Picture it, Sicily – if I may steal from Estelle Getty – with seven remaining teams on the new and improved Amazing Race.
The Amazing Race Season 9: Episode 6
By Reagen Sulewski
May 3, 2006
Leaving from the town of Segesta first are BJ & Tyler, at 2:29 a.m., a time that seems unlikely to let them take advantage of their expertly run leg last time. They are sent to the town of Catania and find the ruins of an ancient amphitheater (there's two h's in that word, Phil, I swear) in the middle of the town. Having traded spots all race with Eric & Jeremy, they conclude that their esteemed rivals' success so far is largely due to dumb luck, with an emphasis on the dumb. It's hard to disagree at this point, but it sounds like tempting fate. After a brief puppy interlude (oh. come. on.) they're off on the road, although BJ is still having trouble pronouncing where they're going, and I'm detecting just the slightest hint of tension between him and Tyler. C'mon hippies, if you guys start snapping at each other, what hope do any of us have?
The extent of their lead becomes obvious as Eric & Jeremy are second out at 4:11 a.m. These guys lament the seeming lack of competitive spirit of the hippies, who make it tough to get a decent hate on. C'mon hippies, fight back!
Joseph & Monica are next out at 5:00 a.m., where I'm expecting a little Sicilian lady to come out and bludgeon Monica to death the way she's bludgeoning the Italian language. Fran & Barry are (relatively) hot on their tail at 5:18 a.m. (I'd want garlic, a stake and a crucifix to be sure I was safe from these two). Barry reveals he's a Vietnam vet, which just instantly ratchets up their terror factor – no one wants to be on the receiving end of a flashback-enduced freakout.
This time gap between the teams means that BJ & Tyler have reached their destination before many teams have even left the gate – but a fat lot of good it does them, as it's not open when they get there. BJ purposely mangles the Italian name of the amphitheater, causing Tyler to give his best "dammit, it's too early for that crap, BJ" sigh. They decide to have a little fun and write up a Team Order list, which looks oh so professional on a scrap of paper and in ball point pen. One wonders if a) anyone will fall for this b) the producers will give them a smack down and tell them to stop screwing with their game.
A minor crisis occurs when Lake & Michelle leave at 6:06 a.m., when Lake is convinced that he's been short-changed by Phil for their money for the leg... by two dollars. They've discovered the secret skimming that Phil's been doing for years on the show! This is an outrage! This is a... oh wait, there they are. Never mind. Lake acknowledges his series of major mistakes, blaming it on sleep deprivation. Not that he's complaining, mind you. Michelle's sarcasm raises its head here as she spits her acid tongue at him with "I can tell that you're okay with it, it sounds just like that you are." Suddenly, I feel just the eensiest bit of sympathy for Lake.
Dave & Lori are sixth out of the gate today at 6:25 a.m., with the producers trailing them around with their nerd theme music once again. Okay, so it was cute to start, but learn when you're killing a joke, OK? Finally, we get to Ray & Yolanda, at 6:34 a.m. the last to leave the Pit Stop. Though this team has shown strength in every task, it's that whole getting between the spots thing that's proving to be difficult for them.
Eric & Jeremy now arrive in Catania, well before 8:30, creating our first bunching of the day. They are momentarily thrown by the "sign-up sheet", but eventually twig to the fact that it wouldn't be written on a scrap of paper in magic marker if it were real for the show. Maybe they are smart enough to get into a frat after all! The gates open and both these teams scramble for the clue box, which tells them to count the heads on the gate around the ruins, then find the man holding the next clue inside. There's an obvious short cut of splitting up and each counting half of the heads, but neither team figures this one out. They both get the correct answer, though, and get their next clue, the Detour. This one has them choose between transporting a 32-pound swordfish each to a market and finding a vendor to give it to "Big Fish", or selling four pounds of a tiny fish at the same market "Little Fish". Both these teams go for the physical task, with Tyler reasoning that it would be difficult to sell fish this early in the morning.
