The Amazing Race Season 9: Episode 3
I'm in Russia Playing With Dolls
By Reagen Sulewski
March 28, 2006
A dazzlingly pretty scene on a coffee plantation opens up this leg of the race in Bratos, Brazil, where, as Phil is quick to point out to us, we have indeed made a love connection. Danielle & Dani, after playing hard to get early on with Eric & Jeremy, have apparently "paired up". Since this is still sort of a family show, this gets left a little to our imagination, but the innuendo isn't very thick here. Couples have often formed after the race, but this may be the first time that this has happened with it in progress. I look forward to the inevitable break-up and the yielding of one of these two teams by the other.
BJ & Tyler, our overenthusiastic hippies, are away at 4:48 a.m. as the winners of the last leg, where they have to take a ride on a zipline, that Amazing Race staple, to get their next clue. Eric & Jeremy are next off at 5:01 a.m. and quickly decide to name their Beetle "Danielle Number 3" ... no doubt because of its curves and the fact that it's a "goer", knowwhatI'msaying, nudgenudge, winkwink.
Joseph & Monica are third out at 5:18 a.m., with Dave & Lori (of the jaunty theme music) close behind at 5:28 a.m. We go back to the road and find out that the zipline doesn't open until 7 a.m., meaning this task served as our official bunching point of the leg. This gives BJ & Tyler time to plot, and they decide to hide by the side of the road to scare the teams behind them. Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly, given that it's Eric & Jeremy we're talking about), this transparent ruse works, and we get a suitably freaked out response from them. Next they can try that, "Dude, there's something on your shoulder!" trick. Next they hump Dave & Lori's car. Tom Green's lawyers will be speaking to them.
Ray & Yolanda are fifth out of the gate this morning at 6:31 a.m., and should be able to catch up to the pack before too long, as should Wanda & Desiree, just one minute behind them.
Seventh spot this morning belongs to Lake & Michelle, leaving at 7:06 a.m., with Lake in full "Yee-haw" mode, driving down the dirt path like he's trying to get airborne. He expresses some frustration that Michelle is playing too passively but acknowledges that she's probably kept him from blowing himself up at some point in this race. This seems to be a surprisingly low priority for him. He should just change his name to Max Power and be done with it.
Danielle and Dani are out at 7:07 a.m., and rank their strengths as follows: #1, hearts, #2, bodies, #3, boobs. Well, aside from the bit of redundancy there they seem to have a solid assessment of themselves, even if they did have to put out to use their cute girl advantage.
We have our first insane and stupid decision of the day and it goes to... drumroll please... Lake! Wow, what were the odds? Michelle, navigating from the backseat tells him them have to turn right, which leads him to instantly turn left. Listen, this is the point of your teammate, Lake. She rightly questions his decision, and he responds with a raised hand (classy) and "Shut up." The spite is strong with this one. When they inevitably get lost, Lake then says, "we don't know the first turn out of the damn gate." In the immortal words of Tonto, "what do you mean "we", kemosabe?"
About this time, the first of the teams are heading across the 300 foot canyon in order to receive their clue. The next mystery location turns out to be Moscow, Russia (lest they mistake it for Moscow, Idaho – hey, it would have been probable, even likely last season) and the teams have to scramble for bus departure times to the Sao Palo airport. This fact is just as exciting as going to Russia for BJ & Tyler, which is kind of scary (wow, a blue car!). We also get to find out that their "power word" is "ttow!" or some such, which has to have been invented while high.
We now return to "Hillbilly Dentists, Lost in the Amazon", already in progress. Lake can't believe his luck that just because he ignored his wife's directions that his team has ended up lost. This is one man not cursed with self-awareness.
Finally, Fran & Barry leave for the zipline, heading out a leisurely time of 8:24 a.m., though Lake's wanderlust may let them back into the game.
The teams are now reaching the bus station in Brotas to take them to the airport, with the first four teams getting a 9:15 a.m. departure time. Ray & Yolanda are the first team to be stuck on the second bus leaving 45 minutes after, in the second pack with Wanda & Desiree.
