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Rejuvenated

Amazing Race - 13

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Last Thursday evening, as I do every night before leaving work, I doffed my jockstrap, rinsed it in the sink, and left it hanging on my office doorknob to dry. The next morning I came in, and what was lying in a damp heap on the floor? You guessed it, my jockstrap. About ten minutes later, who walks by but my next-door-office neighbor, Dalton Ross. Or, as I now call him, "my deadliest enemy ever." Does Johnny Jockstrap Knocker-Over not think I see right through him? It insults me that he thinks I'm so dumb that I won't realize that this was not the act of one of the many, many people who walk past my office door and could easily have accidentally brushed past my undergarment. No, Ross, I know it was you. And if you want to play dirty, you're gonna get something else. By which I mean that for the next three days at work I am going to talk about nothing but my crazy unfounded grudge against you for doing something completely innocuous, something that you probably didn't do anyway. Advantage mine!

Oh, Christy and Kelly: When they suspected Starr knocked Christy's sports bra off a hotel ledge, it was the dumbest motivation for a blood feud that I've ever heard. This is a story line that would be rejected by The Hills for being too superficial. After two weeks of watching The Amazing Race and listening to Christy and Kelly talk about what jerks their ex-husbands are, I'm now starting to get the other side of the story. What were the ladies' grounds for divorcing their spouses: cruel and unusual sock losing?

It's hard to believe anyone could race with Sportsbra-gate hanging over the game, but race they did, jetting to Bolivia. To quote every Big Brother contestant ever, it was "game on!" Especially for Sarah, who finally had the realization that every team was out for themselves, and "This is not a popularity competition. It's actually us against the other teams." Who filled her in on the definition of "race"? Here are some other epiphanies that will dawn on Sarah during the race: Santa Claus isn't real; those rave reviews in the ad for Beverly Hills Chihuahua aren't exactly from the best critics; and Las Vegas isn't a nonprofit entity.

When the teams jetted to Bolivia, they immediately had to sleep outside to wait for their clue. In the morning, the cameras seemed to take a perverse pleasure in catching the women applying their makeup, though we did not get to see Tina etch on her eyebrows. I have a feeling that is a process that involves industrial waterproof markers, a protractor, and a welding torch. It was odd to see Kelly drawing on or at least darkening her beauty mark. If she and Starr ever end up nose to nose, poised to fight, I would love to see Starr very slowly lick her own thumb, reach over, and slowly rub off Kelly's fake mole. Oh, the bloodshed that would ensue!

The teams madly paged through the morning's newspaper, searching for an ad that directed them to a local hat store. I don't know much about Bolivia: Is it particularly renowned for its silly hats, or is that just a new tack their tourism board is trying out? ("We need a hook, boys, because 'Come for the scenery, stay for the oxygen tanks!' isn't working. What's that, Hector? Make everyone wear a hat like Mr. Peanut, only three sizes smaller than their own heads? Well, it beats hypoxia, let's try it!")

The frat guys were the first to find the newspaper clue, and they took off. Earlier in the show, while discussing their lack of athleticism (they realized that lifting weights does not an athlete make), Adam said, "I'm happy with myself. I think I look pretty sexy." But it was delivered without any of the identifying intonations of knowing self-parody. Boy, I really wanted it to turn out that Adam and Dan are doing shtick and are actually trying to satirize frat guys, but it's just not gonna happen. If you check out the Amazing Race deleted scenes from last week on CBS.com, there's an incredibly awkward moment at the mat where Phil tries to hook up the frat guys with the Southern Belles, and a nervous Andrew and Dan can barely spit out anything but "Girls pretty." I haven't seen anyone with this little game since the last Red Sox rainout.

The Detour choices this week were "Musical March" or "Bumpy Ride." For "Musical March" you had to assemble a marching band and then lead them to get the next clue. The frat guys did this in their usual tense, joyless manner. Not even Dan's refusal to take off his ridiculous bowler hat could inject any whimsy into their demeanors. And their lugubriousness seemed to spread into their band; the musicians plodded slowly behind, while the happy-go-lucky Belles, with their inane clapping and cheering, quickly caught up to and then passed the fratters. Jeez, Andrew and Dan could depress K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

"Bumpy Ride" involved coasting down cobblestone streets on pedal-less bikes that looked like they were carved out of tree trunks. And just in case they didn't look silly enough, the racers were made to wear feathered helmets and gloves. You know the old maxim that you should always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident? It's even more important not to wear feathered helmets and gloves, but that seems too obvious for anyone to make into an adage.

