February 26, 2012

Australia 1x09: Masada, Israel

Previously on Tom, Luke, Several Others, and the Keydom of the Crystal Salt: The contestants invaded Poland, like so many before them. Also: Six teams made the final leg of their train journey across Europe, arriving before the Krako' dawn. In keeping with local tradition, Wallace and Grommet had their possessions stolen in the middle of the night, but luckily they managed to find their bumbag in, like, the next cabin over. Least entertaining crisis ever. I mean, their money was missing, which conveniently stopped their domination and evened up the pack a bit, but still. LAME. The effect sort of snowballed throughout the leg, literally causing the minecart to go off the rails in the process, but it didn't really matter. The Lucys managed to shrug off their sluggish performance back in the Czech Republic, making it on the first train, finding the quote-unquote key for the quote-unquote crypt quickly at the quote-unquote Road Block, then breaking the fuck out of a flawed Detour to find themselves in first place. But it didn't matter. What did matter was that a leg containing so much was basically ruined when the final task was an Intersection that seemed designed for people to quit. In the end, only the foursome made up of those who were shallow and those who were out of their depth quit. Not surprisingly, because the other eight contestants contained seven strong men (well, six and Grommet), and because the Pit Stop castle was visible from the final task, Chris and Bambi's penalty was enough to cause their overdue boot. Five teams are left, a solid one and a half of whom aren't either irredeemably boring or irredeemably annoying. Who will lose their non-existent chance at redemption... 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. Remember when I used to frequently mock actual commercials in these bits? Yeah, me neither.

Welcome back to Poland, y'all! Rather then present us with his usual "this is a World Heritage site" introduction for Dunajec Castle, Grant instead gives us an Allan-Wu-esque "Rumour and Wikipedia tells me this place is haunted" spiel. Hooray. He continues, "[Hallmark] and [Wallace and Grommet], who were the first teams to arrive, will be the first teams to depart at 11:05am", which means it must be time for the editors to showcase their "1ST TO DEPART AT 8:45AM" and "2ND TO DEPART AT 8:46AM" graphics as the teams leave from the castle entrance. It's always a bad sign when even the editors are getting Killer Fatigue. Both teams learn that they must say shalom to Poland and shalom to their next destination: Tel Aviv, Israel. New country, eeeeee! Grant returns to tradition by adding that they'll need to travel to the Azrieli Towers, then take an elevator to the roof of the tallest one. Naturally. Because when you think of safe places to send the teams in a country that has about as much chance of being liked by its neighbours as China has of recognising Tibet and Taiwan as free and independent nations, the roof of a skyscraper tops the list.

Actually, while we're talking about free and independent nations? Congratulations, people of South Sudan! I look forward to hearing about the inevitable US invasion. (Edit: Yes, I've had part of this recap stored for MONTHS now.)

Leaving the mat, Jeff comments that Israel is "not where I thought we were going", as though there were dozens of viable options in the whole Western Asian region, while Wallace claims, "We don't know anything about that." As opposed to everything he knows about The Polish Countryside and decent hairstyles. Also: You take a left at Palestine. In a confessional, Jeff tells us, "We've agreed from the beginning, we're gonna win by collaboration, because that's the whole essence of, of our strategy." And it's such a successful strategy, too. I mean, they've won a grand total of one whole leg, after it was handed to them. Do you think that's going to happen again in the final leg, with a quarter of a million bucks on the line? Me neither. But for now, it helps them and the surfers find the airport on their map. Jeff calls the latter "really, really top racers", leaving the discussion of what else they are tops at to Luke. In their car, Jeff continues his attempt to be the only half of the team to speak in this episode, telling Luke it's "almost like we're in an Intersection". Ugh, no thanks. Two in a season was already two too many. As if to undercut the downright stupid idea of being the nicest people this side of the Vatican at this point in the race, the editors cut to Wallace pointing out that this point of the race is "straight survival", with the only goal being Don't Finish Last. I suspect as much of their sudden belief that "teaming up's pretty good" is because they still don't have a map as it is realising that this opening drive doesn't matter so much when you're going to be ending the leg on a different continent. Rather hilariously, the surfers revisit their mugging on the overnight train to Poland right as this week's Monday Lotto Results appear. Relax, you didn't win. Neither did Wallace and Grommet, it seems. They blame their lack of focus on the tasks of the previous leg on their stolen money and the related inability to pay for people to lead them all over Poland instead of the Killer Fatigue they're obviously beginning to encounter. At least they had the convenient good fortune to be robbed on a leg with no taxi rides. I mean, they could have possibly sold their hair for money if they got desperate, but... you know. The hair maketh the manwhore. After they get directions from Hallmark while stopped at the same red light, Grommet bitches, "They suck at directions." And... like, it's hard to argue that they're good at finding their way around, but at least THEY had enough money to buy a freaking map. Shut up, Grommet.

And in the next shot they're at the airport anyway! A close-up shot of the product-placed bankcards teams use to pay for flights is seen as a subtitled ticket agent tells Wallace and Grommet the quickest flight to Tel Aviv will get them there shortly after midnight. As Hallmark wait in line to overhear their plans and buy exactly the same tickets, Jeff realises the other teams may not arrive in time for everybody to take the same flight. Oh, no! However will someone make up a time difference like this when the first flight arrives at midnight?

