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'Amazing Race' recap, grinding organs in Holland

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This week on "The Amazing Race," we say farewell to the curious passport-stealing cab drivers of Russia, and we say do svidaniya to the Swim Coach of Frustration and the Professor (of Love). Time to go to someplace with a red, white, and blue flag. No, the other place.

The Chipps depart first at 7:32 p.m., and it is still daylight. This is only notable to me because at my house it's dark by 5:00. Yay, winter. 

So Chippendale Jaymes gets a backstory interview: He says his dad is dealing with cancer, and he wants to win so he can help his dad with medical expenses. If you've ever watched this show before, you know that any extra time devoted to a sad story like that means elimination, and I am worried.

I know we were promised shirtless Chippendales, so if they take their shirts off in this episode I'm just going to stop loving them so I won't cry when they leave.

Paris? Amsterdam?

The clue at the start of the leg is a flag with a red, a white, and a blue stripe. Who thought it was France? Me too. As he heads for a cab, Jaymes shouts, "We comin'! I don't know where we goin' but we comin'!" They look up the flag on a computer and learn that it is The Netherlands.

Texi leaves 15 minutes later, and their cab driver tells them the flag is France. They're all excited for France, then they get to the airport and the Chipps tell them that it's Holland. "Thank God y'all saw us," says Jaymes as he takes them under his wing once again.

The Twins assume the flag is France but then look it up and discover they're wrong.

Boyfriend Ryan thinks it's France, but Abbie says no, so he guesses The Netherlands next. He's so smart, my nerdy boyfriend.

Even smarter are the Goat Farmers, who recognize the flag right away. I wish knowledge of the flag was a determining factor in the Race results, but it is not. Spoiler alert.

Frankfurt airport, man. Why did it have to be Frankfurt?

There are way too many options to get the heck out of Moscow. Every team chooses a different flight.

The Twins talk their way onto a flight that arrives first, even though there's an hour layover and the ticket agent doesn't want to sell them the tickets because she thinks they need more than an hour. But the Twins plead and promise not to hate the ticket agent if they miss their connection, so they get the ticket. They make the connection and arrive first.

The Chipps get a direct flight that arrives 45 minutes later. Texi was standing in line with them, but when the agent said there weren't enough seats, they graciously stepped aside. As they should have, so I don't know why I'm so surprised when teams show common courtesy.

Texi gets a two-leg journey that arrives 50 minutes after the Chipps.

All of those flights leave the following morning, so Dominate has a chance to catch up. They leave the Pit Stop 10 hours after the first team, but they still have decent flight options available. 

Except.

Those flight options have layovers in Frankfurt. Dun dun duuuunh!!! Do you know why I made that sound so scary? Frankfurt is where they missed their connection two legs ago, where they spent the night, and teamed up with the Goat Farmers. Frankfurt is the reason they started out 10 hours behind the lead team. Abbie does not want to go through there ever again, but it's the fastest option. To be safe, they book two different connecting flights. Good thinking.

Cut to Frankfurt airport. They are denied entrance on the first plane because they weren't properly checked in on time. They take a shuttle bus across the airport and board the next plane. The Frankfurt Voice of Doom comes on the speaker and says that they're having mechanical difficulties.

They wait, and then learn that the de-icer can't be repaired and they have to switch planes. Needless to say, Abbie and Boyfriend Ryan are even more over Frankfurt, and they make some Frankly awful puns about how much it sucks.

When they finally arrive in The Netherlands, guess who they see at the airport? Their old buddies Brent and Josh, who left Moscow three hours later than them but managed to catch up. It's a sad day for Dominate. But wait! It gets worse ...

It's a Boat Bus!

This leg has a Fast Forward. The Twins have a head start on the leg, so they take it. They have to ride an aquabus, and while it's in the water for seven minutes, they each have to eat five herrings. The herrings are big, coated in fish oil, and covered in white flakes that are probably salt but could also be concentrated fish-flavored fish goo, just to give it that extra kick.

The Chipps head for the Fast Forward, but they arrive just as the Twins are getting off the bus, stinking of fish oil but holding a shiny clue directing them to the Pit Stop. They arrive on the mat in first place, and they do a shoulder shimmy, which they say is their first place dance. Phil imitates it, but he secretly hates them (I'm pretty sure). He awards them $5,000 each. So, fine, done with them for the leg. Except for their evil manipulations ...

Organ to Grind

One half of the Detour requires teams to choose a large street organ (enclosed in a wagon, it's not a tiny accordion with a hat-wearing monkey, unfortunately) and grind it to collect 30 Euro in tips. 

The Chipps get to it first, James does the heavy grinding work and Jaymes dances and calls to the crowd, "Go get some change and come back!" Things slow down for them, and I am both delighted and terrified that they remove their shirts, put on the Chippendales collars and cuffs, and "make a spectacle." Not a Magic Mike dance spectacle, I don't think I saw any serious hip action (and if it was edited out, well, I'm shaking my fist sternly at the editors).

Does this mean that it's their final leg? A lovely grandmother walking three young children gives them their final 10 Euros, and they're off to the next clue.

Trey and Lexi also choose the organ because Lexi is a born annoying saleswoman. She earns the money without removing any clothing.

Flashback Roadblock

I love when the show brings back old challenges that were horrible. Like "find a clue by unrolling 87 bales of hay bigger than your body." Or another one that I can't remember right now. 

