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Bad Navigation, a HUGE Inability to Drive Stick, and Quitting it All Send Bergen and Kurt Home in Germany!

Well, after three weeks of waiting, this week’s episode of The Amazing Race was another thrilling one. It began with the eight remaining teams, fresh off Harley and Jonathan’s elimination, continuing on with the race, now departing from Bangkok, Thailand, and heading for Munich, Germany. But first, Laura and Tyler enjoyed the Date Night after winning it on the last leg. Bergen and Kurt decided to focus on the race since they’d won the last leg and could win the whole race. Hayley and Blair were hoping to stop fighting. Aly and Steve recalled their first meeting — back when they met in New Hampshire prior to the Winter Olympic games in Sochi. Laura and Tyler wanted to focus on the race, not only love. Jeff and Jackie knew they had chemistry and wanted to see where things went. All eight teams got on the same flight heading for Munich.

Once in Munich, the teams looked for a place to enter Oktoberfest by dressing up in lederhosen. They got into costumes and headed for Alter Peter Tower. Then, they’d have to climb to the top of the tower, look for marked Ford cars, and drive them to a factory called Schlafwagenfabrik. Laura and Tyler ran into trouble when they switched cars after initially getting one too boxed into the parking space, but left their fanny pack with their passports in it in their initial car. Bergen and Kurt ran into their own problems when they realized that neither one of them knew how to drive stick-shift cars. And Jeff and Jackie and Mike and Rochelle had problems even finding the cars, and the former team broke into fighting over it. By they did find Laura and Tyler’s fanny pack in their car, and they tried, but failed, to keep them from it. There were some advancements, though. Aly and Steve found out that the cars had GPS and used it to find the factory. Of course, going back to the downers of the task, Bergen and Kurt found it so difficult to drive stick, they just gave up, took a taxi, and decided to take the penalty that would come with it. Quitters.

Once at the factory, the teams had to do a familiar task from leg eight of season eighteen, Unfinished Business. They had to drive slowly through a winter wonderland while using their rearview mirrors to piece together parts of their next destination: Schliersee. Every team got to do it except Bergen and Kurt, who, due to abandoning their car, had to take their two-hour penalty. And then, they’d have to take a train to the town instead. Once there, they’d have to row boats out onto a river or lake to find their next clue. This clue was the Detour, which saw them choosing between Stein and Stack. Stein involved figuring out how to carry twenty-two steins between them at the same time and delivering them without dropping them. Stack involved building a tower of fifteen empty beer bottle crates without letting it fall. Aly and Steve and Matt and Ashley, all chose and completed Stein, with Hayley and Blair greatly struggling at it. Jeff and Jackie, Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, and Mike and Rochelle all chose and completed Stack. Hayley and Blair initially chose Stein, but switched to Stack when Hayley had problems with holding her Steins correctly. Nothing was seen of Bergen and Kurt’s Detour choice. In addition, one of the Detour clues contained the Date Night pass, and Mike and Rochelle randomly drew it to win the Date Night!

The teams’ next stop was the Markus Wasmeier Museum, at which they were tasked with the Roadblock. This saw one member of each team wooing another by climbing up a latter to sing a German love song to the other, who’d be waiting up at the top on a balcony. They would have to sing the words exactly and on-key, or get drenched by buckets of water. Aly, Ashley, Jackie, Jenny, Laura, Blair, and Mike all took the task for their teams, with only Blair getting it right on his first try. Bergen and Kurt never got far enough to reveal their own Roadblock choice.

In the end, Aly and Steve arrived first at the Pit Stop! Yay! And as a joke, Phil also said that they’d won the gold! They each won a 2015 Ford Focus as their prize! Matt and Ashley came in second. Jeff and Jackie landed in third. Jelani and Jenny ran up to the mat in fourth. Hayley and Blair made it in fifth. Laura and Tyler jumped onto the mat in sixth. This left things down to Mike and Rochelle and Bergen and Kurt. It was two teams who’d gotten way too lost and had demonstrated a major inability to drive stick, but one of whom had stuck with it as per the race’s instructions while the other of whom had given up and opted for the penalty. In the end, staying with it made all the difference, as Team Truck Stop Love managed to eke out Team Blonde Date to hit the mat in seventh, staying alive for another leg. This left Bergen and Kurt to finish eighth and last . . . and be eliminated. And they weren’t even eliminated at the Pit Stop. Phil had to go to one of the train stations at which they were waiting to eliminated them. A pathetic way to go, for sure.

I really can’t say that I’m all that sad about this ending. Bergen and Kurt seemed like nice enough guys, but I’d already known they’d be out before the final five since long before the season started. And this episode proved why. They couldn’t work well together, they didn’t prepare for the race well enough by learning how to drive stick (though it was entertaining for the viewers who like seeing struggles with that), and then, instead of just trying to figure out what was wrong, they flat-out quit and took a penalty when it would’ve been wise to press on. After they opted to take that penalty, then as soon as Mike and Rochelle finished the factory task, it was all over for them. And deservedly so. Bye-bye, Bergen and Kurt. I hope you two can still be friends, but given how much Bergen acted like he secretly hated Kurt . . . I kinda doubt it.

In other news, with both men’s teams gone back-to-back (take that, Emo from Survivor Sucks!), I’m loving Aly and Steve, Jeff and Jackie, Jelani and Jenny, Hayley and Blair, and Mike and Rochelle. I’m liking Laura and Tyler. Matt’s not annoying me anymore, so I’m starting to not hate him, and I already like Ashley, so that’s good.

Once more, here’s the order in which the teams finished this week’s leg:

#1. Aly and Steve (Prize: One 2015 Ford Focus Car Each)

#2. Matt and Ashley

#3. Jeff and Jackie

#4. Jelani and Jenny

#5. Hayley and Blair

#6. Laura and Tyler

#7. Mike and Rochelle

#8. Bergen and Kurt (ELIMINATED; Checked Out on the Course)

Seven teams remain. Who’ll be eliminated next week? We’ll see then!

The Merge is In . . . and Kelly is out with One Use of an Idol to Weaken the Blue Collars!

This week’s episode of Survivor was another thrilling one, especially the ending. (See the title for the spoiler.) It began with the twelve remaining castaways, fresh off Joaquin’s vote-off, resuming the game following the previous Tribal Council. At Escameca, Tyler felt blindsided to have lost his closest ally, Joaquin. Rodney was furious with Mike and Dan for betraying him by voting off his “bro,” his buddy. Mike knew that he had to do some damage control, so he took Rodney to the side in private to explain to him why they’d blindsided him and Joaquin. Rodney pretended to understand, but he secretly wanted to get revenge on Mike for what he’d done. He wasn’t going to get wrapped up in his bromance with Joaquin. He was still all about the Blue Collars’ numbers. He’d always been. Joaquin was just going to be another number for them. Now he had to be Mike’s stooge until the merge, which he hoped was coming soon. At Nagarote, Carolyn got some treemail telling them to come to a beach to meet the other tribe. A feast was mentioned, which made the tribe think that the merge was coming. Kelly was hoping that it was indeed the merge — she was alone with no other Blue Collars on Nagarote. And she wanted to throw back in with them, especially with Mike.

Nagarote and Escameca met each other on the beach sometime later. And when they didn’t see Probst there at all, they figured that it was definitely time to merge. They were even more sure when they found a chest containing new buffs, and fixings for a merge feast, as well as materials to make their new tribe flag. Tyler was happy about this, as he could put out feelers for new people to work with. Oh, and the buffs were purple. During the feast, the former Nagarote members learned that Joaquin had been voted out due to how close he’d been getting to Rodney. Carolyn knew that she’d need to downplay her relationship with Tyler, then, as power couples were getting split up left and right — So and Joaquin, Vince and Nina, Lindsey and Sierra, and now, Joaquin and Rodney.

The tribe returned to their new camp, which would be Escameca’s former camp, where they learned they’d have to start from scratch. The shelter was gone, as was the fire pit. Dan was shocked by all of this. So they’d have to build a new shelter accommodating all twelve of them. They’d also have to get a new fire going. Mike was ready to get going and build a whole new world. Kelly was happy to be back with the Blue Collars and went right to Mike. They felt like one with each other. They compared notes and learned that Dan and Sierra were still loyal to them, and possibly Rodney. They needed two more to get a seven-person majority. Elsewhere, Jenn knew that Kelly had jumped back to the Blue Collars. She told Hali as much, and she agreed. Neither of them was surprised, though — they hadn’t trusted Kelly since she’d been swapped to their tribe. Both had felt like she’d been waiting for the merge to join her old friends, and they’d turned out to be right. The best they could do now was try and rope in the remaining White Collars to help the No Collars take out the Blue Collars. They also put out feelers to Joe, who was glad to be back with the No Collars. He trusted Jenn, Hali, and Will.

But such trust was badly misplaced. Rodney started getting close to a new buddy: Will. He wanted to get some numbers to get out Mike, Dan, and Sierra for betraying him over Joaquin. They’d also get help from Carolyn and Tyler. Tyler and Will went to talk to Carolyn about it, and she seemed open to it. It was all part of Rodney’s plan. He, Carolyn, Kelly, Tyler, and Will would work with Mike, Dan, and Sierra at first. But then, once things were in their favor, he’d betray the other Blue Collars! Carolyn loved this new possibility, and she went to Tyler with it. They decided to go with it, but they’d have to stay apart to avoid suspicion. Carolyn also liked the idea of staying with the No Collars, but despite the betrayal, Tyler still wanted to stay with the Blue Collars. Ultimately, they’d choose where they would go.

The next morning, the merged tribe continued getting things together. Dan got stung by a jellyfish. Jenn offered to help him by getting some hot water to help him. But he was so dismissive of her offer to help him. He also rebuffed Shirin’s offer to pee on it. They also later chose their tribe name. It was really Mike’s idea: Merica, since the collar theme was part of the three working classes of America. Hali liked the name, since it reminded her of the Constitution, but Shirin did not. She thought Mike was an idiot for thinking up that name. She thinks that even Sarah Palin could’ve thought of a better name, and she says all kinds of crazy things.

Later, Mike and Rodney talked about their next target, and they agreed on Joe being the next target. Mike wanted to run the game the whole way through, and he wanted to start by getting rid of the numbers of the No Collars. Rodney pretended to go along with him, but he was planning on going along with him to get along, ultimately preparing to cut his head off later on.

The first individual Immunity Challenge of the season saw the castaways standing on poles for as long as they could. If they dropped, they’d be out. The last person standing would win immunity and be guaranteed a one-in-eleven shot at winning the million dollars. The losers would all be vulnerable at Tribal Council, at which the seventh person would be voted out of the game.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Dan’s weight and big feet made it impossible to hold on for very long, and he was out first. Will followed second just seconds later. Tyler, despite being thin and athletic, fell out second. Sierra fell out fourth, the first woman to go. Shirin dropped out fifth. Kelly was right behind, falling out sixth. Half of them were already gone. After twenty-five minutes, Mike fell out seventh. Rodney followed, falling out eighth. So they were down to four — Joe, Jenn, Hali, and Carolyn. And some hilarity (and pain) ensued when Jenn was suddenly stung by a bee or a wasp right in her crotch. Still, Jenn fought hard against it. Just after this, Hali fell out ninth. Jenn followed at the one-hour mark, falling out tenth just after some rain started. It really came down hard, too! So this left things down to Joe and Carolyn — one No Collar, and one White Collar. It was close — so very close — but in the end . . . Carolyn fell out eleventh and last, meaning that Joe won immunity! He’d be safe from the vote and be guaranteed a one-in-eleven shot at winning the game. But meanwhile, this meant one of Carolyn, Dan, Hali, Jenn, Kelly, Mike, Rodney, Shirin, Sierra, Tyler, and Will would become the seventh person voted out at the next Tribal Council.

