The Nine Best Episodes Ever
The episode opened with Rob and Brennan and Frank and Margarita leaving the pit stop nearly twelve hours before Kevin and Drew and Bill and Joe would be able to leave. Barring some enormous feat of screwing up, these two teams didn't have a lot to worry about in this leg, and they knew it. Both teams seemed to relax and enjoy the leg, which allowed the often emotionless Rob and Brennan to have a little fun, and the often loud and pushy Loud Pushy Frank to act more like an excited cheerleader than a punishing coach. There was rock-climbing, and then a trip to the aptly named Chicken Island (which looked...just like a chicken), followed by some snorkeling in the impossibly blue water. When the two lead teams finished the leg on the lovely Pai Plong beach, they high-fived each other with genuine good nature rarely seen between these particular people, and Margarita simply ran around plotzing with joy about all the great things she'd done. All four of them agreed that they had a great damn day, despite how tired and homesick they have to have been. And, poignantly, the show continued to serve one of its best purposes -- the shrinking of the world -- when the 2004 tsunami devastated parts of Thailand not far from these glorious beaches.
Season Eight, Episode Six: "I'm Sick Of Doing Stuff I Can't Do"
A.K.A. Ban Red Beans, Indeed
Wait. Hear me out.
Yes, this is from the despised Family Edition. Don't get me wrong; it's a dumb, boring season with almost nothing to redeem it. Almost nothing. What's more, it's a tragically sad episode in which the upbeat, lovable, hotly parented Gaghan family -- Papa Bill, Mama Tammy, and kids Billy and Carissa -- was done in, beaten out by the execrable Weaver family, precisely the kind of result that makes viewers gnash their teeth and weep and throw shoes at the television.
But with luck playing the role that it does for so many teams starting out the race, the fact is that most teams lose. Most good teams lose. Most beloved teams lose. Thus, in most cases, the story of a great team on this particular show is, in a larger sense, the story of how they lost.
As the teams ran around Costa Rica, they encountered the Roadblock that will live in infamy: one team member had to search through a huge pile of coffee beans (like, a small-room-sized pile -- 800 pounds, specifically), looking for a single red bean. This is the kind of task that introduces an enormous element of luck, because as much as we'd all like to think there's a methodical way to search 800 pounds of coffee beans, in reality, all you're doing is spreading them out as best you can and hoping you stumble across the red one. Of the six teams still in the race, the Gaghans arrived in a five-way tie for first. The chosen Roadblockers started hunting for their beans, and everyone found them...everyone but Tammy. Nightmarishly enough, even though the despised Weavers arrived at the Roadblock last and had to wait out a Yield before they could start looking, they still managed to find the bean before Tammy found hers. ["Again, for the record: not my doing." -- God] While the Gaghans eventually found their bean and finished the leg, they just couldn't catch up.