Sorry I missed last week – too much paying work to indulge my hobbies. So Amanda and Kris got eliminated. What a shock – I had them pegged for the final three.

Okay, we start in Siberia with last week’s first place finishers, flight attendants Christie and Jodi (what the hell happened last week?), setting out on a lovely snowy Siberian afternoon to find the local train station, where they will catch the Trans-Siberian Express for the 400 mile journey to the city of Novosibirsk. Once there they must race to something that sounds like “The Punk Technique something or other,” and looks like the
back parking lot of a New Jersey strip mall, complete with signs in Cyrillic lettering.

Kisha and Jen depart 3 minutes later. In a cutaway they describe their strategy as “Stay with the pack.” They believe they can beat any of the other teams in a foot race and, assuming they’re right, it is a solid strategy, I figure. The two teams stroll to the train station through a soft snowfall. There are puddles around and the snow flakes are huge, so you know the temperature can’t be much below freezing. Nevertheless, Kisha bitches constantly about the cold. I really wish the weather was more like it was in Wisconsin last month, when the temperature didn’t get above -17C or 0F for a week. See how you like that, wimp-ass New Yorkers.

Turns out the Trans Siberian only comes through once a day. All the teams make the train, which departs at 10:26 p.m.

The train arrives sometime after sunrise. The Novosibirsk train station is great – kind of an art nouveau faux-castle in turquoise. Miami city planners, take note. Teams run for a cab. Kisha and Jen promptly abandon their stick-with-the-pack strategy and head left when the others go right.

Cara and Jamie are first to arrive at the Punk Technique something or other. It’s a Detour. Phil tells us teams will have to face “one of two unavoidable aspects of Siberian life: Russian bride or Russian snowplow. I’ve met a few Siberian women and I gotta ask: how do you tell the difference?

The camera cuts to a (shame on me) pretty, sweet looking young woman wearing a white bridal gown in her apartment in a Soviet-era concrete apartment complex that reminds me of the public housing high-rises they finally tore down in Chicago a few years ago, except all the tenants are white and there’s no graffiti.

The bride challenge is beyond bizarre. Teams drive a manual transmission Lada to pick up a woman in her bridal gown and drive her to meet her husband-to-be at a church across town. All the grooms, by the way, are dressed in military uniforms. Are we supposed to believe there is going to be a mass wedding of brides from the same apartment complex and men from the same platoon? The teams get their next clue once the photographer has snapped a wedding picture. Like I said – bizarre and then some.

The snowplow challenge consists of driving a snowplow through a curved training course laid out with snow tires in a parking lot.

Watching Amazing Race contestants drive standards is always fun. Victor and Tammy ally with Cara and Jamie in journeying across town to the snowplow training facility. They stop at a gas station for directions. Cara and Jamie go in to ask. Slime bucket Victor asks a cab driver and takes off, leaving his allies in his dust. He’s a Harvard trained lawyer – what else needs to be said? Later in the trip V&T pull over to ask for directions again and Margie and Luke, who are following them, pull over also. Tammy gets directions and V&T split while Margie and Luke yell at them to wait.

Let’s all get the rules straight, okay? If you make an agreement to travel together with another team to the next clue (i.e., V&T and C&J), then you have given your word and honorable people keep their word. If you are in a race and following someone with whom you have no agreement (i.e., M&L and V&T) asking them to wait for you is in very poor form.

And speaking of the Russian-made Lada, do you remember back in the early eighties when the Yugo, a car from Yugoslavia, tried to make inroads in North America? It is a little known fact that the scantily clad woman in their promos was known as the Yugo girl, which is where Oprah got the phrase that carried her to fame and fortune.

The flight attendants stop and ask a group of young men, who are drinking vodka on the street in the middle of winter, for directions. Afterward they complain that the men were plastered, touched their butts, asked their names and had bad teeth. This is a surprise? Clearly Christie and Jodi haven’t worked the London to New York route very often. They also take their bride to the wrong church, putting them far behind the second to last team, Kisha and Jen.

V&T finish the detour first. They now have to drive to the largest library in Siberia (there are 17 syllables in the name, none of which rolls off the tongue). Jamie and Cara are 2nd, Margie and Luke a close third.

Mel and Mike finish the detour in 4th, and are the first team to finish the bride challenge. Mark and Michael finish 5th over at the snowplows.

With Kisha and Jen and Christie and Jodi the only teams that have yet to finish the Detour, the leaders are arriving at the next clue. It’s a roadblock – one team member has to run 2 kilometers through town in their underwear to the Novosibirsk Opera Theatre, the largest theatre in Russia and the pit stop for this leg of the race.

First off in their underwear is the lovely Luke, closely followed by Cara and Tammy. The two women are wearing matching black briefs and blue sports bras, so my guess is the producers were persuaded to provide something more substantial than what the women set out in several hours earlier (and if they didn’t change clothes on the crowded Trans Siberian train, they may have been wearing the same underwear they put on the previous morning). Victor, by the way, is disappointed it was Tammy’s turn to do a roadblock – he really wanted to run through the street in his underwear. Like I said before – he’s a Harvard lawyer.

Mike of Mel & Mike is next off, followed by Mark of Michael and Mark.

M&L finish 1st for the second time. Tammy, who passed Cara, secures 2nd place for herself and Victor. Cara leisurely strolls in and she and Jamie take third. Mark and Mike are fourth, Kisha and Jen are fifth and Christie and Jodi have gone from first to worst. But wait – it is the first non-elimination round.

Can the flight attendandants survive next week’s speed bump? Only if disaster befalls one of the other teams.

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