably be getting them mixed up in these recaps for weeks on end, so apologies in advance. They are the typical bimbo team we get every season who will try and use their questionable sex appeal to their advantage, but Renae is also a tomboy who performs ute maintainance for a living. So that's nice, I suppose. The show refuses to mention it, but she was also the runner up for Miss Universe Australia in 2010, which presumably means that, for whatever reason, the reigning Miss Universe Australia was unable to perform her famewhoring duties.

Offensive bellydancing music kicks in for Melbourne "friends" Mo and Mos (actual names: Mohammed and Mostafa, but with racial and theistic relations the way they are that's only slightly better than having a team of Saddam and Osama), and the commercials would have you believe that they are a Serious Muslim Team who will stop and pray every single time they reach a stop sign. From the moment they open their mouths, however, you can tell that they are something said media would have you believe doesn't exist: Funny Muslims. Mos (bald) thinks he's the better looking one, and it's not quite sure whether he's being serious or self-deprecating, while Mo (short hair) tells us that, while they will indeed be praying throughout the race in accordance with their faith (accompanied by footage of them praying right in front of the SBS building at Federation Square, because FOREIGN CULTURE), they believe it will help them calm down and avoid stress. Hopefully they realise that, just as God is in the tub, Allah has invited 72 of His finest over for a pool party.

Jeff and Luke are "father & son", and oddly they seem to be without a hometown. Their story is pretty much identical to Alana and Mel's, except with more penises. Probably. Jeff (old) left the family when Luke (young) was fifteen, and Luke still carries a chip on his shoulder over it. Got it? I'm so glad you're keeping up. Jeff says he'll "do whatever it takes" to fix their strained relationship, and then closes their intro with a very brief sincere smile Luke's eyeline can't see. Awwww. Also, I've decided I need more Luke on my television. And to show just how much, I am even willing to settle for appearances in which he is wearing pants.

Stripy "Brother & sister" Ryot and Liberty are here to represent Bogan Pride, just in case Ryot (pronounced "riot") not having a real word for his name was kind of hard to notice. It's a good thing too, since their sister Rebel (pronounced "rebel") is inextricably connected with the concept after creating a TV series of the same name. Liberty (pronounced "liberty") is continuing the family's tradition of entering beagles in dog shows, and that's exactly the sort of kooky thing that makes me want to like her in spite of her brother. Ryot is a professional poker player, which is a fancy way of saying "unemployed douchebag", and complains that he's the black sheep of the family. Well, yes, when you don't continue in your family's footsteps and don't co-star with Nicolas Cage, that is bound to happen. Liberty calls him intelligent and arrogant, and without skipping a beat he agrees that he is intelligent, confirming pretty much exactly the opposite. And we might have to be stuck with Ryot for a whole season? Frak us.

The final team on this grand tour is "dating" team Chris & Anastasia. Damn, we were so close to not having one for the first time ever as well. They do at least stand out from the other past dating teams by not being Anglo-Saxon though, which is good for Australia's sizable Greek community. But probably even better for the just as sizable Italian and Chinese communities, having avoided being represented by them. Also? Their orange outfits aren't exactly inconspicuous. Chris comes across as a haberdasher of asshattery, but would at least look nice in said hat; while Anastasia is kind of just... there. For now. They're using the race to test their relationship, and ZOMG HOW ORIGINAL. I must alert the presses!

The choppers finally touch down on the field, where a massive clue envelope has been displayed on the scoreboard screens. Self-promotion, much? Grant wraps this segment up by changing the "brains, brawn and teamwork" speech we hear every season to "strategy, strength, skill, and teamwork". I know it's blasphemous at this point, almost as much as hating Phil's eyebrow, but I actually think I like this version better. If only stamina was a factor. The teams disembark from their choppers and run past several kneeling people of unknown relevance, as Grant's final section of the speech amounts to a childrens-theatre "Join us, won't you?", and without the race even starting yet we cut to...

Credits. Is it deliberate the stock shot of Big Ben shows a time of 7:00? [HICKORY DICKORY BOMP.]

The combination of a wideshot showing the whole stadium, a subtitle telling us exactly where we are, and Grant repeating it for all the blind people watching (you know what I mean) help us to remember that we're still at the MCG, as if you thought the helicopters were actually flying backwards and we were starting somewhere down near Queenscliff. Grant overenunciates his way through his version of the speech, but does at least provide all the relevant information like the number of legs and how teams get a limited amount of money for each leg and how clues work, PHIL. He also goes into the rigmarole of explaining the Express Pass, also known as the stupidest invention to reality television since the Kardashians. The logo on the envelope Grant holds up looks a little second-rate, but then again this is a show on the Seven Network, so I suppose I should just be happy they managed to spell "Express" and "Pass" correctly. Functioning just as the American equivalent does, and probably going to have just as little entertainment value, whoever wins the first leg wins a piece of paper they have to take with them until they find a task they can't be arsed completing. For the sake of simplicity he doesn't mention the other three basic rules regarding its usage -- and, indeed, only one of these has ever been mentioned on the American version, so let's go over them now while I have your attention.

1. It does expire if you fail to use it. No holding off on using it until the last leg and then beating everybody because you didn't have to build an outrigger canoe or whatever.
2. If you get eliminated without using it, and it would have still been valid after the leg, whoever won said leg will also get control over the Express Pass, in addition to their amphibious vehicles.
3. This one's more wild speculation than an actual rule, but it wouldn't surprise me. It hasn't actually come up, since one of the two seasons it's been in previously didn't have any and the only one in the other was conveniently on the leg after it was used, but I suspect you can't use the Express Pass to win a Fast Forward. They don't want to waste the money they spent buying rhesus monkey testes for someone to eat.

When I unpause the video, Grant is busy telling the teams to do what fans across the world have been telling teams for close to 30 other seasons worldwide: Read The Fucking Clue. If you're new to the show, you may not understand how important that is; if you're a seasoned veteran, you know from experience that "walk" means "walk", and some other examples that aren't coming to me right now. The teams all cheer at the news that the winners get free money, a quarter of a million (tax-free) in fact, before Grant reveals that the season will be departing with tradition by having the first clue be in an actual cluebox instead of randomly placed on their backpacks. Which are... somewhere. "The world awaits. Good luck. Race hard. Race safe..." Luckily, his next words are not "But race to win!", instead finally yelling "GO!" to get this thing started. Is it just me, or did that take longer than usual?

The teams sprint across the field to the clues. Chris is quite clearly the fastest, making me hope this is one of those many seasons that doesn't come down to a footrace, but after Dave has to tell Kelly how to get the clue out of the envelope (yes, really), it's FrakUs and Liberty who reveal to us that the first clue of the season is a Road Block. Sweet! Not only is the first clue of the season something other than a standard Route Info for the first time, it's also only the second leg in history where that's happened, and the first since 2001. (Yes, this show is that old. It actually predates 9/11 by about a week.)

Grant tells us that "A Road Block is a task than only one person may perform", giving me the warm fuzzies for when we would be reminded of that every week (or, you know, at all), and also adds that we're keeping the rule that says you have to split them equally between team members. Specifically, since there are 12 legs and each has a Road Block, each team member must do six. I'm waiting for the season where they make the final one the token eating challenge, just for the lolwutz. One other thing, new fans: They only get a cryptic clue to help them decide. For example, this week's is "Who is your tower of strength?", and the task is fairly cool, which holds a lot of promise. Whoever gets chosen has to pull a number from a board at one of the six lighting towers (there are two numbers at each tower), then climb their way up the service ladder inside to reach the lights and get the clue attached to their harness. From there, there's just one way down: a 75 metre abseil. Their partner will wait at the bottom to helpfully mock their inability to plummet to the ground any faster. At the end of his explanation, Grant provides an aimless non-sequitur that doesn't have a pun and doesn't really provide any actual information beyond "75 metres is fucking HIGH, y'all". (If you're reading this in a country that doesn't use the metric system, firstly: get with the times; secondly: 75 metres is almost 250 feet.) Also, Grant? Teams won't have to do anything to finish the challenge. Individual players will have to do stuff, but no full teams will. Just... worth noting. Then again, I come to this show having watched five seasons with Allan Wu at the helm, so it couldn't get much worse than that.

