November 14, 2011

Australia 1x08: Niedzica, Poland

Previously on Czech Yes, Joey NYET!: I spent two weeks recapping an hour that redefined "stupid filler episode", and even longer recapping absolutely nothing. Also: Six teams raced from Prague to a church-y little town just outside of Prague. While five of the teams were given cars that were at least borderline roadworthy, Matt and Tom wound up with a crapheap they decided to name Bindi, which was kind of appropriate seeing as how the car soon turned into The Cop Hunter (disappointing Tom, who wanted it to turn into The Cock Hunter). The only interactions between teams throughout the entire episode seemed to universally wind up with the exact same result: the Lucys turning into jilted ex-girlfriends vowing revenge on whoever they deemed to have wronged them THIS time. Dave continued his efforts to prove that Bitchard and Jenius weren't the real Tooly McJerk team this season. The funnest (and funniest) part of the episode was the bit where a "Soviet" "guard" got to mock Wallace and Grommet for failing to successfully complete a "task" not once, but twice. Spending half the episode playing ice hockey and most of the remainder watching teams pick a sausage-eating Detour before taking a bite and switching made it ridiculously obvious that it was going to be one of those To Be Continued episodes that they wind up randomly finishing within the first couple of minutes of the next episode instead. While Hallmark and Chris & Bambi both vowed to finish the leg in first, Hallmark got lost on the way to a Road Block so dull and uninspired that the editors have decided to burn off the footage of Sam, Kelly, Luke and Tom performing it in the recap footage rather than spend a few precious minutes watching them all do the same boring thing. (You'll note this means we get to skip straight to the bit where they all reach the Pit Stop in a nice quick montage in the episode itself.) Because the leg was indeed Not Over Yet, six teams are still circling the drain. Who will Grant pull the plug on... TONIGHT?

Credits. It's a good thing the contestants are so smart this season, otherwise I might have to do this: [I CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM MY BOMP.]

Commercials. Oh, sure. The one contestant who is aware of these things (even if only in passing) is the one I was calling "Asshole" for weeks on end. Damn it.

Because this show's editors rock, we rejoin the race far enough into proceedings that I don't have to re-recap Chris and Bambi being told the leg isn't over. Instead, they're walking out of the Creepiest Pit Stop Ever (suck it, Salt Lake City Public Library), Chris whining about how when they finally win something it doesn't count. He confessionals, "I really wanted to come first in a leg. It's not the best leg to come first in, the one that continues to the next leg." You'll notice even he isn't sure whether last week and this week count as separate legs, and... you know, I didn't know either when the episode aired. We'd never had the number of legs specifically revealed at the start of a season with a To Be Continued episode before, and the presskit said, "Three legs on the race are predetermined 'non-elimination legs', where the last team to check in is not eliminated. The last placed team will incur a 30 minute time penalty on the next leg unless they come in first on that leg." Since the last team to turn up here doesn't face a penalty, in theory that should have meant it wasn't counted as a non-elimination leg and we were going to have a thirteen-hour season (with tonight's elimination, two more eliminations, and the two remaining non-eliminations before the finale). But then we all learned that Channel Seven still can't count beyond the number seven itself, and we were counting this not-a-non-elimination as a non-elimination and getting a twelve-hour season. (Note: I am using 'hour' rather than 'episode' because of Seven's ridiculous lust for combining and splitting episodes of The Amazing Race at will, despite the weird "is it an hour or ninety minutes this week?" thing they had going on during the season.)

But that's all in the future. Or the past or whatever. Near future for him, increasingly distant past for us. Right now, the clue tells Chris and Bambi to hop a train to Krakow, Poland. Yay, they get to meet Santa! This is like Christmas in July! No, wait, November! I have to hope it isn't a deliberate reference for teams to essentially be travelling by train from Amsterdam to the general Auschwitz area. Because that would top even Jenius's "accent". Anyway, when teams arrive, they'll need to search the train station carpark for a car with a clue inside. Oh, goody. More driving. Running back to their cars (still at the Road Block, remember), Chris tells Bambi, "Let's pull ahead as much as we can." Yeah, because the show has never randomly bunched teams after the halfway point of a two-part leg before.

The surfers stroll into the church before running down to the pulpit, where Grant tells them they're in second place, before giving that "it's not over yet" we heard last week. The editors give us a quick dissolve to Hallmark arriving third, Jeff snarking on how predictable the "keep racing, suckers!" command is. Tyler confessionals (sounding pissed) that he was shocked about how they didn't get to flirt with another set of room service waitresses, while the editors are busy cutting to Luke explaining that he and Jeff decided to treat it as a second wind. Yeah, me too. You know, very eventually.

Kutna Hora train station. Chris and Bambi are attempting to buy tickets, and soon discover that communicating in foreign languages is all Greek to them. Except even worse, because... you know. They can already speak Greek. And they didn't spend long enough in Amsterdam to get confused by double Dutch. (Plus? Basically bilingual at this point.) A local helps the ticket lady by explaining that their train is already boarding. A helpful shot of the departure screen explains that, not only is their train going to be making a connection somewhere, probably Prague, but that it's a minute before 3:00pm on November 20th. You know, for all you geeks who are trying to timeline this show. (Not that I've checked or anything, but putting this information with the known date of the Cape Town-to-Frankfurt flight means that the Pit Stop at Prague Castle was extended, which at least explains how everybody seems refereshed enough to find things three feet in front of them.)

