The Amazing Race, Episode 11: So Close But Yet So Farby Susan Schechter -- 07/10/2002
This had to be the best Amazing Race episode yet. To recap from the previous show:
Frank and Margarita (separated parents) 1st Place
Rob and Brennan are on the Thailand beach at 6:03 am. They find out that the next place they need to get to be at Jingshan Park, Beijing, China. They have to get from a beach in Southern Thailand to Beijing, which is 2500 miles away. Poor Rob still has his finger bandaged. Frank and Margarita leave at 6:15, 12 minutes behind them. Margarita notices “I feel like out approach has been different than a lot of the other teams.” Please watch this woman carefully folks. She is ultra-insightful in this episode, or is at least being edited that way this time.
We are then treated to a clip of the Guidos, or Bert and Ernie, saying that the airport is a great equalizer. Wouldn’t you know? Rob and Brennan miss the flight by 10 minutes when they arrive. Ten bloody minutes! Frank and Margarita arrive at that time, and are informed by the lawyers that they missed their flight by ten minutes. They all decide to get from Thailand to Bangkok, and once in Bangkok, they will find transport to Beijing. At the airport, the lawyers get worried, because they have not seen Frank and Margarita. It turns out that Frank and Margarita are clever clogs. They figure out it is too cumbersome at this point in the game to have their backpacks (not to mention the strain they must have on their backs), so they kill time by finding a little shopping area and get bags. They ditch half their clothing and possessions, and seem a lot happier knowing that they will be schlepping less things and that should make them go a bit quicker. Frank notes that Thailand “has been a pivotal role in their relationship. Leave all the baggage behind and let’s move ahead”.
Kevin and Drew then take off, at 11:35 PM, nearly 18 hours after the other two teams. They get to the airport, and noticing the ensemble collected there at that late hour comment, “This is a house of ill repute.” The other chimes in, “(There is) a whole lot of partying going on.”
The lawyers and Frank and Marge all end up on the same flight from Bangkok to Beijing. Bill and Joe leave at 1:30 am. Both of the last two teams are worried about who will be in third place. This episode, for those who may not have figured it out, is the final elimination round. The remaining three teams will be on next Wednesday night’s finale. Frank and Margarita make better time at the airport and find a taxi quicker than the lawyers. Their destination is Top Pavilion, located high on a hill in the middle of Beijing. For what it is worth, they are moving faster now that the cumbersome backpacks are gone. They get there and find the next task sheet, which says “Volley” or “Rally.” Volley is Ping-Pong against a local champion – and they take their Ping-Pong seriously in China. Rally means using three local ways to get around Beijing: bus, motorcycle taxi, and bicycle taxi. Traveling around the congested streets of Beijing is going to eat up major time.
Frank and Margarita decide to go for the Ping-Pong challenge because it’s less stressful than dealing with the traffic. Even I, who sucks at Ping-Pong, would rather do that than see the traffic. Frank notes that, “The Chinese are really good at Ping-Pong. We might be there a long time, Margie.” The lawyers, a bit behind, also choose Ping-Pong. They own their own Ping-Pong table and think they are quite good. Rob will not do this, his fingers are still bandaged from his rock climbing “accident.” Frank and Margarita arrive first, and to their amazement, the champion they are supposed to play against is a small boy, my guess between 7-10 years of age. Cut to the lawyers in a taxi, “I think we underestimated the Ping-Pong dude.” Frank eventually scores the necessary five points to the champion’s six. Their next task is America’s second pastime (baseball being first), SHOPPING! Woo-Hoo!
The shopping list they will need is outside the food store. The lawyers arrive at the Ping-Pong place and they too are flabbergasted to see a child. The boy gets two shots off Brennan right away, one hitting him in the stomach. Things are not going well for the lawyers.
Frank and Margarita get to the store. The shopping list is all in Chinese, but they find someone in the store who tells them what they need to get. Five beetle larvae (what is, this, Survivor?), 1 squid, and 2 chicken feet. Then they have to take their food to stall 57 at an outdoor curbside market. I wonder what is going to be done with all that food? Give it to the homeless perhaps? Meanwhile, Brennan is getting his arse kicked by the boy at Ping-Pong. The score is 13-0. Cut to Frank and Margarita shopping. Cut back to Rob and Brennan. The score is 17-2. The lawyers switch (I guess Rob figures he can’t do any worse, even with his bandages) and eventually get the five points. They arrive at the store and also find somebody to help them interpret. Then they are off to stall 57, in what appears to be a very short time, if not minutes after Frank and Margarita. Frank and Margarita find out there is a roadblock at the stall. Margarita instantly tells Frank she will do it. A slight family squabble ensues over who will do this. Finally Frank lets her do it. She opens the envelope and is told to go inside, she is going to eat all the food. Frank tells the camera he’s “impatient, stubborn, and stupid sometimes.” He apologizes to her for being an “insensitive jerk” and gives her a nice soft kiss. Rob and Brennan arrive as Margarita is about to eat. Brennan will not look at Margarita eating. Can’t say I blame him. Brennan starts a few bites after Margarita.
