The teams head to Champagne and prove once again that getting proper directions is key, while Brent and Caite seem about to implode

By Darren Franich
Updated March 22, 2010 at 05:36 AM EDT
Monty Brinton/CBS

The Amazing Race

S16 E6
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The Champagne province of northeastern France has seen its share of great battles. Way back in year 451, the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Franks did a superhero team-up to defeat Attila and his Fighting Huns. A thousand years later, France and England fought over Champagne; a century after that, the region saw a knock-down drag-out fight between the Catholics and the Huguenots. On last night’s episode of The Amazing Race, Champagne was the setting of still another great conflict: the terrifying battle between Team Newly Dating and Team Dating Models to decide who would be the most blockheaded pair of human beings in the history of traveling.

Okay, I’m being a little bit harsh on Jordan and Jeff. The dearly departed CBS Reality All-Stars never seemed to find any traction on Race, but at least they had a robust sense of humor. When Jordan kept on insisting that Joan of Arc was the man who built a ship for the animals, Jeff softly said, ”That was Noah,” and followed that up with a Jim Halpert-esque wink to us viewers: ”I wonder why we’re in last.” Sure, the Big Brother couple had a minor touch of travel ADD. In this episode, we saw them get distracted by some kind of S&M fashion shop, which is probably just the French version of Macy’s. But it was the first time that Jordan ever traveled outside of America (and perhaps outside, period). Who can blame them for being a bit overwhelmed?

You know who’s not overwhelmed? The freakin’ Detectives. Riding high off of two straight first-place finishes, Louie and Michael were feeling fat and sassy when they started the day at 7:47 am. Louie: ”The other teams are like chickens with their heads cut off.” Michael: ”We’re gonna own this continent.” (Careful, Michael, you’re not the first guy to say that.) The first instruction was pretty straightforward. The teams had to drive 37 miles to Reims, France, a city liberated by Joan of Arc. There, they had to find a statue of Saint Joan in front of a Gothic cathedral, where a lady playing a singing saw would hand them their next clue. (If you’re like me, your first question was: Wait, since when can saws sing?)

Steve and Allie were the next to leave. Last night’s episode finally illuminated the secret genius of their team: Steve is insanely good at doing absolutely everything, and Allie is extremely good at staring blankly into space and saying mouth-words. Allie: ”Maybe Jeanne d’Arc is actually Arc de Joan, like Arc de Triomphe is Ark of… Triomphe.” Jet and Cord talked adorably about trying to find a 7-11 in Verdun to ask for directions; Brandy and Carol talked adorably about the wonders of French living. ”Little country house here. Little flat in Paris,” said Brandy. Dear Bravo: I’ve got a charming fish-out-of-water reality show for you!

Quick Trivia: How do you pronounce Reims? The Detectives called it ”Reems,” the Cowboys called it ”Rayms,” and the Brent & Caite Toxic Revolution called it ”Rems.” (The answer, according to my sources, is actually ”Rance.”)

NEXT: And who’s that dude Joan of Arc?

Steve and Allie were the first to arrive at the Joan of Arc statue, and so they were the first to receive a champagne cork from the Singing Saw Lady. The cork sent them to Leclerc Briant, in Epernay. The Detectives and the Cowboys arrived soon after. ”You know there’s a town about forty miles down the road called Champagne?” exclaimed Cord. Dan and Jordan arrived fourth at the statue, but they managed an impressive surge, and were the first to arrive at Epernay. (Steve and Allie were caught in a roundabout, and the Cowboys drove half a country in the wrong direction.)

”How do you make champagne? Is it like wine, and then you add club soda?” asked Jordan. (Or maybe it was Dan? Let’s just call them ”Jordaniel.”) Phil gave us a fifty-second history of the sparkling wine, and then explained the challenge: teams would rappel ”down in the aging caverns of winery” to search for a specially marked bottle. Then, ”like officers in Napoleon’s army,” they would saber off the cork of the bottle. (I have actually done this. It is awesome.) The Detectives arrived second, followed by Steve and Allie. (Said Michael: ”Steve, this is your kind of place!”)

Meanwhile, several miles away and several brain cells removed, Brent and Caite further demonstrated the deplorable state of American education. ”Joan of Arc is a guy,” said Caite, although unlike Jordan, she backtracked just in time: ”Never mind, just kidding. I was thinking of someone else.” The models arrived in Reims, where Brent insisted that every statue of a woman was a statue of Joan of Arc. ”You seem to have one of those attitudes right now,” said Caite when Brent started to sound frustrated. ”You need to stop with your attitude.” When they got back in the car after finally asking for directions, Caite complained, ”You scooted the chair further back.” Caite, I think I speak for America when I say: Would you turn six, please?