At 10:07am, the Lucys leave the Pit Stop, one of them remarking, "Hopefully it's a little bit warmer." Well, even if the weather's cold I'm sure there'll be an explosion sooner or later to heat things up. They share a confessional about, basically, they're genuine tomboys and not afraid to do the same tasks that often seem to be designed for the men. That sort of seems to be the theme with this season's cast, to be honest -- there weren't really any girly-girl girls in the cast to begin with. Go ahead, think about it. Sam, Renae, Kelly, Bambi, Alana, Mel, Jenius, Giggle, Cackle, and Liberty are all either actual tomboys or at the very least not the sort of people to spend 45 minutes putting on their lipstick every morning like some of the allegedly "strong" female teams the American version had been churning out until very recently. On their drive to the airport, Sam holds a torn map of Europe up to the windows to get some nice literal (Fore)shadowing happening, commenting, "Shame we're not going to Ibiza." Yeah, I'm sure everyone in Ibiza is pissed they missed out on hosting the... what is cultural in Ibiza, anyway? Tax evaders and date rape? Or am I thinking of Majorca again?

11:33am. Dave and Kelly. 11:34am. Farmers. The former get to read the bit where they don't say which tower to climb, while the latter are left with the duty of telling us all the teams only get fifty bucks for this leg. On the one hand, I love that the editors are actually making a point of mentioning how much teams are receiving -- so far this season, we've been told seven out of nine times, with only the Cape Town leg's and last week's (understandably) not being mentioned. On the other hand, I hope for the surfers' sake prostitution is legal in Israel. Matt wonders whether Israel is going to be cold, continuing on to provide what is sadly going to be the smartest geographically-related comment of the episode by saying, "It's over near Pakistan, I think." Well, kind of. In the same way that Rome is over near Oslo. (And how hasn't the race had a Pit Stop in Rome yet? Seems like that'd be one of the most obvious cities in all of Europe to spend some time, and they've only passed through it at the start of a leg. Twice.) Tom responds wearily, as though he could foretell the events that would unfold in Pakistan between when the race was run and now. OH MY GOD HE'S PSYCHIC AND IS DELIBERATELY TRYING TO MAKE HIMSELF SEEM AS AMBIGUOUSLY NON-HETEROSEXUAL AS POSSIBLE IN ORDER TO TORMENT ME.

In a confessional, Kelly brags, "Dave was born to be a stirrer." He responds, "When you can't run at a hundred mile an hour [sic] and you're not the quickest bloke in the pack, you gotta try anything you can," before claiming that the other teams may have finally worked out they're not the genial Old Couple this show normally has. And it was so hard to figure out Dave wasn't nice, too. In their car, he exclaims, "Tel Aviv, Israel! Not in a million years would have I picked it for a destination [sic]." I wonder whether he'd have eventually picked it had it been there for the other 999,950 of those million years. Actually, it's the sort of location the American version doesn't do too much of any more, which makes it the perfect destination for our version to send the teams, a lot like many locations we've had this season. One of the things the producers of this have tried to do, it seems, is making every location visited Amazing on its own right, with the racers being portrayed as genuine tourists rather than as contestants out to make a quick buck for themselves. Even when you've got self-consciously cutthroat teams like Dave & Kelly and FBA, the competitiveness hasn't overshadowed the experience of seeing the world at all, which has really helped the show tremendously. By all means, race to win and whatever, but don't focus on winning to the point of ignoring the world around you as you go. Otherwise, you might as well just be on Big Brother. Matt comments on how Country Folk Still Aren't Idiots, right before the editors cut to footage of him driving on the wrong side of the road. I don't know whether to laugh or be offended on behalf of the "bush people".

Airport. The Lucys ask the flight attendant whether she knows the temperature in Tel Aviv, because that's just the sort of random information people can spout off at the top of a hat, and she tells them "it's plus 24 degrees". Whether she means it's 24 degrees hotter than it is in Krakow or whether she just means it's 24 degrees above zero isn't clear, but either way the girls celebrate about being able to "get [their] rigs out". They and the farmers are busy buying tickets while Jeff explains that their flight out of Poland was delayed, allowing both teams to join them. While the peloton wonders about Dave & Kelly, Renae tells Tom in full view of everyone, "I hope they got lost." Probably only because it means there's one less team to backstab them, but still.

They are indeed lost, and do not make the flight. Grant explains that everyone except for them is "due to arrive at 1:15am", while the Amazing Red Ribbon marks the race's first ever trip onto Belgian soil with a connection in Brussels before sprouting off back towards Tel Aviv. Because you know what's an obvious connection point between eastern Europe and the Near East? Belgium. A sharp musical sting plays as the editors cut straight to Dave and Kelly, now firmly in last place. Luckily, they apparently do not need to buy tickets and get on a later flight to Tel Aviv, arriving at 3:00am. In other words, unless this is an all-nighter leg they're going to be fine, but just won't get as much sleep as everybody else. (I also refuse to believe their flight takes TEN HOURS to fly from Krakow to Tel Aviv and does not make a connection. Especially since it's marked Austrian Airlines.)

