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'Amazing Race' recap, Vietnam or bust

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Remember last week on "The Amazing Race," when John had a few extended moments of crazy and got eliminated? That’s still funny. But now it is time for the teams to leave Bali and head to Vietnam. "Word on the street," tweets Phil, "is that Hotel California by the Eagles is the #1 karaoke song in Vietnam."

 

What happens at the travel agency stays at the travel agency

Father and Son Dave and Connor are planning to leave the Race. Dave’s surgeon at home has recommended surgery within seven days, so they plan to fly to Hanoi and be eliminated.

The Fearless Friends and the Newlyweds join Fa/Son at the travel agency and learn of this plan. Max has them reaffirm that they are leaving the Race, not just saying so to mess with everyone. Smart thinking, Max.

The Friends form a deal with the Newlyweds not to U-Turn each other in the coming leg. Max doesn't so much agree to make a deal with them as he just points out all the other teams on his hit list who are not the Friends. However you slice it, those teams are safe from each other…for now.

 

The part where Max wins over the Friends and the Recapper

Everyone travels to Hanoi on two different flights. But their next clue destination is closed for the night, so they camp out in a hotel lobby.

The Friends pull out reflective emergency blankets to bed down on. Max takes note and says, in a John voice, "Those look familiar. Jessica has a lot of those after her marathons. I feed her protein bars and wrap her in those." It's hilarious.

Did you know Max was such a cutting observer? I’ve totally overlooked him because of my Katie hate. OK, the hate plus the fact that he wears a pink plaid shirt and doesn't think it looks strange. So suddenly Max has a personality, and he's making fun of John -- which is perfect, because the last leg showed us that John is the best target.

By the way, these teams don't even know that J&J were eliminated!

In an interview, the Friends agree with me. They declare that Max (and Katie, although I'm still iffy on her) are cool, and retroactively apologize for any mean things they've said about them. They pretend to tell Max that his tan is cool, and they tell Katie that she has really good hair if it's natural.

 

The part where Max makes enemies of Team YouTube

The second batch of teams arrives at the hotel and informs the first batch that J&J were eliminated. There is surprise, but I was hoping for something more. Max, what do you have to say?

Oh, Max is too busy laughing. Then he takes a break to point out that John's elimination was "overconfidence [and] conceit." And then he laughs some more. Max is hereby invited to watch the show with me and laugh at other teams.

Now, Joey and Meghan were in an alliance with J&J and the Moms. Without J&J, they're worried. YouTube is still carrying some allegiance to J&J, and they interview how much they hate Max for laughing at John.

I'm all conflicted, because I like YouTube, but now I like Max, too. Knee socks versus a pink plaid shirt in a battle of sartorial notoriety. Who will win?

Oh, by the way, the Friends and Newlyweds do not tell the other teams that Father/Son are dropping out. They want to keep those other teams hungry and paranoid.

 

Sadness break

In the morning, Dave and Connor go to the Pit Stop to withdraw from the Race. They could have done it anytime, anywhere, so I really like that they chose to visit with Phil one more time and make it formal. With the way the production is timed, they probably waited through the night for the Pit Stop to be set up so they could stand on the mat one last time.

Dave and Connor are weepy, as they are wont to be. Phil is, too, but only deep in his heart where you can't see it. Can you imagine Phil’s emotions with this elimination as compared to the last one?

As they leave, Connor tells his father, "I would rather run four legs with you than win a million dollars with anyone else." Aw.

 

Dance break

And now is the time on the Race when we embrace other cultures! For the Roadblock, team members must watch a performance of a patriotic song. At the end, dancers will reveal words of a quote. Racers will have five minutes before the next performance to search racks of political posters for the same quote.

These performers are like high school students. The main singers are three handsome young men wearing white shirts and red ties. Katie says they’re like One Direction.

I transcribed the song, because the captioners on the Race did it, and you might enjoy it.

Vietnam Communist party is glorious

The light is guiding us to victory

Long live independence and freedom of our nation

Our land does not forget the truth in your name

Vietnam, we are going to the century of light

Socialism is growing more beautiful with time

Follow the party's step, be loyal, be pure

Although the path has been muddy with rain and dusty with sun

Vietnam, spring has come!

It's like the people who write victory songs for "American Idol" wrote a patriotic song for Vietnam, that's how awesome this song is. The written phrase at the end means: "Glory to our young generation."

Fearless Friend Pam is an art director and she has a good visual memory, so she finds the correct poster first. Everyone else gets to sit through the song again. Chuck, Singer Jen and Newlywed Katie get it on the next round.

