Mr. T Doll Pities the Fool,Travels the World

You know the whole traveling garden gnome craze? I first heard about it in the wonderful French film Amélie, and not too long after that Travelocity starting featuring the little guy in their commercials. Then the Amazing Race picked up on it and catapulted the bearded ones into super-stardom.

The little gnomes better watch out, though…and I mean really watch out, because there’s a new traveling effigy making its way around the world: Mr. T.

I’m not sure how or why, but does it matter? This Flickr set currently features 150 images of Mr. T in far-flung places, hobnobbing with celebrities like Moby and Christina Ricci. How’d he get so lucky?

The Amazing Race All-Stars: Episode 12 Recap (The Finale!)

Lo, it is with mixed emotions that I report on the final episode of The Amazing Race All-Stars. On the one hand, I’m excited to see which team will win (Will it be a team I’ve been rooting for all along?). On the other hand, once the season is over, what’ll I do on Sunday nights?

Anyway, if you haven’t yet seen the season finale, stop reading now! We’re going to reveal the winner. But for those of you who saw it, or want the juicy details, continue reading. Let’s go!Last week, the teams left off in Guam’s Fort Soledad. When the racers began the final leg, they were told to fly Honolulu. Dustin and Kandice, who were the first team to leave, raced to the airport with Eric and Danielle right behind them. Charla and Mirna, bringing up the rear, also sped to the airport. With no direct flights to Honolulu from Guam, D&K managed to get the last two seats on a flight to Oahu, with a transfer in Tokyo. E&D and C&M both managed to get on a flight leaving Guam slightly later but which would meet the second flight in time to catch it. D&K, thinking they were solidly in the lead, were pretty pleased with themselves.

In Tokyo, D&K see E&D… but no one can spot C&M. Where are they? Razor-eyed C&M have seen that there’s another flight leaving for Honolulu 40 minutes earlier and went to ask if they could slip onto it. Amazingly, after a lot of bleating and wailing, the ticket agents gave them two seats on this earlier flight. While I can’t stand C&M’s near-constant whining for people to help them, I was impressed they managed to score this earlier flight. As a result, they managed to get to Hawaii first.

Once in Honolulu, the teams had to get themselves to Kamaka Air Hangar. From there, three helicopters shuttled the teams one by one (first C&M; then E&D; finally D&K) to the island of Lanai. Once on the island, the teams had to drive themselves to Kaumalapau Harbor, and find a man in ceremonial dress. C&M found him first. They also found a Detour: “Over or Under.”

In Under, teams needed to take a boat to an underwater cave and swim under the rocks where their next clue would be waiting for them. In Over, teams had to take a boat to an inlet where both team members needed to stand and paddle themselves on a paddleboard to a buoy to retrieve their next clue.

E&D, who were the second team to arrive, and D&K, who were third, chose Under, which looked easy until you saw the waves crashing against the rugged coastline. In fact, the teams were required to wear helmets to swim under the rocks to retrieve the clue. While it was pretty under there, the crushing waves would’ve made the experience fairly frightening. Meanwhile, C&M chose Over. Charla aced the paddleboard (no jokes about her low center of gravity, folks; show some respect!), while Charla’s wobbliness slowed down the team a little. Nevertheless, the cousins remained in first place.

Now, the teams had to get themselves to nearby Shipwreck Beach. Scurrying along the rocks, C&M couldn’t move very quickly and lost their lead to both E&D and D&K. Teams were now required to kayak to the beautiful but crumbling tanker offshore to retrieve their next clue. The waves were brutal — Fodor’s claims “The water is unsafe for swimming”! — but E&D made it with little effort. D&K capsized at least once and argued about whether it would be better to push the kayak through the shallows than paddle it. (Though they tried, they decided paddling was better. No offense, girls, but duh!) C&M plunged forward, characteristically shrieking at each other (Mirna to Charla: “Are you deaf?!”)

