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The Amazing Race: Season 29 Finale in Chicago, 6/1/17

June 4th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Instead of starting with teams opening their first clue envelopes for the next leg, the finale of The Amazing Race Season 29 picks up where the last leg ended, with the top three teams still gathered on the mat in Seoul. Host Phil Keoghan tells them they’ll be flown premium class (business class, first class) to Chicago for the finale.

The final three teams consist of one favorite and two longshots:

  • The favorites are army major Tara and police sergeant Joey, known as Mom and Dad, who’ve taken 1st place in three legs already.
  • One longshot is blonde crochet artist London and muscular “orthopedic device representative” Logan, known as LoLo, who’ve never won a leg.
  • The other longshot is redheaded university recruiter Scott and hot-headed lawyer Brooke, known as Team Will & Grace, who’ve bickered, schemed and complained their way through the season with only one 1st-place finish to show for it.

When the teams’ plane lands, they have get to a pit stop–at the Chicagoland Speedway. Teams catch taxis from the airport to the racetrack. Scott/Brooke checked their bags at the airport, and Scott says TAR super-fans know that teams commonly check their bags at the airport for the final leg and the other teams didn’t figure that out. (That’s one of his more—endearing–statements. I guess I’ll have to spend time ’til Season 30 looking back at previous finales to see who’s got their backpacks and who doesn’t.)

For the pit stop at the racetrack, there are three NASCAR stock cars, all with Amazing Race decals. One teammate has to change a tire during a pit stop in less than 40 sec. The other teammate suit up, strap in and drive the stock car around the track in less than 48 sec. Brooke/Scott are 1st to arrive and she needs four tries to change the tire, whining and complaining all the while about how she can’t do it. Scott’s used to her by now, and he just keeps telling her she can. (She probably would’ve been a worse driver than tire-changer, though.)

Tara/Joey arrive in 2nd place, and she tells him he has to change the tire. He needs two tries. London/Logan arrive, and she needs four tries to change their car’s tire.

Only one car can make a lap at a time. Scott needs three tries but so does Tara, so Scott/Brooke maintain their lead. They run the car into Victory Lane, get showered with champagne and confetti, and get the next clue. It calls for them to take a taxi back into the heart of downtown Chicago.

Chicago’s public rail system is called the L train, L for elevated, but some stations are subways. One is the Monroe Street Station, and that’s where the teams are directed to. A subway worker’s hanging around the platform, and he’s got clue envelopes ready. Brooke/Scott are first to get their next clue, Joey/Tara are 2nd. This clue is three-in-one, because it gives clues about three downtown Chicago landmarks. Teams are to go to those widely scattered landmarks and pick up a postcard from someone at each place.

Brooke/Scott and Tara/Joey latch onto people with iPhones, asking them to find the three landmarks. One is a 154-foot Gothic spire called the water tower or the waterworks. One’s the Birmingham fountain. One’s a bridge, where teams will have to pick up the postcard from the bridge operator.

Logan needed two tries to beat the clock with his race car, but he and London show up on the subway platform before the first two teams are gone. This turns out to be the last time the teams are all together before the finish line. Team LoLo buys a map of city landmarks instead of chasing down an iPhone user.

All the teams are proceeding on foot through the many blocks between the landmarks. Scott’s pushing Brooke mercilessly. He keeps “motivating” her with, “Million dollars!  Million dollars!” I doubt that does much for her tired feet or her shortness of breath. At one point he tries to tell her to get on his back because he can crossfit 100 lbs. This after he bragged about checking his pack at the airport.

Brooke/Scott go to the Gothic spire first, then the bridge, and finally the fountain. When they put the three postcards together, they spell out, “City Hall rooftop.” They run for it.

LoLo go to the bridge first, the fountain second, and the Gothic spire third. That puts them in second. However, they take public transportation to City Hall.

Joey/Tara get to the fountain, then the bridge, but they run to the wrong Gothic spire. That puts them in last place.

Chicago City Hall has a rooftop garden with bee boxes and a beekeeper. (The City must be in the honey business.) Brooke/Scott arrive and the beekeeper gives them a clue envelope that tells them to take a taxi to Wrigleyville Dogs. It’s a hot dog stand near Wrigley Field, which could create confusion–but nobody’s cabbie takes them to the wrong place.

When teams reach Wrigleyville Dogs, they have to pack and deliver ten Chicago-style hot dogs to one of the rooftop bleachers that overlook historical Wrigley Stadium. At the rooftop bleachers about 30 people are waiting for their hot dogs, along with Season 19 TAR winners Cindy/Ernie (who have a kid now). In exchange for the hot dog delivery, Ernie gives the teams two tickets to Wrigley. Scott/Brooke deliver their hot dogs and get their tickets.

As for the other two teams, Joey/Tara find the correct Gothic spire and are the 2nd team to get to City Hall. They got there on foot faster than LoLo via the subway/L-train. That makes LoLo the last team to get to City Hall. Then they’re delayed again, trying to find a cabbie who knows where Wrigleyville Dogs is.

At Wrigley, Brooke/Scott have to work together to tally up their finishes on each of this season’s legs. One team member must work the scoreboard, where the locations of the season’s pit stops are posted in alphabetical order. The other team member sits in the press box and, with the aid of binoculars and a one-way radio, tells the other person what number to put up. When the team has all of its finishes listed, one of the stadium’s ushers verifies the information. If the team posted the correct numbers, they get to visit the home-plate umpire down on the field.

While Scott’s working the scoreboard and Brooke’s telling him what numbers to post, Joey/Tara pick up their hot dogs, deliver them to Cub fans Cindy/Ernie, and get their tickets to Wrigley.  (Boston Joey yells, “Go Red Sox!” and gets boo’ed.) About this time LoLo finds the hot dog stand.

Brooke/Scott meet the umpire at home plate, and he gives them a clue that involves tallying up their finishes in such a way as to calculate what aisle of the Wrigley seats to search. When teams do the math as they’re instructed, they get a number that corresponds to an aisle number and somewhere along that aisle will be a clue envelope. Scott/Brooke make the calculation and search, first for the aisle, then the envelope. They’re both on the verge of hysteria.

Tara/Joey arrive, and he works the scoreboard while she tells him what numbers to post. Brooke/Scott find a clue envelope:  to Olive Park on the Chicago waterfront. They catch a taxi. Now the only hope the other teams have is that Brooke/Scott will have bad taxi luck.

Joey/Tara get their scoreboard tally approved and run to the umpire. Joey can’t resist touching home plate as he runs by. The team gets the instructions about how to calculate what aisle to search.

London/Logan deliver their hot dogs, get their tickets, go to Wrigley. He works the scoreboard while she tells him what numbers to post.

Brooke/Scott do not have bad taxi luck. They find Olive Park. The eight teams that were eliminated this season cheer them on as they cross the finish line. Phil tells them they’ve won $1 million. I’ll say this–they’re the biggest complainers to win since Season 3’s Flo, and she had a placid partner.

Everyone cheers as they see Tara/Joey, “Mom and Dad,” arrive. They’ll have to be content with the cash they won on two earlier legs, in Greece and Africa.

The third-place team is treated as an afterthought. We don’t see LoLo finish their scoreboard tally or catch a taxi. When they cross the finish line, Phil asks them about their race together. They won nothing over the entire distance. They’ll have to be content with becoming “the opposite of strangers,” as London tells Phil. I don’t know about their personal lives but they were the one team this season that resembled a pleasant blind date.

