Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Amazing Race Canada 4 Premiere: "Who's Ready to Crap Their Pants?"

Well, season 4 really started with a bang, didn't it? What more could you want?

This just makes me kinda scared for Yvette.
Teams arrived by ATVs over a (hopefully) still-frozen Frame Lake. The ten teams are, in order of introductions:
  • Frankie & Amy - mother and daughter from Aldergrove, B.C.
  • Anne & Tanya - best friends from Toronto, Ontario
  • Jillian & Emmett - exes from New Glasgow and Gore, Nova Scotia
  • Rita & Yvette - twin sisters from Edmonton, Alberta
  • Anthony & Brandon - best friends from Windsor, Ontario
  • Julie & Lowell - married couple from Lethbridge, Alberta
  • Kelly & Kate - best friends from Toronto, Ontario
  • Joel & Ashley - father & daughter from Enoch Cree Nation, Alberta
  • Stephane & Antoine - father and son from Montreal, Quebec
  • Steph & Kristen - dating couple from Toronto, Ontario
With intros out of the way and teams giving each other the traditional size-up-the-competition staredown, Jon gave his signature "Make Canada proud. Race safe...GO!" Teams had to make their way to the Northwest Territories Legislative building for their first Route-Marker task, a nice little translation puzzle.

Nice? Yes. Because if you were clever and thinking under pressure, you could avoid searching out some of the word clues. Which Jillian and Emmett did. Teams were given a phrase in Weledeh, one of 11 official languages of the Northwest Territories: "Hotia dechinta k'eahde." They then had to search out the English translation for each word among several plaques. There were some extra, similarly-spelled words thrown in, just to act as foilers. The correct translation was: "Travel safely across the land." And we come to the first team to not read a clue completely. It's Joel and Ashley, who thought they just had to pronounce it correctly. Maybe we could look at this another way...they got that mistake out of the way, and hopefully won't repeat it again. After getting two parts of the translation ("safely" and "across the land"), Jillian decides to take a chance and go to the judge with a guess: "Safely across the land we travel" which was apparently close enough to propel them into first place. Just FYI, look for more of Jillian and Emmett cutting corners and improvising. They are very creative that way. I guess it's attributable to Jillian being a teacher. Dairy farming has transferable skills too, although I'm not sure what. Can cow-whispering be used on other animals? Other teams took the task to heart and searched for all three words, slipping and sliding in the snow.

That's it guys, let's shake it all off. Let's get the panic, the nervous responses and silly decisions out of the way. Ummn, well it appears some of these teams need a little longer to get those Race legs broken in.

Next up: Jasper Alberta, via Chevy Silverado to airport, a flight to Edmonton, then a bus to the Jasper train station. Once there, they grab a Chevy Colorado to get around. On the first flight: Stephane & Antoine, Anne & Tanya, Joel & Ashley and finally Jillian and Emmett who arrive late. Apparently, parking was an issue. There was a raised voice "Please!" and a "Holy Hell" plea from Jillian to Emmett, who apparently had to circle the parking lot looking for the perfect spot.

[Oh Emmett, this isn't the friggin mall. Just park the damn thing. Why do guys do that, anyway?]

Okay, hold on a minute. Are Jillian & Emmett our Bickersons this year? Yes. But if you are sick of that dynamic in TAR, I say get over it. And you are obviously unaware of Big Brother Canada season 1 Jemmett-mythology. If you were, you would have found it frigging hilarious. For now. I don't expect them to degrade a la Dujean and Leilani last year. (or let's hope not)

Anyway, the exes are barely able to beat Julie and Lowell to the fourth spot on the first flight. The other 3 teams on this flight are Stephane & Antoine (who give us a happy dance for being in first place), Anne & Tanya (whaaat?) and Joel & Ashley (who quickly overcame their mistake). Everyone else is on the second flight, which proves to put them at a big disadvantage for the next task.

Once in Jasper, teams grab a Chevy Colorado and make their way to the Jasper Skytram and the first of two Roadblocks. There is no Detour this episode, which is excusable because...

