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The Amazing Race: "Don't Ruin The Basketball Game (Kunming, China)"

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We’re still racing! Special thanks to the perspicacious Hayden Childs for filling in for me last week while my immune system was failing on the SXSW-infested streets of Austin, TX. Truth be told, I’m still not close to full strength, but the race must go on—even if it is delayed 20 minutes by March Madness coverage.


We pick up immediately following last week’s cliffhanger, with Kent and Vyxsin still in mid-fannypack emergency. It turns out the lost item is waiting for them back at the top of the gondola, so all is not lost yet—especially since the rest of the teams are playing pick-up basketball while waiting hours for their next train to depart. I’m through complaining about these equalizers, since I’ve come to accept them as a necessary evil, both logistically and in terms of episode-to-episode suspense.  Still, it does seem a bit unfair that a team could botch the last leg as thoroughly as the Goths did and still catch up to everyone else.  Kent and Vyxsin have a secret, however, as Phil’s arched eyebrow has slapped them with a 30-minute time penalty for taking the wrong flight to China.

Teams get whatever rest they can manage on tiny, triple-stacked bunk beds before their train arrives back in Kunming, China. Their next clue directs them to the Golden Arches, where a classic brains vs. brawn Detour awaits. One task involves watching a performance and memorizing the order in which the colorfully garbed characters appear, then recreating that order with matching dolls. The other requires the transportation and construction of a cumbersome solar heating system. The expected teams perform the expected tasks, paving the way for the double dose of drama that is… the Double U-Turn!

I’ll tip my cap to Kent for having the stones to pull off this stunt. Beating the cheerleaders to the Double U-Turn by no more than a second, and ostensibly searching the box for a picture of the Globetrotters, ol’ pink gloves slaps the photo of Jaime and Cara on the board right in front of their faces. And you can’t blame him, really; he and Vyxsin know there’s a 30-minute penalty awaiting them at the pit stop, so they need any advantage they can grab. For their part, the redheads U-Turn Flight Time and Big Easy, leaving the rest of the teams clear to proceed to the Roadblock.

It’s a back-breaker, too—especially coming at the end of a double-leg like this one. (Let us again give thanks that Mike and Mel White were safely stashed poolside at the resort by this point.) At the site of a massive paleontological dig, one member of each team must construct a life-size dinosaur skeleton from massive puzzle pieces that must be assembled with pinpoint precision. Arriving last on the scene, Gary and Mallory take one look at the task, then bust out the Express Pass I’d forgotten they had. Even with a last-minute appeal to Jesus, however, they are unable to beat the cowboys to the mat and have to settle for second place. For a moment there, it looked like Mallory had forgotten to take her happy pills.


The built-in suspense of the time penalty fizzles when Kent finishes his dinosaur well ahead of a number of other teams; in the end, the Goths’ mistake merely bumps them from fourth place to fifth. It appears they would have been fine even if they hadn’t U-Turned the cheerleaders, as Christina and Justin both struggle mightily with their dinosaurs.  No one struggles as much as Jaime, however, who is sweating so badly, she strips off her top in front of a grateful Chinese paleontologist.  For the second time this season, Jaime and Cara greet Phil on the mat with his trademark “You are the last team to arrive” line. This time, however, they’re right.

Stray observations:

  • Jaime and Cara still haven’t figured out that taxi cabs need gasoline to run just like regular cars.
  • I was all set to make a joke about the cowboys being dopey enough to go to McDonald’s when given the clue to find the Golden Arches. Turns out they were one step ahead of me.
  • Do we give Vyxsin points for quoting Short Circuit? (“Number Five is alive!”) Or do we deduct them?
  • Next on The Amazing Race: The return of Weepy Luke.

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