Skip to main content

The Amazing Race 19 Watch: We Love Your Country Already, It Is Very Spacious

Last week, despite all the hustling and bustling about the busy streets of Bangkok, the challenges that involved riding elephants and disassembling and reassembling Thai spirit houses, the order in which the teams finished all came down to choosing the right cab driver and being able to keep cash in one’s pocket. Ex-NFL star Marcus and his wife Amani was able to beat the traffic and surge into first place, while twin sisters Liz and Marie, flat broke and forced to beg for transportation, hit the mat in last place and were finally (mercifully) eliminated. Seven teams remain.

Starting Line - the M.R. Kukrit Heritage House in Bangkok, where the teams checked in at the end of Leg Five. The first clue told them to make their way 5,000 miles across the Indian Ocean to the town of Lilongwe in the country of Malawi, Africa, and from there to find Gate 7 of the Limbe Tobacco company, where their next clue awaited. All teams ended up on the same plane, with connecting flights through both Singapore and Johannesburg.

This is TAR’s first trip to Malawi, a tiny, landlocked, democratic country in the southeastern portion of Africa, nestled snugly in between Mozambique and Zambia. Home to roughly 14 million people, it is also among the world’s least developed countries, with a low life expectancy and a high infant mortality rate. One of its chief industries is tobacco, which probably explains why the show chose tobacco as the basis for its first challenge.

Clue Box #1 was a Roadblock. It entailed one team member putting on a workman’s uniform and transporting ten 200-pound bales of tobacco leaves through a warehouse to a designated drop-off zone, using only a hand-cart that could carry only one bag at a time. Plus, the warehouse was built like a maze, full of workmen pushing carts around who were not too particular about whether you got to where you were going quickly or not. It’s probably just as well that all the all-girl teams were already eliminated, because those bales were incredibly heavy, and every single coed team, unsurprisingly, had the male member perform this task. Once the ten bales were delivered, they received their next clue, which told them to find the Memorial Tower and search for the next Clue Box.

Clue #2 was also a Detour. The choices: All Sewn Up or Not Grown Up. In the former, teams would go to a local tailor shop, choose a customer, and then use manual sewing machines to finish the customer’s suit in order to receive their next clue. In the latter, teams headed to Lilongwe LEA School where they had to use provided materials (cardboard boxes, nails, string, bottle caps) to build toy trucks for the kids. Once the truck was satisfactorily kid-tested, teams received their next clue.

Most of the teams chose the school option, and I don’t have to tell you how freakin’ adorable African schoolchildren are. Conversely, the tailor shop was hard to find, set as it was in a crowded marketplace with a huge clutch of locals ever-present. Add to that the fact that the sewing machines looked like they were from the 19th century… Not surprisingly, the three teams that chose the sewing machine option were the ones that came in last this leg.

After completing the Detour, all teams were to perform one more task: to find the R-K Furniture Shop in the town of Ntchisi, and transport two hand-crafted wooden beds to Leg Six’s Pit Stop, Kumbali Village. Thankfully, the teams didn’t have to carry the heavy beds the whole way, as local transportation was allowed to be used. The beds themselves turned out to be useful as well, as all of the teams were to be used for an overnight stay in the village.

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

#1. Andy and Tommy - No team in recent memory has had a bigger combination of smart racing and lucky breaks than the snowboarders. After starting off in the middle of the pack, they surged through the Roadblock and the Detour, passed Jeremy and Sandy by taking a flatbed truck that might have been meant for them, and were then awarded first place because of a mistake by Justin and Jennifer. This is their fourth win in the last five legs, and their prize is another awesome trip, to a private island in the British Virgin Islands. Damn, what a sweet reward.

#2. Justin and Jennifer - Being African-American and a special ed teacher, this was a particularly meaningful leg for Jennifer, who seems to have truly mellowed since a really belligerent start. They actually were the first team to hit the mat, but they were told by Phil that they neglected to pay the truck driver that helped them transport their beds, and so they had to go back and settle up before they could be checked in. It only cost them one spot, but that still has to suck.

#3. Jeremy and Sandy - Most Roadblocks usually have some locals that are filmed, sitting off to the side, laughing hysterically as the silly Americans try to do something they do every day and fail miserably, but Jeremy made his way through the tobacco warehouse with a big ol’ grin on his face, while scads of men in workmen’s garb hollered. I’m not sure if the hollering was encouragement, ridicule or some choreographed dance number, but it was fun to watch (you just know it was their first time on American TV). Jeremy was actually the first one to finish that task.

#4. Laurence and Zac - I thought that young Zac would be the one to do the tobacco challenge, but it was Laurence instead who did it, and he seemed to be the one most physically unable to do it. I mean, I know he’s an athlete, but yachting is less about being fast than it is about being strong, and Laurence is not a lightweight, if you know what I mean. He brightened during the school challenge, stating that he wished he could have spent more time with the kids.

#5. Ernie and Cindy - Not much to report about this group, as they were in the middle of the pack from start to finish. No major blow-ups, no meltdowns, nothing really memorable, save perhaps one image of the couple hanging for dear life onto a speeding truck that they used to transport their bed to the village. While most of the trucks that were used were large enough to accommodate both beds and racers, Ernie and Cindy’s wasn’t, and Cindy commented that she had never felt “less safe” in her whole life. They made it to the mat without incident, though.

#6. Bill and Cathi - I certainly never thought this team would make it past six legs, and my admiration for their stamina keeps on growing, a stamina that was demonstrated by Bill in the tobacco warehouse, on a task that would have surely sent me to the emergency room. As farmers, they made note of how scenic and spacious Africa was, and made a point of mentioning it as soon as they landed. Plus, they’re just so polite and positive to everyone (and not in that annoying way), it’s impossible not to like them. I still wonder if they have it in them to go all the way to the end, though.

#7. Amani and Marcus - They were very stoked to go to Africa, a place they’d never been before. One of the best moments of the season came as Marcus, the last one to finish up the tobacco challenge, was followed out of the building by the multitude of workers, shouting encouragements and well-wishes at him and Amani. Damn, you gotta love Africa for the energy alone. Sadly, the leg didn’t turn out well for them. They, along with Bill and Cathi, were the last teams out of the airport, and they got stuck behind a slow procession of cars celebrating someone’s engagement (Mazel tov!), so it was clear that last place would come down to one of them. Unfortunate karma for the two teams that finished 1-2 in the last leg.

On top of that, they chose the sewing challenge and were well in last place when their cab broke down and they had to get another one, a situation that ruffled even Marcus’s usually ebullient feathers. Amani was tearful when they checked in, but Phil spared them from elimination because this was yet ANOTHER non-elimination leg. That makes three in only six legs (although one of the others sent two teams home). With only six episodes left, I have to believe that there will not be any more second chances. I hope Amani and Marcus come through it.

Next week: More Malawi. Bikes, boats, automobiles. Jeremy and Sandy start to melt down, and Amani and Marcus struggle to overcome a crippling Speed Bump.