Commentary

Episode Four

Where the first three episodes had been characterised by frantic pacing, it is obvious right from the start of this leg that it's not going to be action-packed.
The Aussie Review

For the first time since it started, The Amazing Race slows down a little in its fourth episode. And this is not such a good thing. Although many parts of this leg remain highly enjoyable, this is the first episode that is less than the sum of its parts, containing very obvious padding and setting the scene for many other "treading water" editions since. Despite the fact that there is an elimination here, you can't help feeling that it's all a bit inconsequential.

Where the first three episodes had been characterised by frantic pacing, it is obvious right from the start of this leg that it's not going to be action-packed. For one thing, Phil sends the leading team off personally for the only time in the entire history of the show, so obviously he and his unit didn't have to do a lot of hustling this week! The mystery of the flag the teams are given is a great idea, but falls flat somewhat when it quickly becomes obvious there aren't that many countries you can get to by boat from Marseilles. There's some argy-bargy about taxis, some enquiries at the port terminal, and finally a lot of sitting around in a big room waiting to get tickets to Tunisia.

One term often used to describe sequences like the first half of this episode is "character development." And there are a few nice moments sprinkled through the first 20 minutes or so, sure. But let's be honest - apart from perhaps showing the definite breakup of the alliance between Danza and Esquire, there is not one character moment shown by the teams here that we haven't already seen somewhere else. Lenny and Karyn are barely speaking, Dave and Margaretta are adorable, Team Guido are confident bordering on arrogant, Nancy is upset by coarse language and competitiveness, Paul and Amie are fighting again, and so on.

The scenes on the ferry to Tunis are a little better, with reconciliations and declarations of love, a shirtless Rob for the beefcake fans, Brennan getting an entire interview/voice-over moment, and the Guidos' decision to eat a meal separately from everyone else giving the editors all the fodder they need for another round of Joe-and-Bill-bashing. But after 20 minutes have elapsed in the episode, you realise that there has been practically no racing to this point - just a lot of padding. Reasonably watchable padding, yes, but padding all the same.

Only when the ferry docks at Tunis and all eight teams run off in search of the gent with the moustache does this episode come alive. The abrupt change from quiet reflection to all-out racing is very welcome, and is helped by the city of Tunis, which comes across as a little more exotic than what we've been seeing on the race recently. Karyn's nervous "Don't hit the people, please!" and Margarita's gracious apology for bumping into that lady on the way to the route marker set the frantic tone admirably.

The Detour at Medina shows off plenty of local colour, and the ultimate gift of a cigarette lighter to provide the next clue (which in turn provides the spark to start the Roadblock) is a wonderful piece of lateral thinking from the producers that they sadly haven't really gone for since. There's plenty of running around narrow alleys, and it's great to see Nancy and Emily actually display some initiative for once and enlist the aid of a horde of teenage Tunisian boys to find the cafe! But the pitfalls of relying too much on local help are revealed when Rob and Brennan and Karyn and Lenny are told to take the train to El Jem by their guides - a moment where you once again realise that the ultimate key to success in the race is being smart, rather than athletic or charismatic.
If nothing else, Paul's reaction to his massage is one of the funniest moments of TAR1!
In a nice little moment, Paul and Amie's massage - while tactically stupid - is actually their sweetest and most amusing moment in the entire season. For whatever reason, we hardly ever see them this relaxed or funny at any other time, and it's nice to think that we get a moment to see them behaving relatively normally. If nothing else, Paul's reaction to his massage is one of the funniest moments of TAR1!

Then we get to the best part of the episode, the Roadblock at El Jem Coliseum. This Roadblock, with its potential for flaming torches in dark corridors and the spectre of a labyrinth, actually doesn't work as well as it should. But it's still an excellent location and gives us another opportunity to see the strengths (or otherwise) of the various teams. Bill breezes through with ease (providing the Guidos with their only first-place finish), Drew and Emily cement the bond between their respective teams, Frank uses some muscle power, Amie literally comes within two inches of stabbing Brennan in the back, and Lenny proves to be as dumb as a bunch of rocks yet again. Complete with walls catching alight and lots of wandering around, it's an iconic moment from the first season.