Before Tribal Council, the potential targets emerged — Jenn and Kelly. Jenn was targeted by the Blue Collars, Tyler, and Carolyn as the backup target for Joe. Plus, it’d break up her and Hali. They’d need two more people, though. Rodney wanted to bring in Will, but Mike didn’t trust him. They’d throw out Hali’s name to him, and if he voted for her, they’d know they could trust him. Will, meanwhile, had to choose between the No Collars and the Blue Collars and White Collars. Kelly, meanwhile, wanted to get Carolyn and Tyler onto their side. They’d bonded on Nagarote, and Kelly was planning on using this bond to get her and Tyler onto the Blue Collars’ side. Kelly was targeted by Jenn, Hali, Joe, and Shirin as the one holding the Blue Collars together. Even though Mike, Dan, Rodney, Kelly, and Sierra seemed to be a dysfunctional group of people who hated each other, it was clear they were voting together. If they could get Kelly out of the game, the one person binding them all together, it’d be over. They’d fall right apart. But it depended on whether or not they could convince Tyler and Carolyn get onto their side. Tyler didn’t know which side to trust, since Mike, Dan, and Rodney had made no effort to get to know him after the tribal swap. And at least he knew that Carolyn had ties to Nagarote. He and Carolyn could see that they were swing votes, and that the No Collars and Blue Collars were sticking to their original tribes. Wherever they went would change the game dramatically. Jenn wanted to be sure that, in case they were in the minority now, she knew whether she or Hali was the target. Hali asked her why, and Jenn revealed to her that she had a hidden Immunity Idol. Hali felt better by this. They hoped they’d be at the top, but they were ready for whatever wound up happening at Tribal Council. What would happen? . . .

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. After the votes were cast, Probst gave the castaways an option of playing any hidden Immunity Idols they had. And right away, Jenn didn’t hesitate to play hers, so any votes against her wouldn’t count. Then, it was time to read the votes. By a vote of 7-4-1, with the seven votes not counting, the seventh person voted out of Worlds Apart was . . . Kelly! So the Blue Collars had gained the majority, after all, but had failed in their plan to take out the minority alliance. (Oh, and the seven, canceled-out votes were Mike, Dan, Rodney, Kelly, Sierra, Carolyn, and Tyler’s votes for Jenn, and the lone vote was Will’s for Hali. So Carolyn and Tyler chose the Blue Collars, and Will turned on the No Collars.) So her torch was snuffed, and she was sent on her way.

This was an okay ending for me. I liked Kelly, but last week showed that she wasn’t all that smart. And at first, I didn’t see the No Collars’ reasoning for targeting her instead of the obvious alliance leaders in Mike and Rodney. But it makes sense now that I’ve had time to read comments about it online. Kelly seemed to be the glue holding the Blue Collars together. She was Mike’s tightest ally, Dan seemed to like her, Sierra also seemed to like her, or at least hated her the least of those who’d betrayed her in voting out Lindsey, and Rodney was planning on using her to take out Mike. By getting rid of her, it hopefully causes the Blue Collar men to scramble, and just as hopefully cause Sierra to come to their side. Also, it destroys the person who would’ve been Carolyn and Tyler’s link to the Blue Collars and gets them to reconsider their alliance options. Hopefully, they, too, jump to their side, and maybe Will jumps back, as well. So even though I’d have loved seeing Mike go, I’m not too upset with Jenn, Shirin, Hali, and Joe’s plan to get rid of Kelly. So long, Kelly. Once you decided to be tied to Mike, of all people, you needed to go.

In other news, I’m rooting hard for Jenn, Hali, Joe, and Shirin to turn things around. Doesn’t look, from the previews, like Will’s jumping back any time soon, so I can’t root for him. I want Sierra to make a good choice and jump to the No Collars plus Shirin. And if Rodney wants to make a power move against Mike, he should do the same thing. Really, I wanna root for Carolyn, too, but once she chose the Blue Collars, I found it too hard to do so. They’re all jerks, and why she wants to side with them, I don’t know. I just hope things go right for the ones I do like, not the ones I don’t.

Eleven castaways remain. Who’ll be voted out next week? We’ll see then!

Rodney Left without His Bromance when Joaquin Gets Blindsided!

This week’s episode of Survivor was a very thrilling one, particularly the ending. (See the title for the spoiler.) It began with the thirteen remaining castaways, fresh off Max’s vote-off, resuming the game following the previous Tribal Council. At Nagarote, Shirin felt blindsided to have lost Max, as he was a close friend and ally to her. She asked Carolyn if they could still work together. Carolyn wanted to, but all Shirin had done was talk to Max around the Masaya and Nagarote camps. Shirin thought she was his friend, but Carolyn said that she was Max’s little puppet, and nothing more. Shirin realized that she annoyed everyone and needed to change. She talked to Hali, who let her know that she and Max had both said and done annoying things. It reminded Shirin of her days of standing out from her rich classmates and fighting for people to like her and see the good qualities in her. She realized that she needed to try and fit in and adapt. And at Escameca, Dan was continuing to annoy people with his stories, especially Rodney. Rodney had wanted more of a swap than he’d ended up with, as he was tired of Dan and Mike. But he had found a friend in Joaquin since he had a bromance and “a homey to chill with.” He told him about everything he didn’t like about Mike — he was Southern, he was a Bible-thumper, and he hadn’t had sex in eight years. Rodney felt confident in his new relationship with Joaquin. He thought they could go the distance together. For all of those who thought he was dumb, they would be surprised that he wasn’t. (Well . . . wait for the ending.)

The Reward Challenge, at which Tyler and Joaquin were glad to see that their former tribemate, Max, had been voted out, saw the castaways racing up a tower and through a series of obstacles. Once at the top, they’d take turns launching sandbags from the top of the tower and down to a field below to knock over six targets. The first tribe to knock over all six would win reward — a trip to a turtle sanctuary to watch a turtle migration and see them lay eggs, all while feasting on beef stew, macaroni and cheese, and hot chocolate. With one extra member, Dan sat out the challenge for Escameca.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Escameca, being male-dominant, took the early lead in the physical run and climb through the obstacles on the towers. Being female-dominant, Nagarote fell behind. Escameca reached the top first, and Rodney launched first. He missed. Jenn launched for Nagarote and hit their first one. After she hit, Kelly switched with her. Rodney finally hit Escameca’s first target. Rodney switched with him, just as Kelly hit Nagarote’s second target. Joaquin just missed his first for Escameca, but then hit his second shot, giving them their second target. Hali fired at Nagarote’s third target, but kept missing. Sierra hit Escameca’s third target, but Mike fell just short of their fourth. After several misses, Hali switched with Carolyn, just as Mike hit Escameca’s fourth target. Carolyn fired and hit Nagarote’s third target. Joe switched with Mike, and he just missed his mark. Shirin switched with Carolyn, and she hit Nagarote’s fourth target on her first try! Just then, Joe hit Escameca’s fifth target. Will switched with Shirin and tied it up when he hit Nagarote’s fifth target. Tyler was next and just missed the sixth and final target for Escameca, which Jenn jumped back in to finish for Nagarote, winning reward with a come-from-behind victory! So they’d be going on the reward, while Escameca would be ending up with nothing.

Nagarote headed off to the turtle sanctuary, and right away, they were greeted with a nice picnic. Hali felt like they were David having beaten Goliath — with their slingshot, they’d managed to defeat Escameca. Carolyn felt like the tribe was gelling now, and also feeling much better now that they were winning. She was even tolerating Shirin! Shirin was hoping that she could bond with her tribe this way. The tribe then went to watch the turtles that night. But they learned the sad truth that as many of the legs as the mother turtle was laying, she’d only have one that would survive. Jenn got some perspective — a one-in-thirteen shot at winning was preferable to the one-in-one-hundred chance at living that baby sea turtles had, even though it was also very small in comparison.

At Escameca, the tribe was still sad about losing out on the reward, even after having a good lead. While Joe went off to gather wood, Joaquin decided to move in on Sierra. He learned that Mike, Dan, and Rodney had been terrible to her, and he was hoping to reel her in to join him and Tyler. But he also wanted Rodney to be in with them, but Sierra didn’t want this. She wanted to go with Joaquin and Tyler since she trusted him, but she wanted nothing to do with Rodney, to whom Joaquin had gotten close since, apparently, the tribal swap. Rodney realized that he’d need to make inroads with her, as well, if he wanted her on their side. If he, Joaquin, Tyler, and Sierra were together, they could take the majority, and probably the game. But to keep up the illusion of being on their side, Rodney tried to tell Mike that Joaquin would be their worker bee. They could use him to get rid of Joe before the merge so he couldn’t rejoin the other No Collars. All they’d have to do is throw the next Immunity Challenge. Mike wasn’t sure about doing so, since throwing a challenge rarely worked out. But he was up for it since it’d probably keep Kelly safe since she was alone on Nagarote.

The Immunity Challenge saw the castaways doing something seen in the third week of One World. Probst would show them a series of items in a specific order. Then, they’d pull a lever that’d lower a curtain over the items, and they’d re-create the sequence. The first person to do so would win a point for his or her tribe. The first tribe to score three points would win immunity and be safe from Tribal Council, where the losing tribe would go to vote the sixth person out of the game. With one extra member, Joaquin would sit out the challenge for Escameca.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Rodney from Escameca took on Carolyn from Nagarote. The sequence was brown jug, human skull, animal skull, candelabra, candlestick holder, and message in a bottle. Carolyn won to score Nagarote’s first point. Sierra from Escameca took on Hali from Nagarote next. The sequence was lantern, large candle, message in a bottle, candlestick holder, candelabra, and brown jug, and Hali got it right, scoring the second point for Nagarote. Joe from Escameca then took on Will from Nagarote. The sequence was big candle, candlestick holder, candelabra, lantern, big candle, and candelabra, and Joe got it right, scoring Escameca’s first point. Dan from Escameca then took on Shirin from Nagarote. The sequence was brown jug, lantern, message in a bottle, animal skull, large candle, and candlestick, and Dan got it right, scoring the second point for Escameca. Finally, Mike from Escameca went up against Kelly from Nagarote. The sequence was human skull, brown jug, message in a bottle, candelabra, animal skull, and lantern, and even though it took her a while to realize it, Kelly took a hint from Mike that he was throwing the challenge to her, let him help her, and tried to complete it. Mike purposely got it wrong both times, while Kelly did so unintentionally. So Probst had to lower the number of items to five. The next sequence was human skull, brown jug, message in a bottle, candelabra, and animal skull, and with help from Mike, she got it right, winning the challenge and immunity for Nagarote! So they’d be safe from Tribal Council, where Escameca would be heading to vote the sixth person out of the game. Kelly felt good that Mike had thrown the challenge for her, feeling like he truly had her back. He wanted to get back with her fellow Blue Collars, where she belonged.

