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The Amazing Race: "You Don't Get Paid Unless You Win (Varanasi, India)"

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Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never starts on time. The final round of the Masters was this week’s culprit, making us wait an extra ten minutes when it already felt like we hadn’t seen a new episode since Charlie Sheen still had a job. You may recall that Gary and Mallory won the last leg of the race, giving the powers-that-be one more opportunity to slip in a plug for Snapple as they get their lame belly-dancing reward. Seven teams remain in the Race and ready to depart Kolkata for their next destination: Varanasi, the religious center of India on the banks of the Ganges.


All teams except the cowboys get seats on a Kingfisher flight arriving at 10:45 a.m. It’s not clear exactly what happened here, but my guess is that Jet and Cord must have entered the airport in a different spot than the others and simply selected the first ticket stand they found—in this case, Jet Airways, where they book a flight arriving in Varanasi an hour after the other teams. Ten minutes into the episode, the elimination looks like a foregone conclusion, but don’t count those gritty cowboys out!

Varanasi is crowded, colorful, and loud, but fortunately, we’re spared any of the overt Ugly Americanism we often see in Race episodes set in such locales.  (Zev is a little whiny because he has “sensitive ears,” but that’s not what I’d call a culturally-specific complaint.)  The Roadblock requires teams to figure out the meaning of life, which sounds like a tough one until we learn it merely entails tracking down a series of colorfully-garbed holy men known as Sadhus, collecting a written clue from each, and arranging the clues into a sentence. (“Once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed,” which is the meaning of life according to the great Indian philosopher Charles Schultz.)

This is one of those tasks that sees alliances made and broken in the blink of an eye. In this case, Kent pairs up with Gary (or, more accurately, Kent follows Gary along), promising he’ll lead Gary to the final Sadhu he’s already found. Kent sticks with this plan as long as it’s convenient, then hightails it away from Gary before fulfilling his end of the bargain.  Meanwhile, Ron is just wandering all over the place. (Displaying his usual generosity of spirit toward his fellow man, he assumes the Sadhus are trying to screw him by removing their colorful garb and taking a refreshing dip in the Ganges.) By the time Jet and Cord get to the clue box, three teams have still not completed the task, so Cord takes off like he’s shot out of a cannon.  Sure enough, he finishes the Roadblock while Ron is off wandering around an outlet mall somewhere in the Himalayas.


The Detour is titled Feed the Fire or Feed the Buffalo, but unfortunately, the teams don’t actually have to feed any buffalo. They have a choice between making 50 fuel patties out of buffalo manure or delivering two bales of hay to a farm (where, presumably, they will eventually be fed to buffalo).  My first instinct would be to avoid the task that involves sticking my hands in buffalo shit, but not all of the teams see it that way. Kisha and Jen illustrate my point with some vivid gagging noises, as well as some squabbling over the proper size and texture of the finished patties. Meanwhile, hauling the hay and hauling ass, the Globetrotters are able to go from worst to first.

At some point, Ron manages to finish the Roadblock, but he and Christina are simply too far behind. Even though Kent and Vyxsin get into some water taxi-related drama (which Vyxsin resolves by jumping into the Ganges and hauling the boat back to the dock, much to Kent’s mortification) as well as some land taxi-related drama (OK, so maybe there was a little Ugly Americanism on display this week), they are still able to beat the father-daughter team to the mat. Nothing against Christina, who seems nice enough, but I’m not too heartbroken at this development, particularly since it was Ron’s essential Ron-ness that caused their elimination. Other than that, this was just your basic meat-and-potatoes Amazing Race episode; not exactly pulse-pounding, but I’ll take it over a 60-minute Snapple commercial any day.


Stray observations:

  • Kent to Gary: “I won’t screw you!” I’m sure those were words of comfort.
  • At some point, the racers got a clue from a location featuring a circus strongman and a couple of Sumo-type wrestlers. I don’t know what that was all about.
  • I also missed whatever was responsible for the giant band-aid on Big Easy’s head. It was distracting me.
  • Next week: Will Gary and Mallory ask Jesus to help them finish a food challenge?

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