Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Friday, April 28, 2006

Survivor: Exile Island - Episode 11

Welcome Back.

This weeks episode should be interesting for two reasons, we find out if Bruce is well enough to sit on the jury, and we get to see Casaya have to canibalize one of their own. Should make for interesting tribe dynamics, switching from a one track mind steam roller to self preservation. I can tell you no one is going to volunteer to be the sacrifice.

We have the previouslies then the credits. We start the fresh content with Terry. Terry is reminding us that it is him vs. Casaya, and he continues to sell that "If I can get a couple people to switch sides" line he has been trying to sell the last four weeks. Oh, and he also relishes getting to see Casaya have to sacrifice one of their own.

In other non news, the tribe is having a food shortage problem. But then we switch to something of mild interest, the tribe is ridiculing Shane. It seems that Shane found a piece of wood that is just about the same size and shape as a Blackberry (communications tool). Shane sits on his "Sitting Rock" and pretends that the piece of wood really is a Blackberry, and he goes on showing it off to us, telling us what it can do, and then he acts like he is sending a text message. Some are quick to say he is going just a little bit nutty here, but I think its more a function of shear bordeom. I mean this is day 28, they have had every conversation numerous times, there is no news to discuss, people are probably getting on each others nerves, so something, anything to kill time is appreciated. That and the cameraman might have encouraged his act. Ah, reminds me of Greg in the original Survivor and the Coconut Phone.

We go from Shane to the reward challenge.

Reward Challenge #10
Prize: A plane ride to a private island where you will enjoy a BBQ feast on the beach, to include steak, soft drinks and chocolate cake.
The Challenge: Its a team challenge, the tribe will split into two three person teams. The teams will negotiate an obstacle course, the hitch is that they are clipped to a rope that runs over, under, around, and through the obstacles in a big twisty mess. The first obstacle is on the beach, then they go into the water and climb up onto a set of floating obstacles, then the thirs set of obstacles are partially underwater. When teams make it to the end of the rope line, they are allowed to unclip from the rope. At that point, one at a time, the team members must cross a lilly pad walk (bridge made up of numerous floating hexagons that are not stable and will start to flip if your balance isn't just right), at the end of the lilly pads is a hexagonal ring, they dive into the ring and retrieve a bag from a treasure chest, then go up and climb onto the hexagonal ring, and return via the lilly pads. Once all three team members have gone and retrieved their bags and are back to the big platform, they are to clip back into the rope line, and traverse the same obstacle course in reverse. First team to get all three players and all three bags back accross the start/finish line win reward, and get to choose who goes to Exile Island.

Hmm, they have performed a lot of these quasi team reward challenges this year. I'm not sure I like the trade off. On one hand the team rewards during individual play force players who are against each other to work together to win the reward, on the other hand there is something sadistically delightful about the individual rewards that end in "Choose somebody to share the reward with you", which has been shown to degenerate into a major intra tibe political minefield.

At least I think next week it will be back to the old ways, since it so happens that 10, 9, 8, 6, and 4 can be evenly divided into teams, where 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 cannot. We learn the tribes are Ciri, Shane and Aras vs. Terry, Courtney and Danielle. So its the Core Casaya alliance vs. the three outsiders. Did Jeff say this was a random draw, or were they allowed to form up like that?

The challenge starts and they are pretty much even through the land obstacles, Shane's team has a minor setback when they have to help Ciri onto the floating platform. That is nothing however to the mess that Aras and Shane get tangled up in which brings their teams progress to a screeching halt. "You just have to follow the rope", simple premise, not so simple in practice. Anyway Terry and team get out to the end of the rope line, Shane and Co are still trying to figure out what went wrong, Terry gets his bag, Shane and Co, still struggling, the other two players get their bags, Shane and Co. still sufferng. Jeff rubbing it in their faces. Shane and Co, finally get loose after Terry and Co. pass them on their return leg. We do see Shane and Co, get to the lilly pads, we see either Aras or Shane do a "No guts, no glory" sprint accross the lilly bads, and maybe get their first bag, but then its all over, as Terry/Courtney/Danielle take reward. I was afraid the bags would contain puzzle pieces or something.

Reward done, Shane's group detaches from the rope and swims in for the post-reward meeting. First order of business is exiling a player. Terry's group deliberates and then selects Aras, as Aras is seen as an immunity threat so they hope the Exile Island challenge will weaken him. I think this is where Terry starts coming back out of the hole, as Courtney and Danielle should have tried to save Shane so that he might be able to oust Terry in the next immunity challenge, that is if they were a united Casaya. I'm not so sure right now.

The second order of business is dismissing Shane and Ciri back to Gitanos beach. Shane, while better behaved than last week, makes one parting remark "Come on Ciri, lets go eat some more beans" I realize Shane has gone 5 episodes without a food reward. I am happy inside. Shane may be obnoxious but he makes for good TV.

After Shane and Ciri are well out of sight, Jeff springs a surprise twist on Terry, Courtney, and Danielle. In addition to the reward they have already won, they also won the right to participate in a secret individual reward challenge. Let's bring it on!

Reward Challenge #11
Prize: 2007 GMC Yukon - Yep, its the car challenge.
"Beware the Curse of the Car!" - In Survivor history, no player that has won the car reward has won the game. Amber did get a car and won the game, but she did not WIN the car, Rob won the car, and chose Amber to go on reward with him, not knowing Amber would also be given a car.

The Challenge: This is a carinval game challenge. Each contestant has to break three ceramic tiles using marbles and a sling shot. According to the rules, a tile is onsidered broken if 2 of its 4 connectors are compromised.

Danielle was never really in this one, IIRC Courtney and Terry were pretty even on, but Terry got the last tile in the nick of time, and thus won the car. Now we know for sure Terry won't win the game becuase of "The Curse of the Car" At least the car did not come with any political decisions strings attached. Jeff ammends the reward:

The three will be taken by airplane to a prvate island where Terry will drive the team to the beach in his new Yukon. They will find all the food and supplies for the BBQ in the back of the Yukon. We see them take off, and yes they do leave in an airplane as opposed to the helicopter they usually use.

We next turn to Aras on Exile Island. Aras states he no longer beleives the Hidden Idol is here, so Exile Island was a big waste of time. Thanks Aras and now we check in on the winners.

The airplane lands, they climb into the car, Terry drives them to the beach. They unload the grill, the steaks get grilled, soft drinks passed out, and the beach picnic is afoot. In terms of game politics, Terry tries to attract the very receptive Courtney and Danielle, who know they are low on the peckig order in Shane's alliance and are willing to listen in. One of them, Danielle astutely says that although she is eager for an alternative to Psycho Shane's Casaya, she doesn't want to set up Terry for an easy win.

We return to Casaya. Shane reassures himself that Ciri is still in the Casaya Core. Ciri tells him she is, then excuses herself to go fishing. Yes, she is still squeamish baiting the hook and all, but whoa she brings in the biggest fish to date for Casaya. Unfortunately she is too squeamish to take it off the hook, so she drags the poor defenseless fish back to camp, and shows it to an amazed Shane. We gather fron Shane's comments that Terry attempted to assume the role of tribe provider but that isn't quite working out.

The boat returned the reward winners to Casaya and Ciri announced there is a big surprise awaiting them on the beach. I would have thought at this point it was another twist to the reward, or Bruce returned or something important to the game. Not so much, the surprise is Ciri can't wait to show off her catch. I am sure that is part "See, I can provide, I'm valuable", part "Can you beleive it, I actually caught a fish".

After the showing off of the catch of the day, the tribe politics go crazy.

Danielle corners Terry and asks him o of those questions with no correct answer "If you win final three, who will you take with you?" IF he says Courtney, he risks loosing Danielle (who stated in no uncertain terms she was not playing for third place), if he says Danille, that might cause friction if Danielle and Courtney compare notes, and that would also blemish his "I have played this game with honor and integrity" badge. He draws from wisdom and proposes that to be fair, the top two in the final immunity challenge go onto the finals. Danielle appears to accept this.

The game has definitely ratcheted up a few notches. It is safe to say that "Casaya" is no more. Now everyone is thinking about the game at a personal level.

Take Danielle - she knew that she was next one to go if she stuck with Psychotic Shane. After all Aras, Shane and Ciri are the core, Terry has the hidden idol, so that leaves Courtney or Danielle, and Shane has already stated he wants Courtney with him. She doesn't want to settle for third, but she knows Terry is the way to go, or can she come up with a new plan?

Terry knows he wants Aras gone as Aras represents the next strongest immunity threat. Shane thinks he is running the show, but as I mentioned above would go for Danielle. Ciri knows that she would finish no higher than third with Shane, but also figured she is fourth at best with Terry, neither option sounds good, but both men want to take Courtney to the finals, so Ciri aims at the common enemy, Courtney. Courtney is so glad to be accepted finally that she will do whatever Terry says, and Aras, well we would assume Aras would do Shane's bidding unless something else came up.

Where was I oh, Danielle leaves Terry and goes to talk with Courtney. Danielle was doing a good job on selling Courtney on the "Best 2 in final immunity challenge advance to finals" idea, but then screws it up by saying that she wants to ensure that you must earn a spot in the finals, you can't get there by riding someones coatails. Courntey takes offense at this, as the insult is plain, Danielle doesn't think Courtney is pulling her weight. Not the smoothest move there Danielle, which leads me to believe that Danielle and Ciri had already concocted Plan C, and Danielle didn't really care what Courteney thought, so decided to lay all the cards on the table.

We next turn to Ciri who explains that Terry wnts Courtney and Shane wants Courtney. I suspect Ciri knows that she probably won't win the final immunity challenge, so she needs to get rid of people that have been declared suitable final two partners. Al the while they let Shane suggest Danielle to vote off, and act like they are going along with it.

The same way Ciri and Danielle are letting Terry and Courtney think they are voting for Aras. Someone is playing the interpersonal relations game to the hilt, and I beleive that someone is Ciri. She may not survive for long outdoors alone, but it is clear she understands interpersonal dynamics, and how to use them.

Well with all the deceptive plans being formulated, it should be interesting to see who gets immunity.

Immunity Challenge #10
Its an endurance/strength competition. In ths one each player is told to walk to the end of a long narrow plank and kneel down. Once they have knelt they will put both arms above their head and grab hold of two ropes. The ropes happen to be connected by means of pulleys to a grappling hook. The grappling hook is being used to hold weights. Last person to not let go of their ropes, thus dropping the weights wins.

This is evil, I mean a kneeling position is not comfortable for any length of time, particularly when there is nothing to lean against or sold to hold onto. Then having your hands above your head raising your cneter of gravity, then having to hold ropes that have resistance and are thus trying to pull away from you. Pure evil. The plank is designed so that if the player drops the weighted hook, it will activate a mechanism that will cause the plank to collapse, unceremoniously dumping the contestant into the drink. How much weight are we talking, I'm glad you asked. The players are weighed before the challenge. They will start with 20% of their body weight, for every 15 minutes they survive, another 10% will be added.

Jeff takes glee in rubbing in the fact that Terry has won all three individual immunities contested to date. They then take their places, the weights are set and the game begins. Points of interest is that one player let go of one rope, thinking that they would be able to rest that hand, then grab back onto the rope, they player did not realize the ropes were setup so that if you let go, that rope raised itself out of the players grasp. Jeff let them try to grab hold for a few moments before clarifying "That ropes not coming back, you now have to support all that weight with one hand" Other points to ponder is that the Casaya Core group were the first out. Aras has the excuse of not getting any rest or food on exile island, but the others just don't seem to want to win immunity. Let someone else do it. At the end it was Danielle, Courtney and Terry. (Big surprise there), the Casays Core roots for the women, not becuase they want them to win, but becuase they want Terry to lose. No such luck, as Terry lasts the longest, at 31 minutes and thus wins the 4th straight individual immunity.

The tribe heads back to camp. I think they might in a perverse way be releived Terry won, becuase that should mean they get to control which Casya leaves. More wheeling and dealig is done. The players seem afraid of what Shane is going to be like after tribal council. I say they could solve that problem by getting rid of Shane right now. I suspect they either don't see this possibility, or they are thinking, who better than a hateful psycho to sit next to in the final two.

Tribal council arrives. Teh jury is introduces, Austin then Sally. There is a dramatic pause, then Bruce walks in to applause and cheers. Jeff makes it clear the ruling is that Bruce is out of the running but will serve on the jury. Jeff probes the tribe hard. He asks Terry about the reward and Terry claims it was like vacation, and that no game playing took place at the reward. Ciri calls him on this one. It should be noted that the fact Terry won the car is not yet mentioned to the other players, at least not shown to us anyway. Jeff aksk the trib epoint blank about Aras, and then points out the pros/cons of keeping Aras, gets some reponses, and this leads to a question about if people are still playing tribal lines or thinking about personal gain. Shane seems geniunely shocked and then worried when payers hint that they may be playing the game at a personal level now. Jeff can't resist a question I'm sure he wanted to ask at last tribal council to Courtney about what she thought of all the hateful questions at the reward challenge. Man Jeff, that is hateful. Courtney tries to brush it off as "Jeff, that was so last episode, get over it"

Jeff askes Terry if he wants to hand over the necklace, Terry does not, Its time to vote, and wow 4 of the 6th votes are shown.

We see Ciri vote for Courtney (no surprise that was her mantra all episode)
We see Shane vote for Danielle (again no surprise)
We see Terry vote for Aras (again no surprise)
We see Courtney for for Aras (no surprise)

The last two votes are not shown, and Jeff goes to tally.

Jeff reads off the Danielle vote. No reaction from crowd.
Jeff reads the Aras votes, No reaction at first one, a bit of concern at the second
Jeff reads the three Courtney votes, after each one, the reaction from Shane gets more and more pronounced, where at the end of the vote Shane is shocked and dumbfounded. Wow, usually the shock and awe looks are from the backstabbed evicted player. If Shane had any notion he was in the driver's seat, that notion has been removed.

They don't even try any hidden idol suspense, and Courtney gets evicted.

Jeff's final comments are something about "There is no doubt after tonights vote that this is now an individual game"

Next week - It seems Terry and Shane get into an argument (no surprise there, Shane is probably in Pyscho mode after tonights tribal council), and it looks like we might have the loved ones challenge next week.

Catch you then

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Amazing Race - Episode 9 (Leg 8)

Welcome back to Oman. Here we are on what is a fast paced race around the world. Last season week upon week spent in the United States, this season its "Nation of the Week"

We rejoin Fran and Barry who surprised us all by coming in first at the pitstop and winning a nice leg prize. We start this epsiode, as usual at the last pitstop. Fran and berry leave the pitstop around 5:45pm which seems odd becuase that means they would have arrived at 5:45am, and the daylight/darkness of the teams arrival just doesn't gel with that, so it was not the usual 12 hour pitstop. Anway we get introduced to:

Clue #48 - Route Info -
"Make your way to Perth, Australlia, and go to the State War Memorial in Kings Park."

Ah, good no more step by step directions. We see Fran and Barry leave, but they insist on visiting BJ and Tyler's car. Why? To drop of $20. Why? As you may recall BJ and Tyler came in last at the end of the last leg, which was a non-elimination leg, and the rules call for forfeiture of all property except the clothes on your back and your passport. This includes all cash the team has now, and the stipend for the next leg is also forfeit.

But why did Fran and Barry feel compeled to throw $20 in the collection seat. I suspect this has something to do with the Golden Rule, and helping out those in need, and their personal value systems. If, this were say a vacation trip, and one person on a vacation had their pocket picked, then absolutely the right response is to help that person out, bu this is not an informal vacation. This is an organized competition, the team is not going to suffer becuase you did not help them. They have a CBS production crew with them, if they need medical assistance, CBS can summon that, CBS also closely tails the team with security, in addition they have a car so getting out of the elements is not an issue. Sure the crew can't give them money, gas, food or beverage, and yes they will have to watch them flounder around and have a real miserable 48 hours, but as soon as the officials declare the team "out" the CBS crew can help them go to Loser Lodge. In short this is a game, BJ and Tyler have just been dealt a disadvantage, this is the time to take advantage of that fact, not try to help them out. Think of it this way, you are playing a fictional board game, an opponent draws a card "Forfeit all money to the bank" . You know that not having play money is going to make the game a lot harder on that person, do you go "Tough break Joe, here have $20 of my play money. No, you wouldn't, you let Joe stumble around while you move closer to victory. The Amazing Racers whould have done the same.

And why didn't Fran and Barry just hand the $20 to BJ and Tyler, well the rules also state "You must begin the leg with $0 to your name" If they do not go to their race vehicle first, they have technically started the leg with $0. Its a letter-of-the-law vs. spirit-of-the-law thing.

We get a montage of the players going to BJ and Tylers car turned collection plate. NExt up is Joseph and Monica. Jospeh and Monica are competetive and know not to donate to the cause. They do walk up to the collection car and act like they are donating, I suppose in case BJ and Tyler are watching. Third out is Ray and Yolanda who leave what we later learn is $10. Last up are BJ and Tylers arch rivals Eric and Jeremy. Eric and Jeremy display a sense of humour and leave $100 in the car, in the form of an IOU, which of course is totally useless to BJ and Tyler. Let's review, the competive teams did not fall for the emotional trap and saw the situation strictly in game terms and left nothing, while the two bottom tier teams fell for the tug at their heartstrings and left some cash.

Anyway, we see Fran and Barry heading for the airport and get caught in a huge traffic jam and road closures. They smartly decide to stop at a local gas station where they learn that a) The King's motorcade is in the area, and b) All roads to the airport are closed. (Fran/Barry asked for alternate route suggestions.) No choice but to wait it out. Fran/Barry wait it out as do all the other teams except BJ/Tyler, and once the blockage is clear they all head to the airport and arrange passage on the same flight itinerary.

BJ/Tyler leave the pit stop last of course, point out the fact they have no money on them, and head to the car to count the collection. They state that the donations will be a factor if they get to yield a team., fair enough. That would be their valid game play move, just as J/M and E/J exercised their move of not giving them cash. Then we see parents everywhere cringe as BJ and Tyler pick up a hitchhiker, in Oman. Now, our local afternoon noons had a synopsis for this episode that said that we would see one team pick up a hitchhiker and then have to perform diplomatic relations. I fear the worst, but in reality BJ/Tyler and the hitchhiker get along nicely, even become temporary best buddies, especially when "he helped us out with gas, mango drinks and candy bars (Snickers, btw)" The way he said it made it sound like they made a deal with the hitchhiker that went like this "We'll drive you to X, if you gas up our car and buy us snacks" Isn't that diplomacy, they take the guy for money, and the guy sounds like he found two good friends. Makes it sound like they still haven't spent any cash, just 'creatively financed' their way to the airport. They appear to be having difficulties getting plane tickets, and the other 4 teams have counted their chickens and have declared "There is no way BJ and Tyler are going to make this flight" But, never fear, BJ and Tyler do make the flight, and their lack of baggage might ironically be what helped them with this last minute booking. BJ and Tyler board the plane , rubbing it in the others faces. The other teams are not exactly happy. Bja nd Tyler reveal that they were able to take up an in-flight collection for the Church of TTWOT to the tune of $300.

All teams now make their way to Perth on the exact same flight, arrive and catch taxis to the State War Memorial. No irther incidents so they get:

Clue #49 - Route Info
"Take a ferry to Rottnest Island, rent a tandem bike and bike to the lighthouse"
What the clue neglects to tell them is that Rottnest Island is a distance away (45 minutes - 1 hour. Some teams decide to bear the cost of the expensive cab ride, Ray/Yolanda & Bj/Tyler take the bus.

In the end the bus/cab decision does not matter because all teams miss the last ferry of the evening and have to wait for the first boat at 7:30am. Teams check into a Hostel. The hostel has funky names for its rooms, like "The Batcave" or "The Pleasure Dome" We see Fran and Barry go into "The Pleasure Dome" The editors fail to let us in on what was behind Door # 21. In the end teams that took the bus may have a bit more cash reserves. In the morning we see them all board the ferry, visit the Bike Hire shop where reserved bikes are waiting (complete with cute little Amazing Race flags). Tema bike for 3 miles on terrain that isn't exactly flat to reach the lighthouse. Fran and Barry think they have an advantage because they bike regularly. At the lighthouse they pull:

Clue #50 - DETOUR
"Sand" or "Sea"
In Sand teams have to move a pile of tree limbs from one side of a marked section of beach to the other side. We are told that this practice of brushing the beach is performed regularly to prevent beach errosion.
In "Sea" teams don swimsuits and snorkel gear and dive under the water in search for crayfish traps. They will find crayfish waiting in selected traps, each team member must find a crayfish and turn it in for their next clue.

Ok, "Sand" is clearly the physically demanding task with a defined start and end point, whereas "Sea" is ANOTHER LUCKY CHANCE task. Sure they have to snorkel pas part of the task, and handle what may be a strange animal, but the dominant part of the task is finding the lucky fishtrap that holds an animal. No defined end point, but teams who are lucky may finish quickly. I am getting sick of tasks that rely on luck.

Whichever option a team chooses they have to bike from the lighthouse to Salmon Bay whhere the detour is being conducted. We see teams arrive at the detour. Bj/Tyler who might be feeling the sting of their last round with Lady Luck decide to opt on the physical task. They comment that its harder than it looks but they press on. Eric/Jeremy choose "Sea" and are giddy to be in speedos as they dive into the water. Fran/Barry arrive, Fran is her typical "Can't Do" spirit flatly says "I can't dive, we have to do Sand" they start dragging brush as I say "They picked the wrong detour option AGAIN!" Eric and Jeremy finish up the Sea task rahter quickly and make snide remarks about how BJ/Tyler are grads from well respected colleges and are reduced to manual labor. The way Eric and Jeremy say this is real snotty as if manual labor is beneath them. Guys, this isn't cheap labor, this is a choice of paths in the teams quest to win a million dollars. People will put up with and do a lot for a million dollars that they would not normally do. Just ask the people who go on Fear Factor and perform much worse tasks for a chance to win less money. (I now wish for one of the final tasks to be "In this Detour you must clean one third of this concert venue after a huge all day music festival", Eric and Jeremy will say "We are not lowering ourselves to that level even if a million dollars is on the line")

Anyway, back to the challenge, BJ and Tyler have brushed their section of beach, and are on their way. We turn to Joseph and Monica, who are trying to take the role of abusive couple. I hope this is just the killer fatigue talking because they weren't near this nasty to each other early on. As you may have guessed, they get lost finding the detour and then proceed to have the very productive and morale boosting Insult Fest. They arrive at the challenge and choose "Sea", while taking part in the challenge they have momry loss and think that they need only bring one crayfish back. They turn in their one crayfish and they are sent back to get the other, wasting some time. In the meantime, Fran and Barry have brushed their beach section and are on their way. Since Joseph brought back the first crayfish, the rules state Monica must get the second one. We learn that Monica is afraid of diving, and more afraid of the crayfish. We have footage of Monica having a panic attack and shutting down. We then go to commerical, and when we come back she has regained her compsoure and all is well and they are on their way. Amazing how commercials on Amazing Race do that. Can I have that in real life? Whever I am not having a good day, we cut to commerical and then we come back and I am having a great day? Joseph will not win a sensitivity award in this incident.

Ray and Yalanda who were having trouble with the bike arrived last at the detour, chose "Sand" and proceeed to brush their zone, and get their clue.

Completing the task led to:
Clue #51 - Route Info
"Make your way to Freemantle Prison"
("Go to Jail, Go Directly To Jail, Do not pass GO, Do not collect $200") - sorry, wrong game.
We learn that the prison is question has been closed and is now a tourist attraction. We also learned that its fresh water supply arrived via underground tunnels.
Teams must now bike back to the ferry dock, return their bike to the Bike Rental booth, and then get to the prison using any means they can.

Eric and Jeremy are first back to the ferry dock, and happen to board the Freemanlte ferry just before it departs. BJ and Tyler learn they missed the direct ferry, but the ferry operators advise them they can take a ferry do an alternate destination, then catch a cab to Freemantle and that will get them into Freemantle 30 minutes faster than just waiting for the Freemantle ferry. BJ and Tyler opt for the alternate ferry, and all goes well until they get stuck in traffic on thei way to Freemantle and in effect arrive after the Freemnatle Ferry they could have waited for. All other teams took the next ferry to Freemantle.

Of note Fran/Barry ask the ferryboat ticket seller if she can arange for a taxi to be at the ferry terminal when they arrive, while Joseph and Monica put on a little bit of charm and borrow a cell phone on the ferry to also secure a taxi. Ray and Yolanda make no taxi arrangements.
Eric/Jeremy arive at the prison.

The ferry arrives in Freemantle, but their is only one taxi waiting. It sounded to me like the driver called out for a Joseph, so Joseph/Monica correctly take their prearanged taxi. They take the time to declare for the cameras that the driver called for them, so they can't be accused of cab theft. Not a bad move, but can we ease up on the hate and spite?

Fran and Barry were left high and dry when their prearanged cab never did arrive. While tey were out lookig for a cab, Ray and Yolanda caught one. We'll never know if that was the cab that was meant to be picking up Fran/Barry who were no longer at the agreed upon pickup point. Fran/Barry decide not to try to summon a taxi and instead hop on a city bus.

Joseph and Monica edge out BJ and Tyler at making it to the prison, then Rayt and Yolanda show up, and then some time later Fran/Barry's bus arrive.

When teams arrive at the prison they recieve:
Clue #52 "Road Block"
"Who is ready to make a great escape"
The task is loosely based on a jaibreak scneario. The person designated for this task must first acquire Duracell (product placement) batteries and a flashlight. then when they have a flashlight they must locate the entrance to the underground tunnel system and search the tunnels for a hidden clue. To help them they are told the batteries and flashlight will be hidden together in a cell in the "4th Division" They are given no other information about the layout of the prison.

Okay, I like the "Great Escape" road block (like the "Capture the Fort" roadblock in an earier season), but in a season dominated by luck, I could have done without the "Find the right cell" or "Find the right tunnel" elements.
However, the task was actually most ingenious, they start in the prison yard. First they have to figure out on their own where Division 4 is, and how to get to it, then once they find it they have to search the cells for the batteries and flashlight, and guess what no windows in the locked cell doors, they have to unlock each door, look inside, then close and relock the door. (It is not made clear where they got the jail key, or when they were instructed to relock the cells) The batteries are also sitting next ot the flash light, all the better to maximize on shots showing the battereis. Once they have the batteries in their flashlight, they can then search the prison for the tunnel entrance. Once they find the tunnel entrance some crew members will make sure they are properly harnessed before sending them into the tunnels. They then have a choice of searching dry tunnels and wet tunnels (through use of a boat) Find the clue, return yto your partner continue on the race.

Eric and Jeremy waste a lot of time after getting the flashlight finding the tunnel entrance. So much time that Joseph and Monica who were on the next ferry pass E/J coming out of the tunnel as they are going in. Eric had had trouble in the wet tunnel section, so he advised Monica to go for the boat in hopes of sending her on a wild goose chase. Other teams are disoriented by the task but pretty much proceed without too much trouble. Clues are available in both the wet and dry parts of the tunnel system.

Comleting the jail task, leads the team to
Clue #53 - Route Info
"Proceed to the Freemantle Sailing Club and go to the South Breakwater" - Warning: This is a pit stop.
Eric and Jeremy did not retain their taxi and are advised that the sailing club is "an easy walk" They proceed to start walking it, all the while whining about how unfair it is that Joseph/Monica will be able to just jump into their taxi they have held on retainer. Sepaking of which here come Joseph and Monica and their taxi driver advised them the Sailing Club is a two minute trip. The show tries to build some suspense, and we see, I don't beleive it, an actual footrace. It seems like we have gone ages without an honest to goodness RACE to the mat. Remember these used to be common.

Eric and Jeremy get to the mat first and are checked in, then Joesph and Monica are allowed to check in in second place. (In past seastns they made team #2 stay behind while Team #1 gets their leg prize, but this way makes it clear that Joseph/Monica's check in time will not be impacted. Eric and Jeremy then return to the mat so Phil can award them with the trip to Hong Kong.

I have seen some comments by viewers who think Eric and Jeremy should have displayed some chivary and since they have won several leg-prizes already they should have stepped aside and allowed Joseph/Monica a chance to take something home. As the Roaming Gnome ("Denouncer of travel myths") himself would say "Bull-hogray" This is a GAME with nice prizes involved, a competition is not the time to be all soft and chivalrous. To the victor goes the spoils, and that sort of thing. Remmeber there are no votes, no inter-team politics here, so take any and all prizes you can get your hands on.

Next in to the mat are BJ and Tyler who rose from last place to 3rd, and are happy about it. We then have the amazing editors try to convince us that Ray/Yolanda and Fran/Barry are close, but I don't think so. We see Ray/Yolanda check in in fourth place, barely staying alive. We then see Fran/Barry check in, and are in fact eliminated. First to Worst. Sure, they can and probably will blame their loss on the cab that never arived for them, but they get some of the blame for settlingon the slower city bus. We get the usual senior citizen final remarks about how well they have done, showing that they can still compete, then Fran reminds us they are cancer survivors, and we are out to prove we can do anything. This coming from the lady who is full of that good old "Can't Do" spirit.

Next Week; Playing with live crocodiles, and the BJ/Tyler Jospeh/Monica rivalry heats up.

See you then.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

TR: Paramount's Kings Island - 4/23/06

Well, April is finally here, and with it comes another coaster season in full bloom. The usual protocol was invoked, and Rideman and I arrived at PKI right around 11:30.

PKI has made some changes to its opening protocol, doing away with the practice of opening International Street at 9AM, then the main park at 10. Now everything opens at 10. Early reports had inidicated this was causing undue congestion entering the park. Well with our liesurely arrival time, we had no wait as we pulled up to the toll plaza and used our parking pass rather than paying the obnoxious $10 parking fee. Of course if the $10 parking fee isn't high enough for you, there is the Premier Parking area up close to the gate for $15. One of the side effects of the Premier lot and gold pass lots is that it makes the park look more crowded than it really is. It's also a sad commentary on Americans that we will pay $5 extra to park in the first few rows of the lot to go to an attraction where we will spend a lot of time walking around. Of course, using our parking pass we found a decent space in the regular lot and soon made our way to the front gate.

I am happy to report that the congestion at the season pass building seems to have disipated. I did note that single day ticket sales have been moved to the season pass building. A check on the ride closures board indicated that only Son of Beast and the train ride are due to be closed today, thats good news. We approached the security checkpoint, and I am glad they added some "No Bags" express lines to the far left hand side. This means I was able to breeze right through security with no troubles whatsoever. Rideman was not so lucky, and while I waited for him to clear secuirty I noted that the original ticket cages between security and the front gate have bee decommisioned as all the equipment has been removed from them, including the locksets on the cage doors. I also noticed that the exit gates on the south side of the securit checkpoint have been closed off, and the one exit gate on the north side of the gate has been reduced is size, I suppose to better control the exit.

We head to the main gate, where we find a lane with no waiting and we quickly enter the park with no troubles. I did note their new season pass verification system. When a season pass is scanned, the system pulls your photo up from the season pass database and puts it on the front gate terminal. The attendant is to verify the photo is of you, then touch on "OK". That handled we walking under the main gate where I noticed a large banner welcoming the Girl Scouts of America, as promised by the parks website this is Scout Fun Days, though I think its mainly Girl Scout days, as they have the nice banner at the front gate, the event patches available in the gift shop and so on, whereas the Boy Scouts get a nice simple sign. That said I do not recall seeing any scouts in the park dressed in scout uniform. Just an observation, nothing more.

We headed into the park, and naturally proceeded to head towards the right, where we were able to evade the Keyhole Photo ambush and start up International Street. I noticed that along with opening the park at 10AM, the gift shops do not open till noon.

The parks major focus this season has been a complete renovation of its "Little Kids Land" from "Hanna-Barbera Land" to "Nickeldeon Universe". Although, I am clearly not of the inteded demographic for Nick Universe, we decided to start the visit with a tour of the new area. We make the first right turn on International Street and take the short walk to Nick Universe. One of the first things I notice is how vivid the colors are, I must admit the area was starting to look a bit dull and subdued. before. Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle is still to your left as you enter the area and appears unchaged from the outside. A glance at the park map reveals that this attraction is now technically in International Street, I suppose its a legal thing as Scooby is not a Nick character.
Huck's Hotrods (Hampton combo) have been removed and the area has turned into a large entrance plaza welcoming you to Nick Universe complete with a marque sign introducing the area. One of the goals of the area according to our mid winter tour was to alleviate congestion in this section of the park, and this big entry plaza is sure to do that, I wonder if they are planning on being able to add a ride in this spot in the future.

Looking to my right, I see that "Pixie and Dixie's Swingset", has been tranformed into "Backyardigan's Swing Along" It's the same ride with a new yellow/orange/green paint job and some nick character face decorative accents. Actually keeping a few of the older rides is a good move. It allows the park to focus more money and energy on getting the overall look and feel of the area established, and it provides a nice transition period as I'm sure more changes for this area are ahead in years to come, so at least the children won't be totally shocked by having everything be different.

We continue on and come upon what was "Boulder Bumpers". Gone is the bedrock themed building and the Fred Flintstone cars, in is a more modern looking building with a couragated blue metal roof with grey and red decorative accents, which look to suggest a scientific motif, as do the cars which are now grey and look like little robot vehicles. The rides new name is "Jimmy Neutron's Atom Smashers" Again, same ride as before with an extensive retheme. The little concession stand that uis adjacent to the kiddie bumper cars now sports an orange couragated metal roof and a very generic name "Snow Cones". Sounds like a stand you would find at Cedar Point, home of the famous "Chicken Patio" and "Burger Patio"

We continue on past a more gneric looking ride photo boof as the Mystery Machine theme is gonewhich brings up to what once called "Scooby Doo", then "Beastie", now its " Fairly Odd Coaster". (1972 PTC/ John Allen junior wood coaster). We decide to take a ride and find the ride to be just a two train wait. This coaster may have had the most color schemes of any wood coaster. I believe it started with a yellow structure with orange trim and yellow trains (as confirmed in the 1978 park guide I just looked at), then it turned dark blue with orange trains for the most of its Beastie years, then towards the end of the Beastie era it was purple with orange trim with multicolored trains, now the ride has a lavender structure and one green train and one pink train. Both trains have decorative accents on their fronts and sides. We take a ride in the back car, one per bench, and note some more decortive accents on the turn out of the station, as well as a new themed "Do not stand up" lifthill sign. Thie bigger change in this ride, however, is that the first drop tunnel has been removed. Other than that it is pretty much just like the old ride. The trim brake on the third turn was on hard.

