The Amazing Race 7: Episode 6

Houston, We Have an Elephant

By Reagen Sulewski

April 6, 2005

Greg is the one on the left. Or the right.

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After what might have been the best back-to-back legs in the history of The Amazing Race last week, one wonders if the show can continue to top itself. Last time we got two major accidents, an actual sprint to the finish and copious amounts of intrigue. The promos have promised us a contestant will get eaten by a crocodile, and Jerry Bruckheimer wouldn’t lie to us, right? Right?

Anyhow, we leave from the great salt plains of Botswana (admit it, you didn’t know this country existed), with Ron & Kelly leaving at 5:29 a.m. The first clue of the day has them driving 189 miles to a village in the middle of the desert. Sound a bit like the plot to Gerry.

Making a pledge that is sure to last, oh, a whole five minutes, Kelly vows to take advice from the Bible and treat Ron with respect, kindness, etc. Ron, meanwhile, continues to give clueless men a bad name by not realizing that his relationship with Kelly really is at stake in this race.

In second place are Rob & Amber, 14 minutes behind. They showed their first cracks in last week’s leg and ended it by blowing any potential positive relationships with the other teams. Sure, alliances really don’t exist in this game, but they truly are running completely alone from this point. At least they’re having fun.

Uchenna & Joyce are a mere eight minutes back in third, with Lynn & Alex only one minute behind them. Alex tries to explain the difference between playing the game sneaky and playing it dirty, but this sounds more like something out of Nixon’s secret recordings.

Meredith & Gretchen, still in the race beyond all reason, are in fifth, 43 minutes behind the lead. This leg, they get money, but I don’t see a Botswana outlet of the Gap (coming 2008!) where they can replenish their lost items just yet. They’re left with the Freshman Samsonite, a black garbage bag, as their luggage.

Brian & Greg, the Crash-Test-Dummies, are last to leave, 53 minutes out of first, though they honestly have to feel good just still being here after their misadventures in the desert last time. This tight packing of the group could make things very interesting on a long drive through the desert, which as we’ve seen from the preceding teams, follows a trail with the barest of markers. I smell Blair Witch sequel.

One of the brothers makes a play for a gig on Saturday Night Live with his wacky and hilarious “wild bushman tracker” character, while the other proclaims they’ve seen so many sunrises together, they should be dating. To steal a Joss Whedon line, raise hand if “eww”.

All is not well in Mr. and Mrs. America land, as tensions over reading the map cause Kelly to ask if her getting on his nerves all the time makes her butt look big, or something to that effect. Ron deftly avoids this carefully laid mine, but I think I see his eyes turning brown.

It's on to highway hijinks as Rob & Amber avoid a family of ostriches crossing the road, followed by Lynn & Amber darting through an opening in a cattle herd after passing Uchenna & Joyce.

Meredith & Gretchen have made an astounding comeback to first place… no wait, they’re just in the wrong spot and this is not the water tower described in the clue. I suppose their first realization of this fact should have been that they hadn’t passed through the town they were supposed to yet. They’re quickly back on track, however, with little time lost. Brian & Greg seem prepared to make the same mistake, though.

Ron & Kelly have reached the real water tower where they receive the Detour clue, which is a choice between carrying items on their heads without using their hands, or milking goats. This is just like my frat initiation.

Initially, they decide to milk the goats, but after seeing the balancing act in action, switch over to that task. This lasts all of about ten seconds, as the water bucket proves almost impossible for both of them. Ron expresses bewilderment that Kelly, the ballerina, has trouble with this, but as she points out, pirouettes with a bucket on your head aren’t exactly standard moves. They flip back over to the goats. It’s crisp decision making like this that’s going to win them the race, I bet.

Back at the wrong water tower, Brian & Greg are starting to get frustrated at the lack of the clue box. I can understand how that might be, considering there isn’t one there at all. After climbing the tower, they get the bright idea to read their clue, which is a bold tactic. Realizing their error, they’re back on the road, having lost more time than Meredith & Gretchen.

About the time that Ron & Kelly have secured their goats for the milking task, Rob & Amber have showed up at the same task. Lamenting their lost lead, Ron remarks to Kelly, “If you could just balance a bucket on your head, we wouldn’t be doing this”, which I believe will be Kelly’s exhibit A at their histrionic breakup.

Strong decision-making is not a strength of the teams in this episode so far, as Rob & Amber switch to the balancing task after seeing how difficult the goats might be. Amber seems to be a natural but after a few comical attempts by Rob, they switch back to the goats. It’s a good thing this isn’t a race, because… wait, it is? Why didn’t anyone tell me!

Among the trailers, Lynn & Alex marvel at today’s modern conveyance devices, Meredith & Gretchen vow not to have another accident today, and Brian & Greg decide to not be so stupid in future endeavours in the race. We shall see.

Back at the goat torturing...I mean milking task, both teams are making progress, if slowly. Rob & Amber fail Agriculture 101 by calling the goats ‘he’, since it’s rather difficult to get milk out of male goats.

