The Amazing Race – Episode 20-5 Review – “Curling Beards, Curling Gnomes”

On The Amazing Race last night, the remaining eight teams took off for Bavaria, Germany – NOT Bolivia, as one racer imagined. Sigh. Really, Rachel? Even this gal, who would choose a free trip to Africa or South America before Europe, had to admit that it was really damn pretty. A fairytale land! No really, it’s where the real life castle that inspired the one in Sleeping Beauty lives.

Now, I knew both Vanessa and Ralph had been married before, but did you know Ralph has been married THREE TIMES? And he’s only 36 years old! Had we heard of this before? It was the first I’d heard of it. Vanessa is a pretty girl and can be quite funny, too. I think she can do better.

While we’re on the topic of new information and observations on the teams, can we talk about Team Meathead for a moment? They’ve been growing on me, and the fact that Danny said the tongue sticking out on his panda hat was “kinda flirty” cracked me up. They might win me over yet.

Art and J.J. lost a little bit of their lead at the beginning of the leg when they had to wait for an inn to open so they could collect the Travelocity Gnome, a staple of The Amazing Race and one bit of product placement that I’ve never really minded. I mean, it’s a gnome! You gotta love him.

Hairy Men or Hairy Tale?

For the roadblock, the teams had to choose between “Fairy Tale”, in which they’d follow a trail and collect bits of gingerbread until reaching a village with a witch’s house where they’d complete a gingerbread house, or “Champion Male”, in which they’d style a champion beard enthusiast’s beard. Although it kind of skeeved me out, I would have gone for the beard as it seemed easier – but I might have asked for a pair of latex gloves.

Most of the teams agreed that beards either sounded easier, or kookier, and went that route. And what beards they were! Man. Isn’t that uncomfortable? I have long hair, and sometimes I find it uncomfortable and think about chopping it all off. Sometimes (not recently) I do chop it all off. I can’t imagine having all that on my face.

Meanwhile, Bopper and Mark had to face a speed bump after being saved from elimination last week. Their challenge? Yodelling! You couldn’t have selected a funnier team to have to yodel. “We didn’t have no choice but to have a ball,” Mark said. And did they ever have a ball! The guys laughed their way through the task and moved on to the Detour.

Art and J.J. kept leading the pack as they finished their beard-grooming first. They’d been creeped out by the task at first, but by the end they totally owned it. “I’m not ashamed of who I am and that’s one of my abilities — I can craft a man’s facial hair,” J.J. said.What’s with all these guys unexpectedly growing on me? Stop being so charming!

While the teams who opted for beard grooming moved forward, the three teams who chose “Fairy Tale” fell behind. Brendon and Rachel, Team Cousin and Bopper and Mark all went that route and were bringing up the rear. A witch was present to oversee the building of the gingerbread houses – the pieces of gingerbread everyone had collected had to fit together to form a roof. Best line of the night went to Mark, who said “I told her [the witch] how pretty she is and she’s uglier than a mud rail fence.” Ha! I have no idea what that is, but it’s funny. Worst line of the night went to Rachel, who opted for the Fairy Tale option after whining “I don’t even know what a beard is.” What? Just…what???

Eventually the Cousins departed the Detour first from their group, but everyone had trouble with the next step.

Sleeping Beauty

To get the next clue, teams had to traipse up a giant hill to reach the stunning castle that inspired the one in Sleeping Beauty. Seriously, guys? It was breathtaking. Also breathtaking was the hike up to the castle – no really, it was so hard that a few people had trouble breathing.I was actually quite concerned about Bopper.

In particular, the climb caused problems for Vanessa and Ralph. Neither one of them came out of their disagreement smelling like roses, but I’m still Team Vanessa. I mean, Ralph actually said “The little devil inside of me was laughing because I knew her legs were on fire.” Really, Ralph? Really? You’re on the same team! Why would you take pleasure in the fact that she’s finding something difficult? No wonder he’s been divorced three – probably soon to be four – times.

Art and J.J. were the smart ones in this situation, as they hired a horse carriage to take them up the hill. They conserved energy and maintained their lead over the other teams.

For all their struggles, Vanessa and Ralph still were in better shape than most teams. Several other teams actually went to the wrong castle first – Rachel and Dave and Nary and Jamie even took part on an interesting, albeit time-wasting, tour before realizing they were in the wrong castle. Bopper and Mark and the Cousins at least realized their mistake before joining a guided tour.

Curl Up or Die

That clue directed teams to a rink, where they’d have to take part in a game of curling using the Travelocity gnome. They’d slide the gnome down the ice and could move on only once a gnome was touching some part of the inner bullseye. Art and J.J. were still far ahead, and finished the Detour after what looked like only a handful of tries. They moved onto the Pit Stop (in a barn!) and Phil checked them in at first place. These guys are on fire!

One by one, the other teams completed the curling challenge and were checked in by Phil in the barn. Joey and Danny came in second place, followed by Vanessa and Ralph in third, Rachel and Dave in fourth and Brendon and Rachel in fifth. Brendon perfectly executed one of my favorite Amazing Race screw-ups ever when he jumped onto the mat in front of Phil and promptly fell on his butt. This has happened more than once, guys. When will y’all learn that the mat can be slippery? I have to hand it to Rachel, her exclamation of “Holy manure!” was pretty funny. But she still hasn’t made it through a leg without crying (this week it was while making the gingerbread house), so I still can’t abide her.

Mark and Bopper were sure they’d be last again this week, but they were pretty darn good at the curling and left ahead of both the Cousins and the Fake Teachers. They were checked in in sixth place, while the women stayed at the ink trying again and again to hit that bullseye.

At one point Nary (who’d been there quite a while) was on attempt #180, while Kerri had nothing to brag about as the was on attempt #sixty-something. Kerri finished first so it looked like the cousins would be safe, even though they got a little lost, had to stop for directions, and bickered a little in the car. But when we cut to the Pit Stop, it was Nary and Jamie who arrived to nab that seventh place finish instead. The editing was a little weird here, likely to create suspense, but I was left feeling a bit confused. How much longer did it take Nary to finish after the Cousins left the curling rink? How long were the Cousins lost for? Did they go very far off course?

I was sad to see the Mississippi Cousins go because I found them likable, but they were never really contenders in the race.


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