The Amazing Race 7: Episode 5

I've Wanted a Face Lift For a Long Time

By Reagen Sulewski

March 30, 2005

They're smiling now...

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Welcome back to The Motorcycle Diaries, already in progress! Wait, no, it’s the fifth leg of The Amazing Race 7. A marathon two hours long on TV (my editor weeps), CBS promises us spills, thrills and chills, and just maybe, we might even leave the South American continent.

Yes indeed! Rob & Amber receive their clue, at 3:00 a.m., which directs them to Johannesburg, South Africa, as the producers continue to show the Southern Hemisphere much love.

Brian & Greg leave 38 minutes later, and are openly rooting for the breakdown of the relationships of the other five remaining couples. It’s no good to root, guys, you have to be proactive! Season 2’s Chris openly hit on Tara of Tara & Wil… let’s see you do the same to, uh, Kelly? On the other hand, not interacting with the back of the pack has clearly kept them from realizing that the breakdown process is already underway for Ray & Deanna.

Rob & Amber and Brian & Greg both end up on the same flight to South Africa, which does not leave Buenos Aires until 10:55 that morning. We are told it is the only flight out today, which means that any leads are basically wiped out.

This is very good news for the rest of the teams, starting with Uchenna & Joyce, who are a little less than three hours behind in third place. Ron & Kelly are slightly more than three hours back in fourth. She believes that the two of them are working out their issues together, though as seen a couple of episodes ago, Ron is already debating whether to jump out of the moving taxi.

There’s potential drama at the airport, as Uchenna & Joyce and Ron & Kelly are all made to check their backpacks, which as we saw last episode, is a recipe for falling behind. Lynn & Alex arrive to what they think may be one of the last seats on the flight, and believe that Ray & Deana will miss it. As they leave at 9:20 a.m., they don’t have a ton of time to even try and catch it.

On this, the season of one-trick ponies, Ray once again points out that being towards the back of the pack in a race is not your ideal strategy, unless it were The Bizarro Amazing Race, which it is not. Don’t let this strategy of not wanting to be last get out, Ray, it’s your only advantage!

Meredith & Gretchen are just 15 minutes back of Ray & Deana, and are about running out of acceptable seventh place finishes. Ray & Deana do make it on the 10:55 a.m. flight, and I’m shocked that Ray does not seem to want to leave it up to a contest of superior racing abilities, joking (I think) about wanting to leave tacks to sabotage Meredith & Gretchen’s cab. Despite the producers pretending like they won’t make the flight, there are seats left for them, and all seven teams are starting from scratch.

Ray & Deana manage to finagle first-class seats on the flight (which is not against the rules, as long as they are not charged extra by the airline). On the way, they make friends with the flight crew, and are let off the plane first. At least they’re thinking, but… they’re in first class! Which, last time I checked, was already in the front of the plane.

Ray & Deana get to the marked cars first and their clue, which contains the first Fast Forward of the race. The FF has them drive to the town of Soweto and cross a suspension bridge inside a giant cooling tower. I think I saw this on Lost a few weeks ago. Displaying their wonderful strategy in action (or is it inaction?), they give up their tiny lead by stumbling over this decision and looking for directions.

The alternative is the Detour. The first option is to rappel inside an underground labyrinth and rescue Jennifer Connelly’s baby brother… wait, that might be wrong. No, it’s just to find their clue. The other option is to play “one of these just doesn’t belong” with five different tribes, and six cultural objects (I’m betting the odd object out is the GameBoy).

Ray gets directions to Soweto from a helpful attendant at the parking garage, which seems to me like asking for directions to Compton at LAX, but no matter. They’re off to the Fast Forward, and Ray’s inferiority complex wins again.

Ugly American Moment! Lynn comments that he’s “glad Johannesburg is a real city” and not “full of camels and chickens and whatever”. I don’t think I can say anything more about that statement than is already in there.

Amazingly, Ray may already be having second thoughts about the FF, saying that it “may be a big mistake”, which causes Deana to bang her head in frustration. I understand, Deana. Just make a decision, Ray!

It looks like, for the first time in several seasons, we will actually have a competition at the FF, as Rob & Amber elect to go after it. Meredith & Gretchen and Brian & Greg elect to take the rappel option on the Detour, which makes a lot of sense for the latter, but for the former, not so much. Non-physical teams should take the non-physical choices when given the option.

