By Janell Sutherland
1:47 AM EDT, October 10, 2011
In the latest adventures of "Phil’s Amazing Race," we learn historical facts about Indonesia, helpful things to say when you faceplant in a rice paddy and the fact that you can’t call yourself prepared if you don’t have a spare bicycle pedal in your backpack.
Indonesia is made up of approximately 17,000 islands. I’m not joking for exaggeration, either. I can’t joke about it; my mind is too boggled. Here’s another fact about Indonesia: it was colonized by the Dutch 300 years ago. I don’t think there are enough Dutch people to colonize 17,000 islands, so I’ll assume that they colonized maybe five islands and called it good.
You know how people love their historical reenactments? Civil War re-enactors, Scottish log-throwing competitions? The way they do it in Indonesia is by dressing in snappy khaki uniforms and pith helmets and riding bikes in slow formation through the streets, just like the good old Dutch bike patrols in the 1940s. That’s so civilized, I would much prefer that over any war re-enactment.
Now that you know some good Indonesian trivia, let’s break down the episode.
Those Language Lessons Aren’t Helping Yet
As the teams leave the pit stop, they are instructed to join one of these bike formations and follow it until they get the next clue. Cindy, the hotheaded perfectionist, tells us that her pre-"Race" boot camp included language and geography lessons. It didn’t include bicycle repair, though. Her fiancé, Ernie, loses a pedal off his bike and five teams pass them while it gets fixed. If she had a perfectionist-induced meltdown, we didn't see it.
Running and Rice Paddies Don’t Mix
Teams pick up the Detour clue at a restaurant. I was so prepared for an eating challenge, and thus so prepared to tell you how my brother’s wife cooked scorpions and fed them to her children, but it’s not an eating challenge so I won’t. The choices are either to plant 300 rice seedlings or to carry some big bags of grass and two sheep to a pen, then get them water.
Now imagine about five teams running through the rice paddies and falling on their faces. Grandma Cathi fell three times: “That was a good one,” “I’m OK,” and “I’m good!” She avoided the classic “I’ve fallen and can’t get up,” because she got up. Again and again and again.
When You’re Losing, Keep Making Losing Decisions
Married couple Marcus and Amani arrived at the Detour last because of a bad taxi driver. They tried to feed the sheep but were told to get more grass. Rather than do that, they jumped to the other Detour option. I don’t know how they expected that to go any faster or be any easier, because it wasn’t. It looked as though all the other teams were gone when they finished planting the rice.
Good Karma Keeps Slapping Them in Their Faces
The snowboarders and father/son teams led the pack all episode. They got to the Roadblock at the same time and quickly decided to work together. Picture a huge stone Buddhist temple, built in the eighth century. The Roadblocker has to walk around one level and count the number of statues of Buddha in each of four hand positions, and then demonstrate the hand positions. The task requires clue comprehension and memorization, which are usually in short supply on the Race.
After two tries, Snowboarder and Laurence get the clue for the Pit Stop. While leaving the temple, the Snowboarders run into last-place Marcus and Amani and give them the correct answer to the Road Block! It’s one of the most selfless moves I’ve seen on the race. This delay allows Laurence and Zac to reach the Pit Stop first. However, they used too many water buckets to water their sheep during the Detour, so they incur a 15-minute penalty while the Snowboarders check in and win the first-place prize. They can’t even give first place away. I’m beginning to believe that the snowboarders are awesome.
Foreshadow of Doom
At the beginning of the episode, Vegas girl Kaylani mentioned that she’s a single mother of a beautiful little girl. Her team started in third place, and I wondered why we were getting this personal information unless they were going to either win or lose this leg.
Meanwhile, when Marcus and Amani left the rice paddy in last place, they were accompanied by the Soundtrack of Tragedy, and I thought they would lose. Then Deus ex Machina gave them the answer to the final Roadblock before they even started.
The Roadblock confused everyone, partly because they were too exhausted to remember anything. Marcus couldn’t remember the Snowboarder-supplied answer and had to combine brain power with Team Vegas to get it worked out. Four other teams worked together, too, and Grandpa Bill was the only one to finish on his own.
Marcus and Vegas finished last, but Vegas had to settle their taxi before finding the Pit Stop. Marcus and Amani had ditched their unhelpful cab earlier, so they went straight to Phil. This left Team Vegas in last place. Phil, life counselor and guru, comforted the weeping Kaylani and told her that her daughter would be proud of her, while the Indonesian greeter stood next to him and nodded. Sorry, Vegas, [puts on sunglasses], your luck just ran out. (Sorry, readers, I went for the obvious.)