Before Tribal Council, the obvious targets emerged — Joaquin and Joe. Joaquin was targeted by Mike and Dan out of fears that Rodney was getting too close for him. They were growing into a power couple they needed to dispatch. Joe was targeted by Rodney and Joaquin for being tied to too many No Collars back on Nagarote. But they needed to make sure that they could keep Sierra onside. They knew they had Tyler, but Sierra should have been onboard with them, too. However, Joe had a feeling that something was up, and he went to Mike and Dan. He’d wanted to talk to Tyler and Joaquin, but neither talked to him. So he found out from Mike and Dan that Rodney had targeted him for the vote-off. So he threw in with them to try and get Joaquin gone. So Sierra was the swing vote, and Dan knew that he was the one who had to bring her back into the fold. He tried to apologize to her for all that he’d said to her, but she didn’t look as willing to forgive him. It would all depend on whether or not she felt like she could trust her former Blue Collars for at least one more vote. Could she? . . .

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. By a vote of 4-3, the sixth person voted out of Worlds Apart was . . . Joaquin! Yes! So Sierra stuck with her original tribe plus Joe and minus Rodney. (Oh, and the lone votes were Rodney, Tyler, and Joaquin’s for Joe.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way. Much to his surprise and Rodney’s shock and chagrin.

This was a lovely ending to me. I’ve hated Joaquin from jump and knew that he was a douchebag from the get-go. He kept a lid on it after episode one, but I knew it was still there. And indeed, it came out in full force this episode with his disgusting bromance with Rodney. Both were so confident that they had the game in the palms of their hands, it was rich to see their faces drop when they realized that they didn’t have the control they thought they did. A blindside worthy of the books! Good for me, too, because I like Joe and did not want to see him go!

In other news, heading into the obvious merge, I like and hate people from both tribes. I like Shirin, Carolyn, Jenn, Hali, Will, and Kelly from Nagarote. There’s no one on the tribe I dislike or hate. But I only like Joe, Tyler, and Sierra on Escameca. I hate Dan, Rodney, and Mike, and I hope the latter isn’t getting a winner’s edit since he does not deserve it.

Twelve castaways remain. With the merge coming up, who’ll be voted out next week? We’ll see then!

Pissing off Rodney Dooms Lindsey! Max Follows after a Tribal Swap!

This week’s two-hour episode of Survivor was a very interesting one, with two unpredictable boots. It began with the fifteen remaining castaways, fresh off Nina’s well-deserved vote-off, resuming the game following the previous Tribal Council. At Nagarote, the whole tribe was glad that Nina was finally gone. Hali, in particular, thought that she’d gotten what was coming to her. Still, she confessed to Will that she’d voted for him because they were afraid of Nina having the hidden Immunity Idol. Will was hoping that they could have a strong unit now that Vince and Nina, the two oddballs of their tribe, were gone. Especially since he knew that he would be next if they went to Tribal Council again. At Escameca, Mike killed a snake for some food, which was good since they weren’t catching fish. He offered some to Kelly, who reluctantly tried some. Meanwhile, Rodney wanted protein and had some, as well. But what was strange was that he and Mike were starting to mend fences from their earlier tiff.

The first Reward Challenge of the episode (and the first one of the whole season) saw the castaways electing one person per tribe as their caller while the rest of the tribe would be blindfolded. Giving verbal commands, the caller would instruct his or her paired tribemates to go out onto an obstacle course, retrieve an item, return it to the starting point, and hoist it to the top. Once all items were gathered, the castaways would then head out for their tribe flags, which they had to return to be hauled to the top by the caller. The first two tribes to do so would win reward — three egg-laying hens and a rooster for the first-place tribe, and ten eggs for the second-place tribe. With one extra member, Tyler sat out the challenge for Masaya. With two extra members, Escameca sat out Rodney and Mike.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Carolyn was the caller for Masaya, Sierra was the caller for Escameca, and Joe was the caller for Nagarote. Max and Shirin started off quickly for Masaya, as did Jenn and Hali for Nagarote. Lindsey and Kelly, on the other hand, went more slowly for Escameca. Jenn and Hali got Nagarote’s first item back, as did Max and Shirin with Masaya’s. Kelly and Lindsey continued to struggle, though, with Escameca’s before they finally got their first one back. Nagarote actually lapped both tribes, as Jenn and Hali got their second item back even before Escameca could see Lindsey and Kelly get theirs, or Masaya could see Max and Shirin get theirs. Jenn and Hali worked very well to get their third item. Max and Shirin managed to get Masaya’s second item, while Lindsey and Kelly struggled with getting Escameca’s second. Both tribes also got their third items just as Jenn and Hali were getting Nagarote’s fourth and final one. But during the hauling, Dan, who was raising the platform for Escameca, dropped the platform hard onto Kelly’s head, causing Probst to pause the challenge to have her looked at. She was fine, just bleeding a fair bit, so the challenge kept on going.

With the challenge back on, Max and Shirin, aided by Joaquin as the hauler, raised Masaya’s third item, and then went out for their fourth and final one, which they got back. Lindsey and Kelly finally got Escameca’s third item, as well. With their items obtained, Jenn and Hali got Nagarote’s flag, worked with Will to haul it up, and Joe took it to win reward for the tribe! They would be taking home the hens and the rooster! So it was Masaya and Escameca now, looking for second place. Max and Shirin were in a good spot to find Masaya’s flag, while Escameca still had to wait for Lindsey and Kelly to find their fourth and final item first. They got it, so they rushed out to grab their flag. Max and Shirin got Masaya’s flag and brought it back to be raised, just as Kelly and Lindsey were a hairbreadth from grabbing Escameca’s. Carolyn took Masaya’s flag, and they won reward! This meant that the ten eggs would be theirs! So for the first time, Escameca had lost a challenge, and they would be going back to camp with nothing.

At Nagarote, the tribe celebrated having the hens. And better yet, it was a good gift for Will, who was celebrating his forty-second birthday. He missed his family and hated spending his birthday away from them, but it was the game. But Jenn and Joe had a bit of a disagreement with Joe, who wanted to kill one of the hens even though she could give them eggs. They did. Jenn left so she wouldn’t be able to watch it. Instead, to help get her mind off it, she decided to poke around their camp to find the tribe’s hidden Immunity Idol. She knew to look in unique landmarks and locations. And finally, in an odd-looking tree, she found one! So now she had protection in case she was in trouble! And it’d all happened while Joe, Hali, and Will were eating their hen.

At Escameca, Mike was giving props to Kelly for taking her hit to the head and taking six stitches. Because of that respect, he wanted to get her on his side and go far with her. Something that might be needed, too, as he knew that he and Dan were on the bottom of their tribe at the moment. Elsewhere, Lindsey started to get mad at Rodney when he went on a sexist rant about how women should hold themselves at a higher standard than men. He used an odd analogy relating to hooking up at clubs. Lindsey said that this the problem with many male/female relationships nowadays. Men thought that they were better than women, when both sexes should’ve been equal. She fought back against Rodney with that very point, and that put him off. Still, he kept himself from getting mad.

At Masaya, the tribe immediately began to boil a few of their eggs — five of them, one of each of them. Shirin was a bit thrilled that they didn’t win the whole prize for the challenge, knowing that no one on the tribe had killed hens or roosters before. Shirin had, since she’d watched some videos of how to do it before coming on the show. Joaquin likened her to a sociopath, especially after she’d mentioned killing mice and rabbits as a kid. The whole tribe was so weirded out by her, they were all tempted to send her packing. Also, Max put out a weird pitch to not sit Shirin out at the next Immunity Challenge out of fear of upsetting her. He thought they should sit out Carolyn instead. But Carolyn was disturbed by this, as she knew that she was far more athletic than Shirin. She was afraid that he was turning into a cult leader. Shirin was odd, but Max scared her more. They were reluctant, but Tyler and Joaquin agreed.

The Immunity Challenge saw the castaways being attached to ropes. They’d maneuver through a rope obstacle, grab a bag of balls, head to the finish, balance on a beam, and try to maneuver a ball through a maze of holes to reach the top. If a ball fell through a hole, they would have to start over. The first two tribes to get three balls sunk would win immunity and be safe from Tribal Council, where the losing tribe would go to vote the fourth person out of the game. With two extra members, Escameca sat out Lindsey and Dan. With one extra member, Shirin sat out for Masaya.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Hai went through the obstacle first for Nagarote, Joaquin went first for Masaya, and Mike went first for Escameca. Joaquin finished first, letting Carolyn go second for Masaya. When Mike finished, Sierra went second for Escameca. Hali finished for Nagarote, allowing Will to go second for Nagarote. And he struggled yet again in the challenge. Sierra flew through the challenge and finished, letting Kelly go third for Escameca. Carolyn finished, letting Max go third for Masaya. Will finally finished, letting Jenn go third for Nagarote. Kelly finished, letting Rodney go fourth and last for Masaya. Max finished, letting Tyler go fourth and last for Masaya. Jenn finished, letting Joe go fourth and last for Nagarote. Rodney finished, and Escameca ran out for their bag of balls. Joe actually passed up Tyler and finished, so Nagarote also got to run out for their bag of balls. Finally, Tyler finished, and Masaya went out for their bag of balls.

Once they got their balls, it was time for the maze. With a good lead, Mike maneuvered Escameca’s ball while balancing. He had a tough time of it when he dropped one. Joaquin maneuvered Masaya’s ball and easily got their first one, giving Carolyn a turn. Joe, meanwhile, got Nagarote’s first ball, letting Jenn take her turn. Mike finally got Escameca’s first ball, letting Sierra try her luck next. Carolyn got Masaya’s second ball, and Jenn got Nagarote’s second one, letting Tyler and Hali go for their respective third and last ones. Sierra also landed Escameca’s third ball, letting Kelly try for their third and last one. But when a ball went through a hole, Tyler swapped out for Max instead to help Masaya’s efforts. It was really close, but . . . Hali sank the third ball for Nagarote, and the tribe won immunity! So that left it down to Kelly and Max for Escameca and Masaya, respectively. When Kelly fell off the beam, Rodney switched in to take her place and tried to fight it out with Max. But Max dropped a ball and tried again. Rodney got close for Escameca, but dropped his ball at the last minute. Max made some huge moves, and this time . . . they paid off! He sank Masaya’s third and final ball, winning the tribe immunity! This meant that Escameca would be going to Tribal Council for the first time and seeing the fourth person voted out of the game.

