Author: watson (with additional writing by Carleen)
Sydney Australia, where ... y'all should know all about Sydney by now, so let's skip the tourist information spin o' tales, okay? All you need to know is Phil telling us how Sydney is chock full of Pitstop-y goodness, okay? Cos all you need is Phil [** try singing that to the tune of All You Need is Love**]
So, we're down to four teams. I spare a moment to think about the teams at Sequesterville. I picture Cordy, Lorne, Joyce and Anya holding an impromptu fashion show while the others look on. Well, others look on while Andrew drools. Snyder is off at the corner sulking by himself, having antagonized anyone within earshot. Adam and Oz, the newest recruits, are recounting their stunt adventures and demonstrating how exactly Oz's monkey tail is not too big for his butt. I have no clue what Darla, Angel, Ben and Glory are doing, I have no memory or impression of these teams, I'm sorry.
The ooomph factor continues at Pitstop. One of the advantages of pitstoping at a zoo is, of course, the animals. Cos, well, that's what they have at zoos. Oh look! They're cuddling a koala, how clichéd (oh, was I supposed to say cute? Blah!). Willow, Tara and Buffy look cute (okay?) with the koalas. Rupert surprisingly photogenic. Faith is like "Stop pawing me, furball." Randy looks like his koala just crapped on him. Robin and Riley, well, the least said the better.
Phil at the zoo is a sight for sore eyes. Problem is, he is wearing a powder blue v-neck sweater, which looks fine on him. No, my problem is I wish he'd put on a shirt. Or a T-shirt. Or even a wife-beater (with apologies to Mrs Phil, of course he doesn't beat wives). Cos the unlined look is so not him, I don't want my eyes to be distracted by hints of man-nipples thank you very much. I decide to blur my eyes and listen to him instead. He wonders if Rupert & Randy can continue their strong finishes (top place two legs running is nothing to scoff at!) and translate that to a place in the final dash. Translate? How do you translate finishes? "Er, I'll have a veneer finish because that means yellow clue envelope with secret instructions."
In other news, Phil wonders if Faith & Robin, the team with the most consistent record, will force their way into the final three. Or if Riley can temper his temper and concentrate on running the Race. Hee, I think Phil doesn't like Riley, I wonder why?
11.18pm. Rupert & Randy rip the clue envelope with such force that it falls apart. I giggle insanely. I wonder if they will receive a time penalty for damaging CBS property. What? I heard that the legal department at CBS is out of this world, man. Otherwise who could have come up with the disclaimers, gag orders and contracts all reality tv cast have to sign, not to mention the release agreements every person who comes into contact with the Racers have to sign? "You want to be a Fern on the Amazing Race? Here, sign this 30 page release, you agree to give up you front teeth, your unborn babies and the limited edition Backstreet Boys lunchbox you quietly squirreled away if you even breathe a word of your participation in the Amazing Race to anyone before, during and after the show without prior consent from us, got it?" [**Help! Help! The recapper cries in vain as she is led away by the contract police in fur-lined handcuffs and Y-clamps and a buckle collar ... ooops wrong image. **]
Anyway the clue, when they finally retrieve it from the ground, tells them to fly to Hong Kong, make their way to Ocean Park and find Jia Jia and An An. Phil explains that Ocean Park is a Sea World like theme park that has dolphins, sealions, sharks and other marine animals that boasts three million visitors a year. Oh great, it's all a big zoo family. He doesn't explain who or what Jia Jia and An An are. Hospitality attendants? Seeing that it's an aquarium park, it's probably a pair of dolphins or sealions. Or something completely unexpected, like Amazonian fertility goddess statues. [*with names like Jia Jia and An An? You're delusional.*]
No interview from this team, I breathe a sigh of relief at not having to listen to Randy say "we're the team to beat" again. Then again, this may mean a double dose of Riley. Oh, Rupert & Randy, all is forgiven, come back and talk to us!
12.26am. Willow & Tara look like they had time for laundry at the Pitstop, no wild monkey sex afterglow this time. Tara is wearing her red number 4 t-shirt (mmmm, remember wet t-shirt coming out of the zorb? gulp) and Willow is wearing one with the number 11. I think it's the first time they've been in 'matching' T-shirts with numbers. What's up with that? They count out the money, they have a whopping $289 for this leg of the Race. What the fuck?
They seem to be pleased with themselves. "We guessed that we might be returning to Asia, we're happy about that," Willow expositions. If she continues to explain how she calculated the statistical possibilities of where the next country will be using just pencil and paper, I won't be surprised. "We might be totally wrong, but after Hong Kong, I think there's a high possibility we're heading into China or to Japan. That's my guess anyway."
