There are two things that I don’t want to do if I’m ever in Sweden for a day: count Ikea inventory and unravel a hundred bales of hay. And yet, this is exactly what many hapless teams wound up doing last night on The Amazing Race. You have to give this show credit. Who else could make the mundane task of assembling a flimsy desk seem more exciting than the standard action flick? Honestly, at this point Jerry Bruckheimer might as well put Nicholas Cage in the Race and release the season as a summer blockbuster. Eh, scratch that. I don’t want any of that Captain Correlli’s Mandolin stink getting on my favorite reality show.The show kicked off in Norway where a peppy Phil Koegan ambled through a verdant lawn and reminded us that we were in fact still in Scandinavia. As teams slowly dispatched from the Pit Stop, we learned that Rebecca was becoming weary of tending to her high maintenance partner, Adam. Apparently he needs a mother figure because as he noted, “I’m scared of a lot of things.” And we’ll just assume that includes heterosexual sex.
After an uneventful train and bus ride, the teams descended upon Stockholm where they were to find a frigid little watering hole called “Ice Bar”. Directionally impaired Gus and Hera immediately wandered off into the Swedish ghetto while the rest of the gang made their way to the bar. Turns out this Ice Bar really was an ice bar. Maintained at a temperature of 23 degrees Fahrenheit, the bar was completely made of ice, which is cool if you ever want the fun of an alcoholic beverage without the annoyance of blood circulation.
Upon reaching the Ice Bar, teams had to don ridiculous ponchos and slide a shot of liquor across the bar top. If the glass came to rest touching a target area, the team would receive a clue. It was sort of like a bizarre union of shuffleboard and curling, minus all the excitement. Actually, it was pretty amusing watching everyone slide their shots off to Ice Bar oblivion. My favorite part of the task was watching the flaxen bartender observe the shot glasses gliding by her. She had all the intensity of a cat in a window sill.
While teams struggled in the frozen libation Olympics, Gus and Hera meandered around an intersection for what seemed to be an eternity. Would they ever get to the Ice Bar? Or would they be destined to patrol the Stockholm streets like confused vagrants for the rest of the race? That was what we wondered as we slow-motioned into the commercial break. Of course, upon return Gus and Baby Gus quickly found the Ice Bar and even managed to get out of there before certain teams.
Next stop on the Amazing Race? Well, when you go to Sweden, there’s only one place to go: Ikea (or “I-kee-Ay” as pronunciation-challenged Freddy called it). Teams all scurried across the city, only to discover that Ikea wouldn’t be opening for another six hours. Ha, suckers. With little else to do, everyone found a bench and camped out for the night. If only there were some huge store nearby that could offer them a crappy futon or sofa…
The next morning, the teams piled into the Ikea where they were given the option to count three crates of inventory or build a desk. Idiots like Rebecca balked at the assembling option, rhetorically asking “Ever build a desk?” Listen, Rebecca, it’s not like you have to saw the plywood yourself. It’s an Ikea desk. It’s easy to put together. I mean, if I can do it, anyone can do it. Seriously. In other news, I’m proud to report that TVgasm’s Ikea-furnished offices are still structurally sound. Except for the carpet protector. That thing sucked.
Anyway, even though there was nary a safety harness in sight, competitive Ikea-ing turned out to be more exciting than any challenge so far this season. There were the usual reactions from the teams: Don and Mary Jean were sweaty and flustered, team BlandModels (Freddy and Kendra) were – uh – bland, and Jon and Victoria continued to make a case for why they should be ceremoniously burried alive under a pile of Ikea teddy bears. Kris and Jon meanwhile continued to coo perky and supportive comments to each other while I watched and thought “I love how they coo perky and supportive comments to each other.” Gus and Hera – aka team Slow and Steady – quietly assembled their desk while Bolo and Lori faced the perils of the modern day numerical system: “66…68…80…” chanted the beefy wrestler, who clearly is unaware that the number 7 is essential to a successful count-off. Luckily there was a haughty Ikea employee there to let out a small passive-aggressive smirk at Bolo’s expense. “Your counting skills are proof that you are just a tacky American,” her eyes seemed to say. I feel badly for Bolo though. He’s clearly been afflicted with whatever disease struck Robin Williams in that movie “Jack”. Honestly, he looked like he was approaching mid-century mark last night. Way to age quickly, BOLO.
