It was all about the classics last night as The Amazing Race journeyed from Rome to Athens, all in the name of retracing the great roots of democracy. Well, it was either that or just a really nifty way to tie in some product placement for The Da Vinci Code. We’ve seen plenty of product placement on the Race, and we’ve only just recently grown accustomed to the garish presence of the Travelocity Roaming Gnome, but this week’s unabashed shilling for The Da Vinci Code was shameless. And hilarious. Both, actually. Maybe next week teams will have to capsize a giant cruise ship to promote The Poseidon Adventure. Or maybe they’ll go to Chernobyl for X3. Or maybe they’ll just go to a local psych ward in honor of MI: III and its loopy star, Tom Cruise. Hey, sounds like a perfect way to boost ratings. Bertram Van Munster — you might want to start reading this blog…This week’s mad journey started in Sicily with Jeremy and Eric happily leaving the Pit Stop first. They learned they’d have to take a train all the way to Rome, head to the famous Trevi Fountain, and then fine a man in a red and yellow scooter. I’m sure this excited the duo. Let’s not forget what happened last time they took a train: a certain German named Johan delighted them for hours on end. Would Italy yield its own version of Johan? Perhaps an adventurous young man named Giuseppe? Or Aldo? Or Guido? The possibilities were endless!
Anyway, Eric then told us about how he and Jeremy had been entertaining themselves along the race. “It’s more fun to tease ourselves,” he said. And yes, I’m sure that was a reference to “striptease.” Okay, okay. I’m just kidding. Clearly they were referring to “cocktease.”
Next out of the gate were the Hippies, and they were followed by Monica and Joseph, who were still recovering from the mental trauma that was hauling swordfish around a market. “This race at times makes me feel like I’m going crazy,” Monica confessed. Other things that make Monica feel like she’s going crazy: tin foil, grapefruits, and dandelions.
Nevertheless, Mojo hopped into their car and headed to the train station, with Monica complaining, “Oh, it smells like dead fish in here.” Yeah, that’s probably due to the DEAD FISH you were carrying yesterday. In other news, my TV smelled like IDIOT.
Speaking of future Nobel Prize winners, Jeremy and Eric arrived at the train station, and guess what? It didn’t open until 4 AM. Ah yes. The great Amazing Race equalizer. And so Jeric hung tight while all the other teams slowly arrived. Back at the Pit Stop, Fran and Barry headed off to the train station, and they were followed by Lake and Michelle, and out of the gate, the two were bickering. Michelle claimed that she had given Lake directions, but he insisted that she hadn’t. “You never handed it to me, bitch! Now, shut up!!!” he yelled. Hey hey! Would Rhett Butler ever say that to Scarlett? I personally was surprised that he didn’t scream, “DANG GUMMIT, BITCH! SHUT YOUR DANG GUMMIT MOUTH!!!”
Bringing up the rear of the pack were Ray and Yolanda, who had the daunting task of moving up in the ranks. Ray noted, “Now we have to play the game from the bottom up.” AGAIN. Try not to get lost this leg.
Eventually, everyone arrived at the train station where Lake was hyper as usual. “I think he’s bipolar,” Eric scoffed. This probably made Jeremy laugh, only because he heard the word “pole” in there. Well, the teams all hopped on their train, and after a little diagram showed their route through Italy, we then arrived in Rome. Everyone poured out into the train station, yelling “TREVI FOUNTAIN!” to any man, woman, dog, and pretzel they could find. Lake, it should be noted, had shaved on the train and now looked even more like Phil than ever before. I didn’t know if it was a smart move. After all, there’s only room for one Phil Keoghan on this show. There will be repercussions…
Well, no sooner than you could say “Oy,” Ray and Yolanda were already lost in the station. They couldn’t find the Metro for the life of them. Jeric, meanwhile, efficiently navigated through the Roman public transportation and arrived at the Trevi Fountain in no time. The guy in the scooter told them to then find some horse carriages by the famed Spanish Steps. There they’d find some mysterious portfolios. It all looked so very Detour-ish. Little did I know that inside those leather-bound portfolios was this season’s most glaring piece of product placement yet. “In the spirit of the upcoming movie, The Da Vinci Code” Phil said as he introduced the next clue. My eyes: rolling.
Anyway, in those portfolios were sketches of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, or as the Hippies later called it, the “Naked Man.” Teams had to take the portfolios, find other sketches, and crack a code (how very Dan Brown of them!). The first duo to take the completed code to the Pit Stop would win a prize. Well, Jeric snatched up their Vitruvian Man, or as they call it, “eye candy,” and headed to their next destination: Athens, Greece! Whoohoo! There, they’d have to make their way to the Agora to find their next clue. This was all very exciting — until I realized that the only reason why the teams had ventured to Rome was literally to plug The Da Vinci Code. That’s a bit disheartening.
