Janell Sutherland, For The Baltimore Sun
7:11 AM EDT, March 25, 2013
This week, "The Amazing Race" gives us bushmen and scorpions in Africa, which is just what we all needed, right?
The first clue tells teams that they must go to the city of Maun in the Kalahari desert. They have to find out what country they're headed for before a security guard will let them into a travel agency to buy tickets.
He has one job, let him do it!
The travel agency is a small place and the doors are plate glass. Basically, people on the outside can see and hear people on the inside.
The Fearless Friends check a hotel computer and discover that they are headed to Botswana. They succeed in buying tickets for flights in the morning; all the teams will eventually be on the same flight.
The Newlyweds check the same hotel computer and get into the travel agency. While they're inside, the Singers arrive and tell the security guard that they're going to Kenya. He rejects them, but then Katie shouts "Botswana" through the door. So he lets them in.
The Moms arrive on their own merit. The Hockey Players arrive and also guess Kenya. As the security guard tries to turn them away, one of the Singers literally leans out of the door and tells them the correct answer. They are totally disrespecting the authority of the security guy.
About three hours later, Team Mullet arrives at the travel agency. It's empty now, with no one to help them. They guess Kenya, but they're rejected. So they pull out guide books, Chuck puts on his reading glasses, and they start shouting out country names! "Australia? Turkey? Bangladesh? Republic of Paraguay?" At least the guard gets to work for his screen time. Chuck and his glasses finally guess Botswana, so they make it!
Before the leg really begins, Max interviews that he doesn't want people to think he's carrying the team all on his brain power. "Big Hair Big Brain Katie has it going on right now!"
I established last week that I finally get Max and kind of like him, but I'm still not sure about Katie, so I'll pretend that he doesn’t like her that much. She interviews that she wants to keep her Ph.D. brains secret. Hope that non-strategy works out for her.
Chuck, meanwhile, interviews that they've had a hard time on the race but "we're not throwing in the towel or getting divorced." Anyone would be a fool to let go of that mullet.
At the airport in Maun, teams sign up for one of three charter flights that leave 15 minutes apart. The small planes take them on a safari where they see elephants. They probably see other animals as well, but the show doesn't give this safari much screen time.
It's all about the bushmen
They end up on the edge of the Kalahari Desert and meet a group of bushmen. These bushmen are traditional, yet media savvy.
First up is a Roadblock: the Racer follows three bushmen to look for a scorpion hole. Then they have to dig it out. The bushmen will grab the scorpion but the Racer has to touch it and put it in a jar.
Hockey player Bates gets there first and seems pretty good at digging the hole. Singer Caroline, who is used to scorpions since she's from Texas, also digs. Newlywed Max, wearing the hated pink plaid shirt again — but also wearing bright turquoise sneakers that I don't understand but I love anyway — wears a glove to dig.
For reasons not entirely clear, the bushmen play with the scorpion and put it in their mouths for a bit. I can't tell if they're sucking some venom, or pretending their mouth is a cave so it falls asleep? The captions for one bushman say, "He's our friend so we’re cleaning him." These bushmen are just having fun with the tourists.
Wynona does the Roadblock for Team Mullet. In case you were wondering, which I was, Chuck has done five Roadblocks to her one, so it is definitely time for her to step up.
Max almost wins for most impressive freakout. When the scorpion is in the bushman’s mouth, Max's mouth gapes open in shock. Then he forces it closed so he doesn't end up with a scorpion in his own mouth.
Joey takes the prize, though, for shaking and scampering and squealing.
This is the part where I tell you that my brother, his wife and their four children live in the Southern Arizona desert. They hunt scorpions for fun. For even more fun, they bake scorpions, dip them in chocolate and eat them. Or put them on cakes. I think they do it just to freak me out, even though I am several states away from them, because there can't be any other reason. I wish I could show you the pictures.
Doesn't anyone watch "Survivor"?
After the Roadblock, the teams put their three bushmen friends in the back of their SUV and drive to the Detour. This is where I love the bushmen, because they've got a long job and they really know what they're doing. It's not like a random security guard who just has to hear the correct word to open a door (sorry, security guard!). They are in charge for the whole leg, with so much to teach, and they just do it.
Anyhow, the Detour choices are to either build a fire using some manure, grass and sticks, or set a trap to catch a guinea fowl.
Hockey and Singers choose Fire, and Hockey has skills. They finish pretty quickly, and then follow the bushmen on foot to the Pit Stop. Hello, Hockey, you are Team Number One!
The Singers are not so good at fire. The Moms, Newlyweds and YouTube soon join them. Four teams trying to make fire, four teams failing.
Real-life skills related to race success
Newlywed Max interviews that he is in cigar sales (of course he is). He's around smoke and fire all the time, and somehow thought that would help him make fire with sticks. Turns out it does not help at all.
Chuck, meanwhile, wins this category again. His entire life is made to be on the Race, so it's sad that he's not dominating it. He tells us, "In high school, I didn't really have a job. I got up every morning, set traps, caught the animals, cashed them in at the fur exchange. It's just kind of the way I grew up." He chooses the trap side of the Detour, obviously.
The Great Switch
The Fearless Friends also choose to set a trap because, unlike those other teams, they have watched television and know that it's hard to make fire with sticks.
The Friends and Mullet are building traps at the same time, realizing that they are the last two teams. But wait!
The Singers choose to switch Detours. They set off a chain reaction; YouTube switches and then the Moms switch. They lead a parade over to the trap Detour.
The Newlyweds cling to their firesticks, hoping to jump ahead. Katie's PhD Big Hair Big Brain is no help in making fire, by the way. And her manicure is holding up way too well.
The Friends finish their trap and make it to the Pit Stop in second place.
Just as Chuck laments that he's in last place again, the conga line of Teams Who Can't Make Fire snakes its way over.
Team Mullet finishes their trap and arrive in third place. Wynona looks ready to drop, but they are safe for another week.
The Singers and the Moms are having trouble with their traps, but YouTube is not. Remember, they are crafty people. They finish their trap and meet Phil in fourth place.
The Newlyweds have finally switched tasks, but they're nervous and it's not going well.
The Singers take fifth place.
The Moms finish their trap and head out, but they lead their bushmen instead of follow. They head back to the parking lot instead of towards the Pit Stop. You fools!
The Newlyweds finish their trap, and there is running. Running.
One Mom cheers another Mom, "You've birthed three kids, you can do this!" I’ve only birthed two kids, but I think if anyone tried to use that as a motivating cheer it would fail. I focus on future rewards, not past success. That's my subtle way of saying I can be motivated with cupcakes.
So the Moms make it to the Pit Stop in sixth place! Which means…
Max and Katie are the last team to arrive. I blame Katie's fingernails. But wait! It's a non-elimination leg! I’'m kind of happy, because I want to figure out Max more. "The honeymoon is continuing in Africa," says Katie. Max answers with, "Yeah, that tent's gonna be rockin'." OK, I don't need to figure that out.
Next week! I will be on vacation, but my intrepid friend Amy Watts, recapper of "Dancing with the Stars," will guide you through another episode in Africa. There will be donkeys. Have fun!
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