The Amazing Race Season 9: Episode 4
It's Not Over 'Til the Phil Sings
By Reagen Sulewski
March 27, 2006
The cruel To Be Continued of last week's Amazing Race picks up again in Moscow, as Phil hands the next clue to Eric & Jeremy. No pussyfooting around with other tasks in the city, though – they're sent straight off to Frankfurt, Germany, and then off to nearby Stuttgart and the Mercedes-Benz factory. Jeremy asks how they're getting there, to which Eric blankly replies, "...airport!" This seems to snap Jeremy out of his mentally relaxed state (I think he calls it "the waking hours") and the two of them are off to catch a plane.
Phil's going to catch a lot of teams off guard by the looks of it, as Lake & Michelle react very strongly and disappointingly to the news. "Aw, shoot!" says the helpful subtitles, lest we confuse Michelle's strong southern accent for something a little less FCC friendly. Ray & Yolanda are third in, and are hoping to get out of Moscow tonight to avoid bunching from other teams. I suspect the producers have other things in mind here.
Back at the evil doll task, Barry finally stumbles on a clue in one of the nesting dolls, though this proves to be almost a cruel joke, as the type is nearly too small for this elderly team to see. You win again, Phil!
BJ & Tyler careen into the mat and are ecstatic and shocked to be still in fourth place – this wasn't a model half-leg by any means for any team, and Russia kicked their collective asses. On their way out, BJ tries to tip Phil, though really, you kind of want to save your money on this race. Tyler sneaks back later to take the buck back. I wonder when these guys get their own show. Fran & Barry are in for fifth at the halfway point shortly after to their even greater surprise, and BJ & Tyler have stuck around to be their cheerleaders. Really, I should hate these guys, but they're entirely too positive and genuinely happy for everyone.
Out at the trolley yard, the teams have discovered that the manager there is an evil anal-retentive taskmaster, apparently keen on keeping his newly acquired slave labor force. Eventually, he lets Wanda & Desiree go, shortly followed by Desiree & Dani.
At the Moscow airport, Eric & Jeremy manage to grab one a flight to Frankfurt that night. They somehow beat the closing of check-in by seconds, judging by the fact that Lake & Michelle are denied despite standing right next to them at the counter. Eric & Jeremy are off at 7:05 p.m., leaving Lake to stew and swear.
Joseph & Monica and Dave & Lori are finally done at the trolley task, within moments of each other and are the last to leave the yard. Interestingly, they agree to share a cab again, even though for all they know, this is for elimination. Perhaps Joseph & Monica have no fears about outrunning the, shall we say, portly Dave. This proves to be the case, as they lose Dave & Lori almost immediately upon reaching Red Square. Although they are the last to check in, they are of course, not gone, and perhaps have simply received a wake-up call.
It's back to the ever popular airport jockeying portion of this leg, with Lake & Michelle finagling a 9:15 flight out that night. A huge slug of teams have since arrived and are in line to get this same Aeroflot flight (side note: with Aeroflot's rep, perhaps they really don't want that flight), though in almost comically stereotypical fashion, the computers have broken down.
We cut to Eric & Jeremy, landing in Frankfurt, where they manage to catch a train to Stuttgart just as it's leaving. This gives them a potentially gigantic lead, though you know the producers are going to bring the fix in somehow.
Miraculously, the ticket counters open in time for just one more team, BJ & Tyler, to get on the 9:15 flight, leaving the rest of the teams to spend the night in Moscow. The next available flight out seems to be at 7 in the morning, meaning the producers will have really work overtime to bring the packs back together.
On the train to Stuttgart, Eric & Jeremy meet a local and take the opportunity to... anyone, anyone? ask about the quality of the local ladies. Their new friend actually pans them (let's hope for his sake this show doesn't air in Germany). Of course, getting info about Stuttgart seems to escape them. Luckily, Mercedes-Benz is something of a land mark in Stuttgart and they receive their next clue. At 8:30 the next morning, they'll take a ride on the Mercedes-Benz test track, which features an almost 90-degree bank and carries the confidence-inspiring nickname of "The Wall of Death".