Brandy endured the rappelling challenge: ”Somehow, I get all the height things.” Carol: ”Hopefully, she finds it quickly. Hopefully, she’s not in a piss-a– mood when she gets back up here.” The Cowboys were the fifth to arrive: ”That’s not good, we started out in third.”

At this point, there was a massive rumble in the game that rocked half the teams in the race. The direction was simple: ”Taittinger La Marquetterie,” a chateau in the countryside. Unfortunately, half the teams were misdirected; when they asked for directions to ”Taittinger,” the French people sent them to the headquarters of Taittinger, a champagne company, back in Reims. (Dear Amazing Race producers: I love you, you tricky rat bastards.) The ramifications were serious: Jordaniel’s brief moment in the number one spot ended and the Cowboys put the cherry on top of a miserably day of competition by going to their second wrong town.

NEXT: The Detectives are masters at getting direction

The Detectives caught a lucky break: They found an utterly charming French couple who tried to explain the way to the chateau, and then just asked, ”Would you like us to take you?” (”We are professional cop followers,” Louie said.) Actually, scratch that. I’ve been saying a lot this season that the Detectives have gotten lucky, but I’m starting to think that they genuinely have a skill for (A) picking the right foreigners to ask directions to, (B) knowing how to ask for the right directions (i.e., not just yelling ”Taittinger? Taittinger!” in every French person’s direction) and (C) utterly charming those foreigners in the process. Remember how every woman in Los Angeles wanted to sleep with Bogart in The Big Sleep? It’s like that. Plus a mustache.

Steve and Allie caught a not-so-lucky break; right as they pulled into Taittinger headquarters, Steve hit something and totally wrecked the right bumper of his Mercedes. (Aside: You have to love how the same Taittinger employee told every Racer the same thing: ”This isn’t La Marquetterie. La Marquetterie is a castle. Like a big mansion.”) When the car was making some funny bad sounds, Steve pulled over to the side of the French freeway for some battlefield medicine. Allie threw a predictable fit: ”Dad! You’re not gonna rip it!” But Steve triumphed, with a little pre-race aid from his spouse: ”Duct tape. My wife, before I left, says you can fix anything with duct tape.”

At the REAL Taittinger, the Detectives arrived first. The challenge choice was Tower or Terra. Tower: Use 680 champagne glasses to build a tower 15 levels high with only one glass on top, and then fill it with champagne. Terra: Search a square kilometer for a cluster of grapes marked with race colors. Gotta say, for me, this would’ve been a no-brainer. I’m a World Series Jenga player (or would be, if such a thing existed), but the notion of balancing almost seven hundred fragile glasses seems nearly impossible.

Michael had the same idea: ”I’m a bull in a china shop. He’s a bull in a china shop.” Yet again, the pair of gumshoes proved that they earned their Detectives’ License: ”Eagle Eye” Michael tracked down the grapes. Dan and Jordan, who arrived in second place at the Chateau, went with the Tower: ”When you have a luck challenge and a skill challenge, you go with skill. It should be easy, after all the bar and bat mitzvahs we’ve been to.”

In a day that saw a lot of ups and downs for the brothers, this would prove to be a pivotal mistake. It just took a long darn time to stack all those glasses up. While they stacked, Carol and Brandy passed them by. (Brandy to Carol: ”You have the best eyes ever.”) So did Steve and Allie — yes, Steve found the telltale grapes. Is Allie just Steve’s imaginary friend?

NEXT: Brent and Caite implode

That put the Detectives in first place for the third week in a row. (Enjoy Cancun, boys!) Phil, who apparently found himself a pet mime, congratulated them. Europa has been good to these two. Meanwhile, Carol and Brandy jumped into second place for the day, and in what amounted to the most blockheaded move of the episode, Brent and Caite squandered their lead over the Cowboys by following Carol and Brandy away from the Chateau… before they had even performed the Detour challenge! ”We actually caught up to the lesbians!” squawked Caite.

This led to the hilarious moment when B & C arrived for their second-place win, and Caite had to just mumble to Phil, ”We didn’t get a clue for the detour.” Phil’s pet mime looked confused and a little bit sad about her cluelessness. ”Damn, I wanna get the stupid lesbians out now,” said Caite. ”I hate them.” What a charmer this girl is! Quick, Government, can you revoke her citizenship while she’s out of the country?