"We made a wish list of where we want to go, for fun, like Hawaii and Alaska," Tara giggles. Is that what they get up to at the Pitstop? Make fun lists of where they want to go next? I think they do more than that, snerk. Oh, and they're more than 1 hour behind R.Randy, but I sense another airport bunching coming up.
12.57am. Buffy & Riley and their baggage, and I'm not talking about the packs on their backs. Buffy interviews that she has let Riley make almost all the decisions up to this point, cos it's in his nature to be assertive and firm. "If he hadn't been a professional athlete, he would have enrolled into the Army, that's how structured and disciplined he is," she says. "It's in his nature to be intense about competition, that's why he may have ruffled a few feathers so far. Perhaps it's time for me to exert my calming influence, so he can focus even more. We fight sometimes, but we're a good team, I'm 100% behind Riley's actions." I roll my eyes. Was that a defense for Riley's behavior? If that is the case, I'm sorely disappointed in Buffy. She seems to think he can do no wrong, can she see beyond his obnoxiousness?
1.12am. Faith & Robin. Faith interviews that they're trying to be intensely relaxed. How can you be intensely relaxed? Isn't that an oxymoron? "We'll catch back up - the other teams better watch out. We'll build up our momentum and it'll be tough to stop us." Whatever, Faith.
They're also excited to be going to Hong Kong. "I wonder if we'll bump into Jackie Chan, I'm a big fan," says Robin. Look, I'm sure the people of Hong Kong are happy to have someone that famous bringing attention to their city, but I'm also sure they're none too happy about being stereotyped constantly. Come on, just think about Asians on screen and what image do you get? All Chinese know Kung Fu, all Japanese are members of the yakuza, all Asian women are subservient and if you need a doctor/scientist type you should always get an Asian. Get my drift? If I tell you some of the US stereotype that exists in other countries you'd laugh - all Americans wear ten gallon hats, live in trailer parks and think Switzerland invented Volvos. The crime rate is so high that everyone owns a gun and AIDS is everywhere. Now if their idea of us is so wrong, the reverse is probably true. *Deep breath* Okay, the need to rant carried over from the last recap, and though it really doesn't have any impact as far as the recap goes, it's a social learning experience, isn't it? [*That scores may be 7 out of 10 as far as rants go, so I'll be lenient. But make sure you know I'm still sharpening that spork. Love, Sars.*]
Rupert & Randy arrive at Sydney airport to find that, lo and behold, the last flight to Hong Kong left at 10.20pm. There is a 7.30am flight next morning that will arrive 3.30pm local time. They are disgruntled by the 'airport equalizer', as Randy describes it. I'm just thankful he didn't describe Sydney as rural again, he's already persona non grata in Queensland, he probably doesn't want to extend that honor to New South Wales.
When the other teams arrive later they find father and son already settled at the departure area, with their sleeping bags and Randy's frilly eyeshades. Oh I remember he has flight cushions too, I bet he uses moisturizers and whitening lotion, he's the gayest non-gay person since, well, I can't think of anyone except Dame Edna and that's being disrespectful to the Dame.
Willow & Tara quickly find a secluded spot, spread out their sleeping bag and snuggle together in their makeshift bed. The ear-splitting "awwww's" can be heard all the way to Jupiter.
Buffy, on the other hand, is throwing a mini hissy fit. "Two nights in a row. I'm sick of sleeping at airports," she whines. "Can we go to the airport hotel so we can get a good night's sleep?" Oh she's all Mini Me now.
Riley is, for once, right. He's like, it's already 2am and they have to come back by 5.30am, so what's the point of going to a hotel? Buffy pouts that she wants needs to sleep in comfort, she stops short of stamping her little feet like a stubborn 3 year old. Riley frowns and tries the "we don't have the money" spin, which doesn't go down well either. He wins at the end, and a reluctant Buffy spreads their sleep gear out on a corner. She turns her back against him, and he shoots her an exasperated look.
Faith & Robin are already asleep.
7.10am. Bleary-eyed teams troop onto the plane. I don't know who is yawning more, them or me. Watching exhausted individuals who look worse than the bum who lives under the screen at Times Square stumble onto a jumbo jet is not my idea of prime time entertainment. Next shot is of them scooping food into their mouths and Randy asking the stewardess for more coffee. After breakfast, they fall into a stupor. Randy sleeps with his mouth open, it's not a pretty sight. The couples are huddled together. No! Not like that! They huddle with their own partner, in pairs. Sheesh, I say huddled together and you think of nookie orgies, where has your mind been? [** nookie orgies. Is that what you get up to when we send you to Vegas for recappers' conference? It'd better not show up on your expense report. Love, Sars.**]
The Amazing Yellow line makes a curvy progress from the bottom right of Australia to somewhere in the middle of Asia's east coast. Stock footage of the underbelly of a plane arriving at Hong Kong airport. Teams stream out to the crowded arrivals hall, looking like they've had more rest.
