By Janell Sutherland
7:41 AM EDT, April 15, 2013
Oh, Race, it’s good to be back. I’ve missed you. And I’ve missed Phil’s hat and Phil’s Maori fishhook necklace, too!
It’s been two weeks, do you remember what happened? Africa? Speeding tickets? Fearless Friends got eliminated? Okay then, we’re caught up, let’s go to Switzerland.
I’ve done very little international travel, but I did spend five days in Switzerland once between my junior and senior years of high school, so I’m totally an expert. Bern: city named after a bear. Interlaken: city named after the intersection of two lakes. Nailed it!
All the teams are traveling together by plane and train. Except this one part, when they have to change trains in Bern, and Joey and Meghan and Mona and Beth miss the connection. Run faster, you guys! The other teams laugh and high five as the train pulls away from the platform.
In fake relationship news:
Remember how Hockey and the Singers were teaming up and pretending to flirt? Their pretend relationships have been going on for two weeks, now. I’m guessing that Caroline and Jennifer are more competitive than they are romantic at this point, because the banter between the teams is maybe seven degrees warmer than friends.
Speaking of warmth, literally
It’s December in Switzerland! Shepherds deliver clues by traveling on a bike thing with skis instead of wheels. (Joey: “[shriek!] I want to ride it!”)
Speaking of warmth, metaphorically
Chuck and Wynona, man. He tells her to run, she tells him not to run. He takes her pack and tells her to run faster, she doesn’t run as fast as him. It’s a theme this week.
So they take a train to the highest rail station in Europe, Jungfraujoch (and oh how that word rolls off Phil’s tongue). Eleven thousand feet above sea level, which is only like ten thousand eight hundred and sixty feet higher than my house, so big whoop.
They each get a St. Bernard to take on a train, and we get to see the Singers make out with their dog while Wynona tells the camera that Chuck treats the dog better than her. Again: theme.
After traveling with the dogs and running them through some snow to deliver them, the teams take an elevator that goes to a little station perched on the summit of a mountain. When you see this building, in the middle of a mountain range, surrounded by, well, nothing, you realize that humans are just crazy. Why did they need a train to go that high? Why build a station on a narrow summit? It’s insane!
Speaking of insanity, meet Eiger
Eiger is a mountain with a north face that’s pretty much a 6,000-foot vertical drop. It was first climbed in 1878, by some guy who was angry that no one had climbed it yet. Come on! That mountain’s been there forever and no one’s found a way to the top? What’s wrong with you people?!?!
Once Eiger was conquered, it was tunneled, and then they put in some nice observation windows, so just about any fool can go outside and stand on the side of the mountain. That’s progress.
For the Roadblock, team members climb out of one window onto a narrow (man-made) ledge, and inch their way across to the next window, collecting a gnome along the way. It’s freaky, but they have lots of safety cables (assuming they’re smart enough to keep all the cables connected, I hope there was quadruple redundancy), and they face the mountain so they don’t even have to look down.
Bates just cruises along the mountain, of course. Katie takes it bravely, not even scared. Jennifer is afraid of heights -- so she claims -- but seems to go quickly. Beth finishes quickly, too.
Wynona and Meghan are the last to do it. Meanwhile, a punctual Swiss train comes and takes the top four teams on to the next destination.
Hey, Chuck and Wynona, how are you doing? Wynona is nervous and troubled and shaky. It takes her a little while, but not hours and hours. They missed that train, though. The next one is in a half an hour, because people on mountain tops have places to go! Frequently! Chuck: “Babe, I wish you coulda moved. Katie did it in like two minutes.” Wynona correctly points out that his only response should be, “Good job.”
Oh, the cheese!
Do you remember in Season 14 when they had to transport giant wheels of cheese down a hill? And the cheese kept escaping? And people were going crazy with the cheese? That was a good time. One of the best, apparently, because they’re doing it again, only in the snow!
Both team members have to climb up a pretty big hill to a shed. Then, using a traditional sled, they transport four fifty-pound wheels of cheese to a barn at the bottom of the hill. Katie gets some free points from me for remembering the challenge and being fearful because of it.
The hill is covered in snow. There’s a rope they can use to help climb up, but when their shoes have no traction it’s still tricky. Katie and Max, Bates and Anthony, Mona and Beth, and Caroline and Jennifer all head up the hill.
Team Hockey gets there first and they each put two wheels of cheese on their little wooden sleds. Then they get in front of the sled and let it push them down the hill. Whoosh! Coming down is a lot easier in the snow, the cheese just doesn’t escape as far. With some minor avalanches, all the teams finish the cheese just as YouTube and Chuck and Wynona approach the challenge.
Wynona has trouble climbing the hill. Chuck has both sleds and puts his head at her behind to literally head-butt her up the hill. Chuck really does not want to lose. Near the top, he climbs ahead of her and pulls her up. I give him credit for not leaving her behind, but then again, he needs her.
Joey and Meghan slide cheese down the hill, shrieking, “Oh, the cheese! The cheese!”
At the top of the hill, Chuck loads the sleds upside down because he thinks the cheese will stay on better. The trouble is, then the sleds don’t slide so well. Wynona grabs a wheel and starts throwing it down the hill, saying she’ll take care of one if he does the other three. So they roll the cheese down the hill without their sleds. Uh oh — we get an ominous shot of an abandoned sled at the top of the hill.
Pit Stop shed
Hockey comes in first place, again. Mona and Beth are team number two, Max and Katie are third, and Caroline and Jennifer are fourth.
Meghan and Joey have delivered their cheese and are looking for the Pit Stop. Everyone else has taken a cab, but they can’t find one and end up wandering towards the Pit Stop on foot.
Chuck and Wynona deliver cheese as Wynona observes, “Who in the hell puts cheese at the top of the hill?” Wynona, you are in a country that put a train at the top of a hill. That’s just what they do here in Switzerland.
Oh boy, Chuck and Wynona find a cab! They are at the Pit Stop! Holy cheese I did not expect that! Phil greets them, but then says that they didn’t properly transport their cheese. I fully expect him to send them back to the cheese hill to either retrieve their sleds or do the whole thing over, but instead he gives them a 30-minute penalty. Only 30 minutes! Maybe that task went pretty fast after all.
So Chuck and Wynona hang out on the mat. Joey and Meghan are walking, Meghan is crying because with the cold and the altitude she can’t breathe well and she can’t go fast. They see Phil, but they see Chuck and Wynona on the mat, too, so they know that they’re last.
Arriving at the mat, Meghan blames herself for not being quick enough coming up the hill. Phil lets her be sad, and he lets Joey hug her, and then he tells them that Chuck and Wynona have a penalty so Joey and Meghan are still in the Race.
That is a tough mat! One team so relieved, one team so sad. I’m glad. I think Chuck and Wynona have a good relationship, but the Race was making them relate so negatively to each other that it was just going to get worse. They interview afterwards that the Race didn’t tear them apart, so that’s good.
Next week! They’re still in Europe somewhere, falling off of buildings, so that will be exciting.
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