The Amazing Race Recap
By David Mumpower
February 25, 2009

How therapeutic.

Previously on The Amazing Race, I hated everyone. In fact, I still do except for a few annoyingly likable teams. The stunt men may be small in stature but they showed a tremendous amount of serenity and humor during last week's leg. Amanda and Kris stand out like a sore thumb as a couple when compared to last week's eliminated team, Jennifer and Preston, as well as the barely surviving Linda and Steve. Given the way the latter two couples openly despised each other, it was hard not to notice how sweet and respectful Amanda and Kris were to one another. And finally, mother/son tandem Margie and Luke won the race and North America's love last week as the deaf man and the woman who speaks to him with her hands and her heart. Those are the good teams. Everyone else still sucks and deserves a long weekend of Pussycat Dolls songs and Paul Blart: Mall Cop screenings as far as I'm concerned.

Tonight's leg of the race begins in the mountains of Switzerland. Margie and Luke have earned the honor of being the first team to depart at 2:56 a.m. Their destination is Munich, Germany, wherein they will have to perform in a poorly reviewed Steven Spielberg film. Actually, they will drive to Ruhpolding and ride a cable car to the top of a mountain, at which point I'm sure they will not have to perform any task that involves extreme heights.

The departure times for the various contestants at the front of the group are 2:57 a.m. for Victor and Tammy, 2:59 a.m. for Mark and Michael, and 3:18 for Mel and Mike. So, there is only about 20 minutes of difference for this batch. The skew doesn't begin until we get to Kisha and Jen, currently in eighth place, and Steve and Linda, the ninth place team. Both of them leave just after 4 a.m., over an hour behind the leaders and a good half hour behind most of the other competitors. The particularly screwed team happens to be the flight attendants. After narrowly avoiding elimination last week, they don't leave until 4:12 a.m. today. An hour and 16 minutes from first to last may not seem like a significant time lapse. After all, we have seen the difference between first and second place be that much. This leg is different, because teams must catch a flight almost immediately. There is no grouping in order to guarantee all the contenders the same chance at success. All the teams are going to have to get by on their actual skill, at least in the early portion of the race. That's a welcome change.

The taxi rides to the airport show how much the teams are thinking ahead about the competition. Several of the teams borrow cell phones from their drivers in order to call ahead and secure tickets. The brother/sister tandem is the first to demonstrate such behavior then Mel and Mike, Brad and Victoria, and Cara and Jaime. In fact, the only team in the early grouping that fails to plan ahead is the stunt men, Mark and Michael. They blithely brag about gaining 30 seconds on the competition by running, which matters exactly squat in the greater scheme. Buying plane tickets on an early flight, on the other hand, could save them several hours. This leg is 15 minutes old and they've already screwed up royally.

The ninth team to depart is Steve and Linda, one of the weakest performers overall last week. Linda seemed physically as well as mentally frail and Steve yelled at her in an unbecoming fashion at several points. They make up on camera as he honestly states that he got too excited by his surroundings and lost sight of what was important to him. Their tearful apologies to one another are a nice sentiment and they seem to have genuinely deep feelings for one another, but I still don't give them 15 minutes before they're fighting again. Steve is clearly here to win and his competitive streak will not mesh well with her lack of competitive advantages.

To his credit, Steve presses his taxi driver for a cell phone in order to attempt to secure tickets. The flight attendants do as well. The 7:10 flight is the one everyone covets, but the ladies are just out of luck. There is only one seat left, which is unfortunately one too few for their needs. The end result is that they are stuck on the 8:45 flight along with Mark and Michael. Every other team has an hour and a half lead on them now. To their credit, the men try to learn from the mistake that dropped them from third to tied for last, but they have to survive this leg for that to be of any use. Barring something unforeseen, one of these two teams appears likely to be eliminated from the competition.

Attorneys Tammy and Victor are the first to arrive at the mountain destination. Luck is on their side, too, as they just make a tram as it leaves for the top of the mountain. This is huge, because there is a 15 minute interval between tram rides. They now have a significant head start on the competition for the next challenge.

Paragliding is the magic word for today's challenge. Contestants are given the option of making a leap of faith off the mountain in such a contraption or they allowed to make a 60 minute hike down the hillside instead. There is no argument about which option is faster, but nature also plays a factor here. No one will be allowed to paraglide in heavily windy conditions. In such a scenario, the contestant must either elect to wait out the weather or hike down the mountain if they think the wind won't die down any time soon.

Right on cue, Tammy is informed that she has to wait for the wind to dissipate as the current conditions are not conducive to safe paragliding. Recognizing she has a 15 minute lead over everyone else and knowing that a quick decision to hike should keep them in the middle of the pack at worst, Tammy chooses to trek down the mountain. This proves wise as several other teams weigh their options at the top of the hill and decide to give the wind a chance to die down. Everyone has the same fear that the instant they leave, the wind will die down and their competitors will literally sail right past them. Plus, paragliding is a lot easier than an hour of hiking.