We split-screen to Tel Aviv, where some brief blue-tinged travel porn shows that there are big cities and cars in what surely someone in production knew Seven was going to call "the Middle East" in their commercials in a derogatory manner. It wouldn't be the first time Seven's done it - remember when they combined an episode set in Tanzania and one set in the United Arab Emirates together into a two-hour "special" and only said they were in "Africa" and "the Middle East", despite naming literally every other country that season by name? Including Egypt, which is part of both, the week before? Anyway, the Travel Porn montage eventually ends on a menorah at the Tel Aviv airport, right as the grand music used for it transitions into Haba Nagila. Because JEWISH PEOPLE. I look forward to when the race visits Lebanon and we have to listen to a mashup of Barbra Streisand, Cat Stevens, and the Soweto Gospel Choir. The teams on the first flight all rush into cabs and head to the towers, where Wallace and Grommet are first to arrive. Unfortunately for them, the cab ride over has eaten up basically half of this leg's money. They grab the first elevator to the rooftop, while the farmers and Hallmark share one, and the Lucys take a third. Helpfully, the button they need to push once they get inside the elevator has been marked with a little race flag sticker, just in case they thought the rooftop was halfway up or something. The surfers are the first to the cluebox, and it's a Road Block, which Grommet takes.

Suddenly it's daylight, as Grant explains the task from an area littered with shipping containers. And considering the last time Grant was filmed at a shipping terminal was when his final season of The Mole decided to bring an eliminated player back to the game, this can only end well by comparison. For this Road Block (hint: "Who is your driving force?"), teams must hop on a train and head to Haifa, about a hundred kilometres away, then get to Israel's largest port. Once there, the team member elected to do the task must properly rig a shipping container, drive it through a slalom "obstacle course", then reverse the container into a narrow alley between two stacks of containers. It's one of the better Road Blocks we've had this season, but given the repetitiveness of the ones we've had, that's not saying much. I mean, most of the Road Blocks would be fine on their own, but when they're collected together they just become too repetitive a group to be very interesting after a while. Tom, Jeff, and Renae also take the task, further allowing Renae to get her big rigs out.

Everybody hops into cabs to the train station, Luke explaining to Jeff that he's got to use his mirrors when reversing (how... novel), and Renae commenting, "I'm feeling a bit of pressure actually, because I'm driving against four blokes." I'll grant that she knows at least three men are doing them (one from each of the all-male teams), but what indication at this point does she have that Dave will do it instead of Kelly? Especially considering he'll have filled his six-Road-Block limit by doing this task, forcing Kelly to take the remaining three, it seems more likely that she'll be doing the task as opposed to him.

Wallace and Grommet learn from a local at the train station that Haifa is "an hour and a half" away by train, then while she clumsily attempts to flirt with Wallace by virtue of his Australian-ness, Grommet proves himself to be the ultimate Bad Wingman, butting in and apparently genuinely surprised to have found an Israeli at a train station in Israel. Meanwhile, the other three teams have no issue getting on the train, and all four of them ride to Haifa without David and Kelly. Though there's enough room on the train for everyone to get their own seat, pretty much, Hallmark and Tom share a small group of four. Of course they do. Luke all but calls Dave and Kelly "malicious", and... you know you're unpopular when even LUKE thinks you're bitches. I mean, Hallmark were practically the only team who didn't even say a bad word about either FBA or Chris and Bambi. And yet Dave and Kelly are "malicious"? I get the feeling they were even worse during the race than we were shown.

Speaking of the apparent devils, their plane has finally arrived. Dave seems very sombre in a confessional as he reiterates how they're "at least an hour and a half down on everyone". Getting to the Road Block cluebox without much hassle, Kelly points out that they're "screwed" if the vehicle they'll need to drive is a manual (Americans, manual = stick shift), not realising that they'll pretty much be screwed anyway if he takes the task and they survive the leg, since they're not going to have an option for any of the remaining Road Blocks.

We split-screen to Haifa to learn that the port is closed until 6:00am. I sure am glad the first ten minutes of the episode ended up mattering, aren't you? The first four teams hunker down on the cold concrete floors of a little cagelike structure, Grommet and Tom complaining about the situation in confessionals. Meanwhile, Dave and Kelly get on their train, whining about how they're as good as eliminated already. I know, I was shocked too. Jeff confessionals that Dave and Kelly's absence "was a respite from his energy". Hee. Nevertheless, Dave and Kelly arrive at the port before it opens, and Kelly "could not believe" that they weren't able to perform a task related to driving heavy machinery in the middle of the night, and tells us, "It made me feel a bit better about myself." You know, like divorce would. Luke confessionals, "Spirits weren't particularly high" when Dave and Kelly finally decided to rock up, while Jeff is barely able to contain his gigglesnorts.

