Long story coming up!
A story of seaplanes and cash prizes, orHow I (kinda) got Margie and Luke eliminated
7.47pm: Margie and Luke. I was on transit and had just arrived by bus from the Budget Terminal at 7.35pm, and they were the first team I saw. They give a confessional. Well Margie gives a confessional. Couldn't hear what they were saying. Checkered shirt and red T-shirt are producer types, you'll see them again later.
Around 8.10pm: I'm at the Jetstar counter at check-in row M and quite a few others recognise Luke/Margie, yelling "I'm a fan!" and "Good luck!" while bad-surreptitiously taking photos on their phones. The cameraman and soundman don't chase them off, which struck me as weird.
Around 8.20pm: Brendon/Rachel run in and Rachel does her frantic thing: "Where's Singapore Airlines?! They told us it was check-in row M!" (It was actually check-in row L.) A worker at Jetstar points them the right way and they run over. (It was the same check-in island, just on the other side.) Luke chides: "Don't help them!"
11.17pm: It took a while to get through customs and find my way to the right gate, but here's red T-shirt production guy again at the gate to the direct Colombo flight.
That's a really long gap before I finally decided to go through customs, huh? Did I just go to McDonald's and chill while the race was happening all around me?
Not really. I was witnessing (and inadvertently contributing to) the end of Margie and Luke.
I'd promised Petr the cameraman I wasn't like the other rabid fans, tweeting and Facebooking everything in real time. You could tell how he was merely tolerating my presence, hating me secretly on the inside. "I know you're on Facebook right now," he chided at one point. (I know Petr is spelled with a few invisible vowels because I'm a creepy stalker. Sorry Petr.)
I decided to wait a while before spilling the beans. Choosing to tell the rest of the story now because:
1. It's Christmas and maybe this could count as a present. Or maybe just a story to keep you guys entertained.
2. The CBS execs are probably on holiday right now and won't care enough now to hate me.
3. The order of the first six boots is confirmed and public, and the placings of the Final Five have been spoiled by Cleo.
4. They've probably done the editing for Episode 5 by now, so either I'm in
or not in
Back to the story. So I was connecting through Kuala Lumpur and already had tickets on a flight home the next morning, but when I heard the teams were in Malaysia and calculated (with Jobby's help) when they were likely to leave, I decided to stay at the airport that night instead of heading to a hotel, just to see if I got lucky.
Margie/Luke was indeed the first team I saw, and the only one I saw for a while. They were at Malaysia Airlines trying to get tickets, but could only get on standby. Another direct flight leaving the next morning was full too. I would have bolted and kept looking for options, but Margie stopped to give an interview. (Maybe Petr made her stop and answer his questions.) Precious minutes ticking.
Peach has a policy of non-intervention, but:
1. I'm not Peach.
2. She broke her own policy by helping Kaylani.
3. I wanted to be on TV.
4. Margie/Luke were in trouble and I could help.
Knowing yelling anything at Luke would... fall on deaf ears, I turned to what came to mind next. "Mrs Adams!" I shouted. Faux pas: Margie had remarried a long while back and now goes by Mrs O'Donnell. She corrected me later on camera. They came to me before Petr and Jerry the soundman followed and I flashed Luke a quick "RFF" in sign language. (Hope I did it right and didn't silently call him a "little bitch".)
"Hi, sorry for scaring you. Do you guys want some help? I have a laptop with me we can use to look up flights."
Margie took up the offer while Luke looked confused. Petr asked Margie in his interview voice, "What's happening here? Who is this?" I searched for an excuse, as did Margie. "We just met this gentleman who said he could help us."
I gave Margie and Luke the equivalent of $15 to get themselves a guidebook, partly because I wanted to help and partly because that'd help me find out where they were going. Luke came back with a Sri Lanka Lonely Planet.
With the passing of Apskip, I am now the resident flight-searcher of RFF (and by extension the TAR spoiling world), so I pulled up an option via Singapore arriving at 12.15am, 1h15 before the direct flight for which they were on standby. The second leg didn't have the required four seats (Margie/Luke/Petr/Jerry), so I found another connection, Emirates via Singapore arriving at 1.40am. Knowing full well that there was going to be a bunching in Sri Lanka, all we had to do was to get them into Colombo before sunrise. It was a strange set-up for a flight; usually they'd release them for a morning arrival. But KL was a last-minute leg replacing something else, so we've got to anticipate some weirdness.
Emirates had the tickets and we were ready to book. The problem: the website requires the input of an email, and Petr wouldn't allow it. "What if I use my own email?" I offered. Petr said no. How the hell are you supposed to book things online without an email? Tried Travelocity, TAR's favourite online travel agent. Required an email too. What the hell? I'd just watched an episode where Leo/Jamal were using Travelocity to get from Vienna to Abu Dhabi. (Turns out they didn't book it on the website, and went to an airline counter to buy the tickets.) All the product placement on the show is fake
So the spoiler earlier that evening that everyone ended up ignoring? Was legit. It was indeed a travel agent where teams were directed to go buy tickets. Margie said they tried looking for it, but the taxi got lost. (It's not that obscure a location, their driver sucked.) They gave up and decided to head straight to the airport. Big mistake.