It looks like what happens here is that each clue directs the team who picked it to a different tower, but since most of the towers require teams doubling up, it's still a race to get to the tower quickly so you don't have to wait for someone else to finish before you can start. And you've also got to work out which tower's which, which admittedly isn't too hard, but is still better than "Go that way!" It looks like Mo & Mos are headed for Tower 2, Anastasia and Chris for #4, Anne-Marie & Tracy for #6, and Alana & Mel for #1. In the process, Mel becomes the first non-Grant person to name-check the show this season, claiming that the concept of landing a helicopter on the MCG was "amazing" (and also conveniently gets the season's first confessional). Jeff & Luke are apparently also headed to Tower 1, but Sam & Renae are the first to reach Tower 2, just ahead of everybody's favourite Muslims. Mos does his best impersonation of a talking light tower, as we learn he's exhausted to the point of requiring asthma medication already. Oh, dear. The graphics help us remember that FrakUs and Liberty are separate people, as she's all "How AMAZING!" and he's like "Yeah." In a beachside confessional, she points out how they're "actually really on The Amazing Race Australia". Seriously, who would say that? Wouldn't you just say you were on The Amazing Race, regardless of the accuracy?

'Tis but a minor quibble, though, since the next team we see is Richard and Joey. Even though he's the one about to abseil down a tower, she gets to confessional that it was "insane" and her "adrenaline was pumping". Can't wait until she has to actually do something, then. Matt seems to think this is going to be just like climbing up a windmill. O...kay. Matt also has his '02' RoadBlock number (meaning whoever's sharing the tower with him got there first) stuck to his shirtfront like a namebadge. Thankfully, they don't go to the trouble of explaining it. Or using it like a fake moustache.

The camera rather excellently tilts up to show the entirety of Tower 2 right before the editors cut to an overhead shot zooming out from it to show the rest of the ground, zooming back in on the adjacent tower, where Mel is apparently preparing. Tyler is the first to start actually climbing, as the next montage basically tells us everyone doing the task first (Dave, Tracy, Renae, FrakUs, and Mel) is just having trouble getting to the top. As Renae becomes the third to actually get there, after Dave and Tyler, a camera tilts downwards to show that there's quite an imposing challenge still to go. So much so, in fact, that Tyler feels the need to become the first Amazing Race contestant in the world to be swear, uncensored, on television. Bring out the fucking cake already! As Tyler starts his descent, we get a confessional in which I can finally work out he's the one with the douchier hair. Not that Nathan's isn't plenty douchey, because believe me, it is. Very much so.

Over on Tower 6, which is luckily enough right next to where all the cars and the teams' bags are positioned, Dave is abseiling. He confessionals that "the quickest I could get to the bottom was the only way down" (gee, thanks), and that he wasn't much in the mood for sightseeing. Kelly shouts out encouragement -- yes, actual encouragement, on THIS show -- from down on the ground, near the statue of what a trip to the MCG to try and work out who's actually where in this segment tells me is Dennis Lillee. FrakUs is also on his way down Tower 4, and does that thing about 90 percent of abseilers do where they almost wind up kicking themselves in the head when faced with the wall moving away from them. Niiice. The editors try to imply Liberty's shouting is loud enough that the people on the passing train (which was probably scheduled to arrive 45 minutes earlier, knowing what Melbourne's train network is like -- in fact, I'm writing this sentence on a train right now) could hear her.

Tyler's done already, after apparently travelling so fast it seems he just loosened the safety devices on his harness enough so that the rope would just slide through rather than having to be pulled. Bud's down not long after, soon followed by Dave. They all hand the clues to their partners to read, and learn that they must get themselves to Lombok, Indonesia. Part of me wants to wonder how much of choosing Indonesia as the first location is its close proximity to Australia (and thus being cheaper, especially with so many teams), and how much of it is deliberately choosing a location the American version of the show hasn't gone to yet. Grant exposits that teams have to get to their bags and the nearby cars, then drive themselves to the airport before flying to Denpasar, on the island of Bali. From there, they'll have to catch a fastboat (presumably after heading to a dock or something, unless there are now international seaplane flights, which really would be amazing) to Lombok. Three teams can get on the first boat, while four will take the middle and four will get stuck in the arse end of the panto horse. They'll be taken to a small fishing village, and must search it for their next clue, which appears to be caught in a net in a boat along the shore instead of in a standard cluebox. Probably because it'll take them time to get all those clueboxes to Lombok.

Tyler and Nathan somehow manage to beat Dave & Kelly to the cars, even though the latter could probably have thrown a shotput from their tower to the bags, and are soon heading off. Bud & Liberty and Dave & Kelly also depart quickly, passing Mo & Mos in the process. Meanwhile, Mel begins to abseil, and soon has "the biggest wedgie ever". Oh, please let that turn up on that "How well do you remember the race?" challenge they usually do in the final leg. Richard's on his way down Tower 6, and it's right about now I begin thinking they were only using three or four of the towers, because it seems that quite a few people are coming down that particular one. Joey has to yank the clue envelope away from Richard's arse, because he's just that exhausted and/or lazy. He's such a good entrepreneur. Joey confessionals that it was "incredible" to be leaving Australia. Does she even know what show she's on? THIS ISN'T TODAY TONIGHT, LADY!

Alana and her Amazing Wedgie are down, and head off in fifth place. Meanwhile, Renae is freaking out. There's one in every bunch, isn't there? (I say this as the guy who would be The One in any bunch I am a part of.) Sam seems to think a round of "Woo!"s will help. What's helping even more is the name graphics telling us who's where in this task -- too often the editors of this show expect people to be able to work out who is who with no clues at all, especially when they look the same, and it's very refreshing to see something like this that makes it easier for us.

Over on Tower 4, right next to one of Melbourne's busiest sections of train lines -- which makes me wonder how this task wasn't spoiled when even the clueboxes in the middle of the field were -- Tracy's finally on her way. The giant clue envelopes are still hilariously displayed on the scoreboard as we cut back to Renae, who is taking so long turning it into a "mind over matter" task that even Mo & Mos are complaining. Tracy's making good progress... right up until she just randomly stops in the middle of her descent and leans back. Anne-Marie tells us she thought Tracy was dead, which I suppose would make this a very different kind of elimination leg. Tracy has enough energy left to complain about being "knackered" (ah, real Aussie slang, not like that stupid Road Block from the American version's first visit with its "bushies" and "lairy" "daks"). Renae tells us in a confessional upon landing that she would have kissed the ground (right outside the National Sports Museum) if she wasn't still attached to the rope. Um... ew. I'm not sure even Rex Hunt would have kissed the ground. They also get the clue telling them to give Melbourne a yibbida yibbida and head for Lombok. Hot Luke notices the girls running past (which would place Jeff as abseiling down Tower 1), then yells at his dad to go faster. As he leaves the decking of the tower, one of the safety guys wishes him a good race. Heh. I miss when they would let people who weren't the teams or the host show some personality. Tracy's finally down, but too exhausted to run. She tells us that this clue is giving the teams $140 for this leg. We don't know whether that's Australian or American currency, but either way it makes a mockery of Grant's comments about how they wouldn't be getting any money in the middle of the leg.

Matt, in 8th place, and Chris, in 9th place, both have no problems with the task, for which I thank them. It's really not easy to recap eleven people doing exactly the same thing when the most interesting part of the task is Who Is At Which Tower. Matt & Tom, however, do have a bit of trouble figuring out which way to go. It's kind of understandable, since not even locals would be able to find their way out of the MCG without a sherpa sometimes, but still funny. For the first time, we hear the fiddle-ridden tune that's probably going to be their theme music throughout the season, but it's at least more tolerable than the horrible noise we got with The Other Cowboys. Tom tells us Matt's never been to Melbourne, and Matt adds that there's a few more cars than he's used to. On the other hand, Matt's probably more capable of doing a hook turn than most Melburnians, so it balances out. Matt pretends he needs a bullbar just to get through the other cars on the road (of which there are very few, being the middle of the morning by now), and we learn that Tom has a really, really high-pitched laugh that's kind of endearing. I may have to dump Luke as my Imaginary Race Boyfriend. Or at least propose an Imaginary Race Threesome.

