Monday, March 19, 2012

Amazing Race recap 20-05: "Uglier Than a Mud Rail Fence"

The Amazing Race resumed last Sunday with a trip to Bavaria, in what might be the all-around best episode of the season thus far. Terrific visuals abound, some teams come off very well and only one team carries a dark cloud.

We resume the Race in Turin, Italy, with border patrol agents Art & J.J. still in first place and still very confident in themselves. Their first clue directs them to travel by train to Ehrwald, Austria, then drive themselves by car to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany. Two countries in one? This leg's what 'cha might call a twofer! J.J. remarks "We're friends. It's a huge difference between two dudes running the Race who work together than a husband and wife." This suggests they're aware of Rachel & Dave's recent squabbling. And they're right: teams of friends do have an advantage over couples. Art & J.J. catch the first train to Bavaria. Rachel/Dave & Joey "Fitness"/Danny catch the second train; Joey "Fitness"/Danny are wearing goofy toques this leg, having decided to have a little fun. Good on them, the Amazing Race is supposed to be fun and good.

As Vanessa & Ralph begin the leg, we learn Ralph has been divorced three times! Vanessa notes because of their relationship histories, they're very comfortable speaking their minds to each other, but this can still create problems. As Brendon & Rachel depart, with Brendon reading the clue which mentions they'll have to find a roaming gnome, Rachel asks "The Roam? Where is he?" and Brendon has to explain the gnome is not there, they'll find him in Bavaria. I think Rachel needs to read the clues for herself, her reaction suggests she was only half-listening. They note how terrible their performance on the previous leg was and Rachel wants to remember Brendon is her "Bookie-Bear." If I had to choose between cutesy-Rachel and sobby-Rachel... well, no choice there, I prefer this cutesy-Rachel.

Bopper & Mark don't depart until nearly two hours after the 7th place team, Kerri & Stacy. TWO HOURS?! They weren't that far behind the Mississippi girls last leg when they arrived at the auto museum... they must have had some serious delays with the Detour.

Trains have to pause in Innsbruck before continuing to Ehrwald. Because of this, the last five teams are caught up together at the Innsbruck train station. The three teams in front reach Ehrwald with a considerable lead over the others.

Art & J.J. reach the restaurant where they're to receive their next clue, but the doors are closed; as they wait, Joey "Fitness" & Danny and Rachel & Dave arrive; all three teams enter the establishment together and collect a Travelocity roaming gnome statue who has the next clue printed on his underside. It's time for a Detour: "Fairy Tale" or "Champion Male." In the former, teams journey to the fairy tale town Oberammergau and follow a trail of gingerbread through the woods (collecting gingerbread as they walk) to the home of a witch, where they'll use the gingerbread to complete a gingerbread house. In the latter option, teams go to a nearby tavern and help style a man's beard/mustache into the image depicted on an accompanying photo, but the Racers won't know what kind of style they need to fashion until after they choose their bearded man.

All three teams choose "Champion Male," correctly identifying it as the quicker option. The other five teams have only just arrived in Ehrwald. Kerri & Stacy, recalling last leg's navigation problems, have decided to follow the other teams this leg, confident they can overcome the competition so long as they don't get lost en route.

At "Champion Male," we get to see some very beard-y men; Dave is even having a bit of fun for once, forming a mock-mohawk for his subject. Joey "Fitness" & Danny choose the man with the longest beard, but his style is a very difficult design. Their only recompense is that they're both great at hair styling. Elsewhere, Kerri & Stacy have lost sight of the other teams and become lost... they correctly identified their greatest problem, then failed to fix it, which is a pity.

Bopper & Mark reach the restaurant next and have to perform their Speedbump task: they must perform a yodeling number with a band in the restaurant! Speedbump tasks are never particularly hard, just a little time-consuming. Bopper & Mark have quite a bit of fun yodeling and their judge gets into it, declaring "that's American way of yodeling." after hearing their first attempt.

J.J. is quite bemused at having sculpted a man's beard, but he and Art finish first. Art & J.J.'s next clue directs them to the "Sleeping Beauty castle." I could've told them this would be Neuschwanstein (thank you, Great Castle of Europe, though I couldn't have spelled it to save my life), but once again the Race is making the clue slightly vague; probably anyone in Bavaria could tell the Racers Neuschwanstein is the castle they want, but it's a matter of getting that information.

