Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Double Effed

"Be there in a jif!"

Wow, tonight’s is the most exciting episode of The Amazing Race I have ever seen! There are lots of delays allowing everyone to catch up to each other, lots of scary and difficult challenges, and lots and lots of bad luck. This is what I like to see. Grand holiday enjoyment!

We’re setting off tonight from Dubrovnik, Croatia and Phil is wondering whether Nate and Jen are going to be able to salvage their deteriorating relationship. My question is: why would they want to? Moronald and Christina are first out the door since they were our last winners. The clue tells them to travel to Ancona, Italy, so first they have to get to Split, Croatia, and then take a ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Pretty! They hop in a cab and Christina gives her usual speech about their progress in the race reflecting their progress in their relationship. Yeah, yeah, you have a mean dad. Spin it however you want. In the car they decide that prego means “please” in Italian. I thought it meant “you’re welcome” so I did some research and apparently it can be used in either case. Crazy Italians. Good food, though.

Jem and Rio leave second and Jem describes them as “the pink and black attack.” Oh dear. She says that they never let each other be less than their best and that’s why they always match. Just kidding, that’s why they always do well. Jem’s makeup is complicated and pristine for being the middle of the night. Oh, so is Rio’s. Priorities, you know. Rio says that Italy is known for fashion, style and grace so they are going to fit in very well. Yes, I’ll be surprised if they’re not recruited to model the collections in Milan.

All ready to sit in the car for the next 30 hours!

Ugh, The Babies are next and they seem to have kissed and made up after the horror of their last leg. They talk about how they are hopeless once they get riled up and they have no idea if they’ll end up together. Yes, yes, we know. Hey! There’s a kitty wandering around at the bus station, how cute!

Ciao, gatto!

Moronald and Christina discover of course that there is not a bus to Split until 5 AM, so everyone is going to catch up at the bus station. That’s the problem with arriving at the Pit Stop in the afternoon. You leave in the middle of the night just to get somewhere and wait around until morning. Sleeping is way too big of a deal for me to ever be successful on such an adventure. When Jem and Rio arrive Christina remarks that watching them is like a performance and Moronald calls it Kabuki Theater. LOL, Moronald. That’s the first time you’ve made me laugh in a good way.

The Hippies are leaving now and they definitely did not get up early to put on makeup. Rachel looks exactly how I would if I had to leave somewhere at 5:37 AM. Or 7, 8 or 9 AM. Okay, or 10 or 11.

Good morning, sunshine!

Since they were so spread out on the last leg, The Hippies and Nick and Grandpa Donald aren’t going to be on that first bus to Split. The Hippies catch a 6 AM bus, but Nick and Grandpa don’t even leave the Pit Stop until 7:06 AM.

Well, despite the different bus times, every team ends up on the same ferry over to Italy. And this ferry looks like a luxury cruise liner. Jem and Rio settle at a table and get right to work touching up their makeup. Well, anything to pass the time I guess. There wouldn’t be enough room in those duffle bags for all of my makeup. The four other teams pal around playing cards together during the ride, but Jem says that they are staying separate because once they get to Italy it will be every team for itself. Plus the cards would smudge her wet black nail polish.

Someone can't see the forest for the trees.

The ferry seems to be an all-day expedition because it is 9:40 PM when we get to Italy. The clues are taped to some street barricades that everybody goes running right past except for The Hippies, who spot them immediately. They try to be stealth about tearing their clue off, hoping no one will notice and that everyone will keep running around confused. Unfortunately the producers used loud tape and everyone turns around when Rachel rips the clue off.

The teams are now instructed to drive to Empoli, a town somewhere in Tuscany about 200 miles away. When they get there they have to make their way to an airfield. Also, each team has been given a Blackberry along with their clue that will deliver a message at some point during their drive, but they’re not allowed to use if for anything except reading the message. How mysterious. Each team boards a totally European car – in other words, a tin box on wheels. Deciding on drivers is an issue since the boxes are stick shift and not everyone has mastered the art of driving one. Including Rio… and me. The non-drivers are in the backseat trying to navigate using an Italian map, which basically looks like colored spaghetti, so most of the teams stop to ask someone or other for directions. Most of the teams are told they should drive through Bologna, then Florence, then on to Empoli. However, The Hippies are told to go through Rome and then on to Empoli. I did some extremely thorough Wikipedia research and discovered that Empoli is very close to Florence, but driving through Bologna then Florence would entail a little bit of backtracking. Coming to Empoli straight from Rome looks more direct, but maybe the Bologna/Florence route utilizes main roads. The Babies realize that Bologna is out of the way and decide on their own route.