Marge, a smart lady if I ever saw one, tells the camera, “While I was eating the chicken legs, I tried to use it as motivation for our daughter. I thought “College Tuition, eat.” I’ll say this much for her daughter. She has a good role model for a momma, which I hope she realizes when she grows up.
Brennan is scarfing the food down with some water and Margarita finally finishes. She and Frank are both told to go to South Gate Tianten Park. The lawyers are a few short minutes behind. What is really nice about this pit stop is they get served tea.
The viewers are then treated to some foreshadowing clips. The lawyers believe the Frat Boys are more confident, but the Guidos have really made up a great deal of time. It’s a wild card. Margarita says those teams are the antithesis of each other. She then goes on, “What I know is that both teams will be equally aggressive, equally driven.” Cut to Kevin talking about the airplane, and the Guidos being on all the flights. Drew then makes a pithy comment, “This is it. The Thrilla in Manila.”
The boys get to the Jiangshan Park first, and thus have a slight lead over team Guido. Guido gets there a few minutes later, and find the clue. Both the Boys and the Guidos decide they are not good at Ping-Pong and decide to do the Rally instead. Both teams get on the buses, with the Boys catching one slightly earlier. Then the Boys find the motorcycles and they are off, team Guido nipping at their heels. A few minutes later one of them comments, “I think my left testicle is rolling around the streets of Beijing.” Meanwhile Joe is in the motorcycle’s sidecar looking miserable. Cut to the Frat Boys making jokes about the old TV show Happy Days:
Then the bad luck starts. The Boys side car seems to be going flat, due to the extra weight from the team and their luggage. They get to the bicycle taxi seconds before the Guidos, and the Guidos take the lead. The boys can’t understand why the Guidos have overtaken them, other than the fact that they weigh less. In a nail-biting series of shots, it’s neck and neck. Both teams get to the next stop seconds apart and have to go to the market. It’s in the evening, the market is closed, due to open at 6:30 am. More quotes: Guido is determined to knock Kevin and Drew out of third place. The Boys are actually nicer, saying they have no animosity towards team Guido, but “if we have to take them down to win, we have to take them down to win.”
Morning finds the Frat Boys looking good after a good night’s sleep. They say they had a meal, but “not Chinese because we’re in China.” They also met their interpreter.
The teams both arrive at the store seconds apart. Both have interpreters, Guido picking one up at that moment.
And they shop while I am biting my nails. They get their items, and of course arrive seconds apart at the place to have it cooked.
Joe eats for the Guidos. The Frat Boys seem unhappy. They had Danish for breakfast. Still, Drew chows it down while Kevin screams, “Now we’re in Hooters. Get that chicken meat off!”
The Boys finish and get their next clue. My esteemed editor at RealityNewsOnline told me the day after this episode aired to look at the next scene carefully. I looked at it six times, including twice in slo mo. Joe looks up to see the boys returning the plates they just ate off of. He has finished the food, but the chicken feet look like there were still some bites left on them. Not a lot, maybe two or three bites left on each leg – but the rules said they had to eat all the food. This is not trivial, since in the end seconds count. Several people sent comments to RealityNewsOnline about the unfairness of them getting away without eating “all” of the food. Should they have been penalized for failing to follow the rules to the letter? Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), when it comes to chicken feet, I’m no expert. I couldn’t really tell if they ate enough to be considered “all.” But there should have been a judge standing by to make sure everybody ate equal amounts. There wasn’t.
And now we have the taxis. Being familiar with NYC taxis and gridlock I am sympathetic. The Boys are squeamish. They see the Guidos in their taxi. It’s anyone’s horse race at this time. Both teams know it is down to the wire. Whatever lead the Boys had, even if it was just a minute or two, is gone. The Boys get to the park first and jump out of their taxi to sprint (well, as close as these guys get to sprinting, anyway), but cannot locate the South Gate. The Guidos, thinking a bit clearer, find an English/Chinese dictionary and eventually get their taxi driver to take them directly to the South Gate. Thus the Guidos come in third. They hug each other , and Joe quotes, of all people, Sir Winston Churchill. “Never give up. Fight until the end. Fight until you die. Just go on, and we’ll die trying.”
Cut to the Frat Boys, finally reaching the gate, but too late. They sit down on the ground and tears well up in their eyes. Dammit, I am crying too! But the Boys are ever the gentlemen, “It was all coming together. And now it’s over.” “It’s been a lot of fun, I hate to leave this early, but someone’s got to go. That’s it.”
“This has been grueling. Physically, mentally, emotionally. We have nothing be sorry or ashamed of, and nothing to regret, because we gave it our all.”
They end with a quote of their own, equally hokey. “ I was reading about the teaching of Buddha. And it said, ‘When you Speak, just Speak, when you Feel, just Feel, when you See, just See, when you Hear, just Hear.’ And the last one is ‘when you Know just Know.’ And we can walk away just knowing we did out best, and it did not work out.”
And we viewers know you did your best, and are sad it did not work out as well.
Postscript: Although I did not see it, I have been told that one of the Boys proposed to his girlfriend the following day on Rosie O’Donnell. She accepted (the girlfriend, not Rosie). That definitely beats Peas and Carrots on an Imac, or Krista and Mike in front of Julie Chen.
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