Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

The Amazing Race Recap: Mind Over Bladder

In its penultimate leg, the Race stayed in China, a locale that on this show historically means you can be assured of two things: gong sound effects and a geographically inaccurate knockoff version of "I Think I'm Turning Japanese" on the soundtrack. But wait … this year The Amazing Race has established a third tradition for all visits to this country: bladder trouble! Last year in Beijing (nearly to the night, creepily enough: May 3), sisters Kisha and Jen just missed making the final three when Jen had to urinate so badly that she stopped at a Porta Potti pit stop on the way to the show's real pit stop, and they were overtaken by the last-place team. Last night, it was Brent who was plagued by the need to pee, although his partner, Caite, was not as patient as Kisha. What makes China such a diuretic? Looking back on the old Charlie Chan movies, one wonders if the honorific "Number One Son" was not racist pidgin English after all.

But enough dwelling on urinary matters. To the beginning we go! The cowboys were off first, and we learned that back in 2004, Cord got kicked in the head (by an animal in the "hoofed" family), and no one was sure he was gonna make it. Odd that this is the first we've heard about it, while Caite has spent the whole race acting like she's the one coming back from a head injury. She made it a particular point to repeatedly mention it this week: Three years ago she made her dumb statement at the Miss USA pageant, and since then not a day has gone by where someone hasn't teased her for it, and now it's time to prove to the world that she's smart, she can handle things! She's the Fredo of the pageant world, albeit without the fishing skills.

For someone so determined to prove to the world that she was smart ("you people can screw yourself!" she declared to all haters), she didn't seem to grasp just what people have been making fun of her for. This week she really wanted to show that she could read maps, presumably because the question she famously answered at the pageant was, "Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?" What followed was her “such as” gobbledygook; the issue was not her map-reading skills, it was her ability to form sentences. Redemption fail, indeed.

She may also be discouraged to realize just how the producers have been working against her goal of gaining respect. When she and Brent were trying to get directions to the Garden Bridge, they made sure to cut a montage that highlighted the exasperated-teen “ecccchhh” noise she made every time someone couldn’t help her. Later, in a testimonial, they carefully selected a shot that showed her staring at her own fingernails while Brent spoke. Makes one wonder if the producers had a bonus schedule set up for cameramen: An extra $500 if you get her with her mouth hanging open, $1,000 for her touching up makeup in a stressful moment, and $5,000 for the money shot of her getting her hair caught in her backpack zipper.

Yet, for all this disrespect, the models were at the front of the pack for nearly the entire episode. They made it to the Roadblock first, at which Caite had to count gold statues in a room. “This is a good task to show that she’s got it upstairs, she’s not as dumb as everyone thinks,” said Brent. It’s counting; odds are this will not result in a full ride to Princeton. Could you people aim higher with your I.Q. tests, please?

The cowboys arrived at the Roadblock after them, with an odd moment as they saw Brent and Caite’s bags, but walked right past Brett, who gawked at them as if he were on safari. But that one moment of lapsed perception didn’t stop the brothers from lapping Caite at the Roadblock and pulling ahead. Caite remained, futilely circling the magic number of 523; at one point, after being told her answer of 522 was wrong, she held up the fingers 5-2-2 to prove that no, he was wrong and had just misunderstood her. The judge laughed and still shook his head, and possibly snickered “such as” in Chinese.

Meanwhile, at the back of the pack, brothers Dan and Jordan were utterly stymied in their hunt for the first clue box at Garden Bridge. Not even an older man doing leg stretches could help them, no matter how many crotch shots of him we were shown; this was the least sexy upskirt video ever. Finally, after searching for two hours — two hours! — they decided to go back and work together with the late-starting cops. And who better to ally with than the sharp-eyed detective Mike, who decided that the best way to find the Garden Bridge would be to take out his binoculars and look for something that looked like a garden on a bridge. Because why oh why would the producers possibly put the next pit stop anywhere that wasn’t in their direct eyeline? When Mike and Louie report to a murder scene, do they just slowly do 360s, looking for someone with blood-soaked clothes and a gun stuffed down his pants? Then, Mike got a break in the Garden Bridge case: two jackets hanging on a sign! Alas, it turned out to just be two jackets hanging on a sign, which is odd, as the clue boxes are so often marked by discarded clothes.