So now we’ll have to wait a long time for Season 30. Time to watch and recap old episodes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Amazing Race: Season 29, Final Four, Korea, 5/25/17

May 29th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

When The Amazing Race began Season 29, the concept was to take 22 strangers and make them into teams. As the race enters its final legs, the time has come to ask if the strangers that have developed the best teamwork are going to win. Teamwork isn’t the only factor that determines a winner, however, and the final four teams still have to work through multiple variables.

The four teams that finished the last leg in Vietnam now must travel to Seoul, South Korea, where they’ll spend time immersed in Korean pop culture:

  • Champion snowboarder Matt Ladley and one-legged vet Raymond Ramos (The Boys)
  • Crochet artist London and medical device salesman Logan (Team LoLo)
  • Army officer Tara and police officer Joey (the oldest racers, the others call them “Mom and Dad”)
  • This season’s Bickersons, Scott and Brooke (Team Will and Grace)

All teams catch the same flight from Hanoi to Seoul, where once they arrive, they’re to make their way to a university in the Gangnam district. They may travel by subway or taxi. The boys opt for the subway. Everyone else takes taxis. The boys must make a subway connection, and they miss it.

Joey/Tara reach the university first, followed by Brooke/Scott and LoLo. They find a stage show going on. Four women are singing and dancing “Gangnam Style.” The dancers hand over clue envelopes, which direct the teams to take their taxis to “the Olympic gym” at Hanyang, another university.

With the boys still negotiating the subway, this is turning into a three-team race. Joey/Tara are the first team to get to the gym. They find it’s filled with children whose fingers are blurring as they perform competitive cup-stacking–and thanks to whoever designed this season’s course, cup-stacking is this leg’s 1st roadblock. One person from each team must start with a set of twelve disposable plastic cups. Arrange the three stacks into three pyramids,  then re-stack ’em–and do the whole sequence in less than seven seconds. Whoever does this RB can’t do the next one.

Joey starts stacking and re-stacking the cups for his team. Almost immediately Brooke/Scott arrive and for once Brooke finds something she’s confident she can do. Team LoLo arrives, too, and Logan does the cup-stacking for him and London.

When Matt/Redmond get to the dance show, Matt’s got a bad feeling because he notices the dancer that hands over the clue envelope is the only dancer who has one.

Taxi rides haven’t been much of an issue this season, but suddenly bad taxi luck arrives. The boys catch a taxi and tell the driver to go to Hanyang University, to the Olympic gym. The driver misunderstands, mistaking Hanyang for another university with a similar name. When the driver realizes much later he didn’t get the name right, he tells the team he’ll give them a discount, but the correct university will take about twenty more minutes to drive to. So that puts the boys at least twenty minutes further behind. “Not a lot of room for mistakes,” Matt comments.

Brooke finishes the cup-stacking, then Joey, then Logan. Next destination is a cultural center where each team is directed to make six servings of Korea’s national dish, kimchi, fermented cabbage. The three front teams arrive all fairly close together. (Their taxis raced each other along the route.) Everyone has a few problems with the cabbage preparation, but Joey/Tara finish 1st. Brooke/Scott bicker but finish 2nd. Team LoLo are third.

While the three front-running teams are finishing the kimchi, Redmond is at the Olympic gym, stacking his twelve cups in less than seven seconds. Although no one mentions Redmond’s one leg, cup-stacking doesn’t require two legs, and the team doesn’t know what the next RB may require.

The three front teams are in taxis, heading to “the e-stadium,” a major video-gaming venue, where they find the next RB requires playing video games against superstar pro gamers–guys who can beat you while literally blindfolded with one hand behind their backs. You want to be one of the final three teams of TAR 29? You have to go through these guys.

Scott, Tara, and London have to perform this RB and Scott’s the only one with any video-gaming experience. He used to play Nintendo. The martial-arts fighting game being played here must be a version of Nintendo, because when racers select their avatar/character, he selects a character that he’s familiar with.

If you don’t beat the pro gamer after ten rounds, he’ll play with one hand behind his back. If you don’t beat him after twenty rounds, he’ll play blindfolded and with one hand behind his back. Scott, London, and Tara all lose their first twenty rounds.

The boys make their kimchi. They talk about how this is a hard leg to make up time on. They head for the e-stadium.

London has to play at least 21 rounds before she wins one. She gets the clue for the pit stop. As Team LoLo get ready to leave, Scott wins, so he and Brooke head for the pit stop, too. The two teams that have never won a leg are now competing for first place. They run out of the e-stadium and catch taxis. Their taxi drivers do not misunderstand the directions.

Phil and the mat are atop a floating building (about four stories high) on the Han river that runs through the heart of Seoul. Phil tells the camera that the last team to arrive will be eliminated. (Some seasons have featured a twist that sends four teams to the final leg, but not this time.)

Brooke/Scott are the 1st team to hit the mat. There’s no prize for winning this leg, except to race in the finale. Early in this episode Scott said he and Brooke hadn’t won a leg, but there have been teams that won the season without winning any early legs. Now Scott can’t say he and Brooke haven’t won a leg. However, Team LoLo, who’s the second team to hit the mat, can still say they haven’t won any leg, and they’re in the final three.

Now the best Matt/Redmond can hope for is to elbow out Joey/Tara for 3rd. Tara’s having to play more than thirty rounds and is beginning to wonder if she’ll have to play all night against a one-handed blindfolded pro.

Matt/Redmond arrive, and Tara’s face gets longer. Matt–who has to do this RB–has experience playing video games. He asks the gamer to go easy on him, but the gamers aren’t going easy on the racers. It’s champion snowboarder against champion gamer. After the first round, the pro gamer admits, “He’s good!”

Tara needs at least 34 rounds–but she scores a win before Matt does. He finishes right after she does–he only needed about 12 rounds. He beat his gamer after the one-hand rule took effect, but well before the blindfold was called for.

Tara/Joey have a slight delay getting a taxi but their driver understands where to go. The boys catch a taxi, too, and appear to be right behind. At the building the teams try different strategies–Tara/Joey take their chances with the elevator while Matt/Redmond take their chances running up four flights of stairs.

Brooke/Scott and Team LoLo are still on the mat when Joey/Tara arrive. Minutes go by before Matt/Redmond arrive. Phil states the obvious, that they’re last to arrive and have been eliminated. Matt looks crestfallen. He didn’t want to go out here of all places. Redmond says, “We wanted to show the world that nothing could bring you down.” Phil agrees, “Redmond, you did that.”

So goes The Amazing Race. The season’s strongest and most athletic team was a victim of bad taxi luck and a course that didn’t allow much make-up room. I’ve been disappointed by how many interesting teams have gone out early this season, but here’s who we’ll see racing in Chicago next Thursday:

  • Sentimental favorites Tara/Joey, who are the only dominating team left.
  • Bickering schemers Scott/Brooke, who share characteristics with some other surprise winners.
  • Lurking dark horses London/Logan, who’ve had a season of never being either first or last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Amazing Race: Season 29, Two Episodes in Vietnam, 5/18/17

May 24th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Already Season 29 of The Amazing Race is down to its final four teams, and tomorrow (Thurs.) we’ll see the set-up for the finale. CBS scheduled the ninth and tenth episodes back-to-back last Thursday, and there were some unusual deviations from the race’s standard format. The five teams that started from Athens, Greece, were:  Joey/Tara, Matt/Redmond (The Boys), Brooke/Scott, Logan/London (Team LoLo) and Becca/Floyd (Team Fun).

