'The Amazing Race' recap: Read 'em and weep

Bucky reports on last night's Amazing Race:

Welcome back to The Amazing Race.  We are still in St. Petersburg, Russia and tonight’s leg will be run in and around the city, using taxis.  Oh no!  I hate it when taxi drivers have an impact on the race.

Jill & Thomas depart first and are told to head to the circus for the first clue.  The other teams depart in staggered order of last week’s finish and since there is no airline flight, Jill & Thomas should have an advantage.

Fake Out!  The circus is closed, and by the time it opens, all the teams are basically even.

The circus is the site of tonight’s Detour.  The choices available to the teams are:

Circus Band – teams will take lessons from a circus accordion player and when they have mastered a three-part song, they will get their next clue.  (I never thought of the accordion as a circus instrument.  I always think “calliope” when I think circus music.  When I think accordion music, I think “Lawrence Welk” and “polka”.)
Circus Clown – teams must learn how to spin plates on a stick and when they have become proficient enough to have 10 plates spinning simultaneously, they will get the next clue.
Wow ... another pair of difficult challenges.  I’m not sure which I would have chosen.  Both seem pretty impossible to quickly master to me.  

Gary & Mallory and the Doctors, Nat & Kat, choose Band, while the rest of the teams choose Clown.
One big difference in the two challenges is that the plate spinning task is done in a very noisy and busy circus ring, making concentration difficult, while the accordion lessons are done outside the circus tent and the teams there can concentrate better.
The TV Hosts, Brook & Clair, finish the plate spinning task fairly easily and are in first after the Detour.  With persistence, most of the other teams also succeed, except for Chad & Stephanie, who switch from the plates to the accordion, and Jill & Thomas, who switch from the plates to the accordion and then back to the plates.  As a result, they finish the Detour last.  If it’s any consolation, they get the more complete circus experience, however.
The next clue directs the teams to take their taxis to a bridge, where they find a clue that says they should walk to a tower—don’t take a taxi and don’t let their taxi driver lead them—where they will get yet another clue.
When Michael and Kevin get this clue, Michael tells Kevin, “Read carefully, don’t miss a word.”  And, just in case we might not get the significance, the producers put his warning in subtitles on the bottom.  OK, I get it.  They have to follow the “walk, don’t taxi” instruction to the letter.  I’m not that dumb and neither are any of these contestan...
Whoops!  Kevin grabs Michael and they head down the street, following their exceedingly helpful taxi driver, who leads them to the next location.  KEVIN!  We told you last week!  Listen to your father!
At the next location, the teams do sort of a modified Road Block, where one member from each team goes up in a tower with another member from another team.  There they have to figure out their next destination, but there isn’t a clue box.  But there is a little, semi-hidden model of a Russian cathedral and if they can spot that, look out over the city (where they can see the cathedral) and connect the dots, they know where they should be heading.
Nick & Dr. Kat go up first and after a bit of confusion, figure out that they are to head for the cathedral.  They go down and, still walking, as per the instructions, head there.  Brook & Kevin go up the tower and after a similar bit of confusion, figure it out and go back down.  BUT ... down on the street, Kevin tells Brook & Clair to grab their taxi, just like he and Michael do.  Brook & Clair don’t stop to think and so Kevin leads them into a rule infraction as well.
Mallory and Thomas ascend the tower, figure it out and head to the cathedral and, finally, Stephanie goes up the tower alone (because there are an odd number of teams this week).  She can’t figure it out, so Chad goes up and he figures it out.
At the cathedral, teams get a clue telling them to go to where Peter the Great is buried, which they have to ask locals for help in figuring it out.  Apparently, after the stop at the cathedral, taxis are legal again.  (I will say at this point that the entire “no taxi” rule got a little confusing for at least one viewer and his lovely wife, Mrs. Bucky, at this point.  This was not the best-produced part of the Race, is my input.)
Once they figure out that Peter the Great is buried at the Peter & Paul Fortress, they all head there in their taxis.
It is on this ride that Brook & Clair re-read the instructions and figure out that Kevin made a mistake in using a taxi—and enticing them to use one too—between the tower and the cathedral.  So they immediately turn around and retrace their steps, doing that portion of the route according to the rules.  Excellent thinking, ladies.
The Peter & Paul Fortress is the site of this week’s Road Block, which is playing a game called gorodki.  It is like bowling, except that it only has five pins and they get stacked up in varying configurations.  And instead of a ball, you throw a big stick at them and try to sweep them off the alley, not just knock them down.
Kat, gorodki-ing for The Docs, starts first, followed by Michael, who ran the whole race by taxi and still didn’t take the lead.  Brook, Nick, Stephanie, Thomas and Gary start their gorodki games in that order.  Kat turns out to be a pretty good gorodki-er and finishes pretty quickly.  She gets the next clue, which says find the Pit Stop, right there in the fortress.  The Doctors again finish first and each wins $5,000, which they will be able to spend on the two trips they’ve already won.
The two racers who have trouble with the gorodki sticks are Michael and Stephanie.

Michael falls to 6th place and Stephanie is the last gorodki-er on the lanes.
The final order of finish is ...
1st – Nat & Kat, the Doctors

2nd – Brook & Clair (who incur no penalty for taking the taxi from the tower to the cathedral, because they re-traced their steps and corrected the error.)

3rd – Nick & Vicki

4th – Gary & Mallory (Gary is an all-pro gorodki-er, by the way, and pulled his team up from last place with his skill.)

5th – Jill & Thomas

6th – Chad & Stephanie ... but, wait!  Phil asks them if they have paid their cab driver and they haven’t, so they have to go back and do so.  (Another rule.)  That opens the door for ...

6th – Michael & Kevin ... but wait!  Phil tells them they broke the anti-taxi rule twice, so they have to incur back-to-back 30-minute penalties.  They go sit down for an hour.  That opens the door for ...

6th – Chad & Stephanie, who return from paying their taxi driver.  But wait!  Phil tells them they broke a rule, so they have to incur a 30-minute penalty.  However, Phil explains that Michael & Kevin are still in their first 30-minutes of penalties, and there is no way for them to catch up so...

7th – Michael & Kevin, who are eliminated.

Yes, it was all very confusing.  But what was even more confusing was the fact that Nick & Vicki, who were saved because last week was a non-elimination leg, didn’t have to do a Speed Bump tonight.  What’s up with that?  Did I miss it?  Did they do a Speed Bump that was so easy that I didn’t even see it?  Was their Speed Bump, “Wink at the camera and flash a tattoo”?
What’s going on here?   

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