The Amazing Race 12 Episode 7
This is Forever, Now
By Reagen Sulewski
January 10, 2008

That's right. It's a non-elimination leg.

Although CBS made the head-scratching decision to air two episodes of The Amazing Race over the holidays, time-delayed by football, guaranteeing that virtually no one would remember to watch them, we certainly stuck with it, and we join our remaining teams in Croatia.

Ron & Christina, our leaders-by-default, head off at a little after 2 a.m. to Ancona, Italy, via Split, Croatia. Fun fact: because they have to travel to Split by bus, they'll technically have to go through Bosnia. And people say they never take the racers anywhere fun.

As everyone's favorite father-daughter team discuss whether "prego" is a greeting or a spaghetti sauce in Italian (it's both!), Kynt & Vyxsin get going in second place. Kynt is excited about getting to Italy because it's somewhere he thinks they'll fit in – but come on, Kynt, you're betraying your dozens of fans here! You don't choose the goth lifestyle because you're seeking to fit in! Bad goth, bad!

Nathan & Jennifer are third out of the gate, and now have fatigue to pile on their thinly disguised contempt for each other... wait, did I say thinly disguised? I meant openly hostile.

The first bus out to Split leaves at 5 a.m., giving us a lead pack of these first three teams, who could have a sizable headstart, with TK & Rachel, the fourth place team, only getting to leave the mat at 5:37 a.m. They hustle to the station and end up just one hour behind, and they've made up worse gaps.

Nicolas & Donald are hoping for a bunching point as they're three buses behind. They get their wish, as the ferry from Split to Ancona doesn't leave until just after they get there, making the morning's work more or less pointless. At least the ferry looks cool.

The teams all arrive at Ancona late in the evening, where their adrenaline gets the better of a couple of teams who rush past the clues waiting for them. Once they head back to pick them up, they're directed to the town of Empoli in Tuscany, to find an airfield. They're also given a Blackberry, which will send them a message at some point in their trip. And, if it's anything like anyone else's Blackberry, it'll give them 17 work assignments while they're on vacation.

The teams have to drive themselves to the next stop, which in Europe means stick shifts, although this seems to only hamper Kynt, and only a little bit. Directions to Empoli come in a few different fashions, with the bulk of the teams being sent via Bologna, though Nathan & Jennifer are given a bit of a potential shortcut. TK & Rachel's directions take them in the general direction of Rome, which seems out of the way looking on the map, but worse than that is that they left their clue on the table while they were getting directions, and are driving blind. After a frantic search of their vehicle, they figure out that they need to head back to Ancona. Doubling back, they discover that the people who gave them directions are still there, and held onto their clue for them. Rachel goes over and gives the one girl a big hug, which is nice, but hey, for that, I think some "van time" might even be appropriate, if you know what I'm saying and I think that you do.

The Blackberrys awaken with a message from home for the teams, which leads to a little crying from some of the contestants, and a bit of time lost for one team when Grandpa Don can't figure how to operate the thing, since it was invented after 1975.

The various routes the teams took to Empoli start to get interesting, with Nathan & Jennifer's route leading them through some windy, mountainous terrain that seems to be slowing them down. The main pack of three teams hits some heavy traffic in Bologna, and are forced to do some impromptu navigation after their exit is blocked by construction. Meanwhile, TK & Rachel, who have already lost time, are in... Rome. Which is a bit like going from New York to D.C. via Pittsburgh. However, Nicolas & Donald actually decide to wait at that exit until it opens rather than deal with city traffic, so they may not be screwed just yet.

Nathan & Jennifer's trip through the mountains is fruitful, getting them to the airfield in the middle of the night, although it won't open until seven in the morning. Their ability to not get lost or lose clues wasn't all for naught however, as they do get to pick a number for the day's task, when it does open. Stunningly, TK & Rachel have found their way into second place after a horrible first part of the leg for them. That detour in Bologna had to be killer. In fact we see that Ronald & Christina have done not too badly, with "good" Ronald acknowledging that his daughter did something right – Nicolas & Donald are just getting going at 6 a.m., and Kynt & Vyxsin appear to be completely lost.

The first two teams at the airport are the two only teams present when the airport opens, with the clue being the Roadblock. It asks one team member to fly in an ultra light plane, and they will also have to search a six-mile area from the air for the location of their next destination, which we see from the helpful preview of the task, is Vinci. This is semi-diabolical, because it's printed in closely spaced block lettering, and could easily be misinterpreted upside down, or run together. Each team has half an hour to look before the plane has to come in for refueling, at which point they lose their turn if they haven't found it.

Also, the clue envelope has the Fast Forward, the only one of this race. Jennifer tries to convince Nathan to go for it, but with the lead they have on the rest of the teams (although they don't know it), it's really not necessary. They perhaps luck out, as Phil reveals to us that the Fast Forward is a little more dastardly than in seasons past – the team that goes for it will have to get a permanent tattoo of "FF" on their body.

This, personally, is further than I would be willing to go for a Fast Forward (though not, notably, a million dollars), and it's a good play by the producers – make those teams really earn it and make a tough choice. TK & Rachel also pass it up, although it's for tactical reasons, and I imagine they wouldn't have that much of a problem with a tattoo.