Where's the Tylenol?

Holy shit. I mean it. What dastardly, high-altitude acrobatic stunt has TPTB devised for these poor unsuspecting schmucks? Oh, this is going to be good.

The clue is: "Who's ready to crap their pants?", I mean, "Who's ready to let it all hang out?" Oh, I am sure most of you out there thought it was just going to be a basic bungee jump or rappel task. Well, you're WRONG. They went full-on Mission: Impossible with this thing.

Stephane's comment?
"This is so not cool."
Now that's an understatement.

I have to pat myself on the back because I predicted this one correctly. One person from each team must leave the gondola and transverse the under-carriage, via monkey bars to retrieve the next clue. Oh and there is an added obstacle: that pesky GoPro helmet arm, which would be so friggin annoying. Only three teams are allowed each gondola trip because their teammates tag along to watch from the other one. A shameless move, only because it really gummed-up the works. First up are Stephane, Ashley and Emmett. In that order. Only Emmett makes it on his first attempt (cue the dramatic drum solo). If you fail, you fall, (turning the task into an elaborate bungee jump) and you have to go back to the loading dock and wait at the back of the line. Sure. No problem. Except each of these trips took over an hour. And while the first group went up, the remaining 6 teams arrived from the second flight. Although Anthony and Brandon were delayed because of a roaming Bambi. Oh, dudes! That's an elk. Take a Windsorite to mis-identify an elk. Then there's Anne & Tanya who get so lost, they arrive last even though they were on the first flight.

The good news for those who fail their first attempt, and are willing to wait out the cue, is they get a harness to support their weight while going across the monkey bars. Amy, Kelly and Steph are in the 2nd trip. Only Steph gets it done on her first try, and only after slipping, dangling precariously by one foot tangled in the ladder, then recovering. How the hell did she do that? Steph, you get the Hold-Your-Breath Action Award for this episode. While waiting for their next trip, Kelly and Kate do TAR math and figure out they are better off to take the four hour penalty. Normally, fans don't like seeing this. Remember the Rex and Bob six-hour, we-can't-be-bothered-with-this, eff-up of 2014? Yes, taking a penalty always attracts criticism, even when used strategically. Do I agree with it? Meh. Perhaps it comes down to the point that if a team is willing to risk it, then sure.

Next up are Yvette, Lowell and Brandon. All fail. Only Lowell enjoys the drop. Julie comments they are doing the Race for Lowell to see as much of the world as possible. When Brandon meets up with Anthony, they decide to take the penalty. Did they do the math correctly? Did they know that a harness was being used on their second attempts, practically making success a sure thing? Frankie points out Anthony and Brandon's move could be the nail in their coffin.

The fourth tram holds Stephane and Ashley who succeed on their 2nd attempt, and Anne on her first and failed attempt. Note, they don't show Anne's attempt. It begins to rain and the fifth car with Amy, Lowell and Yvette (all on their second attempt) is held. I may have to check again, but I believe their teammates were actually in their tram and on the way up before being called back. TARC Mission: Impossible is called off. Teams must wait there, in their existing cue, for the length of time it would have taken to complete the task. Anne and Tanya are the last team to be released.

So, everyone's on to the next task, a Route Marker. Teams must make their way to the Athabasca River and paddle their way downstream to find their next clue. Jillian goes into hyper panic mode.
"Do you think I'm as strong as you? Stop being a dink! I want to go hard that way! Are you listening? Just take us over there, Emmett! You're making me cry!"
Yikes! They get the comedy-team edit, with Emmett playing straight man. WITH a shot of an annoyed elk calf looking on. Poor thing. The calf. Maybe Emmett too.

The cluebox points the way to another Roadblock called, "Who's ready to search high and low?" It consists of a rappel down an 80 foot cliff then finding a Park Ranger who supplies them with an avalanche beacon tracker. It's a search and rescue tool used by skilled teams, but for these guys it functions as an extravagant GPS thingamajig. They must locate one of three boxes that holds the next clue. And of course the teammate who sat out the first Roadblock (and whose pants are still unsoiled) must do this one.

