There are things you can control in “The Amazing Race” — how to play the game, whom to align with — and things you can’t, like bad cabbies. Bad directions. A delayed flight. Or four. This was something Chester and Ephraim learned the hard way in this week’s episode, “King Arthur Style.” The destination was Lisbon, and the former NFL teammates — who came in first on the last leg — made the fatal mistake of agreeing to a flight with two connections that they thought would help them beat their competition. Unfortunately, their flight risk didn't pay off, playing out as a sad reality-TV version of “The Terminal” in which they encountered terminal after terminal, accent after accent and delay after delay. Ultimately, they didn't even get to exit the Lisbon airport at the leg’s end.
Host Phil Keoghan didn’t even bother toting his Portuguese knight in shining armor along when he met Chester and Ephraim at the airport and told them they were eliminated. Of course he didn’t. Smiling knights in shining armor are reserved exclusively for rescues and happy endings. Not to mention the pain of getting that through the metal detector. Or maybe he was still trying to get with Marie.
Each of the remaining nine teams was tasked with getting to Lisbon from their Chilean corner of South America -- and this episode took pains to show that it’s no easy feat trying to get halfway around the world in a short amount of time. Some teams went by way of Sao Paulo, Brazil, but only married ER doctors Nicole and Travis had secured seats on an earlier connection that got them in at 7 a.m. Ambitious daters Jason and Amy also wanted to get on that early trip, so they ran as fast as their blue shirts would let them to the flight desk, followed shortly by exes Tim and Marie.
Wily baseball wives Nicky and Kim, however, went a different route, sauntering into the executive lounge like they owned the place and requesting standby tickets for the 5 p.m. flight as effortlessly as they would ask a Rolls Royce next to them for some Grey Poupon.
So it was awesome awkward when Nicky and Kim arrived at the ticketing desk and calmly announced they already had standby tickets ahead of Jason and Amy and Tim and Marie. It had Marie scratching her fuchsia hair and throwing major shade at the “bunnies.” “They pulled a stunt that I would pull,” Marie said. “That’s it. You’re dead to me.… Now it’s on.” Actually, Marie, now you’re off. The standby list. And have to take the later flight to Portugal.
Eventually the teams started to trickle into Lisbon and made their way by trolley to a singer with a yellow flower in her hair accompanied by two guitarists on a beautiful balcony overlooking the water. Each team picked up a painting that led them to the Museu Nacional dos Coches -- the Coach museum. That led teams to choosing a Detour between Tiles -- reconstructing a life-size puzzle from tiles -- or Miles -- figuring out the distance Magellan sailed to 10 destinations.
First two teams Nicole and Travis and Jason and Amy teamed up on this one, proving four heads are better than two, while Magellan rubbed his chin thoughtfully. It also helped to maneuver around the massive tour group, hiking sandals and all, assembled on the world map as they tried to achieve their task. NHL Ice Crew members Ally and Ashley and Afghanimal cousins Leo and Jamal were not as successful at this task, overthinking everything before giving away their sextants to do Tiles instead.
Jason and Amy and Nicole and Travis were neck and neck at the Slings & Arrows Road Block at the Clube Portugues de Tiro a Chumbo, in which one team member had to hit a shield 150 feet away with a cranked-up medieval device that flung arrows. Which seemed like as good a challenge as any to get contestants to wear chain metal and shiny Daft Punkian helmets while actors in costumes oohed and aahed from the sidelines.
Whereas Jason channeled his inner Robin Hood and hit his target on the first go, Travis had a bit of trouble aiming and nearly went medieval. “Travis. Do not get frazzled,” Nicole warned.
Cooler heads eventually prevailed as Travis homed in on his target, and he and Nicole ended up surpassing a frustrated Jason and Amy (who did not have much taxi luck on this leg, getting lost on the way to the Castelo dos Mouros pit stop and having had a cabbie back in Chile who got into an accident on the way to the airport) to come in first on this leg.
Despite having trouble with their tile senora’s dress, figuring out which figure in the room was real and the tricky task of taking off the metal helmet in Slings & Arrows without snagging one’s ponytail, baseball wives Nicky and Kim arrived in third place and offered their cabbie (and the viewing public) a GIF-ready moment when they platonically kissed in the back of the taxi.
Similarly, Oklahoma oil worker Tim “had a brain fart at first” trying to figure out how Magellan could make his way across a flat world, but Tim made up for it by channeling his Native American roots to sling the arrow and arrived in fourth. Bearded bros Brandon and Adam put a tiled man together (“Look at those legs!”) and came in fifth.
The Afghanimals Leo and Jamal and their race wives Ally and Ashley came in sixth and seventh, respectively. Which meant exes (and double Express Pass holders) Tim and Marie came in eighth. But not before Marie perpetuated the Ugly American stereotype in yet another continent (“Does anyone speak English? OK, help me”) and completely emasculated her long-suffering ex-partner partner. “Are you productively doing anything?” Marie demanded while trying to assemble their tile figure. “Are you actually doing anything right now?”
Host Keoghan, however, showed he’s still calling the shots. “You are the last team to arrive,” he announced to Tim and Marie when they stepped on the mat. Uh -- “except for one.”
“To quote Ricky Bobby: If you’re not first, you’re last.”
What do you think, Racers? Bummed that Chester and Ephraim didn’t actually set foot in Lisbon? Is Marie really in control of the race?