June 7, 2011

Australia 1x03: Macau, China

Previously on Tomb Service (alternate title: Miss Sai-Gone To Hue): Last week. Also: The eleven teams got out of Lombok, flying to Vietnam. While FBA were still causing grief in human relations, Dave and Kelly also seemed to be turning the race into a turf war on a global scale. Even after hearing both sides of the tale, Muscles turned out to be a real Asshole. After surprisingly boring tasks involving fans and mechanics, the teams spent the Detour either dealing with placid cocks or going where the buffalo roam (or both), before heading to the Road Block. It involved gathering seven objects from a maze-like structure, but unfortunately nobody grabbed the bonus one that would have won them Game Boy Pockets and copies of Donkey Kong Land 2. Wallace and Grommet did at least win Grand Final tickets, so... almost as good. On the other hand, Frakus was unable to unscramble the Conundrum, and he and Liberty were eliminated. (You may make your own joke about someone named Liberty being booted first as an obvious sign this isn't a show made by Americans.) Now, ten teams remain chasing the little toy rabbit. Who will headbutt the rail... TONIGHT?

Credits. Remember, Asshole carrying Bambi around in the credits is not related to his in-race stress at all. [HE WANTS YOU TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT, BOMPI.]

Commercials. Wait. The President of Cyprus was in Australia and I wasn't informed? Fuck you, non-SBS mainstream media.

We open with one of those shots that basically look like the camera guy is training for the Limbo World Championships (Motto: "Montego Bay or Bust!"), before tilting down to show Grant walking across the pavilion that was serving as the Pit Stop last week. After an extremely rushed intro (probably because we've lost half an hour of the show this week, for which my still-recovering fingers thank the deities of their choice) in which he explains that it's World Heritage listed, we cut straight into the action with Wallace and Grommet being the first to depart, at the convenient time of 11:07pm. I'm sure they'll be able to keep their lead throughout this leg, aren't you? The clue tells them to fly to Hong Kong, which like Bali is totally one of those locations you know Seven forced the race to visit on the grounds of incorrectly-perceived exotica. Grant informs us that, upon landing, they'll have to take a taxi to the docks at Aberdeen Marina, then ride a ferry to the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, which (believe it or not) I've mocked before in a past recap. There, each team has a table with "over a thousand fortune cookies" stacked in such a way as to make me wonder how health inspectors weren't called in. They'll have to bite into the cookies one at a time, reading the fortunes aloud as they go, until they find the one that says "Your fortune has delivered luck. You may now collect your clue." (Aren't 'fortune' and 'luck' synonymous, though?) They'll then have to show the little slip of paper to the waiter for him to lift the magic cloche and reveal said clue. Right about now, the Masterchef producers are kicking themselves for not using this as a challenge when they had the chance.

Oh, wait. NO, THEY'RE NOT. Fortune cookies? Seriously? This isn't 1977, show.

Anyway, they get in a cab as we hear a Grommet confessional in which he explains that, basically, they're street smart instead of book smart. Which makes sense, because when was the last time you heard about Paris Hilton sucking off a forensic anthropologist? At the airport, and accompanied by yet another airplane departure screen that is neither timely nor relevant, they ask for tickets.

At 11:14pm, the farmers depart. As in the very first drive, the editors make sure to include a shot of one of their hats (time time Tom's) falling off as they enter their taxi. Matt tells us he thinks they've "done pretty good [sic] for people who've never travelled before". I don't know. He's travelled farther than I have in my life (at least he's left the Australian mainland -- the farthest I've gone is a little town just outside of Newcastle), but I'm pretty confident I could have also survived the grand total of one eliminations that has taken place thus far. Matt wonders whether Hong Kong is "in China", which... technically no, but still closer than certain other teams are going to get (SPOILER!). They once again discuss how somewhere like Birdsville is closer to their speed than Hue, and Matt claims he could "even handle Melbourne after this". It's so tempting to offer him my spare room, on the proviso that Tom also comes.

A minute later, Asshole and Bambi leave. We return to their pre-race "we're here to test our relationship" interview some more, because we just haven't had enough of it yet, and WHATEVER. In the airport, we get a shot of them both wearing those skier jackets that make them look like the Michelin Man. In Vietnam? With a horde of exclusively white people in the background? In the middle of the night? In an airport that isn't a major hub? When they were just shown in matching yellow tank tops? I don't think so, guys. Is "clearly out-of-place footage" going to be their running theme? I sure hope not.

At 11:49pm and 11:50pm respectively, Jeff & Luke and the Lucys set off. Luke gives us a standard The Race Has Brought Us Closer Together speech, while the Lucys give us another excerpt from their pre-race Blondes Aren't Punchlines interview... right before one asks the other (though it should be noted that neither of their pairs of lips actually seems to be moving) if Hong Kong is in Singapore. Oy.

11:56pm. Dave & Kelly, who vow to be sly and trick people into thinking they're nice. It's totally working for me. Six minutes later, Mo & Mos (hereafter collectively known as Momos, because calling them the Mos was getting really, REALLY frustrating to write around for the sake of clarity) leave, and promptly have their apparently ample bosomage groped by every woman in sight while waiting for their taxi to arrive. Thank heavens they don't have to wait long, because that was quite awkward to watch. Remember how I asked for equal opportunity titillation in a past recap? Equal opportunity Indian-train-style groping wasn't what I meant. Sigh. Unless it's my hands and either Tom or Luke.

12:11am. Giggle and Cackle. They explain that the game is serious and they have to do whatever it takes, but that their ability to continue to giggle and cackle in even the most inopportune situations is helping them. We learn that Cackle was even laughing in her sleep, which caused Giggle to wake up. Of course, they laugh about it.

Showing us Momos weren't ever in any actual danger by leaving at 1:05am are FBA, followed at 1:06am by Melana. Not surprisingly, Jenius feels the need to warm up her "accent" before she even leaves Hue. She tells us in a confessional that their goal is to continue to rise in the standings. Well, they certainly couldn't fall much further. As Alana explains that FBA "fully dogged" them by breaking the World's Stupidest Deal in the previous leg and hopes they get a karmic smackdown this week, we get another set of airport shots showing both of these teams in cold weather gear. (It also gives us our first shot of an Amazing Cameraman of the season, so it's inclusion is twice as baffling.) Jenius speechifies again about how they'll do whatever it takes to stay. Yawn.