They get on a train and there's a blipvert to another station where they pile into taxis. "Ocean Park, as fast as you can," says Robin, they're the first team to get into a taxi.
"Fast, fast," Riley repeats in his taxi. He waves some money within the vision of his driver. "Ok, ok," says his taxi driver, who puts his foot on the gas.
So now we have taxi drivers pretending to be playing Grand Theft Auto, only on the real road. With other real cars. Goldies' driver grits his teeth and concentrates while Efficiency's driver is less motivated, cos of the no money waving in front of him. No surprise that Goldies' taxi arrive at the park first. They run out and head towards the ticket counter, but when they try to ask the cashier about Jia Jia (which Riley pronounce "Jar Jar", ahhhh please don't remind me of that stupid Gungan!) and An An, the cashier indicates that he can't hear them behind the security glass. And he can hear how many tickets? Strange selective voice transmitting property that glass screen has.
By that time Efficiency have arrived and are buying tickets. Lovebirds and R.Randy taxis pull up shortly.
Goldies find their way to the information counter where they are told Jia Jia and An An are two giant pandas. Oh how cute! Come on, don't be a prude, how often do you see cute cuddly pandas? That is exactly the expression on Buffy's face as they run towards the panda house, but Riley is all business.
The other teams waste no time in getting what they need and they run off too. The panda house is painfully obvious in its location, with giant posters of the pandas adorning all its outside walls. Teams run and run, skirting hordes of tourists up the long walkway (ewwww, I hate pink paint) into the panda house.
The pandas are too busy eating to notice the mad humans passing through. "I've never seen a panda in real life before. Even though we didn't have a lot of time, the few minutes inside were magical. We keep having these unforgettable experiences," Tara describes.
The next clue tells them to find Trader #12909 at the Stock Exchange. I knew it! Bunching time again, cos it's already early evening and the exchange will be closed. So, are teams going to move around this leg as a group, and we're getting a footrace at the end? I like footraces as much as the next person but in a showdown between the four teams, my favorite team may not do as well. So I vote nay for footrace.
They get into taxis and head towards the Stock Exchange, knowing full well what to expect there. No one (except anyone who has lived under a rock and has no idea what bunching is) is surprised to see closed doors.
Teams disburse to look for a hotel for the night. "The Stock Exchange is in the Central Business District, and opposite the famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel. We seriously thought of staying there, but it would have busted our bank. We flagged down a taxi and asked the driver to take us to a more economical hotel," Randy explains.
Lovebirds are walking around with their guidebook, presumably looking for a hotel too. Next we see them on a bus, eagerly looking out at the scenery. They are sitting with a young mother and her toddler. I'm amazed, since they seem to be communicating in sign language. Now what I know about signing isn't enough to fill the back of a bus ticket, but even I know that sign language is not universal and differs by country. For instance, British fingerspelling uses two hands whereas the American version uses one. Looks like Tara is getting through to the child using a mixture of sign and gestures. The child laughs and her mother smiles broadly. Now this is what I signed up to watch the Amazing Race for, watching Racers interact with people they meet on the way, it makes the rank taste of stupid bunching, Riley's nastiness, Randy's randomness and even Faith & Robin's endless sports metaphors disappear. Before they exited the bus the toddler give them a big hug.
"We met a mother and baby on the bus, the baby was so cute. Makes me think back at the baby leopard again, I haven't been able to get babies off my mind," Tara says whimsically.
"For someone so distracted by babies, Tara is doing pretty well running the race," Willow teases. Tara blushes. A dozen fertility clinics get ready to send Lovebirds publicity materials.
Later, we see them strolling along the waterfront hand in hand, the camera backs away as they move closer together and share a sweet kiss. I reach for my tissues and my supersized cup of hot chocolate. Hallmark moment much?
Meanwhile Efficiency are at a bustling night market, may be they are honing their intensely relaxed skills. "The market was fascinating, they had everything. Fake watches, t-shirts, cheap jewelry, even adult toys! We had to save our money, but we both bought t-shirts," Faith enthuses. Glad to see teams having fun, and t-shirts? Probably most useful at this stage of the Race.
Goldies are at a restaurant, looking like they are strategizing. "We have to beat them, beat them all," Riley says. Hey, he's getting the hang of the Race! Beat the other teams! Go faster! Get to the next routemarker before any other team! And it's only, what, episode 11. Buffy nods and goes back to her guidebook. So that's how she exerts her calming influence on him, by ignoring him. Way to go Buffy!
