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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iThe Amazing Race/i: “Release The Brake!”
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We’re still racing! At the end of last week’s madcap episode, Marcus and Amani arrived at the mat first, only to be handed a new clue by Phil and sent on their way. It was probably inevitable that this week would be an enervated letdown, and indeed, the entire hour played like a protracted epilogue to the previous episode. It never really seemed plausible that last place Bill and Cathi would catch up to the rest, despite the best efforts of the editors to convince us otherwise. But we’ll get to that later. First, we’ve got some product-placed cars to test-drive!

The Roadblock is the Ford Proving Ground in Belgium, where one member of each team must take a brand-new Ford Horsey out on the track for a 100 MPH sprint, a 16-second slalom, and a double victory donut. Marcus and Amani get a little lost, so Ernie and Cindy are first to arrive. That’s not necessarily great news for Ernie, as he gets stuck with the most deadpan, humorless driving instructor possible. In fact, I’m pretty sure I took my driving test with this guy. Despite Ernie’s trouble with the slalom—he repeatedly hits the big blue balloon at the end of the track—he is the first to finish, and he and Cindy are off to Gent.


Jeremy, who is apparently much more of a gearhead than Ernie, is hot on his heels. Marcus and Amani finally arrive, followed by Andy and Tommy, who were still flexing in their Speedos when this episode began. Tommy takes the task, leaving Andy seething with jealousy. Well, as much as a Dude can seethe, anyway. (Andy later prays for forgiveness for his sinful ways, and Christ lifts his burden. I’ll refrain from snarking just this once. It is the holidays, after all.)  Bill and Cathi? Still way behind.

In Gent, the Detour choice is Water or Waffles, which is really no choice at all. The answer is Waffles every time as far as I’m concerned, which might not have been the smartest gameplay in this case, but still…waffles! Unfortunately, teams are not forced to consume large stacks of waffles, but merely build waffle stands and create 18 distinctly decorated waffles. (They don’t even have to sell the waffles, which seems to defeat the purpose of the stands.) This proves to be a time-consuming process, whereas the Water task, which entails building a raft with pontoons and paddling down the river to collect two pieces of the clue, is a bit more expeditious. Perhaps because it lacks the distracting temptation of delicious waffles.


For the final task, teams must help a trainer release a flock of homing pigeons, although in this case “help” apparently means “watch,” as I didn’t notice the teams doing anything at all. They must then drive to an address that the pigeons have allegedly flown to and collect a tiny clue from one of the pigeon legs. The clue contains a picture of the Atomium, a giant sculpture of an iron atom in Brussels. What a fun attraction! I must add Brussels to the itinerary of my next European vacation. The Atomium is the pit stop, and Andy and Tommy are the first to arrive. They are each rewarded with a customized Ford Horsey.

It’s certainly no surprise when Bill and Cathi, who have been at the back of the pack all episode long, are eliminated from the race. It is slightly surprising that they get their own greatest hits montage before arriving at the mat. Then again, maybe they deserve it. After watching them spend the first episode of the season wandering around like befuddled tourists, I remember expressing some frustration that they were spared by an unprecedented first leg non-elimination. I believe I may have even called them “toast.” Well, the toast took an awful long time to brown, so I have to give them credit for surviving as long as they did, and even thriving for a while. It’s just too bad their exit couldn’t have been part of a more suspenseful episode.

Stray observations:

  • “Master Your Mustang” could have been a whole different kind of Roadblock. But they wouldn’t have been able to show it on CBS.
  • According to Marcus, the next leg of the race is the “conference championship” before the final leg, which is the “Super Bowl.” Because Marcus can speak only in NFL metaphors at this point.
  • Next week: The last elimination before the final leg. Here’s hoping it’s Jeremy and Sandy. No real reason, except that they bore me.

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