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The Amazing Race Goes Balls To The Wall

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, racers assemble workout equipment out of junk, before one racer’s junk gets a workout.

Get To The Chopper

How are things working out for our teams of total strangers after one leg? Great, in some cases; not so much in others. Francesca and Jessie can't imagine being paired with anyone else; Michael and Liz are just glad they didn't get eliminated after their disastrous first leg.

There are a whopping six different flights heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil for Leg 2, probably due to the fact that Sao Paulo's a pretty major airport hub. In a season where not very much reminds us of old-school TAR anymore, this is a welcome throwback. Once in Sao Paulo, everyone will sign up for time slots for a helicopter tour the following morning.

Arriving on the first flight, Redmond and Matt and Vanck and Ashton make a pact that they'll flip a coin for the first and second slots on the sign-up sheet once they get there, but when Redmond and Matt arrive at the sign-up sheet first and there's no sign of the other team, they figure "you snooze, you lose," and go ahead and take the first spot. Ashton, in particular, does a lot of sniffing about honor and backstabbing when their rivals' treachery is revealed, but it's hard to stay mad at anyone or anything when the first actual item on your agenda is a helicopter ride at sunrise. Indeed, every team is so dazzled by the views that interteam and inTRAteam conflict alike falls to the wayside for a minute. (The show is past the point where it's pretending this ride actually serves any purpose in the game. Nobody's actually being called upon to DO anything here.)

After the helicopters, it's Detour time: "keep the beat" (play percussion instruments over a samba routine) or "work your feet" (assemble workout equipment out of recycled truck tires, barrels, and an old refrigerator). Both tasks seem to be the kinds that are full of all sorts of tiny details that could trip teams up: at the gym, Redmond and Matt forget to put water in their barrel; at the samba, Sara forgets to stop playing when everyone else does. Nobody fails epically, though.

Brooke and Scott's cab is apparently not so great at navigation, and Brooke's so bent out of shape about the extra trekking around that she gets distracted, trips, skins her elbow, and bursts into tears. Dude, it's Leg 2. There's no crying in Leg 2. With a little consolation from Scott, she eventually shakes it off and they reach their destination, but she makes sure everyone knows there was actual blood involved.

At some point in all of this, Jessie and Francesca enjoy their helicopter ride with benign, unsuspicious enthusiasm, as "Last Place" flashes underneath their names.

Sisters Are Doing It By Themselves

Drum major Floyd is overjoyed to see a task reminiscent of marching band, but then again, Floyd and Becca seem overjoyed at pretty much everything that's happened on this show so far. But even Floyd and Becca's enthusiasm is overshadowed by Vanck and Ashton's as they completely crush the Detour and actually, finally, find a little common ground.

Of the two tasks, you'd guess that the one involving dragging old refrigerators around and assembling barbells out of old coffee cans would be the most physically taxing, but as it happens, it's Shamir's hands that are bleeding after several attempts to properly shake his percussion instrument. By the time they finish the task, his palms are pretty banged-up. "Luckily, I'm not left-handed," he says. Meanwhile, as she and Scott struggle to complete the gym half of the Detour, Brooke's injured right elbow has her happy she IS left-handed.

Let's check in on Jessie and Francesca: still back there somewhere, still not shown in the same frame as any of the other racers.

Of all the things I did not expect to see this season at any point, "Vanck and Ashton: First Place" was pretty high on the list, but here we are, and here they are at the Roadblock, which entails washing a window of a high-rise building. Naturally, the question posed to the Roadblocker is "who likes things squeaky clean?" and not something on the order of "who would like to be suspended from dubious safety gear at a truly death-defying height?," so someone's probably going to wind up taking this task who's got a real issue with heights. That someone? Scott, who tearfully explains that he has to take the Roadblock because of Brooke's injured elbow. He's not doubting his ability to get it done, but he's not exactly happy about it either.

Teams Are Giving 120%

Actually, Scott's totally fine. He cheerfully reports that he wanted to conquer this fear on the Race, and with the help of some encouraging words from Brooke, he gets through the task without giving the camera so much as a single "I don't think I can do this." The Amazing Producers kick sand in disappointment.

More improbable than Vanck and Ashton in first place? A foot race to the mat between Vanck and Ashton and Liz and Michael (who were not only nearly eliminated in the last leg, they landed in Sao Paulo on the third flight). Michael and Liz pull out the victory. Ashton's not too disappointed about missing out on first place; she's just happy to have beaten Matt and Redmond. Vanck agrees: "We're 120 percent satisfied," he says, "although that's mathematically impossible." In third place, Redmond is pretty bummed not to have won Leg 2 solely because, as an amputee, he had a pretty epic dad joke prepared about winning a second leg.

Back at the window task, Shamir's harness is cutting into his junk in an uncomfortable way, thus requiring medical intervention and giving the producers their much-needed "I don't think I can do this."

Suspension; Suspense

Logan gleefully says that Shamir got "testy" over his injury; he and London are pretty jazzed to depart the task while Shamir's still getting checked out in the ambulance. Finally, Shamir's pronounced totally fine and told to either quit or get back to washing windows. Sara's miffed that he wasted so much time over what turned out to be absolutely nothing, and even more miffed when he appears to be contemplating the option to quit.

On any normal leg of this race, Jessie and Francesca would have been that team bringing up the rear that the editors struggle to present as being in the same frame as another team -- any other team -- before finally getting eliminated as a coda to the leg after you kind of forgot they were still out there. This time, though, Shamir and his balls have wasted enough time that they're still at the Roadblock by the time the #SwoleSisters show up, meaning Francesca and Jessie are back in it for a hot second. Sara manages to give them some wrong directions as they hunt for their clue, though, giving Shamir enough time to finish the task with a little time left over to dangle and complain about his balls some more.

Phil is pretty much over Shamir about ten seconds into Shamir's litany of complaints about the rough day he's had. Phil's mouth is asking Shamir how he's feeling and explaining that yeah, harnesses will do that to you, but his eyes are saying, "this is probably the last season of this show, and the end of the last high-profile steady gig I may ever have, and I get to spend it lecturing a dude about his balls."

To add insult to injury, he then has to eliminate Jessie and Francesca -- one of the more interesting teams in the mix, and certainly among the most enthusiastic and upbeat. They're nothing but gracious on their way out, but everyone seems sad to see them go.

Verdict

Okay, it's pretty entertaining to watch a grown-ass man complain that a safety harness is chafing his balls, but that's not usually why we come to The Amazing Race. The tasks are nothing to write home about, the racers are still mostly a big blur of enthusiasm and spandex athletic gear, we lost a genuinely likable team in a fairly unremarkable way, and we really could have seen a lot more of this destination. It's better than a swift kick to the junk, but not much.

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