Margie asked if I had seen anyone else. Negative. I counter-asked if they were ahead of the pack. "No, we're dead last."
The 9.25pm Jetstar flight to Singapore was leaving soon, and Margie refused to chance it at Singapore's Changi Airport without a ticket already to Colombo. (New rules dictate that teams may only buy one
set of tickets to their destination, and may not change unless something happens beyond their control.) We begged the Jetstar folks to hold tickets for them to Singapore (we had fifteen minutes before ticketing closed) while we tried to find a way to buy the Emirates tickets. Their counter didn't open until 10.10pm - too late. We tried calling the travel agency, but we didn't have a phone around. (I didn't have a Malaysia calling card with me and couldn't help.) To add to all the mayhem there was no wi-fi at the Jetstar counter, so we had to run around the terminal like idiots searching for an internet signal.
I asked Margie if she would try heading to Singapore, and if they couldn't catch the Emirates flight they could double back to Kuala Lumpur later that night to catch a flight the next morning. (It wouldn't hurt to try!) She said the rules didn't allow for that. Darned rules. Luke meanwhile was... not being incredibly useful.
The flight was closing... Margie was panicking... And then Petr helpfully added that they needed at least an hour to go through customs with their cameras. Margie was deflated. She gave up on the Jetstar-Emirates itinerary.
Back to Malaysia Airlines where I tried looking for more flights. There was a feasible route via Chennai arriving at 2.10am, but they only had two seats available. It wasn't about Margie and Luke now, I just wanted to find a flight to prove my prowess! Luke was in give-up mode, and didn't do much with the laptop I offered him. (Luke, I know you're reading this. From a friend to another, you give up too easily! Man up a little!)
A volleying rally ensued, me at the counter with two laptops and a smartphone (one on flightstats.com, one on Expedia, one on Travelocity), yelling out airport codes to the check-in lady two counters down while she replied with how many seats were available on each: "MAA at 10.15pm?!" "COK at 10.25pm?!" "TRZ at 10.30pm?!" Petr swung his camera left and right. It'd look fantastic if the shot made it onto the show. Full, full, full. I put together one or two three-leg itineraries, but Margie turned them down. "It's too dangerous."
All the options were exhausted. We sat down in front of Malaysian Airlines waiting for standby seats to open up. I chatted a little bit with Margie, attempted a conversation on Microsoft Notepad with Luke, and even tried to talk to likes-to-keep-to-himself Petr. Petr's a really cool guy. He climbed Everest and all! (Well 3/4 of it. But that's still cool.) Petr and Jerry eventually left to get a burger or something, but Margie said she couldn't reveal most stuff because *pointing to her chest* "I've got a microphone here picking up everything..." I ended up complaining to her about the lacklustre route and the crappy way they put together the KL leg at the last minute. She agreed, but noted that "we had fun." I reminded her that Luke hated China.
Margie and I did a little research onto where they were going once in Colombo. Find a "sil reddha" (probably a typo, a "silk reddha" perhaps) at Mulagandakuti Viharaya Welisara, then bring it to Gangaramaya Temple for a blessing from a monk. We circled both locations in the Lonely Planet. (The first location was hard to find, even online, but I got an approximate location.)
Malaysian Airlines finally beckoned for Margie and Luke. They were sent to the airline office to speak to the "boss," who got into a tiff with Petr over him filming them in the office. Barred outside the room (but with the airline lady not knowing they had hidden microphones), Petr shot the scene from behind the glass window and hiding behind some potted plants. Jerry didn't have quite as much work. He put on his headphones and waited outside the office, listening to their every word.
Half an hour ensued. The result: nothing. The best flight that remained was another standby flight leaving the next morning getting in at 9.45am. But trying to get on that flight means giving up on the sure option, which was an AirAsia flight leaving even later, from a different terminal (15min away by bus), arriving at 10.10am. Margie decided to play it safe, and I taught them how to get to the Budget Terminal. (I apologised to Petr and Jerry for making them sleep in that grungy terminal. The main terminal's much, much nicer.)
I reminded Margie that the last time TAR went to Sri Lanka, it was bunch after bunch after bunch. After hugs and a farewell shot on Petr's camera, I went through immigration to find the other teams.
PS. The AirAsia flight was delayed the next day, arriving only at 11.34am. They were so screwed.
PPS. Hindsight 20/20. What could I have done to save them? Force them on the Jetstar flight, get their credit card details, then book their Emirates tickets from Singapore to Colombo while they were in the air. Petr wouldn't have been around to enforce the no-email rule, and Margie/Luke would have been able to pick up their tickets once in Singapore. Oh well. If I couldn't save them, I don't think many people could have.
PPPS. Holy crap. I wrote this much?