In the former Yugoslavia, Nate and Jen continue to provide good examples of how not to treat your significant other; plus, Azaria and Hendekia get a ticket to elimination

By Josh Wolk
Updated December 10, 2007 at 11:12 PM EST
Credit: Robert Voets

Is Bertram Van Munster using The Amazing Race to clandestinely give me marriage counseling? Four weeks ago, my wife gave birth to our second daughter, and as anyone dealing with an infant and another child knows, things get tense. We’re handling it well, but the combination of stress and sleep deprivation does spur the occasional foolish, heated argument. But after this week’s Amazing Race, I proposed to her all over again. I dropped to my knees and said, ”For never declaring your hatred for me on national television, won’t you marry me all over again?” And my wife said, ”For not acting like a petulant teen who receives every bit of constructive criticism as if I’d just mass e-mailed my workplace a note stating that you have a small penis, you’ve made me the luckiest woman on earth.” And when we have the service, I want the justice of the peace to declare, ”I now pronounce you Not Nate and Jen.”

This couple did pretty well at the beginning of the leg, considering how chaotic it was at the Vilnius airport. Trying to get a flight to Croatia was like a giant game of travel-agent poker, with every team first trying to keep a spot in one line but then, as soon as they saw the Goths visit a different office, all dashing to try a different one, only to inevitably return to the first. (”They’re all pointing and looking at us,” said Vyxsin. ”We’re used to it,” said Kynt. Why? Because they’re Gothity Goth Goths. Honestly, they self-reference more than Smurfs. If they switched to wearing blue instead of pink, I’d spend half my time watching this show worrying about the entrance of Gargamel.)

It was Hendekia and Azaria who seemed the most self-destructive at the beginning of the show. After his idea to abandon the line to go call Polish Airways backfired, Azaria snapped at his sister, ”Just remember who works his ass off. You stand here and think you’re all badass. One decision, now you think you’re on top of the world….I make one bad decision, get over it.” Jeez, the ’86 Celtics’ defense wasn’t that ferocious. How did the party in Hendekia’s pants (the one local phrase she knew from her Bosnian friend) get shut down so quickly? This was the dark side of calling your sister ”baby girl”; if you got beat by a baby, you’d fly into a rage, too.

Ultimately, a travel agent was the one to blame for their trailing so far behind; the siblings arrived at their flight’s gate at the last minute only to find out that they’d been issued business-class seats, a no-no on the show. I’ve never seen a less penitent travel agent than the one they returned to after she screwed up their tickets. Apparently in Lithuania, the customer isn’t always right, but he is always a nuisance. And why didn’t Azaria give her the business about remembering who works his ass off? Is his browbeating like donating blood platelets, in that it only works on a genetic match?

Ultimately, it was Jen and Nate, the Goths, and Ronald and Christina who were the first to arrive in Croatia, and the show was divided largely in half between following them and the later-arriving teams. I’m not sure how far apart they were: Donald and Nicolas and TK and Rachel’s flights must have been pretty far behind for the producers to give up all pretense of editing them into a dead heat. This made for kind of a letdown, though, as once Jen and Nate’s relationship had deteriorated at the finish line, we still had about 25 minutes to go. Talk about your anticlimaxes.

When they arrived in Croatia, Nate and Jen both raved about the scenery (”We have never seen a view like this,” cooed Jen) in the only positive example so far of their tendency to use superlatives. The first roadblock involved somebody trying to fit one stone out of a pile of rubble into a wall that was being reconstructed. Phil explained this job was to help out with the renovation of the city walls, which were bombed in Yugoslavia’s civil war. There are plenty of people from that region who probably harbor lingering resentment about America’s tardy involvement in their country’s dark period, and it’s probably best they never watch a U.S. reality show whose idea of American help is putting one rock back. I’d hate to see the challenge Van Munster has planned for Baghdad in 2017.

Ronald chose to do this task. Had it been a detour, Phil could have summed up the pros and cons for Ronald this way: ”The work is tedious, so it’s perfect for an obsessive-compulsive personality. But the rocks are heavy, so people with hernias could find their lower intestine slowly pouring out onto their shoes like a magician’s endless handkerchief.” After the roadblock, teams took a tandem zip line over water to a detour, and then I really worried about Ronald. I pictured his hernia blowing somewhere over the water, and people on the rocks below thinking it was a fireworks show.