Who remembers ditch vaulting? It's like pole vaulting across a ditch, and Phil promises that it's easy, even though he shows us flashback footage of an old man falling into the mud over and over. I'm sorry that I can't remember your name, old man, but I remember your pain. This Roadblock was a challenge last time around.

This time, James nails it. His coach says, "All you need is courage," and I guess he's full of it. That was almost no muddy fun at all.

Trey also takes the Roadblock. Lexi advises that it's all in the hips, and that seems to work for him because he passes the first time, too.

Triumvirate of Evil Plotting

Let's jump back to the Moscow airport for a minute. The Chipps, Twins, and Texi were several hours ahead of the other teams. The Twins have an unfounded (to me) hatred of Team Dominate, and they want to bring them down.

While hanging out at the airport they polluted the relatively innocent minds of the others, forcing an agreement that, if there was a Double U-Turn, the first team to arrive would U-Turn Dominate, and the second team to arrive would U-Turn the first team, so that the net result would be that only Dominate is U-Turned. 

It's strategy, sure, but it's against Abbie and Her Boyfriend, and we all know how I feel about them. The Twins say that "Brown[-haired] James" is in charge of the Chippendales at the U-Turn. They don't trust Blond Jaymes because he's too nice. In an interview, he agrees with them, because he likes Dominate and doesn't want to U-Turn them.

So, there is in fact a Double U-Turn after the Detour. The Twins bypassed it with the Fast Forward, so the Chipps are the next to arrive. Jaymes did not want to be in this position. He doesn't want to do it. But he also wants to go home and take care of his family, so they do, in fact, U-Turn Abbie and Boyfriend Ryan.

At the Pit Stop, when the Chipps arrive in second place, Phil says that they finally played the game today. Jaymes says, "I hope we don't lose a friend," and then a clock tower right behind him chimes ominously. He jumps and says it's a sign from God, and Phil raises his eyebrow. It's a nice interaction.

Jaymes further explains that he already sent a postcard to his family telling his parents that he's coming home with the money, and his family is more important than Abbie and Ryan at this time. If he's being honest, then I guess I'm okay with that.

Texi, by the way, gets to the U-Turn mat and sees that the Chipps held up their end of the bargain. They play along, then, and U-Turn the Chipps. They arrive at the Pit Stop in third place.

Dominate and Goats: BFFs again

Abbie, Ryan, Josh, and Brent decide to run the leg together again, as long as they can. They both choose the "Back in Time" Detour option, which is to recreate Rembrandt's "The Night Watch" painting with live actors in costume. The teams work side by side on their own tableaus and finish at about the same time. 

Dominate assumes that they will be U-Turned, and the Goats assume that they will be, as well, or that Dominate will U-Turn them and they'll do the other side together.

But that's not what happened. This is when life gets really sad. The heavens weep, literally. 

Rain falls at the U-Turn mat as Abbie and Ryan say, "We're done." They hug Josh and Brent and head back to do the organ grinder.

As they walk away, the Goats are worried. Josh, in particular, wants to go back and help them. But Brent wonders what will happen when they get to the mat, if Dominate will just step aside for them. Josh says, "Everyone wants us out of the Race because we're not the strongest competitors." Brent rubs Josh's head and says, "Well, we should just prove them wrong then. Can you prove them wrong?"

That scene was just sweet and sad and thoughtful, it really showed what kind of people they are, and their inner spirit. Hugs to them, even if it means the downfall of Dominate.

Organ Grinder of Sadness

Ryan grinds the organ while Abbie dances in an empty, rainy street. She jokingly asks a car to run her over because it would be easier. I don't know how much time passes, but she earns some money, dances with a few people, and seems a step above utter desolation. 

At the end, one woman keeps dancing with her, over and over. Finally, Abbie asks, "What can you do for me?"

"I'll make it so you're done,' the woman answers, and she gives Abbie the rest of the money she needs.

Abbie cries and hugs her. Ryan comes over and hugs the woman, too. Then Abbie hugs her again and just breaks down, crying on the woman's shoulder, and it almost makes me cry.

That was another beautiful, tragic scene. Perseverance, the saving grace of friendly locals, the comfort from a stranger. This episode is all deep and profound tonight.

Ditch Vault of Tears

The Goat Farmers get to the Roadblock. Josh takes it, and he trips in the field on the way to the canal, hurting his ankle. He makes the jump on his first try, though, but he slips a bit on the landing because the grass is wet. Brent promises to massage his foot all night. 

They check in at the Pit Stop, not completely happy. They tell Phil that they hated leaving Abbie and Ryan. Phil offers to eliminate them and save Dominate, and I wonder if they accepted if Phil could really do that. Of course he could, he's the Philiminator! But they accept their position. Brent says that whoever is meant to win will win, and they'll race hard to the end. Phil makes them promise.

Then my precious nerdy Boyfriend Ryan is at the ditch vault. As he tries and fails, Abbie narrates all the ways the universe has messed with them that day. It goes back to Frankfurt two legs ago, but then Frankfurt again, and then the U-Turn which stabbed them in the back. 

They make it to the Pit Stop and Ryan can't even talk to Phil when they get eliminated. It all feels wrong, he says later. I agree. 

In a new feature that I made up last week, called Let's Pretend Happy Ending, let's pretend that Dominate and the Chipps watched this episode together at one of their houses, and they were all sitting on the couch together, best friends after all. And Jaymes' dad is fine. Yay!

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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