Uber Setting: Contemporary
Disclaimer: BtVS characters, concepts and dialog belong to Mutant Enemy, The WB, UPN and others. The Amazing Race belongs to CBS, Amazing Race Productions Inc, Touchstone Television Productions Inc, Jerry Bruckheimer Productions and others.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse http://mysticmuse.net
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Feedback: Yes please!
Author's Note: First and foremost, a big gigantic thanks to Debra for starting Survivor – Ash Island. Even if you are not a reality show fan, check it out because it's smashing. The W/T interaction in Chapter 2 is worth the entrance price (so to speak) already.
For me, TAR isn't TAR without Miss Alli's recaps on televisionwithoutpity, even the racers themselves show up on TWoP forums. So the format of the episodes will take the form of recaps, ie a write-up of the episode from the viewpoint of the recapper (ie, me). It will be personal, snarky and I hope humorous. I'm not Miss Alli though so bear with me and tell me if it isn't working. I'll also include some behind the scenes footage and extras.
Webhost's Note: Special thanks goes to Chris Cook of Through the Looking Glass, MKF and Artemis for the graphics, wallpapers and source coding. Thanks, Chris!
Summary: It's a race around the world. Who will be eliminated? Who will win $1 million?
The Amazing Race consists of teams of 2 people who have an existing relationship with each other (parent/child, family members, friends, co-workers, married couples, dating/ex-dating etc) who search for clues that will lead them to destinations around the world.
Each leg of the race consists of finding the clues, traveling to the next clue by negotiating taxis, public transport or self-drive. There are also specific tasks that the team members must complete to proceed to the next destination.
At the end of each leg one team will be eliminated. There are exceptions when it is a non-elimination round, but the team that checks in last in a non-elim leg will be penalized.
The team that crosses the finish line first, after racing several tens of thousand miles and more than a dozen legs, receive a prize of US$1 million.
For more detailed glossary and other goodies, check out the TARspeak page.
TAR – stands for The Amazing Race, much easier to type than the whole string.
Detour – is a choice between 2 tasks that both team members have to perform together. There are pros and cons associated with each task and the teams have to decide which task to do. They may change their minds midway through a task but will need to start the other task from the beginning, and they will have lost the time they spent on the first task. There is usually one Detour per leg.
Roadblock – is a task that only one team member may perform. Teams have to decide who takes the task before the actual task begins, the other team member may encourage their team-mate, but may not participate in the task at all. There is usually one Roadblock per race, and individual team members may not perform more than 6 Roadblocks during the race.
Fast Forward (FF) – when a team finds a fast forward, they may choose to take it and skip all remaining tasks in that leg. A team may only use a fast forward once during the race, and only one team may enjoy that FF, so if 2 teams both go for the FF at the same leg, only the first team to arrive will get the benefit. There are only a few FF in the race.
Yield – a team may be Yielded if another team in front of them decides to use it. Yields are placed at certain points along the route, a team can Yield another team by placing a photo of the Yielded team on a marked board, as well as their own photo, so the other team know who their tormentors are. Yielded teams must cannot proceed with the race until a pre-determined amount of time, as indicated by turning over a small hourglass, has elapsed.
Route-markers – are red and yellow flags placed along the route so the racers know that they have found the correct destination. For example this is placed in front of a building that contains the clue.
Clues – are placed in TAR yellow envelopes in green clueboxes. One member of a team must read the clue out loud and in full within the vicinity of the cluebox before proceeding.
Bunching – an undesirable side-effect of racing, where teams in front have to wait for certain events, for example opening times of museums or flight departure times, and their lead is diminished, or totally eliminated, as other teams arrive.
Pitstop – at the end of each leg, teams are given a chance to rest, eat, sleep and mingle with the other racers. A Pitstop may be 12 or 36 hours. Racers also take the opportunity to plan their strategy for the next leg, purchase travel guides, or generally relax.
Non-elim – are legs in the race that have been pre-determined as non- elimination. This means the last time to check-in still remain in the race, however they have to turn in all their money and will not be given money at the start of the next leg.
Money – racers are not allowed to bring their own money or credit cards. At the beginning of each leg they are given a certain amount of cash, which they need to use for transport, food, guidebooks, entrance fees etc. Money not used up in one leg can be accumulated.
Tickets – teams use the cash they were given to pay for tickets and taxis. The only exception are plane tickets, which they buy using the production crew credit card. Teams must purchase coach class tickets, they cannot buy business or first class. However if the airline is willing to sell higher class tickets for coach prices, they are allowed. Both team members must travel on the same flight in the same class. Team members may only buy one set of ticket for each flight.
Sequesterville – where eliminated teams are imprisoned, erm given a free vacation in an exotic location but not allowed to interact with the outside world, until the end of the race when they are all flown to the finish line to greet the winners.
Joyce & Sheila – Working Moms
Joyce is the owner of an art gallery in Chicago, Illinois. she is divorced and has 2 teenaged daughters. She was a dancer when younger and lived in Italy for two years, studying History of Art.
Sheila is a child psychologist from Chicago, Illinois. She is married to Ira and they have one daughter. She is widely published and traveled and has a book entitled "My Daughter is Gay, Kinky and Has Run Off to Join a Witch Cult, But It's Not My Fault" that was on the New York Times Non-fiction Best Seller list for 37 weeks.
Joyce and Sheila's children go to the same high school, they entered the race at the urging of their daughters. They believe their combined travel and worldly experience will enable them to overcome their obvious disadvantage of not being the youngest or most physical team.
Lorne & Cordy – Actors
Lorne and Cordy are actors performing in the same stage show in Las Vegas, Nevada. They hope that their flamboyance and determination to succeed will enable them to do well in the race, which they entered to meet new people and travel to new places.
Lorne has been singer since very young, he was in his church choir and once considered auditioning for the Vienna's Boy's Choir. He got through to the Hollywood round of American Idol last season and has won various national karaoke singing competitions.
Cordy is an aspiring actress that has appeared in several daytime dramas and commercials. She is fiercely determined to become famous and to have more serious dramatic parts.
Snyder & Flutie – School Principals
Snyder and Flutie are principals of neighboring schools in Portland, Oregon. They both serve on the education board of their district and participate in many local charity and church events. They entered the race as an example to their students, that they can overcome any personal difficulties to reach a goal.
Snyder served in the Vietnam war, rising to the rank of Lieutenant in the Signals Corps of the US Army. He believes in a strong work ethic and obedience throughout a child's education. He has implemented numerous disciplinary measures at his school, which enjoys the lowest truancy rates in the state.
Flutie believes in allowing a child to self-educate, he is the principal of one of the first Montessori public schools in the district. In his spare time, Flutie runs a pig farm.
Xander & Anya – Married Store Owners
Xander and Anya are owners of several profitable retail stores in Oxnard, California. They are planning to have children, and wants to use the time on the race to consolidate their relationship.
Xander used to be a construction foreman, however an accident at work caused him to lose one eye. He is determined that his injury will not be a handicap in life and has won numerous carpentary and woodworking competitions around the country.
Anya worked as an accountant in a Big Four firm before she met Xander. She is the driving force behind their stores and has ambitions to expand their business to a national level.
April & Andrew – Dated Same Guy
April and Andrew are a dating couple from Dayton, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio respectively. They have dated for nearly 2 years, and have the distinction of both having been involved with the same person. Their motivation for entering the race is in dedication for their friend Warren who died of a drug overdose in prison.
April is a waitress studying to be a kindergarten teacher. She has 5 younger siblings, loves children and also works part-time as an entertainer at children's parties.
Andrew graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA with a specialization in Documentary Film-making. He is proud to share his Cincinnati heritage with such luminaries as Doris Day, Jerry Springer and Steven Spielberg.
Darla & Angel – Divorced Parents
Darla and Angel are divorced parents from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania respectively. Although divorced, they share custody of their son Connor and still go on family vacations together. They consider themselves good friends rather than ex-lovers and entered the race for the sense of adventure they both share.
Darla is a personal shopper at a prominent department store. She is also an avid cook and often makes richly decorated cakes for parties and functions.
Angel is a partner at a law firm, after a short career in the police force. His serious appearance hides a relentless practical joker and he is a sought after motivational speaker on the self-help circuit.
Buffy & Riley – Olympians
Buffy and Riley are America's golden couple, having captured the nation's heart during the 2004 Olympics in Athens. They hope that their Olympic experience, and sense of competitiveness, will add another triumph in their list of successes.
Buffy, currently living in New York City, won a bronze medal in the individual uneven bars and was a member of the silver medal winning team in the team gymnastics event. She is training for the next Olympics in Beijing and hope to win more medals for herself and her country.
Riley, from Waterloo, Iowa, was a member of the world record breaking, gold medal, men's 4x100 medley swimming relay team, an even that had the whole country watching at the edge of their seats. The team members received a roaring reception upon their return to the US. He is going strong in his new career as a sports commentator.
Ben & Glory – Twins
Ben and Glory are fraternal twins from Baltimore, Maryland. They share an avid interest in mysteries, and are volunteers at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, conducting weekend tours for visitors. Their wish for entering the race is to see the world, have fun and forge their separate identities.
Ben is a second year resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, returning to his home city after serving his internship in Washington DC. Apart from volunteering at the EA Poe House, he also coaches little league baseball in his spare time.
Glory is a secretary at the Maryland Transit Administration. She is married to Joel, a doctor, and has a young son. She was a cheerleader and voted most likely to have a large family at high school.
Rupert & Randy – Estranged Father & Son
Rupert and Randy haven't seen each other for more than 10 years, after Rupert moved to England. Recently upon the death of Randy's mother, father and son re-united and have tried to remain in touch. They entered the race to repair the tension in their relationship.
Rupert is a historian, currently based in New Haven, Connecticut where he teaches at Yale University. He loves research and reading, he has also directed several historical dramas in off-off-off-off Broadway productions.
Randy, who lives in New York City, has inherited his father's genes for the arts, he is a Professional Impersonator and is a frequent participant in conferences and functions, where he dresses up as celebrities. His speciality include Billy Idol and Sherlock Holmes.
Willow & Tara – More than Friends
Willow and Tara are from Oakland, California and Birmingham, Alabama respectively. They met when they worked on the same computer animation project last year. They are trying to decide if a relationship is worth pursuing given their geographical distance and uncertainty about whether their conservative families will accept them as a couple.
Willow was educated at MIT, where she received her Master of Science degree. She worked for several prominent dotcom companies in Silicon Valley before deciding to go freelance and work on projects she enjoy. She is also the writer of one of the most read blogs on the internet.
Tara started off as a staff writer at children's magazines before a chance encounter propelled her into the world of animation. She is currently working on several projects and aims to direct and produce her own animated short eventually.
Faith & Robin – Long-time Engaged
Faith and Robin is a mixed race couple from Boston, Massachusetts. They have been engaged for 3 years after meeting at a fancy dress party. Robin wants to settle down soon but Faith is still enjoying her status as an independent woman. Their motivation for entering the race is to see if their future is together.
Faith is an aerobics instructor and personal trainer. She trains hard everyday and has taken part in both the Boston and New York Marathons.
Robin is a manager at a fast food restaurant. He is also a fitness fanatic and has also taken part at the Boston Marathon.
Adam & Oz – Roadies
Adam and Oz both work as professional road crews, touring with musicians and ensuring the production goes smoothly. They have worked with musicians such as Blink 182, The Dixie Chicks and Stevie Wonder. They like to consider themselves a 'cool' team, and their ability to remain cool under pressure will be an advantage during the tough race.
Adam is from Glen Falls, New York and attended Michigan State University on a football scholarship until he was forced to retire due to injury. He briefly switched interest to basketball before finding the music bug. He played in many college bands as a drummer, he still plays the drum but nowadays he is a rigger and engineer, good at combining seemingly unconnected machine parts into a workable model.
Oz hails from Roswell, New Mexico, home of aliens and UFOs. He has been writing music since he was a teenager, has been a guitar technician since high school and collects rare lyrics sheets. He once played a young Woody Allen in one of Woody's standup shows.
Shot of Phil Keogan shouting "GO!" and teams of contestants racing across a carpark to retrieve their backpacks.
Shot of teams huddled at computer terminals.
A blonde in her mid-twenties shouting at a brown-haired man with an eye-patch, "You have to decide which airline first, they're in different buildings!"
Shot of a middle-aged man trying to break open a crab claw, then throwing it violently against a nearby wall in frustration.
Shot of an athletic young man jumping from a boat, slipping and falling into the river.
Inaugural Episode of The Amazing Kitten Race, coming soon to a computer near you…
A long, swooping crane shot of…a non-descript gray carpark building heralds the start of another exciting season of The Amazing Race. The camera beelines towards a non-non-descript Phil, who informs us that we're in the city of Stamford, Connecticut. Okay, if you say so, Phil, cos the gray and empty carpark is oh so obvious.
Phil tells us that Stamford is the safest city with population over 100,000, based on FBI figures. Well, my impression of Stamford so far has been an empty carpark and yummy Phil, so I'm all for the low crime figures. May be the citizens don't go out, hence no opportunity for crime. Not sure if the citizens (Stamfordites? Stamfordians?) will feel once we meet our teams. Heh.
This season there are 12 teams, made up of 2 people with an existing relationship (I can't help adding, for how long?) who will jostle, push and trip over each other around the world. The purpose? To look for clues that will being them to the next clue and eventually the prize of $1 million.
Aaaaand here they are, standing in a semi-circle around Phil in the aforementioned empty carpark.
