Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Get out of dodge - Leg 5

Welcome back to the Big Easy! In this, the 5th leg of the Amazing Race, we start out once again with the standard disclaimer that this episode was taped several weeks before the tragic hurricane devestated New Orleans.

And it's another late-night departure, but we're FINALLY heading out of the USA. Onto an airplane and off to Panama City, Panama. The first big international flight challenge. They apparently have the choice of two different flights, one arriving at about 6:30pm the other at 9:00pm. And now comes the battle to get the first flight... how many will make it? Once again, the Paolo family mother just keeps nagging. But the classic part is the ticket agent for Continental, who does nothing else but say "I'm sorry, the flight is full." At this point, I think the producers of the show have a hand in things again. I think they make very sure exactly how many seats are available on a flight, just to keep things interesting.

Now once we're in Panama, in one of the great ironies that the Amazing Race performs so well, all of the teams get stuck arriving somewhere 3 hours apart, in the middle of the night, only to have everyone wait until 7am to take a boat across the Panama Canal. Well everyone's even.

And oh yes, we're back in a Spanish-speaking country... and EVERYONE thinks they can speak the language. Vaminos, arriba, andele, rapido... you name it. Oh well, what can you expect? I guess it makes them feel festive like they're making a difference, though I fully expect that most of the people they encounter can speak perfectly decent English. Whatever.

And it's a commercial. I don't know how they pay the bills when there hasn't even been a corporate sponsor. OR HAS THERE?! How about American and Continental airlines? Could they be getting kickbacks for their shameless promotion? Hmmm...

HAHAHAHAHA. Now they're supposed to track down a scientist in a hammock named Ricardo Diaz. You'd think this is pretty easy... until you realize that there are about 50 guys in hammocks spotted all throughout the area.

Fast Forward: Tandem Bungee Jump 140ft over the Panama Canal. The only fast forward on the entire race. The Godlewski team is the first to have the chance, and they decide to skip over it. The Paolo family appears to want to get to the Fast Forward... but only one team can do it, so if you're the second team to get there, you've just made a whole mess of your chances. And the Paolo's arrive first. Now, I wouldn't expect them to chicken out on this... I mean, if I were there, I'd just push them. And the Gaghan family is right behind them... they're waiting, but I'd just turn around and get back to the detour and finish things up while you still have time. I'd bet on the Gaghan family to come in last right now. The Paolo family completed the FF and are off to the Miraflores Locks, gateway to the Pacific.

Or... the dreaded detour: Rhythm or Coos.
Find 4 musical instruments throughout this city and bring them to a jazz club... or... find 5 wooden bird replicas planted in the trees using binoculars, and circle them on a bird identification chart. Coos seems harder than Rhythm... which usually would mean I'd suggested Coos... but maybe for once I'll be wrong. The bird watching seems to be incredibly hard, but after a couple of detailed tries, they seem to have done it without too much trouble. And it turned out the hardest part of the musical instrument hunt was getting the instruments into the cases once they make it to the club. HA! Classic. Well I guess we can't all be musicians.

Paolo family... you're team number one! As winners of Leg 5, they get a vacation to none other than Panama courtesy of *** CORPORATE SPONSOR ALERT *** Travelocity! Panama? Well, I guess that's creative. :-P

Now back to the other teams taking the not-so regular route.. off to a baseball stadium. ROADBLOCK: Get a hit against a top little-league baseball team in Panama. Of course, it's one-two-three strikes you're out. And you're to the back of the line. OOOh, the Gaghan family slides into 5th place and in front of the Godlewski women, who are still trying to make a hit.

I should probably announce the fact that I have been predicting who I think will win each leg of the race, and each time except for once, my pick has come in dead last and been eliminated from the race. The one time I didn't come in last? The Linz family in the first leg, they came in 9th place out of 10. Why do I bring this up now? Because this week I predicted the Godlewski family would win... and it's quickly looking like they're going to end up in last place. Though mathematically speaking, it's just as hard to pick the last place team each week as it is to pick the first place team, so maybe I'm really good, just in the wrong way? Yeah, I'll think of it that way.

