Amazing Race Season 23 Episode 2 Recap

As you probably already know, I ran the Amazing Race on Season 21.  Most seasons blend together. The routes, while interesting, usually never really stand out (although Season 22 was my favorite of all seasons). Same can be said for the contestants (my favorite cast here ).  Except in my case. All someone needs to hear is that “we were the only team in Amazing Race history to have had a chance at winning 2 million dollars.”  And then they remember this sequence exactly:

Frog Fallopian tubes, passing a girl with two prosthetic legs to the finish mat, chance at 2 million, 4 missed flights / Frankfurt Airport, U-turn in Frankfurt , Chippendales/Twinnies/Texas alliance. No more 2 million dollars.  

And so that about sums up my Amazing Race experience.  Well, actually there’s a lot more to the story (as to all of those points) but the bottom line is this: even though I didn’t win 2 million bucks, I can thank the Amazing Race for all of the wonderful opportunities that have come my way in the 1-year since – book deal, travel magazine writing gig, #ChiefWorldExplorer opportunity literally titled “The Best Job in the World) (application still pending, but I’ve made it from 3000+ applicants to top 50 thus far – you can see my application videos here) and the accompanying social media platform that goes along with being on a primetime television show for nearly 3 months.  So yes, I’d trade all of that for 2 million dollars, duh, but that’s neither here nor there.  What is here is my short and sweet commentary, 10 thoughts and musings, on each episode of this season of Amazing Race. Without further ado, Episode 2. 

Episode 1 Recap Here

 NOTE: this is a running diary of me watching the show – in other words, i watch, pause, jot down notes.  If something unfolds later in the episode, Ill write “UPDATE” to reflect that. So you get my real time impressions, not my monday morning quarterback slash 20/20 hindsight.


Let’s get right into it.


1) Middle of the night starts: When you start the leg in the middle of the night, that can only mean two things: 1) you’re going to a travel agency that’s agreed to open just for you (and the other racers) and you’re going to book a flight (or maybe 2) that are limited by production as to (connecting cities, airlines that can be flown, etc).  Further,  those flight(s) will all be scheduled to be departing same day, most likely same time.  In other words, you’re bottlenecking up. Quit freaking out if you see other teams arrive and book stuff. You’re meant to bottleneck. Any  and all leads will be effectively wiped out.  2) you’re going to a local event, establishment, activity, landmark, etc where you’ll wait for it to open – therefore, another bottleneck. My point – it’s really hard to build a sustained lead on the Race.  The nature of the tv component of the show is to keep teams together (as opposed to the more generic “race” component).  Of course, we (Abbie and I) figured out a way on the 7th leg to get 8hrs behind when our flight out of Istanbul/we ran into ‘production issues’.  So you can, from time to time, see teams with half day or full day leads. We’re skilled like that. Sigh.

2) The Express Pass:  Our season only had 1 express pass (won by the #twinnies on the second leg in Jakarta, Indonesia) not two as the last two seasons have had.  So its interesting to see how goofy people act trying to weasel that 2nd pass away from the team holding it.  Don’t get me wrong, I get it.  But it seems to me its a no brainer for the team holding it that you give it to the weakest team, when the time is right and you’ve exhausted all your leverage whilst holding it (thereby helping them stay in the race at the expense of a stronger / more competitive team) but maybe that’s just me looking outside in?   I also would think it has monetary value.  So perhaps an auction so you can stockpile cash for later in the Race?  Is there any other strategy that I’m missing. Feel free to comment and tell me how you’d play the 2nd express pass any differently.

3) The route money:  The 589$ for ‘this leg’ of the race is more money than any single leg we ever had. The highest dollar amount that  comes to mind for our season is or about 420$ – and i think that was for our first leg in Moscow, Russia.  Which makes sense seeing as how we got hustled by our verrrrry non corrupted taxi driver. (sarcasm).  Race production is smart. I dont know to what dollar they have the money drilled down to, but suffice to say you should have some money left over for food and water but not for much else.  I bought a t shirt in the Dhaka airport that said “Bangladesh” on it.  I love it. I still wear it.  You know how much it cost? $2 US.  For a shirt.  I win.