The counting mayhem continued though as America’s Next Bland Models summoned all their bland powers and still managed to screw up. Freddie reported that there were 2,309 items in the bins – just five off from the true answer. Okay, have these people never heard of a tick mark? You know, four down and one diagnally across? Apparently, the Mormon sisters Lena and Kristy had because they were the first ones to come up with the correct answer of 2304. Of course, they had to get by their impish Ikea supervisor who asked “Is that your final answer?” Shut up, REGIS!
After emerging from Ikea Hell (which is not that different from Ikea Heaven), teams had to take a train to rural Sweden where they would then hop onto a tandem bicycle and pedal to the Roadblock. And yes, this entire sequence did look like a Mentos commercial. Once at the Roadblock, a team member had to unroll bales of hay until he or she found a clue hidden inside. Oh, and there were only twenty clues hidden in over two hundred bales. Well, luckily no one would be stuck searching there for eight hours, right? Uh, more on that later…
Teams eventually arrived at the hay field and got to work. Kristy and Lena, it should be noted, started the Roadblock in third place. Jon and Victoria, meanwhile, had yet another meltdown in a cab (yawn). At one point, Jon actually raised his hand to smack Victoria, but a camera-induced moment of self-consciousness left the shrill woman un-smoted. Is it possible that what we always thought was a mix of plastic surgery and botox is only the swollen result of spousal abuse? Mmmm… domestic abuse humor.
Anyway, soon the Roadblock was full of plucky teams unravelling hay bales. Kris and Jon, who were first to finish, hopped onto their tandem bicycle (oh those crazy Swedes and their tandem transportation) and zipped off to the Pit Stop with Aaron and Hayden and Hayden’s surprisingly impressive breasts not far behind. Ultimately, it was Aaron and Hayden who arrived first at the finish line, and when Phil saw Kris and Jon quietly waiting for their turn on the mat, he suddenly became CasualPhilâ„¢ and asked “What’s the deal? Your friends are like waiting patiently.” Yeah, brah. What’s up with that shit? Apparently Phil has been taking some Jeff Probst 101. Next thing you know, he’ll be making snide remarks and berating players.
Meanwhile, back in Ikea, Don and Mary Jean and Lori and Bolo all finally realized that counting was not their fortÃ©. Don tried his best to sweet talk a stolid Ikea employee by saying “We’re forty years older than the rest of these teams.” Poor Don. Reduced to begging. I enjoyed Mary Jean’s tactic of simply leveling a WASPy look of discontent at the small woman. It didn’t really do much, but man, it sure makes for awkwardness. Eventually, the two teams resorted to building the desks. Lori and Bolo appeared quite at ease with the task, but our elder couple was having some difficulty. I suppose they’re Crate & Barrel types. I half expected Mary Jean to say “We’re not used to putting together non-WASP furniture.”
With these two teams struggling, you’d think it would be a battle of wisdom versus muscle, but littled did they know that Lena was still at the farm, unrolling her 60th bale of hay. Poor Lena. Everyone seemed to be able to find a clue except her. Quiet Gus casually unfurled his hay as if he were waltzing out to get the paper; Victoria wheezed, hyperventilated and squeaked her way through her hay; and even Adam managed to find his clue with a minimum of drama – or “DRAMA!” as he would say. Eventually Bolo, Don and their assorted spouses were able to catch up and pass Lena on the way to the Pit Stop.
Poor poor Lena. Even after everyone had left, Kristy held out hope that maybe – just maybe – this would be a non-elimination leg. And so tireless Lena went about unrolling bale after bale after bale of hay. In the end, the normally intractable Phil sauntered out to the farm where he essentially said “Yeah, you can stop now, mmkay?” Actually, considering how peeved Phil was last season when he had to go “into the field”, he was quite docile this time around as he dispensed his pity elimination. Lena’s final tally of doom: eight hours and over a hundred bales of hay unfurled. I’m exhausted just saying that. To her credit, she didn’t throw a hissy fit, she didn’t complain annoyingly, and she seemed to keep on trekking. That sort of good sportsmanship has got to be worth something, right? On reality TV â€” no.