'The Amazing Race' recap: Someone needs directions

Bucky reports on tonight's weirdly structured episode of The Amazing Race:

This week’s leg of The Amazing Race begins at the Pit Stop in Tokyo and we see the teams in their staggered departures, with the departure times displayed.  For example, Zev & Justin depart the Pit Stop at 8:44 p.m.

I swear, I looked at my notes from last week, and I think they all lost an hour.

Phil tells us that teams will have to take a “required flight” from Tokyo to Kunming, in China.  From there they will make their own travel arrangements to get to Lijiang, also in China.

This means, of course, that all the teams will catch up at the “required flight” and the race won’t really begin until the intermediate travel stop in Kunming.

Ha ha ha ... the joke is on the producers.

The Goths, who say they are starting out in “lucky 7th place” and are just bursting with hot pink optimism (“Our motto for the day:  PMA.  Positive mental attitude.”) encounter several obstacles, some funny, some not.  They can’t figure out how to unlock their car.  They can’t find a route out of town.  When they finally find a route out of town, they go in the wrong ... I mean 180 degrees wrong ... direction, AND DON’T FIGURE IT OUT FOR, LIKE, THREE OR FOUR HOURS.

Good news:  Kent is calm and reasonable and forgiving of Vyxsin (who made the direction error) and we are all proud of him for that.  PMA at work.

Bad news:  They miss the “required flight” which presumably means they will not only fall far, far behind in the race, but they will probably have a penalty as well.

(I look at my watch and we are 15 minutes into the episode and the race hasn’t really started yet.  What’s up with that?)

In Kunming, Ron & Christina catch an 8:50 train to Lijiang, while all the other teams (except, of course, the Goths) catch the next train at 10:16. 

Let’s not forget that Ron & Christina both speak Chinese and we learn that Christina has actually traveled to Lijiang before.  Now they have an hour and twenty-six minute lead.  They are a cinch to win this leg.  What could possibly go wrong?
When Ron & Christina arrive in Lijiang, the first thing Ron wants to do is stop for Chinese food.  In the middle of the race.  The answer:  Ron could go wrong.
Well, there’s that, plus the next clue stop is at a shuttle that will carry all the teams to the next task, meaning the race restarts again, with everyone (but the Goths) even, again.
Meanwhile, the Goths have managed to get on a different flight to Kunming, so they aren’t giving up.  PMA at work.  They are still way behind due to their original errors.

The shuttle takes the teams to another task, where they have to saddle up and ride a yak across a river to get the next clue.  A task made for the Cowboys.  However, teams apparently have to go in the order they jumped off the shuttle, so nobody can make up any time here.  I wonder what the point of this task was, if the race can’t change because of it.  This episode is starting to irritate me.
After the yak rides, the teams must ride a gondola up to near the top of what we here in Colorado call a “14er” ... a mountain whose elevation is 14,000+ feet.  In Colorado everyone has on their bucket list, “climb a 14er”.  Really silly Coloradans have “climb all fifty-three 14ers” on their bucket lists.  I’ve climbed one, and it has a highway that goes up to about 13,950 feet, so I only had to climb the last 75 feet or so to get to the peak.  It counts.  It’s my bucket list.
There is a little drama at this point, because at 14,000 feet, you can’t really run to the next clue box; it is exhausting.  (I’m sure glad, again, that Mel & Mike got eliminated last week.)
At the top of the gondola, the teams (finally!) get the clue to this week’s Roadblock and this leg of the race can (finally!) commence.
The Roadblock requires the competing team member to gather up these little wooden hang-tags that have the signs of the Chinese zodiac on them.  The challenge:  the required hang-tags are hidden in plain sight among, literally, a billion other wooden hang-tags that have symbols on them that are NOT part of the Chinese zodiac.
Once the racer finds all 12 tags, (s)he must arrangement them in order on a wind-chime-like device and if s(he) can manage to do that correctly, the team gets the next clue. 

Surprisingly, it is either much easier that one would have imagined, looking at the billion wooden hang tags, or the editors cut out a great deal of the search, because the teams proceed through the task fairly easily.
Well, except for Zev, who struggles.  Hold this thought.
The teams leave the Roadblock in this order, having finally begun to separate a little:
Gary & Mallory, Ron & Christina, Margie & Luke, the Cowboys, the Globetrotters, the Cheerleaders, and Kisha & Jen.
Zev struggle so much that ... PMA!!!!  The Goths catch up!  The Pink & Black Attack is back!  This could be a comeback of historic proporti ... no, wait.  Now Vyxsin is the one struggling.  Zev finishes and Vyxsin is left alone among, literally, a billion (minus eight dozen) wooden hang-tags.  And yet, Kent is supportive and sympathetic.  Yay!
The next clue directs the teams to take a bus to a nearby town square of some sort.  Ron, using his extensive Chinese native language skills puts himself and Christina on a nearby shuttle, not on a waiting bus.  They head in the wrong direction and when Christina figures it out, Ron absolutely FREAKS.  He’s screaming and at one point throws a rock at a shuttle or a bus.  Ron. Is. A. Dope.  They recover and manage to hook a ride on a bus with the Globetrotters.
At the town square, teams must write down a wish and deposit in it a receptacle that has slots arranged by Chinese zodiac signs.  They have to put it in their own sign’s slot and say the name of the animal that represents their sign.  There is no point—absolutely no point—to this task.  (Although the race order is slightly changed when the Globetrotters somehow manage to stumble over their animals.)
Vyxsin continues to struggle among the wooden hang-tags.
Finally we get to the Detour which has, of course, two choices.  I am going to totally skip recapping the Detour because the challenges are so easy and boring that they aren’t worth the words.  And here’s the proof:  the teams finish the Detour, get the clue, and head to the Pit Stop in the same order they start the Detour, I think with one exception:  Ron & Christina move up a couple slots.  The only even remotely entertaining part of the Detour is that Ron insists on eating while he does it, and wants to stop for more Chinese food when they finish.
The race to the Pit Stop commences, and involves another hill-climbing exertion task; the order of finish is:
1st – Margie & Luke, who win a trip to Aruba and ... FAKE OUT! ... are handed another clue, as Phil tells them this is a “continuation leg” and they must keep racing.
I absolutely hate this episode.
The other teams “continue racing” in this order:
2nd – the Cowboys
3rd – Gary & Mallory
4th – Ron & Christina
5th – Kisha & Jen
6th – the Globetrotters
7th – the Cheerleaders
and ... Zev & Justin and Kent & Vyxsin are still out on the course.  Vyxsin finally finished the Roadblock, however, she also lost track of their fanny pack with their passports and money, so the show ends with the Goths backtracking to locate it.
What’s the deal, Amazing Race?  Are there not going to be any non-elimination legs this year, so these “continuation legs” have replaced them and you just aren’t telling us?
What do y’all think?  Like this leg?  Hate it as much as I did?

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