It turns out that they've just missed the train by the time the surfers arrive, and Chris realises that the train is going to get them into Krakow at the prime lead-keeping time of 3:00am the next morning, which in turn means they'll have been racing for 21 hours since they left the last Pit Stop. On the one hand, long day. On the other, overnight train ride with plentiful opportunities for sleep. Or sex tape filming, Tom and Luke. On the third hand, which I suppose would actually be the second hand if this was some kind of amazing watch, Chris's quote here displays obvious signs of audio chopping. Of course. It wouldn't be an episode without Chris and Bambi getting some sort of continuity fuckup.

Hallmark also grab tickets, while some weird uber-techno crap helps the Lucys find the Pit Stop. Wazzup, bitches, yo' asses in fourth. (Please never let me do that again.) As soon as Grant reveals they'll have to keep racing, they break their hug and... well, you really need to see it to believe it. Renae, who has been quite the machine throughout the entire race, looks as though she's just performed an illegal operation and will need to be shut down (or possibly just Googled "meerkat porn" and got bombarded with pop-ups), while Sam's face literally changes from a smile to a full-on clown frown right at the exact moment she blinks. It's like "Whee!" [blink] "Fuck!". Go ahead, watch again. I'll wait.

Grant feels the need to clarify, based on precisely zero cue, that the Lucys need to be told that "keep racing" means "keep racing". Sigh. I mean, they're totally that sort of team at the moment, but still. Outside, they read the clue and get to their car without any dramas. Sam explains that they were already running on empty, and were wondering where the frell they were going to get any more energy from. Kind of ironic, considering how plain lethargic most of these teams sound at the best of times. They're suddenly already at the station in the next scene we see, just in time to make the same train as the three teams ahead of them. Wallace confessionals, complete with Unnecessary Subtitles Of Subtext that Grommet "was happy that Sam made the train." Grommet, as he is wont to do, plays dumb.

Grant helpfully reiterates that the first four teams are all making the same trip on the Poland Express, as the Amazing Red Ribbon once again eschews the bouncy flight path effect for a zigzaggy path showing what is apparently the train's route. Except it doesn't show the connection in Prague we know all the teams are making, so... you know. The Amazing Red Ribbon is like the Twitter to the Amazing Yellow Line's Encyclopaedia Brittanica or something. They'll all be arriving at 3:16am, which means surely they're going to be able to keep their lead on the two trailing teams for the rest of the leg, right? Right? Bueller?

Back at the creepy bone church, Dave & Kelly have arrived. They limply celebrate still being in the race upon hearing they're currently in fifth, while Grant tells them, "But don't get settled..." Because there was a chance of that happening with this particular team. Kelly calls it "ridiculous" given they "were in so much pain from the previous leg". Yeah, you might want to be careful, in case you break a hip or something. Kelly whines some more about not being able to have a shower in a country without water restrictions, while Dave claims he was "bitterly disappointed". Makes a nice change from his usual disappointingly bitter tone, I suppose.

The farmers arrive, suddenly de-hatted inside the church, where Grant tells them they're the bottom two and it's time for them to lipsynch for their li... oh, we're not doing that? Damn it. You know Tom could rock the shit out of Mickey if he had to. In Spanish. (Remember, honey, Spain is the one where horny animals are revered.) But anyway, they get the clue and head off. Matt tells us he was "pretty stoked, really" as Grant gives them the clue, and Tom looks far more relieved than any of the other teams we've ever seen in this position before. We all know why that is, right? I don't need to whip out that tiresome (SETTLE DOWN, TOM.) thing again, surely. Walking to the train station, Matt wonders aloud, "Where we going, 'Pole Land'?" Yes, where Mary Christmas dances for tips, and you don't even want to know what happens if you've been naughty instead of nice. Well, maybe you do.

Dave & Kelly whine some more, this time about how the train not leaving immediately upon their arrival meant the farmers were able to catch up again. How dare the world not conform to their wishes! WHO DOES THE WORLD THINK IT IS? Sigh. I'd ask if we can hurry up and be rid of these two yet, but given the alternatives I'm not actually sure that's a good deal. Their train leaves, Grant voicing over that they'll get to Poland at 6:24am.

We splitscreen to the other train, where not a creature is stirring, not even... never mind. Renae interviews that they were trying to sleep on the train, and Wallace adds that "Sam woke up a couple of times and she saw two dudes standing at our door". You mean... the cameramen? The editors try and convince us, sight inseen, that it wasn't the crew and was in fact somebody else by using ridiculous thumping music. This would be such a Saturday afternoon movie, if only there were more musical numbers. I'd ask Tom and Luke if they'd want to help, but then we'd wind up with a bunch of songs about how awesome Luke's daddy is. And maybe even some songs about Jeff. Sam explains that every time she opened her eyes, the camerag... sorry, "creepy guys"... would go and slide down someone else's chimney instead, because they weren't sleeping. Meanwhile, about fifteen minutes before the first train arrives in Krakow, Wallace and Grommet notice their Amazing Sack has decided to see just exactly how fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh. Without them.

Ironically, one of the very few times that actually is an Amazing Crisis That Really Was doesn't get a commercial break around it, but the long and short of it is that the bells they attached really do jingle all the way... to, like, the next cabin over. Seriously, Wallace and Grommet can't even make a robbery interesting. Why were they cast again? Oh, that's right. To sell this show overseas to those countries who seem to think Australia is made up entirely of kangaroos and beaches and the Harbour Bridge and maybe Aboriginals. You know, Americans. (Dear Americans who feel like complaining: Please note that the eight Pit Stops your version of the race has had in Australia have been a rooftop overlooking the Harbour Bridge, an Aboriginal camp in an area allowing for plentiful kangaroo stock footage, a yacht club, a beach, another yacht club, a lake where the greeter was Crocodile Dundee-lite, another beach, and a mine where the players turned up dressed as kangaroos. That is all.)