Ronald & Christina are third in, also passing up the Fast Forward, with Nicolas & Donald arriving while Christina is waiting to go up in her plane. Somehow, the "sit-around" strategy topped at least one team's navigational abilities, which says something really quite sad for Kynt & Vyxsin. Nicolas & Donald decide to head for the Fast Forward, and the other shoe drops about why Jennifer wanted to go for it so badly – they still haven't won a leg, and she's throwing a bit of a pity party for herself on that. Hey, if you didn't keep screwing up, you could earn that first place.

"Bad" Ronald shows up for a moment when Ronald & Christina star searching for their number to take to get in line for the planes, and when Christina momentarily thinks about going for the Fast Forward. He starts berating her about wasting time (what time? You're looking for a number to wait in line), which catches the attention of both Rachel and Jennifer, so perhaps we can expect a girl power moment sometime soon.

Vyxsin is in full freakout mode after 30 hours without sleep and being lost, and finally pulls over to let Kynt have a try at finding their way to the airfield. This is a case where they could really use that Fast Forward – they'd better hope Nicolas & Donald spit the bit.

Nathan is the first to spot the clue from the air, and after returning, they start on their way to Vinci, where naturally, they're headed to the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci (what, you thought it was his last name? Bad Dan Brown reader, bad!). TK returns empty handed, luckily with no other team there waiting to take his spot, so he gets to go back up again after a brief refueling.

Nicolas & Donald reach the tattoo parlor and find out just what it is they're being asked to do for the Fast Forward. Donald has a tough time initially with it, and it looks for a minute like he's been asked to defile a grave, but eventually he steels himself and gives in. It was this or maybe be eliminated, so there you go.

Back at the Roadblock, Christina spots the clue while TK bangs his head in frustration at not getting it, though really – gritting your teeth and closing your eyes during a task where you're looking for something? Probably not the best idea.

The tattoos that Nicolas & Donald have had put on are actually not that bad, just two small gothic (oh, Kynt & Vyxsin, you missed out!) letters on their arms, but the permanence of it is still a bit rankling. They now get to go directly to the Pit Stop, the Boboli Gardens in Florence, just a little bit back the way they came.

Nathan & Jennifer have opened up a bit of a lead on the rest of the teams in Vinci, although they goof a bit by stopping their car too soon and having to go for a bit of a run. When they get to the Leonardo birthplace, they find the Detour, which asks them to choose between assembling crane of his design, to lift a block, or to learn a renaissance era flag routine.

After embarrassing themselves with one dance routine in a previous Detour, Jennifer wants to try again, and Nathan agrees to try out the flag Detour, although they have to race back down the hill to their car, shedding valuable time to a hard charging Ronald & Christina.

TK is still stuck on the Roadblock at this point, and they have lost all their advantage of the morning, with Kynt & Vyxsin finally reaching the Roadblock themselves. Kynt & Vyxsin momentarily consider the Fast Forward, but realize there's probably no point.

Nicolas & Donald march their way up to the Pit Stop and are greeted with trumpet blasts and a first place finish. Their prize for this leg is a spa trip for two to Cancun, which is probably pretty high on the misplaced bonus awards scale for this show.

While Jennifer proves to be pretty competent at the flag Detour, Nathan takes a bit of practice to be able to get through it. Eventually he gets it, and these two head off to the Pit Stop, where they grab second place. Ronald makes Nathan look like a drum major, but eventually he and Christina get through it as well, giving them third place.

Vyxsin moves ahead of TK in the Roadblock, though he eventually finds the location. They get going although they're now in last place. Kynt & Vyxsin initially try for the invention Detour, but after one look, decide that their brains aren't working well enough to put it together. The drive down to the Flag Detour proves to be a bit of a challenge in itself, as Vyxsin misses a turn and starts racing ahead to an intersection, which freaks Kynt out. He tries to pull a scary control freak play, gets her to stop and jumps in to drive... promptly forgetting that he can't drive a stick shift competently in a city. Oh you wacky Goths.

After getting back in the car, Vyxsin realizes that Kynt has done something to break it, leading them to have to abandon it, hoping their replacement car will be waiting for them when they get done with the Detour.

TK & Rachel decide to go with the invention Detour, which they prove quite skilled at. They make pretty short work of it and appear to be pulling ahead when they suffer mechanical problems of their own with a flat tire. TK gets down to do "the fastest tire change in the history of the Amazing Race"

Kynt & Vyxsin do very well with the Flag Detour, and there's some legitimate tension as we're not sure just how long it took TK to change the tire, nor how long the Detour took for the Goths.

However, after a tough day, TK & Rachel are able to get in for fourth place, leaving an exhausted Kynt & Vyskin to come in for last. However, although it had been rumored that non-elimination legs had been removed from the race, this is clearly not true as the Goths are given a second life. The penalty for the non-elimination has changed yet again – the Marked for Elimination penalty has been removed, but in its place is the Speed Bump, which will be an extra task given to only them at some point during the race. It's a really appropriate penalty, and it may actually be the solution to the non-elimination problem.