Later, in the car, Kandice would tell Dustin that she was a “bad teammate.” Tearfully, the two girls discussed their strategies and quickly made up. I think this was their only breakdown the entire season.

But who has time for breakdowns when you’re in a race for a million dollars?! Now, the racers had to get to the airport and fly to San Francisco. At this point, about 40 minutes into the episode, it occurred to me that either (a) my TiVo hadn’t recorded the entire finale, or (b) the finale was only one hour long. Gulp. I hoped it was the latter.

In San Francisco, the teams had to get to The Old Mint, where one team member had to answer 4 questions…

  • Which team is the least trustworthy?
  • Which team has the best sense of humor?
  • Which team is the most overrated?
  • Which team would you most want to stay in contact with after the race?

…and make a code from their responses. The other team member then had to guess the answers to the questions, piece together the code, and enter it into a safe containing their FINAL CLUE. Though D&K were the first team to begin this task, E&D were the first to complete it. With clue in hand, E&D scurried to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, the final pit stop in this race around the world.

All the teams were speeding their way to the finish line, but with E&D ahead of the pack, it was a clear victory. The winners of The Amazing Race All-Stars, Eric and Danielle, strolled into the Gardens, surrounded by the eliminated teams. A million bucks richer, the pair was excited but not ecstatic. I was kind of surprised. However, Eric had been relatively understated the entire race, so I guess I sort of expected it. D&K arrived shortly thereafter, and C&M came in third.

While I had been rooting for D&K since the season began, I was pretty much just happy that C&M had NOT won. Of course, while it would be unfair to say that E&D did not deserve to win — after all, they crossed the finish line first — I was surprised they won, since they had not placed first in any previous leg of the race. Am I alone in thinking this?

I can’t wait for Season 12. I wish I were going to be competing in it.

The Amazing Race All-Stars: Episode 11 Recap

We’re down to our second to last episode with the Amazing Race All-Stars. As always, if you didn’t get a chance to watch last night’s episode yet, stop reading now! I’d hate to spoil all of the fun. But for those of you who saw it, or want the juicy details right now, continue on. Let’s go!

Last week the “beauty queens,” Dustin & Kandice drove their mini-moke to the island of Taipa, and reached the put-stop first, so they’re the first team to depart. The clue reveals that the teams will now by flying to the island of Guam in the Western Pacific Ocean. Guam’s full name is US Territory of Guam, and it is home of Andersen Air Force Base, where much of the episode’s tasks take place.

The air force base played a key role in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, and it remains today a key a strategic points for US military efforts in the Southwest Pacific and Indian oceans.

After some trouble at the airport in China, each team finally makes it on a flight; Dustin & Kandice, Charla & Mirna, and Erik & Danielle on one flight, and Danny & Oswald on another. Both flights connect in Tokyo before heading off to Guam, but Danny & Oswald — who are marked for elimination unless they arrive first on this leg — are on a flight that arrives later, leaving them only 45 minutes to make the connection. It’s a mad rush to the gate when they land, but their hustle pays off and, much to the disappointment of the others, they make the flight which puts all four teams are on the same flight to Guam.

Danny & Oswald are first off the plane in Guam, only to find that they’ll need a military escort to drive them to the location of their next task — something they can’t get until 7:00 AM. After waiting it out, each team gets their escort and heads to the next detour: Care Package or Engine Detail. In Care Package, teams fill two large boxes with 500 pounds of supplies to be loaded onto a C-17 cargo plane and then go along for the ride as they drop the supplies on a neighboring island. In Engine Detail, teams have to hand wash a portion of a B-52 so that its shine is up to military standards.

This is where I would really struggle in the race; If I were forced to pick between a really crappy task that was quick (Engine Detail), or one that would allow me to fly in a C-17 but takes twice as long, I’d have a hard time passing up the awesome opportunities in favor for the grunt work — even if it means losing the race. Saying that, however, I remember that I don’t have a million dollars dangling in front of me, so it’s hard to put things into prospective.

