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Amazing Race Recap: U-Turned in Singapore

To remain spoiler-free for anyone scanning down our homepage who has last night's Amazing Race still waiting on his or her DVR, let's begin with something innocuous rather than with any reference to who would turn out to be the sorest losers of all. How about a quick note about the Detour, in which teams had to sell ice cream with flavors like “corn,” “mango meat,” and “durian,” which — for anyone who has never encountered this fruit — smells like a mango’s anus. One hates to wonder what the toppings are in a Singapore ice-cream sundae: Caramelized onions? Hot-dog water? Unsweetened chocolate mixed with sweetened cauliflower? Metal shavings? Even the viewer most sensitive to cultural differences had to walk away thinking that Singapore ice-cream socials are no fun at all.

Okay, now that we’re past the jump and no longer have to protect the spoilerphobic: The lesbians are gone, and even if you’d maintained some level of affection for them up to this point, it has to be gone by now. They were so bitter they could have been a Singapore ice-cream flavor. (“I’ll have two scoops of Snotty Lesbian Ripple, please.”) This episode showed us all of their bad sides so vividly that at times the episode seemed like it was shot in 3-D.

Backing up: The leg began with teams bunching up on a sleeper train from Penang to Singapore. From the first moment of the episode, all Caite and Brent could talk about was the possibility of U-turning Carol and Brandy. In fact, most of the earliest discussions involved other teams discussing what bad people they were. The brothers indirectly referred to the partners’ snippy style by saying that their own rule going in was to not throw elbows. “You saw what throwing elbows got Joe,” said Dan. Actually, we never did see that; does he mean that throwing elbows will get you nearly edited out of the show?

While the brothers were slightly sympathetic to the lesbians at first (Jordan was looking for clues that Caite's hatred of them was due to homophobia), that benefit of the doubt vanished at the end of the train trip, when everyone was lined up to leave, and Carol and Brandy huffily tried to push their way through even before the train had pulled into the station. “Ladies get their way, bitches don’t,” said Brent in a voice-over that seemed suspiciously like it was lifted from an entirely unrelated moment. Perhaps it was taken from the night before and was a response to Louie's sleeper-car etiquette question, “What happens if you faht?”

Teams first had to run to the city’s Victoria Concert Hall and track down Allan Wu, the host of Amazing Race Asia. (One wonders if right now there’s an AR:A recapper gagging over an episode in which racers had to travel to Boston and eat rum-raisin and peppermint-stick ice cream.) It was interesting to see a brief clip of the foreign version of the show, and how it began with the same swooping shot of Allan dropping his arm to begin the race; it was also interesting to see Allan later drop down his sunglasses. Is this his signature variation on the Browsie raise? Are there other Amazing Races in which the various hosts all create their own eye-based trademarks? Does one just blink furiously like he has a tic? To each their own.

From there it was to the Detour: "Pounding the Drums" or "Pounding the Pavement." Everyone went for the drums at first, for which they had to learn a set drum routine from a very young tutor, and then perform it onstage. For "Pavement," they had to sell 25 ice-cream sandwiches in a city square. The detectives quickly bailed on the drums when Michael remembered he had no rhythm at all. (Which is odd, as he looks so graceful; you can just see him as a backup dancer for Ke$ha, can't you?) The lesbians were paired with a small boy who looked like he was around 6 and quickly dumbfounded them with his Buddy Rich–like speed. “He’s smoking crack,” said Brandy as they dashed to another tutor. Say what you will about these two, they’re good with kids!

Having abandoned the drums, the detectives decided to make a break for the Fast Forward, though the brothers were already there. The challenge was to ride a giant carousel to the top, and then, at 541-feet high, crawl across a narrow metal ladder to the next car. Jordan was terrified of heights and shook the whole way across, which was an entirely appropriate response. (Though when they received instructions on what the challenge was, the quaking Jordan said, “I thought we were just going for a ride.” Isn’t Jordan supposed to be a Race superfan? And he thought he was just in for a nice sightseeing tour?)

Fast Forward completed, the brothers quickly went straight to the pit stop, where Phil awarded them motorbikes, but they both candidly revealed that neither of them would ever go for even a single ride on their new presents. You have to admire their honesty: This is the first time in the show’s sixteen seasons that someone has truthfully reacted to a prize with the indifference that it deserves. They’re usually given wildly impractical gifts that seem picked out personally by Phil, who assumes the rest of the world is seizing the high-adrenaline day like he is. And so we get landlocked people politely "ooohing" and "aahing" about their new sailboats, all while quietly calculating in their own minds how much they can get on eBay for their gifts. So it was nice to have someone just come out and say it.