I thought Christy would prove this rule in her mighty wipeout, where she bloodied her hand and it looked like she cracked her head against a wall. But nothing short of decapitation could stop her from continuing the race: Her bike was powered by gravity and hatred for Starr. Later, she would find out that Starr, when passing Aja, asked her and Ty to U-Turn the divorcees. It was a strange and pointless request by Starr: Why make trouble at this point, especially with Aja and Ty, a team that you have no great allegiance with? Now I don't know which team to root for in this standoff: I'm gonna go ahead and root for neither of them.

Next came the Roadblock, a wrestling match in which one teammate would, said Phil, "have to set aside all decorum and fight a girl." (Wow, there's a description that seemed like it was brought to you be the year 1953.) Each participant had to learn six moves in a staged wrestling match against a female wrestler (a Cholita), and then enact the routine in front of a cheering crowd. I'm not sure how they got the crowd to cheer, though. If you were a wrestling fan, and came to the fights only to find out you'd be watching nine lumpy Americans in unfortunately tight-fitting catsuits repeat the same six rudimentary moves, I think you'd feel fairly ripped off. Imagine if you went to see the Lakers play, only to find out that instead you'd be seeing chubby Bolivians taking bucket shots from the foul line.

The moves included "the slingshot," "kicked," "the duck and flip," and..."taunting"? That's a move? Man, the challenges this season really are easy, aren't they? Ken easily finished the challenge, and his enthusiasm was infectious. It even made Tina smile, and they shared a rare friendly moment, powering them to finish first in their second leg in a row. (Incidentally, I've been harsh on Tina

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We were wondering this while we watched the last episodes, while the racers are at airports for long periods of time, is there anything stopping them from getting on the internet and getting on websites like myspace and facebook and communicating with their family, since i know calling people at home is prohibited?

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Football causes delay in show tonight. Stupid overtime games!

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He was a sweet old guy! And he managed to find a way to hug those bumbling blondes!

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Did you see the look on Phil's face when his dad was hugging on the girls :animated_rotfl::animated_rotfl:

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"Hi, I'm Phil's Dad. Welcome to New Zealand". Definitely my favorite moment of this season so far.

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Yeah...that was great but I didn't quite catch what he said the first time...with his accent it all seemed to run together. Then with Tina's reaction I figured he had to be someone important so I paid closer attention the next time and then totally clued in!

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The Amazing Race can't always let a team's mutual irritation flower slowly and organically. Sometimes it can't fit a partnership's growing animosity into the show until one week has some open space and

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Love these synopsis(can't think of the plural form of that word). I am literally LOL-ing as I read. Thanks for the post and link!

ETA: I would def hug Phil's dad, but then again I attempted to seduce W when we both worked at the state capital...so there's no accounting for taste. lol

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I started off this season optimistically, but I'm coming around to the fact that this year's cast is pretty unimpressive. Everyone is either unlikable or unmemorable. I don't mind unlikable, as long as they're unlikable in a unique way, like, say, Mirna and Schmirna or Jonathan and Victoria. (Although I'm not sure if "abusive husband" qualifies as unique: Are they like snowflakes, no two alike?) But if a racer is unlikable in a way that I've encountered many times in my own life, why would I want to watch them for an hour? I'm speaking mainly of divorc

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In this relatively dull season, I will fall for any glimmer of hope that next week's episode will be a better one. So last week, when The Amazing Race touted that Ken would finally reach his breaking point with Tina, I thought, "Now there's something I'd like to see!" As a result, I watched every one of their interactions this week with gleeful interest, wondering which of Tina's pecking comments would be the one that would finally make Ken snap. The episode began with Ken repeating his weekly mantra that this race will show them whether they can continue as a couple and for God's sake, stop saying that and start fighting! And from that moment on, the producers provided a time-lapsed montage of what it is like to spend a day with Tina: Stop that. Shove over. You don't know what you're doing. Move that bag. Being married to Tina is like being married to a cattle prod.

When they entered the travel agency in Delhi at the beginning of the episode, for example, Tina really let him have it, belittling him until she finally commandeered his computer and snipped, "Sit over here and eat or something," to get him out of her way. It reminded me of Dennis Farina's line to Philip Baker Hall in Midnight Run, "Eat a sandwich, drink a glass of milk, do some f---ing thing." And yes, being married to Tina is probably a lot like being married to a Dennis Farina character. She continued to browbeat Ken for the entire episode, and just as I was wondering if I was remembering last week's coming attraction correctly, Tina pushed Ken too far about moving a bag in a cab and he yelled, "Tina, get in!"

That was it? That was the "breaking point"? That says a lot either about how subservient Ken is or about how hyperbolic the producers are, and I suspect it's the latter. Look at the other evidence from this week: The logline of the episode in the paper today was something along the lines of "One team's work on a task is destroyed by a windstorm," which referred to a few of Dan's clothes getting blown over in the laundry detour. That was the best drama they could find to sell this episode? Why not go with "Two opposing teammates begin a torrid fling"? Sure, all that happened was Starr and Dallas referred to a mutual attraction, one which manifested itself in one teeny remark at the travel agency. But hell, if Dan's blown laundry is being sold as an action-packed moment, then Starr and Dallas' flirtation probably qualifies as a porn movie.

All right, I'm getting ahead of myself yet again. I should have set the scene: Delhi, India. I would have bet that unique locale would be the site of some very exciting challenges, but you wouldn't have known it from the opening roadblock: spray-painting natural-gas-powered cabs green. Yes, it looked grueling, but it's hardly worldview-widening or intrinsically Indian. You could have staged this roadblock at a Pep Boys.

This roadblock did reinforce one of the most long-standing Amazing Race rules: The angriest, most mutually destructive couples are the most likely to use the word "babe." "Babe" is actually a euphemism for "a--hole." When Sarah was trying to paint the car, Terence hung over her, giving snippy, useless advice that boiled down to "You should do this faster, or we will lose this leg and it will all be your fault." And it all ended with "babe." As did her responses, which were a more polite variation on "Shut the f--- up." Babe.

Meanwhile, the frat guys, who started this leg last, managed to hit the roadblock second, but finish first. Finally, they were revealing themselves as the power players that they are! They've got brains...well, actually, after Andrew finished painting the car quickly, Dan said he was "da Vinci, Michelangelo, David, all rolled into one." Okay, David was a Michelangelo sculpture and not an artist, so maybe "brains" is a little strong. But hey, they've got wit! Oops, wait: When they just as quickly slipped out of first, unable to find a cab, Dan sulked about the divorc

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TAR is gonna be about 35 minutes late here tonight. Football ran over as usual...... :footballhelmet:

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Finally! I've been waiting all season for a challenge that has all the criteria to make a good Amazing Race episode: It has to be exotic and indigenous to the episode's country; it must be frustrating; and it must make the most ridiculous teams look really, really silly. Thank you, Delhi, and thank you, Holi festival!

In this festival, people celebrate by running around pelting each other with paint dye and water. It seems odd that they would hit people with the ingredients for paint rather than just splattering them with paint. Seems pretty inefficient: In vaudeville, what if instead of being hit in the face with a pie, the straight man was splattered with flour, water, sugar, eggs, and cream, and then tossed into an oven preheated at 350? But I'm not complaining: This roadblock would not have been half as fun without the giant multicolored mushroom clouds enveloping our players.

This was the rare episode that was actually better than the previous week's teaser. And I have the divorc

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TAR late as usual - thanks NFL! Should be on in about 15 minutes! Can't wait!!

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OOOH 2 teams going for the Fast Forward.... this could be interesting!!

ETA..... I could have been right about tonight LOL

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Survivor: Gabon's dull season suddenly turned around with last week's merge, and I'd hoped the same for this season's Amazing Race. Maybe last week's great paint assault heralded a more exciting race! And then BAM!

