In a bid to get the ratings back up after going against the Oscars last week, the producers made sure as many contestants got their melons out as possible.
Art & JJ: I was about to say that I haven’t hated a team this much in a very long time, but then I realised that I tend to feel this way about at least one team every season (the previous one being a notable exception, because season 19 sucked so much it didn’t even have a decent villain). There’s something so alarmingly ‘roidy about these two and their attitude to everything and everyone, apart from Rachel & Dave, who remain exempt due to being fellow government employees. I think the moment that truly solidified my hatred for these two was their entrance to (and exit from) the playground where the first clue was located, and the way they felt compelled to scream “WHEEE!” as they went down the slides, except doing so in a manner that suggested they weren’t actually having fun, but that they felt they ought to be making a noise that implied they were. To be fair, I can’t fault their performance on this leg, which they absolutely smoked (I shudder to think how many hours they must be ahead of Vanessa & Ralph at this point), but they’re still so very unpleasant to watch, and I’m hoping for a massive equaliser on the next leg and a task that really challenges them, just to even things out a bit.
Brendon & Rachel: Rachel has a rather bizarre skillset, doesn’t she? We discovered last week that she’s no good at mental arithmetic, despite being a science graduate, but this leg revealed that she’s particularly talented at restringing harps and balancing a bottle on her head. Oh, and at taking umbrage to things that Vanessa says, as the feud between these two appears to have kicked off in earnest. I don’t quite understand what was so offensive about the comment Vanessa made – it was a bit rude and coarse, perhaps, but it hardly seemed to warrant the righteous fury that Rachel subsequently burst into. Anyway, I continue to fear that Rachel’s too highly-strung for the race, since even finishing second brought her out into a fit of tears about not doing well enough. Calm down, Captain Overachiever.
Joey “Fitness” & Danny: This was a good recovery for a team that barely made it through leg one, especially on a round that really seemed to tax everyone. That they did all this having switched Detour options makes it even more impressive (I know Rachel & Brendon also switched, but they didn’t seem to spend nearly as long melon-stacking as these guys initially did). Perhaps I misjudged them in the early rounds. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m Team Guidos at this point, but if they continue to perform solidly, I might be able to find it in myself to root for them.
Bopper & Mark: I’m pretty much in the same place as I was last week with these two: I like Mark, but Bopper is still just too much for me to deal with. I did quite enjoy their little bit of gameplaying with the cousins, where they not only lied (by omission, but still) to them about the difficulty level of the melon challenge but also ran off with their taxi into the bargain – it’s one of those things that’s perhaps a tad unsporting, but entirely within the rules, and therefore is fine with me. I still can only understand about half of what Bopper’s saying, though. And that half mainly consists of “GIT ‘ER DONE!!!!”
Nary & Jamie: I’m…confused by these two at this point. While I think Art & JJ are in no position to be pointing fingers about alliances, it did seem odd that they were all “Hey! You guys! Over here!” at the airport at the beginning. Perhaps they’re working on the assumption that in the early stages it’s better to all stick in a group, rather than allow one team to wander off and potentially beat you all out, but it feels like a risky strategy. They also seem a bit too willing to be led by others – like switching Detour options the second they saw another team do it – but at the same time, they still seem reasonably confident. For a while I was convinced that Nary had somehow obtained a black eye at the Roadblock, but apparently it was just all the liquid from inside the bottles making her mascara run. At least, I hope that’s what it was.
Rachel & Dave: Well, how the mighty are fallen. As Phil alluded to at the Pit Stop, they are the first team to make it to the end of a leg without completing ANY of the challenges and yet not get eliminated. Using their Express Pass so early may have been a poor decision – they seemed to have based it on having arrived at the harp-stringing Detour option and seeing everyone else already there, without considering the possibility of other teams still lagging behind and fiddling with their melons (FNAR) or the fact that they might still get it done quicker. They were also, if memory serves, the only team who had to take the penalty for failing to complete the bottle-balancing Roadblock, and watching them arrive 2nd only to trickle down to an eventual 6th place was deeply satisfying. It was also interesting how they alluded to the idea that the strength of their marriage appears to be based on never having to spend any time together. This bodes ill for them over the rest of the race, I suspect.
Kerri & Stacey: A bit of a disappointment after a strong performance from these two last week, but this was a tough and physically draining leg, and considering these two are both pretty slight, I think they did well to keep up. I liked that they didn’t seem overly affronted by Team Kentucky’s taxi theft – annoyed in the moment, sure, and the “all bets are off” declaration in the taxi later was priceless, but it’s not like they were declaring all-out war or allowing their resentment to salt their own game, as other teams have done in the past.
Vanessa & Ralph: I was honestly preparing to say my goodbyes to these two about halfway through the leg, as I was convinced they had no hope of catching up. Vanessa’s single-minded determination to finish the melon stacking Detour was sort of admirable, but also kind of dumb: for one thing, they didn’t seem to realise that the base of their pyramid was the likely source of their problems (other teams seemed to build the outside first and work in, whereas Vanessa and Ralph started in a corner and built outwards), and also, while trying to send out a message about not giving in easily is a nice idea, the message came across more as “stick with something that isn’t working no matter how much it isn’t working out for you, because quitting is wrong”. Could they not have just explained to Ralph’s daughter that by switching to the other Detour, they were inspiring her to look for alternative solutions to a tricky problem or something? Anyway, thanks to the twins’ complete inability to do either Detour option, they managed to remain in the game – but they are going to need the mother of all equalisers to regain their footing in the next leg.
Elliot & Andrew: Well, I’m disappointed that the only really fanciable racer of the season is out of the running now, but not entirely surprised – they’ve barely featured in the edit for most of the legs, and rumour has it that the footage left on the cutting room floor wasn’t all that flattering in terms of actual racing aptitude. I don’t know what it was about the harp-stringing detour that slowed them down so much when other teams managed it fairly well, but sometimes that’s just how it goes – in the heat of the moment you panic or you go too fast and you make life hard for yourself. I think they can hold their heads up relatively high – as I said above, this leg was draining for EVERYONE, so there’s no real shame in being the team that was ultimately defeated by it – but it’s a shame that a team that looked so strong on paper never really delivered in practice.