The Amazing Race recap: 'Release the Brake! (Brussels, Belgium)'
Still in Belgium, stunt driving and waffle making proved surprisingly difficult
SPOILER ALERT, Race cases. If you don’t want to know who was eliminated just yet, skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise, let’s start this week’s recap with a moment for silence for Ma & Pa (Bill and Cathi). I loved everything about those two old coots, from their surprisingly hot bodies to their adorable back-story as childhood sweethearts. I was really hoping they would pull out a dark horse win, but let’s face it: Even if they didn’t win this Race, they’re winning at life. So here’s to Bill and Cathi Alden, who put the “sex” in sexagenarians.
The Race remained in Belgium this week after Team NFL (Marcus and Amani) scored a surprise first place. They’d barely hit the mat before Phil told them the next leg would begin immediately at the Ford Proving Grounds in Lommel. As the Olympians (Andy and Tommy) and Ma & Pa made second and third attempts to earn their 12 points at the bodybuilding pose-off, Team OCD (Ernie and Cindy) arrived second, followed by dating Divorcees Jeremy and Sandy. (Side note: Did anyone else find the Pit Stop music that sounded like a balloon deflating incongruously hilarious?)
All three teams encountered some difficulty finding Lommel, though OCD had the least and was the first to arrive at the Road Block. In Master Your Mustang, one teammate would be driven around an auto track before getting behind the wheel to master three different testing feats: 1.) Speed (which was more about stopping suddenly and maneuvering the car while braking), 2.) Slalom (steering between a series of cones, then reaching a full stop in a demarcated square — all in 16 seconds or less), and 3.) Donuts (anyone who grew up in a town with a Walmart parking lot needs no explanation for this one).
Ernie took on the challenge for OCD and positively squealed with glee during his ride around the track. He completed the first portion easily, but the slalom proved problematic. He was over time in his first try by only 0.9 seconds, then only 0.3 seconds in the next attempt. After that… things got progressively worse. Between hitting the bumper balloon at the stopping point and taking out cones, he nearly gave the Divorcees (who arrived next because NFL got lost) the chance to take the lead. Unfortunately for Jeremy, he hit the bumper balloon on his first attempt, and Ernie excelled under the pressure. OCD finished first, but just barely. Jeremy pulled through on try number two, finishing a few minutes behind.
NEXT: Will Cathi go all Dale Earnhardt on us?
As the Olympians and NFL arrived at the track, Teams OCD and the Divorcees were off to the city of Gent to search the Hoofdbrug for the next clue. At the track, Marcus and Tommy were beyond ecstatic to get their vroom-vroom on. Andy — who had seen Tommy’s poor performance in the poetry challenge and opted to save himself for future brainteasers — was especially jealous. Sinfully so, it seemed, as he had to make his peace with the Lord for wrath and/or coveting. Long story short, both teams completed task in a couple of attempts and were on their way to Gent by the time Bill & Cathi arrived. Following the male domination of this task, Bill took the wheel. Alas, I was so hoping to see Cathi do this Road Block! Then again, considering how much she falls over just putting one foot in front of the other, it’s probably best she didn’t have a couple tons of metal underneath her to trip over.
In Gent, the teams chose between two Detours: Water of Waffles. Teams OCD and Divorcees both chose Waffles, which involved assembling a waffle stand, then cooking and decorating 18 different types of waffles to arrange in a meticulous display. At the outset of the task, Ernie noted, “I think I should be able to do this quite effectively, but you never really can tell once you get in the booth with Cindy.” In fact, Cindy wasn’t so bad, though she did complain about the mess. The Worst Wafflemaker Award of the night definitely went to Jeremy, who made revoltingly chunky batter and consistently overfilled the irons so they seeped down the sides.
The second batch of Racers arrived, and NFL immediately spotted how much time was being eaten up (har har) by waffle making, so they switched to Water. For this task, teams had to build a floating raft using barrels, rope, and logs, then search a local waterway for two halves of the next clue. The Olympians also chose this task and took to it like… well… ducks to water. NFL definitely struggled to make the raft (Marcus even asked, “Where’s Laurence when you need him?”), but the Olympians made quick work of it and shot to the head of the pack from fourth place, nearly beating OCD to the lead. So it was OCD and the Olympians who made their way to the next clue point: Muur van Geraardsbergen. Along the way Cindy suddenly realized, “Did we just leave those waffles burning back there?” Deadpanned Ernie, “Yeah, we did.” How do you say, “Whoops!” in Flemish?