While Jeric zipped off to the airport, we then checked back in on Mojo where Monica was having a profound revelation: “To walk in the same places as Caesar and all those people is incredible.” Yes, Monica, and you carry on that tradition so well. I’m sure Caesar would be proud to know that his legacy has been maintained by you. Later, while eating a Caesar salad, Monica said, “It’s really amazing to think that I’m eating the very same salad that Caesar once ate. It just really puts things in perspective.”
Soon everyone had found their portfolios and had cracked the code — which said something dumb like “You cracked the Da Vinci code!” or whatever. We then caught up with Raylonda as they traveled to the airport. Ray was quite excited by Rome, mostly because of the sweet ass stores he had seen downtown. I would have been impressed more by, you know, the rich cultural and political history of the city. But yeah, seeing The Gap of Rome is cool too.
Well, at the airport, everyone wound up on the same 7:25 PM flight to Athens, which meant another healthy dose of equalization. The teams then flew to their Hellenic destination, and here’s a surprise: Fran and Barry were first out of the airport. “We’re feeling pretty good,” they said. Yeah, we’ll see how you’re feeling when you walk by the next clue box twelve times in a row.
Later, on the open road, Mojo continued to have Deep Thoughts. “This is where thinking began!” Monica said, thus proving that this is where thinking ended too. Let’s just say, I don’t think Monica’s ancestors were necessarily part of the whole Greek/thinking revolution.
In the next car over, Yolanda saw Mojo and dismissed them by saying, “I’m not sure there’s a lot going on there.” I personally took offense to that comment. I mean, Yolanda, hello! Monica is a very bright woman. She knows where THINKING BEGAN! Literally. Thinking.
Because two equalizers are never enough, the teams then arrived at the Agora and learned that it wouldn’t open until 8 AM the next morning. Oh well. Time to get some shut-eye. Or, if you’re Monica, time to soak in all that thinking-ness of the city. The next morning, teams busted into the Agora and grabbed their clue. But this wasn’t any normal clue. This was a clue with a (drumroll) Fast Forward! Yay! Teams electing to do this task had to travel to a nearby restaurant and perform that most stereotypical of Greek rituals: breaking plates. There were piles and piles and piles of plates, and baked into one was a little red and yellow marker. Whichever team found the marker would get the Fast Forward. Personally, I always a cringe a tad when I see people breaking plates. It’s not that I dislike destruction and chaos. I just always think of Jack Tripper and that night the Greek family broke all his dishes, forcing his restaurant to go into the red. What a sad day for Jack. What a sad day for America.
Those teams opting not to take the Fast Forward had to travel BY TRAIN to the town of Corinth where they’d find their next clue. Well, surely I thought Raylonda would leap for the Fast Forward, but they played it safe and hopped on a train along with Lake and Michelle and BJ and Tyler. The others — Jeric, Mojo, Frankenberry — all attempted the Fast Forward. Well, I should say that Jeric and Mojo attempted the Fast Forward while Fran and Barry attempted to attempt the Fast Forward. For some reason, the elderly couple took forever to reach the Fast Forward tavern, and so we really only saw the other teams breaking plates. Joseph, by the way, seemed to take out all his rage on each little plate as he hurled them across the room with a deep-seeded anger. This may have been therapeutic, but it wasn’t helpful because ultimately, Jeric found the Fast Forward. In celebration, the two frat guys then grabbed all the plates and smashed them on the floor. Yay broken plates! The guys then headed off to the Fortress of Rion where the next Pit Stop was located. In the car, Jeremy then noticed his finger was all bloody. “Dang dude,” he said, “I cut myself up, dude.” Here’s an idea: next time, don’t unnecessarily shatter 300 plates at once.
Meanwhile, Fran and Barry finally showed up at the Fast Forward, only to discover that it had already been found (seriously, where had they been?). They and Mojo were now at a serious disadvantage because the other teams had already left on a train. Things got even worse for Monica and Joseph when they couldn’t even hail a cab. I don’t know why the drivers kept avoiding them. Maybe they were too busy thinking — you know — because Greece IS where thinking began.
Believe it or not, we then paused for our FIRST commercial break, and when we came back, Monica and Joseph resolved to simply take a bus to the train station. On the ride over, Monica then began to cry — memories of swordfish possibly coming back to her — but her spirits lifted when she discovered that she was on the same train as Frankeberry. There was hope after all! No need for stinkin’ thinkin’. Hmmm… if Greece was the birthplace of thinking, was it also the home of stinking thinking? Monica should really investigate that.
Meanwhile, on the other train, Lake and Michelle, the Hippies, and Raylonda all disembarked prematurely. Turns out they got off at the wrong station, but rather than wait for the next train to come by, they decided to hop on a bus and drive to the next stop. Keep in mind that the clue said “travel by train.” Suddenly, things were getting quite interesting.
