The Amazing Race 7: Episode 3

By Reagen Sulewski

March 16, 2005

Best friends forever!

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We begin again back in Santiago, Chile for the third leg of the Amazing Race, with Rob & Amber still in the lead and leaving in the middle of the night. Their dominating performance in last week’s leg ended up giving them ‘only’ about an hour lead on second place, but we’ll see if that gets wasted by bunching points, which haven’t been so prominent yet this season. The first clue directs them to drive to Argentina, but first they must find their car.

The team in second is Ron & Kelly, and Ron starts off by revealing in a cutaway interview that the race has given him second thoughts about marrying Kelly. Now, I’m not saying she’s a particular prize, but if he’s using a reality TV show as a barometer for how married life might be, I say she should dump him. In the cab, Ron apparently feels Kelly isn’t getting her chance to provide for the team, and gets her to tell the cabbie “rapido”. Because otherwise, he clearly wouldn’t know what to do.

That last leg really spread the teams out, as Ray & Deana are a little less than an hour behind Ron & Kelly, with Uchenna & Joyce about an hour behind them.

That gap pattern doesn’t continue, however, as Lynn & Alex are just a few minutes behind in fifth. They continue an unhealthy obsession with beating Rob & Amber, although they are far from the only team to suffer from this problem. Hey guys, there are still seven other teams besides you and them that you have to beat!

We’ve got a tightly clustered pack now, as Debbie & Bianca were only one minute back in sixth, Meredith & Gretchen another four minutes back of them, and Susan & Patrick 12 minutes behind in eighth. Patrick quasi-hits on his cab driver, but unless he’s planning to set some sort of land speed connection, this does not seem like one love connection that’s going to succeed. Besides, I don’t know anyone that can score with their mom in tow.

Brian & Greg start off a full three hours behind first place, but their spirits clearly aren’t dampened, giving themselves a little PA intro. Yeah, keep wasting time, that’s a good idea. A clearly groggy Brian seems puzzled by exactly where he is, and becomes baffled by the idea that he’ll be driving to Argentina. Yes, Brian, it’s the next country over. You’re in South America. No, we can’t hit IHOP first.

Rob & Amber make it to the parking garage but find their lead is about to evaporate, as it doesn’t open until 5 a.m., meaning that every team should be able to make it here by the time the garage opens. Mostly, this gives Rob & Amber (and Ron & Kelly) some time for shuteye. Ray & Kelly decide to camp out, while Debbie & Bianca head to a hotel to get a map and directions.

However, they do so at the same hotel that Rob & Amber crashed at, which leads to our first bit of drama of the night. While Debbie & Bianca talk to the desk clerk, Rob offers their cab driver ten pesos to take them back to the garage, the next step in the “let’s annoy the ever-loving crap out of all the other teams” strategy. Amber continues to have virtually no part in these nefarious dealings and Rob is pretty much running this show right now. As they speed away, Rob claims that will teach them to call him a liar, but two points here: a) I’m pretty sure he would have stolen it anyway, and b) he is a liar.

Debbie & Bianca make it back before 5 a.m., making his plan moot, and not only that, they don’t even know he did it, so he doesn’t get the satisfaction of their anger. Rob & Amber continue their hustle by managing to get out of the parking garage first, then finagling a local cop to give them an escort to the freeway, the Al Norte, which they are shown mentioning in suspicious detail. Wonder if that will become important later?

Debbie & Bianca continue their slide (really, this is shocking. They seemed like a team to beat in the first episode) by getting out of the garage last. They do however, pass the super-competent Susan & Patrick on the way to the freeway, driving through the same gas station that they are trying to get directions in.

Back on Al Norte, we are subjected to a subtle-as-a-Fox News-editorial sequence of teams exiting the freeway, one after the other after the other after the other...wait a second, toll booth? Yes, Debbie & Bianca appear to have taken the wrong exit, for all their early planning. Apparently that bored desk clerk likes sending tourists off in the wrong direction for kicks.

The rest of the teams that can read a map start winding their way up an Andean highway. Rob & Amber discuss the fact that a Yield was mentioned in their initial clue, and come to the amazing deduction that the other teams don’t really like them that much, and they are probably vulnerable to the other teams’ whims.

Lynn confirms this bold supposition, and wonders if any teams will have the “huevos” to yield them. Of course, you have to get ahead of them first. More brilliant deductions come from the third place team Meredith & Gretchen, who realize that mountain roads are high and bumpy. A cranky and nauseous Gretchen asks Meredith to slow down – well it’s not like you’re in a race or anything.

Back in Santiago (!), Susan & Patrick are still, almost two hours later, aimlessly driving around the city looking for the freeway. I’m not sure if you read this in the rules or not, but it’s okay to stop and ask for help. That Mapquest endorsement is going up in smoke, or given how notoriously unreliable they can be, maybe they’re going to come knocking. Stymied by a No Left Turn sign (just run it already!) they finally get out of the apparent urban maze that is Chile's capital. You know, it was still night time when the other teams left.

