'The Amazing Race' recap: A day at the beach
The lesson of the latest episode of "The Amazing Race" is snowboarders can do just about anything, but don't let them buy you a plane ticket.
As the teams left Indonesia for Phuket, Thailand, snowboarders Andy and Tommy, in first place, wanted to help out Laurence and Zac, in second, because they'd worked together on the previous challenge. So they figured out at the airport which tickets to buy, and redirected the father-son team to the proper counter.
Except they were wrong.
The six remaining teams beat the two leaders to Thailand. Soon a taxi race ensued, with oldsters Bill and Cathi scoring the most aggressive taxi driver, who waved a tattooed hand in glee each time they passed another team. Bill and Cathi needed the boost, because each time they face a physically taxing detour, they fall behind.
The destination is a beach, accessed by speedboats. Thailand's blue-green water looks pretty fantastic, and the contestants all seem to be enjoying their speedboat dash across the stunning watery landscape. But even with the wind in their faces, Justin and Jennifer manage to keep bickering. "We're the king of the world!" she jokes, referencing the movie "Titanic," and/or James Cameron's speech to the Academy after winning the Oscar. Justin groans and says he wished she hadn't said that. He's right, but then again, someone was bound to.
On the beach, the detour is to set up beach chairs and umbrellas for a beach club, or to construct a coral nursery and plant it out in the water. Three teams opt for the beach chairs; five want to help the planet and decide on the coral. Maybe they're just struck by the beauty of the moment, because the coral sounds really hard.
By this time, all the teams are on the beach. To construct the nursery, the contestants must attach a bunch of blue plastic pipes together to make a frame, which seems as flimsy and incomprehensible as building an Ikea china cabinet. After constructing the frame, which is a rectangular box about 4 feet high, 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep, they have to carry it on a kayak, along with a tray full of baby coral, out to a buoy. There, they have to make the frame stable underwater, plant the baby corals from the tray in the top of the frame, then paddle back.
Andy and Tommy do this so quickly you'd think they balanced awkward frames on a tippy kayak every day. Jennifer and Justin, bickering all the way, are not far behind. The water is tough, Tommy admits, with one of the two saying as their boats speed away: "People are going to struggle with the current."
And they do. Former NFL star Marcus has the worst of it -- maybe because he's so large? He says he can't swim well and battles underwater, trying to reconstruct his failing frame. Defeated, dripping on the beach, he says he's never been so tired -- not even after the Superbowl. Really? Anyway, he and Amani proceed to the other task instead. As do the rest of the teams that had begun with the coral: collapsing frames, troubles with the current, inability to get the frames planted at all send them all to set up beach chairs. How hard could that be?
Liz and Marie, the blond twins, are having trouble from the start, trying to find and drag their beach chairs and umbrellas from a crowded storeroom. When they finally do make some headway on the task, they don't plant the oversize umbrellas deeply enough, and the wind whips one out of the ground: it smacks into a twin. There are tears. Cut to: a row of Thai guys cracking up.
Ernie and Cindy, who have recently visited Phuket, get the task done fairly quickly. Jeremy and Sandy, the hard-to-remember attractive couple, are starting to come into focus, and that focus is of two people who aren't getting along very well. Each seems put out by the other; as Jeremy is setting up their chairs and umbrellas, Sandy wanders off to help the twins. Back in the states, we might call that passive-aggressive. Bill and Cathi, after giving up on the coral, lag behind. But not as far behind as the twins, who despite being the first to start the task, will be the last to finish it. Among the first to finish are Laurence and Zac, mostly thanks to Zac.
The teams are back in their speedboats and have to navigate to the roadblock, two islands that stand straight out of the water like a pair of dominos. Ernie misreads their compass and sends them in the wrong direction -- cue more shots of gorgeous coastal Thailand from the air.
Andy and Tommy are the first to arrive, discovering that one of them has to rock climb up the sheer rock face to the next clue. Andy, who's never done this before, zips up like lightning. "Look at him go, he's a little monkey!" Tommy says. The other climbers are Jennifer, who also does great; Amani, proving that NFL husband Marcus really is exhausted; Jeremy; Ernie, once he and Cindy find the place; and Bill. Cathi explains, sort of sadly, that they're not sure how much longer they're going to be in the race, so they've decided to let Bill take on every physically challenging roadblock. He makes quick work of it. "I'm going to take up rock climbing," he says when they're back in the boat. "That was fun!"
Laurence lets Zac climb the wall as he complains about not liking heights; his tactic of letting his son do most of the work has been working out for him -- so far. Back in the speedboats, Laurence explains that since Zac has sailed around the world, he's going to have him navigate to the pit stop. They promptly get lost.
The pit stop is the floating village Ko Pan Yi. Andy and Tommy arrive first, earning them $5,000 each. Jennifer and Justin are second, and Jeremy and Sandy are third. Maybe now that they're in the top of the pack, we'll see more of them, and if their relationship get stronger or cracks more. Laurence and Zac are next, followed by Ernie and Cindy, who bypass Amani and Marcus as they wander around Ko Pan Yi. Bill and Cathi are No. 7, and Liz and Marie are last. But no elimination this round! The blond twins are in it for another week.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Team Snowboarder planting coral in Phuket. Credit: CBS