Their tremendous lead evaporates some, with Train 2 carrying Lake & Michelle and BJ & Tyler, but there is guaranteed to be some separation unless one of the teams at the Moscow airport invents a time machine. The remainder of the teams board the 7 a.m. flight, which should lead to a nice scramble among the peloton.
The test drive is relatively simple but thrilling all the same – the cars get up to around 170km/hr (105 mph for the metric challenged), then go up the bank of the wall, where they do almost get vertical. The cars then become their transportation for the next section of the race, heading to Bad Tölz, in the middle of the Bavarian countryside.
The third train to Stuttgart arrives at 11:15 a.m. with a big scramble to find the Mercedes-Benz plant. Wanda & Desiree are taught the German word for "fast" (schnell), much to the chagrin of their cab driver and the rest of Germany. Dave & Lori get through the test track first, with Ray & Yolanda hot on their tail. A funny contrast comes up in the rides of Joseph & Monica, who react like they're on the scariest rollercoaster ever (hamming it up), while Fran & Barry right after them just sort of give a polite nod and a smile. They're cool as ice, I tells ya.
Some side plots to watch on the road to Bad Tölz: Desiree's standard tension with her mother manifests itself as annoyance with her mother's Puerto Rican accent in foreign languages; Dave & Lori, after getting a scare in Moscow, are vowing to work for themselves and have broken their unofficial alliance with Joseph & Monica, and Danielle & Dani may just regret choosing to follow Wanda & Desiree, as they have made the classic mistake of going in the wrong direction.
Eric & Jeremy have reached Ellbach Field at Bad Tölz and pick up their clue, the Roadblock. Here, they'll have to search a field for (product placement alert) one of 11 Travelocity gnomes hidden under various gnome parts strewn about the field. Oh the gnomanity! With a lot of gnomes out there to find (at least at first), Jeremy makes short work of this one, finding a clue after three tries. The clue sends them to Bavaria Film Studios in Grünwalds, and they are told to bring their new friend along for the ride. Why, what a clever way to get more exposure for their advertising dollar!
Lake & Michelle get a little bit disoriented on the way to the field and stop a local for directions – a guy who turns out to be already drunk. It's the middle of the day, man. Congratulations for setting back German stereotypes 20 years, dude. BJ & Tyler beat them there, although Lake is slightly luckier, finding a gnome first while Tyler tries to think of words that rhyme with gnome. BJ gets back to the cars with a gnome before they leave, where Lake offers them the guide service of their friend, except they have to drive him home first. And maybe they'll go in for a quick cup of coffee and some cake.
Fran & Barry have moved up into fourth at this point, and first of the second grouping despite being last out of the Mercedes-Benz plant – perhaps we've underestimated these two. Barry's system involves checking only feet, which works surprisingly well.
Back on the Autobahn, Wanda has taken exactly the same exit as before, getting them, and by extension, Danielle & Dani, absolutely squat. Lesson to racers – if you're going to follow, make sure you follow competent people. This foreign country thing is really rattling Wanda, and this seems to be satisfying some sort of premonition she had. "SEE! SEE!" she says, blaming Desiree for not helping her out more. I might point out that she did give her the route and direction – aside from crawling up front, there's not much more she could have done.
Eric & Jeremy have now found the film studio and grab their clue, which, predictably, is the Detour. The choice is between breaking stunt bottles over each other's heads (always a good tension relief) until they find a secret message, or performing in a traditional German folk dance. Personally, I have no rhythm, so I know which one I'd choose, but the bottle task is limited by a cuckoo clock, making it potentially time consuming. They get to work cracking skulls (wise guy, eh?) while we get the attack of ethnic music in the background, courtesy of an Oompah band.
The order at the Roadblock for the next grouping goes Ray & Yolanda, Joseph & Monica, then Dave & Lori. All three are pretty safe at the moment, though they can't know how safe. And of course there's always the chance of blowing it, which Ray underlines by stopping for directions – "It's always better to waste a little time and be sure rather than go the wrong way." Exactly, Ray, exactly.
The fun of the Detour is starting to wear off for Eric & Jeremy, though they do amuse themselves between cuckoos by hitting on the German hostess, inviting her out for beer. They do manage to find a clue just as the next two teams are entering in, and after getting a kiss from the hostess (you don't know where they've been, lady!) gives them the location of the next Pit Stop. They have to travel to Munich and find the Siegstor, a monument to peace similar to the Arc de Triomphe.
