by Lyn Jensen
Although strangers being formed into teams has led some viewers to describe the latest Amazing Race as a “blind date” season, it’s more like a “make new friends” season. The teams appear to be primarily bonding over friendship, not romance–but there are a few that do resemble disastrous blind dates. Relationship troubles are becoming more apparent as the teams run the fourth and fifth legs in back-to-back episodes.
Africa (Leg 4)
Teams open the first clue envelope as they depart from the pit stop on the island of Zanzibar, in the following order: Liz/Mike, Joey/Tara, Vanck/Ashton, Matt/Redmond, London/Logan (Team LoLo), Scott/Brooke, Sara/Shamir, Becca/Floyd (Team Fun). They have to find rock star Freddie Mercury’s boyhood home in the old colonial-era community of Stonetown, where many streets are too narrow for cars.
At the Mercury house, they get clue envelopes containing choices for a detour: “Knock” or “Lock.”
Knock: Teams walk (or run) around Stonetown in search of three doors that once signified royalty. We’re told–but the teams aren’t–the doors bear the insignia of a cobra and a lion. When they knock at each royal door, they receive a carved plaque, and they’re to deliver the three plaques to a vendor for their next clue.
Lock: Teams find a door marked with red-and-gold race colors, and inside are rooms full of hundreds of ornate Zanzibar chests. They’re to find keys in the chests, then use the keys to open locked chests and get the next clue envelope. We’re told–but the teams aren’t–that all Zanzibar chests contain hidden compartments, and that’s where the keys are.
Liz/Mike, Brooke/Scott, Tara/Joey, Matt/Redmond, and LoLo are practically on top of each other trying to find the keys at the same time. Teams are toiling and sweating going through hundreds of chests, some of which are very heavy. Liz/Mike were misdirected on the way to Mercury’s house, but they’re still the first team to find a key and the next clue. It tells them to take a ferry to the mainland–Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
Tara/Joey were also delayed because they first tried to find the royal doors, then switched to the chests. She insists they switch back. Being in the military, she’s adept at running, and she insists they can just run through Stonetown and knock on random doors. They find one door through sheer luck, then find a man who tells them where the second door is.
Vanck/Ashton are searching for the royal doors. They can’t find the doors or anyone who knows where they are. They argue about switching detours–he wants to, she doesn’t. They eventually find someone who tells them where all three doors are, and to look for the royal insignia.
Becca/Floyd and Sara/Shamir are at the back of the pack, the last teams to find the Mercury home. Becca/Floyd join the crowd searching through the chests. Sara/Shamir start searching for the doors. They find someone who tells them where two places are, but not the third one.
Except for Liz/Mike, no one’s found any keys in hundreds of chests. One racer wonders where you look when you’ve already looked everywhere. Then Brooke notices how some drawers are shorter than others. She figures out there must be something behind those short drawers. She shows Scott, and other teams pick up on it.
Scott finds a scorpion key, but it doesn’t match a scorpion lock. At least he can’t get it to open. He and Brooke search for and find a second scorpion key and second scorpion lock.
Matt/Redmond find a fish key and match it to a fish lock. They’re the second team to get the next clue, directing them to take the ferry back to mainland Africa.
Scott gets one scorpion key to open one scorpion lock, putting him and Brooke in 3rd place. He gives the other key to Becca. Brooke objects, but later the two teams agree to return the favor at some point.
Becca gets a scorpion lock to open, putting her and Floyd in 4th place. LoLo are the last team left who can’t find any keys in any chests. They decide to switch detours. Almost immediately they encounter a woman on the street who tells them where all three doors are.
About this time Vanck/Ashton finish knocking on all three royal doors. They take their plaques to the vendor and get the clue for the ferry. Tara/Joey find the third door, and turn in their plaques. The six leading teams board the ferry, and wonder where LoLo and Sara/Shamir are.
