Monday, October 24, 2011
The hustle and bustle of Thailand's capital city, Bangkok, is calling, my friends. What began as a small trading center and port community has grown exponentially over time into an epicenter of high finance and international travel. This "Venice of the East" laced with canals and dotted with elaborately decorated temples boasts not only a rich cultural history, but a booming industry of sexual delights. Whether it's a "massage" you seek or a dance with a human trafficked sex slave, be sure to add Bangkok to your bucket list. You'd be surprised how many young couples make "practice" trips to Thailand only to find themselves knee deep in opium in the back of sauna and surrounded by a gaggle of lady boys. "Mom, Dad, we're going to Thailand to uh practice for The Amazing Race. See you in a month!" Oh the lies people tell! It's ok young lovers. We won't tattle about the trysts in dark back alleys, the sweaty handed money exchanges, or the things you did to get the Yakuza off your back. That Bangkok '09 bar tour will live on only in your memories (and in the occasional text messages from Malee/Bob). Your secret is safe with us. Let's recap, shall we?
Those annoyingly unstoppable Snowbunnies (Andy & Tommy) are once again the first team to depart and are now instructed to travel by elephant up river to where they'll find their next clue. It turns out that these Jacks of all trades are not only talented athletes (and hardcore stoners), but they're also uber Christian Jesus freaks with bible quotes taped to their backpacks. Oh Christ. If there's one thing that gets my goat, it's glassy-eyed Christians making me uncomfortable with their unabashed love for their lord and savior. Religion is like racism... or beanie baby collecting - it's embarrassing when you openly brag about it and it means that I can no longer take you seriously. So the holy rollers scamper and cavort their way atop an elephant only now their jokes seem less funny, less spontaneous. Getting that inside glimpse into their freaky deeky Jesus worship has tainted the once effervescent man-children. What was once charming is now annoying. What was once "goofball" now seems creepy. I think I've been tricked into attending one too many Christian gatherings for my own good. If you have to trick someone into going to your parties, it probably means that your parties weren't all that cool to begin with, right? Weirdos.
Teams Fresh Prince (Carlton/Justin & Jennifer), Grammer (Camille/Sandy & Kelsey/Jeremy), and Gilligan (Laurence & Zac) trickle in after the Snowbunnies and it is here that we learn just how much faith Laurence has in Zac: none. You see, Zac is merely but a child. Sure he's a child who has sailed around the world all by himself, but he's a child nonetheless. Laurence feels that as the elder statesman, he is the one with the wisdom and attention to detail that will propel them to the finish line quicker. But wasn't it Laurence's "attention to detail" that made him use 85 buckets back in Indonesia and lose first place? In the back of his herky jerky jalopy, Laurence reads and rereads the clue over and over again. He says to Zac, "Be sure we take local transportation. It must be local." Dude, you're in the hills of Thailand on a dirt road surrounded by nothing but vegetation and huts made out of bamboo. I doubt an Amtrak option is awaiting you at the next stop.
The Snowbunnies quickly reach the elephant drop off point and encounter a Road Block: Who wants to hear some water music? Teams must follow the sound of music to a waterfall where a traditional Thai flautist stands and plays a jaunty tune. Once at the waterfall, one team member must search the pool of water for their next clue. The long-haired one dives in and quickly discovers that this pool at the base of the waterfall isn't exactly as majestic as one might think. Oh sure it looks beautiful and inviting on the outside, but underneath the surface it's a murky fetid pool of death. Syringes and bodies bobbed by without a care in the world and I think it's safe to say that Mr. Longhair has a nasty case of the typhoid right about now. He eventually finds the clue near the "flutist' and teams are now instructed to travel by bus to a local shop where they'll disassemble a shrine called a Spirit House and deliver all the pieces to a temple where they'll get their next clue. With an extra ear growing out of his cheek and a prickly rash on his nether regions, Mr. Longhair grabs Mr. Shorthair and off they go.
Meanwhile, Camille is smiling ear to ear on the back of her elephant. She loudly exclaims, "I love my Dumbo!" as she slyly points to Kelsey and winks. Oh Camille, you're so evil. Unfortunately, the wonder of it all ends quickly as Camille decides that she doesn't care for the elephant ride after all. The giant beast of burden is making her car sick and the jagged rocks below have poor Mrs. Grammer scared to death. This is just another one of Camille's quirky idiosyncrasies. One second she loves something and the next second she hates it. Just ask her husband.