Grant informs us that all ten teams are on the same flight to Hong Kong. The Amazing Red Line makes an exaggerated curve as if to say "Hey, look! The earth really isn't flat!" (As an aside? I love that they gave us everybody's departure times, even though they were all immediately bunched together. It really doesn't add anything to the show to have one or two teams depart, note that everyone will end up on the same plane or train or whatever, then cut straight to the next location. Even if they were to include the departures as a quick montage, like they did with a batch of teams last week, it's far preferable to having no way of telling how well teams actually did in comparison to each other.)

Cool Chinese-inspired music leads us through the standard stock footage montage as we arrive in Hong Kong, which apparently contains boats and people and... awww, ding-dings! I remember them! They were fun! Horrible task from an all-round dreadful episode, but they were fun! (More importantly: NOT THE JAPANESE GAME SHOW MUSIC! HAPPY DANCE!) As seen on a security monitor (heh), the teams run out of the airport and head for cabs. Almost everyone appears to have no issue getting a taxi to take them, but the Lucys think "it's shocking" that "like, the taxis, they just don't speak any, like, good English". Yeah, funny that. It's so hard to find a taxi that would pass its Year 12 English exam sometimes. Also included in the montage: Giggle and Cackle talking about how much they suck some more; Momos marvelling at the possibility of actually being in the lead; the farmers amazement at buildings being more than a couple of storeys tall. We get a confessional from Tom in which he says "We're from way out buggery in the centre of Australia", and... you know. Sometimes the jokes don't even need to be written. Still, though? I'll believe it when I see it. (You may choose whether the appropriate emoticon for this situation is the suggestive ;) wink, the suggestive :P tongue-poke, or the suggestive :O "look at how deep my throat is!" open-mouth. Hmmm. I do believe I'm beginning to sense a theme.)

FBA's cab appears to be taking them the wrong way. Based on what we see later in the episode (or more specifically, what we DON'T see), it looks like he's taking them directly to the restaurant instead of the ferry. Oh, I'm so sad for them too.

The first team at the dock is Jeff & Luke, while Wallace & Grommet and Momos follow briefly after. They're joined by Kelly and Dave, who limps to the terminal after cramping up while getting out of the cab, and the Lucys. As said Lucys try to help him relieve the pain on the ferry, Kelly tells us she thinks he was exaggerating a little bit once he realised the two pretty blondes would be trying to massage some blood back into it. He confirms her suspicions in an odd half-laughing, half-crying tone that is nevertheless entirely funny. As Asshole and Bambi approach, Dave yells at the ferry driver or captain or whatever to hurry up and go already. Since he has nothing better to do with his day than listen to rednecks from other countries yell at him, he does indeed take off, leaving Asshole to shake his fists at the boat like he was living in Shelbyville and Dave just stole back his own lemon tree. Melana quickly join them in waiting.

Meanwhile, the leaders disembark from the ferry and begin eating. Jeff tells us he's "never seen so many fortune cookies in [his] my whole life, actually", then immediately deadpans, "And I hope I never do again." Hee! I love when people who've gotten an invisible edit in the first couple of episodes turn out to be hilariously wonderful. Kind of like... whatshername from Australian Survivor. Or... that guy who was on Big Brother that time. Or half of the cast of Masterchef.

We have to suffer through a nice long section consisting almost entirely of "bite, spit, read, throw away, bite some more", and it's really not very entertaining even from the beginning, but at least these are fairly standard fortunes this time around. Given the first time this challenge was used practically half of them started with "Confucius Say...", it seems clear that they've decided it would be in poor taste to have the contestants feel like they should put on fake 'Asian' 'accents' in order to complete a task. Oh, irony. One of the fortunes Sam reads tells her, "An admirer finds you charming", and she immediately points to Grommet. Heh. That's gotta be the only time in Amazing Race history a joke works better if you pay attention to the gossip printed in TV Week. Specifically, Grommet did indeed fiddle with her chopsticks at some point during the race. He chowed her mein. He ate her fortune cookie. ("Chowing Mein", by the way, will be the title of my upcoming love story about two cannibalistic lions in a Chinese zoo.)

FBA are still lost. Or, perhaps, "steer rost". They switch cabs, and both complain (him in voiceover, her live on the scene) that they're going to be in last place. Sucks to be you, then. On the plus side, it's not like you're virgins to the whole bottom-feeding thing.

Commercials. Oh, Shania Twain and Celine Dion aren't in fact the same person? I'm such a bad gay sometimes.

We return for more whining, specifically of the "we always try our best, but the world's cabs all suck" variety. Let's take a look at the facts, shall we? In the first episode, they were the third to get pelted in the face with rice, but their fuck-up at the Detour dropped them into last place, and they only got out of it at the end because Momos were worse at counting money. In last week's episode, they turned being a fastboat ahead of Momos into a three-hour deficit arriving in Ho Chi Minh City by not booking a good flight, and then (after they were bunched the next morning at the garage) were the last team to finish the mechanic task. Even Giggle and Cackle beat them. Even Melana beat them. Even next season's teams probably beat them. Thanks to the Detour switchers they got to the Road Block in eighth, but still managed to wind up struggling to avoid elimination because Jenius sucked. The only real time they can correctly blame taxis was for getting them onto the last fastboat to Lombok, and even then everyone else was still there by the time they arrived. SHUT UP, FBA.

The farmers are also in the wrong place, but we're not supposed to care as much so they don't get their own commercial break. (I wonder if Tom knew Shania and Celine were different.) It doesn't really matter so much, since they both get on the next ferry with Giggle and Cackle. When Jenius tries to make excuses for their poor performance, Giggle doesn't even try to hide her sarcastic condescension. BWAH! So, yeah. Last ferry.

Ferry #2 arrives, and there is more eating. One fortune tells Mel, "You are talented with your hands", and she points out that "the boys say the same thing". We cut to Alana saying in a confessional that the task (not Mel, though also a valid point) was "disgusting". Mel explains that the cookies dehydrated her so much they were beginning to cut the roof of her mouth. Couldn't they have gotten some tapwater or something? That seems like it's the sort of thing that's easy to avoid.