And everyone's made it out of the baseball stadium and is off to the pit stop at the Miraflora Locks. Weaver Family... team #2. Bransen Family... team #3. Linz Family... team #4 quickly after. Two teams remain... Gaghan and Godlewski. Will the team I predicted to win be eliminated? Well they're bracing for the worst... they're hoping for a non-elimination leg and are putting on all the clothes they can. Gaghan Family... team #5. That leaves the Godlewski family... and Phil's comment... "the good news is this is a non-elimination leg". The bad news is, they lose all their money, and Phil becomes repo man and takes all of their posessions except the 8 layers of clothes on their backs. On the more practical side, they've also got nothing to carry their clothes in since their backpacks were taken, and no money to buy anything to carry them in... so they're either going to be very warm, or very busy picking up their clothes that they keep dropping along the way. Well, that remains to be seen.

6 teams still remain... until next week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Big Rockets to the Big Easy - Leg 4

Coming to you this week in HDTV... it's leg 4 of the Amazing Race 8!

Kicking off this leg of the race from Huntsville, Alabama. And since everyone arrived late at night, this time it's time for a daytime start.

And we're finding... the largest office chair in the world. Wow... that's uh... interesting. We're crusing down the freeway past Birmingham (and waving to my friend Andrew on the way through). Climbing the chair to get the clue... and off to Talladega, AL.

One lap around the 2.6-mile Talladega racetrack on a party bike and the task is complete. Not hard, pretty entertaining. Cue the drama. The Weaver family (mother and three kids) 's father was killed in a racing accident. Upon learning they will need to actually go onto a racetrack to complete the challenge, they are none-to-pleased. But the show must go on, and racing they will do.

Continuing the short-hop race we're off to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to find the Southern Colonel. Now, let's cut to Regis Philbin:

For $1,000,000, what is the Southern Colonel?

a) A fried chicken restaurant
b) A Civil War museum
c) A 60' tall statue of Colonel Sanders
d) A trailer park

And the answer is... D! A trailer... oh, sorry, Mobile Home park.

So the challenge... look through a bunch of mobile homes for departure times of 7:20, 7:40, or 8:00, after which they will stay there for the night. This isn't complicated... but as usual, it's a matter of finding the time that you want. One girl is getting really worked up by the fact that her family took an 8:00 time without looking hard enough for a better one. I'd actually have to agree with this... logically, if you know the last time is 8:00, and assume that nobody will be left without a time, if you find an 8:00, you could easily keep looking for a better time, and if you don't find one, you're at least guaranteed to be able to get an 8:00 time. So you couldn't do much worse. But here we go.

It's morning, time to go drive to Richland, MS and find a... *** CORPORATE SPONSOR ALERT *** BP gas station, and a guy named Les, to find their next clue. And now they're off to the "Pelican State"... which is none other than Louisiana.

Madisonville, LA. On the Great American Roadtrip. And finally, this week's Detour: Work or Play. Work will be to saw logs... play will be to canoe over to a riverboat and play blackjack. This one, play seems to be the easier option... but of course, the element of luck is never to be underestimated. So based on my continuing mantra.. you should saw the logs. And the result is... that the log sawing was definitely the better of the two tasks to complete.

Time to drive across the longest bridge in the country across Lake Pontchartrain to the city of New Orleans. First a disclaimer I omitted from the beginning of the episode, this is all tape a few weeks prior to Hurricane Katrina. Lucky timing if I've ever seen it. Find Preservation Hall in the French Quarter... and the next pit stop.

"Bransen Family... You're Team Number One!" For the second week in a row, the Bransen family has achieved first place. To go along with their lifetime supply of gas from *** CORPORATE SPONSOR ALERT *** BP and ARCO... they will this week get a week-long vacation to *** CORPORATE SPONSOR ALERT *** Universal Studios Orlando, courtesy of *** CORPORATE SPONSOR ALERT *** Travelocity.