9th Episode/Leg:  Athens to Hanoi

As the teams leave the pit stop in Athens, Greece, they’re immediately directed to take taxis to the Corinth canal for this leg’s roadblock. It’s a revival of a challenge last seen in season 9–one of the world’s highest bungee jumps. Joey/Tara arrive first and he complains, but jumps. Matt jumps next, and as he and Redmond leave, they talk about how “Scott’s gonna freak” and cry because of his fear of heights.

Scott and Brooke are two of the highest-maintenance contestants this season, and they found each other. Scott doesn’t know what the RB is yet but he hopes it’s not a bungee jump. He says whatever it is, he has to do it, to keep the number he does even with the number Brooke does. (Given Brooke’s performance in the challenges so far, I’m not sure she’d be good at a bungee jump, either.) When Scott sees it is a bungee jump, he doesn’t cry but he does scream. He complains about how he’s done four roadblocks and three have involved heights. He straps in but he’s paralyzed on the ledge until Brooke reminds him about a $1 million prize. When he does jump his screaming sounds like the soundtrack of a horror movie. He’s says he’s never doing that again–then he says he wants to do it again. Really?

After Logan and Becca jump for their teams, everyone catches the same flight from Athens, and travels 5,000 miles to Hanoi, Vietnam. Once teams disembark, they take taxis to a certain city square, where dozens of women are waving red fans and doing an exercise that looks like tai chi.

Teams are at first looking for a clue box but then Becca/Floyd notice some of the women’s red fans have yellow sticks–indicating race colors. They ask one of the women waving a red-and-yellow fan for a clue envelope. She gives them one. It directs them to a nearby temple.

Team Fun tell Brooke/Scott to look for a red fan with a yellow stick. That makes them next to get a clue envelope, and they tell LoLo to look for a person, not a clue box. Matt/Redmond and Tara/Joey also notice some red-and-yellow fans, and get their clues.

At the temple, the clue is for this leg’s detour–the bungee-jump RB was performed in Greece but the detour is being performed on the hot crowded streets of Hanoi. This detour limits the teams that can do each task, so some will have to do one and some, the other:

  • For three teams, they may get a fifteen-foot bamboo ladder from a bamboo shop, and carry it through the city streets to a cramped narrow apartment building, go up to the top floor patio, and fetch down a bamboo birdcage. Then they must squeeze the ladder back down through the apartment halls and stairs, and carry it and the birdcage back to the bamboo shop.
  • Otherwise teams will have to carry manikins through the city streets and set up window displays in fashion boutiques.

Everyone tries for a ladder at the bamboo shop first. Becca/Floyd are at the head of the pack. They grab one ladder, and are on their way before anyone else arrives. Brooke/Scott and Matt/Redmond arrive, and the boys grab the second ladder even as Scott’s reaching for it. The third ladder’s up high where it’s hard to see. LoLo arrive, spot the third ladder, and London climbs up and grabs it just as Brooke’s trying to climb up, too. That means Scott/Brooke have to go set up a fashion-manikin display. They fight about who didn’t grab the ladder, etc., etc., for most of the rest of the episode.

Becca/Floyd get to the apartment and maneuver their ladder up the stairs. She wasn’t afraid to bungee jump, but she’s afraid to climb the ladder to get the birdcage. He holds the ladder for her. On their way down, they encounter “the boys” coming up, and the teams have to help each other get one ladder up and one ladder down.

Brooke/Scott pass Tara/Joey on the street but don’t warn them that all the ladders at the shop are taken. When Tara/Joey reach the shop, they’re not happy that the ladders are gone and they weren’t told about it. They have to dress a boutique window, too.

At the apartment house Matt/Redmond, coming down, encounter LoLo going up, and teams have to work around each other once again. LoLo has the hardest time of the three teams getting their ladder up and down the stairs but they never lose their cool.

Becca/Floyd return their ladder to the bamboo shop and give the man the birdcage. He puts a bird in the cage, then gives the team a clue envelope. It’s for this leg’s pit stop, at Thong park. Team Fun grab a taxi.

Matt/Redmond are minutes behind. They get their pit stop clue and catch a taxi, too. At the park Becca/Floyd find the mat along with the host Phil Keoghan, who tells them they’ve won the leg and a trip to the Galapagos islands. Matt/Redmond join the party on the mat, and take second place.

Joey/Tara and Brooke/Scott pick up manikins at a shop and lug them through the hot, humid, crowded streets. Joey/Tara are the first to start setting up a window display, copying a photograph. Brooke/Scott soon start setting up a display at another shop on the same block. Joey/Tara think they’re finished but the shop woman doesn’t approve. They look at the picture they’re using–and suddenly realize they were supposed to get three manikins and they only got two. (A look at the picture should’ve told ’em that, right?) They run back to the manikin shop. That gives Brooke/Scott an opening, since they have all three manikins they need. They get their window display approved and catch a taxi to the pit stop.

LoLo have by now taken the ladder and the birdcage back to the bamboo shop. They take a taxi to Thong park. Phil tells them they’re 3rd.

Joey/Tara get their third manikin to the boutique, dress it, position it, and get the display approved. They catch a taxi to the pit stop.

Brooke/Scott find the mat and Phil. Scott guesses they’re 4th. He’s right. Joey/Tara arrive while Brooke/Scott are still on the mat. They exchange words about the detour.

The weather in Hanoi’s been so hot and humid that the cameras are picking up the contestants’ sweat. Barely has Joey’s feet touched the mat than he half-collapses from the heat. Fortunately it’s nothing serious, and it turns out arriving in last place isn’t serious either. Phil tells them this is a non-elimination leg so they’ll have to perform a speed bump–a separate challenge–on the next leg.

10th Episode/Leg:  Still in Vietnam

Hanoi’s in north Vietnam, and as this episode opens teams are directed further north, to travel by bus into the mountainous Vietnamese countryside. Becca/Floyd and Matt/Redmond, at the front of the pack, catch a bus that departs at 9 a.m.

As for the trailing three teams, Joey/Tara get delayed at the bus station’s ticket counter while London/Logan and Brooke/Scott get on the 9:30 bus. They try and pull a Boston Rob stunt, offering to pay the driver to leave early. The bus driver sticks to his schedule and Joey/Tara board.

Once teams get off the bus, they have to ride bikes through the countryside to a temple. Some contestants hoped the countryside would be cooler, but the heatwave continues, and teams have to ride bikes in it.

Waiting at the temple are the next clue and some Travelocity gnomes. (Travelocity product placement came late this season.) Each team gets a gnome to roam with them for the rest of the leg. The clues near the gnomes send teams biking to another rural location, where they’re to perform a challenge last seen on TAR season 3. Bikes are waiting here with large racks, and there are also bundles of woven shrimp traps.

When Becca/Floyd and Matt/Redmond open their clue envelopes near the shrimp traps, they find “Roadblock:  Basket Case.” A team member has to hang dozens of bundled baskets on a bike’s huge rack, pedal the loaded bike about a mile, to where a shrimper-man’s waiting, unload the bike, get the next clue from the shrimp fisherman, and ride back. The Travelocity gnome goes along, too.