Joyce & Sheila are a pair of perfectly coiffed Mom-like women, dressed it seems a little uncomfortably in sweats and sweatpants. I get the feeling they're more used to twin-sets and pearls, because the part of their attire that totally gave them away? Brand new New Balance sneakers that look like they came straight from the catalog. I was right, they are Moms, and their daughters all go to the same high school ($1 bet that it's a private school) and they are both active members of the PTA, and their dahling daughters encouraged them to go into the race. Yeah, so they can have some Mom-less time and invite all manner of friends for naked orgy parties, come on Moms, get smart. Joyce is the nicer spoken one, she owns an art gallery so is used to flowery language that don't say much. Sheila is a psychologist so she's even more well versed in words that don't say nothing. Check out their bio on the website, Sheila has a book entitled "My Daughter is Gay, Kinky and Has Run Off to Join a Witch Cult, But It's Not My Fault" that was on the NY Times best seller list for 37 weeks. With a title like that, I'd have thought it'll be on the list even longer. Snerk.
Lorne & Cordy are actors from Las Vegas. I have a confession to make, I thought this is an all female team until a little way into the episode when it hit me like a ton of rainbow bricks. Cos I thought Lorne is a sister, with his immaculate make-up (yes, makeup, really) and even more immaculate mannerisms. I should have remembered, he was on American Idol and did brilliantly until he tried to out-Barry Barry Manilow on a rendition of Mandy and got the boot from Simon and Paula. All in all they seem like a fun team that comes with sufficient self-deprecating humor to last through to the end.
Snyder & Flutie are school principals and their spin is how different they are. Snyder an army man and strict disciplinarian and Flutie the liberal. I think they're both kinda boring but Flutie redeems himself by doing a little jig during Phil's spiel. Plus the guy owns a pig farm! How pudgy. They say that dealing with the pressures of looking after hundreds of school children have prepared them for the race. Somebody puh-lease tell them that racing around the world and telling a bunch kids to shut up are different kettles of fish. Their age and general state of unfitness may prove to be their downfall.
Xander & Anya are pirates. Heh, sorry, can't help it. Xander has an eyepatch, due to an industrial accident from another eon. Now he and his wife own a franchise of photo development stores in California. Anya opines that she is the driving force of their relationship, and I believe her 200%. When she was waxing lyrical about how intense and competitive she is, Xander just grins and nods. I don't think it was an accident that he sat with his bad eye on her side either, sneaky sneaky Xander!
April & Andrew are a cute looking Young Dating Couple, she with shiny straight brown hair and he's got that blonde shaggy look going. They used to both date the same guy, though they didn't say whether it was at the same time. You never know, kids nowadays. Anyhow the shadow of that guy, who we learn is called Warren, obviously still looms high because he is all they talked about on their clip. I mean, I'm sad and all cos he died of an overdose, but this is a race with April & Andrew, not April, Andrew & Warren. I hope they get rid of the baggage, stat.
Darla & Angel are divorced parents. Haven't we had one of this already, in the form of Frank and Margarita? Darla and Angel combined don't have a fraction of Frank's snark factor, so I fear for their future straightaway. Angel is a lawyer and Darla bakes cakes. Yawn, I've run out of things to say about them already.
Buffy & Riley are billed as Olympians. Unless you've been hiding under a very large rock you will know that they are the biggest sports celebrity couple, like, ever. Bigger than Lleyton and Kim (who've broken up anyway, plus they're foreigners) or Anna and Enrique (he's not in sports so he doesn't qualify). Since the end of the Olympics, they've been a little low key, so they're probably missing the attention. That, or a combination of her endorsement deals and his new status as ESPN ambassador don't pay enough and they need the million bucks. Definitely the team most photogenic and knows exactly how to play the camera. I hate them already.
Ben & Glory are the first different gender twins we've had on TAR. They want to be different, in fact so desperate are they to forge their own identity that they…appear on a TV program as a team of two, dressed in identical white outfits. Are their clothing interchangeable? Time will tell. Just so you viewers don't get confused, Ben is the one in white with shorter hair and Glory also in white but with longer hair. Oh, and they're different sex. Really? Really. Duh.
Rupert & Randy are father and son who haven't spoken to each other for ages. If I were Randy I wouldn't speak to Rupert either, unless to ask him what drugs he was hopped up on when he came up with 'Randy'. Rupes says that underneath the mild mannered history professor is an intense maniac waiting to come out. Okay, grand-dad, noted. Randy doesn't say much, he sucks his cheeks in a lot, may be he took the wrong turn from a Manhunt audition and wandered onto TAR instead.
Willow & Tara (not to be confused with Wil and Tara from TAR2) are the obligatory gay couple (Chip & Reichen or the Guidos anyone?) but the twist is that they're not Out and are trying to decide if they should date. A word of advice ladies, a nationally broadcast reality show may not be the best place to come out of the closet, especially if at the end you decide to go back inside. Willow's got this intense nerdy look commonly found in people with astronomically high IQs and Tara looks like she'd much rather stay home and cook for the kids. But I must say they are the Young Dating-ish Couple with the most chemistry in this race so I'll definitely keep a close eye on them.
Faith & Robin are another YDC, their story is that they're from opposite sides of the tracks. I don't get how opposite fitness instructor and fast food restaurant manager are, they're both extremely fit, as seen from their clip which showed them eating up some heavy looking gym equipment. He wants commitment, she doesn't. Uh-oh. Oh, and she's white, he's black, but nowadays how controversial is that? Nada, that's what.
Adam & Oz are roadies who list a slew of famous people they've worked with. Ignore who they've worked with, I simply can't get past how overwhelmingly Abbot & Costello this duo is. Adam is like, 9 feet tall and Oz is shorter than the shortest hobbit, I wonder how they work on stage. May be Adam lifts Oz up on his shoulders when the band needs to fix the lights, thereby making a huge saving on ladders, I dunno. Both seem to want to out-do the other in the stoic department and their interview was over very quickly. They have brawn to spare, the question is how much brain do they have?
Now we're back on Phil and he does the usual "Everybody ready? GO!!!" wave and lean and teams run across the carpark towards their backpacks. I'm bummed out cos he didn't do the eyebrow pop. Why are you torturing me, Phil? We're getting a lot of mileage out of the carpark, how much have they donated in sponsorship money again?
Riley and Robin are the first to reach their backpacks and clue. The sound of ripping envelopes echo around the carpark. Rip, rip, rip goes the paper. The clue tells them to find the restaurant that was converted from a bank, find their seat in the Board Room where their next clue will be. When I heard Board Room I had to pinch myself to remind me that I'm watching TAR, not The Apprentice and the Donald wasn't going to show up to fire anybody at the end. Stay out of our show, Donald!
The clue also comes with a small Stamford map, which the teams stare at with their best imitation of the evil eye in the hope it will tell them more. Doctor Ben notices that they're on Bell Street and behind them is Bank Street. May be the former bank is there? Everyone rushes off. Hmm, that's a good guess Ben, but it may still come back and bite you in the ass.
At the white bank-like building on Bank Street, we see that Doctor Ben's guess is indeed right. Sighs of relief all around, and the loudest? Ben's. I imagine those sighs could have been screams of pain as he's beaten to a pulp by the mob had his guess not have been right.
Everyone tries to trample over each other to reach the Board Room, which turns out to be a private dining room on an upper floor. Racers take a tiny placeholder with their names on it from around the table and run downstairs to get the clue from the bartender.
The clue tells them to head over to the world's largest trading floor, the size of 2 football fields, where millions of dollars are traded each day on stocks, bonds and foreign exchange. They have to find how the Dow Jones, Nikkei and FTSE opened and closed on the last trading day and write the correct numbers down on a settlement slip in exchange for the next clue. Again everyone does their impression of headless chickens, until the waitress tells them that they want the UBS building.
More running towards an impossibly large office building next to the I-95. That's interesting, usually at the beginning of the season the racers immediately head off for the airport and places afar. Nice to see them still on the ground, so to speak. Ben & Glory, Adam & Oz, Buffy & Riley and Faith & Robin arrive first and take the elevator to the aforementioned trading floor. It must be an off day for the million dollar deals cos the place is completely empty. Then again it's probably the weekend and the staff's been cleared out.
They head towards a section that's been cordoned off and start to work on the computers. If I were in charge of UBS I'd put a physical as well as technological firewall between those machines to make sure their trading systems don't get corrupted by clueless racers. I might even disinfect them and with more than just bleach.
The rest arrive soon after and we see them all huddled on their terminals like high school students trying to hack into their grades. April asks Andrew what's the Nikkei, only she pronounces it like 'Nikki' and he shrugs. Lorne & Cordy look completely baffled. Anya is waving her mouse round furiously. However it's Willow & Tara who finish first, and they bring their slip to a banker-looking person who hands them their next clue.
"Those computers have internet so it looks like most people looked there, but the terminals also have Reuters so I just looked it up there. Took less than 5 minutes," Willow interviews with a smug expression. Tara looks on in awe.
The clue tells them to pick up marked cars and drive themselves to JFK, where they are to fly to London Heathrow and then to drive to someplace called Norwich in East Anglia. Gotta love those cute English names. Again, a little map of England is provided, what's with the spoonfeeding? They have a choice of American, United and British Airways. The BA flight, with only 3 sets of seats, leaves first at 18.30, then the United flight, with another 3 sets of seats, half an hour later. The AA flight, for the remaining 6 teams, leaves almost 1 hour after the United flight and arrives 1 hour 15 minutes behind the BA flight. Before you say anything, I've done my math, I know it catches up 15 minutes.
WillTara gets in the first car and gleefully drives off. Little do they know about the amazing bunching game. I rub my hands even more gleefully.
Next to finish are the TallShort team of Adam & Oz, the fitness fanatics, father & son and the twins. Then everyone else who isn't DarlingAngel or the actors, who are still baffled. They all rush to their cars and zoom off.
In their car, Buffy is busy giving directions to her hunk, she says that she's a native New Yorker so she has local knowledge no other teams has. She forgets that R.Randy also live in this neck of the woods and are driving intently towards the airport. You should know your competition a little better, Buffster.
R.Randy, TallShort and the twins arrive at the airport and hop onto the shuttle. That's 3 teams, and only 2 BA tickets are left. Yay, I gloat. R.Randy and TallShort reach the BA counter first and get their tickets, the twins are dejected, and have to run to the other side of the terminal to the United desk. They're lucky BA and United share a terminal, cos JFK connections? Suck. R.Randy and TallShort join WillTara, who watch in dismay as their lead is stripped away.
Other teams are still in their cars, various intonations of "let's go" are flung liberally about. The Pirates, having parked their car, are having an argument in the shuttle, and boy Anya is one loud b*tch. Xander suggests going to the first stop on the shuttle, which happens to be Terminal 8, but the map says the earlier flights are at Terminal 7. Anya points out that little snippet of information but Xander doesn't seem to grasp that terminals at JFK are not connected. Did I mention JFK sucks? This frustrates Anya and she shouts at him, "You have to decide which airline first, they're in different buildings!"
Evidently they decide wrong cos next thing we see are the Pirates at the American desk. We cut to the United boarding gate, where we see the twins, WorkoutDuo and America's Golden Couple.
The others board the American flight. But wait! Where's DarlingAngel? We cut back to the computer room and we see them still trying to figure out how to use Internet Explorer. Get Firefox, babes! We pan out and see the empty trading floor. Uh-oh, they're falling behind, and the flight is leaving any minute. Hurry, hurry, hurry!
Somehow they manage to get the information and they run like bunnies towards their car. Darla, in a rare moment of recklessness, tells Angel that he's gotta step on it, break any rule, cos it's now or never. Angel has this skeptical look, he's probably calculating the odds of being caught, and how they might take away his license and he can't practice the law and the income that he stands to lose. He drives on grimly.
All's well, they get on the American flight. Those flights leave early evening, and the race started in the morning, I figure the teams started the computer challenge early afternoon. Even if DarlingAngel are incompetent, they would have had enough time to finish well in time to get to the airport. Gimme a break, Amazing Editors.
We follow the Amazing Yellow, Red and Blue Lines as they race each other from New York to London. I wish they'd put a little 'whoosh' sound effect, but all they have is canned hurry-up music. Bleh.
It's early in the morning in London, England as the BA flight arrives. TallShort emerge first, they get the first 'Currently in First Place' tag this season as they reach their marked car. Adam tries gallantly to squeeze his gigantic frame inside a tiny space between the steering wheel and the seat. I'm fearing a pattern here. Rupert drives this leg for his team, hey! it's not fair to have someone who lived in England for 10 years driving, um, in England, he isn't freaked out by traffic coming at him from the wrong side. He's understandably confident of where he's going, "We're driving from Heathrow to Norwich, let's hope we don't run into traffic on the M25, otherwise it's a nightmare. It'll take more than 3 hours," he lectures.
WillTara have decided to follow him. "Rupert lived in England, so we figured out he knows the way. We worked out the route on the map anyway, though it's a bit daunting, we've never driven outside the US," says Tara, blushing a little when she says 'we', ahhhh let's hear it for the lovebirds.
Back at the airport, the Moms have trouble figuring out how to work the clutch. "I haven't driven stick since I was 17," Sheila laughs. I reserve the right to interpret this an a double entendre. Others with auto trouble include the actors and, guess who, DarlingAngel. They're not having the best of luck this leg are they.
We see the frontrunners arriving at Norwich, presumably 3 hours have passed. Randy runs into the first pub they see and asks for the Mustard Shop, where their next clue is hidden. Turns out they can't drive through so they abandon their car at a pedestrian zone and run. They reach the clue first.
