by Sam McMillen
The Amazing Race 15
The night before this week's episode of The Amazing Race, I was lucky enough to attend the 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City. Dan was also supposed to make it, but couldn't because of airline cancellations. He finally made it Sunday evening, and we watched this week's episode in the LaGuardia Airport Hampton Inn. Far from ideal (we could have been watching it with Jordan of this season's brother team since he was also in town), but we still had a blast watching the episode.
The teams travel to France and their first clue sends them to Saint Menehould where they will buy a fresh baguette from Boulangerie Defontaine. Inside the baguette hides their next clue, instructing them to find La Main de Massiges where the Detour and U-Turn take place. Finally, they take a bike ride to the pit-stop wearing those trademarked TAR outfits of ridiculousness. We get to enjoy the gorgeous French countryside and get a little taste of history with one of the most interesting challenges yet. Check out the moments that stuck out to me the most.
THE TRAVELING PIT-STOP
After the Hamburg leg, the teams boarded a bus and all rode together to the next pit-start in Les Monthairons, France. The destination of the bus was unknown to the racers, so had no idea where they were when they read the first clue. My season had a similar situation during the pit-stop between the Vietnam legs. Our "moving pit-stop" was a boat with beds, so I'd say we had it a little better than Season 16 in this specific example. This I found interesting because on the bus they had access to the other teams, allowing an opportunity for off-camera strategizing. Over the past few season, communication during pit-stops has been a very harsh no-no. Another difference is that this season, the teams were taken to a completely different country, whereas we just stayed in Vietnam. I can only imagine how horrible that bus ride must have been. Mike and Louie look like big time snorers to me.
NO MORE STICK SHIFT!
Dan and Jordan start the leg off with utter ecstasy when they find out the car provided for this leg is an automatic transmission. We all remember Dan getting stuck on what appeared to be a boat ramp in episode two, and the time when Dan stalled out on a hill and Jordan had to try and push him to get the car started. This is a HUGE relief for the brothers. No matter what, there's always going to be a few teams that only start learning to drive a stick shift a week before the race starts. You should have seen Dan and me with our dad in the church parking lot, trying to figure out the manual transmission only days before we left. I managed to figure it out after a good hour of practice. Dan quit after one try. I was glad Team G.S.A. got a break for this leg.
I'll be the first to tell you that the French language is not easy to pronounce. I took a French diction class in college and still would have stumbled over some of the words in this week's clues. The cowboys definitely seemed to enjoy their fresh bag-goo-eht just before they head to the main day ma-say-jus, while the lesbians communicate via "Franglish". After about 25 different pronunciations of Menehould and Massiges, we get a laugh from Jeff when he reads the clue "buy a fresh baguette from the.... from that". Trust me, Jeff was the smartest one when it came to reading the clues. This is coming from the guy who looked for the To Ver Garden in Estonia and thought the Monte Carlo was found in Mo-NAH-co. Way to save yourself some embarrassment, Jeff.
THE RANDOM ACTORS
So I have to give a shout out to the random French actors involved in the Detour. Bertram (one of the show's creators and executive producers) always has a way of convincing people to do anything he wants, with little to no explanation. That's what makes The Race so great. I'm sure these French army guys were thinking "what on Earth is happening right now and why are these people being followed by cameras". My favorite role was played by "man in fox-hole". He was literally hiding in a sewage pipe ten feet underground. His expression when he gave Mike and Louie their clue was totally priceless. It was a combination of "this white haired Dutchman told me to look scared and confused" and "Americans are crazy". There, I said it; the gimmick actors in The Amazing Race deserve an Emmy.
BEST DETOUR EVER!!!
When the teams arrive at La Main de Massiges, they're given the choice between translating a message in Morse code or crawling under barbed wire. The setting is WW1, and the teams have to put on American soldier outfits before joining their French comrades in the trenches. Meanwhile, the Germans are firing at them from airplanes soaring overhead. Seriously Bertram, you've outdone yourself. This challenge was so flippin cool, with the camera shots from inside the planes, the huge live explosions and the intricate war costumes. You can actually hear the shock in the racers' voices when the planes fly straight over their heads and a bomb goes off ten feet from them. Allie even admits to being quite scared after she says "it's like a real war in here!" Teams are constantly coughing from the smoke and readjusting their helmets after a shockwave of debris flies over them. At a few points, I honestly thought Louie was going to die from the smoke inhalation and excess cardio. Unfortunately for Joe and Heidi, he didn't.