As The Hippies begin their drive, they realize that they are missing something of great importance – the clue. We’re shown a shot of their clue sitting back on the table at the café where they stopped to ask for directions. That really sucks. They search the car, then pull over and search the car thoroughly, realizing that they don’t know where to go once they reach Empoli and if they don’t find the clue, they could be out of the race completely. They practically dismantle the tin box looking for the clue and this is the most frustrated we’ve ever seen these two. And they’re still absolutely calm. You can just tell TK is upset because he keeps repeating softly that this is really disappointing. Not being able to find an item will make me insane faster than anything else in the world, so I completely understand how frustrated they must be – this would be awful. They finally give up on looking in the car and head back toward the café to see if they left the clue there. TK tells Rachel to prepare for the possibility that the race is over for them. Poor Rachel.

As the other teams make their way toward Bologna, The Hippies revisit the café to look for their lost clue. Soooooooo luckily for The Hippies, one of the nice girls who gave them directions put the clue in her purse and happened to still be hanging around at the café. When they come rushing back in a panic, she retrieves the clue to their immense relief.

"The crazy Americans are back!"

As they climb back into their tin box, TK says that all this excitement is too much for his mellow self to handle. They hope that their shortcut through Rome will save them time and allow them to catch back up to the other teams.

Right about now Jen’s Blackberry starts ringing and it turns out that Nate’s parents have sent him a message. So this is the grand Blackberry surprise – messages from loved ones; that’s sweet. Moronald and Christina get a message from Steph, Christina’s sister, reminding them to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity they have to bond, which causes Moronald to tear up. If only he could remember those feelings all the time and stop being such a jerk. Jem and Rio get a message from Jem’s parents, Nick and Grandpa get a message from Nick’s Dad (Grandpa’s son), and The Hippies get a message from TK’s parents to their dear little Thomas Kyle. Everyone’s spirits are bolstered by the encouraging family messages. Thanks, CBS!

As The Babies wind their way though the back roads on their super secret route to Empoli, the teams who are driving through Bologna hit a major traffic jam. And it gets worse. Not only is there a traffic jam, but the exit toward Florence is closed and everyone is being rerouted toward Milan. Christina remains calm and searches her map for alternatives. Jem and Rio start redoing their makeup again in case they see any designers in Milan, and Nick and Grandpa Donald discover that the road to Florence will open at 6 AM, so they pull over to take a nap and wait. The Babies successfully navigate the side roads and make it very first to their next clue in Empoli. Well, wouldn’t you know it, whatever it is they are supposed to do there doesn’t start until 7 AM, so they get to just hang out in their tin box for a while longer. At the clue box are numbers one through five, so The Babies pull number one and get comfortable.

About the time the sun is coming up, The Hippies arrive at the clue box and are completely elated to discover that after their huge setback they are still team number two to arrive. That detour in Bologna really screwed the other teams. Nick and Grandpa Donald are just now getting back onto the freeway to head toward Florence, and the other two teams are still driving around somewhere in Italy trying to make their way back to Empoli. Jem and Rio are particularly frustrated driving around trying to find the freeway again and having no luck.

At 7 AM The Babies and The Hippies are allowed through a gate to retrieve their next clue. There is a red Road Block notice and a green Fast Forward notice. Phil, what could all of this possibly mean?

"Check out this ultra Road Block."

So! For the Road Block one team member flies around with a pilot in an Ultralight, which is like a hang glider with an engine. From the air they have to scan the countryside in a six mile radius looking for the name of their next destination – Vinci – which has been spelled out in huge white letters in a field. When they spot the letters, they signal the pilot, land, and tell their instructor the word they saw to retrieve their next clue. The Ultralights can only stay aloft for 30 minutes at a time before needing to land and refuel.

Not just a guy from "8th and Ocean."

As for the Fast Forward, this is an option that comes only once during the entire race. The first team to find the Fast Forward and complete it gets to skip the rest of the leg and go directly to the Pit Stop. This Fast Forward involves finding the Fabio Studio to take part in a “local seafaring tradition,” not knowing what that tradition might be. Here’s the trick. This particular tradition is getting tattooed. They have to get a picture of the romance novel model Fabio tattooed on their bodies since this is his studio. Just kidding, they have to get the letters FF tattooed on themselves in honor of the Fast Forward. It just so happens that the F’s match the F on Rio’s t-shirt, which says Fallen, so I’m rooting for Jem and Rio to take the Fast Forward.