The losing teams arrive, and: more eating. Tom's mouth is full as he is subtitled reading a fortune about someone leaving him bursting with pride. Well, of course. We all know it's going to be Luke. Let's just hope it's sooner rather than later. And in a television-friendly context. As Matt complains that the fortunes were a bit repetitive (right after the editors showing Kelly & Dave reading the same fortune twice in a row), we finally get someone eating the right cookie and escaping from the seventh circle of purgatory. Unfortunately, it's Jenius, so she and Bitchard will be the first to tackle either the Detour or the Fast Forward, both of which are in the next clue. (Speaking of good fortune? The lotto numbers. 41, 21, 5, 16, 17, 13, 45, and 24, which has somehow got to be a code for "fuck that shit".)

Naturally, they decide to capitalise on their sudden leap into the top half of the pack to go for the Fast Forward. Grant explains that this is the only one on the race, which is kind of disappointing, because since they cut it down from every leg until the final three has been determined to one or two in the season, it's been less of a saving grace for struggling teams and more of an automatic lead-extender for whoever happens to be in front at the particular time the clue is given out. As always, the first team to finish the task gets to skip whatever lame tasks on the leg they still haven't come across (SPOILER!) and go directly to the Pit Stop. This time, however, they'll have to take a risk by going to the Tin Hau Buddhist temple in Causeway Bay to find a cluebox that tells them about the task itself. And you just know that any time they don't tell you about the task until you arrive that it's going to be particularly unappealing.

Mo is the next to find the right cookie, and a bunch of teams tell them to hurry after FBA. Apparently FBA aren't too popular with the others. And if they'd only given us a sign, this wouldn't have been so hard for us to realise. They also head off in search of the Fast Forward of Doom.

Wallace and Grommet, on the other hand, realise it's basically a waste of time going for it with two teams already ahead of them, and instead opt for the Detour. So... you know. Two tasks. Pros. Cons. This time, the two stupidly-named and therefore brilliantly-named options are Lion Dance and Kung Fu Stance. But since that's needlessly wordy, we shall rename them Dance and Stance. Teams who choose Dance must put on a pair of baggy tasselled pants each, then get under a two-person lion-dancing lion and complete a routine. The moves are faster and more physical, but once you've done them you get the clue straight away. For Stance, however, you also perform a series of choreographed moves, but this time you're doing kung fu in synch with a group of locals. The moves are slower and more deliberate (and thus, should be easier to complete, at least in theory), but once you're done with them you then have to punch a stack of clay tiles each, while trying to avoid smashing straight through to a handful of broken fingers. Oh, and both tasks are at the same place (the Kowloon Walled City), so you can pretty much switch without any problem.

You could argue that Dance is a very weak Hare and Stance is a very weak Tortoise, but it's really more of a choice between Salad and Dessert, where they both look like they'd take the same amount of time but it's hard to pick the task that seems less cool. Basically, the uncool task is Salad, while the one that's supposed to be cooler is Dessert. Of course, then you've got an argument regarding whether martial arts or Chinese New Year is cooler, and I don't really want to get into that, especially considering I work a block away from Chinatown. The basic point? Not a good Detour.

Wallace and Grommet pick Stance, as do Jeff & Luke. (Elsewhere, Momos are speeding through Hong Kong talking about their good luck, while FBA are stuck in a tunnel and speaking in broken English to try and get their driver to switch lanes.) Melana pick Dance, while Giggle and Cackle pick Stance. By the time Dave & Kelly and the Lucys get their clues, their tables are literally almost empty. They both also choose Stance, so clearly that's our Dessert tonight. The last two teams give us a split decision, with Asshole and Bambi taking Dance and the farmers taking Stance.

Fast Forward Temple of Doom. FBA arrive and learn that the task this time is your standard head-shaving. Yawn. I'd find this far more interesting if it wasn't something literally every other version of the race (except China's, which didn't have any Fast Forwards) had done before. Anyway, once both team members' domes are re-chromed, they will be given the Fast Forward. As Jenius suits up to go first (giving herself less time to freak out), Bitchard explains that her hair's still messy from how they did "the mud challenge" yesterday. Um... no, they didn't. The closest thing to a mud challenge in the previous leg was the carabao half of the Detour, and FBA didn't pick it. I'm confused. Maybe they had a day off or something and she got her hair dirty then? But then why wouldn't she have washed it? Surely they'd have had showers at the Pit Stop. (Actually, she could have washed it even if it wasn't extended.) After telling us in a confessional that she's so vain she prob'ly thinks this recap's about her, she uses her "accent" to try and explain to the barber that she's got hair extensions. Like it matters at this point. As the clippers sweep through her hair the first time, we cut to...

Commercials. No, I don't want to mop the floor with an octopus!

Because there was so much tension in "will she bail and spend the rest of the race looking like a six-year-old who tried to give herself a haircut?", we get to return to FBA in time to see Jenius get the rest of her hair lopped to match. Naturally, there's a shitload of histrionics about how this makes her brave and... no. Cancer patients? Brave. People Shaving For A Cure? Not necessarily brave, but certainly worthy of adoration. A woman trying to win herself free money? Whatever. She tells us in a confessional that since it was "part of the journey" (DRINK!), she decided to do it, figuring her hair will grow back. All of a sudden, I can't wait for the Detour that's a choice between Divorce and Funeral.

A monk watches on praying, probably for FBA to shut up and leave soon.

Jenius asks Bitchard if she looks good bald, and he responds with a non-committal "Uh... yeah." Heh. They realise that she'll no longer need to carry her hair-straightener around with them, and ceklebrate being able to get rid of two kilos of weight from her backpack. But even more importantly, they get to ditch seventeen kilograms of power adapters. As the guy finishes shaving Jenius, Bitchard realises her hair extensions have left her covered in more scabs than most lepers. Of course, they'll probably think that's why they're being shunned by the other teams, rather than their obnoxious personalities and their 'inspirational' 'buzzwords', but still.

Bitchard also gets shaved, but that's not nearly as entertaining, and I want hurry up and get FBA off my screen, so... you know.