Upon realizing that the brothers were in the midst of getting the FF, the detectives dashed back to the town square and began madly selling ice cream. Though it’s difficult to tell, because no concrete time frames were given for either angle of the Detour, the “selling” challenges always seem like the better bet, as locals appear happy to buy anything because it's clear it's all a TV show. (Hint to people selling stuffed bears in a cart in a mall hallway: Hire a camera crew and watch your business double!) Here, the detectives’ cabbie arrived to buy their last ten ice creams, which seemed like a sketchy, unfair move. Who knows how large a tip the cops eventually left for him, but assuming it was generous, they were essentially selling ice cream to themselves. (Then again, that cabbie later abandoned them at the shipyard, so it all evened out.)

Back at the drums, the usual tension began to appear between the bickering lesbians as they fell behind; Carol made passive-aggressive comments like, “You were the one who said stay here“ and “I asked you to leave this an hour ago.” Little did they know how angry they'd become, as Brent and Caite took off and U-turned them. Phil ominously narrated that since this was not a blind U-Turn, anyone who did U-Turn someone would “suffer the consequences of being known.” And those consequences? Having someone slap your picture and then complain about what a bad player you are … and then get eliminated. So take that, Caite!

This was one of those weeks in which Caite and Brent become more sympathetic just through their antagonism with Carol and Brandy. (Everyone does: When the cops' cabbie left them at the shipyard, they tried to take the ladies' taxi, though the driver wouldn’t come. If they'd tried that maneuver on anyone else, it would have seemed like a low blow, but here, the villain was the stubborn cabbie who didn't know he'd been pulled to the dark side.) When the lesbians arrived at the U-Turn and saw what happened, they began a rant about how “stupid” Caite was that is probably still going on right now. “She’s an idiot, she’s on YouTube to prove it!” Brandy mirthlessly quipped, and later dubbed them “Brent and Caite Gump.” (It also sounded like Carol said to Brandy, “They U-Turned us, because you’re prettier than she is,” but that sounded hamhandedly Frankenquoted and too superficial even for them.) Suddenly, Caite’s decision to target them purely for personal reasons seemed a lot more understandable.

Think about it: Carol and Brandy’s rationale for calling them stupid was that there were stronger teams to U-Turn. Which, yes, is true; it would have been a better move to set back the cowboys. And yet the lesbians' angry thesis was founded on the fact that Caite and Brent were only hurting their own chances to win. And yet, to win, they have to beat four other teams, one of which would be the lesbians. So by their logic, if Caite had played it "right," she eventually would have beaten Carol and Brandy anyway, so relax.

Before being eliminated, Carol and Brandy angrily went to the ice-cream shack to finish the other half of the Detour, taking any anger that wasn’t reserved for beauty-queen rage and turning it on each other, like in this conversation as they arrived at the town square:

Carol: With your charm, maybe we can do this.
Brandy: Fuck the charm right now.
Carol: Really.
Brandy: Seriously.

Well, they might not have a million dollars, but at least they have love. Or at least they have love in the 23 percent of the day that’s not spent hating each other’s guts.

Meanwhile, the other teams were dashing to the Roadblock — counting the links in a giant anchor chain — that Phil warned was harder than it looked. Considering that everyone got the answer on the first try, one wonders how hard Phil thought this task looked. Michael was full of shortcuts this week; he kept a pitch counter in his bag that he normally used as a Little League coach. Are there also 23 packets of Big League Chew bubble gum in there? His backpack is like the most mundane Bat-utility belt ever.

Though, to Michael’s credit, his team seemed like a couple of ill-fated yahoos when this season first started, but they really did get their acts together. When he and Louie learned that Brandy and Carol had been U-Turned, they laughed that getting everybody riled up about the lesbians had actually been their strategy to make sure that no one U-Turned them. Which is intelligent, although one has to wonder why they didn’t make the smarter move of targeting the cowboys. Oh dear — just typing that sentence likely empowered the lesbians. Here's hoping they don't have a Google alert on the words "cowboys amazing race u-turn smart move" … and yet you just know they do.

At this point, all of the teams were dashing to an amusement park to ride one last zipline and then get to the mat. After the brothers, the order went: Caite and Brent; cowboys; then cops. When Carol and Brandy arrived last, Phil seemed a little uncomfortable with their vitriol against Caite. And then they were just as spiteful in their post-mat interviews. It’s hard to recall another time when a team has said good-bye with such bitterness to another pair; usually this farewell is a time for self-reflection, either to say how much better they got to know their husband/wife/father/daughter/best friend, or occasionally with couples saying they have to reevaluate their own relationship. But it never goes the way of ranting about another team and how stupid they were. That little introspection can’t be healthy in a couple; then again, it seems to work just fine for them.

Other Recaps:
EW's Jessica Shaw was less sympathetic to Caite and Brent, but writes, "I can't say I disagree with [Carol and Brandy's] assessment of Brent and Caite's collective intelligence, but they should have gotten over it."
TV Squad's Jackie Schnoop thought the lesbians should look at themselves when calling teams dumb: "If Carol and Brandy hadn't been so openly derisive of other teams, maybe they wouldn't have been U-turned and Philiminated, eh?"

Photo: CBS