UW-Madison food science grad students Amy DeJong and Maya Warren, aka Team #SweetScientists, came in last in Friday’s episode of CBS’ “The Amazing Race.” And they were not in good shape. DeJong was exhausted and shaking from dehydration, and the normally indefatigable Warren had tears in her eyes as she braced herself for host Phil Keoghan to say those dreaded words, “You have been eliminated from the race."
And then Keoghan dropped a bombshell.
It had not been the best leg of the race for DeJong and Warren by any means. The entire leg took place in Manila, Philippines, and the first task was to hop on a public transportation van called a “jeepney” to take to the next clue. So the Scientists and the Dentists hopped on one — heading in the wrong direction.
Meanwhile, the remaining two teams, the Wrestlers and the Soul Surfers, took a jeepney in the right direction. It took about an hour, during which the Scientists and Dentists kept congratulating themselves on their smarts, before they realized they had messed up. By the time they got to the next clue, they were well behind.
The teams faced their choice of two challenges, the catch being that they didn’t know ahead of time which challenge they were picking. The Surfers and Wrestlers got to play street basketball against some local youths, which looked like fun, while the Dentists and Scientists raced crude bicycle taxis through the streets, which also looked like fun. Although when I say crude, I mean there was no real steering, and the “brakes” consisted of a stick that would press into the tire. Not exactly a Trek bike.
But aside from smashing into a parked van at one point, Amy and Maya took easily to the bike challenge ("All those bike rides to work," Maya said, suggesting living in a bike-friendly town like Madison has its advantages), and beat the Dentists pretty easily.
Then came a real monster of a challenge. Coconuts are apparently big business in Manila, and teams had to deliver coconut shells and fronds to three street vendors located somewhere in the hot, bustling bazaar. The three musclebound dudes on the other teams didn't seem to have much trouble hauling the coconuts around, while the Scientists just had DeJong, who clearly struggled. (She made up a little ground in that she was the only player to immediately see the posted orders telling her where to deliver the coconuts, while the guys wandered around aimlessly for a while.) Given that the guys have about 75 pounds of solid muscle on her, it was a Herculean effort on DeJong's part to complete the challenge.
But the Scientists were still in last place heading to the final Pit Stop, and DeJong looked in bad shape, red-faced and shaking from dehydration and exhaustion. (A sore knee has been dogging her throughout the race.) When DeJong and Warren made it to the Pit Stop, DeJong had to collapse into a chair, and Keoghan called for water, an umbrella and a medical checkup before she could continue.
Then Keoghan broke the news. The Scientists were indeed the last to arrive, and normally would have been eliminated from next week’s finals, which usually feature three teams racing to the finish line. But this season, the show was letting four teams race for the finals, so the Scientists were still in it.
It was a strange twist, because it essentially meant the last two legs of the race, this week and last week's non-elimination round, were completely meaningless. But whatever. It keeps the Scientists, a fan favorite judging by online chatter, in the hunt.
Warren went from dejection to astonishment to joy in the space of about five seconds, and fell to the ground in paroxysms of happiness, while DeJong looked . . . pleased, and in need of a nap. When Keoghan told her that the Final Leg was starting immediately, she did briefly look like she wanted to vomit first.
So, against all odds, against physically stronger teams (the Dentists have won five legs so far), DeJong and Warren are still in this thing. On to next week’s finals!
Next week: Scuba diving! Jumping out a window! And, hopefully for DeJong, a nice long plane ride across the Pacific Ocean to rest up.