Last week, the remaining six teams ventured to the wide-open plains of Tanzania, a far cry from the populated and developed locales in Europe they had previously visited. A long-awaited disagreement erupted between Big Brother Rachel and Vanessa, and I seriously considered calling the episode quits there and then. But there was actual racing to be done, and Rachel and Dave regained the top spot, winning their fourth overall leg. Meanwhile, Federal Agents Nary and Jamie came in last but were spared elimination.
Starting Line - The Simba Campsite, where the teams checked in and built their own primitive-yet-functional bivouacs last week. The teams’ first clue was to drive first down, and then out of, the Ngorogoro Crater, find the small town of Safari Junction (in the Karatu District), and locate the Hillary Clinton shop. (Seriously. The “shop” is basically a small kiosk on wheels, and the owner apparently thought the former First Lady’s name was spelled “Clington”, because the “G” looks hurriedly painted over.)
This leg also featured the notorious Double U-Turn. What that means is, any team can choose to U-Turn any other team, provided that team is behind them. It always involves a Detour, and a team that is U-Turned has to perform both options before they can move on. A Double U-Turn means that two teams can seriously slow down two others. And with only six teams left, that is very significant.
I have to pause again and marvel at the sheer awesome, unspoiled beauty of Africa, something all of the racers took the time to do this leg. It is simply breathtaking, I cannot even describe it in words. Sadly, though, this is a reality show and not the Travel Channel, so after a few panoramic shots, and a few shots of the local fauna (baboons, gnus, wildebeests, lionesses, zebras, gazelles, warthogs, giraffes, elephants, even an ostrich.), it’s back to business.
After finding the kiosk, teams found out both halves of the Detour. The choices: Water Supply and Air Supply. In the former, teams had to pick up a cart of nine empty water jugs, and then head to the well to wait in line to fill up their jugs and then return them to the house they picked it up to receive their next clue. In the latter, they had to go to a local karaoke bar and sing “The One That You Love” in front of a local talent scout. (Okay, just kidding, couldn’t resist.) In truth, the teams had to repair a bicycle by repairing the inner tube without taking the tire off of the bike. After finding the leak, teams would have to patching it up and then after putting the inner tube back in the tire, someone would take the bike for a test ride and the repair shop owner would give them their next clue.
The next clue, which told them to slog it on foot (about 3 km), led them to the Jack Stelzer Pub, which was also the site of the Double U-Turn. If teams chose not to U-Turn anybody (or after they completed the other half of the Detour), they were told to find the Gem Gallery & Arts building. Outside that was yet another clue, which directed them to a place called Margaret’s Farm in the town of Mto wa Mbu. (Don’t ask me to pronounce that.)
For coming in last place in the previous leg, Nary and Jamie also had to contend with a Speed Bump, in which they had to properly set up a display stand by using a painting as a guide.
At the farm, teams found this leg’s Roadblock, which required one team member to dress in protective beekeeper’s gear and then harvest 500 grams (just over one pound) of honeycomb from an African bee hive, after which the head beekeeper would give them their final clue. I’ll let you in on a little secret… I HATE bees. Suit or not, I would have probably had a heart attack doing this task.
The Pit Stop for Leg Eight was Lake Manyara, once described by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest lake in Africa”. Hard to argue with him.
Below is the order the contestants finished in, along with some of their more interesting moments.
1. Bopper and Mark - I couldn’t be happier at this week’s result: the good old boys cracked the top spot. After seven legs dominated by either Rachel/Dave or Art/J.J., Team Kentucky finally won a leg, and they each copped a luxurious trip for two to scenic Hanalei Bay, Hawaii. After a few legs of being wildly inconsistent, they have found their groove (despite a slight knee injury to Bopper), and now they are firing on all cylinders. They smoked the bike-repair Detour,
There’s no longer any doubt about it: I want this team to win. Not only are they the only team to not have one disagreeable moment this entire season, but their background suggests that they probably need the prize money the most. Whether they can actually make it to the end and win remains to be seen, but I am firmly in their corner now. Go Kentucky!
2. Rachel and Dave - Not much to report about the Iraqi veteran and his wife… they had the usual marital squabbles about nothing in particular. They very nearly finished in first for the fifth time, but that was not in the cards this leg. Most of the drama occurred (and will continue to occur, apparently) between them and the Border agents, which I will explain in a sec.
3. Art and J.J. - The Border Patrol agents only real mistake this leg was choosing Water Supply. After realizing that they had a good 45-minute wait in line, it was too late to backtrack. This allowed the two leading teams, both of whom chose Air Supply, to finish ahead of them. They were fortunate in that neither team chose to U-Turn them, and that they were able to finish in time to U-Turn Team Big Brother.
There was apparently an arrangement between Art/J.J. and Rachel/Dave that whoever got to the U-Turn first would U-Turn Brendon and Rachel. Rachel/Dave got there well before Art/J.J. but did not U-Turn anyone, which made Art/J.J. really pissy when they realized they had to do it. Art/J.J. declared that they were “done” with Rachel/Dave because they were “not honorable”. Which is complete B.S., and I think I am just about done with Art and J.J.
4. Brendon and Rachel - To their credit, they fully expected to be U-Turned and didn’t complain much when it happened. But they took the initiative by turning right around and U-Turning Vanessa and Ralph. Of course, all it takes is one mishap for Rachel to go into full-on meltdown, and when the water-cart dislodged some of its cargo, the whining commenced. God, I hope they are out next.
5. Vanessa and Ralph - The divorcees cost themselves huge time by walking by the Hillary Clington kiosk several times without seeing it (they actually found the Air Supply location first). In any other leg, where they pretty much trailed the rest of the pack the entire time, they would be out. Fortunately for them, there was one team that had an even bigger handicap than… well, just being them.
The following team came in last and was eliminated:
6. Nary and Jamie - I didn’t realize just how damn far behind the rest of the pack they were. Being several hours behind right from the get-go AND being saddled with a Speed Bump pretty much doomed them, and the Double U-Turn didn’t even factor in. And so the team of Federal Agents, who decided to maintain the face that they were kindergarten teachers in order to “not be perceived as a threat”, never once emerged as a threat. What an utterly pointless enterprise.
I hope, in another future season, the producers can field some more all-female teams that actually have a shot at winning. Because the last two seasons have not had any teams that could even keep up. Nary and Jamie were far and away the most competent of the three all-girl teams this season, but at no point did I think they had a shot at winning. And now they’re gone. Oh well.
Next week: it’s off to India, where J.J. continues to rail at Dave from his extremely high horse. Like, dude, get over yourself already. Sigh.