The teams race through Vienna devouring sausage and carrying psychiatrists' couches on their backs. Sadly, not a single couch is used for its intended purpose.

By Christian Blauvelt
Updated April 18, 2011 at 08:24 AM EDT
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  • CBS

Wilkommen, meine Leser! Ich heiβe Christian Blauvelt, und wir fahren nach Österreich zusammen gehen!

Sorry, I can’t help myself. Any trip to Austria brings out the German-speaker in me. And it was to the snow-capped land of waltzes and strudel that the eighth leg of The Amazing Race took us last night. Quite a Kulturschock after India, ja?

When we last left off, Team Angry Dad was eliminated at Varanasi’s Ramnagar Fort. Ron’s existential inability to locate seven holy men torpedoed their chances (and revealed his spiritual bankruptcy), leaving only six teams to race after $1 million like unenlightened souls incapable of transcending samsara. First to depart Varanasi were the Globetrotters. Upon learning that their quest would take them to Austria, Flight Time immediately launched into an Ah-nold impersonation: “I’ll be back. But not toIndia, hopefully.” Followed closely by the other teams, they made their way to a travel agency. Wait. How is a travel agency open—fully staffed, mind you—at 2:12 a.m.? Akbar Travels…for when you need to make impromptu flight plans at absolutely ANY hour.

Five of the teams agreed that a flight getting in toVienna at 5:35 a.m.—after two connections—would be quickest. But Team Cowboy decided that they’d rather take a flight that would get in a half hour later, since it had one less connection. And, as any savvy traveler knows, connections can mean delays. “We’ll either win big or lose big,” said Jet. “Either way, it’ll be big.” These guys don’t do anything small.

Vyxsin and Kent noted that they are the only dating couple left, and that the race had taken a toll on their relationship, as it did for them during their first attempt in season 12. How might Oscar Wilde have put it? To let a televised race strain your relationship once may be considered a misfortune. To do so twice, carelessness. And believe me, they were on the brink. When a guy says, “I’ll step on your face!” to his girlfriend, that romance’s days are numbered.

NEXT: Kent can’t decipher a Tyrolian maiden’s gender. Plus, an auteurist rant from your recapper.

Nevertheless, the Dating Goths were the first to receive Phil’s instructions in Vienna. It’s a clue, it’s a product placement, it’s a Ford Focus! Each team had to get in a Focus, and use its rear camera to read on the pavement the directions to their first stop: Schloss Schallaburg. As any former German student can tell you, “Schloss” means “castle,” but none of the teams could figure that out, so most of them ended up asking the same gas station attendant for directions. He might have wondered why multiple parties of Americans followed by camera crews really wanted to tour a castle at 6:00 a.m., but his was not to ask why. I’m sorry to disappoint you, gas station attendant. They only want $1 million; they have no interest in your culture.

When the Zingers made it to the castle and discovered a Tyrolian maiden, wearing a pointy princess-hat tailor-made for a five-year-old’s birthday party, from whom they were to receive a book, Justin’s probing cultural commentary was, “Just had to grab a big book straight out of Harry Potter.” Still, Justin and Zev were less befuddled than Team Goth. Kent seemed to lose his ability to differentiate between genders. When confronted with the aforementioned maiden, Kent said, “Look, there’s a special man. Go up, let’s visit him!” Unless that girl was actually an Arnold-endorsed Girlie Man in disguise, I believe Kent was…confused.

Actually, the producers of the show must have realized that a little Freudian analysis was necessary at this point. Once the teams had dropped off their respective books to the National Library (in the words of McBain, “Bye, book!”), they received this leg’s Detour: Long Hard Walk or Quick and Easy Meal. Hmm…meal. The latter choice was surely the easier of the two, right? Wrong!

For Quick and Easy Meal, they were to visit the Wiener Riesenrad, the giant Ferris Wheel made famous in The Third Man. (A quibble: the auteurist in me objected to Phil Keoghan’s description of The Third Man as “an Orson Welles film,” when in fact it was directed by Carol Reed, and Welles himself, though brilliant as the amoral philosopher-criminal Harry Lime, had very definitively a supporting performance in the film. Don’t deny Reed his authorship, dammit!) Actually, it seems like every film set in Vienna finds it mandatory to include Wiener Riesenrad. It’s where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy share their first kiss in Before Sunrise, where Timothy Dalton’s 007 and Maryam d’Abo canoodle in The Living Daylights!

NEXT: Flight Time interprets Freud and an eating contest goes terribly wrong.

