Previously on the Race, one night in Bangkok made the New Kids humble, and this time there wasn’t a non-elimination leg to save them. The Blind Date teams finally started getting down to the awkward truth that TV’s most brutally difficult reality competition is probably not the best way to start a relationship, and we had kitties. KITTIES!
Before the new leg gets underway, we see Laura and Tyler have their “Date Night”, which is a romantic dinner with fireworks. There don’t appear to be many fireworks between the two, though, with Laura saying that she’s too focused on the Race to get romantic, and Tyler saying he’s “in the friendship zone”. Between the “ladyman” cracks and his use of friendzoning, he’s only about one “wimmen be crazy!” crack away from pulling off the MRA asshole trifecta.
The teams then all depart for Munich on the same plane, so there’s no airport drama to speak of, and they all immediately go off to dress in lederhosen. We do get a little status update on everyone’s feelings about the Race and each other first, which include Blair using the term “panties in a ruffle” (I mention this primarily because Hayley will spend pretty much the whole episode pissed off at him, and it’s useful to remember his little comments when it comes to understanding exactly why) and Bergen making comments on how worried he is that Kurt is giving up on the Race now that he knows that it’s not going to turn into a love connection. Which must be nice, being able to blow off $500,000 and not miss it. (Again, I mention this because it will prove to be of at least some significance, albeit a dubious amount.)
So the teams all sprint to the clothing store and get Bavarianated, after which they have to run to the top of a tall clock tower and look for their next clue. (It should be noted that in this scene alone, we get “Like squeezing a creampuff through a keyhole”, which is already a better episode title than “Get in that lederhosen, baby.” Oh, if only I were allowed to name these…) Said clue is a Ford Focus with a sticker on the roof in Race colors, because it wouldn’t be a season of the Race without at least one full episode of absolutely egregious product placement.
It may have backfired in this case, though, because all of these Ford Foci are stick shift, which leads to a lot of scenes complaining about how terrible these cars are to drive and how nerve-racking the experience is. (This gives me a chance to act inordinately smug, as I know how to drive stick.) Laura and Tyler ditch their initial vehicle for one that’s better positioned to pull out without having to shift back and forth from first to reverse…which would be a great plan, if not for the fact that they left their fanny pack behind. (There’s a standing joke in our household that if you see the cameraman lingering to film your taxi, you should probably go back and check for missing items.) The other teams proceed to their own horrifying stick-shift cars with varying degrees of competence. In particular, Jeff and Jackie have a really tough time finding their car–Jeff proceeds to blame this entirely on Jackie, as he had apparently been stricken with hysterical blindness while he was on top of the tower, and so any navigational mistakes are clearly her fault as the only sighted member of the team.
They nonetheless find their car, or more accurately Laura and Tyler’s car sans Laura and Tyler but still fully equipped with a set of passports, cash, and everything else in the fanny pack. Rather than use this opportunity to ditch the Race and set up a new life somewhere in Europe, Jeff and Jackie take the opportunity to bicker about Jeff’s asinine behavior a few minutes previously. Jackie tells him that she doesn’t like being cut off when she’s talking, and Jeff says, “You can talk as much as you want, I won’t tell you to shut up.” This new operational policy lasts literally less than thirty seconds, at the end of which he tells her, “You got your fucking point across, just shut up, PLEASE!” And remember, this is the “happy” blind dating couple.
Everyone else finds their cars and, with varying degrees of navigational competency, towards the next checkpoint. It’s around here that we check in once again with Hayley and Blair, who I’ve started calling “Prescription for Hate”. Hayley snaps at Blair over another minor piece of Race protocol, which is no doubt vitally important, leading Blair to state that Hayley has “completely lost it”. Hayley responds with, “That is because you have now officially pissed me off to the point of no return,” which is 1) a perfectly understandable response to Blair’s insufferable smugness and condescension over the last several episodes, 2) still a terrible way to treat another human being, and 3) a hilarious Kansas cover in the making. “Pissed off! *doodle-oodle-oop doodle-oodle-oop doodle-oodle-oop* To the point of no return!”
