We can only hope that this episode of The Amazing Race is not broadcast abroad, because if the legend of the disdainful Frenchman was ever to be eradicated, then this episode will ensure that it lives on forever. The leg took teams all through the Champagne region, where our American pals seemed intent on ticking off every single entry on the Stereotypical Ignorant American checklist:
• Sent to find a statue of Joan of Arc, where teams would find the first clue, Allie wondered if she was actually, “Arc de Joan, just like the Arc de Triomphe is really the Arc of Triomphe.”
• Both female Jordan and Caite thought Joan of Arc was the guy on the boat with two of each animal.
• When Dan and Jordan asked a passerby where the statue was, she told them it was by a cathedral, pronouncing it “cah-tay-dral.” Jordan parroted it back: “Cathy Drone?” Yes, go see Cathy Drone. She’s Joan of Arc’s nosy neighbor.
• When the brothers finally comprehended the direction, Jordan said, “People really do not speak good English here.” But, oddly, their French is impeccable.
Perhaps trying to make up for all of their counterparts’ boobery, Carol and Brandy amped up the snobbery, cooing about their good fortune in visiting the region. When Brandy spoke of how glorious it would be to live in the small town of Reims, Carol reminded her, “I don’t know if you could get your oils. You would have to go to Paree.” The only way these two could seem like more prototypical elitists is if they bought matching monocles.
At the Joan of Arc statue, the teams were to grab a cork from a woman playing the saw, which sounded like she was playing the theme to The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” episodes over and over. The cork sent them to Champagne, where, for a Roadblock, one teammate had to rappel 100 feet into a winery basement and find a bottle with a tiny Race flag on it among many. (The word “rappel” was a misnomer, however, as participants were really just lowered down like lotion into Buffalo Bill’s basement pit.) Brandy grumbled about having to face the task, and Carol noted that she hoped Brandy would finish quickly, and “hopefully she’s not in a piss-ass mood when she comes up here.” You better have some oils waiting for her, then, Carol.
The cops remained ahead in this round, as they would for the entire leg, finishing first yet again. They, the brothers, lesbians, cowboys (who went to the wrong town after the first clue, but still managed to get back into the front four), and Steve and Allie moved somewhat as a group, a few wrong turns notwithstanding. But the true battle was for last place, between Brent and Caite and Jeff and Jordan. The two teams made equally boneheaded moves (Jeff and Jordan constantly getting lost; Caite and Brent following the lesbians to the mat, not realizing they had skipped a major Detour). But there was one key difference: Jeff and Jordan did it in a likable way. It’s the difference between Gracie Allen and a snarling teen behind the McDonald’s counter who can’t get the cash register to open but won’t stop talking to her friend at the next register long enough to give it her full attention; it’s endearingly daffy versus gratingly ignorant.
And it’s all in the attitude. Admittedly, it seemed clear that Jordan didn’t have much invested in this game and hoped it would be over, but she never cracked. Whereas this week Caite got increasingly petulant. When they were lost in Reims, Brent said, “You want to ask someone?” and she just grumbled, “No” and refused to help look for a solution. Perhaps Caite’s biggest complaint about traveling is that she doesn’t have a room to stomp into and slam the door so she can have some privacy to write, “I hate hate hate him!” in her Hello Kitty diary.
But back at the Champagne challenge, each Roadblocker completed the task by slicing off the top of the bottle with a saber. Steve, who had finished the giant boot of beer nearly single-handedly in Hamburg, had been salivating at the thought of Champagne, but showed admirable restraint by not tearing the cork out with his own teeth. (Although one wonders if he had guzzled a few bottles down in the caves; that would explain how he later smashed his car to the point where it could only be held together by duct tape.) Brandy also looked like she was considering lapping the spray of booze off of the floor. Oh, the ethical dilemma that must have run through her head: Is it classier to show your knowledge and appreciation for fine bubbly by licking it off the ground, or does that render your erudition moot? (Ultimately, the only person who would attempt to take a gulp would be Jeff.)
The clue that jetted out from the opened bottle directed them to a winery. Everyone darted into various nearby stores or offices to ask directions, and were sent two very different ways: Some locals directed them to the actual winery, in Pierry, while others incorrectly directed them to the winery’s offices, back in Reims. The cops were one of the lucky ones, and even got someone to volunteer to lead them to their destination in his Porsche. Michael exclaimed that “Driving through France, following a Porsche, it doesn’t get any better than this!” Doesn’t get any better? How about if you were the guy driving the Porsche, Michael? When did you set such a low ceiling for your dreams? Or is that part and parcel of being from a small state? Is the motto of the Rhode Island State Police, “The few. The proud. The ones who probably couldn’t hack it in Boston, so really, this is fine.”
The winery Detour was Tower versus Terra. Tower involved making a pyramid of 680 Champagne glasses fifteen levels high, and then pouring a giant bottle of Champagne over the top. Terra involved searching one square kilometer of the vineyard, looking for some grapes with a tiny flag tied to them. Race history warns to stay away from needle-in-a-haystack challenges — this was the reasoning of male Jordan, a longtime Race watcher. But the key caveat is to only beware of them when there is a physical component, like the infamous clue-buried-in-a-giant-hayroll trials of seasons past. Here, it was all about walking, and any team that tried it (and stuck with it) seemed to finish far more quickly than those who attempted to gingerly stack glasses. The cops finished first, and “Eagle Eye” Michael crowed, “This is what I do. If I can find crack in someone’s rear end, I can find grapes in a vineyard.” Let us all hope that if the cops do win, Michael does not use his winnings to become a vintner.
Dan and Jordan were the only ones to finish Tower successfully; perhaps all the bar mitzvah jokes added sturdiness. Meanwhile, Caite’s attitude continued to decompose. Lagging far behind while searching for the winery, she just stomped up to bystanders, shoved the clue in their faces, and said, “Where is this?” When she finally arrived at the winery, she was impossible, grumbling that Brent never listened to her and always thought he was right. It was around this point in the show when it became noticeable that when it’s Brent’s turn to speak, you can actually see the lights go off behind Caite’s eyes, and her mouth hangs open limply, as if she’s just gone to the little pageant in her mind. She finally convinced him to try the glasses, a move that failed miserably :He said it took them an hour and twenty minutes to make a sculpture that ultimately crashed to the ground while trying to pour in the Champagne. Ultimately, she apologized, but as bickering scenes from next week revealed, she has life-lesson ADD.
Last week Jeff and Jordan dodged a bullet when Jordan (seemingly randomly) picked trenches over Morse code, allowing them to leapfrog over the stalled Heidi and Joe. But this week the pendulum swung the other way: Not realizing that the only reason that Caite and Brent were out in the vineyards was because they had just failed at the glasses, Jeff deduced that they’d been pacing the fields for hours, and so the glasses task must be faster. But no. Brent found the grapes, while Jeff was busy smashing all of his glasses, and then he and Jordan had to endure the classically humiliating ritual of searching in the dark for a final clue while everyone else had long since finished. (They then had to face the grim painted-on smile of the mat’s underdressed, freezing mime.) While Jeff’s indefatigable good spirits and wisecracks will be missed, it was a race against time as to which would come first: them being eliminated, or them wandering off the edge of a cliff because Jeff was distracted trying to explain to Jordan how time zones work. Better that it ended with the former.
EW.com’s Jessica Shaw noted Caite grousing that Brent moved his car seat too far back, and said, “Caite, I think I speak for America when I say: Would you turn six, please?”
TVSquad’s Jackie Schnoop witnessed all of the teams’ confusion when faced with history and/or the French language and asked, “What are they teaching these days? Nintendo? Texting?”