LAST EDITED ON 11-20-07 AT 08:03 PM (EST)
After 3 episodes, it’s time to get serious. We should have enough information to make more than wild guesses at who should be there at the end. What is the theme of the season? Which racers exemplify it the best? Which teams have consistent edits? Even if this episode was more about the camels than developing stories for our racers, we can try to find some answers.
I wasn’t too happy with “Women are strong racers” as the theme of the race since we already know that. I think last week was to make us pay attention to the women of this race because one of them will be the deciding factor. Some teams are doing well without much effort, others are struggling but staying in the race. Phil talked about passion to the Blondes, Jason used the word when describing Lorena. In previous episodes, Nate talked about Jenn pushing him, brining out his A game and Christina spoke of wanting the race badly. It made me think that the theme this season is about the passion of the race, how You have to Push your Limits to Win. Of course, every team wants to win but which teams are edited as racing with a passion and which are portrayed as being along for the ride? If we determine this, are we closer to determining which teams will be in the final leg? I’d say it’s possibe.
Another thing to look at is the differing portrayal depending on the team’s finish. To get a feeling of that, I noted the team’s finish position in each of the first three legs in parantheses after their names.
The recap was more neutral than the first one, mainly focusing on Ronald’s meltdowns.
Teams Racing Along
Donald and Nicolas (5,8,6)
Donald began this leg: “I’m 69 years old, it’s a once in a lifetime chance to show what I can do.”
Having to spend a night in Ouagadougou, Donald enjoyed watching the sisters and Lorena dancing. He had is eye on Julia. “The sisters…they’re hot and feisty. A little bitchy but not bad. A guy could learn to live with that” he said.
This Roadblock was better suited for Donald: “I’ve certainly been around animals and farms. That’s how the older wisdom part comes in.”
Arriving 4th at the Detour, the team decided to “Teach it”. Needing to teach 10 English words to a local kid, Nicolas explained: “A kid, right now, will be much smarter than either of us on no sleep.”
The Detour went well and they finished 6th without talking to Phil.
This team has been mainly in the middle of the pack, only getting a scare at the end of the second leg. Their portrayal has been as consistently poor as their placement. Their main editing problem is that we have no sense this team is ready to do whatever it takes to win. Donald saying he wants to show what he can do isn’t the same as wanting to win badly. Being in poor physical shape is another problem! This team’s story isn’t about winning. Since Gramps has already had a nice showing, their story could end any time now.
Azaria and Hendekea (1,5,1)
Hearing that they were going to Africa, Hendekea told us: “We are from Ethiopia so I definitely feel comfortable in Africa.”
On the train to Bingo, Azaria looked at all the sights. He commented: “Africa, to me, feels like home. The opportunity to come here was a thrill for me and Hendekea.”
Azaria had to ask Hendekea to be quiet while he milked the camel. “You’re not helping” he yelled. He finished the RoadBlock in 6th place after needing to change camel.
They caught up at the Detour, Hendekea explaining: “We kinda lucked out because we met Misha, a kid that knew where the village was.”
After they arrived at the village, her confessional continued: “Azaria and I approached it systematically. You take five words and I’ll take five words and we’ll memorize them in a minute. It doesn’t take a brainiac to memorize 10 words.” (We then had a shot of Jenn and Nate having all sorts of trouble with their words!)
They finished first and were off to the pit stop on the Outskirts of Bingo. They followed Misha who joined them on the mat just as the storm moved in. Azaria had their final comments of the leg: “It feels good but we both feel that the target that was on our back is bigger now.”
With two out of three first place finishes, this team should be considered the favorites to win. They are nice, smart and Hendekea makes a beautiful and eloquent narrator. The problem is that we only see this team when they are doing well. In episode #2, they practically disappeared from our screen as soon as they relinquished first place. In this one, we only heard about their African heritage before they hooked up with Misha and returned to first place. The race is easy for them, we didn’t hear them mention they have to push themselves, Hendekea simply saying she wanted to prove herself to her brother.
TK and Rachel (3,6,2)
TK first said: “Rachel and I, we are not really allowing things to freak us out too much. Because we are having a good time, the success is kinda coming along with it.”