Wallace & Grommet and Jell & Luke approach the Detour. Wallace explains that they picked the kung fu since his brother's being doing it for over a decade, and throughout the time Wallace has been consistently used as "a punching bag". I fear I'm going to sound like (ugh) Wendy Francis here, but: He's only, you know, 25 or whatever. Twelve years ago he would have been thirteen. WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN? They explain that the routine was much longer and more complex than they were expecting it to be, failing to realise that they probably could have distracted the judges with some well-timed hairography. Luke tells us the routine they had to learn was a bit "like a kata" (ie. formation karate, pretty much), and yet a bit like a dance. And he was dancing like he'd never danced before.

Speaking of maniacs (maniacs), FBA have finished the Fast Forward. (Yes, I know. Nice segue, me.) After shrieking at herself in the mirror, and providing some more self-help crap about how it's some huge sacrifice for her to lose her fucking HAIR, Jenius reads that they're now headed "to the nearest Pit Stop". Unfortunately, the Pit Stop for this leg isn't back in Lombok, but is instead at the A Ma Cultural Village in Coloane. Grant basically tells us that Coloane is like a suburb of Macau, and thus FBA (and the other teams later on) will need to take a ferry to get there. Also? "The last team to arrive here WILL be eliminated." In their cab, Jenius explains that she'd been growing her hair for "maybe eight, nine years", and had even had hair extensions put in to get it even longer. I wonder whether the hair she was used was harvested from Bitchard's rapidly-receding hairline.

Momos have arrived just in time to notice that FBA have already won. They leave, apparently after having read the clue in the cluebox and confirming that it was a head-shaving task, with Mo explaining that they'd "hit the summit of Mount Disappointment". I suppose the good news is that the real Mount Disappointment isn't all that high.

At the ferry terminal, FBA are buying tickets to Macau. Thankfully, they avoid treating us like idiots and creating fake suspense, instead immediately showing FBA are taking the first ferry on their own.

Split-screen to the Detour, where Dave & Kelly and Giggle & Cackle are now both arriving. As they all struggle with a step that appears to be "hold your palm out, flick your wrist upwards, then roll it so your fingers are pointing down", Dave decides that their hasn't been nearly enough bleeping in this episode, and storms off to rectify the situation. Helpful. The Lucys arrive to distract Wallace and Grommet, causing Grommet to call the task "bullshit" when they are sent back to learn some more. Well, of course. It could never be the fact that you think with your own choads. (If the infamous red underpants commercial is to be believed.)

Meanwhile, Renae has noticed that since Sam was wearing a black tanktop and pants at the Detour, she was a bit like Lara Croft. Wasn't the tomb raiding last week, though? Oh, it must have been because she was doing martial arts. AhahahahahahaGO KISS YOUR OWN BROTHER OR ADOPT SIXTEEN CHILDREN OR SOMETHING.

Elsewhere, Kelly begins to show her worth on the race (after doing almost nothing in the first two episodes, and needing help on the Road Block last week) by taking the kung fu moves and taking Dave through them slowly, giving them names like "penguin" and "nuts".

Melana and Asshole & Bambi have arrived. Now it's a party! Mel explains that they picked Dance because she figured there would be fewer moves to learn. Yes, because dances are known for their simplicity. Both of these teams watch the example performance, which is just as complex and physically demanding as someone who isn't Mel would expect. Just to make it even harder, because wearing the costumes and jumping onto benches wasn't already hard enough by comparison, they've also got to keep in time with the music, which the Stance people don't have to do either. Of course, these guys don't have to break tiles with their bare hands either, but still.

Momos arrive just before the farmers, which really kind of shows just how much the farmers were screwed by those damn cookies. As Jeff & Luke are sent back to practice some more, Tom explains that they were thinking along the lines of "Breaking shit? Wooooooooooo!" when they picked Stance, so I guess that's our Dessert. (The kung fu, not Tom.) (Although... some whipped cream could also be fun.) He adds that since they don't feel like dancin', no Sir, they'll be no dancin' today.

Giggle & Cackle have been thoroughly confused by the lack of kicking in kung fu, and are off to Dance instead. I don't know. Having both tasks right next to each other makes it easier and less risky to switch (as opposed to last week's farming tasks), but since they're both the same basic task you may as well just stay with what you're already doing, because you're going to have the same difficulties with either task. Like, don't waste the time switching when the other task isn't clearly a more desirable option, you know? Between the four teams attempting Dance (Giggle & Cackle, Momos, Asshole & Bambi, and Melana), nobody seems to be having much luck.

Gaudy neon lights and triumphant music welcome us to Macau, where FBA have arrived. Knowing they're not about to be passed, they briefly relax in their taxi before running past a cluebox at the base of a flight of stairs to reach the Pit Stop. Running onto the mat with Jenius giving a flourish the likes of which haven't been seen since the last time The Price is Right was cancelled, Grant confirms that they're Team Number One. Just as the Lucys did in the first episode, they've won ten thousand bucks, so apparently NAB is our Travelocity this season. At least they don't have a gnome as a mascot. As they leave the mat, FBA confessional that "it was really worth it" to get out of last place for a little while.

We're now rid of the most annoying team of the season halfway through the episode, but everyone else is still at the Detour. Let's go back! After a montage of teams practicing, Wallace and Grommet are free to move on to the Breaking Shit part of Stance, which they accomplish without any difficulty, having been teenagers at one point in their lives. The clue tells them, "Travel to Macau, and the Venetian Macau Resort hotel." Grant adds that they'll also be travelling to Macau by ferry (as FBA did), but that they'll instead be going to the Venetian casino, where they'll change into provided suits or gowns and plonk down at one of two baccarat tables. For each hand of baccarat they win, they'll get a Mahjong tile with a letter on them. After they get ten tiles, they'll spell "A MA VILLAGE", and they'll get the next clue. More importantly, they've given each person an outfit depending on their actual gender instead of a suit and a gown per team regardless of the team's dynamic (which is how the Americans have been doing it for a while now), so nobody will look like bad drag queens this time. Not that Wallace has never gotten drunk and worn a dress at some point in his life. Because you just know he has.

