A cliffhanger episode leaves unfinished business and questions

By Meredith Hoffa
November 12, 2012 at 08:04 AM EST
Cliff Lipson/CBS
  • TV Show

Let’s put it this way: if I was asked to render an interpretive painting of tonight’s episode, it would be a splendid, colorful picture of a group of people crouching in wait. The setting would be a forest or jungle and everyone would be hiding behind bushes and boulders and various fronds. They’d be lurking and poised to jump — yet staying very, amazingly still. Some of these crouching figures might also be concealing a weapon, like a fistful of pebbles or a sharp branch. Obviously everyone would be wearing goggles and multi-colored flowered bathing caps – and also probably matching body-skimming red tank tops in honor of the ones the Chips wore tonight that made them look like adorable man-babies in onesies.

This episode was a quiet one, but it wasn’t boring-quiet as much as it was quiet in a tense, utterly exhausting way. Some stuff happened tonight, but a lot of stuff that is about to happen did not happen yet. It feels like big things are on the horizon.

Of course I’m referring, in large part, to the cliffhanger episode that ended with a TO BE CONTINUED. Big deal! Only three teams officially completed the leg tonight, and at the point where we left off, one team couldn’t check in at the Pit Stop because of missing documentation while two others were half a day behind everyone else on account of a travel snafu.

But it’s not just that. There’s other unfinished business, too.

There’s the stolen money debacle, which I have a hunch isn’t over yet. Phil tweeted last week that it’s not against the rules to keep lost money found on the ground. Phine. I’m not even going to get into that mess right now. But normally Phil likes to shoot the shiz with the teams about significant things that happened to them during the leg, so the complete absence of any Missing Money chatter — last episode and this one — is noteworthy and indicates there may be more to come.

Also, that pact between Abbie-Ryan and the Beekman Boys sure piqued my interest. It smells of drama and I have the sneaking suspicion it will unfold into something tasty (or gross). But more on that later.

On to Mother Russia!

Our six remaining teams had to get themselves to Moscow, and a few entertaining things went down before they even left the airport.

In trying to buy tickets, Lexi mixed up Aeroflot and Alitalia and dealt with her confusion by throwing up her hands and heading to Popeyes for some red beans and rice. I figured it must be some editing Jiu-Jitsu; surely she and Trey wouldn’t just wander off to the Food Court before securing their airline tickets? Since they’re in a race for a million dollars and all? But then we saw them later with a paper cup in hand walking up to The Twins, and they indeed seemed to have not bought their tickets yet. Bizarre.

NEXT: Missed connections

I also enjoyed Abbie’s “crazy eyes” non-acknowledgement of Team Texas; it was a great middle school moment. But I have to say I think Abbie and Ryan are playing it wrong here. They’re wary of the Twins’ alliance with Team Texas because they suspect it’ll lead to them being bit in the ass later, and they’re right to brace for that. So instead of snubbing Texas, I think Abbie-Ryan should try to woo them. Sure, A-n-R have big ole targets on their backs that won’t go away no matter how they play things, but it definitely doesn’t help matters to alienate Lexi and Trey further. Get on Texas’ good side as much as possible, I say. Buy Lexi some red beans and rice or something. Whatever it takes. I’ve been watching a ton of Homeland recently so spy tactics and manipulation is where my head’s at.

Tonight there were no specific instructions for booking airline tickets, so teams were left to their own devices and everyone thought they were geniuses for booking the flights they booked. Here’s how it went:

The Chips and Rockers, who flew via Amsterdam, arrived in Moscow first. Teams Twins and Texas (Twinnies got the private double date they wanted!) flew through Munich and arrived a couple hours later. All four of these teams ended up equalizing at the sculpture museum in Moscow, the site of the first clue and the site of MORE SCARY CLOWNS.

