‘The Amazing Race’: Breaking language barriers


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Ethnocentrism reared its ugly head this week on ‘The Amazing Race,’ as the four remaining teams fought to stay in the race long enough to end up in the final round.

Tempers flared with the end of the race -- and the $1-million cash prize -- almost within their grasp, leading to some irate encounters with errant taxi drivers, team members and bladder control.


With detectives Michael and Louie earning a reprieve last week from elimination, the duo would have to push more than ever if they hoped to stay in the race, considering that they’d have to complete a Speed Bump at a pre-determined point during this leg and make up the time they had lost, checking in last.

But while their struggle might have been the focus of these week’s installment, the Wonder Twins -- that would be models Caite and Brent -- instead took up the lion’s share of screen time, offering yet another series of shocking, head-scratching and plain ignorant comments that certainly didn’t prove Caite’s point about demonstrating that they could do anything they set their minds to. That said, Caite did undermine herself by issuing the blatant ‘People you can go screw yourselves’ comment at the beginning of the leg after correctly reading a -- shocker -- map. (Still, it was a map of Shanghai rather than ‘the Iraq.’)

The two continued their antics throughout the episode, as Caite attempted to count gold statues at Longhua Temple and, convinced that the Chinese man overseeing the challenge had misunderstood her efforts to count, attempted to use sign language to ‘spell out’ the numbers of her guess. (She was, not surprisingly, wrong.) Brent, meanwhile, stood nearby, telling the cameras, ‘She’s not as dumb as everyone thinks.’

I’ve yet to see any indications to the contrary and, this week, the two turned on each other at the Detour when Brent seemed to require urgent use of the restroom and continued to hound Caite to leave the challenge so he could relieve himself. So desperate was his need that he altogether stopped searching for their quarry, instead badgering Caite, who seemed to have no interest in pausing what they were doing or allowing him to go to the bathroom, resulting in a strange urination standoff that led Cord to note, ‘I thought he was going to go in the room.’ Caite finally relented as Brent called her ‘stupid’ and they headed off in search of a loo.

While that was bad enough, Brent uttered what must be the most naive and ignorant comment ever said on ‘The Amazing Race’ as he attempted to instruct a cab driver where to go: ‘They don’t even understand their own language.’ Um, Brent, you do realize that you’re not speaking Shanghainese, Mandarin, Cantonese or any Chinese dialect but rather a severely mangled English phonetic pronunciation, right?

But before that, there were a number of obstacles standing in the way of all four teams, not least of which was that pesky language barrier, one that resulted in several teams not being able to make their way from the first clue box to their first stop on the Garden Bridge. Cowboys Jet and Cord faced major taxi-related issues, but it was really the least of anyone’s problems this week.


Brothers Dan and Jordan spent two hours attempting to find the Garden Bridge before giving up and waiting for last-place team Michael and Louie so that they could find it together. Their theory: that it’s not good to be alone and in last place. Armed with binoculars, Louie scoured the city until he spied two jackets hanging off of a road sign. The quartet headed out to investigate as what could possibly be the significance of two lone jackets cast off in an urban setting? It MUST be some sort of clue from the ‘Amazing Race’ producers, right?


But, using a translation service, the cops were able to locate the correct Garden Bridge and headed out, with the brothers behind them ... at least for the first bit. It seems that Dan and Jordan didn’t learn any foreign translations for ‘follow that cab’ and their driver aimlessly took off without really understanding what they wanted, leading Dan to have a breakdown in the back seat. ‘I want to hit someone,’ he said, seething. ‘I’m going to get violent.’ (Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.)

Meanwhile, at the Longhua Temple, Caite twice attempted to count the number of gold statues (it was 523) before finally getting the right answer, but not before Jet breezed through the challenge on his first try. (They were delayed after a local incorrectly told them to catch the metro rather than taking the bus.) Both teams hopped on motorcycles and made their way to their next stop, way ahead of the other two teams.

While the front-runners reached their Detour -- Pork Chops or Pork Dumplings -- Michael and Louie completed their Speed Bump (a jaw-droppingly easy task that had them flinging coins into an incense burner) and then entering the temple to count the 523 gold statues. Michael sent Louie in, jokingly saying that he was a ‘mathematical genius.’

Elsewhere, the teams both chose Pork Chops, a challenge that had them searching a store containing engraved stamps looking for two that contained pigs and their individual names. Despite the need for a bathroom break, Caite and Brent finished first, with Jet and Cord right behind them as both teams headed for the Pit Stop at Riverside Promenade. Snagging a taxi, the cowboys seemed to be in first place until they chose the wrong path at the Promenade, allowing Caite and Brent to slip into first place and walk away with a trip for two to the beaches of Spain. (Grr.) The lasso-prone brothers finished in second, securing a spot among the final three.

But it would prove to be a race between increasingly irate brothers Dan and Jordan and coppers Michael and Louie for that final spot as both teams searched through all of the stamps neck and neck after the detectives caught up.

Ultimately, however, only one team could advance to the final round and, as darkness fell on Shanghai, it was brothers Dan and Jordan who would continue to race for a million dollars, leaving Michael and Louie out in the cold.

What did you think of this season’s penultimate episode? Should Louie and Michael have been the ones to get eliminated? Happy with the final three teams? Who do you think will walk away the victors of this season of ‘The Amazing Race’ and who will be left empty-handed? Head to the comments section to discuss.

-- Jace Lacob (Follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

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