The Lovebirds have lost R.Randy on the way and are trying to negotiate a difficult looking one way system. Luck is with them when they stumble across a tourist information center and get instructions. They too get the clue.
In short succession, WorkoutDuo, TallShort and America's Golden Couple get the clue from the Mustard Shop. Then comes the twins, Pirates, AAbot and the Principals. They retrieve the clue and scupper off. What seems like a while later the Actors, DarlingAngel and the Moms show up in slow succession.
Now is time for the Detour. We break momentarily from craziness as Phil explains a Detour is a choice between 2 tasks, each with its pros and cons. In this Detour, teams have to choose between Crab Fest and Turkey Breast. In Crab Fest, teams drive 23 miles to Cromer, find a famous crab supplier and work together to remove the flesh from enough cooked crabs to fill 2 empty crab shells, in a process known as dressing a crab. In Turkey Breast, teams drive 11 miles to a famous local turkey factory and help the workers remove 30 turkey breasts from carcasses before turning them into funny-shaped children's food.
R.Randy and the Lovebirds go for the turkey, as do WorkoutDuo and TallShort. America's Golden Couple decide to go for the crab, as Buffy explains, "We didn't want to handle raw food, it's gross." The second group succumb to peer pressure and all go for the crab. DarlingAngel too. But the Actors and the Moms go for the turkey. I have these little slips of paper with the teams to help me remember where they are and it turns out to be a 50:50 split. Karma, I tell ya.
We cut between teams tearing out raw turkey meat and other teams tearing out crab meat. This is a crap challenge, if you ask me (*groan*). There's no skill involved, and the teams get the stuff all over the floor, the table and themselves. To paraphrase Buffy, it's gross.
Turkey seems to be quicker and most teams make short work of their task, even though I can't say that for the state of the room they're in. Ever tried ripping the breast meat that's still attached to the breast bone? It's not that hard, but there's a lot of slimy entrails and skin parts and bone, yeah it's pretty disgusting, now I understand why butcher's have sawdust on their floors.
Getting the crabmeat out appears to be much harder, cos the teams have to use delicate looking metal implements. Most of them keep losing the meat and the shells fill up very slowly. Anya whines about how fruitless the task is, "My fingers stink of fish, people will start to think I have an unhealthy obsession with myself, no amount of soap is gonna get the smell out now." I'm surprised CBS let that comment through, may be they're too dumb to get the hidden meaning, I dunno.
Despite the whining, Team Pirates are doing well, as are AAbot and America's Golden Couple. The principals, on the other hand, can't seem to get to grips with the task, they can't figure out how to use the pick and the nutcracker properly. I guess dressing crabs isn't on the school curriculum, huh. Snyder is getting impatient, as they watch other teams fill up their first crab. "Come on, come on, you're not doing this right," he kept muttering to Flutie. Flutie tries to bite his tongue but he really is making a meal of this, he's not getting any meat out. When he tries breaking a claw with the nutcracker, it slips and he just can't get it working. He looks like he's on the verge of tears. Snyder isn't helping, all he's doing is impatiently pushing his team-mate with snide muttered remarks. Shut up Snyder. Finally he snaps and Flutie looks on in shock as Snyder grabs a claw and flings it against the wall, "This is stupid!" he yells.
Most of the turkey teams get their next clue, as well as the early crab crew. It tells them to get into their cars again, drive to the Norfolk Broads and look for a boatyard where they will get their next clue.
It's a Roadblock. This is unusual cos the first leg often doesn't have Roadblocks, they spend so much time introducing the teams they run out of airtime. But hey, I'm not complaining.
In this Roadblock racers have to choose a marked motorboat and navigate it through the Broads, which turn out to be the name for a series of rivers, all they have is a hand drawn map that looks suspiciously simple to me. When they reach the "X" as marked on the map, they will receive their next clue.
Randy, Willow, April and Ben take the Roadblock for their team, they're neck and neck. Meanwhile, some of the crew from the crab farm have arrived, Riley and Xander run and grab their respective boats. Xander, in particular, look every inch a pirate in his boat. He gloats. But not for long, it's not as easy to navigate cos the map isn't as clear, there's much scratching of heads.
Meanwhile Robin, Joyce and Oz hurry to their boats. They leave. It's a big mess, everyone's bunched up and the blurriness clouds my vision. No particular team has definite advantage, it's like recapping a race run by a flock of goats. They don't talk a lot either. Where's the bickering? The tantrums? The ridiculous hats?
I'm on the point of not caring, last to arrive are the actors, principals and DarlingAngel. Just get on with it.
Chug chug chug, down the rivers the merry boats go. I seriously think about washing my hair, emptying the litterbox, balancing my checkbook. Anything. Please.
Meanwhile on the river, aggressive Riley passes Willow, April and Ben. He has Randy in his sight as they approach the routemarker at the bank of the river. Its obviousness belied by the other team members standing around waiting and screaming and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
Randy docks his boat. Riley, attempting to bypass the quay altogether and to gain on Randy, steers his boat towards the riverbank. We cut to a shot of Buffy looking incredulous as she shouts, "Riley, be careful!" He ignores her and even before the boat stops, takes a big jump. May be he's used to launching himself from the starting block of the pool, but he badly misjudges the distance. He barely reaches solid ground and before our very eyes, does a credible impersonation of a belly flop and wild grab as he slips on the wet grass and ends up in the river.
Buffy looks on in shock and runs off to help him. Luckily he's water resistant and manages to scramble back onshore. That was a very smart move (not!), so worthy of a gold medal winner. Guess what? He loses even second place.
Randy is first to get the clue, which tells them to drive towards Sandringham Castle, find the Old Father Time Statue which is the Pitstop for the first leg. The last team to arrive will be eliminated. I wonder how the cars got from where they parked to get on the boat to here, someone on the forum suggests the other team member drove them there, which sounds sort of right.
R.Randy zooms off, hotly pursued by the twins, the pirates, a wet Riley & Buffy, the lovebirds and AAbot.
Phil strolls along neatly trimmed paths in the most magnificent park I've ever seen. He tells us we're in Sandringham, built in 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, later to become King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The estate is now the country retreat of Her Majesty the Queen. Wow, if this is just the teeensy vacation home, imagine what their other homes are like.
Rupert and his son are sailing through this leg and they arrive first, take one look at the large map at the Visitor's Center and are off. Welcome to Sandringham, Rupert & Randy, you're the first team to arrive. They have the advantage of knowing the country, let's see how they do when the race leaves England.
The Pirate and his Wench arrive. You're team number two, Anya looks annoyed but Xander has a goofy grin that instantly endears him to my little heart.
Meanwhile the principals and the Moms dock their boats and head towards their cars.
The twins check-in as team number three, they hug and congratulate each other on a race well run. "We're going places!" enthuses Ben.
Faith, Robin, Willow, Tara, Buffy and Riley arrive together. High fives and group hugs all around. They interview that they are the young, strong teams and they're gonna try to pool resources and try to stick together. Let's hear it for the fledgling YDC alliance.
Adam & Oz and Lorne & Cordy are teams number seven and eight respectively.
Elsewhere, April & Andrew, who got off the boat in the first group, have taken a wrong turn and find themselves in the middle of nowhere. "Should we ask someone?" asks April. I don't think I'm being mean when I say Andrew's answer is so typical of a guy's. "It's okay, I'll find it." Why, why, why? What's so bad about asking someone, especially if that someone is a local and knows the area better than you?
DarlingAngel docks their boat. They're very behind, what happened on the river?
Snyder & Flutie are team number nine. They collapse on the beautiful manicured grass belonging to HM the Queen, looking like they're going to die of exhaustion. Come on principals, you can't have your kids seeing you like this.
Joyce & Sheila are team number ten. "We have to do better, the other teams are young, aggressive and strong. We have to find our inner Amazons, otherwise we'll get creamed," Joyce interviews, sounding more like encouragement for herself. Doesn't Sheila have a book for motivating yourself during a relentless race around the world?
AAbot are still driving around, finally April has her way and they stop at a gas station for directions. They have difficulty with the accents but get their information through the universal language of pointing and drawing on paper. "I couldn't understand them, were they speaking English? They sound foreign," she asks when they get back into the car. April, oh April, you're in England, I'd wager the locals were wondering if you are the foreigner, which you are.
We cut from AAbot to DarlingAngel, with Angel driving grimly. When does he not drive grimly? Who will get to Phil first? Who, who, who?
We get the tension inducing first person shot of someone running towards Phil. And it's April & Andrew, you're team number eleven. They share a pat and a little peck. I'm not getting any romantic vibes off these two, they seem more like siblings than dating, their body language around each other is just not as fluid as the other YDCs. A bit robotic, if you ask me.
Darla & Angel park their car and steps up to the mat. They're the last team to arrive and are Philminated.
"We got behind in the first challenges and couldn't seem to catch up. It's kind of frustrating because we know we could have gone much further if we were able to gain some ground. It's not to be," he says.
"We're still good friends. Our lives aren't completely together anymore, like it used to be when we were married, but I wouldn't have wanted to experience this with anyone else," she adds.
Oh how I miss you Darla, and you Angel. What's your name again?
Teaser for Episode 2
The older folks enjoy an exhibit of pictures.
Shot of Adam picking fruit off a tree, Oz grinning in the background as he jumps and tries unsuccessfully to grab an overhanging branch.
Shot of Willow and Tara licking cherry juice off each other's fingers.
The principals have car trouble, steam can be seen from under the hood and behind Snyder's head. Uh-oh.
Meanwhile in the supermarket, it's trolley jam!
Bank Street Brewing Company
UBS trading floor
How to dress a crab
The only electronic equipment we're allowed are radios and digital watches, small stuff like that, which means I have to leave my Powerbook at home, in other circumstances this could have been a big reason for not taking part, but the first leg's been so hectic I haven't had time to miss it.
We are allowed to keep a journal, so I'm going to revert to 20th Century method of pen and notebook and type this up when I get home. I can't publish it in any shape or form until the series airs anyway, they made us sign all these legal papers which boils down to say nothing unless and until told by CBS, otherwise we get sued for $10 million.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning. I saw the casting call for the race and knew I wanted to enter. Not only that, I knew who I wanted to go with. It then took me every trick I had in my book to persuade Tara, I can't remember how much I spent on phone calls and flowers; I begged, I cajoled, I sulked. Finally it took a surprise appearance at her doorstep and some serious mooching. She probably said yes to placate me, though I think she's come round since then and is as excited as me.
I'll be honest, the prize money is secondary. My personal first prize is Tara. All I want is to spend time with her, to have her no more than a few feet away from me for a whole month. One whole month! I want to get to know her so bad, sometimes I wish we can move a little faster in our relationship. It's like relationship, what relationship? Even in the beginning when we were working together, deadlines were so tight and the producers pushed so hard we didn't get time to pee, let alone sneak kisses. Sure, that long weekend in LA after the wrap party was just heavenly, but all we did was talk the night away, held hands in the restaurant and snuggle up at night.
I want more, and I'm beginning to sense it in her, but we're too scared to talk about it. I don't know why. I guess it's difficult with us living in different cities, every visit we spend the first few hours catching up, the next day relaxing around each other and when we finally feel comfortable or things heat up it's time to say goodbye again. It's frustrating.
Hopefully the race is the catalyst that brings us closer. I really hope so.
They flew us to New York the day before the race, we had a long briefing session, met Phil and Mr Bruckheimer and the other producers. We were told that there'd be no communication with friends and family until the race finishes and they reminded us of our pledge of silence. We can't tell anyone who won and where we placed until that episode has aired.
The teams were introduced over a buffet dinner. It was kinda tense at first, everyone was trying to feel out the other teams, what makes them tick, what may be their weakness.
There are a few couples our age, an older couple who has a son, 2 Moms, a pair of twins and like 3 all-guy teams of differing ages. Oh, and probably the most famous couple in the US after J Lo & Marc or Jessica & Nick: Buffy and Riley. Seeing them in person is totally different from seeing them on TV. Buffy seems really nice and friendly, at least to me, we had a good chat, she seems to be someone I would have liked to be friends with if we met in high school. Except she's a famous athlete and from a different universe, so it's wishful thinking on my part.
Tara talked a lot with this girl Anya, who is married and is co-owner of 5 shops. She seems tough, I didn't feel comfortable with her, but Tara did. She told me later that she was too shy to speak to some of the other contestants, cos it was tricky trying to tell friend from foe, but Anya was really direct and she had no trouble reading her.
They put us up in a very nice hotel overnight. It was the first night Tara and I spent together since she said yes to the race. I briefly thought of jumping her but the night before the start of the race wasn't very appropriate, in any case she held me all night and it was the best feeling on earth.
The next morning we boarded limos that brought us to Connecticut and the race started at Stamford. We aced the first task, it was computer related, I was really pumped up. The next stop was England, it was when we got on the flight that it finally hit us, that we were on a race around the world.
I slept very little on the plane, we tried strategizing a little but mostly we basked in being together. I held her hand almost all the way through and she leaned on my shoulders as she tried to sleep. I spent a lot of time fantasizing about how it could feel, being together all the time. I should focus on the race, but I can't help thinking about her all the time.
We were on the same flight as Rupert, his son Randy, Adam who is this very tall guy and his team-mate Oz, who is one of the shortest guy I've met. Rupert is the oldest and he cpmes across as competitive yet gentlemanly, though I think he doesn't know what to make of Tara and me. Adam and Oz together mustered about 20 words, they're a physically strong team and we'll have to watch them.
We did okay on the Detour, Roadblock and other tasks. I took the Roadblock and lost some time, eventually we finished as team number five. I was kinda beating myself up on the boat challenge, but she was so incredibly supportive.