Floyd and Matt work together to load the bikes, and pedal away at about the same time, but Floyd doesn’t notice he dropped some of his load before getting to the road. Becca notices but she’s forbidden to help him. Matt manages to stay upright for the whole trip. Floyd doesn’t. He drops more baskets. He thinks he can just go back and pick them up later.

The three trailing teams are riding to the temple. Joey/Tara are 1st to reach it, and they find they need to do their speed bump at this point. They’re to go to a nearby duck farm and collect six dozen eggs. The eggs are from free-range ducks, so the racers need to dig through thick grass and thorny bushes to find enough eggs. LoLo soon get to the temple, too. Brooke/Scott are running last.

Matt/Redmond are the 1st team to complete the RB, and they stay in 1st place the rest of the leg. They leave Becca waiting for Floyd, and bike some distance to the next destination, a body of water where, Phil explains via voiceover, it’s customary for women to row boats with their feet, to keep their hands free.

This rowing task isn’t designated as a second RB but it’s not part of a detour either. As we’ll see, there’s no detour on this leg, so this is like a detour with only one choice. Out on the water is a ceremonial dragon boat procession. Teams are to row out and make offerings (incense, flowers, funny money) to the dragon and row back. One team member rows using feet instead of hands, and the other team member just goes along for the ride. Since Matt has two feet and Redmond doesn’t, this is a task Matt has to do.

LoLo bike their way to the RB. LoLo loads a bike and starts her delivery run. Floyd got to the shrimp man but found he had to deliver the entire load at once. He had to bike all the way back to the start, pick up the baskets he dropped, and start again. On his second trip, he drops more baskets–and doesn’t notice. He also has to stop and help London right her bike. They work together for a while.

When Scott/Brooke make it to the RB, he loads the bike, makes his delivery, and passes the struggling London and Floyd. He and Brooke vault into second place, which they hold for the rest of the leg.

Matt/Redmond complete the rowing challenge and get the clue for the pit stop. After returning their bikes, they have to catch a taxi to Hang Mia, or Flying Dragon Mountain. (It resembles good ol’ Brokeback Mountain.) Five hundred steps stretch up and across its ridges. Once again teams are climbing steps up a mountainside. At the top is Phil and the mat. The boys estimate they have to climb about 1,000 ft.

Even Matt the athlete and Redmond the vet–two tough guys–are huffing and puffing up the stairs. Phil sees them covering the last hundred yards or so and yells at them how they’ve won 1st place. When they get to the mat, he tells them they’ve also won a trip to Costa Rica.

LoLo and Floyd get their loads to the shrimp man. She has a full load so she can unload and get her clue. He doesn’t, so he has to go pick up the traps he dropped somewhere. He has to stop and lie down for a while before he can continue. At the RB Becca’s thinking out loud how she’s the better bicyclist and should’ve done this RB. She puts her fun meter, pinned on her shirt, as far down as it goes.

By now Joey/Tara have finished collecting their duck eggs and arrive at the RB. He loads the shrimp traps and makes the bike ride. He passes the struggling Floyd still trying to complete his delivery. He passes the struggling LoLo–whose bike is broken down and she has to walk it back. He and Tara depart the RB in 3rd place.

LoLo depart the RB in 4th place. Becca/Floyd were the 1st team to arrive and they’re the last team left. Floyd finally delivers all his shrimp baskets and returns. He tries to ride with Becca to the next destination but he falls off his bike twice. The second time, a medic’s already on the scene, who tells him to stay down, and administers first aid.

At the waterhole Scott’s rowing with his feet and Tara’s rowing with hers. Logan’s rowing, but he’s complaining he’s too tall for the job. Word passes around about Floyd and Becca being stuck at the RB.

Brooke/Scott are the second team to complete the rowing challenge. On the return bike ride Brooke grunts so much Scott suggests she’s giving birth to twins. She gets louder when she sees the 500 steps they have to climb. They know they’re team #2, however, and when they get to the top, Phil confirms it.

Next Joey/Tara complete the rowing, return their bikes, catch a taxi, and climb the 500 steps. When they reach the top, Phil remarks about how, even with a speed bump, they still moved into 3rd place. LoLo are mere yards behind and take 4th place.

All but one team has touched the mat. Back on the course, a medic is still treating Floyd for overheating. How many times has Phil had to go on course and tell a team they’re eliminated? Perhaps six times before this season? This is the second time this season he’s had to do it. He comes to Team Fun to tell them the other teams have checked in, meaning they’re eliminated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Voice: Season 12, Finale, 5/22/17

May 24th, 2017 · No Comments

Season 12:  Chris Blue and Alicia Keys are Champs

Results of the TV singing contest that was Season 12 of The Voice were announced at the end of a long variety show Tuesday night.

First place:  male R&B vocalist Chris Blue (Team Alicia), meaning his coach (judge) Alicia Keys is a champion too.

Second place:  Lauren Duski (Team Blake), for once, the top country singer on Team Blake did not win.

Third place:  Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake), Blake’s teenage female R&B vocalist, who may have been carried on Blue’s coattails, since voters can vote for and download multiple artists.

Fourth place:  Jesse Larson (Team Adam), he rep’ed rock this season, and might have placed higher if he’d attracted more downloads.

The Voice Season 13 is scheduled for this fall, with American Idol veteran Jennifer Hudson in Keys’ place and Miley Cyrus in Gwen Stefani’s place.

— Lyn Jensen

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The Voice: Season 12, Final Four, 5/22/17

May 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Tonight the winner of The Voice, Season 12, is revealed. Last night the final four sang and America voted. Each contestant debuted their first single, sang one song selected for them, and one duet with their coach:

1. Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake):  Her single is “You’ll Never be Lonely,” a radio-friendly song with teen appeal.

2.  Jesse Larson (Team Adam):  He gives the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ it to the Streets” a dramatic flourish, but it may not be the kind of performance that gets millions of downloads. Alicia tells him, “Your voice has never sounded better.” Adam says, “We never deviated from who you are.”

3.  Chris Blue and Alicia Keys duet a romantic Prince song, “Diamonds and Pearls.” 

4.  Lauren Duski (Team Blake): She shows her considerable emotional and musical range by singing “The Dance” as a tribute to her time on The Voice. (Garth Brooks would probably admit Duski’s a better singer than he is.) It’s a song and performance that calls forth strong emotions–and is likely to call forth millions of downloads. The judges and audience love it.

5.  Aliyah Moulden and Blake Sheldon get bluesy for “Dancin’ in the Street.” He upstages her–if Glen Campbell ever sang “Dancin’ in the Street,” this is probably what he’d sound like.

6.  Chris Blue (Team Alicia):  His new single is a contemporary R&B song, “Money on You.” It’s fun and radio-friendly and he sings it with flashy showmanship–a little like Adam Lambert. The crowd’s reaction rivals the one Duski got.

7.  Jesse Larson and Adam Levine sing and show off their guitar skills with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”

8.  Lauren Duski and Blake Sheldon copy the Hank Williams Sr./Jr. recording of “Tear in my Beer.” She’s forgetting the words or has a problem with the mix–or something–and as a result Sheldon upstages his young contestant again (just like he did with Moulden).

9.  Jesse Larson’s new single:  He’s aiming for the AOL or adult-contemporary demographic with his rendition of Chris Stapleton’s romantic power ballad, “Woman.”

