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Amazing Race 21 – Episode 8 – PENCILS DOWN! NEXT ROUND!

Can you recall a more fun episode of the Amazing Race where the end result was pretty obvious from the first minute? Let me put it simply – we are at our Final Five now and I ask if anyone really has a team they truly dislike? I mean, each team has had moments – especially in Moscow – where they had very relatable moments. I can honestly say – if Texas won the Race, I would not be that upset. I use them as the example because of the remaining five they are probably the one I have the least affection for – and that’s really no fault of their own. Trey has gotten such a boring edit it is hard to relate to the guy.

Let’s cut to the chase – we pick it up where we left off. Hairs looking around for their wascally cab driver who absconded with their passports and stuff. Apprentice was chilling by the poolside watching the Goats fail miserably at synchronized swimming – part of their deal to work their doomed leg together – and the other three teams chilled at the Pit Stop. As it turned out, the Goats failed all the way to the moment the pool closed for the night. No Detour for them. They get the clue along with a nice four-hour penalty. D’oh!

The two teams headed to the Roadblock and the Locks of Love. Abbie and Josh took the task and Josh revealed himself to be a lock savant. His skills in deciphering puzzles should earn him a spot on Survivor: Puzzle Edition enabling him to lock horns with Boston Rob and Jonathan Penner. He was done so quickly that he strolled over and helped an exhausted Abbie with the task. Two Roadblocks for the price of one. The Goats could have left her to flounder, abandon their pact and hope and pray that Abbie took four hours and one minute to finish. But that would be ridiculous. Their only hope was a non-elim as they went to the Mat.

They stepped on together – but they all knew Apprentice won this battle because of the Detour. But Phil stunned them with the news of one other team’s struggle. Interesting to note that he didn’t tell them who or why. Both were fine. I wondered about the penalty and if they chose to enforce it the next leg because of non-elim or due to the Hairs’ issue. I recall the Roadblock penalties get enforced during the leg, but cannot recall the deal with Detour failures in recent seasons. Emily and Nancy memorably blew the Detour in Thailand in Season 1 and had it enforced on that leg – but that could have changed.

The Hairs check in without ID and are given the chance – find the passports, complete the tasks and the Speed Bump, and have a chance at surviving. Did anyone out there think this was going to happen? Especially after we left them for such long swaths of time? Give them credit – they tried. Working in government I know how hard it is to get a passport with incredible short notice. Not impossible – but really difficult, especially from a foreign country. It was find it or be done – no hope for a new one for Abba. And finding the cabbie would be a needle in a haystack – and even if they found him, they had to hope he was honest and would still have the ID and bags.

Spoiler alert – they failed. Now their only chance was for a double non-elim – something the show has done twice in 20 previous Races (Seasons 3 and 11).

Meanwhile, we get to see the other five teams Race in Russia – and boy was it fun.

First fun part – the cabbies. Maybe to offset the villain who took the Hairs’ bags, this leg found a Rogue’s Gallery of Russian cabbies to drive our friends around. They were so much fun, I want a Russian version of Taxi with these guys filling the roles of Alex, Reverend Jim, Bobby, Elaine and Tony. We had Texas’ driver bring them to seedy Moscow instead of the Agriculture Academy. How do we know this? Broken bottles! And let’s not ignore his Mr. Noodle attire. Oh, the humanity! We had Magic Mike’s driver get them to the task on time, but then get a bit lackadaisical afterwards, choosing instead to munch on a Danish and sip some coffee. And the Twins’ get a jovial – what else for the Twins? – driver who uses his 37 years of cabbing experience to deduce that the ladies, cameraman and boom mike guy want nothing more than to get a McRib sandwich. They are only available for a limited time, after all.

The Hairs must be watching this back thinking – why couldn’t we get a character instead of a thief!

Second fun part – the geography professor. I want to hang out with this guy. He looks like he should have played the teacher in any hair metal band’s video from the 80s set in schools. Perhaps Hair James even knew him! But he sat at the front of the class while the Roadblockers tried to solve the math puzzle at the heart of the Roadblock challenge, waiting for his moment to shine. When time ran out, he stepped up in a thick, cartoony Russian accent – “PENCILS DOWN!” And after the many failures – “NEXT ROUND!” After the Racers solved it, he pulled the ole switcheroo – “I’m really sorry but…YOU WIN!” Top moment- Ryan’s big hug for Professor Awesome.

Third fun part – the Detour Part 1. Most Racers did the dancing task – which I would have passed on because it seems as if the other one was built especially for me. But first, dancing. This season has a bunch of physically fit contestants – especially three of the five teams remaining. Magic Mike are professional dancers. Abbie is a dance instructor. Ryan is a master of martial arts. Trey apparently played football, with Lexi cheering him on in full Bring It On mode. There was no doubt these teams would choose dancing. The Twins are no physical slouches either – so clearly we were going to get some dancing on. Best parts – seeing the true skills shine through. Abbie was a rock star, as was Y. MM James managed to grimace through his hurt ankle and still likely do much better than I could have on a bionic leg. Trey struggled – but not that badly.

Best part – Nat (I think – seriously, twins. I never stood a chance with them) splitting her pants in the course of dancing not once, but twice. Heh.

Fourth Fun Part – Detour Part 2 – How do you not take this one! As a history major, who took several Russian history classes, it was built for me. Go to a fake cocktail party and identify several famous figures in Russian history before moving on. I’ll bet if I walked in there, I’d have been done in about 45 seconds. You had to find Stalin, Lenin, Peter the Great, Cathy the Great, Tsar Nicky II, Brezhnev, Brezhnev’s eyebrows, and Trotsky. Sadly, no Yeltsin, so we can just look back on the ol’ drunken lug’s antics with President Clinton in clip form.

The Goats do this task – and while it is a missed opportunity not seeing them dance, it was the right call. They swept in and out of there as fast as I would – although they chose to linger and have a bit of fun. To be honest, I’d be tempted to do the same.

And we never got a chance to see the Hairs much. It was telling that when teams departed the Pit Stop that we never saw their departure times. Apprentice/Goats were probably hours behind the Top Three, but there was no telling just how far behind the Hairs were from the pack. Heck, they could have a full day behind after passport searching. They were doomed. They started the leg and all we saw was a mere glimpse into what tomfoolery that Speed Bump would be. We see the Hairs in video only – aired over a VO from their exit – of them riding in a limo with a Russian Orthodox priest. What POSSIBLY could they have been doing! Please CBS – put that on the website. Stat.

So, down to five teams. Likely one more non-elim coming. Maybe a Superleg. The Goats are longshots to win – barring any other huge missteps by other teams. And none of the other four teams has really separated from the pack – I could see any or all of them finishing in first place. And don’t forget – Apprentice is still in line to win $2 million.

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