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Amazing Race Recap: Taxiing Around

This is the screenshot that will go on the milk carton when this taxi driver inevitably goes missing.

By Kerri Fleming

This week's leg of the Amazing Race took place entirely in Indonesia, so let's begin by learning some fun facts about this country. First of all, did you know Indonesia was made up of 17,508 different islands? It's true! And that, in addition to being the place where Barack Obama went to elementary school, it also boasts connections to such A-list superstars as Marc-Paul Gosselaar and Michelle Branch (both a quarter Indonesian)? But the most interesting thing might be that the official language of Indonesia is actually "Indonesian."

I say this because some people in the Amazing Race seemed to be under the impression that the official language of Indonesia was English. Or a dialect of English that involves lots of high-pitched screaming and exasperated groans. And while that might have been the way teenaged girls addressed Zack Morris in 1991, it's probably not going to work for a native Indonesian taxi driver who would like to be paid after bicycling a couple of screechy Americans several miles. Although I guess I'm inferring that; the Wikipedia page didn't mention it.

The leg began with a trip to the Antika Jaya Padang restaurant in Surabaya, which specializes in serving an entire meal spread out over 20 plates. There, one member of each team had to successfully carry all 20 plates and place them on a table without breaking any of them. The trick, which we didn't learn until the final two teams completed the task, was to put the team member with the most ginormous hands out there, as Rob and Gary and their big bear paws finished in about three seconds. Of course, there were other ways to excel. Jaymes - because he used to be a waiter and serve drinks - and Ryan - because he specializes in BEING AWESOME! - quickly got through it, followed by Lexi (who probably could have won if she had thought to take off her backpack and fanny pack before trying to carry 20 plates of food), Brent, and Abba (or James?). The twins should have been part of this first group, but they were hit with the Terrible Taxi Flu and wound up a few minutes behind the rest.

Those few minutes proved costly, as the teams then had to head to the local train station and hop a ride to Bangil. The top five teams all arrived and had settled on the train when the twins flew in, reaching the platform right as the train starts pulling away. The next train? Not for three hours, letting the rest of the hangers-on catch up.

The two train rides are indicative of what the two groups of teams are up against. The first group is all Team Spirit, making pacts not to utilize the double U-Turn coming up later in the leg. Well, all the teams except Team Rocker, who are embracing their loner selves and hanging out in the back of the bus. It's like high school all over again. Frankly, I love James and Abba's strategy of working within their team and forgetting about the rest of the groups - it's like a smart, well-thought-out version of what Team Monster Truck tried to do when they took that awful flight last episode. ("We're running our OWN race!") Anyway, the teams on the second train don't have that luxury, knowing they'll probably have to U-Turn somebody when the situation arises.

Once in Bangil, the teams faced a Detour. The Lion's Head option involved wearing a huge and heavy lion's head and parade-dancing through the streets. The Egg Head option involved having someone place a flaming coconut on your head, use it to fry a couple of eggs, and then eat said eggs. Everyone except the goat farmers opted for the lion's head, no one more eagerly than Jaymes, who looked like he's been itching to display his Chippendales showmanship for quite awhile now. Of course, doing forward lunges while carrying several pounds' worth of lion's head with your teeth isn't quite as fabulous as shaking your thang for the No. 1 male review, but you gotta make do.

The divorcees wound up finishing first in the lion's race, followed by the Chippendales, the Texas couple and the rockers in pretty quick succession. The goat farmers took longer at the egg challenge, but since they're all several hours ahead of four other teams, nobody got too stressed out. After bypassing the U-Turn, the teams headed to the pitstop at a local high school, where Abbie and Ryan came in first for the second time in three legs, followed by Team Texas, the Chippendales, the rockers and the goat farmers.

After all this has happened, the second train arrived and it's chaos. Pretty much immediately, the teachers fell to the back of the pack, somehow forcing themselves to butt-slide off the train instead of using the stairs like everyone else, and then getting flummoxed by the idea of, you know, finding a taxi (albeit a tiny, bicycle-powered one). Luckily for them, the modest, we-can-beat-everyone-in-this-second-tier-group-so-no-worries blondes used up much of their lead by fighting with their non-English-speaking taxi driver. He couldn't understand them when they asked how much money they owed, so they did what any normal person would do - they talked twice as loud and at a decibel level that only my dog could hear. The Amazing Race - overcoming language barriers around the world since 2001.

Their delay allowed the twins and the monster truckers to pull ahead, quickly rushing through the lion's head challenge (all the twins' CrossFit training going to good use). Both spent a little time at the U-Turn station, just long enough for one of the twins to bash her head into the cameraman and for the truckers to U-Turn one of the teams they knew was behind them: the teachers.

The blondes still held a lead over the teachers after the lion's head challenge, but then got a case of the Terrible Taxi Flu even more severe than the one the twins had in Surabaya. The teachers wound up passing them en route to the U-Turn station, where they realized they had to go back and complete the egg head challenge. Knowing they need to U-Turn somebody else but not knowing who remained behind them, the teachers chose wrong, U-Turning the truckers, who were already celebrating on the mat with Phil and the Bangil high school chorus.

Luckily for the teachers, the blondes' taxi trouble just got more and more dire. For some reason, they arrived at the site of the egg head challenge, running around as the teachers munched on their Tabasco-laden head breakfast. They found the U-Turn station just before the teachers returned to get the final clue, setting up one of the greatest episode endings in Amazing Race history.

After spending much of the day screaming at taxi drivers and not sure if they're going in the right direction, the girls turned a corner and find that they're RIGHT BEHIND the teachers. Adopting a trench warfare-like game plan, they lay in wait before pulling the trigger - "Go! Pass them!" Pass them they do, and they held a slight lead until they reached a fork in the road. The blondes go left. The teachers go right. Who's got the smarter taxi driver?

Well, it's certainly not the blondes, and they arrived to the pitstop just after the teachers. True to their early-episode boast that they rarely cry, they didn't puddle up when they were eliminated. One looked resigned to their fate while the other looked like she might go find that taxi driver in a dark alley after the cameras shut off.

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