This episode was practically perfect, you guys. I won't spoil it in the first paragraph, but the teams are still in India and I think some bad karma came around to gently nudge a few people. I wouldn't have minded a swift kick to some people's behinds, but the gentle nudge wasn't too bad.
The first four teams leave within 45 minutes of each other. Poor JJ has a cold. They head to a temple to receive a traditional blessing from a head priest. Sometimes these brushes with other religions bring out some rude remarks, but not this time, everyone was cool.
Not so Fast Forward
Of the first four teams, two have already used a Fast Forward, two have not. Vanessa and Ralph decide to play it safe and skip it. Team Big Brother takes a shot, they travel to another temple to take part in a cleansing ritual.
The ritual? Shave your head. This was done back around Season 5, I'm thinking? Uchenna and Joyce did it (well, Uchenna was already bald), and Joyce was a beautiful bald woman. Let's give BB Rachel credit for remembering that past challenge, and remembering that Joyce looked good. Now let's all judge Rachel because she doesn't feel pretty without her hair, she spent $500 on extensions, and she doesn't want to do it. So they leave.
JJ wants to be the puppet master
At the Roadblock, team members must spin rope out of coconut husks. Army Dave, Ralph, BB Brendon, and Art take on the challenge. Of course when BB shows up, the other teams realize that the Fast Forward is still out there waiting for Bopper.
JJ chats with BB Rachel about the FF (so many VV crazy abbreviations). He wants other teams to play strategically and make sure Bopper can't do the FF and pull ahead. JJ interviews that Rachel is gullible, so he tells her that she'd look good bald, and also that she'll lose if she doesn't do it. Rachel mopes for a bit but doesn't change her mind. JJ throws a JJ fit.
Facts we learn about Vanessa
The men are wrapped in skirts to do the coconut rope. Vanessa mentions to Army Wife that Ralph is one of her few boyfriends who has not cross-dressed before(!).
Ralph is first to finish the task, and he and Vanessa run down the alley towards their rickshaw. Vanessa trips on something and takes a nosedive in the dirt. She thinks she heard a pop and worries about her ankle. But she stands up to test it. Then we see she's scraped a nice chunk of skin off of her shoulder. "I have a high tolerance for pain," she says as she quickly limps to the rickshaw.
Later, when she hears about a task involving elephants, Vanessa says that she loves elephants. And monkeys. Don't go to her house, it's filled with elephants and monkeys. Does that make you want to sing the Hufflelumps and Woozles song?
Facts we already knew about Team Army
While Army Dave spins rope, Army Wife cheers him on. His response? "Babe, I don't need positive reinforcement, I appreciate silence." Man, I would hate to see him at his kid's soccer game, standing silently on the sidelines.
Art and JJ choose the Detour option that has them packing dried ginger into boxes. It's a long task. At one point, they play, "You be Dave and I'll be Rachel." Immediately after that, they start bickering and yelling at each other, proclaiming "You're not my wife right now, you're my partner," and telling each other to shut up. It makes me think that Team Army gave the editors a lot of material to work with.
Pride in elephant poop
In the non-ginger half of the Detour, teams must decorate a live elephant with a headdress, bells and ornaments. Then they have to shovel and move 15 wheelbarrows worth of poop into a truck.
While shoveling dung, Army Dave says that he and Army Wife are masters at breaking down tasks and completing them efficiently (the editors apparently didn't have time to show evidence of every other task where they argued about how to do it). He says it's due to their Midwestern work ethic, which I remember from a task when they shoveled hay. I'm glad I'm not from the Midwest, apparently all they do is shovel stuff.
Not to be outdone, BB Brendon says that his father is a bricklayer, and he grew up running wheelbarrows of bricks. So he is the wheelbarrow master. He definitely looks fast.
The elephant task is completed almost at the same time by three teams, and they rush to a ferry. Army Dave says that he'll bribe the ferry captain to leave before the next team gets there, but we don't see money changing hands, so I can't say if he does. They do arrive at the Pit Stop first, making it their sixth win. The record is seven (I'm mad that I don't remember who holds that record, maybe Rob and Amber?) so Team Army has a goal.
Phil makes Rachel and Vanessa shake hands
Team BB and Vanessa/Ralph get to the mat at nearly the same time. Phil randomly asks if he has to give out any penalties, and Vanessa says that she thinks BB didn't shovel enough elephant poop. I think Brendon was just too speedy and she missed it.
The accusation makes Rachel mad, and she and Vanessa begin to bicker. When Phil asks what's up between them, Rachel says, "She doesn't like my sequins, I don't know why." The women bring up the insults that have been flung, Vanessa owns up to suggesting Rachel get a nose job, but nothing personal, of course, "I have nothing against her."
Finally, Ralph interrupts to tell them to just drop it and apologize. They kind of do, although Vanessa keeps talking. Phil points out this fact that we already knew about Vanessa :"You don't like to let things go." Rachel and Vanessa shake hands. I totally believe that they don't hate each other anymore. Oh, wait, I mean I totally do not believe that.
Clay County, Kentucky is proud
Yes, Bopper and Mark are still in this episode. We check in with them three hours before their starting time, Mark is hooked up to an IV, still recovering from heat stroke. Two hours later he's up and feeling good, they prepare to leave, owing it to their children and their county. They're even wearing Clay County t-shirts.
Three hours behind the other teams, Bopper and Mark head out hootin' and hollerin'. They hit a Speed Bump first, where they have to paint the belly of a large male dancer to look like a tiger. Bopper's down with that, of course, he paints rocks with his daughter, it's no different. Except for it being a man's belly, of course.
They decide to see if the FF is taken. Given their time lag, what's a few more minutes to check it out? They get to the temple, discover that the challenge is to shave their heads, and their reaction is nothing short of splendid joy. Mark shows off his already-bald head, and they joke that of course BB Rachel wouldn't shave her head. Once Bopper is bald, Mark says, "You don't look as good as me, but you look good, bro!" They head toward the Pit Stop.
For a few moments, I was happy. Then I was not.
Remember Art and JJ, packing ginger? They thought the physical task would be faster for them. Instead, it's made them hot and angry and tired. They load up the boxes for transport and JJ cuts his hand and bleeds through his leather glove. I was inappropriately pleased. They even bicker for a bit while wheeling boxes down the road.
For several heart-pounding moments I let myself imagine that Bopper would beat JJ to the Pit Stop. It would be like the best unscripted television moment ever for me, because how could producers even plan to have a beloved team come from so far behind with a Fast Forward to beat out the evil doers? You can't plan that, it's magic.
I am sorry to tell you that we did not get a magical ending. Art and JJ took their hot, sweaty, bloody selves to the Pit Stop first. Phil made them wait, though, and JJ even cried (although he denied it) at how hard they tried when everything went wrong. Then Phil said they were still in the Race.
Bopper and Mark promised to begin the Race as buddies and end it as buddies. They finished up much happier on this leg, so at least they got to go out on a high note. Still, it sucks that they're gone.
Next week is the two-hour finale, already. Get this -- the first team to arrive at the finish line, with all the eliminated teams cheering, didn't complete the Roadblock and they get sent back. It may not affect the ending, but still, wouldn't it be awesome to see the look on Army Dave's face if it's him?Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun