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'Amazing Race' recap: Tippy canoe

November 7, 2011 |  7:30 am

"The Amazing Race" in Malawi
The teams competed in Malawi, and the show started with the traditional sense of warmth and displacement of African Americans dealing with the idea of being in Africa. It wasn't quite Goree Island, but Marcus mused about the landscape during their initial long cab ride.

In the first challenge, one team member had to pilot a bike taxi carrying a passenger, in turn carrying a couple of fresh fish, to a destination. The bikes were tricky to balance, and Cathi had a hard time getting started. Sandy and Laurence found they were heading to the same destination, so they teamed up but ended up going out of their way. Cindy, in first place, complained. "This is nuts, I don't know what these kids are doing not in school," she said, adding, "No one seems to speak English." Andy's bike fell apart along the way, but he managed to complete the task. Jennifer almost didn't -- she had left her clue back with her brother, Justin, and waited for the next contestant to come along so she could find out what to do next. She waited. And waited. She seemed to have forgotten the "race" part.

Apropos of nothing, we found out that Justin is gay and his sister was the first one in the family he came out to. Random revelation? I think Justin and Jennifer are in trouble.

Next, the teams headed to Lake Malawi, which we learned has the most species of fish of any lake in the world. Ernie and Cindy followed by Andy and Tommy came over a hill to a grand vista of the enormous sparkling lake with mountains in the distance. Everyone was impressed. At the lake, they either had to canoe a traditional race course or wade through the water and unload a ferryboat -- carrying things and people on their shoulders.

Andy and Tommy jumped in a canoe and got started -- despite their earlier flash of religious intolerance, Andy and Tommy are great to watch, smiling and enjoying themselves every step of the way. Ernie and Cindy were increasingly bitter, focused on winning rather than the experience; they decided the traditional dugout canoes were too hard to paddle through the choppy waves and decided to use the Express Pass they earned earlier this season.

If Ernie and Cindy were cranky, at least they were unified. Jeremy and Sandy were cranky and arguing, the kind of argument that simmers with resentment on both sides. Sandy complained, "Don't yell at me!" and Jeremy responded by biting his lip. As they tried to paddle their canoe, going practically in circles, he looked like he just wanted to go home. Meanwhile, oldsters Bill and Cathi showed up and got their canoe going in an easy rhythm. Cathi took the front, confirming with Bill that she should paddle on one side, and then trusting Bill to take control and steer. They might have been slower than the others, but they've got their act together.

Only Lawrence and Zac and Amani and Marcus decided to unload the boats. It wasn't easy. Enormous Marcus delighted the passengers he carried on his shoulders to shore, and he finally seemed to be performing with the speed and strength of a former NFL player.

After the tasks, the teams must find a marker to point them to the check-in point. They got separated and the order jumbled up -- Jeremy and Sandy fell behind as they got lost trying to find the marker. Jennifer and Justin lagged behind, after Jennifer's long delay. At the marker, there was a U-turn -- the other teams passed it up, but Laurence and Zac decided to use it, on Amani and Marcus. Adding insult to injury, Zac called Amani "Armani." Tempted to call him ZacPosen in return.

Because Amani and Marcus already passed through, they escaped the U-turn. Wonder what they'll think of Laurence and ZacPosen's move.

Ernie and Cindy were first arriving at check-in, but Andy and Tommy were right behind and overtook them in the foot race to get to Phil. "We could have been first," Cindy said bitterly. Ernie concurred: "This time it was here for the taking, we just couldn't pull it through."

Bill and Cathi were third. Phil told them they continue to surprise. Then it was Amani and Marcus, Laurence and Zac, Jeremy and Sandy, who seemed surprised and sort of dismayed they're still in it. Jennifer and Justin were last and were eliminated. Which just goes to show: a) keep moving, it's a race and b) when a secret is randomly revealed early in an episode, that team is endangered.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Ernie and Cindy in Malawi. Credit: CBS

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