(Bangladesh shirt. Being worn on the following leg. In Turkey. Think that helped spoil the route for those that pay special attention to such things?)

Excuse the digression.  In countries where your doing two legs, usually the first leg you’ll get all of you money and the second leg you’ll get 1$.  Now you dont know how long you’ll be in each country, but you now know (because I’m telling you) that if you get a large sum, you can bet you’ll be there for more than 1 leg. UPDATE: What’s interesting about this leg (and different from our season) is they bussed overnight to another part of the country.  So, they’ll either get no money for their next leg, or the large sum was to pay for the 24hr bus ride.  Can someone comment and share how much that bus ride cost? My sense is a large portion of that budget was for that bus fare — but then I ask myself “how much can that fare really be?” My rough guess would be no more than $100 US/per person.  Would love to know the answer.

4) Nicknames on the race:  If anyone knows Race nicknames, it’s me. Our season we had #twinnies or #twistedsister, #blondes, #rockers and/or #longhairs, #chips, #texas, #beeks, #lumberjack, #monstertruck and #jackandthebeanstalk (Garry & Will).  So when the awesome “Afghanimals” (self-titled) decided to nickname Tim and Marie as “Pinkie” and “No brain” all I could think of how awesome these two afghanis were at deciding really uncool nicknames.  And this coming from a guy that was on a season with average, at best, nicknames. Really dudes? “Pinkie” and “no brain”?  Two thumbs down on creativity and another one for coming onto a show self nicknamed.  A couple of things you just don’t do: stiff the waiter on a tip, eat yellow snow and self-nickname. Bad form. Jamal and Sidekick just try so hard that its painful to watch them or listen to them.  I’m just not a fan and given their borderline stalkery-ness with the hockey girls, it’s getting uncomfortable to watch the spazziness morph into whatever it is you’re seeing them do on the finish mat in this episode.  Although it now appears they have enough skills to get through the next few legs as the fat starts to get trimmed (I’m looking at you #baseballwives. Don’t let me down. I know you’re close with my girl Brittney from my season).  Speaking of the hockey girls, they have to be coming up soon for their introduction to the chopping block, no? Haven’t seen a single redeeming Race move made yet.  Go ahead Marie, drop the hammer girl.

5) Task selection:  I love the part when the teams got to the ship and they were charged with having to find “something” (in this case a famous speech/phrase). I loved it because it required them to do something intelligent.  So you’re taking out the physical achievement/activity which for obvious reasons, permeates the show. As it should. I’m just saying it’s nice when the contestants have to use their brains.  Recall the time in a previous season when a team (Chad & Stephanie, Season 17) had to match up the classical piano piece being played in a room full of classical pianos with the correct sheet music.  Click here to relive that amazingness .  INSIDE INFO: I heard a rumor that production blew that from the judging standpoint and kept telling them they were wrong when in fact they had been correct (hours?) earlier.  We’re all human – mistakes happen :) Those errors just cost some teams a few places in the race standings that leg and other teams 2 million dollars. Oops, I digressed. Anyways, the mental tasks are one of the best components of the Race to me (in addition to letting teams book their own travel) even though the map/time zone test I took in Moscow was 2 mins (TV time) but in real time 60 mins of pure agony for me.  Click here for 10 seconds of me losing it. I loved it.

Back to the ship task in this episode,  it didn’t seem to me based on the edit that the phrase they had to locate was actually on the ship (we actually never see a team identify the phrase other than asking a local).  Was production thinking these people would find someone on the street to tell them? It might’ve made for better TV if the phrase was captured on say, a piece of artwork on the ship, on a mug, or the title of a book or something more deceptive. Recall the film reel as as example from the other side of the classical piano detour (can you tell I fondly remember that episode? Me and Russia) and the teams had to use detective skills to unearth it. Simply asking a guy watching the show’s filming next to the dock isn’t quite as riveting.  But perhaps that was arranged and the teams just decided this phrase had to be so well known that asking a local would yield the right response. And it did.  My point is I just like the brain games stuff.