My mom was watching Jay Leno the other night when a clip from this week's episode came on. The segment was introduced as "Dumb TV" and showed the quick blip of Brent and Caite approaching La Main de Massiges. Brent sees something flying around in the air and says, "Oh baby, look, they're up in some sort of flying things." Caite responds with a gasp, then says a long, dragged out "coooool!" After the clip ends, Jay Leno says, "They're called airplanes!" Yeah Jay, we know what airplanes are. I'm guessing Brent and Caite do too, considering they're been traveling in them non-stop for the past few weeks. As human beings on planet Earth, we all have those moments where a word doesn't come to us. Instead, we describe the word. It happens to everyone. Even people who meet Wayne Newton. Outsiders think it's such a blast to make fun of our air-headed moments. Do you know what I say to them? At least I got to take a free trip around the world and do crazy crap like watching flying things up in the air as I crawl around in an army uniform. Bam, one point for Amazing Race alumni.
After the WW1 Detour, Mike and Louie head down the hill only to find the U-Turn mat. Mike walks up to the mat, followed by Louie who still looks like a zombie. After about two seconds of deliberation between Joe/Heidi and Steve/Allie, the detectives decide to take action and use the U-Turn against Joe and Heidi. Getting there first is awkward: do you just pass it up since you have such a huge lead or do you take the opportunity to get rid of a specific team. Unfortunately for Joe and Heidi, the detectives overheard Joe on the bus saying he wasn't afraid of the other teams. That statement, along with Joe's general aura of overbearing confidence and type-A personality traits, put a huge target on Joe and Heidi's back in the detectives' minds. My first thought (I'm guessing shared by most the racers and viewers at home) was "why on Earth wouldn't they U-Turn the cowboys?" They have the most 1st place finishes and are the most physically capable team on The Race. Clearly Mike and Louie aren't that threatened by Jet and Cord. I'm guessing the detectives think the cowboy have no travel background and are clueless about anything not involving Oklahoma or Rodeos. While most may not know this, our season actually had a blind U-Turn in the second Vietnam leg. It was really too early to determine who was the biggest threat (and no one really wanted to become the A-hole team), so the U-Turn was never played - hence the reason it wasn't aired. I actually learned later that one of the teams toward the end (maybe Canaan and Mika?) did indeed play the U-Turn, but the team they chose was ahead of them so it didn't count. All in all, the U-Turn in this episode absolutely destroyed Joe and Heidi.
Jordan (of Dan and Jordan) totally made this episode for me. During the detour, his commentary included quotes such as "I'm just getting ready for war", "They're right behind us sir", "Are you OK sir? Just checking on my fellow soldiers" and "The enemy got us". I love that he got into character and you can tell he was really having a blast during the challenge (no pun intended). Dan gives him a hard time and tells him to shut up a time or two, but all in good fun and brotherly badgering. Jordan is definitely the funny one of the season, and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of his wit and charm for episodes to come. Let's just hope he and his brother can proceed to La Finish Line.
The last few minutes of the episode give us a great little three way scramble between Jeff/Jordan, Brent/Caite and Joe/Heidi. Brent and Caite had to back-track four miles on bike to retrieve a clue they passed over after the Detour. Jeff and Jordan arrived significantly later than everyone else (because of unfortunate navigational choices), and were able to pass Joe and Heidi despite Jordan's slow completion of the crawling Detour. In the end, the Morse Code side of the Detour proved too difficult for Joe and Heidi and Phil had to come eliminate them in the trenches. I have to say, that Morse Code challenge looked REALLY tough, and I honestly think if any other team had been U-Turned, they would have been eliminated. This just goes to show just how much power is held in that U-Turn box. I'm sad for two reasons: 1) I really love Heidi, I think she's a total sweet heart and I hate to see her go 2) This is going to hurt Steve and Allie as their allies are now gone. Hopefully Team Stallie will be able to hold their own. I'm sure they will. After all, Steve is a "Rockstar". Mike and Louie played it well, getting rid of a team they considered a threat and just flat out didn't like. Next week should be interesting; the extended preview on CBS.com is pretty crazy.