Danny & Oswald, Dustin & Kandice, and Erik & Danielle all chose Engine Detail, while Charla & Mirna (with her “This is what cool looks like” shirt. Seriously.) head for Care Package. The three teams on clean-up duty have their work cut out for them as they don plastic yellow suits and go to work., Meanwhile, Charla & Mirna have relatively no trouble filling the boxes and hop on the cargo plane in no time. The only downside is it takes a long time to get in the plane, take-off, drop the goods, and land, and by the time Charla & Mirna are finished, the other teams have already completed the grueling tasking of cleaning the bomber, and are on their way to the U.S. Naval Base, where they receive their next clue.

Upon arrival at the Naval Base, teams learn of the next task: a roadblock. In this roadblock, one member from each remaining team must use a hand-held Garmin GPS device to locate a pilot hiding in the jungle. When they’re discovered, the pilot will input new coordinates into the GPS which will send them looking for a drop zone, where they’ll radio for a nearby helicopter to “request extraction,” which is a fancy way of saying “get me the hell out of the jungle and back to my teammate.”

Dustin & Kandice are the first to arrive, and Dustin heads out with her GPS to find the hidden pilot. Anyone who has used a GPS device before can tell you this shouldn’t be too tough, and Dustin breezes through the task by quickly finding the pilot and then the drop zone, and before long she’s on the helicopter and heading back to Kandice.

At this point, the other teams have arrived, and are having a lot of problems. For some reason Charla keeps touching the GPS device’s screen — something frowned upon by her military escort, and no less than 5 times do I hear him say “Ma’m, please don’t touch the screen.” Why can’t you touch the screen? Why can’t Charla keep from touching the screen? Who knows!

As the teams wander aimlessly (with GPS!) through the jungle, Dustin & Kandice learn they’re now headed for the next pit-stop: Fort Soledad, where they are once again first to arrive. Phil awards them an ATV or something, they celebrate, Phil smiles, a local looks on… you know the drill.

Danielle had an especially rough time in the jungle. She cried, she wept, she cursed her GPS device. She finally pulled herself together enough to figure out how to actually use the device, and makes her way to the drop zone while Oswald and Charla lag behind. Completing the task, Erik & Danielle head to the pit-stop and are the second team to arrive, leaving just one spot open in the elite final three.

While Charla and Oswald battle it out in the jungle for the final spot, Mirna and Danny wait back at the landing strip, wondering who will complete the task first so they can head to the pit stop and secure the final spot. This is when Oswald says, in his thick gay-Cuban accent, what could be the funniest, and most cruel line in Amazing Race history to Charla — dressed in full military gear — as she waits for her helicopter extraction: “Oh my god, the Teletubbies go to war!” Finally the Amazing Race crew picks a good quote to title the episode with!

Bad comments mean bad karma, however, and Charla finishes the task first. Not even the skills of the Amazing Race editor can make the end of this one a nail-biter; It’s pretty obvious that Danny & Oswald are headed home. It’s too bad… I liked them.

Charla & Mirna arrive at the pit-stop, securing their place in the top 3. Who would have thought?

Charla & Mirna, Dustin & Kandice, and Erik & Danielle: who will it be? Find out next week for the two-hour season finale!

The Amazing Race: All Star teams announced

I’m not afraid to admit it: I love watching The Amazing Race. Take 22 not-so-savvy travelers and set them loose on a race around the world, watching them pit against each other, go through extreme culture shock, and be generally daft while representing America to the rest of the world. What’s not to love? I was excited, then, to find out that the upcoming 11th season of the race is an all-star version (à la Survivor) where each team is from a previous season. Gadling brother blog, TV Squad, has the scoop on the veteran racers for next season:

Get your Tivos ready: The Amazing Race All-Stars premiers on Sunday, February 18th at 8PM et/pt on CBS.