We’ve got to talk about Hayley. We have to talk about the Olympians, too. And also, the severe funk that Daddy Phil slipped into somewhere between second and third place and simply could not get himself out of. It’s been three weeks since TAR last aired and there’s just a lot to talk about. The fifth leg of the race felt almost like two legs with just how much the teams had to accomplish while making their way through Bavaria. There was a standard Detour and Road Block to get through of course, but before they could even get there they had to scale a tower and reverse their **brand new, GPS-ENABLED, beeeeeautiful** Ford Focuses through the winter version of a haunted warehouse.
I could hardly keep up with everything that was going on once the eight remaining teams left Bangkok, but I liked the that the leg was more pace-focused than challenge-focused—that’s what separates the good partnerships from the weak; I’m really growing to like all of the teams we have left, and that includes the terrible ones. And by terrible ones, I of course mean Hayley. In episode 5, the editors have officially gone balls to the wall on showcasing her every nag, her every complaint, her every snipe at Blair. And if it wasn’t for Blair’s sly-grin-and-bear-it approach to just accepting the partner he has, their team would be intolerable. But the way that he both puts up with Hayley being annoyed with him all the time, but also doesn’t exactly let her get away with it is making me root for their team. The guy wants to win—and really, Hayley does too—so, unlike tonight’s last place team, they’re going to keep trying to adapt to each other’s opposing styles until the end. They hate each other so much at this point, I almost ship them.
But there are still couples around with actual futures to root for, and the Olympians finally stood out as a particularly solid and adorable couple this week. They haven’t gotten a lot of focus until this leg, but with as much skill and attractiveness as they have between them, it was about time that they got out in front of the pack. Speaking of, now that Team Attractive—once deemed that because Laura could not stop talking about how attractive her new partner-boyfriend, Tyler, was—has declared their deepest feelings for each other as having “a mutual respect for one another,” I think it’s time for a rebrand. Team SoCal, as TAR calls them, seems fitting, especially regarding the completely chill approach they took to Tyler leaving the fanny pack that contained their passports and money in another team’s car. It’s just a million dollars, we’re all good here!
All eight teams head out on the same flight from Bangkok to Munich where they’re to head to Weis’n Tracht & Mehr clothing shop when they arrive to pick up appropriate Oktoberfest attire that they’ll wear for the rest of the leg. That means bells on the left to indicate unmarried women for the ladies, and shimmying into leather lederhosen for the guys, or as Kurt says, “It’s like squeezing a creampuff through a keyhole.” After the creampuffs are appropriately squeezed, the teams have to climb to the top of Alter Peter Tower so they can spot their marked Ford Focuses, go pick one up, and drive to Schlafwagenfabrik. Team SoCal are the first to make it up the tower and to the cars; after they hop in random car, they smartly switch to the one in front so they can just pull straight forward (always avoid parallel parking when at all possible), but opposite-of-smartly leave their fanny pack in the first car that then gets chosen by Jeff and Jackie… but not before they have an epic blowup.
Jeff and Jackie have certainly been Phil’s best chance at making any sort of romantic connection happen between the blind date couples on this season, but passion has two sides, and tonight the side that has one person screaming at the other to never disrespect them, and the other one screaming back to shut up, emerged. J&J were the second team to make it down from the tower, but not being able to locate the cars once they were on the ground led to Jeff not listening to Jackie and Jackie really not liking that. But, they screamed at each other, screamed at each other a little more, decided to drop it, and then apologized for being ugly and got over it. These two really might make it as a couple.
But the Olympians and their real couple status (and familiarity with German roads and driving a stick-shift) are still the team leading the pack and arrive first at GO BACK TO GO FORWARD where they have to use the rear view camera to drive their Ford Focuses in reverse through a winter wonderland that’s been created in a warehouse, complete with a knockoff Elsa from Frozen, a dude in a polar bear suit, and an actual reindeer. Along the way, the passenger has to spot letters on road signs, put them together, and pronounce correctly to Faux Elsa: It’s “Schliersee,” where teams are to drive to retrieve their next clue.
NEXT: The drive to win (brought to you by Ford Focus)…[pagebreak]
You’ll notice that driving is very important in this leg. Sometimes when the contestants are given a car, they’re just driving it from one place to another, but today, the teams driving to every single stop on the leg, and even need the car for Go Back to Go Forward. That does not bode well for the Lawyers, Team Truck Stop, and the Blond Boys, who all don’t really know how to drive a manual vehicle, but the Lawyers and Truckers make it work. The Blond Boys, on the other hand, do the unthinkable: They ditch the Ford Focus—first of all, how dare they—and take a taxi to the winter warehouse in exchange for a two-hour penalty when they arrive.
