The season's first detour had the racers all confused and left one pair playing in the sand
Race Marisa Brooke
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

This may not have been the greatest episode of The Amazing Race ever (though it was very, very entertaining), but it certainly was the stupidest. I can’t remember the last time this many low-IQ errors were made in a single hour. Was this an anomaly — a random confluence of idiocy — or have Bertram & Co. just assembled a particularly moronic group of partnerships this year? I bet they got this year’s lineup by calling up Wipeout‘s casting director and saying, “Hey, if anyone seems too mentally fragile to attempt the Big Balls, send ’em over to us.”

Things didn’t begin stupidly, however: They kicked off scarily. Ken reminded us about how the Race would decide whether his marriage with the scariest woman on earth — a.k.a. Tina — would continue in the wake of his cheating. “She doesn’t want a life sentence, and neither do I. We want life partners,” Ken said, quoting one of the 415 relationship handbooks that Tina likely assigned to him. As the episode progressed, I was amazed at how upbeat and encouraging he is to his wife, even while getting little but curses and angry glares in return. It seems to go beyond the penitent restraint of a guilty man. Is something else keeping him in line? Does Tina carry around a remote control that delivers electric shocks to his scrotum every time he displeases her? Wouldn’t surprise me: Frankly, there are times when she looks straight at the camera with her angry eyes that I feel like she’s got one of those zappers pointed at me.

And speaking of doomed couples, what about Sarah and Terence? Boy, opposites attract, don’t they? Sure, opposites bug the crap out of each other, too, but man, do they attract! Why, yes, they also cause mutual disdain and crippling irritation, but hey, what about the attrac… What’s that? Yes, I suppose opposites are also what spark million-year religious feuds and world wars, but sometimes they attract, don’t they? Don’t they? Erg. We kicked off with them bickering with each other because Sarah had had the temerity to speak to another team. And within minutes, he was sulking because she didn’t throw herself in the path of the oncoming cab trunk that hit him in the forehead. I spent all Sunday with my 11-month-old daughter, and Terence is still the biggest baby I saw all day.

NEXT: Plane games

Later, at the airport, Tina was able to “persuade” an airline with only one available seat to their next destination to switch the flight to a bigger plane, thereby allowing them — and everyone else — to get on. The power quickly went to her head, as she told every team to get on the very special impossible flight that she conjured out of thin air. (I was waiting for her to claim that she herself had forged the larger fuselage out of nothing but sheer will and a dirty look.) As her reward for this good deed, she and Ken sauntered to the gate, walked past everyone else, and stood at the front of the line. This infuriated Terence, who snorted at her, which in turn made Ken — nervously remembering the electrodes taped to his scrotum — calmly threaten him from behind: “You get loud, I’ll get loud. You be civil, I’ll be civil.” Considering that both couples’ relationships are fueled on at least one side by simmering contempt, there is only one way this can all end: Both couples will be swinging by week 5. Hell, Ken already gave Terence a kiss — perhaps this foursome will be sharing a passionate night of grudge groping by next week’s episode.

(A side note about the airport contretemps: Why did Tina think it was so important to sit in the front row? Does she think that the first seat comes with a catapult that launches the sitter all the way to the taxi stand? Yes, it technically gives you a head start, but it’s a one-foot head start. Let the bulkhead slide, Dr. Angry.)

The Southern Belles, meanwhile, have decided to charm their way to victory. Brooke has filled her backpack with candy, which she will toss to ticket agents across the world, making it impossible for them to deny the women’s desire for good flights. “You like American candy?” she asked the Brazilian ticket agent, no doubt expecting the reaction, “I’m sorry, miss, but that flight is absolutely full and there is no way I can…[boing!] Fun size 3 Musketeers? You didn’t tell me you spoke the international language of near-microscopic sugary treats! We have a special charter flight on the tarmac just for people like you, and for three candy corns, I can put you in first class! And to think I had been wasting my sweet tooth on Blong!”

At their destination, it was a dash to the cabs, and Anthony and Stephanie continued their track record of attracting the worst cabs. After picking a stalled cab, instead of hailing a new one, Anthony was oddly tenacious about getting it to start. I loved the shot of him pushing the car, yelling, “POP THE CLUTCH! POP THE CLUTCH!” in English. The cab driver probably didn’t know what he was screaming, and was likely settling in for this crazy American to push the car all the way to his destination.

Everyone dashed to a beach, where they all had to ride in a dune buggy in the rain. Terence, experiencing a manic phase, said, “It was like God showering us with love and joy!” It must be truly difficult for Sarah to deal with his swinging moods: One minute he’s angry at her for not seeing an imaginary wound on his head, the next he’s beatifically thanking God for precipitation. I think next time he opens his mouth to complain, Sarah should toss a dose of lithium into his whine hole. I think she’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

NEXT: Geektastic

At the end of the dune buggy ride, teams faced their first detour: Beach It (roll a 440-pound boat 100 yards across the beach, using a couple of heavy logs) or Docket (search a shipping yard for a giant container, using only its code number). Everyone went for Beach It except the comic book nerds. (Well, the Belles intended to do Docket, but went the wrong way and ended up on the beach. Is it just dumb luck that they haven’t wandered into an open manhole yet?) The comic bookers knew they were going to dominate this task, and said so in the single geekiest one-two punch of sentences ever uttered:

MARK: “There’s no possible way you’re going to sit us down at a computer, and we aren’t just gonna tear it up.”

BILL: “As Yoda would say, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.'”