NEXT: Release the Krakenpigeons!
Back in Gent, Ma & Pa finally arrived and chose Water. NFL pieced together their clue and gave the old-timers some helpful raft-building hints before moving on. With their departure, it seemed down to Ma & Pa and the Divorcees. As the olds put together their raft and took a lovely little DIY cruise, the Divorcees were told over and over again that their waffles weren’t displayed correctly. Sandy became frustrated enough to suggest they switch Detours, but I think it was the teenage boy judging their waffles that was in the most pain. Jeremy insisted on sticking it out, and the boy was mightily relieved when they finally realized their error and completed the task. Soon after, Ma & Pa pieced together their clues, and everyone was en route to the next challenge.
In Geraardsbergen, the teams would have to help a pigeon trainer release a flock of homing pigeons. In case you didn’t know, Belgium is the number one country in international pigeon racing. (Yes, that is a thing.) After the teams released the pigeons (which did not involve touching any actual pigeons, to Cindy’s great relief), they had to locate a home where their assigned pigeon had flown and recover a teeny tiny clue wrapped around its leg. Though they began this last segment of the leg with a marginal lead, OCD fell way behind due to some serious directional malfunction. It was a particularly testy moment between them as it looked like they’d be vying for not-last place with Ma & Pa.
Meanwhile, the Olympians soared to the front of the pack. They found their pigeon first and learned from locals that the picture clue showed Brussels’ Atomium monument, the location of the next Pit Stop. They took a comfortable first place and won customizable Ford Mustangs. Suddenly Andy didn’t feel so bad about sitting out the Road Block in Lommel. The Divorcees made their way to the Pit Stop second, followed by OCD, who were relieved that they hadn’t lost the Race with their wild pigeon chase but were once again frustrated that they had first place and lost it in the space of a single leg. In the week’s third turnover, NFL was hustling not to be eliminated. And by “hustling,” I mean Marcus was driving back into Brussels, all the while clapping and huffing “Let’s do it!” at himself over and over like a nutjob. During this production, Amani sat exhausted and unmoved in the backseat. This wasn’t the first time she’d seen his locker room rev up ritual, I’m sure.
NEXT: Pour one out for my oldies
So, the inevitable happened. Ma & Pa and couldn’t make up their disadvantage, and they knew it. By the time they were in the car on the way to the Atomium, they were resigned that this would be the end of the line. Bill remained chipper, admitting, “I think we’re both startled at how long we both managed to stay with it.” While they drove toward a doleful Browsie, the editors squeezed in a cute montage of their best moments. Highlights: Remember how Cathi called Africa “spacious”? And oh my, how often she did take a topple. They brought sexy(genarian) back with their farm-chiseled bodies (even inspiring one of the judges to remark, “Do you work out? I can tell”). And then there was the time Cathi catcalled Bill as he was scaling a mountainside in Thailand. He sassed, “Ahhhh! Ya old lady!” Cathi adorably replied, “Yep!” Some may have considered these clips time filler, but I like to think they showed how much the editors adored Ma & Pa. I know the other teams and I did.
Despite knowing they were goners, they hit the mat with the utmost positivity. Cathi explained to Phil that part of the reason they ran this Race was to prove that older Americans are just as driven and capable as younger folks. More personally, Bill said, “This was one more chance to be with my best friend and do some really, really special things in the world. And I would do it all over again — same person, same way.” I love them the most, y’all.
If you can pull yourself away from your hankies, tell us what you thought, Race cases. Do you want Bill and Cathi to be your TV (grand)parents? Will you be depressed for the next two legs without them? And what about the Olympians winning the dreaded car prize? Do you worry for them? Do you think they’ll succumb to the curse, or can they break others’ unlucky streaks and take the whole thing? Of the remaining teams, who do you think is their toughest competition? Which team do you desperately hope doesn’t make it to the final? As for next week, are you excited for the dancing drama in Panama?
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