Stock footage of the Stock Exchange. The traders wear giant red bibs with numbers at the back. Okay I can't decide whether this is better or worse than the garish jackets worn by the traders on the NYSE. Whatever.
Our teams stick out like sore thumbs amongst the workers waiting for the exchange to open, mostly in business attire. They join the rush inside as soon as the doors open. But wait! I see R.Randy. I see Efficiency. I see Goldies. WHERE ARE MY LOVEBIRDS? Argh!
The search for trader #12909 is swift. To be honest, once one team finds him, the other teams quickly catch on. First to get the clue are R.Randy. It's a Detour, with a choice between Bamboo Poles and Bamboo Baskets. Phil, thankfully out of his powder blue sweater and into a navy polo shirt, explains that in Bamboo Poles, teams travel two miles to a construction site and climb up scaffolding made from thin bamboo poles to retrieve their next clue. In Bamboo Baskets, teams go to a nearby dim sum restaurant and wheel food carts round till they manage to sell all the cart contents. Climbing the bamboo scaffolding is scary but will be quick, selling the dim sum is not scary but will take time. Classic Reckless/Chicken.
R.Randy can't decide which detour to pick and waste time debating. Efficiency, ever the predictable when it comes to tasks, choose the climbing. Goldies, again acting against type, go for the dim sum. R.Randy continue their committee meeting.
"I saw those scaffolding when we came out from the airport, they rate off the scale on the shudder-o-meter, I vote dim sum," says Randy.
"People in these parts have been using bamboo for centuries, it's sturdy and durable. I'm sure it'll be safe," Rupert argues.
"It gives me the willies," Randy whines.
Rupert glares exasperatedly at his son. "Why can't you listen to me for once? This is faster. Don't you want to win the Race?"
Randy blinks, clenches his jaw and concedes. They leave for the climbing task.
I'm not paying attention, not even at the R.Randy bickering. I don't care about the detour. I don't care about how rickety these bamboo scaffolds are. I don't care about dim sum, even though I like them occasionally. No, I care about where Lovebirds are. I'm beside myself with worry.
Finally they arrive at the Stock Exchange, looking flustered. My heartbeat comes down to the two hundreds. "We, um, overslept. Which is very bad at this stage of the Race. We can't let ourselves get distracted anymore, I hope we're not eliminated because of our mistake," Willow voice-overs. Distracted? By what? Cute toddlers on buses causing maternal instincts to pop up so they spend the night ? Naming constellations again? Drooling over each other at the memory of their SMUT bunnies outfits?
They find trader #12909 and talk briefly about which Detour to take. They are apprehensive about the climb, but realize they need to gain as much time as they can.
Efficiency are already at the site. "Holy Cowbells, look at the size of that thing," Robin exclaims. It's like a wooden trellis has been parked against the side of a very tall building.
The instructor hooks them up and they get going very quickly, making easy work of the climb and reaching the cluebox without problems.
Meanwhile R.Randy arrive and are kitted up. Randy admits that Rupert made the right call, and he's sorry for doubting his dad. "Sometimes the old man is more right than right," he interviews.
"Who are you calling an old man?" Rupert asks good-naturedly.
Both teams are small spots in the bamboo lattice when Lovebirds arrive, out of breath. They are kitted up and ready to go in seconds. They share a small kiss and "good luck" before starting the ascend.
Efficiency have the clue and are starting their descent. They jump off the last section and emerge in good spirits. The next clue tells them to make their way to the fishing village of Tai O and find the items in four pictures in their clue envelope. The pictures, however, are taken at extreme close-up so there is no context. Oooh, I was at a dinner party once and played something like this as an ice-breaker, it's way cool.
They ask the instructor how to reach the village and are told they need to get a ferry. They are pointed towards the vague direction of the ferry terminal, but are met with a shrug when they ask for more information.
R.Randy at the top, they fumble and nearly drop their clue. They're not taking care of their clues today aren't they? They waste time trying to get the envelope, which is stuck precariously at the tip of a pole. Randy reaches for it and next thing we hear is a loud beep (actually we see Randy mouthing "fuck" which of course we hear "beep") and watching the envelope drifts frustratingly down towards the ground. They scramble to descend.
Lovebirds have in the meantime reached the suspended cluebox. They share another kiss and a "whoo hoo", it's a sight, seeing such loving shows of affection when they're still in their harness suspended two stories above the ground.
R.Randy reach the ground first and retrieve their wayward clue. They learn from Efficiency that the crew is not too helpful with the directions, so they decide to ask elsewhere.
