The Amazing Race Season 9: Episode 7
Herculean Efforts for Some Herculean Dudes
By Reagen Sulewski
May 4, 2006
We rejoin our racers on the island of Sicily, with Eric & Jeremy continuing their unruly domination with a strategy of dumb luck. First out of the gate at 10:33 p.m., they're sent off by train to Rome to the Trevi Fountain, where they'll have to find a man on a yellow and red scooter. They're booked in on the 8 a.m. train, which gives a big ol' bunching point right off the bat.
The hippies are next out five minutes later, treating us to yet more of their fluent Italiano. Apparently all you need to do is put on the accent, like how in Mexico, all words are English with -o on the end.
Joseph & Monica are third out, at 11:00 p.m., with Monica recovering from her near breakdown in the market yesterday after finding out she's going to Rome, shaking like a school girl. I mean, seeing the destinations is great and all, but it's not like you get to stroll around like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Her on-camera interview really brings out her crazy, with a startling display of how self-unaware she is of how her tantrums are mostly responsible for holding them back.
Fran & Barry are fourth out at 11:53 p.m., with Barry praising Fran's "mental toughness", which is indeed crucial in this game, but it's the probably inevitable physical breakdown that's going to trip these two up. Meanwhile, the first of the teams is arriving at Siracusa's train station, and discovering that their hard fought lead is about to evaporate. Such is the whim of the producers.
A freshly shorn Lake & Michelle are fifth out of the gate at 12:17 a.m., finding themselves inching closer to the back of the pack each leg. An easy explanation for this presents itself, right after Michelle comments about how they're working as a team. A dispute over who was supposed to hand who directions degenerates quickly into a shouting match, with Lake finally yelling at her, "You never handed them to me bitch, now shut up!" That Michelle doesn't kick him in the balls at this point is a testament to her strength of character.
Finally we have Ray & Yolanda out at 1:02 a.m., who really need to start showing something, as they've been surviving by the skins of their teeth to this point, only briefly rising above the lower half of teams. They practically have to reintroduce themselves to Eric & Jeremy at the train station.
The big decision at Rome's airport becomes one of taxi or metro, with two teams braving the Italian taxi system, and four others trying for the trains. Lake, once again, is surprised to run into other teams here, perhaps expecting them to get lost on the train or something. Taxi looks like an early winner in this first stage of the leg, with Eric & Jeremy getting to the fountain first and finding the man on the scooter. Then are then sent to the famous Spanish Steps, where they'll have to find a horse carriage that will have a clue that can match up with the parchment they've just been given. It's a blatant tie-in with an upcoming movie, which I will not mention, other than to say that Tom Hanks looks ridiculous with that stupid mullet. Joseph & Monica, the other team that chose a taxi, get to the fountain second, in total awe of their surroundings.
They are followed by a rush of the first three teams to get on a metro train, with Ray & Yolanda already bringing up the rear. This is why you're always in the bottom half of the pack! At some point this stops being bad luck and just becomes incompetent racing.
Eric & Jeremy find the carriage at the steps, getting a clue that sends them to Athens, and a marketplace therein. "Cracking the code" proves to be as hard as flipping the sheet of paper, which, in the defense of the producers, was all they were willing to give credit to Eric & Jeremy for deductive skills.
Monica shows she knows her history by being humbled to "walk in the same place as Caesar and... all those people... is incredible." Hey, I suppose we should give her credit for thinking of one person. Hey, if you don't win, you can try to sub in for Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 3. All the teams find the carriage and are off to the airport, and with only one available flight, all the suspense, and yes, even the very purpose of today's events is rendered irrelevant to the race, other than to test if any of the teams would simply die.
We're now in Athens, and it's time for another History Lesson With Monica. This is, according to her, "where thinking began". And that taxi is where thinking stopped. Socrates just got up and asked for some more hemlock. Commenting on the nearby Ray & Yolanda, she says, "they're just all about the race, all the time." Yolanda, in response, "I'm not sure there's a lot going on there." Oh, snap! Of course, that might have more bite if you ever finished ahead of them in a leg. This portion as well proves irrelevant, as they arrive at night and the market doesn't open until 8 in the morning.
After scrambling around the market (really more of a ruins), Joseph & Monica are the first to find the clue box, which contains the first Fast Forward of the race. In a fitting ethnic stereotype, they will have to run to a nearby restaurant and break a stash of plates to find a route marker. Team MoJo decides to take a chance on it, risking their newly found lead.