The Beekmans and Abbie-Ryan, however, missed their connection in Frankfurt due to a delay on their first flight and arrived at an eerily empty airport where the only sign of life seemed to be a lone janitor on the night shift. Though this development had been previewed last week, it was still shocking to see it unfold since it could turn out to be a game-changer, and, like many a game-changer on TAR, it wouldn’t be because of any Racer error. Well, kind of. An hour layover is risky. There wasn’t much for these two teams to do the rest of the leg but sit and digest this bummer of fate and wait for their new flights.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, teams breezed through a few easy clue pick-ups, then got to the Detour where their choices were Synchronize or Alphabetize. In “Synchronize,” teams would have to (get to?) wear flowered bathing caps and perform a routine in the pool with a bunch of Russian superstar synchronized swimmers. To music. Can a person even hear music under water? Were our Racers wearing TAR-issued swimsuits? This challenge clearly brought up several distracting, burning questions for me. And the whole thing was just a fantastic and a delicious spectacle. My mom used to teach me synchronized swimming moves and it’s deceptively hard and crazy-making.

“Alphabetize” seemed like an equally hard challenge, but ten times more boring — and twenty times more boring to watch on TV. I thought it was a great challenge, just not as fun to watch. Teams would have to visit the Russian State Library, choose four books from a list (typed using the Cyrillic alphabet, obvi), find the corresponding cards amongst the ancient, dusty-looking catalog drawers, and then finally locate the books themselves in the stacks. My eyelids are getting heavy just writing about it. Thank goodness we only had to watch one team shuffle through this dreary piece of television.

NEXT: “English is very hard… without English.”

The Rockers initially chose “Alphabetize,” but after trying it for about three seconds, threw in the towel and headed to the pool. As Abba put it, “I think I’d rather drown.” Team Texas also went for “Alphabetize,” and Lexi, who at first was alarmed that “Everything is in Russian!” quickly got down to business with that irrepressible can-do attitude of hers, and ultimately she and Trey did a great job recasting the Cyrillic letters into ones they could understand, like “g”, “3” and Pi. Basically they created a code that made sense to them, which was smart and the only way to go.

Swimming, yeah!

Can I just say how fascinated I was by the Russian girls’ pink swimsuits? The backs were not quite thongs but not quite full bum coverage either – just a physics-defying cut in between the two where the material somehow knew to rest magically and securely right at mid-butt cheek without ever sliding into a wedgie the way you’d think it would.

Also, it’s simply impossible for me to see synchronized swimming without thinking of this.

The Chips, in their flowered bathing caps, tiny trunks and Chippendales collars were a chlorine dream. Outfits-wise and counts-of-eight-wise, they immediately felt right at home. But soon they realized that dancing and doing acrobatics to music while treading water while being coached in another language by an exacting woman in sensible slacks is NOT easy at all. Also, James seems to have been taught to dive by a Labrador Retriever. For a few minutes there I was worried about this challenge and wondered if it was going to be like the Bollywood routine from last season which nearly killed dear Mark dead. But it really wasn’t.

The Twins were frustrated by the lack of English, the claustrophobia and the leg-touching with strangers. They seemed like quick studies to me, though, and looked pretty good out there right off the bat. But it still took awhile for them to get the coach’s thumbs up, and they would have bailed and used their Express Pass if Jaymes hadn’t convinced them not to. He was right; it would have been a waste since there was/is little chance the Twins could possibly be eliminated on this leg. Jaymes should welcome other teams making poor strategy decisions; most other competitors would have just kept their mouth shut in that instance. But that’s just not him. Our Jaymes is a good egg.

I liked how when the Rockers entered the pool area, the coach said “I’m already afraid.” Man. It was pretty rough. And awesome to watch. At least the water was easier on Abba’s knees than any other physical challenge would have been. Poor dude. The coach reluctantly and mercifully gave them the green light after the Rockers had attempted the routine approximately one zillion times.