More interestingly, I once again didn't win the Monday Lotto. I suppose it would help if I actually bought a ticket, but... you know. Starving artist. No money. Much like the surfers right now, but at least they have their own passports when they're not busy bitching about how they work all night and work all day to win the race they have to play. (Ain't it sad?)

So anyway, the first train arrives in Krakow, and not only does the Crisis That Kind Of Was But Then Wasn't Really fail to put the surfers behind by even a minute, Wallace is also the first person to step off the train. As someone who finds them incredibly boring, this is a bit like unwrapping a Christmas present to find paisley underpants inside. The cars and clues are apparently not hard to find, and these teams would totally have walked together anyway, so the editors thankfully just cut straight ahead to the bit where we learn it's a Road Block. Naturally, it involves driving to Santa's Workshop, hauling a snow-filled sleigh around, and rifling through it to find the key to the front door

Hmmm? Fine. They have to drive to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, head underground, haul a salt-filled minecart down the track, then rifle through it for the key to unlock "the ancient salt king's crypt". The key, by the way, is a piece of plastic that does not resemble any key made ever. Because why stop at reducing a country to 'Salt Mine!!1!1!' when you can go one step further and reduce it to 'Salt Mine With Nonsensical Gimmick!!1!!!!1!!1!!11!'?

Wallace is doing it, and already complaining about the cramped spaces from the inside of their teeny-tiny car. Elsewhere, it seems this time they were allowed to read the task first (or at least the additional information), considering the Lucys are already on their way when they decide Renae will do it. Sam tempts fate in the worst possible way by using the "We haven't found anything we can't do" psychology on Renae. No, girls! Don't you know how the world works? (And don't you people who claim life is all about karma know that the basic principle of karma is that the actions of one life are rewarded or punished in the next? GOD.)

The Lucys soon find themselves struggling with the concept of entering through the marked gate, so apparently that train ride wasn't as restful as it should have been. Does this mean that entire situation was a hoax orchestrated by the surfers to keep the other teams awake and throw them off their game for this leg? Seems to be working, if it is. The Lucys and Hallmark are clear on the wrong side of the mine (or so Luke tells us, and if anyone on this race knows anything about playing for the wrong side...), and the Lucys have the bright idea of asking Hallmark if they know what time the mine opens. Right as we get a shot of a planted hours-of-operation sign saying it opens at six o'clock, SuperDad tells them it opens at eight. Eh. I mean, there are certainly other teams I'd rather see eliminated, but if you expect the team following you to know more than you do, you get what you deserve in this situation.

Luke asks Jeff what it really says, and he implies he isn't entirely sure. In a confessional, Luke tells us, "We've played it really straight with everyone." Yes. Straight as a candy cane, you might say. Anyway, there is bitching and whining from both halves of Hallmark and, while nowhere near as boring as Wallace and Grommet, they're also nowhere near as interesting as pretty much any team we've eliminated so far. Jeff ends the argument by snapping, "You know what? You can do this on your own." Which is convenient, since Luke's already doing the Road Block and all. They grab the first number, which is probaby a bad omen for how much everybody is going to suck today.

Meanwhile, Jeff cracks it some more, but I'm already bored and this recap is already five months late, so... you know. If we don't hurry it along a bit these Christmas jokes will be topical. Yada yada yada squirty bottle disturbing metaphor alert ads.

Commercials. You know how long it's been since I touched this recap? I swear there was an ad for Brashs in this commercial break.

When we return from by boring-induced-coma, the Lucys are displaying their blonde is natural by asking whether Poland is "near, like, Antarctica". Oh, dear. Wrong pole, girls. And even then, not really. (Yes, I am aware of the irony here.) (It's delicious.) (Well, maybe the turkey's a little dry. But the gravy's good. And you wouldn't believe how amazing these potatoes are.) Meanwhile, the surfers have managed to overcome their lack of anything they could use to find their way, and somehow arrive at the mine before the Lucys, who settle for third ahead of Chris and Bambi and the teams on the Slow Team Train. And what have we learned? Well, not a lot, really, except it's better to waste time asking inane questions when you're not trying to figure out where the fuck you're going. And apparently Chris and Bambi were thinking Poland is the one after Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

They get let into the mine and Hallmark fake claustrophobia just enough to induce a panic attack in Wallace. Or at least as much of a panic attack as someone who comes across so dull can manage. Luke is already plowing his way through the shaft (quiet) by the time the surfers make a lame and half-assed innuendo about "going deep". They don't even snicker. Seriously? What kind of ambiguously-straight twenty-something men are they? They get out and start hauling as the Lucys fistbump in the elevator (yes, really), and as Luke and his blue-nosed hardhat arrive at the end of the shaft. He begins to gingerly nose his way through the salt, and confessionals that when someone said "key", he thought they actually meant "key". Doesn't he know television deals entirely in lame metaphors that don't quite work? For example, Masterchef using Katy Perry's "Hot & Cold" as its theme song is a metaphor for how the contestants are often hacks whose only actual cooking talent is the number of ways in which they can butcher simple recipes. But Luke still manages to find a "clear triangle shape" in his pile of clear triangle colours and clear triangle tastes, and immediately realises it's a key. But is it THE key? Um, no. He returns to the minecart, now with a clear triangle idea of what he's looking for. Wallace and Grommet arrive, and Wallace begins to paw through his cart. Grommet provides the helpful addition of asking Wallace if he knows what the key looks like. And then the girls show up, completing our triple play.