All of a sudden, it's sunrise and the port is open and everybody runs off in fluoro jackets. Grommet tells us he's "a confident driver", but that he still thought it was "frickin' crazy". Tom, on the other hand, explains that both farmers are qualified road train drivers and thought this wouldn't be much of a challenge. You know, I like them and all, but it sure does seem like they get a LOT of tasks that are directly suited to their skills. Part of it may be the locations, sure, but I'm still not entirely sure what the hell archery has to do with Prague or what shooting has to do with Cape Town. It's almost as if the producers were doing whatever it took to make sure they stuck around for a while. Yes, other teams were able to use their existing skills to get ahead too, but there's a huge difference between an engineer (Chris) or a landscaper (Luke) getting the giraffe feeder task and the farmers getting this task, sheepherding, archery, rifle shooting, goat-leading, and chicken-catching, as well as being able to use their Akubras to their advantage in the very first Detour.

As if to prove the point, Renae is having trouble just completing the first step of reversing their truck so she can attach the shipping containers. Grommet somehow manages to see around his hair and manages to do so, but Dave (who apparently also has a road train licence) is whining once again, this time about how he can't see where he's going. I'd suggest putting his contacts in, but he'd probably whine about that being an unfair negative stereotype about old people, before turning around to look instead and breaking a hip. He does, however, complain about how long it took. Sigh.

The rest of the young whippersnappers are on the next stage of the challenge, the slalom driving. Not quite sure why anybody driving a truck would need to be able to perform a slalom, but let's go with it anyway. Grommet shows us exactly how tight these corners are, having one traffic pylon virtually underneath his car and still not having enough room to swivel around the next one. I love that the tasks this season, fear-of-heights filler aside, have managed to be culturally relevant, interesting, and difficult without being over the top (whereas the US version has been failing on all three counts for a while now), but this just seems like it's a little bit too Nintendo Hard, even before you take into account their lack of experience and sleep deprivation. As Jeff does the standard reality-TV "However will I manage to do it?" voiceover, and Tom and his fiddles are having no problems with the task, Renae struggles about being the only woman doing the task and Dave struggles to just stay awake. He compares the situation to drink driving, which seems about right. Tom is apparently a good drunk driver, having already finished the slalom and gotten to the bit where he needs to park his truck in a tight space. I suspect he's had some experience with this already. Grommet and Jeff are also up to the final stage. Dave? Still bitching. Kelly helps take the edge off a little bit - or just makes it worse - by pointing out the truck he was driving had an automatic transmission.

Back where logic is not just a world of pure imagination, Jeff panics despite being lined up correctly and winds up swinging the back end of his truck so that it can't be reversed into the alley properly. Luke yells at him to fix it up before crossing his arms and shaking his head like a parent in an 80s sitcom. Life is such a sweet insanity. (Sha-la-la-la!) Renae is still at the slalom, and her lack of speed is not helped by hitting the pylon and having to start again. Oh, dear.

Commercials. It's been far too long since I gratuitously made a joke at the expense of either Lady Gaga or the Village People in one of these recaps. I blame Justin Bieber. He ate my heart and then he ate my brain, ohhhh-ohh. That boy is a monster. (And then he got me pregnant, and I raised my standards to avoid a repeat of the whole unfortunate situation.)

As Renae gets out so her guide can drive her back to the start, Jeff is still ignoring Luke. Go, teamwork! Tom, however, is done. He gay-runs back to Matt, complete with a cymbal flourish right as he jumps. I have to be honest, that's the one thing I'd hate the most about the race if I was on it - not being able to hear the show's score as people argue and stuff. Music when they walk? Music when they talk? It's really something magic; to lose it would be tragic. (THERE YOU GO, PEOPLE WHO COULDN'T WAIT ONE MORE PARAGRAPH.) The clue tells them to search Old Jaffa for their next clue. Which would be nice and easy, if only it weren't back in Tel Aviv. Grant calls it "one of the oldest cities in the world" because it's mentioned both testaments of the Bible, which is a bit like calling Barney the scariest dinosaur in history because he was once mentioned on The X-Files, before adding that the clue is waiting at the Hasimta Theatre. Jews were controlling the entertainment industry even before other religions were invented? Wow! Jeff and Wallace are both finishing off too, Jeff somehow managing to park on an angle in a gap that's tighter than a virgin in a chastity belt. All three teams hop in cabs, and Jeff begins tearing up at how he's "working on the edge of exhaustion" before making some sort of odd primal yell. As you do, I suppose. Back at the port, Dave is also done. He's happy to learn Renae is still going, but she finishes pretty much straight after, apparently being allowed to stop with half of her truck hanging out from the alley. Another set of cymbals accompanies her kicking the truck's tyre just to be sure, and they head off. The lotto results show up right as they get a cab, which surely must be some kind of omen.

The surfers and farmers are suddenly back in Tel Aviv again. Tom comments that "it's completely different to anything [he's] ever seen". What, palm trees don't grow on the roadside in the Outback? I am shocked. They begin running along a marked path to the cluebox, which surely must defeat the concept of having to "search" for the cluebox, but which could suggest there may have perhaps been a Yield along the way that we didn't get to see? It seems odd that both the Yield and the U-Turn were mentioned in the presskit but we only saw one of them. Then again, the same page mentions the usage of the old penalty for non-eliminations and has a giant graphic representing the newer Speed Bump penalty, so... you know.

