The Amazing Race: Hay, Baby

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The Amazing Race must be exhausting. You're hauling around packs all day, shrieking, doing strange activities, dealing with jet lag, sleeping at odd hours of the day, and having to put up with the same person for days on end. So I guess I don't blame the five remaining teams for getting a little pissy and cranky last night, but I must say, they're making themselves harder and harder to like.

The Globetrotters, this week's first-place team, just keep adding to some sort of stereotype that they're nothing more than needling jocks, loud and abrasive and too haughtily competitive. Their need to talk smack to the other teams is just so glaringly out of place at this point, as the other groups tend to remain quieter and focused on their own little units, rather than the other racers. It just makes the dudes seem pretty obnoxious and immature, this need to dig and take jabs at, especially when they generally tend to do well. Just focus and keep your head down, boys, and you'll probably win this damn thing. No need to heckle and ruin your good reputations.

And the harassment-lite just really felt like piling-on this week, which came complete with a famously grueling Roadblock. After the kids flew to Stockholm—three teams on 6:55am flight, two on a 9:25er—they had to race over to an amusement park and ride one of those free-fall rides. Then they had to do a lame little ring toss, collect a gnome, and dash over to their Detour. The choices were build a bunker with sandbags and then blow something up, celebrating Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, or do some crazy decoding thing with runes and hang out with some Vikings. Obviously everyone chose to blow something up, which kind of made me sad, thinking about that guy dressed up like a Viking, waiting all day for some American TV people to show up to solve his runes, and then eventually having to be told "Nope, sorry. No one's coming." Ah well. Anyway, after piles of dirt had been blown up came the real tricky part. Remember the hay bale challenge from Season 6 when that poor woman spent 8 hours unrolling hay, looking for her next clue? Well, the challenge was basically exactly the same.

Presented with a huge field of hay balls, each team had to send someone out to get unrolling in search of seven small flags. Once the unroller got a flag, they could run to the nearby Mat of Completion and that was the end of the leg. Simple, yet exhausting. The next team that's kind of on my naughty list is the Brothers Geigh, who have a real tendency to get snappy and shrill when faced with stress. The littler brother was sent out into the field, while the older one stood by the sidelines and just... screamed. He screamed for hours. See, the flag was pretty small and was not necessarily going to be immediately apparent once the hay was unrolled, so some sifting was required. The older Brother didn't seem to get this concept, because he's maybe not the sharpest pair of scissors in the salon drawer, so he just would not stop yelling at his brother to move faster and stop spending so much time on each individual roll. It was extremely unpleasant, and had I been the littler one, I probably would have walked over there and clocked him. These boys are just kind of woefully immature, though in a different and more whiny way than the Globetrotters. Fitting that next week those two teams have some sort of physical squaring off. Not really sure who I want to win that one.

But yeah, hay rolling was hard, and by sheer luck the Globetrotters found their flag first. So they ran to the finish and congratulated themselves, as if it was anything but good fortune that they found a flag first. But, whatever, it was Flight Time's birthday, so I guess we can't begrudge their win. Birthday luck does exist. Meanwhile back in the killing field, Brian & Ericka and the last-place Matt & Gary had arrived, meaning second place could really belong to any team. Brian & Ericka I'm still sort of enjoying, though I find their constant mentioning of their skin color and Ericka's girlyness ("My nails!") to be frustrating. Based on their recent Race performances, I'm not sure they deserve to still be in the game, but luck is luck, and what can you do. They managed to squeak in in fourth place, after Meghan & Cheyne and the Brothers.

Meghan & Cheyne remain my favorite team, because they seem kind and smart and though Meghan can freak out and get a bit yelly, grudges and spats don't seem to build up and fester between them. They tend to manage and move on, which is what you have to do to keep traveling light (y'know, emotionally). So it was really satisfying to see Meghan, after two weepy hours, finally find her flag and pull a little surprise trick on Cheyne. They ran over for a number two finish, so yay for that. Another satisfying and happy ending was that the likable if awkwardly-formal-with-each-other Dad/Son team of Matt & Gary trundled into last place, only to be told that it wasn't an elimination challenge. Which made sense, because that hay thing really was just luck-based and would have been too cruel a way to send a team packing. Matt & Gary will have a Speed Bump next week, but they seem pretty resilient. Hopefully they'll persevere.

I do wonder though if doing a show like this actually ever helps estranged relationships, as Matt & Gary seem to hope it will. I dunno. I kind of picture that when it's all over, once the excitement has died down and the mania is over and you return home to regular civilian life, that nothing can really compare and real life seems suddenly duller than it did before, and that eventually all the old fissures would crack open again. I suppose that's kind of depressing of me to think that way, but I do anyway. Hope I'm wrong!

So, next week is Tallinn, Estonia! Oddly enough, that's a city I've always been curious to see, if only because it's so entirely random. I don't know what awaits our five exhausted duos there, but some aspect of the challenges seems to be getting progressively harder, so I'm sure it will be unpleasant. Hopefully they'll have gotten some rest, even if it was just on a bed at an Ikea store. I picture those being as common in Sweden as McDonald's are here. If I'm wrong, please don't yell at me. There was enough of that last night.

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