The Amazing Race Ladles Out Some Punishment
Teams spend back-to-back episodes in Tanzania and Norway, respectively, and most of them are finally getting to know one another well enough to fully let loose and bicker.
Vive La Difference
Vanck and Ashton decompress at the Pit Stop over yet another sound bite about how different they are.
Matt and Redmond show up, and Ashton's got some harsh words for them about the fact that the team they were hassling for being "weak" finished in third place. "We were coming here to actually be nice," replies Redmond, but [shrug]. He's quick to remind them that they weren't far behind, and were U-Turned to boot. Ashton says it's totally not personal, but they U-Turned Matt and Redmond because Matt and Redmond were the only team who did something directly to them. So actually it is personal.
No Time For Losers
Teams are instructed to find Farroukh Bulsara House (a.k.a. the boyhood home of Zanzibar's most famous native son, Freddie Mercury) for their first clue. Liz and Michael ask a local for directions, but he's told that the house was torn down years ago and directed to a huge pile of rubble and dust. Michael commences to digging through the dust, since the clue did say "Another One Bites The Dust," after all. They're at it long enough for two other teams to pass them.
Detour: find a key hidden inside a puzzle box ("lock"), or find particular carved doors ("knock"). Tara and Joey attempt to brute-force it by knocking on every door they see, and this actually sort of works when they stumble across it at random, but for some reason they abandon it pretty quickly. This proves to be a mistake, since not only are they searching among hundreds of boxes for their key, but pretty much everyone else is doing "lock," and only Liz and Michael (the latter of whom loves to take things apart) appear to figure out its central gimmick with any degree of urgency.
Ashton and Vanck, choosing "Knock," learn that these doors are fairly popular tourist attractions, and a local hotel has the info. Ashton wants to get going; Vanck wants to double-check the directions. Extended bickering occurs, and eventually they depart without checking, which means that, about ten minutes later, they've got to find another local to guide them.
Much more puzzle-box-wrangling and door-hunting follows. Tara and Joey switch back to "Knock" and make quick work of it. Shamir and Sara find two doors, but the third proves elusive. Sara voices over that she's taking charge this week "because of Brazil," by which she means "because my partner is a big whiny crybaby who doesn't have any sense of urgency," but it's early in the race and she's still got a little tact left.
On their way out, Scott gives an extra key to Floyd and Becca and catches hell from Brooke for it, but Floyd and Becca are so grateful that it's hard to stay mad for long.
Logan and London, bringing up the rear, abandon "lock" and switch to "knock," and the right helpful local directs them to all three doors within about five minutes. Meanwhile, by Shamir's count, he and Sara asked more than thirty people where the doors are and nobody knows.
All of the teams but Sara and Shamir are finally off the course for now and ready for the next thing, which involves boarding a ferry back to Dar es Salaam, and there's a tense moment where you think they might pull out a last-minute victory and make the boat, but they really don't.
It Means No Worries...Really
Sara and Shamir eventually switch back to "Lock," well after the first ferry's departed, and by this point they've both switched into that sharp, snippy tone you usually hear out of the most dysfunctional team roughly ten legs in. Which is obviously the ideal mindset for tackling a cerebral problem-solving task.
Meanwhile, in the part of the Race that matters, teams are in cabs on their way to the Roadblock. Matt and Redmond ask how long their cab will take and are told, "hakuna matata," which many of us learned just now is a real expression.
Over the din of a dozen hammers hitting tin, Phil explains that the Roadblocker must hammer a ladle out of a recycled sheet of tin. Most of the teams are hilariously bad at this -- particularly Vanck, for whom this is clearly the first time he has ever handled a tool or done any sort of manual labor.
But Brooke's having the toughest time of all. Roughly three-quarters through the tin-cutting phase, she melts down completely, requiring pep talks from, at various points, Scott, Michael, and Redmond, whom you think for a second might be a nicer guy than his confrontations with Ashton may have led you to believe.