They don’t know it yet, but hope isn’t lost, as Debbie & Bianca are on the worst road trip since Clark Griswold made that wrong turn into East St. Louis. Coming across another toll booth guard, they find that she surprisingly doesn’t know how to get to a point in another country that’s hundreds of miles off course. Maybe it’s their accent.

Rob & Amber reach the Yield first, meaning the sweet vengeance of the other teams will have to wait for another day. Disappointing us all, Rob does not choose to yield Lexx & Big Tom. Now, if I may get grammar nitpicky here, the phrasing of the teams’ statements on the mat should not be “we choose not to yield”, but rather “we choose not to yield anyone” since the first statement implies some sort of childish refusal to acknowledge the rules. Okay, this is my problem, I’ll deal with it.

The clue is the detour, “Paddle or Pedal”, and I’m thinking at this point it’s just as well that Ryan & Chuck are out, as no one would have been able to understand which one of those tasks they’d choose. It’s either ride a raft down a river or cycle down a railroad track, and there isn’t a clear decision to me as to which one is better. Both are pretty TV friendly, usually the first deciding factor, though the cycling is probably easier to control.

Rob & Amber take the raft, just as Lynn & Alex arrive at the cluebox. They also choose the raft, and are in sight of first place in the river. Lynn’s paddling technique is self-described as “lean forward, lean back.” You’re just testing me with these lines, aren’t you?

Brian & Greg pass Meredith & Gretchen (who I wouldn’t be surprised to learn had left their turn signal on all the way from Chile) just as they’re approaching the Yield, though it doesn’t amount to much. The brothers pick the bikes, although it’s a windy day, which isn’t the most fun time to ride a bike ever. Meredith and Gretchen predictably choose the raft.

In case you haven’t picked up on it, Lynn & Alex don’t like Rob & Amber very much. Other people they don’t like? Amber & Rob. Not going to be on their Christmas Card list? Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich. We. Get. It. Out on the river, they do pull ahead of The Hated Ones (“You suck! Please acknowledge me!”) with an epic struggle and rowing with all their might, they hit the beach first. And… Lynn & Alex win The Amazing Race! Wait, no, they just get to the clue box ten second faster. My mistake there.

The clue sends them to the town of Mendooooozaaa! Ahem. Sorry. The town of Mendoza, and a barbeque taking place at a camping site there. As they drive off, Lynn remarks, “the gay boys took on the boy from Boston and the girl from the island, and they lost.” While I’m sure that sounded badass in your head, it really came off as whiny. How many times must we tell these people, run your own damn race!

Rob & Amber bravely find the courage to go on after their humiliating defeat, managing to make it look like they didn’t even care. Get these guys an Oscar!

Ron & Kelly, Ray & Deana and Uchenna & Joyce all arrive at the clue at this point and choose the rafting trip, with no one yielding anyone. The Yield is pretty much a waste at this point, though I suppose you do have to introduce it into the game.

Admiring the beautiful ocean view, Debbie & Bianca slowly come to a realization… there’s no ocean between Chile and Argentina! Unless they’ve decided to make their own version of The Motorcycle Diaries, they’ve gone horribly astray. Their first clue should have been, “Drive through the Andes”. Finally finding someone who knows where they want to go, they find out they’ve driven two and a half hours in the wrong direction. Debbie says it’s time to start praying for flat tires.

Remind me never to get on her bad side, as we cut to Brian and Greg, who have just had a flat tire on their bicycle course. Stray psychic energy from this woman could probably provide power for the city of Trenton, New Jersey for a week.

The bike path is directly along the river, and the brothers are treated to the sight of two teams floating on past them as they try to repair their tire. Eventually they give up and start hiking with the bikes.

Meredith stumbles on the way to the vehicle and Gretchen offers to swallow his soul... I mean give mouth-to-mouth. This woman’s voice could cut glass. Back in the pack, Uchenna briefly considers stopping right then and there to try and make a baby with Joyce, as he can’t resist a woman in a rubber suit. Brian & Greg finally make it in, dropping from third to sixth.

The clue in Mendoza is the Roadblock, which has the ominous warning of, “Who’s not a vegetarian?” It’s the ever popular Eat-all-the-peasants’-food challenge, consisting of four pounds of cow, and no, I don’t mean beef. The menu ranges from the normal serving of ribs down to the Fear Factorish cow udder and saliva gland, which I hear goes best with teriyaki sauce.

Alex is the lucky contestant for his team, while Rob predictably takes it on for his side. The calm, macho exterior of Lynn & Alex fades as they all but lay on the ground and expose their belly to him. I mean, they never expected they’d continue on in the race after the rafting trip! We’re sorry Robfather, please forgive us for out dishonor!

Back with the Orienteering merit badge teams, Susan & Patrick manage not to get lost again on the way to the Detour checkpoint and finally make it to the end. Debbie & Bianca also choose rafting, making Brian & Greg the only suckers who picked the bikes. I almost expected D&B to pick bikes after the revelation that Debbie nearly died two months previous white-water rafting. I mean with the karma day they’re already having, some caution seems warranted, no?