Lynn & Alex and Meredith & Gretchen pick the milking task while Uchenna & Joyce, who have apparently fallen to fifth place, choose the balancing task. Upon reaching the goat pen, Lynn lets off an oh-so-clever goat call. None too subtle, they look over at Rob & Amber and decide to switch tasks. Ooh, you showed them!

Over at the balancing task, Uchenna & Joyce are off like blazes, making it through their first run like experts. Lynn & Alex have some difficulty and give up after taking about ten steps, discouraged at U&J’s success. Running away to the goat task (the third team now to switch) Lynn remarks, “They were just born to do this anyway”. Now, I hate to break it to you guys, but the Ku Klux Klan isn’t going to accept your membership applications for, uh, other reasons.

Ron & Kelly and Rob & Amber are both about to wrap up their goat milking task, with R&K grabbling the lead back when R&A bring their cup over too soon to be judged. The clue they receive directs them 21 miles to a point at the Khwai River. The happy couple sets off on their way as Kelly says that she would have liked to milk one of the goats instead of Ron hogging all the glory. Ron, responding in what can only be described as the most condescending tone possible, says she “should have gotten down there in the mud and done it”. Cuz that’s man’s work, partner! Also, “I would have liked to do the balancing water thing”. This is what you call good teamwork right here. If they actually got beds to sleep on, Ron would be on the couch.

Rob & Amber get going after filling their cup, while Uchenna & Joyce have sped through the balancing challenge (must be those latent African genes, right Lynn? To be fair, Uchenna does credit his father’s Nigerian village in this) and move up to third. Meredith & Gretchen are done with their milking, and start to wander around that they might stumble on their next clue by accident, I guess. Eventually they get on their way.

Sticking with one task has proven to be the key here (you mean wasting time is a bad idea?) as Ron & Kelly and Rob & Amber have given up a lot of their lead, and Lynn & Alex are well behind in fifth. Lynn asks, “How many gay guys does it take to milk a goat?” I’m honestly puzzled here. Is there some particular significance to being gay that would cause an increased (or decreased) aptitude for milking a goat? Are they asking for help from other gay guys? Patrick is gone from the race, so that can’t be it. Or wait, I’ve got it, it’s got nothing to do with anything! Whew, that was going to bother me for awhile. Finally they finish and are on the road.

Where, you might be asking, are Brian & Greg at this point? Good question, as their stop at the wrong water tower has led them to fall completely behind. They are only just now getting to the Detour. They’ve shown hustle at challenges in the past, so it’s possibly not as bad as all that.

Out on the trail to the next clue, Amber offers her analysis of Ron & Kelly, saying that they don’t use teamwork. Next she’ll try and tell me that the sky is blue. Rob is slightly off in his analysis that Kelly didn’t want to “get her pretty little hands dirty”, though it’s an easy mistake to make here. I mean, she hasn’t shown a speck of personality or character yet.

Out on the road, Uchenna & Joyce are admiring the wildlife, but Meredith & Gretchen may have fallen victim to Lynn & Alex’s prediction that they would get lost. However, the big wheel of race karma keeps on spinning, and Lynn & Alex seem to have some kind of car trouble. The Botswana Automobile Association moves quickly though, and their replacement vehicle arrives fairly quickly.

Ron & Kelly and Rob & Amber arrive nearly simultaneously at the next clue box, which is the Roadblock. A fairly involved challenge, they first have to drive through crocodile infested waters, and then choose a path that is blocked by elephant felled logs and clear them. Ron & Rob take on their tasks for their teams and plow their vehicles through the swamp, partially filling them with water in the process.

Back on safari, Uchenna & Joyce come across a pack of zebras. An elephant was there when the two previous teams arrived, which makes it about the 70 jillionth animal sighting tonight. I’m beginning to think these are holograms planted for the purpose of ratings, myself. Uchenna handles the driving for his team and takes the slowest possible path through the swamp, which as anyone who’s tried driving through mud knows, is a great way to get yourself stuck. It looks like they will be stuck for a moment, but they pull through and are on their way.

Meredith & Gretchen were in fact not lost, and reach the Roadblock in fourth. Meredith takes the bullet for his team, plowing through the swamp. Where’s my man-eating crocs I was promised, dammit?! Lynn & Alex make a slight tactical error at the Roadblock, passing the driving off to their weaker driver, Alex.

Brian & Greg are at this point finally done with their Detour, and are scrambling to get back into the thick of things. It doesn’t look good at this point, but the first rule of The Amazing Race is to never give up.

Ron & Rob are basically neck and neck in the Roadblock at this point, which involves hooking logs that are blocking their path to their vehicle and dragging them out of the way. Rob proves more adept early on at this, which causes some friction over on Ron’s path. See, he’s been shown up to be less of a man, and he needs to reassert his dominance. It's as good an explanation as any for why he tells her to shut up, I suppose.

Uchenna & Joyce, in our petty bureaucratic moment of the game, remove only the ribbon from the path they chose on the Roadblock, and not the post with the ribbon, as the clue directs. We shall see if not following the exact letter of the law will cost them here.