"We were told to get the ferry, and when we asked whether we could gat a taxi all we received were blank looks. Someone says take a bus, someone says walk, it's very confusing," Rupert explains. They head to the ferries.
Lovebirds on terra firma finally.
"I wish Anya and Xander were still here," Willow sighs as they slip out of the harnesses.
"Why's that, sweetie?" Tara asks.
Willow shrugs. "You know they would have some choice words to describe this, bamboo poles climbing up a tall building. I like them, they make me giggle."
"Yeah, I miss them too. I wonder how they're doing?"
Oh Tara, you are in my brain [*you wish - Sars.*]. See earlier section about Sequesterville.
They walk into a bookstore and ask for directions to Tai O. Instead of the ferry, the storekeeper tells them to take the subway and change to a local bus, cos it's faster and more direct. Hmmm, how come the others got different advice? I hope this isn't bogus. Like, cost them the leg bogus.
I love going to dim sum restaurants. The dainty dumplings and pastries served in the small bamboo baskets or small dishes, I love the variety on offer, how I can try so many different flavors and textures in one meal. What? I'm easily satisfied.
Goldies arrive at a cavernous restaurant full of diners. They are directed to the kitchen staging area and are given aprons. APRONS! HAHAHA! They are then shown to their cart, already heaped with steaming bamboo baskets. The supervisor tells them what the contents are, while they open each stack to see what is inside.
"What's this?" asks Buffy.
"Steamed pork dumplings."
"What about these?"
"Pork dumplings wrapped in vegetables."
"Do you do anything other than pork dumplings?"
"Not this cart," says the supervisor.
Does it matter what is in the cart? Judging by the reaction of the customers, intrigued by a cart pushed by two admittedly pretty looking individuals in APRONS!, they could be trying to sell congealed eggs and the people will buy them out of curiosity.
Buffy in particular is enjoying herself, joking with people using hand gestures and smiles. It is like a chicken trying to talk to a duck, but she gets her message across and manages to offload many baskets. A large family, including two grandmas, countless children and fat uncle take half a dozen baskets off her hands and everyone is happy. Even Riley smiles at the young children, who are like "what's this thing trying to flash his teeth at me".
The last few baskets are more difficult to sell, and it takes them a few more minutes. They receive the clue for the fishing village and ask for directions. They are told about the ferry too.
A nice segue to what looks like the ferry terminal where Rupert & Randy are just disembarking from their taxi. They look for a ferry to Tai O but are unsuccessful. Shortly afterwards Faith & Robin pull up and they are also puzzled at Tai O's absence on the destination list, though they are lucky enough to find someone who speaks English. Helpful Local Man tells them to take the ferry to another part of the island they are heading for, and then change to a bus.
Efficiency run to the ferry, and we have some fake tension between them and R.Randy about whether they make it onto the service. And of course they do, Randy and Robin exchange wary looks.
Goldies arrive a little later, they make it to another ferry, larger and more crowded, probably slower too. They share a row of seats with a family with two young children. It's a marked difference between their reaction to the children and Lovebirds'. They are not rude or anything, but they simply pretended the kids don't exist. Not very friendly, but not unexpected. I really won't want to be any offspring of these two.
Now, talking about good parent potentials, where in the world are Lovebirds? Looks like they took the storekeeper's advice and have found themselves on the subway. "We were told that the traditional method to the fishing village is ferry then bus, but with the opening of the new subway line, apparently it cuts the journey time by up to an hour because of the ferry schedule. We'll still need to get a local bus, but we're thrilled that we ran into such good luck," Tara explains. I do an interpretive dance that shows my excitement at the mention of an hour's traveling time saved.
They alight the subway at a mall and locate their bus quickly. Their destination can't be more different than their alighting point. Where the subway and mall are sleek and modern, Tai O village has retained its rural charm, with old wooden houses built on stilts over the water. Elderly women tend to boats and fishing nets - it is that quaint. And a photographer's heaven.
They look at the macro pictures, some photographer sure had a field day setting these up. Phil helpfully runs us through the results. I'm like, dude, dried shrimp that look like spicy fries? Hanging shark that looks like someone's vacation trophy? What do they do at this village?
Dried egg yolks
Sign on building
They start looking at the stores along the main road, which appears to be the only stretch of road with buildings on both sides. They identify the shark quickly, it looks like it's prominently displayed in front of the store, but I can't tell what type of store it is, what store sells dried up shark? They find the egg yolks at a stall just outside the shark store. Now I do wonder, what do you do with a dried egg yolk?
"We're concentrating on the task and not looking too closely at what these things are. The shark kinda grossed us out, but we have to focus. The shopkeeper says it's a gimmick for attracting people, I hope no one actually wants to buy that shark," Willow shudders.