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By Josh Wolk

'It is now 4 a.m., and I am just finishing this update. I'm very late because I usually dictate this TV Watch to my editor, but she has started insisting I type it, and it's taking forever: You see, pushing keys with letters on them is a more artsy and fartsy based skill, and I'm more mouth-breathing and sit-on-my-ass based.

Oh Dan, Dan, Dan. Just when I thought I had seen all of your talents, it turns out that you have even fewer. The man can't march! March! Marching is just walking, but with a little extra panache! I'm glad that Andrew took control when they decided to serve borscht: I'm sure Dan would have frozen up, not sure which end of the ladle to stick in the soup.

Okay, let me back up. As usual, I have started this update in the middle. You see, starting at the beginning is a little too logic and basic-intelligence based, and my TV Watch abilities are more doofus and halfwit based.

When the episode began in the Kazakhstan airport as the teams booked tickets to Moscow, the producers took us on a musical tour of the Amazing Race sound cue library. When Nick and Starr inquired about flight times, we got ominous music to cue us that they would have a bad leg. Then Dallas showed up to paw at Starr's thigh, and we quickly cut to light, flirtation music. But this interlude was cut short by Dallas saying that he hates that Nick and Starr constantly finish first, and we abruptly segued into the climactic competition theme. At that point, we cut to the shoeless Dan and Andrew (who were wearing slippers because they left their shoes at the puppet theater), and I was surprised to hear they weren't introduced with the traditional Amazing Race "lunkhead" tune. I love that piece: I always think of it as the soundtrack to a cow with his head stuck in a bucket.

Dan was very worried about money, especially after they both bought sneakers at the 24-hour airport shoe store. An airport shoe store? Boy, cultures are different. Though, while I never would have expected to see one of those, I wonder whether Kazakhs visiting American airports are completely perplexed by the profusion of Cinnabons: "These crazy Americans. Why would they want to eat six pounds of cake and sugar right before being strapped into a small seat for hours? Why not spend their money on comfortable footwear instead?"

In Moscow, the teams first had to find a monastery, and nearly every cab driver got lost. The language barrier in Russia was the most obstructive of the whole season. Why didn't everyone just do what President Bush did in 2001 when faced with the same problem: he didn't need words, he just looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and got a sense of his good soul. Perhaps the problem on the Race was that the players were all in the backseat and couldn't make eye contact with their drivers; if they had only been able to stare lovingly into the cabbies' eyes, they could have gotten to their destinations with hours to spare. It's simple politics, people!

They all eventually found the monastery. ("That place kinda looks churchy," said Dan, seeing one option. Hey, don't come down hard on him: Finding churches is finding-steeples and opening-the-door-and-seeing-all-the-people based, and Dan is more so-who-brought-the-gefilte-fish based.) Everyone had to light a candle to get the clue, and Andrew carried his lit candle like he was handling plutonium. Is nothing easy for these guys? Never mind, I'll address that when I get to the part in which Andrew is stymied by wrapping up his foot.

From there it was off to a decommissioned military camp, where teams had to get in military fatigues and either learn how to march or serve borscht. And this was the frat guys' time to do the opposite of shine. Toni and Dallas breezed through the marching: "It was just a natural way to move," Toni said, a premonitory slap in the face to Dan. Ken and Tina also quickly passed, and it was no wonder that Tina quickly mastered the military skill, considering that as she changed into her fatigues, she revealed that she was going commando. When she confessed to going without underwear, I flashed on a terrible image as I wondered whether or not she drew things on down there like she does with her eyebrows. If so, that is one angry-looking vagina.

Excuse me as I slice off the top of my head and scrub my brain with lye until that image goes away.

When Dan and Andrew first arrived, Andrew was confident they would do well, because he had six years of marching band experience under his belt. This is the least surprising item ever to be found on Andrew's r

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By Josh Wolk

''After a long, traffic-plagued drive back home from our Thanksgiving trip, my wife Christine and I finally got our kids to bed, and I prepared to watch and write about The Amazing Race. As I checked my e-mail one last time before starting the show, my wife was trying to plug in an extension cord, and in doing so, accidentally yanked out the plug for the cable box. When we replugged it, the box wouldn't reboot correctly. I knew the Race was delayed by football, but it was coming on any second, and our TV wouldn't work. Finally, after rebooting the box one more time, the picture flickered on, just as Phil Keoghan was recapping the previous week's episode.