We happily exit Fairly Odd Coaster and continue touring the area, looking at the car ride next to Fairly Odd Coaster which is now the "Nick Jr. Drivers" This is another nice retheme as the cars have been freshly painted and some scenery panels have been added to the bridge so that they form what looks like a stone tunnel underneath. So overall I have looked at four rides now, and they all seem to have come out a little better for the retheme, I mean they have nice new vibrant color schemes and look fresh and new even if they are actually a few years old. Yeah I miss the tunnel on Beastie, but such is life in the name of progress.

We walk over to where "Boo Boo's Baggage Claim" (Junior Tumble Bug) was, that ride has been replaced with "Blue's Skidoo" This ride is Nick's answer to "Dumbo, the Flying Elephant" at that other chain of theme parks. The ride feautres a number of tubs that look like the dog in Blue's Clues, available in both pink and blue. It looks like the ride was built on the existing Zamperla mini jet center from the removed "Red Baron's Bi Planes" ride. The Blue's Clues cars, however have SBF nameplates. The traditional lever to raise or lower your car has been replaced with a single push button. Press the button in, your dog goes up, let go and the car lowers. The button does not look labeled, so I guess we'll have to see if the children figure it out. Overall I think the ride looks very nice, and is actually right in the center of your view if ou enther the themed area the way we did.

Next to Blues Skidoo is the entry ramp to "Lazytown Sporticopters" which is the retheme to "Yogi's Sky Tours" This ride looks the same except the track ans station area have been repainted, and it looks like the copters have been recolored. A facade has been added in front of the base of the ramps up to the station. I noticed a problem with the entry way to this ride. The entrnace consist of two identical looking ramps that go up to the loading platform. To add to the confusion, there are no "Entry" or "Exit" signs or arrows to indicate which side is the entrance, and there are ride safety signs on both sides. You know, a gate blocking the exit, and entry sign or even nice large arrows painted on the ramps would help in thsi regard. Maybe this is a detail that isn't quite finished yet.

Speaking of things that don't look quite finished yet, we next walked over to the Nick Go Round, and said "We HOPE this ride isn't finished yet!" The ride was the Hanna Barbera Carousel, featuring carousel figures that look like HB characters. Therefore I expected the Nick Go Round to be a similar ride except that it would feature carousel figures that look like Nick characters. The canopy is orange and green, as is the ride center, however the ride is featuring plain generic carousel figures and chariots. It has a few horses, zebras (shout out to RRC! it has Zebras) It is only a one-abreast carousel, so forget about riding next to your friend. I'm really hoping this is only a temporary figure set to fill in until the custom nick characaters are ready. I mean the role of park carousel has already been filled by a much more majestic machine on International Street. The Nick Go Round as it stands now looks pretty pathetic as carousels go.
We looked back next to the dark ride building, the Scooby Doo Meet and Greet has been moved from the walkway down to the old Enchanted Theatre to the 'lawn' in front of the Haunted Castle. At least this will allow easier access to the Enchanted Theatre should they ever decide to use that space again. Top Cat's Taxi Jam is now Little Bill's Giggle Coaster, with a new color scheme for both track and trains, as well as some 2d statues of nick characters in the center of this kiddie oval coaster. The ride photo booth for it also got a nice retheme, it looks sort of like the facade of It's a Small World before its recent retheme.

Starting up the other side of Nick Universe we come to what was the Huckleberry Dairy, which has a new facade and goes by the generic name "Ice Cream" Purists will be happy to know they still offer blue soft serve ice cream. Next door is the Central Grill which in all honstly looks a lot plainer than the old Busytown Grill. I noted they have added more seating by creating a new seating area alongside the Nick Go Round. Going towards the back of Nick Universe, we walked through the old Animation Station, which is now a store simply called "Nickelodeon", whcih features all the Nick merchandise one could want. A new exterior treatment has been added to this building as well. Outside the shop the game booth that was in front of the restroom building is still there. Now its decked out in lime green, and we were a bit disconcerted when we lookt at the game where you try to flip a rubber chicken into a roasting pot on the grill. They had Care Bear plush sitting directly on the 'grill'. We also noted the restrooms in this area aren't quite ready yet.

We continued to tour the area and noticed that "Atom Ant's Airways" has been repainted and rethemed into "Timmy's Airtours". Next to Timmt's Airtours a new snack bar has been added called "Soft Drinks and Snacks". I'll let you guess what they sell. This means we head into the area that was Nick Central, and here is where the new Nick Universe gets interesting.

Sitting front and center is the first of the entirely new rides, Plankton's Plunge. This ride is billed as a Drop Zone for children. Its a very trendy ride where up to 12 children are seated in two rows of 6 using shoulder bars. The carriages go up to the top of the tower, then sort of gently bounce up and down a few times before coming back to the ground. No sudden drops here, the ride is all about the bouncing. The ride has a blue tower with a green seaweed motif on the sides. This ride should prove very popular, as it has been a success for many parks and carnivals. In fact, Ohio's Coney Island installed a similar ride just last year. I was a bit surprised that there is no "Adults must ride with a child" rule on this ride, at least not yet. I did notice that the cars have a clearly posted weight limit of 990 pounds per side. Split between 6 riders per side, that average out to 165 per person, and yes the ride does weigh the carriage, as we saw this take place. Yes, the park was professional in handling the akward situation.

We decided not to ride. We were also disapointed that the Green Slime Maze attraction is still around. Sure the attraction has been rethemed to Spongebob Squarepants Bikkini Bottom Bash (does that not sound like it belongs in the waterpark), and we did get a small victory in that the attraction has been made smaller as Plankton's Plunge sits on part of the former site, and yes the slime derrick has been replaced with a huge statue of Spongebob himself, and a ginat pineapple facade greets guests at the entrnace. At least it will when this attraction opens in May.

We were reassured that Rugrat's Runaway Reptar seems to have stayed the same, we deicded to save it for later. At Winter SOAR Maureen indicated that they were going to solve the continuity problem of not being about to get a Krabby Pattie at the Krusty Krab. They have, that stand is no longer called the Krusty Krab. We noted the former Slime Bowl ampitheatre is still being used at the Meet the Nicktoons meet and greet area. We headed over into what used to be South Pie or Woodlands. This is an area that recieved a total makeover. The landscape has been flattened, the service gate by Fairly Odd Coaster has been moved inward so you can no longer walk right up alongside the track. Most imortantly the areas is dominated by a big blue wavy W shaped ride. Avatar's The Last Airbender.

We first noticed that the short shot basketball kiosk survived intact, with a new green paint job. You enter Avatar through a pagoda then through an opening that runs underneath the hump in the middle of the track. There is also a wider midway passage that goes back to Dora's Explore Zone, as denoted by a Dora statue holding a flag welcoming you to the area. We did actually see a Dora character walking this area.

Besided Avatar this backmost area of Nick Universe also contains the relocated Hampton car ride, now called Go Diego Go, and featuring jeeps and ATV like vehicles instead of firetrucks, schoolbusses and sports cars. The colorful umbrella top is now kahki and green. Go Diego Go is about where the entrance to the handcars was, the handcars having tragicallly been removed, alongwith Scooby's Ghoster Coaster which used to run overhead in this area and the remote control cars and boats. In the center behind Avatar is "La Adventuras De Azul" (The Adventures of Blue??) This is the former Quickdraw's Railway, featuring newly rethemed blue train engines, a yellow stucco facade, and for at least today onyl two cars. There seems to have been no theming added out on the trackway at this point.

Next up between Azul and the walkway to waterworks is Swipers Sweepers, which is a retheme and relocation of the Alley Cat 500 (kiddie whip ride). There is another acces s point to this area as the walkway leads back next to Spongebob's WAter Maze thing.

We get in line for Avatar, and the line is about halfway through the queue. We note that it looks like the park is planning for shade canvas to be placed over the queue, which will help as for the first few years, there is precious little shade in Nick Universe. Before we even get on the ride, I can make some suggestions to help make things more efficiant. Flush loading would help, but the bigger problem is that for 6 rows of 6 seats, they only have 2 queue gates up in the station. Gate 1 is lined up with row 1, gate 2 is lined up with row 2. The proceudre calls for those in lane 1 to fill in rows 1-3, and for lane 2 to fill in rows 4-6. Of course no clear directions are given, then instead of letting people fill in naturally they try to move people who have already been seated from the left hand side to the right hand side. I know it's a new ride, but it seems like the loading procedure could use a little refinement. Ideally would be flush loading and 6 queue gates, one for each lane like a rollercoaster.

Avatar, by the way, is NOT a rollercoaster in my book. The ride is a custom Zamperla Skater, the ride features a W shape layout instead of the more traditional U shape, and the ride also looks to be a bit taller. We take seats in the back row, and there is already an anouncement that the person sitting on the end seat on the load side must be at least 16 years of age. I think part of that has to do with the design of the safety restraints. When you board the car you look down and see what appears to be an individual T shape lapbar for each rider. When you are instructed to lower the lapbars you learn that all 6 bars in a row function as a unit. This means the bar only comes down as far as the largest rider in the row. You can now see the potential issue with small kids sitting in the aisle seat. (The other aisle seat has a grate blocking that side exit.) Small riders will be forced to ride with unduly loose lapbars, and some larger riders may get nasty surprise when one of those smaller riders, or the parents of said smaller rider try to zealously ram down the childs lapbar. What genius came up with this? I thought the current shcool of thought for amusement rides, especially rides destined for Little Kids Land that use shared lapbars are a BAD idea.

A better idea in my mind would be to have a functional door on the loading side of the row (Look at Italian Job for an example) that would prevent riders from sliding out sideways, then since the lapbar functions as one big long unit replace the individual t-bars with one long lapbar for each row, just like on many pendulum pirate ship rides. This will ensure there are no breaks bettween bars that a rider could squeeze between and come out. This would also mean they could remove the seat moldings between each seat, and also between your legs which are there to ensure that you can't slide along the seat bench into an empty seat.

Okay, now that I have overanalyzed the ride, and lets take it for a spin. Quite literally. The ride has a big blu cloud shaped car wth a huge statue of Avatar on top. It really does look nice. The ride starts out a bit like a small Viking Fury just rocking back nad forth in the one dip. Then the car starts spinning. Then once it gets up to full power it traversed the entire W shaped track about 4-5 times spinning all the way. General reactions that I saw are parents were shocked "We thought this is a kiddie ride" Nope, its sure not a kiddie ride, and I think the park missed the mark on where to put this ride. I mean its a great ride, but it belongs in Coney, not Nick Universe. What they seem to have done is to ensure that the young teens who would love it won't ride it becuase its not cool to walk into kiddieland at that age, and the parents who ride it will think that all rides in kiddieland are suitable for everyone. That said, lets enjoy what may be the parks best spin ride, and a super fun ride as well. Did I mention that they have installed a hose nozzle at the exit ramp?