And the Schroder family is the last team to arrive. With the daughter who insisted that the race is won or lost by a single minute... and thus is was. And thus the Schroder family should have listened to the daughter who boldly embodied the phrase "slow and steady wins the race", and shall be known as "The Hare Family".

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

From Charleston, to outer space - Leg 3

It's time for the 3rd leg of the Amazing Race 8. We start in Washington DC...

From last week's undocumented 2nd leg of the race that I didn't blog about:

Playing James Bond around the reflecting pool. Kudos to the producers for creativity on that one. I enjoyed it a great deal.
Civil War battle reenactment. Also very historically fun.
Various other entertaining things happened, but it's in the past now.

But back to the present... let's get started on the 3rd leg of the Amazing Race.

Miracle of miracles! We're finally getting on an airplane! I guess sending 8 teams on a plane is cheaper than the 10 from the beginning of the race. Well we seem to have found the airport, but now teams come to the realization that not everyone's going to fit on the same flight. But we seem to have 3 flights that all get to Charleston, SC within about 30 minutes of each other. In AR terms, that's nothing. Everyone's got a chance now!

Detour in South Carolina: Forrest Gump or Muddy Waters. Get on a shrimp boat and dehead 200 lbs of shrimp... or driving trucks through mud without getting stuck. Now, which seems easier, the driving through the mud... so which do I recommend... the shrimp boat. And so far 2 teams have tried the mud run... and one has quit and driving back to do the shrimp. Classic... the Aiello family on their 13th attempt through the mud... fail once again. Yet another family --whose name can't remember because they all run together-- does it on their first attempt. Finally the Aiello family makes it on their 14th attempt. Everyone else seems to have done the Forrest Gump.

Then there's the Paolo family, with the mother who won't shut up. Nag, nag, nag. At first, I thought this was simply creative editing by the producers to make it seem very odd.

On we go to the Charleston visitor center to board a charter bus to a "mystery destination". 4 teams on the first bus, 4 teams on the second bus 2 hours later. And the "mystery destination" becomes... an 8-hour bus trip to Huntsville, Alabama, the "rocket capital of the world". Off to the US Space and Rocket center, but it's the middle of the night, do we expect that the place will be closed? But this time, it doesn't matter.... ROADBLOCK.

This will be a 2-person roadblock, for the first time in Amazing Race history. 2 members from each team will endure a centrifuge until they experience 3.2 G forces. That's it, then they're done. The problem here is that it's first-in, first-out. So this will immediately space the teams out by about 10 or 15 minutes, I'd suppose.

So the next challenge, to find the Saturn V rocket, go into the museum and find a computer screen where you have to *** CORPORATE SPONSOR ALERT *** sign-in to AOL and check your e-mail for a message from Phil telling you your next clue. In this case, we need to go to find the Pathfinder Space Shuttle where Phil in waiting for you on the magic carpet.

"Welcome to Huntsville, Alabama." "Branson Family, you're team number one." And the winners this week receive... *** CORPORATE SPONSOR ALERT *** free gasoline at any BP or ARCO station.... FOR LIFE! That's pretty darn impressive. That prize must be worth tens of thousands of dollars... and who knows.. perhaps a lot more over the years.

That said, now it's the race for last place. The last 4 teams were 2 hours later than the first 4 teams, so they're all clustered together too. Race to the finish now... and unfortunately the last team is the Aiello family... the father with his 3 son-in-laws. Once again, one of the teams that I really enjoyed and thought was one of the better teams... was eliminated.

Well we're getting down to 7 teams now, but I'm starting to wonder if we're even going to leave the US on this race. We seem to be making the cross-country Amazing Race. This actually doesn't bother me too much, because it's interesting seeing what cities they try to come up with. It's just not quite the same as I'm used to.