Commentary

Episode Five

I don't know why, but desert locations often bring out the best of what TAR has to offer.
The Aussie Review

After wobbling slightly with the previous edition, the first season gets back on track with one of the most striking and unusual legs ever seen on the show.

Although such things are hard to measure, I still think this episode holds the record for being the shortest leg ever in terms of the time it takes from start to finish. And like many episodes around this point in every season, with the "cannon fodder" out of the way we are shown in graphic terms how the remaining teams operate. This is especially the case given that the desert setting leads to the most navigation-intense leg ever, and apart from a few fleeting moments, all seven teams basically spend the whole episode by themselves.
As for the Guidos, they skip through the episode with their usual aplomb, but look like they are starting to get rather tired.
I don't know why, but desert locations often bring out the best of what TAR has to offer. This episode features some excellent work by the cameramen as we are shown just how empty and bewildering the Sahara can be - I think we can all remember that famous shot of Paul slogging up a sand hill to reveal...almost nothing in every direction for miles. For once, the disorientation of the teams in such an unforgiving environment makes sense and really does give you the feeling that this is the toughest leg yet.

There's more than a hint of the exotic about the locations in this episode. The golden globe of Tatouine looks rather nice; Ksar Hadada proves a suitably weird setting for another one-sided Detour (though I would have loved to have seen the other place!); the shots of shops and solitary people standing in the middle of the desert are great; the camel Roadblock looks interesting, but is more than a trifle odd when you consider that the person not doing it has more of a workload; and the unique oasis pitstop - all of these help to make this leg stick out from just about every other one they've done in four seasons.

As I said above, this episode gives us a look at how the remaining teams work together more than usual, and this aspect certainly doesn't disappoint. With Team Guido already having had the limelight in Episode 3, Episode 5 really belongs to Kevin and Drew, who take the lead early on and dominate proceedings. There's a really good rivalry developing with the Guidos that you just know is leading somewhere, and the sequence on the roof of Ksar Hadada is an inspired piece of thinking that makes you realise that these wisecracking guys are far more savvy than we all first thought. The Frats breeze through the leg in good-humoured style and enjoy a number of classic moments that everyone still remembers. Sadly though, as with Joe and Bill in Paris, this display of dominance would never be quite as powerful in the rest of the season.
He might have been the most reluctant racer we've ever seen, and they might have got on our nerves early on, but by the end of this episode I think we're pretty sad to see them go.
As for the Guidos, they skip through the episode with their usual aplomb, but look like they are starting to get rather tired. There's a rare but very enjoyable bicker between them when on the road, but otherwise they don't seem quite as "larger-than-life" as they once did. You could argue that the chinks in their (flawless to this point) armour really begin to appear in this episode, and get ever wider the longer the season goes on...

An important point about this episode, often overlooked, is that it really is the only time Nancy and Emily appear to be a solid, underrated team in the mix. Just this once, they manage to hold their position near the front by themselves and without any assistance from Kevin and Drew - so you could probably say that this is their finest hour, even if I still find Emily extremely irritating, especially during the bits in their 4WD and during the Roadblock.

Rob and Brennan truly taste last place for the only time in the entire race, despite many future prognostications from Brennan on this very subject. Seeing them wander around Ksar Hadada for what seems like an eternity is mightily funny, but in true Esquire style they manage to survive simply by taking the most sensible option and using their brains when it matters. Despite this, they remain curiously unengaging personalities, at least for me.

And then there are the three couple teams, all in a row at the end of the pack and demonstrating very different types of teamwork. Frank and Margarita have a trying time of things (Margarita's conversation with that man in the desert is very funny indeed), but the viewer can now see that they are working as a team far better than they did at the start of the race. For one thing, Frank has stopped screaming, and Margarita is asserting herself more. It's about here that you really start to believe they could make it together outside the race.

Then there's Lenny and Karyn at the other extreme! It is blatantly obvious to anyone watching this that whatever it was that brought them together in the first place has now almost totally disappeared - there's a couple of great moments as they exchange the world's limpest high-five in their car, and later they walk off the mat in completely opposite directions to each other! Much as Lenny seems to be a nice guy, I have never liked his "blow-with-the-breeze" style of racing. Poor Karyn spends most of this leg extremely frustrated by the constant battle to stay in the race, and I suppose her inability to influence their progress all by herself. Barring a miracle, Lenny and Karyn's story has almost played itself out by this point.

Finally, Paul and Amie get lost in the desert and he really does give up the race. Which is more sad than it looks at first, because at the very start they seem very relaxed, happy and determined. But once Amie starts vomiting, you can see in Paul's eyes that he has mentally pulled the pin. And as evidenced by his comments when they're eliminated, the reason he does this is because he really does love her, which redeems him a bit. He might have been the most reluctant racer we've ever seen, and they might have got on our nerves early on, but by the end of this episode I think we're pretty sad to see them go.