6)  Choosing a detour: When the teams arrived at the salt mines they had to choose between brining and mining.  Isn’t it a no brainer you go with brining here? Brining called for transporting, and then pouring salt into water and floating in said water (when enough salt was poured in)? Typically the answer is yes. It reads as less exhausting as the other option (breaking down salt boulders to find a clue) and in a race in which food and hydration are a premium, storing your energy is an important consideration.  However, it’s not that simple. Take my season when Abbie and I were in Dhaka, Bangladesh and after Abbie built the scale, we were handed our  next clue, a detour:  jute mill vs bamboo place-thingy-whatever.   We announced and originally chose bamboo. We didn’t know what jute was and we knew bamboo (or at least what we thought in our minds was intended when the clue said “bamboo”).   But when Bertram Van Muster (the show creator and on site executive producer) asked us to explain our rationale for choosing “bamboo” all we could come up with is that we knew what bamboo was and not what jute was.  It then turned out (more importantly) that our cab driver did NOT seem to know where the bamboo location was and furthermore he indicated the jute mill was just around the corner from where Abbie had built the scale.  Amazing-Race-21.5-3

So we decided on jute before we even finished loading our packs in the taxi.  Leaving the scale task that day in 4th or 5th place (after arriving 2nd)  I thought for sure we were well behind the other teams when we arrived at the pit stop (recall the palace with Moon Moon) after completing the jute mill task.  Especially because we were the only team that chose the jute mill.  But we came in 2nd and only behind the rockers that had the benefits of a fast forward from the day before.  We also finished  at least an hour ahead, if not more of the third place team.  SO even though you get a description of the task on the detour card , albeit brief, you never really know what you’re getting into.  Other factors that are or should be taken into consideration:  Do you, does a nearby local or does your cabbie know where one or both of the locations are for each detour? how far away, etc.   In this task, from the edit, it looked that “brining” was quite a bit further away from the bicycle stand than the mining task – which is  merely production’s way of evening out the two options.  At the end of the day, production isn’t trying to trick you into picking an easy one v. a hard one.  They’ve set it up so both (detours) should, conceivably take about the same amount of time — not necessarily the same amount of work output – but same time.  This is just for detours, not road blocks. (see: hay bales, and teams that completed in 1hr vs. 9hrs).  UPDATE: it seemed everyone rode bikes to same location for both detours … so definitely choosing brining would be my rationale. I would’ve aborted mining and gone with brining if they were both at same place. I m very proud of how Abbie and i chose detours — we rarely felt we made the wrong choice — even with roadblocks, but even then there was only one time we would’ve opted to have the other person (me, instead of her building the scale in Bangladesh).Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.42.38 PM

UPDATE: Hockey blondes switched mid task.  Good choice girls. No sense in working harder than you have to when, arguably, each task should take the same amount of time.  Arguably.

7) Cabs:  Looks like the bingo queens are about and yes, they are in fact lost in a cab. Reminds me exactly of Daniel/Amy, on the same leg in our season. Totally helpless feeling. Although we never experienced ‘truly lost’.  We experienced, “dude, where are you going?” and “bud, can you stop and ask directions if you’re not sure…” But never truly lost.  UPDATE: It does not appear to have cost Bingo Queens too much time here, as for some teams it can be catastrophic.  In Daniel/Amy’s case from my season they had the ability to drop their cab and try a new one as we were in a densely populated metropolitan area (Jakarta, Indonesia).  Here it looks like Bingo queens were stuck somewhere on the moon.  Meaning you live by the sword (cab you chose), you die by the sword (cab you chose).  That probably makes no sense, but just go with it. This is the part about how luck plays a HUGE role in the outcome of each leg and the race more generally.

8) Best subtle quote of the show: “Kick ass SeaBass.”  Brandon or Adam during the salt mining task. Quote for those that didn’t catch it is from the cafeteria scene in the movie Dumb n’ dumber. Well played gents.  Remember and see the quote and laugh here. (or just got to 1:40 of this clip).  You’re welcome.

9) Newest twist: Travis’s voice while in the heat of the moment. Cross between terminator and cookie monster. It’s awesome. I’d love for him to operate on me in the ER and before getting started say, “I must fix you.  Nurse….SCAPULA!” Just play back the scene where Nicole is falling off her bike.  He basically turns into a different form of human.

10) My Pause and say “Whaaaaaat?” Moment: Amy.  A tongue pierce? Didn’t see that coming. hey-yo!


