Last night’s episode of The Amazing Race was awesome. It was like a one hour dissertation on why this show is the most exciting and unpredictable hour on television. Granted, the ending may have left some (or perhaps most) viewers unsatisfied, but I was fine with it. Why? Because for sixty minutes, we had pure lunacy running rampant on the streets of Moscow and rural Brazil. Strong teams were brought to their knees as language barriers in Russia all but turned the game on its head. This was why Family Edition was such a dud. Take away the safety net, and pure chaos reigns supreme.The big show opened up in rural Brazil where all the remaining teams were resting up at the Pit Stop. We quickly learned that Danielle and Dani (a.k.a. Team Double D) had taken a shine to Jeremy and Eric (Team Jeric), despite their previous contempt for the boys. Isn’t it funny how that happens? We couldn’t quite tell if the two teams had truly gotten it on, but we did see them loitering in a hammock, and you know what they say about hammocks and Brazil… Actually, I don’t know what they say. I made that up. But I think it’s safe to say that hammocks and Brazil often lead to illicit, FCC-unfriendly activities.
“Will this relationship turn into a powerful alliance?” Phil asked us, regarding the horny supergroup. I think they might turn into an alliance. Powerful? Not so much.
Phil then asked us if oldsters Fran and Barry (a.k.a. Team Frankenberry) could emerge from last place, and this was followed by the random image of Barry in a fluffy, white sweater. And by “sweater,” I mean “body hair.” Yes, Barry was chillin’ in a tank-top, airing his hirsute arms for all to enjoy. I, on the other hand, was vomiting up my dinner into the garbage pail I had previously reserved for Kevin Covais’ take on Stevie Wonder (seriously, did anyone see that?).
This was all very disturbing, but on the upside, at least I figured out where on TV I had seen Barry before:
Anyway, first out of the gate in the wee hours of the morning were the Hippies (BJ and Tyler), who had to drive their VW Beetle to a nearby farm and then ride a 300 foot zipline. Sounded like fun, but let me guess: the farm didn’t open until 8 AM, right? Close enough. Turns out the Hippies couldn’t enter the farm until 7 AM, which meant they only had to wait about two hours. Meanwhile, other teams began trickling out of the Pit Stop, like the affably dorky, ambiguously amorous duo of Jeremy and Eric. Now, I know there’s been a lot of discussion about these two and whether or not their man-love possibly eclipses the homoeroticism of Big Brother 5‘s Jase and Scott, but I personally have not seen a shred of evidence that indicates such things.
(Thanks to Reality Blurred and Jaunted for the heads up on that).
Anyway, Jeremy (banana hammock on the right) happily misread the first clue, saying, “Take a ride on a thirty foot zipline.” Now, that’s what I call adventure! Thirty feet! The guys then hopped into their Bug and drove off. And because they were bored, they decided to name their car “Danielle #3,” in honor of their crushes, Dani and Danielle. Sort of like how Seymour named his plant Audrey 2 in Little Shop of Horrors. I suppose the implication in this case was that these guys were riding Danielle #3 the way they hoped to soon be riding Danielles #1 through 2. Either that or they were just staggeringly uncreative. In the end, they were simply happy to have come up with any name at all. “That’s a good name, Jeremy,” Eric said. A good name indeed.
Out of the gate next were Monica and Joseph, the latter of which had begun growing an ill-advised goatee. Then suddenly we heard plucking strings and silly wind instruments, which meant only one thing: the Nerds had arrived. Yes, Lori and Dave, replete with their custom-made “Look at the Nerds in love!” music left the Pit Stop in fourth place, ready to sully up the world with their nonstop affection.
Over at the farm, Jeremy and Eric pulled up in the dark, searching for the route marker. BJ and Tyler took this chance to startle their buddies by jumping out of the darkness and onto the car, causing Jeremy to nearly soil poor Danielle #3. Goofy laughter ensued, and with the joke being such a huge success, the hippies performed it again, this time on the Nerds. Okay guys. It was funny the first time. Stupid the second. Besides, by the time Dave and Lori showed up, the sun was shining — kind of took the edge off of that whole “Jumping from the darkness” angle.