Efficiency / R.Randy arrive at the ferry destination and spot the bus stop right outside the terminal. They have no problems getting on the right bus, they helpfully expositions that the journey time is one hour. Goldies also arrive and find their bus. The family they sat with at the ferry is on the bus also, now why don't they do a little canoodling and get information?
The shark is a hoot, everyone stares at it when they see it. Faith wishes they had a camera, Randy gingerly reaches out as if almost afraid to touch it. Rupert regards it with barely disguised mirth. They also find the dried egg yolks quickly. Rupert asks the stallholder what they are used for. She says for soups and steamed with rice. Huh, interesting.
Goldies arrive at the village and they have the same stupid reaction when they see the shark. They follow the path set by the other teams.
Lovebirds find the spicy fries, um, dried shrimp. More soup ingredient I expect. Only the sign, which is proving harder than they expect. There are many small buildings and small alleys that seem to lead to nowhere. It's a lot like Venice actually. Eventually they stumble upon the sign, at an out of the way location. "That sign was right at the other end of the village, we would have missed it if we weren't aimlessly walking all around the alleys," Willow says.
They receive the next clue, which tells them to return to the main island, catch a jetfoil to Macau and proceed to the Cathedral Sao Paulo. Hey! I thought Amazing Producers aren't doing spoon-fed clues this year. I throw virtual glares to signify my displeasure. They run back to the bus stop to look for the bus back to the subway. Smart, they remember the subway. [*as if they won't, they've run a good race so far.*]
Next to complete the task are R.Randy, Efficiency have the same problem locating the sign as Lovebirds, but they get it eventually. Both teams find themselves sharing the same ferry again.
Goldies find the sign by accident, they only need the spicy fries, which they find. They get on a later ferry.
Lovebirds emerge from the subway, ask for directions to the Macau jetfoil terminal. "It's only 5 minutes walk away, we lucked out on the subway," Willow smiles. You know, this is the sort of luck that wins Races, we've seen it time and time again.
Time to Macau - one hour.
Ferry people alight and run towards the jetfoil terminal. My EEFPs tell me that the subway station, ferry terminal and jetfoil terminal are all within 10 minutes' walk of each other, that's ... convenient. In a I-want-to-go-to-a-fishing-village-and-Macau-on-the-same-day sort of way. Heh.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Macau is about 0.1 times the size of Washington DC. It has 3 long names - Macau Special Administrative Region, Aomen Tebie Xingzhengqu and Regiao Administrativa Especial de Macau - reflecting its history as a Portuguese colony that is now under the rule of China. Gambling and constructions are the largest industries contributing to the 20% growth in GDP in 2004. Wow, 20%. And wow, CIA World Factbook. [*you're such a glutton for information aren't you?*]
The first team to arrive is Lovebirds, they climb into a taxi and in hardly any time they make it to the Cathedral Sao Paulo. Their first surprise? It's not so much a cathedral as the remains of one, all that is left is the façade, and I do mean just one wall. Nothing else, not even parts of the other walls.
The cluebox is painfully obvious, at the top of a long series of steps leading to the ruins, right in front of what would have been the front entrance. It's a Roadblock, their next destination is the Macau Tower. They spend a little too much time discussing who should do it.
"Who isn't afraid of looking down?" Willow reads.
"Sounds like climbing up the tower, then rappel or zip line down," says Tara.
"Yeah, tower, 'looking down', something adrenalin-rushing for sure," Willow agrees.
"You've only done four Roadblocks, you do it," Tara reasons.
"Tara, it's the chance of a lifetime, I did the bungee, you should do this adventure," Willow replies, assigning the task to her team-mate.
"But this will be my sixth."
"It doesn't matter, I'll do the rest."
Well duh, girls. You're well matched physically and I believe mentally too, so it shouldn't matter who does Roadblocks. I send karma their way so they can stop being so indecisive and get going.
It's a nice shot of the Efficiency and R.Randy jetfoil skimming over the water and look! Having cup noodles and slurping soda. I suppose with all the intense racing and tension we forget about the everyday issues that we take for granted. Where do they eat? Are they getting enough liquids? And, um, what about bathroom breaks? Brennan (or was it Guidos? Colin? My brain is so addled) said that they tried to get all the eating and going to the bathroom done at pitstops. Food at pitstops is provided by the production, while any purchased on the road has to come out of the money given to them. I have this vision of teams stuffing their faces at pitstops and sneakily filling their backpacks too. I guess public transport is a good place to find bathrooms too.