Before Tribal Council, the potential targets emerged — Rodney and Lindsey. Rodney was targeted for blowing the challenge and for not being pleasant to be around at camp. But Lindsey was targeted by Rodney for being weaker and for going after Rodney. Apparently, the weeks of Dan and Mike being on the bottom of the tribe were in the past. They were forming an alliance with Rodney and Kelly to go after Lindsey and Sierra. But Kelly wasn’t as sure just yet. She and Mike, as it turned out, were a tight pair now. Neither of them trusted Rodney at all and wanted to go after him. But at the same time, Lindsey wasn’t much of a prize herself. At least Rodney brought strength to the tribe. Lindsey brought brains, but the challenges were mostly physical. It was all going to come down to whom they felt were the side in the right — the guys (Dan and Rodney) or the girls (Lindsey and Sierra). Mike and Kelly were definitely the swing votes here.

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. By a vote of 2-2-2, a three-way tie vote resulted among Rodney, Lindsey, and Sierra. So the tribe got to revote, with only Rodney, Lindsey, and Sierra as the options, and only Kelly, Mike, and Dan eligible to vote. On the revote, by a vote of 3-0, the fourth person voted out of Worlds Apart was . . . Lindsey. Much to the sickening pleasure of Rodney. So Kelly and Mike went with Dan and Rodney. (Oh, there was no look at the original votes. But Dan, Mike, and Kelly all voted for Lindsey on the revote.) So her torch was snuffed, and she was sent on her way.

Was I sad about this? Well, a little bit. From what I saw, I liked Lindsey okay. She said what was on her mind and didn’t take crap from anyone. But she did make an error. As she said in her final words, she had a dust-up with a guy with a huge ego, and that made him forget about his women’s alliance and run headlong to Kelly and the guys. So he got his way, and Lindsey didn’t get hers. Sorry, Lindsey. Hope you can recover from this. But what is it with people named Lindsey on this show? They’re all going out early, pre-merge! Africa’s Lindsey left right before the merge, Cagayan’s Lindsey quit the week before the merge, and now, Worlds Apart’s Lindsey gets voted out fourth!

Fresh off Lindsey’s vote-off, the fourteen remaining castaways resumed the game following the previous Tribal Council. At Escameca, Mike explained to Sierra the reason for her getting votes — that Lindsey was suspected to have a hidden Immunity Idol, and Sierra was the backup target in case she did have it. But then, Dan started going after her, bringing up some apparent mistakes we had and hadn’t seen. For one thing, not being able to do the puzzle in the first Immunity Challenge and having to get Mike to do it. Then, apparently missing more shots than were shown in the second Immunity Challenge, even though she’d sunk several of them for their tribe. He called this “airing grievances” for the sake of tribal unity, but I think he was just thumping his man-chest and being a jerk to her since he knew that he was in the majority alliance now. The men on Escameca are really pissing me off with how sexist they are. Dan and Rodney, meanwhile, but Mike’s not too far behind. Sierra felt alone to have lost her closest ally and was tired of her whole tribe. Rodney didn’t care about how she felt, but Mike seemed to do. But he knew she’d never trust any of them again.

The Reward Challenge appeared to be set up for three tribes. But that was just a misdirection. The moment the tribes learned that Lindsey was gone, Probst told them that they were switching tribes. The tribal swap arrived, and they were going from three tribes to two! White Collar, Blue Collar, and No Collar were no more! So they all dropped their buffs. Only Escameca and Nagarote would be around, with Masaya totally dissolved. Probst gave them hidden buffs, with their colors determining their placement. As a result, Sierra, Dan, Mike, Rodney, Joaquin, Tyler, and Joe were on the new Escameca tribe, and Kelly, Will, Caroyln, Max, Hali, Jenn, and Shirin were on the new Nagarote tribe. Sierra was unhappy with the new tribe, since all three of her tribe’s men were on it, and she strongly disliked them all. Meanwhile, Kelly felt vulnerable to be the only Blue Collar on her new tribe, which had three White Collars and three No Collars.

Then, it was time for the challenge. This saw the castaways launching balls out onto the beach, where their tribemates would attempt to catch them. Catching a ball from either tribe would mean a point. The first tribe to five would win reward — kitchen supplies like pots, pans, oil, and sausages to cook them with. In addition, any rewards won by Masaya, since that tribe was officially going to be vacated, would be sent to the camp of the winning tribe.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Jenn from Nagarote caught against Joaquin from Escameca. Max from Nagarote caught against Joe from Escameca. Will from Nagarote caught against Joe from Escameca. Kelly from Nagarote caught against Tyler from Escameca. Shirin would launch for Nagarote, while Rodney would launch for Escameca. Rodney launched a shot that Max caught for Nagarote, while Shirin launched a shot that Joe caught for Escameca. Carolyn then launched for Nagarote, while Sierra launched for Escameca. Sierra launched a shot that Joe caught for Escameca. Carolyn launched a shot that was caught by Tyler for Escameca. Hail then launched for Nagarote, while Dan launched for Escameca. Dan launched a shot that was caught by Joaquin for Escameca, while Hali launched a shot that was just missed. Sierra got back to launch for Escameca, while Shirin got back to launch for Nagarote. Shirin fired a shot that was caught by Will for Nagarote. Sierra fired a shot that was caubht by Mike for Escameca, winning the challenge for Escameca! So they’d get the kitchen supplies plus Masaya’s rewards! So Nagarote would be going back to camp with nothing.

At Nagarote, Max, Shirin, Carolyn, and Kelly got used to their new camp. Since Hali saw that their tribes were three No Collars, three White Collars, and a Blue Collar, they knew that they had to get Kelly, the person in the middle, on their side. But Shirin, who knew the game, knew the same thing and quickly started to try and work on her. But Kelly wanted to reach out and build some trust first before choosing a side, as she was a swing vote. Shirin thought that she had her, though, so they could have the numbers.

At Escameca, the men were all happy there since it was six men and a woman, Sierra. Mike thought that they had the numbers advantage since their alliance was four Blue Collars — himself, Dan, Rodney, and Sierra — against two White Collars — Tyler and Joaquin — and a No Collar — Joe. But Rodney and Dan attacking Sierra at the campfire last night might’ve lured her over to the other guys, so he had to keep an eye on her. That might not have been a problem, though, as Joaquin hit it off with Rodney right away. Dan, Rodney, and Mike then went off to get water together. As they did, Sierra reached out right away to Tyler, Joaquin, and Joe. Tyler saw this as an advantage, as they needed her on their side. Mike saw her talking to them and knew that she could be a problem if she jumped over to them.

At Nagarote, Shirin was annoying her tribe by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” much too loudly and then whistling too much. Jenn already decided that she didn’t like her since she wouldn’t stop talking. Elsewhere, Max came back from the ocean with a stingray sting. Actually, two of them. Jenn helped to fix him up, having been a former lifeguard. She used some boiling water from their fire and had Max dip his feet into it. But he also had a plantar wart “the size of a quarter,” to quote Hali. This put her off that he put his feet in their drinking water for over an hour. Carolyn was annoyed by Max and Shirin both, and she was willing to flip to the original Nagarotes on the tribe (Jenn, Hali, and Will) to do a little damage to them and blindside one of them.

At Escameca, Dan and Mike talked about how worried they were that Sierra was going to join Tyler, Joaquin, and Joe. Mike told Dan that it was his and Rodney’s fault for laying into her at the campfire after Lindsey’s ouster rather than laying off her. He made him apologize to her, and tell her what a woman would like to hear. Dan didn’t like this, as he was twice Mike’s age and talked too many more women than he had. So all three original Escameca men were dicks. He talked to Sierra and tried to clear the air. Sierra made it clear how hurt she’d felt at getting attacked. Dan admitted that he’d done so at the wrong time, but Sierra had attacked him first (which had never happened). Sierra noticed that Dan was not truly apologizing to her, and seeing that she was getting nowhere with him, she decided to throw in with Joaquin, Tyler, and Joe, after all.

The Immunity Challenge saw the castaways sending two members of each tribe out to place pots on a sled and pull them through a series of obstacles. Once at the finish point, they’d run back and try again till all eight pots had been placed on pots. (Two were already there, six more needed to be placed.) Then, one tribe member would break them by swinging a wrecking ball at them. The first tribe to finish would win immunity and be safe from Tribal Council. The losing tribe would go to Tribal Council, where they would vote the fifth person out of the game.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Joaquin and Tyler ran first for Escameca, facing off with Jenn and Hali for Nagarote. Joaquin and Tyler got a very early lead, but Jenn and Hali stayed in it with them for as long as they could . . . before they started to fall back. All four castaways placed their pots, and Joe and Rodney went next for Escameca, while Kelly and Carolyn went next for Nagarote. Joe and Rodney placed their pots quickly enough for Sierra and Mike to go next for Escameca. They went so fast, they lapped Kelly and Carolyn. They got back, the whole tribe ran through the obstacles, and Dan started swinging the wrecking ball. Shirin and Max ran to try and place Nagarote’s final pots. But by this time, Dan was already smashing the pots. He’d smashed all eight by the time Nagarote had all started to head for the pots for Will to smash. So Escameca, one of the most uneven tribes with way too many men on them, won immunity against a female-dominant tribe. It wasn’t even close. So Nagarote would be going to Tribal Council, where the fifth person would be voted out of the game. Max was waiting to exercise the power he, Shirin, and presumably Carolyn had established with Kelly, so he didn’t feel bad at all.

Before Tribal Council, the potential targets emerged — Shirin and Will. Shirin was targeted for being annoying and on the outside. Will was targeted for his weight, his health, and being too much of a challenge liability. But despite things looking clear-cut for Max, Shirin, and Kelly, Carolyn had other ideas. She told Jenn that she was in with them instead because she needed Max and Shirin gone. As soon as this was learned, a new target emerged — Max. He was targeted for being too much of a Survivor fan. If he was that much of a student of the game, then he could be dangerous. It was good to be a student of the game, but don’t ever tout it like Max was. Upon learning that Carolyn had flipped, Kelly realized that she might have to do the same thing. So with it pretty much cemented that it would either be Max or Shirin, with Will no longer on the table, how would the votes go? . . .

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. By a vote of 5-2, the fifth person voted out of Worlds Apart was . . . Max. Who was totally blindsided. Which is how, as a fan of the game, he’d want to go out, anyway. (Oh, and the lone votes were Max and Shirin’s for Will.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way.

I was a bit sad about this ending. Max was a superfan of the show, and it’s always great to see superfans play the game. But he did no favors by practically boasting about his Survivor knowledge (he even mentioned a One World factoid at Tribal Council!), which made him look quite a bit more threatening than Shirin. Shirin might’ve been more annoying than Max, but Max was more dangerous. Still, you’d think he’d have known to keep his threat level lower since he actually even teaches a class on Survivor at his university back home. But either way, he’s gone, and if they lose again, Shirin might be next unless she can work her way in. Goodbye, Max. You might wanna reconsider what you teach if you could go out this early.

In other news, on the new tribes, I like pretty much everyone at Nagarote — Shirin, Carolyn, Kelly, Hali, Jenn, and Will. On Escameca, however, I only really like Joe, Sierra, and possibly Tyler. I hate Joaquin, Rodney, Dan, and Mike. But I hate Mike slightly less for realizing that Dan and Rodney were being unfair to Sierra this week.

Thirteen castaways remain. With March Madness preempting things next week, who’ll be voted out in two weeks? We’ll see then!

Being Way too Far Behind Does in Harley and Jonathan in Thailand . . . This Time, with no Reprieve!