As Bopper & Mark finish yodeling, the other four teams have all passed them; Vanessa/Ralph & Nary/Jamie go to the beard Detour, while Brendon/Rachel, Kerri/Stacy & Bopper/Mark go to the fairy tale option. Rachel refuses the beard task saying "I don't even know what a beard is." She's either a ditz, or seriously stressing out. She also calls Bavaria "Bolivia." Rachel & Dave finish the Detour, but despite Joey "Fitness" & Danny's prowess at hairstyling, their difficult choice has them lagging behind. Vanessa & Ralph arrive and Vanessa has to take charge as Ralph is out of his element.

Brendon/Rachel & Kerri/Stacy work together to find the gingerbread trail, but this just results in both teams becoming lost; meanwhile, Bopper/Mark arrive, see the marked basket pick-up spot and begin collecting gingerbread. Joey "Fitness" & Danny finish their Detour, but Vanessa & Ralph have made up a lot of time and follow fast on their heels.

Brendon/Rachel & Kerri/Stacy eventually make their way on the correct path and all three teams are soon working at their houses while a woman dressed as a witch cackles over her cauldron. Bopper has a lot of fun here, cackling along with the witch; his facial expressions are killer (you can tell Bopper has kids). Teams compare the gingerbread house building to assembling a jigsaw puzzle, which is a helpful way of looking at it.

Art & J.J. head to Neuschwanstein, but the approach to the castle is pretty long; they opt to take a horse-drawn wagon to the castle, which is a valid option. Rachel & Dave get lost en route and start to bicker. Joey "Fitness"/Danny & Vanessa/Ralph arrive and Ralph notes Hohenschwangau castle is within eyesight of Neuschwanstein, but they choose the right castle and start up on foot. Ralph is a bit impatient and wants to go on foot while Vanessa thinks they should go by horse; they start bickering as they walk up the steep path.

At the gingerbread Detour, Mark calls the witch "beautiful," but later confides to the camera she was "Uglier than a mud rail fence!" providing this week's quote-title. Nary & Jamie finish the beard Detour.

Art & J.J. arrive at the castle and quickly find King Ludwig's bedroom, where the next clue is located; you would've expected this to be the start of the leg's Roadblock, perhaps even hope Neuschwanstein would be this leg's Pit Stop... but no, the teams have a lot of travel in store for themselves this leg! Now they have to journey to Fussen and find an ice rink.

Kerri & Stacy finish the gingerbread Detour. On the hill up to Neuschwanstein, Vanessa gets mad at Ralph when he refuses to carry her coat. She starts insulting him, stating "congratulations, you just made Youtube!" Vanessa is certainly more media-savvy than Big Brother's Rachel, I'll give her that - she knows that if a Racer gets upset with their teammate it'll be sent across the internet for people to mock. Ralph says the best part of his day was watching Vanessa go up the hill because he knew "her legs were on fire," something "the devil" inside him enjoyed. This is not healthy. They're barely able to speak to each other at this point, basically as argumentative as Rachel & Dave were last week. Regardless, Joey "Fitness"/Danny & Vanessa/Ralph retrieve their clue and move on.

Bopper/Mark finish the Detour and this makes Rachel upset as she realizes she & Brendon are now in last place, but this time she stops herself from crying - seriously Rachel, good on you. Rachel & Dave head to Hohenschwangau castle, thinking it's the "Sleeping Beauty" castle. Nary & Jamie make the same mistake and both teams join a guided tour of the castle, impatiently wondering where Ludwig's bedroom is.

At the Fussen ice rink, Art & J.J. reach the next clue box: Roadblock! J.J. takes the task, which is to perform a game of Eisstockschieben, very much like curling; using a set of Travelocity roaming gnomes, they have to slide the gnomes down the ice and land in the centre of the bull's eye.

Rachel/Dave & Nary/Jamie finally figure out they're in the wrong castle and have to book it back to Neuschwanstein. However, Kerri/Stacy & Mark/Bopper both make the same mistake and head to Hohenschwangau, although they realize the error before entering the castle. This gives Brendon & Rachel an advantage as they move out of last place.

J.J. finally hits his bull's eye and receives he & Art's next clue: journey to the Landhannes Farm, site of the next Pit Stop! Danny takes the Roadblock for his team and finishes it quickly, just as Ralph arrives to do the Roadblock; Vanessa says "I'm mad at you, but I love you. How about that?" Ralph replies "I have a challenge to do right now." Wow. Did it get cold in here, or are they in an ice rink?

