This week on Tour Group, the adventure in Sri Lanka continues as the travelers experience tantric yoga and traditional Sri Lankan dancing, but drama erupts between Heather and Jared over a trip to a local tea plantation and romance (or lust) may be in the air for more than a few members of the group. Read on for my full travelogue of the episode...
The tour group is still in Colombo, and while the rest of the travelers regroup back at the hotel, tour guide Brandon Presser is taking half-brothers Michael Cook and Steven Roberts to have dinner with a local Sri Lankan family for Michael's birthday. However, there's a catch: Brandon won't be going to visit the family with them, and is leaving the Georgia boys on their own. With really any of the other travelers, this kind of unsupervised cultural excursion could be a recipe for a disaster but Brandon feels confident that the brothers can handle the challenge. And he was right because they do. After overcoming some initial awkwardness and blessing the food, the Georgia boys are charming and kind as they follow the local custom by enthusiastically digging into their meals with their hands. At the end of dinner, the Sri Lankan family even surprises Michael with a birthday cake, candles to blow out and all! It's a sweet moment that endears the Georgia boys even more to me and the rest of the viewers who are staying up past midnight to catch Tour Group.
The next morning, the three guides surprise the travelers with their next cultural experience: yoga! It's rather hilarious to see the group's subdued reaction to this news compared to the beginning of the trip, but this isn't just any old downward dog - they'll be experiencing yoga of the tantric variety. What is tantric yoga you ask? Arriving at the Institute for Human Excellence, the travelers are wondering the same thing as they're paired up with partners of the opposite gender and immediately start getting up close and personal. First the men stand above the women and sprinkle rose petals on their wombs and while new couple Jared Levy and Misty Kingma are kind of into it, the rest of the travelers isn't quite sure what to think. The activity continues with plenty of bending, flexibility and sensual touch, which seems to be no big deal for married couple Jeff Vasilatos and Jetta Bates Vasilatos, but several other members of the group just can't take it seriously. (At one point Jay Ward's foot is all the way on top of Heather Marianna's head.) Tantric yoga was clearly an idea from the mind of tour concierge Sandhurst Miggins, who explains that tantric teachings originated in India in the fifth century and represent relationship building through the coming together of energies. Basically, it's supposed to be more about a "heightened awareness" than anything sexual...but maybe this wasn't the right group to explore tantra with.
Bidding farewell to Colombo, the group heads south to Galle, a seaside city with ancient roots in colonialism that is quickly becoming the primary vacation destination in Sri Lanka. Upon arrival, Brandon pulls Jared, Misty, Heather and Amy Grice aside for yet another surprise: the following day, he'll be taking the four of them to visit a local tea plantation two hours away. The lovebirds and Amy are beyond excited for this special excursion, but Heather doesn't react too positively. Amy in particular is looking forward to spending some time with her BFF, with whom she's been feuding for most of the trip, but Heather doesn't want to go. Later that night during dinner, she informs Brandon that she won't be joining them at the tea plantation. When Brandon explains that he put together the excursion with her specifically in mind (Heather is the CEO of Beauty Kitchen, a line of all-natural beauty products), she shoots back that her company doesn't do anything with tea so it would be pointless. And besides, she doesn't want to spend two hours on a bus having to make small talk with her former best friend or putting up with Jared and Misty's relationship. Jared joins the conversation and attempts to confront Heather about her bad attitude, calling her out for refusing to ride camels in Morocco, go scuba diving in the Maldives and now this. However, at this point Brandon recognizes that there's just no reasoning with the Las Vegas diva.
The next morning is day 18 of the trip, and Rachel Grant brings Jay down to the beach for a seaside lesson in traditional Kandyan dancing. The tour guide and former Bond girl explains that the art form is native to the Kandy region of Sri Lanka and that, while she wanted to let Jay wear the traditional Kandyan apparel, you have to train for 11 years before you can wear it. Still, with his background in performing, this Kandyan dancing is right up Jay's alley. Even though there's a language barrier since none of the Sri Lankan dancers speak a lick of English, they're able to communicate with Jay and Rachel through the art of dance and it's really quite cool to see.
As Brandon and the three travelers leave for the tea plantation, Amy is disappointed to find out that Heather really decided not to come. The two Vegas girls came on this trip around the world together and Amy explains in her confessional that she was hopeful the pair would grow even closer through the experience. Instead, their relationship as friends basically imploded just a few short days into the trip. Arriving at Gombaddala Plantation, the travelers are in awe of the operation and enthusiastically join the Sri Lankan women working in the fields to pick the delicate tea leaves. As a working tea plantation, the travelers are the only tourists on the grounds, and Brandon and Jared are specifically the only men who get to work for a bit in the fields. The travelers turn the experience into a bit of friendly competition as they race to see who can collect the most tea leaves. With the help of the Sri Lankan women, Misty manages to beat the other three by a full kilogram or two. Talk about girl power across international borders!
Back in Galle, the rest of the travelers opt to take the day to relax by throwing an impromptu pool party. In the wake of the tantric yoga, every seems to be feeling a bit more flirtatious than usual and sparks seem to be flying between Sandhurst and former model Michelle Harvey. Meanwhile, with her twin sister off on the twin plantation with her new boyfriend, Jenna Kingma is feeling a bit lonely back at the resort. Making the excuse that she doesn't seem to have much in common with the rest of the travelers, Misty's twin sister opts to separate herself from the pool party and lay out alone. Ever the inclusive peacemaker, Jay joins Jenna with some iced tea and encourages her to make more of an effort to get to know the rest of the group. It turns out that Jay's also a twin, so he understands the complicated dynamic between Misty and Jenna better than perhaps the rest of the group can.
After working in the tea fields, the plantation owner treats Brandon, Amy, Misty and Jared to a small tea party as a reward for their hard work. To the new lovebirds, the day at the tea plantation served as a memorably unique date experience that strengthened their blossoming relationship. In his confessional, Jared points out that he's "pleasantly surprised" each day to discover more and more about his new girlfriend - she just spent the entire day picking tea leaves with day laborers in Sri Lanka and came away smiling and loving it. Do you think the New York playboy and the entertainment blogger from LA are made for each other? Either way, they happily cheers their cups of tea to that prospect with Brandon and Amy before heading back to Galle to rejoin the group.
Following the pool party, the other travelers disperse for some more rest and relaxation. In Michelle's room, the former model and single mom shows Steven a scrapbook full of pictures of her 10-year-old son and the two bond over life as single parents. At the same time, Sandhurst is decompressing over drinks with Jay. The conversation between the guys naturally turns to the tour guide's attraction to Michelle, but Sandhurst admits that she's sending more than a few mixed signals. One minute she's refusing to do some tantric yoga moves because she needs to keep things PG-13 and the next minute she's turning into a flirtatious, X-rated show by the pool. Hmm...looks like there are two sides to the enigma that is Michelle and we never know what we're going to get next.
What did you think of this week's Tour Group? What part of Sri Lanka looked the most amazing to you? Are Misty and Jared a match made in traveling heaven? Will Sandhurst and Michelle end up together? Leave your thoughts below in the comments section!