10.  Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake):  Moulden’s style has been all over the spectrum but she appears to have found her lane with contemporary R&B. Unfortunately Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” isn’t all that contemporary. Something from the 21st century probably would have suited her better.

11.  Lauren Duski’s new single:  She wrote it herself–she’s been a singer-songwriter chasing that neon rainbow in Nashville for a few years, after all. (I still haven’t heard her do “Chasin’ that Neon Rainbow.”) Her song is a bittersweet breakup ballad, “Deja Vu.” She’s a favorite to win, she’s already had a number-one iTunes download, and Blake predicts she’ll have another with this song. (She did.)

12.  Chris Blue (Team Alicia):  He sings “Rhythm Nation.” This is probably the song Moulden should’ve sung–and we must look at the fact that Blue and Moulden are splitting the urban vote. Larson has urban appeal, too. That leaves Duski with the entire Southern and Heartland country audience all to herself. That tells us who’s going to win, even before we look at the iTunes charts.

My vote’s for Jesse Larson but he lacks the demographics–and the iTunes downloads–to win. The iTunes chart shows Duski with an edge over Blue, although Larson’s beating Moulden. Go to www.nbc.com/behindthevoice to see the final four’s music videos.

Tonight at 9 The Voice (Season 12) begins its two-hour finale.

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The Voice: Season 12, Final 8 (Semi-Finals), 5/15/17

May 16th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

How predictable is The Voice this season? Suddenly the semi-finals are on us, and next week is the final four. Last week I thought Vanessa Ferguson would be eliminated and either Lilly Passero or Mark Isaiah would get the Twitter save. Instead Passero and Isaiah were eliminated and Ferguson got the Twitter save.

Will the finale consist of Blake’s country girl, Gwen’s country girl, Gwen’s Heartland wannabe American Idol guy, and whoever gets the most popular download with the conservative Christian wing? Ferguson is still the most likely person to be cut this week, but a peek at the iTunes chart shows some unexpected fan bases surging. How does that compare to last night’s performances?

1.  Hunter Plake (Team Gwen):  This season’s American Idol type is a U2 fan with a soft whispery voice, and U2 frontman Bono’s made a career of pushing his soft whispery voice into the far corners of rock. Gwen’s finally found a song that makes the most of Hunter’s alt-rock cred:  U2’s “With or Without You.” Blake says, “By far your best performance.” However, it’s not high on this morning’s iTunes chart, suggesting people prefer to download the original.

Tonight features the eight remaining contestants paired off for duets. The first one is Team Alicia’s Chris Blue and Vanessa Ferguson singing Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” Downloads and tweets count as votes.

2.  TSoul (Team Blake):  Unfortunately TSoul is out of his teens, so his age does not make him a prime candidate for winning a TV singing contest. He sings Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way.” It’s an easy song, not in an “easy to sing” way but in a “take it easy” way. Alicia comments, “An Otis Redding interpretation of Aretha … You always put something more into it.”

Second duet:  Hunter Plake and Aliyah Moulden do a sweetheart duet (or try to) of “Let it go.” Their styles make an awkward pairing and the song choice could’ve been better.

3.  Brennley Brown (Team Gwen):  We’ve seen this type before, and her name was Danielle Bradbery, season 4 winner. Does the country voting audience want another one just like her? I still think the most interesting country singer this season was Taylor Alexander, who Adam unwisely failed to keep.

4.  Lauren Duski (Team Blake):  The other country female vocalist who’s a favorite to win The Voice season 12 is a little more mature, a little more experienced, and she’s being coached by Blake Shelton. Gwen’s got the girl Blake discarded when he kept Duski. Chances are he saw something in Duski he didn’t see in Brown. Look at the iTunes chart this morning and you’ll see Duski’s breaking out (a #1 hit and more) while Brown is far down in the downloads.

Third duet:  Jesse Larson and TSoul rock the house and get souled out to Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.”

5.  Chris Blue (Team Alicia):  Blue is currying favor with the Christian demographic like a RW Republican politician. He sings a gospel song, “Take Me to the King.”

6. Vanessa Ferguson (Team Alicia):  Although Ferguson’s doing better with iTunes downloads today than I expected, she’s still the artist I judge most likely to fall below the cut line. She sings “Superstar,” a big hit for the Carpenters in 1971, and it’s not age-appropriate for her. It’s a teen-crush song, more suited for one of this season’s teens.

Fourth duet:  Brennley Brown and Lauren Duski reunite for “Good Hearted Woman,” a song that may be too mature for them. Blake matched these two during the battle rounds and chose to advance Duski. Brown’s still around only because Gwen grabbed one of Blake’s leftovers.

7.  Jesse Larson (Team Adam):  This season’s one remaining rocker (and one remaining member of Team Adam) delves into a country-rock-blues sound for Chris Stapleton’s “I Was Wrong.” Adam offers the opinion that Larson is the best singer this season has. Interestingly, a look at this morning’s iTunes chart shows his performance to be a very popular download. Could he sneak into the fourth slot?

8.  Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake):  Singing the hymn “I Can Only Imagine,” which shows she’s going for the RW Christian vote just like Blue did. I didn’t think she’d get past the country girls but she could elbow someone aside, especially since she’ll pull young teens as fans, and young teens vote, vote, vote in singing contests.

This morning’s iTune charts shows the top downloads to be:  Lauren Duski, Chris Blue (twice), Aliyah Moulden, and Jesse Larson. Vanessa Ferguson muddies the picture but only as Blue’s duet partner. Her own solo performance is far back in the field. Will Brennley Brown and/or Hunter Plake get elbowed out of the final? That’s what tonight’s results show is for, to answer questions like that.

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The Amazing Race: Season 29, Greece, 5/11/17

May 15th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

For the final six teams of The Amazing Race Season 29, the time of being polite strangers is past. They know each other now, and for some teams the politeness is starting to wear off. As the remaining teams face another double U-turn in the eighth episode, the alliance they formed earlier disappears.

When teams open their clue envelopes in Venice, Italy, they find themselves routed to a small town in Greece. Teams fly to a ferry port, take a ferry from Italy to Greece, then get in rental cars and drive themselves about 100 miles to Arahova, where a big (fat or thin) Greek wedding is happening.

During the drive three teams emerge as front-runners:  Joey/Tara, Matt/Redmond, and Brooke/Scott. Policeman Joey and army major Tara are the first to find the wedding party. However, they’re not sure how to get the next clue, so they just join the dancing.

The drive takes its toll on three other teams:  London/Logan (Team LoLo), Becca/Floyd (Team Fun), and Liz/Mike. All have driving problems and fall to the back of the pack.

Soon Matt/Redmond and Brooke/Scott arrive at the wedding. The U-turn board and the clues for the detour are well-hidden among the wedding festivities, so Brooke/Scott are the first team to find them. When they do, they U-turn Liz/Mike. Matt/Redmond decline to U-turn anybody. Tara/Joey U-turn Becca/Floyd because they don’t want Liz/Michael to be the only team U-turned. Perhaps LoLo are too tight with the top teams to be candidates for a U-turn.

The detour requires that teams get either a gift for the bride or a gift for the bridegroom. All three front-running teams choose to bring cheese to the bride. For each team, the task is to pack two milk tins on waiting donkeys, then walk the narrow old streets of Arahova and find two different women who have cheese to barter. Each lady takes one tin of milk in exchange for one pack of cheese.