Having had a lot of fun on Avatar, we decide to see the rest of the park. We ext Nick Universe by Reptar, and note that Wild Thornberries River Adventure also looks to be unchanged. What is new is next to the restroom building they have added the "Phantom Flyers" a ride commonly known as a Kite Flyer. Its a ride where you around in circles while laying down in the classic super hero pose, and the car gently goes up and down, similar to a yo-yo or wave swinger. We'll talk more about this ride later.

We continue through the more desrted part of Rivertown. Judging by my park guide, Internaitional Showplace, Back Porch Stage, and the Enchanted Theater will all sit dark this year. In addition if the park guide is to be beleived the gift shop in Coney Mall, and the gift shops in Rivertown will not operate this year, except for the old time photos. We note the refrehsment stand in upper Rivertown is open, the rivertown age and weight is not an analog (read real mechanical high striker), the Skyline Chilli in this area is now a funnel cake stand, and Wings seems to have remained the same.

White Water Canyon was open, but the train ride was not. The peach basket game in Rivertown has been subdivided into two game booths, and Tomb Raider had a line stretching outside the cave. We opted not to ride Tomb Raider. We did opt to ride Beast. Beast was a walk on so we walked right onto row 6.1. The good news is the park has fixed up the lapbars, at least cosmeticaly, and added new strong return springs. The range of passenger accomodation, however remains the same. Out on the course, you can see new wood, and stacks of more new wood alongisde the ride. That suggests the park is trying to maintain it, but the ride stiff shuffles through the helix and jackhammers on the segment between the second tunnel and the second lift hill. In other words it is running pretty much the way it did last year.

We did get a delayed ride as we sat on the back of the ready brake for a few moments as the ride decided to setup all three trains. There was a virtual parade of ride managers and the safery dpeartment on hand to observe the ride being reset. After a 5-10 minute delay the train was brought into the station and unloaded. Must not have been a big deal as the ride was back open by the time we walked down the exit ramp.

We noted still no pinball in Beast arcade, so we headed to Italian Job. The line for Italian Job was just backed out of the queue house, whih only had one switchback open. The line for this ride really does move swiftly. We got a dash of good luck as the seat assigner sent us to row 1. We took our places in the front row, lowered the lap bar, closed the car door and waited for launch. We noted the on board audio is still broken, and the decal that shows the instrument cluster has one 'light' lit, the icon for "Fasten Seatbelt", there are no seatbelts in the car. The ride takes off and its runnng consistent with last year. The lightbars on the police cruisers were on, and Row 1 gets some nice airtime pops after the DIP, before the subway stair drop, and on the hill up into the mid course (show) brakes. We did note the subway stair special effect still hasn't been installed, and I never have felt the cars fishtail. We came to the show scene, and that seems to work pretty well, then we went throught the escape tunnel (sewer?) where the cars headlights failed to come on. The final dip through the billboard into the auaqduct is still priceless, and the fake splash effects are on. All in all its a good fun ride, its a shame the added special effects rate a "Needs Improvement"

We continued our park tour as we took a moment of silence at the Flying Eagles Memorial Lawn. Taking up too much space my left nostil. We proceeded to take a nice ride on Shake Rattle and Roll with no waiting. Its a solid performer for the park. We turned the corner and found the line for Vortex to be at the bottom of the stairs as you enter the house. Vortex moves a lot of people so the line moved pretty quickly, and soon we were in row 7.1 Vortex is runnng its usual self, Vortex is one ride that you can generally rely on to be a consistant solid performer, and yes the first drop float is still there.

After Vortex, we headed to the Paramount Action EFX Theatre to watch Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera, unfortunately the ride was closed and only the SPongebob movie was playing. We headed back up Coney Mall, we noted the lazer tag and the two story water race game are both gone, while the Euro Bungy is still there ($8). We proceed past a large size but disued concession area, looked in the Skeeball building, again no pinball. I rather like the name I recently read for redemption arcades such as the Skeeball buildng "Kiddie Casinos, as they are full of quarter falls, dozers, Colorama, and other luck based games that masquarade as games of skill.

We passed by the Zephyr and commented that it looks way to small. Of course when your last chair swing ride was a really tall Funtime Star Flyer, the garden variety models just don't compete.

We made the turn towards Flight of Fear. I notice more and more games space being taken up by skill cranes of all shapes and sizes. I almsot wonder if the skill crane market has been saturated at that park yet. We enter the Flight of Fear building. The bad news is the inside hangar is completely full, the WORSE news is the preshow is not running, there is little to no light on inside the queue area, and much worse there was no air conditioning and no ventillation. There is no way I am going to suffer through these kind of conditions. The park should really be appalled at the state of this queue area, this is something that Six Flags has done. Dark cramped crowded spaces with no ventilation are just asking for guest injuries, I myself witnessed guests pass out in an overheated Batman queue at SFoG. I 'yelled' in my trip report on Six Flags over Georiga over this issue, so fair is fair, and I am yelling at PKI for this. "Your guests deserve more humane treatment than this, the condition of this queue area shows the park has no regard for the health, safety and well being of its guests. They can cut costs by not opening the Lemon Chill cart, but when they start cutting costs on items like light bulbs and air conditioning, the park is started down the slippery slope to negligecne.

Disgusted, we keep on our course, one more arcade to check for pinball, and none found. We decide to take a ride on Monster. Monster has recieved a new safety feature in the form of a clip that secures the lapbar release knob against accidental release. The crews are still gettingused to the new clips, and so operations are a bit slow. It was a fun and bouncy Monster ride.

We headed to the end of Coney Mall and onto to recaR. The line was just down to the bottom fo the ramp, so we found seats in row 1.3. Okay, Racer crew is intent on stapling this year. Its a shame, as recaR is running nice and smooth, but due to the overtight lapbar instead of nice pops of air, I recieved painful thrusts into the lapbar. Being a glutton for punishment, we tried Racer. Row 6.1, same tight stapling, but for many years forwards Racer has not run nearly as well as backwards Racer, and this year is no exception. Ya know if the ride stops being fun, what is the point? Any why the tight stapling on Racer and not on Beast. It seems this seaosn we have ride crews who interpret "Make sure the lapbar is down as far as it will go" as "Forecfully shove the lapbar into the riders lap until they yelp ouch" Oh and the icing ont he cake was the preteen in the row in front of us, talkign loudly using very sexually explicit language regarding parts of the female anatomy, while 'talking' on a cell phone' Looking at the rows behind me I could tell the more mature riders behidn us were havng an awkward moment.

Can you tell our day is going downhill? We next take a ride on Adventure Express, which is a walk on. Adventure Express is still one of the better riding coasters in the park, certainy one of the most fun coasters in the park. Which is good, becuase the ride has to be able to stand on its own merits when it is forced to endure the lack of upkeep to the theming that this ride gets. Early reports this season were that Adventure Expresses theming had been restored. Well the train crossing bell on tunnel 1 didn't work, the mechanical spears on tunnel 2 didn't work, and lift 2 was a disgrace. Sveraly lights out, the side door was open which is how we could see some of the figures not beating their drums, no audio. Lovingly restored? Yeah, right.

It runs in my mind that this park needs to develop a "Show" department. By that I am NOT talking about live entertainment, I am talking the Disney sense of the word "Show". I suggest the park establsih a crew whos job it is to regularly walk the park and ride the themed rides to ensure that themeatic elements are maintained, audio tracks play, the volume is adjusted correctly, animated characters function properly and so on. Down to making sure the decorative themeatic items in queue area, gift shops, midways and food stands are in good condition. I mean I saw peeling paint and faded out signs and walls, and this is only Apiril. What happened to off season rehab and renewal?

We walked past the Cyber Sez attraction (a Ham on Rye virtual reality experience), it must be a quality attraction at only $2.We next walked past Slingshot which was running a special of only $15 marked down from the regularly posted price of $20. We entered into Action Zone, and got in line for Delirium, Delirium had a full queue house, all the way back to the soft drink machines, the $3.25 soft drink machines. Totally uncalled for and outrageous. We were about to be admitted to the ride bull pen area for the nect cycle when it looked light the crowd was turning ugly, and a fight was about to break out. There was already screaming, and profanity and it seemed like a fight was imminant. We were admitted to the ride, and had a wonderful Delirium ride. I am happy to report that the ride has been resturned to its original program, whcih gives a nice intense ride. The ride parked and I noticed they had not filled the bull pens for the next cycle. I didn't make much of it and exited the ride. This was right around 4:00.

We passed the Days of Thunder go-karts and noticed the Cornhole game has been moved from "The Flying Eagles Memorial Lawn" to the former location of the Jacob's Ladder game in Action Zone. Cornhole, for those unfamilar with the term, is the local name for a popular summer picnic/party game. Generally played out in the backyard or in picnic groves, it is a safe version of horseshoes or lawn darts. The game consits of bags full of corn, which you try to get to land in the hole of a target box placed some distance away. Thus, Corn in the Hole, or Cornhole. It also plays like shuffleboard/curling in that you can also score by getting bags to land on the target, even if they don't go in the hole, and you can knock others bags (or yown own bags) off the target box, rendering them out of play, or you can knock previously played bags closer into the hole. Also like Curling, the team that scored in an end, throws first the next end, so the other team gets the advantage of last bag (hammer). PKI has made a carnival game out of Cornhole. Using standard scoring rules, you must get 7 points to win any prize at all, and a perfect 12 for the large prize. (each bag in the hole =3, each bag on the target =1)

We then passes the Extreme Skyflyer (Skycoaster) which was running a special for only $10, a check at the regular posted price shows the special was $10, down from the regular price of $10.
We see than Son of Beast is closed until late spring. We head to Top Gun, Tp Gun is another ride whose theming has gone past "Needs Improvement" to "Pathetic" The model fihter planes and rader in the queue are missing, paint is peeling, the aircraft arrier themed queue area continues to be closed off. At least they still fly the flag on the yardarm flagpole at Top Gun, which is more than I can say for the flagpoles at the entrance to Fort Cooper.

Top Gun, is as usual a walk on. The most interesting thing about Top Gun now is you get a sneak peak at Great Wolf Lodge, which is coming along nicely, with one wing recieving its fake log cabin exterior, and it looks like they may be starting work on the indoor water park itself. Should be a great resort. Back to Top Gun, the ride is running as good as always, the back car was having a nasty squeal, but other than that the ride was running pretty good.

We exited Top Gun and backtracked into Action Zone. Drop Zone had a full queue house, so we skipped it, FAce/Off had 2 of the BIG switchbacks full so we skipped it as well, and we weren't interested in getting soaked on Congo Falls.

We headed to International Street. It looks like the Paramount Theater will have the parks one live show this season "School of Rock: Live in Concert", only in the high season however, the other'live entertainment' indicated in the park guide are the character meet and greets, and special events like the Nick Parade (6/9-7/9), the Star Spangled Spectacular (7/1-7/4), FearFest and WinterFest. Oh, and there looks to be one concert at Timberwolf this year, the Spirit Song event in July.

The next thing I noticed is when I noted they have installed more lockers which mostly block the old season pass entrance, which would not have been an issue in the past, but this year they are using tat entrance for Gold Pass early ride times and the ACE walkback. We headed to Greater's Ice Cream. Let's see I can have soft serve for $3, or a dip of gourmet hand dipped Greater's ice cream for $3. I think I see a dip of Graeters Black Raspberry Chip in my future. Yummy a good refreshing snack which I washed down with water from the nearby water fountain.