A few more teams left the Pit Stop, and then it was time for our favorite racer most in need of Ritalin: Lake. He and Michelle charged full-steam ahead, and as they hit a small bump in the dirt road, the hyperactive dentist yelled, “WHOOO!!!” Relax. It was a bump. You didn’t just jump across an opening drawbridge.
Dani and Danielle hit the road next, and they described their winning strategy to us. “Hearts first, bodies second,” Dani said.
“And then boobs,” Danielle added. Well, technically, boobs would count as body. Clearly “brains” was of low priority.
Back on the road, the impulsive Lake made a left when he should have gone right, despite Michelle’s concerns. After a little bit, they wound up in a wooded area, and it became clear that they were lost. “We don’t know the first turn out of the gate!” Lake complained. We? If I remember correctly, Ms. Scarlett O’Hara in the backseat had said “right.”
Meanwhile, the farm opened up, and teams began flying down the zip line. The Hippies finished first and discovered that the next place they’d be heading to would be… Moscow! Did this mean we’d get to see Phil doing one of those dances where he crosses his arms and kicks out his legs? That would be awesome. Especially if he had a big, furry hat on too. Anyway, once in Moscow, teams would have to make their way to Chaika Bassein, a large swimming facility where Olympians train.
Well, BJ and Tyler were so excited, they had to share another one of their oh-so-goofy moments. “Head butt!” they called out as they lightly tapped heads. That was almost as good as Jump-Out-At-The-Car, v.2.0. Speaking of which, on their way out of the zipline challenge, Jeremy and Eric proved that they too could be goofballs as Jeremy feigned getting hit by the Hippies’ car. What’s with all the rampant silliness this morning? Everyone was out of control. I hope they enjoyed it while they could. Moscow ain’t known as a barrel of laughs.
As for Lake and Michelle, they were still lost, this time in what seemed to be a giant field of coffee beans. Lake tried to figure things out by hopping on top of his car and looking around, but all he managed to do was look dumb. Or dumber, I should say. Dang gummit! Not an interstate for miles!
Kind of like a really terrible version of Mad Max.
Back at the Pit Stop, Barry and Fran finally emerged. “We are really going to give it our all on this leg,” they said, which meant that instead of making twelve dumb mistakes, they’d only make nine or ten.
Anyway, as the teams completed the zip line, they then headed to a bus station in order to get to São Paulo airport. It was the typical Amazing Race charter bus scenario. A limited number of seats on the first bus, and then some more on the second bus, and then even more on a third bus. Well, Jeric, the Hippies, Mojo and The Nerds (who got random ROCKIN’ music for change) wound up on the first bus. Back at the farm, Lake and Michelle had finally arrived and complete the task. They then received their next clue, which Lake amusingly read, “Fly to FREAKIN’ Russia! Dang gummit! I was hoping we wouldn’t have to go to Russia!” Whoa, whoa. Easy there. Let’s take a deep breath. I didn’t know what it was this episode, but for some reason, Lake’s constant overreactions to every little thing were really amusing me. He isn’t as rage-filled as Colin from season 5, and he isn’t as totally ridiculous as Jonathan from season 6. He’s just an excitable jerk whose heart rate spikes at the mere sight of a tulip.
Over at the bus terminal, Jeremy and Eric returned to their flirtatious ways once Double D showed up. The boys picked “stickers” off the girls’ outfits, and by “stickers,” I mean invisible excuses to paw at their bodies. This romantic session was sadly interrupted by the departure of the first bus, leaving the girls to fend for themselves amidst Wanda and Desiree and Ray and Yolanda. Eventually, Lake and Michelle showed up and were more than happy to learn that they were on the second bus. Lake then said, “There’s three buses? KAN-KO-WEE-GO!!!” I’m not sure about that second word. That was my attempts at phonetics. Sometimes Lake emits sounds that go beyond the English language.
The second bus soon left the station, and when Frankenberry finally arrived, they discovered that no one else was there. They’d be the sole couple on bus #3. KAN-KO-WEE-GO!!! Sorry, it’s contagious.
