Monday, February 21, 2011

We're In This Thing, Baby!

The Amazing Race - the show that's let me down for the past year, the show that wears budget cuts like a scarlet letter - is back and it's back with a vengeance. Familiar faces, High Definition, and - my favorite part - the rerecording of the musical score. Epic, sweeping, grand, majestic... it bears the Bruckheimer stamp with pride. Violins, cellos, oboes, french horns, kazoos, combs, spoons... it's all there. Staccato, marcato, legato, Demi Lovato. I'm the type of person that gets caught up in the majesty of things and a well placed musical score is at the top of that list (right above awards shows and Bad Girls Club premiere night). So, you got me Amazing Race. You got me back. I'll travel the world with you and I might actually even enjoy it this time around. I'll watch Phil in his chokers, Members Only jackets, and humongous pants. I'll pause, type, pause, type my way through foreign landmarks and cities. I'll do the work if you'll do the work. We're in this together now. Let's recap, shall we?

Palm Springs, California - the second windiest place on Earth. The town that inexplicably grows an unusual amount of dates. That's not a Phil fact, that's a Lala fact. I've been to Palm Springs many times in my life and I'm always struck by the gigantic date trees lining the golf courses. I mean, seriously, who the hell eats dates? Anyhow, the iconic windmills are spinning, a rainbow is piercing the sky, Phil is in his ill-fitting pants and the eleven familiar teams come flying over the hill in dune buggies. I fling some hemlock into the air and hope against all hopes that Team Viper (Jaime & Cara) flips theirs over into a horrifyingly bloody vehicular suicide. That would be the best season opener ever! To my dismay, they live. *sigh* I'll add some eye of newt next time.

So all the teams are lined up in front of Phil and he's giving them his big welcome speech about how they all sucked on their original seasons so now they're getting a second chance at the million dollars. Margie whoops and I'm instantly annoyed. Team Widow's Peak (Amanda & Kris) smiles and I begin to fantasize about shaving that idiot's head when he sleeps. Team Viper stands there surrounded in flames so I run to get my crucifix. And Team Ass Burgers... well, those two chuckleheads are standing there in Harlem Globetrotters t-shirts without a care in the world. I didn't even notice it at first, but when I finally did I actually started crying from laughing so hard. So subtle, so genius. I mean, that took planning. They actually sat - probably on a filthy futon in Justin's apartment - and one of them said to the other, "Hey, you know what we should do?" and the Harlem Globetrotters prank was born. I love it! Major pay off. Nicely done. I'm dying to know what the Globetrotters said about it.

Phil continues with his introduction and we learn that the dreaded Express Pass is back for the team that finishes this leg first. I hate that damn thing. When it gets into the hands of the wrong team, it's the worst. Whoever holds the Express Pass is able to skip over any challenge of their choosing. It's a major game changer and a royal pain in my ass. Although, methinks whomever wrote Phil's Express Pass speech also wants to dry hump the Express Pass in the back of one of those dune buggies. It was as badly written as this blog is: "The Express Pass is back. The team that finishes this leg first wins the Express Pass. The Express Pass is good. You want the Express Pass. With the Express Pass you can skip over a challenge. The goal is to get the Express Pass. Express Pass, Express Pass, Express Pass!" Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Then Phil gets all taunty-like and tells the teams to look at how their clues aren't on their backpacks. "This race is very very different", he declares in a sing-songy voice. Phil goes on to say that the the clue is in his hands and then he waves it dramatically in front of all the confused wide-eyed competitors. I quickly sat upright as I assumed (naturally) that each team would then have to wrestle him one by one for the clue. As I'm sure Zev wrestles dirty and Team Viper has throwing stars in their bras, I eagerly anticipated this new development. "Phite Phil" turned out to be nary but a dream as the teams were instructed to go hunting for paper airplanes instead.

The first eight teams to get the correct paper airplane depicting what company provides Queensland and the Northern Territories aerial services will be on the first flight. The last three sucky teams who aren't smart or fast enough will be on the second flight that lands a whole 90 minutes later. But wait, there's more! The very last team gets an automatic U-Turn on the next leg and has to complete both sides of the first Detour.

Now, it's time for Phil's big moment and... he blows it. Look, Phil doesn't do much on this show, but the one thing he has to nail every season is the start of the race. It has to be big. It has to be strong. It has to be dramatic. Helicopters with cameramen hanging out of them are sweeping around waiting to catch this one move. Raise the arm up high, pause dramatically and then drop it down strong. It should be a WHOOSH! What does Phil do? He limply raises his wrist and drops it while he curtsies to the side. "Go!", he hiccups. *sigh* You suck, Phil.