The detour involved either rappelling and then climbing up a rope ladder or taking another zip line and then rowing a boat. The Goths opted for the wall climbing; Kynt pointed out that Vyxsin did it well because she has a dad in the military. Oooof, Papa Vyxsin must be thrilled about Kynt as a future son-in-law, that’s all I’ll say about that. Although I’m not so sure about their romantic status; when they arrived at the pit stop, they did the most awkward high five and half embrace with each other. The two showed about as much romantic sparks as a eunuch with a traffic flare shoved up his ass.

But then came the rowing. Over my years of covering reality TV, I’ve mentioned countless times my frustration with contestants who don’t know how to either row or paddle a canoe. You know it’ll come up, people! First, Christina urged her dad to sit backward when he had been in the correct position. (Damn, I can’t stand it when Ronald’s right.) Later, Nicolas — who is one whiny grandson — micromanaged Donald’s rowing, when not only did he have no idea how to row himself, but how dare he make his grandpa row in the first place after just bitching how the exhausted Donald was so slow hauling rocks? It’s like the old restaurant joke: ”The food is terrible. And such small portions!” Except it’s ”My grandfather’s age is really a detriment. And he’s so slow at dragging my ass around the Croatian seaside, too!”

NEXT: ”I hate you I hate you.”

And then there was the S.S. Misery, otherwise known as Jen and Nate’s dinghy. It was tough watching them bicker, because there’s no one to root for. It’s like a Möbius strip of irritation that you keep following around and around, never able to alight on a terminus of blame: She demands he learn how to row a boat immediately, and you think, ”Well, she’s unreasonable and so hard on him.” But then he whines, ”Let me figure it out without you yapping in my ear every second!” and you think, ”Then again, he’s incredibly frustrating since he won’t listen to constructive criticism.” And she replies, ”You’re the meanest person I’ve ever met sometimes!” and you think, ”He didn’t really deserve that.” And by the time it devolves into ”I hate you I hate you, I’m never going to be with you ever again.”/”Good!” you’re so dizzy you start blaming the innocent Croatians frolicking in the sea in the background.

There is more and more evidence accumulating that the world hates Nate and Jen, though. First there were the spiteful donkey and the camel, and last night they got rejected by a cab driver just for being ”wet”; because of this, they hitched a ride and then were penalized by Phil for not taking official transportation. (”To have this happen is the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae…that’s already melted,” grumbled Nate, in his most clever line of the show. Although I’m surprised he didn’t give it that Nate tweak to become ”To have this happen is the biggest cherry ever on top of the most sugary ice cream sundae ever…that’s already melted to a degree that even the smartest melting theoretician can not explain.”)

After they nearly crapped their pants when they were startled by the pit-stop musket blaster, only to be sent back to the end of the detour, I kind of wished that they’d been eliminated this week because I can’t stand to see what other abuse the world has in store for them. I have a bad feeling it ends with them traveling to Rome and getting sucker-punched by the Pope.

It was Ronald and Christina who nabbed first place, winning a catamaran. I’m happy for them, although that’s a sailing excursion I’m happy to be left out of. (”You are fossilizing your mind with this rudder! I am giving you navigation with full truth!”) When Jen and Nate finally arrived, greeted by a red-beret-wearing local who looked like either Anthony Quinn or a gone-to-pot Frank Vincent from The Sopranos, they congratulated each other with a mere handshake. This motivated Phil into a rare bit of analysis: ”Not a lot of affection there.” This was only slightly less obvious than turning to his co-greeter and saying, ”Really taking a fashion risk with that cape, aren’t you?”

Hendekia and Azaria ended up being eliminated, but Nate and Jen’s spirit seemed the most crushed. At the beginning of the episode, she said that this race was going to be the deciding point of their future relationship. Which is odd, since anyone watching this show could have made that decision the first week.

What do you think about the episode, Azaria and Hendekia’s elimination, or Jen and Nate’s future? Weigh in below!

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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