This week’s episode resolved all of the loose ends it tantalizingly left for us last week, but in their place were so many unanswered questions. For instance, why wasn’t the US embassy the very first place James and Abba went? (In two previous seasons where lost passports figured prominently, the missing documents were evidently turned in at the embassy a few hours later.) Why weren’t their passports in the same place to begin with? What kind of Speed Bump task involves getting into a limo with a priest? Are all of the Pit Stop hotels that swanky? Why were Josh and Brent allowed to sit out their penalty at the beginning of the next leg rather than the end of the leg in which it was assigned? (I’m sure the answer is something inconsequential like “Phil needs his beauty rest,” but still!) And how many pairs of pants did Natalie end up going through before the twinnies finally passed the Detour?
This was one of those action-packed weeks where you can tell there were hours of interesting things that just couldn’t make the cut. Between having to show the end of last week’s leg at the beginning of this week’s and a bunch of rules peculiarities that didn’t seem to match up with what’s happened in the past, we lost a lot of time that could have been devoted to some truly interesting stuff. In particular, this week’s locals – cab drivers, bystanders, task adjudicators – seemed particularly colorful, and Russia itself has never looked so appealing in all the times that the Race has gone there. And we barely saw some of the teams this week! As Twinnie Natalie tweeted, “Super condensed episode. So much more went on. Ugh whatever.”
Once again this season, the age-old question of “is it okay to help other teams” took center stage as the Chippendales and Trey and Lexie decided to form an impromptu Intersection for half the leg. And while seasoned fans continue to chant “RAAAAAACE,” I have to say — this time it actually made some sense. They could knock the Roadblock out much more quickly as a duo and still be contending mostly with each other, or they could sit there and struggle long enough for the twinnies to catch up to them and make it a three-way dash for first place. In that respect, it made some sense to work together. Waiting around for everybody to secure cabs and caravanning to the next task, though — I’m not on board with that. I think both teams did understand that after a certain point, the race would be on, but that point came a little later than I personally would have chosen.
I have to attribute at least some of the racers’ general charitable spirits to what I’d call “the summer camp effect.” Chances are this is something you’ve experienced yourself, even if you’ve never been on a reality show. Or, for that matter, even if you’ve never been to summer camp. When you’re taken out of your comfort zone and placed in close quarters with a bunch of other people who are similarly out of their element, you bond quickly. My best friend, for example, had a two-year relationship with a guy she met in the Jeopardy green room. Add in competition, and the sheer uniqueness of the experience, and any random sampling of non-jerks will wind up as BFFs. Sometimes the urgency of competition just tends to take a backseat to being there in the moment with your new best friends. Friendships forged on the Race tend to last for years — who else is going to understand what that insane month of globetrotting, task-wrangling, drama-dodging intensity was like but someone else who’s been there?
Sure, we would love for them to stay focused on the race 100% of the time, but I can guarantee that only a complete sociopath could get through the entire race without ever once being tempted to just savor the moment with new friends. Especially now that Pit Stops, once a chance for racers to “eat, sleep, and mingle,” now involve complete isolation from the other teams. So when it comes to either Abbie and Ryan’s back-of-the-pack hand-holding with the Beekmans or the Chippendales’ alliance with Team Texie, it’s understandable and explainable, if not necessarily the most savvy racing 24/7.
Team Long Hair were strong racers, but ultimately short of having the Twitterverse recover their missing passport and physically hand it back to them, there was no escaping elimination this leg. Replacing a lost passport takes at least a couple of days, and even if by some miracle they’d gotten the replacement more quickly than that, there was no way they could have traveled through two or three more countries on the temporary document the embassy would have given them. I have little doubt that given their extensive travel experience, they covered every possible base, but in this game, there is no worse obstacle to overcome. But hey, if the Race ever does another “Unfinished Business” season, these guys are a lock for it.
Who’s got all the right moves? Apart from pausing too long to help Trey and Lexi, the Chippendales ran a nearly perfect leg. If they can keep all four ankles in decent working order, they’re on track to win the whole thing. Three strong teams are out in front, so I think we can be assured of an excellent finale this year no matter what happens. There have been so many seasons where I’ve had to hold my nose and choose the least objectionable team of three terrible options that this is incredibly refreshing. Really, if any of these last five teams takes home the million, it’ll be a sweet victory. If pressed to choose a number-one favorite, I’d stick with the twinnies only so that I can feel extra-vindicated by having picked them the first week, but I can’t say I have any real dog in this fight.
Who’s running out of time? I think the Beekmans proved this week that their poor finish was due only to a stretch of bad luck (and some subpar swimming skills). Given the right tasks, they can power through almost anything. But they have a lot of ground to make up, and this Race is almost over. Someone else is going to have to screw up hard to give them a fighting chance. Time will tell.