The cowboys are keeping the lead as the race heads to Argentina, but is there a dark horse team?

By Jessica Shaw
Updated March 01, 2010 at 06:19 AM EST
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Oh, my gravy, this race just got interesting. Last week I thought Jet and Cord got lucky by landing on the fastest bus, but to run such a clean race two weeks in a row? Is this a fluke or have we met the team to beat?

And has the team to beat turned into the most likable (albeit with slightly garish belt buckles) pair of globetrotters since, well, last season’s Globetrotters? They know who they are, don’t have a tolerance for bitchy Brandy comments yet aren’t rude to her, and damn, can Jet throw a lasso. (On the second try. That’s right, buddy. You’re not getting off scot-free.)

Or is the team to beat Steve and Allie? Wait, who are they again? Clearly, Berty V-M doesn’t want us to know since he’s shown us the absolute minimum footage possible for these two to still qualify as contestants. Let’s see what we know: Steve sometimes falls. Steve sometimes aches because he’s 57. Steve doesn’t have a fear of lice as evidenced by his willingness to hat swap at the pit stop mat. (Did he skip grade school where teachers ban you from sharing headgear with your friends?) But other than that and despite their impressive finish (more on that later), I have no idea who these people are. I know about Jeff’s plans for procreating, for crying out loud. Either Steve and Allie are the most boring team on the planet or some editor should be canned.

This week’s leg basically starts with everyone leaving Chile. It was difficult to see that beautiful footage of such an exquisite country knowing about the earthquake that just happened. If you have the means, do what you can to help out for the earthquake relief. Part of loving travel — and I assume loving Amazing Race is more than watching a reality show about teams clawing, uniting, and bickering their way toward a finish line — is doing our part to ensure that our planet is not destroyed, whether by acts of nature or people. And now I’ll stop preaching.

Anyway, all teams have to board one of two Argentina-bound buses that leave the following morning. Even playing field. Well, except for Caite, who misses her departure time because she’s puking and shaking in the hotel bathroom. Why she and Brent, who’s also under the weather but not quite bowing before the porcelain god, decide to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night is beyond me. If they knew they were sick or dehydrated, might they have opted for a 9pm visit instead of missing their departure time? Regardless, I feel for them. It can’t be easy getting sick when you need all your strength and mental clarity. Plus, to abandon all vanity by letting cameras monitor you in the emergency room getting an IV! Wait. What’s that? Yes, Caite is wearing multiple coats of mascara on the Chilean ER gurney. Hey, puking on national TV is one thing, while showing America your bare eyelashes is an indignity few could tolerate. In the end, they’re a little more than three hours behind schedule, though hydrated and properly made-up.

NEXT: The cowboys rope in the challenge

But even Brent and Caite make it on one of the buses with everyone else. At the station, we witness a Brandy barb when she greets last week’s winners with ”Hey! It’s the enigmatic cowboys!” She proceeds to grill them about how they got on a faster bus last week, which seems like the worst kind of sportswomanship possible. Don’t question those who kicked your butt, Brandy. But she knows there’s something about those two cowboy-hatted brothers. ”They’ve got tricks up their sleeves and their tricks have tricks.” But do their tricks’ tricks have sleeves? To Jet and Cord’s credit, they chuckle and look at Brandy like she’s just some silly big city woman who thinks all cowboys are morons, which, of course, is exactly what she is.

After a long and incredibly beautiful ride (”There are no mountains like this in Oklahoma,” Jet says. You bet your belt buckle there aren’t!) the teams arrived in Bariloche, Argentina, where they had to drive themselves to El Boliche Viejo, which translates to ”The Old Joint.” (The teams seemed to know they had to take route 237, though Brent — bless his dehydrated heart — clearly thought 237 looks like 231.) From the looks of things, this joint is basically a saloon lifted out of Universal Studios, complete with scowling extras with rumpled hats. Apparently, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hung out there when they were in South America. (In the clue picture, a Travelocity gnome is photoshopped in alongside Butch and Sundance. ”I don’t remember the gnome being in the movie!” says Jet. I’m not entirely sure he’s kidding.)

At the Old Joint, teams have to win a hand of 5-card stud. I have no idea what this entails because I’m a blackjack girl. All I know is some cards get exed out, some turn green, and lots of people get gnomes and instructions to travel to Pena Gaucha.

Pena Gaucha is this week’s Road Block where teams have to rope a target 18 feet away and pull the target (and accompanying clue) toward them. We found out from Cord that Brandy thinks it’s unfair that the cowboys will be able to lasso something so easily. True, these two have gotten lucky two weeks in a row, with cow-milking (no kicks to the head for them!) and now lassoing. But I have a feeling they’ll be plenty challenged in the weeks ahead. And again, just be gracious, Brandy. You’ve got your own problems to worry about — like your 5-month-old relationship which seems to be on a fast train headed toward being an Amazing Race casualty. Jet, way out in front, got the clue on the second try. ”I can’t believe I missed it on the first try. I’m going to hear about that.”