At the next checkpoint, teams have to drive backwards in their Ford Focus through a ‘Frozen’-themed obstacle course, using their Ford Focus’ rear-view camera to navigate and spot road signs that will spell out their next destination. Naturally, this task couldn’t possibly be completed without the reliable, technologically advanced, easy-to-drive (well, unless you get a stick shift) Ford Focus!
The Olympians, who will be providing the competence porn for the remainder of the episode, get to the challenge, breeze their way through the course backwards (passing the bear from ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’ as they do so) and then recite the destination flawlessly to get their next clue. Steve once again responds to Aly’s success with a hearty “Good girl!”, and this marks the point where, for my own peace of mind, I’m just going to assume that they’re in a consensual BDSM relationship and that’s just what she likes her top to call her. Because that and dog training are the only times you should be using that phrase.
Laura and Tyler get to the driving task and realize they left their fanny pack in another car. They do the task anyway and are then forced to simply sit and wait until whatever team took their car finally shows up. The Olympians blow right past them, and that’s pretty much the last time they’ll see another team today.
Jeff and Jackie make up, which gives Jeff back some of the brownie points he lost.
And then Kurt and Bergen make the most fateful decision of the episode, one which requires a little analysis. At this point, they’re both navigationally challenged in a big way, and Kurt (who’s in the backseat) also feels quite vocally that Bergen isn’t getting the hang of stick shift and is going to get them both killed in an extremely low-speed traffic accident. He suggests abandoning the car and proceeding by taxi, and sucking up the time penalty at the end.
Naturally, this is a big issue, and not just because Ford has to feel like they’re not getting enough bang for their buck out of their product placement. (“The new Ford Focus–you’d rather abandon it by the side of the road in a strange city and walk than drive one!”) Because what neither one of them knows, but the audience does, is that the car is part of the next task. Bergen will later claim that he felt like Kurt simply gave up on him and on the Race, rather than allow him to get the hang of driving stick, but on watching the scene it’s a lot more ambiguous. Kurt does suggest giving up on the car, it’s true, but Bergen’s response is simply, “Okay.” He’s clearly terrified to be driving the car (it looks like he might be in too high a gear for his speed, and the car is shuddering as a result) and he offers no significant opposition to the plan at the point where it matters. Given that Bergen has already stated a few times that he’s got some bias in regards to trusting Kurt to race hard, and that this proves to be quite possibly one of the biggest mistakes a team has made in Race history, I’m a little uncomfortable with pushing it all off onto Kurt.
Oh yes, and Jelani and Jenny are in this episode.
The Olympians row a boat to their next clue, despite some delightfully awesomely wonderful snark from Phil about their rowing abilities, and get the Detour: “Stein” vs “Stack”. “Stein” requires the team to carry 22 beer steins between them in one trip from one table to another, while “Stack” makes them stack fifteen beer crates on top of each other…while standing on the stack as they build it. (They do get a safety harness, though.)
Laura and Tyler sit through a few more teams showing up, including the bickering Hayley and Blair. Tyler watches them drive away, and says, “That chick is nuts!” And we have the new winner in our Triple Crown, ladies and gentlemen. I just pray that nobody ever introduces him to the term ‘misandry’.
The Olympians handle their steins with ease. Steve checks in on Aly’s load with, “You got ’em, girl?” I’m telling you, it makes ’50 Shades of Grey’ look downright tame.
Kurt and Bergen get to the driving challenge and discover that like most driving challenges, this one requires a car. Which they left abandoned on the mean streets of Munich. They take a two-hour penalty rather than go back and try to find their vehicle (which is admittedly not the worst way to handle things at this point, since they probably don’t even know where their car is now) (“The Ford Focus! Give up on it completely and don’t look back!”) which gives Laura and Tyler an opportunity to catch up. And Jelani and Jenny, and Jeff and Jackie, and Mike and Rochelle…
Meanwhile, the Olympians are now at the Road Block, where one team member (in this case Aly) has to serenade their partner with a romantic German ballad. Yes, there are such things. If they get it right, they get the next clue. Get it wrong, and an angry parent-figure materializes out of nowhere to dump a bucket of water on their head. Ah, German courtship is such a wonderful thing! Aly gets it wrong the first time in a way that makes it absolutely clear that she was not informed about the “bucket of water” part of the task. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t get it wrong a second time.