I recount this tale because while we were staring at the unresponsive TV, I found myself thinking, "If I miss the show, I'm gonna be so pissed at Christine." And then I proceeded to watch a show in which, after a son made a careless mistake and cost his mother half of a million-dollar prize, she wept over how much she loved him and was proud of him. And I got in a snit over missing a few minutes of a TV show.

Needless to say, I retroactively felt like a d---.

Toni and Dallas: What a team. They made me unsure whether I was watching The Amazing Race or a really competitive Hallmark ad. And now they're gone, leaving three teams that it's really hard to root for.

Things started so well, with the mother-son team beginning the leg in first place. (Curiously, however, the producers didn't announce at what time each team left, like they normally do. I have many conspiracy theories, but it was probably just due to the fact that Dan was so arrhythmic last week that it actually shorted out everyone's timepieces.) The first task was to go aboard a nuclear submarine and find a man who played an officer in The Hunt for Red October. Does this actor have the lowest Q rating in the world? Not only was he not important enough to name, but neither was his character. The only thing notable about him was his 18-year-old film: He was one strata of interest below "the guy who played another guy in that movie about the thing." At the final pit stop, Phil was on the mat with a guy in military garb with a goofy mustache; I thought that perhaps this was part of a theme, and I expected Phil to say, "I'm standing here with the man who played Bumbling Cadet Who Ogled Callahan's Chest #3 in Police Academy: Mission to Moscow."

But the actor clearly was still aces at his craft, considering how realistically he pretended to be on the phone talking to Sean Connery as the teams approached him for his clue. (Considering Andrew had wondered earlier whether it would be Connery at the clue box, I was surprised he didn't ask the actor whether he was on the horn with Alec Baldwin. "Uh, can you tell him that me and my frat brothers liked him in The Cat in the Hat?")

I worry I'm over-mocking the frat guys, but there's some cosmic force that commands everyone to do just that. For example, when everyone got their sub clue and dashed outside to look for a cab, there was a priceless scene of Dan and Andrew on the side of the road, getting doused by a passing truck driving through a puddle. Watching these guys is like watching a tightly-wound Ziggy cartoon. All that's missing are bald heads and a cloud raining only on them.

Everyone dashed to the roadblock, in which one teammate had to be "good at solving mysteries...literally." As someone whose pet peeve is the overuse of the word "literally," I will spare you the 812 reasons why the word made no sense here, even if the challenge was indirectly about a mystery writer. But suffice it to say, the repeated reading of the clue made tear my own head off and throw it at the TV screen. Literally.

For the roadblock, one teammate had to count the number of Lenin and Stalin statues, put the separate numbers together, then take a cab to a store where, if their numbers were correct, a shopkeeper would give them a book by the aforementioned mystery writer; at the book's page with the same number as the statue total, there would be a clue to an address where the teammate's partner would be waiting. This was such an incredibly convoluted challenge that I expected Jeff Probst to jump in and explain that you also had to untie a knot and free some puzzle pieces.

Dallas started to fall apart here; he wasn't sure who was Lenin and who was Stalin, and mixed them both up. ("I paid a lot of money for his education, but I'm not sure he's gonna know how to tell the difference," said Toni. To be fair, he did major in hair gel, and Lenin was bald, so clearly he wasn't in Dallas' curriculum.) But the mistake didn't look fatal. After all, Dan and Andrew went to the wrong park. And they weren't even close: at the correct park, it was cloudy and raining, but at the frat boys' park, it was sunny. They were so far off they had a completely different weather pattern. I'm surprised there was gravity where they were.

