Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Memoirs of a Racer

"No time to look at the castle - RUN!"

Welcome back to The Amazing Race! I’m not sure if this only happened where I live, but something was mis-timed between the cable scheduling and the DVR recording instructions and as a result, only the second half of tonight’s episode got recorded. But thanks to the miracle of the interwebs I have downloaded and viewed the entire thing, retrieved pictures, and said my piece. Here we go on leg number nine!

So here we are, back with Phil and the gang in fragrant Mumbai, India – one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world, Phil tells us. The Hippies are first to depart at 1:25 PM, which confuses me because wouldn’t that mean that they arrived at 1:25 AM? But they didn’t; they arrived during daylight. Maybe this was an extra-special 24 hour Pit Stop. I don’t ask questions, I just write the recaps. Okay, that’s a total lie – I ask millions of questions. Anyway, the clue tells The Hippies to fly to Osaka, Japan. Lucky! I have for quite some time wanted to visit Japan. It looks like this is the closest I will get for the time being, so I’m quite excited. When they land they have to take a taxi to Kishiwada Castle to look for the next clue. Here Rachel takes a moment out to tell us that self-confidence is a problem for her, but since she’s been in the Race with TK she feels much more secure. That warms my heart. They find a travel agency and the guy behind the desk has a huge framed photo of what looks like a fashion model sitting next to his computer. Either he lucked out and got a smoking hot wife or he is slightly insane. The Hippies set him to work looking for a flight to Osaka.

"How do you like my #2 wife?"

Nick and Grandpa Donald leave next and as they head out Nick tells us that it’s a big responsibility being the leader of a team for The Amazing Race. Oh, Nick’s the leader? Is that why in the beginning Grandpa did everything? Because the leader delegated it that way? Interesting theory there, Nick. Grandpa tells us that he’s having more and more trouble keeping up with Nick, but that he’s going to keep pushing. You go, Grandpa! Don’t let that tattoo be for nothing! Grandpa also tells us that back when he was in the service he wanted to go to Japan so this is a dream come true for him 50 years later.

Moronald and Christina are next and when Moronald discovers that they are headed for Japan he gets excited to visit the “Land of Sushi.” I admit, that does sound delicious. Remember when he was excited for the pastries in Lithuania? Christina tells us that she spent half a year in Japan learning Japanese. She’s sharp as a tack, this one. She knows the basic niceties in every country they’ve visited. Highly impressive, Christina. Moronald tells us privately that he knows he gets too explosive and that it isn’t right. Not that he’s going to change, mind you, but he is aware.

Nick and Grandpa bypass any travel agency stops and go straight to the airport to find a flight. Moronald and Christina, however, decide to find an agency and get the help of a professional. They go to a money exchange place, which apparently can also book airline flights. Those silly Indians.

"We'd also like our teeth cleaned. Can you do that, too?"

Now The Babies are off and they each take a turn telling us that this is going to be the leg where they stop fighting. Yeah, yeah. We hear this every week. What would be left of your relationship if the two of you laid off of each other, huh? The only thing you have in common is your mutual hatred. Plus it keeps things interesting, so fight on, Crazy Pants! Nate relates a “fantasy” he had a few nights ago in which he and Jen are running to the finish line and he throws his bag at the legs of other Racers who may be in front of them. Then Scarlett Johansson and not Phil is waiting at the mat wearing nothing but a string bikini and the words “Go Nate!” painted across her midriff. Okay, so I threw in the last part to make it a believable “fantasy.” We know what makes Nate tick. Women who aren’t Jen.

We stop in with The Hippies at their travel agency and I realize that the picture of the model may be a calendar, so I take back what I may or may not have said earlier about the guy who works there. He finds them a flight that leaves at 6:55 PM, and TK asks about 45 times if that is the earliest possible way for them to get to Japan. The repeated questioning is making me worried that we are being forewarned of something.

Nick, as the leader of his team, purchases tickets for a flight that leaves at 8:30 PM. The Babies arrive at the airport and get the same tickets. Over at the money exchange Christina asks their agent if he is putting them on a direct flight from Bombay to Hong Kong and the guy says yes. Then Moronald pipes up, accusing Christina of using the wrong word because “direct” could include three or four stops. What she should have said is “non-stop.” Oh zip it, Moronald. Direct does mean non-stop. Everyone knows that. Christina snaps at him in Chinese to leave her alone. I’m really liking the new feisty Christina.

