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The Amazing Race Blesses The U-Turns Down In Africa

In Zambia and Zimbabwe, teams take in the gorgeous scenery at Victoria Falls, but the looming threat of the U-Turn casts a shadow on the proceedings.

Whispers Of Some Quiet Conversation

Hey, have you heard? Tanner and Josh don't like Justin. Just in case you missed it all twelve times they said it last week, they reiterate it for you in the moments leading up to the start of the new leg.

Since Phil helpfully told them there's a Double U-Turn coming up, Team Texas has had the entire pit stop to mull over exactly how they're going to play it. Step 1: they'll use their Express Pass (since they have to this leg anyway) to get ahead; Step 2: they'll U-Turn the green team. Their plan is not just to U-Turn Justin and Diana, though; they've also got to get another team to burn off the other half of the U-Turn so that Justin and Diana can't then use it to put another team behind them. In return, they'll trade their second Express Pass. The patsies in this instance are Kelsey and Joey, who are thrilled to be included, so they readily agree. They do not, however, agree to shake Josh's hand after he spits in it -- the deal is not THAT iron-clad, I guess.

Justin thinks all of this U-Turn chatter is patently ridiculous: "According to Amazing Race history, you do not U-Turn somebody who's not going to get eliminated. All you've done is made an enemy." He should know. Hey, did you know he knows more about this show than anybody who's ever run the race? Just in case you forgot, he reminds us again.

Teams are now headed to the bottom of Africa and the back of the alphabet: Livingstone, Zambia, the home of Victoria Falls. There are two sets of flights, one arriving fifteen minutes behind the other. News Team, Green Team, Texas, and the track stars are on the first flight.

In the bus station, everyone's still talking about Tanner and Josh's big strategic plans as they work out a plan B: get everybody else on board with U-Turning the Green Team in case one of them gets there first.

She's Coming In, 12:30 Flight

Stock footage of various African fauna greets the racers as they touch down in Zambia. Their first stop is Mukuni Village, where they're told they'll receive a "traditional Mukuni welcome." I'm sure at this point the racers are expecting singing, and dancing, and happy locals, which they indeed get. None of them could possibly be expecting a woman to take a swig of water and then spit it in their faces. It's great fun: even if you don't secretly harbor fantasies of getting to spit on all of these teams, nearly everyone gives a great reaction shot.

Batoka Aerodrome is the next stop for the racers (and if "Batoka" sounds familiar to you, that's because this aerodrome shares a name with a local gorge that was visited on the first leg of the very first season of this show). Tanner and Josh's Express Pass is burning a hole in their pocket. They hand it in before they even have a chance to see what the task entails, and Josh is a little bummed when he sees how awesome it is: each Roadblocker will get to go up in a lightweight aircraft to try to spot a clue on the ground. He's even more bummed when he realizes this isn't going to take anybody longer than about half an hour, meaning the giant lead they hoped to get by turning in their Express Pass is not so giant after all.

Seriously, there's very little skill involved with this; it's more an excuse to show off the truly spectacular landscape. As Diana and Kelsey take the Roadblock for their respective teams, Justin decides to propose an alliance to Joey. Joey, who just pledged fealty to Team Texas at the top of the leg, immediately accepts this proposal as well, later explaining that he can play both ends against the middle and proclaiming himself to be "puppetmastering." I'm not sure he fully understands how puppets work.

Finding the clue from the air proves to be the easy part; finding the clue again on the ground is marginally tougher for some. Jazmine and Danielle get so lost that they are briefly unsure what country they're in. "We know we're in Africa," Danielle pipes up helpfully.

Tanner and Josh roll up to the next cluebox after several traffic-related delays during which you could measure the rate at which their lead was melting away by the increasingly dejected looks on their faces. And it's about to get worse once they realize that the next stop -- a local backpackers' hostel -- contains not clues for the next task, but departure times for the next morning. (It looks to be about 3:00 in the afternoon at this point.)

Gonna Take Some Time To Do The Things We Never Had

As teams arrive at the bunching point, everyone is amazed by Tanner and Josh's lack of foresight. "Wasted express pass dot com," proclaims Justin. "Why would they DO that?" asks Rick. To add insult to injury, Justin and Diana have drawn exactly the same departure time as Tanner and Josh.

Justin takes this opportunity to try to smooth things over. He strikes up a deal with Tanner and Josh: he won't U-Turn them if they promise not to U-Turn him, and surprisingly, they agree. Justin doesn't necessarily intend to honor the bargain, though: "What is it to lie to two people you just met?" Indeed, Tanner says he's not going to have any trouble going back on his word, either.

The Detour, "Co-op" or "Croquet," invites teams to either visit a local artists' cooperative and paint and polish a souvenir giraffe wood carving, or play croquet against local professionals. Newscasters, Texas, Green, and James Earl and Denise all choose Croquet; everyone else chooses Co-op.

Cindy and Rick opt for Co-op since they don't actually know what croquet is (I guess they've never seen Heathers), and to dentist Cindy's delight, the task involves toothbrushes. It's easy for Tiffany and Krista, too, who liken it to painting their nails. There's a little bit of teams spraying each other in the face with the stain compound, a great task judge who measures teams' progress in percentages, and whole a lot of yelling between Logan and Chris, who express differing viewpoints on everything from which giraffe statue to choose to how long they need to wait for the stain to dry. Unfortunately, we also spend a lot of time watching their paint jobs drying, which is about as exciting as...well, you know.

Hurry Boy, It's Waiting There For You

Croquet's not a huge challenge for anybody, either. Diana and Justin finish first, with Tanner and Josh hot on their heels. Neither of them is giving much credence to their earlier agreement, and assumes they will be U-Turned. But Diana and Justin are not idiots: they know it won't do them any good to U-Turn a second-place team. What's more, the Pit Stop is within about 50 yards of the U-Turn mat, meaning there's not a whole lot of room for anything interesting to happen between the U-Turn and the Pit Stop.

But that doesn't preclude anything interesting from happening AT the Pit Stop -- the leg's not over, says Phil. Keep on racing! Justin and Diana are stepping off the mat as Tanner and Josh, who've opted not to U-Turn anybody since they can't U-Turn Justin, are stepping on.

There's just one more piece of business to take care of: now that Tanner and Josh have used up their Express Pass, it's time to pass it on to another team. Tanner and Josh confer, and after some deliberation, they decide to give their Express Pass to...

...our dear old friend, To Be Continued.

Verdict

Africa is not a destination we see nearly enough of on this show, so it's always a special experience when they visit. The throwbacks to Season 1's first leg at Victoria Falls will delight old-school fans (especially since it looks like they're paying a visit to Batoka George --- I mean Gorge -- next week). Plus, it's possible that there has never been sweeter comeuppance than the moment Josh and Tanner realized their Express Pass had absolutely no bearing on the leg's outcome. Between the supremely satisfying impotent overstrategizing and the gorgeous African scenery, you may not even notice -- or care -- that nobody went home this week.

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