OK so the paper airplane the teams are looking for should say "Qantas". I've never been to Australia, but I have common sense and a lot of useless pop culture knowledge (Travolta is the Qantas Good Will Ambassador) so of course I immediately knew the answer. Some of the other teams, not so much. In the end, Team Eminem (Mel & Mike), Team Ass Burgers, Team Cowpat (Jet & Cord), Team Banshee (Kent & Vyxsin), Team Takai (Ron & Christina), Team Globetrotter (Flight Time & Big Easy), Team Viper and Team What? (Margie & Luke) are all on the first flight. Team Pee Pee (Kisha & Jen) and Team Christ (Gary & Mallory) are on the second flight with Team Widow's Peak in last place. They are, in fact, rather ceremoniously, "U-Turned again!" Ahahaha! Suck it losers.

The first flight takes off and the teams aboard are comfortably confident. What happens next no one could have anticipated. A man on the flight has a heart attack and the plane must land in Hawaii ASAP. Seeing the man's feet and the flight crew leaning over working on him was almost impossible to watch. I was horrified as the rush of my own memories of a similar experience came flooding back. How do you suppose Team Viper reacted? Well, they rolled their eyes and bitched about the inconvenience. Thankfully, Big Easy was there to add some civility to the scene as he commented that the most important thing was that the man was ok.

So, in a strange twist of fate the second flight has actually landed first and the race is on. Teams have to make their way to Sydney Harbor where they will then take a ferry to Oceanworld Manly to find their next clue. Team Christ arrives first where they encounter a Road Block: Who's ready to get tanked? *raises hand* Meeee!!! Oh wait, it's not a drinking contest. I take it back. Rescinded. Teams actually have to go inside a giant tank with sharks and a sting ray the size of a queen size mattress to find a compass at the bottom somewhere. Oh hell no. I've made fun of many teams on this show for being scared of dumb ass things, but there's no way in hell I'd get in that tank. I scream and panic if I suspect a jellyfish is within 200 yards of me. Do you think I'd willingly give a sting ray the opportunity to wrap someone as cute as I am up like a burrito? Puh-lease. That being said, I love this challenge. It's nice and scary. After teams find the compass, they have to decode a message made out of flags and deliver the phrase that pays (I am between the devil and the deep blue sea) to some Commodore guy.

Mallory, Kisha and Amanda step up to do the challenge and I have nothing but respect for them. I still don't understand how they put people in that tank. I googled the place and anybody can do it for $250 Australian dollars! That's fucking nuts. What if a realllly hungry shark just eats someone one day? I'll bet there's a hell of a release form you have to sign. I swam with dolphins once in the Bahamas and I didn't have to sign shit. In fact, I think I was handed a Bahama Mama before I entered the water. All they told me was don't rub the dolphins by their belly buttons or they get horny. Rules like that, I understand - I say the exact same thing to all my suitors. Rules like "Keep your fingers and toes away from the rows of razor sharp teeth" are rules best walked away from.

OK so at this point the second group of teams is en route to the Aquarium and Team Cowpat is wasting no time making some ridiculous mistakes early on. I realize their "thing" is to isolate themselves, but sometimes staying with the group is the better option. Their isolation causes them to miss the crucial second ferry to Oceanworld and they are now in last place. Back at Manly, Mallory is beginning to cipher the message so she turns to her favorite person, Jesus, for some help. Somewhere Jaime got a twitch in her eye and Cara started convulsing and spitting pea soup. Speaking of Team Viper, they arrive at Oceanworld with the majority of everyone else and Cara, Flight Time, Margie and Justin decide to brave the waters where Kisha is seemingly lost in a school of fish. Amanda & Mallory sit stumped by all the pretty flags hanging overhead.

Kisha finally finds her compass as Margie for some reason begins digging in the sand. Meanwhile Justin gets his head bitten off by a giant turtle and the smell of the blood sends all the sharks into a tizzy. Vyxsin enters the tank, much to Kent's delight, and she looks like a lovely pink haired mermaid... who also happens to wear a dog collar, combat boots and likes to pet her tarantula named Lestat while Switchblade Symphony plays in the background. Very mermaid-like. Amidst the loveliness of Vyxsin's billowing hair, Justin, Margie, Flight Time and Cara all find their compasses.

Up out of the carniverous tank from hell, Team Cowpat is just arriving at Oceanworld as Mallory is correctly delivering her message to the Commodore where they receive the next clue. Teams have to help sail a 16 ft skiff as they race across the waters of Manly Bay and grab a clue off a buoy. Now, I don't know what a skiff is, but if it's anything like a spliff, we could be in for a fun time.