Meanwhile, the first bus showed up at the airport, and as the teams tried to figure out the best route, I braced for what looked to be total airline drama. Alas, there was none. Every team wound up on the same flight (that included Fran and Barry). While there may not have been any airport intrigue, there was airport idiocy, thanks to Lake. Once again forgetting that Portuguese is the language of Brazil, Lake approached a ticketing agent and said, “Señorita.” Dang gummit, she don’t speak Spanish! Luckily, Michelle was there to correct him again. “I don’t think señorita’s the right word,” she said. Quiet, woman! You shall only speak when spoken to! And Lake chooses not to speak to you right now. YEEEEHAWWW!!!
Once the teams arrived in Russia, Monica piped up with her silly yet true comment of the day: “All I know is Russian people drink and smoke a lot.” We then cut to a cabbie smiling as if he’d just downed a whole bottle of Vodka about three minutes ago.
The teams arrived at the Chaika where they found this week’s Roadblock. This was a very special Roadblock because it featured Phil walking around in his trademark fur-lined parka. A sensible garment for a sensible man.
Anyway, one member from each team had to put on a bathing suit and jump into the pool off a 10 meter platform. Then the person had to swim across the pool, dive down, and get the clue. Didn’t sound too difficult. In fact, I kind of lamented that this Roadblock was one of those simple tasks everyone just sort of does and moves on. Or so you’d think.
Well, the first few teams completed the task without incident. The good news for us was that of the Nerds, Lori was the one we got to see in the bathing suit. No disrespect, Dave, but there are some things we just don’t need to see. The bad news for us was that Barry opted to do the challenge also. This meant a full view of his patented white fur. For a moment, I thought a yeti was about to dive off that platform. Luckily, there were no real closeups, so we were spared a second natural sweater sighting. Oh, and in typical Frankenberry form, Barry swam across the pool and then wasted a few minutes searching for the clue, which was RIGHT UNDER HIM.
Meanwhile, Ray and Yolanda had some minor issues about the Roadblock. She wanted him to do it, but since he did the last one, Ray said that she should do this one. Yolanda simply assented, and when she opened up the clue and read the task, she then revealed to us that oops! She doesn’t know how to swim. Okay, here’s the thing. You’re at a pool. You can’t swim. Even though you don’t know what the Roadblock is, chances are, it’ll involve swimming (note the pool). Maybe now wouldn’t have been a great time to uphold the virtues of the Alternating Roadblock Policy.
Well, as Yolanda stood atop that diving platform, I genuinely felt for her. I mean, she doesn’t know how to swim! This had to be scary for her in so many different ways. But there was a race to be run, and so Yolanda jumped off into the water… and didn’t resurface. Uh oh. Did something go wrong? Nope, it was just the producers screwing with us. Her head popped up above the water, and she furiously doggie-paddled over to Ray who calmly guided her through the rest of the challenge. You know, it’s one thing to see people face their fears on Fear Factor when they’re lying in coffins filled with scorpions. But it’s quite another to see someone grapple with fears in “the real world,” as it were. That was some good drama, people.
Meanwhile, Lake and Michelle arrived at the Roadblock and as usual were a complete mess. “Who wants to take the plunge?” Lake read, immediately deciding that Michelle should do the Roadblock. But she had some major reservations.
“I might have to do it naked!” she protested.
“So what?” Lake responded, eventually agreeing to do it himself. This was amusing in so many ways. I loved how Michelle’s first reaction was not “How high?” or “But it’s cold!” No, she immediately just assumed that nudity would be involved. I wonder if she’s like that every day. “Honey, let’s go to the movies.” “But wait, Lake. What if I have to be naked???”
I also liked how Lake’s reaction to Michelle was simply “So?” Way to be a supportive husband. “Yeah, you get nekkid Michelle. We’re in FFFREAKIN Russia!” Later, after Lake had finished the Roadblock, Michelle asked him, “Would you really make me get in front of all those Russian people with a bathing suit on?” Those pesky Ruskies and their leering eyes! They do not deserve to see such unbridled and chaste beauty!!