In what I’m sure is an agonizing situation, Uchenna & Joyce and Ron & Kelly are forced to wait for their luggage to come off the claims belt. Ron & Kelly get theirs first, leaving Uchenna & Joyce to pull up the rear coming out of the airport.

The race for the Fast Forward continues, with Ray & Deana just beating Rob & Amber to this one-at-a-time challenge. The bridge is a rather rickety looking rope bridge across the top of a cooling tower, and this sucker is high. It’s yet another thing Ray makes Deanna do that she really doesn’t want to (like talk to him) and she’s having second thoughts. Rob & Amber elect to wait at the bottom, hoping that Ray & Deana don’t make it.

Meanwhile, Lynn & Alex arrive at the cultural village, the only team so far not to pick the cave challenge. This proves to be relatively simple at first, although not all Zulu shields are unique and recognizable.

All of the teams performing the cave challenge so far have been forced to stop for directions, which puts it in anyone’s court as to who will get there first. The lucky couple is Ron & Kelly, followed shortly by Brian & Greg, who discuss the inherent coolness of the word “spelunking”.

Tensions arise at the Fast Forward, where Rob, unaccustomed to relying on the actions of another team, begins to get testy and tells Amber to make a decision about whether they should stay or not. Now, admittedly, Rob has made the majority of their decisions so far, but this sounds like your typical blame passing maneuver, and is far from productive. If only they could see how wobbly Deanna is on the bridge, several hundred feet above them. However, she makes it across, and Amber is not forced to decide anything. Hey, just like Survivor!

Ray & Deana now head to the next pitstop, at Soweto Overlook, apparently not far from where Nelson Mandela once lived. All is still not well with this group, as Ray employs the “Get Confident, Stupid” technique after she has trouble driving the stick shift. Rob & Amber show their first cracks after losing out on this challenge, and must scramble to get to their Detour.

Lynn & Alex progress in their Detour, matching two more items (after getting the brainwave of looking at the signs above the tribe’s camps), and Rob & Amber realize that they are in the town where this Detour is, and stop for directions. Recognized in a South African hospital (!), they get help and are on their way.

In what seems like an omen, Meredith nearly gets into a car accident on the way to the caves, which causes Gretchen to remark that rappelling will be easy compared to getting there. If the promos are to be believed, this just pegged my irony meter.

Back in the caves, Brian & Greg reminisce about torturing each other as kids by shoving each other in small spaces (I have three older brothers, and know of which they speak), while Ron & Kelly manage to miss the clue entirely, exiting the cave and must go back in. Brian & Greg find their clue first, and are off to a market in the middle of Soweto. Ron & Kelly find theirs shortly after.

Lynn & Alex match their fifth and final artefact, and receive their clue, placing them in fourth spot, heading out of the Detour.

Meredith & Gretchen and Uchenna & Joyce arrive at the caves at around this time, with the warning given to watch the floors, as you don’t know how thick they are anywhere. Something makes me think that will come into play.

About this time, Ray & Deana have navigated to the Pitstop, easily taking first spot for this leg. Phil teases them about the possibility of prizes, then points to two Toyota RAV4s, the bonus for this leg of the race.

Rob & Amber finally arrive at the cultural center and attempt to play catchup. Luckily for them as we’ve seen, this is not a difficult task at all. He is in high spirits at the cultural center, interacting with the locals. I bet he rocked at the Memory game in Grade 1. Finishing up quickly, they get out in fifth place.

Ron & Kelly are first to the market clue box, which is the Roadblock, and involves buying five items for a local orphanage. Not so intensive, as challenges go.

Brian & Greg have some fun with it, as which ever one it is that doesn’t perform it (would it kill them to wear a name tag?) yells snide remarks at the one that does. You’ve gotta love their spirit.

Meredith & Gretchen make the same mistake as Ron & Kelly, completely missing the clue in the cave. Gretchen remarks about how terrible it would be to fall now, after they’ve left the cave, and this is apparently too much for the irony monster to take. After Uchenna & Joyce find theirs, this puts them in last place yet again. This, fatefully leads to the heavily promoted incident of Gretchen taking a spill inside the cave.

Somewhat predictably, it doesn’t seem to be as bad as the brief shot in the promo, since head wounds do bleed out of proportion to their seriousness. Gretchen has a gash on her forehead, and to her credit, urges Meredith to keep looking for the clue, as the paramedics are taking care of her.

Kelly finishes shopping first, and Ron & Kelly receive their next clue, which directs them to deliver their items to the orphanage they were buying them for.