While Alex is getting a quick lesson in driving stick (cough), Rob has finished the Roadblock and leapt into first place. The next clue is the Pit Stop, the Khwai River Lodge, Botswana’s oldest safari lodge.

Tensions abound in Ron & Kelly’s vehicle and we appear to have a genuine misunderstanding at play. Ron tells Kelly to “chill out for a minute”, which in a one-woman game of Telephone gets to her as “shut the f up”, which she would be right in terming totally rude if that’s what he said. He has in fact been totally rude to her for most of the day, but this is one thing he’s innocent of in this particular case, and it seems like Kelly was hunting for something to be upset about. She steps it up a notch, calling him a “piece of trash redneck”. I think that’s the line you hear in every episode of Cops. Seriously, that’s kind of one of those lines you can’t cross back over. Barring some kind of miracle reconciliation, we will get to see if hatred and spite can propel a team to the finish line of the Amazing Race.

Uchenna & Joyce complete the roadblock about this time, still in third place, but appear to have made up ground. Shortly after this, Meredith has reached the first of his two logs to move.

Lynn & Alex’s bad car karma continues when they have a flat. You’d think these things were all random coincidences, but those innocent statements will come back and get you every time.

Trying to catch up, Brian wins the NOW award by saying, “This Roadblock better be a freaking manly stunt, none of this sissy stuff, milking cows and balancing stuff on your head. Both of those are for the little farmer ladies.” Yowch. Allow me to translate for him as I believe his meaning was a little lost here. What he meant to say was, “I hope this Roadblock plays into our physical strengths as a team, and against the strengths of the teams we are chasing, so as to further our chances in the race.” There, that’s better, isn’t it Brian?

Kelly breaks the fourth wall about this point to say that it’s not her fault that Ron sucks, or something. I half expect her to out his case of herpes by now. This is a team in total meltdown.

Having been granted a second replacement vehicle, Alex & Lynn are back into their Roadblock, but I have to call shenanigans here, when there is a very visible spare tire on the back of their vehicle. Yes, yes “no fault of their own”, but you have to draw a line somewhere. Make them change the flat!

As we approach the Pit Stop, we see a classic case of divergence of goals within a team, as Ron hopes to make it a footrace with Rob & Amber to the mat, while Kelly hopes Ron would choke on poison and die. It’s a moot point as neither of those things happen, and Rob & Amber take this leg of the race, along with a trip to the French Riviera. Ron & Kelly are a couple of minutes behind in second. Ron seems to actually value the friction in their relationship, while Kelly asks for God’s help to not smother Ron in his sleep. OK, she didn’t say that, but I can read between the lines. Liza Minelli and David Gest got along better than these two are right now.

The incident with Uchenna & Joyce removing the ribbon and not the pole from their Roadblock is coming back to haunt them, as Phil informs them upon reaching the mat that they have not completed it correctly. Cementing his bastard status, Phil does not tell them what they did wrong, leaving them entirely puzzled. This may put them in line for elimination if they do not figure out what they did wrong. Again, actually reading the clue proves to be crucial and they realize they need to just go back and grab the post.

It’s starting to get crowded at the Roadblock, as Brian & Greg have finally arrived, with Greg (I think. It could be Brian) taking on the task. Alex reaches the first log in the path and Meredith & Gretchen have removed all three of theirs. What happens next is an abject lesson in why drivers shouldn’t be the ones to read the clues, as Meredith goes completely past his clue. Someone, please step up here and race.

This leaves it wide open for Uchenna & Joyce, who have found their pole and make it back to the mat in time to be third place for real.

Remember that stumbling tactic I mentioned earlier for Meredith & Gretchen? Well, it apparently works, as they hit on the Pit Stop without knowing it. Phil adopts his best grade school teacher tone, asking them, “and how did you know how to come here?” They’re the second team in a row to have to go back to the roadblock. Something tells me qualification standards are going to go a bit up for Amazing Race 8.

Now for a bit of comic relief. Alex, fearing that his slow performance in the Roadblock might have put them last and that it’s a non-elimination round, proceeds to put on every bit of clothing he can. Of course, due to the poor showing of other teams, they’re actually fourth and proceed to babble on ridiculously about their master plan. I mean really, they wouldn’t have seen through that one.

Brian & Greg adopt a, well, alternative strategy, deciding to change into their swimsuits and winter hats, daring Phil to “not-eliminate” them. You know what would be a better strategy? Not coming in last! Meredith & Gretchen do the almost unthinkable by nearly getting lost on the way to a place they’ve already been to, finding the pit stop in time to be fifth. If you want an example of a team falling upwards, there’s really no better one than these two.

Brian & Greg stroll into the pit stop looking like South Park characters on a Caribbean vacation. Their appeal to the gods of quirky TV characters goes to no avail as they are both eliminated. The postscript on these guys goes like every other team that has been made up of two very similar team members; while they had their strengths covered doubly, their weaknesses were multiplied. Nearly every leg saw this team make some sort of dumb mistake, and this leg, it finally proved too much to overcome.



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