The Race picks up where it left off last week with the Peytons learning that this leg ain’t over and getting their next clue from Phil, with Control Freak and Jeremy 2.0 heading to the Mat, and with the Dudes and Geritol still struggling to impress the American Idol for Van Damme impersonators panel. What will unfold will sadden those who have taken a strong liking to our favorite grandparents from the farm.
As is the often the case, teams lagging behind find it hard to come back when equalizers are not to be found. Again, this goes back to the whole bunching vs. non-bunching debate, and as fans we can’t have it both ways, just hope for a good balance. Without a bunching this week, things became a bit scary for Geritol as they ran from behind throughout the leg. They certainly got close at the Detour and the Roadblock, but make no mistake, even though they arrived while other teams were still there, they were still far enough behind. Neither task had the luck option attached to it which could help make up time. Their only hope was that one team would screw up very badly at a task, or get wildly lost, while they played a perfect leg. That almost happened, but not quite.
Personally, I was starting to believe that Geritol were on their way to being the best older team in Race history. Meredith and Gretchen bumbled their way to the Final Four in Season 7, and Fran and Barry lingered (although they did win a leg) long enough for a fifth place finish in Season 9. Other than that, the older teams have not fared well. Donald finished third with his grandson in Season 12, but that was only half the team. The oldest Final Three team was Teri and Ian, who are middle aged, not of grandparent age. But Geritol was only able to match Franberry, thus sadly leaving Meredith/Gretchen as the senior standard bearer.
Other than the sadness attached to losing what may have been the most likable team remaining, it was a fairly fun leg. Personally, my favorite part was the waffle task. Why? and follow us on Um…because of the waffles. I’d walk 500 miles for a good plate of waffles. And I like these tasks – mostly started in the later years of the Race – where teams have to recreate something to the smallest detail. In this case, Ernie excelled, while Jeremy 2.0 almost managed to self-destruct over a breakfast pastry.
Ernie commented that you never know how the task is going to go until you get in there with Cindy. In a hysterical mini-montage we see her rattle off comments, criticisms and worries at Ernie as he tries to make the waffles and deflect her comments. “They made it manually first.” “The chefs didn’t use a ladle.” Yada yada yada. They made their display, with only one waffle imperfect thanks to a missing strawberry. That’s a great job by Ernie, and coming on the heels of his struggles with the Ford Mustang slalom earlier in the leg.
Meanwhile, Jeremy struggled to get the hang of the waffle making at first – probably because he’s a pancake man, and George Carlin taught us, there are issues between the two delicious breakfasts. They made their waffles and had two of them reversed. They could not figure this out, with Jeremy even commenting on how it was perfect. The poor Belgian kid who had to judge it kept shaking his head. Sandy even suggested switching challenges! That would have been a terrible choice. They had already basically finished this one! At that point, they had to go over to the display and methodically compare each waffle. Which I assume they wound up doing in the end.
The Belgian roads also played a huge part in the episode as it seemed each team – with maybe the Dudes being the exception – had issues with navigation. I loved how Control Freak and Peytons each managed to ask the same guy for directions. It was so confusing that during the third, seemingly random, task with the carrier pigeons, Cindy approached a guy and asked for help, stating they were looking for a pigeon house. The guy hysterically answered that he was the guy they were looking for! You know you are really turned around when you find your destination and don’t even realize it!
I don’t want to spend too much time on the Roadblock because you know my aversion to giving the product placements too much attention. I will just say that perhaps working in politics for as long as I have makes me notice these things but … was anyone else pissed off a bit that we were looking at a Ford testing area in Belgium when there’s a 9 percent unemployment rate back home? Just me?
The task was cool – drive really fast, do a slalom course and then spin a couple of donuts. Mmmm…donuts. Ernie struggled mightily with the slalom, finally getting it on the 16th try. I did dig the instructor driving with him whose non-chalance made me think of him as a bored Euro Super Villain. I also wished that one of the ladies had done the task – having the dudes all do the driving task was a little stereotypical.
And speaking of the tasks, just exactly how did the teams help release the pigeons?
So we come to the Final Four teams and the race to get into the final sprint to the Mat. This is probably not the strongest group in Race history, but at the bare minimum, none of them would be a terrible team to win. I am really finding it hard to think of a scenario where the Dudes don’t win this one. They would have to make a big error in the manner of Colin/Christie or Rob/Amber to lose this one. I think the other three couples are all kind of on equal footing – each one is capable of having a great leg, but all continue to make big errors. One good leg is all it takes – just ask Eric/Danielle about that – to win it once you’ve made the finals.
Personally, I think I am pulling for Control Freak at this point. They have grown on me over time, and while I like the Dudes and Peytons, the atheist in me is turned off by the Dudes’ religion and the football fan in me is already jealous of Marcus as it is. I can relate to Ernie quite a bit – I married a wonderful, strong and opinionated woman as well. I don’t think we could ever Race together as someone, likely me, would not come out of it alive.