Monday, November 12, 2012

Amazing Race 21-07 recap: "Off to See the Wizard"

Last night's Amazing Race episode brought out the season's first intense airport drama, plenty of surprises and even a cliffhanger!

We resume in Istanbul, Turkey at the Savarona yacht, last leg's Pit Stop. Young dating couple Trey & Lexi depart in first place with instructions to fly to Moscow, Russia! As they head to the airport, we hear about how the duo believe the Race is helping their relationship.

Lexi: "Hopefully there'll be a ring on my finger pretty soon! But that's his call!" (laughs)

Trey: "Easy."

As dating couple Abbie & Ryan depart next, they note how the twin sisters Natalie/Nadiya have become friends with Trey/Lexi and believe the teams are conspiring to U-Turn them in the future because Abbie/Ryan are the only team who could win $2 million at the Finish Line. Rock 'n roll professionals James/Abba depart next, pleased to find a new supply of money in the clue envelope (having been robbed by Natalie/Nadiya on the last leg). Abba is a little paranoid about the money now, getting James to confirm it's being kept safe.

At the airport, Trey/Lexi head to the information desk and are recommended to check at the Aeroflot desk; however, Lexi forgets which desk it was and forgot to write it down; after failing to find the right desk a few times, they decide to stop for food instead. The next sound you hear will be that of your palm striking your forehead. Abbie/Ryan begin researching flights on their own and choose one which has a connecting flight in Frankfurt, but only 1 hour between flights; it sounds risky, but they book it. James/Abba learn about an earlier flight from the information desk and one wonders why the other teams haven't learned of it.

As Natalie/Nadiya arrive at the airport, they find their friends Trey/Lexi and are a little stunned to hear they don't have tickets yet; the two teams work together to find the right flight. The flight these four locate isn't as early as James/Abba's. One of the twins claims they want to "get away from all the freaks." Outside of Abbie/Ryan, I'm not sure who they think the "freaks" are now. Chippendale dancers Jaymes/James learn of the same flight James/Abba obtained at the information desk and book it. Trey/Lexi see Abbie/Ryan pass by, but the latter couple snubs them as Abbie bugs her eyes out at them (an odd personality quirk she's done a few times this Race). Trey/Lexi are confused at why Abbie/Ryan don't like them. Lexi refers to Abbie's face as her "crazy eyes."

Ryan: "Did they wait for those chicks?"

Abbie: "Probably."

Ryan: "Babies! Learn to go from point A to point B without someone else's help!"

Once again, it's the season's familiar leaders versus followers ideology; we've seen a lot of teams following each other and only a few are really stepping up to run their own Race. Life parnters Josh/Brent go to a travel agency for help, which is a good idea; the agents recommend the same flight Abbie/Ryan are on, but they're concerned by the 1 hour separation between flights. On a coin toss, they decide to take the risky connecting flight. As it turns out, the flight connecting through Frankfurt is delayed for an hour on the tarmac, demolishing the time both teams need to reach their connecting flight. Thus, James/Abba & Jaymes/James are out in front, Trey/Lexi & Natalie/Nadiya are on a flight about 2 hours behind them and Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent are... in limbo.

In Frankfurt, the two teams run to make their connection, but they don't get it; they're stranded in the airport with no flights to Moscow until the following day! It's actually a little nostalgic for me to see the Frankfurt terminal, having spent quite a bit of time there myself in 2011 (albeit because I had many hours between connecting flights, not because I missed one). In Moscow, James/Abba & Jaymes/James arrive, the latter team noting how rare it is for them to running with the rockers at the front of the pack. Both teams travel in taxis to the Zurab Tsereteli Sculpture Park. In Frankfurt, the lagging teams book a flight via Warsaw for the following day. At the Sculpture Park, James/Abba & Jaymes/James find the park is closed until the morning (which would hearten the teams in the back if they knew). Hours later, Trey/Lexi & Natalie/Nadiya arrive, noting it's the coldest place they've visited thus far; the top four teams all wait outside the park for it to open, noting Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent are MIA. The missing teams are only just flying to Warsaw as Abba jokes to the others that he sees Abbie/Ryan coming; it's clear none of the top four teams are keen to see them.

The park finally opens ("We're Off to See the Wizard!" quotes James, titling this episode) and the top four teams find the next clue: travel to Moskvoretsky Most and locate Ivan the Terrible's guards. James/Abba grab a taxi, but the other three teams are told it's about 25 minutes to walk so they travel together on foot.