Anyway, the next task is a repeat of the worst non-pizza final task in the history of The Amazing Race. One at a time, players must use photos of the eleven teams to answer five different questions, all of which have been designed to see who spends their downtime talking smack about the other teams and who spends their time actually doing something productive, then actively rewarding the former and punishing the latter. After the first player has answered the questions, their responses are covered and the second person must then answer the same questions with the same five answers to get the clue. If there's even one mistake, they have to try again. But unlike the original task, there's no time limit and you just keep shuffling the photos around until you get it right, pretty much. The questions?

Which team's relationship do you envy?
Which team would be first to lend you a helping hand?
If the Race was a foursome, which team would you pair up with?
Which team has been the most strategic?
Apart from your own team, which team most deserves to win?

And before you start wondering, those are the exact wordings of the questions, which means Tom and Luke can't complain about that me rewriting that foursome question. Although they might need to ask for clarification about the meaning of "helping hand". The sample board, by the way, shows Giggle and Cackle as the most helpful, FBA as the most strategic, the farmers as the most deserving, and Wallace and Grommet as the team we should all be envying. Eh, whatever. It's probably not relevant. You know, LIKE THIS TASK. I can't believe they went to freaking Israel and this is the best thing they came up with. I mean, I would have thought Israel was one of the few places that couldn't possibly have been fucked up with bad tasks, but then again I thought that about Prague. And Cape Town. And Hong Kong.

Tom decides to pop this challenge's cherry, as does Tyler. Tom immediately picks Hallmark for the first question (the envy one), apparently for the sole reason that they are father and son. You would not believe how many jokes I have running through my head about daddy fetishes right now. And for a couple of them, Luke isn't even the punchline! Meanwhile, Wallace and his bright blue undies remind me to buy more green pairs, selecting Chris and Bambi as the most helpful team. Horses for courses. (Actually, speaking of Chris, the bodybuilding challenge in a recent US episode made me wish we had that challenge here - he's a state champion bodybuilder or something.) (I say "or something" because I was distracted by his, um, equipment when I read about it.) (Aaaaand we're back to horses again.) Wallace also picks Hallmark for the foursome question, right as they arrive and Jeff volunteers to go first. This isn't going to end well, I don't think. He picks the surfers for the envy question, giving a prom queen acceptance speech about how they're just super dandy, then picks the farmers for the helping hand question. Heh. Tom picks the surfers as the most strategic team by virtue of their constant inability to bring up the rear. On the other hand, Jeff picks the farmers as the most strategic, despite the fact that they apparently don't know what 'strategic' means. Tom responds by bending over to grab Hallmark's pic, selecting them as the most deserving team. Heh. For the same question, Jeff picks the surfers and Wallace picks the Lucys, because they've survived so long even though their balls are only metaphorical. As his answers are covered, Wallace confessionals that he was second-guessing himself, thinking Grommet would have answered the questions differently. Which would be great, if his job in this challenge was in fact to answer them as Grommet would. But it isn't. Tom confessionals that he kept the thing simple, only picking two teams throughout. That's a better strategy than most, but assuming Matt knows not to pick the farmers themselves for either the foursome question or the most deserving one, he's still only got a one in 133,100 chance of randomly getting them completely right on the first shot anyway.

Grommet correctly guesses Chris and Bambi as the most helpful, and I realise for the first time that someone really should have told Chris to crack a smile when they were taking their team photo. Jeff explains why he picked the surfers for the foursome question, but Luke picks the farmers. Wishful thinking, perhaps. Matt gets Hallmark right for one of the questions, as Wallace explains why he picked FBA as the most strategic team, but second guesses himself thinking Dave and Kelly are the current Evil Team. Unfortunately for him, Grommet is already thinking of the latter, and selects them instead. Matt explains in a confessional that, while there's a bunch of different combinations possible, he and Tom "think along the same terms pretty well". Really? I mean, he gets the right answers (by picking Hallmark four out of five times, no less), but... really?

Anyway, It's a Detour. This week, the choices are named Find Unseen and Make 13 (not Mach 13, Tom). Thank God one of the cons of this Detour is already plainly obvious. They can't possibly be expecting me to take them seriously with those names, right? I mean, that's one step away from a decorative vegetable on the Stupid Scale, which means I have to rename them in an effort to make them at least palatable. Hmmm. Metal or Matkot? Block or Unlock? Detect or Defend? No, I think I'll go with Pro Slacker and Pro Whacker, just so there's at least one pro to go with the multitude of cons on display. Anyway, if you pick Pro Slacker, you head to Jerusalem Beach (where the presence of Speedos makes telling Israelis and Palestinians apart that little bit easier), then take a metal detector and search a marked plot of sand for a key that will unlock a nearby treasure chest. But! Not all the keys work, because nothing says "Jewish Homeland" like people making it hard to get your hands on money. Except! The chest contains a clue instead of money, so the analogy doesn't work and the task has no redeeming cultural value. In Pro Whacker, you also go to Jerusalem Beach (where the only tightarses on display are those belonging to the same Israelis and Palestinians), but you do something that is at least mildly related to the culture of the Tel Avivians: Standing behind a marked line each and using matkot bats to hit a ball back and forth 13 times without it touching the sand. Except since each individual hit counts on its own, you really only have to hit it back and fourth six and a half times. Wow, TOUGH CHOICE. I WONDER WHAT THE TEAMS WILL ALL PICK.