With tickets in hand, we saw TK walking in the airport, saying: “I’m really excited, I never thought I’d be going to Africa in my life.”
Arriving in Bingo, we followed TK and Rachel who were the first to spot the clue box. TK decided to do the Roadblock: Milk a Camel. He told us: “I really feel like if you stay confident and calm, you’re going to be successful.” He finished the Roadblock in first place, saying: “I had a little trouble getting the milk down…”
They got lost on their way to the next clue. The first 4 teams had to turn around. The Detour wasn’t a problem and they just outran Jenn to the mat to finish second. They had no comment on arrival.
Another strong team who is being ignored by the editors. Contrary to Azaria and Hendekea, we see this team mainly when they are struggling: Last week when he couldn’t hoist the furniture and missed Phil. This week, when they went the wrong way with the camels. It’s great that they keep their calm but there is no urgency, no desire expressed to do better. If the race was about having a good time, I’d say this team was in great shape but “The Race is Fun” was the theme a few seasons back. We don’t share in TK and Rachel’s good times even if they say they are enjoying themselves.
Kynt and Vyksin (2,4,4)
Starting this leg, Vyksin joked: “With Kynt and my relationship, I do take on some of the typical masculine role…He brings out the chivalrous side in me.” That proved to be right when they arrived in Bingo and we heard Kynt asking Vyksin for her help getting off the train!
Vyksin did the Roadblock, singing to her camel. They finished in 6th and remained in the middle of the pack during the “Learn It” detour. They finished in 4th place right behind teams number 2 and 3. They had no comment on arrival.
I may have misread Phil’s sales pitch during the recap of the second episode. It could’ve been simply to explain why this unusual team was casted. They’ve had 3 strong finishes but their story is practically absent. They are strong racers and are good for some laughs but, if the race is about pusing your limits, Kynt’s “I’m not a down and dirty kind of guy” could tell us they will fail at one point. Maybe putting too much Goths on TV too early was too much of a risk for the editors so our “energizer bunnies” could be emerging later. At least one of the passionate teams have to be there more for drama than for setting up the final leg.
Teams Pushing their Limits
Ronald and Christina (7,9,5)
Before the leg started, we learned that Ronald had required medical assistance after the second leg for a hernia he suffered riding the bakfiets. Christina told us: “We are in this race to win it and we need him to be healthy.”
Ronald said: “I will do my best not to be eliminated.”
While in the taxi to the Amsterdam airport, we heard Ronald from his pre-race confessional: “On the last leg I, as the father, was not at my finest. I was too harsh in a way that demoralized Christina. If we are going to win this race, I have to be more uplifting and not criticize her.” Despite arriving last, Ronald managed to run fast enough to make the same flight to Paris as the other teams.
Finishing the RoadBlock in third, they followed TK and Rachel, Ronald being sure that was the best idea. Christina first told her father he was good with animals. “They love my stench” reasoned Ronald. I don’t know if they loved his song but Christina ordered him to be quiet. Christina realized that the other teams had been going the wrong way.
Ronald had a confessional: “I need to be more trusting about Christina’s ability to lead. She’s leading the way better than I can at this time.”
They chose the “Teach It” detour, Ronald doubting he could learn anything on no sleep. After completing the task, they let others run to the pit stop, Ronald saying “I’m no spring Chicken.” They still finished in 5th place. “In adversity we triumph” said Ronald as Phil said he was surprised so many teams finished so close to each other.
This team has been the biggest story of the first three episodes. If winners usually have consistent edits, this team’s yo-yo act can’t be a good sign. Any of the confrontations last week could’ve been deleted from the final edit if we were supposed to root for this team. Ronald’s grumpiness could have been justified somewhat by his medical condition. Father and daughter want to push their limits but they are more a distraction story than true racers. How long will it continue? Hard to tell with such inconsistency but we’ve already seen them making up so I don’t expect them to reach the second half of the season.
Shana and Jennifer (6,3,7)
Shana left the pit stop saying: “Jenn and I may not look as good as we would like to look right now but there is no alternative. There’s a million dollars at stake. We want to win that million.” With the first two teams, they used the internet to figure out how to reach their next destination.