The Pitstop is Sandringham Castle, where the Queen of England stays on her vacation. Tara and I walked around the grounds and a part of the house and it was simply breathtaking, the wealth, the antiquity, the culture. I'm going to add England to the places we have to come back to visit.
In this Pitstop we get to stay at a cute B&B, they tell us the building is 300 years old, that's so awesome. The rooms are tiny but at least we have an ensuite shower. Initially the hotel gave us a twin room, and I was this close to losing my temper. Tara went to the crew and got us a double, I hope this isn't going to be a pattern, we have enough on our plates for the race to have the additional stress.
I feel drained, running the race is physically demanding and this is only the first leg. I just had my shower and I needed that hot water to take away the stiffness in my shoulders. It's her turn now and I can't wait for her to come to bed with me, if I count the overnight flight to London, this makes 3 nights together and it's a new milestone for us.
We have a very early start tomorrow, we need as much rest as we can get. So it's Willow the Racer signing off on Leg #1.
Before the start, they flash one of those public warnings that some or part of the program may be disturbing to some viewers and viewer discretion is advised. I wonder if we will see Xander's eyepatch fall out to reveal wires and electronic parts, or if Snyder is going to murder Flutie or vice versa. Hmmm.
Episode Two opens with Phil doing his walking, talking and looking yummy at the same time gig, surrounded by neatly trimmed trees, carefully co-ordinated flower beds and grass that's impossibly green. Phil is in a light blue flower-patterned cotton shirt and dark blue pants. Not many men can look this sharp in a shirt like this, but Phil's not 'many' men. I'm in a good mood already.
Phil tells us we are at Sandringham House, where the British Royal Family spend their Christmases every year. I wonder if they go boating on the Norfolk Broads like our racers last episode, or if they partake in the locally produced turkey or crab. This imposing house, which has been a royal residence since the 1860s, was the first Pitstop of our race around the world.
At this first Pitstop, Phil tells us, teams eat, sleep and mingle with the other racers. We see them at a long wooden table and bench, stuffing their faces with beef and Yorkshire pudding or shepherd's pie or bubble and squeak or any of the huge assortment of funny sounding English food available here. The younger couples seem to sit together, while the older racers have another huddle. All hail the dawning of alliances.
We see them in a little pub-like place and there's dancing, games and general socializing. Lorne is there without make-up, looking quite handsome and happily dancing with his team-mate. Randy and Robin are playing darts, Randy's platinum blonde hair and pale skin a sharp contrast with Robin's dark good looks. Phil wonders if Snyder's disciplinarian attitude will be a hindrance, and if April & Andrew can get themselves out of last place. Let's hope they navigate better this leg.
Which starts at 5.18am for Rupert & Randy. They rip the clue envelope and discover they are to drive 155 miles to Canterbury, Kent and find the Canterbury Tales Exhibition. Inside the exhibition they have to find answers to 5 questions they are given on a piece of card.
"We ran a good first leg, partly because my father knows his way around. I think we've put our differences behind us and are working well together," says Randy. His cheekbones almost puncturing a hole on my screen. I want to like this team, right now I can manage 50%, I like Rupert, I think he's shown his determination to not let his age hamper him. Randy is a bit of a poser, he hasn't proved himself to be of any use yet, apart from chewing up the scenery.
Next to leave are Xander & Anya. She looks pretty with her hair tied up, I almost forget her whining from the last leg. She reads out one of the pop quiz questions, "How many husbands did the Wife of Bath have?" Gosh, how many did she need?
The twins are dressed in different outfits today, phew, I thought I was gonna have another hard time telling them apart (not). "We have a good feeling about this leg, we're in third place and we can definitely move up, I can just feel it," Glory says. I feel a cold shiver crawl its way up my spine, sounds too much like famous last words to me.
The YDC alliance leave together. It's still dark but we could see Robin's toothy grin and Buffy's blonde highlights. Not to mention the Lovebird's matching psychedelic outfits. "Right now we've formed a sort of alliance with Buffy & Riley and Willow & Tara. The athletes are physically strong, probably on par with us. The girls are not so, but Willow's really smart and she's gonna be useful in solving puzzles," Faith explained.
Adam & Oz gets the clue and drive off, they say nothing. Lorne & Cordy, on the other hand, have a little group hug action before the start, Lorne has make-up on again and an extremely ridiculous floppy orange sunhat, even though the sun's still asleep. I can't decide if this team is over the top or just idiosyncratic. They've been clueless at the computer challenge, but have stayed out of trouble later on.
Snyder & Flutie's turn. They rip the clue envelope violently and we hear another pop quiz question, "How many hens did the cock have in his governance to give him pride and all pleasance?" Okay I have to laugh at this. All the teams presumably have to read the questions out loud, but the Amazing Editors choose to let us hear it from this pair. How hilarious to hear Snyder utter "cock" with a distasteful sneer. I have to rewind and listen again, I can't stop sniggering.
Joyce & Sheila, looking like thinner versions of the Bowling Moms, set off. April & Andrew last, she's wearing an impossibly small pink T-shirt, I can't get over how thin she is.
"If we don't get our acts together we're going to get totally whipped," he says. He has this whiny nasal voice that kinda grates after a while. Keep your mouth shut Andrew. Or I'll be the one to whip you and it will be in a kinky way.
Cars blipvert to teams arriving at Canterbury, Kent. Quaint little houses, a pedestrianized central zone, a big cathedral. Hmmm, if I don't know better I may think we're still in Norwich. Are all medium-sized English towns like this?
Turns out this Canterbury Tales Exhibition is in a converted church and tells Chaucer's Pilgrim Tales using animation, sounds and even smell. It's apparently very popular with schools, teachers take the kids who are studying the book. Wow, I read one of those Tales online, and it's a challenge to trawl through 600 lines of verse. I don't envy those students, no siree.
Oooops, it's a mini-bunching. Opening time is 10am. R.Randy is disappointed and Randy does a little dance of frustration. Come on guys, it's only a wait of an hour or so, we've had bunching way longer than this. Just you wait, I say in my best Eliza Doolittle voice.
All the teams except the Moms and AAbot arrive before opening time. Some of them may have driven a wee bit faster than the speed limit, but we don't see that. In fact, the Moms arrive just as the doors to the Exhibition open and they, too, jostle to buy the entrance tickets. Okay, now I'm fearing for AAbot again, have they been attacked by the GetLostinForeignParts monster again?
The sight of 10 teams trying to cram into the tiny space in front of the exhibits reminds me of horses jostling for position at the beginning of a race. There's pushing and more pushing. Not surprisingly it's Adam with the advantage cos he can see above the rest.
In order to answer the questions, the teams have to watch the animation, usually all the way through. Or look carefully at pictures. I think the questions are pretty amusing, makes me think the Amazing Producers have a warped sense of humor:
Who were the 4 gods involved in the final battle between Arcite and Palamon?
What natural disaster did the student tell the carpenter will befall them next Monday?
How many husbands did the Wife of Bath have?
How many hens did the cock have in his governance to give him pride and all pleasance?
The 3 drunkards found 8 bushels of what?
Some teams seem to enjoy the exhibition more than the others, there's a shot of Rupert, Joyce, Sheila and Flutie around some pictures and they look like they're appraising some work of art, not in a race. Which should be their focus. Come on old folks, quit dawdling!
The younger teams think differently, and impatiently sit through the sequence. Did I mention the space available is small? It makes it even more difficult to hide the answers from other teams, so the YDC alliance don't even try and start checking with each other.
It works out for them, the YDC alliance give their answers to a guy in medieval costume, presumably one of the pilgrims, who checks their answers and give them their clue. TallShort, with their height advantage (both Adam looking over the heads of other people and Oz crawling underneath) finish next. The older teams – R.Randy, the Principals and the Moms have also latched onto the concept of working together and they get the clue. The rest finish as well, even AAbot who arrived late, it's only a matter of making the rounds on the exhibition and writing the answer, even a 10 year old can do it.
Next comes the Detour, Phil tells us the choice is between Fruit Farm and Fruit Machine. In Fruit Farm, teams go to a PYO farm and harvest either apples, cherries or gooseberries, the amount depends on the fruit they choose. In Fruit Machine, teams go to the seaside, play on specially designated slot machines, the task is complete when they strike 3 cherries.
Going to the farm is safe, but filling the containers may take a while. Playing the slot machines is potentially quick, but it depends on luck. Phil's wise words.
The YDC alliance splits, America's Golden Couple and Lovebirds go for the Farm, the Marathoners go for the gambling. I've decided to change Faith & Robin's nick, they run marathons, so they become the Marathoners, okay? Not too confusing? Anyway TallShort, the Principals and R.Randy go for the Farm.
The Moms waste time debating where to go, Sheila wants to go for the slot machines while Joyce wants to play safe and go for the Farm, they can't decide. "Most of the physical teams went for the fruit picking, I just don't think we can be that quick, why not take a chance?" Sheila voice-overs. She gets her way at the end, will the decision come back to bite them in the butt?
They are joined by the Pirates, AAbot, the Actors and the Twins. All figure that the uncertainty of the task is worth the risk if they want to jump ahead. "I'm good with buttons and joysticks," adds Andrew. Please tell me there's no sexual subtext in that statement.
Meanwhile at the Farm, teams take their pick of fruits. America's Golden Couple opt for apples and the Lovebirds for the cherries. Is there a hidden meaning there? For some reason imagining the Lovebirds in the middle of a cherry orchard is just too suggestive for me, I know, I know, it's my mind in the gutter. TallShort, not surprisingly, go for the apples to take advantage of Adam's height. R.Randy and the Principals head for the gooseberry bush.
As expected, Adam makes short work [*groan*] of shaking the apples from the trees, while Oz diligently pick them up from the ground. That is, when he's not in the background grinning like an idiot, jumping up and down trying to reach a branch. What are you doing Oz-man? If I get a dollar for every time that Oz tries to be funny, I'm afraid I'll have to declare bankruptcy.
America's Golden Couple tries the same trick (shake and gather, not do an impression of an Ewok on crack), but they're simply not as ruthlessly efficient. Or they haven't had their morning snort yet.
I see the Principals and R.Randy at the gooseberries and I start singing "here we go round the gooseberry bush." I am in a weird mood today. At least I'm not singing "I'm too sexy for my fruit." Snerk.
At the unknown seaside town, the gamblers get started. They get a bucket of tokens and set to work on some old looking machines. No fancy sound effects, no special blinking lights, I think these machines date back to when Elvis was in diapers. Vegas we are not in. There's no skill involved. Insert a token, press a button, get excited for a microsecond, then start again. Inserting tokens and pressing a button at a peep show gets a higher excitement quotient.
The only one who looks remotely into the task is Andrew. He explains that he's the world's biggest geek and lives, breaths and dreams electronic games. He's like a little kid, I just want to ruffle his hair, except I'm not sure if I'll get bitten by lice or whatnot.
We go back to the Farm, and what perfect timing (I know, it's editing, don't spoil my fun!), it's like we're sneaking up to a rare private moment not often afforded to the racers. The viewing of said private moment makes me feel like a voyeur yet I can't tear my eyes away and it makes me warm all over. Who would've thought a measly few minutes of airtime can have so much ahhhhh factor?
The camera sneaks up on Willow & Tara who, remember, are the only team picking cherries. Now I never realized cherry trees are this high, despite a childhood brainwashed by George Washington stories. Anyway the trees are tall enough to hide our Lovebirds from view, and presumably the Amazing Cameraman too. Looks like they're nearly finished with their task and they have purple juice all over them.
Willow asks Tara how long she thinks they've been doing this and Tara says may be 20 minutes, but they're nearly finished. They look at their booty and say at the same time, "Wonder how they taste?"
They break out into giggles, Willow suggests they try just one but Tara reminds her of the task and they shouldn't be wasting their efforts. That girl's been a little mousey so far, but she's got that sensible vibe about her. Willow does an amazingly cute impression of batting her eyelids and quicker than you can say "hot girl action" they're feeding each other and licking juice off each other's fingers. I hold my breath.
And we fade to commercials.
I've never been so mad at a commercial break before cos I'm willing to bet my usual $1 (plus every other dollar I have in my under-bed piggy bank) that they smooch. Guess it goes beyond PG-13, hee. Or CBS is waiting for an appropriate moment to air the Lovebirds' first kiss, after a copious amount of hype and advertising. If that's the case my hatred for CBS goes up another notch.
Reluctantly we go back to the seaside and the Marathoners do the impossible and get their 3 cherries. A gush of tokens spit out from the bowels of the ancient slot machine, they woo-hoo and bring their winnings to exchange for a clue.
They are now the 'Currently in First Place' team. The clue tells them to drive to Ashford and catch the Eurostar train to Calais, France. Once they reach Calais they are to find the Auchen hypermarket where they will find their next clue.
Adam & Oz haul their, um, haul of apples to be weighed and get their clue. R.Randy and America's Golden Couple too. I'm tired of typing 'America's Golden Couple', my fingers itch and it's not nanowrimo, so henceforth they're known as the Goldies, okay?
We cut to the Moms, who strike it rich. I'm just relieved for Sheila, for escaping the Wrath of Joyce. While they're collecting their tokens, April squeal a scream of victory as AAbot get their 3 cherries.
The Marathoners arrive at Ashford, and it's ridiculously easy to find the train station. Yay for clearly marked British road signs! They jump out of their car to get the tickets.