We next headed to Eiffel Tower, there was no wait and soon we were up top admiring the view. From up top Dave pointed out some interesting things about Italian Job, then we spend a while looking at Nick Universe from above. Here is where you can really appreciate how enourmous Avatar is. We head back down to the ground and head towards Flight of Fear. We stop to check the Grand Carousel. It still looks magnificant, Scrambler and Dodgems appear to not have been changed. Skyline Chilli recieved a minor facelift.

We tried to ride Flight of Fear, but the ride was closed when we arrived. We instead headed to Italian Job. We noted the music has returned to Happy Days, we verfied tthe rumours of the $12 burger basket, and I looked at the jukebox. I need to check the make of that jukebox, becuase if I ever buy one, I don't want that model based on how much skipping it was doing, and this was a CD based jukebox. I think I looked at it wrong and it stopped the current song mid song, and went to the next song.

We make our way to Italian Job, and the line is more or less how it was this morning. And, shock of all shock we get another front seat ride. The ride is pretty much just like the first ride, except that I think you get more airtime in the driver side of the car than the passenger side. Italian Job is another one of the parks fun rides.

We backtracked back to Flight of Fear. It was reopened, but the friendly greeter informed us that it would only be running one train. We walked inside and did not see any people, in fact it was so dark we didn't see much of anythign including the queue rails. As Rideman said "It would be helpful if they would turn ont he lights, particuarly above the OOOOFFF, as he tripped on the first stair up into the UFO, luckily he caught himself before he fell. Not having any lights on + stairway = accident waiting to happen. The line was back to the second room of the UFO, which really wasn't bad. We chose seat 2.1 In the fall of 2005 I was rejected from this ride because the seatbelt would not reach, a check of that seatbelt showed that it was so short the bar had to be four nothes lower than the adjacent seat. One of the rides many flaws the park won't admit to, much like the raised floor panel in the load side front seat of each car. Well its a different looking train this year. Instead of black seats and ornage seatbelts, it has orange seats and black seatbelts. Unfortunately the seatbelts are still of uneven length. Yes, I was able to ride this time, but my lapbar was a minimum of 2 nothces lower than the adjacent lap bar. Now why does this ride need the idiotic belts when Italian Job, which I just rode, uses the same style lapbars and does not have that belt. That and the Flight of Fear trains are so hard to get into that if am sittng on the far side, I find it easier to step onto the seat cushion, then down to the floor of the car. Yes, Flight of Fear provides a lapbar only ride, and it is closer than MGM Rock N Roller Coaster, but right now I must give Rock N Roller Coaster the nod for being a lot easier getting into and out of the train, and for not running a hard mid course brake. Flight of Fear has its mid course brake on hard, and its photo stand removed amongst the rides many other faults, including the butt ugly exit hallway that used to be themed. I don't know how the hangar theming looks these days since all the lights were turned off.

We headed back to Nick Universe, I noted Chick-Fill-A was closed on Sunday per their tradition, and we headed to Reptar. Reptar is the same as it was last year and was a walk on as a bonus. I also noted that I had a lot more slack in the seatbelt on this than I did last year. Why is it I fit into the KIDDIE rides better than I do the parks adult rides, and I am a large person? Reptar was devlopeig a case of the shuffle but overall is still a quick fun ride. We next headed to Avatar, and the line was just to the ramp. Row 2 this time, and I think this ride is the most fun I had at the park today. Avatar is a hidden gem, I hope they don't wimp on the spin cycle.

We then backtracked back to Phantnm Flyers, It was a 2 cycle wait. Only one adult per tub so we had to ride seperate. As I mentioned this is a circle ride where you lay on your stomach, assuming the classic super hero pose while the ride turns and the cars so gently up and down. I have ridden the American made Dartron version which is commonly called a Cliff Hangar, I had not yet ridden the Italian made Zamplera verison, commonly called a Kite Flyer. This is the Zamperla version. Where the Cliff hangar has three abreat tubsm the Kite Flyer is only two abreast, but the Kite Flyer has 12 tubs to the Cliff Hangar's 10, and since most people don't go to parks in threes, the Kite Flyer is actually usually carries more riders per hour. The tubs are similar to the Cliff Hangar in that you have to sort of crawl into them, belly down, so that you are lying on the 'couch', there is a long thin block between your legs to prevent you from sliding backwards, and the top of the car comes down and locks forming a cage around you that has bars on the sides, several cross bars that go on top of you, including one hat comes right down on the leg block forming 'leg loops', bars also go down on either side of your neck and you are encouraged to put your arms out superhero style which will prevent sliding forward. I think the Cliff Hanger is a tad bit roomier than this ride.

The ride starts, and first the center lift straight up, then it starts to turn, then the wave-swinger like motion starts so you do gently cycles of soaring upwards, then diving downwards. The transitiions between the up and down feel jerky almost like a yo-yo. I much prefer the smoothness of the Cliff Hangar, whcih also has more pronounced soaring and diving due to it being based on a Paratrooper ride system. Kite flyer though has one advantage over a Cliff Hanager in that the Kite Flyer is a much more polished looking ride, wherea the Dartron ride has much of its sturcure on clear display.

We headed next to International Street to walk right onto Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle. I see another stairway in the dark. Scooby had I guess about 95% of its stunts working, and Dave and I had a very competiitve game with only 60 points difference in our score (a matter of two targets) It was a fun dark ride and as we exited the dark ride there were only 5 minutes left before park close.

We looked through this years souvenir selection in the Emporium, and I wound up buying the Paramount's Kings Island-Opoly game ($30), the parks custom themed monopoly style game. Not much of interest in the way of coaster shirts this season. We cruise the gift shops then head out to the car.

Dinner at Culvers (Hmmm, Cheese Curds!)

Overall I had a fun day at the park today, the new Nick Universe looks like it should be a winner, the new rides are generally good improvements for the park. I hope the park remembers to maintain its older rides, particualrly the theming which right now rates "Needs Improvement" in my book.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Survivor: Exile Island - Episode 10

Weclome back to what Jeff Probst himself has dubbed "The Terry versus Casya" show. A reference that Casya may have stayed the most unified post merge tribe in Survivor history.

As usual we join the tribe "Gitanos" the next morning after tribal council. In case we ere new viewers they remind us that is is Terry alone vs. the world. Terry indicated that after tribal council the remaining Casaya tried to act friendly but he would eem to rather enjoy self-pity in solitude. Then again if the conversation is anything like the "Casaya Meeting" that we get to see, perhaps we can see why Terry wants ti disassociate himself. I mean he knows where he stands, he knows there in nothing he can do, so why try to pretend to like Tribe Arrogance.

The Casaya Meeting, like all others is Shane's great move of gathering the Casaya within earshot of the former La Mina and bragging about how they have the game locked, and how they are the best tribe ever. I really do think Shane is overestimating his place in the tribe, I mean the "Lets stick together we have the numbers" is not exactly advanced strategy, and perhaps the other Casaya tribe mates might have liked to come off as not being so cocky and arrogant.

Oh we also get our first clues that Bruce is not feeling good. We learn that he has not had retal relief since before the Panamanian Feast reward that was shown in episode 6, and that the pain is gradually getting unbearable. Remember this, this usually insignificant detail of tribe life will become important soon.

We also learn that the local courier service has just dropped off 6 gigantic wooden crates to the beach. Coffins for the players, perhaps? Each box is clearly labeled with a survivors name. A cover letter explains that the tribe mates are to decorate the doll found in their crate so that it bears their own likeness, and then to bring the doll to the next challenge. Oh and the next challenge will test how well you know the other players. I sense the pecking order challenge coming on. Guya, don't put too much effort into those dolls, ya hear?

So we have Arts and Crafts Day here in Panama as get a montage of each survivor decorating their doll. They then take them to the challenge, and by the challenge preview montage it becomes clear this is the pecking order challenge.

Reward Challenge #9
Reward: A trip offsite - To include helicopter ride, day at a spa including bath, treatment and massage, meals, and an overnight stay. Oh, and the winner gets to send a player to Exile Island.

Challenge: Each survivor is given a questionaire about their fellow tribe mates. The platers scatter off and complete the questionaires privately and do not discuss their answers, the questionaires are handed into Jeff wh0 tabulates them. We then have a "Family Feud" style game show where they players are again asked the same questions, this time they are to answer the way they think the MAJORITY of the players will answer, not how they themselves feel. Jeff feels it necessary to point out these are two different things. To answe the players have a ring of answer cards which they are to reveal when prompted. The answer cards look a lot like tribal council voting slips.

As with most pecking order challenges, getting a question correct awards you the right to 'hit' another player, when a player has been hit three times they are eliminated. Last player in the game wins reward. Specifically in this case, answering a question right allows you to chop a players rope. cutting a rope allows a lit torch to swing over closer to your doll. The first torch lights the second torch, the second hit lights the third torch, the third hit lights the fuse which sets your 'voodoo' doll ablaze. Contrary to the popular tribal council mantra, fire does NOT represent life in this game, in this challenge, once your voodoo doll is ablaze you are out of the game.

The questions are downright nasty and hateful questions. I mean it gets started with "Who does the least around camp?", and goes to stuff like "Who is the most annoying?, "Who just won't shut up?" "Who mistakingly thinks they are running the game?", "Who could not survive on their own?", "Who would you not trust?" etc.

Individual reward challenges are usually a double edged sword as it can be great to win a reward that makes life in the game a bit easier if only temoprarily, or it offers you a guaranteed prixe to take with you after the game ends, they are also political land mines. More often than not Jeff instructs the lucky winner to select other players to share in the reward. Here is where players risk divulging who they are alligned with, or who they favor. When you spend a month solid with strangers 24/7, people get downright petty, and the simple act of choosing someone to go on reward with you is 'playing favorites' at best and "political suicide" at worst. Ir would be far better to lose reward challenges and then hope you are the beneficiary of someone elses decision to share the reward. That way you get all the reward with none of the political baggage.

t should be noted that this is the first individual reward this season, as the other two "individual" reward involved predefined random tribes, which meant no political risk to winning. Well, the pecking order challenge is like replacing the regular land mine, with a Mega land mine, as just playing a pecking reward challenge causes you to reveal your allies or enemies just by virture of playing the challenge. I don't know if this is what the producers intended back when the concept was introduced, but I am sure they realize how people play it, and gleefully employ it for its psychological side effects.

So winning an individual reward challenge could be bad, then they introduced the so-called pecking-order challenge where you can hurt feelings, or cuase political damage just by playing the game, now they have raised the ante by asking hateful and revealing questions designed to probe how the players really think about each other. Recall these used to be played with just general survival trivia questions. Those you could just give the incorrect answer every time, there fore not have to reveal your allies, and not have to make any hard decisions that could come back to bite. I guess on this new format, the best way to play, get it incorrect, and not risk hurting feelings is to answer any negatively loaded question with your own name. Strategy Tip time over, lets see how it plays out.

It should come as no surprise that Terry was quickly eliminated in round 1. Yeah, let;s make sure that La Mina person doesn't stand a chance. And with that they remove the only politically safe choice, now it should get more interesting.

Terry interviews that he knew that his participation in the challenge was a joke, but we was able to gain important knowledge about how the Casaya members really feel about each other. That in itself could be a reward.

We go on and the next one to go was Bruce. Bruce has a reaction like "I Thought So!" He suspected he was low man on his tribe, now he knows for sure.