Jeff's done. Whee! Now firmly entrenched in last place, Mos is finally coming down, as a group of random people walk past. Mo tries to claim they're a cheersquad, but it seems more likely they're just passing through on their way to smoke some dope in one of the paddocks next to the 'G. (Disclaimer: Not encouraging.) In a confessional, Mo provides what is one of the funniest and most self-aware lines I've ever heard on any version of this show, and what needs to become the unofficial title quote for this. The line? "I'm surprised they didn't call the police. 'There's a random Arab climbing up the MCG. Should we be concerned'?" Yeah, I know. I'm not going to top that. But on the other hand, the precedent does allow me to make jokes about the All Muslims Are Terrorists stereotype without feeling like I'm going to get slapped with a fatwa, so that's nice.

Arriving at the airport rather quickly, and yet still providing us with more driving footage than we've seen out of any premiere episode in years, Tyler & Nathan head straight to the Jetstar counter, where they learn that there's either a 2:30pm flight connecting in Darwin and arriving sooner, or a 6:45pm direct flight arriving over an hour later. Not surprisingly, they take the Darwin flight, while Dave & Kelly and Bud & Liberty arrive in time to learn that tickets have already sold out. It won't matter at all with the fastboat schedules, but it's interesting that they're already letting teams organise their own flights -- in every other season, the first international flights teams take have prepurchased tickets to ease them into the process. I kind of like it this way. But what I really love is these shiny, shiny new map graphics. They're very much like an actual update of the original green-globe graphics, instead of zooming in and out on Google Earth maps like the American version now does. My only real complaint is that the line needs to be a color that's easier to see than a semi-transparent red, but since they're already improving on the current American maps to begin with, as well as making the line thick enough to see without glasses AND remembering to curve it to match the shape of the globe, I'm fine with it for the moment. Grant adds that Tyler & Nathan will be arriving at 8:30pm.

Back at the MCG, Mo & Mos walk to the cars, Mo reading that the clue says to search the beach for the next clue. Hmmm. Interesting. When they put their bags in the back of their cars, Mos manages to bonk Mo over the head with the boot door. Well, as long as they're only harming themselves.

In their car (!), Jeff notices that they've "got bandits at three o'clock", and... your guess is as good as mine. Sam notices Luke's stupid backwards-hat-wearing from their car, so I guess Jeff thinks they're trying to steal his money. Or something. But that's still drawing a pretty long bow. Sigh. MAKE SENSE, PEOPLE I WANT TO LIKE.

Alana and Mel appear to be confused by what looks like it's a road with embedded tram tracks, and aren't even sure whether it's a road. Don't worry, the tram drivers act as if it isn't a road either. Even though I live here and all, I totally empathise with Mel when she yells, "Melbourne roads are stupid!" Because they are, and anybody who tells you they aren't is a douche. Or living in Sydney. (I realise the two are far from being mutually exclusive.) Alana points out in a confessional that the pair don't often spend much time together, and certainly don't spend much time driving. Back in the car, Mel posits that they're going to have trouble finding their way around in Indonesia if they can't get out Melbourne on their own. Of course, she's failing to realise that Indonesia's not the sort of place where letting game show contestants drive themselves around is a good idea, and thus that they'll probably be taking taxis or buses or some such, but it's still a pretty decent argument, albeit not in the way she intended. If you can't work out how to get to the airport on Day One, how the hell are you going to be able to drive yourself around Korea or Russia or Mexico or somewhere after weeks of sleep-deprivation and sheer exhaustion?

At the airport, Tracy & Anne-Marie are entering the undercover carpark, while Anastasia & Chris find the actual outdoor parking spaces reserved for the teams. When they get inside, FrakUs & Liberty and Dave & Kelly are still waiting for tickets. Yeah, that sounds like Jetstar. Kelly tells them that they've already given them the nicknames of Muscles and Bambi, and since that is much quicker and easier to type than their actual names, I'm fine with it also. I'm not doing this to be faced with the prospect of writing nine-letter words on a regular basis, you know. As is, I'm already almost at my "Indonesia" limit. It turns out that Bambi's mum also calls her Bambi, and if that's not ironic, I don't know what is.

Back on the roads, Matt notices "another mob", and Tom points out that it's "the competitive yellow team". That's one way of putting it. Joey, of course, is pissed that the farmers have caught up. As it turns out, everyone is allowed to focus and believe, but only SHE can achieve, thank you very much. They both run into the airport, but while the team hereafter referred to as FBA (which is likely going to also be able to stand for Fuckhead Bogan Assholes by the end of the race) manage to find the counter quickly, the farmers and their fiddle are stuck trying to figure out what level of the airport they're supposed to be on. Once again, Melbourne is delightfully confusing. Motion to start every season of every race here? Couldn't possibly be worse than all those LA starts. Unfortunately for the farmers, they manage to ask one of the many unprofessional staff at the airport where they should go to buy tickets. More specifically, they ask her HOW to buy tickets, since they've never left the country before. She basically tells them "over there, lunkheads, where all the other idiots with cameras and sound guys are". I don't even like them yet, although I suspect some of that may be due to having to replay every scene with Matt talking three times to figure out what he's saying, but still: Fuck off, lady.

Outside, in what is sure to become the first of many commercial-break cliffhangers too lame to actually recap fully, Anne-Marie and Tracy realise they've driven into the wrong part of the carpark and are going to need to pay to get out. Since they've somehow spent their entire $140 already -- or, more likely, since the money was given to them in American currency -- they're not going to be able to get out. It's not a great cliffhanger (though certainly better than some past examples I could think of), but still: Dun-dun-DUN!

Commercials. While we're still talking about Melbourne Airport being a bit out of touch with reality?, does anyone know why there's a Burger King inside when it's called a Hungry Jack's everywhere else in Melbourne? Surely even American tourists can figure out that it's the same thing.

Anne-Marie and Tracy manage to get enough money to escape the seventh circle of hell. Cliffhanger resolved.

As expected, Mo & Mos are the last to actually get to the airport (and have since revealed in interviews that they fell further behind because they didn't want to risk a fine by travelling on the CityLink tollway without the requisite e-Tag [tm 1998]), but are at least smart enough to find the right damn car spaces the first time around. Inside, they learn their deficit doesn't matter, since they're going to be on the same flight as everyone except Tyler & Nathan. That's... odd, actually. Did the producers expect more teams to finish at the latter's fast pace, so they could have a bigger split? Did they expect Tyler & Nathan to be slower, putting everyone on the same plane? Was it planned to have only one team make the first flight? I don't think we'll ever know. Anyway, Mo & Mos head off for a quick prayer before their flight, Mo pointing out in a confessional that they probably should be praying a bit harder. Grant and the Amazing Line tell us that the last ten teams are on a direct flight scheduled to arrive at 10:20pm.

At 9:15pm, however, Tyler & Nathan touch down in Denpasar and are very quickly telling their taxi driver to go fast. In Indonesian. Not Spanish! For once! People on this show actually know that "Rapido!" isn't a universal word! With all the other teams currently in the middle of the air, there's no suspense to whether they'll make the first boat, and we cut to them writing their name on the board at 9:46pm. I really want to like these two for, you know, having actual racing skills, but they're totally going to be That Team who always looks like they're drunk and/or high.