Lynn & Alex arrive at the market, and are shocked, shocked! to find that another team in The Amazing Race would be at the same spot they are. Lynn notices Brian & Greg and says “we can take these bitches” although I’m not sure if he’s talking about the Roadblock, or something else entirely. Lynn takes the shopping task, and remembering the Chile yelling incident, Alex makes him promise not to freak out.

The “bitches” are not there to be taken much longer, as Brian & Greg are second out of the Roadblock.

Meredith finally finds the clue at the Detour, and M&G are off to the market, displaying a heck of a lot of competitive spirit. Just think about how other teams have reacted in races past, or even last week’s losers, Susan & Patrick, the “realist”, who likely would have quit then and there. If there’s a Rule #1 for The Amazing Race, it’s never quit, because you just never know.

Alex and Rob share an awkward bonding moment waiting by their vehicles as their respective partners shop in the market. Incredibly, we’ve gone nearly the whole first hour of the show without hearing about how much Lynn & Alex hate Rob & Amber. I thank them, the viewers thank them, and most importantly, my liver thanks them, as two hours of the “We Hate Romber Drinking Game” would have been too much to take.

Utilizing the rule of cute animals and small children, the orphanage stop is highly emotional, with Kelly nearly tearing up. Brian & Greg have a great old time, as they are on the same emotional level as these kids. Ron & Kelly arrive in second place for this leg. Side note: the cooling towers that were the Fast Forward for this leg are visible over Phil’s shoulder at the Pit Stop.

Lynn finishes his list of items and gets on his way to the orphanage, preserving the order of the teams, which has basically not changed since teams started arriving at the detours. Brian & Greg arrive at the Pitstop in third at about this point.

Meanwhile, for the second time in a very short period, Amber is rescued by someone who recognizes her from Survivor, and pushes her around the market, pretty much performing her Roadblock for her. Okay, this is getting out of hand now. Around this time, Lynn & Alex arrive at the Pit Stop in fourth.

Rob & Amber’s helper comes with them to the orphanage, and really, do these people have nothing better to do with their day? Rob also falls prey to the “big kid” syndrome, and has to be dragged away from playing with them.

This checkpoint seems especially cruel to Uchenna & Joyce, who as noted in the first episode, plan to use any winnings from the show to finance fertility treatments, so what better spot to put them in but in a place with a bunch of kids with no parents? Rob & Amber come in fifth, followed by Uchenna & Joyce shortly behind in sixth.

The big shock comes when Meredith & Gretchen arrive at the Pit Stop mat, and it’s revealed that it’s a non-elimination leg. Okay, that’s not so much the shock, given that it’s a two hour episode and we’re all savvy TV watchers. It’s the penalty for the non-elimination leg, which not only includes their current money and their cash for their next leg, but in an especially punitive move, all their possessions except for their passports and the clothes on their backs. You have to wonder why they don’t just boot them out all together if they’re going to keep punishing them. At least they’ll be traveling light. I imagine this change is to eliminate the bartering that has gone on in previous races with this penalty. They are amazingly positive about this and even if I’m still irritated by them somewhat, you have to admire that they are sticking to the spirit of the race.

Ray & Deana start out part two of this episode in first place, leaving at 10:30 p.m. to head to a lion safari. Ray wins the bipolar award for this race, being way too positive about being in first place, and “not intending to give it up”. Hey, news flash, the only reason you got out of the trailers was one, a huge bunching point, and two, that you took the Fast Forward. One of those two things is going to happen again really soon, and I bet you can imagine which one it is. Under the category of “Jerkass, heal thyself”, Ray declares that Deana has trouble handling stress and needs to step up in the race. It’s the only way they’re going to defeat Daniel and Mr. Miyagi.

The Fast Forward only gives them about a two hour lead, with Ron & Kelly leaving shortly after midnight. Brian & Greg leave not too long after that, and delirium leads him to start making up his own clue… oh, no wait, it’s actual humor! I’d forgotten that contestants could be funny. Brian makes the remark that he’s sucking at driving as they hit something on the road, and this, my friends, is what we in the business call foreshadowing.

The pack is pretty tight here, with just a few minutes separating them, Lynn & Alex, Rob & Amber and Uchenna & Joyce. However, this is pretty immaterial, as the three slots on the earlier (by one hour) of the two safaris are taken by the first three teams to leave today. Meredith & Gretchen leave about five and a half hours back, but barring a catastrophe (that would never happen) are going to be on the second safari with the remaining teams.

