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The Amazing Race Watch: Chill Out, Freak

Last week, eight teams trekked from Indonesia, to the crowded, dirty and poverty-stricken country of Bangladesh. They repaired local buses, stuffed mattresses, and held it together pretty well considering the chaotic surroundings. Team Rockstar, James and Abba, was the only one to try for the Fast Forward (picking up dead rats… ugh), which allowed them to coast to an easy leg victory, while best friends Gary and Will, unable to make any headway since the start of the race, came in last and were eliminated. Seven teams remain. BOMP.

Starting Line - The Shyambazar Chan Mia Ghat, where teams checked in at the end of the last leg. Teams’ first clue told them to make their way to the Jatarbari Market in Dhaka, which pretty much guaranteed they wouldn’t be country-hopping on this leg. It also meant that there likely wouldn’t be much movement within the standings, and a further conclusion was that this would be the season’s first non-elimination leg. At the market, their next clue would be given to them by a local vegetable vendor.

The teams’ next destination was located on Ferry Ghat Road, underneath a local bridge, and it was the site of this leg’s Roadblock. It required one team member to use a giant balancing scale (think of the witch-and-duck scale from The Holy Grail) to measure out a specific amount of wood… but first, they’d have to build the damn thing from scratch. Not an easy feat, despite the rather crude nature of the thing.

Immediately after finishing the Roadblock, teams were then given this leg’s Detour, and the choices were Straw Dogs and Bamboo Jungle. In the former, teams had to beat the raw fibers of a material known as jute until it de-frayed, then coil it up and deliver a huge bundle of it to a nearby loom, where the jute would be used to make an “eco-friendly” tote bag from it. In the latter, teams would have to gather together bamboo stalks (of various lengths), put it on a transportation cart, and then deliver it to a local construction site. Neither task sounds all that tough, but not that appealing either. Of course, when you consider how freaking hot and humid it is in Bangladesh, I may be underestimating the difficulty of the task. The Pit Stop for Leg Five was the Lok Shilpa Jadughar, a very picturesque folk-art-and-craft museum in the town of Sonargaon.

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

#1. James and Abba - James was dealt a crushing blow before the leg even started, as he learned via a webchat from home that his father is dying of cancer. Wow. I mean, compared to that, the race seems so unimportant, you know? How he was able to keep it together and not only race but keep the lead is a testament to his will. Plus, Abba is fighting a nagging knee injury. But they started in the lead and were never headed, and they each won a trip to Malaysia. I’m sure there will be an equalizer next week, so we’ll see if their luck holds out after that.

#2. Abbie and Ryan - They started out the leg by stating that they want to be known as the greatest team ever, by winning more legs than any other in the show’s history. That’s pretty ballsy, given that the record (eight) was set last year, and they would pretty much have to sweep the rest of the season in order to do that. I still like them, especially after Ryan decided into engaging in some friendly mocking of the twins. Naturally, they took it personally. They couldn’t make up the gap with Team Rockstar, but they should be back in front next week.

#3. Natalie and Nadiya - I’m usually the first to root for all-girl teams, given how the show is often stacked against them. It just saddens me that this is the only all-girl team left now, given how loud and obnoxious they are. Plus, they are just not that friendly and have no sense of humor, which means they may win, just to spite me. All they had to do to keep pace this leg was not make any horrible mistakes, and they didn’t. And that’s about as complimentary as I will get for them.

#4. Rob and Kelley - Kelley may be the oldest woman left on the race, but she’s a real trooper. She took on the scale-building with aplomb, and she and Rob continue to climb the ladder, scoring their best finish so far. They may yet be contenders, but we’ll see what the next few legs bring to bear.

#5. Trey and Lexi - An unremarkable leg for Team Texas, but they remain one of my favorite teams. They respect the locals, are amicable to each other, and are competent racers. It remains to be seen whether they can recapture their earlier magic, but I hope it happens, because I would love for them to be one of the teams racing to the Finish Line.

#6. Jaymes and James - Team Magic Mike confessed that they have not been eating as much as they should, which has been making them weak. I mean, I know you have to conserve your cash, but what’s the point of that if you drop dead of exhaustion? They made a near-fatal mistake when delivering the bamboo, by dropping several plants along the route. Fortunately for them, one team had an even worse day.

The following team came in last but was NOT eliminated:

#7. Josh and Brent - Things got off to a terrible start when Team Capricorn was unable to find the cabstand they were directed to find once they left the mat, which allowed all the other teams to pass them. Plus, their lack of stamina in the intense heat was a detriment during both the Roadblock and the Detour, and they finished in last place. They benefitted from this being a non-elimination leg, but they will have to perform a Speed Bump in the next leg, which is often very tough to overcome.

Next week: it’s off to Turkey. I wonder if there will be mashed potatoes involved.