Steve and Allie arrived third. Steve smiled, and said, ”I hope you guys are insured.” The look on Phil’s face was hilarious; it seemed to say, ”Laugh it up, Steve. Guess what: The cost of that bumper is coming out of your hide!”

Caite and Brent returned to the Chateau, still doing eerily well in the game despite their partial lobotomies. The Cowboys were still recovering from the faux-Taittinger confusion, and Jordaniel were taking their time building the most beautiful Champagne Pyramid in history. Ken and Barbie, this was your moment! Seize the day! Become useful! Alas, the Model Couple chose this point to implode. Brent, reasoning logically that ”the glasses could break and fall,” opted to ”look for Terra.” Caite said something like, ”Blah blah blah Brent, blah blah blah Stupid,” and refused to look for the grapes.

While she was pouting, the Cowboys rolled in, found a set of marked grapes, and rolled out. Brent, exasperated, said, ”I’ll follow you. Where do you wanna go, baby?”

Caite: ”All your decisions are usually wrong.”

Brent: ”You push the blame onto everybody.”

Snip-snap! They opted to build the pyramid, and they arrived just in time to admire Jordaniel completing their masterpiece. It was pretty nifty. Somehow, the brothers ended up with three extra glasses at the end, and they managed to stack four cups on top of each other at the top. The brothers had to work together to empty ”the gigantic humungous bucket of a bottle” into the pyramid. (I think that bottle was a Jeroboam of wine, but it might have been a Nebuchadnezzar: collect them all.) Dan and Jordan celebrated by drinking a little bit of champagne. Mmmm, fizzy!

The visual was pretty beautiful. Brent and Caite don’t see beauty unless it’s in a mirror, so they quickly descended into squabbling. Brent: ”I might as well let you do it. You’re Ms. Perfect.” Caite: ”I know. That’s why you date me.” They actually managed to build the pyramid, but while Brent was mid-pour, the glasses fell. Now THAT was an awesome visual. Schadenfreude!

NEXT: Jeff and Jordan’s big gamble

Back to the grapes went Caite and Brent… and that’s how, completely by accident, they ended Jordan and Jeff’s chances. J&J arrived at the Chateau and saw the Models searching for grapes. Jeff: ”Maybe we should do the thing, because they can’t find it.” Viewers, is it just me, or do you think that Jordan and Jeff would have been better served to go grape-hunting?

But no, they tried (and failed) to build the pyramid. Caite and Brent manage to find the marked grape, and zipped over to Phil. He held up six fingers. Caite: ”Fi… Six!” How can someone who looks so much like a young Britney Spears be so airheaded? Don’t answer that.

That left Jeff and Jordan running around with flashlights in the middle of a field of grapes. Jeff had one last hilarious one-liner: ”What are we doing this for? To teach kids to stay in school?” Double J: you will be missed. Phil summed it up rather adroitly to the couple: ”Maybe now you guys will get some time to be alone.”

How did you feel about last night’s trip through Champagne, viewers? The Detectives have certainly owned Europe, but I wonder if they’ll lose their way when the race moves on to slightly more exotic locations. (I’m pretty sure the Cowboys will have the opposite reaction: after some tough days navigating the back roads of Western Europe, they’ll probably surge ahead when things get a bit more rural.)

I’m getting a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race vibe from Brandy and Carol; without necessarily being awesome competitors, they seem pretty good at staying in neutral while other teams implode around them. My money’s not on Jordan and Dan; I get the vibe that they’re a bit too hasty. That can be a good thing: it means they follow their instincts. But it also means they follow a pretty French girl’s directions, without checking to make sure there isn’t more than one place in France called ”Taittinger.” Steve, of course, might just be the best player in the game this season. If only he didn’t have that daughter-sized weight on his shoulders…

Episode Recaps

As for Caite and Brent… well, I think the betting game here isn’t ”are they going to win” but ”is their relationship going to survive another episode?” What did you think of last night’s episode, viewers? Do you think Carol and Brandy are beginning a mid-game surge, or did they just luck out when everyone went in the wrong direction? Were you, like me, waiting for Jet and Cord to turn to the statue of Saint Joan and say, ”How d’you do there, Ms. Of Arc!” Between the Champagne trip to France and the Beer-themed trip to Germany, can a vodka-heavy trip to Russia be far behind? And is ”Cathy Drone” the most hilarious thing you’ve heard this week?

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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