This week’s episode of The Amazing Race was a bit more exciting than last week’s. it began with the nine remaining teams, fresh off Harley and Jonathan’s non-elimination, continuing on with the race, now resuming their jaunt through Thailand, departing from Phuket and flying to Bangkok. First, the teams were shown spending time at the Pit Stop, hanging out on the beach to celebrate Matt and Ashley’s engagement. Afterwards, they spent time watching a dance thanks to using the Date Night Bergen and Kurt had given them. Mike and Rochelle felt like they’d surprised the other teams by winning the legs, and they felt like the blind date couples would start to crumble eventually, while they hadn’t fought once. Hayley and Blair were doing terribly in terms of their dynamic due to Blair hating Hayley’s nagging, even though most of their mistakes had been his. Jelani and Jenny felt like they were getting along well, but part of it was them both being lawyers. Laura and Tyler were enjoying each other’s company very much, but romantically, it’d have to be organic. Matt and Ashley were excited to be having their first leg as an engaged couple. Bergen and Kurt didn’t want another bad day. Jeff and Jackie felt like their personalities were similar enough to make them a perfect match. And Harley and Jonathan were glad to race another day and were hoping to overcome their Speed Bump and get back in the race. In the end, Mike and Rochelle, Hayley and Blair, Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, Aly and Steve, Matt and Ashley, Bergen and Kurt, and Jeff and Jackie all got on the first flight to Bangkok, while Harley and Jonathan were so far behind, they were stuck on the second and last one.

Upon getting to Bangkok, the teams raced by taxi to a shrine. Waiting there was Harley and Jonathan’s Speed Bump. This saw them having to each make a Thai grasshopper out of river reeds. Once they finished, they could return to the race with the hopes of making up their valuable lost time. They seemed to do it fast enough to get back to the race.

But the teams that didn’t have the Speed Bump to do were tasked with the Detour, this one seeing them choose between Wheel and Water. Wheel involved racing through the city on a tuktuk. Water involved racing on a longtail through the city’s water system. It was basically a two-stop “race within a race.” Jelani and Jenny and Harley and Jonathan all chose and completed Wheel. Bergen and Kurt, Aly and Steve, Laura and Tyler, Mike and Rochelle, and Matt and Ashley all chose and completed Water. Hayley and Blair and Jeff and Jackie initially chose Water, but only five water taxis were available, so they were forced back into Wheel. The Water teams were free of traffic. The Wheel teams faced lots of traffic. The Wheel teams’ two stops involved the following — sinking a red ball in a game of snooker and feeding cats at a cat café by giving them milk obtained from the snooker bar (which scared Jenny, who was afraid of cats). The Water teams’ two stops involved the following — eating a 1,000-year-old egg at a market and taking part in a Thai prayer while making an offering at a temple.

The Roadblock saw one member of each team removing transmissions from faulty engine blocks and searching for screwdrivers. Bergen, Blair, Steve, Tyler, Jeff, Rochelle, Jelani, Matt, and Jonathan all took the task for their teams, with Tyler finding the Date Night pass for himself and Laura during the task.

In the end, Bergen and Kurt arrived first at the Pit Stop! They won a trip for two to Puerta Vallarta, compliments of Travelocity, as their prize. Hayley and Blair finished second. Aly and Steve ran up to the mat in third. Laura and Tyler were poised to win the leg, but thanks to an incompetent cab driver, had to settle for fourth. Jeff and Jackie landed in fifth. Mike and Rochelle made it in sixth. Jelani and Jenny were behind them, jumping onto the mat in seventh. This left things down to Matt and Ashley and Harly and Jonathan, a team who’d struggled at the Roadblock and on fighting the Pit Stop, and a team who was far enough behind to begin with due to last week’s bad flight. In the end, despite the Roadblock struggles, the engaged couple were still hours ahead, so they had more than enough time to eke out Team New Kid, arriving in eighth place, barely staying alive for another leg. This left Harley and Jonathan to finish ninth and last . . . and this time, there was no reprieve, as they were eliminated.

I was okay with this ending. I’d known since the start of the season that Harley and Jonathan would be the third team out, so it was no surprise to me. The sad thing is that it wasn’t really their fault. Last week, they were put behind due to a bad flight with poor airport luck. This week, that time deficit stayed with them, as they had no way of making up time once all of the other eight teams made the first flight and they were stuck on the second. They made no mistakes, but being more than two hours behind more than ensured their last-place finish. It’s sad, but that’s the race sometimes. Farewell, Harley and Jonathan. Harley, you were a nice guy. And Jonathan, I hope you can keep your career going, even though your group really should’ve broken up years ago.

In other news, I still love Hayley and Blair, Aly and Steve, Jeff and Jackie, Mike and Rochelle, and Jelani and Jenny. I like Bergen and Kurt and Laura and Tyler. I like Ashley, too, but still don’t really like Matt.

Once more, here’s the order in which the teams finished this week:

#1. Bergen and Kurt (Prize: Trip for two to Puerto Vallarta, Courtesy Travelocity)

#2. Hayley and Blair

#3. Aly and Steve

#4. Laura and Tyler

#5. Jeff and Jackie

#6. Mike and Rochelle

#7. Jelani and Jenny

#8. Matt and Ashley

#9. Harley and Jonathan (ELIMINATED)

Eight teams remain. With the show being preempted for three weeks due to the dreaded March Madness, who’ll be eliminated in three weeks? We’ll see then!

Nina Ostracizes Herself Right out of the Game!

This week’s episode of Survivor was very interesting and full of enjoyment, in spite of the rather predictable vote-off. It began with the sixteen remaining castaways, fresh off Vince’s well-deserved, but still surprising, vote-off, resuming the game following the previous Tribal Council. At Nagarote, Joe no longer trusted Will after he’d ruined his split-vote plan and voted Vince out instead of voting for Nina so they could get rid of her on the revote. But Will stood by his decision, saying that he didn’t trust Vince anymore after he’d doubted his health. Nina knew that she would be the next one voted out of their tribe and tried to get them to not treat her like an outsider (even though she’d given them every reason to do so). She felt all alone after Will had abandoned her at the vote. She told the rest of the tribe that they were clearly taking her out next, and she even brought her hearing into it, which Jenn was annoyed to be hearing about by now. At Masaya, Shirin got into the site of two monkeys mating and having sex. She weirded the rest of the tribe by regaling them with the story. Carolyn didn’t know why she had to tell them about that and thought she was a bit crazy. Tyler also thought she was weird, strange, and annoying. She was painting a target on her back. And at Escameca, tensions were continuing to boil over when, while joking around, Dan called Rodney’s mother a whore. This made Rodney really mad. This resulted in a blowup between them. Kelly noticed how emotional they both were and decided to wait it out till the right time to intervene. Being a state trooper, she knew when to observe. Meanwhile, Rodney knew for certain that Dan was digging his own grave.

At Nagarote, Jenn and Hali went surfing using large pieces of driftwood. They had a great time in the waves and the surf. It was Hali’s third passion in life, so she had a lot of fun. And she was having fun with Jenn. The two were clearly close. Meanwhile, Joe, who felt less paranoid without Vince around, caught a lizard with a tiny bit of help from Will. He and the rest of the tribe shared it as a bit of lunch. He also went to talk to Nina to make her feel included. He tried to bond with her through having a mother who’d taught him sign language since she was an interpreter for the deaf. Nina felt a bit better and decided to have a bit more fun. Nina had been in sales when she had her hearing. But she was more no-collar without her hearing. She tried to join in with the tribe. But . . . while Joe, Will, Jenn, and Hali all enjoyed the lizard, Nina refused to enjoy it with them.

At Masaya, things at the tribe were slightly tense as Shirin, Joaquin, and Max all looked for the hidden Immunity Idol. Carolyn didn’t bother looking since she already had the one for their tribe. Tyler pretended to look, even though Carolyn had already told him that he had it. Eventually, Shirin got the others to make a truce not to find it until they lost the next Immunity Challenge. Joaquin didn’t agree with it out of not trusting Shirin. From day one, he thought she was too paranoid. He found her greatly annoying. Shirin could tell that Joaquin’s fury at her made him unable to manipulate people. Joaquin wanted the idol since he was on the outs of the tribe. He showed Tyler the clue, but Tyler didn’t tell him that he already know Carolyn had it. Still, while he knew that Joaquin was at the bottom of the tribe for now, but if they went to the next Tribal Council, Shirin might be in danger due to her weirdness.

At Escameca, Mike was getting annoyed at the lack of any work ethic. He was doing all of the work there, while Lindsey, Kelly, Sierra, and Rodney weren’t doing anything. He made his annoyance clear, but it was causing annoyance in Rodney and the women, especially Lindsey. She knew they’d been working around camp just as much as Mike had been, and he needed to calm down. Eventually, Rodney and Mike ended up fighting over the amount of work done. Rodney wanted Mike not to order him around. He now had Mike as the tribe’s number-one target instead of Dan. At some point, while venting to the women, Mike whined about his lack of thanks. But Lindsey brought up that Mike had never thanked any of the others whenever they’d helped them. Mike’s religion entered the picture (since he had a psalm from the Bible tattooed on his back), and Lindsey was the next to go off on him, pretty much saying that his God hadn’t helped him in the game or at camp. Mike felt hurt that she’d insulted his religion, while Lindsey had also decided that he would be the next one to go if they lost the Immunity Challenge.

Speaking of which, the Immunity Challenge (at which several of the Masaya and Escameca members reacted in great shock to Nagarote voting out Vince, a man, early on) saw the castaways carrying large, holey buckets to large water towers, where they would fill them before racing them back to their starting points while trying to plug the holes. What water was left would fill a barrel before they’d race out to fill them again and again until their barrels were full enough to raise their tribe flags. The first two tribes to do that would win immunity and be safe from Tribal Council, where the losing tribe would go to vote the third person out of the game. In addition, they’d be playing for reward. The first tribe to finish would win a massive set of a comfort items — chairs, blankets, pillows, candles, rope, and a tarp. The second tribe to finish would simply win a tarp. With one extra member, Lindsey would sit out the challenge for Escameca.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. The three tribes started out even, but Will struggled early for Nagarote. And Joe sent Nina to run ahead so she wouldn’t struggle with plugging the holes. It wasn’t a good idea. Having one less person meant fewer holes to be filled. And they even missed their bucket, dumping half of it onto the ground! Masaya got their first bucket dumped, as did Escameca. Despite seeing how the plan didn’t previously work, Nagarote still sent Nina out ahead. Escameca and Masaya kept dumping large amounts of water, while Nagarote kept dumping lower amounts. Even worse, Will got exhausted early on. This pretty much turned into Escameca against Masaya for the win, and in the end . . . Escameca, by a nose, won immunity and the massive comfort set! Masaya was right behind them to also win immunity, but only get the tarp. This meant that Nagarote, despite finally getting the picture and including Nina, would be heading to Tribal Council once more, where the third person would be voted out of the game. Joe knew that his bad strategy had been the cause for the loss, and he owned up to it immediately.