Back at Oceanworld, Justin is attempting to decode the message while Amanda's ears continue to blow steam. The others teams trickle in as the smell of metal and blood fill the air. Team Viper and Team What? have just plunged the ceremonial dagger of evil into their souls and now they're in an annoyingly temperamental alliance. Kisha and Amanda deliver their messages correctly - which, I have to admit, kind of shocked me - and they proceed on to smoke a spliff. I mean, sail a skiff. I thought it was going to be really hard to grab a clue while racing sailboat, but it turned out to be easy as not one person misses their clue. Back in the tank of death, Christina, Mel, Jet and Vyxsin are just now finding their compasses.

After teams get out of their sailing gear, they have to make their way to Shelly Beach where Phil awaits in an enormous hat (way to mix it up Phil!) which is the first Pit Stop for this leg of the race. Gary & Mallory beat Amanda & Kris to the Pit Stop and Team Christ wins the Express Pass. Mallory inexplicably attacks her own face with her hands as Phil informs them that the race is still on and they're heading to the "back and beyond" (the Outback?). Mallory sighs and giggles in exhausted bewilderment as Phil gently reminds her that the race is still on. She brushes her hair aside, continues to talk about how surprised she is and, in general, just won't shut the fuck up. Phil tells her to stop dilly dallying and she responds by saying how happy she is. Phil begins hurling boomerangs at her head as he shouts, "Stop talking and just go!" Finally, the dumb bitch leaves and Amanda & Kris are allowed to enter into frame to claim second place with Team Pee Pee right behind them in third.

Now we arrive at my favorite part of the episode. Team Ass Burgers correctly delivers their message to the Commodore followed by Margie who incorrectly delivers hers. Cara ignores the fact that Margie (her alliance partner) is wrong and decides to deliver her message anyways. She says, "I am the devil" and at home I took a sip of my champagne and shouted, "You got that right!" Meanwhile Team Globetrotter has decided to just completely give up on the challenge altogether and see what the other teams are up to. In a stroke of luck they encounter a very generous Justin as he tells Big Easy what the message is. B.E. shouts, "I owe you one!" and Justin replies, "Yeah you do!" Awww nice nice, but that's not the best part. The best part is when Flight Time delivers the message, he whispers it so those stupid evil bitches can't hear him. Ha! Love it.

So then, Zev & Justin are changing into their sailing gear and I catch a glimpse of Justin's man sweater. Impressive. He and Ralph (Survivor: Redemption Island) should get together and go bowling. They'll have lots to talk about - like waxing and electrolysis options. Margie, completely unphased by back fur, asks Justin if he'll help her out. Justin says, "Step off bitch!" Then one of the redheads hangs over the railing and begs for help as well. Justin gives her the hand and shouts, "Bitch, shut yer face!" Yup. That's exactly how it went down. It was at this precise moment in time that I pushed pause and went down into my dank and musty basement. There was something I needed to retrieve. In a dark corner behind my collection of Absinthe bottles and on top of my Xena doll collection sat a box covered in dust. I took the box, blew some dust off the top and retrieved my treasure. It was my lilac colored TEAM ASS BURGERS t-shirt. Ignoring the stale smell of gin and Smartfood popcorn, I put it on and wore it proudly. And, just cuz she was there, I grabbed Huntress Xena and went back upstairs to watch the rest of the episode.

Zev & Justin are cruising along like the Skipper and Gilligan that they are while the Globetrotters have sunken not only their boat, but the few Australian gentlemen who were helping them. Happily though, the jaunty Globetrotter theme song played in the background so it's all ok. Meanwhile, Christina and Mel have the right message, but for some reason Christina decides to let Team Viper and Team What? follow them and eavesdrop as she shouts her message to the Commodore. And for that one fatal mistake, I no longer care for Team Takai. Anyone who helps Team Viper is instantly an enemy.

Alright, I really need to wrap this up. Team Ass Burgers and Team Globetrotter finsh in 4th and 5th place, respectively while Margie decides to go ahead and tell Team Banshee what the message is. She says that Team Banshee isn't a threat to her at all so helping them is a good idea. That's interesting. Call me crazy, but unless they're really old, they're a threat. Team Viper finishes 6th followed by Margie & Luke, Team Takai, Team Eminem and Team Banshee. The lone team left is Team Cowpat. Jet unscrambles a message that makes no sense whatsoever yet he's somehow surprised to discover it's incorrect. The episode actually ends with a big TO BE CONTINUED and a parting shot of Jet struggling to decode the message... again. To be continued? Well, that means that it was a nonelimination leg, right? If someone was going to get eliminated, they would have ended it with Team Cowpat getting sent home.

So, what did you guys think? I actually really enjoyed it. I'm happy my boys are back and so far the challenges aren't lame. Who are you guys rooting for? Who do absolutely not want to win? Will Jet ever solve the puzzle? Next week is the Oscars and they trump everything of course so bloggy blog here might be up a little late... again. Comment it out bitches and have a great day!