Remember, you can’t spell “classy” without “assy”.
It makes me weep that I would have to say this in the show’s 24th season, but apparently the message hasn’t quite got through to everyone. The U-turn is a legitimate race mechanic, and it has been since season 12. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to use it, but at this point, you really don’t get to claim that another team taking advantage of it is somehow cheating or playing unfairly.
U-turn wank pretty much devoured this episode whole, unfortunately, much as the trailer hinted it would. I’m almost tempted to take extra long talking about the section of the leg before the U-turn, just because that was a kinder and simpler time. This week the teams set out in their product placement Ford Focuseseseseses from Rome to Bagnoregio (not to be confused with Bognor Regis), a municipality in the region of Lazio that, if this leg is to be believed, is the home to a lot of donkeys. First up was the Detour, to enable us to get to all that U-turn-related joy so much quicker. The two options were Donkey Run, where the teams were required to ride donkeys around a town square for three laps before the band finished playing (so essentially the exact same task as Charioteer from last week, only life-size and not miniature) and Donkey Build, where the teams had to assemble a wooden donkey from a series of parts and use it to deliver wood to Gepetto and Pinocchio.
Brendon & Rachel arrive first, having left first, and opt for Donkey Build – except they either get lost or follow the wrong signs and end up at Donkey Run, so they decide to just follow the lead that fate has given them and do that instead. They bleed a bit of time here, mostly thanks to Rachel’s recalcitrant donkey (that’s the name of my band) steadfastly refusing to do anything she asks it to. In the end she works out that the best way to get it moving is to lie face down on the donkey’s back and hold it around the neck with both arms. It’s not a particularly dignified position to be in, but it gets the donkey moving and surely that’s what really matters. As they’re coming to the end of their donkey wrestling, Dave & Connor arrive and ask for directions to the equipment. As Brendon & Rachel are currently enduring donkey problems of their own, they decline to answer – and let’s remember that they’re under no obligation to help anyone else, because THIS IS A RACE. And yet Dave takes this as yet another opportunity to seethe that Brendon & Rachel are just snubbing them, because he’s been running the Amazing Super-Fun Co-Operating Happy Funtimes (demonstrated mostly by having dragged Caroline & Jennifer way beyond their natural expiry point).
Brendon & Rachel finish the task and head off to the U-turn feeling slightly thrown. Up until this point they’d been resolute about U-turning Jet & Cord, because they knew that they have an Express Pass which expires on this leg, so they figure they might as well force them to use it on the Detour. However, Brendon’s worried that they took longer than expected to complete the Detour, and he’s now worried that maybe the Cowboys did the other option and are now ahead of them. Rachel thinks they should take a chance and U-turn them anyway, but Brendon insists that the smart move here is to U-turn Dave & Connor, because at least they know that team is behind them. Flustered, Rachel agrees, though she doesn’t seem happy about it and even considers going back to see if they can change their minds, but Brendon insists that it’s too late now and they should just focus on what’s ahead of them.
The Cowboys, to their credit, are well aware of the target on their backs in this leg and fully expect to be U-turned, so they decide to go straight to Donkey Build and use their Express Pass there to get it out of the way (presumably on the grounds that they felt Donkey Run would be a more fitting task for their skills, so it would make more sense to have that one left to complete after the U-turn). They end up getting to the U-turn just a fraction behind of Dave & Connor, who completed Donkey Run pretty quickly and are utterly dismayed to have been U-turned. Dave snits, for the first of many times this episode, that he is a SIXTY YEAR OLD MAN and that this is further evidence that Brendon & Rachel are PLAYING LIKE SNAKES. They then sigh that this means they have to U-turn someone, so they decide to use theirs on Leo & Jamal.
Okay, so here’s where I’m at with this: nobody is being forced to use the U-turn, ever. Absolutely, when there is a double U-turn it makes the most sense for the first U-turned team to U-turn someone who’s behind them to give themselves more of a fighting chance, but they are under no obligation to do so. That means that, having been U-turned, you really can’t then use the U-turn on someone else to save yourself and then spend the rest of the leg wittering piously about how you’re above cheap tactics like that, because you clearly aren’t. Nonetheless, Dave & Connor decide to act like martyrs for the rest of the leg. (As far as Brendon & Rachel’s use of it goes: I think they really didn’t need to U-turn anyone because they were in no danger of elimination whatsoever, but if they felt that strongly about it it would’ve made far more sense from a game perspective to U-turn the Cowboys or Leo & Jamal. However wonky it might have been as a strategy, though, they were still well within their rights to U-turn whoever they liked, and didn’t deserve the vilification they got for the rest of the leg. Dave can whine about being a SIXTY YEAR OLD MAN all he wants, he’s also a man who won two legs while on crutches a year ago, so it’s not like it’s completely insane to consider him a legitimate threat.) Also, seriously, U-TURN THE COWBOYS THEY ARE RIGHT BEHIND YOU YOU BELLENDS. Jet & Cord run off giggling, entirely unable to believe they managed to avoid being U-turned twice. This may be the first time in recorded history that I’ve agreed with the Cowboys about something.