Before Tribal Council, the obvious targets emerged — Nina and Will. Nina was targeted for being the oldest member and the clear outsider. Will, her former ally, said that she’d been dead weight for a while. Good on you, Will, for supporting the woman you supposedly liked. Will was targeted for his lack of physical strength, and for Joe, Jenn, and Hali’s lack of trust in him after his move at the last Tribal Council. Jenn and Hali felt like Will could vote wildly or stupidly at the merge and jeopardize their safety in the game. It was definitely between the two people at the bottom of the tribe. But whom would it be? . . .

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. By a vote of 3-2, the third person voted out of Worlds Apart was . . . Nina. So the dead weight was cut loose. (Oh, and the lone votes were Nina and Hali’s for Will. Nina probably didn’t want a sweep to hurt Nina’s feelings, and I’ll be that Joe and Jenn okayed it.) So her torch was snuffed, and she was sent on her way.

This was an okay ending for me. I usually root for the women on this show, but Nina was clearly not doing well at the game. She sucked in challenges, she sucked at strategy, and she sucked at the social game. She thought that she should be coddled because of her deafness. But she wouldn’t get that using her deafness as an excuse had turned her tribe off to her. She needed to adapt to them. But she felt that they needed to adapt to her, which is not how Survivor is played. So if she was going to keep playing the game like that, then she needed to go now. In a lot of ways, this was a mercy killing for her. Goodbye, Nina. Learn not to play the victim so often, and you may continue doing well in your life. I do feel bad for So, though — being stuck in Ponderosa with weird, creepy, borderline-stalker Vince and whiny, sad-sack, perpetual-victim Nina.

In other news, I still like Shirin, Carolyn, and Max on Masaya. Tyler’s also okay. I like Sierra, Lindsey, Kelly, and Rodney on Escameca. And I like Joe, Jenn, Hali, and Will on Nagarote. So the whole tribe. I don’t like Joaquin on Masaya. I don’t like Dan or Mike on Escameca. And I don’t have anyone I don’t like on Nagarote, which I geuss makes them my favorite tribe.

Fifteen castaways remain. With a two-hour episode coming up, with a swap in one of those hours, who’ll be voted out next week? We’ll see then!

Bad Flight Arrangements Lead to Harley and Jonathan's Undoing in Thailand! . . . Or Not

This week’s episode of The Amazing Race was definitely full of drama, even if it lacked in excitement. It began with the nine remaining teams, fresh off Libby and C.J.’s elimination, continuing on with the race, now departing from Nagano, Japan, and heading to Phuket, Thailand. The teams were again shown sleeping in their Pit Stops before leaving on the next leg. They all seemed to be comfortable with one another now. Jelani and Jenny were glad to still be doing well, having won both of the first two legs, and it was because neither had high expectations of the other. Laura and Tyler were happy to have shared different rooms during the Pit Stop, and they felt like they were comfortable with each other now since they weren’t butting heads the way other teams were. Harley and Jonathan enjoyed a hot spring for their Date Night and felt like they had an advantage, being charged, relaxed, and renewed. Bergen and Kurt pretty much realized that they were not a match and wanted to settle for being friends. Matt and Ashley felt like soulmates since they’d been together for three years. Mike and Rochelle knew they were underdogs and wanted to prove that they belonged in the race. In the end, Aly and Steve, Matt and Ashley, Jeff and Jackie, Mike and Rochelle, and Hayley and Blair all got on the first flight, arriving at 4:50 p.m., while Jelani and Jenny and Laura and Tyler all got on the second one, arriving at 9:10 p.m., Bergen and Kurt got on the third one, arriving at 11:59 p.m., and Harley and Jonathan fell on some really hard times, grabbing the fourth and last flight, arriving at 9:35 a.m. the next morning.

Once in Thailand, the teams raced through Phuket to get to Patong Beach. Awaiting them there was a street performer to give them departure times the next morning. Mike and Rochelle, Aly and Steve, and Matt and Ashley would all depart at 8:30. Hayley and Blair, Jelani and Jenny, and Matt and Ashley would all depart at 8:45. Laura and Tyler and Bergen and Kurt would all depart at nine o’clock sharp. And Harley and Jonathan, as well, but nine o’clock would be well after their arrival in Thailand.

The next morning, the teams were sent to Baan Teelanka, an upside-down house. They had to search for their clues in the house, which tasked them with the Detour. This saw them choosing between Ski and Tree. Ski involved surviving one lap around a wave park, trying to catch a ride on a cable. Tree involved delivering a meal through the treetops while riding on a zipline, trying not to drop their meals. No one chose or completed Ski. Mike and Rochelle, Hayley and Blair, Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, Matt and Ashley, Bergen and Kurt, and Harley and Jonathan all chose and completed Tree. Aly and Steve and Jeff and Jackie all initially chose Ski, but switched to Tree when the task proved too difficult for them. And at Tree, Jelani and Jenny and Hayley and Blair ended up missing one catch to the task — they needed to carry everything that was listed on a blackboard at the stand where they’d get their meal that needed to be served. Hayley saw the list, but Blair brushed her off, and Jelani and Jenny just plain overlooked it. And Matt and Ashley just kept dropping their dishes.

The teams’ next stop was a cabaret club, at which they were tasked with learning and performing the choreography to a song in a ladyboy show. All teams struggled to some extent, but Mike and Rochelle had a big advantage, as they had enough of a lead to practice while the other teams got dressed and made up in, well, makeup. They were out in eight attempts. In addition to this, Bergen and Kurt pulled the random Date Night pass, so they’d be spending some “romantic” time together after the leg. But after the task, Matt and Ashley hit some problems when Matt left their fanny pack behind, and they had to turn around go back to the club to get it.

In the end, Mike and Rochelle arrived first at the Pit Stop, proving their underdog status was not to leave them underestimated! Whoooooooo! Also, they were the first dating couple to win a leg this season rather than another blind date team winning! They won a trip for two to Prague, Czech Republic, compliments of Travelocity, as their prize. In a close, four-team race, Hayley and Blair came in second, followed by Jelani and Jenny landing in third, Laura and Tyler running up to the mat in fourth, and Aly and Steve making it in fifth. While at the mat talking to Phil, two more teams arrived in a two-team race. Matt and Ashley jumped onto the mat in sixth, with Bergen and Kurt falling just behind them to finish seventh. And while this whole mess of teams was on the mat, Matt did something quite sweet and romantic. He got down on one knee and proposed to Ashley, and she accepted! So they went from dating to engaged! This left things down to Jeff and Jackie and Harley and Jonathan. One team who’d switched Detours, and another who’d fallen behind through no fault of their own, simply being a victim of incompetent airline agents. In the end, Team J.J. barely eked out Team New Kid on the Block, arriving in eighth place and staying alive for another leg. And also arriving as part of a seven-team Pit Stop pileup, to boot! This left Harley and Jonathan to finish ninth and last . . . but they were not eliminated. No, it was the first of three predetermined non-elimination legs, and they were still in the race! But they would have to face a Speed Bump, an extra task only they would have to complete, on the next leg of the race while the other teams continued racing. Both were up to the challenge, as they didn't want to go this soon.

This was an okay ending for me. It’s always sad when a team gets booted through no huge fault of their own, and Harley and Jonathan could have been yet another team to fall under this category. They are nice guys and are enjoying the race, so it’s good that their race didn't have to be cut short like that. Jeff and Jackie probably might’ve been the team stuck with the Speed Bump if they’d caught an earlier flight. But as it is, they have a chance to get back into things if they are not too far behind. They might be, but we'll see. Good luck, Harley and Jonathan. I hope you both can remain together for as long as possible in your lives.

In other news, I’m still loving Mike and Rochelle, Hayley and Blair, Jelani and Jenny, Aly and Steve, and Jeff and Jackie. I’m still liking Laura and Tyler, Bergen and Kurt, and Harley and Jonathan. I still like Ashley, too, but I’m not at all sold on Matt.

Once more, here’s the order in which the teams finished this week:

#1. Mike and Rochelle (Prize: Trip for two to Prague, Courtesy Travelocity)

#2. Hayley and Blair

#3. Jelani and Jenny

#4. Laura and Tyler

#5. Aly and Steve

#6. Matt and Ashley

#7. Bergen and Kurt

#8. Jeff and Jackie

#9. Harley and Jonathan (Must Complete Speed Bump on next leg of race while other teams continue racing)

Nine teams still remain. Who’ll be eliminated next week? We’ll see then!

Vince Vanishes from the Game due to Paranoia and Ally Alienation!

This week’s episode of Survivor was definitely full of drama and excitement. And the end result made it even more fun than the premiere! It began with the seventeen remaining castaways, fresh off So’s vote-off, resuming the game following the previous Tribal Council. At Escameca, the tribe’s morale was decent, having already gotten their shelter up and a fire going. They had crabs they’d caught and were eating as food. But Dan was not very happy, as he’d been caught in the surf and lost his underwear, or his “manties,” and was using his shirt as his replacement underwear. Mike thought it was very funny to see, though also embarrassing. Lindsey thought his social game was sucking more and more. He figured that Dan was trying to find a way to be funny and memorable on the show by losing his manties, but he was really just a joke in and of himself. The rest of the tribe just wanted to send him home since he was just annoying.

At Masaya, with their new flint, the tribe had finally gotten fire. Max felt like they had the basic necessities to sustain life. And he decided to tip his hat to Richard Hatch by going completely naked. Tyler knew that he was doing it to distract people from his gameplay. Max even confirmed it, and tried to get some alone time to just think. But that people suspicious of him. Shirin felt like she could relate to him more, so she decided to be naked, as well, though only below her waist. Joaquin found it funny how Tyler kept trying to avoid looking at her since he was married outside of the show.

At Nagarote, Hali was having trouble getting to know Nina due to her disability. But her deafness made it heard to have conversations with her, even with her cochlear implants. Joe, Will, and Jenn, found it hard to talk to her, too. As a result, Vince noticed that they often made snarky comments about her behind her back, which was a bit mean, but I could get their frustration. But Nina had her own frustration, feeling like she didn’t belong. She felt left out of conversations, but it was hard for them to include her since she couldn’t hear. She called Jenn and Hali mean girls and cried over being and feeling excluded. Jenn realized that they’d have to baby her till they wouldn’t have to anymore. But Nina found a friend in Will, who was doing what he could to comfort her. But he knew that she already had a target on her back.

At Escameca, Mike got up early to get some work done around camp, not taking even a moment to relax. But Lindsey, Rodney, Sierra, Dan, and Kelly all set up a makeshift basketball net and played basketball to relax. But Mike hated that they were playing instead of working since he believed in getting work done around camp. He was too busy with the upkeep of the camp to focus on playing. Rodney was annoyed by him working all the time, and then starting fights with everyone else who didn’t work. He wanted people to collect firewood, even thought Rodney pointed out that they already had plenty! If they lost the next Immunity Challenge, it would almost definitely be either Dan or Mike who’d be gone.

