The Amazing Race – Episode 17-5 Review

I still don’t really understand where it all went wrong for Team Volleyball. I mean, their elimination last night was inevitable. They started out the leg in last place and never had the good fortune to catch up. There were no flights or long waits to even up the playing field. Remember the days when teams would all arrive at the next challenge in the middle of the night, and fights would break out over who was first in line? It feels like ages ago.

The thing is, Team Volleyball appeared to be the whole package. Athletic, not unintelligent, they didn’t fight and they had the right attitude – at the beginning of the leg Katie kindly reminded her teammate that “This isn’t Amazing Friend, it’s Amazing Race“. The volleyball amazons didn’t seem to screw up at all this leg, they just never had the opportunity to catch up – and unfortunately, that made for a bit of a drab episode.

Gone, Baby, Gone-dola

Things kicked off with Thomas reminding us, yet again, that he graduated from Notre Dame and JUST CAN’T BELIEVE that he’s dating a girl who DIDN’T EVEN GO TO COLLEGE!!! The madness! Cheez! You’d think he was dating a hobo or something, the way he goes on about it. I wonder if Jill ever tells him how she graduated from hair school and can’t believe she’s dating a guy who’s such an arrogant jackass? I would.

We also learned that Nat and Kat are like sisters, and that Gary is a die-hard Amazing Race fan. As much as I want an all-girl team to win, Gary and Mallory have pretty much become my choice to win. (Sorry Michael and Kevin fans, but they’re too much of a long shot.) We also got some insight into Brook’s personality – she told us “I am the most hyper, energetic, dedicated, passionate person anyone’s probably ever met.” Oh Brook, you silly thing – you left out “annoying”!

Teams had to travel across the border to Norway and ride a gondola up a mountain. So many mountains this season! Nat and Kat were first, and as Katie (I loved her for her icy, icy heart) pointed out, “the blonde one” had a crippling fear of heights. She was right – Nat kind of freaked out on the gondola and said she’d given Kat permission to push her off a cliff if it came down to it. If only Brook had given someone permission to do that as well. Luckily, Kat and Nat arrived first and grabbed the Fast Forward, which meant they were exempt from having to repel off the side of a bridge.

Nice to Meat You

Instead though, Nat and Kat had to partake in a Norwegian Christmas tradition (I had to giggle when Mallory later read that clue and squealed “I love Christmas!”) which involved zero festivities and eating an entire animal head in front of a very stern looking Viking. (Loved it when one of the docs tried to engage the man and finally gave up, saying “You’re very inspiring.”) Those Norwegians really know how to party! The catch was that Nat had been a vegetarian for 22 years, so eating an animal’s head was not really her idea of celebrating the joy of Christmas. She powered through it though, declaring the disgusting dish tasted “like a million bucks.” Yeah yeah, tell it to PETA. I’ve got to hand it to the docs, though – they could possibly win this thing. After stomaching the Fast Forward they arrived at the pit stop in first place again.

This left the rest of the teams to battle for second place, and almost everyone was smart enough to know there was no sense in going for the Fast Forward. Almost everyone.

Nick and Vicki are their own kind of stupid, though. Not only did they go for the Fast Forward, they went for it without really knowing what it was. “I’m sure everyone’s doing the Fast Forward,” Vicki said. Ummm, then why are you going for it? They either didn’t bother to read the rulebook, or they just can’t read, because they had no idea that only one Fast Forward is handing out. When they arrived at the location and saw a sign saying “Fast Forward taken” they still didn’t get it. These guys are there own special kind of dumb. They eventually gave up because they just didn’t understand this crap, or something, and headed to the bridge with everyone else.

Learning the Ropes

The Roadblock, repelling down a bridge, was pretty physical. Getting down was easy, but pulling oneself back up required an awful lot of upper arm strength. Thankfully, Kevin performed the task for his team and Gary for his. They both finished relatively quickly, but Claire was not so lucky. This is the tough thing about having an all-girl team – we just don’t usually have the same upper body strength that men do. Claire really had a hard time, both with the excruciating climb and Brook’s even more excruciating cheers of encouragement. She means well, but she is SO freakin’ annoying. Claire struggled so much she cried, but eventually made it up – and it was kind of sweet when Brook told her to channel her “spicy” grandmother, who’d died a few days before they left for the race.

Everyone else seemed to do OK with the repelling. I was pretty surprised when Vicki opted to do it over Nick, but if we learned anything this episode, we learned that while Vicki might be dumb, Nick is both dumb and physically inferior.

Something Smells Fishy

The Detour offered the teams the choice of “Bike” or “Boat”. In “Bike”, teams had to each drive a mountain bike to a location where they’d have to memorize a combination that was color coordinated to their lock back at the start, then ride back and open the lock. In “Boat” teams had to direct a boat driver (captain…?) to a location and then haul two heavy fish and a chainsaw (weird, right?) up a mountain to some dude’s house. I would have chosen “Bike”, unless I was Michael and Kevin, because Michael is old. They did, and although it was the right decision it was the slower option – the fact that they always have to choose the slower, less physical task could eventually be this team’s demise.

Gary and Mallory went for “Bike”, as did Jill and Thomas, and they arrived in second and third place. Thomas couldn’t avoid being condescending and angry even though they were in the front of the pack, telling Jill “Try to keep up, OK?” when they mounted their bikes. Apparently he took a double major in biking and arrogance at Notre Dame. Michael and Kevin earned a respectable fourth place. Next were Brook and Claire, who’d chosen to do “Boat” after Claire finally pulled her way up to the bridge. Despite a nasty looking gash on Brook’s eye (courtesy of the car, apparently) they arrived in fifth place to a cry of “That’s insane!” from Phil. Brook was unfazed. Nothing gets that girl down, it’s like she’s on happy pills 24/7!

Boy, is Nick ever getting the Idiot Edit this season. You’d think it couldn’t get more embarrassing than misunderstanding the Fast Forward and letting his girlfriend complete the super-physical challenge, but it can! After he bragged about how he’d been riding BMX bikes since he was 12, Vicki totally schooled him in the Detour. They arrived at the mat in sixth place, seconds after Nick proudly proclaimed “I think we’re in second, dude!” How? How did he think he was in second place? Oh right, he probably doesn’t know how to count…

Slow and Steady Loses the Race

Even though Chad and Stephanie and Team Volleyball were the final two teams, it was clear Team Volleyball was out of the running. Either they left long after the other teams and never had a chance to catch up, or they made some unseen error that prevented them from it, but even Chad and Stephanie receiving directions from a stuttering Norwegian couldn’t delay them long enough to let the girls catch up. Chad and Stephanie landed on the mat in seventh place, and Team Volleyball was eliminated.

I’m actually going to miss Team Volleyball because of their casual quips, but they never managed to raise their game to the same level as their dismissive attitudes. Now I’m stuck between rooting for The Docs, as my favorite all-female team, or Gary and Mallory, as my actual favorite team. Next week the teams go to Russia – will one of the Hairstylists and Her Jerk Boyfriend teams get eliminated?