Uchenna & Joyce really fail to earn their orienteering merit badge yet again, as they end up being the last to arrive at the lion safari park, despite having over an hour lead on Meredith & Gretchen at the start. Again, it doesn’t amount to anything here, but at some point, their abysmal sense of direction is going to make them pay a price.

We have the spirit of sportsmanship in effect here as it’s revealed that Uchenna made a donation of clothes to Meredith & Gretchen over night, and most other teams donate some cash to the elderly. Gretchen trots out a joke that is older than the hills to win them over, but then what would you expect from the show’s Grandma?

I say *most* other teams donate money, since Rob & Amber refuse to, and Rob considers them “the biggest con artists around” although that’s really just the paranoia talking. This has not been his and Amber's finest moment, so far.

Ray implies that he will donate later on in the leg, but in an aside to the camera, says that he doesn’t want to prolong their agony. I mean, really, they surely didn’t come on the show to win money, they did it to prove that old people are useless, right? Memo to Ray: you will some day be old too. Maybe we should just send you off on an ice floe once you hit 70, huh?

Aw, look at the kitties! Nice kitties that could take my arm off, which Ron apparently considers, telling Kelly that he's throwing her out to them to save himself. This is what we call a relationship warning sign. After feeding the lions, they’re given their next clue, which leads them to the neighboring country of Botswana (the nation which brought us The Gods Must Be Crazy), and a giant aardvark.

Ron & Kelly get back the Johannesburg airport first, and get on to a noon flight to Gabarone, the capital of Botswana. The other two teams in their group also make it onto this flight.

I’m going to be sending the bill for my broken irony meter directly to CBS, as Lynn & Alex turn the wrong way to get back to the airport, and lead three other teams down the wrong path. Not with them are Uchenna & Joyce, who go the right direction for maybe the first time in the race. This proves quite crucial, as this gets them on the noon flight just as it’s about to board.

Meredith & Gretchen and Rob & Amber get onto a 1:35 flight, but, ugh, Lynn & Alex can’t follow simple directions and have driven into the city. I’m about ready to give up on this whole lot of directionless teams and go watch The Bachelor. Okay, that’s an idle threat. But still, shape up, guys! These two manage to get someone to drive them to the airport, and make it on the same flight, completing the roster of Flight Wrong Way.

This morning’s activity turns out to be an exercise in just not dying, as when the first flight arrives, they find out the train to their next check point doesn’t leave until 9 p.m. It’s the most utterly pointless task so far, and this makes two bunching points very early in this leg.

That doesn’t stop some pointless drama, with Lynn & Alex refusing to let Rob & Amber split their minibus to the train station, even though there is plenty of room (and we saw several teams share a bus earlier). Uncharacteristically, Rob lets this rattle him and the tables seem to be switching on the manipulation front. By the way, drink.

Upon reaching the train station, Lynn again tries to justify shutting them out of the bus, but he is, quite frankly, one of the worst liars in the world, and looks like a little boy caught stealing from the liquor cabinet. Rob announces that he’s done playing nice, though to be honest, I never noticed when he started. He then spins a conspiracy tale worthy of Oliver Stone, alleging that Meredith pushed Gretchen to get sympathy. No, no, he’s kidding. I think.

A brief moment is presented for elucidation of character. As Ron & Kelly prepare to board the train to Francestown, he says to her, “what are you leaning toward me for?” Someone get this man a copy of Hitch, stat! How does a man this clueless get a beauty pagent winner for a girlfriend? The pity has to be wearing off at this point.

The producers are apparently big Hitchcock fans, as when the teams reach the next clue box, they are greeted by the North by Northwest Re-enactment Players, getting buzzed by a biplane. The clue is the Detour, requiring them to pass a bushman hunting training course and hit a moving target (a sand bag swinging on a rope) with a spear.

What follows tells me that if we do ever get rid of our weapons and Kang & Kodos invade, I don’t want these guys defending me. It’s a sorry display of marksmanship by all teams involved and it’s surprising that the bushmen, scrawny as they are, don’t give up and kill them. Brian finally breaks the snide with a glancing blow. Receiving their next clue, they’re off to a cattle outpost in the middle of the desert, though they do get to bring a safety guide.

Ron is next to hit his mark, though someone should let him know that a Kalahari bushman is highly unlikely to speak Spanish and thanking him with “gracias” is probably not going to mean much to him.

Lynn, Ray and Joyce hit their targets in short succession, but the Big Wheel of Misdirection spins around again to Uchenna & Joyce, who have now misplaced their bags and fall to last behind Meredith & Gretchen and Rob & Amber.