At 10:55pm, everyone else lands, storming out of the airport in a big bunch. Luke tells us it was "really hectic getting out, and being in a country you don't know, in the middle of the night, in the rain, hoping you're going the right way" was quite daunting. Understandable, I think, although at least this is at the point in the season where you're not so tired and stressed you could flip your car at a roundabout. As Anne-Marie and Tracy express astonishment that Indonesia and Australia are in fact separate countries, we see a random shot of Matt's hat falling off as he gets into a taxi, right before Sam & Renae earn my seething hatred (assuming they didn't have it already) by putting on fake accents and telling the driver in broken English he's taking "Australian princesses". They're no Beauty Queens, that's for sure.

Muscles sounds oddly like Vince Sorrenti as he promises his cabbie a tip if he passes the two teams just ahead of them. Cue a montage in which every team is worried about whether the others will pass them, but since they all seem to arrive at roughly the same time it all basically comes down to a footrace. Bambi & Muscles and Alana & Mel are the first two teams to actually reach the board, and will join Tyler & Nathan on the first boat. The lotto numbers appear (22, 3, 10, 26, 12, 1, 20, and 19... did you win? And do I get a cut?) just as Sam & Renae take the fourth place and the first place on the second boat. They are joined by Dave & Kelly and Jeff & Luke, with the Big W ladies somehow managing to beat everyone else and claim the final place on it. FBA consider it "tough" to have had to write their names down for the last boat. You know, if they just focussed, they might be able to achieve more. They're certainly not low on misplaced self-belief. The farmers express shock that FBA could have passed them (heh), and they, their hats, and Tom's adorably mincy running (go ahead, watch it again) arrive in tenth, just behind the Mos. Ryot and Liberty are surprised to arrive in last place. After a shot of the board showing just how messy and illegible everybody's handwriting is, we learn that the teams are going to camp out for the night. Yes, that's right. Without a hotel. Hooray!

It's suddenly the next morning already, and the beautiful sunrise accompanies the three lead teams (Tyler & Nathan, Bambi & Muscles, and Melana) head off at 6:00am. Wow, early. Nathan confessionals, telling us that "the other teams had an opportunity to catch up, which, um, sorta sucked a little bit actually". I'd offer to fix that by moving all the other teams ahead of them, but then I would have to sit through FBA for at least another week, and I'm not sure I care that much. At 6:30, Sam & Renae and the three teams with people over 50 board the second boat. Talk about your Earlybird Special. Anne-Marie wonders what "the guys at work" would think "if they could see us now". Um, there's a funny thing about television. See that camera right in front of you, ladies? At 7:00am, the band of Unfocused Disbelieving Underachievers departs. Joey tells us that they're going to "step up" today, and I only have one thing to say to that: "Numfar, do the dance of sorrow!" Later on in the ride, Richard looks a bit green around the gills (see what I did there? Because they're on a b... oh, never mind), and confesses to hating small boats that get affected by the waves. BRING ME THE EMERGENCY KAYAK!

The first split-screen of the season takes us to what Wikipedia informs me is the village of Mataram. So you know it's true. The first boat arrives at 8:27am, with us helpfully reminded via graphic that the teams are in Lombok, and everyone begins looking for a cluebox. Somehow they all managed to avoid reading that bit of the clue that says they needed to search the beach for the clue, and all run off into the middle of the village, complete with random cows looking around like the teams are idiots. Heh. There is yet to be a sequence on The Amazing Race that would not be improved by having animals mocking teams' stupidity. Mel tells us she and Alana agreed to the highly inventive plan of running around looking for the clue. Smart move, that. While Tyler & Nathan go off on their own, running through a school playground, the other two teams seem to stick together, yet still have no idea where to go. Everyone's back in the general vicinity of the beach in time to notice the second boat's arrival (at 8:57am), and more importantly to laugh along with the Gong Of Idiocy as Anne-Marie falls flat on her arse getting out of the boat. They and the rest of their teams join the hunt for this non-existent cluebox. Jeff tells us the race is a bit like "snakes and ladders", with how a team could fall behind at the drop of a hat. I'm not sure what game he's been playing, but as I recall they don't hold all the players up until everyone reaches a certain number in that game.

Sam & Renae are the first to have locals tell them there is no cluebox to find, but misunderstand the schoolgirls' "no"s as being told they don't speak English. Muscles and Bambi get directions, as Tracy tells Dave & Kelly that this is haaaard. Dave confessionals, telling us that the leaders were "running around like headless chooks, so we went and joined 'em". Because following people is always the best way to get ahead in a race. Right on cue, the editors cut from Dave's "headless chooks" to a very much intact chicken ambling around slowly, just before Anne-Marie walks past it. Hee! She and Tracy are the first to actually look inside a boat, but fail to see that the clues are hidden underneath the net inside.

OH MY GOD. You know what this reminds me of? Girl-on-a-swing. (I realise that if you haven't seen the relevant episode of The Amazing Race Asia that remark makes no sense, but you should totally go and do it, because it's quite possibly one of the best episodes ever.)

The final boat is approaching, and Tom comments on how adept he and Matt are at finding clues in small Indonesian fishing villages. Yeah, they totally come here on their days off and pr... oh, wait. Never left the country before. I get it, they're being IRONIC. Oy. (Still more entertaining than FBA, though.) Arriving at 9:05am, which is both remarkably slow for a "fastboat" that left at seven o'clock and still over twenty minutes faster than the other two boats, the teams disembark and begin running in completely the wrong direction.

Tyler & Nathan are the first to actually rifle through the net and grab their clue (finally), and walk back into the village to read it, in order to stop the other teams from following them. They seem to be racing pretty well, which is a shame because the combination of their competence and their complete lack of charisma is overpoweringly dull. Kind of like watching Sunrise, only with competence. The clue tells them to take a cab to the Pura Lingsa temple. Grant informs us that they'll then have to run across the temple courtyard in the middle of a traditional ceremony where, basically, the teams will get pelted with balls of ground-up rice, in order to get their next clue. He adds that while the war may seem violent, it's done to unite Muslims and Hindus on the island. Well, that's okay then. Maybe we can get Israel and Palestine to fling rice in each other's faces and it'll be fine.

As they rush off to grab a taxi, Kelly notices them and she and Dave chase after, demanding to know where the clue is. Good for them. The surfers tell them it's in the boat painted like a raceflag, which seems kind of obvious now that I think about it, and they manage to get there before any other teams have found it. Sam & Renae correctly realise that it's "a chain reaction" they've got going on, after Dave & Kelly tell them where to go, and they tell both Anne-Marie & Tracy (who get it 4th) and FrakUs & Liberty (who still only get it tenth, after everyone else finds it on their own, and Melana are a bit slower). Richard expresses that sort of angry confidence only tools and NRL pla... no, only tools have, as he celebrates being ahead of the Big W ladies in his cab. And as we know? If there's one team you don't want to compete against towards the end of the race, it's the two older ladies who are struggling to keep up on Day TWO. In a confessional, Anne-Marie tells Tracy they're going to need to run at points during the race, Tracy countering that the ability to breathe is also an important skill. If I had the choice, I could probably think of a few people this season I'd rather see running than breathing. Speaking of FBA, Joey acts like she's sooooo sneaky, telling us she covered the net back up to hide the clues again. Richard sounds like he thinks she's the smartest woman alive, and... well, you made your bed, dude. Don't force the rest of us to lie in it. FrakUs and Liberty marvel at having essentially made up "an hour" on Melana. Well, you didn't really, since the other teams from the first boat are still far ahead, but whatever. In their cab, Melana wonder how they're going to catch-up. Because teams never switch positions on the race, apparently.

Commercials. Ways This Show Could Be Worse: Sarah Murdoch hosting. "You won!... WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THERE ARE ALREADY TWO TEAMS HERE?"

When we return, FBA are busy psyching themselves up -- I'm sure it'll help, aren't you? -- while Mos points out that he's fine with having rice cakes thrown at them, since getting hit in the face with cake is "every fat man's dream, apparently". Look, I'm... decidedly not anorexic, but I can think of many things that I would rather do that get HIT in the FACE with CAKE. Especially when it's not a cheesecake.