As Wallace and Grommet leave, they take a few seconds to laugh at Momos in their dancing pants. Understandable, since Mos's have fallen down, which makes me wonder just how baggy they actually were. As Mos comments on how it's "public streaking" (even though Mos is still wearing his normal pants underneath), the editors tastefully and classily cut to the farmers. Quit mocking us, editors. They do at least seem to be in sync with each other, which makes them far better than Wallace and Grommet, and give the judge a thumbs-up each as they head off to break the tiles. Smash!

Melana have finished their routine, but have made "one mistake" and are forced to try again. It seems they're being judged less leniently for this than they are for the kung fu, but whether that's because of Stance's additional step or not is a mystery. Bambi tries to jump onto the benches and promptly tumbles off the side, but their next attempt is successful and they get the clue. You just know Asshole was hoping they'd suck so bad they'd switch and give him the chance to break something.

Momos suck. At the task. Not at life. But someone in race planning probably think the ability to dance in wacky outfits is a good metaphor.

Commercials. Okay, self. The fourth episode just finished (Oh. My. God.) and you're still halfway through a recap of the third. Hurry the fuck up. You have so much to discuss.

Momos continue to suck. Meanwhile, Giggle and Cackle are laughing at their inability to put one foot in front of the other. Cackle explains in a confessional that she thought she was going to keel over, forcing Giggle to fall on top of her, and that she thought, "that's not going to be a good look". Apparently, being on their hands and knees in a mudfield being dragged around by a carabao was fine, but this? Unconscionable!

In better news, Melana are done, and we are one step closer to being finished with this repetitive Detour. They're shown being in eighth place, which both gets my hopes up and makes me wonder why we didn't see three more teams, since right now they're the fourth team to get the Macau clue (but since FBA Fast Forwarded, they're actually in fifth).

As I fast forward through the next segment of the episode to get to a part that isn't comprised of "team attempts the Detour, team sucks, team is told to try some more", Dave & Kelly, the Lucys, and Jeff & Luke all finish Stance. SMASH! SMASH! SMASH SOME MORE! Both Sam and Kelly fail to break all their tiles, and it looks like if you fail to do it in one shot they stack some more back on top instead of letting you just smash what's left. They're pretty much only doing it this way to stop people from avoiding punching right through to the ground by breaking the tiles one at a time, but... you know, it works. This isn't like riding a bike all the way across the country to start again, you've just got to wait a couple of minutes for the tiles to be restacked and the larger jagged bits to be removed from underneath. So it's kind of a penalty for sucking without it being an actual "sit your arse down" penalty. I approve. Renae is so excited when Sam breaks the tiles properly that she picks her up in a fireman's lift, and I can't believe Seven didn't tease the shit out of that very minor girl-on-girl action in the commercials for this episode.

As Sam tells Renae baccarat is the only casino game she doesn't know how to play, we cut directly to the ferry terminal, where they, the surfers, the farmers, Melana, Asshole & Bambi, Dave & Kelly, and Jeff & Luke are all taking a ferry together. Oddly, even though we can see Luke on the boat, Grant does not mention them. Guess they really are that forgettable. (Grant, focus on Luke's arms. You won't forget them. Trust me, it's how I remember their presence.)

This leaves Momos and Giggle & Cackle still at Dance, but they both get the clue without any further dramas.

Being later at night now, there are even more glittery lights and people on the streets as the main bunch arrives in Macau. Taxi! Asshole and Bambi laugh at how they're pretty good at the challenges but have horrible luck with getting around. Looking at the timelines I've been making parallel to the recaps to help me keep track of where the teams are, it's the weirdest thing. They've been terrible at all the tasks they've done after starting bunched with others -- the abseiling, the fishing village, the fans, the jeeps, the fortune cookies -- but they've gained at least two positions on every other task up until this point. Tenth to sixth at the market Detour. Last at the boats to seventh with the money counting. Sixth to third at the farming Detour. Third to first at the coin Road Block. Ninth to fourth at this Detour. They're the sort of people who don't seem to handle head-on situations well (hard to tell, I know), but if you leave them on their own they rise to the occasion. Like a yeast. Yes. They're like the yeast of this race. This, of course, makes Giggle and Cackle the fourth glass of wine and FBA the awful hangover. (And Tom & Luke are two nice tasty slices of beefcake.)

The teams all marvel at the pretty lights and how everything is like a ripoff version of Vegas. So, you know, like Dubai, but with gambling and not in the middle of the freaking desert.

At the Venetian, Dave & Kelly are the first to arrive. Kelly feels the need to remind him as they walk in that there will be no yelling and no swearing. And you would not believe how fucking much the goddamned Macanese hate shit like that. (I think we've just found where we can deport Ted Baillieu and the Victorian state Liberal Party without having a war declared.) Dave tells us he "felt like some dirty old tramp off the street" when he entered, and... exactly. It's a brave move for the race to send the teams somewhere that's obviously going to have at least someone around who knows about The Amazing Race and what it's like and that, but it's nice to see the contrast between how expensive and upper-class the casino looks and how cheap and backpacker-y the contestants are during the race. Makes it seem like the non-glitzy parts of the race are affordable and within the realm of the average armchair traveller, you know? And it makes the Race more Amazing, so I'm totally down with it.

We are treated to a quick changing-room perve at the surfers and the Lucys before Melana are the first team to actually head for the baccarat tables. Mel asks nobody in particular if they can see her G-string through the dress. I feel like I should snark on that, but the punchline to every joke I can come up with is "craps". And I'd like to think I'm a little bit klassier than that. As they and Wallace & Grommet leave, we learn that while Sam is rocking the eveningwear portion of tonight's contest as expected, Renae probably needs some more tape on her tits. (Yep, klassy.)

The slow teams are on the last ferry. Bye, Hong Kong!

On the casino floor, a dealer cuts the cards. As the surfers watch, Grommet confessionals about how they were playing "Barackat", and Wallace has to put him straight by telling him the actual name. Except he totally mispronounces it too (it's "back-a-rah", the T is silent), so... nul points. Also? He's not really impressive enough on a world-history level to have a card game named after him yet. Sure, he might have been Time Magazine's Person Of The Year before (and probably will be again this year, unless there's a surprising but deserving Anna Bligh win, or they choose the Tunisians for starting that whole situation in the Middle Eastern countries), but so was Dubya. Twice. So was Zuckerberg. So were You.