On the road, Ron hails his superior desert driving skills, but, wasn't he a helicopter pilot? That got shot down? Greg does a pitch perfect imitation of Lynn’s laugh in a deftly edited sequence that reveals him to have a chuckle that would even creep out Spongebob.

The jokes just keep on coming from Gretchen, who notes the odd similarity between the word “bush” and the current President of the United States. Listen, you try and make this funny.

Rob makes two passes in short order, moving up to fourth, ahead of Ray & Deanna. It’s now the Paris-Dakar rally, apparently.

And what would a rally be without a crash? Showing off a little, Greg gets too far off the trail into the sand and rolls his vehicle. Both Brian & Greg appear unharmed but the cameraman is down and injured. Lynn & Alex are first on the scene and stop to check out the situation, though Brian & Greg urge them to move on. Rob & Amber come to the scene shortly after and move on, with Rob offering a justification that’s it a competition.

Now, realistically, there’s not much they could have done here, and he’s certainly right about it being a game, and there was already another team stopped. However, they don’t know they couldn’t do anything, and race etiquette dictates that you stop there, I think. Tellingly, all the other teams following them make at least the token effort to help. Like I said earlier, this is not one of Rob & Amber’s finest moments.

Meanwhile, Ron & Kelly have reached the next clue box, which gives them the Detour, which has them either grind corn, or collect water from a spring. They choose the corn, which looks pretty labour intensive.

Rob & Amber arrive next, by virtue of Lynn & Alex stopping, and choose the water task. L&A are close behind and pick the corn. I’m going to waive the drinking game rules for just a little here, as their bitching is actually directly related to something Rob & Amber have done.

Ron & Kelly are first out of the Detour, and are on their way to the Pit Stop, in the middle of an ancient dried-up lake. Back at the Detour, comedy ensues, as Ray & Deana refuse to learn from their surroundings, and while pounding their corn, do not approach anything resembling the rhythm necessary to grind it effectively. For all Ray’s effort, he’s highly counter-productive. Lynn & Alex also feel they can teach these tribes people a thing or two about their ways, and start to bicker. Rob & Amber, meanwhile, have completed their water task and are on their way to the pit stop.

The replacement vehicle has arrived for Brian & Greg, and although this might stretch the meaning of “through no fault of their own”, they’ve suffered enough of a penalty just falling to last place.

It’s a foot race to the mat for first, between Ron & Kelly and Rob & Amber, with R&K taking the first spot. However, there is no bonus prize for them this round. When Rob & Amber hit the mat, Phil starts to question them about the wreck they passed earlier, and in a rare display of antagonism, gives them hell about not stopping.

Ray & Deanna’s utter lack of teamwork is biting them in the ass at the Detour, with other teams easily out producing them in their corn grinding, with Uchenna & Joyce being next to get out of there. Lynn & Alex follow them. Ray is now left with the indignity of competing against his obvious inferiors, Meredith & Gretchen. Well, sure, his inferiors are everyone else in the world, but let’s get specific for now.

Brian & Greg finally arrive at the Detour, needing a miracle. While all the other teams zig, they zag, and they choose the water detour, which seems fairly fast if you can get a technique going.

Managing not to get lost, Uchenna & Joyce come into the Pit stop third, followed by Lynn & Alex in fourth, who commiserate with Phil about losing what they believe to be two spots due to stopping. The tide has turned in the editing against Rob & Amber.

Meredith & Gretchen complete their corn grinding and get out of the Detour in fifth spot, confounding all odds and logic. It’s a seriously gutsy performance, although the fact that fifth is their best finish so far is nothing to crow about just yet.

Ray & Deana and Brian & Greg finish nearly simultaneously at the Pit Stop (thanks to Ray & Deana refusing to note how the locals actually perform this task), and we have a real race to the finish, once again involving the brothers.

In the parlance of our times, Brian & Greg simply want it more, and as Ray & Deana dilly-dally getting out of their vehicle, B&G are off in a dead sprint, beating them to the mat by a good 50 feet. A clearly emotional Brian & Greg are simply satisfied to still be in the race after their day, while Ray can barely look at the finish.

Upon eventually reaching the mat, and being officially eliminated, Ray declares that he won’t compete with Deana in anything again, which I’m sure she’ll hold him to. Team Dysfunction is no more, and one wonders what these two see in each other to stick together. Thus ends one of the most eventful episodes of The Amazing Race to date… now please, CBS, never do that again.



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