Elsewhere at the farm, the Lovebirds emerge from their cherry orchard. My mind is firmly stuck in the gutter (or clouds?), cos they seem to be a little behind. What happened after the mutual fingerlicking yummy goodness that we got so rudely cut off from? They must have lost a good, what 15 minutes? Enough for…something.
Rapido editing between the Principals and the Pirates as they achieve the impossible, finish a task simultaneously while in different places. Yeah, I'm such a sad fuck, I make my own fun, shoot me.
I checked on mapquest, it's only a 14 mile drive from Canterbury to Ashford, there shouldn't be any problems, no? Ah. Famous last words. The Principals go the wrong way on a roundabout and get truly clobbered by other cars. There's a whole lot of beeping of car horns and cover-up for swearing, the Amazing Editors give up and put a musical segment in instead, but I can read the 'fucks' coming out of Snyder's lips as he tries to reverse the car a) without getting hit by other cars and b) before the police arrives. He revs the car so much I'm almost afraid he'll blow it up.
The Marathoners buy tickets. There's a train leaving for Calais at 12.59, they made it with minutes to spare. Now, will the other teams arrive in time? They grab their tickets and sprint to the train.
At the seaside, Lorne is beginning to lose his cool, droplets of make-up melt from his face, his sunhat having long disappeared. Ben kicks the slot machine in frustration. Tokens continue to be fed but results are not forthcoming. Things look grim.
TallShort get into the Ashford carpark and jog towards the ticket office. Are they in time? Are they too late? Will they show enough emotion to help me out in my recap? Turns out they make it, and the murderous look on the Marathoners as they board the train is worth its weight in gold.
R.Randy and the Goldies arrive, and find out they missed the train. The ticket clerk patiently explains the next train is at 17.59. My jaw drops to the floor and break into 18 different pieces when I realize that's the Marathoners and TallShort have a 5 hour headstart. That's a hell of a big lead.
Other teams trickle in to be told the news. At least they're all going to be bunched together, and unless something completely disastrous happens, one of the teams not currently on a train will face elimination.
Remember the Principals? And remember what I said about blowing up their car? Famous last words indeed. May be I should have chosen that as the episode title. The sorry hunk of metal is parked on the curb of the Roundabout of Doom, steam wafting out from the hood, at least they have enough sense to just open it a little to let the steam out. Flutie is trying to flag down passing motorist while Snyder is screaming, kicking the tires, in general acting the complete prat. I swear there's more steam coming out from his ears than the hood. A passing motorist stops and they get the engine cooled down and water added.
Lorne, Cordy, Ben and Glory, still back at the slot machines, don't realize they have a good few hours to complete their task. Their frustration levels are sky high. "It's a challenge that puts you completely in the hands of fate, I guess luck wasn't with us. I was this close to giving up," Cordy interviews.
Finally the gods of fruitless gambling take pity on the pairs and give them their 3 cherries. They scurry to their cars and head for Ashford. "We're dead," laments Ben.
At the Grand Central of Hopeless Despair they are ecstatic, to the point of euphoria, when they find 7 other teams camped out in the waiting room. Stupid bunching.
"Right now we're at Ashford station, waiting for a train to France. Faith, Robin, Adam and Oz took an earlier train and they're 5 hours ahead of everyone else, the mood here is killing me. I wish I were on that other train," Anya complains. Yeah, you and 17 other people, lady.
The two teams in front emerge from Calais station, have no trouble getting a taxi and arrive at the hypermarket. It's like Costco, only you don't need to buy in bulk. And, duh, signs are in French.
It's a Roadblock. This time Faith takes it and groans as she discovers the task is to run through the store to "buy" a list of common French grocery products. The twist is they are given 35 Euros and have to purchase all the items within budget.
Faith grabs one of those supersized carts and charges off, followed by Oz, who looks like he's about to be consumed by these giant carts. I think their choice of who takes the Roadblock is smart, they may need Robin or Adam later on for more strength or height related tasks.
Faith finishes first, pays the cashier and gets the next clue which instructs them to find Gilbert's Tomb within the Catacombs of Paris. She and Robin run to get a taxi, and express their excitement about going to Paris.
Oz is having trouble with his last items, he has to go almost all the way back to the entrance, which costs him precious minutes.
The Marathoners buy tickets for the 16.32 Paris train, they note that the trip is just over 2 hours. "I saw Oz running all the way back to the other side, I think he forgot something," Faith reported to her partner. He tries to hide a smirk, but doesn't do very well.
Oz completes the task and he and Adam throw themselves into a taxi. Was that emotion I see?
The first train for Paris leaves Calais with Faith & Robin onboard.
Oz and Adam reaches the station, they miss the train. The next one will be an hour later, but arrives only 19 minutes after the one the Marathoners are on. "We're still a long time ahead of the rest of the field, so we're confident," says Adam.
The second train for Paris leaves Calais, carrying Adam & Oz.
Back at the Grand Central of Hopeless Despair, aka Ashford, teams board the second train to Calais. Triple speed fast forwarding and next thing, teams emerge from Calais station and pile into taxis. The French taxi drivers look on in barely concealed amusement. I expected taxi trouble, but all the drivers seem to know where Auchan supermarket is, may be that's the only attraction in the whole of Calais?
Mad scramble to get the clue and then a cart. Even though the store is enormous, the sight of 9 carts hurtling down the aisles is one to see, especially when they weave around like they have no idea where they're heading. The only one hanging back is Willow, scribbling furiously on her list with a tiny pencil, seems like she's plotting something.
Elsewhere in BumperCartLand a fight has broken out over obstruction and right of way. Woo-hoo! Cart-rage, the newest form of road-rage to hit France! Don't miss the action, the screaming, the sheer idiocy. Glory is engaged in a bitch-slapping contest with April and Lorne, whom she claimed worked together to block her. She doesn't seem to grasp that all's fair in love, war and supermarket scavenger hunts. Shut up, Glory.
You can tell who's used to this mayhem, as Sheila and Anya zip through the task with the ruthless efficiency of someone who does this every Saturday morning. Willow, having obviously planned the route through the store, is also doing well, and able to stay away from the hordes.
Buffy and Rupert, on the other hand, have the demeanor of fish completely out of water, wandering back and forth between sections, wasting energy and time. Golden Girl obviously doesn't do the grocery shopping in Goldenville; and Grandpa Rupert probably lives off cup noodles he buys at 7-11.
In no time at all (actually a fraction of a second due to editing), we see Anya, Sheila and Willow having their wares rung up. They're off to get the Paris train. Lorne finishes for his team, as does April. Flutie finishes also.
Pirates, Moms and Lovebirds arrive at Calais to find…the ticket office closed. We zoom in on a clock that says 21.04. They try to find an official, anyone, who will sell them tickets. Joyce and Tara look at the timetable.
"When we got to Calais station, the ticket office was closed. Anya and Xander started looking for officials to explain the situation, complain, I don't know what. It's obvious the place was empty. Tara and I located a timetable posted at the side and it turned out that there weren't any more trains to Paris tonight, the earliest was at 5 o'clock next morning," Joyce interviews.
"It was the second time that day we were stuck at a train station, it was very frustrating," Sheila adds.
After securing their bags, the Lovebirds decide to go for a walk and we see them walking into the night, arms linked. Part of my mind is imagining that they've gone off to continue what they were doing at the cherry orchard earlier on in the day. Ahhhhh.
We've almost forgotten about Faith, Robin, Adam and Oz. Bad us! Slap on the wrist! The Marathoners jump off their train at Gare du Nord and into a taxi, heading for the Catacombs. The taxi driver gives them a distasteful look and mutter something in French, I'm only able to catch one word, 'mort' which means death. Looks like the guy doesn't want to drive to a place where presumably there's lots of dead bodies. I don't blame him.
The entrance of the Catacombs turns out to be a non-descript black iron door almost hidden amongst some vines in a dark, creepy street. May be it's my overworked imagination. Opening times, 9-11am and 2-4pm. That's it. May be the corpses need their rest, I dunno. The Marathoners are rightfully disappointed, their lead is all but gone.
TallShort arrive and greet the Marathoners, already cocooned in their sleeping bags and mini-tent. They do mental calculations and, yeah, bunching sucks. They bunk down for the night.
Back at Calais, the situation is no different. We see teams in their sleeping bags all lined up inside Calais station.
Before Sunrise. Calais. A group of extremely bleary-eyed individuals get their tickets and board the 05.03 train.
Sunrise. Paris. The Marathoners and TallShort snore away while dead bodies below them stir.
Après Sunrise. The peloton arrives at the gate to the Catacombs, to the slight surprise of the frontrunners, who say they think the others may have arrived in the middle of the night.
It's time. The black doors of the Catacombs squeak open and the teams enter into the Twilight Zone. A long, dark, narrow, wet tunnel brings them underground into an entrance chamber which leads to a dark opening. Over the entrance of the opening is a sign that says Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la mort. In English, Stop! This is the empire of death.
What lies behind the opening is creepiest place I've ever seen, and I have been there myself. The Catacombs came to being in the late 18th century, when Paris was expanding like mad. They began to run out of space so the government decided to uproot the bones in the large cemeteries and placing the bones in underground quarries, thus freeing up the land. The skeletons were solemnly moved, stacked them up in neat walls of bones and skulls inside the caves. It's estimated that the remains of 5 to 6 million had been painstakingly removed and re-housed.
Only a small part is open to the public, and it's enough. Seeing all those bones and skulls is a humbling experience and brings home how fragile the human body is, how small we are in the great scheme of the universe, and brings home the reality of our own mortality. It's also very very scary.
Most of our racers are freaked, it's rare for me to be this sympathetic, but I feel for them. Tired, stressed-out and tense, the last thing they want is to be searching for a tomb in such a claustrophobically macabre location.
"I've visited the New Orleans Cemetery, it was a weird experience and I was a little scared. Going through the Catacombs was a thousand times worse, there were bones everywhere, skulls laughing at us, you could even touch them, I've never seen anything like it," says Lorne.
"I don't want to see anything like it, ever again," his partner adds.
Teams move through the chambers like the Grim Reaper is waiting for them around the next corner, sticking together for comfort. They find Gilbert's Tomb and the clue which tells them to take the Métro to La Défense and find La Grande Arche. This is the Pitstop for this leg of the race and the last team to arrive will be eliminated.
I'm rudely thrown back to reality. So it's another footrace then, seeing the teams are all bunched up. Oh great.
They fall over each other in their haste to get out of there and off they go to find the nearest Métro station, which the Editors tell us is Denfert Rochereau. The destination is La Défense, which even I know is on the far left of the map.
We go from bad to worse, AAbot, the Goldies and R.Randy left their backpacks at the entrance and are shocked to find that the exit a few streets away from the entrance. Shit! The guard at the entrance gives them directions and they run back.
Double shit! The Twins get into a taxi. What are they doing? The clue says take the Métro, there's nothing subway-like about a taxi. It's Heave all over again, don't they ever learn? Get out! Get out! Get out!
It's not as easy to find the station, the teams get split up in the narrow streets of Paris. We see the Pirates, TallShort and the Principals getting into one train. Then the Actors, Lovebirds, Moms and Marathoners into a second.
The Goldies, R.Randy and AAbot retrieve their backpacks and run to find the station.
Teams need to make a connection at an intermediary stop. Don't know if any of you have ever had to interchange at the Paris Métro, some of those connections make you walk a whole fucking mile, once you get underground it's a veritable maze of cigarette stalls, murals and buskers. But it's the endless walking that gets you in the end.
No surprise that Snyder is shouting at Flutie again. They're at an intersection and can't remember which line to take. Snyder's yelling, "I don't know if it's line A or line 1, they both say the same destination! Didn't you look at the map?" Flutie looks blank. They take line 1.
The Actors and Lovebirds have the sense to find a map and plan their route. Willow correctly deduces they need line A, which is the express. That girl is smart.
Meanwhile in the Taxi-that-is-not-the-Métro, the Twins realize their mistake. "Shit," Ben beeps. I can't hear him of course, but I can read lips. "The clue says take the Métro," he states the obvious. "We have to get out."
They get out of their taxi and tries to find a Métro station. Now, getting into a taxi against instructions is dumb. But getting out in the middle of nowhere? The dumbness of which I have no words for. Why didn't they take the taxi back to the Catacombs and start again? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
La Grande Arche at La Défense is a characterless white square with a hole in the middle, so uncharacteristically fugly, considering how much flair we expect from the French. Now, if we transplant this building to Germany, it'll be a post-modernist wonder. [sincere apologies to the Germans, I love you guys, really.] But the French? Disappointed now.
Thank god for Phil, the best looking person or object in the whole area. He waits patiently for the teams to arrive.
It's Pirate & Wench. Wow, second place last leg, first this leg. Welcome, you're team number one and you win a vacation in Mexico.
TallShort arrive next, some of their time advantage helping. They're team number two.
The Actors and Lovebirds are teams number three and four respectively.
R.Randy and AAbot change trains. The Goldies wander around the Métro system looking clueless, a far cry from the limos they normally travel in.
Back at the Amazing Bathmat, amazingly it's the Principals who get in next, they're team number five.
The Moms are team number six, the Marathoners check-in as team number seven.
R.Randy arrive finally, they're team number eight. AAbot are team number nine.
We've lost the Twins. There's no suspense as the Goldies come up to Phil, he does his stern, pitying look and tell them .. they're team number ten.
The Twins are here, they look dejected. Phil tells them that the bad news first, they took the taxi, against the rules of the clue, and will receive a time penalty. Then he really sticks it in and tells them the even worse news, they're the last team to arrive anyway, so even without the time penalty, they're out. That is one of the most humiliating Philminations I've ever seen.