This couldn’t have been nerdier if they’d just spoken a bunch of ones and zeroes. But I was glad they’d picked this task, because I fear for them in any physical activity: They are the sweatiest team I’ve ever seen. They started this leg at 4:24am — the sun wasn’t even up yet — and Bill had already sweated halfway through his shirt. Does the mild exercise of chewing a breakfast bar make his pores shoot out liquid like a fire hose?

Back over at Beach It, Terence was berating Sarah in nonsensical ways. When she said she was tired, he snapped, “Next time when you want to do pushups in the morning, don’t!” I still don’t get that: Did the blow to the head from that cab trunk jumble up his passive-aggressive syntax? And speaking of blows to the head, what fell on the frat guys’ noggins? The fratters gamely picked this task because, you know, they lift weights. (And like babes! Don’t forget they like babes! Anyone? Anyone?) And yet as soon as they got to the boat, Dan jumped on top, assuming the two workmen would have to push him across the beach. Really, what kind of frat guys are these two? I don’t know what fraternity they’re in (though I suspect it’s Lambda Lambda Lambda), but whichever it is, I’ll bet their brothers are quietly taking their letters down from the front of their house right now.

And then came a wonderful twofer of idiocy. Terence and Sarah — in first place — missed an easy sign for a taxi stand, and began tearing across the beach like Lawrence of Arabia, only to finally emerge in a small town in which the only cabs they could find were the ones speeding past them with other teams inside. Meanwhile, back at the beach, the divorcees had misread their clue, thinking the Docket explanation meant there was a container that they had to find after completing Beach It. And so they got on their hands and knees and began digging in the sand for a small container that did not exist. At this rate, I wondered what numskullery could possibly top this: Would the Belles sit down on their boat to write a short story about a jail because “Phil said each task had its own prose and cons”?

NEXT: Drats! No wedding bells

With all of this going on, you’d think the roadblock would have been a cinch. After all, they were told the key to finishing it was “not overthinking it.” Hey, not overthinking things is what these teams do best! The key to finding the name of the pit stop location on a 600-foot wall of ads and town names ended up being to just write everything down, and read them all to the clue keeper until he heard the magic word and gave you your envelope. Bill figured this out quickly, saying he would just copy all the words “with brute force.” Only a nerd could use the term “brute force” in relation to writing in a notebook. When the new shipment of comics comes in, does he turn to Mark and say, “And now I will read the new Archie and Jughead comics digest…with extreme prejudice.”

Tina followed Bill’s strategy. But when she emerged victorious, and Ken hugged her, she cringed and went stiff. It was like watching someone’s reaction to being hugged by Hitler wearing a suit made of lice. But others didn’t have such an easy time with the challenge. Nick tried to share theories with Sarah, then dashed off to partner with frat-guy Andrew instead. This quick ditching infuriated Sarah, of course, who I’m assuming had a very, very bad experience with a clique in high school that she should really talk to someone about. But she had the last laugh, solving it first. Later, Nick (who had been busily coming up with theories involving color-coded clues) finally thought he had the answer and took off, promising Andrew that he would return if he had the right answer: He was right, but he never came back, which left us with the sad sight of a pining Andrew alone with his afro of despair. (Check out what else Nick has been doing in his spare time.)

But the divorcees ruled this challenge, at least moronically. After the “container” mix-up, they chanted with each other that they would always read clues carefully. Mere minutes later, however, even though the clue specifically told them to tell their cab to wait at the roadblock, they let him go. Though they finished the challenge quickly, they were left pacing the road, looking for a cab that would not come. I found it hilarious that the cab ended up just parking in a nearby field. Apparently the cabbie was prepped that the teams would need them to stick around, so when his team didn’t, he had nowhere to go: His entire worldview was shattered. Imagine the joy when the divorcees finally found him again!

Ashamed, the ladies pledged to do better on the next leg: Said Kelly, “We’re gonna be bad A B’s!” I’m assuming this was an abbreviated version of “badass bitches.” When they complain that their exes used to be too controlling, I hope those awful men never tried to control their wives’ love of confusing acronyms. If they did, I’m glad these women are free of them. Say it with me, Kelly: I am woman, HMR!

In the end, Ken and Tina beat the nerds in a footrace to finish first. It’s just as well: They won ATVs, and the nerds’ sweat would short out the motors. But finishing last were commitmentphobe Anthony and the ring-craving Stephanie. I hope I’m not being cynical, but does anyone else find this suspicious: At the beginning of the episode, Stephanie said it was financial insecurity that kept them from getting hitched, and Anthony allowed that winning this just might help solve that. Yet at the end of the same leg, it was his slow solving of the roadblock puzzle that got the two eliminated. Oops, now they might have to keep putting off that engagement, isn’t that inconvenient, Anthony? Here’s my question: If Anthony had accidentally won The Amazing Race, thus allowing an engagement to go further, what would be his plan B escape hatch? Sawing off his ring finger? “Sorry, honey, I’d love to put a ring on this finger, but ol’ stumpy says no can do!”

But all is not lost for Stephanie. When Anthony signed off, he said, “I have a lot to be thankful for. I have my health, I have my parents, I have my looks, and I have Stephanie.” She’s in the top four! Once he gets sick, his parents pass away, and his hair falls out, look out, honeymoon!

What do you guys think? Was the episode moron-tastic or simply the best episode ever? Did you feel the electrodes? And what other ways could have Anthony escaped an engagement?

Episode Recaps

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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