For our Detour, the teams were to pick up a large lunch, bring it to one of the dining gondolas on the Ferris Wheel, and devour the entire meal during one 12-minute rotation. If they failed—and, indeed, all of them failed—they would have to attempt the Long Hard Walk instead, which involved carrying a psychotherapist’s couch a whole mile to the University of Vienna, where Sigmund Freud studied and lectured. Amazingly, none of the teams that attempted Quick and Easy Meal—Kisha and Jen, Gary and Mallory, the Zingers—were able to complete it. Who would have thought that this deceptively easy task would confound our Racers? Or, maybe, as a man of large appetites, I underestimate the challenge involved.

The difficulty of cramming large quantities of sausage down one’s gullet was, of course, unforgettably illustrated many seasons ago by Charla and Mirna’s kielbasa-eating contest in Krakow. (Anybody remember, how Charla used a spoon to make her void the contents of her stomach so as to cram down more sausage? And that, astonishingly, that task occurred right after the teams visited Auschwitz?) I recognized shades of Chmirna in Mallory’s offer to her dad, “I can throw up and try again, Dad!”

Flight Time and Big Easy, along with the Cowboys, the Goths, and, well, eventually everybody, decided to take the Long, Hard Walk. Flight Time signed Vienna’s guestbook—he urinated in public—and questioned the role of a couch in therapy: “I don’t know nothin’ about the couch. Maybe [Freud] was doing his philosophical thing, layin’ on the couch, and having his weird Freudian slips.” Later, after they were the first to complete their furniture-moving Detour, he described Freud thus: “He’s the dude who used to have dreams about sleeping with his mama and all that crazy stuff.” Clearly, Flight Time is a Jungian.

Actually, a little time on the couch wouldn’t have hurt any of the teams. Especially Team Goth. When they had completed the Detour and hopped in a car to Salzburg, Vyxsin screamed to Kent, “I cannot deal with your frickin’ psycho behavior! If we get eliminated today, I swear to God, I’m never going to speak to you again.” I never thought the day would come, but I actually felt a little sorry for Kent. To paraphrase Freud, what does this woman want? Still, the one guy who seemed willing to undergo analysis was the one who needed it least: Herr Jet. I particularly loved this exchange:

JET: “I could lay on the couch, tell Cord about my feelings, and he could push me.”
CORD: “I don’t need to know about his feelings that bad.”

They’re smart, they’re witty, they’re efficient travelers—and actually not obnoxious to foreigners. Damn, I’m gonna call it. Darren still thinks Team Zinger is going to win—and based on the outcome tonight, that’s a good choice—but I’m putting my money on Team Cowboy to take home CBS’s money. There, I said it.

NEXT: The teams make their way to Salzburg. The hills are alive…with the sound of whining reality-show contestants.

After completing the Detour, the teams had to drive to Salzburg, city of Mozart and The Sound of Music. Once there, their Roadblock was to don chimneysweep attire and clean out—what else?—a chimney. Cue Dick Van Dyke Cockney accent: “On the rooftops of Salzburg, coo, what a sight!”

Big Easy found that chimneysweep attire wasn’t really tailored for Globetrotter proportions and noted, “When I was growing up, we didn’t have a chimney. Santa Claus came through the window.” By this point, Leg Nummer Acht had come down to a Globetrotter-Zinger showdown for #1, with both teams learning the ashen trade remarkably quickly. In fact, Zev was even able to throw in some Michael Scott humor to accompany his work: “Bigger, bigger…that’s what she said.” Meanwhile, Cord found that his agility with rope helped him lower the cleaning mace in and out as quickly as possible. For the second week in a row, we’ve come to realize the non-rodeo applications of cowpoke skills!

It was really the Globetrotters leg to lose, though. They started out at #1, and by all rights they should have ended at #1. But they missed their turn after exiting an Alpine tunnel. And so Team Zinger arrived first at the pitstop—the Von Trapp family home—and received their prize of two gleaming Ford Focuses (Foci?). You get a car! You get a car! Nobody else gets a car!

When all was said and done, Gary and Mallory came in last. But Phil Keoghan can be a merciful host when he chooses, and he announced that this was a non-elimination round. Team Non-Angry Dad is safe! Yay? Honestly, I would have been okay if Gary and Mal had been eliminated. They’ve seen more of the world. They’ve gotten closer as father and daughter. Mallory stared death in the face on the riverbanks of Varanasi.

But they live to race another day. Are you looking forward to the Racers trip to Switzerland next week? Do you want to bet that a fondue-related mishap will doom one of the teams? And can Kent and Vyxsin please enter couples’ therapy?

Episode Recaps

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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