Soon, every team had completed the Roadblock (including Monica and her giant breasts), and with The Hippies leading the pack, they were all off to find a cathedral at a monastery. Everyone, that is, except Wanda and Desiree. Turns out that Mom had a phobia. No, not of heights — she did the jump just fine. Wanda’s big problem was that she had a fear of deep water. Doing a surface dive to retrieve the clue was therefore a very scary ordeal for her. I didn’t have crazy amounts of sympathy for her because, well, Yolanda didn’t know how to swim, and she survived. But still, Wanda was totally unhinged by this. I mean, hysterical. I mean, raving. I mean, crazy crazy crazy. Even the beautiful Desiree couldn’t soothe her mother’s nerves. We then cut to commercial break (I was wondering why we didn’t do that during Yolanda’s experience. Now I know why), and when we returned, Wanda appeared to be calmer. Typical Amazing Race — everyone’s always cured after the commercial break.
Or not. Wanda may have been calm for a nanosecond, but the moment she stuck her head underwater, the insanity began all over again. This was gonna take a while.
Elsewhere in the city, the Hippies arrived at the cathedral where they received their next clue, but not before taking a moment to appreciate all the artwork. It was cool. For them. Well, after this brief break in the action, it was time for the Detour: Scrub or Scour. In Scrub, teams had to travel to a trolley depot and wash an entire Moscow Trolley inside and out. As Phil said, it was an arduous task, but teams controlled their own destiny, much in the same way Phil controls the an entire New Zealand turtleneck trade.
In Scour, teams had to search through 1,500 nesting dolls to find one of ten microscopic clues. Now, everyone knows you should always go for the physically demanding choice over the luck, but, well, things just ain’t that easy in Russia, especially if a) the language barrier prevents you from directing the cab to the trolley depot, and b) the cabbie doesn’t even know where the trolley depot is anyway.
Here’s something that is easy: remembering your passport. But apparently, even that was too much for Team Double D. The girls thought they were being thrifty by sharing a cab with the other half of their “powerful alliance,” Jeremy and Eric, but halfway to the cathedral, they suddenly realized that Dani (or was it Danielle) had left her Amazing Race fanny pack at the pool. Like I said before, “brains” wasn’t high on their strategy list.
Well, this meant that the two girls had to get out of the taxi and trek all the way back to the pool, not so easy when there aren’t any other cabs around. I actually felt bad for them. Believe it or not, I like The Danielles, and would much rather see someone like Lake suffer from the cruel hand of fate instead.
Anyway, as the beach bums drove off to the cathedral, Jeremy said, “Stupid. Stupid.” Wow, if Jeremy’s calling you stupid, you know you must have done something really dumb.
Over at the cathedral, teams continued to file in and receive their Detour clue. Most everyone was thoughtful enough to be quiet and respectful to their surroundings. And then there were Lake and Michelle who ran into the building and spoke at decibels reaching “DANG NABBIT!” levels. Anyway, pretty much everyone decided on Scrub It, except Ray and Yolanda, who wanted to try their luck with Scour It.
Outside the cathedral, the teams tried to tell their cabbies where to go, but they were all met with blank stares and general confusion. Ray and Yolanda’s driver knew where they needed to go because the Scour It challenge took place at the famous Dubrovka Theater, home to 2003′s terrorist hostage tragedy. When their cab left the lot first, Jeremy and Eric simply told their driver to follow them, and in turn, Lake and Michelle told their cab to follow the boys. Or at least I think that’s what happened. There was a lot of confusion and fast talking. All I know is that all three teams eventually wound up at that theater.
Meanwhile, back at the Roadblock, Wanda continued to struggle. Yup, she was still in the pool, and she still hadn’t been able to get that damn clue. At long last, she calmed her nerves long enough to go under and complete the task, causing everyone to cheer happily (and possibly drunkenly too). You know it’s bad when you’ve attracted an audience. In a sweet moment, Desiree began crying in appreciation of her mother’s hard work in facing her deepest fear. Did I mention that these two are great?
