This week, the adventurers of Tour Group head to Sri Lanka, where one of Brandon's jokes leads to a major confrontation with Michelle and Michael celebrates his 29th birthday! Read on for my full travelogue of episode 5...
After a much-too-short stay, the travelers are ready to bid farewell to the Maldives and move on to Sri Lanka. However, before leaving for the mystical country south of India, head tour guide Brandon Presser pays a quick visit to Heather Marianna and Michelle Harvey's room for a quick chat. Up to this point in the trip, the two divas have opted out of multiple activities with the group - from riding camels in Morocco and exploring the watering hole in Kenya to scuba diving in the Maldives. Brandon's anxious to know what he can do to get Heather and Michelle more involved in all the cultural experiences the trip has to offer, but the women pretty much refuse to budge. They're happy to sip their cocktails and look for a good blow-out bar in every country, and when they can't even...they literally can't even, OK?
After a quick two hour plane ride, the group arrives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where Brandon and his fellow tour guides Rachel Grant and Sandhurst Miggins are excited to show the travelers a completely different way of life. While the Maldives was all about fun in the sun and relaxation, Sri Lanka is going to be all about foreign cultural experiences. However, unlike the tropical, swoon-worthy Maldives, Sri Lanka is bustling, crowded and roughly 105 degrees with 100 percent humidity. This leaves the travelers overheated, exhausted and increasingly grouchy, and when Brandon tries to make a lighthearted joke asking if everyone is being giant "see-you-next-Tuesdays," Michelle feels targeted and takes personal offense at the jab. As the travelers pack onto a crowded local bus that will take them to their hotel, Michelle spirals into an enraged meltdown, screaming that she didn't come all the way across the world to be called names by "some little kid." A baffled Brandon tries to apologize and explain he was just joking, but to no avail. In a flood of tears, Michelle storms off the bus with Heather in tow and refuses to get back on, forcing Sandhurst to escort the two women to the hotel via a private car.
Upon reaching their hotel after an arduous multi-hour ride on the bus, the travelers try to decompress the unexpected drama that so suddenly crept into the trip. While Sandhurst does some reconnaissance in the city for a special surprise for the group, Brandon tentatively drops by Michelle's room to apologize privately for what happened on the bus. Thankfully, Michelle's calmed down a bit since the blow-up, and even though she's still angered by the incident and has no problem taking Brandon to task for conducting himself "unprofessionally," she eventually accepts his apology and the issue seems to be put to bed rather quickly.
The next morning is the group's first proper day in Sri Lanka, and it also happens to be Southern boy Michael Cook's 29th birthday. As his half-brother Steven Roberts presents him with a dessert topped with a candle, Michael tearfully opens up to several members of the group about how much this trip means to him. Back on the safari in Kenya, Michael revealed that he struggled with serious substance abuse and addiction in his early twenties, so to be able to be traveling around the world with his brother on his birthday (which also marks his sixth year of sobriety) means the world to him.
To explore Colombo, the tour guides divide the travelers into two groups. In the first group, Brandon takes most of the girls and Jared Levy to shop for traditional Sri Lankan saris in the city's main shopping district, while Rachel and Sandhurst take the rest of the guys and Jetta Bates Vasilatos to sample some Sri Lankan cuisine at the marketplace. Obviously, Jared opted to go shopping on account of his budding relationship with Misty Kingma, so the playboy is happy to help her pick out saris to try on no matter what the rest of the guys in the group may think. However, as the newly minted couple leaves to try some tea from a Sri Lankan street vendor, it becomes quickly apparent that Misty's twin sister Jenna Kingma doesn't exactly like being the third wheel to the lovebirds.
Meanwhile, the other group weaves in and out of Colombo's crowded marketplace in search of local delicacies. It's a well-known fact by now that Rachel is the guide who will pretty much put anything in her mouth in the name of a cultural experience - in Morocco she was eating balls, cheeks and eyeballs - and Sri Lanka is no different. Within seconds, she's popping gigantic shrimp and fermented fish heads into her mouth, much to the dismay of the travelers. Several can't stomach the dried fish and when she persuades Steven to take a bite, he describes it as one of the worst things he's ever tasted. When Sandhurst takes a giant bite, the fermented fish quickly turns to liquid in his mouth and he only has one word for it: "disgusting." I'm very much all for traveling, but strange food is one thing I would have a difficult time swallowing (pardon the pun) on a trip around the globe.
While the other travelers check out a local pharmacy, Brandon takes Michelle on a special visit to a local henna artist to make up for the drama on the bus. Michelle gets a gorgeous, intricate full-length sleeve and seems genuinely touched by Brandon's gesture of goodwill, vowing not to wash her arm for a full two weeks so the henna can stay on as long as possible. Back at the pharmacy, Jared manages to find a killer deal on Viagra to bring home, which raises a giant, frantic red flag for Misty. With the expression of a deer in headlights plastered on her face, Misty proclaims that she thinks Viagra is only for gay men to try to have sex with girls. Incorrect and offensive generalizations aside, does this really need to be an issue? I mean, seriously?
After a long afternoon of shopping, Heather and Amy Grice decide to go back to the hotel to lay out, which finally gives the former BFFs a chance to talk alone after their falling out way back in Kenya. Both Vegas girls claim they don't want things to be awkward between them anymore - I mean, the fight they got in literally happened on another continent, but Amy sadly admits in her confessional that she never actually knows where she stands with her one-time best friend because she can never predict when Heather will get angry or turn on her. This certainly doesn't seem like the healthiest friendship, but maybe the two can start rebuilding with baby steps.
Sandhurst finally reveals his surprise to the rest of the travelers on the streets of Colombo: he's arranged for them to play a pick-up cricket match with a group of Sri Lankan locals. The rules for cricket are more than a little difficult to understand, but it seems to be some hybrid of baseball - except you can bounce the pitch, hit the ball with a big mallet and then have to run between two poles while keeping hold of the bat. Yeah...I don't know. The travelers don't seem to have a good grasp on it either, but with Michael and Steven pitching they still manage to score a solid 12 points against the opposing team of mostly Sri Lankan school children. In the end, though, they lose to the locals after Sandhurst fails to catch a ball hit by a 12-year-old boy. However, as in all sports, it's not winning that matters, it's the love of the game. Right? The game ends with Brandon revealing one last birthday surprise for Michael: he's taking him and Steven to dinner at the home of a native Sri Lankan family! The catch, though, is that he'll be leaving the half-brothers from Georgia alone without any interpreter or guide to help them navigate the meal.
Following their grueling loss, the episode ends with Jared and Misty meeting in the lobby of the hotel. To repay him for the gifts he bought her in the medina in Marrakech, Misty surprises Jared with a handmade scarf from the marketplace, which he promptly puts on despite the fact that he's literally dripping with sweat. Misty also questions her new man about the strange left turn their trip to the pharmacy took. What's with the Viagra, Jared? The playboy argues that it was simply too good of a deal to pass up, and when Misty still doesn't know what to think, he playfully asks if she wants to take one. Awkwardly, the couple agrees to never bring up the pills again and for now the case of the super-cheap Viagra is closed.
What did you think of Sri Lanka? Would you rather have shopped for saris or checked out the local cuisine? Did you understand ANY of the rules of cricket? Leave your thoughts and opinions below in the comments! Next week, the adventure in Sri Lanka continues!