Of the teams still driving, LoLo has minor car trouble–he can’t shift into reverse. They’re stuck. She gets out and pushes, and they get the car moving, but they’re stuck in 4th place the rest of the episode.

Becca is driving and estimates she and Floyd have driven about 40 kilometers skirting around a big bridge. They can see it but can’t get to it. They ask a policeman for directions. Becca says, “This place is almost impossible to navigate perfectly toward.” (That’s probably why it’s part of the course.) She worries about what trouble Liz and Mike may be having.

Liz/Mike took a different fork in the road from some other teams. She’s reading the map, and she takes ten or twelve kilometers to tell him they’re going the wrong way, and to turn around. He doesn’t. They spend a considerable amount of time and distance arguing about which direction is the way to go and whether she can read a map.

The top three teams deliver their milk, get their cheese, and give it to the bride: Joey/Tara are 1st, Matt/Redmond are 2nd, and Brooke/Scott are 3rd. They smash plates–a Greek wedding custom–and find the next clue baked into the plates. It tells them to drive to the site of the 1896 Olympic games in Athens.

LoLo arrive, find they haven’t been U-turned, and bring cheese to the bride. They’re done with the detour and are on their way to Athens before Mike agrees with Liz to turn around.

Joey/Tara are the first team to arrive at the old Olympic stadium in Athens. First they must run a lap around the track. Then they receive a clue for this leg’s roadblock, which will be performed at Greece’s tomb of the unknown soldier.

Matt/Redmond and Brooke/Scott are the next teams to arrive at the stadium. Brooke/Scott start running first but Matt/Redmond overtake them. Redmond’s got an artificial leg, but it’s the kind he can run in.

Despite Liz and Mike having such a big disagreement about driving directions, they’re the 5th team to reach the wedding party. They see Brooke and Scott U-turned them, although all teams know Liz/Mike have to do a speed bump on this leg. They complain bitterly about it, about how Brooke’s always complaining, and about how Mike helped Brooke make a kitchen ladle in Africa, in exchange for a “no U-turns” promise. We saw how long that lasted.

Being U-turned means they have to do both detour challenges. They get a donkey and start delivering milk in exchange for cheese. Becca/Floyd arrive at the U-turn and discover they’ve been U-turned, too, and they start by getting the cheese.

Liz/Mike finish getting the cheese first. Now for the other half of the detour, which no team voluntarily chose to do on this leg. Teams have to bring goats to the groom, but it’s not that simple. They have to run 252 steps up a mountainside to a church, where men are waiting with goats. (This is the second time teams have had to run up stairs to a mountaintop this season.)

Apparently this run is some kind of local sporting event, because teams get race numbers and run with a local who’s wearing traditional Greek dress. Liz and Mike start running the stairs but he’s soon walking and taking rest breaks. At first she admonishes him, but soon she’s complaining she’s winded and her legs feel like jelly. They reach the summit and get a goat. Liz slings it over her shoulders (she’s probably got more gas in her tank than Mike does). They take it down the stairs and to the wedding.

They need to get two goats! Back up the stairs, and Mike slings a goat around his shoulders. Mike/Liz go back down the stairs, give their goats to the wedding party, smash the plate, and get a clue to drive to Athens. As they leave they see Becca and Floyd coming, and both are carrying goats. (Floyd actually made good time going up the stairs, but he complained it made him light-headed.)

In Athens, LoLo is running a lap around the stadium track, and army major Tara is performing the RB at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The guards here, dressed in traditional uniforms including white pleated fustanellas, do an intricate stylized drill. The RB involves performing a portion of it. Once the command instructor approves, he gives them the next clue. Tara mishandles the rifle on her first try, but she passes the second one.

Brooke is the second racer to start the military drill. Matt is 3rd. Interestingly he’s the only male racer who performs this RB. Although Redmond’s a vet, he says Matt has done fewer roadblocks so he needs to do this one. There may be a couple of other reasons. Redmond’s one leg may make handling the drill’s intricate choreography a problem, and Redmond sounds glad that it’s Matt who has to wear the flamboyant Greek dress uniform.

When Tara gets the next clue, she and Joey find it’s for the pit stop–go to the Acropolis, which is within walking distance, and search for Phil and the mat. They do. They win the leg, along with $7500 each.

Brooke is the second person to finish the military drill. Matt’s 3rd. London is 4th. However, Brooke/Scott have trouble finding the pit stop. That enables Matt/Redmond to take 2nd place. Brooke/Scott are 3rd. LoLo is 4th.

Two teams are left on course, and it’s getting dark. Becca/Floyd make it to the stadium just ahead of Liz/Mike, who have to do a speed bump because they were last but not eliminated on the previous leg.

I thought the speed bump might be having to run two laps around the stadium, but it’s about making Greek food (maybe a snack to take to the stadium). They have to make a shish kabob big enough for two people. It involves putting seasoned organ meats on a skewer and wrapping them up with an intricate arrangement of intestines. Mike the butcher really gets into it, but Liz thinks it’s gross.

Becca/Floyd finish running a lap around the stadium and move on to the RB. Becca does the drill even though Floyd’s a marching band member. He tells her, “Channel your inner Floyd.”

Liz/Mike finish their speed bump, run a lap around the stadium, and move on to the RB. They’re both former marching band members but she does the drill.

Becca’s performance is approved by the drill master. She and Floyd take a taxi to the Acropolis, apparently wanting to minimize their chances of not finding the pit stop. She and Floyd hit the mat in 5th place. Phil says they’re still in it.

Liz completes the drill. She and Mike head for the pit stop. They come in last–they’ve avoided elimination three times but not this time. Phil points out they lasted eight legs. The team says they’re like brother and sister now–they even fight like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Amazing Race: Season 29, From Milan to Venice, 5/4/17

May 10th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

As the latest leg of The Amazing Race season 29 begins, the remaining six teams are divided between two buses that pick them up near the pit stop in Milan and drive them to the next destination, Venice. Becca/Floyd, Matt/Redmond, and Joey/Tara are on the bus that leaves at 4:15 a.m. Liz/Mike, Brooke/Scott, and Team LoLo (London/Logan) are on the bus that leaves at 4:30 a.m.

Although this episode features teams racing through Italy, the opening flashes back to the fifth leg in Norway, where we see Michael telling his teammate Liz how much he misses his daughter Pearl. How this is relevant to this episode will be revealed later.

The buses drop the teams off at a water taxi terminal, and everybody takes water taxis to the historical Plaza San Marcos in Venice. Teams’ clues have instructed them to look for a spazzino with red-and-yellow race colors, but it doesn’t say what a spazzino is. Tara knows the word means, “street sweeper.” Tara/Joey are first to find the man with the broom and the race colors. Some other teams ask locals what it means, and find the guy that way.

The sweeper has clues for a detour. Teams may either “sing” or “bring.”

  • “Sing it,” learn to sing an Italian song and serenade a romantic couple aboard a gondola. Teams who choose this detour wear gondolier costumes, and they’re accompanied by a mandolin player who judges their singing and awards them the next clue.
  • “Bring it,” grab a hand cart full of about twelve suitcases, and deliver the load to a hotel. Teams have to push the large heavy luggage carts through the narrow alleys and over the steps and bridges of Venice.

