Episode Nine

The fulcrum on which the whole season turned happens in Episode 9, and that’s my beef.
The Aussie Review

If you were designing a television show like TAR, you would obviously want the climax of the race to happen at the end – the culmination of many weeks of competition and solid entertainment, a desperate quest to be the first across the mat in a tight finish. Right? Well that may have been what Bert, Elise and company had in their collective heads during the first season, but as the events of this excellent episode prove, it just didn’t happen that way. I really laid into the closing stages of TAR1 when I first joined up on TWOP, mainly because I felt that the whole point of the show, as outlined in the first sentence of my review, was taken away from us. The fulcrum on which the whole season turned happens in Episode 9, and that’s my beef.

This episode is crammed full of very debatable decisions and actions, many of which went wrong and ultimately lead to a two-horse race out of the five who begin. I don’t blame the teams for these bad calls – even though they’re exhausted by this point, I can still detect a rational reason for each of them. And certainly what happens here was a big factor in the producers subtly changing the structure of future races so that this season would remain unique in a variety of ways.

But this episode begins well enough, with the lead teams’ advantage not turning out to be as insurmountable as first thought. The tricky choice between taking a bus or a train to Delhi is a great poser for the teams, and is basically what allows Team Guido and Momily to bridge the gap by the time everyone arrives at the airport. Frustratingly, we don’t see much of what looks like another classic airport sequence, and you can’t help but feel sorry for Kevin and Drew as they come perilously close to what looks in retrospect like an enormous lead that would have stuck.

In any event, everything leads up to That Fateful Day in Bangkok. Rob seems content to possibly get rabies from that puppy, but otherwise he and Brennan keep their heads screwed on, and ironically by taking the vanilla options throughout the leg actually come up smelling of roses. Frank and Margarita excel in finding the private car, but falter somewhat when they start bickering about whether to take a taxi or train to Krabi. They eventually make the correct decision and put themselves in prime position also. And that’s it. Everyone else makes what turn out to be fatal errors, though it mightn’t seem so here.

Kevin and Drew suffer the most, based upon their initial position. They waste a lot of time searching in vain for the private taxi, and what seems little at this point will snowball them out of contention when it comes to the crunch. But this is nothing compared to the extraordinary behaviour of the two teams at the back.
For whatever reason, the two teams going for the Fast Forward almost turn it into a competition against each other rather than thinking strategically.
For whatever reason, the two teams going for the Fast Forward almost turn it into a competition against each other rather than thinking strategically. There is no real reason for either of them to even attempt it once they get back level with the others, however much they played “us or them” back in India. It just looks like Emily and Nancy desperately want to beat the Guidos just once, regardless of what other opportunities arise for them to stay in the race. The actual Fast Forward itself is hugely exciting and excruciatingly tense, helped by that music building and building to a crescendo. It does make you wonder, though, whether the coin game was intended all along or specially invented once it became apparent that two teams were going for it simultaneously. Hmm…

Fast Forward in hand, Team Guido then make the blunder of all time by sitting on their advantage and taking a bus to Krabi from Bangkok. They have copped a lot of flak for this, but I can at least see where they were coming from, up to a point. Having just spent an evening waiting for the Bangkok route markers to open, then meeting Kevin and Drew going somewhere on a bus, Joe probably drew the (not entirely unreasonable) assumption that everyone was heading “south” on a slow-moving bus, whereupon they would probably have to wait again for something to open. By this time Team Guido would have reached the pit stop comfortably and would have to wait for the others to check in throughout the day. It’s not that far-fetched, but the decision to wait was pretty daft to begin with and shows just how tired and worn out the previously unbeatable Joe and Bill had become. Ah well.

Then there’s Nancy and Emily, hopelessly confused and exhausted with no hope for the future. As in India, even when people try to help them they’re in no mood to listen, and a heartbreaking situation develops for the rest of the leg. Had they simply taken a bus to Kanchanaburi, Momily would have achieved their dream of beating the Guidos and still had a chance of getting back in the race by using the FF on the next leg.

The actual tasks in Thailand are pretty routine, and for once a convincing argument could perhaps have been mounted for the inclusion of spoon-fed transportation. But the episode is brilliantly constructed and edited and remains the high point of the latter stages of TAR1. It’s just a shame that only two teams can win from this point onwards, a fact not helped by what happens in the following leg. But that’s for another time – have a happy holiday period and I hope to see you all again in January for the final four legs of the season.
–– by The Australian