A Dose of Reality: The Amazing Race: All Stars - Episode 9
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: April 16, 2007
We're down to the Final Four racers, so let's get right down to it. Here's the order in which they departed last week's Pit Stop, Carcosa Seri Negara (aka "The House on the Hill") in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
Beauty Queens: Dustin and Kandice left at 12:28 a.m.
Schmirna: Charla and Mirna left at 1:29 a.m.
Dysfunctional Duo: Eric and Danielle left at 1:50 a.m.
Cha Cha Cha: Danny and Oswald left at 2:19 a.m.
The teams first directions were to fly over 1500 miles to Hong Kong, where they were to take a taxi 22 miles to the Sun Wah Kiu Dry Cleaning & Laundry to get the next clue. Once again, flights would prove critical.
The two prime flights to leave on were an 8:00 a.m. flight on China Air (arriving 11:55 a.m.) and a 9:15 a.m. flight on Malaysian Air (arriving 12:55 p.m.), both of which were fully booked. In order to get on the standby lists, the teams would have to make arrangements at the airport. As it happened, the ticket office for China Air opened at 5 a.m., and Malaysian Air opened at 4 a.m.
The Beauty Queens parked themselves by Malaysia Air, so they could get their names on the list at the first-opening office. Team Cha Cha Cha joined them initially, but then decided to wander around, and found an open office for Malaysia Air, where they were able to get their names on the list before the Beauty Queens and Eric and Danielle. Having had such success, Team Cha Cha Cha went to the China Air offices, where they were soon joined by Charla and Mirna. The China Air employee who showed up first referred them to the ticket office upstairs, but he relented under their collective begging and put Team Cha Cha Cha and Schmirna on the list. By the time the Beauty Queens and the Dysfunctional Duo were able to talk to someone at the ticket counter where they'd been waiting, they were behind the other two teams. This caused some bad feelings, and the poor employees of China Air must have felt like the rope in a tug-of-war, but Oswald managed to smooth the waters some, explaining that while the Beauty Queens and the Dysfunctional Duo had been waiting "upstairs," Team Cha Cha Cha and Schmirna had been waiting "downstairs." "Well, I guess just two different lines," Dustin said reasonably.
As it happened, the only team to get on the China Air flight was Team Cha Cha Cha. The battle then raged for seats on Malaysia Air. Team Cha Cha Cha gave Schmirna the code they'd been given when they were put on the Malaysia Air flight (Oswald explained in an interview they'd agreed to do that because they'd received information from Schmirna in the past and wanted to maintain good karma). After the dispute about China Air, the Beauty Queens dug in their heels for Malaysia Air. Here, the Beauty Queens prevailed. But the real losers were the Dysfunctional Duo, since somehow Mirna managed to talk her way (along with Team Cha Cha Cha's code) into the line above Eric and Danielle while the Dysfunctional Duo were trying to change money. When the Malaysia Air flight left, the Beauty Queens and Schmirna were on it, and the Dysfunctional Duo were once again trailing. (This was particularly ironic considering that Mirna and Eric had just agreed to work together to try to bring down the Beauty Queens.) Eric and Danielle ended up on a 9;05 a.m. flight going through Ho Chi Minh City and arriving at 3:20 p.m.
At the laundry, Danny and Oswald found there was a Fast Forward option for this leg. The first team to complete the Fast Forward task would be able to go directly to the Pit Stop. Having an hour lead on the other teams made trying the Fast Forward attractive; running out of money, as Team Cha Cha Cha was thanks to Danny's having bought so many newspapers in last week's Roadblock, made the Fast Forward well-nigh irresistible.
This Fast Forward involved traveling five miles to a film set and participate in stunt car sequence with a professional stunt car driver. "Participating" actually meant "riding along," making this Fast Forward nerve-wracking but not terribly challenging, and Danny and Oswald were soon on their way to the Pit Stop, bringing with them (per instructions) a Travelocity clay gnome they were given.
None of the other teams attempted the Fast Forward, assuming it was already gone. (When The Amazing Race started, there was a Fast Forward option in every leg. However, in later years it has been an infrequent option, such that the lead team immediately jumps on it and the others assume it's gone. While I'm sure that it's easier on the producers not to have to prepare as many challenges, it does take away some of the suspense and strategy.)
Detour - "Kung Fu Fighting" or "Lost in Translation"
In addition to the Fast Forward, this clue also had the Detour, which was a choice between "Kung Fu Fighting" or "Lost in Translation." In "Kung Fu Fighting," the teams would travel five miles, where they would find a building covered with bamboo scaffolding. They would have to climb the bamboo scaffolding (11 stories tall) while avoiding a battle between stunt Kung Fu experts. In "Lost in Translation," teams had go four miles to Kowloon City, where they would have to locate a pictured sign of Chinese characters in a crowded retail street. Once done, they could collect the clue from the owner of the identified store.