Matt/Redmond and Joey/Tara go to pick up the suitcases. The male team gets a water taxi. The mixed team walks (runs). Becca/Floyd pick the singing and get a water taxi.

When the three trailing teams reach the Plaza San Marcos, LoLo find the sweeper first, but refuse to tell the other teams they did. The other teams aren’t happy about that. LoLo decides to push the luggage carts, and they can walk to where the carts are. Brook/Scott and Liz/Mike decide to sing, and they catch water taxis.

Matt/Redmond exaggerate the amount of weight they’re pushing through the streets. They say it’s about 30,000 pounds, maybe even 50,000. It’s probably more like 1500 pounds–but it’s heavy. All three teams that are pushing the carts are spilling luggage all over on the streets and having to load their carts back up. (I wouldn’t want them handling my luggage.) For the mixed teams, the men appear to be doing most of the pushing while the women supervise.

The three teams that are singing put on gondolier costumes, rehearse their song with a music coach, get in gondolas, and serenade romantic couples along the canals of Venice. The mandolin players who judge the singing are tough. All three teams are told they have to sing the song again, several times (criticisms include “more together” and “more theater”). It’s like Italian Idol, Amazing Race style!

Matt/Redmond deliver their luggage cart, get their next clue, and immediately whistle down a water taxi. They’re the first team to arrive at the roadblock location,  a big room where a troupe of commedia dell arte actors (and actresses) is performing.

For the RB, one member from each team must do Italian painting: make a copy of one of the troupe’s traditional commedia dell arte masks. At one table a woman is giving a continuous silent demonstration of how to paint them, but watching her doubles the time spent at the RB. I’m not sure how many teams have the patience to watch every step before starting their own work.

The person painting the mask must start with a bright color, then paint a coat of black paint over the color. The black is then wiped off to create a blended, shaded effect. Next comes the gold detail, and finally a shiny layer of shellac or varnish. Using a modern-day blow dryer helps the paint dry faster.

While Redmond’s painting his mask, Joey/Tara deliver their luggage cart, and ask the hotel to call a water taxi for them. Redmond’s one stumble comes when he needs to add the shine, but once he does, he and Matt get their next clue and leave just as Joey/Tara are arriving.

The other four teams are finishing their detours. Becca/Floyd finish singing and LoLo finish hauling luggage. Liz/Mike finish singing, and get a water taxi right away, enabling them to jump to 4th place. Brooke/Scott finish singing, but they’re the last team to finish either detour, and they argue while looking for a water taxi. LoLo get a water taxi that already has passengers but they agree to share.

As teams finish the RB they get the clue to the pit stop. Host Phil Keoghan and the mat are waiting at one of Venice’s many small plazas. Matt/Redmond find the plaza, touch the mat, and Phil tells them they’ve won the leg and a trip to Grenada. He asks if it’s their best leg. In response Redmond detaches his artificial leg and declares it’s the best leg.

Back at the RB, Tara didn’t get the part about having to paint the entire mask black and then wipe it off to expose the color underneath. She just painted the black areas black. She has to start again, making a second mask.

Floyd is 3rd to arrive, still in his gondolier costume, and he selects a woman’s green parrot-like mask, because he thinks it may be one of the simpler ones. Liz is 4th to start the RB and she selects a mask that reminds her of a cow skull she painted back home. When LoLo arrives, London the artist selects a mask to paint. Floyd is the second racer to finish his mask, and he gives Tara some helpful hints before he goes.

Brooke is the last to start the RB and she’s complaining before she even gets a mask to paint. She’s asking various people for help and nobody’s keen to give her any. Liz, however, doesn’t paint and wipe the black correctly, so she has to start a second mask. That gives London and Brooke the opportunity to jump ahead.

Becca/Floyd are the 2nd team to the mat. Tara finishes her mask on her second try, and she and Joey place 3rd. London finishes her mask, but Brooke is right behind her, so LoLo and Brooke/Scott agree to find the pit stop together. The earlier conflict over the sweeper in the plaza appears to be forgotten.

Liz is frantic at being the last person left at the RB but she finishes her mask on her second try. She and Michael run for the pit stop. They have two chances–somebody got lost, or this is a non-elimination leg.

Brooke/Scott and LoLo hop on the mat in an almost-tie. Brooke/Scott are about a half-jump in front of LoLo. Barely have those teams’ feet touched the mat when Liz/Michael reach it, too. Phil tells Liz/Michael that they’re last, “however, this is a non-elimination leg.” They’ll encounter a speed bump on the next leg.

Phil asks Liz how she got through the RB considering she was the last racer. She said she did it for Michael and his daughter Pearl. So now we know why this episode opened with Mike telling Liz about how much he missed his daughter Pearl.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Voice: Season 12, Top Ten, 5/8/17

May 9th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

With Mother’s Day coming this Sunday, the ten singers left on The Voice received visits from their mothers this week. Carson said the songs this week were for the contestants’ mothers, but I don’t think the singers “got it.” I don’t think I heard a single song with motherly sentiments all night. Two singers are being eliminated this week, and this may be the best field The Voice has boasted in several years, so the competition for the top eight is tight. Most of the contestants gave outstanding performances. Maybe I should start including arrows–up or down–to gauge each performance, or else rate how download-worthy a performance is.

1.  Jesse Larson (Team Adam) goes back to the eighties, and he doesn’t pick a song with motherly sentiment. He sings (and shreds on guitar) “Jungle Love,” by Morris Day and the Time, who were in Purple Rain and spent some time as Prince’s support act in the eighties. Adam advises him to give it the style of the Blues Brothers, the act Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi turned into a movie. Ackroyd and Day will probably approve of Larson’s rendition. He includes a flirtatious shout-out to Alicia Keys, and she comments afterward, “It’s all about our energy and attitude and the character you become.” Adam adds, “You pulled off a song that that’s 100% reliable on attitude.”

2.  Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake) says she’s singing the Labyrinth ballad “Jealous” for her father. (Makes me wonder what she’d do for Father’s Day.) He died so long ago she can’t remember him, and she plainly puts her loss, her grief, into her emotional, tearful performance. Blake says, “You got lost in the moment.” Gwen notes the change of pace, “a song we weren’t expecting” and adds it was beautiful.

3. Vanessa Ferguson (Team Alicia) falls to the bottom because she raps through Lauryn Hill’s “Do Wop That Thing.” She’s trying to get some teen ‘tude and we don’t hear much singing, when that’s what the contest is about. The judges’ comments fail to address the situation. I predict she’s one of the bottom two.

4.  Mark Isaiah (Team Adam) needs some teen ‘tude but he’s way too focused on technique. Once again he chose his song–instead of having Adam assign him one–and it’s the rock ballad, “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles. He still hasn’t shown us a teen-romance angle. It’s clear he’s not going to win. It’s just a question of how long he avoids being below the cut line, and if he ever does develop a teen-idol image.

5.  Chris Blue (Team Alicia) goes uptempo with Bruno Mars’ free, fun, danceable “24K Magic.” It’s not as much a spectacular vocal performance as the kind of spectacular entertainment Mars is famous for. “I think you’re gonna be in the finale,” Blake says, “You’d have to be deaf and blind not to see how talented you are.”