We're back to the jetfoil, now doing a Millennium Falcon style of turn and land, complete with hydraulic hiss. The two teams get on taxis and head towards the cathedral.
Meantime Lovebirds are at the Macau Tower, at 1,100 feet the 10th tallest tower in the world. This Roadblock takes the Roadblocker 800ft up to the Skywalk, where they walk around a platform at the outer rim of the tower. Did I say the platform is about 3 ft wide, 800 ft up, there is no handrail, and it's on the outside? I grin evilly at the thought of seeing how the Racers freak out.
Tara seems to be inwardly brushing away her fear; she takes a deep breath, gets a hug from Willow and heads off into the elevator. Why does this remind me of the scene in Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo kisses Princess Leia (a totally unconvincing relationship, but that's another rant for another day), turns around and heads into the carbonite chamber. Argh, stop with the portend of impending doom! [*All I can say is, I'm just glad to be spared the Han/Leia non!relationship rant, cos that? sucked total suckage in the history of all suckages. Love, Sars.*]
Next we see her tenderly stepping out to the platform, she is all tethered and harnessed, but it's pretty windy up there and she's trying to do the stunt and keep her hair from blowing into her eyes. She takes one step at a time and tries to balance. She says this is probably the scariest thing she's ever done in her life and does little pep talks to herself that's really quite cute. You know, if anyone asks me to walk along a 3 ft wide platform a couple of feet off the ground, I'd skip and run all over it, cos 3 ft is pretty wide. But put that 800 ft up and it's like walking along a 6 inch wide plank. I wouldn't be doing pep talks to myself, I'd be blabbering incoherently.
On the ground, Willow is looking even worse for wear than her girlfriend. "I can't watch, but I can't tear my eyes away. I'm sure she's wearing safety equipment, but she looks so tiny up there," she is almost sobbing with worry.
R.Randy arrive at the cathedral, effortlessly find the clue. Rupert volunteers himself, on the account that he's a bossy twit and his son at this point does everything he says. They run back down the steps just as Efficiency arrive, they get Efficiency's taxi, even though Robin makes an attempt to tell the driver to wait for them. Well Robin, if you want to keep a taxi, it helps if you pay the driver to give him incentive.
Efficiency gets the clue and decide that Faith is the one doing the Skywalk.
Talking about Skywalk, Tara is about half-way and looking like she is gaining confidence, though the pep talks haven't stopped. "How much longer? Not far now, don't look down, keep your balance Tara-girl," she continuously encourages herself. "Do this quickly and you'll get back to Willow," she allows herself a nervous yet contented smile.
R.Randy arrive at the tower and Rupert scampers up. Probably scampering isn't quite the right word for someone of Rupert's, um stature, but that's how I feel, so there. Randy sidles up to Willow to ask how it's like. "Nail-biting," she answers tersely. I totally believe she has been biting her nails.
Efficiency arrives and Faith literally flings herself up the tower. "No one is surprised that Robin and I are adrenalin junkies, nothing scares us, this is gonna be fun," she says as she rides up the elevator, she's almost bouncing, and Faith bouncing? Is a good thing.
Goldies arrive at the cathedral, get the clue and Riley is taking the Roadblock. They arrive just as Rupert finishes his safety lesson. He is the picture of determination as he starts on the walk. "Fear is mostly in the mind, once you realize that, it becomes easier to overcome," he says. He sounds like Randy. Oh my god.
Faith continues to bounce on my screen, her harness fits tight and snug around her body, I grow dizzy at her bouncing. She needs to open up her own gym when she finishes the Race, she'll get enough members who are willing to pay good money to see her conduct a step class.
She catches up with Rupert within a few strides of walking along the platform. Tara is too far ahead but her progress is swift. Talking about Tara, she sighs her relief when she reaches the end. "Not a moment too soon," she says to herself. "That was exhilarating, and very frightening. I'm glad I did it," she says as she descends in the elevator. At the bottom she is tackled by Willow in a huge bear hug and a big kiss.
"You made it!"
"I did!" Tara exclaimed as they read the clue, telling them to fly to Taipei and check-in at Taipei 101, the Pitstop for this leg of the Race. Phil voices over with the standard "last team may be eliminated" warning.
"Does Macau have an international airport?" they wonder as they run towards the taxi stand. On the way they pass Goldies, about to embark on their Roadblock.
Up at the tower, Faith is done, she quickly grabs the clue and is down on ground level. They get their taxi. "Guess it's time for the airport," Robins says helpfully. Stating the obvious much? I'm relieved at the lack of sports metaphors this leg.
Rupert makes steady progress, while Riley gets prepared for his SkyWalk.
Rupert is done. We blipvert through Riley's task so he's also done.