The Slow Team Train finally arrives. Matt agrees to take the Road Block, because Tom is good at neither pushing nor shoving, while Kelly whines about being in last. Has there been anything on this entire race, other than the misfortunes of others, that these two HAVEN'T bitched and moaned about? Being older than everyone, being slower than everyone, dealing with the language barrier, not being surrounded by tasks catering to their seemingly-limited skillset, not being able to navigate. They have whined about EVERYTHING. Can't we just get rid of them already?

Back in the mine, Chris makes good use of those muscles and heads off down the shaft with his cart. As he arrives in the larger cavern where the others already are, he confessionals, "Digging is more down my alley. Like, I've done it before, kind of thing. I know it's not a skill, but." Anastasia laughs, as do I. Chris is actually kind of funny when he's not busy acting like a twat. Meanwhile, Wallace attempts to explain the fact that he didn't finish the task in three seconds on the fact that all the salt looks similar. Probably should have picked that cart that was filled with chicken salt instead then. Everybody just sort of shovels salt onto the ground in an attempt to empty their cart a bit, but Luke is the first to actually find the working "key" and open the "crypt" to get the "clue". Wallace bothers to ask what the key looks like (because that will totally help him save half a second), but Luke's not having a bar of it. Funny, that. Is it because Wallace and Grommet are a bigger threat than the Lucys, or does he just not like them as much? On their way out, Bambi gives Luke a pat on the back. It's always fun when the people I kind of like get along well. Wallace confessionals that, basically, Luke is a bitch. Maybe, but not yours, so he doesn't have to show you anything.

Back up on the surface, Hallmark read the clue, which is a Detour. Already. I'm torn. It feels like we're missing something by not having an intermediate destination, no matter how lame, but at least we aren't resorting to roadside businesses like the US version seems to like doing. Anyway, the two choices with pros and cons are going to be renamed On Dasher and On Dancer, because while I usually mock the stupid task titles, this week's are both stupid and mildly offensive and I just happen to have a pearl nearby to clutch. WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE SEXUALLY-AMBIGUOUS REALITY SHOW CONTESTANTS? Teams picking On Dasher (original title: Herd) have to drive themselves "to the Polish countryside". No, seriously, we aren't given any more information. Just "drive to the Polish countryside". That's almost as bad as "This is Alaska, the twelfth Pit Stop in a race around the world." Once they eventually find The Polish Countryside, they'll have to use fiiiiive me-talllll gaaaaates to form a corral in a paddock, then get three non-copyright-infringing red-backed reinsheep into it any way they can. Of course, there are extra unmarked reinsheep hanging around to generally be a nuisance and just generally be pains in the arse. Kind of like the non-Rudolph reindeer. Teams who pick On Dancer (original title: Hoe Down, because APPROPRIATE) have to drive themselves to Zakopane, which my atlas tells me is basically on the Czech border. Because it's clearly time to go back, having spent the entirety of one task outside the country. When they turn up, they'll have to don traditional Wacky Outfits, then learn and execute a local axe dance. Time penalties and lumps of coal will be given to any player who, accidentally or otherwise, manages to perform an impromptu amputation on their partner. Zakopane does look like a charming little town, though, which makes the fact that nobody will voluntarily pick a task involving wood-cutting implements even more disappointing. It's such a remarkable task that the editors have to randomly add a hyphen to the graphic a split second before it disappears. As Hallmark choose On Dasher, the camera zooms in on a painting behind them, as though it's yet another hint that Petrina is the Mole.

By the way? Salad/Dessert. Both tasks seem like they'd take the same amount of time (for a non-farmer team, that is), so it's pretty much a decision about whether you think a generic animal task is more exciting than a cultural task with music.

Meanwhile, Grommet tries a "key" and fails. So does Renae. So does Chris, and this is all remarkably exciting for what is, at its heart, a very boring task combining two of the three worst aspects of this show - excessive physical strength in pushing the cart, and random luck in finding the key. It's just lucky they don't have to eat an entire minecart full of salt. Maybe next season. Soon, Renae succeeds, and Chris also finds his before the girls can even read the clue. Both of them choose On Dasher, because... well, sheep. In every way. They leave as Wallace voices over exactly what we've just seen, because the editors think we're all as stoned as he and Grommet often come across. Wallace gets pissed at the prospect of not being in the top half of the pack for once, and decides to try and tip the full cart over. And then he'll kidnap the princess and wait for the stereotypical Italian plumber to rescue him. (You totally thought I was going to make a "HULK ON LOW-SALT DIET!" joke there, didn't you?) Of course, once the cart is tipped over, the "key" is right on top, leaving one heck of a mess for the poor mine janitors to clean up. On Dasher.

Elsewhere, Hallmark are lost to the point they are told to "go straight to the Krakow". Snerk. Always a bad sign when you're told to go to where you just came from. On the other hand, they get the This Is Funny music while Chris and Bambi argue their way straight into the sort of musical territory that's less The Lone Gunmen and more Millennium. Bambi explains in a confessional, "He has a different mentality on following a map", while Chris just sort of looks all around the place as though he's taking it in for the first time. Back in their car, he snaps, "I would smash the navigation, absolutely s--I never make a mistake in my life." Aside from the combination of a sky blue beanie and an olive ski jacket, you mean? Heterosexuality's no excuse, sister. Naturally, Bambi goes on a tirade about how, basically... um, I'm not entirely sure. The gist of it seems to be "slow down so we can be last and I can go home already", though. She continues to act like a shrew, and he calls her a "retard", which the editing elves helpfully subtitle and accentuate with a heavy drumbeat in order to hammer home that he said it. Oy. Yes, he absolutely shouldn't have said it. But the editing elves shouldn't have made such a point of showcasing it either.