Meanwhile, at the airport in Warsaw, a serious family meeting took place. “We have an issue,” Ryan said, referring to what, exactly, I cannot say. I’m just going to pretend they asked for my input here. WHEN YOU GET TO MOSCOW, GET OFF THE PLANE. THEN KEEP RACING. ABBIE AND RYAN, YOU TRY TO BEAT THE BEEKMANS SO YOU CAN KEEP COMPETING FOR TWO MILLION DOLLARS. BEEKMANS, YOU TRY TO BEAT ABBIE AND RYAN. THE END, YOU’RE WELCOME. But no. It wasn’t that simple, apparently, and the two teams made a pact to race together for the duration of the leg. “It’s always better in the race to stay with another team, for comfort,” Ryan — or a cyborg posing as Ryan — said.

NEXT: Another resort and spar for Team Texas

What? Our most competitive team is going to race as a unit with the Beekmans simply because they’re both in the back of the pack? It seemed totally bonkers, not to mention totally out of character for Abbie and Ryan to ever go for this. I’m suspicious of producer intervention here. The way the four all laughed awkwardly after shaking hands made me even more so.

Back in Moscow, it was time for a Roadblock that was, quite possibly, even more boring to watch than the library challenge. You know when you’re walking into a place with someone and they take out their keychain and aren’t sure which key to use so you wait while they try out various keys, and they go “Sorry about this” and you go “No problem” and while you’re waiting you kind of poke around aimlessly or check your phone or do whatever to avoid breathing down the person’s neck while they’re trying all the different keys? Well, ta-da, there you have this challenge. Sounds compelling, right? Jaymes had it right when he lay down on his pack and took a little rest on the ground while James put keys in locks.

Lexi, babe, don’t go getting too many ideas about getting hitched! (That’s her and Trey’s favorite game to play.)

Natalie and Nadiya bickered like crazy during this challenge. I enjoyed when Natalie accused Nadiya of being the worst partner ever, and Nadiya replied “You’re the worst partner ever, too.” I could totally see the six-year-old versions of them. They’re right that they fight and make up like a married couple. “So it’s the perfect relationship,” Nadiya concluded, to which Natalie added “Yeah” with a face that said no sir. They remind me of those senior couples in When Harry Met Sally who sit on the couch and talk to camera — echoing each other, contradicting each other, talking over each other and generally just being in each others’ heads.

Trey and Lexi finished first at the Pit Stop, the Chips second, and the Twins third. When are the Twins going to stop with the “anything but first place isn’t good enough for us”? Nyet, OK? Bigger issues were afoot: the Rockers’ had once again misplaced something, and this time it was their bags and passports which they’d left in a taxi that was… well… somewhere in Moscow. Without documentation, of course, they couldn’t check in at the mat for what would have been a fourth place finish (Visions of Justin and Zev dance in my head…).

Around this time our stragglers, who had finally made it to town, were ready for the Detour. They wanted to do the library challenge, but the library was closed for the day (Nice attention to detail, Ryan!) so to the pool it was. Abbie and Ryan were predictably amazing and seemed to master the routine in no time. But who cares how quickly they finished because their plan was to sit and wait for the Beekmans who were possibly NEVER EVER GOING TO FINISH THE CHALLENGE. I’m so confused and ever-so-slightly annoyed in advance at whatever antics may be at play here. Anyway, Josh — in a move that I loved and that made him look completely crazy — wore glasses in the water. Brent, it turned out, not only cannot remotely dive, but also can’t really swim either; he is a legit doggie paddler and honestly could not have been more adorable splashing around the pool in his flowered cap, gasping for air and flopping around. Josh helping Brent somersault in the water had to have been one of my favorite moments of the night. The episode ended before we got to see how they ended up faring – but something tells me that no matter what happens, these guys did not quit and talked about how they don’t quit while they were busy not quitting.

TO BE CONTINUED! So much is pending. Hold on to your seats.

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Were you as weirded out as I was by the pact between the two last place teams? Do you think the Rockers has any chance of finding their stuff and staying in the Race? Excited to hear your thoughts.

Episode Recaps

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
  • TV Show
  • 29
  • 03/08/01
  • In Season
Complete Coverage
Available For Streaming On