Plus, I expected a flameout from Ken and Tina, who were bickering throughout the leg. (When Tina demanded that Ken ask their cabbie to put out his cigarette, and her husband refused, she closed her eyes and pressed her finger into her forehead. This is a look I'm sure Ken gets so many times that he's given it a number. "Uh-oh, it's #14, which I call 'Forehead Fury.' But I gotta say, I prefer it to #23, which in large doses can cause infertility.") Before the roadblock, Tina stopped to check her pack for her passport and money; as we'd been warned in the coming attraction that someone would lose those very items, I thought this was foreshadowing that it was Tina who would mess up. How sadly wrong I was.

Nick quickly solved the mystery roadblock (literally!), and then they were off to find the next clue, which would be given by a woman in fatigues with a Shetland pony. (This looked like the most obvious pedophile sting operation ever.) Starr was a little confused, thinking that maybe this would be a woman with a ponytail. So who paid for Starr's education, and how pissed is he or she?

Dallas, on the other hand, was completely stymied by the roadblock, giving the shopkeeper wrong answer after wrong answer, collecting ten-minute penalties. He'd still be there now had Tina not told him the answer. It has always been Tina's strategy (much to Ken's chagrin) to share information with people, and I've never seen someone who looked so unfriendly act so generously. It's a little disorienting, like having a Hell's Angel offer you a brownie.

We were still set up for frat-boy failure, however, as a wet Andrew proudly presented his number to the shopkeeper and was wrong, even though he had enlisted a Russian cabbie to help him count. I was convinced that this was the frat boys' death knell. But then Dallas, trying to get back to his mother, watched his cab drive away with his passports and money. But here's what bothered me: He didn't seem to go to much effort to chase after the cab, did he? Everything we'd seen so far indicated that Moscow was choked with traffic; wouldn't he have eventually caught up?

Still, I thought that not even the loss of cash and passports was enough to overpower the natural forces that don't want good things to happen to Dan and Andrew. When Dan heard the news and smiled, saying, "It's crippling. Hopefully Andrew will come here soon and we can finish this out," I thought for sure it was going to cut to Andrew falling into an open manhole.

Toni and Dallas made a valiant effort, begging for money to stay in the game. But the errors kept piling up, like their taking the train instead of a cab to a clue and being forced to turn around by the pony lady. And then Dan and Andrew faced a Speed Bump completely tailored to their lack of talent: mastering a Russian dance. I would bet that there was a different Speed Bump planned, but once the producers learned it would be Dan and Andrew, they threw together a rhythmic task just to get some more laughs. It didn't have the same magic, though. It seemed like Dan decided that if you combined an infinite number of spastic movements with an infinite number of epileptic seizures, you'd eventually come up with a perfect Russian dance, and he did. The judge was far too kind to him and let him pass, even though he just seemed to be doing a series of not particularly amusing drunken jumping jacks. It just goes to show: The sequel is never as good as the original, whether in movies or uncoordinated nerds.

Nick and Starr easily won the leg, while the frat guys just barely edged out Ken and Tina. It wasn't as close as it seemed, though, as Ken and Tina were sent back to find the clue they hadn't picked up; they had just spotted the frat guys and ran after them. For a few minutes the producers made it seem like this could save Toni and Dallas, but eventually gave up the charade, as the mother and son were so far behind that Phil had to track them down to give them the news that they were out of the race. (His mustached mat-mate, however, didn't come along. He probably was already late to an audition for the role of Bumbling KGB Agent #4 in Larry the Cable Guy's Git R Doneski!)

We were left with Toni and Dallas' tearful farewell. He looked shellshocked and guilty as she kvelled over her beautiful boy, waving away his mistake by telling him, "This has been the best experience of my life, and I wouldn't change a thing that we did. I have never been so proud of you, baby." I had to wipe away a tear and not just because of the final three teams that we're left with. Really, who do you root for now? I have nothing against Nick and Starr, they're just innocuous and thus hard to get behind. And Ken and Tina? If they're still bickering this late in the game, there's no triumph in their winning. She'd probably just yell at him for not holding the giant check correctly. As much as I hate to say this, I think Dan and Andrew are going to win. Think about it: In nearly every leg, they've just barely survived by finishing second to last. If they keep that pattern up, then the only way to just miss being eliminated in the finale is to finish first. The same laws of nature that cause them to lose their shoes and get doused by a cab will see that they win. Granted, they'll do it in some horribly embarrassing way, like they'll tie their shoes together, fall off a cliff, and accidentally land right on Phil's mat. But win they will, and I only hope Phil laminates their million-dollar check, because the ink will otherwise run when that rain cloud breaks above them.

