November 26, 2012

Australia 1x10: Jerusalem, Israel (Kind Of)

Previously on Shekel and Jekyll (or: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy Vey! Oy Vey! Oy Vey!) (or: Oy Default!) (or: Shalom, Bitches!) (or: ...well, multitudes of questionably-funny puns): According to Grant, nothing but Dave and Kelly's elimination out in front of a suburban McDonalds. Also: Actually, that pretty much sums it up, but they did manage to complete their recreating-the-steps-of-the-Dutch-Jewish-Holocaust-survivors thing by escaping Poland and heading to Tel Aviv, Israel. Because you know where Jewish people can feel safe and protected? The Middle East. Anyway, after another pointless long-distance trip to the Road Block and back, a lame gossipy task and an even lamer Detour, the four teams who successfully managed to finish the leg reached the Masada ruins. Since there's only these four teams and three episodes left until we have a winner, it's clear the answer to this question is almost certainly going to be "nobody, dumbarse", but still: Which of them will be eliminated... TONIGHT?

Credits. Look, I support domestic violence about as much as the next person, assuming the next person isn't a professional footballer or Matthew Newton, but still: Why can't Richard wear the boxing gloves? [BOMP, ZOOM, STRAIGHT TO THE MOON.]

Commercials. It's bad enough when we have one infomercial channel on cable, guys. Why do Seven and Nine insist on wasting two free-to-air channels playing the same infomercials? LIVE?

A reversing helicopter and some majestic, Islamic-inspired music welcome us back to Masada. And you better be thankful for the latter, because it's about all the religious relevance you're going to get during this episode. Well, for that particular religion at least. We've still got obnoxious amounts of cheerleading for Christianity and assertions that Israel is really only made up of Jewish people. Because ISRAEL. Apparently the term 'holy land' only counts on the Sabbath. Grant calls it "one of Israel's most important historic sites", and explains that it was built on a clifftop overlooking the Dead Sea. Just in case you couldn't tell it was a clifftop over, say, Lake Cadibarrawirracanna. Also: Jewish struggle for freedom.

During the Pit Stop, teams were given product-placed cameras and had to record product-placed messages for their product-placed loved ones at their product-placed home. And the entire purpose of this scene? To try and get us to care about people we've never met who are related to people we barely know and frankly aren't entirely enamoured with because the producers spent so much time forcing people like Dave and Chris and Jenius and Mel down our throats. Of course, if they'd spent more time on these teams we'd probably have seen Tom and Luke forcing themselves down each other's throats, and I'm sure the fundie sponsors would just LOOOOVE that. Speaking of the apparent devil, a very pink set of Monday Lotto results turn up right as we see him filming his clip.

Dear overly-conservative people who would like me to stop making gay jokes: I am AWARE pink does not necessarily imply homosexuality. I am also aware Tom is currently wearing blue. Luke, however... I don't think you could call that logo on his shirt red. So there.

Meanwhile, Sam barely even bothers to get dressed when recording her clip. Even I'm having trouble remembering that her eyes are up here, buster.

Once the product placement is over for now (although teams are going to have to take the memory cards with them for later in the leg), the farmers finally depart at 6:31am. The clue tells them to hoof it to the ruins of King Herod's Winter Palace, where they'll have to search for the clue. And by "hoof it", we do of course mean "take the gondola to the top", because some of these people would probably be wandering the desert for forty years if we made them find it on their own. Even though the clue specifies it's at Masada.

As if to belabor the point, Tom wonders aloud whether the ruins might be at the top of the mountain. Well, of course. Why else would they tell you to take the fucking cable car? He confessionals that he's going to treat this leg like he's in last place. Not that it matters today, for so many reasons. Matt adds that he's going to "take the bull by the horns and give it to her". I sure hope he farms crops, because basic animal biology? Not his strong point.

7:15am. Leaving with his dad, Luke wonders how on earth a place like Israel could even have a winter. And as you know, Australia has bikinis and coconuts everywhere, all year round. Seriously dude. You grew up in Melbourne. MELBOURNE. Where people ditch work for the beach and public transport craps out the moment it even comes close to thirty degrees.

The farmers are impressed by how old and "half-wrecked" the castle is. Tom confessionals about the "pretty amazing views from up there", right as the editors cut to a tight shot of his arse. I'd send the editors a fruit basket, but it appears they've already found one. They struggle to find the clue, to the point where Tom is leaning over a handrail right next to a massive drop... with his feet about two feet off the ground. Matt prefers to do the slightly more sane thing and peers over the edge normally, as though it would be possible to see the cluebox from there anyway.

Jeff explains that he'd learned about King Herod way back when he was at school, but that he still thought it was "phenomenal" to be in the "geographical place". Excuse me for a moment, I just had flashbacks to a far more interesting contestant making a similar comment about the Nile. Still, at least Jeff's frame of reference is based in proven fact rather than treating the Bible as though the stories inside it were real, so... balances out?