There's a whole bit in which it seems nobody seems to understand the rules, but they all seem to eventually realise that it's basically a random 50-50 guess. Luckily, I happen to have access to Wikipedia, so here goes with my Completely Confusing Explanation: There's two hands, the "player" and the "banker". Each hand gets dealt two cards, face up. Aces are worth one, tens and face cards are worth nothing, and all the others are worth exactly what it says on the tin. You add the two cards together, and take the last digit of the sum as your score. If either hand has a score of 8 or 9, then the round is over. If not, the player hand stands if it has a 6 or 7, otherwise draws a third and final card. If the player hand stands, the banker also follows the same rule. If the player hand draws, then the banker hand's actions depend not on the final score but on what the third card's value is. Highest score at the end of the hand wins. And despite calling one of the hands the "player", people playing baccarat don't actually control a hand, they just bet on which of the two hands will win.

Melana are doing well. Alana explains in a confessional that they just kept betting on the dealer every time, and Mel chastises her for "giving away [her] secrets". Continually betting on the dealer in a casino? What an original move. Nobody's ever thought to do that before! (Ironically, it has some of the best odds of any casino game, so... you know.) Sam thinks it's funny that she's a VIP host at the Burswood Casino (read: glorified cocktail waitress), yet has no idea how to play baccarat. Yeah, it's a real laugh ryot.

The farmers are now in their suits, and Matt puts on an even drawlier accent than usual to ask if he looks like an oil baron. Yes, every person who ever wears a cowboy hat looks like the Rich Texan from The Simpsons. Ay carumba. Meanwhile, Tom checks the pocket of a pair of pants for a spare wallet or something. He explains in a confessional that they "looked dapper". Because Tom totally never looks hot without a bowtie. Hell, he could be wearing just the bowtie and still be smokin'.

As Asshole & Bambi arrive, Jeff & Luke are inside and walking along the edge of the canal running through the middle of the hotel. They marvel at the fact that someone could have been smart enough to build a miniature Venice inside and remember to paint the roof to look like the sky. As you do.

Signs for other games at the casino are shown, and it would be remiss of me to avoid pointing out that a professional poker player just barely missed out on a task taking place in a casino. Mostly because as soon as I read Frakus's bio and knew from the spoilers that there was going to be a gambling task, I came up with about a dozen standard puns that will now never see the light of day. Natural or artificial.

With Melana having seven tiles already, the farmers join them; while Dave & Kelly join the surfers and the Lucys (one of whom has nine tiles). I know which table I'd rather be at. Soon, Melana are done and get the clue. It tells them to take a cab to the aforementioned, aforeseen A Ma Cultural Village, where the next clue is in that cluebox FBA passed on their way to the Pit Stop. Oh, thank God, that means we're almost done with this leg and I can move on to the sheer childish glee I get to experience at some of the stuff that happens in South Africa. Alana snarks that her wild nights at the casino have finally paid off. Heh. Incidentally, they're leaving in their dresses, which will be quicker right now but isn't exactly conducive to running. Interesting decision. The Lucys are also done, Renae still holding her damned boobs into the dress. Unfortunately for them, Sam thinks the village is in Cologne, which would certainly be quite a Detour.

At some point, Dave & Kelly have apparently switched tables, sitting with the farmers as Asshole & Bambi join them and Jeff & Luke join Wallace & Grommet. The slow teams enter as they're all still playing. Soon, Wallace and Grommet are done. Meanwhile, the producers have apparently done their best to give Giggle and Cackle the sorts of dresses old ladies with blue-rinse hair would wear to the RSL. I'm not sure whether to laugh or be outraged on their behalf. The clincher is that they complain about how they "don't feel glamorous" right as they pass a neon sign for something called Fatburger. I feel so horrible for doing this, but: heeeeeeeee hee hee. They join the table with Jeff & Luke on it, as do Momos which of course means one thing: hilarity ensues. Mos points out that gambling is kind of frowned upon in their religion, so... you know. No virgins for you when you die. As Giggle and Cackle celebrate winning another hand, they comment on not knowing what they're doing (don't worry, neither do I with this whole writing caper most of the time), and Kelly looks over at them, all "How come they get to laugh and have fun?"

On the other table, the farmers are done. We splitscreen from them reading the clue to the village, where Melana and their gowns are arriving. It's a Road Block, asking "Who can crack the animal code?" Grant explains for the new and amnesiac viewers that "a Road Block is a task that only one team member can perform" (by the way, welcome! Again!), before telling us that this task sees the person performing the task being given a series of logic puzzle-type clues ("The horse is two years after the dragon", for example) and a rack containing twelve lanterns on two rows. Each lantern has a picture of one of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac on it, and all the player has to do is use the clues to put the animals (currently all jumbled up) in the correct order. So, basically, it's the exact same task as last week with less running and more rearranging. That said, of course, it's also far better than the Americans' attempt at a Road Block based around the zodiac, which was basically "search thousands of cards for twelve showing the animals, then hang them from strings". Sure, we're not in a high-altitude sitation for this, but I still like this task better. Anyway, once they think they're done, they'll stand in front of the village's doors with their partner and wait to be let in. If they're right, they can run in to find Grant and the mat. If not, they'll have to try again. Grant concludes the explanation with an odd "they'll have the odds stacked against them" pun that seems like they were trying to tie this task in with the baccarat, but... not really working for me.

Alana offers to take the task, but when she points out she might freak out under pressure, Mel takes it, bitching about how she's done all the Road Blocks so far. It's true that she's done three Road Blocks to Alana's zero at this point, but... it looks like the reason Mel is doing everything is because they see Alana as the weaker half of the team. That said, with no other teams here yet, it being pretty safe that Melana will survive the leg, and the six Road Block rule stopping them from having Mel do everything, now is exactly the right time for her to do a task. It makes precisely zero sense for her not to. Alana confessionals that she felt guilty for cracking under the pressure, even though (1) it was as close to a no-pressure situation as there ever will be on the race and (2) she can't crack under pressure when she's not actually doing the task. Mel explains as she starts on the puzzle that "there was a few nice easy ones" [sic] that provided "a bit of a foundation" before the clues got trickier to work out the remainder of the puzzle.