Meghan and Mom Beth try to help each other, which backfires when Meghan finds the right poster but they can't find another one in time. They're clinging to that alliance as it drags them down, I suppose.

 

I'd be more worried about my ankles than my hands

To get the next clue, teams have to go through a traditional bamboo dance. Picture two bamboo sticks laying on the ground, with one person holding a stick in each hand at one end, and another person at the other end. In rhythm, the people spread the sticks apart and bang them on the ground, then they bring the sticks together and bang them.

Now imagine about thirty sets of bamboo sticks in a line banging on the ground. Now jump in between the sticks without letting them close on your ankles. Yay, traditional dance of ankle hobbling!

It must be easier than it looks, because the only reason teams don't complete it on their first try is if they don't hold hands while dancing. Chuck and Wynona, who have been together for twenty-four years but have been working opposite schedules for the last year, do the dance at least four times before they notice they have to hold hands. I call the lack of intimacy foreshadowing!

 

Human Chess alert!

One side of the Detour calls for teams to study a chess game board where the pieces are symbols, not figures. Then they go to a courtyard where lots of people are milling about wearing costumes with symbols on them. The teams have to choose people to match four of the chess pieces and place them on a giant chessboard.

The best part of this is when the Singers have no idea what they're supposed to do. They try playing chess with the humans, but it doesn’t work. 

The Friends, Hockey, YouTube, and Moms finish before the Singers.

 

However you pronounce it 

The other Detour choice has the teams collecting shopping baskets and baskets of chickens, then going to a market to collect specific weights of ingredients to make Pho. Once they have everything, they make some Pho and feed it to a chef to get their clue.

The list is in English. Newlyweds wrangle a friendly local to help them, but they are thwarted by the Seller of Peppers, who thinks 500 grams of peppers is too much, so she only sells them 50 grams. Ha! Eventually the Newlyweds get everything and Max, my new best friend, the self-proclaimed better chef of the couple, cooks the Pho and they are done. 

By the way, Max tells us that he is ready to be pretentious when he eats Pho at home. He'll say, "I had this in Hanoi and it was way better."

Chuck and Wynona are not so lucky. First, they don't grab the baskets of chickens. Then they can't find the market so they hire a rickshaw driver and he takes them to the wrong market. While Chuck talks to people against a language barrier, Wynona complains to the camera and I sense a love barrier.

I know she's just really insecure, feeling like she's the worst player in the Race. But it looks like she just deflects it onto Chuck and complains that he's not listening to her. Maybe he's not, but it's because he's talking to other people to accomplish the task. I don't think she's offered any suggestions, other than saying he's doing it all wrong.

 

U-Turn, Curse of the Chickens

Now, after the Detour there is a double-blind U-Turn. The Fearless Friends find it first, and they U-Turn Team YouTube because of the alliance. The picture of YouTube has them making sad faces, which is funny and true.

So, YouTube plays human chess and wins. They discover that they are U-Turned, so they choose to U-Turn Team Mullet. I’m not exactly sure why, they just say it's to stay in the Race. I guess it's a good guess that Mullet is behind them? The teams left at chess were their alliance buddies and the Singers, so they didn't have many options.

Joey is thrilled to carry chickens. If you need a chicken-carrying attitude, thrilled is a good one.

When they get to the market, one woman tells another woman, "These people want the same as the other people!" The workers laugh at how Joey is carrying the chickens, "Look at that Westerner selling chickens!" But they seem to help, just handing over what they supposedly gave to previous teams.

YouTube gets to the scales behind Mullet. Mullet is discovering that they are missing a few things, and then they notice Joey's chickens, so they run off for chickens.

When YouTube weighs in, they discover that the locals were not so helpful. Pretty much nothing on their shopping list is correct. Maybe the locals figured the Westerner didn't know what he wanted? Maybe they were playing a trick? I don't know, but the truth is that the way Joey carried his chickens said a lot about him.

After all that, YouTube is done with the Detour and Mullet is U-Turned. At the Mat, Meghan claims to be a ball of fiery righteousness and revenge now that she's been U-Turned.

Finally Mullet arrives at the Mat. They assume, correctly, that they are in last place. Wynona tells Phil that she's the weakest player. Chuck says that he's proud of her and he loves her, but admits that maybe they bit off more than they could chew.

Phil informs them that Father/Son withdrew from the Race, so they are still in it. Wynona bends over and cries, but says thank you. Phil is shocked. "Thank you? I feel like I’ve sent you to some terrible torturous…"

"It is torturous but we still want to do it," they say. Hah! Extra double points for Phil on the Mat this week. 

The patriotic song plays again over the end credits, so everyone remember to be loyal and pure! Next week we head to Botswana and somebody eats a scorpion.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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