Tom calls himself "easy with a bat" as the farmers pick Pro Whacker. Sometimes, I don't even need to imagine the subtext. Sometimes, it just comes up wearing assless chaps and a ballgag. While they head off to go play with some balls, Luke confessionals about how nerve-wracking it was to see them get the job done so quickly. Fiddling with that thing on his head a little, Wallace explains that he picked Hallmark as the team he envies, because they've worked with them at both Intersections. Yes, that's right, he envies the team that got to work with his awesome self. Gag. Back at the boards, Grommet decides it must be either the farmers or the Lucys, before settling on the farmers. At least one half of the team isn't so in awe of their own fabulousness that he automatically picks the team who've spent any amount of time with them. While Jeff and Wallace compare strategies, Luke completely ignores Jeff's "don't pick anybody who's currently yelling at the Loser Lodge bartender to put an extra paper umbrella in their mocktail" strategy by picking FBA as the most strategic team. Which is kind of logical, as opposed to Jeff's selection of... the farmers. Ah, yes, those great strategic masterminds. On the other hand, Grommet uses Jeff's strategy and picks himself and Wallace as the most strategic. If only Wallace hadn't picked FBA. Grommet then tries all the other teams and continues to fail, as Luke picks Dave and Kelly as the most strategic. Also wrong. Did these people know they had to answer the questions instead of just guessing randomly?

Dave & Kelly are still in their cab back to Tel Aviv, and as you would expect, Dave is doing what he does best. Zzzzz. Elsewhere, the Lucys are also in their cab, telling us they're trying to avoid his negativity. Heh. Whiner and Enabler are the next to arrive at the cluebox, even though they clearly walk in the wrong direction to reach it. Yeah, I don't know either. Kelly volunteers to go first, which is... not the decision I would have made if I was them, for so many reasons. The Lucys also arrive, and Sam goes first. Unlike the others, Kelly at least seems to understand what envy means, but doesn't envy anyone else and is forced to choose herself and Dave. Um. She also picks the Lucys as the most helpful, so... you know. In the waiting area, Wallace tells Renae "you girls" should be good at this gossipy task. Well, that's nice. Sam confessionals that she and Renae had talked about most of these things pretty recently, but that she squandered that convenient advantage by misreading one of the questions, picking Giggle and Cackle as the helpful team instead of Hallmark. Renae comes in and promptly proceeds to struggle. It looks like she cottons on to the second question being the issue much sooner than the editors let us believe - she's holding at least three different photos in the slot at once - while Sam continues to panic. "Oops", indeed.

Commercials. You know it's early on Sunday morning when a repeat of 7th Heaven is the least preachy, least awful thing on television.

When we return, Sam fills her autocue-reading quota for the episode by explaining that the match game was "quite possibly one of the most challenging challenges yet". And then she went back to the hotel to sleep until the most shocking rose ceremony ever. Renae bemoans the fact that Sam apparently isn't "on the same wavelength". But while it sucks for them, it does at least show that the people who cast this version of the show have done an excellent job in comparison to the American casting people, who really don't even seem to be putting enough effort into phoning it in any more. They're barely even bothering to tweet it in.

Meanwhile, Dave is still making me wish I could be bothered legally changing my name so as to not be in any way associated with him. In the waiting area, Wallace is wondering whether Grommet is even able to understand the meaning of "strategic". Bitch, please. You picked a team who finished ninth. Out of eleven. And also, if we're talking about strategies for successfully furthering your career as a D-lister hanger-on: Celebrity Apprentice. That is all.

A quick splitscreen to the farmers' taxi reveals that their cab driver is a matkot "champion". At the beach, everybody in the stock footage is dressed as non-conservatively as you'd expect in a country as popular with Islamic fundies as Israel is. They get out and begin batting the ball to each other, and... well, from a dramatic standpoint, it's no Australian Open. Especially if neither Luke nor Tom takes their clothes off upon succeeding. Tom calls himself and Matt "out of their depth again", which seems only appropriate when you're not even in the bloody water.

A helicopter taunts the players still struggling with the Cosmo Quiz challenge. Dave believes that the only people who've been more strategic than he and Kelly have are Hallmark. Sure, why not? It's harder to find a strategic team in this bunch than it is to find a viable presidential candidate in the Republican Party.

Luke is also struggling to find a strategic team ("correct" answer needed: the farmers), and confessionals as politely as he can that it might be time to put Jeff in a home before we see footage of him doing everything short of the universal symbol for "he's crazy" when describing his problems to Renae and Grommet. Yeah, yeah. Less talking, more working. When we see him resume a few seconds later, he finally puts the farmers in his slot (you know, again) and gets the clue. Upon returning to Jeff, he doesn't even wait until he collects his bag before bitching about their selection, allowing Jeff to respond about the word strategic having "so many different interpretations". And there are so many different defintions my dictionary lost count. No, wait. It didn't. There is ONE. They also pick Pro Whacker, because Luke could go for some whacking right now. And then some more if he gets to the beach and finds Tom has dressed for the occasion.