Since he has some time to kill while waiting on the winds to slow down, Luke takes time out to sign to the camera, "I really like Jaime and Cara. They're very friendly and nice. And we communicate well." Yes, Luke, I too think they have great racks and nice butts. The other humorous moment occurs when Mel, the elder man with the wounded groin, shouts "Don't be afraid!" to the stuntmen as they arrive. Mel is projecting his insecurity about the fact that they have caught up with him despite the 90 minute head start. Of course, for their parts, the stuntmen look up at the frail old man and wonder, "You're telling me that?" They are, after all, PROFESSIONAL STUNTMEN.

Eventually, every other competitor chooses to hike other than Mel. A nice moment ensues as Mel offers up a prayer of gratitude, stating that he cannot ask for more in life since he has a son who is so wonderful and surroundings that are so beautiful. He knows he has plenty enough luck in life, but if the wind *were* to let up, well, that would be nice. Soon afterward, the wind changes and Mel is able to make his leap of faith. Down below, Tammy makes her way to the finish line ahead of the other competitors to maintain her team's first place lead. Margie is next to arrive in second place followed by Kris, Victoria, Mel (much to Cara's chagrin), Mark, Jaime, Lakisha and Christie.

Meanwhile, editing shows Linda hopelessly lost. She has taken at least one if not several wrong turns and wound up on the roadside. Apparently, it was no easy task for her own camera crew to find her. That's how far off the beaten path she had gone. For the second straight episode, Steve has put his team in position to succeed through clever play only to see his good work undone by Linda's lack of sense of direction. This time, it appears to be a fatal mistake. Editing makes the time lost vague and ambiguous but it's safe to say that they are at least an hour or two behind the others.

Jumping forward to the head of the pack, Tammy and Victor are about to take out some sibling aggressions upon one another. They are given a choice of tasks. One is to ride around an obstacle course on a Segway, but they decide that's a little too Paul Blart: Mall Cop for them (two Paul Blart references in one column! A new record!). Instead, they choose to throw cream pies at each other until their faces grow red. When that happens, this indicates they have found the cherry pie Warrant has been looking for and may proceed to the next clue. This looks like one of the most euphoric challenges in the show's history. Inside of ten throws, Tammy has squirted cherry filling all over brother and they laugh their way out of the building. Moments later, they have been given their next clue, which directs them to the estate of Schloss Hellbrunn where they will hang out with Phil and enjoy their first place finish. To date, Tammy and Victor have been far and away the best overall team.

With Tammy and Victor dominating, everyone else is competing for second. The good news is that unless they screw up huge, they also are not competing for last since Linda may not even be in Germany by this point. In fact, she is shown hitchhiking as a "kind woman offers" to drive her back to the cable car place. This has quickly devolved into a scene from Hostel. What is odd about this entire episode is that there is almost no surprise either way. We know who will win and barring something unforeseen or producer meddling, we know who will win with 20 minutes still to go in the episode. I guess CBS feels that pie tossing will be enough to keep the audience engaged the rest of the way. They are right that it does make for great television.

Teams that give each other pie face include Amanda and Kris, Luke and Margie, Brad and Victoria and Christie and Jodi. Mike and Mel, Mark and Michael, Lakisha and Jennifer and Jaime and Cara decide to ride a Segway instead. Way to ruin it for the home television audience, jerks.

Night falls as the various contestants arrive at the pit stop. The father/son team of Mel and Mike finishes second (behold the power of paragliding!) with Amanda and Kris third followed by Luke and Margie in fourth, Brad and Victoria in fifth and the cheerleaders that Luke has a crush on in sixth. Some fake suspense is created for the final four teams, and it's not as grossly manipulative as you might think since Linda and Steve are close enough to the others to be allowed to do the pie challenge. Even so, the results are inevitable. Kisha and Jen finish in seventh, Mark and Michael finish in eighth (and learn the value of calling ahead for reservations), and the flight attendants once again avoid elimination by the smallest possible margin. They are the anti-Tammy and Victor thus far in terms of The Amazing Race competence. Of course, at least they didn't get lost on a freaking walking trail.

Steve and Linda appear to find their inner calm in completing the rest of the leg. There is none of the fighting I had predicted. Despite having reason to go to a slow burn while waiting for his wife to walk down a mountain, Steve has learned from his past mistake. Instead, they calmly drive to the pie throwing competition, have a lot of fun searching for the fabled cherries, and express relative contentment when they arrive at the pit stop. They again cry as their love for each other shines through despite their struggles. Clearly, they had hoped for a better showing and no one can question their desire to be on this show and do well. Unfortunately, Linda's age and physical state combined with her sense of direction made her less than the ideal contender. Still, their elimination does not leave their relationship in shambles as was the case with Jennifer and Preston last week.