Something was smelling fishy throughout this episode of TAR Season 23, and it wasn't all the fish. I was expecting one thing but got another. And there was another smelly bit. Let's recap.
But first, after watching the first season of Amazing Race Canada this summer, I'm tired of the typical TAR opening. First, Phil recaps last week, then the credits run and we have to watch a bunch of commercials before we get to the actual. The Canadian way was better (isn't it always). There was the recap of last week, followed by credits, then boom, they went right into the action of the show, leaving the commercials till later. Maybe it's a broadcasting rules things but as I said, Canadian way, better.
So teams take off from Portugal and fortunately don't linger. It's off to Svolaer, Norway via plane and ferry. And unlike last week, we get no real time at the airport because there is only one flight to Bodo, Norway where they must catch the ferry. So teams all arrive to Svolaer at the same time. Because the town is north of the Arctic Circle, it's still daylight even though it's 11 pm. Which makes it tough to get a cab so the teams can get to the Detour. The choice is between Hang Your Heads and Hammer of the Cods (really? Did the writer think this was creative?). In Hang Your Heads, teams must collect six groups of 10 fish heads, tie them together, push them to the hanging posts on a wheelbarrow and then hang them properly. In Hammer of the Cods, they have to collect 15 dried cods, take them to the hammer station and beat the crap out of them to get one kilo of fish jerky. One kilo for you non-metric types is 2.2 pounds.
I would have chosen Fish Heads, not just it seemed easier but so I could sing the silly Fish Head song. Six out of the eight teams confirm my opinion but sadly none of them sing or know the song. Except the producers who use it for the closing credits (Nice touch, folks). Only the Oklahoma Boys and the Bunnies decide that it's Hammer time, which will hurt them.
But no only really gets going because they can't find a cab. They stand around the town centre, looking for help, even though locals tell them it's around 500 meters to a kilometer away. "That's more than a mile, right?" says one of the Oklahoma Boys. And the answer is no. A kilometer, as the majority of the world knows is 1,000 meters, which is about two-thirds of a mile. Sigh. Come on, America, you're a nice country and all but maybe it's time to join the metric system. It's real easy to learn cause it's all about the 10s.
Anyway, the Exes find a cab and head. The Beardos decide to take matters in their own hands and start running, leaving everyone behind, fighting for the few cabs in town. So Tim and Marie get on the fish heads, Marie yelling at Tim to make sure he gets eight fish heads per string even though the clue said 10. Can't recall who gets a cab versus walking but it's seems to be a moot point. Some are slightly ahead of others, some get sweating while running/walking.
But the Beardos move quickly with the fish, while Jason and Amy help out and make a play for the Express pass by telling the Exes it's 10 fish, not 8. Amy's also getting turned out by watching her man work. Amy's assistance helps the Exes get done first but it's a long wheelbarrow push to the hanging area. Marie doesn't help Tim at all. Then again, neither does Amy. Didn't see what Nicole did, not sure if she helped.
But once the Exes arrive at the hanging poles, Marie starts yelling at Tim to hang the fish correctly, even though they are not using the marked pole, which the clue said they must do. Amy and Jason know this and hang their fish correctly and are give the next clue: jump on a speed boat and head to Henningsvaer to get their next clue. They take off, leaving Marie fuming when they're told they've done it wrong. She yells some more, telling Tim to make sure he gets it right.
It gets even worse when the Beardos show up, hang the fish correctly and get their next clue. Marie demands assistance, mentioning the Express Pass but the Beards rebuff her. "We don't need your stinking Express Pass," one of them says as the dash away. Nice move. Although Gord and I would have demanded the Express Pass before offering any help. And would have told her, like the Beardos did, where to put that Express Pass if she wouldn't hand it over.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma boys are climbing the hanging rakes, pulling down cod. It's looks tough as they weigh themselves down with dried cod after dried cod. They're starting to realize that this was the tough side of the detour. But the Afghanimals aren't doing that great either. They may be done the stringing but their wheelbarrow has a flat. Looks like the Ice Girls may pass them.
Back the head hanging, Marie's starting to freak out, seriously considering the Express Pass if they can't figure this thing out. And as they ER Docs arrive and start hanging, she finally looks at the end of the pole and sees the race flag. From first starting the Detour to fourth because of arrogance and stupidity. But they get done and instead of accepting that she made a mistake, she makes fun of the other teams going the opposite way. Marie is by far one of the worse TAR contestants of all time: loud, abusive and arrogant. And though I understand why Tim isn't with her anymore, I don't understand why he hangs around with her. Low self-esteem, I'm guessing. Time to move on, Tim, it's not worth it, even for a million dollars.