Macau airport. Lovebirds. Air Macau ticket counter. There is a flight at 5.35pm, we see a clock showing 5.17pm. Will they get it? Will they? Will they?
The counter agent must be in cahoots with American Airlines (booo!), he shakes his head repeatedly. "Not even without check-in luggage? We can just get on the plane, we're not checking any luggage," the girls plead. No can do, the agent insists. Hiss!
They get the next flight at 6.45pm, arriving at 8.30pm in Taipei. They have enough time to browse a Taipei guidebook at a small newsstand, but the disappointment is evident.
Efficiency at the same Air Macau counter, getting tickets for the same flight.
R.Randy leaving their taxi and running to the Air Macau counter, they get on the same flight too.
In fact, here comes Goldies. Sigh. 'Airport Equalizer' strikes yet again.
Amazing Yellow Line hardly needs to break into a sweat as it hops and skips from Macau to Taipei, literally across a narrow stretch of sea.
First out of the airport are Goldies. They hop into their taxi and tell their driver to drive to Taipei 101. The driver takes a moment to understand the frenzied shouting. "Taipei 101!" Riley yells. "101!" Buffy echoes. The driver is confused. "Speak English!" Riley yells again.
Efficiency, in the next taxi, is faced with the same problem of a driver who does not understand. I'm surprised, as Taipei 101 is a fairly well known building. May be it's the way the teams are pronouncing it. Robin is as frustrated as Riley, trying to get his message through.
I honestly think better of this group of Racers. So far we haven't had too many Ugly American incidents. Riley's tantrum at the Swiss border comes to mind, but not at the scale of say, Kendra or Flo. It's part of international travel to struggle through the language barrier, complaining that it's the locals' fault is not the way to go. Ahem, teams, you're in their country, if they don't speak your language it's probably your fault.
R.Randy fare a little better, they find a taxi driver who knows where 101 is.
Lovebirds give their driver a piece of paper that presumably has their destination written on it. "We had time at Macau airport and realized we're going to a Chinese country, where the language is very different. We bought a small guidebook that has a picture of the building and showed it to our driver, it helped with the communication," Tara explains.
Efficiency taxi gets going, finally.
Goldies' taxi driver drives off too, but they're not sure he understands. "This is like a footrace to the Pitstop, only it's in a taxi, it's vital to get to our destination," Buffy interviews.
Beautiful night shot of the 101 story tall building (hence the name, I smirk), looking like multiple cupcakes stacked on top of each other. Phil is at what appears to be the observation deck and he tells us such useful information as the building is the tallest in the world in 3 of the 4 classification categories (Chicago natives breathe a sigh of relief, Sears Tower is still the tallest overall) and boasts the fastest elevators.
Fast or not, it's essential to get into aforesaid elevators. The wait at the lobby is intense, as Efficiency, R.Randy and Lovebirds vie for a position in the finale. Unusually, none of the teams are smiling, there is simply too much tension.
Drunken careening Amazing cameraman shows the path from the elevator to Phil. Who will it be? Who? Who? Who?
It's Faith & Robin, narrowly beating R.Randy to team number one. They look exhausted, but very happy. "We're in the finale, something we aimed for from the start. I know we can do it and win the Race, we're the strongest team here both mentally and physically," Robin interviews.
Rupert & Randy are team number two. "We are determined to go all out to win, we'll stop at nothing, we're focusing on the finish line, it's the only thing we will see," Randy says.
Willow & Tara check-in as team number three. "When we applied, we honestly never thought we'd come this far ... to be in the final run-in. We're going to enjoy the rest of the race and do the best we can. We've come so far now, we owe it to ourselves to push as hard as we can, the other teams shouldn't rule us out as genuine competition," Willow says.
Here comes Buffy & Riley, the last team to arrive. "I can't believe our luck, our taxi driver, I have nothing to say," Riley shakes his head in defeat. "Give is to us, Phil," Buffy pleads. Phil looks sad for a moment, then tells them that it's the last of three pre-determined Non-Elims in the Race. They're still in the competition for the $1 million prize. Of course, they are mugged and they will start with no money the next race.
So they're taking four teams into the finale. Only one team will emerge as the winners of this Amazing Race. I know I have a 50% chance of happiness next episode, I'll start stocking up on the whisky then.
Teaser for Episode 12
In the special two-hour season finale, old rivalries surface and a showdown seems imminent.
It's a mad dash amidst rows and rows of books. Onlookers look on in amusement.
"I feel strangely like I'm home," Faith quips.
And someone takes a bad fall off a bike. There's blood, there's swearing, and there's much kicking of a twisted hunk of metal.
Plus the small matter of finding out who wins the Amazing Race.
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