Sonja Flemming/CBS
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TV Show
S14 E4
March 10, 2009 at 03:16 AM EDT

The teams who were able to finish their woodpiles were then sent to Siberia’s number one local amusement park, ”Bobrovy Log Park.” (It’s located just down the road from Siberia’s other favorite family fun-time attraction, Knott’s Berry Gulag.) There one teammate had to ride down a bobsled-like run and spot seven letters tacked to trees; when they got to the bottom (which they had to do in four minutes or less), they had to unscramble the letters to spell a famous Russian playwright. Yes, we’re finally at that part of the show.

First came Kisha, who (after two runs; on the first one she didn’t see the ”V”) grumbled, ”I don’t know nothing about no Russia.” Which is like saying, ”How am I supposed to know who this Shakespeare dude is? I’ve never been to London.” Christie drew just as big of a blank, and yet both of them (and, later, Jaime) solved it by just tossing in letters and randomly getting it on the first try. It all seemed a bit fishy, especially when Kisha explained her strategy: She guessed the name because she was familiar with a few Russian words, like ”Chek” and ”Kov.” Well, isn’t that convenient! Really, what are the odds that all of them would randomly guess a name that they’d never heard of before? Luke’s attempt seemed far more likely. He came up with four attempts like ”Coehkvh” before he finally nailed it.

But my suspicions about how they got the answer is secondary to my disgust that so many of them needed to guess in the first place. Again, this is not intellectual snobbery. I’m not someone who can quote The Seagull or Three Sisters to you; I’ve never read them or seen them performed. I’ve seen Uncle Vanya, but I have no great affinity for it. But I’ve heard of the freaking guy. Five out of eight teams hadn’t, and acted like this challenge was unreasonably hard. If they’d asked them to unscramble old Saved By the Bell plots, I bet they’d have done it in record time. I hate to sound like an old crank, but holy crap, Chekhov? At the beginning of the show, Mike White called his dad, ”part Woody Allen, part Billy Graham, and a splash of Judy Garland.” I’m guessing most of his competitors could unscramble only one of those names.

Mark and Michael would later pass this task right away, because literature’s their game. Shutters, though? Not so much. It took the arrival of Mel and Mike and Kris and Amanda to get them through it. Joining forces (and under the doleful gaze of Random Tool Shed Man, who looked like he was out of a Chekhov play), the three teams were able to finally find the shutter-needy house that so eluded the tiny brothers in the town. A town that, I should mention, was utterly deserted except for a stray dog. Seriously, where was everyone? Out at the slaw factory?

NEXT: Don’t ever stiff a Siberian cabbie

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Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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