In Ouagadougou, all the teams grabbed a taxi but the girls asked around to get the best price. Settling on 3000 francs, Jennifer handed 5000 and demanded 2000 change.
Not receiveing any change, Shana got nervous.
Jennifer said: “Relax, the guy is not gonna take our money.”
They didn’t like what they saw. Shana said “This is scary. Where are we going?”
Jennifer answered with a nervous smile “To be sold to people...for money”
With a smile and a “Bon Voyage”, their driver eventually gave them only 1000 back, frustrating the women.
If they felt that the train station didn’t smell good, it didn’t get any better on the train to Bingo. After TK, who sat across the aisle from them, asked: “Ouf! Did you smell her walking by?” Shana answered: “What’s that perfume you’re wearing? Is it new?”
Jennifer was laughing so Shana added a comment on the passengers: “It’s the Salon d’Afrique.”
While Jenn and Nathan were enjoying the music, Shana and Jennifer had problems with the flies.
Shana had a confessional: “Being on the train, it was beyond dirty. There was just trash piled up. Nothing is clean. I couldn’t live this way.” In contrast, we saw a relaxed Hendekea who commented: “I don’t think the Blondes are very comfortable in West Africa.”
After many tribulations, Jennifer finished the Roadblock in 7th place with Shana having a confessional: “I was really impressed with Jennifer drinking the milk because she didn’t complain about it, she just drank that milk.” She told her partner “I’m really proud of you. You did a great job.”
The girls were still walking their 4 camels when the windstorm arrived. It looked severe. Shana told us: “The weather has completely turned on us. We’re kinda panicking.” At least, they were still moving. The “Teach It” Detour was completed without a problem.
Arriving 7th at the pit stop, Jennifer broke down crying. Phil asked “Why do you feel so passionate about wanting to stay in this race?”
Jennifer answered, smiling through her tears: “We worked so hard to be here we didn’t want to be eliminated right now. I want to stay in it as long as possible, it means so much to me.”
This team will certainly be seen as “Ugly Americans” by many fans. Analyzing their story objectively, we can say that they have been given a huge and consistent portrayal. We were with them in the Bed & Breakfast at the end of the first day when things were bad, we saw their comeback and their joy. We then laughed with them when they were at the front in the second leg, Shana hoisting furniture faster than the men. With the taxi experience, their stay in Ouagadougou didn’t start off very nicely. We heard them when they had some nasty comments and saw them when things once more fell apart in this leg. We were shown the squallor that they commented on. It certainly wasn’t justification but it gave us a certain understanding of the situation. We know image and comfort are important to these Blondes but we also know that the lack of those things won’t prevent them from pushing forward. That’s a lot of fleshing out. In addition, twice now, Phil has talked to them on the finishing mat even if none of their finishes waranted it.
Jennifer and Nathan (10,2,3)
Nathan said: “Sometimes Jenn, she stresses me out. If I say…or do something wrong, she is gonna kick my butt for it.”
Jenn told us: “Nate needs to keep his cool and watch his mouth. I can be lippy sometimes too and I’m sure I provoke him…I’ve been working at it. In my heart, I know that I have.”
This team was the only one that managed to get on the first flight to Paris. Nate said “Hopefully they don’t make the plane. That would be great for us.” It wasn’t to be as they saw all the teams join them on the way to Burkina Faso. Seeing Jason and Lorena, they told them: “Glad you made it.” Jenn then spotted Shana and Jennifer: “The Blondes, what a surprise.” They greeted all the other teams with a less than heartfelt “Glad you made it”. Nate showed his true feelings by letting out a “Damn” to which Jenn shrugged her shoulders.
Nate had a comment from his experience on the train to Bingo: “It’s absolutely incredible, an incredible sight. Just seeing how these people live, knowing that places like this in the world really do exist and to be lucky we are to be here.”
Nate had difficulty with the Roadblock. Jenn kept yelling encouragements and when he finished 5th she told him: “Good Job, I’m so proud of you.” With the first 4 team having to back-track, they were in the lead pack. “We’re in second place right now. There’s one team ahead of us, Rachel and TK and that’s it” said Nate. Jenn repeated “Good Job” and gave him a hand slap.