At Nagarote, Jenn, Hali, and Will once again fawned over the work Joe was doing around camp, as he’d caught them plenty of crabs. But Vince was again feeling unappreciated since he’d also worked hard, but had not been acknowledged for it. He vented to Nina about this, and she seemed to understand, given her own lack of appreciation. He tried to hash it out with Joe, but things got awkward between them. He pointed out not being respected over his thoughts about the shelter. Joe tried to talk to him rationally about it and work things out. They seemingly got onto the same page, and things were calm. Will knew that Joe and Vince had been fighting for power to be the alpha male ever since they’d gotten to their camp. Joe wasn’t really trying to do that, but he knew that Vince was. Because of that, Joe thought of him as a loose cannon and didn’t like it or him one bit. Vince also didn’t like Joe one bit and wanted him out at the first opportunity. He didn’t trust him, Jenn, or Hali. Neither did Nina. She wanted to join up with Vince and Will and target one of those three. But the feeling of distrust was mutual from Joe, Jenn, and Hali. Jenn also got them to agree that Vince needed to go.

The Immunity Challenge saw the castaways racing out one at a time onto an aquatic obstacle course. While on the course, they would find a line of buoys attached to a rope. From there, they’d navigate and maneuver one buoy along the rope while leading it through a series of obstacles before then swimming to a finish platform, signaling the next castaway to go until all five participating members had gone through. Then, they’d shoot the buoys like basketballs until they’d landed all five into a basketball-like net. The first two tribes to do so would win immunity and be safe from Tribal Council, where the losing tribe would go to vote the second person out of the game. In addition, they were also playing for reward, and the first tribe to finish would win a massive fishing kit. The second tribe to finish would win not as much fishing equipment, but still a good thing: fishing line, lure, and a spear. With one extra member on each tribe, Escameca sat out Kelly (since Dan guaranteed that, despite his weight, he’d be good at the challenge), while Nagarote sat out Nina.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. Tyler went first for Masaya, Dan went first for Escameca, and Vince went first for Nagarote. Dan actually did live up to his promise and took an early lead, swimming quickly! Tyler was close behind, though, with Vince falling behind (though he got out in front briefly). Then, Sierra went second for Escameca, with Hali right behind her for Nagarote, and Carolyn trying to catch up for Masaya after Tyler last some ground. Hali actually took over the lead in time for Jenn to go third for Nagarote and extend their lead, and it was over Mike from Escameca and Max from Masaya. Jenn got done very quickly, and Will went fourth for Nagarote, leading Lindsey from Escameca and Shirin from Masaya. It seemed like Will would extend Nagarote’s lead, but . . . instead, he got tangled up in one of the obstacles, losing a lot of time. Enough tmie, in fact, for both Lindsey and Shirin to pass him. In fact, both of them even finished to allow Rodney to go fifth and last for Escameca, and for Joaquin to start for Masaya. Will finally got finished and allowed for Joe to get started with the last buoy for Nagarote. But by the time he’d finished, Joaquin was already shooting for Masaya, and Sierra was shooting for Escameca. But Joe caught up and shot for Nagarote. But he got no baskets. Joaquin landed two for Masaya before Sierra landed one for Escameca. He then landed two more, and Sierra landed two more. Joaquin finally landed their fifth and final buoy to win immunity for Masaya! From losing the first challenge to winning the second! Amazing! They’d be safe from Tribal Council and taking the massive fishing kit back to their camp as their reward! So that left things down to Escameca and Nagarote. Sierra was staying cool and calm as she continued shooting buoys for Escameca, managing to land their fourth one. But Nagarote wasn’t landing a single one. Joe was landing any, so Vince swapped in and also landed none. Will was just as unlucky, likely due to panic. This opened things up for Sierra to land the fifth and final buoy, taking second place for Escameca! They, too, would be safe from Tribal Council and would also be taking the spear, fishing line, and lure back to their camp!. Meanwhile, Nagarote, in large part because of Will, would be heading to Tribal Council, where the second person would be voted out of the game.

Before Tribal Council, the obvious targets emerged — Nina, Vince, and Jenn. Nina was targeted by Jenn, Joe, and Hali for her blowup, for her deafness, and for being the older woman of the tribe. Vince was targeted, also by Nina, Vince, and Jenn for being a loose cannon whom Jenn, Hali, and Joe couldn’t trust. Just in case Nina was looking for the tribe’s hidden Immunity Idol, they wanted to split the votes between her and Vince. Hali and Jenn would vote for Vince, while Joe and, if they could get him onboard, Will would vote for Nina. If no idol was played, then on the revote, they’d vote Nina out. It’d all depend on if they could get Will, though. Jenn was targeted by Nina, Vince, and Will for simply being on the other side and allegedly being mean to Nina (which she wasn’t, by the way). Vince really wanted to go for Joe, but they needed his strength and speed for challenges, so his apparent second-in-command would have to do. Will, as it turned out, was onboard with Vince and Nina. He was willing to let them split the vote and think he was joining them, and then vote Jenn out with Vince and Nina in a 3-2-1 split. Until . . . Nina came to Will with something she should’ve kept to herself till after Tribal Council. Before discussing their boot options, Vince had told Nina that he was concerned about Will’s health issues. Apparently, one of the reasons he’d slowed down at the challenge was because he had asthma, but Vince was concerned that it’d cause them another loss. This now made Will wary of Vince. He did not know how long Vince would really want to keep him on their side. So now, realizing that he was the swing vote between Hali, Jenn, and Joe and Nina and Vince, where would he go? Still trust Vince and Nina? Or fall in with Joe, Jenn, and Hali?

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. By a vote of 3-2-1, the second person voted out of Worlds Apart was . . . Vince! Whoa! So Will really did lose trust in Vince! And the vote was indeed split! And Nina was irked at Will for voting for Vince, though it really was her fault. (Oh, and so you know, the lone votes were Nina and Vince’s for Jenn, and Joe’s for Nina.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way.

This was an okay ending for me. I didn’t hate Vince, but I certainly didn’t like him. He was on his way to becoming the second coming of Coach (in his unlikable Tocantins incarnation), and I wasn’t gonna have that. And I like everyone else on Nagarote, so that was fine by me. Vince really did himself in with his paranoia. It made the rest of his tribe distrustful of him and want him gone sooner rather than later, challenge strength or not. Add in him even alienating Will with his health concerns (exacerbated, of course, by Nina and her poor gameplay telling Will his concerns right before Tribal Council), and that couldn’t be forgiven. So arrividerci, Vince! Hope you get over this loss! I’m just surprised that a potentially colorful character has been booted so soon! They usually last longer than this!

In other news, so far, I still like Max, Shirin, Tyler, and Carolyn on Masaya, but can’t stand Joaquin. I like Rodney, Kelly, Sierra, and Lindsey on Escameca, but officially have no use for Dan or Mike. And I like Jenn, Joe, Hali, Will, and, in spite of her blowup and poor gameplay that tanked her alliance, Nina. So far, no hateful people. Just ones to dislike. Good casting.

Sixteen castaways remain. Who’ll be voted out next week? We’ll see then!

Libby and C.J.'s Stay of Execution Ends with a Missed Train in Japan!

Whew! After this one, I'll finally be all caught up!

This week's second episode of The Amazing Race was . . . well . . . slightly better than the season premiere. It began with the ten remaining teams, fresh off Jeff and Lyda's sad elimination, continuing on with the race, now continuing their jaunt in Japan, but departing from Tokyo and heading to a new city, Nagano. Jelani and Jenny were glad to have won the first leg and to have the Express Pass, to boot. They were connecting very well. Jeff and Jackie admired each other's honesty and competitive spirit. Laura and Tyler were focusing on the race over focusing on love. Aly and Steve felt a connection to Nagano, since it was a city that hosted a Winter Olympic games, and they were part of one. Harley and Jonathan were glad to be in Japan, even though Jonathan had last been there twenty years ago and was supposed to have returned over the summer with the other New Kids on the Black. But they'd canceled and gone to Las Vegas instead. Bergen and Kurt were surprised to be dating each other since they looked almost exactly like each other. But while Bergen was focusing on the race, Kurt was focusing on love. Mike and Rochelle were hoping to nurture their relationship so that Rochelle could introduce Mike to her seven-year-old son. Hayley and Blair were having trouble getting along, but they were finding their groove and dynamic. Matt and Ashley figured that the blind date couples not knowing each other was helping them more than hurting them. And Libby and C.J. felt like knowing each other for ten years would help them. Also, Libby wanted to get married, but not C.J. In the end, Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, and Laura and Tyler all got on the first train to Nagano. Aly and Steve got on the second one alone. Harley and Jonathan, Bergen and Kurt, and Mike and Rochelle all got on the third train. Hayley and Blair and Matt and Ashley all got on the fourth train. Libby and C.J. got stuck on the fifth and last train due to how far behind the other teams they were. And even worse, they missed one because they had to take the time to stop and take a selfie! They had to wait for one that left sixteen minutes later than the one they'd paid tickets for. And even then, that one had to make an emergency stop at one point.

Once the teams had reached a castle in Nagano, they were tasked with the Roadblock. This saw one member of each team figuring out how to open a trick box using a series of complicated moves in an exact order so they could unlock a password they’d have to repeat to a guard. Also, in a random trick box was a ticket to Date Night, a romantic interlude to be enjoyed during the Pit Stop by the couple who received it. Jelani, Tyler, Aly, Jeff, Mike, Harley, Bergen, Ashley, Hayley, and Libby all took the task for their teams, with Tyler, Jelani, and Aly all flying through it. Also, Harley and Jonathan pulled the “golden ticket” and got the Date Night pass.

The teams’ next stop was a pagoda, at which they were tasked with the leg’s Detour. This saw them choosing between Share and Chair. Share involved team members feeding each other noodles only using chopsticks. Chair involved putting each other around a speed skating track, with one person sitting in a chair while the other pushed him or her for one whole lap, and then switching places for a different lap before three minutes and fifty-five seconds elapsed. Laura and Tyler, Jelani and Jenny, Harley and Jonathan, Bergen and Kurt, and Libby and C.J. all chose and completed Share, with no one having any problems. Aly and Steve (the former of whom was inspired to be an Olympic speed skater by watching the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano), Jeff and Jackie, Matt and Ashley, and Hayley and Blair all chose and completed Chair, with only Aly and Steve finishing it on their first try. Mike and Rochelle initially chose Chair, but after they had a little accident that saw Rochelle’s wrist getting hurt during it, they switched to Share.

In the end, Jelani and Jenny once again arrived first at the Pit Stop! They won Fibit wellness kits as their prize, complete with a one-year gym membership, their own private chefs, and healthy foods for one whole year. Laura and Tyler were right behind them, clocking in second after barely missing out on first due to letting their cab driver go at the Detour. Aly and Steve finished third. Harley and Jonathan made it in fourth. Bergen and Kurt landed in fifth. Jeff and Jackie, despite leaving the Detour in a very high fourth, wound up checking in sixth. Matt and Ashley ran up to the mat in seventh. Mike and Rochelle jumped onto the mat in eighth. This left things down to Hayley and Blair and Libby and C.J. A team who’d struggled a bit at the Roadblock and at finding the Detour, and another team who’d been behind from the get-go and had made things worth by missing a train over a selfie. But in the end . . . being behind made all the difference, as Team Prescription for Love barely eked out Team Tuskegee to hit the mat in ninth, barely staying alive for another leg. This left Libby and C.J. to finish tenth and last . . . and become the second team eliminated.