Meanwhile, Joseph & Monica have reached town, tagging along with a local for directions, and Fran & Barry have one-upped their clue box troubles by getting completely lost in the town itself and stuck in traffic. The timing hits Dave & Lori and Ray & Yolanda as well, which could very well put some distance between these teams and the lead after all.
The hippies have decided that a little following turnabout is fair play, and tag along behind Eric & Jeremy. OK, note to you two; the fake Italiano accent is getting a little old, and I've got to think, a little offensive. You're liable to get slugged by an emotional Sicilian who thinks you're making fun of him.
Joseph & Monica finally get to the amphitheater and nail the head-counting task, then decide to go with the "Big Fish" Detour, though Monica wonders openly if she can handle the 30 pounds of fish. Props to Joseph for not making the obvious (but classic) "you've handled more than that before" joke.
The market is a vegetarian's nightmare, with pigs' heads and various other animal parts on display – you could probably find human meat here if you really wanted to. BJ & Tyler and Eric & Jeremy deliver their fish and get their clue, sending them to a public square in Siracusa. Tyler is now covered in fish guts (that should make for a lovely car ride) and I'm bit concerned that his fake Italian accent may be permanent. These teams happen across Joseph & Monica along the way, with BJ & Tyler spending probably just a little too much time hugging Monica, though knowing them, it was to give her a nice whiff of their fishmonger aroma rather than anything that requires a visit from the Sexual Harassment Panda.
Fran & Barry are still lost in town, possibly due to be captured and put to work in a Sicilian laundry until they drop dead of bleach inhalation. Alas, they do find the amphitheater and get to work on counting the heads on the gate around it. Fran doesn't quite get this game still, as she then seems to expect the groundskeeper with their next clue to come find them, as opposed to the other way around.
Joseph & Monica are having fun with the swordfish carrying at least, waving their fish around at people while they run through the streets – they should be careful, as it's likely some kind of Sicilian insult. Catching up with the late comers, we see Lake getting more and more frustrated by Italian traffic (don't they know he's in a hurry?) while Dave enacts his male imperative by refusing to stop and ask for directions. C'mon Dave, don't be that guy. We want to like you, and you're getting all chauvinist and stuff. Besides, we just saw you cry last episode, so we're not buying it anyway. Ray & Yolanda are cool and collected as always, like Prince, but with a deeper voice. Ray finds a bit of a barrier when he asks directions, as the Italians are perhaps a bit frightened of a physically imposing black dude that's yelling at them. At least he's got a sense of humor about it.
Over in the fish market, Fran & Barry are having a bit of trouble getting people to buy some fish from them, which in a way, makes sense. Would you, as an Italian, walk up to some random American selling fish and buy from him? Monica has a minor breakdown in the middle of the market after they initially bring their swordfish to the wrong vendor. It's the smell and tiredness and the "I'm a pretty princess" syndrome kicking in here, and it's oh so attractive. Eventually they have some locals take pity on them and take them to the right vendor, though Joseph starts to get suspicious that he's been led astray. I'm betting Italy won't be on these two's travel plans in the near future. Shortly after, Fran & Barry sell their required fish and are away in fourth place, having had considerably more fun.
Lake & Michelle find the amphitheater racing through the first task but hit a bit of a snag in finding the groundskeeper, accosting a random person inside, who low-fives him in some sort of bonding ritual. Confusion reigns for a moment, but eventually they realize that it would be something a little more official. They choose the Big Fish Detour. These two proceed through it without much drama, to the delight of all.
Monica is still recovering from her ordeal, eyeing all the girls going by, not in some sort of curiosity-inspired "we're on vacation..." way, but for their clothes. Joseph does his best at trying to get their attention, but quickly realizes that honking his horn at girls is really not going to have the desired effect.
Lake & Michelle were apparently saving all their drama for the road out of town, and when Michelle finds the way out on the map, Lake takes it as a personal challenge to his manhood that a woman could read a map. I don't follow the logic either. "I'm overruling you," he says, and is about to hire a taxi to lead them out of town, when Michelle points out that there is an actual sign, in exactly the place she said it would be. "Woo! We got lucky there," he says, and Michelle does well to not jab a nail file into the base of his skull.