The Lucys are in their cab explaining that they got changed back out of their gowns. In a confessional, Sam tries to credit their "relaxed" nature on how they "did have the Express Pass in [their] pockets", and... well, it's not as suspenseful when you notice she's using the past tense. They get a bit panicky when their cab starts driving up winding roads in the dark, and decide to bail. Drama!

Commercials. Wait, Coles supplies all the ingredients for Masterchef? I'll remember that the next time a recipe calls for me to use an ostrich egg.

The Lucys are suddenly back at the Venetian and grab another taxi. They quickly realise that they've just wasted a shitload of time when their new driver takes them along the same roads. I know I shouldn't laugh at their bad luck, but... heh.

Grommet takes the task. He re-explains the task for those of us who were high during Grant's explanation, and... I don't feel so bad about my attempts to explain baccarat now. Just sayin'. He and Mel quickly agree to work together, but get baffled by which one is the ox. So do the editors, who cut to a shot of a lantern showing an animal that's closer to a fox than an ox. The farmers have arrived, both with playing cards stuck in their hats. As Tom starts the task, we can see that his playing card is, well, a queen. At least that's what it looks like on my low-quality copy of this episode. He begins without much drama, while Grommet and Mel continue to cooperate.

Look, it's kind of a bad sign that they're working together when the Pit Stop is so close and all, but since it's still in the early part of the race where it doesn't really hurt you to help someone unless you're fighting for last place, and since nobody's emerged as a true threat yet, I'm not as opposed. The line for me, I think, is when you're more than four or five episodes into the race, or when you're giving someone the actual answers instead of just sharing your thoughts. There's a difference between "I think the snake might go here" and "it's twenty-two", you know?

Since there's plenty of drama to be had with the Road Block, and very little to be had with people playing cards, we have a quick scene at the casino where the last five teams (in order, Dave & Kelly, Giggle & Cackle, Asshole & Bambi, Jeff & Luke, and Momos) cash out their chips.

The Lucys still arrive at the Road Block before any of them, so either it's not as far as it looks between the Venetian and the village, or the other teams had some really bad luck. Renae, Dave, Luke, and Bambi all volunteer their partners for the task. I'm thinking we should add "Dave whines about how he can't do a task" to the drinking game. Actually, let's go over the list right now, shall we? One shot for each of these:

  • "Focus, Believe, Achieve" is spoken or referenced
  • "Intense" is spoken or referenced
  • A task is taken from a non-American foreign version of the race
  • Matt or Tom comments on how somewhere visited looks nothing like their farms
  • Giggle or Cackle falls over
  • Uncensored swear words
  • Censored swear words
  • The two Detour task titles rhyme
  • Someone comments on how everyone hates FBA
  • Mel talks over Alana in a confessional
  • A shown airplane departure board does not list any flights to where teams are headed
  • One of the farmers' Akubras falls off as they get into a vehicle
  • A commercial-break cliffhanger is resolved within twenty seconds upon returning
  • Dave whines about how he can't do a task

Any more really obvious ones?

Kelly and Sam are working together again, as they did last week. Luke explains that people were already working together, so he decided he would make just as much "headway" (hee) if he asked... Tom. Good Lord, it's like they're even trying to ship themselves now. All I have to do is sit back and add the bits that can't be shown on television. As they form The Best Alliance In Amazing Race History, Luke explains that he used the knowledge of Jeff's and his own son's zodiac signs to work out where they went, as well as the fact that he's hung like a horse. Oh, sorry. Am I projecting? I mean to say he's from the Year of the Horse. Same thing, really, when you're talking about hanging lanterns.

Cackle takes it, as does Melbourne Zoo employee Mos. Kelly explains that she figured out from "the sheep is stuck where it stands" that it's already in the right spot, while Mos is confused. Well, he's not an actual zookeeper. He just works at the zoo. Mo and Giggle chat about how neither of their partners really has an idea of what to do. Meanwhile, Mel and Grommet work out from her extensive history of drunken encounters with random Adelaide bogans that the dog should be placed after the rooster instead of before. HA! Never has the concept of using what you know been more hilarious. They both try their new combinations are are let into the Pit Stop, where Melana finish second (first out of the non-bald teams) and Wallace & Grommet finish third.

Outside, Sam is wrong. Meanwhile, Tom's got the basic idea behind one of the more cryptic clues worked out, but it seems he's mixing it with the dog/rooster clue that was tripping everyone up. Kelly is done, and she and Dave finish as Team Number Four, so apparently she and Sam stopped working together at some point. We don't actually see how Tom works out what he was about to do was wrong, but the farmers are let in before Dave & Kelly are off the mat, finishing fifth (which is "sweet as"). They're quickly followed by Jeff & Luke, the former of whom confessionals about how Luke's "methodical approach" is something that he's "seen, like, just really rise with Luke". It's a good thing he wasn't close enough to see what else was rising during the Working With Tom part of the task. He's on the verge of tears as he tries to finish what was quickly turning into a Lame Grampa Story, causing Luke to reach over for a manhug and finish, "And that's how it went." Wow, exciting ending there. As they get let into the Pit Stop, Jeff calls Luke "a weapon", and it's a shame that I'm shipping him with Tom instead of Matt, because I would toally have not been above calling it a Weapon of Matt's Distraction. Anyway, they're Team Number Six, which means Asshole & Bambi's run of having major rises in their position at non-bunched tasks is over, since they arrived at the task in eighth. They're still done next, after the Lucys are told that their fake ID isn't valid, but they've only risen one position this time.

So, outside the village entrance we've still got Giggle and Cackle, the Lucys, and Momos struggling to complete the puzzle. Except Sam decides that thinking is just too damn hard right now, and gets Renae to agree to using the Express Pass. It sucks for them that they're having to use it this early, but this is probably the right situation for them to use it. They know the last three teams are right here and the Pit Stop is just metres away, and that it's the sort of task that would be a Hare if this was a Detour. If she fucks up again, and Cackle and Mos successfully manage to do it, then they're toast. So... they use it, and they're eighth, and all of a sudden this episode is guaranteed to end badly.