James/Abba find the guards first and discover it's time for the Detour: "Alphabetized" or "Synchronized." In the former, teams head to the Russian State Library and using a list of book titles, must find the titles in the card catalog (a truly massive catalog), then locate the books on the shelves using the catalog data. The head librarian will give them their next clue when they present her with four books from the list.

In "Synchronized," teams head to the Trud Sports Complex and must learn how to perform a synchronized swimming routine with female swimmers, moving in time with the music. A coach will judge their performance. Abba isn't sure about what his injured knee can withstand, so he and James decide to try "Alphabetize." Soon after they leave on foot, the other three teams arrive. Lexi seems to want to try the swimming Detour, but Trey isn't keen and suggests "Alphabetize" instead; Natalie/Nadiya & Jaymes/James choose "Synchronize" and the latter two head for taxis. Only Natalie/Nadiya have difficulty obtaining a cab. One of twins believes it's because "we're brown," although Nadiya recalls in Indonesia, they had "V.I.P. service," so I guess what goes around...?

At the library, James/Abba begin searching the catalog, but they're stumped by the cyrllic characters. This is a task I'd actually be very good at, not only as a librarian, but as someone who's had to work in cyrllic at the library. Over at "Synchronize," Jaymes/James switch into tiny bathing suits with their Chippendale collars on, but the judge tells them to remove them. As professional dancers, they quickly start learning the routines, but matching moves in the water is more difficult than on land. "You get a couple of big oafs like us in the water and you don't know what's going to happen!" James says. Natalie/Nadiya finally obtain a cab and Nadiya thinks they've lost an hour. They wonder if they should use their Express Pass this leg to get around one of the tasks, noting it expires after the next leg; it seems unlike most teams in the series history, they really have been waiting to use it as long as possible. They note how it needs to be a "smart" decision, perhaps being familiar with how generally lousy most Express Pass uses have been on the series thus far.

Jaymes/James make a few attempts at the routine in "Synchronize," but a few errors keep holding them back. At the library, James/Abba are joined by Trey/Lexi and warn the younger team, "Run for your lives!" In Warsaw, Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent are waiting for their next flight and estimate they've fallen about 9 hours behind the other teams. "There's really no point in even racing these guys," states the ever-optimistic Ryan. Back at the library, James/Abba decide to give up on the catalog and try the synchronized swimming, but Trey/Lexi have begun to figure out how to locate the cards. Elsewhere, Natalie/Nadiya begin "Synchronized," but their instructor doesn't speak English. Trey/Lexi find four cards then head into the stacks to locate the books themselves. Natalie/Nadiya are struggling with the swimming and decide to use their Express Pass to move on, but Jaymes/James hear about this and convince the twins to keep the Pass, reminding them with two teams gone MIA, there's no threat of elimination. This is genuinely good advice!

As Trey/Lexi find the last of their books in the stacks Lexi declares, "We did not give up on ourselves, that is awesome!" It's a sentiment which describes this episode pretty well - all through we're seeing teams struggle with carrying on. Because they're in a library, Lexi lets out a whispered "Woo! Yay" as the head librarian gives them their next clue: journey to the Luzhkov Most "Trees of Love," which sounds pretty romantic to them. Meanwhile, Jaymes/James finish "Synchronized" and head to the Trees of Love. At said trees, Trey/Lexi discover it's a Roadblock and they must choose a tree which has been marked with an Amazing Race ribbon; it has ten locks attaching it to the tree of locks (symbolizing eternal love) and they must unfasten it with a ring of keys. Their next clue is inside the ribbon. Trey volunteers to take the Roadblock; while he toils, Lexi notes how many wedding parties are meeting in the area to have their photos taken: "Don't be gettin' any ideas, girl!" Trey lovingly chides her.

James/Abba's cab brings them to the wrong swimming pool; they're having a lousy day. In Warsaw, Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent talk over the problem of racing against each other when they're so far behind the others. They agree to form an alliance and race together for this leg, shaking hands to seal the pact. It's surprising to see the normally-competitive Ryan be so gracious, but perhaps they've considered this could be a Non-Elimination leg... or they think the 9 hour gap is too large to be made up before both teams are ultimately eliminated. They finally board their flight to Moscow! At the Roadblock, Jaymes/James arrive and James takes the task. At "Synchronized," Natalie/Nadiya pass the Detour and move on to the Trees of Love. James/Abba finally begin "Synchronized," prompting the judge to declare "I'm already afraid" when she sees how out-of-shape the two men are. Back at the Roadblock, Trey finishes using the keys and opens the ribbon, where he finds a metal vial containing a 100 ruble note. They have to discern this means the Pit Stop is the location seen on the note: the Bolshoi Theater. It's a good ol' fashioned Amazing Race puzzle clue! They quickly learn what the building is and head there in a taxi. Natalie/Nadiya start the Roadblock next and Natalie takes the task. At "Synchronize," James/Abba have a rough time matching the timing with the other swimmers.