NEXT: Joe takes a fall

Despite the claims of unfairness, Brandy’s girlfriend Carol finished second with Heidi close behind. Jeff is beyond adorable trying to lasso that animal head, but not half as cute as Jordan in braids. ”I’m a city boy, not a country boy,” he says. Jordan’s take? ”He is NOT a natural cowboy.” I can’t help it. I love them. My only problem with them this week was that I didn’t get to see them enough. And because Berty V-M is incapable of showing Steve or Allie for more than 3 seconds at a time, we saw Steve nail the lassoing challenge, seemingly on the first time. Did he struggle? Who knows? The cutting room floor does. Here’s where things got sad. The mom/attorneys Monique and Shawne arrived and had a decent chance. But Shawne couldn’t seem to work a rope. And soon enough, remaining teams Dan (”Lassoed that bitch!” Um. That just sounds really wrong, Dan.), Brent and Caite (”I was stoked to get it on my second try. I thought maybe we got a chance here!), and the private eyes pass them.

Shawne tried to score some help from Jesus, who clearly did not want to answer her prayers when she finally hooked the horn but the rope fell away. Dear all reality show contestants past and future, [Fill in your god] does not care about how you do on reality show challenges. Love, Me. Well, at least Jesus doesn’t care about how she does. He seems to like Monique because after she prayed, Shawne nailed it. Too bad by this time a slew of teams have finished or are working on that detour.

The detour had teams either searching for a bag of money, using an old-time compass for a reference, that they’ll deliver to a lead bandit OR attempting to score a goal in 9 swings or fewer with a model horse that they have to drag around on a polo field.

Over on the polo field, Jet and Cord rocked the challenge, despite the fact that they were no better equipped for this than any other team. ”I can’t believe that was the horse we rode,” Jet laughed about his wooden equine. Meanwhile, Joe showed his incredibly cocky side by bragging to Heidi that his watch compass would lead them right to the bag of loot. ”The steps are if somebody doesn’t have a compass,” he chided Heidi who’d pointed out that they should follow the instructions. As soon as he said this I knew he wouldn’t be finishing the challenge. Sure enough, they switched to the polo field where Joe literally fell on his face. Oh, how I loved rewinding and rewatching that.

Carol and Brandy didn’t fare much better with their coordinates…i.e, getting from point A to point B in a relationship. ”I can’t do anything right!” Carol yelled. ”That’s a nice temper tantrum,” Brandy said. Okay. When they eventually changed over to the polo field, Carol told Brandy. who was hitting the ball, to ”Pretend it’s my face.” Maybe there’s something wrong with basing a relationship on a mutual love of Louis Vuitton?

NEXT: The moms fall further behind

Jeff and Jordan would have been far ahead if they were better at reading all the specific details in the clues. ”Lead bandit!” I yelled at my TV screen. And then because I have an irrational love for these two, I got mad at the show for not making it clear enough which bandit was lead. As Jeff explained once they finished, ”We met some guy with guns. Assumed he was the bandit. We’re so stupid. We definitely shouldn’t reproduce.” Okay, so your children wouldn’t be the brightest bulbs in the hardware store, but really, why does anyone need to know how to tell time with clock hands? There are more important things in life.

At the bottom of the pack were the brothers, models, undercover detectives, and moms. Dan and Jordan did okay once Jordan figured out how to hit a ball down the polo field. Dan was positively disastrous. But no one was worse than Caite who somehow only managed to hit the polo ball about 1/100 of a centimeter. Actually, upon second viewing, I believe she hit it backwards. Louie and Michael initially started looking for the loot bag but ended up arguing. Michael (who, incidentally, sounds more and more like Ray Romano every week) yelled something about ”doing police work for 23 years” to which Louie responded, ”I never did a grid search. I just execute search warrants!” I’m guessing Louie is more from the Chief Wiggum school of policing. Eventually they switched to the polo field where they chose navy jerseys (”Let’s go blue for NYPD Blue!” said Michael) and finished on their second try. Michael let loose a ”Sparta!” scream for some reason. ”Poor kid from Providence never dreamed of playing polo,” he said. Aw, that’s kind of nice, but, Michael, this wasn’t real polo.

In the end, only the moms were left. They started on the polo field but afraid they’d injure their backs (random ailment complaint?), they switched over to the loot/coordinates challenge. ”As long as my children know I didn’t give up, that’s what’s important to me,” Monique said. I’m going to miss these two. I liked their whole girl power message. I think they would have done far better if the early challenges involved more brain power than physical power.

Over on the finish line at Estancia Fortin Chacabuco, a gorgeous ranch at the foot of the Andes that I want to move into, Jet and Cord arrived first. ”Those belt buckles aren’t slowing you down on the race around the world?” Phil said. The small-talk sounded stilted and uncomfortable and I wished Phil wouldn’t ad-lib. Probably best to stick to the suspense-filled ”You’re team number…”

Somehow, through little skill that we’ve been shown, Steve and Allie were team number two. Number two! Could they be real contenders? The rest of the top five was filled out by Carol and Brandy, Joe and Heidi, and Jeff and Jordan. ”I can never read you,” Jordan said to Phil at the finish mat. ”You scare me. I was trying to read your face. It was blank.” He looks confused but admits that he, too, scares himself sometimes.

Dan and Jordan, Brent and Caite, and Louie and Michael rounded out the bottom three. And, of course, Monique and Shawne were eliminated with tears. Shawne told Monique she’s a beautiful crier with her ”big ol’ eyes”, which makes me want to cry. They were all heart, little game. And though some teams could use more heart (I’m talking to you, Joe! You too, Brandy!), too many have killer game. Do you think Jet and Cord can be beat? Should Jeff and Jordan have kids? Will Brandy and Carol make it to their one year anniversary? Discuss!

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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