I know some people are questioning "The Amazing Race's" Emmy-winning domination.
But after last night's episode, I can already see Number 8 on the way.
It was 2 hours of fun.
With 12 teams starting, names are insignificant. But some team descriptions stand out; the Harlem Globetrotters (here's hoping we don't hear that whistling theme too often); the Miss America couple (she's black, he's white); the on-and-off dating couple (the man says she's a fiery Colombian), the guy with Asperger's and his friend; the poker players; the gay brothers; and the yoga couple ("People think we're Zen, but we're like yoga in the hood.")
The teams start in the L.A. basin on their way to Japan, but there's a twist; one team will be eliminated before it leaves the basin. There are a wall of license plates, 11 with the name of the district of Tokyo they will be traveling to (in Japanese). If you find the right plate, you get a plane ticket. If you don't, bye-bye.
It's the beginning of the race so everyone is hyped up; they don't bother to look at the clue which has the Japanese lettering on it. Eventually folks start figuring it out.
Even the yoga from the hood team. Except they figure it out too late. It's a cruel elimination, but the hood rats get all philosophical; they say that they spared the others teams the pain and shame of being the first eliminated. "We set them free." Also good news, they live in Encino. They can contemplate their good deed in their own beds in less than 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, we learn that the poker players have done their first bit of bluffing. (Outside of poker, it's called lying.) Not wanting to people to be envious of this poker riches, they've told everyone that they work with homeless people. (This posting says they've made about $350,000 in their careers, not bad for twentysomethngs.)
In Tokyo, the teams must head to a television studio. Turns out they've got to participate in one of those crazy Japanese game shows. It's a roadblock, so one of the team members has to play sushi roulette. A wheel spins and a team member has to eat what's in front of him/her until they get the wasabi bomb; basically a sushi roll with a thick blob of the hot green paste in a thin layer of rice. If you can eat the hotness in under two minutes you get the clue and can move on. If not, the wheel spins and you have to wait for another chance.
Once you eat it, teams must gather 20 people in the audience wearing visors the same color as a flag the team is given and walk them through a crowded square to check into a shrine, the first pit stop.
Some of the teams handle it easily; the older couple guy eats wasabi like it's peanut butter. He's with a woman he's dating (there are a lot of daters this time); it becomes clear as they lead their group that she's a little, uh, excitable. She uses the word 'frantic', but it only seems that way, she says. "I'm just in my body having a lot of good time." The Japanese group members, perhaps unable to recognize a body party, seem confused by her bug eyes and harmonica blowing.
Back at the sushi wheel, it's the Asian poker player's turn. She had gotten funky with her friend back at the airport because they had missed the train and she thought her friend wasn't trying hard enough. Now it was time for her to show her pal how to compete.
Naturally, she can't finish the wasabi bomb. The wheel spins again. And the wasabi bomb lands in her space yet again. Don't you love karma? She whines about not being able to do it again, but as my friend Roberta points out, her mouth should be numb by now. It should be easy. Indeed, she finishes the second time.
Meanwhile, the couple that has known each other since elementary school check in first and win a trip to Aspen and Vail. Then, proving they are ridiculously young, they say that they've been dreaming about being on The Race since high school.
The wasabi wheel keeps spinning. The kid with Asperger's and his friend check in and the Asperger's kid says so far he's doing OK despite not having a daily routine. As a way to celebrate, his friend says "Should we make out?" The Asperger's kid is like "what?" And we're left to wonder exactly which has the social disorder.
The wasabi wheel begins to reveal that the stories about the competitive, even vicious nature of pageant life isn't mythology. Miss America is going off on her husband. He has to eat the wasabi bomb and he's having a hard time. "Eat it! Eat it baby!" she's yelling, more threateningly than supportively. When he does not finish in 2 minutes, she is quite displeased. "I should have done this," she says.
Later, after everyone is gone, and he finally finishes and looks as if he wants to vomit, she comforts him by saying, "You can throw up later!"
The gay brothers align with the poker players to find their way to the shrine. The poker players think the brothers are hot. The brothers aren't sharing their sexual orientation, hoping to use their cuteness to work the ladies. They've bought the poker players bluff, calling them passionate and well-rounded.
But seeing another team go a different way, the gay brothers split from the poker girls, which is a good idea. The poker players don't know where they are going. And soon the poker players lose two people from their group.
They never find them and end up checking in anyway. They are last and they get a two-hour penalty. But it's a non-elimination round. They'll have to do a speed bump; an extra task just for them.
Next stop Vietnam. Everybody in this game has some kind of strategy; the Asperger's guy and his friend say they are telling everyone about the Asperger's to allow people to underestimate them.
We learn one of the young couples is Christian and not having sex. She says that she knows he likes her and doesn't just want her for sex. "Mike is a diamond in the rough." My guess is that's not what she meant.
The poker girl who isn't Asian says she's the brawn of their team, and her friend is the brains and the boobs. The Asian girl does not seem on board with this description.
Then things get worse; the poker girls are on line at the airport to Vietnam and a fan recognizes one of them. The gay brothers overhear and learn their bluff. The gay brothers are almost busted too; the poker girls see their matching orange passport holders. Apparently that's a soft sign for 'gay.'(Or in poker terms, a 'tell.') So they ask the brothers. The brothers deflect by saying the holders were a gift from their sister-in-law.
Just after we see the Asperger's guy perform a random act of kindness (he gives his rain jacket to a Vietnamese man), the lying poker players reveal that they don't like Asperger's guy and his brother, saying they don't seem warm. Meanwhile Asperger's guy and his friend say that they don't buy the poker players working-with-the-homeless story. The women don't have a loving, let me help you out vibe, they say.
The next task involves going to a mud pit and collecting mud to fertilize fruit trees. The poker players' speed bump is to make a traditional soup and give it to a dock master. They do it easily.
The mud pits are muddy; there's a lot of slipping and sliding. Asperger's guy's teammate falls and loses the clue, but they find it at the edge of the dock. It puts them behind.
But the next road block is duck herding. The teams have 10 minutes to lead 150 docks across a bridge and back and then into their pens. If they don't do it in 10 minutes, they have to go on the back of the line and try again.
Miss America is as aggressive with the ducks as she was with her husband. "Everybody shake a duck feather," she says. She bends over and we are disturbed to find that she's wearing a yellow thong. Somewhere a Miss America board member is squirming. Or considering the ratings of the pageant lately, celebrating.
She obviously did not watch AR 14, in which teams had to strip and run through the streets of Russia in their underwear.
Miss America finally gets some ducks in, but doesn't close the pen, so they waddle out again. Her husband is not pleased. "This is not easy," she yells at him. "Don't you dare get disappointed in me." That, too, sounds threatening, and he fixes his face accordingly.
As it turns out, Asperger's guy is 'the duck whisperer." He herds the duck without a hitch.
The father and pink-hair son come in first at the pit stop and win kayaks.
The non-Asian poker player had ducks as a kid, so they catch up.
Last place is a battle between Miss America and the fiery Colombian. The fiery Columbian is frustrated but manages to calm herself and finish the task. But not fast enough. Promising that they will have duck for dinner that night, Miss America finishes first and in a foot race, she and her not-allowed-to-do-anything husband make it to the pitstop.
The fiery Colombian and her on-and-off again boyfriend are eliminated. But he liked that she could calm herself, so he wont kick her to the curb yet.
Let's see if they can get along for a month at elimination station.