At this point Carlton has managed to survive the pool of sludge and emerge with clue in hand. The extra nose growing out of his back might bother him for a while, but I'm sure he'll get used to it eventually. The Snowbunnies are now at the House Of The Spirits and Andy or Tommy decides it's a good idea to get a mental note of where all the pieces go in the event that they have to put the thing back together again. A Spirit House is a lot like a children's doll house. There are figurines and candles and teeny tiny little boxes of cereal in the kitchen area. It's very cute and serves as a shrine to the protective spirit of a place. Spirit Houses are often put in an auspicious location to provide shelter to spirits that could cause problems for people if not appeased. I think it's charming to give ghosts a miniature house to hang out in, but those Jesus-loving Snowbunnies look at it like it's an inferior pagan tool of Satan. When they arrive at the temple at the next Road Block and discover that now they have to reassemble their Spirit House, they take one look around and quickly do the sign of the cross to protect them from all the evil Buddhas staring in their direction. I found it particularly distasteful when Tommy said, right in front of a local woman, "God is definitely greater than the temple." Come on dude! Seriously? Yuck. Andy echoes the sentiment as he says, "We know the one true God. It's pretty straightforward when you read the Bible." Nevermind the fact that Buddhism existed about 400 years before Christianity. Ugh, I'm done with these two. I hope they lose. Better yet, I hope they lose to Team Geritol (Bill & Cathi).
Call it karma chameleon or what have you, but Andy has one hell of a time piecing together his Spirit House. Through his sunglasses (on a cloudy day) and cavalier gum chewing, he decides that it's best if he heads back to where they picked up the Spirit House to take some more detailed notes. Don't fall off the turnip truck on your way back douchebag. Meanwhile at the waterfall, Camille has finally resigned herself to the fact that she must get her hair wet. With Laurence busy bossing around the flautist, Camille dives under the surface and comes up with the clue. Laurence gets his right behind her and the two teams reboard their elephants and promptly get into a traffic jam. Laurence scolds his elephant much like he scolds Zac and with a dramatic sigh sarcastically declares, "Nice day to travel on an elephant, eh?" Oh shut your pie hole Laurence. At least your not Team Parent Trap (Liz & Marie) who are only just now departing.
Back at the temple, Andy finally gets his Spirit House correct and is given his next clue. Teams must now travel 550 miles by bus to Bangkok. When they arrive, they must make their way to a canal where they'll feed some fish and receive their next clue. Feed fish? I hope by "fish" they mean "sharks" and by "feed" they mean "jump in the water and let them eat you".
The other teams make their way to the Spirit House challenge and all are suspicious about just dismantling the houses. Carlton actually borrows his cab driver's camera phone and snaps a shot of his Spirit House before taking it apart while Camille and Kelsey decide to take detailed notes. Young Zac thinks taking notes is a great idea so he reaches for a pad and pen, but Laurence swats it out of his hand and tells him that taking notes is for suckers. This guy is so hellbent on getting first place that he's pretty much ruining the fun for poor Zac.
Jennifer has now proceeded to the reassemble portion at this point and it pleases me to hear her say, "Even though it's a different religion than mine, it still deserves the same amount of respect." Bravo Jennifer. Now stop putting gum in your brother's hair! Even though she took her time and performed the task with delicacy, Jennifer gets her house wrong and has to double check it against her camera phone photo. It turns out she just forgot a tiny little bowl of water for the thirsty ghosts and off Team Fresh Prince goes to Bangkok.
The Twins are just pulling up to the elephants and these two gals are beyond excited. They're talking in unison, they've got smiles on their faces, and I have a feeling that maybe this leg won't end with another brutal killing. If we can just keep these two in a good mood, everything should be ok. You never know what could set them off. Meanwhile, poor Cathi is taking a tumble at the base of the waterfall and landing face first into a pile of dirty diapers. I'm forever bumping into things and twisting my ankles, but Cathi takes the cake when it comes to being a klutz. I'm a little worried for the ole gal though. At her age, a nasty spill means a broken hip, titanium screws, and being bugged by airport security for the rest of her life.