Travel porn (um, I mean, "establishing footage", because I'm a professional and shit) welcomes us to Pura Lingsa, where Nathan & Tyler are preparing. As they descend down a staircase into the courtyard, the locals begin hurling their rice, and it's quite hard to tell whether anything's actually hitting them, or where they're getting hit, but it looks kinda fun. And it's the sort of quick task the show never really does any more, so that's also a point in its favour. They get across quickly, Tyler providing a confessional about how "intense" it was (DRINK!), and then run back across with their clue to open it, revealing this season's first Detour.

If you're new to this show, (1) I'm shocked you made it this far into the recap without getting confused, and (2) a Detour is, often enough for Grant to explain it as such, a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. Sure, there are exceptions, but I promise not to mention the really bad ones like painting a couple of people's fingernails versus packing and hauling coal around Mozambique, or the one in Finland where the two tasks basically sounded and looked exactly the same, or the one in the Netherlands that combined stupid costumes, bike travel, physical strength, dancing ability, and gross food into just one SIDE of the Detour. In any event, this week's Detour is a choice between Cash and Carry. Either way, they'll have to make their way to the Mandalika Market. Teams who pick Cash will have to find a bakso stall then ladle up and sell fifteen bowls of the local meatball soup, getting at least 5000 rupiah per bowl. On the other hand, Carry requires teams to find a market stall with a bunch of baskets of assorted green vegetables, then balance a basket each on their heads and walk across the market to a second stall to deliver them. To use some terminology common in the Amazing Race fandom back in Ye Olde Darke Ages, Cash is your standard "Tortoise" option, where you'll finish gradually but without having to redo the task (well, at least in theory), while Carry is your "Hare" where the task is faster, but you'll have to start again if you fuck it up (which won't be hard). There are two other basic Detour categories, but we'll deal with them if and when we get to them.

It's actually a very good Detour, all things considered. Neither task is too easy, neither task is too hard, they test different skill sets, and the title is a decent pun compared to some of the lame efforts in recent seasons. (Yes, that last one is TOTALLY IMPORTANT.) I could do with less task-recycling (Cash was from the first season of The Amazing Race Asia, Carry was from the fourth) but since they correctly worked out that the task originally paired with Carry in the episode this leg was based on was pointless and nearly impossible, I'm glad they changed it. And I'm not even sure it really matters that the tasks are copies anyway -- probably about 99% of the audience weren't even aware until idiots were complaining on Twitter during the premiere that these other versions even exist, and the producers are smart enough to not recycle the crappy tasks. At least not for another couple of seasons when.

The surfers choose Carry, as Sam & Renae arrive and are attacked. Renae thinks they were "cute", but Sam disagrees, calling them "evil". I'm not sure which is more disrespectful, to be honest. They get the clue without much fuss, and have the tough decision of choosing between two tasks practically catered to pretty blonde beauty pageant contestants. They also pick Carry. Somehow, FBA have managed to shoehorn their way into third, and pick Cash. Oddly, they seem to read the clue BEFORE running back through the gauntlet, so... you know, whatever. Right as Richard tells us from the safety of his cab that he still can't see out of his eye after getting hit (also accompanied by the farmers' fiddle, suggesting its less their theme music than it is Song For The Stupid), we cut to Dave telling Kelly to cover her face. Heh. Perhaps FBA should focus more on safety and less on being jerks. Just a thought. Dave & Kelly also pick Cash, ostensibly because of their cooking skills. In the next little montage, the Mos and the Big W ladies pick Cash, while the farmers and Jeff & Luke pick Carry, right before pretty much everybody complains about being exposed to actual culture on the race. And... seriously. Shut up, or let someone who actually wanted to be on the show take your position.

A split screen takes us to the market, where some odd tribal-sounding music that wouldn't have been too out of place on the first season of Survivor plays over some generic travel porn. Tyler & Nathan arrive and find the starting stall without much trouble, but almost instantly Tyler is complaining and saying they should switch to Cash. Dude, you haven't even taken a step yet. Shut up. Not surprisingly, Nathan gets fed up with Tyler being such a little bitch (earning themselves the nicknames Wallace and Grommet respectively), and tells him to keep trying. They eventually work out that going slow and steady will get them to the end of the course, but it still doesn't stop the local ladies from laughing when Grommet drops his load again. In a confessional, Wallace tells us that Grommet thinks it was because he washed his hair that he sucked the bag so much. Of course it was. Because it could never have been his ridiculous hairstyle to begin with. Just before what is generously being called Attempt 3 by the graphics, we see a guy walking around with a whole bunch of metal buckets balanced on his heads. Sideways. Awesome.

Back at the rice war, FrakUs and Liberty run through as she confessionals wondering whether the kids hired to throw rice at them had "a licence to kill". If only. They appear to choose Cash. In FBA's cab, she hits on the idea of selling two bowls at once, and as expected, Richard thinks She Is A Genius. I, on the other hand, would be surprised if she could even spell "genius". In other news, Jenius makes this comment with one of those put-on fake Asian accents that were outdated even in 1960s sitcoms. Honey, if they don't understand you when you're speaking English, they're certainly not going to understand you when you speak English sounding like Rose Porteous on crack. (Then again, we live in a nation where prawn-flavoured two minute noodles are no longer sold, yet "Oriental"-flavoured noodles are readily available. So I suppose I can't be too shocked.) In happier news for cultural relations between our two fine nations (well, between one fine nation and one that isn't Indonesia), the Mos ask their cab driver what the Bahasa words for "come eat" are. Yay! Elsewhere, Muscles and Bambi choose Carry. On their way back out, though, Bambi take a shot in the leg or something, and requires Muscles to carry her back up the stairs to their cab. As a final salvo, he calls the locals "pussies" on the way out. And nobody knows pussies better than dickheads. (I'M SORRY, LESBIANS AND RABBIT CONNOISSEURS OF THE WORLD.) Melana, still bringing up the rear, choose Cash. Happily, they choose not to complain about anything.

So to recap, that's FBA, Dave & Kelly, the Mos, the Big W ladies, FrakUs & Liberty, and Melana choosing Cash, and Wallace & Grommet, the models, the farmers, Jeff & Luke, and Muscles & Bambi choosing Carry. That's as even a split as you can get in a leg with eleven teams, and it's also the first time EVER the first Detour has been an even split. A sign of promise, I think, that teams are being faced with such a good Detour right off the bat.

At the market, the models and FBA arrive, heading off to their respective tasks. Jenius takes her place in the makeshift kitchen without consulting Richard, so either (1) Richard can't cook at home, (2) "entrepreneur" is actually code for "desperate housewife", or (3) she's a bit of a cunt. I suspect some combination of all three, since as Richard is trying to sell some bakso she's yelling over him offering a price that's both in the wrong freaking currency (rupees is India, not Indonesia) and severely underpriced (five THOUSAND, dumbass). She then can't stand the heat and gets out of the kitchen, trying to sell bakso with an even stronger fake-Asian accent than before. I'd ask her to apologise for her rudeness, but I'm not completely sure she wouldn't strap on some fake buckteeth and say something like "Me so solly, me ruve you wrong time". In what is probably the most amazing moment of this episode, it actually WORKS. (Elsewhere, Sam tries a Bollywood shimmy to keep her basket on her head. Also works.) They continue to sell, successfully getting three in succession, but Jenius is so smart she doesn't realise she's been conned out of 12,000 rupiah by only accepting 1000 rupiah notes. In a confessional she attributes it to being "in the moment". Isn't that one of those things only douches say, like "No, it's not a combover" or "The 10:43 train to Belgrave has been delayed, and is now expected in eighteen minutes" or "Once again, Immunity! Back up for grabs!"? Richard tells us they had to sell more bowls to make up for their own lack of focus, as the little graphic ticker trickles back down to 2/15. They give us our first actual FBA since the intro footage, which means you should be soused by now.

