that makes it such enthralling television compared to other tamer reality shows is that the audience fully feels the frustration of the teams from thousands of miles away. And while this episode's toy car assembly and feather-ball rallies are hard to watch, nothing is quite as aggravating from this episode for viewers as the desperate saga of Mark and Mallory retrieving the male Kentuckian's lost backpack.
Ideally, the teams that lose should be the ones who do poorly on Detours and Roadblocks. In a perfect Amazing Race world, if you do well in the challenges, you should get further ahead in the race. But of course, the outside circumstantial factors are often the ones that screw teams over the most. Too bad for Mallory that she has to lose because of Mark's incompetence.
Chen Clan Academy
The cowboys get off to a quick start in this leg after an impressive run in the race's first installment. The teams are instructed to head to the Chen Clan Academy, but Jet and Cord can't take the proper notes on how to get there. Their biggest strength in the past leg was their ability to approach locals with ease for help, but it seems the cowboys can't rope in any help in getting directions to the martial arts school.
Brendon and Rachel quickly capitalize on the cowboy's geographic conflict and get to the academy first, where an intimidating martial artist stamps the name of the team's next direction on their foreheads. Margie and Luke aren't far behind, but their bickering in the cab may prove to be a detriment to them in this leg. Dave and Connor are third, and don't show any sort of internal communication problems as the other teams, arriving first at the toy store Edaytown.
Amongst the wailing screams and flashing lights of one of China's largest toy stores is the next Roadblock of the race. Each team is instructed to build a drivable toy children's car. An easy enough task for anyone who's built IKEA furniture in the past, but these instructions are completely written in Chinese. Dave certainly is not having fun with this one, especially with children running around him and screaming in his ear constantly. Margie and Luke come quickly after, with Luke happily bowing out of this Roadblock in favor of Margie's knack for engineering. And one by one, every team arrives, leaving the Cowboys in the dust, dead last.
But wait! The cowboys still have their Express Pass, perfect for situations like this where the tables have turned and all seems hopeless. Yet these cowboys saddle up their boots and don't opt for the easy way out, as Cord quickly rushes to build a car with time racing against him.
Caroline and Jennifer aren't having much luck either, so the blondies cozy up to Jet and flirtatiously play dumb while begging for the second Express Pass. Jet is certainly hesitant, as giving away the Express Pass before they've even used their own is an easy recipe for elimination. But when Cord finishes quickly, the cowboys give in to the country singers and give away the pass, banking on the blondes' incompetence to not affect them later on in the race.
As this is going on, Meghan is incredibly frustrated both with the progress of her car and the conniving ways of Caroline and Jennifer. Meghan argues that the blondes using their good looks and charm to get ahead instead of their smarts are putting female rights back 100 years. Hey, Meghan, it's a competition, and you have to use every tool at your disposal, however dirty or politically incorrect, to win. Joey and Meghan and John and Jessica form an alliance out of their mutual frustration with the cars, but as past Amazing Race alliances have shown, it isn't likely to last.
Where's the Backpack?
Mark and Mallory finish the car before any other team, but in their haste of finding a cab and safe way to transport it, they accidentally forget Mark's backpack! It's unclear whose fault it is, even though the last camera shot shows the backpack at Mallory's feet before she steps into the cab. Mallory realizes the mistake about halfway through to their destination and reluctantly informs her teammate, who doesn't like her that much already. Mark is obviously annoyed, but Mallory informs him that she has both his passport and his medicine, the only necessary items they need to still compete.
Mark still isn't budging, and claims that he needs his backpack with his clothes because it's the only one he has, along with some other offhand remark that Mallory is privileged and not listening to his internal backpack struggle. "People from Kentucky don't act this way," Mark patronizingly tells Mallory, and he has firmly decided that he is completely unable to complete in this race if he doesn't have the sweet embrace of his backpack cradling his spine.
Does it matter to Mark at all that he can buy all the backpacks he wants with a million dollars? Or that he can simply just get another pair of clothes after this leg is completed? No, not really, because he shares such a magnificent bond with this one particular backpack that jeopardizing his team's first place lead to go all the way back and get it makes complete sense. It's a Kentucky thing, I guess.
As Mark and Mallory bicker, the other teams arrive one by one, dropping off their cars and opting to do the feather-ball option of the Detour. Feather-ball is like badminton crossed over with hacky sack, only twice as difficult. Every team is having a tough time with this challenge, as they can't quite get the motion of how to kick the feather-ball back and forth. Dave and Connor use the magic of their father/son bond to get through first, and are quickly followed by Caroline and Jennifer, Margie and Luke and, magnificently, Jet and Cord after their wild comeback.
After completing the feather-ball challenge, the teams are neck and neck and literally finish within a neck's distance of each other at the Shamian Island Pit Stop. Brendon and Rachel are first, followed by Margie and Luke, Caroline and Jennifer, Dave and Connor, Flight Time and Big Easy and Leo and Jamal. Phil even loses count of which teams are arriving when, and it's clear that since they all are so close within range that their specific finishing point won't matter in the next leg.
John and Jessica arrive in eighth with Joey and Meghan quickly behind. The teams share an awkward glance, with Joey and Meghan quickly regretting her decision to be nice and helpful as they nearly got eliminated. Meghan now knows that political correctness and being nice shouldn't be her main priorities in this race.
But, alas, Rachel's mistake doesn't matter, as Mark and Mallory defeatedly tread up to the finish line with all the other teams strangely watching from behind as they get eliminated. Mallory is in tears, but nobody cares about her because the story of Bopper and his ailing pancreas is much more important. Mark says he gave it his all, which isn't true in the slightest after watching his poor decision-making on this leg. You can't help but feel terrible for Mallory when she says she couldn't fill Bopper's shoes (as if that was something she should even worry about to begin with). Clearly, these two never saw eye to eye with the ghost of Bopper still hauntingly hovering over the race.
I won't say that Mark threw the race because he was frustrated with his teammate. But it is certainly clear that he didn't give his all, leaving Mallory to have to pick up his slack both physically and emotionally. I'm happy to see Mark go but devastated that Mallory lost despite doing everything right while making no poor decisions. Communication is key in the race, and when one person doesn't even care what you have to say, there'll be no discussion on when they get eliminated.
The Amazing Race
airs Sundays at 8pm on CBS. (Image courtesy of CBS)