Thanks to Kelsey's scrupulous note taking, he passes the Spirit House challenge quickly while young Zac's house keeps getting rejected. He knew deep down inside that he should have taken notes and it finally dawns on him that there's no way he'll pass this task unless he goes back to check the other houses. He stomps by Laurence as Laurence says, "Don't blame me!" and then mutters under his breath what a pain in the ass his son is. Apparently, Laurence is a master Spirit House builder from way back and this sort of thing just isn't his son's forte. I think Laurence is one of those guys who lives vicariously through his kid's achievements. When they fail, it's like a failure for him as well. Or, maybe he's just an asshole. Who knows? *shrugs shoulders*
At this point the Twins are elbow deep in elephant doody performing their Speed Bump (wash and clean up after elephants), but they don't care in the slightest. Through a cacophony of squeals we learn that these two really love elephants. In fact, they love them so much that the elephant poop doesn't even smell. I think it's like when moms aren't bothered by changing their own babies diapers. A stranger will find the odor pungent and eye watering while a mom will just smile happily and not blink an eyelash. Team Parent Trap are cute and adorable throughout the elephant ordeal and I'm happy to report that everyone involved - elephants too! - escaped with their lives.
Eventually, everyone finishes the Spirit House task and it turns out that the real drama is only just beginning. The Snowbunnies arrive at the bus terminal first and after having to pay $150 to their cab driver, they board the 4:30 bus with Teams Fresh Prince and Grammer. Team Gilligan, however, somehow bought bus tickets from another bus company and were escorted to a first class bus. Zac asks Asshole, I mean Laurence, if it matters that they're on a first class bus. Laurence says, "No, of course not." But after 3 miles of thinking and constant pestering from Zac, Laurence has a change of heart and demands that the bus driver stops the bus and lets them off. They run all the way back to the bus station where, quite possibly, my most favorite scene in Amazing Race history is going down.
You see, Bert & Ernie have arrived at the bus station and are trying to pay their cab driver with American dollars. The cab driver poo-poo's the money and wonders what the hell he's going to do with USD. Ernie insists, loudly, that dollars are much better than the driver's stinky baht money, but the driver is having no part of it. Then Nosey Nancy comes out of nowhere and starts yelling at Bert & Ernie to pay their driver. Bert pulls her by the hair and slams her face down into the pavement while Ernie kicks her repeatedly and yells, "Dollars are better! Dollars are better!" With Nosey Nancy's lifeless trap finally shut, Bert & Ernie turn to their driver and begin to verbally assault him. They shout "You were a terrible driver! You were a terrible driver!" and at home I laughed and I laughed. I was absolutely positive that I had my title in that moment, but how was I to know that the ever surprising Bert & Ernie frequently travel to Bangkok for "visits" with some lady boys? I couldn't possibly know that. I also couldn't possibly know that Ernie would shove an extra $50 up the driver's nose while Bert hog tied him to a pole at the bus terminal. Those self defense classes sure came in handy!
Team Parent Trap is the last team to arrive at the terminal and, for some reason, they've blown through their money much quicker than all of the other teams. Did they hit a Mickey D's on the way back from the Spirit House challenge or something? I have no idea what happened, but after buying their bus tickets and paying their cab driver, the twins are completely out of cash. Meanwhile the bus they're meant to take is driving away and they don't have anymore money to buy new tickets! Now, I know they didn't have any money left over from the last leg so is that how they ended up penniless? I'm not entirely clear on how all of the other teams had sufficient funds, but only the Twins ended up like poor street urchin mole people. Everyone was given $187 at the beginning of this leg. One would assume that they were all given enough cash to actually complete the leg. This money thing is a mystery to me so if you know what happened, please let me know in the comments. In the end, the kindly cab driver took pity on the teary-eyed penniless souls and drove them several miles to catch up with the very bus that had driven away. You see what happens when you don't kill people, girls? The universe pays you back with goodness.
Then again, Bert & Ernie beat the shit out of two people and somehow ended up on the only Express Bus to Bangkok while all of the other buses were running late and had the audacity to actually stop and let people off along the way. Bert & Ernie arrive way ahead of everyone else and it's while relaxing in the back of their cab that we learn of their past "vacations" to Bangkok. Ernie doesn't think their previous knowledge of the city will help them at all (unless they're sent to the famous Patpong Red Light District), but Bert thinks they could come in first place if asked to find "Lady Boys" and place them at Phil's feet. Ernie chuckles knowingly to himself and I scratched my head thinking, "I'd kill to hear that story."