Then this happens: "I heard she doesn't like being told to calm down," says Matt. "I know," replies Redmond. "That's why I kept saying it."
The task judge has a convenient pot of pasta with which to test every ladle, although when you ponder the fact that they're just sticking these freshly-hammered tools into food without washing them, you kind of never want to eat pasta again. Joey makes quick work of the task, and he and Tara hit the mat in first place.
As Shamir and Sara step off the ferry in Dar es Salaam, Sara announces that if they see another team left at the Roadblock, "I will poop myself." So we've got that to look forward to, maybe.
Too Ladle, Too Late
Brooke, in second-to-last place, presents her ladle for judging, and she's relieved to pass muster. The sun has nearly set by the time she and Scott check in, but they're not nearly as stressed as they would be if any of this actually mattered.
Speaking of which, Shamir and Sara are at the ladle shop in full darkness, and despite the fact that the previews promised us many moments of Shamir hurting himself on sharp objects, they really aren't there very long before Phil arrives at the task and shuts it all down, thus depriving us of future installments of Shamir causing himself great amounts of pain at the hands of ordinary household objects, and more's the pity.
Now For Part II
So instead of treating this episode like a double-stacked single episode like Survivor did, this is actually treated fully as two separate episodes, so we get the end credits, previews, "previously on"s, and opening credits.
Pining For The Fjords
Via one single flight, teams are now off to Norway, and, Phil promises, "the highest concentration of fjords in the world." I think he's expecting a more enthusiastic reception than anyone's going to give him for that little nugget of trivia.
Alesund, Norway, looks straight out of Frozen, and just in case we doubt it, we get roughly 153 separate helicopter pans over snowy peaks, icy fjords, and neat little Scandinavian buildings. The teams' first task is to drive to a local lighthouse and eat a plate of cured rockfish, which most people are pretty jazzed about. However, eating the provided fish proves more difficult for Brooke than building the ladle was, judging from her reaction. She wastes enough time sobbing "I can't do this" and gagging on the fish that they blow their lead, and Becca and Floyd pass them and are able to hop into a nearby helicopter housing a Fast Forward.
Scott's once again put in the position of assuring Brooke that it's okay, really it is, and that she shouldn't freak out about losing the race when they're essentially in second place at the moment. Although actually, technically, they must be in at least third place by now, given that they've given up on navigating and are instead just tailgating Vanck and Ashton, who've hit upon the revolutionary racing strategy of "have a map."
We Didn't Start The Fire
Brooke and Scott continue to follow Vanck and Ashton as Brooke insists she isn't as helpless and incompetent as she might have come off. "I AM able to do it," she says, "and I've done everything that's been put in front of me." Scott just smirks into the camera, inwardly examining every life choice that's led him to this moment. It's a look we've seen a dozen times from a dozen different falling-apart teams, although Scott should take heart that unlike some other racers who've been brought this low, he has the option of never speaking to his partner again the second they're done racing, without needing to get attorneys involved or even so much as logging onto Facebook to end his "in a relationship" status.
Next up: a Roadblock which asks "who wants to set a world record?" Unfortunately for some of these racers, the record being set is not "most wildly different Amazing Race team" or "loudest tantrum thrown over smoked fish." Instead they will be climbing a large tower of construction pallets and stacking additional pallets at the summit to help construct the world's largest bonfire tower. Matt claims that his skills as a professional snowboarder have prepared him for this task, despite the fact that this task entails ascent and snowboarding involves descent. He's onto something, though, because he crushes it.
Scott insists he's going to take the Roadblock, despite the fact that he sort of, uh, pulled a Brooke the last time he was compelled to do a heights-related task. However, he's done it before, he says, and he can do it again. In fact, once he's harnessed up, he's actually kind of excited for it. Brooke immediately takes credit for curing him of his fear of heights.
"I wish we could be there to see it burn," say Liz and Michael as they finish the task. The show helpfully cuts to "one week later," and indeed, the fire's pretty epic.