Dave & Connor head back and encounter Leo & Jamal on the way, opting to tell them upfront that they U-turned them because they “wanted to be honest”. (And martyrs.) Leo & Jamal are fairly philosophical about this – they knew someone was bound to U-turn then, and even go as far as to praise Dave & Connor for being so classy about it. Dave then demonstrates what a class act he is for the rest of the leg by repeatedly snitting that he is a SIXTY-YEAR-OLD MAN (when it suits him), yelling “I HATE THE BRENCHELS!” repeatedly, doing mean-spirited impressions of Rachel behind her back that make me wonder if he’s not so much a SIXTY-YEAR-OLD MAN as a sixteen-year-old girl, and telling the other teams that he’d always thought Rachel was kind of weird-looking anyway. WOW. SO HIGH GROUND. MUCH CLASS. MANY DIGNITY.
In the spirit of building bridges (and uniting against a common enemy), Dave & Connor and Leo & Jamal opt to work together on Donkey Build, and are later joined on that task by Caroline & Jennifer. Building the donkey itself is fairly straightforward, but the taskmaster won’t give up the clue until they’ve inverted the box and put it on the donkey’s back as a sort of saddlebag, and nobody works this out. After standing around for ages, the Afghanimals ask if anyone minds if they go off and do their other Detour while they’re thinking about it. Heh. Dave & Connor promise they’ll tell them the answer if they work it out, so off they go. Eventually Dave & Connor figure out the basket thing and take their donkey off for appraisal, telling the girls they’ll come back and help them in a minute, because heaven forfend Caroline & Jennifer do anything for themselves. This comes after they spent the car ride here congratulating themselves on being a kickass female team who are holding their own against “some of the greatest all-male teams in history”. There is so much wrong with that sentence, I don’t even know where to begin. On their way to be appraised by Gepetto, Dave & Connor pass Leo & Jamal and shout the solution to them.
In the middle of all of this, by the way, Flight Time & Big Easy are hopelessly lost. They arrive just as everyone else is finishing and attempt Donkey Run first, but Big Easy gets stuck with the stubbornest mule of the lot who flat-out refuses to move at all. They switch and do Donkey Build, but come unstuck on the final piece just like everyone else did. After standing there for some considerable amount of time praying for a miracle, they give up and go back to try Donkey Run again, eventually succeeding.
Meanwhile the Roadblock is taking place at a Church in Orvieto, where one member of each team must painstakingly copy out a page of a holy text by hand, complete with calligraphy and gold leaf. Rachel is thrilled to take this on because she is an artist. While he waits for her to complete the challenge, Brendon giggles to the cameras that even if Dave catches him here, he can’t get mad at him because they’re in a church. Little does he know. Rachel tries hard, but her first effort gets rejected as the calligraphy isn’t quite precise enough. Jet & Cord arrive and have fun making the monks wear their hats. Dave & Connor catch up and make a holy show of snubbing Brendon and Rachel and refusing to accept Brendon’s apology, because this is how classy people behave, you see. Shortly after that Leo & Jamal and Caroline & Jennifer arrive, so it gets fairly crowded in the church. Rachel’s second attempt is accepted and she and Brendon head off to the Piazza del Duomo on a funicular. They land in first place at the Pit Stop and win $7,500 each. They admit to Phil that they did use the U-turn, but they wanted to win this leg. Seriously, stop making excuses. YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG. Well, not morally, anyway. Strategically maybe, but not morally.
Jet works his way through the calligraphy slowly but surely and the Cowboys are the second team out of the church and the second team on the mat. Caroline does a good job too and the country singers leave in third place, but get lost on the way to the funicular because they don’t have any boys to follow. Meanwhile, Dave completely refuses to do the Roadblock because he doesn’t want to (so classy!), which means Connor has to do it even though he doesn’t want to do it either. Connor complains that he is not artistic, and decides that he’s just going to take a penalty. Leo, meanwhile, gets his accepted but – considering Dave & Connor’s assistance earlier – hangs back to see if there’s anything he can do to help. There isn’t, apart from make vague reassuring noises, but Connor appreciates the gesture and ultimately it’s moot because Connor’s effort is accepted anyway.
On the way to the mat, Dave & Connor take a wrong turn as well and run into Caroline & Jennifer, who are extremely pleased that they now have boys to follow again. This lets Leo & Jamal in for third place, Dave & Connor in fourth and Caroline & Jennifer in fifth. Flight Time & Big Easy are so far behind that Flight Time takes his time over the roadblock, and sure enough they’re eliminated when they check in with Phil. They’re okay about it, claiming to have had a good run (although they really didn’t perform that well this season at all) and say that they enjoyed this one the most out of all three Races that they’ve done.
NEXT WEEK: Apparently this was just the amuse-bouche for the “I hate Brenchel” club, because next week is the full three-course meal with a cheese board afterwards.