THE AMAZING RACE “Ali Baba in a Suit” Recap

THE AMAZING RACE “Ali Baba in a Suit” Season 17 Episode 8 – The teams go from St. Petersburg, Russia to Muskat, Oman in the “Ali Baba in a Suit” episode of THE AMAZING RACE and my favorite team comes much too close to being eliminated.

Departure: Last leg’s winners Nat and Kat first at the clue box where they learn they need to fly from St. Petersburg to Muscat, Oman where they must drive to the Burj Mubkhara fort to get their next clue. All of the teams except Chad and Stephanie end up at the same travel agency together as they try to find the best flight. Chad and Stephanie, meanwhile, are snoring away–the first team in Amazing Race history to sleep through their departure time. Poor lonely clue box.

Nat and Kat and Brook and Claire get on the earliest flight while Nick and Vicki, Gary and Mallory, and Jill and Thomas get on a plane arriving one hour forty minutes later. Chad and Stephanie, who finally stir one hour and fifty-two minutes past their departure time get very lucky, not only finding a flight scheduled to arrive only ten minutes later than the second flight, but actually landing early. Jill and Thomas are less than pleased to see them. (That would be some patented and oh-so subtle TAR foreshadowing, by the way.)

Burj Mubkhara: Upon arrival, each team gets an ingot with a an engraved time that signifies when they will get their next clue. Nat and Kat and Brook and Claire’s ingots say 7:30, Jill and Thomas and Chad and Stephanie’s say 7:45, and Gary and Mallory and Nick and Vicki’s say 8:00. Basically, the teams have plenty of time to get some rest. They start stirring around 6:00, which is when Chad decides that regardless of how the race goes, he wants Stephanie to be his partner for life.

The Proposal: I’m notoriously unromantic when it comes to proposals and whatnot, especially public proposals because they seem to leave the askee little choice, but Chad and Stephanie seem so blissful in the moment, and I’m impressed that Chad carried his mom’s ring through so many countries without losing it (It so would have fallen out of my pack by Ghana), so congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

The next clue tells teams to drive to Jebel Shams (the mountain of the sun), where, in a wise and probably insurance-dictated move, a safe driver will hop in the car at the base of the mountain to get the teams to the top for the roadblock. Nat and Kat and Gary and Mallory get insanely lost and lose hours here. Absolutely stunning mountains and canyons here.

Roadblock: Who wants to add some magic to their lives? Team members must rappel down the mountain and search a ledge filled with Aladdin’s magic lamps for one that holds a ring. They then trade the lamp and ring for the next clue. Chad is the first to go and has no difficulty. Jill is next and also does fine. Vicki, who is much too fun a person to be stuck with Nick, makes like Spiderman (“Spiderwoman-whatever”–hee!) and Claire both cruise through drama-free. Kat loses some (more) time because she gets turned around and can’t remember which lamps she’s checked. Mallory is the last to do the task, and she’s a bit taken aback by how many lamps there are, but she makes it through okay.

Order leaving the Roadblock: Chad and Stephanie, Jill and Thomas, Brook and Claire, Nick and Vicki (they came up at about the same time, but Nick and Vicki had a flat tire), and then after quite a delay: Nat and Kat and Gary Mallory. From Jebel Shams, teams must drive to the Stack of Books in the center of Nizwa. How very cool of a town to have an homage to learning in its center. The clue box is at the top of the book stack and now it’s Detour time.

Detour: Water Table or Wedding Table. In Water Table, teams drive to Fanja, where they pump water from an ancient well, filling a water truck. They then must deliver the water to a designated house, where they will get their next clue. The water trucks do have drivers, but the teams must direct the drivers to the house. In Wedding Table, teams must go to a traditional Arab market to purchase twenty-five chickens and the other necessities for a traditional wedding soup. They then must prepare the soup and deliver it to the bride and groom, who will give them their next clue.

Water Table: This is the first detour of the season where the choice seems like a no-brainer, and all the teams choose Water Table and stick with it. It’s fairly straightforward with the most difficult part seeming to be finding the designated house. Jill and Thomas get especially lucky because the person they ask for directions happens to be the cousin of their designated homeowner, but no one has any problems. The homeowners hand over the next clue, which directs teams to go to the Muttrah Souq.

Muttrah Souq: In this large and crowded market, teams must search for the Ghalib Bakheet Salem Bait Kalshat Al-Mahari Store where the vendor will give them frankincense. They then must find Ali Baba in the souq (or if you’re Nick and Vicki, “Ali Baba in a suit”) and who will trade a clue for the frankincense. This is another straightforward task, and all the teams get their clues telling them to head for the Al Alam Palace Pit Stop. Jill and Thomas are the first ones out, but Thomas breaks a rule and pays a cab driver to lead them to the pit stop. No other team does that.

Pit Stop: Al Alam Palace. Jill and Thomas are the first to arrive, but they incur a thirty minute penalty for the rule infraction, so Chad and Stephanie (!) win the leg and a honeymoon in Belize. Jill and Thomas (if looks could kill, Chad, Stephanie, and Phil would be dead) take second, Nick and Vicki land in third, Brook and Claire get fourth and jump on Phil and the unsuspecting greeter, and Nat and Kat come perilously close to elimination but stay alive in fifth. Gary and Mallory end up in last and are indeed out of the race.

Random Notes: We’ve seen teams go from last to first before, but not go from last to first after starting two hours late, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Part of me thinks that if you miss your start time, you should be out of the race, but another part of me is impressed they persevered. They had a lot of good luck, but they also kept their heads, something I would not have expected. So, yeah: ambivalence. Mirroring one of my travel fears, Brook and Claire go the wrong way down a one way street and cause a traffic jam, attracting the attention of the “po po” (never heard that one before). I think I would have freaked out, so while Brook and Claire’s enthusiasm can be a bit much, their calmness here is impressive. Nat and Kat gave me quite the scare tonight–it’s easy to forget, but The Amazing Race can change on a dime. Oh, and shut up, Nick. Seriously.

Watching this leg, I was too tense over Nat and Kat falling behind to enjoy it as much as I should have. That said, the tasks, while simple, are fun with good local interaction and adorably hungry goats. I’m sorry Gary and Mallory lost and with those ominous U Turn X2 previews, I’m starting to worry that not only will Nick and Vicki make it to the final three, but all three dysfunctional couples will.

What did you think of this leg? Should there be a rule about sleeping through a start time? Public proposals: romantic or showboating? Please post in the comments.

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