At the Bolshoi Theater, Trey/Lexi arrive at the Pit Stop and Phil awards them 1st place and a trip for two to Maui. The couple say they're immensely in love with each other and have realized they're a strong team who could win the $1 million prize. Back at the Roadblock, James finishes the task and they head to the Bolshoi; Natalie struggles a little with the task and Nadiya isn't terribly sympathetic, claiming Natalie "wasted an hour complaining." This is the second time this leg we've heard Nadiya claim they lost an hour. Perhaps she has her own way of measuring time. The two start trading "you're the worst partner ever" insults, seemingly in good fun. Elsewhere, Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent arrive in Moscow and both teams' taxis travel together to the Statue Park, while Jaymes/James arrive in 2nd place, their best finish thus far. James/Abba finally finish "Synchronize" after about 20 attempts. Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent want to work together on the Detour so they choose "Alphabetize," but the library is already closed so they have no choice - they must perform "Synchronize." If editing is to be believed, they aren't too far behind James/Abba now.

At the Roadblock, Natalie finishes the task and they head to the Bolshoi. At "Synchronize," Abbie/Ryan & Josh/Brent begin learning the routine. Abbie is a dance instructor and has some talent, while Ryan quickly finds his place, but Brent is terribly awkward. Natalie/Nadiya reach the Pit Stop in 3rd place, but are very negative about their performance this leg "despite the position." They're at least pleased to have held on to the Express Pass. James/Abba reach the Roadblock and ask their taxi to wait, but when Abba begins the Roadblock, they decide to go back and release their taxi so it won't run up a large bill. However, the cab is nowhere in sight! Their bags are still inside, along with Abba's passport! Abba begins the Roadblock anyway, hoping the taxi might reappear if the driver was simply moving to another spot. "Don't leave your bags in cabs, kids!" James declares. Abba finishes the task and they figure out where the Pit Stop is, but the taxi is still missing. They have enough money to reach the Pit Stop, but Phil can't check them in unless they have both have their passports.

At "Synchronize," Abbie/Ryan pass the challenge, but decide to stick around and support Josh/Brent. Even though he's trying to be good natured, Ryan can't help but laugh at Brent's clumsy efforts. James/Abba arrive at the Pit Stop but Phil cannot check them in; they have no clue how to proceed. TO BE CONTINUED...

Man, a "to be continued" leg - it's certainly been quite some time since I've seen one on this show. And thus I'm left to consider our last six teams in mid-race:

  1. Trey & Lexi: They've been very good at challenges, but their airport moxie seems fairly awful. They're really fortunate to have kept an alliance with Natalie/Nadiya, we'll see if they've learned enough to hold their own as the endgame lurches into view.
  2. Jaymes & James: They did terrific this week in basically every category; these two could still be in the game to the end.
  3. Natalie & Nadiya: As they noted, they had troubles this leg as they argued with each other and waffled over quitting the Detour. Obviously, next leg should be a major improvement as they'll definitely use the Express Pass.
  4. James & Abba: Now here's a team who struggled more than any; having already lost money last leg, this leg they gave up on a Detour challenge, lost time on the other Detour task, then lost a passport. I really want these two to stick in the game, so hopefully next week will have a good outcome for them.
  5. Abbie & Ryan: After having the wind knocked from his sails, Ryan actually showed some of his integrity, notably in the pact formed with Josh/Brent. They are definitely still the team everyone would like to see gone, but it's not impossible for them to remain in and even win, thanks to James/Abba's own problems.
  6. Josh & Brent: I have a feeling these two are about to say farewell; at least they're gone out in style, fighting to the end, but it's harsh to see how a single coin toss blew their game.

Next week: The Race continues in Russia as James/Abba search desperately for the missing passport, James (of Jaymes/James) wounds his ankle and Abbie/Ryan try to stay in the game. Will there be an elimination within the first few minutes? Whose will it be?

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