Bergen has said all along that his biggest fear was that once Kurt realized that they weren’t making a love connection he was going to give up on the race because he doesn’t need the million dollars, and that’s what he says happens with the car. It’s especially weird that Kurt is pushing so hard for them to give up trying to drive the car because Bergen is the one who’s driving. But as much as Kurt gives up and insista on ditching the car, Bergen also allows Kurt to bring him down. At that point, I might have had to pull a Hayley and said Kurt’s name a thousand times until he zoned out in the back seat and I could choke the clutch as many times as necessary to get the team to the damn Pit Stop mat. It was a frustrating beginning of the end for a team who had just placed first in the last leg.
More fortunate were Team SoCal, who were eventually able to get their fanny pack from J&J’s car and move on to the DETOUR: STEIN or STACK. In Stein, the teams must carry 22 steins full of beer between them across an Oktoberfest beer hall in one trip; in Stack, teams participate in the tradition of crate-stacking, harnessing in to build a tower of 15 empty beer crates. The Olympians and Hairdressers breeze though Stein, but Hayley drops multiple armloads of beer and tells Blair that they have to switch to Stack. They arrive to find that every other team is also doing Stack, and it’s a lot harder than it looks. Basically, the tower becomes taller than the stackers around the eight crate, so one person has to balance on top of the tower and add the crates beneath them as the other person passes them up with a long stick.
I really appreciated that both men and women conquered the physical challenge of balancing on top of these crates. Jackie’s graceful jump off of the tower was impressive, and I especially liked Rochelle conquering her fear of heights and doing the damn thing, even though she had to take a moment to re-center herself while balancing on top of 14 crates. Listen, I don’t know if Team Truck Stop can really win this, but I know I like watching them try. I mean, they stopped for a snack break when they were stressed out about driving the car, c’mon!
At this point, Kurt and Bergen are just leaving the winter wonderland after their two-hour penalty for leaving the car behind, and still with no car, are taking trains from clue to clue. The other teams are headed to the ROAD BLOCK, and while SINGING A DIFFERENT TUNE isn’t the most challenging Road Black around, it’s certainly fun to watch. One person from each team must woo the other member by singing a traditional German courtship song, and if they forget the words or sing off key, they get a bucket of water to the face. The judges fly pretty fast and loose with that “on key” rule, but there are enough bucket showers to keep me happy, and it deserves a brief ranking of this leg’s TAR vocal styling’s, in order from best to worst:
And then it’s off to the PIT STOP at LAKE SPITZINGSEE to meet Phil…
1: The Olympians are awarded a verbal gold medal from Phil and a for real 2015 Ford Focus for each of them from Ford—“That’s great news, Phil!” I hope we get to see a lot more from Aly and Steve, they’re very charming
2: The Hairdressers who are proud that the top two teams are couples this leg, and think the singles might be falling apart…
3: Jeff and Jackie: And it seems Phil might be thinking that too, as he’s…
4: The Lawyers: …particularly solemn with the next few teams coming in…
5: Team Medical: Ah, here’s the problem. Phil Daddy is just a plain ol’ romantic, and he’s been disheartened to hear that this little love experiment is crashing and burning in a big way in the form of Hayley and Blair. He asks if there have been some heated words between them and she’s all, “ no way,” but Blair’s all, “This is terrible, we can’t stand each other, but I’m going to keep my arm around her a the Pit Stop mat, and we’re going to win this dammit!”
6: Team SoCal who assure Phil that the fanny pack is their last dumb mistake
7: Team Truck Stop: By all means they should get a huge welcome from Phil since they were probably assuming they were last, but the guy is still down in the dumps. Oh, I know why…
Like other great hosts, Jeff Probst and TJ Lavin, Phil must have no tolerance for quitters. He doesn’t say it explicitly, but when he has to go track down Bergen and Kurt at a train station, and they don’t even stand up to greet him, the man of so many eyebrows simply seems disheartened. Bergen is also disappointed with their performance, and the two blonds walk in opposite directions when they exit the station.
ELIMINATED: The Blond Boys
TAR social experiments just aren’t for everybody—are they for you? Are you enjoying watching the blind date teams develop their relationships, for better or for worse? Or are you on the side of the established couples? Who’s your pick to win, and who’s most eligible for next leg’s weekly break down?