Both Lake & Michelle and BJ & Tyler choose the bottle breaking task, albeit with a fair amount of skepticism from Michelle. I'm sure that Lake has been looking for a socially acceptable reason to hit her with things all along. They luck out after just a couple of bottles, with BJ & Tyler just behind. This latter team makes Eric & Jeremy out to be the frat boys they are by asking the hostess to dance, in German. Of course, being the giant goofs they are, they do have to try harder.
About this time, Fran & Barry arrive at the Detour location, choosing the dancing routine. It turns out to be like a co-ordination-requiring game of Simple Simon, involving hand slaps, kicks and lederhosen – who doesn't love that? – and both of them struggle initially when it kicks up to speed.
Over in Munich, Eric & Jeremy have found the arch and run up to meet Phil and what looks like a real life representation of the gnome they're carrying. They are indeed first to the mat, and get a prize of a trip to "the heart of Africa" (what, like the geographic center? That could get dicey). It's looking good for them to cross off another continent on the great list of "places we've been rejected by women." Phil notes their lipstick tattoos, and declares them the biggest Casanovas ever on the race. Jeremy just hopes that Danielle and Dani make it so they can, and I quote, "get some more tongue-wrestling in". Phil might just punch these two before it's over.
A cat and mouse game forms between BJ & Tyler and Lake & Michelle on the streets of Munich, as the hippies let Lake & Michelle go by in a more or less random direction while they stay behind and ask for directions. Michelle starts to get frustrated at this long leg, causing Lake to snap at her for her negativity. Big mistake, as this lets Michelle pull out the most powerful weapon in her arsenal, sarcastic fake cheer as sharp as a razor. BJ & Tyler have some fun with the run up to the mat, coming in backwards (but notably, without their gnome – we'll see if anything comes of that). OK, that's trying just a little too hard to be eccentric. Lake & Michelle come in shortly after for third.
After what seems like a random series of hand slaps, Fran & Barry are released from the dance torture (I suspect they didn't like seeing their own culture abused so badly) and are now in the final run if their surprisingly strong leg, steering themselves in for fourth. I think they invented a teleporter somewhere along the way.
The next three teams all pick the bottle breaking task, getting to work out various frustrations on each other. Dave & Lori get lucky and find one in about five minutes, giving them a crucial edge.
Now we're down to the last two teams at the Roadblock, who face the challenge of finding one of the four remaining gnomes in a picked over field. It's pure luck at this point, and Dani manages to find one first. There's a bit of mental breakdown setting in for Wanda & Desiree, who are resorting to backbiting and crying. I wouldn't say that's exactly a winning strategy. Combing the field once again, Desiree finally finds one, though they are significantly behind.
A frustrated, wet and achy Joseph & Monica have had enough of their current Detour and shift over to the dancing task, proving to be surprisingly coordinated, finishing in one go. This spurs Ray & Yolanda to give up on their Detour, and they quickly get through the dancing – though I suspect the instructor is being a little charitable at this point. Yolanda screams "I love you New York!" – a little confused, sure, but I'd pay to see her on Broadway.
Dave & Lori are in for fifth, pleased at their progression from nearly being eliminated. This is a solid lesson for all would-be contestants, in that following and teaming up usually gets you screwed. Joseph & Monica are in for sixth and Ray & Yolanda, a disappointing seventh after being third at the halfway point.
It's now down to the last two teams, who both choose the dancing task. Danielle & Dani have that lead, though, and are slick enough to get through the routine just as Wanda & Desiree are arriving. I wouldn't give them full marks, but they are let out after one time through, and the race is on to Munich. After Danielle & Dani bleed some time asking for directions, it comes down to a foot race to the finish. They can't be caught, however, eliminating Wanda & Desiree. While this wasn't exactly driving to the wrong country accident like Debbie & Bianca in Season 7, they did make a huge error and a completely inopportune time. The first Commandment of The Amazing Race is "Thou Shalt Not Get Lost" – and the punishment is almost always elimination.