Wallace and Grommet pull over at a petrol station to get directions (because they don't have any money to buy maps, remember), and conveniently run into the Lucys, who agree to let them follow. Of course, the girls soon take a turn and Grommet is too slow to realise, forcing him to continue straight ahead. And they don't even complain about how the girls tried to ditch them? What sort of race IS this?

Commercials. TAA, the friendly, friendly way. (Oh? They're Qantas now? How's that working for them?)

When we return, the two Slow Teams are finally about to enter the mine. While Kelly does the requisite claustrophobic whining, the farmers laugh at how the overalls provided left Matt with an unfortunate case of mooseknuckle. Down in the mine, Matt begins to push the cart, bending over just enough to make the overalls ride up his crack, too. They're the gift that keeps on giving. Tom continues to laugh, and Matt calls him a "pervert". Bitch, please. We prefer to be called "prude-adjacent".

Anyway, more digging. Dave finds one of the crystals that are supposed to represent "keys", and drops it in confusion. Yeah, I'm not particularly interested in the Road Block any more either. And neither are the editors, judging by the splitscreen to The Polish Countryside, where Randolph The Red-Backed Reinsheep and his pals are watching the Lucys arrive. As usual on this show, the tone here is set by the fabulous music, which this time takes the form of the music they'd use to try and get you to walk into a circus. No, not Cirque du Soleil, a real circus. They are shown to have about as much success with the task as the teams did at the hockey in the first half of this leg, but it's worth noting that they already have one sheep in their corral by the time we splitscreen back to the mine. After yet more boring digging and "key" trying, Matt finally manages to obtain the clue. And if you were expecting them to do anything except On Dasher, go back to watching Big Brother. We don't want you. Dave & Kelly also pick On Dasher when he opens the thing. Nobody's going to do the cool task with axes? Baaaa humbug.

Farm. Chris, Bambi, and Hallmark have all arrived together. That's... actually kind of an unexpected friendship, really. The Lucys are still present, and seem to have lost their first corralled sheep to boot (unless they're the new owners of the Discontinuity Awareness Prize), which means only one thing: More wacky hijinks. While they continue to run around, and Bambi continues to think they can corral the sheep without building said corral first, Hallmark have come up with the bright idea of putting their portable metal fencing against the existing wooden fences to herd all the sheep in, then acting like bouncers and getting rid of all the sheep without doorstamps. Which would be a good idea - in fact, it's how the American teams did this when it was a Road Block in their second season almost ten years ago - if not for the fact that these sheep know enough about cliches to jump over the fence. I see one sheep, two sheep, three szzzz...

Meanwhile, Chris is doing a fine enough job destroying the fences on his own. Bambi and Chris debate whether the sheep are horny, but Renae is the first to actually grab a sheep. She basically straddles it all the way to the corral, and then seems to instantaneously grab their second sheep and pick it up to put in the pen. Hallmark's sheep find their own way back into their paddock with the help of some conveniently-placed fences linking their paddock and the next, and they begin the arduous task of letting the unnecessary sheep loose. The surfers arrive as the other teams seem to be winding up, although the Lucys suddenly only have one sheep in their corral again, so who knows what's going on. Maybe we should ask Chris or Bambi. And then they get their last sheep in, despite it being so heavy both of them have to work together to lift it over the fence. The farmer gives them a clue directing them to Cape Stylchen near Czorstyn. Strangely, Sam stumbles over the "Cz" syllable despite having just spent two episodes in the Czech Republic. Grant adds in the helpful information that there's an Intersection coming up. Naturally. We couldn't let this go and become the best two-part leg in the show's history, so we have to make everything until now - the car searching and the hockey and the photography and the stairs and the funky sausages and the beer and the blasphemy and the overnight train ride and the "thief" and the mine and The Polish Countryside and the sheep and the driving around two countries - completely worthless by bunching the teams together right before the actual Pit Stop. It better not be one of those legs where the mat is right next to the final task.

Back at the sheep, Chris and Bambi have no problem with the second sheep, but the third literally drags him across the ground for a few metres. Hallmark are also done, but Wallace and Grommet's late arrival means they're only up to the bit where they have all the sheep in their pen. Their sheep decide to crash through the unsecured metal fence instead of escaping to run all over The Polish Countryside, which must be a bit helpful for them. I mean, it's not like they can afford to send out a search party. Fixing their mistake apparently does precisely nothing to slow them down, much like the whole train situation didn't, allowing them to leave "like, two minutes behind the other teams". You know what we need? Another cluebox across the road from something. They could crash their cab into the cluebox and fail to notice it. On their way back out to the car, an elderly lady sits on the roadside trying to sell them roses. Who would have guessed this show would have enough of a following in The Polish Countryside to entice local spoiler fiends?

Dave and Kelly pass a flagged sign for Kasa Biletowa, which must be where the sheepherding is actually happening. It's definitely somewhere in The Polish Countryside. As you would expect, Dave is soon ordering Kelly to run around and catch the sheep while he builds the corral. I'd normally point out that he's getting yet another chance to be lazy and do nothing before whining about it later, but in fairness she probably does have a better chance of getting the task done quickly. The farmers also arrive, the editors missing a chance to play a hokey flashback of that horrible "remember the choreographed steps" Detour from the Macau leg when Tom points out there was no doubt which task they were doing but oddly adding a small clip of them entering their paddock where we are clearly shown these wooden "fences" surrounding them are fake and temporary. Or the farmer is super strong, either way. Dave and Kelly have managed to herd all the sheep into their makeshift corral, and while they check to confirm whether they have to take the unmarked sheep out (apparently the clue says they don't, which is odd), the sheep decide to escape through a hole anyway. Heh. Game Show Contestants 4, Sheep 2.