Speaking of, the farmers are still struggling, but manage to get it done. Most exciting Detour EVER, right? Tom totally checks out the shirtless cluegiver before opening the clue, which tells them to pick a car and drive to the Pit Stop, which is all the way over near the Dead Sea at Masada. Unfortunately, because taking the short path is only slightly less smart than expecting the Dead Sea to part so you can ride a unicycle across it, teams are being forced to go the long way around, avoiding places like Jerusalem and the West Bank. Because the show would never send them there. As they get in their car, Matt tells Tom he needs "to be ace" at navigating, because Matt would really rather not spend any time wandering the Israeli desert if he can help it.

Cosmo Quiz. Grommet is finally done, and also picks Pro Whacker. Surprising. Dave tells us he loves himself, before briefly checking to see whether the relationship Kelly envies is... Melana. No, really. Even the music editors make sure to include a gigantic drumbeat to mark how stupid the thought is. Kelly isn't sure whether "Dave's lost the plot". Um.

Beach. The other two teams of men arrive and begin whacking it to each other (not like that, perverts). Grommet voices over that he always sees Europeans in speedos playing matkot at Bondi Beach, as another Drum Of Stupidity highlights a shot of a local in cutoff shorts. Unfortunately, his hands are placed so that we can't see what else has or hasn't been cut off. Matkot montage!

Commercials. Why, Neighbours writers? Why on earth would you make the token gay character go to the effort to point out that two gay guys aren't necessarily soul mates just because they both happen to have a liking for cock in common, AND THEN GO AHEAD AND MAKE HIM FALL IN LOVE WITH THE FIRST GAY GUY HE SEES?

Hallmark are still trying and failing. Jeff tells us he was annoyed that the matkot didn't really allow him to utilise his mad tennis skillz, before the unusually hilarious combination of Jeff blowing a raspberry on the beach and Luke snarking in the same confessional about how Jeff "spat [his] dummy" leaves him speechless and makes me crack up. Go, editors!

The surfers also suck. At the task. Sorry to get your hopes up, gay guys with horrible taste in men.

Back at the personality test, Dave fails to comprehend the part of the "who else deserves to win?" question where it asks "who ELSE deserves to win?", picking himself and Kelly instead of the Lucys. He does eventually cotton on to the fact that he's trying to match KELLY'S answers, not answer the questions himself, and somehow manages to get the clue after thinking Kelly envies herself. As they are leaving (or so it would seem), Renae also finishes. And what have we learned, about the teams' intrapersonal relationships and about Israeli culture? Depressingly little on both counts.

The Lucys quickly get into their cab and leave, but Dave and Kelly dilly-dally and are shocked - SHOCKED, I tell you - to have been passed. Zut alors!

Down on the beach, Chris has really let himself go. Oh, wait, that's just a local watching nitwits in long pants make idiots out of themselves. Never mind. Hallmark finally realises that the goal of the matkot challenge is to make a rally worthy of an Australian Open final (no longer timely reference!), not to smash the ball so the other person can't hit it back. They then efficiently finish the task, allowing them to head off to the Pit Stop. The surfers soon follow, because the surfers woudln't know what to do if they couldn't follow someone until the last minute.

Hallmark find the waiting cars and soon discover they'll have to pay to get them out of the car park, making this yet another reason I'm glad Giggle and Cackle didn't last this long. They manage to exchange some of their US currency for some shekels, having to convince a random guy that their money is indeed real, while the surfers encounter the same problem but simply schmooze money from a couple of ladies.

The slow teams are now on the beach, and promptly resume the vain struggle to retain one's dignity. Failing dismally, the Lucys decide to switch to Pro Slacker, whereupon they quickly find themselves in the money. Oh, good. They can escape the car park. They also find a shitload of bottletops left behind, and Sam confessionals that they "were cleaning up Israel's beach". Apparently, there is only one beach in the entire country. An entire country that's mostly desert. And is on the shores of the Mediterranean. Okey doke. There is more digging, while Dave and Kelly continue their efforts to whine about anything and everything. New targets: Matkot not being fun enough. Israel having plentiful hot shirtless men. The task actually almost being connected to local cul--SHE COMPLAINED ABOUT THE HUNKS?! Cranky old battleaxe.

Sam tells Renae her dad found her a bracelet by digging up a beach with a metal detector. And he also contracted hepatitis, but that's beside the point for now. Sam confessionals that the task was beginning to make them "lose [their] marbles". What a shame marbles aren't made of metal. When she begins to roll around listlessly in the sand, Renae tells her to at least pretend like the task is easy, so Dave and Kelly will quit. I'm pretty sure the latter are going to find enough to complain about on their own. Like not having sunscreen. Yes, that's right, you heard me. Dave is now using Kelly's decision to stave off skin cancer as an excuse to try and quit. Sitting down on the sand for a break, Dave calls the task - hit a ball back and forth six-and-a-half times, remember - "long and tedious". Also, his hips hurt, and he's now officially missed the Earlybird Special.

