Recap: The Amazing Race 3, Episode 11 – “They’re Slithering to the Finish Line Like the Rest of Us!” (Hour 1)
With $162, the Penultimate Leg begins as teams must now hop on a train to the city of Hue where they will find the next clue at the Imperial Palace.
Teri & Ian are almost an hour ahead of the other teams, but booking for the train to Hue opens at 7am. Flo expresses to Zach that she wishes they had just gotten eliminated last Leg. As soon as they get to the station, Ian informs them that it’s going to be a 24-hour train ride to Hue. That triggers an already frustrated and exhausted Flo.
Zach takes Flo over to the timetables to confirm what Ian says is true. And it is. Flo says she does not want to deal with such a thing. Ian laughs as he watches Flo’s brewing breakdown.
Flo tries to lay down and get some sleep, but the music begins blaring in the station. She and Zach move to the other, quieter terminal.
Ken & Gerard arrive at the station just as ticketing opens. They find Teri & Ian at the counter who tell them about Flo.
Teri & Ian and Ken & Gerard both secure first-class sleeper tickets. While Flo is still asleep, Zach heads over and manages to secure first-class seats. Which is fine as long as there’s air-con.
The teams board the train. But Flo is still feeling very down. The other teams, meanwhile, reflect on traveling through Vietnam when they had loved ones who died during the War. Ian especially who had fought in Vietnam.
Teams arrive in Hue and hop into taxis to head to the Imperial Palace. While Flo takes it easy, the others scramble around the sprawling complex until they find the cluebox.
Teams must now make their way to the town bridge in Nam O Da Nang where they will encounter the Detour: Basket Boats or Basket Bikes. In Basket Boats, each team member must figure out how to get across the river to a clue waiting on an island by rowing in a basket boat. In Basket Bikes, each team member must ride a bicycle laden with dozens of shrimp baskets one mile down the street.
Ken & Gerard and Teri & Ian choose the bikes. Ken has no problem pedaling along. But Gerard, Ian and Teri all struggle. They end up asking the local children to help hold the bikes up as they pedal down the road, promising them money at the end.
Flo & Zach decide to take the boats. They struggle rowing on the water, especially the increasingly frustrated Flo. She can’t take this any longer and tells Zach to get her back to shore. Flo says she wants to quit. But they decide to switch over to the bikes.
Meanwhile, Ken & Gerard and Teri & Ian have managed to reach the cluebox and can now ride their bikes back to the bridge and hop into a taxi to take them to a boat quay in Hoi An.
Zach helps Flo onto the basket bikes, but she decides to just push it down the road. Unfortunately, Flo concludes that it is an impossibility as the baskets are so heavy on her body.
Zach suggests they go back to the boats. But Flo wants to just end it all right here. Zach asks some local men to help them paddle across to the island. So both Flo and Zach relax in the basket boats as they finally make their way to the clue.
Teri & Ian are able to pass Ken & Gerard in their taxi and all of a sudden, the Oh Brothers’ taxi gets a flat tire. To speed up the process, Gerard helps to change the tire himself.
That gives Teri & Ian a comfortable lead as they reach the Hoi An and hop into a sampan to a floating clue which reveals the Road Block.
For this Road Block, teams must use a traditional Vietnamese fishing platform and use a wooden wench to raise a fish net out of the water. When raised, they or their partner can grab the clue that emerges from the water.
Ian does the Road Block and he and Teri can head to the Pit Stop on China Beach in Da Nang. They step on the Mat as Team #1 and Phil tells them they’ve won a seven-night Alaskan cruise vacation on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas.
Ken does the Road Block and he and Gerard end up as Team #2.
When Flo & Zach get on the sampan, Flo has managed to calm down a little and is much more relaxed and at peace. Zach performs the Road Block and they proceed to the Pit Stop where they are last. But this is a Non-Elimination Leg.
This is the first half of the two-hour finale. But this Leg specifically is definitely one of the most memorable and perhaps iconic Legs of The Amazing Race ever. Everything came together for this excellent hour of television.
A wonderful reflection on history and culture from the teams. Flo’s epic and I think still unmatched meltdown. The iconic basket Detour. Certainly one of the very best Penultimate Legs ever.
Starting at the beginning though. TAR3 reminds me of when teams would enjoy fancy hotels during the Pit Stop while also mingling with the other teams. These days, I assume TAR likes to save money and keep teams in comfortable accommodations. But saving money as much as possible. As well as isolating teams during the Pit Stop, preventing some off-camera scheming.