Once the cops used the translator hotline and were able to give their cabbie directions to the bridge, the brothers hopped in a cab and gave him a “Follow that car!” Which apparently is a lot more effective when your cabbie speaks English. He seemed not to understand, which led to Dan writhing apoplectically in the backseat, occasionally threatening to throw himself and his brother out of the moving vehicle. Earlier, Dan had once again explained how he was doing the Race to make his brother’s dream come true (he says this so much you start to wonder if he knows something about Jordan’s medical tests that Jordan doesn’t), but by this point, it had started to mean something to him, too. It took until the second-to-last leg to feel invested in this enough to roll around in the backseat of a cab as if the seat was electrocuted? (Of course, Dan’s whole drama was rendered moot after the commercial break, when they pulled up to the bridge right behind the cops.)

Now the models and cowboys had reached the Detour. The choices were either search through a store full of stamps for two imprinted with your team’s names, or walk through a crowded market with trays of dumplings. Everyone went for the former, which was surprising, as it’s the kind of needle-in-a-haystack challenge that favors no one and can send a team reeling through no fault of their own. This was the spot where Brent’s bladder had had enough, and he begged Caite to leave with him to go find a bathroom. (Both teammates have to be working on a group challenge either simultaneously or not at all.) Caite, however, had no sympathy for his bodily functions. “No, I’m not going anywhere,” she said. It seemed heartless, but then again, last season Kisha and Jen did come under fire for not powering through Jen’s toilet needs, so it would be hypocritical to attack Caite. However, once he told her that his hands were shaking, she finally gave up and accompanied him to the john. “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” said Brent upon completion, perhaps not understanding that everything from worms to canaries to hippopotami gotta do what he just did.

Brent was redeemed when he returned and found his stamp (or “chop”) first. “How big is it?” asked Caite. “Huge,” replied Brent. “Just like everything else.” This might have been a double entendre, but considering that Brent has not yet evidenced anything resembling a sense of humor, that can’t possibly be right. The cowboys ultimately finished right after them, and it was off to the pit stop. Brent had some trouble explaining to his cabbie where he wanted to go: “They don’t even understand their own language,” he griped, a comment that gave the episode its name. (That’s three out of the last five episodes that came from Brent’s confused mouth, so for all those who thought he was useless, you people can screw yourselves!) That wasn’t his only triumph. He and Caite finished first for the first time, amid much more reemphasizing that she was intelligent, and did she mention that she could read maps? Waiting for them at the pit stop was the world’s tallest man, balancing out last week’s smallest man. “It’s incredible,” Brent said to the man’s face. It’s as if he doesn’t even understand his own language.

Meanwhile, the cowboys brothers and cops ran together until they hit the Detour, when the cops were slowed by their Speed Bump. It was a trifle of a challenge; each of them had to throw a coin into a small hole at the top of an incense burner. It didn’t take long, but it gave the brothers a head start at the chop store. The editors decided to stick it to the cops as a going-away present; Louie made a big pronouncement about how they were executing this task as they would a search in their day jobs … and then we cut to Mike arbitrarily shining his flashlight on the bottom of the shelves, as if they were transparent, which they weren’t … and then we saw Louie knocking a bunch of chops over. Had it not been so expensive, they would have paid for the Police Academy theme to play over all of this.

The brothers finished first, joining the final three, while the cops said good-bye. Next week will be the finale. Whom to root for? One can’t possibly root for the models; this can’t end as the “blind squirrel finds nut” season. And the brothers’ stated strategy of “avoid elimination” is not so much a game plan but rather a description of the rules, and it would be terrible to have that rewarded with a million dollars. So instead we must root for who the clear winners seemed all along — the cowboys. Hopefully they will triumph in next week’s challenges, which, according to the trailer, seem to entail rappelling and being inserted into an old Intellivision game.

Photo: CBS