Commercials. Could the last person to jump from the Labor Party before it sinks please tell that fucking orchestra to shut it already?

When we return, Dave and Kelly counter their pre-commercial whingefest by vowing to stick it out (as usual), while the Lucys continue to have absolutely no luck (again, as usual). Wow, we're learning something new every week!

The farmers are driving through the desert, accompanied by the Klassy Klezmer. Or whatever it is. Have I mentioned I'm not really a musically-inclined person, despite working at a radio station? Or that I felt like using the word "klezmer", accuracy be damned? Anyway, Matt does some more of that shtick where he compares where they are to the farm, and makes a completely unnecessary rodeo reference. Sigh.

Luke is hoping the farmers got lost and are now behind him, while Matt and Tom laugh about a "dangerous curves" sign. I am LITERALLY biting my finger trying not to type the obvious joke. Jeff, meanwhile, is wondering whether they went the wrong way and have wound up in Iraq. Wow, APPROPRIATE. Luke gets out to ask for directions and is told they've gone too far, which surely must mean it's time for him to call someone "Rambo". Except this guy knows enough about when to give up and get off the screen to even block himself from the camera's view by using the car's frame. Heh.

Masada. Some tense music tries to create this week's phony suspense, but it's kind of not shocking when you see the farmers arrive before the music finishes, you know? The greeter girl welcomes them to Masada, with the blue waters of the Dead Sea behind her, as Grant confirms they're the winners of this leg and the accompanying computer package. I'm sure it'll be of great use to them. He mentions how they "blew through the Know Your Partner" task, and they banter a bit about how they're close enough now that Matt knows when exactly to block his ears and shield his eyes.

Locals cheer Hallmark as they arrive in second. Well, that's nice.

All the way back in Tel Aviv, the girls have the right key, leaving Dave and Kelly floundering in last place again. In their car, Renae says she wants to be the last woman standing. Why is it always about women with women? (I AM KIDDING, WOMEN.) Dave and Kelly are shown finishing and getting the clue, so now we're officially into that bit every week where they try and manufacture tension when there usually is none to be found, and also conveniently into the bit where Kelly is shocked that there is driving on this race.

But the girls are already at the entrance of Masada National Park, while the surfers think they're on the wrong side of Masada. But with the Dead Sea right next to it, isn't the wrong side of Masada... you know... Jordan? Seems like crossing a disputed international border might be one of those things that tip you off. They do a U-turn and complain about not having any money for maps again. Perhaps they should have tried a bit harder to stop their wallet from being stolen? Just a suggestion. The girls are also lost, as they inevitably seem to be when tasked with finding something. They learn that fixing their mistake will cost them at least ninety minutes. Yeah, that's not good.

Commercials. Ooooh, Canadians faceplanting into a giant wacky obstacle course? Don't mind if I do.

When we return, the editors attempt to contrast two teams who are in the right area and have been told exactly where to go with one team who is nowhere nearby but has a map of their own to show them exactly how dead their chances are. I can't imagine how this will end, can you? It doesn't help that Dave and Kelly are barely struggling to stay awake. I have to admit, "falling asleep while driving across Israel" probably was never going to go on my bucket list anyway, but now that the concept is linked with these two? I'm sidestepping the country just to be safe.

Tense music! Montage! Grant and Greeter Girl! Surfers, in third!

Significantly later, and in what is clearly a different location (which we've since learned is because Masada is closed at night, even for glorified game shows), the Lucys are checked in as Team Number Four. Grant is smiling as they check in, which kind of gives the game away a bit, but their reaction is probably the most genuine shock I have ever seen on any version of this show. Seriously, if you haven't seen this episode yet, track it down. It's worth sitting through all of Dave's whining and the surfers' lack of personalities just for this moment. Sam's face literally literally (as opposed to metaphorically literally) looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Their genuine relief is the sort of thing that made this show successful in the earlier seasons, as opposed to obnoxious shtick, lame fights and G-list "celebrities" (to use the term even more loosely than the casting directors for Dancing With The Stars). It's a shame we don't see it more often.

It's suddenly well after sunset as Dave and Kelly pull into a McDonalds. Would they still call them hamburgers in the Jewish homeland? Or is this one of those First World Problems that has a very basic solution? Anyway, the next thing they know, Grant is knocking on their car's window. Kelly wonders what's going on, and since the editors kind of skipped over it, I'll summarise: There was a deadly car crash on the only road to Masada and the road was blocked, meaning Dave & Kelly couldn't get through even if they were to bother trying. And since they were already in last place but can't reach the Pit Stop, they're summarily eliminated. Oh, THANK GOD. I'm so glad that's over and I never have to recap them again. Unpleasant doesn't even begin to describe those two. They immediately claim to have tried their hardest throughout the entire race, which: No. In a confessional, he's also whining about not reaching the Pit Stop to get eliminated properly. Damn inconsiderate rotting corpse. Grant says they've "done incredibly well". Compared to who, Alana and Ryot? DO NOT ENCOURAGE THEM, GRANT. Don't make me wish Tom Williams was hosting this.

Next week: Actual crosses. Actual Jerusalem. Actual falling over.

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