Over at Cape Stylchen, Chris, Bambi, and the Lucys have reached the Intersection, and agree to work together. The clue tells them to work in pairs to saw four slices from a big log using a two-handed saw, whereupon the slices will be used to make all sorts of toys for good girls and good boys. We shall assume no partridges were hurt when their pear trees were chopped down for our bemusement. Oh, and they have to stop partners after each slice, which pretty much means these two teams are fucking SCREWED if they can't dump all of their work on Chris and Renae. I mean, nothing against Bambi and Sam, but... you know. Given the choice of all four people in this group, I'm not going to either of them to open my salsa jar. (No, Tom, that was not a euphemism.) Chris basically sums up this quick analysis in an interview, and to put it politely, it's never a good sign when someone with his frame and plentiful musculature thinks his goose is cooked. The Lucys go first, which surely ruins part of the point of making this task an Intersection. If they were allowed to cut any of the pieces without actually teaming up, wouldn't it make more sense to have them just cut two pieces each and not make it an Intersection at all? That way, you'd still get the drama and everything, but the entire two legs up until now wouldn't be a complete and utter waste. Bambi confessionals that they were "already at a massive disadvantage" by virtue of having three women in their four-person team. Because as we know, muscles? All about the cock. Granted, the Lucys aren't exactly showing themselves to be adept at wood-cutting, but still.

All the way back at the Detour, the farmers somehow manage to get a couple of sheep to run straight at them. They wind up basically hugging their necks to stop them in their tracks, while the completely appropriate strains of Sweet Georgia Brown start playing over Dave's attempts to free a sheep from the cage it's stuck in. That's... kind of weird, and not just for the obvious reasons. Firstly, the song is now intertwined in the zeitgeist with the Harlem Globetrotters, who are renowned for being good at what they do. Dave? Slightly less so. Secondly, while the American version of this show was given the rights to use the song when a team containing two Globetrotters was racing, the version of that season aired in Australia had to replace the song with a more generic, less obnoxious score throughout. I'm guessing it was a copyright issue that necessitated the change, given the next season was freely able to use an equally obnoxious score for Jet & Cord, but then that raises more questions: Why is it suddenly fine to use now? And if it was a copyright thing, as opposed to any other reason, why would this show buy the rights to such an iconic tune for a moment that makes no contextual sense? It's almost as bad as when the British version of The Mole decided to start what would turn out to be its final challenge ever, a drive across British Columbia to the final location, with Ca Plane Pour Moi for no apparent reason. Still, at least they could bullshit it away as a reference to the show's Belgian origins. Here? Nothing.

Oh, and the farmers also get their obnoxious "They're country hicks! See? FIDDLES!" music again as well. They finish the task, Tom providing a confessional where he calls the sheep "just short, hairy cattle". Really? I mean, really? I'm not a farmer by any stretch of the imagination - my entire knowledge of farming boils down to knowing hundreds of variations of "Why did the chicken cross the road?" - but even I know that's wrong. (Incidentally, why did the German chicken cross the road? Because it was the most efficient way to invade Poland.) As they get the clue and leave, Kelly points out they had no trouble with the task. Meanwhile, their own sheep decide to jump the fence, helpfully assisted by the musical flourishes. Dave chucks a tanty some more.

Commercials. Next, on an all new episode of JAG...

When we return, Dave and Kelly have their sheep escape AGAIN. How unlucky. Kelly notices that they only need to get one of the remaining sheep to leave their corral in order to finish, despite the fact that one of the sheep that escaped was clearly marked (and is shown escaping from several angles), so apparently there were more marked sheep than necessary and the task just involves getting any three of them, rather than getting three specific sheep like Grant explained. If only that had been explained, it might have made more sense to understand why nobody wanted to go and play with axes. They get it done easily, and we're finally done with the sheep. Is it just me, or does this episode seem remarkably empty? Or is it just that the tasks themselves aren't particularly interesting?

The Lucys are still sawing their first log, and appear to be only about a third of the way through it, at most. Given this task was originally on the Family Edition and an eight-year-old girl was able to finish it, I have to wonder whether the logs used here turned out to be much harder to cut than the producers were expecting, or whether they deliberately made completing the task improbable. Sam explains that the sight of them struggling was causing Bambi to freak out. Said explanation is accompanied by a clip of Bambi looking about as nervous as somebody about to get a vaccination from their doctor, so

The surfers are here. Damn. To use the American version as an analogy for a second, a great cast can make great challenges the stuff of brillance (Ken and Gerard punting), or they can make bad challenges at least tolerable (Lena and the haybales), but a bad cast can either ruin decent challenge ideas (the latter half of Lena's season), or they can make lousy challenges even worse (Japan = Rollercoasters!). And while a team like Giggle and Cackle or even FBA could possibly make this horrible task interesting, Wallace and Grommet are not one of those teams. They're probably nice guys, don't get me wrong, but casting them was a massive mistake, especially when they're the sort of people you'd expect to make it to the final stages of the race. They remark that Hallmark must still be lost.

Hallmark are indeed lost, and have decided to pull over and ask some hikers how to get to Cape Stylchen quickly. Because you know who knows how to go somewhere in a hurry? HIKERS. Luke explains that the hikers were basically useless, but at least they got to see a whole bunch of scenic places. Handy. Luke points out they lost over half an hour thanks to these guys, while Tyler & Nathan celebrate being just mediocre enough to not have to team with the Lucys or Bambi, but not being so mediocre they're left with Kelly. Luke continues to point out that taxi drivers are so much better to ask than hikers, complete with an impersonation. The only thing he's really missing is crossed eyes. They eventually get there, and unsurprisingly agree to work with the surfers. Wouldn't it have been awesome if they refused, saying they wanted to work with the farmers?