Ultimately, Dave and Margaretta are eliminated - and, heartbreakingly, not by the fact that they were the oldest team but thanks to sheer dumb chance. While they truly are a unique couple, it's to my eternal regret that we haven't seen anyone like them ever since, with the composition of the show veering increasingly towards the young and athletic types. I hope at least that we see a team of plucky oldsters on TAR5, because the variety Ensure brought to the table was definitely one of the reasons so many of us still remember TAR1 so fondly.

Episode 4 features some nifty ideas and interesting scenery, but when considering the overall package it's still too bogged down with the early padding for me to mark it as highly as the other shows so far. The weakest episode to date - but weak TAR is still better than 90% of what's on television, as a wise TARfly once commented.

The Australian's Rating: 7/10
by The Australian


Random Musings

Given that I knew the outcome of this leg, I didn't want to re-watch this episode. It was sad to see Dave and Margeretta go out. I really thought they had a good chance of showing up the youngsters and they would probably still be in the race if it weren't for their trusting nature and a not-so-trustworthy driver.
In fact, the theme this week seems to be trust, as many of the racers no longer trust each other.
In fact, the theme this week seems to be trust, as many of the racers no longer trust each other. Rob and Brennan were smart to make sure the cab driver would pick up only them as Frank and Margarita try and take their cab. But they then perhaps went over the line in talking to the cab driver about not calling for another cab for Frank and Margarita. Or did they? We heard both Frank and Margarita accusing them of that, but I don't ever remember hearing Rob or Brennan actually asking the cab driver not to call - although it is implied. In successive "confessional" interviews, it's interesting to see how differently the teams perceived each other's actions.

Then there's TrainGate III. Yep, it's another Guidoversy about which there has been much discussion. The teams are dubious of Bill's intentions in buying the tickets for the whole group - which is rational given what might possibly be at stake. The situation, however, seems to go from dubious to outright hostile in no time flat. Yeah, they jumped on Team Guido a bit much, but then again, it's Guido's own fault the teams don't trust them at all at this point. Also, their condescending manner didn't help things at all.

In the end, Dave and Margaretta get a lovely send off from all the teams. I miss seeing team interactions at the mat. It was great watching them all applaud Dave and Margaretta. And proving she's no dummy, Margaretta makes sure she hugs all the pretty, buff boys before heading off to Sequesterville.

Lessons Learned This Week:
This flag? Doesn't belong to China, Brennan. Nor does it belong to Morocco, Bill. Turkey? Not so much, Dave. It's not even the Algerian flag - which is what an apparently color-blind woman leads Drew to believe. It is, however, the flag of Tunisia.

On the train ride to El-Jem, Rob voices one of the most important lessons of TAR: spend the money on a taxi, they are faster.

Momily loves Kevin and Drew.

Bunching's a bitch.

Heart-tugging Moment of the Week:
Watching Margeretta counting the scabbards on the table at the mat and realizing that the race is over for her and Dave.

Gotta Love Those Editors Moment of the Week:
Following up a half-nekkid shot of pretty-boy Rob with one of him wearing his sunglasses backwards on his head. They get ya all worked up and then pull the rug right out from under you.

Number of Times Paul Quits This Week:
One

Quotable Frat Moments of the Week:
Drew: "They decided to go for the Turkish bath - their own fault. You saw what that was like in Midnight Express." Kevin: "Right - Turkish bath."

Kevin re Drew: "You can't miss that mouth."

Kevin: "Take the elevator to the coliseum floor."

Hee! Moments:
Various cast members setting things on fire with their torches - most notably, Emily setting the coliseum on fire.

Fashion Mistakes:
Brennan. Visor. Winter. Need I say more?

Those braids on Emily - why? They don't seem either practical or attractive.

A very unhappy Drew sitting in front of a "No Smoking" sign. Now that we all know Drew's a smoker and wasn't allowed to smoke during the race, that shot is classic.
Brennan's a veritable chatterbox this episode.
Brennan Speech Meter:
Brennan's a veritable chatterbox this episode. He guesses wrong about the flag and chats during the boat ride to the Tunisia. At the market in Tunisia, he's the one asking the locals for directions and later asks them for the fastest way to get to El-Jem and thanks them for their help. He gets in at least one full sentence on the train ride to El-Jem. The funniest bit, however, is during the coliseum challenge when he and Amie are looking through the fence at the swords. He says, "We can't climb over this thing" only to have Amie upstage him with a "oh yeah?" as she jumps up on the fence.

Next week? Deserts are tough to navigate.

by miri