Once again, as I knew that they were out early (I know the general order, but not the exact one, and I knew already that Libby and C.J., Jeff and Lyda, and the team who goes out next were the first three teams out, and I know the next three out, though not the order, and I also know the fifth-place-finishers), I was only a little bit sad for this ending. But Libby and C.J. had so much going against them on this leg that it really was a no-brainer that they would be eliminated. For starters, no equalizer for them to hit after they’d fallen so far behind on the first leg due to getting so very lost after the Detour. They couldn’t catch up to any other teams with a bunching point. Then, they wasted time needed to board their train by taking an ill-timed selfie right in front of their train! Next, their actual train made an emergency stop that set them back even more. From there, they didn’t seem to make any real mistakes. But just not making those that they’d made before getting to Nagano might’ve saved them. Alas, the token black team is out early. Sorry, Libby and C.J., and so long. I hope you do marry Libby someday, C.J., because she does seem like a nice woman. She’ll treat you right.

In other news, I’m still loving Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, and Mike and Rochelle. I also love Aly and Steve now. I’m still liking Laura and Tyler, Harley and Jonathan, and Hayley and Blair. I’m still quite neutral on Bergen and Kurt. And I’m still no real fan of Matt and Ashley, due mainly to Matt.

Once again, here’s the order in which the teams finished this week:

#1. Jelani and Jenny (One Fitbat Pack Each)

#2. Laura and Tyler

#3. Aly and Steve

#4. Harley and Jonathan

#5. Bergen and Kurt

#6. Jeff and Jackie

#7. Matt and Ashley

#8. Mike and Rochelle

#9. Hayley and Blair

#10. Libby and C.J. (ELIMINATED)

Nine teams remain. Who’ll be eliminated next week? We’ll see then!

The Ultimate Blind Date Begins . . . and Quickly Ends for Jeff and Lyda in Japan!

Well, here we go again! Fresh off Amy and Maya's amazing win in The Amazing Race 25, a new race is going to begin, as host Phil Keoghan welcomes us to The Amazing Race 26, yet another race kicking off in Los Angeles, California. But this go-round is a special season (that many were dreading). Eleven dating couples will be racing around the world for one-million dollars -- six of them preexisting, and five of them meeting for the first time at the starting line.

The season premiere of The Amazing Race was really . . . not good at all. It began with these eleven couples meeting Phil at the starting line. The six preexisting couples are: Aly and Steve (dating seven months), Libby and C.J. (dating ten years), Mike and Rochelle (dating eight months), Harley and Jonathan (dating seven years, and Jonathan is a New Kid on the Block), Matt and Ashley (dating three years), and Jeff and Lyda (dating four years). The five Blind Date couples meeting at the starting line were only seen in part are: Hayley and Blair, Jeff and Jackie, Laura and Tyler, Jelani and Jenny, and Bergen and Kurt. With these introductions made, Phil explained the usual rules -- twelve legs, eight ending with Pit Stops, and the last team arriving at most of them getting eliminated. The first team to cross the finish line after twelve legs would win one-million dollars.

But right away, they would be racing for tickets to Tokyo, Japan. They'd have to start out by running around the lake shore to find a grueling mud run. They'd have to get through as quickly as possible, because there were only eight tickets on the first flight there, and three on the second and last one. But the first team to reach the first Pit Stop would win the Express Pass. And one more warning: there would be a U-Turn on this very first leg for the very first time. But after this, Phil concluded with his usual sendoff: "Good luck . . . travel safe . . . GO!"

The teams set off right away, getting through the mud run. No team seemed to care for the start of it. Then, they had to go over sand mounds, followed by a trip through ice water. Hayley and Blair thought they would be compatible due to sharing the medical profession. Libby and C.J. felt like they would be in sync having been through ten years of trials together. Mike and Rochelle met at Mike's truck stop, and Rochelle was planning to be aggressive since she played roller derby. Harley would punish Jonathan since he was a fitness trainer. Aly and Steve were hoping their backgrounds as Winter Olympians would aid them (Aly's a speed skater, Steve's a bobsledder). In the end, Matt and Ashley, Jeff and Jackie, Laura and Tyler, Aly and Steve, Harley and Jonathan, Jeff and Lyda, Bergen and Kurt, and Jelani and Jenny all got on the first flight (not that I'm surprised with the two men's teams -- the other teams had the disadvantage with having a man and a woman, and there'd have been an even bigger disadvantage for a women's team, if there were one this season). Hayley and Blair, who'd just barely missed out on it, Mike and Rochelle, and Libby and C.J. all ended up on the second and last flight. The teams got to shower afterwards, and then, they were all sent off to find their Ford cars to head for the airport to catch their flights. Oh, and they could take "selfies" with "Selfie Cams."

On the drive to the airport, the Blind Date couples got to know each other, and Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, Bergen and Kurt, and Jeff and Jackie seemed to have no problems with one another. Blair already seemed tired of Hayley, though. And Jonathan admitted to the other teams that he was a New Kid on the Block, surprising many of them.

Once in Tokyo, the teams were tasked with finding Kanda Myojin, a Shinto shrine. Getting there by taxi was the smarter route, Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, and Libby and C.J. did just that. Laura and Tyler, Aly and Steve, Harley and Jonathan, Mike and Rochelle, Hayley and Blair, and Matt and Ashley all took the Skyliner train to get there, while Bergen and Kurt and Jeff and Lyda took the faster Narita Express train.

Once at the shrine, the teams were tasked with the first Detour of the race (and this is the first season since season thirteen to have a Detour on the first leg!). This saw teams choosing between Syncing Steps and Samurai Sake. Syncing Steps involving mastering the slow-motion choreography of the Japanese pop group World Order. Samurai Sake involved memorizing the names of ten sakes, taking a drink order from samurais, and correctly relaying the order to their partners. Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, Aly and Steve, Bergen and Kurt, Mike and Rochelle, Hayley and Blair, Matt and Ashley, Libby and C.J., and Jeff and Lyda all chose and completed Syncing Steps, with Laura and Tyler completing it the most quickly, and Jeff and Lyda struggling the most, taking nearly four hours to finish it. Jeff and Jackie and Harley and Jonathan all chose and completed Samurai Sake, with Jeff and Jackie getting it after two wrong answers, but Harley and Jonathan getting it right immediately.

The teams’ next stop was the Wakaba Higashi Park, where the Blind Double U-Turn awaited. A U-Turn appears at the end of a Detour, and after doing one Detour, one team can use it on another team to force them to go back and complete the Detour they didn’t previously complete. From its introduction in season twelve to season sixteen, only one team could use it on another. But in season seventeen, it was implemented and made into the Double U-Turn, in which two teams could use it on two other teams, and it’s been that way ever since. A team could only the power once, though, so they’d have to use it when it was most advantageous for them. Running behind, Mike and Rochelle used one U-Turn on Jeff and Lyda, the only team they knew was behind them at the time, forcing them to now complete Samurai Sake after having already completed Syncing Steps. Jeff and Lyda, upon seeing this, realized that they had one shot to choose a team who might, by some chance, have fallen behind or gotten lost in getting to the U-Turn, especially since they saw two clues left — one for them, and one for the other team. But they aimed incorrectly and chose Jeff and Jackie, figuring that they’d been held up for too long at the Samurai Sake Detour. In reality, it was Libby and C.J. who were behind, as they were having trouble navigating their way to the park to find the U-Turn themselves.

In the end, Jelani and Jenny arrived first at the Pit Stop, which was set in the vicinity of the UDX Building! They won the Express Pass as their prize. Jeff and Jackie were poised to finish first after an amazing first leg, but got confused with what “vicinity” meant (in the area, not inside) and went into the building. This gave enough time for Jelani and Jenny to win the leg, forcing them to settle for second. Laura and Tyler checked in third. Aly and Steve landed in fourth. Harley and Jonathan ran up to the mat in fifth. Bergen and Kurt made it in sixth. Mike and Rochelle got to the mat in seventh. Hayley and Blair found the mat in eighth. Matt and Ashley finished ninth. This left things down to Libby and C.J. and Jeff and Lyda, one team who was terrible with navigation, and another team who’d fallen behind due to struggles at the Detour. It all came down to correctly enlisting English-speaking locals and completing the other Detour. And in the end . . . Team Tuskegee (Libby and C.J. are from Tuskegee) barely eked out the Flight Crew (Jeff is a pilot and Lyda is a flight attendant), arriving in tenth place, barely staying alive for another leg. This left Jeff and Lyda to finish eleventh and last . . . and become the first team eliminated.

I was of two minds of this ending. For one thing, I knew Jeff and Lyda were out first, so I can’t be too sad about it. But now that I’ve seen how they got out first, I can’t help but feel a little bit sad for them. Or at least for Lyda. They got off to such a solid start. But despite Lyda nailing the Syncing Steps Detour, Jeff kept on screwing it up left and right, costing them so much time. Now, I can’t feel totally bad, because they’d always had the option of switching Detours, but still, it’s sad that one member totally screwed over the other. Plus, they were the oldster team, and it’s always sad to see the oldsters go so soon, unless they’re annoying like Steve and Dave from the fourth season or just too incompetent like Steve and Linda from the fourteenth season. Jeff and Lyda could’ve gone a fair way, I think, if not for what’d happened at that Detour. So goodbye, Jeff and Lyda. Hope you stay together, and I hope you are both very happy going forward.

In other news, I’m not really happy about the premise of this season. Too many couples (though thankfully, there’s a shortage of couples drama), a not-too-interesting cast (I’d say Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, Mike and Rochelle, and Libby and C.J. are probably the most interesting, as were Jeff and Lyda, who are gone now. But the rest of are pretty, young, Ken-and-Barbie couples. But I do love Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, Aly and Steve, Mike and Rochelle, and Libby and C.J. I simply like Laura and Tyler, Harley and Jonathan, and Hayley and Blair. I’m neutral toward, and thus need more time with, Bergen and Kurt. And while I’m okay with Ashley, Matt, I hate. What a jerk.

And now I’ll just take a moment to express my utter contempt at the casting department for not casting a single women’s team this season. I mean, really? They couldn’t find one lesbian couple who was interesting? Granted, the two we’ve had have been hit-or-miss (Kate and Pat from the twelfth season were sweet and kind, but admittedly, not very interesting, while Carol and Brandy from the sixteenth season, while not the most likable of teams, were at least bursting with personality), but still, if this is a dating couples season, at least one lesbian couple wouldn’t have hurt! And I’ll give a big, fat “screw you!” to the annoying, woman-hating Emo troll on Survivor Sucks for his pure joy in there not being one. SCREW YOU, EMO!

To remind you, the teams finished this first leg in the following order:

#1. Jelani and Jenny (Prize: Express Pass)

#2. Jeff and Jackie

#3. Laura and Tyler

#4. Aly and Steve

#5. Harley and Jonathan

#6. Bergen and Kurt

#7. Mike and Rochelle

#8. Hayley and Blair

#9. Matt and Ashley

#10. Libby and C.J.

#11. Jeff and Lyda (ELIMINATED)

Ten teams remain. Who’ll be eliminated next time, when the show returns to its normal time slot on Friday? We’ll see then!