God, even the episode titles reek of “will this do?” this season.
Other teams may well have appeared in this episode, but only a fool would pretend that the narrative of this leg was anything other than The Ballad Of Brendon & Rachel. It was fun to see them win their first-ever leg last week, but let’s be honest: the real joy of Brendon & Rachel is when they’re struggling, when she’s weeping and wailing and he’s uselessly planted next to her like a travelling wardrobe. Things started off fairly portentously when, for reasons that seemingly got lost in the edit, they managed to slip six places simply traveling between the opening pit stop and the airport. Presumably they just got one of those random unfortunate cabs that plague the race from time to time (and have even been known to cost a team the $1,000,000 prize – just ask Jill & Thomas), but it was enough to doom them to the back of the pack for the entire leg, because there were two designated flights for the teams to take and only room for six teams on the first one, leaving Rachel & Brendon fighting it out with Jessica & John (who really seem to be struggling this time around in general) and Joey & Meghan for last place.
They were chipper enough about it to begin with, and Rachel threw herself into the Roadblock that required her to abseil down a waterfall. She removed her green sequinned shorts first, of course, because she was worried that she might lose a few sequins in the process (not that this would have been any great loss to society as a whole, but Rachel seemed to think it was necessary to protect the integrity of her garment and strip down to her underwear, even if this meant the poor editors had to pixellate out her vagina for quite a bit of the in-task footage). However, things really came apart from them at the Detour when their self-built raft fell apart in the rapids, sending Brendon careering away in the current while Rachel was left abandoned atop the few logs that remained attached, screaming “BRENDON, STOP!” That Rachel seemed to think that the main thing driving Brendon downriver was simply the lack of any instruction to stay where he was tells you quite a lot about Rachel, I think.
Still, it was all worth it for the portion of the task where they had to use a blowgun to take out some (fake) birds in the jungle, and the footage of Rachel stalking around with her bamboo weapon in the foliage was basically a test run to see how good she’d look in the opening credits of Survivor. (Answer: she looks like a natural, and CBS should seriously consider getting Rachel to do the reality show hat-trick. Maybe Brendon too if they’re doing Blood vs Water again.) Despite a fairly disastrous leg, however, they still weren’t quite as boneheaded as Team YouTube and managed to cling on to the Race, but just barely.
Few other teams made anything like as much impact this week – essentially most teams sailed through the Roadblock and everyone struggled to some extent with the Detour. At one point it looked as though Dave & Connor would be taken down as, after a strong leg up to that point, they slipped up big time when they failed to recognise their correct stopping point on the river and carried on for another six bridges. Realising their mistake, and the fact that the rapids made a return trip up the river essentially impossible, the father-son team were left with no option but to retrace their steps on foot, carrying the heavy cargo that they were due to drop off to a village elder. Frustratingly, however, this colossal cock-up made no difference to their leg placing whatsoever – despite all the time they must have bled, nobody else was able to catch up to them and they still finished the leg in first place. It was their first win without a leg injury (and I think it speaks volumes to the collective interestingness of Dave & Connor that when they’re race-fit all they can find to talk about is that time when they weren’t) and obviously that’s great for them, but to me it feels like a serious flaw in the leg design if one team can mess up that badly and the rest of the teams – who didn’t seem to be that far behind if the editing is to be believed – still can’t overtake them.
It was business as usual with most teams – Margie’s still a workhorse while Luke is still kind of useless, Caroline & Jennifer are still plugging away valiantly but very much at the bottom of whichever pack they’re in, Jet & Cord are still far too in love with their own legacy, and Flight Time & Big Easy are still competent and shouty – and the only real character beat of interest was the apparent maturity of the Afghanimals: in a position where they had just finished a task and encountered Jet & Cord, who asked if they were in the right place. The Afghanimals of yesterseason would of course have lied through their teeth, but Leo & Jamal stated in a confessional that they were going to try to run the race differently this time, so in a spirit of friendly co-operation, they confirmed to the Cowboys that yes, they were in the right place. I feel slightly uneasy with these new supportive and civic-minded Afghanimals. It’s all wrong, like if Chuck & Wynona had come back and she’d suddenly developed this insatiable appetite for world travel, or if Tim & Marie came back and suddenly she was a Buddhist.
That really just leaves us with Joey and Meghan, whose big mistake this leg was dismissing their taxi driver when they were on a task in the middle of nowhere, apparently in the belief that there is an endless supply of cabs in rural Malaysia. Joey tried to rectify the situation by praying to the God of Taxis, which directly contravenes Meghan’s rule from last leg about never asking the big boys for help. *FEMINIST SNIFF* (And yes, I do think the God of Taxis is male. No idea why, just a gut feeling.) Despite claiming that they both came from a long line of carpenters (or something – I tried to pay as little attention to these two as possible, to be perfectly honest), their raft was just as prone to falling apart as everyone else’s and the pair never managed to make up enough ground to save themselves. Leaving the race, they mostly just snivelled about how they’d EMBARRASSED THEMSELVES by finishing 9th (although to my mind a 9th-place finish seems far more in line with their capabilities than the Top 5 finish they managed in their first attempt), and I’m reliably informed that they then went home and pretended they hadn’t even been racing in the first place, and refused to do any promo for the season on their YouTube channels because they’re both such rotten sports. Hopefully this, combined with the KevJumba fiasco, means that CBS has now officially had its fingers burnt with YOUTUBE SENSATIONS enough times not to attempt it any more, although I’m sure they’ll just end up sourcing their awful camera-hogging famewhores from somewhere else instead. They’ll probably recruit a team from richkidsofinstagram or something.
Next week: Jessica’s foot explodes, and as Luke chokes on yet another Roadblock, Margie is forced to inform him that smashing the equipment is “not acceptable behaviour”. Luke is 26, by the way.