Amazing Race 14, recap 10: Swimming like Michael Phelps isn’t easy

If there was one episode of Amazing Race14 that could get your sympathy genes going, this was it. Certain parts were downright pitiful. “You poor, poor thing,” I kept saying to Jen. I could have cried myself. I was even rooting for Jaime in this episode, even though she has not been my fave from the beginning. And Victor and Tammy, well, they are just stellar people.

Kisha & Jen did have me turning a little against them at the beginning of the airport episode by the way they were acting towards the ticket folks at the Guilin airport and how they talked about people in China as having dumb looks.

After last week’s episode, I didn’t feel that harshly towards them after their run in with Luke and Margie, but their attitude had me changing my mind a little.

But, the truth is, I’ve felt that way about people when I’ve tried to get help and I have been unable to easily–particularly when I’ve been road hashed. I think that the teams have probably used up a lot of their good humor and have arrived at the place where patience is wearing thin. Plus, they can taste that million dollars. At the beginning of the race when people were still yukking it up, a win was possibly a pipe dream.

The episode started out with all four of the remaining teams heading out on the same flight to Beijing from Guilin, and dashing off in taxis lickety split to find the Liangzi Jian Guo Men Dian foot massage spa, the worst foot massage in the planet. If they knew the pain that was to come, perhaps they wouldn’t have been in such a hurry.

Tammy and Victor, of course, were feeling downright pleased that they’d be able to speak Chinese all the live long day which they felt would give them an edge. Plus, they’ve been to Beijing. They know Beijing. They’re comfortable in Beijing. Keep that in mind, because Chinese is not the skill you need most in the Amazing Race–at least not in Beijing. Plus, not all places in Beijing are comfortable.

Jaime and Cara arrived first at the torture chamber, also known as a foot massage parlor. I’ve had a Thai foot massage and it’s heavenly. The Chinese version, like Victor said, won’t “kill you,” but it can make you cry in pain and bite your lips so you don’t scream. The faces on the Chinese women who dug their fingers into the bottoms of the feet of the team members who agreed to the procedure looked almost maniacal. If I were to end up at this foot massage parlor, I wouldn’t be fooled by the soft lighting and I’d be mighty careful what type of massage I ordered up. There’s definitely a difference between the Chinese to the bone foot massage and the Thai version that makes a person feel like purring.

During this part, I felt very warm towards Tammy who held Luke’s hand while he was writhing. You have to like a person who can feel empathetic and reach out to a rival.

After the foot massage, the teams were off to the Guangcai Natatorium for what turned out to be a true test of mettle for two of the teams. Margie & Luke and Cara & Jaime were not daunted by the task of jumping in an Olympic size pool to swim freestyle, or whatever way they could in a relay race. In the swimming task, team members were to take turns swimming 200 meters (up and back the length of the pool) in a medley until each swam two times for a total of 400 meters, one right after the other. The idea of the race was to match Michael Phelps’s individual medley–kind of- when he tore through the water to add to his neck bling.

Although swimming wasn’t a problem for those two teams, no one was thrilled to swim in the Speedo laser suit that was the kind Phelps wore.

Tammy, not the best swimmer, turned out to not be the best high diving board jumper either. She & Victor opted to try the second option which was to do a synchronized jump off two high diving boards. To get a score of 5 which would allow them to move on to the Pit Stop, they had to enter the water at exactly the same time. They almost got it once, but couldn’t manage to come close the rest of their attempts. I’m not sure why they didn’t yell “one, two, three JUMP” and figure out their strategy beforehand. Instead, they jumped willy nilly until they were wiped out and decided to do the Michael Phelp’s swim which turned out to not be all that bad after all.

Then there was poor Jennifer who doesn’t know how to swim at all. First, she decided to try jumping, but found out that she couldn’t make herself jump. Then it was a try at swimming. After she watched Kisha struggle to swim down the lane and back, she decided this was a no go too. So it was back to the diving board. The two sisters did jump in a couple of times which traumatized Jen so much she was in the hall sitting on her haunches crying and saying she wanted to go home. Sister, I’ve had that feeling and it stinks big time.

Finally, in a huge fit of resolve and due to Kisha’s stellar behavior as the best sister in the whole-wide-world EVER, Jen pulled on that skin tight laser suit, slipped on the orange life jacket and headed off into the pool matching Michael Phelp’s style. Let’s say matching Michael Phelp’s style when he as a toddler, perhaps. Still, go Jen go was my reaction. It was almost as good as watching Susan Boyle sing “I Had a Dream.” Imagine if that song would have been playing when Jen swam. I would have been bawling for sure.

In the meantime, while Victor & Tammy and Jen & Kisha were struggling to find the right combination for what would get them out of the water, Jaime and Cara and Luke & Margie were heading for the gorgeous Drum Tower, the site of the Pit Stop. The Drum Tower, built in the 12th century is one more indication of emperor glory days in China. Every hour, on the hour, 24 drums were beat to announce the time of day during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

Luke needs to heed the adage, “Pride cometh before a fall,” because he is way too involved in the idea of Kisha and Jen’s life being a living hell. I’m hoping that his heart would have melted a bit if he saw Jen crying, paralyzed in fear and Kisha telling her, “Let’s finish this strong.” Seriously, how can someone not feel moved by that?

The taxi rides across Beijing took awhile which did give the impression that Beijing has a massive sprawl. It is huge and it does sprawl. Other than that, there were shots of the Bird’s Nest, the main stadium of the Olympics and neon. What I noticed missing were the throngs of people on bicycles that I saw in the 1990s. Perhaps this was because most of this episode happened at night.

As for the end of the episode, Jaime and Cara were so wanting to come in first that I wanted them to come in first for a change myself. Jaime didn’t act mean, Cara put up with that foot massage, and the two of them swam their hearts out. But, there was Phil all by his lonesome at the Pit Stop mat. There weren’t any cute older Chinese people eating noodles this time. There wasn’t a congratulations and you’ve won a trip for two to the vacation of your dreams message.

Nope, there was none of that. Instead, there was Phil with a serious face holding out a yellow envelope saying, “Here’s your next clue.”

That was cold. Very cold. And the episode, as it turns out, is “To be continued.” Let’s see next week if Jaime and Cara will ever get a break and if Luke has to eat some humble pie.

As Victor has learned already, the Amazing Race does humble a person.