Teams leave France and head over to Armenia; a first for the TAR, the home of Mount Ararat. And I love it when the race goes to these kinds of countries, these off the beaten path places that you know exist but you don't think about all the time. And I loved the shots of the country, the down on its heels former Soviet republic feel that the episode gave off: some brutalist architecture, strange but awesome public art, and old beat up Ladas and other former USSR vehicles and infrastructure. Not sure if it's reflective of the entire country but it was awesome. Especially all the Armenians in this episodes. Compared to the social media racers, the people of Armenia were much more alive, maybe not as fancily dressed, good looking or physically fit as the racers, but they had big smiles (some in need of dental work), fat cigarettes, and lots of down home personality. I wanna see more of these kinds of folks in future seasons of the race, be it the US one or the Canadian one. The Aussie race was more open to different body types and personalities, which is one reason why its three seasons are some of the best TAR races ever.
Once teams arrive from France, they had to make their way to Yerevan Opera House, albeit after a night's stay because it didn't open till 8 am. Once teams go there, they had to search the opera house for their next clue. Meanwhile the local orchestra played a tune by a local composer. Well, it's the world famous Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian. And no matter where I hear that tune, I can't help think of this. I also used this Secret Policeman's Version (read stole) when I was a semi-professional clown doing silly things. Who am I kidding? I still use it when I do silly things.
Anyway, teams swirl through the theatre, frantically searching through rows and rows and rows, flipping seats, for the clue. Meanwhile, some janitor with an appliance leftover from the Soviet era, is vacuuming the place, oblivious to the music and the racers. And they are oblivious to him. I'm pretty sure that if Gord and I were racers, we would have noticed something as incongruous as that guy. Remember a few weeks back when I said the Swiss chess players from the bench task were the best bits of casting for this season? We have ourselves a new winner! The Armenian Vacuum Guy was brilliant, the way he languidly vacuumed the place. He was so obvious, but fit so perfectly in with his surroundings that not a single team figured he had anything to do with the task. I want to see him and his brother in law in the next race.
It took almost forever till Brodie and Kurt, quickly followed by Sheri and Cole, to realize the importance of the Armenian Vacuum Guy. Fortunately, Brodie and Kurt didn't overplay their discovery with their signature histrionics and got out of there with most teams not noticing. Sheri and Cole were just shocked to find themselves in second place. It took a long while before many of the other teams also noticed Armenian Vacuum Guy, especially Scott and Blair, and Tyler and Korey. They were at the end of the pack.
AVG, as I know call him, told teams to climb up and down many, many steps of the Yerevan Cascade, a task which was mostly a tourist shot so they could get the clue for the Detour. Still, pretty cool site so I'll let that one go. Tasks for the Detour were Thread and Bread. Thread was to weave one row of a traditional Armenian carpet while Bread was to make 15 pieces of Armenian flat bread, lavash. I'm pretty sure Gord and I would have chosen Bread, mostly because we like to cook before sewing. And I've made Armenian flat bread before, albeit on a pizza stone in my oven. It's really good. And finally, we have two Detour tasks that seem to have similar levels of difficulty. They don't look that hard to figure out but they just take time and patience to get properly done.
Again, it's Brodie and Kurt who get done first, but this time they go all crazy with the celebrations of victory. I'm really tiring of this overblown displays of excitement from these guys. There's no need to try so hard guys. Really, there isn't. Anyway, once the task is done, teams must head to Republic Square (is that a classic old Soviet name or what? Although in the Cold War years it was known as Lenin Square so the new name is an improvement). At Republic Square, teams have to get on the #13 bus and head out of town with a group of locals. Again, they were awesome folks. More interesting to watch than the racers.
And there they hit the Roadblock. Or some kind of weird taxi blockade. Or something. I guess it's Armenian custom for taxis to stop in the middle of nowhere on a rural road and cajole somebody on a bus to change their oil before giving them a ride. Or this is just the Armenian version of Uber? Either way that's the task, change the oil on an old Lada taxi. Easy enough, done that before many times. And for most of the teams, it's pretty straightforward. Except for Sheri. They were so excited to be in second place, so thrilled to be at the front of the pack rather than the back. But such is life. She didn't know the difference between righty-righty and lefty-loosey, so all the teams pass her on the roadblock. If it wasn't for the assistance of Scott, she'd still be there.
And in the end, Brodie and Kurt come in first and win an Express Pass. Yes, that was the prize, pretty late in the game for one but it could help. The mat was at the Temple of Garni, which looked so cool in the shots I had to look it up. Seems it was destroyed in an earthquake 300 years ago and then only rebuilt recently, using the stones of the original structure. And Sheri and Cole were in last. Lucky for them, it was not a non-elim but rather an extended leg. So they will probably catch up to the rest of the pack as they head out into Georgia, not the US state but another former Soviet republic. Overall it was a decent episode but really it was the people and landscape of Armenia, especially Armenian Vacuum Guy and others, who made it stand out from others. Save for the drama of Sheri and Cole falling from second to last, the teams played little role in my enjoyment of the show. Go Armenia.