Pretty standard fare. The most interesting parts were Kelly and Kate's raft making a break for it and drifting downstream, and Jillian's frustration with the tracking thingamajig. But by this point, the complaining Jillian character is starting to wear on my nerves a tad. Nah, I lied. This stuff is friggin hilarious.

From here, it's on to the Pitstop on a little island/lookout on Pyramid Lake. I am going to cut to the chase:

Emmett and Jillian win the leg, along with a trip for two to London, England. Emmett's strength and Jillian's occasional moments of insight won the leg, despite her panicking under stress.
Steph and Kristen are second. These girls are Jillian and Emmett's biggest threats (will there be a rivalry here?) and we can't help but see the similarities to S2's Hockey Girls Nat and Meg.
Stephane & Antoine are 3rd. An outstanding performance from Stephane on the Skytram RB, then Antoine on his RB gave them the edge they needed.
Joel & Ashley 4th. They had a good solid performance even with a couple of mistakes. But I feel like they are just breaking in their Race legs.
Julie & Lowell are 5th, despite Julie finishing the Tracker challenge after Frankie and Rita. You have to love these two. I demand it! Lowell was the only one who enjoyed falling off the monkey bars, realizing the worst that could happen is an unplanned bungee jump.
Frankie & Amy arrive in 6th alongside Julie & Lowell. After co-operating in a group with Julie, Lowell, Rita, Yvette - then later Anne and Tanya, the mother and daughter decided to break loose after the Tracker RB. Looks like Fire & Ice are here to play hard.
Rita & Yvette are 7th. Another solid team who made a few small errors - mostly navigation. Perhaps they didn't get enough air time as some others. Hopefully we'll see more of them next week.
Anne & Tanya 8th. These two have a tendency to get lost. A lot. But then again, so did many other teams. Did you notice the self-fulfilling prophecy edit where Anne said "It's better to NOT get lost, than get lost"? Chances are, if two teams didn't take penalties, Anne & Tanya would have been eliminated.
Kelly & Kate arrived 3rd at the mat, but were handed a 4 hour penalty, putting them in 9th place. Taking that penalty proves they are willing to take a risk. Just don't make a habit of taking penalties...for whatever reason.
Anthony & Brandon arrived at the mat right after Kelly and Kate, but taking a 4 hour penalty only handed the girls a save. Their only hope was to pass them. Anthony and Brandon catch up with Kelly and Kate at the second RB, but fail to overtake, probably thinking everyone else would be at the Skytram for hours. They were eliminated. And remember one thing: they had no idea the weather would change so quickly causing the Skytram RB to shut down.
Bye, Anthony & Brandon. Windsor still loves you, though.

Lingering Questions/Thoughts:
  • Just how "ex" are the "Exes"? Emmett called Jillian "Honey" a couple of times. Force of habit maybe? And it sure looked like he went in for a kiss. I noticed two times, each were deflected by Jillian and very carefully edited. Of course it could have been just the camera angle. Yep, let's go with that. Not trying to make a big conspiracy thing here, just...noted. Let's watch a couple more episodes to see where this is going.
  • Kelly and Kate, Anthony and Brandon: They've taken criticism for choosing to take a penalty, which is an easy thing for some viewers to do in retrospect. 
  • The important thing to note about the Skytram task is ALL teams had at least ONE attempt. And we know Anne made an attempt, but failed (even though we never saw it) because Tanya is seen briefly in the observation gondola with Antoine and Joel.
  • Anthony and Brandon's edit failed to include the reason they were in the Race. Not even in their intros. It was a sure sign they would be eliminated, but it's sad they DIDN'T INCLUDE IT in their story. The guys wanted to use their winnings to buy an outfitted van for their boss' niece Zooey, a young girl with autism and other medical issues. 
  • With the closest thing to an alpha-male team now gone, we are guaranteed a no-Montani season. Phew! It's full steam ahead! Did you hear that, Logan Saunders? We're Montani-free this year!  

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