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'Amazing Race' recap, Delivering letters in Berlin, the world's hippest city

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This week's Race takes us to Berlin to learn that 1) historical quotes are hard, yo, and 2) hipsters in Berlin win at hipstering.

It’s the Final Five teams, because we lost Chuck and Wynona in Switzerland after some improperly transported cheese. But they’ll always have ... The Mullet.

In the middle of the night, teams leave Switzerland and take a train to Dresden, Germany. In some interviews, we learn that Max and Katie are surprised to not be winning every leg. Joey and Meghan are embarrassed to be in last place. Bates and Anthony want to keep their fake girlfriends close, because, I don’t know, eye candy?

At 5:26 a.m., when most people are sleeping on the train, Bates wakes up to discover his backpack is missing. What? Did someone steal it? And, if so, it’s a train. Unless it made a lot of stops, couldn’t he do a train-wide shakedown? Put on his intimidating hockey player face and, you know, persuade people?

He’s cool with losing his stuff, though, mainly because his passport is on his person. Oh, did you hear that, James and Abba from last season who are still stranded in Germany because of a lost passport? Always keep your passport on your body! Then you can lose your stuff, borrow some underwear, and call it good.

Who was alive in the '80s?

In Dresden, the teams pick up some fancy new Fords with talking text messaging. The car will ask them three questions via blah blah gadgetry, and when they answer correctly, they’ll get their next clue.

Question One: Which American president said, “Tear down this wall”? It helps if you imagine a female computer voice asking it with robotic inflection. The answer, if you’re of a certain age (well, even if you’re not of a certain age, it’s the same answer) is Reagan.

Max first guesses JFK, which, no. Shamefully Max says that Reagan is his favorite president, and that he is a cigar-chompin’ conservative. Who wears pink plaid shirts. I’m just sayin’.

Joey and Meghan are clearly not old enough to know the answer, but Meghan has good guessing intuition.

Jennifer and Caroline wonder if the quote refers to the Great Wall of China. Okay, are they that young? Maybe so. Maybe that explains a few things.

Question Two: Which leader was it directed to? Answer: Gorbachev. Well, once you know Reagan, you should be able to guess Gorbachev, unless they just don’t teach that in history, which they probably don’t because it happened in my lifetime so it can’t be historical yet.

Question Three: Where did Reagan say it? The Berlin Wall! How many famous walls are there, anyway? The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, and the Gum Wall in Seattle, those are the top three, right?

It’s pretty close with the question/answer period, but the Singers leave before Hockey. They kind of feel bad about it, with their fake-love alliance, but then again they’re trying to not be so nice, and “not throw all of [their] love around all day.”

They pick up their next clue at the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall. Somewhere in my parents’ house is a chunk of the Berlin Wall, because I went on my grand European adventure a year or two after it was torn down (spoiler alert! If you haven’t made it that far in history class!) and chunks were popular souvenirs.

Then again, my parents have done a lot of house cleaning and probably saw a piece of cement with a smudge of paint and threw it away. It goes to show that you should label your rock collection.

Advice section

From Katie: “I think if you can make it through the Race and not kill each other, you can make it through just about anything in marriage.”

That’s very similar to my parenting advice, which is, “If you can make it through the day without anyone dying, then you have made it through another day without anyone dying. Congratulations! Have a cupcake.”

It’s as easy as falling off a thirty-seven story building

The teams drive to the tallest building in Berlin, the Park Inn Hotel. It’s getting dark. They have to base fly, which is like base jumping, only instead of parachutes they have wires. It’s a controlled fall that begins by being dangled face-first over 37 stories of nothing.

Katie and Max jump with some enthusiasm. Meghan and Joey are next, then the Moms, Hockey, and Singers.

M is for Museum!

The Detour options are Train Trials or Font Follies. So, Berlin loves its museums. They have a train museum, and they have a Museum of Letters. Like, alphabet letters. Big, light-up letters.

It’s very "Sesame Street." You can picture Super Grover stopping at the Museum of Letters to fetch a C so that someone can make the word Chair, because all they had was Hair and they kept falling down when they tried to sit down and eat their breakfast, landing in a pile of hair. And that’s just not appetizing, so Super Grover saves the day.

Font Follies requires each team member to carry a giant light-up letter through some streets to deliver them to the Museum of Letters. They can’t break the letter, and once they choose a letter to carry they can’t switch.