Jen is really in favor of her and Nate doing the Fast Forward, but Nate is staunchly against it and heads for the Ultralight. The Hippies both decide that the Fast Forward would be too risky, so TK also boards an Ultralight. As Jen and Rachel stand on the ground waiting for their boyfriends, Moronald and Christina and Nick and Grandpa arrive at the clue box. Christina immediately says that they are not going to do the Fast Forward. All of these people must be really familiar with The Amazing Race because I would have had no idea how dangerous the Fast Forward would be. It sounds like a great idea – until there’s some Italian dude with a needle in your skin. Well, Nick and Grandpa decide that it’s worth the risk and in order to stay in the game they are going to conquer the Fast Forward. They climb back into their box and head for the Fabio Studio. Oh great, Nick is on another search for a parlor of some sort.

Meanwhile Moronald starts yelling at Christina for having the gall to ask him more than once if he wants to do the Fast Forward. Apparently this is the first time Rachel has been privy to such a scene and she tells us that she has no forgiveness for the way Moronald is treating Christina. Yes, join the club, Rachel.

Out in the middle of nowhere, or just somewhere in Italy, Jem is starting to lose it. She and Rio are still lost and the frustration and lack of sleep are finally catching up with her. She starts crying and saying she doesn’t know what to do. Oh, I can so relate to this. In fact, I am so impressed with how long most of these people have held out without falling apart completely. I mean, driving around all night in a strange country trying to find your way to a city when the roads are blocked off and you can’t figure out the map? That is brutal. Rio offers to relieve her and take a turn behind the wheel.

Up in the air, Nate spots the white letters and tells his pilot to take him down. TK hasn’t seen anything yet and continues his flight. The Babies get the clue and learn that they have to now drive to Vinci – the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci, creator of the Da Vinci Code, according to Dan Brown. They have to find Leonardo Da Vinci’s birth home for the next clue. As The Babies drive away, Jen is still miffed that Nate didn’t want to do the Fast Forward because now they definitely won’t come in first place. TK’s first 30 minutes are up and his pilot has to land to refuel. He gets ready for round 2 and Christina goes up in an Ultralight to take a look for herself.

Spy anything, TK?

Nick and Grandpa have miraculously located Fabio Studio and walk in to discover what will be required of them. Neither is particularly thrilled to learn about the tattoo and I wouldn’t be, either. First of all, it’s an ugly tattoo, and secondly, the tattoo guy is almost cross-eyed. Not a promising outlook.

"Trust me, eh?"

Well, the guys buck up and decide to do it. Quite the permanent price to pay to come in first on a leg. I don’t think I’d do it, but I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you, since just about the only thing I would do so far is count fence posts. They both decide to get the tattoo on their left biceps. At least it won’t be conspicuous. Oops, I mean, yes it will.

Christina spots the letters on her first flight, but TK is still having no luck. The Babies arrive in Vinci and find the Vinci estate, then decide to jog 3 kilometers to the spot where the next clue box awaits. Christina and Moronald head out in their tin box and Jem and Rio are finally reaching the outskirts of Empoli. Nick and Grandpa Donald complete their double F’s and now get to drive to Boboli Gardens in Florence for the Pit Stop. Oh, Florence is so beautiful! This is another city I would be tempted to stay in and quit the race.

Double fudged. For life.

As The Babies complete their uphill 3K they discover a parking lot, meaning they could have driven instead of jogged all the way up. Of course Nate starts cursing at Jen because after all, she is out to destroy him. The next clue is a Detour! Hooray for Phil! The choices for this Detour both involve an activity from the Italian Renaissance. In Invention, teams have to assemble a replica of a crane that Leonardo Da Vinci invented. Once assembled, they use the crane to hoist a large stone a foot off of the ground, then slide a mirror under the stone to read the clue, which is written backwards, in the Da Vinci Code! The other option, Tradition, is to learn a flag tossing routine. The Babies choose the flags and I’m sure Jen is excited to redeem herself to the Dance World after making such a fool of herself in Africa.

