Like many casual fans of the Amazing Race, I keep a cross-indexed reference file of things I learn from each episode that will help me once I get on the show (shout out to the casting crew: that restraining order expires in 2010 and you shit-for-brains better be ready, because this time I’m not taking “no” or “drop the gun or we’ll shoot,” for an answer.).

In any case, as we watch Margie and Luke start the show by heading out at 2:56 a.m., you know they are going to wind up in a bottleneck at the airport waiting for the first flight out and everybody will end up starting even. So here’s my strategy: if you’re not going to finish first and win whatever free trip to the Caribbean they have, play smart and get as much sleep as you can, know what I mean? Like, you get in third and you just stand on the edge of the mat letting other teams finish ahead of you and then, when the last place team comes in sight, you step on the mat so you’re safe and you get to sleep in. Plus there's the added bonus of getting to see the losers' hearts break.

M&L get the day’s first clue. This leg starts with a flight to Munich, a drive to the Alpine village of Ruhpolding and a cable car ride to the top of a mountain to get the next clue.

As the mother-son team head out we have to listen to Margie in voice-over tell us about how tough it was for Luke growing up deaf and being called retarded and yadda-yadda-yadda. I’ll tell you what’s retarded – the producers not letting up for a freaking minute on the poor deaf kid mantra. Drop it or let the other players bore us with their stories of how pathetic their lives are being a lawyer or ugly or too pretty or gay or the oldest or the youngest or the stupidest or a student at Auburn.

Tammy and Victor are off a minute later. They borrow the cab driver’s cell phone and call ahead to reserve a seat on the first flight to Munich. Clips of the others heading out and using the same strategy – borrowing the driver’s cell phone and making reservations while on the ride to the airport. Last to depart are Steve & Linda at 4:04. For some reason she is in full rain gear, pants included, while no one else was so much as carrying an umbrella. We get a clip of Steve apologizing to his wife for making her cry (repeatedly) in the first episode. He is truly ashamed of himself. I am more moved by these two callow, middle-aged Virginians and their devotion to each other than I am by M&L.

At the airport everybody but flight attendants Christie and Jodi and stuntmen brothers Mark and Mike make a 7:10 flight. By the time the women called to make a reservation there were no more seats on the 7:10 (they were next to last). As for Mark and Michael, who started in third: they simply blew it by not calling ahead. The two teams head out on the next flight, an hour and a half behind the others.

Cars are waiting for the teams at the Munich airport. Victor and Tammy make Ruphold first and snag a cable car that’s just heading up. Amanda and Chris are right behind, but have to wait 15 minutes for the next car.

On top of the mountain one team member has to para-glide back down to the valley floor, 6,000 feet below. Yeah, 6,000. Over a mile of empty space. God, I love this show. But they can only jump off the mountain if the wind is right. If the wind is not right the would-be para-glider can hike back down the mountain, which takes approximately an hour. The other team member, meanwhile, takes the gondola back down and waits. Mel, of the legendary gay vaudeville father-son act Mel & Mike, chooses to be the para-glider. Bad choice. He pulled a groin muscle in last week’s cheese challenge and he makes it clear that the hiking back down option is not one he can take advantage of. So while Mel waits for the wind to change the other teams arrive and, one-by-one, decide to hike back down.

Mel, all alone now on the mountain top, is convinced he’s lost the race: then the wind changes. He and his instructor go for it. I watch them float down to the green valley and think Heaven must be like that.

Linda takes a wrong turn on the way down and winds up on the wrong side of the mountain. You feel bad for Steve and amazed at her ineptness in this competition so far. She hitches a ride and finds her husband waiting, everyone else having long since finished and left. She is in tears at having disappointed him once again. He sucks it up and spends time consoling her. My emotional attachment to these two losers deepens.

Tammy made it back to the valley floor first. The clue sends her and Victor on a 25 mile drive to a village on a lake. At the village is a detour. Teams can either drive Segways along a two-mile obstacle course or take turns throwing pies in each others’ faces until they find one with a cherry filling. They are in Austria, where pies look like cakes and cakes look like cathedrals built to scale. The producers wanted to have them throw cakes, but when the insurance company found out they would be throwing Austrian cakes they said they wouldn’t insure the show at any price – are you mad?

After doing the detour, teams have to find a Tyrolean Woodcutter for their next clue. I figure it’s a trick. As every Stark Trek Voyager fan knows, Tyro is a desert planet. But no, they do have Tryoleans in Austria. Guess some survivors managed to escape before the Borg arrived. They evidently support themselves by building coin-operated machines that have mechanical doll-like figures that cut small pieces of wood for the amusement of children and foreigners. After getting their clue, teams must drive to the pit stop, the Schloss Hellbrunn estate in Salzburg.

Tammy and Victor finish first and win a “hybrid go-cart.” A gas-electric, environmentally friendly go-cart? What’s the fun in that? Go-carts have to be gas only, or better yet a gas/oil two-stroke. The National Association of Go-Cart Enthusiasts has three criteria for the original RV: It must be louder than the local noise by-law permits, blow out blue exhaust in excess of what on-road vehicles are allowed and your girlfriend must be afraid her hair is going to get caught in the motor. If it ain’t that, it ain’t a go cart.

And clearly Victor and Tammy agree with the NAGCE. Phil says, “As the winners of this leg of the race you will each receive a hybrid go-cart,” and the Harvard lawyers say, “Huh?”

As the remaining teams struggle to the pit stop the light goes out of the sky and night falls. All is not well with Kisha and Jen, with younger sister Jen telling the camera the race is the most frustrating thing she has ever done and now just the sound of her sister’s voice grates on her nerves. Next to last are the flight attendants – again – and it is Steve and Linda who are eliminated. The pressure of constantly being at the back of the pack has worn them thin and they weep hard at their elimination, then console one another so sweetly. Yeah, I’m a sap for unadorned devotion and unadulterated love. So shoot me.

1 comment:

America's Next said...

Im enjoying this season right from the start. like your recaps, but you should lay off Auburn. We arent that bad