Not only has Lake let the geezers back in it, he's allowed himself to be passed by the Pink twins, dropping about 20 minutes of time. Finding out where they're going next, he actually exclaims, "Dat gummit, I hoped we wouldn't have to go to Russia." Dat gummit? Is he actually by chance an 18th century prospector? I think they've cast Larry the Cable Guy on this show and didn't tell us. Driving to the bus station, Lake tries out this "strategy" thing and wonders if there might be any tricks to driving there. 'Cause, fool him once, shame on him. Fool him twice... shame on him again. Fool him three times... and he starts to get an inkling of why people are laughing at him. He and Michelle do manage to get a spot on the second bus, absorbing their mistakes of the day so far, but not before seeing if he can pass the entire buck onto Michelle "being a bitch". The good news for him is that his ego is the star of the show so far.
Fran & Barry started off much too far back to catch back up the group, leaving them on the third and final bus to Sao Paolo, much to their consternation. However, these old teams have shown a zombie like resistance to elimination so it's imprudent to count them out just yet. This is evidenced by the fact that when they do get to the airport, they're able to get on the same flight to Moscow. The sum total of this morning's required skill? Not dying.
Arriving in Moscow, the teams have to find the Chaika Bassein, an outdoor diving facility. Danielle & Dani win the Brownie points for this episode by trying to learn some Russian on the flight, then share this info with their new best buds. Eric proves he's basically 12-years-old by mussing up Danielle's hair in gratitude.
It's a huge scramble out the gates of the Moscow airport, with some very bewildered looking Russian cab drivers dealing with these teams, who for some reason want to go swimming right from the airport, and in a hurry. The dazzling insight from most teams is that Russia is cold in the winter. Just wait until the gulag Detour.
BJ & Tyler get to the clue box first, revealing it to be the Detour, which will have one of them dive off a ten meter tower in freezing conditions, then swim to find a clue that's tethered beneath the water. Tyler's quick to volunteer (there are no hesitations in choices with this team – always a sign of good racing), followed by Barry, who with Fran have managed to slide in for second place at this point, taking advantage of their free pass this morning.
Ray & Yolanda show some really poor decision making skills when Ray decides that since he did the last Roadblock, she should do this one. Why is this bad? They're at a swimming pool. Yolanda can't swim. Do you not think this might be part of the reason you're here? Was it really that hard to see this coming?
Tyler shows the heart of a lion in jumping off the high platform and retrieves the clue, which sends them to Novodevichiy Monastery, then to find a cathedral on the grounds which contains their next clue.
Lake & Michelle are fourth into the swimming pool, where Lake attempts to pass off the Roadblock to Michelle, leading to the reply from her of "I might have to do it naked!" Errr... are you by chance the owner of a Jump to Conclusions mat? Since when does this show do that? Also interesting is Lake's response of "So?" I mean, it's not what's going to happen, but he doesn't know that. Finally he agrees to take on the task. Eric goes for his team, while Dani (or Danielle. I'm not really sure and quite frankly I don't think it matters. They are now officially this season's team I can't tell apart) goes for her duo.
Monica & Lori also bite the bullets in this Roadblock for their respective teams, which is starting to make me wish the producers had been taking a cue from Fear Factor or some crappy sensationalistic reality show – and I'm reminded quite quickly how short-sighted this idea is as Barry walks out on the tower. After struggling a bit with getting under water, ("Do that dive that you learned! ... No, he didn't learn it well enough" – Fran cracks me up here) he finally gets the clue and they're on their way with their surprising showing in this leg so far.
Yolanda makes a big deal of being scared up on top of the tower, but gets an enthusiastic cheering section urging her down. After a brief and silly fake out by the producers (Oh no! She's gonna drown!), Yolanda's ordeal is over. The next few teams go through without incident, though Eric passes on his chance to do a flip and impress his new special lady friend. They do hold up and wait for Danielle and Dani – which means these two teams may sink or swim together.
Monica and Lori are through next, leading us to our next bit of drama. Apparently, Wanda is afraid of deep water, making this team number two with bad logic skills. She starts to get into a full panic attack, with Desiree doing her best to calm her down. Now, not everyone learns how to swim, but we're talking like two feet of water that she has to push herself down. It's kind of ridiculous.
BJ & Tyler find the cathedral first with no problems and decide to enjoy a bit of the admittedly gorgeous scenery before opening their clue, which is the Detour. It's going to be a choice between scrubbing a trolley car clean, or finding a tiny clue hidden in one of 1500 Russian nesting dolls. Veteran watchers know that that the task involving luck is typically a really bad idea, as tedious as the trolley car task looks. BJ & Tyler, who have been making solid decisions throughout, decide to head for the trolley park immediately.