Mind you, the last few minutes stretch credibility until it snaps - are we really supposed to believe that Paul and Amie chance upon the pitstop after bypassing everything else completely? At least the real concern of the other teams about them is touching, and as Phil strides towards the mat with them to officially give them the old Philimination, the first stirrings of the "Mmm...Phil..." Syndrome can perhaps be detected. This isn't quite amongst the best legs in TAR history, but its very unusual structure and location make it one of the most memorable.

The Australian's Rating: 8/10
by The Australian


Random Musings

The theme this week? Lost. Most of the teams get lost in the desert. The Guidos have lost their good humor. Lenny and Karyn have lost what little bit remained of their relationship. Amie keeps losing her lunch and, in the end, she and Paul lose the race. The best thing about all the negative vibes and tension this wandering produces? We are given a larger than usual dose of the humor of the Frats to balance the mood.
..the cameramen are extra drunk and careening as they remind us that last week we left off at the coliseum in El-Jem.
Right from the start, you can tell this episode will be cranked up a notch from last week - the cameramen are extra drunk and careening as they remind us that last week we left off at the coliseum in El-Jem. We start off with Team Guido ragging on the other teams. Later in this Guido-light ep, they end up ragging on each other a bit. They usually get along so well, so it's odd to see them get snippy with each other. Although I must say, for reasons I don't understand, I enjoyed hearing Joe call Bill a nervous nellie.

Just as I'm wondering how Lenny and Karyn are still in the race, we see them fighting in a cab. I've never seen two people sitting so close together and who are so far apart. Later, they exchange the world's most reluctant high-five and have a complete non-moment on the Amazing Bathmat. It's painful to watch.

If there was ever an episode that could be used as an argument for spoon-fed transportation, it's this one. The teams have to find their own way - and it's obviously tougher than hopping on a plane or taking a cab. No one comes out completely unscathed. Some get totally lost - I still haven't figured out how Paul and Amie managed to find the pit stop - while some just have relatively minor encounters with scary spiders.

Lessons Learned This Week:
Yellow stones in the desert? Not a good way to guide racers.

The definition of true love? A willingness to kiss when your loved one has barf breath - not just once, but twice.

Winner of the First Annual Funniest Pronunciation of Tataouine Competition:
Amie. I can't even think about how to try and type how she said it. Second runner up is Joe (I think) for turning the silent "e" at the end into a long "e" - Tataouin-ee.

Gotta Love Those Editors Moments of the Week:
Joe, lost in the Star Wars place and trying to instruct Bill in what to say in the walkie talkie, snips, "Sing happy birthday or something." Cut to the Frats clapping along to music in their car.

As Team Guido approaches the pit stop, Joe says, "We're the first one's here! The fatties got lost." Slam cut to Kevin and Drew dancing at the pit stop.
He then tells Kevin there's nothing there but huge spiders. Kevin's response? "That's a sign."
Quotable Frat Moments of the Week:
When the Frats are a bit lost in the desert, they stop at one point and Drew approaches a small building in hopes he can find directions. When leaving, he notices something on the porch: "Oh geez, look at the size of these spiders. Holy mackerel!" He then tells Kevin there's nothing there but huge spiders. Kevin's response? "That's a sign."

Drew, while taking a piss along the side of the rode: "Watch for spitting cobras." BTW, when at this same spot, the Guidos also mention a need for relief. Something about that spot just inspires the need to urinate.

Drew during a rather bumpy car ride: "Shake and bake, baby, shake and bake"

Huh?
Why does Kevin have a shovel when he's riding on the camel? It looks like the clues were attached to the shovels, but was he the only one to carry it? Would have sucked for the other teams if they needed to bring it with.

What's up with the strange clock and map at the mat?

Where they really all doing the walkie talkie thing at the same time? How did that work?

Heart-tugging Moment of the Week:
It's great to see how concerned the other teams are about Paul and Amie. Amie is lost in the desert, puking her guts out, and she still doesn't want to quit. Damn shame they got knocked out of the race. And, for someone who's spent the day being ill, she looks darn cute when standing on the mat.

Hee! Moments:
The whole bit with the camel roadblock. Kevin, Drew, and a camel in the desert - who knew that combo would produce pure comic gold?

Fashion Notes:
I love the shot of Brennan in his adventure hat leading Rob, who's sitting on top of a camel looking through his adventure binoculars. They seriously look like they are auditioning for the latest Indiana Jones movie.
Frank is the only person in the history of the race who doesn't look completely idiotic in a do-rag.
Frank is the only person in the history of the race who doesn't look completely idiotic in a do-rag.

Brennan Speech Meter:
Okay, I know I called him a chatterbox last week, but he really out does himself this week. He does the "how we are feeling as a team" talk at the beginning of the episode. He's shown being the talker in the walkie talkie bit. He explains how slow they were at the walkie talkie task and later talks about how lost they were. (There's also a close-up of Rob during this voice over where you can see he's got writing on his hat. As we all know now, he was documenting the history of the race on this hat.) At the end, he even gets in a few words about Paul and Amie coming in last. My favorite? When getting in the car in Tataouine, Brennan says, "Let's let him drive so we can talk and pay attention." See? He likes talking!
by miri