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The Amazing Race Encounters Lions And Gorges And Crocs. Oh My!

In Zimbabwe, Amazing Racers scream their way through adrenaline-filled tasks and get up close and personal with the local wildlife.

Pass It On

The next leg of The Amazing Race kicks off mid-sentence, as Tanner and Josh declare the lucky recipients of their extra Express Pass. They've decided to give it to James Earl and Denise, and their reasoning is fairly convoluted, but in a nutshell, Team Alabama is the perfect balance of "not a threat" and "will probably still be around long enough to feel like they have to return the favor." With that, they are more than happy never to hear the words "Express" and "Pass" in close proximity again.

Meanwhile, Justin and Diana, who won the previous leg, spend the trip to the Roadblock dispensing bland praise for Tanner and Josh's competitive spirit and class-act-itude, and Josh and Tanner vice versa.

James Earl and Denise, hitting the mat in fourth place, are, of course, psyched to receive their Express Pass, and Denise commemorates the occasion by doing the most epic dance I've ever seen someone perform while seated in a moving vehicle.

Sunday In The Park With Gorge

The next destination: Batoka Gorge, where the Roadblock clue asks: "Who wants to gorge themselves?" The task is yet another throwback to the very first leg of the very first season, which Phil helpfully punctuates with footage of Kevin and Drew and "swing, you fat bastard, swing!" Josh, who's elected to do the Roadblock for his team, inadvertently throws in another Kevin and Drew homage when he refers to it as a "george."

Those of you who've stuck with this show for fifteen years will be thrilled to revisit the Batoka Gorge swing; those of you seeing it now for the first time will be no less thrilled, because it's pretty epic. Racers basically jump off a 200-foot cliff and swing on a pendulum over the Zambezi River. There are lots of weird, distorted close-ups of screaming faces juxtaposed with breathtaking scenery.

Back at the mat, the back half checks in and gets their clues. When the paparazzi arrive, Chris attempts to donate part of their money until Phil guilt-trips them into giving all of it. In fairness to them, there was no rule saying they had to donate all of their money, and they had no way of knowing they were the only team that didn't immediately pony up 100%. Spoiler alert, though: they're going to look bad enough on this leg without appearing to have neglected a bunch of orphans.

The track stars and the cheerleaders are not far behind Logan and Chris. Jazmine and Danielle opt not to U-turn the cheerleaders, which they immediately regret when they find out they're still racing. Krista and Tiffany give serious consideration to whom they'll U-turn, finally settling on Justin and Diana since they'd promised Team Texas they would. Krista briefly considers, and then rejects, the possibility that Justin and Diana are in front of them, and then is stunned to learn that not only was the green team in front of them, but so were all six of the other teams.

Swing And A Miss

Through a scuba mask, Phil presents the Detour options for the leg. In Crocs, teams will feed crocodiles while submerged in a metal cage. In Canoe, they'll paddle downriver and then climb a tree to a vulture nest, where they'll retrieve a clue that's either encrusted with vulture guano or possibly styled by some poor PA to appear as though it's encrusted with vulture guano. It's pretty clear that the producers didn't expect anyone to choose the latter, which doesn't even involve any actual vultures, so it's a little surprising when both Justin and Diana and the Texans pick the vulture/canoe task. Something something competition, something something respect. I must say, they were a lot more fun to watch when they all hated each other.

Back at the gorge, Chac Attack interprets "gorge" as "eating a lot of food" and not "thing that's right behind us," so Cindy, who signed up for an eating task, is a little grumpy at the prospect of doing an adrenaline task. She and Rick return to their cab and instruct a very confused cab driver to take them to the swing, over and above his protestations that he thought they were at the swing. Logan and Chris instruct their cab to follow Rick and Cindy, and their driver's similarly confused.

This signals a break for the cheerleaders and the track stars, who are delighted to discover that both the paparazzi and the Chacs missed the giant "gorge swing this way" sign. Logan and Chris, who have been a swirling cloud of chaos since they landed in Africa, send us to commercial on the usual cut-to-commercial soundbite about how it's all over for them and they might as well go home.

You Can't Hide Your Lion Eyes

Kelsey and Joey arrive at the crocodile Detour and change into wetsuits to go feed some spongy pink animal tissue to some crocs. Like the gorge swing, it's beautiful and adrenaline-y without seeming actively life-threatening. James Earl and Denise roll up to the crocodiles just as the newscasters are about to go under, then play the Express Pass right in front of them.

But it's not Pit Stop time yet: next, the racers will walk around a course accompanied by several lions while they look for their next clue, which is hidden (or "hidden") somewhere on the path. You must avoid wearing bright colors around the lions, look them in the eye, avoid loud noises, and never crouch down; the lions officially have a concert rider that rivals J.Lo's in terms of Byzantine demands. The pink team changes clothes accordingly, because apparently lions hate pink. As they walk with the lions, Justin and Diana attempt to listen politely to the warden's speech about poaching, but their minds are on the clue.

Everyone in the back half of the pack picks the crocodile detour, which means there's a bit of a bottleneck by the time Logan and Chris show up in last place. Realizing there's no chance for them to make up time, Chris immediately insists that they change out of their wetsuits and go take the other Detour, and an argument ensues, which I could probably take a little more seriously if they weren't half dressed while having it. While Chris and Logan scream at each other, Krista and Tiffany are screaming at the crocodiles from inside the cage. It's basically just a lot of screaming all around.

The Track Stars Get Off Track

One final task awaits the Racers before they hit the Pit Stop (and, I hope, a shower: even Phil looks pretty grungy at this point). "Just to make things interesting," Phil says, they'll walk the last stretch while balancing a basket of fruit on their heads. What ensues is what James Earl refers to as "the slowest footrace ever," but it's one he and Denise ultimately win, beating out Diana and Justin to win the leg.

Jazmine and Danielle take a wrong turn coming into the lion encounter, find a bunch of baskets and fruit, and conclude that they need to basket up and follow the marked path. When they encounter Phil, and not lions, they realize they've screwed up royally. But they're not done screwing up yet: once they DO backtrack and find the lions, they miss the clue and have to do it twice, and it seems like maybe their game warden didn't account for that possibility, because he's a little taken aback when he tells them they'll have to wait until everyone's finished and then go out again. The lions are all, "Again? really?"

Eventually, there's (what appears to be) a three-way footrace to the finish between Chac Attack, the paparazzi, and the track stars, which you'd think would be frenetic, but again, they're racing with giant fruit baskets on their heads, so it all happens in slow motion, which of course ups the suspense factor considerably (and, of course, Logan and Chris still haven't stopped yelling at each other, which also contributes to the stress factor). In the end, Phil breaks the bad news to Jazmine and Danielle.

Verdict

Rarely has The Amazing Race packed so many (and varied) tasks into one leg in recent years, and whenever it has, some of them have inevitably been duds. Not so this time: there's terrifying wildlife, adrenaline galore, and enough skill-based activity to make it competitive. And, of course, all the screaming you could possibly desire.

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