Soon, there are more saws in action than in a horror film festival, and it's telling of how slow and boring and utterly unsuccessful this task is going to be that the Lucys managing to finish their first slice is accompanied by the Hooters Of Triumph. The farmers arrive just after, and must now wait for Dave and Kelly... who are currently lost again. Of course. I'm beginning to think those two could get lost in a wading pool. I think this is part of the real problem with the Intersection, to be honest - though the basic idea behind it is sound, it actively punishes good racing instead of rewarding it, while teams who race poorly get off lightly. It's a bit less noticeable here than it has been in other situations, but everything the farmers have done so far this leg to stop themselves from being last has been for nothing, while everything Dave and Kelly have done to bleed time today actually matters. I'm not quite sure whether the problem is entirely fixable, but what I would suggest is that the Intersection should only be placed (1) at the start of a leg, rather than as the last task in a two-part leg, and (2) immediately after a mass bunching point. Granted, the teams who tend to race well would likely join with each other while the slower teams are forced to unite, but at least this lame gimmick wouldn't be counter-productive to the act of competing in a race. Dave and Kelly finally get a local to lead them there.

Back at the Intersucktion, Bambi is struggling with the saw, and Chris is managing not to yell at her. Good for them, but whatever. We have more important things to deal with right now: LUKE IS GETTING HIS GEAR OFF. Okay, he only takes off his outer shirt and leaves the singlet on, but it's still enough for the editors to add in some hilarious soft-porn music. Pfft. There's nothing soft right now. (Ho? Ho. Ho!) I think they were kind of expecting more nudity in this season, what with the surfers and the Lucys and even maybe Chris and Bambi, but now they're just settling for whatever they can get in the Polish winter. Renae (incorrectly subtitled as Sam, because even the editors have given up this week) makes a remark about how she's "taking in the scenery", while the real Sam points out the beauty of the actual Polish Countryside. It's the sort of landscape that would look better when it snows, if we're being totally honest. And who doesn't love snow?

But once the soft-porn scene is all done, sadly without a comment from Tom (who must have been facing the wrong direction), I fall into a temporary Boredom Coma. And you know how bored I have to be to be sick of recapping a challenge involving semi-naked men and wood. When we return... well, I think Luke sums it up best: "No, they don't have a technique, they just rammed through it." "Don't try and bite down too hard." "You've just got to try and just gently take it in." At this point, the surfers and Hallmark are starting their third slice, the farmers and Dave and Kelly are nearing the end of their second, and the Lucys and Chris and Bambi are about halfway through their second. Bambi is struggling, making as many crying moans as she can on a family show, until eventually Chris comes around and console her. Awww.

Commercials. When I started writing this recap, a reference to Diddy Kong almost wouldn't have been dated. Sigh.

When we return, so does my Boredom Coma. Convenient, that. I wake up just as Chris and Bambi decide to take the penalty, which also means the Lucys are stuck taking the penalty. Chris explains in a confessional, "I did not like to see her in any agony, even caused by myself. It hurts me to see it." I... think I'll let that quote stand on its own, because it's not great for him, but Chris honestly doesn't seem like as much of an Asshole as the editors have been trying to make out all season. Sure, there was the thing with the wine, but what person doesn't start yelling for no reason every once in a while? Even Ned Flanders yelled at the whole town that time. It's become tradition at this point for reality TV "villains" to blame the editing for making them look like tools when they're not, and it very rarely is the editors' fault, but I think Chris has a better case than most.

Chris and Sam explain in confessionals that while Chris and Bambi were getting the standard four-hour penalty, the Lucys were only going to be given a two-hour penalty because they were able to complete one of their slices. Without going back into Simpsons-quoting territory so soon and wondering whether they give a Nobel Prize for Attempted Chemistry, that's kind of unfair. What would have happened if they split the cutting so that Chris and Renae did the first slice? Would they have both gotten two-hour penalties for finishing a slice, or would they have both gotten four-hour penalties because Sam and Bambi failed to cut a slice? Bad planning.

On a happier note, the clue tells them to FINALLY head for the Pit Stop, which this week is at Dunajec Castle in Niedzica. Grant tells us it's "a 14th Century stronghold in the south of Poland", which means you may have to discount all those references to things North-Poley earlier in the recap and replace them with penguin jokes or something. Damn, and I didn't even get to make a joke about the good King Wenceslas. He also adds that the last team to arrive "MAY be eliminated". Damn, that would be kind of hilarious if this turned out to be a non-elimination after everything that's happened. It would still suck that there were essentially two non-eliminations in a row, but can you imagine what the teams would be like, learning all of this has been for NOTHING? Awesome.

Chris, Bambi, and the Lucys all dash off as quickly as they can, since their penalty time doesn't start until they arrive. Bambi explains in a confessional that she thought the penalty might not even matter, since Dave has "a couple of injuries" and Kelly is weaker than any of the other players still cutting, which could mean they'll either need four hours long to finish, or that they'll need a penalty just like this group. I can't argue with her basic logic, especially considering how often Dave whines about giving up, but that seems like one HELL of a risk when they (more specifically, the farmers) have just finished their second slice out of four. Kelly starts on the third with Dave, pointing out that hypothermia might set in before they finish. Isn't she just a happy ball of sunshine? Meanwhile, the surfer/Hallmark group are done. Clue! Wallace remarks how wonderful it is to "FINALLY come out on top", as though they've had as much success during the race as Giggle and Cackle did.