Ray & Yolanda are next through to the amphitheater, choosing Big Fish, while Dave & Lori are next after getting some local help, also choosing to lug the swordfish to the market.
Finally, we reach Siracusa with Eric & Jeremy in the lead. The clue goes right into the Roadblock, which is another of the time-honored "hold your own against pro athletes" tasks. This time it's kayak polo, which seems totally made up to me, but what the hey. Jeremy gets the call for his team, but proceeds to embarrass himself by forgetting his paddle, then not being able to steer afterwards. I can just imagine how thrilled the regular players are to have them in their midst. Finally he gets a point in, and gets the next clue, which is the Pit Stop, already. It's going to be another leg of teams way out in front, I'm guessing.
BJ & Tyler are also in Siracusa about this time, with BJ doing the life vest and heading out into the water. I get the feeling they patronize him just a little bit in their play (you're wrecking our game, dude!), and he scores quickly. Fran & Barry and Joseph & Monica have caught up on the road somewhat, with Barry & Joseph competing in the Roadblock at the same time.
However, there's no catching up to a team that's already finished and Eric & Jeremy stroll onto the mat at a famous fountain. They've won the leg and a cruise for two. Perhaps it's one of those Cuba Gooding Jr. "Boat Trip" kind of cruises. Phil remarks upon their pungent scent, to which Jeremy replies, "We're trying out a new cologne, called ‘Sword'." The Italian greet gives this tiny look of disgust, giving himself away as a perceptive fellow. He's known these two for all of 30 seconds, and he's already figured out that they're morons. BJ & Tyler are in for second spot, shortly behind.
Joseph proves, unsurprisingly, to be more adept at kayak polo than Barry, moving them up into third place. Fran apparently went to the "You Suck" School of Motivational Speaking, calling him pathetic. Soon will come out the canes and lemon juice, no doubt. Finally he scores, and they fall in for their by now traditional fourth place finish behind Joseph & Monica, greeted by an extremely dorky dancing Phil. Please don't do that again. I want to respect you.
Lake, apparently tired of carrying the whole team (in his mind) insists that Michelle take on the kayaking task, against her great reluctance. When she's not quite up to the task, the browbeating commences again from him with "Why didn't I do this myself?" – because you're a chauvinistic bastard secretly happy that you have something with which to prove your superiority over the female gender again, Lake, that's why. I get the feeling he'd be happy with just dumping her on the side of the road and finishing the race himself. He's that guy in every apocalyptic movie that gets frustrated with the group and wanders off on his own, only to be eaten by bears or something. Finally Michelle scores, swinging Lake to the manic side of his personality, way too excited about everything. "Make your way on foot..." "FOOT! YES! WAHOO!" I half expect an off-camera show runner to shoot him with a tranq blow dart. Big Shirtless Lake & Michelle trot in for fifth.
Ray & Yolanda are next into Siracusa, with Ray being the obvious choice for this task (the Roadblock limits seem to have been completely removed this time). However, he manages to capsize his kayak, possibly opening the door for Dave & Lori. But no, he scores from downtown, and puts them in position to survive for hopefully another day. They could still get lost, of course, which is what Dave & Lori have to count on (or a non-elimination), as Dave enters the water to a resoundingly nerdy cheer of "May the force be with you" from Lori. I mean, just... oh never mind. He scores on his second try, but they've got an uphill battle.
Indeed, it is Ray & Yolanda in for sixth spot, after a patented Phil Phake-Out. Dave & Lori ponder the potential deviousness of a non-elimination leg at this point, considering the fish-related tasks today, and it almost makes me wish the producers were in fact that evil. But no, there's no saving throw for these two and Dave & Lori are last and eliminated. That take this news pretty well in stride, and I suspect are slightly relieved considering the amount of stress that it seemed to place on them. In the end, it's a classic Mediocre Team mid-race elimination, as they never did anything exceptionally wrong, but also never showed any particularly outstanding racing skills.