'Atta girl!

Moronald just goes, “Oh, okay.” HA! When they get to the airport, Moronald starts off on another of his tirades because their taxi driver let them off a ways down from the entrance to Air India instead of right in front of it. Christina tells him not to waste energy complaining about it, to which he agrees, but then keeps right on complaining about all the good money he gave to the taxi driver just to be let off at the wrong place! Maybe if you throw a complete tantrum, Moronald, you will be magically teleported to the correct entrance and all of your problems will be solved. What’s that you say? You’ve tried that?

At the airport it turns out that all of the teams except for The Hippies are on the 8:30 PM flight, so everyone starts wondering where The Hippies are. In fact, they are on their airplane and ready to take off. Phil steps in to tell us that The Hippies are flying to Osaka, Japan by way of first New Delhi, then Beijing.

See how this illustrates that two stops
take longer than one stop?

The other teams are flying to Osaka with only one stop in Hong Kong. Uh oh, this could be very dangerous for the Hippies with any delays or layovers. When the Hippies arrive in New Delhi, they are slightly worried that they haven’t encountered any of the other teams yet. This makes it unclear as to whether they are way ahead or way behind everyone else. It’s very unsettling.

The three other teams arrive in Osaka at 2:30 PM and The Hippies are nowhere to be seen. The editing makes it look like they are just now boarding the flight from Beijing, putting them significantly behind everyone else.

Are you sure this is the fastest way to Osaka?

As Nick and Grandpa Donald walk through the airport, Grandpa comments that Nick is like his bitch because he’s very strong and carrying Grandpa’s backpack around for him. LOL, Grandpa. How do you like that, Team Leader Nick? The Babies are first to get in a taxi to find the Kishiwada Castle and Jen tells us it’s about time they start beating the other, older teams. True, both Nick and Grandpa AND Moronald and Christina have come in first before, but not The Babies. Moronald and Christina get the next taxi and Christina immediately tells the driver in Japanese that it is very important that they get to the castle quickly. I hear the word “Ichiban” and want sushi.

In the taxi Grandpa Donald observes that Japan seems like a very clean and wonderful country. That’s what I hear about Japan, but these people just left India so a Manhattan subway station would probably look clean and wonderful by comparison. The Babies talk about being off to Kishiwada Castle and then do a little rendition of something saying, “King of the castle, king of the castle,” and doing some stiff arm movements.

"See how in sync we are?"

Now, I am a television blogger so I should recognize this, right? I searched and I think it’s Borat. I’m slipping! What are they doing? It’s another of those rare moments where they are being cute with each other. Moronald and Christina wonder where The Hippies are, as do Nick and Grandpa. Nick says, “Maybe they went to Osaka, India.” Oh, hardy har, har, Nick. Grandpa goes, “Anything is possible on The Race.” And CBS has a new sound byte to use for their promos. Thanks, Grandpa!

The Babies arrive first at Kishiwada Castle and start running around the grounds looking for the clue box. They find it pretty quickly out behind the castle across a little lake. The clue tells them to take a taxi to JR Kanjosan Noda Station and find a cleaning man who will give them the next clue. They run back around to the street just as Moronald and Christina arrive and The Babies are happy that they were fast enough to prevent Moronald and Christina from seeing which direction they were coming from. Nick and Grandpa are in their taxi wondering if Moronald and Christina know Japanese. Grandpa says he wouldn’t be surprised if Christina does because “She’s at some big ‘falutin’ college and everything like that.” That is hilarious! Such a grandfatherly thing to say. Nick goes, “’Falutin’ college?” And Grandpa confirms that Christina goes to Princeton. High falutin’ indeed. The Princeton lady herself is just now getting frustrated because she and Moronald are wandering through the castle museum instead of the castle grounds – duh. But then she gets the bright idea to step out onto a balcony and scan the grounds for the clue, which she quickly spots. She and Moronald run down and grab the clue then head back to their taxi. Nick and Grandpa also look from the balcony and spot the clue. Poor Grandpa huffs and puffs behind Nick as he sprints across the grounds to fetch the clue. In the cab Grandpa announces that he needs water. This is making me nervous.

The new face of dehydration.