Sara/Shamir have knocked on two royal doors and collected two plaques. They spend the next two hours (Shamir says) fruitlessly searching for the third door. They never do find it. He keeps telling her to switch detours. She keeps saying, we just have to find one more door.
LoLo finishes the “Knock” detour and board the ferry just before the gangplank goes up. Now seven of eight teams are on one ferry going to the mainland. One team’s left on the island of Zanzibar. Shamir finally persuades Sara to switch to hunting for a key, but they’re hours behind.
When teams disembark at Dar Es Salaam, they take taxis to a metalworking shop. For this leg’s roadblock, a member of each team must handcraft an aluminum ladle-strainer.
Most of the racers doing the metalwork (which requires strength) are the men, except for Becca and Brooke. Scott persuades Brooke to perform the task because he says she’s the artistic one.
Brooke has a very frustrating time with every step, and she lets everyone know she doesn’t think she has the strength for it. Even Joey’s complaining the cutters are too dull to cut the aluminum. Becca (who’s a rock climber, so she’s strong) says the task needs grip strength–but it’s fun. She sympathetically finishes cutting Brooke’s metal for her, repaying the favor owed for the keys and chests.
Joey’s first to finish making his kitchen ladle. Becca is 2nd. The foreman approves their work, then hands over the next clue, for the pit stop on nearby Coco Beach. Tara/Joey win the leg and $5,000 each. Becca/Floyd are in 2nd place, right behind.
Redmond goes to get his ladle-strainer approved, but he has to work on it some more. That gives him the opportunity to give Brooke some pointers about how to punch the holes. He keeps telling her to calm down, which she doesn’t like hearing.
Mike’s 3rd to finish the RB. Brooke’s still struggling with pounding the metal, so he gives her some advice before he leaves. He and Liz get to the pit stop in 3rd place.
Three more teams finish the RB and check in at the pit stop: Redmond/Matt, Vanck/Ashton, Logan/London. About this time Sara/Shamir disembark from the ferry and head for the metalworking shop.
Brooke’s work has failed two inspections. She’s convinced she and Scott are going to have to take a penalty. However, the third time is different. She gets her ladle-strainer approved, in gathering darkness. She and Scott reach the pit stop, and take 6th place, under artificial light.
As Shamir starts making his kitchen ladle, darkness is falling, lights are on, and the shop’s closing up. Phil comes to the last-place team, at the shop, and tells them, the other teams have checked in, and they’re eliminated. This may be only the fourth or fifth time in TAR history the host has gone to a team instead of the team coming to him.
Norway (Leg 5)
Seven teams all catch the same flight from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, to Alesund, a harbor city on the coast of Norway: Joey/Tara, Liz/Michael, Brooke/Scott, Becca/Floyd (Team Fun), Matt/Redmond (The Boys), Vanck/Ashton, and London/Logan (Team LoLo).
Once off the plane, everyone drives their rental cars to a white lighthouse, where a man serves all the racers a local delicacy: fermented and salted raw fish. He has the next clue, which contains the option of a fast forward. It starts with a helicopter ride from the field next to the lighthouse.
Vanck/Ashton consider taking the FF, but decide not to. Becca/Floyd have this season’s express pass, but they haven’t had to use it yet, and it expires on this leg. They decide to take the FF instead. Brooke/Scott try for it, too, but Becca/Floyd get to the helicopter 1st.
Everyone else drives to a nearby village where the world’s tallest bonfire is being built from wooden pallets. This leg’s roadblock requires rope-climbing several stories up the side of the pallets, helping to nail one pallet of the next layer in place, and then climbing back down again. The stacked pallets do make handy handholds and toeholds.
Tara/Joey are 1st to the RB, and Joey starts the climb even though he doesn’t like heights. Matt/Redmond are 2nd, and Matt the pro snowboarder goes up the structure–and comes back down–fast as an American Ninja competitor. He tells Redmond, “Becca’s going to be bummed” when she learns she missed this RB, her being a rock climber. “The Boys” pull into 1st place and get the next clue.
