The Matterhorn is one of the great obsessions in the history of mountaineering, claiming the lives of hundreds of daredevil climbs. It sits atop the Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy, hovering ominously over all creation like a restless Old God waiting to strike. It is also the namesake of a Disneyland ride that lived in my nightmares for most of my childhood. After my family’s trip to the theme park, there were literally months where I couldn’t fall asleep, because I imagined that every house sound was the Matterhorn Snowman walking on all fours down the hallway. So last night’s Matterhorn-scaling episode of The Amazing Race proved uniquely therapeutic. (If the show’s next leg takes the teams to a country populated entirely by clowns and gym teachers, that’ll be a clean sweep of my adolescent anxieties.)
Zev and Justin were the first to take off, making their way to the local Air Rescue Helicopter Port in Zermatt. Along the way, Justin noted that his twelve-year-old sister had knitted matching caps for both members of Team Zinger, but “Zev went with the lumberjack look.” The lumberjack juju seemed to be working for them — they’d been crushing the competition since arriving in the cold climates. In the number two slot, Kisha and Jen cracked jokes about the single dollar given to teams for this leg — “We’re rich, bitch!” (The sisters have made the least impression of any of the teams this season, but they seemed to be on a full-scale charm offensive last night — are you liking them a little bit more now, viewers?)
Meanwhile, Kent and Vyxsin wanted us to know that Things Were Going To Be Different. “We’re starting the legs much happier now,” said Kent. “We put on extra glitter today, so we’d match the snow!” said Vyxsin. Hooray, they have a positive attitude! Alas, that positivity lasted approximately five minutes, until Kent couldn’t get a taxi and started talking obsessively about punching somebody in the face. “Stay positive!” begged Vyxsin. “I am staying positive,” argued Kent, “punching somebody would be really positive right now.” I was kind of hoping that Kent would just go crazy and take a swing at a passing Swiss citizen. I’m pretty sure that if you try to punch someone from Switzerland, your hand passes right through them, and then they use their Swiss telepathy to remove all violent impulses from your brain.
The teams finally all arrived at the Heli-pad. (Zev zinged Team Goth — “I wonder if the snow is gonna take off their eyebrows.”) Teams had two choices: “Search” or “Rescue.” In “Search,” Racers had to go prospecting for dummies, digging into the snow to find a trapped mountaineer-bot. In “Rescue,” Racers had to rappel down into a serious-looking crevasse to save a genuine trapped human being. Now, the clear decision here seemed to be “Rescue” — Sure, it was a bit freakier, but barring any panic attacks, all you basically to do was descend, shake a Swiss dude’s hand, and lift him up. The Zingers opted for “Search” — a fateful decision. Gary and Mallory joined them on the hillside, while the other three teams made for the crevasse. On the beauty of the snowy Matterhorn, Zev noted simply, “It feels really Inception-like.” (That was a reference to the third or fourth level of the dreamscape, when Leo DiCaprio’s Imagineers attack a snow fortress. Christopher Nolan has said that that scene was inspired by the classic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is your official James Bond reference of the week.)
Next: The Zingers’ Icy Waterloo?