Carrying on up the aisle, Wallace & Grommet are moving very slowly to avoid dropping their baskets and still have about twenty metres left, which would probably mean something if we knew how long the entire trip was. As they do so, we see the models speedily walk up to and overtake them, almost running. Wonderful.

Commercials. The number of times the song used to advertise this show has been played on the radio just before Playing To Win or No Second Prize or something equally relevant recently is hilarious.

We relive the models passing Wallace and Grommet, this time with a Grommet confessional in which he impersonates a crab and Wallace chides him for "checking [the models] out", which apparently caused him to drop the basket AGAIN. Sigh. After this latest failure, they give up and head off to sell bakso. On the other hand, Sam & Renae are done. They read the next clue, and... okay, pay attention here. They've got to take a cab to Malimbu Beach, then ride in a traditional local boat to Gili Trawangan, put on snorkelling gear and search the seafloor for a briefcase, take the briefcase to a shack built on the beach, and count the money inside in order to get the next clue. Oh, and you can't cheat and use someone else's answer, since they all have different amounts. I realise it's entirely coincidental, but that's exactly the sort of wrinkle we need after how piggyback-friendly the most recent American season was. Anyway. In their cab, Sam is "proud" of how they "absolutely floored it".

The middle gaggle of teams arrives at the market and begins their tasks. Someone appears to do the Robot while Carry-ing, and Matt has decided to complete the task while still wearing his Akubra. Whether that's within the rules or not is up for debate, but... you know, you've got to use what you have to the best of your ability. The models were able to use their experience to help them get through the task, I don't see why there's any real difference here. And the baskets are more of a flexible material anyway, so people without hats wouldn't have much trouble molding it to match their own cranial contours if they were smart enough.

Over at Cash, Wallace is whining about Grommet making him switch tasks, calling him "the old man". I'm fairly certain actual old men could have done that task, though. They might have needed a Zimmer frame, but they definitely could have done it. The teams now attempting Cash all seem to have different approaches to selling, from Dave's loud yelling to Liberty's begging to Tyler's standing there with a bowl of bakso in his hand to Jenius's overt racism, but it's Tracy and Anne-Marie who make the first successful sale. Dave confessionals that he was trying his hardest to make love the secret ingredient, but still couldn't shift a bowl. After realising that selling so much soup is going to take a long time when there are so many other people around, they decide to Carry.

And now we enter the Jeff And Luke Finally Get Some Decent Camera Time part of the episode. They're trying and failing to Carry, and on their third attempt already. Luke confessionals that the local women thought it was hilarious that men would be doing this, especially when they were so slow and stiff-necked. Luke is apparently able to read minds and knows What Women Want, but not to the point he strips. More's the pity. After they fail again, they return for their fourth attempt, Jeff telling us that they "got really resolved" and vowed to finish the task no matter what it took. At no point during this confessional does he mention the words focus, believe, or achieve. Just worth noting. Luke drops his basket AGAIN.

Wallace and Grommet have somehow convinced their cabbie to give them a 50,000 rupiah note, allowing them to pretty much just make ten bowls and give them out for free. FBA watches on in frustration. as you would. Yeah, it's kind of cheating, but they do have the money and they are selling soup, so I'm fine with it. It's like their cabbie is shouting a round of drinks. You wouldn't get kicked out of the pub for that, would you? (Okay, you would if you shouted everyone Diet Pepsi.) And it has the added bonus of making Jenius pissed.

The farmers are done with Carry, and are leaving in second place. Go, team. In their cab, Tom marvels over how wonderful Matt's hat is, and... surely he's bisexual, at the very least. I mean, COME ON. I have the worst gaydar in recorded human history, and even I would get this right. Matt, still scared about being Brokebacked, points out that one of the things the "bomb diggity" Akubra is good for is picking up women. Rather than use the typical irritating sound effects the American version has and overuses, we instead hear a bassoon blowing on the soundtrack. Hee!

Muscles & Bambi and Melana have arrived and head to Carry. Dave promises Kelly a 'nana if she can get to the end in one attempt, but she grabs the basket after he stops right in front of her to let some people walk past. That's probably an even bigger part of the task than the actual balancing, I think. It's not too hard to balance it on your head, but being able to duck and weave while carrying it is quite tough, it seems. Everyone continues walking. Very slowly.

Wallace and Grommet are finished selling. In their cab, they consider it "a girl thing" to "do stuff with your head". I'm sorry, but THIS? From the guy who slept with PARIS HILTON?

In other news, Melana relate the story of having to balance books on their head to fix their posture as a child while chairdancing like penguins in a confessional, while Mel shows off her bellybutton and promptly scolds a guy who looks while she does it; and Tracy calls the Cash side of the Detour "mental" with everyone vying for the same customers. Um, you work at Big W. Surely there's a K-Mart or a Target or a Myer or whatever nearby trying to steal your business. By the time we wrap up this trip to Cash, the Mos and FrakUs and Liberty have each sold six bowls, Tracy & Anne-Marie have sold eight, and FBA have sold nine bowls. For real, this time.

As Mel drops her basket and prepares to return to the start of the course, she almost knocks it into Bambi, until Chris has to warn her, which in turn makes him drop his own basket. Oh, schadenfreude, I've missed you.

Commercials. It's 1:07am right now and not a single channel has an ad on for me to mock? Seriously? Not even a Danoz Direct infomercial?

When we return, Dave & Kelly are finishing up, still managing to be in 4th place despite switching tasks. He calls the old lady at the finish line 'love' (so Australian), and hugs her. Probably not the wisest thing he could have done in a conservative Muslim country, but since she's in a busy market in a tourist hotspot? I doubt he's the first guy. We learn that the clue specifies wearing swimwear for the task, and I really, really do not want to picture Dave in his underwear. Thanks, editors. Melana are done next, and Mel bemoans the fact that it isn't a Pit Stop yet. I can see where she's coming from, but I really like that they're actually trying to wear the teams down early. When they cut the budget for the American version after The Amazing Race: All-Stars, they had to drop two legs from each season (meaning the fatigue experienced and shown was greatly reduced), and for whatever stupid reason also decided it was good to start having legs that really only have a couple of tasks. Sure, you could argue that it was being done to ease the teams into racing, but... why do they need it? Start tough from the beginning and the stress and the fatigue that build up will be just as amazing as the tasks and the locations.

Anyway. Melana pass FrakUs and Liberty on their way out, and Liberty begins to realise how far behind they're falling, starting to give out free kisses to people who buy her bakso. She may not realise that she's probably cutting her market in about half by doing this, but whatever. In her confessional she admits, "I have no idea how many strange men I kissed today, but I think that strategy really helped us." Who knew that sex sells? I mean, aside from FBA? When they try and sell to a woman, though, they find it a bit more difficult. It's no wonder, when FrakUs is busy smelling his armpit.

Muscles and Bambi are done, as are the Mos and Jeff & Luke, who include the less-old finish-line woman in their group hug. Awww. I'm simultaneously touched and a little bit jealous.

Over at Malimbu Beach, the models arrive and promptly trip into a shallow little moat between the car park and the boats. Of course. Having grown up around bikes and boats, Renae realises that one of the waiting boats has a stronger motor than the rest (and, thus, will be faster), and unsurprisingly claim it for themselves. I'm impressed. I mean, we've had Blonde Bimbo Team after Blonde Bimbo Team for years now, and the only other one that would avoid failing an IQ test is more of a girly-girl team with brains, as opposed to being proper tomboys. It's quite refreshing to see a blonde woman on this show kick ass without a man in her life. (Yes, an old Ally McBeal repeat is currently playing on TV, why do you ask?)

Ryot and Liberty have finished selling and pashing. Meanwhile, Joey's trying to whore herself out as a not-at-all exotic dancer, and it's failing. Yay! Mostly because she's trying to claim that nobody else is offering bad dancing and smiling, without realising the other teams are practically offering a shiatsu with a happy ending by comparison. And speaking of a happy ending, Tracy & Anne-Marie are also done. As they read the clue, we flashback to a scene from their pre-race interview in which they think having to wear swimwear on television will be their biggest challenge. And here we are. Now firmly entrenched in last place (believe it), FBA finally get their clue. And, hopefully, deported. To Bishkek. (Actually, no. I wouldn't want to foist her onto the people of Kyrgyzstan.)