This episode was so full of material, I’m throwing in some BONUS MUSINGS:

My LOL moment: Travis trying to float.  That was barely floating. That was basically just his head and knees mostly out of the water .  I’m dying. That’s not floating.  That’s laying on a pile of salt in the water.    INSIDE INFO: The “local” judge isnt judging.  Someone from production is telling him yay or nay.  Can you imagine if these cats around the world were being asked to judge fairly one team from the next based on such subjective guidelines?  Especially the guy in this shot?  You think the girl’s that have their own floatation devices are going anywhere?  He’s been in the salt mine for 30 years, and now 2 girls in a bikini are floating in some water and he’s going to pass them so they get dressed up and leave?  Are you crazy? Right.  It doesn’t work that way.

See Pic Here: Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.03.34 AM

(not floating).

Compare to actual floating:

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.03.13 AM

(floating. With the aid of more than just the salt.)



Best line of episode: Marie to Tim (after he tries some wishy-washy explanation about the benefits of stirring up lemonade): “Are we trying to float in a tub of lemonade?” Marie, now two weeks in a row has the best line of episode.  Will she make it three? Probably.

Smartest travel race move: DONT ASK WHEN THE BUS / PLANE / TRAIN LEAVES when booking travel – ask when it arrives.  Update: Aaaaaaaaaand then you realize you have to ask the question correctly.  Poor Rowan. That blows homie. Update two: (they’re now on the last bus and say): “This is how the race is supposed to be run.” And he’s right. Abbie and I had 4 separate gnarly plane snafus and we said all along, ‘this is just part of the race.. we get it – that’s traveling.” Well 3 of the snafus were travel related.  You’re right, I’ll never let this go and I’m sure it’ll come up in every recap. That’s the trade off for getting all the inside info I’m sharing. You have to deal with the barbs.

The Travelocity prize trips; I’ve always thought that these trips should reflect the leg you just won? Isn’t kind of odd when Phil calls you first in Chile and then says you’ve won a trip to Turks & Caicos? Is that just me?  Abbie and I won a trip to Fiji when we won the leg in Indonesia which has SOME geographical relationship, but Turks & Caicos for winning the leg in Chile???  Well, I’m just guessing here, but the show gets all of these trips for free (comped by Travelocity as part of the sponsorship opportunity) and so Race just hands out whatever Travelocity has provided.

My second LOL moment: Brandon/Adam slapping Phil’s ass on the finish mat as they dance circles around him.  I’ve never seen that before.  Phil didn’t seem to mind.  I like these guys. They just don’t give a F and they’re racing skills are good enough to keep them in this thing for awhile.

And of course, the very best moment of the episode:  This will always be funny to me.  In any season.  I will always laugh from deep down in my belly when this happens.  You really have to be almost clueless (no pun) for this to happen.  What am I talking about?  You don’t know?  Ok. When a team tries to interfere/hijack a local, non-Race related person (someone not associated w/ the show) on a given task and engage them as though they are involved. That person, this season, is Rowan during the shoe shine.  I know this happened in a season past (perhaps in Africa? and a kid was involved, or bottle caps)? Can someone comment that recalls and refresh my recollection.  I mean what is there to say? The video speaks for itself. And the best part is it just keeps going and going and going. Rowan literally took this dude’s shoe shine cart and wheeled around the city in the middle of the night to try and pass it off as part of the show.  I cannot tell you to what degree the show goes to marking things red/yellow so that people and places and objects are Race identifiable.  You essentially cannot mistake it.  Rowan, dude, you gotta know this.  But I’m glad you missed it because I needed that laugh out loud moment.  Did it cost him the race? Yes, it absolutely did.  Was it worth it? 100% for sure.  Seems like a nice guy too and while I’d like to say it can happen to anyone, it typically doesn’t. But Rowan, don’t feel bad, you’re not the first and you’re definitely not going to be the last. The good news is, you had the second best line of the episode:

Second best line (also involving Marie and Rowan): Rowan: “ella es el diablo” (“She’s the devil.”) In Espanol. Said in front of Marie. To the guy not involved with the task.  HOLY H–L. Funny.

In short, the best episode ever since the aborigines in the back of the Toyota Sequoia last season.

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