Floyd and Becca earn their nickname of #TeamFun when they're told they'll be skydiving out of the helicopter and immediately start jumping up and down with excitement. "Should we use the Express Pass?" jokes Floyd as they skip -- literally skip -- back into the helicopter to execute their jump.
You Gotta Pay The Troll Toll
So now it's on to the Detour: "Troll" -- paddle a kayak search fishing lines for a clue -- or "Trolls" -- recite a spell to free a troll...wait, what? There are costumed creatures looking like leftovers from Alesund's recent production of "Cats" wandering the city center, and the racers will have to recite a Norwegian troll-banishing spell at them to collect comically oversized firecrackers and that is a 100% accurate depiction of what you're about to see, but somehow it still feels woefully inadequate.
Tara and Joey, at "Troll" (singular) find their clue, but they're not totally sure it's the right clue, so they go find another, but the clue (reading only "AKSLA") isn't very, um, clueful, so they team up with Matt and Redmond to try and figure out what they're meant to do next.
Vanck and Ashton are so intrigued by the description of "Trolls" (plural) that they wander away from the Roadblock without bringing their Amazing Fanny Packs, although they quickly realize their mistake and double back. This task is worth the aggravation, though, for both the viewer and the racers. Vanck and Ashton are so delighted by the task's whimsy that for a moment they forget to bicker and/or talk to the camera about how different they are.
Liz and Michael opt for "Trolls" (plural), but they're delayed when they get into a minor altercation over directions, and Liz tries to explain that they're going forward, and the top of the map is facing forward, so that must be north.
Aksla-dents Will Happen
"Paper is not a compass!" shouts Michael as he and Liz continue to argue over directions. "And we shouldn't do this challenge!" Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter which way is north, because Liz actually does know what she's talking about, and they commence their task.
Vanck and Ashton have opted to use their car to transport their troll props -- a strategy which most of the other teams scoff at. Rightly so, it seems, since they waste so much time parallel parking that all of the other teams pass them as they're approaching the checkpoint.
Becca and Floyd undertake their skydive, and it's as spectacular as they were hoping it would be. At the end, they're instructed to proceed to the Pit Stop atop Mount Aksla...OHHHH.
Meanwhile, Joey, Tara, Redmond, and Matt confirm that "Aksla" is the clue they're seeking, but they conclude that they need to find some locals to explain what it all means. They jog up the 400-odd stairs to the summit. Meanwhile, Floyd and Becca speed toward the mountain in their car, crowing that they're first and basically already planning what fun things they'll be doing on whatever trip they win for winning the leg. "Team Fun is Number One," they announce to Phil. Actually, says Phil, they're Team #3. They've had so much fun they kind of don't care.
Liz and Michael opt to drive up to the top of the mountain, which proves to be a mistake, since Michael manages to clip a nearby van as he's pulling out of the parking spot. Could this spell the end of their race? Will they be forced to compensate the driver, report the damage to authorities?
In The Hall Of The Parking-Garage King
No sweat, says the van driver. This vehicle's a piece of crap anyway.
Brooke screams at Scott as they run up the mountain to check in as Team #6. Meanwhile, Liz and Michael find an elevator in the mountain's parking garage (mountains have parking garages?) but it turns out they still have to take the steps. Michael's not exactly his best self on this jog. This makes them the last team to arrive, but fortunately, Phil tells them, the leg's not over and they're still racing.
This doesn't seem to make them feel any better, though. They proceed to have a lengthy argument on the mat in front of Phil, the crew, and the small child serving as greeter, and the screen fades to "To Be Continued" as Michael declares that he's totally done. Done with this leg, or done with this race? Come on, man, even Brooke isn't quitting the race.
This is...a lot of Amazing Race. Fortunately, a couple of great destinations, a truly bonkers task, and some epic meltdowns make it worth watching. Maybe not all at once.