Teams arrange non-romantic dates and nearly sweat to death in Abu Dhabi

By Annie Barrett
Updated November 11, 2013 at 03:00 AM EST

The Amazing Race

S23 E7
  • TV Show

And we’re off! Sunday’s episode, “Speed Dating Is the Worst,” takes us from the sparkling green river of Schönbrunn Palace to “the motherland” — if you’re an Afghanimal, that is. The six remaining teams travel from Vienna, Austria to Abu Dhabi — or Dubai, if you’re Ally and Ashley. I’m pretty sure the Ice Princesses still think they’re in Dubai. Hey, as long as they’re in the general vicinity of the Sex and the City movie sequel, it’s probably good enough.

Getting there is easy. Good for them; boring for us. Leo and Jamal book a flight that gets in 10 minutes earlier than the one containing the rest of the herd. A kindly Austrian eye-roller becomes the 15th ticketing agent to break protocol and kiss an Afghanimal. But the real highlight of the tedious waiting-in-line scenes is Nicky and Kim intentionally stressing out PinkyMarie with their endless stretching and dietary requests at the ticket counter. “You guys are SO ANNOYING,” Pinky bitches. There’s amusement there, too, though, on each side.

See, the “Bunnies” are pleasant and crafty. I’m thrilled this was a non-elimination leg so they can stick around. I liked seeing them refuse to give away the location of the “hidden dates” during the Detour. They weren’t nasty about it; they simply told Leo and Jamal they had to keep focusing on their own work. Nice move.

The most awe-inspiring part of this somewhat boring episode is the terrific camera work early on — we get multiple sweeping views of the pristine and decadent Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It’s gorgeous and still in the unbearable sunlight, as if floating in a white mist. All the teams marvel in its beauty. “It’s one of the craziest things I’ve seen,” says Tim, and you know he’s seen some weird sh*t in his days, like Pinky throwing kids over a playground fence Miss Trunchbull-style after they won’t let her borrow their sandbox toys, or maybe something kinkier than that. Who knows? (Leo and Jamal wish they did. Add them to the heap of men turned on by Pinky’s “brutal manhandling” approach to civilization.)

Leo and Jamal arrive first to the mosque and say a quick prayer — in Farsi, obviously — that they can finish the leg first. Did they ululate as part of the prayer? We’re dying to know. That much cultural infusion really could have kicked the episode up a notch. Anyway, it’s onto the Irani Souk, where teams encounter….

NEXT: To settle or not settle for ‘disgusting-looking’ dates? ….the Detour: Sort It Out or Sew It Up? Arrange a party platter or assemble a fishing net? That’s it? Where’s the stupid costume? The insurmountable language barrier? The endless public humiliation only participation in The Amazing Race can provide? I miss those things.

Travis and Nicole have a little tiff during the fishing net construction, but all the action is in his voiceover. “The two ties Nicole had done were wrong. I was angry…I was about to explode.” But he never did! They’re just the most placid arguers I’ve ever witnessed. “You’ll have to tell me how wrong I was later,” she monotoned as the two silently communicated via a series of stares, “Let’s not behave like humans.” Such control! Such precision! I shall call them the RoboDocs from now on.

Jason and Amy have no trouble Sewing It Up and blaze ahead. Meanwhile, the four other teams struggle with their speed dating in Sort It Out — they must search through “an overwhelming variety” of dates, pick out the right ones, and assemble an elaborate circular display. Right away, Pinky is a nightmare. “Are these the same as those disgusting ones?” she asks a poor date-seller who probably wants to assemble an elaborate display of the super-disgusting ones on her face and then squash it. All of Pinky’s yelling is embarrassing Nicky and Kim, as fellow Americans.

Nicky and Kim are the first to find the far-off plate of dates necessary to complete the challenge, but ultimately fall behind as Leo and Jamal, empowered by their connection to the motherland, figure out how to run a few steps farther. It’s noteworthy that they do NOT reveal the location of the extra dates to Ally and Ashley, their “race wives,” on their way out.

“We knew all along they were not the right dates, but we just settled,” said the Afghanimals in a surprisingly profound commentary on how human matchmaking works, too. They’re firing on all cylinders!

Time for a luxury cruise. Yachts leave every 15 minutes from the Al Bandar Marina, and the baseball wives get brutally left behind by Ally, Ashley, Tim, Marie, and the rope-thrower who enabled their power surge. They’re not too upset, but it’s hard to tell because Nicky’s aviator shades looks so freaking glamorous in this dazzling sunlight.

NEXT: A Road Block on a race track; Phil’s steamy celebratory shower sceneRoad Block: Who wants to drop in on a hot lap? “Guess that’s me,” Jason confirms. Ally wants some hot lap action as well. “Of course you do,” says her partner in a rare moment of acknowledgement that she’s on the show. Leo’s in. Pinky’s in. The RoboDocs find out from Leo and Jamal, the first finishers, that three teams are still behind them, so they avoid using their Express Pass here.

The challenge involves a supposed “200-foot drop” into the Yas Marina Circuit, but it’s more like a tiny zip line ride, a 20-foot drop, and uneventful rappelling the rest of the way. Meh. Sadly the participants are not required to drop right into the laps of race car drivers, which would have been delightfully awkward. Instead, they get strapped into the passenger seat of race cars and must look out for the sign posting the time of the fastest driver in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel.

Leo gets the time right, but not the name. Jason’s like “Whaaaat? So many signs!” The profuse sweater seems about to keel over from heatstroke, announcing it may be 110 degrees outside, but it’s over 140 in his racing suit.

Leo corrects his error. The Afghanimals prevail in the motherland! The ‘mals race to the Champions Podium first and win a trip for two to Paris. But the real prize is the Pellegrino shower Phil excitedly foists upon them. Or is it real champagne? Irrelevant; the point is, Phil’s super into it. (His anticipation of the shower may explain the exuberant punctuation on the cards directing them to the “Championship Podium!!!!”)

2nd place: Jason and Amy. “We’re the Biggest Losers on this show,” complained Jason, who clearly does not ascribe to the “first is the worst, second is the best” worldview (or understand how The Biggest Loser works. But I think he just meant “This sucks; we wanna win free vacations!”)

3rd: RoboDocs. “I totally let us down as a team and I take full responsibility,” Nicole droned as the Abu Dhabi welcome party surprisingly remained awake.

4th: Pinky and her Punching Bag. [Smug, self-satisfied sneers at each other from three feet away.] “One thing people don’t understand,” Tim had explained to us in a confessional, “is that we’ll yell back and forth, but we trust each other. And so far, it’s working.”

5th: Ally and Ashley, who keep somehow scraping by.

6th: Nicky and Kim, the latter of whom begins blubbering about how she never gets to do this sort of stuff with her friends and will cherish all the memories they’ve created together. Nicky and I begin to tear up along with her. BUT WAIT.

“How. Would you like the opportunity to create MORE memories?” Phil leaned in, the wide brim of his hat tragically obscuring his prominent eyebrow. (That could’ve been Browsie’s MVP moment of the season!)

So we’re still six teams strong! Nicky and Kim just need a bit more fire under their butts, is all. May I recommend two swift drops in a hot lap?

What’d you think of tonight’s leg? Do you agree with me that the best line was from Kim: “Why do I always do the tall ones?” Will Jason and Amy exact revenge on taxi-stealing Marie at a crucial point late in the game? Discuss!

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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