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The Amazing Race Recap: Wash Down the Oscars With Sauerkraut and Beer

Yes, it feels like a slap in the face to the whole “Race” concept to post a recap 24 hours late. These teams are dashing around the world on little sleep and a steady diet of international energy bars, yet a writer who never has to leave his time zone — or own couch, for that matter — can’t be bothered to file on time? One can picture Phil Keoghan waggling his eyebrow in shame. And yet … the Oscars. And so we rejoin the Amazing Race one day late, at least somewhat legitimized by the fact that this episode’s dash through Hamburg had very little meat.

The past couple of episodes have been entertaining, although the joys came less through any particularly fiendish challenges than in the creatively dopey ways that many of the teams found to botch these challenges. This week, however, the trials were facile (drink a beer? eat a lot of sauerkraut?), and the only things that went wrong were bum knees. A bum knee is to the Amazing Race what slipping on ice on the walk to the lodge is to going skiing: It may knock you out, but everyone will be disappointed by the story.

The leg began with the teams flying from Argentina to Germany after having been all bunched up at the airport in the middle of the night. In Hamburg, they were faced with a brand-new road sign: the Intersection. In this fresh element, two teams have to pair up, with one member of each working together on a Roadblock. (How many more road signs are there to breathe new life into this series? Are producers right now pacing the nation’s sidewalks, staring at signs and trying to brainstorm possible twists involving No Turn on Red, Blind Drive, and Bridge Ices Before Road?) Ultimately, the Intersection brought little to the game. The task was a dual 150-foot bungee jump; there maybe could have been drama if one teammate panicked and didn’t want to leap, but that’s easily solved. It only takes one person to jump when you’re tied together, and gravity will see to it that your weeping partner will come with you.

The cowboys (naturally) arrived at the Intersection first, and paired with the detectives for an easy leap. (Upon arrival at the bungee stunt, a Teutonic leader sternly informed Jet and Richard, “Let’s go the tent and we’ll prepare you.” Game show or not, that’s a sentence that sounds downright foreboding when delivered with a German accent.) Jet declined to take his hat off, and even plunging 150 feet headfirst, the hat miraculously never came off. Is there some sort of a circle of life thing going on at ranches where when your beloved horse is sent to the glue factory, that glue is then used to keep your hat on your head as a tribute?

Later, Allie and Joe teamed up; they had developed an affinity for each other because, as Heidi said, “they were just good people sticking together.” So be warned: Historically, any time a reality-TV alliance dubs themselves “the good people,” they inevitably are nothing of the sort. The lesbians and the brothers also developed a kinship, and Dan proclaimed Carol “like the lesbian aunt I never had.” And Dan is the guy who wears his backwards hat too low on his forehead that we never had, so everybody walks away with a new box checked off. In last week’s teaser, we were promised a major meltdown at the bungee platform, but it was a red herring. Brandy was nervous, yes, but she never seemed to hesitate, even as she wept the entire way down, whizzing past her own tears at great speeds as Dan soothed her, saying, “I got you, I got you.” It’s not easy to simultaneously soothe and plummet, but he pulled it off. What he didn’t do, however, was leave his hat on. Wuss.

The subsequent Detour was Soccer versus Sauerkraut. For Soccer, teams had to go to a stadium and kick balls through five targets set up in a net. For Sauerkraut, each pair had to shovel a plate of the pickled cabbage down their gullets before a band could complete a “Sauerkraut Polka.” (Now there's a record-setting-ly unappetizing combination of two words, second only to "lupus beets.") Ultimately, neither task seemed that confounding. Yes, kicking the soccer balls was frustrating, but ultimately it was doable; Jet and Cord, who had never experienced this round object called a ball of soccer (or, apparently, the concept of “kicking”) were able to master it within a few tries. Nobody had much trouble, except for Joe with his bad knee and Caite, who has been playing soccer since she was 5, although apparently that was back when she was using her legs more regularly. This time, after a few kicks, she was left mewling with pain as her legs went out. Boyfriend Brent predicted it was due to spending too much time sitting down on a train: wait, good looks and a medical degree? What can’t he do? Besides kick a soccer ball, that is.

Nearly everyone who attempted Sauerkraut finished it easily. It didn’t look appetizing, but eating challenges need to be more difficult than this; once you’ve seen Charla attempt to make herself throw up in order to make room for more sausages, then a medium plate of sauerkraut just earns a shrug. Jeff and Jordan were the only team to struggle, this after a harrowing drive with a cab driver who looked like he was about to bring them to the cave where he kills and stuffs other past Big Brother winners. (In reality he was just stubbornly following improper GPS instructions.) When they finally arrived at the sauerkraut hall, they made one feeble attempt at eating, failed, and then Jeff stood up and said, “See you later, sauerkraut [burp], we’re gonna go to the soccer stadium.” You gotta appreciate a man who properly addresses the food that has vanquished him. (“I’m off to the lavatory, Gordita Supreme: check and mate.”) They finally finished the soccer challenge, once Jordan ascertained that the targets in the goals were something to aim for and not just something to stare into and hypnotize herself.

From the Detour it was off to a bar where each team had to down an enormous boot-shaped glass of beer, all while middle-aged German bar patrons snickered at them. Louie drank most of the beer, as Richard — who had hungrily downed nearly the entire plate of sauerkraut — doesn’t like the taste of beer: Now there's a very specific palate. Steve happily gulped nearly the entire glass, allowing his daughter to do the ceremonial finishing of the backwash. Brent, in last place, drank so much that he had to go outside and vomit out voluminous amounts of beer with a noise that sounded like someone was operating a dunking booth.

Finally, teams dashed to the Red Light District, searching for the first club where the Beatles played. “Let’s ask older people!” suggested Jordan, who apparently suspected that the people who attended the Fab Four concerts back in 1960 were still wandering around looking for their cars. When teams finally arrived in the club’s pit stop, they were greeted by a German tribute band that strummed about four bars of “Please Mr. Postman,” presumably because the musical rights to that song were far cheaper than they would be for any original Beatles composition. We should consider ourselves lucky that teams weren’t played in to a bouncing mop-top version of The Amazing Race theme; hell, that’s already been paid for.

Ultimately, it was the detectives who finally wrenched themselves out of last place and landed in first. (The cowboys were doing fine, but their crucial error of taking the subway instead of a cab knocked them down to fourth place. In last place? Jeff and Jordan, the reality fan favorites … but wait, what’s that? It was a non-elimination round, uncharacteristically early in the show? How fortuitous! Jeff should thank the Amazing Race producers, just as soon as he's done thanking his lunch.

Photo: CBS