Unsurprisingly, everybody opted for "Kung Fu Fighting". It can be hard to quickly identify the differences in Chinese characters for those who aren't used to looking at them. Besides, "Kung Fu Fighting" just sounds like more fun! Even Charla pushed Mirna, despite her initial doubts about Charla's ability to climb the scaffolding, to go with the "Kung Fu Fighting" option.
After fighting, the teams had to take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island, and then take a cab at an abandoned building (an old police headquarters) four miles away.
Coming into "Kung Fu Fighting," the Beauty Queens and Schmirna were relatively close (although the dithering over which task to do put Schmirna behind). However, the Star Ferry put much more distance between the teams. The Beauty Queens had no problems with the ferry. Schmirna's taxi driver, however, misunderstood what they wanted, and drove Charla and Mirna to Hong Kong Island itself to catch the ferry. It wasn't until the ferry left that they found out from some locals they were on their way to Kowloon. They had to stay on for a full round-trip ferry ride, allowing the still-trailing Danielle and Eric to make up a little ground.
Roadblock: "Who's Ready to Break Down Barriers?"
A Roadblock is a task that only one team member can perform. In this case, the designated team member had to kick down doors in the abandoned police headquarters until the clue was found.
Beauty Queens were first there, with Kandice taking the honors. Well after the Beauty Queens, Schmirna finished their lengthy ferry ride and found the Roadblock. Charla was the one doing the kicking, explaining that she was very proud of her strong legs. (If the editing is to be believed, it was round about this time that the Dysfunctional Duo did the Kung Fu Fighting option of the Detour.) Eric was the last Roadblocker.
After completing the Roadblock, the teams had to drive themselves in designated cars to Victoria Park, where they would find more Travelocity gnomes on small junks in the model boat pond. The teams would have to pull the junks across the pond to get the next clue (and gnome). But if the gnome fell off, they'd have to begin again, resetting the model junk to the start point.
The clue on the junk instructed teams to proceed -- with gnome --- to the next Pit Stop.
Pit Stop - Hong Kong Jockey Club
Of course, Team Cha Cha Cha, with the Fast Forward, were first to arrive at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, this week's Pit Stop -- with exactly zero money with them. They forgot about that trouble (temporarily, at least) when they found out they were awarded "Travelocity's biggest travel package this season" -- a trip back to Hong Kong to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Dustin and Kandice were the second team to arrive.
We saw Schmirna encounter difficult traffic on their way to the Pit Stop, but we also saw Eric and Danielle have trouble with directions (with a lot of sniping at each other over whether or not to hire a taxi driver to lead them), so it was no surprise that Charla and Mirna arrived third, and Eric and Danielle were the last to arrive. They were not, however, eliminated, because this turned out to be a non-elimination leg. The Dysfunctional Duo are now marked for elimination (if they don't arrive first at the next pit stop, they will incur a 30-minute penalty), but they are definitely still in the race.
What Didn't Happen
The biggest surprise to me about what didn't happen was that Danny and Oswald were not turned away by Phil when they reached the mat after doing the Fast Forward. I was convinced that, because they won the Fast Forward with Uchenna and Joyce in Episode 7, that they were disqualified from winning another one, since traditionally no team can win two Fast Forwards. I could imagine an argument that the four-person team was a separate team under the rules than either of the two teams comprising it -- but frankly, I wouldn't have thought that argument would fly!
Don't get me wrong -- I'm delighted Danny and Oswald weren't eliminated (as they surely would have been, not only because of the lost time but because they were out of money and would have to somehow come up with more), and that they won such a great prize. But it wasn't what I expected halfway through the episode.
I was also tricked other times. At the Malaysian Air office, we were treated to several close-ups of a sign warning against T-shirts, shorts, sandals, etc. Because of the repeated showing of the sign, I thought it must turn out that a team was booted for improper attire. But it seemed to play no role at all that I could tell.
And what was up with the gnomes? In a couple of seasons past, the appearance of gnomes meant some sort of additional prize. But nothing was said about that this time. So I don't get it.
I love The Amazing Race, but it's frustrating to have such blind alleys when other aspects of the show are shrouded in mystery (such as why, as a sharp-eyed reader wrote me) Charla and Mirna took a cab to the "Cookie Confection" Detour last week when their clue told them they had to travel on foot).
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