Watching TAR Vietnam over the years and putting together my own TARPHDME Legs in Vietnam, I’ve come to learn the long distances and difficulties in traveling the country by land. So the 24-hour train ride may have been so surprising watching it back in 2002. But now, it’s pretty much par for the course. Certainly a logistical challenge for TAR.
But the train ride definitely gave us some great moments. The section where Teri & Ian and Ken & Gerard reflect on the Vietnam War while on the train in the countryside was such a wonderful moment. And it’s really what The Amazing Race can be about. In the midst of fierce competition, opportunities to reflect, learn and enjoy other countries and cultures.
The train ride also fueled Flo’s already bubbling frustration and tiredness.
What’s interesting about the early seasons is how the Penultimate Leg was always a Non-Elimination Leg. That’s okay when there was no penalty yet. And it allowed for big 2-hour season finales that made it more like special event programming.
So knowing that it was a Non-Elimination, it allowed Flo to really recharge herself. They knew they were safe no matter how far behind they were here. Though, at the same time, this was also still when teams made their own flight bookings on the Final Leg which decided many seasons.
But Flo & Zach knew they could take it easy this Leg and it would be fine. At the Imperial Palace in Hue, Flo even questions why Teri & Ian are running around, tiring themselves out when it doesn’t even matter. Back then, that kind of attitude on the Penultimate Leg may have been okay. But it is definitely good that the Race has evolved and Penultimate Legs are now elimination Legs.
Now the Detour of course is just iconic. The struggles of both the basket boats and basket bikes is just classic TAR. The fun, hilarious moments for the viewer and the difficult, challenging tasks for the teams. And I can’t think of better three teams to have had to face these tasks than these three we have here. Perfect!
One of the most memorable editing choices ever on TAR for me is Ian handing out money to the people who helped Teri down the road and overlaying it with the sound of the clue envelope rip. It’s still so funny.
TAR29’s basket bikes Switchback was excellent. And obviously dramatic. It was a modified version of the Detour where teams had to actually load the bikes themselves and then ride through the Vietnamese countryside (TAR Vietnam-style) to deliver the bikes. It has to be one of the best Switchbacks ever.
TAR31’s basket boats Switchback, on the other hand, was as lame as can be. It really should be an Active Route Info task so all teams must be forced to row across a river in a boat. And with more than three teams too.
This Leg would be so perfect with 9 or 10 teams at the beginning of a season. The chaos with the bikes and the boats would be epicly amazing.
The Road Block was good. A more challenging task would have had the Road Block participant row around to different platforms looking for the one that had real clues. Certainly would help exhaust the teams even more. And in turn, that would provoke and spark some possible tension and drama for maximum effect. (Takes down notes for TARPHDME lol)
Overall, I just love this Leg and episode. (First half of the episode, at least.) One of my all-time favorites.
My Subjective Team Rankings
Teri & Ian really owned these Vietnamese Legs. And really, these Asian Legs. They’ve been able to step it up with every Leg. And they did it without an alliance! They were on their own. But they Raced well and are now the leading team. It’s so awesome to see them do well. And they put themselves in great position to win.
Ken & Gerard, meanwhile, kind of seem like they’ve faded as a top contender team. Instead of their sort of mastermind, dominant team edit from earlier, they’re now the fun-loving comic relief that Races well. Perhaps that’s foreshadowing for the Final Leg. But it’s interesting to notice how of the final three, they’re probably #3 in terms of relevance to the overall endgame.
Flo & Zach were obviously the stars of the hour though thanks to Flo. Back then I’m sure I was probably so annoyed by her antics. But looking back, it does seem like a bit of editing magic to make her seem more insufferable than she really was. Like I mentioned after another episode, there would be times where she’s completely upset (it would appear), but be fine later on. It’s almost like she’s just frustrated, but not ever seriously considering quitting or anything like that. Essentially, I think the show played it up a little more than how it actually was. We’ve certainly had many more incorrigible, far less likeable people in the Race. But that’s fine. It makes for an interesting dynamic going into the Final Leg.
Flo: “I’m going to have a breakdown on this train. Do you want to watch it happen?”
Gerard: “Oh God, she’s gonna kill me and throw me into the lake over here. Thanks darlin’.”
Flo: “I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone with all this honking. The only thing that’s keeping me sane is this Diet Coke.”