As The Babies make their way to the Noda Station Jen remarks that there are no street signs in English and Nate goes, “That’s why we’re not drivin’ babe.” Then Moronald and Christina discuss how complicated the roads are and notice that their driver is relying completely on GPS. Christina says, “I’m never driving in Japan.” More foreshadowing? The Babies find their cleaning man vacuuming a map (cleanliness – you would never see this in India… or America) and he hands them their clue, which is a Road Block.

"No dust! No dust!"

The clue says, “Who’s the backseat driver?” Jen decides that she is and then we get a visit from Phil!

"I'll be YOUR backseat driver."

Phil explains that in this Road Block one of the team members will find out firsthand just what it takes to navigate the congested streets of Osaka by becoming a taxi driver. The team member performing the challenge must don a hat and white gloves like local cabbies (how cute!) and drive a Japanese couple five miles to the center of the labyrinth that is Osaka without inviting a local to lead them or join them in the cab to help or getting help from the couple. When they drop the couple off at their destination the couple will hand them the next clue, but then they have to navigate alone back to their partners at the Noda Station before opening the clue. Whew!

Jen puts on her hat and gloves and gets into her taxi. She takes a moment to check herself out in the rearview mirror to see how she looks in her “uniform.” The woman of Jen’s Japanese couple totally rolls her eyes watching Jen preen.

Exactly, Japanese lady.

Moronald and Christina get the clue and Christina decides to do the Road Block since she speaks Japanese, but then she reads what she has to do and you can tell she is not pleased. I think she even says f***, but we can only see her mouth move as that word is not appropriate for network television. Or for TVgasm (ha ha ha ha ha). Or for my parents to read. Moronald says that Christina is a bad driver because she has no sense of direction. Well, at least she knows how to stay calm in a crisis, Moronald. I feel bad for Nate for the first time ever because he has to hang out with Moronald while the girls do the challenge. Actually, maybe I don’t feel so bad. Nate deserves this.

Each Japanese couple hands their driver an address that is written in kanji (or hiragana or katakana, like I’m that smart), so Christina can read it, but Jen can’t. Christina’s problem, however, is that she isn’t really sure how to drive the car because she only uses public transportation at home. Jen hops back out to beg people to help her translate her instructions and after being denied several times someone helps her. As she drives along, her couple is pointing out the window and talking to each other, so you get the feeling Jen isn’t doing this the best way, but they can’t help her. Christina has to stop and ask for directions almost immediately as well. Her couple seems highly amused watching her fumble around with turning the car off.

"Clazy gill."

Nick and Grandpa arrive at the station and get the clue and Nick decides to do the Road Block because Grandpa is really tired and needs water. Nick puts his taxi driver hat on all wickety wack because he’s cool like that and starts asking people to help him translate his address card.

"Can you riz-ead my ciz-ard?"

Jen gets lost and starts to panic, whining, “Ooohhh, how did this happeeeenuh?” I bet her couple loves that. Christina is also confused, concluding that driving skills would have helped her more than Japanese for this challenge. Nick sets out with his couple and says that he’s had experience driving in Ireland so he’s used to driving on the right side of the car and the left side of the street. He’s all attentive to his couple and asks if they would like air conditioning. Meanwhile Moronald and Grandpa Donald are back at the train station chowing down on something.


It turns out that the destination for this little taxi trip is a post office and Jen is the first one to successfully get her couple there on the correct side of the one way street to be dropped off. She lets them out while dancing around and squealing about how excited she is and they just watch her and hand her the clue. She sets off back to the train station. Christina makes it next and is now on her way back to the train station as well. Nick makes it third and says he thinks he remembers how to get back to the train station and hopes that he can pull ahead. As Jen and Christina find their way back to the train station, they both find themselves on the wrong side of the street and unable to pull around to the right side. Jen figures it out first and she and Nate read the clue. The next task is to go by taxi to Kita-Mido Temple and find another clue.

They get into their taxi and Jen tries to explain to their non-English speaking driver that they are in a race and need to hurry. She tries to pantomime running, but he won’t even turn around to look at her so it is of no use. Christina is next and as she and Moronald get into their taxi she again asks for Ichiban and I could really go for a rainbow roll right now. Meanwhile Nick has gotten himself lost by not taking the same route back to the train station that he took to get to the post office and he says that landing an airplane is simpler than trying to drive around Osaka. Come on, Nick, you are the team leader! We get a shot of Nick actually stopped in the middle of an intersection and there are all kinds of horn honking sound effects while Grandpa Donald paces around the train station. No sign yet of The Hippies.

