Hey, I’m back!
First of all, props to Robot Arm for stepping in whilst I was out of the country on my own Amazing Circuit. He did a bang-up job, and though I’m sure my authorship adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the Taxi Assessment, the addition is more in the literal sense of the phrase rather than the idiomatic.
Second, a pertinent personal anecdote to demonstrate the occasional difficulties of foreign traveling: My wife and I know just a little Spanish; more than “rapido,” “por favor,” and “uno dos tres,” but not by much. It turns out that thinking on the fly in a foreign language con be tricky. It also turns out that pronunciation is important. It also turns out that asking a taxi driver, in Spanish, how much cheese there is from Ollantaytambo to Urubamba is apt to confuse him. Following it up by refusing to pay any more than twice the quoted price will result in a look on the driver’s face worthy of a TAR highlight reel. On the upside of the experience, if I whisper “how much cheese” in my wife’s ear at an unexpected time, she’s sure to start giggling. So…there’s that. However, I vow that my newfound understanding of the nuances and pressures of foreign travel will not distract me from pointing out equally egregiour errors on the part of the Racers.
Self-deprecation aside, let’s get on to this week’s episode.
I’m not really a big fan of the (in this case nearly literal) needle-in-a-haystack tasks, save for Detours, because the tasks minimize the skill required to complete them in favor of pure luck. However, since this task was really an homage to the infamous Lena-and-Kristi original, and the non-elimination was pretty clearly telegraphed, I guess I’m OK with it.
Also, I’d like to pointedly call everyone’s attention to my TAR preseason rankings, which, as of this moment, have proven to be uncannily accurate. Check out my top five preseason spots, which were, in order: Herbert & Nathaniel, Meghan & Cheyne, Brian & Ericka, Sam & Dan, and Gary & Matt. Sound like a familiar ordering? It turns out that ranking teams based on nothing more than a bio can be pretty accurate. Who’d a thunk?
Stuck in the Desert and Officially Detained - or, Philiminated with extreme prejudice.
Eric and Lisa and Garrett and Jessica and Marcy and Ron and Zev and Justin and Lance and Keri and Mika and Canaan and Maria and Tiffany - Gone until season’s end.
Flat Tire - or, not likely to get anywhere soon.
No one this week.
Stopping for Gas - or, not broken-down, exactly, but not a good sign.
Gary and Matt (down from “Rapido!”) - Their final placement on this leg was due in large part to a string of bad luck, but also to a back-of-the-pack showing in the previous leg that forced them to take a later flight. Gary & Matt have finished fourth or fifth for five episodes running, which doesn’t bode well if they’re to make the final three. They’re clearly the weakest team still in the race… but, to be fair, not really by much. I should point out that, despite their showing of late, Gary & Matt have a better intra-team dynamic than any other team save the Globetrotters. That might also become important as fatigue sets in here at the end of the Race. However, next week they have an additional task to perform; these Speed Bumps typically aren’t that onerous, but in a tight race with no bunching point and few other teams competing, it could be the difference between elimination and staying on for another episode. On the strength of that task, I’m dropping their ranking this week.
"Rapido! Por Favor?" - or, making meaningless ineffectual comments from the back seat, but in no immediate danger.
Brian and Ericka (holding steady) - This team showed a good recovery from last week’s nearly disastrous leg, and with a little luck even passed up Sam & Dan, who had a 2+ hour lead due to the airline flight. I don’t think that warrants moving the team up in the rankings, particularly since Ericka still seems like the Racer most likely to completely lose it (Dan’s blubbering notwithstanding).
In the Passing Lane - or, ahead of the pack, but not quite comfortably.
Sam and Dan (holding steady) - Fatigue seems to be really affecting this team now. I rather respect Dan for being self-aware enough to be ashamed of yelling at his brother–self-awareness is a precious commodity among reality show contestants. But good Lord, it’s not that big a deal. Apologize humbly and let it go. Kudos, however, for the alliance-of-convenience with Meghan & Cheyne. That’s what TAR alliances should be: ephemeral, friendly, and mutually advantageous.
Cruisin’ with Earl - or, drivin’ on the shoulder, takin’ shortcuts, and generally kickin’ butt.
Herbert and Nathaniel (up from “Passing”) - A first place finish, although one that’s heavily influenced by luck. I’m moving this team up not because of their first, per se, but because they showed they can rebound (ha! get it? jokes like that never get old.) from a poor showing a couple episodes ago, and their first this ep gives them a little cushion. The Globetrotters still have the best intra-team dynamic: they have the ability to shake off bad luck and poor decisions, when they make them, and concentrate on the next task at hand.
Meghan and Cheyne (holding steady) - Meghan is awfully lucky she found the clue as quickly as she did; she really looked like she might up and quit at any time. I still like this team’s chances, but Meghan in particular seems to have a puzzling freak-out reflex that’s not good for long-term survival. Still, they’ve been first or second on the last four legs, which gives them a comfortable pad over the other teams. I’m leaving them ranked here for the moment because they have been performing so well, but I’m worried about Meghan cracking.
[sub]Props to Mullinator and his Raj Ratings.[/sub]