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Another exciting episode of The Amazing Race!  This week the teams stayed in Bandung, Indonesia, where the TAR producers brought in the one-a-season eating challenge, where each racer had to eat a portion of cobra.  Much was made of the strangeness of eating cobra, but it looked like a reasonably sized portion, and it appeared to be deep fried, so it probably had some nice crispiness to it.  The racers overall gave the cobra a bad review, but this was much better than when Charla from season 5 had to eat a kilogram of caviar.  Now that looked tough!   I say good job to the TAR Producers in making the eating challenge more about food found in the local area and less about challenging one’s ability to eat large quantities.

The “Boil an Egg” Road Block was an interesting twist – rather than trying to do something as fast as possible, the challenge was to be patient enough to do something thoroughly rather than rush it.  This proved to be more “devilish” than thought, as three of the four teams didn’t do it right the first time around.

The Detour had a great risk/reward component – either search a field for a pair of shears, which could be done quickly or very, very slowly, or apply Indonesian bride make up to both team members, which would be done very slowly, but steadily.

As a result, the episode had a lot of twists and turns, creating lots of changes of momentum.  Let’s break out the Episode Tracker to show how teams fared relative to each other:

Episode 10 tracker

Leo and Jamal: Brideless Afghanimals

Leo and Jamal started the leg in first, but this is the first leg they have raced without their allies, Ally and Ashley, whom they consistently refer to as their “race brides.”  The leg started well enough, as they got some protein with the snake, but it got interesting once they got to the egg-boiling challenge.  While Travis and Jason tried to cut it close on the timing with the cooking of the eggs, Jamal tried to take extra time.   Unfortunately, he didn’t take enough extra time.   So while Travis and Jason were told their eggs were runny, they were also told their eggs were runny first.  This meant that they could go back and cook the eggs properly, first.    What wasn’t clear to me was whether the teams could cook a surplus of eggs and then check doneness.   I’m guessing that since the teams didn’t check for doneness, they were not allowed to do this.

On the second try, Jamal got his eggs cooked, but the Afghanimals found themselves in 3rd place.  Upon learning about the detour choices, they figured to take the higher risk option that provided the higher reward, and dress up as tea pickers and search for shears in a large and beautiful field of tea.

Alas, the Afghanimals started poorly and got worse.  They first interpreted a white flag as one piece of a pair of shears.  This was so incorrect, it explains why they weren’t able to find the shears more quickly.  They had no idea what they were looking for, and perhaps since they felt rushed, they were not systematic in their approach.

After approximately two hours, they gave up and went to the bride make-up painting detour.  Upon seeing that they’d have to shave their beards (clearly the TAR Producers were hoping the “Beardoes”, Brandon and Adam would face this choice), the Afghanimals balked and went back to searching the field of tea.  So while Joyce from Season 7 was willing to shave her head to get the million dollars (which she did ultimately get), these guys weren’t willing to shave their beards.

They eventually found their shears, but this wasn’t enough, and they finished in 4th place.  First to worst.  Fortunately for the Afghanimals, this was a non-elimination leg, and they get to make it to the 11th leg.

Travis and Nicole, losing their mojo

This was the second straight leg where the ER Doctors Travis and Nicole started to appear less strong than the other teams, specifically their main rivals, Jason and Amy.   Travis made one mistake by trying to cut the cooking of eggs short.  If he had been cautious and spent 5 more minutes cooking his eggs, this would have given him a 30 minute lead over the other teams.  So while Nicole struggled the prior episode in the Road Block, Travis did the same this week.   It was a much more low-key struggle, but a mistake nonetheless.

They chose the bride-make up Detour choice, and were the slowest of the teams who chose to perform this task.  Tim and Marie completed it probably about 30 minutes faster.  If it’s any consolation, Travis looked fabulous with a clean shaven face, the make up did make his drag queen look a highlight of the episode.  He would have benefitted even more if Nicole was a better makeup artist.  Rock that look, Travis!

Finally, it came down to a taxi-race and then a footrace between the doctors and Tim and Marie, the Exes. The ER Doctors lost the footrace, and finished in 3rd place.   This is their second consecutive lower-tier finish, so they should no longer be considered a lock to win it all.

Tim and Marie, Snake Charmers

The episode begins for the Exes with a major error in getting to the snake-eating task.  They went to the wrong entrance of the park, and started wandering around, looking despondent.  Marie was able to identify that what they were doing was wrong, but didn’t have many ideas for how to fix the situation.  She wandered around in the same confused manner as Tim.  They eventually left the park and found the correct entrance.  They probably lost about 30 minutes with this error.

Things did not improve for Marie, as she was asked to eat snake, and all of the racers knew that she’s a very, very picky eater, so it was played up in the edits such that she would not eat the food.  This was iterated by both Tim and Marie herself.  However, she is also a very competitive person, and sat down and ate the food without much incident.

At the Road Block, we got to learn more details about Marie:  While she may be very picky about what she eats, she does not necessarily cook for herself, or cook for herself well, and had no idea how to boil an egg. Additionally, we learned that she overcooks the things she does cook.  However, it was not divulged what kinds of things she overcooks and turns the un-named food, per Tim, into “hockey pucks.”   We learned last week that she considers herself right 99% of the time – but suddenly she seemed to have a distinct lack of knowledge on the simple subject of cooking an egg.  Nice job, TAR Producers, at quickly humbling Marie.

Tim, as he waited for Marie, worried that she would not even dip the eggs into the water to boil them, Tim also wondered that perhaps she would overcook the eggs, since she overcooks other food.  It seems that Tim is quite aware of Marie’s personal foibles, and can actually predict how they will manifest.

Indeed, an edit showed that she was not even dipping the eggs in the water.  However, she did start to dip the eggs in, and she apparently dipped them in for a substantial amount of time, so she finished the challenge on the first try.  Her tendency to overcook won out.  Tim’s worries and hopes were both realized.  Getting it right the first time saved her team about 30 minutes, and Tim was pleased.

We also learn that, while Marie likes to put a little pink in her hair, she doesn’t wear makeup.  However, she and Tim did a good job in putting on their Indonesian bride faces, and made up the lost time, getting them into a heated taxi and footrace they eventually won.  2nd place.  Outside of the first leg, this is actually their best performance in a non-Express Pass leg.

Jason and Amy, breaking through

Jason and Amy have five second place finishes, and have the second best overall average score.  But they have never finished first, as have the three other teams.  Today would be their day.

They ate the snake without incident, and, while Jason made the same mistake as Travis in undercooking his eggs, he didn’t lose any time relative to the top three teams.

So it came down to putting on makeup.  Amy is clearly good at putting on makeup, and her own makeup wasn’t too far off from what the final product was to look like.  She could easily apply to Jason the Indonesian bride look, and they finished the Detour breezily.

Overall, it was a competent leg for the dating couple, with no logistic errors and limited task errors or actual high performance on the tasks.  A well-deserved first place finish, and one that should give them the confidence that they can win it all.

Here are the teams and how they have performed to date:

Performance through 10 legs

Going into the finale, all the teams are very strong.  The two “worst” teams have a pretty good finish average.  As a point of comparison, the prior season’s teams (TAR 22 teams) in the final four had finish averages of 2.6, 4.6, 4.9, and 4.9.  That adds up to 17, while the TAR 23 teams adds up to 13.3.   So the competition is going to be very tough in the finale.  These are teams that rarely make mistakes, so in order to win, the teams will have to out-perform the others, rather than hope others make mistakes.  Good luck!

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