Amazing Race
Race To The Finish, Part I

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The beginning of the end, my friends

Previously on Pai Plong! Ping-Pong! Frats Gone? So Wrong!: The beaches of Thailand were drop-dead gorgeous. Beetle larvae? Not so much. In the antepenultimate episode, Esquire and Danza were so far ahead of the Frats and the Guidos that they were in relatively good moods all day. A twelve-year-old kicked a humbled Esquire's ass at ping-pong. A rickshaw race was unreasonably exciting, considering that it could have been outpaced by a guy on crutches pushing a piano down the street. Kevin and Drew discussed the Tao of Fonzie during a stint on a motorcycle taxi, and Drew wondered whether he'd left a little something behind on the pavement in Beijing. Drew ate feet faster than Joe, but Bill and Joe lived in a taxi for two years, so they managed to weasel their way ahead in traffic. They then flexed their language skills -- which previously had been used primarily as a tool of widespread annoyance -- and said "south gate" in Chinese. The beloved Frats were eliminated, and the subsequent weeping and wailing of America drowned out the sound of Winston Churchill spinning in his grave after being grossly misquoted by a weepy Joe. (By the way, you really didn't see how creepy Joe can get unless you went over to the CBS web site and checked out the bonus clip where he explained how the ghosts of his dead relatives helped him choke down the squid. "Deeply disturbing" doesn't even begin to describe it.) Buddha, on the other hand, didn't mind being slightly misquoted, as long as you spelled his name right. Tonight, The Teams Long Ago Known As The World's Most Tenuous Alliance take off on a mad dash for the big win. No more eliminations, kids. Now you just have to be first.

Credits. Music from the upcoming football/karaoke movie, You Gotta Take Out Your Mouthguard If You Wanna Bring The Big Bad Funk.

Commercials. Santa shops online at Target, because he's had it with the chimneys and the stale cookies and the reindeer poo, and he just doesn't give a damn anymore.

Drunken cameramen careen around Beijing. Phil informs us that for thousands of years, it's been "the epicenter of China." Now it's the eleventh pit stop on The Amazing Race. Thousands of Beijing residents can be heard saying to each other, "A-ha! So we're finally getting somewhere!" Numerous pagoda shots make me dizzy, but that could also be the wine. Hey, did you know that the teams have to figure out for themselves how to get to yellow-and-white route markers? Using clues they find in sealed envelopes? You did? Oh. Yeah, me too, actually. Hello, Soft Mysterious Exposition Hands of Love. (Somebody told me this week that these are Phil's hands, and I don't believe it for a minute. These are big meaty hands, and Phil's skinny. My hunt for the man behind the Exposition Hands goes on. ["If the speculation on the forums is accurate that they use the hands of various contestants, this week's looked like Davey's. We miss you, Team Ensure." -- Sars]) Phil strolls in a bizarre black-turtleneck/khaki-jacket combination that makes him look rather like he can't decide whether to be lost in the desert or go to a coffee house and hear some cool jazz. He gives us his usual helpful update, reminding us of the best thing this show has going for it right now, which is that Guido is almost an entire day behind Esquire and Danza. Incidentally, if you ever were a disliker of the bunching, note this well. It's okay here at the end that we've basically had a team drop off the radar, but imagine if it had been this way the entire race, and by, say, Italy, one team had been three days ahead. That would have made the rest of the race about as edge-of-your-seat as string theory. So in the long run? You gotta be pro-bunching. Just not tonight. Phil also says that "everyone is primed for action." Huh? You can't really say "primed for action" unless you're prepared to deliver porn, and these people aren't. I guess they're talking about a more mundane definition of "primed for action." I guess the translation is that right about now, all the contestants are off in a corner somewhere doing calisthenics, shadow-boxing, and giving themselves motivational speeches.

Frank and Margarita wait to leave the pit stop. All of a sudden, they're fighting. (Actually, if you recall, last week's Snarling Match followed by The Controversial Smirking Apology gave some clue that this might be coming, although said apology seemed to smooth things over temporarily.) This time, it's over how best to get a cab. No, really. This fight goes by quickly, but it's kind of nasty -- for one thing, he's getting bleeped (or, more accurately, empty-spaced) out a lot for about six uses of "fuckin'" within thirty seconds, and more upsettingly, when he starts picking on her for not having read the guidebook, Margarita asks whether his problem "boils down to" the idea that she "sit[s] around and go[es] [along] for the ride." Ooh -- that's not a good thing for them to be arguing about right now. It would suggest that, for all their "learning to appreciate each other through the race" and other romantic notions, she's not yet sure that he doesn't think she's just baggage he has to drag from one pit stop to another. That's just…not a good sign. Frank calls what Margarita is doing in the argument "fuckin' retarded" and "ridiculous." He then points out that perhaps this isn't the best time to get into a fight. Uh, good point, Frank. I have to say, that scene really disappointed me. ["Although, in Frank's defense, I say the word 'fuckin'' that often in thirty seconds even when everything's chill." -- Sars]

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