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".


  1. Love your recaps! Just wondering, is it possible to put them behind a cut text or something? Only because there's a LOT of text to scroll through to get to first recap to read them in order haha. Actually, I suppose it doesn't matter since I will be keeping up to date from now on :D

  2. Your recaps are very entertaining! Fake asian accents bother me immensely, as do the overly competitive couple Richard and whatsherface. I can only imagine that eating breakfast at their place consists of a weetbix eating competition complete with 'encouraging' catchphrases yelled at max volume. Can't wait to read your next recap!

  3. Thank you for doing these recaps. The race is much more fun with a good helping of snark.

  4. Finally. Someone that is writing a recap for TARA that is not just a blow-by-blow description of the episode. Oh, you're exactly what I've been looking for - team nicknames, plus just the right amount of snark and vitriol that any good reality tv recap needs. But you've stopped at only 2 episodes? Where's episode 3? Is there to be no episode 4 either? How could you do this to Australia? Please come back and finish what you started - one of your four followers begs you!

  5. Is is theoretically possible to use cut text to hide the bulk of the posts, but Blogger changes their coding so often it's a waste of time trying to keep up with it. If it helps, I'll be releasing a PDF version of this season's recaps shortly after I post the final one. In the meantime, though, the best way is to go through the labelled entries in the archive (that little calendar thing on the right hand side of the screen).

    Episode 3 is done, and Episode 4 is already started. Eeeeee!

  6. Hey mate, long time lurker here and on TWoP. Just wanted to say I love your work. Looking forward to the rest of the season!
    Oki, back to lurking.