By Janell Sutherland
12:42 PM EST, December 5, 2011
Remember last week? When there were waffles? And some cars and boats, but mostly waffles!? Now there are four teams racing to the finale, and this week I get to introduce you to the friendliest taxi drivers in the world.
First, we must bid farewell to Atomium, the centerpiece of the 1958 World’s Fair. The teams got to sleep in little pods inside Atomium, and that is basically awesome.
Teams leave Atomium in the middle of the night with a box of costumes. They have to wear black suits, skinny ties, moustaches and bowler hats. It’s a great look for everyone.
They are dressed like characters from the Belgian comic Tintin, but they don’t know that. The task is to figure out who they are, then meet up with a Tin Tin actor for the next clue.
The answer comes easily to everyone but the Snowboarders, who think they might be Charlie Chaplin. Um, wrong moustache. And by the way, the sight of four Racers in matching suits strolling down the street, carting their belongings in a hobo sack tied to a stick, is on of my favorite sights so far.
Everyone gets on the same train and airplane to Panama. Panama is famous for its canal, and probably lots of other stuff, right? I bet they are now famous for their cab drivers.
The teams get a second amazing overnight at a village far off the grid, each individual in a hammock with mosquito netting. As Ernie would say, “Just like at home.”
In the morning, they are given fake tattoos with the words “San Francisco Bay” written inside. If I were on the Race, I would have gone straight to the airport, screaming “America!” the whole way. Luckily, none of these people are me, and they figure out it’s a San Francisco Bay building in Panama.
Don’t you wonder if someone would really go that far off course? Like, they’re at an airport buying tickets for the completely wrong country? The producers would call the cameraman once they landed and say, “You’re eliminated, good luck getting back.”
The most non-Race-threatening fear of heights ever
The Roadblock is to tightrope walk between two buildings, 35 stories up. Sure, there are harnesses to grasp with your hands, but the feet have only a single rope to walk on. The clue designates which partner has to do it, to even up to score, and Sandy takes it for her team.
Guess what? Sandy is afraid of heights. You remember in the past, someone with a fear of heights would stand at the top of something high and freak out? They would wait, and think, and breathe, and panic, and scream, while everyone else passed them? Sandy says, “I’m afraid of heights,” then she walks straight across and back.
I applaud your bravery, Sandy, but you’re too mentally tough to play the fear of heights card ever again.
Snowboarder Quote of the Week
While standing on the tightrope above Tommy, Andy says, “Hey, low five!” and holds out his foot to slap Tommy’s hand.
The hive mind of the cab driver
The clue from the Roadblock leads to a statue. Jeremy and Sandy get directions from a man on the street, who tells their cab driver. The other three cab drivers listen in. Since they’ll all end up at the same place, they might as well figure out how to get there together!
Is there anything those hands can’t do?
Next up is the Detour — either make a pair of sandals out of one piece of leather and some laces, or go to a fish market and deliver assorted fish to assorted vendors. The Snowboarders make shoes like they churn butter: quickly and effortlessly. They finish the task while the Ernie/Cindy and Jeremy/Sandy teams struggle.
She really loves fish
Amani and Marcus are the only team choosing to carry fish. Their cab driver first takes them to the shoes, because that’s where all the cab drivers agreed to meet. But unlike every other team in the history of the Race who mistakenly ends up at the non-preferred Detour, they do not stay there. Nope, they go to the fish market and proceed to carry — by hand — pounds of frozen barracuda, squid, and who knows what else to different vendors.
Amani is getting coated in fish slime, and what does she say? What does she say, America? “Carrying all this seafood is making me hungry!”
I don’t like fish to begin with, so I can’t even begin to relate, but isn’t it just a tiny bit gross? Wouldn’t the smell get to you? That is one tough, optimistic woman. In case you’re wondering, carrying waffles would make me hungry.
Balboa can mean many things, but not that
After the Detour, teams are led to Cathedral Square where about six lovely ladies in large twirly skirts are dancing. The name of the Pit Stop is written on one of the skirts, but they all have patterns on them so it doesn’t stand out. The dancers are also wearing lots of medallions and belts and jewelry. One belt has a picture of the Pit Stop. Note: the Pit Stop has nothing to do with Balboa.
The Snowboarders arrive at the Square and stare at the dancers. They realize that many of the medallions say “Balboa” on them, so they repeat that to their cab driver. He takes them to the Panama Canal, which, no. Then he takes them to a statue on Balboa Avenue, but as they drive past, they don’t see Phil. They head back to the dancers.
Meanwhile, the other three teams are at the Square. Phil tweets: “We really thought they would see the clue on the dress much faster.”
Jeremy notices the picture of the building, and he makes a drawing of it. Ernie/Cindy and Amani/Marcus focus on Balboa. They all hop into their cabs within minutes of each other.
All the bad cabbie karma from all previous seasons has been repaid
Amani/Marcus and Ernie/Cindy tell their cab drivers to go to Balboa. Jeremy’s cab driver recognizes the building that he drew and drives toward the correct Pit Stop. He also calls the other two cab drivers and tells them where he’s going, and those drivers decide that his information is better. The drivers ignore the Balboa instructions and head to the correct Pit Stop.
How would it be if all cab drivers were like this? It’s better than the adopt-a-local strategy, because everyone ends up at the same place! Jeremy and Sandy take first place, Ernie and Cindy are right behind them, and Amani and Marcus join everyone else on the mat. This is the happiest, friendliest Pit Stop arrival ever.
No more Snowboarder quotes
Andy and Tommy are the only team to notice the clue on the dancer’s dress. Too bad their cab driver wasn’t in on all the phone calls. They are the last team to arrive, and they are eliminated. The elimination rolls off them so easily, I’m reminded that they are professional competitors. You don’t advance that far in anything without losing and bouncing back a few times. It’s hard to say goodbye to one of the most successful, yet laid-back teams ever. But I think their day jobs will keep them pretty happy.
Next week is the finale, y’all! And I’ll be recapping from a hotel room in San Diego. Come join me, it’ll be a party!
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