They chose the “Learn It” detour, Jenn explaining they’d rather rely on themselves to learn 10 Mauri words. Jenn had to silence her partner, asking him to remain calm. She had a confessional: “Things where you have to be patient or things that need your mind, I’m definitely better at so I’m going to use that to my advantage and let him slide on those things.” Nate listened impassively.
Once finished with their last task, they found themselves in a group of people looking for Phil. Jenn spotted him first and a race was on. Nate encouraged Jenn to run faster but she lost a photo finish to TK and Rachel, finishing 3rd just ahead of the Goths They had no comment on arrival.
This team has been all over the place as far as placement is concerned. They had one terrible finish and 2 good ones while also being in the middle of the pack at many different occasions. Yet, their edit is always the same and their airtime is independent of placement. We continually see that Jenn is very determined and it pushes Nate to do his best. She’s mean to others but she is competitive. He can be dumb but he tries to do well. On the plane in Paris, we heard their comments on the teams of Lorena and Jason along with Shana and Jennifer. Could it be foreshadowing of the three teams racing to the end? This team has a story and they fit with the theme of pushing your limits to win.
Lorena and Jason (4,1,8)
Leaving the pit stop for Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Jason told us: “Lorena and I we have our issues and she does get stressed out a lot. It reminds me of the movie ‘The Exorcist’…”
The Roadblock wasn’t a good experience for Lorena: “The fear that I felt milking this camel, I can’t even explain. I get really stressed out under pressure. Being able to get passed that is really hard for me.” We had multiples shots of Lorena looking around to see how others were doing, losing control and the camel kicking her bowl. Jason looked on helplessly.
With Lorena screaming “There’s no more milk” Jason gave us his thoughts: “Emotionally, to watch my girlfriend break down and have one of the most horrific times of her life, was sad cause she kept looking at me for help and I couldn’t help her.”
She had to switch camels along with the other 3 last teams.
Lorena was the last to complete the Roadblock, needing help from Julia who, despite being next to last, told her which camel had milk. They finally received their next clue. Lorena cried, got a kiss and asked: “Do you still love me?”
As they began running with the camels, Jason replied “Of course…”
“We got the camels and we started running” said Lorena. That was right after Marianna had said that they couldn’t make any fast movements. Jason said “It’s all or nothing.”
Lorena and Jason caught up to the sisters at the Detour and they found the school first. The last two teams chose to “Learn It”.
They arrived at the pit stop just ahead of the sisters. Lorena was all smiles joining Phil but the tears returned when asked what happened: “I didn’t milk the camel right.”
Jason kissed her again and told Phil “She’s awesome.” He told us: “The reason she is so emotional is because she is passionate. She’s passionate about life, she’s passionate about doing well. She has a passion for pleasing me. She has a love for competition, that’s why we’re not eliminated right now.”
I hope you weren’t thinking this team was about to be eliminated. I had told you that they were in it for the duration, didn’t you believe me? Seriously, I had a moment of doubt when Julia finished milking her camel but it would have been very surprising to have a team with no story before this episode eliminating one who had been given so much airtime. This team also has had a very consistent edit and constant airtime. Even if their second leg was very easy, we started this one with Jason talking about “Exorcist” Lorena. This team can win only if Lorena pushes herself beyond her limits and that’s exactly what she has been saying from the start. They have been the only team to have a confessional after arriving at the mat even if they weren’t the first or the eliminated team. The Goths in the first episode, Shana and Jennifer in the last two as well as Ronald and Christina in the first two, have exchanged with Phil at the mat but only Azaria and Hendekea have been given episode-ending confessionals and that was for their two wins. Lorena and Jason also had one after their win and now another after avoiding elimination. Is it significant? I’m not sure but with the first episode visuals, it’s starting to add up.
So where do we stand after three episodes? I see the teams of Lorena and Jason, Jennifer and Nathan and Shana and Jennifer having a story to carry them to the end. One of TK and Rachel or, more likely, Kynt and Vyksin could still get in the mix. Let me read what you think and I may be able to narrow it down more!
As expected, Marianna and Julia showed good character but they didn’t figure to be part of the end game.
I'd like to say
to all my American Friends.