By now other teams are climbing. Ashton climbs and so does Scott, despite his fear of heights. London and Liz climb for their teams. As teams complete the RB, they open their next clue envelopes and learn what the choices are for this leg’s detour: either “Trolls” as in fairy tales, or “Troll” as in fishing.
Teams that choose “Trolls” get to channel their inner Harry Potter. They start at an auditorium, where a woman gives them tools to conjure up trolls. One is a map that shows where six “fire trolls” are trapped in the city’s architecture. The other is a Norwegian magic spell to “free” the trolls. When the costumed “trolls” appear, they reward the teams with fire in the form of skyrockets that are at least ten feet long.
Matt/Redmond and Joey/Tara pick the fishing. Teams go kayaking along a city canal, checking fishing lines, searching for a lure that’s marked with race colors and the word “Aksla.” Neither team fully understands the task–but after they meet while kayaking and compare notes, they agree the word on the lure is the next clue. They both find lures with the word, “Aksla” and go to find someone who can tell them what that is.
Ashton/Vanck, LoLo, and Brooke/Scott choose to search for trolls. LoLo and Brooke/Scott work together, walking along the route and conjuring up trolls together. Vanck/Ashton find two troll carvings, conjure up two trolls and get two huge skyrockets. They decide to take the skyrockets back to the auditorium, then drive to the other four locations on the map, so they can put all four skyrockets in their car.
Mike wants to kayak but Liz insists they do the troll hunt. They have a “difference of opinion” as Mike puts it, about how to read their map. Even when he gets his compass out and points it north, she still insists the map goes north in a different direction.
Tara/Joey and Matt/Redmond find someone who points out Mt. Aksla to them. It overlooks the town, and 421 steps lead up the side of the mountain to the overlook at the top. There’s also a drive that goes up the back way, but it’s a less direct route, and the stairs only take about ten minutes (if you’re in top condition). With Redmond having an artificial leg, climbing stairs isn’t really his thing, so Tara/Joey beat the boys in this footrace. Phil and the mat are at the top. The first-place and second-place teams even beat Becca/Floyd who took the FF.
Becca/Floyd’s helicopter ride ends with a skydive back to the field where they started from. They get the pit stop clue and directions to drive to Mt. Aksla. When they arrive at the mat, Phil tells them they’re in 3rd place. At first they don’t believe it. (This may be the 1st time a team took the FF and didn’t win the leg.)
On the great troll hunt, Vanck/Ashton collect their final four skyrockets. They can only fit three of them in their rental car. They solve the problem with Vanck holding the fourth skyrocket on the roof while Ashton drives. They pass LoLo and Scott/Brooke, who are trying to carry three and four skyrockets at once. Then LoLo and Brooke/Scott move ahead while Vanck/Ashton are parking and getting the skyrockets out of their car. All three teams get their pit stop clues. LoLo and Brooke/Scott take the direct route up the stairs. Vanck/Ashton drive the less direct route up the back of the mountain.
Liz/Michael also collect all six skyrockets and find out about Mt. Aksla, but they argue about whether to walk or drive and what route to take. While they’re arguing, he pulls out of a parking space and dings a van. They stop and discuss it with the other driver. He tells them they hit a place that was already dented. How amazing is that?
They keep driving and arguing. He says just drive up the road, she says just park the car and walk. They see a parking garage and he tells her they can probably take the elevator in the garage and get to the top of the mountain that way. They can’t. He says, “If you’d just stayed on the damn road” when he’s the one who told her to park in the parking garage.
Vanck/Ashton look exhausted when they reach Phil and the mat, even though they drove. He tells them they’re 4th. LoLo beat Brooke/Scott in their footrace up the stairs, so that makes LoLo 5th and Scott/Brooke 6th.
Liz basically drags Mike up the stairs. He’s having a much tougher time than she is, and she’s not giving him any sympathy. When they reach the mat, Phil has a surprise, “You’re still racing.” This turns out to be the first of two legs that are run as one. To be continued!