Seventeen bajillion cliffside staircases later, Matt and Tom have found the clue. It's one of those "here's a major event, now find where it happened" clues they seem to do far too infrequently when compared to obnoxiously esoteric clues, and this time it directs teams to drive to where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. (Spoiler alert: It's near the Dead Sea.) Grant explains that they're headed "a hundred kilometres north to Qumran", where they'll find their next clue at a palm-tree lined walkway thing that looks nothing like the helicopter stock footage shots of Qumran itself. It's worth noting that Qumran is in the West Bank and therefore part of Palestine, which I think makes this the only time ever the race has visited a country without mentioning it by name. I've seen basically every episode of every version of this show, and I can't recall it ever happening before. Maybe one of the American version's visits to Dubai? I know the UAE has been conspicuous by its absence in clues directing the teams there ("fly to the city of Dubai" the first time, "fly to the Persian Gulf" the second), but surely at least Phil mentioned the country in a voiceover or something.

7:56am. Wallace and Grommet depart, the latter's hair trying to attack him for putting on the most hideous beanie in human history. The editors decide we need name subtitles to tell these two apart, even in the tenth week of the season and even with only nine recurring cast members in total left. They are apparently THAT boring.

Even Hallmark don't get that in a confessional where Luke tells us some more about how their personal issues with each other were clearly exaggerated in order to get cast. They manage to find the Qumran clue, Luke conveniently showing us his "Tyler" forearm tattoo when he reaches for the cluebox. Mind blown. Where's his "Tom" tattoo? I'd love to see it. (And the tattoo as well!)

The Bumbling Banjos of Balliteration kick in as we cut to the farmers, who have reached the border crossing into the West Bank. They claim to not understand the meaning of the words "border crossing", and Tom is apparently shocked Matt doesn't know about the West Bank. Oh, Tom. Clearly you and he are paddling on different boats. Matt confessionals about not knowing how many countries they've visited, and... dude, it's not like any of the countries you've been to so far have been esoteric. Seriously, the Netherlands is the closest this cast have come to a country they might not have heard about before. It's not like it's hard. Tom comments in their car that they seem to be "gettin' closer to Jerusalem, buddy", before calling Israel "God's country". Apparently, this God character only created one country and left the rest of the world to make itself. And only after waiting until 1960. Matt claims that God's country is not Israel but rather Australia. Which is why we never have any natural disasters. Like, say, floods or bushfires. For example.

The splitscreen brings us back to Masada, where the surfers are on their way up and Hallmark are on their way down. Jeff confessionals about how Wallace and Grommet are "really, really top racers", which is exactly why they... voluntarily give them their map? Idiots. Don't you want to slow the good teams down, especially when there's only one elimination left? Granted, this leg is pretty much guaranteed not to end in said elimination and you'll all be bunched together again in the next leg, but... still, you know? This is not Amazing Communism. Of course, Wallace and Grommet can't actually read the map anyway. How did these teams make it this far?

Oh, right. Cannon fodder and tasks designed to ruin any chance of a female team making it this far.

The farmers arrive at Qumran, where the clue is a Road Block. The one team member "who's not lost in translation" must perform this task, which is fairly simple and inventive, yet not at all likely to make for good television. Much like the actual Dead Sea Scrolls. They're given a Hebrew-to-English letter translator and a scroll written in Hebrew, and must then translate it into English. Sounds simple, but then you've got to work out that Hebrew letters are written from right to left, so it's going to take at least six seconds longer to finish. Unfortunately, the message appears to be simply translated from letter-to-letter rather than as a message, which would make it even more fun if they had to translate it from Hebrew and then find someone to actually literally translate it from Hebrew. Double-unfortunately, Grant's writers and the graphics department decide to declare the Hebrew language a "code" which must be "deciphered". And to that, I can only respond: Uckfay at-thay itshay.

As soon as they figure out it's likely to be some sort of mental challenge, Matt wisely gives the task to Tom, giving Tom his sixth Road Block and meaning Matt will have to do the rest. But I'm sure the other tasks are probably bloke-y things that he'll be able to complete without any issues, right? Right? Bueller? Tom correctly remembers about the right-to-left writing, so that's six seconds saved.

8:28am. The Lucys are finally here to give this leg the estrogen kick it needs, but as it happens today is International Clue Misreading Day, leading us to hear both "Kings Herod" and "the Masada" before they do things like such as leave the mat. Yeah, it's going to be a long day for them. They confessional about how they're going to be even more Determinator-y in order to reach the finale and "do the women proud". As a male feminist (shut up, we exist), I'm offended that Renae thinks I want to see six men in the finale. I could certainly afford to lose Wallace and Grommet. And Jeff. And Matt.

