TAR 12: Episode 9

Teams got a longer rest period than usual, and it resulted in my favorite episode of the The Amazing Race 12 thus far.

Instead of the 12-hour break that teams usually get between legs, teams started this leg after a full 24 hours off. The benefits of the extra rest showed, as everyone seemed more positive and relaxed than they have in weeks.

The extra sleep kept Ron from arguing with Christina, and even Nate & Jen got along for over half the show — until Nate gently nudged Jen into a cab and she blew up at him.

Teams left the Pit Stop in Mumbai, India for Osaka, Japan at the start of the leg. TK & Rachel took a circuitous route to Japan, yet seemed unfazed by the fact that they didn’t see another team for the entire leg. Maybe it was the extra rest. Or maybe they just found some good weed in Osaka.

While Don was in good spirits, he had more trouble than usual keeping up with Nick. That led Don to nominate his grandson for a Roadblock task for which the directionally challenged Nick was uniquely unsuited.

One team member had to act as a cabbie and drive a Japanese couple to a destination, receiving their instructions only in written Japanese, and without being able to ask the couple for help or follow a local to lead them to the destination.

Time and again this season, Nick has proven that he is terrible with directions, and equally terrible at asking people for help.

After dropping off their charges, Nick’s competitors, Jen and Christina, had little trouble getting back to the taxi stand. But Nick at one point wound up perpendicularly blocking an entire lane of traffic, and he finished 10 minutes behind the girls.

To his credit, though, Nick did suggest that his team partake in one of my favorite Detours ever: robot soccer. While Nate & Jen and Ron & Christina went to sniff out real flowers in a shop that sold only fake flowers, Nick & Don used cell phones to control foot-tall robots in a game against a pair of menacing but clumsy goalie-bots.

I plan on spending a good chunk of time tomorrow finding a YouTube video of the soccer match and watching the little robots topple over again and again and again.

Over at the fake flower shop, Nate & Jen were the first team to find one of the real flowers. But because one of this season’s themes is Nate & Jen’s inability to finish in first place, they had trouble finding a cab, enabling Ron & Christina to beat them to the Pit Stop. Nick & Don finished in third place.

TK & Rachel finally arrived in Osaka as it was getting dark, and because the clues instructed them to complete the tasks — instead of sending them directly to the Pit Stop to get the boot — it was obvious that this was a non-elimination leg.

Next week, the hippies will have to complete a special Speed Bump task. Seeing how little the Speed Bump seemed to waylay Kynt & Vyxsin last week, TK & Rachel are by no means out of the race.

This leg’s 24-hour rest period made this the most enjoyable episode of this season of The Amazing Race for me. Bickering between teammates has its place; I admit to loving a good meltdown now and then. But, ultimately, it should be the tasks that create the tension and make the show interesting.

Instead, this week I wanted to cheer for everyone. I was impressed by how well Jen and Christina did driving taxis in Osaka, which would’ve been immensely frustrating if they’d tried to do it on little sleep and empty stomachs.

And the extended rest period seemed to make Nate funnier than usual, whether intentionally or not. As they rode in a cab, Jen tried to tell to Nate about her experience during the Roadblock. Nate interrupted her, nodded at their driver, and said, "It’s hard for me to pay attention right now when he’s driving. Sorry."

When Jen looked confused, Nate explained, "No, I’m listening to everything you’re saying. It’s just hard to…you know what I’m saying."

Speaking for all of us, Jen replied, "No, I don’t."

In a post-leg interview, Nate gave his take on his team’s inability to finish in first place: "The best team is going to finish in last, and that’s going to be Jen and I!"

TAR’s sound editor inserted the sound of a needle scratching a record as Jen looked at Nate and asked, "Gonna finish last?"

Nate blurted, "I mean finish…the last leg first."

Next week, Christina smiles kindly and instructs a ticket agent to withhold information from the other teams.