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20243419,00.html

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So Nick and Starr won. I had a hard time putting words to my own reaction, but all I could come with was that it was the exact opposite of the words "yay" or "boo." I didn't just have no reaction, I experienced complete and utter indifference. It was as if someone rushed in and yelled excitedly that the results of the "What's your favorite part of the tire?" poll were in from Wheelenthusiast.com, and it was lug nuts by a nose.

Nick and Starr's win was also the only result that made sense. They had the best record of anyone, consistently finishing at the top of the pack, barring one or two bad legs. I mean, they began this last leg three and a half hours before the second place team. Ken and Tina were fine racers, despite all their bickering, but they didn't have the record to support a win. And Dan and Andrew? They kept saying that if they pulled this out, it would be one of the biggest upsets of The Amazing Race ever. Yes, on the negligible chance that this happened, it would have been a huge upset, and it also would have rendered the entire season moot: If you can dunderhead your way through the Race, narrowly escaping elimination each week just because you suck an iota less than one other team, and then randomly win the final leg, then skill means nothing. It would be like me hopping into an Olympic swimming pool wearing water wings during the butterfly finals and nabbing the gold because everyone else randomly got an arm cramp.

As another advantage, Nick and Starr had something that (cue Huey Lewis!) the other two teams didn't have: The Power of Love. I had to keep reminding myself that they were brother and sister, what with their exchanges of "I love you," backseat cab cuddling, hand-holding, and affectionate touching of foreheads. Was this The Amazing Race or Flowers in the Attic? Their parents must be either very proud, or incredibly creeped out.

As the episode started, everyone was on the same final flight from Moscow to Portland, Oregon. Side note: When Starr and Nick were looking up flights online, and I saw that the trip took just over 15 hours, it hit me just how messed up Race contestants' systems must be, what with these long-ass flights. And more importantly, can you imagine how many crappy in-flight movies they must see in one season? Instead of endgame quizzes about their various challenges and pit stops, they should get tested on plot points from Kevin Costner's Swing Vote.

This early in the leg, the frat guys were still feeling cocky. "For people who think we're gonna be chicken feed" for the other teams, said Dan, "they're mistaken." Or could it be that they're right on the mark? Dan is the kind of guy who says, "It's crazy but it just might work," but it's always ends up just being crazy. And not even crazy in an interesting way; more crazy like a guy who keeps maintaining that Robert Prosky was in Law & Order when he's really got him mistaken with George Dzundza.

I enjoyed the moment when they were comparing flights, and Andrew suggested taking one with a connection in Barcelona. Dan sneered patronizingly and snickered, "It's a smaller airport," like Andrew was the dumbest man alive. Which, granted, he may be; I haven't seen his test scores. But I wouldn't judge someone's IQ by his knowledge of international airports.

As soon as they landed in Portland, the gods that are in charge of cursing the frat boys recovered from their jet lag and sent Dan and Andrew the last in their series of bad cab drivers. Their consistent back luck really has been remarkable. I noticed that Andrew was wearing a new pair of sandals during this leg; I think it's because on the way to the airport, he stepped in every single pile of dog crap in Russia.

We knew their cab driver would suck even before they did, as the producers added a foreshadowing slo-mo effect to the crazed-looking driver as he fastened his seat belt. It stopped me cold, because this nefarious editing is the same one you see in movies when the hero steps into a car that a hit man is driving. But it turned out that this cabbie wasn't evil, just completely clueless about Portland's surrounding area. I got a kick out of Andrew helplessly watching as he passed a sign for their destination town, but with an arrow pointing in the opposite direction. If I ever work as a cabbie, and I happen to pick up Dan, I think I will drive straight to, and then off of, a bridge. Sure, I'd die, too, but it would be worth it because the last thing I'd hear would be the familiar whine of Dan saying, "Oh, of course this is the cabbie that I get."