Jeff and Jackie show up at the driving task, and do the least convincing job ever of pretending that they don’t know about Laura and Tyler’s fanny pack. They sprint past in a panic, with expressions on their faces like they just murdered a hobo and Laura and Tyler are FBI agents, and respond to every question with the equivalent of, “We didn’t do it!” But they don’t actually stop Laura and Tyler from going into the car and finding it. Now admittedly, they probably couldn’t throw the thing out by the side of the road or something without taking a penalty…but if you’re not going to gain a competitive advantage from concealing it from the other team, then why do it? All they’ve done is antagonize Laura and Tyler, and gained exactly nothing from it.
Meanwhile, Hayley and Blair try to carry beer steins, and wind up spilling about eighty liters of beer onto the floor. Germans everywhere are in mourning. They decide to switch to the crates, but not before Blair explains to her how a handle works and Hayley responds with, “Thank you for the information, Captain Obvious!” I really can’t believe they’ve gotten this far without a knife fight, let alone elimination.
Mike and Rochelle are utterly, utterly lost. Everything in their behavior suggests that they are utterly certain they’re driving to elimination, and are determined to enjoy every second of it. Again, it is hard not to love everything about this couple.
Matt and Ashley handle their beer. I’ll freely admit, after writing them off in the first episode as a train wreck in the making, these two have grown on me in a big way. Matt’s seeming reluctance to talk marriage has proven to be a cunning ruse to conceal his adorable Race proposal, and they’ve been getting better at the challenges with each leg. Honestly, if these two wind up in the Final Three, I will not mind one little bit.
The Olympians win the leg, and get a Ford Focus each. (“Ford Focus–we have to give them away!”) Matt and Ashley get to the Road Block, and Ashley says, “I’m gonna serenade your ass right now!” WHY IS THIS NOT THE EPISODE TITLE? She gets it wrong, and gets a face full of water. Meanwhile, back at the Detour, the remaining teams (save for Mike and Rochelle and the still car-free Kurt and Bergen) start Stacking. There is a lot of falling, tumbling, and general disaster-ness.
Ashley finishes her song, and they come in second. Mike and Rochelle get to the driving challenge, with still almost an hour left before Kurt and Bergen can even start trying to find a way to get to the Detour. Again, not trying to call this the worst mistake in Race history, but it’s gotta be in the top five.
The next four teams get to the Road Block. Jackie proves to fill out her Bavarian costume quite impressively when looking at it from the top down, especially after she gets wet. (Not that I was staring, but the camera angle made it pretty much impossible not to stare at her cleavage.) They all make it out of the Road Block, and head to the Pit Stop to finish pretty much back-to-back-to-back-to-back. The exact order is Jeff/Jackie, Jelani/Jenny, Hayley/Blair, and Laura/Tyler, for the curious. Phil tries to draw Hayley and Blair out about their relationship problems, but he’s just regular Phil, not Doctor Phil.
Mike and Rochelle struggle with the Stack, due to Rochelle’s fear of heights, but Mike once again talks her through it and she womans up impressively. Seriously, I cannot get enough of these two. She has hit pretty much all her weak points and phobias already, and she’s powered through every single one of them. Bergen and Kurt briefly make a stab at catching up, getting to the actual Detour clue by train, but then have to take another train to the Stacking challenge and get completely and totally lost. Mike serenades his girlfriend, looking utterly adorable in the process, and the two of them check into the Pit Stop down but not out.
And Kurt and Bergen? They give up looking for the Stacking challenge and head back to the train station. They receive that most heinous and humiliating of punishments, a Field Philimination as Phil comes to the train station to tell them that there is no reprieve for them this time. We close on a montage of their bitter recriminations, as Bergen makes it clear that there will be no Christmas cards for Kurt this year. Although again, he was much happier to talk about how Kurt gave up after it stopped mattering, instead of encouraging him or even arguing with him while the Race was still going on.
And next time, we will be heading to Monaco, where we get fancy dresses, floral beatings, and terrifying gorge crossings. See you then!