Outside, Cackle and Mos continue to struggle with the task. It looks like part of what makes the puzzle so difficult is that they apparently aren't allowed to (or don't think to) line them all up in their starting positions on the ground and use the racks to place only the lanterns they know are right, which is exactly what I would do in this situation. Part of it may also be whether or not they can get the lanterns reset to their starting positions, which would also make it easier to recover from a mistake. (And while I'm talking about the logistics of the task, this is one that's working far better than it did in The Amazing Race Asia, since the teams here haven't been raised knowing the Chinese zodiac as most of the remaining teams from that season did. It's not a puzzle if you know the answer.)

Giggle and Mo have both reached the point where they're sick of having to walk up the steps with their backpacks every few minutes just to find out they're wrong, and suggest to their respective partners that they quit the task and take the four-hour penalty. Giggle explains that they've also been up for a long time (based on their departure time for this episode and the Lucys' departure in the next, at least 26 hours at this point), and I totally get that. That's about how long I was up for on Saturday night as a result of being involved in an overnight Adam Lambert special at the community radio station I volunteer with (and by "being involved", I mean "tweeting about Adam's cock for six hours", because I know what obsessive fans want), and also only a few hours longer than I've been up today. It's never a good sign when you woke up at 7:00am and you're still up finishing a recap at 5:08am the next morning. So, you know, if anyone's qualified to talk about sleep deprivation right now? Well, they're not writing for the Herald Sun, let's put it that way. With both teams mulling over the possibility of the penalty...

Commercials. Good lord, it's so cold I'm considering putting on an extra birthday suit.

Mos gives up on the task, essentially giving Cackle a four-hour buffer with which to solve the puzzle. And given their penalty doesn't start until Grant tells them to step off the mat, probably a few minutes longer, too. We soon see Cackle deciding to "give it another shot", and being let into the Pit Stop, where they are officially Team Number Ni... wait, they also quit? Nice fakeout, editors. As soon as Mo figures out what this means, he reaches out to hug Cackle, as Grant confirms that this now means Giggle and Cackle are last. With more genuine sympathy than I think I've seen even from Phil, he tells them he's "very sorry to say" that they've both been eliminated from the race. Momos tell Grant there's "nothing to celebrate here", and... ooooh, Maudlin Muslims! Haven't seen that on TV either! Cackle explains that she was surprised that they made it as far as they did, and I'm sure she means it in a "we didn't expect to even get cast!" sort of way, but she's got a point. They're not the sort of dynamic the race usually casts -- there's only really been three Out Of Shape Female Teams in the show's history, two on the American version and one on The Amazing Race: China Rush, and they've all been pretty entertaining, if not necessarily likely to make it to the end. Sure, one of them finished fourth, but they also survived an early non-elimination (in fact, the first one after they started having penalties for them). Here, Giggle and Cackle were lovely people, and certainly seem to have become one of the most instantly-popular teams I can recall ever having, but I think everybody -- themselves included -- knew they weren't going to win. It doesn't necessarily lessen the impact of their elimination, but... you know. At least they weren't the first team booted. Their final confessional is all about teaching their kids they can do anything (except hang lanterns), and how the race isn't the weight-loss camp it's cracked up to be. Heh.

Next week: Far more enjoyment than there usually is in an episode containing a bungy jump.


  1. You forgot A.D. and Fuzzie, although they aren't that old.

  2. I'm strongly suspecting the flights from Hue to Hong Kong were producer-arranged - I'm sure in TAR3 they had to get tickets from a travel agent in order to even get into the international part of the airport, and given that Hue isn't exactly your major hub and there are still 10 teams left and everyone was on the same flight... well, I'm suspicious. Having said that, I loved the breadth of flights everyone ended up on in the last leg, so I'll let it slide.

    Re: Mel and Alana - I agree that Alana needs to step up, but Mel needs to stop giving in and taking it immediately, which she's doing because she perceives her sister to be weaker. If she'd held her ground and just said "we're in front, just don't panic and take your time" I think Alana would have done the roadblock. It's going to come back to bite them soon - if they last that long.

    Also ITA about teams not being brought up knowing the order of the zodiac - that was one thing that really annoyed me about the TAR-Asia version of the task, that about half the teams had such a major advantage over the other half. At least they made it a non-elimination (from memory). TAR18 got over that by making teams find the animals, which had a leveling effect - no use knowing the order if you can't find the rooster.

    I actually had no problem with the last two teams quitting - I think if you hadn't written down the original order of the lanterns and you'd moved them around then you had basically very little hope of getting it right, particularly when you couldn't think straight. Realistically you could spend four hours guessing and still not get it right or take the penalty and just get it over with. But dammit, I wish the Big W ladies and the Mo*s had worked together and managed to beat out another team!! (Not that I don't like the models, who would have been the most likely to be the beaten out team at that point - I'd much rather they'd beaten out the bikers, the surfers or Jeff and Luke, who need to get some form of interesting edit soon.)

  3. Given the first time this challenge was used practically half of them started with "Confucius Say..."

    Actually I think that was just Tania and Ida putting it on - I'm reasonably certain none of the other teams mentioned Confucius saying anything. Although now I really wish they'd left it in, just to see Joey saying "Confucius say 'You are a WINNER!'"

    OK, maybe not.

  4. Given that Ida was Joker #1 and Tania Joker #2 on that particular season, I think that they made it up... Although I remember Vince for saying "Confucius says if you sleep with an itchy backside, you wake up with a smelly finger" or something like that...

  5. Ida and Tania, Sam & Vince, and Geoff all said "Confucius Say..." during the original fortune cookie task, and Geoff was stupid enough to put on an "accent" that would make Jenius's seem like she was speaking regular English.

    hnpcC: Heh. "Confucius say "You are rucky. Get your crew."

  6. hnpcC: Heh. "Confucius say "You are rucky. Get your crew."

    Oh that would just be so totally cringeworthy.

    And yet... I'd have watched. And probably laughed. Oh dear.

    I have no recollection of Geoff saying it, but I may have blocked out all recollections of Geoff on purpose.