Well, with this whole train snafu, everyone wound up at the next clue at about the same time, and guess what? It was the Roadblock! “Who wants to hear the sound of their own screams,” is what the clue said (or something like that). Yes, it was bungee time on The Amazing Race, and we suddenly saw Phil standing above a canal, carefully tethered at the waist in case a gust of wind were to blow him off to an untimely PhilDeath™. I personally was hoping we’d then see Phil take the big leap, but alas, he stayed safe and sound high above the water.
Anyway, everyone seemed to be psyched about this Roadblock — everyone but Fran, that is. She didn’t want to bungee jump. In fact, that was the ONE thing she didn’t want to do on the race. Hey Fran, when you approached this bridge high above the ground and saw that the clue said “Who wants to hear the sound of their own screams,” maybe you should have handed it over to Barry. Just saying.
The first one to take the plunge was Ray, and after the obligatory shots of him screaming and falling and whooping and whatnot, he then received the next clue which was the Detour. Yes, back to back challenges. This week’s options were “Herculean Effort” and “It’s All Greek To Me.” In the first choice, teams had to complete three events from the ancient Olympics: discus, javelin, and wrestling. In “It’s All Greek To Me,” teams had to enter an archeological site, search the area for random Greek letters, have some guys in togas translate those letters, and then use those letters to spell a location on a map. Unsurprisingly, Raylonda chose the Herculean effort, as did the Hippies who proudly exclaimed, “Dude, we’re gonna compete in the Olympics!” And with that, the Olympics were sullied forever.
Back at the Roadblock, it was time for Fran to bungee jump, and she could not have been more nervous. The poor woman was shaking and crying, and after a commercial break, she finally hopped off the platform, letting out a deep, guttural, heaving sound in the process. I felt really badly for her. But on the plus side, now I know what it would sound like if she were to cough up a fur ball.
Elsewhere, Lake and Michelle were on the road, struggling to get to the Detour. Michelle announced that her map was all in Greek, causing Lake to remark, “Are you kidding me?” Why was he surprised. He was in GREECE. Things are written in GREEK. Well, the two began bickering, and Michelle, who had just bungee jumped, got all choked up. “I just got through doing something that was very hard,” she said, adding, “I mean, it was almost as bad as swimming in front of Russians. Almost.”
Michelle then thrust her road map up in the front seat, causing an exasperated Lake to yell, “Dammit! Don’t be an idiot right now!!!” Anti-KAN-KO-WEE-GO for you, Missy!!
Meanwhile, Jeremy and Eric arrived at the Pit Stop and handed over their completed Da Vinci code. Their prize? Tickets to the theatrical premiere of The Da Vinci Code! Yay! How exciting for them to be on the red carpet instead of valeting it.
Over at the Detour, Ray and Yolanda were proving that while they were certainly athletic, they were far from Olympian. Yolanda seemed unable to throw the discus more than three feet, but after a few tries, she finally hurled it a long enough distance to complete the task. Ray then tackled the javelin (not literally. That would hurt and probably cause bleeding). He could throw it, but he just couldn’t get it to stick in the ground. He tried over and over and over again, but each time brought failure. Who knew that javelin-ing could be so hard? Mojo soon arrived, and after Monica completed the discus, Joseph also had difficulty with the javelin. I couldn’t even imagine how Barry would do.
Ah, but I forgot that this was a Detour, and Frankenberry instead opted for “It’s All Greek To Me.” This challenge seemed about ten times easier as the couple casually searched around for their letters. It was like a giant word scramble. Lake and Michelle soon joined them, and I had to say, I was quite shocked that every time they found a Greek letter Lake didn’t scream “YEEEHAWWW!!! I got me a sigma! KAN-KO-WEE-GO!!!” If he’d had a gun, he would have thrown those letters in the air and shot them all in triumph.
Elsewhere in Greece, the normally dominant Hippies were completely lost. I’m talking looooost. Turns out they had gone the complete wrong way for the past hour, which meant they had essentially lost two hours of time. Oops! Their only hope, it seemed, was a non-elimination round. And let’s just put it out there: this was so a non-elimination round. I mean, we haven’t had one yet. I thought last week for sure, and it wasn’t. So this week was definite. Right? Well, BJ put on some random frog hat for good luck; although, I couldn’t be sure it would do anything but make him look like a total moron. Doesn’t he realize this isn’t the country of frogs? It’s the land of thinking, man!