Ray & Yolanda, meanwhile, play it safe and head for the city of Corinth as directed, via Isthmos Station by train. Why so much detail? It'll be clear in a moment. Eric & Jeremy as well as Fran & Barry go for the Fast Forward, with the other remaining teams head for Corinth.
It's chaos at the Fast Forward, with literally hundreds of plates to smash. Eric's blind-assed luck saves the day again for him, as he finds the route marker first, sending Joseph & Monica scurrying for the train station. Eric & Jeremy then get to skip right to the pit stop at the Fortress of Rion along the coast. After getting to smash the remaining plates (I guess this restaurant isn't having a service tonight, you jerks), they're then provided with a car to drive themselves right to the Pit Stop. Fran & Barry's slowness lets them down yet again, and they arrive to find the Fast Forward already taken. However, this didn't appear to be that much of a risk in the long run and this shouldn't set them back too much.
Things look grim for now, as the three teams that didn't go after the Fast Forward are on the train, with Joseph & Monica stuck in the middle of Athens looking for a taxi. It's a good thing that the rain hides Monica's tears. Joseph employs the ever popular and inspirational "Get confident, stupid!" technique, at one point telling her to become more positive before he gets pissed. It's not a banner day for the males in this race. Spirits pick up when they see Fran & Barry, realizing they're not last.
On the train ride, the sun comes out for the first time on the day, giving the racers a fantastic view as they ride close to the ocean. Lake's comment: "It's not near as pretty as Italy." Well hello to you, Captain Bringdown. The teams get off at Corinth Station (probably an easy mistake, since they want a station in Corinth), with the teams quickly realizing that there's no clue box around. After Lake asks for clarification in the official foreign language of the Amazing Race (Spanish-accented English), they buy bus tickets to get to the station. Aha, now here's where all that detail comes in. The clue said they were to stay on the train to the station. Michelle seems to realize this could be trouble, but Lake dismisses this with, "It's not gonna screw us up, dammit!" getting her upset for cursing at her. Wait, so he can call you a bitch, but "dammit" sets you off? They're a couple of odd ducks.
Eventually they find the station and get to the clue box, which contains the Roadblock, rather ominously titled, "Who wants to hear the sound of their own screams?" What, are they tying in with the next movie in the Saw franchise now? No, it's the classic Amazing Race task of bungee jumping, this time into the Corinth canal. The teams hustle off to the not-quite-culturally-appropriately named Zulu Bungee (since it's Pacific Islander in origin) and grab a number for the jump.
The trailing two teams have caught up now, showing us how much time the leading pack lost by getting off at the wrong station. Fran & Barry are the next contestants in "questionable task judgment", as Fran elects to take the Roadblock, with whining resulting when she realizes what it actually entails. Hey, do you think the scarily-named task might be something scary?
Ray is the first to jump, and when he gets back up, is given the next clue, which leads immediately into the Detour. The first choice is a recreation of three events from the Ancient Olympic Games, javelin, discus, and diaper-clad mud wrestling. I'm not entirely sure about that last one being in the Games. What they really have to do is tag-team wrestle a dude, who is in fact wearing a diaper, so I stand by my summation. The second is to spell out a Greek phrase from broken pottery strewn around a field. There really couldn't be a clearer brawn vs. brains challenge. Ray & Yolanda go for the physical event, in a fairly obvious choice for probably the strongest team in the race.
Tyler takes the plunge for his team, and these two decide on the physical task as well, excited about competing in the Olympics. Did they recently add Bong Construction as an event? Michelle jumps for her team, intending to go for the physical event as well. She's followed by Monica, whose screams serve only to frighten the hell out of Fran. They go after the physical detour as well. This brings us to Fran's jump, which is excruciating to watch, especially since four other people just jumped without incident before her. Her cry is really tough to describe, sort of resembling a live animal being gutted. Eventually she goes over the edge and doesn't die, with the ever-supportive Barry awaiting her at the top. Playing to their strengths, they are the first team to choose the puzzle Detour.
The entertainment that is Lake & Michelle gets going right as soon as they get in their car, when it becomes Michelle's fault that she can't read Greek. "You screwed us right off the bat, honey," says Lake, oh so supportive and positive. Name-calling and childish taunting ensue from both parties after this, and they are forced to pull over and ask for directions. Lake's filter must be broken, as he ends up calling her an idiot, which is probably worth a good month of sleeping in the doghouse.