"We started the leg well, we were in third place. Then everyone had train trouble and we thought we were in a decent position. Never expect our race to end like this, never, never," Glory says in shock. Well my pretty, it's ended.
Today's lesson? Read. the. clue. They didn't, so Goodbye Twins.
Teaser for Episode 3
Shot of a French shopkeeper yelling and gesticulating wildly as teams going through mountains of postcards spread out all over the floor.
"I think we atom bombed his shop," says Andrew.
Shot of a pile-up of bodies at what looks like an obstacle course in the trees.
Anya arguing with Xander, "I'm not going to the casino, why do you want to go gambling again? You're getting as stupid as your father, Xander. And I'm still not sharing the prize with him."
"You leave my old man out of this," Xander retorts.
Useful links & information
Canterbury Tales Exhibition
Answers to the Canterbury Tales questions: 1. Saturn, Venus, Mars, Diana | 2. flood | 3. five | 4. seven | 5. gold
Map of the
Searchable Métro map
They made their decision without needing to consult each other, pick the cherries. The fruits look so enticing, so black, plump and juicy. It was right for them. They were in sync that way.
"Does the clue say anything about picking them off the trees or can we grab the ones already on the ground?" asked Willow.
"Nothing specific. I think we're allowed, it just says gather the fruit," Tara reasoned.
They worked together to pick the fallen cherries from the ground. This filled up at least 20% of the container they were given.
"Not bad," Willow grinned.
"Yeah," Tara concurred.
"Wanna split up with the trees? I'll start that end," Willow said.
"We only have one container, better if we work in the same vicinity so we can both reach it," Tara reasoned.
"How'd you get so smart?" Willow grinned.
Tara was about to say something, probably more spicy than was appropriate, but she thought better. She grinned back.
They worked quickly and efficiently, picking the ripe cherries off the trees. In the process getting purple juice all over their shirts, faces and hands.
"I'm grateful I didn't wear a plain white T-shirt today," Tara joked.
"I like you in plain white T-shirts," Willow breathed, her eyes strayed to Tara's blue, and stubbornly loose-fitting, T-shirt.
"Will, behave, we're Racing," Tara mock-admonished.
"I can think about you and do the challenge, I'm multi-task girl, you know that," Willow smiled.
Tara blushed and dipped her head, returning to work.
After a while Willow tried to check her watch but realized she left it in her backpack.
"How long do you think we've been doing this?"
"I don't know, may be 20 minutes? But we're nearly finished."
They paused, checked their progress, noted that their container was almost full, and blurted out at the same time, "Wonder how they taste?"
They started giggling, giggles which turned into more throaty laughs. Willow looked pensive for a second and said matter-of-factly, "There's nothing stopping us from trying them."
"Yeah, but we need to think about the task and not waste our effort," Tara answered.
"Just one, please honey," Willow pleaded, accompanied by the cutest pout Tara had ever seen. Nothing could resist cute Willow pout.
All thoughts of Racing vacated her mind all of a sudden. Tara smiled, reached into their container and fed one to Willow, making sure her fingers softly caressed Willow's lips in the process.
Willow accepted the offering, grinned impishly, took another cherry from the container and offered it to Tara.
It was an innocent gesture. Well, the intentions were innocent, at first.
Innocence went out of the window as Tara licked Willow's fingers before wrapping her lips round the fat cherry and biting down, the juices oozing out into Willow's palm and down her arm. Before she was able to wipe it off, Tara had taken her hand and was cleaning the inside of her wrist, lapping the stray juice up.
They felt the heat flare up between them. For months they had been building up to increased closeness, the more time they spent together the more certain in their separate minds this was it, the real thing. Only the sparseness of their visits prevented them from fully admitting and acting on it.
"Hmmm. Mutual fruit feeding. You know what it means, what they say it leads to," Willow whispered.
"No, tell me," Tara purred into Willow's wrist.
Willow's brain, body and other parts were going wild at Tara's sultry tone and her lips still on her wrist.
"I could show you instead," Willow said softly.
Tara stopped the touches she was placing on Willow's wrist and looked up to catch her girlfriend's eye. Eyes that were speaking to her right now in a language that did not require words.
"Yes," she said, even more softly.
They had kissed before, of course. Many pleasurable times. Sometimes a little more than just kissing as hands and lips searched and strayed near places that needed more.
But this one. This particular kiss. The flavor of the cherries still lingered with other tastes, of Tara, of Willow, of a united being. TarWil. WilTar. Rosenberg-Maclay. But at the end it was a coming together that needed no words, no names. It was just them.
And still the kiss continued to consume them, not hurried, it was just…words were not necessary, but the feelings and the knowledge manifested inside them. Words and feelings like soft, warm and mine echoed clearly in the parts of their minds still able to discern words.
"Do you want another cherry?" Willow hummed into Tara's cheeks. After they came back to the physical plane she was barely able to speak, the question popped out before she knew it.
"I want something better, and I have it," Tara turned, cupped Willow's face in her hands and they blended seamlessly into each other again.
Seconds. Minutes. Moments passed.
A tentative hand reached inside a juice-splattered T-shirt, fingers and palms tracing more warmth up the already warm flesh, this was territory relatively new to them, though not totally unchartered. Another hand reaching round to the small of the back to bring them impossibly closer.
A moan. A shiver. Bodies sliding slightly against each other.
I have you.
A rustle of leaves and the sound of movement in the near distance. Reality stuck its foot inside the private garden of heaven they just created, bringing them down to earth.
The kissing slowed down, but didn't stop.
"Don't stop," Willow implored.
"We have to get the fruit to the judges and, oh god," Tara's sensible words were swallowed by the force of another Willowkiss.
"We should, um, go back to the task," Willow agreed, but she didn't stop, or let her hold on Tara recede.
They were on the verge of forgetting about the task again.
Until Tara took a deep breath and reluctantly pulled herself out of Willow's grip, resting her head on Willow's shoulder, slowing down. Cooling down.
Rational thoughts made their come-back and she suddenly remembered, "Oh god, Will, the camera."
"What of it?" Willow was still in the hazy heaven they just created.
"We didn't check. They could have been here the whole time!" Tara exclaimed, turning her head in her attempt to spot the crew.
"Didn't we agree we won't act differently cos we're on camera? That's one of the first lessons the producers drummed into us," Willow said.
"But, but…we just gave them an eyeful, more than a whole eyeful," Tara fretted.
"Lucky them, now the whole world can see how lucky I am," Willow smiled. In those split seconds she made up her mind, Tara was hers and from now on, no more hiding, denying, pretending. She wasn't afraid of people knowing about them. Not anymore.
But what about Tara? With a start she realized to take that step in their relationship needed both of them to agree. And Tara hadn't, in fact Tara wasn't reacting well to her rash declaration that bordered on glib. How much more inconsiderate was she going to get?
She made a decision about their relationship, a big decision, without Tara's consent. That wasn't right. She can't do that again, if she wanted to be with Tara for the eternity she wanted.
She froze and frowned.
"Sweetie?" asked Tara, who had immediately detected Willow's change in demeanor. She had an inkling it was her reaction, or rather, her non-reaction to Willow's comment about how lucky she was, and how she wanted the world to know. And she reacted just like the girl pre-conditioned to think of romance as somewhat superfluous and frivolous; and where coming out of the closet meant a virtual social death and becoming persona ex communicata.
But she had to get out of that frame of mind. Coming on the Race with Willow, opening herself to the world at large, confronting her own deepest fears and reservations, that was her aim.
"I'm sorry, Tara, I spoke out of turn," Willow apologized. "We should have been more careful, but…but there was you with the fruit feeding and the licking and I can't help myself…" she trailed off.
Tara smiled a half-smile.
"You're right, Will. We shouldn't censor what we do, we're not doing anything wrong," she re-assured. "But we really need to get back to the task."
"Do we have to? Now?"
"Yes honey, we're here to win the Race, aren't we?"
They retrieved their full container and exited the cherry orchard hand in hand, but not before placing another kiss solidly on each other's swollen cherry lips.
What of the cameras? Let them see.
Here we are, in Paris, arguably the most romantic city in the world. The City of Lights. Of Love. Romance. And crazy drivers around the Place de la Concorde. [bomp]
I wonder how much love there is and how much love lost among our racers, who we see eating, sleeping and mingling at their mandatory 12 hour Pitstop. Do they get snails? Stinky cheese? More wine than they should drink? There's even a shot of them taking a little tour around town, temporarily shredding their racer mantle for that of ugly American tourists. I pity the poor French.
11.17pm. Xander & Anya rips open the clue, which tells them to go to the Centre Pompidou and find the Dionysiac Exhibition. They have to search through the exhibits for the exhibit that matches a postcard enclosed in the envelope. They run off. Anya interviews that she's very intense and competitive but sometimes Xander is too relaxed [read: clueless]. It's been challenging, trying to run the race and not piss each other off.
11.36pm Adam & Oz. They realize the exhibition most likely is closed at that hour. Their disappointment at the bunching is obvious even on their normally impassioned exterior. "This is not a good situation, teams bunched together, it makes the race hard to run," Adam says, he has a nice voice, he should speak more.
11.45pm. Lorne & Cordy and Willow & Tara leave at the same time. "The girls are a- go!" exclaims Lorne in a girly squeal. He's really as sissy as they come, yet I can't help liking him. True, I mock him endlessly, but he's the kind of older sister who you can go to with your problems, like, anytime, and he'll give you sisterly lovin' and advice. I want an older sister like Lorne.
The Lovebirds are wearing yet another concoction of…I search desperately for words but can only come up with something that makes me cross-eyed. I learnt a new word today at work, relating to VisualBasic in Excel of all things, that VB code is all rojak (the mixed-up Malaysian salad), and that is exactly what I think of the Lovebirds' outfits. I seriously consider sending an urgent SOS out to Carson Kressley.
12.04am. Snyder & Flutie count out the money they have for this leg. $442. The principals are congratulating themselves, or rather, Snyder is doing some smug psuedo- analysis of their position while Flutie looks on blankly. Flutie's blank expression is getting on my nerves, is that how he acts at school? Smug Snyder (hey! I made an alliteration!) drones on about how they jumped from the bottom third to the top half and if they continue like this, they should do well. Okay Principal Snyder, I hate to break it to you, but you're only at Leg 3 of the race, there's a hell of a long way to go yet.
12.13am. Joyce & Sheila, wrapped in designer headscarves and bright puffy jackets, depart. Did they, like, manage to go shopping during the Pitstop? Cos those scarves? Look awfully new to me. But then what do I know about designer accessories? I pronounce Hèrmes like it rhymes with herpes, for crying out loud.
12.56am. Faith & Robin rip the clue, read the clue, and jog off efficiently. If I haven't already changed their nickname once already, I'd be inclined to call them Team Efficiency. They do seem to be self-sufficient and strong racers. Their only problem is they don't have a lot of personality. Robin voices over that he is very happy with how they did the previous leg, they were in front, and were ambushed by bunching at the Catacombs, that's all. Faith adds that after the race, they really have to decide on what to do next about their relationship, they're at a point where something needs to happen, though she doesn't say what. I wonder too.
1.09am. Rupert & Randy step up. Wow. The displaced backpacks really took a chunk of time out of those teams. Rupert looks at the postcard and wonders if the exhibition has anything to do with the Greek god Dionysius. I'm impressed, he really is as cultured as he seems, although I can't quite forget his declaration at the beginning of the race that he is not as mild-mannered as people think. Randy wastes space again.
1.29am. April & Andrew, looking bleary-eyed. Already? If that's what they look like after 2 legs I wonder what my eyes will have to endure when Killer Fatigue kickes in. April interviews that she and Andrew can be wishy-washy and they know they have to be more aggressive to get themselves out of the bottom three. "We're not as physically strong as Faith & Robin, or have the travel experience of Rupert, but we are on par with the likes of Willow & Tara or Joyce & Sheila, as long as we stay in the Race, with some luck we'll be in the final three." So April, you're relying on luck to get you to the final three, interesting. Unlike the other teams who are likely to rely on, um, strength, mental agility or a good strategy. Go team AAbot!
1.55am. Buffy & Riley. "We don't like being last, we're not used to it," Buffy states. Ah, but you are right now, Miss Goldie. Riley adds that they need to change their tactics, with the amount of bunching that's gone on so far, they need to start using the other teams' weaknesses against them. Just what those weaknesses are, Golden Farmboy is strangely silent on.
Teams arrive at Centre Pompidou. Not surprisingly, it's closed. Honestly, this bunching business is getting worse.
9am. The sight of 20 people in catalog-leisure outfits and bulging backpacks rushing through a renowned art museum is not one I'd like to see again any time soon. They trample from room to room, brandishing a postcard in front of them like it's a homing beacon. Yeah right.
A triumphant shout from Riley signals that he has sighted the treasure. I spy a rather disgusted frown on the face of a guard, man, doesn't Farmboy know he has to stay quiet in a museum? Didn't his Mom take him to one when he was young? Probably not.
The clue tells them to go to one of three marked souvenir shops outside the Pompidou and purchase a postcard of the Liseuse à la table jeune by Henri Matisse, which they will need at a later stage of this leg. Okay, make a note of the last sentence, will ya?
Easier than it sounds, because none of the teams, not even Professor Rupert, have a clue what this Liseuse à la table jeune looks like. Sheila, who claims to know a little French, speculates it's a painting of a girl called Liseuse sitting at a yellow table.
Hang on a minute. Doesn't jeune mean young person? Isn't jaune yellow? This ain't Wheel of Fortune Sheila, you can't just buy a vowel, any vowel. Vowels matter, dammit!