We continue on, every time someone hits Shane, Shane views it as a personal attack. Shane even goes as far as to try to intimidate people to not hit him. Even better when Shane is eliminated from the challenge he pulls a Verucs Salt and has the biggest, most jevenile temper tantrum. Shane is clearly very upset, and I think the audience wins when that happens. Evil, upset and pyschotic Shane is much more interesting to watch than overconfident arrogant Shane. Shane also acts upset when he was the "Person who thinks they are running the game"

Courtney and Danielle are summarily eliminated but have no big reactions to their fate. Finally we get down to Ciri and Aras. Ciri has two ropes left, Aras, only one. If Ciri answers correctly she wins, regardless of Aras' answer. Jeff asks "Who could not survive on their own?" This question so obviosuly screams Ciri, even Ciri answers Ciri (and is correct), but Aras chooses who might be considered one of the most likely to be able to survie on their own, so obviously throwing the challenge. When he didn't even have to throw it, he could have answered anything, even Ciri, and he would have still lost. Poorly played, thats like Austins confessional "I was playing the weaking role". Lets try for a bit more subtlety in throwing challenges?

Cire is then crowned winner which warms my heart as she did not get to enjoy the previosu two rewards. Cire then gets the first post challenge land mine, and dodges is by sending Terry to Exile Island "I couldn't send a Casya, sorry" Yep Casaya tribe is alive and well despite the fact they were 'merged' into Gitanos. So she dodges the political side by not sending someone on her tribe, but again, since you can't be 100% sure Terry has the idol, even is he claims to, why give Terry another chance? Terry in fact views his Exile as a reward in itself.

Then Ciri is headed fast to the bigger land mine, and there is no dodging this one. Shane makes it clear that "You better take me", but Ciri first chooses Aras (who was an okay choice as Aras is in the supposed core alliance within an alliance), but then she decided to go with who she would rather spend the reward with instead of who was the politically correct person, and chooses Danielle. This causes Shane to go ballistic. I think Shane was thinking, of all the people you chose DANIELLE!!!!. The fact she didn't choose Shane surrpises me as Ciri usually plays a more politically astute game than this. The viewer in me though is thrilled she didn't choose Shane, he doesn't deserve a reward and having him this ticked off is sure to be good for the entertainment value of the rest of the episode. I mean leave Aras behind and take Shane, you need to keep Shane under control, sacrifice Aras for the sake of not revealing your core alliance.

As they said in WarGames :Interesting game, the best move is not to play"

Luckily for the winners they get immediately wisked away in a helicopter and are taken to their off site, and Shane, Courtney and Bruce are told Jeff has nothing to sooth their loss, and are sent back to camp.

We get the happy montage of the winners having a breathtaking helicopter ride, followed by a great meal, followed up by scenes of Shane blowing his stack and having a big old fashhioned temper tantrum, and talking about how this is the end of the CORE alliance, and that those three reward winners beeter start kissing his butt, or they will soon be ejected. But wait it gets better over at Camp Freak Show, as Courtney is taking the reward challenge way to personally and the more she thinks about what they other players said, the worse she feels about herself. Sure she may be over dramatic about it, but I think Courtney at least has a valid reason to be upset, especially after the way she was treated in the premerge Casaya days. But get this Shane has the gall to tell Courtney to simmer down and that she is being a freak. Hello? Pot? Kettle?

We go back to the happy montage of the winners enjoying thier mud massage and generally enjoying life. We quickly go back to Casaya where Bruce is still not feeling well, and is in fact feeling worse. And when you are sick and in pain, I'm sure being trapped on an island with two raving upest people is really gonna make you feel better. Bruce decides he is going to go to the shelter for a little lie down.

Well, Bruce going to the shelter makes me feel better in another sense. I sure hope Terry has the hidden idol with him, or he has moved it since he exposed one hiding place to Bruce. Whenever Terry is out of that tent and someone else is inside the tent, I fear we are going to have a case of Grand Theft Idol. Of couese there may have already been idol theft and the producers are keeping it a secret from us, so that they can really stun us later on, or perhaps Bruce took it out of the game with him, but I don't think a man in pain would have the presense of mind or vindictiveness to do that, particularly after learning his position in the tribe at the reward challnge.

We go back to the spa and check in on the winners enjoying their dinner. Those three seem nice and happy, although something is eating at Cire, she knows she made a bad political decision, and is now reduced to the constant worry about how its going to effect her place in the game.

We fianlly check in with Terry over at Exile Island, we see him read the idol clues, perhaps out of curiosity to see if they put another idol there, or to see how the later clues played out. Overall he is thankful for the time alone. He knows he is on the outside looking in, so this gets him time away to just relax.

Back to night time at Casya - we see Courtney trying to confort Bruce. Like most sick people Bruce is more like "Just go away, I want to be alone", yet Courtney keeps on singing in the shelter. Bruce tries to push through the pain but sometime in the middle of the night he cries "Uncle", the pain is just way too unbearable. It can be inferred from the dialouge that the teams were instructed in a protocol for summoning help in severe emergencies, perhaps as simple as walking up to one of the cameramen and saying "Bruce is keeled over in extreme pain, and wants to be looked at by the medic" Then again if they really are bugged and miked 24/7 perhaps the appropriate personnel are watching/listening and get alerted by observation or by a codephrase or signal the tribe is supposed to give.

Whatever the procuedral practice is, we do in fact see the medical boat arrive. The medics come up, give Bruce a preliminary examination, give him the same oral anesthetic that they gave Mike in S2, and it looks like might have either injected something or took a blood sample. In a big violation of HIPAA we see the medics outside the shelter confiring, and deciding that the risk is too high, Bruce must be evacuated to 'base camp' for furhter medical examination. The site responders initial findings are his appendix. Cursouly enough, just momeents before, my mother, who was watching with me, and has no medical training came up with the same diagnosis. See then see Bruce evacuated by boat to "base camp". Shane, remember his crotch problem from last episode, it seems he is trying to relevie that by sleeping in the nude. Shane asks if he has time to get dressed, but is told no. Shane and Courtney are asked by the medics to help move bruse from the shelter to the boat by stretcher. I guess this is as close as we get to the heartfelt/tear jerking good byes that accompanied Mike's medical removal.

The next day arrives, and we see Shane in a rare nice moment. He comments that he may not have liked Bruce, that Bruce may have been the next to go, but darn it, it just isn't right for someone to have to leave the game on medical grounds like that. I wonder if they substitued a Shane double for that scene, or forced Shane to read off a teleprompter.

Next we see Ciri, Aras and Danielle return from reward. Ciri in partucular is almost scared to return to Shane. They note there is no warm welcome back as usually greets reward winners. They do not yet know Bruce has been evacuated, so they think everybody is genuinely mad at them, which they still might be. Quickly they learn of Bruce's evacuation, and we have some time for tribe life. We see Shane blowup again in Cire's face for her reward challenge decisions, we see Shane threaten the other players lives if they don't sucumb to his will. "When we get back home, I'm going to come to your apartment and KILL YOU" I sure hope the producers don't shake this off as a joke, and at least follow up on it, I mean afterall if Shane is unstable, gets back home, looks Danielle, Aras, or Ciri up, and kills them, the lawyers are going to have a field day with it, and they can replay this epsiode as evidence that CBS was warned there was a threat, and they failed to follow up on it. The segment ends wiht butt kissing and reassuring Shane that nothing has changed. That might have been an easy promise as I am sure the others were sane enough to see that "not chosen for reward <> no longer in Allaince" I also unfortunately see Shane as being the ideal Final Two partner. Everybody on the jury has had just about enough of psychotic Shane, get him in the finals with you, and you might be the first person to win 7-0. In other words, I don't see him going anywhere soon, as strategy shifts from "who is best to allign myself with to make it to the next round" to "who is best to sit next with me in the finals"

Just as we realize its time for Tribal Council and he have not had an immunity challenge yet, we see a boat arrive. The players wonder who is on the boat, is it Bruce being reentered into the game after medical examination, is it Jeff or another game official with a Bruce update, oh darn it, its only Terry. But hey at least Terry is acompanied by Jeff.

Terry and Jeff arrive and Jeff has the group sit down around him as best they can. We see Jeff make the official update. First Jeff wants to fill Terry in on what happened, since Terry was at Exile and apprently doesn't know whats going on. Jeff fills Terry (and for that matter Cire, Aras ad Danielle in) on what happened, then he tells the tribe what happened next. Bruce was taken from base camp to a hospital. It turns out his entire digestive system had basically shut down and was blocked, meaning it was the right call to signal the medical emergency, and it sounds like Bruce made it to the hospital just in time. We do, however learn that Bruce will be ok, but he has been eliminated from the game as a player. Therefore there will be no immunity challenge, and no tribal council (I think this little chat with Jeff is a Tribal Council in the truest sense of the words) Bruce MAY be invited to be on the jury, but that depends on what the medical officials decide. As the episode ends the show does not reveal it Bruce comes back to be on the jury, so that some sense of mystery may be preserved. We also do NOT see any heart tugging moments at the announcement.

Terry may have done the best with the news in that he gets a free ride to the next round, and therefore that is one less immunity challenge he has to win. Better yet, he knew Bruce was on the outside and was likely to go this episode anyway, with the Hidden Idol he is guaranteed to get to watch at least one Casaya member get sacrificed.

The episode ends without Bruce's final words, just a replay of Bruce practicing the martial arts on Exile Island. A nice tribute moment, which also leaves the question open to why Bruce was not able to make final words.

Till next time.

TR: Amazing Race - Epsiode 8 (Leg 7)

Welcome back.

The first thing we learn at the start of this episode is the times the team's leave the pit stop. Sure, they always tell us but more often than not its only a couple hours difference between first and worst. This time there is a wide difference. Eric and Jeremy who benefited from the Fast Forward left jyst before midnight, while the first team who completed all tasks correctly arrived around 4:30. Therefore the fast forward would appear to have been worth about four and a half hours. The first two teams who chose Herculean Tasks arrived next around 4:30-4:45. (Recall Ray and Yolada were demoted from second the third place for disobeying the instrictions regarding the train ride to ithmus. This tells us two things, it first tells us that there wasnt much difference between those who correctly rode the second train, and those who took the first train partway and switched to a bus. After all, John and Michelle were on the second train AND played the roadblock after John and Michelle. It also indicated that Herculean Tasks was preferable to "It's All Greek to Me" Both teams that chose it second non-physical option arrived much later, with Fran/Barry around 6:00 and Lake/Michelle after 8.

I thought it curious that Lake/Michelle was issued a sand sifter to hekp search for pottery shards that were plainly visible. Perhaps the challenge was made easier after the initial test runs proved it to be much harder than initially thought. I wonder how much time Lake/Michelle lost by not getting all the letters translated first, or just how lost they got between the roab block and the pit stop. Did Fran/Barry suffer a delay for wrecking their car. Perhaps for safety the show insisted on them getting a different car, and if they aren't going to give a time credit when the team isn't at fault, you can be sure they aren't gonna get a credit when they were at fault. I tend to beleive Fran/Barry were not penalized, as that would have meant Lake/Michelle really had a hard time with the detour or got really lost finding the pitstop.

BJ and Tyler, were shown having gone two hours out of their way finding the Detour, but they myst have bled some more time, as the teams that completed the detour at about the same time checked in around 4:30, so add two hours to that and they should have arrived around 630, but instead they checked in at almost 9. They were shown breezaing through the detour, but that may have been editing, or they may have been lost worse than they thought, or got lost again one or more times before the end of the leg.