Bright and sunny skies greet Eric & Jeremy as they work their way towards the Pit Stop. They scramble up the stairs of a stone structure to find Phil awaiting them, who informs them that they've won the leg. And with the ever so difficult puzzle they solved, they win the leg's prize, a trip to Los Angeles to the premiere of the unnamed-here film that ties in with the puzzle. Personally, I think Ron Howard should have stuck with the movie about the killer robot-driving-instructor that travels back in time for some reason.
Around the time that Ray & Yolanda reach the Detour and get to work on the Olympic events, we cut back to a couple of teams on the road. BJ & Tyler have perhaps made their first big mistake of the race and have gone in the wrong direction, while Lake & Michelle, so frazzled at their argument earlier, barely paid attention to the directions they got from a gas station. See, it's not good enough just to ask, you have to actually listen and then follow.
The javelin proves pretty tough to throw for both Ray and Joseph, with Ray's several misses allowing MoJo to catch up, necessitating a throw-off to see which team gets to take the lead here. In the meantime, Fran & Barry have arrived and start to pick up the tiles. It's not clear how they're going about selecting them, as spelling out something with all consonants might be tough, but it must be that they have to select one of each shape or something. Lake & Michelle arrive next, but somehow end up at the spelling Detour. Lake just says to hell with it and insists they continue with this instead of trying to find the Olympic task.
BJ & Tyler finally stop at a gas station and ask directions, realizing just then how screwed they are, having wasted an hour already with another hour to go. It's a bummer, man, and all is definitely not cool in Hippie World. Where's your TTOW now, eh?
Joseph succeeds first at the javelin toss (whereas Eric & Jeremy would succeed at javelin catching) and he and Monica head over to the wrestling pit, where there is entirely too much of the wrong kind of flesh on display. After some awkward grapping, they're able to push the wrestler out of the circle and are given the clue to the Pit Stop. They almost instantly get lost, giving Ray & Yolanda a shot at catching up. They manhandle their wrestler out of the ring with a technique that can best be described as 12-year-old playground fighting, and are on their way.
At the amazingly unexciting word scramble, Fran & Barry determine their letters spell out "Dimitsana", and are away to the Pit Stop in their natural spot, fourth. Lake & Michelle figure out their puzzle next, with BJ & Tyler not having even reached the Detour yet. It would take a major mistake for them to catch up, though Lake & Michelle have been very accommodating in this manner in the past. Michelle seems to believe that because the Pit Stop is located at an "antique" (I think you mean ancient) spot, it won't be on the map. Because, you know, they never put tourist locations on maps. Barry's head is not entirely in the game at this point as he backs up into a tree, taking out the back window of their vehicle. Hope the show sprang for the damage deductible.
BJ & Tyler are now at the Detour location, in surprisingly high spirits and with BJ wearing a seriously goofy rain hat shaped like a frog. They're out of it as far as they know except... hey, it's our second major navigational error of the day, this time from Lake & Michelle. I don't want to get into the technical aspects of what they did wrong, but apparently, according to Lake, going northeast is not the same as going southe..uh, tha other way. He swings from manic to depressive in record time when they stop to turn around, and it almost looks like he's about to pass out from stress.
BJ & Tyler have progressed to the wresting stage of their Detour, which they seem to enjoy a little too much (and if you've seen those photos circulating around with them and Eric & Jeremy, it all makes a whoooole lot more sense). They're on the road to the Pit Stop, and we'll see shortly how much of a mistake Lake & Michelle made.
Ray & Yolanda reach the Pit Stop where Phil informs them they get dinged with a 15 minute penalty for the mistake at the train station. This lets Joseph & Monica sneak in for second spot with Ray & Yolanda now falling to third. Under cover of darkness, Fran & Barry come in for their fourth straight fourth place finish.
Now it's down to the two teams that can't read a map. The first team of these two to get to the Pit Stop is BJ & Tyler, who are genuinely shocked to be in fifth spot, but then get scolded by Phil in his best school teacher voice for misreading the clue. The producers try to milk this penalty as being significant, but alert viewers will note that Lake & Michelle made the same mistake and are just as screwed. In any case, the penalty runs out before they get there, and they get to be in fifth place, both planting a big kiss on Phil. I hope he had his shots. Lake & Michelle get hit with the elimination. Michelle comments that they must come off as "completely wacked", but since we know that producers will amplify quirks and foibles of the racers, must mean that these two venture into the practically insane. We are down one big, blustery alpha male in the race.