Monday, September 27, 2010

The Amazing Race - S17E01 - Tenors are Known for Being Tough Guys

By sheer accident I discovered that Season 17 was starting Sunday evening, so I was back, always delighting in the resourcefulness of human beings in a pretty straightforwardly defined competition (i.e. no stupidities like voting others off the island).
My quick summary - Ron and Tony were screwed but they really helped too!
A quick summary of the itinerary the opening week; find your way from Gloucester, MA to Logan Airport, whence they fly to Heathrow, and then must find their way in (standard-transmission) cars to Stonehenge.  There there is a meaningless task, and then a clue to take them to Eastnor Castle.  There they must engage in a rather amusing simulation of storming the castle walls, then or fording a stream, and finally of using a catapult with watermelons as a weapon to wipe out a fake knight,after which they then have to find the finish line (it's called the 'pit stop' on the show) somewhere on the extensive castle grounds.
Pretty nifty, and it is never obvious at the start figuring out what the biggest challenges are.
Of course, it is also fun in the first episode that we meet the eleven teams.  I was astonished at this year's choice of all-female teams, but the world seems to be going that way.  Most of the teams seemed pretty attractive to me - sometimes I cannot stand one right off, and the two that gave me the willies a bit this year were the two of the three 'dating couples'.  They usually feature parent-child combos and those always appeal to me; this year they have a mother who gave up her child many years ago and is playing on the team with the newly reunited or at least reacquainted child.
What breaks my heart is I will have to miss the next couple of shows, at best see them only a lot later, so I cannot invest too much in teams that will disappear.
But wow what a great roller-coaster ride, and CBS is great at making it stay that way.
CBS does a great job of slotting them into categories.  I will simply refer to teams by category below hoping I can get ti right overall.
Problem #1: Get to Logan - if you are in Mass and know that Logan is about as far east as you can get near Boston, this should be easy.  Amazingly, the Ivy League tenors end up in west Boston.  They barely make Logan on time, and almost everyone else is there well ahead of them.
The Black Guys have a compass and are proud of their navigational skills.
One of the dating couples has a self-announced 'educated' guy and a hairstylist; I already want her to carry that team.
There is much drama about who makes the first flight, but it turns out, and I think justly that that hardly matters.
Let us now turn to Heathrow.
Here what matters is no surprise to someone who has had a first trip to England.  At Heathrow the teams get cars, manual transmission, but really nice.  And they have to drive on the wrong side of the road and have NO concept of the UK's signposting system, which while really good, is not the North American one.  Moreover the Brits rely heavily on roundabouts, and even worse (and really stupid) roundabouts with lights.  (If you need lights better to have just lights.)  (Conversely if you do not need lights, the UK roundabout is WAY better than North America's prescriptive lights.)
They must get to Stonehenge.  From Heathrow, I could now do this almost in my sleep; but I know how nightmarish my attempts were initially, it was fun to watch this section.
"No we're going south Stephanie."  This is not trivial but roundabouts always let you solve that in a few seconds at the cost of some embarrassment.  It is clear early there are problems with the idea of Chad navigating for Stephanie.  There is a mutual support problem.
There is no such problem for The Doctors ("Nat and Kat") nor for the TV Sales Channels Saleswomen ("Brooke and Claire", henceforth B&C).
Many of the driving disasters that are shown are things I recall well.  I was impressed at all of the teams figuring out how to drive in such an alien environment.  It is not trivial.
B&C are first to Stonehenge and they claimed communication was their great skill.  It has been so far.
BV (the Beach Volleyballers were next).
Jill and Tomas (J&T) were up there and I liked Thomas' "That was awesome, both of us."  Few teams can approach it that way.
Can I just say at some point that asking people to recognize "The opposite of Nor'Easter" as "Eastnor" is so dense I could not believe it.  {I will not even go into reasons.)  But I was wrong - all found a Brit to tell them were to go in no time.
Meanwhile the Black Guys with navigational skills are totally out in left field.  I would feel a lot more sorry had they not mad the claim about strength.
Climbing the wall at Eastnor was fun to watch but silly, but fording the stream required some brains and it was funny to watch.  The boats for the fording were perfectly awful little upside down buttons and this was a really important stage where teams had to balance risk and success.  Most got it sorted in a couple of tries but some were dogged.
As there were a few teams together the early groups figured out they needed to simply balance the 'boat', and ford by a gentle pulling along the fording ropes.  All these teams prevailed pretty quickly once they got the hang of it.
But looking at those little boats, I thought that Ray and Tony were screwed.  They were just too big to stay above water all the way across the ford.
Chad and Stephanie had a difficult time and it let a few times get by them; their communication skills are a nightmare.  Chad still thinks communication means telling Stephanie what to do.
Next task - a somewhat symbolic ride with a knight followed by using a ballista to fire at watermelons at a model know until it is essentially destroyed.
Significantly Claire takes on the task from Brooke.
So these ballistas, as far as I can see, were equipped with no obvious hints to allow the shooter to calibrate from shot to shot and adjust.  This incompetence seems pretty unlikely to me in a medieval tool (though I am guessing - maybe art was beneficial to the shooter.
Meanwhile Babe and Thomas have nailed their knight and are off and get the big prize.
Claire lies wounded and Brooke keeps telling her she has to stand and rise again and after much complaining she arises and seems (from the show) to almost immediately nail her knight.  Brooke NEVER seemed to stop the 'Keep Going you are great!' chant through the whole show.  Is there normally a lesbian couple? Are they it?  Meanwhile quietly the doctors come second.
Somehow the Nerds sneak up and grab third.
The highlight along the way is that Claire managed to get a watermelon explode in her face and it really hurt.
I have long wondered whether people could get hurt on this show - seems the diligence is limited.
Brooke tells her she must finish and in perfect Pete Campbell mode she responds, "What?``
But she does and they come next. 
Not much more to say, and I do not want to invest too much in teams that are doomed before I get back in front of my TV.
The sad thing is I was right about The Black Guys. Their joint weight was way too high and they never crossed the ford, so we don`t see them again soon.
I grant their navigation was awful but I would bet if they had been first at the wather they would have sunk in it forever as other teams went by on teh ford. Not fair. Not cool.
Highlight of the Show: Nikki and Vicki trying to get a flag from the battlement by asking every person in sight whether he/she was the battlement and then missing the boats on the next stage. Is she the one who thought the country she was in was `London`and had never heard of Stonehenge? Sadly, I suspect I won`t see them when I am next back in front of live broadcasts of the show. Their tattooist is likely getting good business.



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