Ah hah! The Hippies are landing at long last and getting into their first cab to find the Kishiwada Castle. TK says they are glad to feel like they are back in the race, whether they are ahead or behind at this point. Back in The Babies’ taxi, Jen is trying to explain to Nick just how difficult it was for her to drive the taxi and find the post office, but he shushes her, saying that he can’t pay attention right now because he is too distracted watching their driver. Of course, this sends Jen into a pout and I feel like we are on the brink of another bicker.

"We were going to be nice this leg! I hate you!"

Moronald and Christina have a driver who looks pretty old and starts wheezing while he drives them around. Christina tries to ask him if he is okay, but he won’t answer, he just keeps wheezing and Moronald compassionately says, “I just hope he doesn’t croak on us.” I’m sure, Moronald, that is because you are concerned with his health and not just your standing in the contest, right?

"I hyperventilate around mean people."

The Babies get to the Kita-Mido Temple where the clue box is directly front and center. It’s a Detour! Welcome, Phil. The choices this lovely afternoon are Sense of Touch or Sense of Smell. In Sense of Touch the teams must play a game of soccer acted out by miniature robots that are controlled by cell phone (!) and each must score one goal against Japanese players. In Sense of Smell the teams go to a flower shop that sells only artificial flowers. They must go through the two-story shop and locate one real flower hidden amongst thousands of silk flowers using only their noses. No touching! When they find a real flower, the shop owner will give them their next clue. Arigatou, Phil!

The Babies decide to select which task to perform based on which location is closest. They accost a man on the street just as Moronald and Christina pull up to the temple and grab the clue. It seems that each location is about 10 minutes away, but The Babies choose the flowers because Jen says she has the sense of smell of a bloodhound. Charming. Moronald and Christina also choose the flowers and Nick is still driving around Osaka in circles. He finally gets back to collect Grandpa and they head out in a taxi. As The Babies jog toward the flower shop Jen keeps (blood)hounding Nate to run, run, run! Moronald does the same to Christina. The Babies arrive and realize just how many flowers they will be sniffing and get right to work.

My favorite passerby of the evening.

Nick says there’s no way he can identify real flowers – good call, Nick, I can’t see a straight guy succeeding at that one, so he and Grandpa are on their way to robot soccer. Christina makes Moronald blow his nose before beginning the flower search and they decide to start smelling on the second floor since The Babies are covering the first floor and there’s no point in retracing their steps. Nick takes Grandpa’s backpack so they can both run and Grandpa tells us that he is afraid of letting Nick down. Nick tells us he’s afraid of letting himself down as well. Okay, I guess this is all about Nick. They arrive at robot soccer and receive no instructions, only cell phones with which to control the robots. This looks so Japanese! Like Japanese in the way that it is totally sophisticated and complicated, but eight-year-old children excel at it and it will be coming to America soon for our children to excel at. Poor Grandpa Donald is frustrated because he doesn’t play video games or even own a computer. I’m right there with you, Grandpa Donald! And I’m several decades younger. It’s only the wee ones these days who can understand the newfangled devices.

Domo Arigatou, Mr. Roboto!
(You knew that was coming.)

Over at the flower shop Jen tells us that she’s getting lightheaded from all of the sniffing and that she’s starting to feel like she’s in a Pink Floyd music video. Oooh, The Hippies should love this challenge! Moronald and Christina are also sniffing along and Moronald tells us that he’s trying to be encouraging so that Christina won’t feel like she’s being demoralized by an old man dragging her down. Um, you’re about eight legs too late, Moronald.

"All I can smell is you, Daddy."

The Babies are reaching that stage where they are hating on each other because they can’t finish the challenge. At robot soccer Nick finally manages to score a goal, so now Grandpa has to score one and they can proceed.