Whatever happned it really cost BJ/Tyler who were a very dominant team going into the leg. But enough about last leg.

They started at Fort Rion, Greece, the site of the last pit stop. They recieved:

Clue #42 - Route Info
"Travel to Ryam Park, Muscat, Oman"

This is a clue that needs to be broken down into its component parts. The race has really come a long way since "clues" that consisted of showing the team a picture or model of a building, or one of my all time favorites "Find the man pictured in the country represented by the enclosed flag" Now its more of a connect the dots puzzle. "Go HERE and here is how you do it"

It seems that in the case of Clue #42, teams were instructed to begin their jounrney by walking to a local visitors center, by crossing a bridge. This part of the clue was simple and straighforward and no team had trouble completing it, but there were some points of interest.

First we get to see Eric/Jeremy arrive at a closed visitors center and learn that they can't continue until 9am. They seem to take it sell that going for the Fast Forward merely mean they were assured of recieving one of the more underwhelming prizes awarded by the show, as they realize everybody is going to bunch up here.

Later we see Ray and Yolanda heading to the visitor's center. I only make mention of it bcause according to the previews this would be a critical plot point this week. It seems that they were lightly joking around when Yolando upon seeing the very large, immuminated and obvious bridge, asked Ray "Are you sure thats the bridge?" Ray responded probably with a grain of killer fatigue with a very short tempered answer thsat involved a curse word. Mind you that next to other teams, the curse wasn't bad at all. However, I suppose that as it should be even though they can usually joke around, there are some limits, and cursing each other it one of them. Yolanda rightly calls him on it, and instead of quickly apoligizing and getting on with life, Ray is stubborn, and refuses to acknowledge he was wrong let alone apologize. I have a feeling that Ray is gonna be embarassd when he sees this on TV. Then we have a Yolando confessional (and nice Greece T-shirt at that) that in part says that the longest they have been together is 4 days straight. A glance at the official site confirms that this is one of many dating couple who are using the race to "test their relationship". a theory I don't understand.

The last point of interest is that since BJ and Tyler checked in so late there is no way ther would arrive to the visitors center by 9, which means that they got to see the bus containing the other teams leaving as they were still walking to the vistors center. We see the other teams taking great delight in this, after all the whole functional stretegy of the Race is to make sure you have a team behind you.

Once teams make it to the visitor's center they are to sign up for charter bus to the airport. Now I ask why could they have not driven themselves to the airport, they had cars at the end of the last leg. BJ and Tyler are stuck along on the 10am bus, which I suspect was added along with the sign in sheet once it became obvious they would not catch the prearranged 9am bus. The sign in sheet they showed in the close up had one space remaining on the 9am bus, and note the sign in sheet and stand and clipboard were clearly more official looking than BJ and Tyler's joke sign in sheet.

BJ and Tyler, class clowns that they are take it all in stride and put on a comedy routine on their way to the airport, doing impersonations of the eliminated teams.

All teams arrive at the airport and most take Gulf Air to Oman, and in fact they are still at the ticket counter buying tickets when BJ and Tyler catch up. The teams act cold to BJ/Tyler and refuse to give them any information on the flight. BJ/Tyler ask another agent who reveals the time the flight would arrive, and also that the flight is now full. BJ/Tyler make a smart remark at the other teams "Your flight arrives at 10:30, as if you didn't know" before making alternate arangement on Qutar Air, arangements that would get them there about an hour later. During the explanation instead of the usual map they use that just gives up outlines, they use a political map so that people can better see where Oman is. I admit I would not have known precisely if I had not looked at my globe earlier this week.

All the airport intrigue while interesting at the time was quite moot, as was the different charter bus times, as by the time they arrive in Oman, and arrive at Ryam Park they learn the park will not open till 6AM. We do get a nice montage of driving around Oman at night, at teams seemingly to genuineily appreciate the beauty of the architecture. Oh, and they were given vehilcles at the airport. At 6AM you get the usual footage of teams racing each other to get to a clue box located near a "giant incense burner".

Clue #43 - Route Info
Go to Sur, Oman, and find a cetain ferry boat for your next clue.

The most interesting part of the trip from Muscat to Sur is that the road is completely flooded out in two places. At the first place which looks like a small lake, there is a local who assits the teams by guiding them through the lake, in what we learn are 4 wheel drive equipped vehicles. The second spot, which looks more like a mud pit, has no friendly locals to help them. The teams arrive and play "Chicken" as in no team wants to be the first team to attempt to cross (and risk getting hopelessly stuck) the teams are each encouraging each other to go first. Eric/Jeremy pull us and note that the teams have stopped, and E/J decide to go ahead and try to cross the mud. The teams who had before been willing to let someone else test the muddy waters first not act outraged at Eric and Jeremy's gall at cutting the line. Well, if you aren't willing to go ahead, you have no right to get upset at the person who does. The teams wish bad luck on Eric and Jeremy but the two make it through the mud pit okay and are soon followed by the other teams.

Once they arrive in Sur, they receive
Clue #44 - DETOUR
"Camels" or "Watchtowers"
In "Camel" you have to use a block and tackle to load a live camel onto a pickup truck. You will then deliver the camel using a crudely drawn map. One teammate will drive the pickup, the other will ride in the bed of the truck, obstensibly to look after the camel, although the camels handler is also riding along. Deliver the camel to get the clue.

This would seem to be the physically demanding option, but more likely you are taking an object from a known location to an unknown location.

In "Watchtower" you cross the river by ferry, then search three watchtowers to find a 'message box' There are five message boxes, one for each team hidden amongst the towers, one tower has three, another two, and one tower is a red herring with no message boxes. Once you find the message box you have to drive to the nearby town and find a designated gold/silver shop and exchange it for your next clue.

This option initially looks worse as you do not know where the object is, you don't know where you are taking it, and you have the added time taken up by the ferry crossing.

BJ/Tyler, and Fran/Barry chose watch tower, and for once, Fran/Barry chose the better detour option as both of these teams finsihed before the teams that chose the camel option, despite the fact they also got to the detour around the same time.

In the camel teams, Eric and Jeremy really had a hard time finding where to deliver the camel, and lost a lot fo time because of it. The other teams did not seem to have any difficullty on this task.

Whichever option they took, they were awarded with:
Clue #45 - Route Info
"Travel to Al Hawiyah, Oman"

Not much to report here, the teams drove from Sur to Al Halwiyah and received their next clue.

Clue #46 - Road Block
"Who's willing to work for food"
Argh, its a Lucky Chance task.
In this taks the chosen player has to dig up marked places in a sand dune in hopes of finding a sna dpile that has a wicker bag that contains the making of a lamb meal. When they show the attendant their bag of food they are given their next clue, the "Your going to like this part" I want you take the food to the pitstop as this is your dinner for this leg. Teams are cuationed that the sand dune acts as a natural oven and thus will be quite hot.

We are treted to the results of a Lucky Chance task at its worst, BJ and Tyler who arrived at the roadblcok first and finished last. BJ appeared to suffer from dehydration as was shown in the previews. Joseph and Monica who arrived third finished first, although I think Barry found his bag first, he just had trouble digging it up. Most teams finished this in about the order they arrived, with the notable exception of BJ and Tyler, who got but hard by the Lucky Chance.

Is it just me, or are there a lot more of these luck based detours this season, I was just reading an article about games that indicated that Americans prefer luck based games and Europeans prefer skill based games I hope the race isn't going to heavily towards luck.

To date this season:
Leg 3-1: Detour - search the nesting dolls for a clue - or get out of it by washing a trolley , assuming you could find said trolly, which caused teams problems.
Leg 3-2: Roadblck - Search the field for a Travelocity Gnome - no way to dodge this
Leg 3-2" Detour - search through bottles for one with a specially marked label - or get out of it by learnign and performing a traditional Bavarian dance.
Leg 4: Detour - search through laundry for a specially marked garment - or get out of it by luggng a 100 pound bell up stairs.
Leg 6: Fast Forward - break plates to find the one that has a hidden race logo in it. - Optional
Leg 7: Road Blcok - Search sand piles for your dinner - can't dodge this one either.
I'm not couting finding the pottery shards in the Leg 6 Detour as the word scramble puzzle was the real operative challeng ein that physical/metal detour.

So now teams have had 7 road blocks:
For those interested Eric and Jeremy have each completed three, they got to skip one as an often overlooked benefit of Fast Forward.
BJ, Monica, and Barry have each completed 4 roadblocks to their partners 3, and Ray has completed 5 to Yolanda's 2. I mention this in case the 6 roadblock maximum per player is enforced. Ray better choose his one remaining roadblock carefully, and the other teams better start thinking long and hard before designating a player.

Completing the roadblock gets you dinner and:
Clue #47 - Route Info
"Travel to Jabreen Castle, Nizwa, Oman" - Warning this is a Pit Stop

Okay, the biggest news here is that Eric And Jeremy, who left the roadblock squarely in third place decided that despite the fact they knew two teams were behind them, that they would venture off the main road and try to find a short cut. You know what they say about short cuts, short cuts never are. A dirt road through a desert? Yeah, that sounds like a safe idea. PArticualrly when they took the big risk merely to try to come in first (and win their 4th leg prize), not to avoid being last. Very risky, I hope it comes back to bite them.

We arrive at the castle and learn that Fran and Barry have managed to pass up Joseph and Monica on the road, and have come in first place. We see footage of a team that is genuiely proud and mazed to have come in first. A refreshing sight, after the Eric/Jeremy pit stop prize show. Fran and Barry win a trip to Rome, Italy. (Who thought for a moment this would be a "Congratulations for coming in first, but there is no prize this round") The other teams file in Joesph and Monica arrive and are tottally stunned that they did not come in first, I mean they made Eric and Jeremy's second place arrival a couple weeks back look giddy. There were more than a few remarks and reactions that read "We got beat by Fran and Barry!" like it should be a source of shame. So Fran/Barry will receive a nice leg prize, and then more than likely will run squarely into a bottleneck/equalizer at the start of the next leg. Judging from sun position, Fran/Barry arrived significantly earlier than the other teams, you know the show can't let that stand for long.

Ray and Yolanda arrive third, it is not clear if they have made up yet. ( They left the roadblock fourth, so Eric and Jeremy's short cut cost them at least a place.

Oh darn, here come Eric and Jeremy now, coming in fourth. And wow, they did make Joseph/Monica look like the sorest loser team as they at least tryied to act humble at being told they came in fourth.

Well, now we see BJ and Tyler, who finished the Detour first, who were the first to arrive that the Roadblock, who got bit by the fickle finger of fate, and are now reduced to arriving last at the pit stop. Wow, did you just catch that. Earlier this week I was saying that E/J and BJ/T are the clear race leaders, now an epsiode later and they are now the bottom feeders, though I have a bit more sympathy for BJ/Tyler since they met their demise by a Luck based detour, and not trying to outsmart everybody and find a shortcut in a strange land.

Luckily for those of us who enjoy seeing BJ/Tyler - this was the first of three non elimination legs, which also means the pace of this show is going to slow down as far as kickiing teams off the race. The penatly is the same: loss of all money and possesions except passports and clothes on back. I don't theink BJ/Tyler even tried to layer up in anticipation of this demise.

Oh and next week we head to Australlia - my aren't we moving about the world in a fast clip. I suppose this is another way of making it up to the viewer for last season where we say only 4 nations, and 1 of those was the USA. We are up to 7 so far this season, including the USA but not incuding Australlia, and we have at least 5 more episodes to go.