'The Amazing Race' recap: Episode 5, 'I Feel Like I'm in a Circus'

In this week’s Amazing Race, Phil takes the great big Deck of Racing Cards and flings it up into the air. Rankings shift everywhere, then again. You want Ugly Americans? We got ‘em. You want helpful locals? We got ‘em. You want elephants? We got those, too, and their poop doesn’t stink. For real.

Last week the teams were left in a city built on stilts. In a 3 ½ hour time span, they trickle out of the city and onto some local transportation: the nimble Indian elephant. The elephant journey takes them down a river for a quick “find a clue in the bottom of a pool” Roadblock. It also gives us:

Snowboarder Quote of the Week No. 1
“When we win the Amazing Race I’m buying an elephant, they can do some serious four-wheeling.”

The team line-up doesn’t change during the elephant excursion. Twins Liz and Marie remain dead last and become even dead laster when they encounter their Speed Bump: they must wash an elephant and scoop some poop. They are as delighted with that task as if they were 6-year-old girls asked to wash a unicorn, and one of them actually says the poop doesn’t stink. They love elephants, by the way.

The next task for the Racers is to disassemble a “spirit house,” which is a model temple. Most teams assume that the Race will later require them to reassemble the spirit house, and they draw diagrams. Justin and Jennifer actually use their cab driver’s cell phone to take pictures. Guess what? After transporting the pieces to a nearby temple location (not near enough to walk, though), a second Roadblock requires the house to be rebuilt.

Can our relationship survive your B-average?
Engaged couple Ernie and Cindy have traveled the world and done loads of Race prep. But all that can’t overcome the fact that Ernie didn’t grow up in the academic environment that Cindy did. He interviews that he was just a B student. He proves it by purposefully not taking notes on the spirit house. He has to go back to the first spirit house and draw a diagram.

I’m the father here.
Early in the episode, Dad voiceovers basically that, even though Zac sailed around the world, he’s still just a kid. Therefore, on the Race, Dad plans to dictate his wisdom and have Zac heed him. This doesn’t work out so well when Dad doesn’t let Zac take notes on the spirit house. When Zac returns to draw a diagram, Dad mentions that he probably could knock it out pretty well himself without wasting all this time.

My God is great, and yours isn’t bad, either.
Because of the location on temple grounds, a few teams are interviewed about religion. The Snowboarders say that they are Christian, and they have Bible verses written on their backpacks. While working on the spirit house, they seem to have a “to each his own” attitude. Jennifer is even more respectful of the other religion, and I find myself liking her even more.
Now the teams are shuffled, and the next task is to take a cab to a bus stop to catch a bus to Bangkok, a journey of 550 miles. The cab ride is more expensive than people think, and a few teams are running low on cash. This brings us to our first:

Ugly American Moment
Ernie and Cindy give their driver American money and go to get a bus ticket. The driver doesn’t think it’s enough, and he follows them into the bus station to argue. A random woman intervenes on the driver’s behalf. Ernie and Cindy are losing it because they’re about to miss the bus, and “you weren’t even a very good driver!” They finally give him more money and the woman allows them to go. They shout at the driver as they walk away. At least in a post-interview they allow that it wasn’t their finest hour.

This whole bus-to-Bangkok bit is just messing with people. Dad and Zac get on a bus leaving the same time as the first teams, but then realize it’s a first-class bus. Thinking it’s a rule violation, they get off the bus and run three miles back to the bus station for an economy ticket.

The twins arrive at the bus station just in time for a bus, but they don’t have enough money for their driver. The bus leaves without them, the driver is shortchanged, and they’re broke. Then amazingly (I know, right?), over the commercial break, the driver has a change of heart. He accepts the lesser payment and drives them to catch the bus. They’re on a roll, now! Except when they get to Bangkok and have no money for a cab to the next clue.

Free assistance isn’t always free. But sometimes it is.
The buses are arriving in Bangkok out of order, the teams are shuffling again. But the twins are still last. They have enough compassion not to beg money from the poor people on the street, so they begin a 5-hour journey by foot. No telling how long they actually walk, but then they find a cab driver who actually gives them a free ride.

The snowboarders, meanwhile, stop for directions from a woman who is apparently a teacher. She takes their clue and then goes back to her class, telling them to wait for her. An assistant checks in and invites them to wait inside, which they decline. They can’t continue without the clue, so they’re stuck. And we get:

Snowboarder Quote of the Week No. 2:
"We can start pacing, sometimes that helps."
Finally, it’s the end. Due to traffic and cabs and some people trying to walk to the Pit Stop while others stick it out, the order is shaken up again.

First place goes to Marcus and Amani, and they are as loudly happy as any team has ever been. Right behind them, joining them on the mat, are Grandma and Grandpa. Ernie and Cindy are relieved to be in third place. Siblings Justin and Jennifer are fourth, which is too bad because they were frontrunners most of the leg.

The Snowboarders are fifth, and Dad and Zac join them on the mat for sixth. Those two teams are reunited on the mat, but they’re now in the back of the pack. I wonder if they’ll try to team up again next week. Phil takes a moment to point out that the No First Class Travel rule only applies to air travel, so they could have saved themselves a few hours. Whoops! But then again, maybe not, since their original bus left the same time as the Snowboarders’ bus, and that didn’t work out so well for them.

Jeremy and Sandy have been racing steadily, but on the way to the Pit Stop they ditch their cab to walk, only to be informed much later that it’s too far to walk so they take another cab. They fully expect to be last, but surprise! Seventh place!

The twins are last again. They even managed to get a free cab ride to the Pit Stop, but it couldn’t catch them up. This time they are eliminated, but at least they got to wash an elephant.

Next week takes us to Africa. Dare we hope for more elephants?

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