We bounce over to The Hippies who are still riding along in a taxi and they have no idea if they are way behind or way ahead because they haven’t seen another team since leaving the Pit Stop. The Babies give up on the first floor of the flower shop and run upstairs to try sniffing around on the second floor. Jen starts whining that they should have done the robot challenge, causing Nate to criticize her attitude. Fight, fight! Grandpa is having trouble making his robot score and Moronald and Christina are not finding any real flowers either. FINALLY Jen thinks she smells something so she pulls out a flower and she and Nate tear down to the shop owner who smells it and gives them the clue. They must now travel by taxi to Tempozan Park, the Pit Stop! The last team to check in may be eliminated. It looks like The Babies just might get their first win! As they run around in their usual frenzy looking for a taxi Christina smells a real flower. The green-haired shop owner hands them the clue and off they go.

The Babies can’t find a driver who knows where Tempozan Park is, but I think it must be a matter of pronunciation because the first driver Christina approaches in Japanese knows right where to take them. The Babies finally enlist the help of a passerby who hails a taxi for them and explains to the driver where they need to go. Aw, that’s sweet. The man tells the driver that his friends need to get to Tempozan in a hurry. Arigatou, cute man! As Jen climbs into the taxi Nate nudges her with his hand and she flops down yelling that she can’t believe Nate would push her like that. He yells back that he didn’t push her. This must be the spirit of camaraderie that these two are always talking about achieving.

In a more peaceful taxi, Christina is very happy to point out that Moronald hasn’t yelled at her all day and that finally, on this, the ninth leg of the race Moronald has not lost his temper once. He came pretty close though, when the cab driver didn’t drop them off right in front of Air India as I recall. At robot soccer Nick is finally able to coach Grandpa into his goal and they receive the final clue. Moronald and Christina’s driver has to ask someone for directions to Tempozan Park, so maybe The Babies’ problem wasn’t just a matter of pronunciation as I thought before. The driver figures it out and Moronald and Christina come in first place! There is a lovely lady for once standing next to Phil to welcome them to Osaka, Japan.

"We do not become Geisha to fulfill our own destiny."

For winning they will each receive an electric vehicle that seats four. Hmm. That’s interesting. I wonder how happy The Babies would have been to win those. I’ll take a Hummer, please. Phil asks Christina if her dad is improving, seeing as they came in first, and Christina says he’s improving “worlds.” I’m not so sure about that, but oh well, I guess she’s excited to win.

The Babies come in second and try to refrain from pulling each other’s hair out. Jen vows that now it is “on.” They are sick of coming in second and they are learning their lesson not to bicker. Nate says that the best team is going to finish last and it will be them. There is the sound of a needle skidding off of a record and Jen looks and him and says, “Last?” Nate’s like, “Duh, I mean finish the last leg first.” Okay, enough of these two. Nick and Grandpa arrive at the mat with Nick carrying Grandpa’s bag and Phil looking like he’s about to pass out from dysentery or some other debilitating disease (but I think it may just be the lighting) and Grandpa tells us that he’s almost 69 (hee hee), making him 45 years older than almost everyone else but he’s still hanging in there. Rock on, Grandpa! You are very inspiring. The pretty Japanese lady stands there looking bored and smiling. Aw, good sport.

Phil's caught Beriberi.

And now we join the nearly-forgotten Hippies. They are just now arriving at Kishiwada Castle which is closed for the day, making it difficult for them to find the clue. But find it they do and locate the cleaning man at the train station, still vacuuming his map and ready to hand Rachel the clue telling her to become a taxi driver. We watch their progress as a montage and Rachel voices over that TK came into her life when she was surrounded by a lot of negativity and he was like a beam of light for her. Rachel also finds a real rose in the artificial flower shop and TK tells us how proud he is of them for staying so positive through all of this and I have to admit that he’s totally right. They have never flipped out or lost it and they’ve done really well despite many obstacles. Aw, they may be unwashed, but they are a sweet couple.

So close!

They get to the mat and Phil tells them they are last, but TA DA! This is the other non-elimination leg! I knew it! There are three teams in the final episode, right? And we knew there was still one more non-elimination leg, so it had to be this week. Congratulations, TK and Rachel – you are still in this! Of course, on the next leg they will start out three hours behind everyone else and have to encounter a speed bump, but they will live to see another day.

Next week, The Babies are out for blood, Nick calls all the other teams “pansies,” and Christina tries to convince a ticket agent to lie to her competitors. It’s all a nail-biting race to see who will be in the grand finale!

So what do you think? Do The Hippies stand a chance at making up all their lost time?

Thanks for reading!
-Honey Gangsta

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