Luke tells us that the Detour was "really, really hard" (I know the feeling), and hopes to make up some time if "people can't swim". Right on cue, the editors cut to Mos pointing out that he's not great in the water. Heh. Mo points out that they haven't seen the surfers for "the whole trip". Didn't they all spend the night together camping out? And if they all spent the night together, where is my Tom/Luke sex tape?

We split-screen to Wallace and Grommet arriving at Malimbu Beach, where the farmers have joined them. As they leave the farmers struggling to remove their thick socks to get into the boat, Wallace realises that there's one boat missing. That boat, of course, carries the models, who are whooping it up on the open seas. Dave & Kelly notice that there's only two gone when they arrive, so either the farmers have joined an emergency line-dance or there was an extra boat to begin with. Melana are next, and pretty much grab the first boat they see.

Ominous music takes us to FrakUs and Liberty's cab, where her stomach is turning into a Road Block of its own. They pull over, and she attributes it to the combination of being hungry and the winding roads. Is "winding roads" a cue to make someone chuck, like how people mention waterfalls to mock those who are busting to pee? Duly noted. And... like, I sympathise with them, mostly because I would probably be throwing up at this point also, but... seriously. Buy some duty-free snacks or something while you're waiting for your plane. It turns out the beach is just around the corner, but Liberty's still dry-retching. And on that classy note...

Commercials. You know what makes me reeeeeeaaaaallllllllllyy want to watch Dancing With The Stars, Seven? Being threatened with the combination of Brynne Edelsten and James Blunt.

FrakUs and Liberty are suddenly back in their cab, just in time for her to need to throw up AGAIN. What lucky people.

Way over on Gili Trawangan, the models are arriving on board their boat Hercules for the swimsuit portion of today's competition. Naturally, they strip down to their bikinis and begin to frolic, calling the island "a paradise". Well... whether any island with you two present can be called a paradise is debatable, but it certainly is very pretty. As they reverse into the water (I don't know either), Renae falls back and lands on her backside. They begin to snorkel, and it's all very porny in a Mormon sort of way.

Muscles and Bambi are arriving at Malimbu Beach. Or not, because it seems their cabbie has dropped them off at the wrong location. In perhaps the first sign this is going to be different from the American version that isn't based on speech patterns, they choose to grab their bags and hoof it to the next beach instead of waiting around to yell at their driver. Instead, he chooses to yell at her in Greek. I'd try and translate it, but it's all... you know. As they hike, they are passed by FBA (damn it) and one other unshown team, causing Muscles to flip his shit. Maybe we're not so different after all.

FrakUs and Liberty arrive at the beach, and FrakUs manages to whomp Liberty in the gut with one of their backpacks. No wonder he's the black sheep of the family. Jeff & Luke, the Mos, FBA, and Muscles & Bambi have also all reached the boats, and head off. (I'm sorry, but there is literally nothing funny I can write about having four teams turn up and get into boats, especially when they all do exactly the same thing. And because this recap's already getting a bit "too long, didn't read" with about fifteen minutes of episode left, I'm not going to go out of my way to try. Maybe later in the season, when I care about the teams, sure. But now? No.)

In a nice little sequence seemingly designed to confuse foreigners who downloaded this episode from the interwebs, Matt tells us that "there's another team right up our clacker", and Grommet says, "I wonder where these chicks are. They must have been smashin' it, dude". Please, all of you, RUN YOUR OWN DAMN RACE. It doesn't matter where the other teams are.

These chicks have found their suitcase and are diving down to grab it. It's far enough below the surface that Renae lost her breath before she could reach it (and far enough that they needed SCUBA gear when this exact task appeared on The Amazing Race Asia), and the new and definitely not improved Horns of Perseverence play as they return to shore, just in time to see Wallace and Grommet arrive. As the latter head out, the models walk up one of the beams into the little beach huts they've mocked up for the teams to count in. They realise that it's not going to be an easy task, given there are clearly "thousands upon millions of notes", and the largest of the notes is only 5000 rupiah. (More interestingly, the music playing in the background was one of the main pieces used to score The Mole, so... insert your own Grant joke.) They begin to count their money, and quickly realise that it isn't going to work if they're both counting aloud. Or, rather, Sam realises they can't both count aloud while Renae continues to talk even after being advised not to.

Grommet has his briefcase, while the teams behind begin to rock up en masse. Matt explains that diving isn't the sort of thing that people in rural Queensland are prone to -- and it's a good thing it's still too soon to make jokes about the floods right now -- which probably explains their slower swimming stroke. And I'm totally not thinking about Tom stroking. At all. Really. DON'T GIVE ME THAT LOOK.

Fish swim in the ocean. Who knew?

Sam & Renae have apparently sorted their money into piles or something, and are now proceeding to count them again. They attribute the difficulty of the task to how tired they are and how much they need to concentrate, rather than the fact that there's millions of rupiah in front of them. Tyler and Nathan begin counting at the same time, but seem to be taking a slower approach.

Tom dives down to grab his case, giving us a brief peek at his crack (not that I happened to pause the video right on it or anything), and Dave also grabs his. I do not feel the need to pause again at this point. Melana seem to be struggling just to find the seafloor, let alone their case. At their counting station, the farmers wonder if there's "really a best way to do it". Oh, honey. There's always a best way to do it.

...Oh, for this task? I'm not sure whether it's really the best way, but I'd start by going through and sorting the notes into their denominations -- all the 100 rupiah notes together, and so on -- then counting each note as "one" and doing the basic math at the end. It's much harder to get confused when you've got smaller numbers to work with, and if they manage to avoid said confusion they could be done in a matter of minutes, pretty much. Of course, it's much harder to think of coping strategies like these when you're tired from a long day of being hit in the face with rice and balancing stuff on your head and selling food, and when you probably didn't get much sleep the night before, but still.

Dave advises Kelly to be careful when opening their case to avoid the money spilling, and Kelly's response? "Holy shitballs." Welcome to Australia, race.

We split-screen to FBA's boat, where they're busy trying to talk themselves up. Because that's worked so well for them so far. They call themselves "the sporty couple", and the editors decide to overlay Jeff & Luke looking across the water, as if to say, "You think so? Either of these two could beat you up in a fight... and he's sixty!" A bunch of teams arrive at the snorkels pretty much at the same exact time, and we are treated to the dual sight of Mo walking around in flippers and the Big W ladies just trying to figure out how to float... in the same shot. HA! As the more physically capable teams in this group grab their cases, the surfers have realised that the task isn't going to be easy. Jeff & Luke quickly come to the same conclusion, but at least Luke has the sense to choose his words carefully in order to not come across as though he thinks counting is hard.

Mel and FrakUs both grab cases. Meanwhile, Muscles and Bambi are only just arriving in the boat. Muscles tells us in a confessional that it was tough having to endure a boat ride like that knowing they were in last place. Fair enough. In the water, the Mos are struggling, but Mo finally gets their briefcase.

After a brief bit of kind of boring stuff in which Muscles and Bambi arrive and everybody else grabs their cases, and in which I realise that even I'm beginning to think this recap is getting too long for it's own damn good, we come to a point where Anne-Marie (given the case by Tracy) promptly drops it while swimming back to shore. You know, I love 'em and all, but they really are not very good at this whole racing caper.

Commercials. I kind of love how all the other people in the Freeview commercial are all, "Camera? WHERE?!", while Richard Morecroft is like, "Whatever. Just leave me to read my Garfield."

When we return, Tracy dives down and grabs the case again, once again handing it straight off to Anne-Marie to bring back to shore. Did she learn nothing?

The other teams continue to count... and count... and count. Liberty tells us that the challenge was right up their alley, since they both love money (um, I mean, "numbers"). They seem very organised at the moment, which I suppose is promising for them. On the other hand, the Mos have figured out that they have to sort their money into piles, but are too fatigued to actually figure out how to sort the piles. Helpful. The first team to actually try an answer are Wallace and Grommet, but it's not right. The farmers are also wrong, and fail to realise that they've somehow dropped a 2000 rupiah note next to their little shack. The models are also wrong. As Melana also struggle to count, Dave whines about how Kelly's done nothing, and she sort of sits there incredulously and lets him rant for a little bit, to avoid having to argue. That's either a good sign that they know how to deal with each other, or a bad sign for their relationship in general, and I'm not sure which yet.

We see another montage in which everybody is as clueless as each other, and the Big W ladies are kicking themselves for not being better given their occupations to boot, before Dave chucks another tanty after getting the wrong answer. I'm... really not liking him. And if anybody knows how unlikable people named Dave can be, it's me. He does at least hand the farmers back their dropped cash, so that's nice, if not terribly smart. Why help another team get ahead of you when there's a prize like the Express Pass available? Why do it at all? Tom tells us in a confessional that "if it wasn't for Old Mate, we'd definitely still be there, I'd say". I kind of enjoy these early phases of the race where nobody knows anyone else's name, as long as it doesn't get dragged for weeks on end until you're down to five teams left and still complaining about "the competitive yellow team" or "Florida" or whathaveyou.

Montage of Angry Concentration Faces.

The first team to actually get the right answer are the models, squealing joyously. The clue tells them to take a waiting cidomo to Sunset Point, the Pit Stop. Grant adds some basic factual information about the Gili islands, then confirms that "the last teams to check in COULD be eliminated". As the camera guy continues to walk backwards from the check-in mat, we see for the first time that where the world map design is usually the one that puts the US on the far left and Japan on the far right, we've instead gone for a Pacific-centered map that means Portugal is on the far left side and the Caribbean islands are on the far right. This does mean that Australia is in the middle, which is kind of a cool little detail that I wouldn't have even thought to include. Anyway.

Dave & Kelly also get the clue, Dave choosing to hug the poor judge guy, while FrakUs and Liberty instead opt to cheer loudly. Perhaps she's out of kisses. All three teams get in their cidomos (horse-drawn carriages, pretty much) and ride to Sunset Point, another beach where Grant is waiting with the little lady functioning as this week's greeter. With plentiful flags to guide teams down the beach (because heaven forbid we make them think), Sam & Renae make it to the mat first. The greeter welcomes them in both Bahasa and English, another cool little detail that will likely get overlooked in the process of mocking how wooden Grant is coming across. "As the winners of the first leg of our race", they've won ten grand from NAB (which means it'll probably never get paid into their accounts), as well as the Express Pass. It's the first time the Express Pass has been combined with an extra prize, and... probably a good move, I think, to give them a bonus for after the race as well as the in-race prize. And I'm certainly a fan of NAB getting to pimp themselves here with a prize and a graphic instead of hijacking twenty minutes of the episode to have Grant try to explain how fixing pens to chains is cultural to Indonesia. They provide what is clearly a staged shot to show Grant handing the envelope for the Express Pass over, and the sun glare on the envelope is so bad I wonder why they couldn't have tried a second take, since it kinds of makes it look like he's handing over a random piece of yellow paper. As they point out how they've proven so many people wrong by being the first ever Australian team to reach a Pit Stop (and I'm among them), Grant congratulates them on their win. Shortly afterwards, Dave and Kelly arrive as Team Number Two, and FrakUs and Liberty will be Team Number Three, assuming they can stand up on the damn mat properly. Oy.

Back at the money, Jeff & Luke finish, followed quickly by the farmers. Wallace provides a confessional about how he was beginning to get disparaged by all the other teams managing to finish, leaving him closer to being in last place. The implied "and behind FBA" is omitted, but irrelevant considering they can't even figure out where they're going to put their counted money instead of actually, you know, counting. A guy on an ice-cream bike begins playing his bad muzak right next to the Mos' shack, and they point out that they don't have the money to buy anything. I wonder where they could possibly find some money.

Wallace and Grommet are done, as are Muscles and Bambi. At the Pit Stop, Jeff & Luke are Team Number Four, the farmers are Team Number Five, Wallace and Grommet are Team Number Six, and Muscles and Bambi are in seventh. It's the first time in quite a while that there's been three all-male teams finishing in consecutive positions, although the fact that there are rarely even three male teams in a season any more certainly doesn't help.

The Big W ladies have managed to luck into the case with a grand total of exactly four million, and are given their next clue in ninth place. (Um, who's in eighth?) They depart for the Pit Stop, and someone really needs to tell Anne-Marie to be quiet at some point during the race. I love their enthusiasm, but... tone it down a little. As they head off, the Mos realise they've got a pretty good chance of being eliminated.

Commercials. Shut up, Beatrice's hat.

Mel snarks that there's no reason for anybody to get too excited with their guess, thinking it's wrong, before they actually do get the clue and leave, this time really in ninth place. FBA follow, practically screaming in joy. Guess they finally decided to focus or something. The Mos are also done, and now it's a race. Or it would be, if the cidomo ride actually meant anything. They're all getting to the Pit Stop in the same order, and it doesn't change here, with the big women from Big W as Team Number Eight, Melana as Team Number Nine (and celebrating not being losers with a "bum five", heh), FBA managing to achieve the wonderful result of... Team Number Ten (out of eleven), and the Mos coming last.

I can't say they didn't deserve it, since there was plenty of chances for the lead to chance and they've pretty much been in last place for the entire leg, but it would have been nice to wipe the smug smirk of FBA's faces. "Luckily, this is a predetermined non-elimination leg", or so sayeth Grant, which means they're going to have another chance. As expected they've got a penalty in the next leg of the race they'll have to deal with, but since the Speed Bump is a pointless waste of time that's generally filled with lame tasks like "sit on ice" or "wash someone's hair", the producers have decided instead to regress to 2006, and the Mos will instead be Marked For Elimination. Basically, if they win the next leg, they'll be completely fine, but if they don't they'll be given a thirty-minute penalty and the lost time could push them into last, eliminating them. The Mos realise that they've got to shape up or ship out, so hooray for self-awareness.

So there we are. One of the best first legs we've seen in ages, and certainly in the running for Best Premiere Ever (though the premieres as a batch are not particularly great), with enough little tweaks to make it uniquely Australian without tampering with the basic formula of the show. The casting is very interesting, even though I still can't tell the models apart, with a kind of social/class divide instead of the usual cast of generic pretty people with little difference from one team to the next, some of the most fascinating characters (not caricatures) that have ever been on this show, and some sure signs right from the outset that this will really be one of the toughest races ever instead of being One Of The Toughest Races Ever. And when you consider that Masterchef's first episodes were shockers, and Survivor can't even string one act together without having someone threaten to cut a bitch, it's quite astonishing that we got an episode this wonderful as the first episode ever. Now, if only they'd bring back the Fast Forward so it's on every leg...

Next time: Vietnam, oxen, and Bambi, oh my!


So there you have it. I know, it's long. And I'm genuinely sorry for that. Part of the issue is that there was an extra half-hour of episode to recap, but part of it is trying to find the right mix of sarcastic commentary, play-by-play recapping, and actual analysis that a good recap of this style needs. I feel a bit like I overdosed on each of the elements at some point, while not using them enough at others, but the actual length is consistent with the recaps I wrote way back when I was hitting the mix perfectly -- usually, a well-written recap for a 44-minute show (an hour with commercials) came in at about ten thousand words, and this 70-minute episode (90 minutes with commercials) is a touch over fifteen thousand, so it's fairly analogous. Hopefully they'll be blended better in the next recap. I'd love to hear what you thought about the recap, especially with regards to what you'd like to see changed, regardless of whether you're a diehard Amazing Race fan or someone who tuned in for the first time for this episode to see what the fuss was about. Both opinions are equally important.