Tom reiterates the Road Block task, as though we've forgotten in the last minute or whatever, before outing himself (SETTLE DOWN, LUKE.) as a fan of crosswords and Sudoku. Awww, hot geek powers, ACTIVATE!

Wallace and Grommet get the Masada clue. I swear I had almost forgotten they even existed there for a minute. Grommet feels the need to ask what the Dead Sea Scrolls are, and... he cannot be that stupid, right? It's right there in the fucking name. They get directed to Qumran. Yawn.

Back at the Road Block, Matt has decided to sleep instead of making himself be that guy who yells at his partner to hurry up. Heh. While the Lucys get lost trying to figure out what makes the Winter Palace different from the other parts of Masada, Tom is decidedly not lost, and is finished translating. Despite the translated message basically giving exactly the same information, he's still given a proper clue leading to the Jerusalem Main Post Office. They've got to travel by taxi, and when they arrive they'll need to mail their video messages in order to receive the next clue. And it sure is lucky all the loved ones gave their private video messages back to the producers so they could be put in the episode, isn't it? Grant Wikipedias that it's Israel's capital city, and a "holy site" for the world's three main monotheistic religions. Only two of which we'll actually deal with, of course, because all three would just be too much damn work. Sorry, Muslims. Maybe next time.

Lucys? Still lost.

Commercials. I kind of love how the Logies are predictably crappy every year. No disappointment.

The Lucys are not at lost as they thought. Crisis averted, as is the need to spend even more time aimlessly wandering Masada.

Hallmark are arriving at Qumran, where Luke has to tell Jeff they're in the middle of a race. As opposed to when they gave the surfers their map, when they clearly weren't. Luke immediately volunteers Jeff for the task, apparently somehow knowing Tom has come and gone already. Jeff takes a few seconds to get out his reading glasses, having not thought it wise to prepare something simple like that while on the long-haul drive to the Road Block. Meanwhile, not only do we have to deal with the lotto numbers appearing at about this point, but they've also decided to add a sideshowy graphic explaining that the drawing is coming up. Gee, thanks guys. I don't know how I ever could have managed without you. Hallmark continue arguing about who wears the packs in their relationship as they hike up the path to the task itself, where Jeff immediately learns that transliteration isn't always transparently obvious.

We splitscreen to the farmers' arrival in Jerusalem, having apparently taken significantly less time to get there than the last guys who ported gifts across Israel. So much for wise men, huh? (Or is it they were wise by virtue of not having product-placed myrrh?) They learn they've been taken to the wrong post office, but soon figure out that there might in fact be more than one post office in a national capital city. Imagine that.

Is it just me, or is absolutely NOTHING HAPPENING this week?

So when I eventually wake up from my Boredom Coma (fell into it on a Friday, woke from it on a Monday, let's ignore the more than twelve months in between), we are at the Detour, having skipped the bit where Matt needed to be told bagels are food. Somehow, “Soylent Green is BAGELS!” doesn't have nearly the same ring to it. This time, the two tasks (Yay, pros! Boo, cons!) are the atrociously-named Pilgrim's Trail and Holy Grail. In Pilgrim's Trail, you pick up an eighty-kilo wooden cross from the entrance of the Old City and take it up the Via Dolorosa to the church where a certain very naughty boy got nailed. (Oh, and Jesus was crucified there too.) When they arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, having passed the nine Stations of the Cross, they'll be given their next clue from a completely random guy who doesn't look anything like the Messiah. So either he's Jewish, or the producers couldn't be arsed striving for thematic relevance. If, on the other hand, Israel doesn't make you think of people killed for the wrong reasons, you can take Holy Grail, which is just as time-consuming as it sounds. Basically, you've got to go to a tunnel beneath the Wailing Wall and dig up a pot, then carry it to a second tunnel and walk all the way through to the other end to deliver it. How time-wasty is it? Well, Grant tells us, "Unearthing history takes time", apparently missing the irony. Long story short, the choice is between Athletic and Agnostic, but either way it's basically “walk over there, carrying this”. And Jesus knows what this episode needs right now is some High-Stakes Walking Action. I think I feel another Boredom Coma coming on.

So, anyway, there is more walking (with the men taking Athletic and the women taking Agnostic), and even more walking to the next clue, and even MORE walking to the Pit Stop overlooking the Wailing Wall. Perhaps it's appropriate it felt like they were walking for forty years considering the greeter appears to be some kind of rabbi. Really, producers? You're in fucking Jerusalem and you couldn't get a priest, a rabbi, and an imam to share greeter duty, before they all went to a bar and ordered a punchline? In the end, the episode ends as it began, with the farmers first, Hallmark second, Wallace and Grommet third, and the Lucys last. How dull was this episode, you ask? This is the first and only episode in the history of the show – in any franchise – without a single change in position. Yeah.

Next week: Stuff actually happens. Hooray!

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