The farmers figure they're going to take a while to get through the last two slices with Dave and Kelly, and start a small bonfire. Heh. On the other hand, the Lucys are already at the castle. They run up to a small courtyard, where a cute little lady gives them a bilingual welcome to Poland, and Grant reminds them of their penalty. Since they failed to lose more than two hours on Chris and Bambi (who arrive pretty much simultaneously) on the short drive over, they're safe anyway and it's really just a formality at this point, but they still seem a bit apprehensive.

Out in The Polish Countryside some more, the surfers are following Hallmark to the Pit Stop. Because you know who won't get lost? The team who asks hikers for directions. Wallace explains that they wouldn't be where they currently are without Hallmark's help, so they've decided to let them check in first for once. I must have missed the section of this show where they decided to tell teams Karl Marx was (1) a drag queen and (2) the greeter. Yes, yes, fair play and all, but were it not for the Intersucktion's presence, Wallace and Grommet would have beaten them. But I'm not going to get too worked up about this, because there are much bigger things to complain about in this episode, and besides, I'm kind of happy it stops the surfers from walking away with another ten grand. Grant claims the money can be used "for anything, from sourcing tickets that are all sold out to organising your next trip to Poland." Snerk. Not that Poland isn't a wonderful country, because it is, but it doesn't often feature on people's lists of places to go before they're eliminated from the human race, and I really can't imagine anything we saw in this episode changing many minds. I mean, pickpockets, salt mines, sheep, and trees? Really, show? That's the best Poland has to offer? I'm glad the producers chose not to stick to more traditional holiday places like Paris or Italy, but this entire leg contained more misfiring than most episodes of The Apprentice. (Oh, Didier.)

And the surfers are officially Team Number Two.

The sun is setting as Dave and Kelly finish the third slice for the Whiner/Farmer group. Dave soon agrees to "do it" with Tom, disturbing many a perverted viewer. (Relax, Luke, he means the final slice.) Dave comments, "It's not gonna matter how thick it is, [as] long as we keep it relatively straight". If only he knew. As they cut through the fourth slice, Matt wonders how much penalty time is remaining.

Let's check, shall we? It's suddenly pitch black at the castle as the Lucys' penalty expires, making them Team Number Three. As they head off to the hotel for the night, Tom and Dave are still cutting, but have decided to cut up from underneath to finish. I'm not sure this is the brightest idea, since we've been shown that starting the cut is the hardest part, and they're essentially doing the slow part twice, AND they're now contending with gravity. But Tom does seem surprisingly good at thrusting. Maybe he's just experienced with wood. Meanwhile, Dave complains about his lack of sleep. Again. Some more. The editors are also showing their own sleep deprivation/boredom [delete as appropriate], using the exact same audio clip of Tom telling Dave he's doing fine on either side of Dave's whiny voiceover.

Commercials. In which many dated references occur, but if we don't hurry this thing up, the Occupy Retro movement will make them all popular again and defeat the purpose.

There is more cutting, and more Dave whining about the task being "bloody awful", before we cut back to the Pit Stop to see Chris and Bambi have the convenient time of 43 minutes and 21 seconds to wait until they can check in. The final slice is soon successfully cut, and they're all on the way to the Pit Stop. After the mandatory group hug, of course. Given how long it apparently took these two teams to finish the last two and a bit slices, I have to think the others made the right decision by taking the penalty. I mean, it probably would have been better for Chris and Bambi if they were able to finish that second slice before quitting, because it wouldn't have taken them two hours to do so, but still.

Both teams appear to be lost on the quick drive over to the castle. In what is a rare event in the "modern" racing era, the editors actually manage to create some sense of dramatic tension in the race to the Pit Stop. Driving! Running! Flags! Stairs! Chris & Bambi! More stairs! Tom, mocking the stairs! Grant, right as a bell tolls! But for whom do the bells toll? Well, Chris and Bambi. Not that it was much of a surprise once we knew the other teams were at the castle. Dave and Kelly are fourth, the farmers are fifth, and Chris & Bambi are officially last. The former two teams are already gone by the time Grant puts them out of their misery, calling them to the mat so they can be eliminated. He does seem genuinely sorry to eliminate them, so either he's a fan or he just knows how boring the remaining five teams are. Could go either way. (So to speak.) In their final confessional, Chris explains, "I think that the race allowed us to see each other at our worsts, in particular me" (hee), before pointing out that it's now Bambi's decision whether they stay together or not. Back in the real world, Grant and the greeter both wish them a fond farewell, as Bambi concludes, "Since we can withstand anything that the race threw at us, we can really just pull through and just be together for life."

And then they broke up. Like, the next day.

Next week: Born is the ki-ing of I-is-ra-el, just in time for a certain task the week after. Also: Tom and Luke continue to want to play with each other's dreidels. (I'm 90% sure the next recap won't take as long to come out. It'll definitely be out by the time the next season starts, though.)


  1. Great to see the recaps making a reappearance.

    As far as the two hour/four hour penalty goes, I always thought that was just a way to ensure that the girls didn't suffer as much. After all, they only failed to complete the task because C&A quit, so it'd be unfair to give them a full penalty leaving them open to elimination if C&A beat them to the pit stop. Yet, they didn't complete the task, so you can't just let them have no penalty and go in first. I think if C&A had completed their first slice and then quit, they would still have been given the four hour penalty.

    I didn't actually find the remaining teams overly boring. I liked the surfers and the girls, and while L&J were a bit sappy, they weren't bad either.

  2. No more recaps? It'd be a shame if we didn't get the rest, have really enjoyed reading these so far! :)

  3. There's more coming - I'm near the end of the next episode, but I've been without a working laptop since November, so have had to do everything else I need to do in the limited time I get at public libraries and work. Hopefully should be up within the next month or so, though - since the season finale recap would have been my 50th, I definitely want to get this season done before the new one begins.