Team Snowbunny, Team Fresh Prince, and Team Grammer finally pull in and they have no idea if they're at the front of the pack or the back. Team Geritol and Team Armani (Marcus & Amani) arrive right after them and it looks to be pretty neck in neck save Team Gilligan and Team Parent Trap.
Bert & Ernie arrive at the canal and in the water waits a bunch of hungry piranha. The sexually promiscuous twosome hurl a helpless goat over the railing and receive their next clue to the Pit Stop at the home of a former Prime Minister. Their cab driver phones a friend for help while Ernie sits in the backseat cutting up with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire jokes about life lines. That Ernie is such a card! The two pick up a prostitute on the way and all three happily "get to know one another" in the backseat.
Meanwhile in the back of their cab, the Grammers are not having as much fun as Bert & Ernie are. They're stuck in a traffic and Camille is sitting with her arms crossed shooting poison arrows out of her eyes at the cab driver while Kelsey is hurled up in a ball in the corner hoping she doesn't lose her shit. Conversely, Team Armani and Team Geritol's cabbies took a shortcut and they flew to the piranha pond! Cathi accidentally hurled a child over instead of a goat, but who cares? They're making great time and working with the Armani's has turned out to be a good choice for the wrinkly pair. In fact, the partnership works out so well that Team Armani comes in first with Bill & Cathi behind them in 2nd place. Wha... wha... what? Those two goofball teams actually managed to beat everyone else? I'm stunned. Positively stunned. They even beat the sexually adventurous Bert & Ernie who ended up in third. Unbelievable.
At this point the Twins have finally arrived and it looks like they're going to have to hoof it all over Bangkok. Some miserable witch at the bus terminal tells them that the piranha pond is only 3 blocks away when, in fact, it turns out that it's 3000 blocks away. The girls take one look around themselves with panic in their eyes and wonder what the hell they're supposed to do. The area they're in is poor and even these two ruthless killers couldn't imagine asking a poor person to give them money for a cab. The girls pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and begin the long journey to feed their animal counterparts, the killer piranhas. Along the way, they bump into a cab driver and since they had such good luck with cabbies back in Phuket, they figure that maybe they'll have some luck here too. Wouldn't you know it? Blonde hair and blue eyes seem to be the magic ticket and the girls score another free ride in a cab. Sure, they've promised to "intern" at a massage parlor over Spring Break 2012, but it's ok. The important thing is that they're still in the race.
The rest of the teams are headed towards the Pit Stop and Team Grammer crosses paths with the same evil witch who was hanging out at the bus terminal giving directions to the Twins. They're told the Pit Stop is within walking distance when, in reality, it's about 30 minutes away. After a stroll down a shady back alley with all sorts of lady boys wanting to borrow some of Camille's clothes, the two hop into another cab and hightail it on outta there.
After some drama at a school where a teacher stole the Snowbunnies clue and refused to give it back, the culturally open-minded (ha!) Andy & Tommy finish in 5th place right after Team Fresh Prince with Team Gilligan behind them in 6th. Evil Phil and his eyebrows took great pleasure in mocking Laurence for leaping off of a first class bus because, it turns out, that the first class rule only applies to airplanes. Laurence is unphased and insists that getting off that bus when he did was a good decision. Evil Phil isn't done yet though. He's still got Camille to mess with. By the time the Grammers make it to the Pit Stop, Camille is convinced that they're in last place. She begins to cry and grab onto Kelsey's wallet for support. Evil Phil looks at them and frowns. He begins his sympathy talk about how hard they've worked and how far they've come. Camille collapses into a puddle, her eyelashes come off, her heels are all scuffed up - she's a mess! Evil Phil takes one glance down and says, "Psych! Just kidding, you're in 7th! *giggle giggle tee hee hee* Oh Evil Phil, you rascal!
Of course that means we must now say goodbye to the cutesy killer twins, Liz and Marie. Through the toughest of battles they never lost their smile and they never gave up. Sure, they're wanted in 5 countries now, but that's ok. They raced hard and they raced for fun. Best of luck to you ladies. You will be missed. So, what did you guys think of last night's episode? Did you like all the Road Blocks one after another? Has your opinion of the Snowbunnies changed? How many lady boys do you think Ernie has listed in his cell phone? Comment it out bitches and have a great day!