At the Pit Stop, Phil Keoghan waits within a stable of cattle. Art & J.J. arrive in first place for the third time in a row; Phil rewards them with a vacation to Thailand. Phil jokes they should withdraw from the Race to give other teams a chance; they reply they will, provided they can have the million dollars right now.

At the ice rink, Ralph finishes the Roadblock, just as Joey "Fitness"/Danny check in the Pit Stop at 2nd place. The other teams have all retrieved their clues from Neuschwanstein, but they all went on foot and Bopper is badly winded by the effort, saying he's near to having a heart attack. He and Mark are back in last place again, but resolve not to give up, although Mark thinks Bopper should stop "being a super hero" and go at his own pace.

At the ice rink, Nary begins the Roadblock, but despite being "great at targets," she's struggling; elsewhere, Vanessa & Ralph take 3rd place at the Pit Stop, their best performance thus far, but their in-fighting is taking a toll; they vow not to hold on to the arguments, but fear the next fight could finish them. Brendon and Dave's Rachel start the Roadblock. Dave is in great spirits as Rachel finishes quickly; Brendon & Rachel are close behind. Jamie is a little flustered to have seen two teams pass them. Kerri takes on the Roadblock while Mark takes it in lieu of Bopper because of Bopper's breathing troubles.

Rachel & Dave take 4th place and seem very happy with it. Brendon & Rachel arrive in 5th and Brendon does an accidental pratfall on the Pit Stop mat, sliding on his posterior. "Holy manure!" Rachel exclaims. Mark finishes the Roadblock quickly, but Kerri and Nary are struggling. Jamie is non-plussed to see so many teams passing them. Kerri finishes next, so four teams have beaten them now!

By now, Nary has flung nearly 200 gnomes, but she finally hits her bull's eye; she and Jamie hug, then head out to the Pit Stop, taking some solace in knowing Kerri & Stacy are bad at navigating. Sure enough, Kerri & Stacy receive directions, then quickly get lost and forget what they were told. As they try to correct their course, Bopper & Mark receive 6th place at the Pit Stop, proud to have overcome their last place finish and Speedbump task. Nary & Jamie prove to be sharp at navigating and arrive next in 7th place; Kerri & Stacy, sadly, arrive last and are eliminated. Stacy takes out a picture of her children as she talks about how she wanted to inspire them and hopes they're proud of her and "Aunt Kerri." They're proud to have done as well as they did; "We're still awesome." declares Stacy. It's a pity to see them go - they were completely correct when they declared they could compete against anyone on the Race, they just couldn't navigate... and since this wasn't a taxi cab leg, navigation done done them in. They were mostly very cool with each other and enjoyed running the Race.

We're now down to just seven teams!

  1. Art & J.J.: I'm enjoying these two, despite J.J.'s frequent crowing; he seems to be psyching himself and Art for victory, rather than simply boasting.
  2. Joey "Fitness" & Danny: This is their best finish thus far - I'm very surprised at how well they're playing. They're also one of the funniest teams on this season with a good sense of humour about the absurd tasks.
  3. Vanessa & Ralph: This was their best performance as well, yet you'd hardly know it with all of their in-fighting. Virtually every couple on the Race winds up feuding sooner or later, hopefully this isn't the start of a new pattern.
  4. Rachel & Dave: These two were on better terms this leg, with only a brief bit of snippy behaviour. They seemed to be in sync during the tasks, which is a major improvement on last leg. They may have fallen two spots this week, but they're more pleasing company.
  5. Brendon & Rachel: These two have also improved and Rachel even seems aware of how inappropriate her earlier behaviour was; if she's put a stop to the whining and sobbing, I don't mind them sticking around.
  6. Bopper & Mark: Ah, my favourite team claws back into the Race! I love to see how supportive they are to each other, how they joke their way through obstacles and how they seem to be enjoying every place they visit! Let's have some more players like these two, please!
  7. Nary & Jamie: I'm surprised at how they overtook Kerri & Stacy to the Pit Stop; outside of heading to the wrong castle, they didn't make poor decisions this leg, they just struggled at performance. I'd like to see these two stick out longer, especially as they're the only female/female team remaining.

Next week: the Amazing Race goes to Azerbaijan in the Near East! Right on! I'm always excited to see never-before visited locales on the show! Here's hoping next week's show is even better than this week's.

No comments: