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The Amazing Race 19 Watch: I Feel Like I'm In the Circus

Last week, the eight remaining teams journeyed from Indonesia to Phuket, Thailand. Snowboarders Andy and Tommy kicked total ass and led from box to wire, scoring victory for the third straight leg. Meanwhile, twin sisters Liz and Marie proved unequal to the immense task of setting up beach chairs (guffaw), and finished in last place. However, Phil was in a good mood, and spared them elimination, reminding them that they have an uphill climb to remain in the contest.

Starting Line - The Koh Panyi floating soccer field, where the teams checked in the last leg. Their first clue told them to take local transportation to the Ton Pariwat Wildlife Conservation Area, where they would then ride actual elephants along a marked path by a river to the first clue box.

Before getting that far, however, Liz and Marie were forced to endure a really crappy (heh) Speed Bump for coming in last place last week: in addition to washing the elephant that was to be their transport, they had to clean up elephant dung. Yuck. Whoever came up with this task must have been in a foul mood that day. “Hmm… let’s see… I think I’ll make one team shovel mounds of shit… yeah, that’ll be funny!”

Clue Box #1 was a Roadblock. It required one team member to search for a man playing a traditional Thai flute, and then search the water around him for a ceramic carp that would contain their next clue. It was a fairly easy task despite the murkiness of the water, given that the pool itself was no larger than a medium-sized swimming pool. Breaking open the ceramic fish directed them to a local vendor in the nearby town of Chalong that sold miniaturized dwellings called “spirit houses”.

Clue #2 was also a Roadblock. It required the teams to disassemble one spirit house and transport the pieces to a nearby temple, known as the Wat Chalong, where the other team member would then have to reassemble it. The trouble was, there was no finished model at the temple to use as a template, so if teams forgot how to assemble the spirit house correctly, they had to go back to the vendor and look (they couldn’t look at other teams’ completed models either). Once complete, the next clue told them to board a bus for Bangkok, where they would make their way to the Bangkok Noi Canal and feed the schools of fish that live in it.

This bus ride, measured at 13 hours, proved to be very pivotal. Because even though Andy/Tommy, Justin/Jennifer and Jeremy/Sandy left first (by a full hour), they were not the first to arrive. The bus containing Ernie/Cindy, an express bus, actually arrived first.

The Pit Stop for Leg Five was the house of M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, who was Prime Minister of Thailand in the mid-70’s, which has since been turned into a heritage museum in downtown Bangkok. It’s pretty old-school, making it incongruous set against the sprawling buildings of downtown Bangkok, but it is very pretty.

Below is the order the contestants finished in, along with some of their more interesting moments.

#1. Amani and Marcus - The ex-NFL’er and his wife were the recipient of a lot of good luck: their Bangkok-bound bus allowed them to catch up to the leaders; their ride to the canal managed to avoid the gridlock that befell many of the other teams, and as a result, they hit the mat in first place. It was inevitable that some other team would win a leg, and I’m glad it was them. They are one of my favorite teams so far. No one was more surprised at their first place finish than they were, and Phil topped it off by telling them that they had won a first-class trip to Bali. Sweet!

#2. Bill and Cathi - They left in second-to-last, and toodled along for the better part of the leg, but they caught the same good breaks that Amani and Marcus did, and were able to finish five spots higher than any leg before this one. They are nice old folks, but I don’t hold out much hope that their luck will continue indefinitely.

#3. Ernie and Cindy - Many vehicle-for-hire drivers in Asian countries accept American currency, which is what the racers are given at the start of each leg. Bad luck for Ernie and Cindy, they got one driver that didn’t… and to make matters worse, at the bus station, they were accosted by a jabbering woman who told them they had to fork over about 80% of their allotted money or she would call the cops. That sucks, but what are you going to do. They paid the guy, but not before telling him where he can stick his fare. Hee. I really do like them. They probably would have won the leg if they hadn’t gotten fed up with the traffic and ditched their cab. Not smart.

#4. Justin and Jennifer - Once again, Jennifer wasn’t disagreeable, a trend I pray continues. They had an ingenious idea to get a leg up in the spirit house challenge: namely, they got their driver to take a picture of it with his cell phone! She even had a very edifying moment when she talked about respecting other cultures and their religions, even if they don’t share the same beliefs. Hmm. Perhaps I’ve misjudged her.

#5. Andy and Tommy - It’s weird that in this leg, we learned that Andy and Tommy are both devout Christians, the same leg that saw them tumble back down to the middle of the pack. After having to make two trips to get the correct design for the spirit house, they were still the first team to finish that task, but the short trip from the canal to the Pit Stop proved to be detrimental, as they asked directions from a schoolteacher who apparently took their clue and made off with it. They eventually got it back, but all things considered, they’re fortunate to have finished this high. Stupid Flanderses.

#6. Laurence and Zac - The first thing Laurence said after leaving the Start Line was how much he admired his son’s accomplishments, particularly at such a young age, but even so, Zac can still benefit from his wisdom. That wisdom was not as apparent during the spirit house challenge, as they decided not to take notes on how to reassemble it when nearly all of the other teams did so, in one form or another. This cost Zac some time, as he had to go back to the vendor for a second look-see, and Laurence, for the first time, showed some curmudgeonly behavior that I didn’t like too much. Then they made the mistake of boarding a first-class bus to Bangkok, which is a level of travel that is expressly forbidden in the rules… or so they though. They had to get off that bus, hoof it back to the station, and get on another one that left two hours later. When they arrived at the Pit Stop, Phil informed them that the first-class rule only applies to air travel, and that they lost two hours for nothing. The look on Laurence’s face? Priceless.

#7. Jeremy and Sandy - Once AGAIN, we are shown very little of this team, and are given no insights into their character. All we do see of them is just doing stuff, performing tasks, etc. They were in reasonable shape up until the final cab ride to the Pit Stop, which took them in the wrong direction. They were sure they were out, and shared a tender moment of commiseration, which was about as much warmth as I’ve seen them show each other in five episodes. I want to see more of them, should they survive the next leg.

The following team was eliminated:

#8. Liz and Marie - I didn’t hold out much hope that the twins would be able to climb out of last place: they started a good hour behind the other teams AND were saddled with the Speed Bump… which, by the way, they loved, because apparently elephants are their favoritest animals in the whole wide world! And, mercifully, their dung apparently doesn’t stink too bad.

They almost caught a lucky break late in the leg, after they talked their driver into taking less than their total fare (which was all the money they had) so they could board the final bus to Bangkok. Of course, being flat broke when they got there meant they had to spend the last part of the show walking, and you can’t catch up that way. The walk to the canal was a good five hours, and they didn’t want to beg charity from the locals, who are just as skint, which showed a touch of class on their part. Finally, they found a nice cab driver who decided that helping two hot blondes would give him good karma, but it was far too late at that point. It’s a shame, really: they enjoyed themselves more this leg than any other, and it was their last. And with them, go any hopes of a three-peat by all-female teams.

Next week: for the first time ever, TAR travels to the southern African country of Malawi. In the hot sun, teams will have to perform some pretty grueling-looking tasks in order to avoid elimination.