Teams disperse into the shops. I actually think this is one of those tasks that is more deceptive than it sounds. If they have no idea what to look for, they're gonna have to flip through hundreds, even thousands of cards to find the right one. The producers are being sneaky. I like.
We spot Willow and Tara whispering conspirationally before running off towards a coffee shop nearby. Do they need a caffeine injection? Or the little girls' room? Our intrepid Cameraman follows. Once they get there, Willow throws her backpack on the floor and zooms towards a free PC terminal. Ahhhh, I get it. I wonder if it's a stroke of genius or if it's going to waste valuable time.
Tara explains while Willow activates the computer, that they think it'll be quicker if they know what they're looking for and Willow thinks the painting is easy to find on the web.
While Tara speaks she's already interrupted by Willow who waves her over to look at a picture of a watercolor painting with blue background and, now I 'm confused! A girl sitting at a yellow table.
"While we were waiting for the Pompidou to open we came here for a coffee and I had a little play on the machines, I can't help it, I can't pass a computer terminal without touching it," Willow grins at the interview. "I knew it'll only take a minute to google that image and if we know what it looks like it'll make searching so much quicker."
"You didn't get it first time, though," Tara teases.
"Yeah, I searched for 'matisse liseuse' but got multiple images then I searched for 'matisse liseuse table' and I got it," Willow beams. She pronounces table properly in French. Tara beams back. In my mind they smooch, or at least exchange a small peck. Come on, CBS, I want to see Lovebirds doing the kissy thing, otherwise I'm…I'm…I don't know what I can do to make a difference, but thinking about it, yeah, I'm sending 'give us Lovebirds smooches' vibes right this second.
They run to a shop and join in the search. Joyce asks them if they're alright and they hem and haw and mumble something about needing the bathroom. I understand their embarrassment about lying, but this is a RAAACE! I'll have no qualms doing the same, am I a bad person now?
Meanwhile in another shop a few doors down, April, Andrew, Xander, Anya, Buffy, Riley, Lorne and Cordy are on all fours playing Twister. No, seriously they're sifting through a carpet of postcards spread all over the floor. When I say spread I mean spread, the entire floor is full of these 7x5 cards, there's a whole mountain of them.
They're not doing very well, not having a clue what they're looking for. And attracting the wrath of the shopkeeper, obviously not keen that his merchandise is being trampled all over his floor like that. He yells, first at Anya, who gives him a dirty look, then at April who hides behind Andrew. It's Andrew who eventually has to take the flak.
"That guy was screaming at me and making all sorts of obscene gestures. Kinda glad I don't know French, but it was a hostile situation," he voice-overs.
"I think we atom-bombed his shop, it's like the aftermath of Helm's Deep," he says back at the warzone.
Elsewhere at the Moms / Lovebirds / TallShort shop, the googling pays off as we see Willow and Tara searching with more purpose. They find it first, flips over the card to check the description and rushes off to the cashier who give them a clue. The other 2 teams strain to catch a glimpse.
"I think I saw some dark sky blue on the card, and it doesn't seem like it's an oil," says Sheila. From the mouth of the person who thinks yellow is young, I'm not convinced.
In the third shop, Randy furiously looks through the stacks and lets out a whoop! when he finds it. He shows it to Rupert, at that moment, father and son huddled together, the similarity is so apparent.
In a move that I think is unnecessary and too generous, they show their postcard to the other two teams before getting their clue.
They are to travel by TGV to Lyon, where they are to find the Parc Albigny.
Helped by the Professor's clue, Team Efficiency (formerly known as Marathoners, formerly known as Workout Duo) finds the postcard but before running off, give the Principals a quick "good luck!". It's a small gesture, but I like it.
The Pirates find the card next, and in a move completely opposite to that in the other shop, shifts to the cashier sneakily and leaves without speaking to the other teams. The other teams, however, are too busy a) with the postcards all over the floor and b) trying to ignore the evil eye of the storeowner, they don't notice the maneuver.
We see the Lovebirds buying tickets at Gare de Lyon, where trains go to, duh I'll never guess it, Lyon. They settle into their seats happily.
R.Randy, Team Efficiency and the Pirates manage to catch the same train as them. Anya helpfully expositions that trains depart every hour on the hour, so they have a small lead.
The second group gathers at Gare de Lyon, watching a departing train, though it looks nothing like the one the first group got on. Don't try to con me, Amazing Editors.
Two Amazing Yellow lines show us the progress. The first group arrives at Lyon and jump into taxis.
The Parc Albigny City Aventure is an adventure park set in a forest, with beautiful views in the background. Rope bridges, slides, nets, swings, the works. My nieces and nephews will love the place. In fact, I want to try it out myself.
In a milder version of a Fear Factor stunt, teams negotiate the obstacle course and deposit ten miniature red and yellow flags on marked posts along the way.
Team Efficiency get a great headstart and quickly move into the lead, Robin and Faith chaneling Tarzan as they fly through the bridges, rope swings and balance beams. This is the sort of physical task that suits them, and it shows. They open the next clue, which tells them to take a train to Nice and find the Musée Matisse.
Randy scampers through the course, and even Rupert makes steady progress. No one has any trouble going through the course, except for a heart-stopping moment when Anya loses her footing. Three pairs of hands reached out to grab her in a display of camaraderie and they all finish within a short time of each other.
Team Efficiency arrive at the train station and hop onto another TGV. The pursuing 3 teams also arrive and head straight to the ticket booth. Tara and Willow again show their intellect by checking on the timetable first. They share the information with the other teams, that they should take the express that leaves a few minutes later but arrives at Nice 3 hours earlier.
"We figured the museum will be closed by the time we reach Nice. Everyone will be equal again, so why not work together, get there early and have some rest?" Tara explains. I cannot believe it, more fucking bunching. Even the racers are becoming conditioned to accepting it.
The second cluster of racers arrive at City Aventure and gear up. The atmosphere is more tense and the competition more pronounced, there's a degree of pushing and may be an elbow or two along the planks and steps, which tend to be one person wide. Adam and Riley, have a big advantage and they get ahead quickly, leaving the trailing pack in a, um, pack.
Things get nastier and soon there's a shove-off between Joyce, Andrew, Snyder (boy why am I not surprised his royal pain in the butt is in the thick of a catfight?) and Buffy. There's obstructing. There's squashing. Tripping. Yelling. And screeching. Oh my ears, screeching.
They're all trying to climb up a netting onto a platform that is the launching pad for a rope swing. Now that platform can hold two, may be three people at a push, it wasn't designed for seven, eight people. A sickening creak, then a sharp crack, and the platform's gone in a spectacular collapse. There was dust and wood splinters everywhere. And with it the not so proud of themselves racers, who find themselves in an undignified heap. All rojak. [See? I can use new words.] They have safety harnesses, so the only thing hurt is their pride and composure. As if I care. Snerk.
In a completely priceless development, they're told they have to start again! On another course, from the beginning! How sweet! The cacophony of protests can be heard all the way in China, between April's screeching, Snyder's yelling and Cordy's foot stamping, for a moment there I fear for the life of the official who tells them the course is no longer safe.
"Part of the course crashed to the ground, and they wanted us to move to another course, cos we couldn't continue. But we have to start from the beginning, and we think it's unfair, so some of us have gone over to argue with the officials, it's not fair," April whines. She's probably one of those people at high school who whines that homework is unfair, life is unfair, little whiny girl.
More arguing in both languages, neither party willing to listen. Haven't they ever heard of listening to the other party and trying to work out a compromise? Guess they never went to negotiating skills training.
"Eventually a Race official intervened and we could start halfway round the new course. But with all the time wasted arguing we could have just started at the beginning," a dejected looking Buffy comments at the end of the course, where Adam and Riley have been patiently waiting, having avoided the altercation. The stragglers arrive and they drag themselves to the train station.
Beautiful shot of Nice, with glamorous models displaying their wares on beaches in contrast to the children running along the cobbled streets of the old town. Do you know the beach at Nice is made of very large and very uncomfortable pebbles?! It'll take billions of years before they become sand, I thought a beach as famous as Nice will have sand, but no. Nothing like that. Very disappointing.
The second group arrives, to find the Musée closed and the first group camped outside.
Teams decide to explore the town, enjoy the nightlife. On the forum someone worked out that they arrive around 8pm, so basically have the whole night of hanging around, courtesy of stupid bunching. The YDCs take off, trying to shake off their stalkers, aka the Amazing Cameramen. No prizes for guessing what they have in mind :). I send more hate vibes CBS' way, for yet again robbing me of the sight of Lovebirds snogging.
Lorne & Cordy browse around the night market, Lorne is singing this ridiculous ditty he obviously just made up:
Oh it's nice to be in Nice,
Be nicely neat in Nice.
My knees don't ache;
My niece knits and kneads;
Oh it's nice to be in Nice.
He has a nice voice, but, "my knees don't ache, my niece knits and kneads"? Please. Kill. me. now.
"If I had to choose which city to have an enforced layover Nice will be high on my list, I've always wanted to be part of the jetset and rub shoulders with the rich and famous," says Cordy. And we cut immediately to a shot of Cordy with ice-cream split all over her front and looking anything but jetset-y. Be careful of what you wish for, sister.
Elsewhere the older teams gather at a café at the square; sipping coffee. "We didn't want to overspend, but it was a golden opportunity to rest for a while, and we get to people watch too," says Joyce.
Xander & Anya walk along the promenade, right where Cordy's rich and famous hang out. It's not lovey-dovey though. Xander comments on the fur-clad ladies and men in penguin suits entering the casino. He suggests they go in and have a look, but is taken aback at Anya's reaction.
"I'm not going to the casino, why do you want to go gambling again? I want to go shopping and sit outside at the coffee shops and pretend I'm a minor European royalty. You're getting as stupid and stubborn as your father, Xander. And no matter what you say, I'm still not sharing the prize with him."
"You leave my old man out of this," Xander retorts as he stomps off.
Which seems to continue into the morning, teams run through the Musée entrance to get the clue. It's a Roadblock, where they take the postcard they bought in Paris (seems eons ago), find the real painting, and put in the slots with their names on to exchange for the next clue. So far, Roadblocks have been drive a motorboat through canals, shop for groceries and now a Search and Locate. I wish the Amazing Producers have better imagination, but I'm happy that they haven't been the usual heavy lifting.
In an almost repeat of the dash through the Pompidou, now we have mad Americans invading another part of France. Ooo la la, the poor French.
In order of who finds the clue first: Buffy, Adam, Faith, Tara, Anya, Rupert, Flutie, Joyce and Andrew. Spot the missing person. No? Try again. Yes? No? Still too many of them all rojak?
Give you a clue. My knees don't ache in Nice.
It's Lorne & Cordy. And they're searching frantically, but not in the Musée. They look pale, in shock and on the verge of tears. It's not the same two people who were singing that stupid song last night, or the wannabe glam queen getting strawberry ice cream all over her white T-shirt. This is the look of a team who has lost their postcard.
They turn everything out on the ground and I can see Cordy's hands shaking almost uncontrollably. They don't have the postcard. They know they need the postcard. Sometimes if you miss a task you can go back and re-do it, you lose the time you spend, but you're on the right track again. But how are they supposed to go back to Paris and buy another card?
They talk about it, and the conversation is reminiscent of Lena & Kristy at the haybales. "We can't give up now." "They'll give us a time penalty." "May be it's a non- elim." I'm sad.
Cordy sucks it up for her team, goes in and retrieves the clue. I cross my fingers and toes.
It's a detour, the choices are Five-a-piece Socca or Five-a-side Soccer. Hahaha! My smile grows broader as yummy Phil comes onscreen to explain that socca is a traditional soft bread made from chickpea flour that is baked in a wood oven. Soccer is better known as football in these parts (in fact, anywhere outside the American continent) and generally not played by high school girls.
Teams have to choose between helping a local chef make 5 pieces of socca or participating in a 5-a-side soccer match and scoring 5 goals. Alright, this isn't an obvious Tortoise/Hare task, playing ball seems to have a slight edge for the physical teams.
And that's how it splits up roughly. Goldies, TallShort, Efficiency and R.Randy go off to the field of dreams. I didn't expect Rupert to be in that group. "I played football, as the English calls it, when I lived in England. Weekends at my local park, but it's the pub- crawl afterwards that we all looked forward to," he explains.
Team Efficiency reaches the soccer stadium and joins the first team. Boy these soccer players mean business, they're not some weekend junior league, they have skillz mon, I think they're all trying to be the next Zidane. Faith taps in their first goal and does the traditional celebratory gig of dancing around the corner flag. Okay, does anyone just go to a scary visual place? Cos, Faith, in a tight T-shirt slightly damp with perspiration, gyrating her well trained parts around a narrow pole-like object? Drool and a half. I want to strangle Robin so I can take his place in Faith's world, sigh, I'm sick, I know.
The Goldies are on the other team and Riley shows some skills as he dribbles past a couple of defenders. Buffy, in acres of space, waves to him to pass but he wants the glory for himself. He shoots! The shot is deflected. Selfish, selfish Riley.
The match is fascinating, in a mindless entertainment kind of way. Team Efficiency efficiently [*groan*] puts away their fifth goal and they high five each other. Lots of fives here. They are replaced by TallShort, while the Goldies are still on the pitch. R.Randy wait at the sidelines, Randy does stretches and running on the spot to make you think he's an athlete.