So the Beardos arrive at the speed boat first and they race across the bay, beards aflappin. They're followed by the Daters, the Exes and the Docs. Back at the hanging poles, the Ice Girls pass the Afghanimals and hang first. The Oklahoma Boys finally have all their cod, slowly and painfully make their way to the hammer area and start pounding. The Bunnies are still trying to get enough cod to move on. But it's tough work. They've made it even harder on themselves by wearing sleeveless outfits. This not only allows the rough, dried fish to cut into their skin, it leaves them open to mosquitoes. The landscape above the Arctic Circle may be picturesque and full of daylight, it's also home to millions of biting bugs. Best to keep covered.
So the Beardos make it across the bay. The next clue is a Roadblock: Who's the Biggest Swinger. Guess it's Brandon; he's got to jump from bridge with a 80 foot high rope swing, then cut the rope and plunge into the Arctic Ocean. Good thing it's summer, but still that's cold water. He does, much to the delight of Adam. Maybe a little overreaction, Adam, it's only swimming, ya know.
Back across the bay, the Oklahoma Boys are still hammering away, while Kim's freaking out, wondering where she put the clue. She spins around with all this cod around her neck, looking for the clue. Only after a bit does she realize it's in her mouth. Funny stuff and I can't imagine how the camera and sound operators can watch this stuff without laughing out loud. Kim also gets her hair caught as she dumps the cod, much to the glee of the judge. Is it me or did that guy in the hammer station look a lot like Mike White from Season 14 and 18?
The next several minutes get a little tedious as teammate after teammate leaps from the bridge as their partner cheers them on. There's a bit of drama when Jason can't reach the release but it's only a bit. And then there's more tedium during the next task. Technically the task is to have the teams hook a sled with a giant rock to a truck with some chains, but in reality, it's just a commercial for Ford trucks. This is one of the fishy parts I was talking about. Even the bit about the Ice Girls not knowing how to drive stick was predictable and silly. I mean, really, 23 seasons into TAR and there's a team that doesn't learn to drive stick before going on? This is TAR basics, along with reading the clue.
But the Ice Girls catch a break when the Oklahoma Boys, making great time, catch up and offer assistance. Very polite but remember, this is a competition. It might be good to let a team struggle so you can move ahead. Or maybe they realized that with the Bunnies way behind them, there was a moment to help. Hopefully karma will notice that and help these boys in the future.
The key part of the Ford commercial, I mean the task, is that once the rock is moved, teams will find a clue and a bag of viking coins buried in the dirt. But not all of them do this simple bit correctly. The Beardos do and realize they must get into another Ford and find the next pitstop, a Viking Longhouse. Based on the shots of the place, looks like the boys and their beards would fit in nicely. Coming on their heels are the Exes. But once they move the truck, they only grab the coins, leaving the longhouse clue behind. "The coins must be the clue," Marie says, dashing away. Again, her arrogance is blowing it for them, which is fine because the sooner she is gone, the better. I know producers like to have obnoxious contestants on the show for drama, but for me, it's the wrong kind of drama.
So the Beardos find the Longhouse, meet Phil and are told they are Team #1. They win $5K each. But Phil pulls out another clue and tells the boys that the race is still on. Another fishy part because there was a note about the next pitstop, last team checking may be eliminated and all that. An extended leg isn't a pitstop. I was expecting a non-elimination leg and that's still possible when the teams head to Poland. But I prefer an extended leg to a non-elimination and hope the producers don't end this leg that way. That would be very annoying.
Still, the episode doesn't end there. Marie and Tim are scrambling around, finally realizing that they have no clue, literally and figuratively. They don't know where they're supposed to go. When they run into Nicole and Travis, they ask for help. Sensing their desperation, Nicole plays it tough: info for Express Pass. No Express Pass, no info. A great piece of quick thinking and gameplay cause if Marie hangs onto that Express Pass, they are trouble. They might be able to follow Nicole and Travis but Phil could send them back to the their clue before he can offer them the next one. It's been done before. Or they may be assessed a time penalty. All of this could be moot because of the extended leg and all teams maybe on the next flight to Poland, but Marie and Tim don't know that. All they know is that they don't have a clue and will probably be penalized. Heck, even if Nicole and Travis help them, getting the Express Pass in return, they'll could be still penalized.
Okay, maybe this is good drama with the obnoxious contestant. See ya next week.
Wayne Arthurson is a huge Amazing Race fan, having watched all the US, Asian, Australian and Canadian versions of the show. He's also a dad, the author of the bestselling Leo Desroches crime series and other books available here, as well as a freelance and ghost writer. Plus, he's played drums in various bands.