As other teams make their way to the cathedral, we have a crisis in a following van – Danielle & Dani have forgotten all their belongings back at the dive facility, including their passports, money and clues. This forces Team Schmoopy to split up, with Danielle & Dani out in the middle of a busy Moscow street searching for a cab. So give Eric & Jeremy some credit for knowing when to cut them loose. It does seem odd that the cab driver wouldn't call in to the dispatcher, but that's Russia for you.
The teams at the Cathedral seem unusually mystified about where the cathedral is, and granted, there's a few buildings on the site. But there's a pretty big churchy looking one – you might want to try that. Eventually they all find it, with Lake (with Michelle in tow) deciding they need to do the cleaning task, and Eric & Jeremy & Fran & Barry following suit. Ray & Yolanda are shortly behind these teams and go for the nesting dolls, apparently looking for a challenge.
On the other hand, finding a random maintenance yard in the middle of Moscow could prove to be a challenge all of its own, if the reaction of Eric & Jeremy's cab driver is any indication. Lake decides to latch on to Ray & Yolanda – apparently his "over there!" cry in the cathedral indebted them to him forever – although he's unaware of the fact that he's going to a different challenge. Eric & Jeremy fall back on what they know best – following people – and ask their driver to take them to any of the two tasks. It's a bold second place strategy they have.
Back at the diving facility, Wanda is just now working up her courage with the help of a cheering section, grabbing a clue, albeit leaving her and Desiree in last place. That is, at least, until they see that Danielle & Dani have had to come back for their packs, giving them a fighting chance.
Dave & Lori and Joseph & Monica have now arrived at the cathedral and working together decide to go for the trolley task. These guys know they can't both win, right? It's starting to look like the nesting doll task might have been the better choice after all, as BJ & Tyler have made a circle in their cab in the search for it. Running into Fran & Barry, they compare notes and realize neither of them knows where the hell they are.
The first group of teams, lead by Ray & Yolanda, now arrives at the theatre, where Lake is given the rude awakening to the reality of their choice. Hey, no complaining if you're following! In addition to the dolls, the teams here are confronted with a Russian military band and a troupe of traditional dancers, in what looks to be a classic stress test.
Wanda & Desiree are finally reaching the cathedral, though they probably don't know how far the pack has slid back to them. Wanda declares herself to be great at cleaning, opting for the trolley task. Then, some of the day's fatigue manifests itself, as she ask the cab driver to open "el trunk" – I guess counting on their driver speaking fluent Spanglish. Danielle & Dani arrive next, also choosing the trolley task, but losing their cab in the process. Eventually they get one to stop, but not before bleeding still more time.
At the doll task, it's girls, girls, girls, as far as Eric can see, though he does spend enough time with the dolls to be the first to find a clue in them. Hooray for blind-assed luck! Seconds later, Michelle discovers one, despite Lake's pleading for help (he's so abandoned the "I'm the strongest racer" strategy). The clue sends them to Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral where they will then "search for Phil". Hmm... interesting wording on that clue, no?
More teams are having trouble with finding the trolley yard, with Wanda & Desiree ultimately being the first to do so, making a remarkable inter-leg comeback., followed by Danielle & Dani. And the last shall be first! The two headed monster of Monica & Joseph and Dave & Lori are shown driving around scenic industrial Moscow, and have lost major time.
Back at the dolls, Ray finally finds a clue, which, with the difficulties all the other teams are having, still leaves them in third place for the moment, leaving BJ & Tyler and Fran & Barry still hunting. BJ requests a "Lucky, find the cluey dance" from one of the nearby dancers, which, spookily, seems to work as Tyler finds a clue almost immediately. They do their best to help out Fran & Barry and are on their way, though Fran is quickly aiming for the title for this season of "person that threatens to quit most often". Way to show that survivor spirit! Meanwhile, the rest of the teams have finally found the trolley station, and are scrubbing away furiously.
Cut to Red Square, and Eric & Jeremy getting out of their cab, sprinting towards a cathedral looking thing. There's Phil, and there's a mat, but there's no greeter – hmmm – and he breaks the news to them that, as you might have suspected at this point by my not so subtle clues, that this is not the end of the leg, and is one of the infamous double legs. This is by far the earliest that this has occurred in the Amazing Race, and seems to be part and parcel with the general motivation of the producers this season, to really break the teams.
A To Be Continued with music fit for a spy thriller comes across the airwaves...