The first detour (which was neck and neck between Ken-Tina and Nick-Starr) was a choice between two logging exercises, and everyone picked the ropes-course walk over logs 30 feet up in the air. Tina was the most nervous, snapping at Ken's encouragement from the ground. Wasn't it just minutes earlier when Tina had said that she could now trust Ken again because he'd clearly changed? Apparently that re-found love and respect only held true at low altitudes.

Tina had an inordinate amount of trouble with her helmet, which kept slipping off, and she couldn't get it unfastened to just toss to the side. What kind of safety crew (a) let's someone take off their helmet when 30 feet above the ground, and (B) affixed it so crappily in the first place? I can only imagine how carefully these people checked the contestants' safety lines: "Yes, ma'am, it is perfectly safe. While I don't know any knots per se, I did make sure that the bunny went around the tree at least three times, so that's gotta be good for something."

From there it was off to a 2,000-foot zip line, but it was all just an excuse to cut back and forth between Nick-Starr and Ken-Tina, who were remarkably close. Only occasionally did they cut over to the trailing Dan and Andrew. We did get to see them finish the logging challenge, and there was a hilarious shot of Andrew being slowly lowered to the ground. Even after an adrenaline-pumping challenge at great heights, he still looked like he had no joie de vivre. The way he descended, his body weak and limp, it looked like someone had just gone to the superstore Shlubs 'R' Us and asked the guy in the cherry picker to get one of the old models off of the top shelf.

After the zip line, the teams faced an elaborate what-have-you-learned challenge in which they had to search among 150 clue boxes for pictures of events from various stops in the Race. The challenge itself wasn't all that interesting: There is no drama in watching people try to solve what is essentially just vacation trivia. What partially rescued it was the back and forth between the two leading teams; one minute Ken and Tina were ahead, then Nick and Starr pulled in front, and back and forth it went. They still seemed neck and neck after finishing the game, when they had to find a Russian food cart in the city. Starr got the Russian flag mixed up with Italy, saying, "Red, green,and white, that's Russia!" Replied Nick, "That's Italy, Starr." I suppose this might have been an excusable error had these people not just finished a race around the world. Starr traveled thousands of miles, and she still only recognizes what she's seen at a Sbarro?

After finding the Russian food cart, the teams were directed to find a store with the bawdy slogan, "The magic is in the hole." Since it was a doughnut shop, you'd think that the ideal mystery solver would have been a cop, but Nick and Starr found the next best thing: a pudgy slacker. Pudgy slackers know three things: how to bum a smoke, why all movies today suck, and where to get a good doughnut come munchie time.

The doughnut shop having been found, Ken-Tina and Nick-Starr both searched for a cab to no avail. Ken even tried to pay a passenger $50 to give up his cab. The driver would have none of it, yelling, "This is a customer!" and speeding away. Living in New York, I was shocked to hear a cabbie so staunchly defending the passenger-driver contract. In New York, the cabbie would have yelled, "You'll give him 50 bucks to get out? Tell you what, for 40 bucks, I'll kick him out!"

Ultimately, as close as the producers made it seem, when Nick and Starr arrived at the final mat first (to be cheered on by the old hippies, the divorc

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I am a relative new watcher of TAR and usually only lurk here on the forum (I enjoy all the comments very much) but something bothers me about the way the have the race set up.

It seems that whoever comes in first on a given episode then leaves 12 hours later for the next leg, which is fine. But it seems there is never a plane available to get them out of town without almost all other teams making it to the airport and being on the same plane. They loose the coming in first time advantage and it simply starts all over as a new race each leg. There have been a few legs where they are split on two different planes leaving at different times, but if a team is 2 hours out in front at the end of a leg, shouldn't they have that advantage on the next leg? Don't know if what I'm saying is making sense, but there has to be some way to let that first place team have their time before the next team can catch a plane. My wife says it they did do something like this the the first place team might end up winning by days instead of minutes..

I think of the Tour de France. They all start one after the other after the first leg based on how far apart the were when they arrived. They all don't start at the same time each day as it seems is being done on TAR because the winners have to wait half a day for the next plane.

Thoughts, anyone? Am I missing something?

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