Fight or flight – or in Margie & Luke’s case, just sitting there and hoping for the best.
Foregone conclusions are something The Amazing Race has been battling against ever since its first season, when the top two teams ended up so far ahead of the teams battling it out for third and fourth place that the former finished a leg before the latter had even started. In the years since then, the show has done its best to keep obvious outcomes to a minimum – usually by forcing bunching points at regular intervals to ensure that any laggers-behind can at least catch up enough to create some sort of tension in the episode. That said, there’s only so much that the producers can do, and sometimes either through rotten luck (like Chester and Ephraim last season) or a plain old bad decision, we can know who’s going home before we get to the first ad break.
That was pretty much what happened here: after a scramble to get to the airport to get a plane to Sri Lanka (and I am so, so sad that the Twinnies got eliminated before we got a chance to see the full jingoistic glory they could’ve unleashed with the cab drivers there), it became apparent that there were two ways to get there: a direct flight that was going to take a long time but get you there safely, or two flights that would get you there slightly sooner but which involved a killer connection. Genre savvy racers know how to handle this one – always, always take the direct flight if there isn’t a clear time advantage to be gained by the alternative and/or a connection period that allows for the possibility of your first flight being delayed. As a result, everyone booked themselves onto the direct flight apart from the last two teams to arrive: Margie & Luke, and Brendon & Rachel. Knowing that they were already fucked from having taken so long to complete the previous leg, and still having a speed bump ahead of them, Brendon & Rachel decided they had nothing to lose and opted for the connecting flights. Margie & Luke, on the other hand, decided it was too much of a risk and opted for the guaranteed safety of…hoping a standby seat would turn up on the first flight. To be fair, this wasn’t a terrible idea – there are countless cases in Amazing Race history when a standby spot has miraculously become available on a flight just at the right time to keep a team in the running – but once it got to the point where Margie was desperately asking the check-in clerk if passengers ever check on to the flight but subsequently decide not to board it, we all knew they were toast. Margie & Luke were left with no option but to spend the night in the airport, catch the next flight out the next morning, and hope against all hope that someone else fucked up so badly that they’d still have a chance.
The problem is that really their only hope was that Brendon & Rachel would miss their connection, and sadly for Margie & Luke, the connection wasn’t via Frankfurt (where Abby & Ryan are still roaming the departure lounge, sobbing) so Brendon & Rachel made it with seconds to spare and actually ended up landing in Sri Lanka about five minutes ahead of everyone else. So Margie & Luke’s elimination was so much of a foregone conclusion that it might have been the world’s first recorded fivegone conclusion, and the editors didn’t even bother to check in with them more than about three times in the rest of the leg, and one of those was to eliminate them. (Still, it did mean that a Survivor Sucks poster managed to get their five seconds of fame, as they were shown helping Margie & Luke try to find a flight in the airport – and then later reported on the sight that Luke’s reaction to the delay wasn’t quite as calm and accepting as the show would have us believe. Oh, Luke.) When we did get to hear from them, it was to hear the usual sort of pre-elimination platitudes about why they were really here – in this case, it was Luke wanting to pay his mom back for everything she’s ever done with him. Quite how “winning a game show in which they are joint participants and she appears to be doing 90 per cent of the work” is actually him paying her back isn’t something I’ve entirely managed to work out, but I guess it’s a moot point now anyway.
Regrettably, the guaranteed elimination of Margie & Luke made it particularly hard to get invested about the rest of the episode, unless you’re the sort of person who gets REALLY excited to see who finishes first in a given leg. And in this leg it was Dave & Connor again, and they’re really a not a team who are particularly capable of inspiring excitement. In fact, they’re so dull that they spent the entire leg talking about what happened to them on their previous season AGAIN, this time to remind us that this was the point where they “self-eliminated” last time. Quite how a team that is this soporific in front of the camera managed to get cast on a reality show not once but twice is entirely beyond me. What are they going to say next week? “We are now one leg further than we got last time, when we self-eliminated because legs.” THRILLING.
The tasks themselves were fine, and maybe would have provided slightly more excitement had all eight teams been a little closer together. The Detour gave the racers the choice of either sitting on a pole and trying to catch fish, or a dancing challenge that involved balancing some objects and not dropping them. Jet & Cord did well at the fishing task, as did Leo & Jamal and Dave & Connor. Those who attempted the dancing task tended to find it tougher, but they all got there eventually. Brendon & Rachel had probably the hardest time of anyone, since Brendon turned out to be kind of an überklutz, but Rachel continued her good work in the field of being calm and supportive and managed to help coax him through it. Meanwhile Jessica & John struggled at the fishing task and ended up switching, only to find out that John has zero rhythm whatsoever, but is apparently still a better dancer than he is a fisherman.
After that it was on to the Roadblock, where teams visited one of Sri Lanka’s garment factories and had to sew a shirt together. Regrettably there was no sign of Patrick Grant, May Martin or even Claudia Winkleman anywhere, though I’m sure there would have been some arched eyebrows from the Sewing Bee team at some of the things that were being technically accepted as finished on this task. First, however, Brendon & Rachel had to do their Speed Bump, which turned out to be “silk screen some t-shirts”. Rachel had done silk-screening before (and on balance, I’m not hugely surprised by that), which meant that they got through it fairly quickly, although not without a few mistakes.
The two teams who raced through the Roadblock were Dave & Connor (unsurprisingly, because they seem to have a level of bland competence that applies to anything you care to mention) and Caroline & Jennifer (rather more surprisingly, because – well, you’ve seen them, right?) with Connor and Jennifer taking the honours for their teams. In one of the few genuinely interesting parts of the leg, the editors hinted that Caroline & Jennifer might actually get their first-ever win, as Dave & Connor seemed to have taken a wrong turn somewhere, but…no such luck. Team Bore got their second individual win, while Caroline & Jennifer had to content themselves with their first ever runner-up position, which is still an impressive achievement but not really the sort of thing you can tell your grandkids about, or indeed cash in from Travelocity after the race. And while we’re on the subject of Caroline and Jennifer, this leg they revealed that they (Caroline in particular) are superfans of the Cowboys and basically worship the ground they race on. I feel unable to root for Caroline & Jennifer in good conscience now, so I guess it’s Team Brenchel or something at this point. What a position to be in.
Jet also managed a surprisingly good job of putting the shirt together, and gradually everyone came and left, leaving just Brendon and Rachel and Flight Time & Big Easy straggling at the back, which Brendon and Big Easy on sewing duties. Brendon made it out first, but Big Easy wasn’t far behind, and the Globetrotters ended up bribing a bus driver to get them to the Pit Stop as quickly as possible, missing out all of the other stops (sucks to be everyone else on that bus, I guess), meaning that they pipped Brendon and Rachel to the post. But with Margie & Luke probably still somewhere in the air between Malaysia and Sri Lanka at this point, Brendon & Rachel live to fight another day, while Margie & Luke eventually arrived several hours later, giving Margie one final opportunity to tell us how much she loves her deaf gay son before departing. And they’re always an interesting team to have around given Luke’s inclination towards meltdowns, but maybe after three attempts with diminishing returns each time in every possible sense, it’s time for them to call it a day.