The good news for them was that as they left the pool, Double D — or “The Pinks” — were just returning to retrieve their lost bag. Looks like we still had a race! Elsewhere in the city, the Hippies and the old folks were completely lost. They could not find the trolley depot for the life of them. Too bad. Fran and Barry were so psyched about being at the front of the pack. Eventually, both teams threw in the towel and headed off to the theater to attack those dolls. Gotta love the turn of fate. Without the language barrier, there’d be none of this confusion, and the confusion only served to make this race more exciting. Sorry, just reminding myself again why Family Edition sucked. I tend to do it from time to time.
Well, Ray and Yolanda arrived at the theater where they found so many nesting dolls, it boggled the mind. To help them go nuts, the producers had hired the world’s most depressing looking band who plodded through some traditional Russian music with all the excitement of DMV workers learning they’d have to come in for the weekend.
“I miss Khrushchev.”
Out on the streets, Mojo and The Nerds drove around in search of the trolley depot, but guess what? They couldn’t find it! Maybe they should follow a trolley? As for Desiree and Wanda, they picked up their Detour clue and decided on… trolleys. They then found a cab, and as much as I love Wanda, I couldn’t help but cringe when she asked the driver, “El trunk?” Oh god. At least she didn’t tell him to go “Rapido! Rapido!!” (And don’t worry, Desiree did remind her mom that Spanish was not the language of choice in, you know, Russia.)
Team Double D also decided on the trolley cleaning, and surprisingly enough, their driver knew how to get to the depot. Wow. Could this be the comeback of all comebacks? Meanwhile, at the theater, everyone was struggling (read: going positively insane) trying to find the clues in the nesting dolls. Eventually Jeremy found one, as did Lake. The teams were then directed to Red Square where they’d find Phil hangin’ out behind a cathedral. Oddly enough, this didn’t result in one of those “Teams now have to make their way three miles…” scenes from Phil, which should have been an indication that something was up, but I was far too engrossed in all the activities to notice.
Over at the trolley depot, Wanda and Desiree and then Dani and Danielle all showed up and began cleaning. They deserved an award simply for finding the place. Mojo and the Nerds, meanwhile, were still lost in the Moscow urban wilderness. And at the theater, Frank and Barry showed up to do some brain-numbing searching. At long last, Ray finally found a clue, and as he and Yolanda headed out, the Hippies entered. Honestly, these teams were more scattered and all over the map than any episode I could recently remember.
Meanwhile, as the ladies all scrubbed their trolleys, Mojo and the Nerds finally arrived at the park, thus starting a four-way race for cleanliness.
Back to the theater of nesting doll hell! Not more than two seconds after BJ requested that the band play a good luck song, Tyler suddenly found the clue, effectively squashing Frankenberry’s spirits. The old folks claimed that they were giving up then, but honestly, what other options did they have? Go to the trolley depot? That worked out real well last time. Way to be illogical, FRAN AND BARRY!
What’s worse? Hundreds of nesting dolls…
…or six Pussycat Dolls?
Over at the Red Square, Russia got an unfortunate taste of America as Jeremy and Eric and Lake and Michelle popped up, looking for Phil. If there was ever a foursome that would cause foreign indignation, it was them. Well, both teams were at different parts of the Square, which meant lots of cutting back and forth between them, leaving us, the viewers, to wonder who would find Phil first. I was thinking it might be Lake, but nope. It was the boys. And with about one minute left in the hour, we all knew where this was going.
Yup. The leg was not over. It was the ol’ Phil fakeout. Phil then handed the guys their next clue, and as they walked off, the camera tilted up to the onion domes of a cathedral — or maybe the Kremlin, I really don’t know — and ominous music played. Dunh dunh dunh! ONION DOMES OF DOOM!!!!
Now, I know the To Be Continued episodes annoy some viewers, but I really didn’t mind in this case. On the downside, with all the teams all over the map, an elimination would have been particularly exciting and unpredictable. But on the other hand, I was happy to keep this hectic leg going. It’s not like last season when we had two non-elimination rounds, a to-be-continued episode, and the Country Music Awards in the span of like five weeks, literally causing a month between cuts. As I always say, anything that prolongs the Amazing Race experience is always A-OK with me.
What did you think about this episode?