Speaking of instant karma, Rob’s comments in the first episode about this not being Survivor and that they’re allowed to eat come back to haunt him in a giant way as the four pounds of mystery meat proves difficult to chow down. They didn’t even give them any slaw!

So far, it’s an all-men challenge, with Meredith, Greg, Ron & Uchenna all chowing down. Rob attempts a psyche out ploy by mentioning the cow brains, but Greg starts swapping recipes with Ron, and the tactic fails. When mad cow takes them all down, he’ll have the last laugh.

Alex is the first upchucker of the evening, and this event seems to push Rob over the edge, and he quickly forms a strategy. Not completing a task is a four hour penalty from the time the next team arrives at the checkpoint, and Rob gambles that it’s going to take teams at least that long to wolf down this food. Luckily for them Ray & Deanna arrive very shortly after they decide to do this. As tactics go, actively subverting the rules is pretty high up there.

And here’s where things get interesting. As Deana took the roadblock for her team (this team seems to pick wrong at every turn), she knows she can’t finish, as the plate of food is about as big as her torso. A few minutes after Rob quits, she quits, and Rob has guaranteed that he has another team behind him. What he has recognized, and what other teams that are obsessed with Rob & Amber clearly have not, is that this early in the race, it is not necessary to be first, only to not be last. It’s thought like this that brought us Pyramid schemes.

Meanwhile, Ron starts comparing the experience in negative terms to the time he spent in an Iraqi prison, and a few people’s gag reflexes start to act up. Meredith is the next to quit. What these teams have not realized is just how far back the next team really is. If Rob had tried his trick just a few minutes later, it would have backfired immensely.

Not everyone is ready to quit and in an stunning gastronomical performance, Uchenna is the first to finish his meal. There’s a career on the eating championship circuit waiting for this guy after the race. They head off to the pitstop, a nearby ranch.

Alex is the second to complete the food challenge, but his team capitalizes on a mistake by Uchenna & Joyce - who head off in the wrong direction - and takes first place for this leg. Proudly displaying their rowing technique (I think) on the mat, they could not be making Phil look any less comfortable up there. The word I’m looking for here is something like “mortified”, but with more disgust and contempt. There’s no trip for a bonus prize, and I’m thinking he held it back out of spite. Also, Rob & Amber, Rob & Amber.

U&J make it in for second, with a little disgust of their own at being beaten on the drive.

Susan is feeling the hunger pangs out on the road at what probably couldn’t be a worse time, and she munches down on a PowerBar. Patrick thinks they’ll find a cheap meal in Mendoza, and this comment couldn’t be funnier if they stopped on the way at a roadside all-you-can-eat buffet. I bet they fill up on bread, too.

Greg & Ron finish up for their teams and I imagine are really jonsing for some Pepto. Brian & Greg and Ron & Kelly step on the mat at the same time and finish third and fourth.

Susan & Patrick arrive at the checkpoint to great applause, as now Ray & Deana and Meredith & Gretchen’s penalties can start. It’s Patrick’s Roadblock to do, and he quickly sees he’s in over his head. At the same time, Debbie & Bianca are finishing up their Detour. They share a little Thelma & Louise moment, vowing not to give up, which is pretty much Amazing Race rule #1.

The petulant Prince Patrick decides that now is a good time to start asserting his independence from mommy, and thinks that spite is an effective emotion for this situation. He’s also going to show his face a thing or two by taking away its pretty nose. Listen, I hate to break this to you, but you’re in a race. How is it that so many of these teams don’t seem to realize that?

Staring at the plate and willing it to spontaneously shift to another dimension, Patrick is sure that neither Debbie nor Bianca will have what it takes to complete the Roadblock. However, upon reading the clue, Debbie gets practically orgasmic at the idea of meat and starts to chow down, sending Patrick into panic mode.

Shortly after that, Rob & Amber’s penalty is over, and they amble up to the pitstop for fifth place, and didn’t have to eat cow brains. A fair trade-off, in my opinion. Phil comments on how pleased with himself Rob looks, and you have to say he’s got every reason to, as he made the game come to him, rather than the reverse.

Both Ray & Deana and Meredith & Gretchen’s penalties end around this time, and they hustle off to the pitstop. M&G manage to get lost on the way to yet another pitstop, and R&D take sixth, with M&G picking up seventh.

Patrick’s head start, however small, allows him to finish the Roadblock ahead of Debbie. Continuing the theme of the episode, however, Susan gets lost yet again while driving. I think in her last life she was a member of the Donner Party. This lets Debbie & Bianca back in the race, but only momentarily.

Susan & Patrick find the pitstop for eighth place, relegating Debbie & Bianca to last and elimination. I guess this just goes to show that in a race about travel, going in the wrong freaking direction isn’t a great decision.



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