6.  Lilly Passero (Team Adam) could be a real-life version of the character Emma Stone plays in La La Land. She gives the classic standard “Unforgettable” the torch song treatment. Before the performance, Adam coached her to be simple, elegant, and let people hang on every word. Afterwards he notes how she took some liberties with the melody (but in a good way). She’s fitting into a cocktail jazz style, but I look forward to hearing her take on a contemporary song–provided she’s got enough fans to stay until next week.

7.  Lauren Duski (Team Blake) is the lone country singer on Blake’s team this season, so she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. She sings Wynonna Judd’s “Tell Me Why,” shows off some high notes, and Blake says, “You’re the missing piece in country right now.”

8.  Hunter Plake (Team Gwen) is one of the few singers who actually picked out a song for his mother–and it’s Steve Winwood’s “(Bring Me a) Higher Love.” Gwen compares his style to the Weekend, but I’m thinking his soft aspirate voice has to reach its limits eventually. Then again I never warmed to Voice winners Jordan Smith or Josh Kaufman either. I thought he was the third worst performance of the night, but the judges and audience loved it.

9.  TSoul (Team Blake) says he’s singing “At This Moment” (Billy and the Beaters’ eighties-era jazz hit) for his mother. It’s not a wildly popular song but it does give TSoul a chance to be TSoul. Blake says, “It’s the best you’ve sung so far.” I’ll add I think it’s one of the best performances of the evening.

10.  Brennley Brown (Team Gwen) and Lauren Duski are the only contestants left from the deep bench of country singers that started the season. On Martina McBride’s “Anyway,” Brown shows she’s starting to resemble another teenage country singer, Danielle Bradbery, season 4 Voice winner. If this season’s winner is a country singer, maybe it’s going to be the one from Team Gwen instead of Team Blake.

Should be the bottom three:  Vanessa Ferguson, Hunter Plake, and Mark Isaiah. Bye, Vanessa and Hunter–and Mark can screw up again next week.

More likely in the bottom three:  a peek at the iTunes charts shows Hunter’s fan base showing up in a big way, so he’s safe. Lilly’s old jazz standard didn’t get many downloads, so unless far more people vote for her than download her, she’s in jeopardy. If she and Mark are in the bottom three (most likely along with Vanessa), she should get the Twitter save but he probably will.

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The Voice: Season 12, Top 11, 5/1/17

May 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Shania Twain was not part of the Voice judging panel for the top 11 singers on Monday night. Whether she’ll be back or there’ll be another celeb guest judge this season, we’ll have to wait and see. What we did see was eight excellent performances, two good ones, and one outright fail:

1.  Stephanie Rice (Team Alicia):  The one outright fail was the first performance of the evening. (Such performances used to be bombs but now being a bomb is a good thing.) If Rice can’t carry the tune of the classic Who rocker “Behind Blue Eyes,” then she shouldn’t have tried. Funny how Alicia compares her contestant to Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette but she hasn’t assigned her any of their songs. Rice (ironically) sounds good on the song’s more raucous parts, but she can’t handle the more subtle emotional moments. Alicia says people were cheering for her, but I didn’t hear it.

2.  Aliyah Moulden (Team Blake):  Young black teenage Moulden sings blues-rock better than Rice, and she brings out the blues-rock side of Reba McEntire’s  “Take it Back.” Her one drawback is that she is so young and inexperienced.

3.  TSoul (Team Blake):  YouTube star TSoul isn’t just a singer, he’s a pianist, showman, and entertainer. He puts the soul in Sam Smith’s contemporary hit, “Lay Me Down.” Blake says his contestant gets so into it, he’s ” a beast.” Alicia says she loves his singing, his piano, and his ability to lay on the floor (“do crunches,” she says) and sing.

4.  Lilly Passero (Team Adam):  Last week Passero sang “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” very well–but if people want to download a Shania Twain song, they’ll probably download the original. So she didn’t rate high on the iTunes chart. This week she sings “Town Without Pity,” which leads Adam to compare her to Amy Winehouse. He says it’s dramatic, sexy, and jazzy. Passero turns in a performance worthy of the finals, or more, and people are likely to want to download this. Host Carson Daly says it was like a James Bond opening sequence. Adam says Passero has the ability to transport her audience back to a different era.

5.  Hunter Plake (Team Gwen):  Plake’s obviously a singer that people want to download, but he’s far from the best singer of the season. His voice is aspirate, soft, inconsistent, and he has a tendency to mumble. That said, he can hit spine-tingling notes, and he can sing with heart. This week he sings “All I Want,” a contemporary hit for the Irish rockers Kodaline, but it may be too subtle and mellow for him. The song doesn’t really have a hook, either. However, Adam comments he has his own style–his voice is subtle but distinct.

6.  Vanessa Ferguson (Team Alicia):  Channeling shades of Rhianna, Shirley Bassey, Alicia Keys, and even a little Bowie or Annie Lennox, Ferguson takes “Diamonds (in the Sky)” into Bond movie territory. Adam likes her *&^%^! style, “you know yourself.” Blake says having her on an opposing team is intimidating.

7.  Lauren Duski (Team Blake):  If you’re a country singer on Blake’s team, you’re a favorite to make the finale of The Voice. Duski is the one Nashville hopeful that Blake has in his final three this season. All she has to do is sing “Somewhere in my Broken Heart” beautifully–she does–and her place in next week’s round is assured. Blake tells her, “Your voice sounds classic but it doesn’t sound like anybody else.”

8.  Mark Isaiah (Team Adam):  Isaiah’s natural demographic is teens, and what he needs is a cute frothy romantic ballad. However, Adam’s letting him pick what songs he wants to do, and he  prefers hiphop such as Lil Wayne’s “How to Love.” Adam notes it’s a “really challenging song” with tricky words and melody. (It’s a word puzzle of a song, and Gwen has a point when she comments about how she’s glad Isaiah remembered all the words.) He’s not being coached to woo the teens, though, to sing to the girls, and so he’s not building much of an audience. If Rice’s blowout saves him from elimination this week, he’d better have Adam select his song next week.

9.  Jesse Larson (Team Adam):  Several of this season’s contestants have rock influences but Larson’s the only straight-up blues-rocker left. He shows off his powerful lower register on the contemporary alt-rock hit, “Human (Don’t Put the Blame on me).” Alicia says, “You took it to a new place!” Adam says it’s bluesy, beautiful, sad, and compares Larson to last season’s Voice champ Sundance Head. It’s a stretch, because Head was country and Larson, classic rock but–like Head, “You just sing your face off,” Adam says, and adds, “The best singer in the competition.”

10.  Brennley Brown (Team Gwen):  Country singers are always favorites to win The Voice even when they’re not on Team Blake. Young blonde teenage Brown was the top-ranked Voice artist on iTunes last week, and she did enough this week to get to the next round. With Gwen’s coaching, Brown turns Joni Mitchell’s Christmas song, “The River” into traditional-sounding country, complete with fiddles and slide guitars. People will want to download this, too.

11.  Chris Blue (Team Alicia):  Blue sings a version of the R&B classic, “When a Man Loves a Woman” that’s astonishing. It may be better than the real thing–the original. Alicia coached him to do some soul-searching and make a statement with it, and that’s what he does. Alicia says, “I felt like I was watching the greats,” like Nat King Cole.

My votes went to Jesse Larson and Lilli Passero. My prediction is that unless something flaky happens with the voting, either Isaiah or Rice is going to be eliminated.

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