Nick and Starr have a run of bad luck with cabbies, while Dan and Andrew make one mistake after another

By Josh Wolk
November 24, 2008 at 05:59 AM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS
  • TV Show

It is now 4 a.m., and I am just finishing this update. I’m very late because I usually dictate this TV Watch to my editor, but she has started insisting I type it, and it’s taking forever: You see, pushing keys with letters on them is a more artsy and fartsy based skill, and I’m more mouth-breathing and sit-on-my-ass based.

Oh Dan, Dan, Dan. Just when I thought I had seen all of your talents, it turns out that you have even fewer. The man can’t march! March! Marching is just walking, but with a little extra panache! I’m glad that Andrew took control when they decided to serve borscht: I’m sure Dan would have frozen up, not sure which end of the ladle to stick in the soup.

Okay, let me back up. As usual, I have started this update in the middle. You see, starting at the beginning is a little too logic and basic-intelligence based, and my TV Watch abilities are more doofus and halfwit based.

When the episode began in the Kazakhstan airport as the teams booked tickets to Moscow, the producers took us on a musical tour of the Amazing Race sound cue library. When Nick and Starr inquired about flight times, we got ominous music to cue us that they would have a bad leg. Then Dallas showed up to paw at Starr’s thigh, and we quickly cut to light, flirtation music. But this interlude was cut short by Dallas saying that he hates that Nick and Starr constantly finish first, and we abruptly segued into the climactic competition theme. At that point, we cut to the shoeless Dan and Andrew (who were wearing slippers because they left their shoes at the puppet theater), and I was surprised to hear they weren’t introduced with the traditional Amazing Race “lunkhead” tune. I love that piece: I always think of it as the soundtrack to a cow with his head stuck in a bucket.

Dan was very worried about money, especially after they both bought sneakers at the 24-hour airport shoe store. An airport shoe store? Boy, cultures are different. Though, while I never would have expected to see one of those, I wonder whether Kazakhs visiting American airports are completely perplexed by the profusion of Cinnabons: “These crazy Americans. Why would they want to eat six pounds of cake and sugar right before being strapped into a small seat for hours? Why not spend their money on comfortable footwear instead?”

In Moscow, the teams first had to find a monastery, and nearly every cab driver got lost. The language barrier in Russia was the most obstructive of the whole season. Why didn’t everyone just do what President Bush did in 2001 when faced with the same problem: he didn’t need words, he just looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and got a sense of his good soul. Perhaps the problem on the Race was that the players were all in the backseat and couldn’t make eye contact with their drivers; if they had only been able to stare lovingly into the cabbies’ eyes, they could have gotten to their destinations with hours to spare. It’s simple politics, people!

NEXT: Dan and Andrew are overconfident

They all eventually found the monastery. (“That place kinda looks churchy,” said Dan, seeing one option. Hey, don’t come down hard on him: Finding churches is finding-steeples and opening-the-door-and-seeing-all-the-people based, and Dan is more so-who-brought-the-gefilte-fish based.) Everyone had to light a candle to get the clue, and Andrew carried his lit candle like he was handling plutonium. Is nothing easy for these guys? Never mind, I’ll address that when I get to the part in which Andrew is stymied by wrapping up his foot.

From there it was off to a decommissioned military camp, where teams had to get in military fatigues and either learn how to march or serve borscht. And this was the frat guys’ time to do the opposite of shine. Toni and Dallas breezed through the marching: “It was just a natural way to move,” Toni said, a premonitory slap in the face to Dan. Ken and Tina also quickly passed, and it was no wonder that Tina quickly mastered the military skill, considering that as she changed into her fatigues, she revealed that she was going commando. When she confessed to going without underwear, I flashed on a terrible image as I wondered whether or not she drew things on down there like she does with her eyebrows. If so, that is one angry-looking vagina.

Excuse me as I slice off the top of my head and scrub my brain with lye until that image goes away.

When Dan and Andrew first arrived, Andrew was confident they would do well, because he had six years of marching band experience under his belt. This is the least surprising item ever to be found on Andrew’s résumé. I wonder, does he put that above or below “Dungeon Master” and “Pog Collector”? Unfortunately, however, he had zero years of foot-wrapping experience and could not master the simple task of getting dressed. Finally, he and Dan bailed on the task, opting for borscht, until they realized they needed to get in fatigues for that, too. Damn you, foot-wrapping, you are Andrew’s kryptonite! Thank goodness he didn’t also have to rub his head and pat his stomach: The combination of these tasks might have killed the man!