Back at the Detour, Ray was STILL chucking that javelin. Joseph, however, had completed the task, and now he and Monica were set to take down a professional wrestler wearing what looked to be a diaper (don’t worry, I know it was just ancient garb). Well, this encounter was awkward and bizarre — a kinky porno gone way wrong. After a few attempts, Mojo finally pushed their wrestler out of the circle and received directions to their next stop: the Pit Stop. Ray, meanwhile, finally landed his javelin, and he and Yolanda moved onto the wrestling phase of the competition. No surprise here: Mr. Jacked and Thunder Thighs took down the wrestler in about three seconds, and soon, they too were on the road.
Frankenberry, meanwhile, had all their letters but were now struggling to find which city on the map they had to spell. After some careful studying and deduction, they finally got the right answer and moved on. The two hopped into their SUV, and then Barry pulled the most predictable and hilarious senior citizen move of the race. He slammed on the gas, but oops! The car was in reverse! He backed right into a tree, causing the back window to shatter and Fran to scream like she were bungee jumping all over again. It was awesome. Later, we saw that the back door was dented too. Oh Barry. Can’t wait to see your driving skills ten years from now.
Lake and Michelle completed the Detour not long after, and soon they were out on the open road again, and no sooner than you can say “Dang gummit!” they were lost in Greece. This was expected, however, because the producers had to make the Hippies look like they were still in the race, and the rule of thumb is that the second-to-last team always must appear to be lost and confused. Well, as the Hippies happily toiled through the Olympics, Lake and Michelle became increasingly lost. At one point, Lake tried to turn into an orchard grove, but dang gummit! That there orchard ain’t the Fortress of Rion! Eventually, Michelle did something she should have done about five episodes ago: she made Lake stop the car and take a breath. Literally, they sat at the side of the road while Lake simmered down from a hostile KAN-KO-WEE-GO to a manageable “Varmint, I’m a-gonna blow you to smithereens!”
Back at the Detour, the Hippies had moved onto the wrestling phase of the evening. I took great joy in watching BJ and Tyler get slammed into the ground, and I couldn’t help noticing how much more aggressive the wrestler was being with them as opposed to the other teams. Then again, the other teams had women on them; so perhaps the wrestler was being nice. If only Bolo and Lori had been around. Actually, the people I felt worst for were Jeremy and Eric. They really missed out on some hot man-on-man action.
Over at the Pit Stop, Ray and Yolanda managed to eclipse Mojo and arrive in second place — a team best. But wait! They had a penalty! Remember that bus trip they took to Corinth? That was against the rules! And those producers weren’t gonna let them off the hook. The two had to sit on the side for fifteen minutes (I always thought the penalty was twenty or thirty minutes), and while they waited, Mojo stepped in and totally grabbed second place away. Luckily, they were the only team to benefit from Raylonda’s penalty, and after the fifteen minutes were up, Phil suddenly said, “Ray and Yolanda, I can check you in now.” Was this a hotel or something? I LOVE Phil’s Front Desk! I wonder if there’s a bellhop also — or as I like to call them, a PhilHop.
Coming in fourth were Fran and Barry. By this time, the weather had turned bad, with rain pouring down on the Pit Stop. Luckily, Phil’s loyal Greek sidekick had an umbrella that he selflessly brandished high above the host. What a swell guy!
Amazingly, all that misdirection with Lake getting lost wasn’t really misdirection at all. BJ and Tyler actually arrived fifth, but uh oh! They had a penalty too! The producers then tried to make this seem all exciting as we wondered whether or not Lake and Michelle would arrive before the penalty was up, but it didn’t really matter. Lake and Michelle also rode that bus to the Corinth station; so even if they did arrive before the Hippies’ time was up, they’d be saddled with a penalty too.
Well, it didn’t even matter because BJ and Tyler’s penalty expired before Lake and Michelle arrived. The Hippies checked in, and when I say “checked in,” I mean checked in. BJ gave Phil a big, wet, sloppy kiss, and since one is never enough, Tyler followed up with his very own kiss as well. Phil could not have looked less pleased. I think he’d welcome forty more sweaty Paolo hugs before he received another Hippie kiss.
Anyhoo, Lake and Michelle finally arrived, and here’s a big shocker: they were eliminated! Kan-ko-wee-whaaa? But for sure I thought this would be non-elimination! Wow. Caught me by surprise again. This means we’re in for several non-eliminations in a row, or maybe the producers cut down on them this season. Nevertheless, Lake and Michelle both started to cry (kan-ko-wee-sob), and later, Lake told us “On the race, we got along great most of the time.” Huh? And when was that? Actually, to be fair, I must admit something. I was really sad to see these two go. When the season began, I thought they’d be our garden variety abusive/intense villains from the South. But as the race went on, I grew fond of them and their excitable ways. They weren’t so much villains as they were just very, very crazy. I’ll miss Lake’s frequent, nonsensical sounds of excitement. And I’ll miss Michelle’s irrational fear of Russians. Oh well. Such is the way of The Amazing Race.
What did you think about this episode? Sad to see Lake and Michelle go? Or relieved?