Max and Katie choose to carry letters, and they carry o and b because they have holes, making them easier to transport. When they stop and ask for directions, Katie begins to sit down and Max orders her, “Don’t be uncomfortable!” I didn’t even know comfort was optional, thanks, Max!

Mona and Beth also choose letters. They carry u and n. “Mona and I love to schlep things,” says Beth.

Caroline and Jennifer choose the letters, and Bates and Anthony are undecided so they go along with their alliance buddies. Those buddies aren’t feeling all the love right now because they’re in the back of the pack, and the ladies don’t want to face a footrace with the gentlemen.

When Max and Katie find the museum, Max says, “It’s a niche museum where nerds hang out.”

Something I’d be good at

The other Detour option is to go to the train museum and build an electric train track using a given number of track pieces. Once their train completes one lap, they get a clue.

Dude. As a mother of two small boys, I would rock this.

Meghan and Joey choose it because they are cute and crafty and like to build things. They are thwarted for the first six tries, and the Conductor watching them looks tired. Why can’t these Americans build efficient train tracks? But then they finish.

V is for v-oops!

The Love Alliance pauses to ask for directions to the Museum of Letters. The Singers have s and k, which are tricky to carry. The hockey boys have k and v. Everyone sets their letters down on the sidewalk while they figure out where to go, and a rogue gust of wind blows over Anthony’s v. It cracks.

Girls: “You guys, we’re so sorry, but do y’all care if we finish?” They take their letters and run. The guys, “busted letter, busted spirit,” jump in a cab and head for the trains.

Ich bin ein hipster

While introducing the Roadblock, Phil tells us that “Berlin is arguably the hippist city in the world, and has an array of nightlife.” The Roadblock is to “experience an evocative dance club.”

When Max and Katie arrive, Max describes it as, “Horrifying. A trippy, end-of-Communist-era shady place.” It’s, well, eccentric.

Katie takes the Roadblock, and she has to immerse herself in a theatrical maze to find the clue. First, she tells the doorman who said the quote, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (JFK) He gives her a magical coin and then she goes through an ominous door.

There are flickering neon lights, strange masks, weird dolls, dangling cables, ladders, and tunnels. Your basic funhouse on crack. Katie says, “Someone’s gonna jump out and they’re gonna get hurt because I’m just gonna punch them.” I would like to see that. After she finds the clue and gets out of the labyrinth, she tells Max it was her worst nightmare come true.

The Moms get lost driving to the maze, so Joey and Meghan get there next. Joey doesn’t know who said the quote so he starts asking around the bar. One drunk old man paws him and says, “I thought you were the cat police.” Oh, Berlin.

When Joey is inside, he laughs and calls it a giant creepy funhouse, “the top Roadblock of Amazing Race history!” He tells Meghan afterwards that they need to come back to Berlin and do the maze together.

Jennifer takes the Roadblock for the Singers, and says, “[This is] probably what it felt like to be doing drugs.”

Mona and Beth finally find it, and Beth takes the Roadblock. She also notes the trippiness of the maze, and pauses to say, “Don’t ever do drugs.” She’s a mom, she has to say that.

Hey, Beth, who’s over your shoulder? It’s Anthony! After nine tries they passed the train task. Beth and Anthony do the maze together and finish at the same time.

Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs!

The Pit Stop is a busy street with a long name that I didn’t copy, but Phil says it’s known as the Fifth Avenue of Berlin. Max and Katie get there first, and the greeter is a hot dog vendor. Really. He doesn’t have a cart on wheels but a tray strapped to his neck and waist. I wish Phil told us more about the greeter. Oh, Max and Katie win cars.

Joey and Meghan are second, and Caroline and Jennifer finish third, saying, “How did that happen?”

After the labyrinth, Bates and Anthony decide to just follow Mona and Beth in their car, “and then beat them in a foot race.” Oh, dirty players! Not really dirty, but, rude! Mona and Beth know what’s happening but they can’t really lose the other car in the traffic.

It comes down to a footrace, and Bates and Anthony win. Mona and Beth join them at the Mat. Phil tells Bates and Anthony, “I have some bad news for you,” and you can see their minds racing to see if they made a mistake and incurred a penalty.

But, nope, surprise! “You have to keep racing against these two,” because it’s a non-elimination! Phew! It would have sucked for them to lose that way. Of course, now Mona and Beth are out to get Bates and Anthony. It’s convenient that next week has a Double U-Turn, then. Let’s see how the alliances play out then, shall we?

Oh, and next week is in Scotland, with all the bagpipes and haggis you could want. Even more than you want. Join me!

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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