While figuring this out, they were passed by Nick and Starr, who had been delayed by a series of cab drivers. There was an ironic moment when one cab driver said he needed to find a translator, and Starr got angry because she couldn’t understand this request. But they were able to pull ahead of Dan and Andrew, even if they did so while wearing each others’ fatigues, judging by their swapped name tags. Thank goodness Dallas didn’t wander in, or Nick might have found himself desperately trying to awkwardly disengage a Teen Wolf paw from his upper thigh.

Dan and Andrew finally got dressed and headed off to the marching task. Andrew laughed (or at least he seemed like he was laughing: The guy seems to only have one facial expression, and it’s “dull stare”) and said that they made so many mistakes, the show should make a compilation reel. They did, Andrew, and it’s called The Amazing Race: Season 13.

NEXT: Left! Left! Left, right, left!

And then came the most delightful moment of the entire season: Dan trying to march. He could not master the act of alternating his feet and arms. With his jerky thrusts and swings, he looked like he was in a fistfight with a ghost. His complete inability to handle this task had the entire regiment laughing at him. America’s relationship with Russia is shaky enough these days; I’m worried that these soldiers will report to their superiors, “We have nothing to fear from the Americans! They can’t even walk, how are they supposed to fight?”

This repeated failure was what inspired Dan to say, “I compare the marching to the performing arts, maybe ballet. It was very musically and art based…I’m sports and TV based.” First of all, it’s not ballet, IT’S WALKING! WALKING! As in, “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door!” Although not with Dan, where the lyrics would go, “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be spraining your ankle and punching yourself in the face.”

Finally they bailed — ON A WALKING TASK! THEY BAILED ON A WALKING TASK! — to go back to the borscht task, which, thank goodness, Andrew handled. (Hey, the man has six years of using a spoon under his belt! Come to think of it, if he uses a spoon under his belt, I don’t want to hear about it. I still feel sick over the Tina imagery.) The soldiers continued to snicker at the frat guys as they spooned out their borscht, perhaps perplexed by Dan’s attempt at bonding by repeatedly saying, “Maria Sharapova, huh?” Unfortunately for Dan, these guys were less male-bonding based than laugh-at-the-stupid-American based.

From the detour, it was off to a bakery for a roadblock, in which one player had to lug 50 55-pound bags of flour. Initially I had a problem with this task, as it didn’t seem like anything but drudgery; there wasn’t even a particularly local angle to it. But that concern was remedied by the stereotypically stern Russian bakery owner. When Dallas arrived first, she treated him with contempt for sloppilyy stacking his sacks. When Nick arrived, she sneered, “He’s not fit.” And when Dallas finished, she tossed off, “So you have finished, congratulations,” but the undertone was, “So you think you’re such a big shot because you lifted the flour that my son Boris does every day of his life? Well good for you, you weakling.” We never heard what she had to say about Dan, because he was too busy praising himself as he burned through the task: “Just give me caveman tasks, I can do them all day.” Might I remind Dan that one of the big caveman tasks was learning to walk upright?

Ultimately, Toni and Dallas landed in first, and won a romantic trip for two to the Dominican Republic. Because as Dallas said repeatedly, all he wants to do is win this for his mother…so they can share a candlelit lobster dinner for two, apparently. Ken and Tina, who are getting along better, came in second. We were led to believe that it was a tossup whether Nick and Starr (who continued to be bedeviled by cab drivers as Starr started to lose it) and the frat guys, but it couldn’t have been that close. Nick and Starr came in third, but when the frat guys arrived, the sun was starting to go down.

Perhaps they arrived closer together, but Dan and Andrew were waylaid by the cabbie they screwed by underpaying, having run out of money. Dan attempted to offer him his fancy Kazakhstan sneakers, after telling Andrew to follow his lead and sit on the curb. Not sure what kind of haggling strategy that was: I’ve heard of “whoever speaks first loses the negotiation,” but never, “whoever stays closest to the ground wins.” Ultimately, the cabbie just stormed off, so I guess the stay-low strategy works! Next time you’re trying to make a business deal, I recommend lying prostrate on the floor; I hear it’s the eighth habit of highly successful people.

But though the frat guys came in last, it was a non-elimination round, which is good, because they’re not so win and succeed based; they’re more lose-but-stay-in-on-a-technicality based. But as Andrew said, “People like seeing the underdogs win.” Which isn’t entirely true: In their case, people like seeing the underdogs look like boobs, which, according to the teaser for next week, will happen again as Dan has to master a dance. I never thought I’d say this, but thank God for non-elimination rounds.

What about you? Would you have preferred that Dan and Andrew were eliminated this week? Do you think the Dallas-Starr flirtation will go anywhere?

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Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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