Final four in the Amazing Race, which means the season is almost over. I feel like this season has gone by really quickly. And I loved this episode.
Why? Spoilers ahead! It seemed really fast-paced and most of the teams ran really good legs. There was a little bunching, but not a ton, so if you raced well you could control your own destiny. As for my more specific thoughts:
Ron and Christina ran a great leg. I haven't loved Ron because of the way he treats Christina, but I give him a lot of credit for recognizing his weaknesses and actually trying to improve himself. It was so nice when he said that Christina has helped him to become a better person. And he's right! I have watched this show since season one and I have never seen a contestant grow and change the way Ron has. One gripe--at one point during the race Christina said she and Ron were going to "play mum," and Ron repeated her. Christina is smart and well-educated, so I wonder whether I am wrong here, but "play mum" is not a phrase people use, right? I thought it was "keep mum." But "play mum?" I don't think so.
Ron and Christina's knowledge of Chinese was a nice plus in this leg. Gobo didn't think it was fair that they could actually read the clue at the bottom of the tea cup while the other teams couldn't, but I say that's part of what they bring to the race. Some teams are fast, some are strong, and they happen to be able to read and speak the language one of the clues is written in. Gobo thought it was one thing for them to be able to navigate the country better because of their language skills, but another that the actual clue was written in a language only they understood. Obviously, I don't agree. (Gobo also thought that Ron would have no problems running over the rocks at the detour because he assumed that his feet were "old" and therefore rough and calloused. He was right about that!)
Nick and Don seem just as surprised as everyone else that they are still in this race. I am not big fans of them, but I wouldn't be sad if they win it all for two reasons: they got those tattoos (I would have gone back and completed the leg rather than doing that, surely coming in last), and I'm impressed that Nick has been able to carry Don's bag so much. Gobo pointed out that Nick and Don appear to have packed very lightly, and he's right, but it's still impressive.
TK and Rachel remain my favorite team, and I was happy when I realized that the bunching at the beginning of the leg would help them. But I also liked that the bunching didn't get them all the way there, and they still needed to run a good leg to catch up. (Was I the only one confused about why the teams were sneaking around to try to beat each other to the elevator after waiting for the site to open for two and a half hours? It didn't make sense that they wouldn't all be lined up.) It was obvious at the beginning of the leg that Rachel had completely lost confidence in herself after the previous leg, with her constant concern that they were going the wrong way. But once they caught up to everyone else, you could almost see the confidence come back. It was unclear whether they ended up on the same flight as Nate and Jen and Nick and Don, or if they were on the one that left 15 minutes later, but I suspect it was the former and the show didn't tell us to build the suspense. I loved that they ended up ahead of Jen and Nate in the customs line because Jen and Nate decided to change their money, but it did make me wonder when teams do things like change money. You never see that happen, but it must at some point.
It seems the other racers really have issues with TK's hair, between Jen wanting to pull his dreds out and Nick wanting to shave his beard off. If I were TK, I would sleep very lightly. TK and Rachel obviously ran a really good leg, and I continue to like the addition of the speedbump to the race. It really could make the difference between winning and losing, but it is also surmountable. I was surprised at Rachel's reluctance to drink the hot tea, complaining that it would burn her mouth and she wouldn't be able to taste anything. At this point in the race, would you possibly care about that? Not that it mattered, as they managed what I thought was an impressive second place finish.
And that brings us to Jen and Nate. At the beginning of the episode Jen said they had to race hard and it wouldn't be "nice" Jen and Nate. Were they ever nice Jen and Nate? I must have missed those episodes. There were some classic Nate and Jen moments in this episode. I have trouble believing that Nate thought Thailand and Taiwan are the same place, but it does appear that way (saying he doesn't know much about Taiwan, except that he likes Thai food and has a Thai friend). And then there was Jen's anger at TK and Rachel for catching up. I can understand being frustrated, but she really seemed to take it as a personal affront that TK and Rachel were trying to catch up. That's kind of what the race is about.
What I found most shocking was their choice to take a subway and bus instead of a cab. No matter how congested streets are, taking a subway and then having to switch to a bus is rarely the right choice, and I was really surprised that they went that route. I was even more surprised when they got to the street and couldn't decide whether they should take a cab or a bus. How is a bus EVER faster than a cab? Both vehicles drive, but the bus has the make stops and the cab doesn't. It appeared that there was a designated bus lane, so that could speed things up, but still--the bus makes stops. Unless they were told that the bus' next stop was theirs and that the bus would drop them off as close to their destination as a cab would, why would you possibly choose the bus? The best part, of course, was the fight they had over this "difficult" decision, with Jen telling Nate that he was the "man," and apparently this meant he should be making the decision. Way to fall back on gender stereotypes when it suits you, Jen! I loved the looks on the faces of the bystanders watching them as they fought. They seemed stunned. Classic.
Of course, the end result was Jen and Nate's elimination. Happy birthday, Jen!