The Amazing Race Caravans To Yerevan
For the first time ever, The Amazing Race visits Armenia, but most of the tasks they tackle could probably have been done pretty much anywhere.
I Know You Armenia, But What Am I?
It's been three weeks since we last checked in with our Amazing Racers, although it does sometimes feel more like three years. Has March Madness been going on since the dawn of time or what? So just to bring us back up to speed: everyone was internet famous. Brodie and Blair hooked up. Cole and Sheri don't like heights. Everyone went to France. Some teams you've already forgotten got eliminated. Some teams you don't remember remain. Ready? Okay!
Teams are now departing France for Yerevan, Armenia. Tyler and Korey, departing first, are pleased with their performance so far, but Kurt and Brodie are giving them a run for their money. For two guys who don't actually know where Armenia is, the Frisbee bros sure are strong. While Tyler and Korey are not the kind of people who'd actively sabotage another team, they'd be thrilled if the Frisbee bros did something to screw up on their own.
Armenia, Phil explains, is the "gateway to the ancient world." If the establishing shots are to be believed, it's a land full of sweeping vistas, gorgeous architecture, and kindly old ladies in kerchiefs and aprons. Oh, and the first clue explains that there's an Express Pass for whoever comes in first place this leg, which boggles the minds of some racers, who know full well that it's very late in the game to be giving those out. The winner of the Express Pass gets to use it through Leg 9, which makes it a tantalizing prize indeed.
At Yerevan's Opera House, teams watch a production of Aram Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance," complete with an actual sabre dance. Somewhere in the opera house, they're told, they'll find their clue. The teams who realize that every aspect of the opera house has been planned out by Production, from the elaborately costumed dancers to the random guy in the back pushing a vacuum, know to start by asking the locals, and sure enough, the janitor's got their clue. Because really, if anybody's going to know all the good hiding places in a venue, it's the cleaning staff.
Eventually, the only teams who haven't thought to ask the janitor are Blair and Scott and, more surprisingly, Tyler and Korey.
Some People Dough, Some People Do Knot
For the Detour, Kurt and Brodie and Team Roosterteeth opt for "bread," which requires teams to join a bunch of old Armenian ladies in a local bakery, where they learn how to make an Armenian flat bread called lavash. It's hard to get the bread to stick to the side of the oven, per the traditional lavash-making procedures, and there are lots of failed attempts that result in dough falling into a fire, hands getting burned, and bread disintegrating in the racers' hands. Kurt and Brodie's amazingly enthusiastic helper lady, Marieta, is the best part of not only this task, but the entire episode. For a hot second I hope they'll adopt her onto their team and be allowed to run the rest of the race as a trio. She's supportive, energetic, and she doesn't even laugh at them when the task judge rejects a piece of lavash that has a hole in it big enough to step through.
Everyone else heads to "thread," where they'll learn how to make carpet. A traditional hand-woven Armenian carpet, Phil explains, can take up to nine months to finish. Tyler cites his experience making friendship bracelets in college, and Blair thinks this task would make a great DIY video for her YouTube channel. While this is time-consuming, it's by far the less interesting task of the two, since this is fairly macramé-esque, and all of those craft books from the '70s were right: anyone can do macramé.
Kurt and Brodie are first out of "bread," while mom/son team Sheri and Cole, of all people, are first out of "thread."
Following the task, teams each have to board a distinctive-looking vintage bus to take them to their next destination. ("If it says travel by bus, can we take a cab?" asks Blair. She should probably be penalized for asking that in the first place, but since no penalty ever materializes, it's safe to guess that she was asking if one could take a cab to the place where the buses are parked.)
Eventually, Tyler and Korey are left alone, in last place, with no friends around to share their friendship carpet.
A Well-Oiled Machine
As teams head to the next destination, everyone thinks their bus is the best party bus, although Kurt and Brodie's is the only one that comes equipped with a stereo blaring Armenian techno and therefore probably the only one that could be properly labeled a party bus. The buses drop the racers off in the middle of nowhere, where the Roadblock asks, "Who's feeling drained?" While this site looks more like the kind of place you'd come to dump a body, it's actually a popular auto body shop for taxicabs, apparently. Here, racers will change the oil in a Lada, which is an old-school, jankity Soviet-made car. "Janky cars of the former Eastern Bloc" used to be a common trope in early Amazing Race seasons, but it's been a really long time since we've incorporated them. Here, though, it's pretty obvious that Production is hoping to coast on the Ladas' unique look to get through a task so tedious you generally pay someone else to do it for you. The task is not by any means difficult, especially not when you have an illustrated, step-by-step guide like all of these guys do. Or at least it shouldn't be.
Kurt, who's changed oil a time or two in his life, is in and out of this task quickly, much to the dismay of Sheri and Cole, who've just gotten their first taste of being in the front of the pack and really, really wanted that Express Pass. But the Frisbee bros are too far out in front, and Sheri's grasp on the concept of "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" is too tenuous. As the bros check in at the mat, Sheri falls further and further behind without any idea what she's doing wrong, to the point where nearly every other team has managed to complete the oil change at the other oil-changing station and move on.
As funny as it would be to watch Blair do this task (which Zach points out and everyone agrees), she and Scott are not idiots, so Scott takes it on. When Tyler and Korey roll up in last place, they're stuck waiting around since there are only two stations, and so Tyler decides to help Scott finish more quickly so that his own turn will come up sooner -- a plan that immediately backfires when Scott turns right around and starts helping Sheri.
Son And Mother See Another Day
After a brief, tearful episode during which Sheri expresses doubt that she'll ever finish this task, and with a little bit of helpful coaching from Scott, she finally sucks it up and finishes.
Tyler and Korey finish right behind Cole and Sheri, and it looks like it might be a tense race to the mat until the cabs go separate ways. Clearly someone's cab driver either took a wrong turn or missed one entirely.
Aaaaand...it's Cole and Sheri's cab that screwed up. They finally roll up in last place and are about to drop their tearful (because when are they NOT tearful these days?) "we've learned so much about ourselves" speech on Phil when he stops them -- the leg's not over. They're not out. See you -- all of you -- next time, he says.
Tonight, we watched teams do arts and crafts, make dinner, and fix cars. Frankly, I've seen more heart-pounding suspense in a Richard Scarry "Busytown" book. It's great that we're visiting a new country, and Armenia in general seems pretty cool, but you have to think Production could have found some tasks that represented the culture a little bit more colorfully.