Tiny countries are fascinating, and they don’t come much tinier than Liechtenstein. A German-speaking country surrounded by Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein has a history that stretches back to the Roman empire. With only about 35 thousand citizens living in an area roughly the size of George Clooney’s Italian villa, it’s a gob-smackingly gorgeous winter-sports playpen slash essential tax haven for uber-wealthy types who think Monte Carlo is too pretentious. I’ve always said that Amazing Race feels a little bit like a Roger Moore-era James Bond movie in reality-show form, and if I ever get to film my remake of For Your Eyes Only, I’m going to insist on filming it entirely in Liechtenstein.
Teams set off for the mountainous principality last night, apparently no worse for wear after last week’s adventure in Freudian psychoanalysis. (Much thanks to ace recapper Christian Blauvelt for taking over Race while I and fellow Generation X archaeologist Keith Staskiewicz took a pilgrimage to Graceland.) In an interesting twist, all the teams seemed to be united in general fear/suspicion of the cowboys. The spirit of compassion that has permeated this season doesn’t appear to have extended to Jet and Cord: “There sure hasn’t been anybody who wants to buddy up with us,” Jet noted. It’s entirely clear to me how this division started, although it should be noted that Jet and Cord were the only team from their Race to return this season. Then again, I don’t really remember them being buddy-buddy with anyone that season besides maybe the Savage Detectives, so maybe they’re just loners by nature. Hey, they’re freakin’ cowboys.
The evening’s Roadblock was, in my opinion, a true masterpiece of reality TV task-mastering. The directive was simple: “Measure Liechtenstein.” Teams had to hop on a motorized bicycle equipped with an odometer and find their way across the complete length of the country using only an old dog-eared map. At the border, Olympic ski racer Marco Buchel was waiting for them with a clue.
Gary and Mallory were doubly delayed because of a bad cabbie and a Speed Bump. Fortunately for them, Liechtenstein confounded a few of the teams. Jen dropped her map. Jet might as well have dropped her map, considering that he took literally the only wrong turn in Liechtenstein. Flight Time composed a new tone poem, “I’m In Liechtenstein on the Bike Following Friends,” which instantly became Liechtenstein’s default national anthem. (I apologize for repeating “Liechtenstein” so often, it’s one of the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard. Make sure to pronounce the Germanic s correctly, so it sounds like “Leek-ten-shine.” There, don’t say you never learned anything from EW.com.)
Gary was adorned in a bright red jacket and a bright blue helmet and riding his motorcycle, he looked more than ever like the human incarnation of Captain America in our lifetime. He took pity on the lost Jet and rode with him, but Jet appeared to zip away from Gary at the first opportunity. Not a smart idea: Jet told Marco that he estimated the length of Liechtenstein at 35 kilometers, instead of the correct 22. Team-building pays off: Justin picked up the equally-lost Jen, drove her to the border, and told her the correct length. Let’s start the conversation now, people: Is Justin one of the best Race contestants ever?
Next: Everybody hates cowboys