Jem and Rio finally arrive at the airfield where TK has still had no luck spotting any letters. Jem decides to go up and give the Ultralight a try. Just now Nick and Grandpa Donald are arriving at Boboli Gardens to the fanfare of an Italian horn and Phil waiting to greet them on the mat. Welcome to Florence, Italy! For coming in first, Nick and Grandpa get to go on Spring Break to a resort and spa in Cancun, provided by Travelocity, naturally. There’s an in-room Jacuzzi waiting for them to soak their tattoos in. Yay, Nick and Grandpa! I have to admit that the stupid tattoos were a really good strategic move for these two. I don’t know how much longer they would have lasted without this boost.

The Babies start learning their flag routine and Jen goes into her bossy dance teacher mode again. Nate is clumsier than the Clippers girl and has a harder time catching on to tossing and spinning flags around. Moronald and Christina arrive at Da Vinci’s home and, seeing The Babies’ tin box parked at the bottom of the hill, park their box as well and begin the hike. Guess who still can’t find the field letters. That’s right, TK! He’s been up three times and says this could be the most heartbreaking thing he’s ever been a part of. Yes, very bad luck for The Hippies this leg. Jem finds the letters right away so she and Rio are off. The Babies are told that their first attempt at the flag tossing routine will not do. Their second attempt gets a hearty, “Si!” and they get the final clue telling them to go to the Pit Stop. They bid farewell to the Italian guys in tights. Jen says she’s really proud of Nate for following her instructions so well and they get second place. Moronald and Christina start their flag lessons next.

Jen relives her high school glory days.

TK finds the letters at long last and Jem and Rio stop to ask for directions to Vinci. Moronald and Christina’s first flag routine is rejected and they have to try again. They get it right the second time and get ready to make their way to Florence. As Christina tries to climb into the backseat of the tin box Moronald starts driving away, almost killing her. When she screams he’s like, “What?” Oh, Moronald. Jem and Rio decide to do the Invention challenge, but once they get a look at the Da Vinci crane they change their minds and get into the tin box to go find the flag tossers. The Hippies settle on Invention. As Jem drives around looking for the flags, she becomes disoriented again and this is where Rio flips out on her as we saw in the previews. He orders her to stop the car or else he’s jumping out. They yell at each other for the first time that we’ve seen and I wonder what is going to happen to little Rio if he jumps out of a moving vehicle in a narrow Italian alleyway. Luckily Jem spares us this sight by pulling over and Rio takes over the driving once again. Neither of them are in good spirits at all by now and Rio can’t get the box into the correct gear to move at all. Jem orders him back out and gets back behind the wheel. She discovers that Rio has done something to the box that has prevented it from working at all now.

The Hippies make progress on the crane and Jem and Rio finally abandon their box, pull out their backpacks and jog to the flag tossers. Phil steps in to tell us that if a car is deemed inoperable, a replacement car will be provided, but no time credit is given for the breakdown. Moronald and Christina make it to the mat in third place, and The Hippies have gotten their crane together and cranked up the stone high enough to slide the mirror underneath and read their final destination: The Boboli Gardens in Florence.

"Spoiler: The Holy Grail is really Mary Magdalene."

As they drive off, they ponder over how unlucky this leg has been for them. They pass Jem and Rio and realize they aren’t in last place, but just as things are looking up one of their tires explodes. You’ve got to be kidding me. These two are going to need straightjackets after all of these mishaps. Jem and Rio successfully learn the flag routine and head for the Pit Stop in their replacement box. TK gets his tire changed, so we are in another edited neck and neck race to the mat. The Hippies make it first and almost collapse in relief to find out they are still in the game.

Poor Jem and Rio come scampering up to the mat to learn that they have finished in last place. BUT!!! Phil breaks the glorious news that this is the first of only two non-elimination legs in the race! Jem and Rio are still in this thing! Hooray! The elusive non-elimination legs actually exist! So even though they get to stay they have to encounter a Speed Bump at some point during the next leg as punishment for coming in last. The Speed Bump is a task that only Jem and Rio have to complete while everyone else keeps going, and they won’t know when it’s coming. They run a high risk of elimination next week. Jem compares the Speed Bump to a three-headed serpent that could spring at any time.

Anything about Rio's shirt look familiar?

Next week Jem and Rio get sneaky trying to stay in the race. Also, Moronald verbally abuses Christina as they reenact what looks like a scene from The Bicycle Thief. Creep.

So, how did you like tonight’s episode? Exciting enough for you?

Thanks for reading!
-Honey Gangsta

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