Robin reads out the clue, they are to travel to the Ephrussi de Rothschild (or Villa Ile de France) at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, the Pitstop for this leg of the race. My goodness, Phil's making his introduction at the most magnificent mansion I've ever seen. The pink belle epoch exterior overlooks perfect gardens on one side, and perfect blue Mediterranean coastline on the other. Phil explains that this is his vacation home and we're all welcome to spend our summers there. Yeah, in my dreams. The mansion was built in 1905 by Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild as her personal folly inspired by the great Renaissance palaces of Venice and Florence. This, my friends, is luxury to the utmost extent.
Meanwhile at the socca restaurant, flour spills everywhere, at least there's no fishy smell for Anya to complain about. It's actually quite easy, mixing an oil and water mixture into flour then pouring the batter into the baking tins for 5 minutes. Xander and Andrew start a flour fight and they're joined by a Willow wearing an absolutely sparkly grin. Nice to see the young people having fun, but…RAAACE!
There are so many teams that they have to line up for oven space, causing some minor pushing, shoving and exchange of nasty words between those not currently engaged in a flour fight. Shut up, Snyder. Stop with the screeching, April.
The Moms and Tara and Anya finish first. I'm like, I totally hate stereotyping, but it just shows who has the best cooking skills. Joyce waves goodbye to the others as she and Sheila leave in a taxi to the Pitstop.
Lovebirds and Pirates soon finish and they're on their way to the more luxury than they'd ever imagine.
At the soccer field Riley finally gets a goal, making the five the Goldies need. R.Randy make their way onto the killing, er playing, fields and straightaway Randy concedes an own goal. Rupert gamely encourages him while in his mind he's got Randy strung up on one of the goalposts while the Zidane wannabes take pot shots at him at close range. I'm sick, you should know this by now.
Back at the socca place the Actors finish. But they don't look so good, I think the postcard Roadblock is still on their minds. I'm sad again.
TallShort get their fifth goal. They're off.
At the Heavenly Mansion of Decadence, Faith & Robin arrive. Congratulations, you're team number one. They high five and Faith comes up with this really awesome smile, Robin hugs her close and looks superhot. They high five more when Phil tells them they've won a vacation to the Caribbean. Woo-hoo!
Joyce & Sheila arrive, they're team number two. Like us, they're in absolute awe of the mansion. They interview that they're proud of how they've done so far. "We haven't let the younger and stronger teams intimate us, we're like the Moms but when it comes to the wire, we're no wimps," says Sheila.
Willow & Tara arrive, they're team number three. They're here cos they were very smart, first with googling the picture, then with checking the train timetables. But I sulk cos I don't get my Lovebird smoochies yet again. How many more episodes are they going to make me wait? Wahhh!
Xander & Anya arrive, welcome bickering team number four. They interview that they know they need to start communicating with each other and act more like a team.
Elsewhere at the soccer fields Rupert, bless his fifty-odd year old heart, gets the fifth goal. Soccer camp wraps up.
AAbot and the Principals get their last piece of socca out of the oven and get their clue. Andrew glances back at the table and grabs a piece of the bread, the chefs look on in pity.
Back at my pretend vacation home, Buffy & Riley do a little hop together onto the Amazing Bathmat. Phil's eyebrow twitch a centimeter as he informs them that they're team number five.
Lorne & Cordy arrive. They are the sixth team to arrive, but Phil laments that they're not team number six. Because they misplaced the postcard which forms part of the clue, they will receive a time penalty. Normally time penalty for not obeying the instructions on a task is equivalent to the time gained and skipping a task totally means a 24 hour penalty (remember Momily?), but that's not the same. Phil says this is the first time this has happened (may be cos it's the first time they used part of one clue on another task), and they will receive a 4 hour penalty for losing the clue. They smile thinly, the smile of the condemned, as Phil tells them to wait to see how the rest of the teams do.
Adam & Oz arrive, they're given the title of team number six. Rupert & Randy is just behind them and they're team number seven.
The atmosphere is like a hospital waiting room where everyone is waiting for bad news. This is torture for the Actors, and for me. I don't think it's humane to force them to stand there waiting for the chop, I'm sad.
Snyder & Flutie arrive, yeah, team number eight. April & Andrew, team number nine.
Then Phil asks Lorne & Cordy to step up, and they're philminated.
Yes, they should have been more careful, and have no one to blame but themselves. Part of racing and traveling in such haste around the world involve taking care of your belongings. I'm still sad at their elimination, I like this quirky team and I wish I have more chance to get to know them.
At least they gave us an amusing song. Knees don't ache in Nice indeed. Thank you, Actors.
Teaser for Episode 4
Shot of a sign at a gas station that states clearly "Diesel".
Teams puzzling over a small euro coin.
Trouble at the border. "Can't treat us like that, we're Americans," Riley protests.
"Honey, I think we have the wrong castle," says Tara.
Useful links & information
Picture of Liseuse à la table jeune, the one Willow googled
Ephrussi de Rothschild
Lyon City Adventure
rojak recipe – in
Malay "rojak" means a mixture
"I just slide it in?"
"It's not gonna spit it out again?"
"Don't be silly."
Whirling sounds of a disk drive.
"Why are we doing this in the dark?"
"You've managed to incorporate fireworks, a chamber orchestra and dancing babies into a 3 minute animated short? I know you're good, but this is taking overachievement to an extreme."
"Huh? No, I just thought it's more, you know, intimate."
"Um, okay." Beat. "It is."
"You sure you want to do this?"
"Watch the DVD, let complete strangers watch the DVD, or go on this trip around the world with you?"
Another small silence.
"Am I a greedy monster if I say all of the above?"
"Do you want to go on the race? Tell me the truth."
"I said we'll see. We don't even know if we get through the first round of applications."
"What if we do? We have this cool video we made ourselves."
"I don't know, let's wait and see. Why talk about something that's still kind of remote?"
"I don't want you to do something if the only reason is to please me, I feel like I've pushed you into doing this race and this isn't what you want."
"Honestly? I'm still thinking about it. I know I said yes, and a big part is because you want to and I want to do something you want to. But I also want to find something we can do together."
"We can do other things, I don't want to force you."
"Look, Willow, I want to do something with you that doesn't involve one of us hopping on a plane and snatching a weekend here and there. Whether running around the world in a stressful situation with a bunch of total strangers is the right thing, I'm not totally convinced, yet. But I'm not dismissing it either."
"I want to do the right thing, Tara."
"I know you do. That's why I'm not saying let's not go. We have this DVD, let's send it in and see, okay?"
"I'm sure. We spent all that effort putting it together, coming up with the theme, writing, programming. Not to mention filling in that horrendously long application form."
"She's so cute."
"Yeah, but I still think you're cuter."
"Sweet talker." Smile.
"Yep that's me. But why are you all the way over there? I thought we're watching it together, intimately."
They snuggled close and hit the play icon.
A cartoon version of a black and white kitten sleeps contently in her soft basket. She yawns, stretches and opens one eye.
Oh, you're here. I was getting comfortable in these blankets.
Hi. I'm Miss Kitty Fantastico and I'm here to tell you 30 things about my owners. Well, strictly speaking I don't exist except as a digital image, cos my owners don't live in the same part of the country, and even though they have plans to have a real cat, the "not living in the same part of the country" bit makes it difficult.
And ooops, that tidbit is one of the things I want to tell you about them. Well, I'd better get started, otherwise I tell you something more.
Comfy? Let's get started.
An animated montage of two girls, one blonde one redhead, going about their normal business. Willow works diligently at her laptop, surrounded by computers, Tara sits at her desk staring at the full moon and absent-mindedly chewing on a pencil. Miss Kitty is at the bottom corner, flashing placards with large numbers, she starts with Number One.
Willow and Tara play with Miss Kitty Fantastico outdoors. It's a beautiful day with blue skies, cotton candy clouds and brilliant sunshine.
Willow and Tara in a kitchen cooking a meal, Miss Kitty peers inside looking for food, rubbing herself on first Willow, then Tara. The girls laugh, and pick her up.
Enjoying themselves at the park, at the zoo and at home in the bath (separately!).
Miss Kitty then brings us to scenes of their adventures.
We fade to black, then fade in again. Miss Kitty is back at her basket, this time in front of a warm glowing fireplace.
Well folks, I hope you enjoyed this short film. I'm going back to sleep now, thanks for watching.
Every team that applies for the Amazing Race have to submit a lengthy application form together with a 3 minute video about themselves. Needless to say if the video catches the eye of the casting directors, the applicants have a better chance to proceed to the next stage of the casting process.
Willow and Tara's video is an animated short of Miss Kitty telling the viewers 30 things about them.
Oh hello there, nice of you to join. I'm so cozy lazing around at the poolside of my pink belle epoch vacation mansion here at the French Riviera. Just let me finish sipping my champagne and have my butler bring me my robe, and I'll be with you.
Okay, I'm back in reality now, what a drag.
We get a sweeping aerial shot of the Ephrussi de Rothschild in its splendor, then it's time to start. No eat, sleep and mingle sequence. With the enforced rest and shopping the teams got the night before in Nice, they should be well rested.
Phil, in a rugged Aussie Outback jacket, wonders if Faith & Robin, who have moved up to first place, will stay focused enough to retain their lead; and whether April & Andrew, who haven't finished higher than ninth place so far, can get their act together and get out of last place.
It's a late night start again.
11.05pm. Team Efficiency, looking full of energy even though it's raining and dark and miserable. Looks like someone had a healthy dose of Pitstop sex. They are to drive more than 180 miles to Torino, Italy. Better known as Turin, it's the home of the 2006 Winter Olympics, Fiat cars and the Shroud.
They are to find the building that is on one side of a copper coin inside the clue envelope. I'm so happy about this clue, first, no airport or train station bunching; second, all they get is a town and a coin. Chances are the building is well known, but at least the Racers need to use a little brainpower to find out what it is.
They run to their car, throw in their backpacks and are off, not with a squeal of tires, but close. "We're totally pumped, we'll do anything to keep our first place," Faith growls. It's official, Pitstop sex is good for you.
11.17pm. The Moms. "We benefited from teams moving in a group together last leg, we're still worried about future physical challenges, but with our determination and respect for each other as a team, we're not afraid of anything," Sheila says. I'm surprised they came in second in the last leg, bunching was a big factor. However I also think the detour suited them and they managed the task quickly, so credit where credit's due.
11.23pm. Lovebirds. Can't tell what ridiculous outfits they may be wearing underneath their raingear, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say, colorful and uncoordinated. They are still by far the team I find most adorable. They've run a smart race so far, and have not constantly pushed their relationship in my face (Lynn & Alex I'm looking at you), I find myself genuinely wanting them to do well.
11.39pm. Pirates. Anya examines the coin carefully and remarks at how small it is. Hey! It's the Amazing Exposition Hands holding the coin in his very large palm. How I've missed you, Hands! Phil explains that coins in the Eurozone have one common side and country specific motifs on the other side. The coin in the clue is the Italian 2 cent and it shows the Mole Antonelliana, a Torino landmark with a tall strange narrow spire. It looks like a giant inverted ice-cream cone, or a long toilet plunger, if you ask me.
And okay, I can't help it, Photoshop is just sitting there on the dock, mocking me, begging for me to click on it. You can tell I've done Pixel Challenges before, and no, Glark hasn't killed me where I stand. He doesn't dare. My sincere, sincere apologies to the good people of Torino.
11.51pm. The Goldies are excited to be going to Italy. They're also happy that they moved back to the middle of the pack. "We'll just carry on moving up, picking off the competition one by one. It's what we're good at," Riley says smugly. To their credit, they haven't been all "we're famous celebrities" so far, just another YDC in a pack of YDCs. Boring, but not offensive. They're this leg's money announcer, they have $166.
12.19am. TallShort get their clue, examine the coin and rev up their car. At last we have the honor of hearing Oz talking at length! "We haven't really built alliances with other teams at this point. The older teams tend to stay together and the couples generally hang out. Adam and I don't fit into either group and that suits us fine. We just get on with it." He looks good in a baseball cap too.
12.22am. R.Randy. They moved up one place to seven, but are still slipping compared with first place on the first leg. Randy was a little more useful last leg, finding the postcard and all, but I had nothing to do the other day [*perish forbid!*] and was thinking how Rupert could have been paired with the other racers. I had images of him with Buffy, Anya and even Joyce . Heh, I'm shipping a racer on a reality tv show, I must be reading too much fanfic.
12.36am. Principals. I wish they're gone, and I'm not being foreshadow-y. Snyder's been an argumentative prick and I'm beginning to hate Flutie for his passive-aggressive ways. We've seen more than our fair share of pricks on the Race: TAR3 Ian and TAR6 Jonathan to name a couple, but at least they were entertaining villains. Snyder makes my teeth grate. I can't wait for them to get off my screen.
12.52am. AAbot. I should want these two off my screen too, they've been piss poor racers. But like a wet puppy in the rain I feel a bucketload of pity for them because of their ineptness. They need to do better, way better, otherwise it's Sequesterville for them.
Driving more than 180 miles with little sleep, in the dark and in a strange country is no fun. I don't envy the teams. And yes, I know it's only 10 minutes into the episode and I've used up my quota of sympathy. My girlfriend is staying with me and I'm in a good mood, okay?
It's still dark when the teams take the turning off the autostrada towards Torino. Team Efficiency pull into a gas station to ask about the coin, they learn it's the Mole Antonelliana. Lovebirds and Pirates do the same at a hotel, sounds like the Mole is a large enough landmark to be distinctive.
Goldies, Moms and R.Randy meet at roadside and confer. It's funny to see 6 people puzzling over a tiny coin by torchlight, they decide they need to ask someone. Oh my, I'd never think of asking the local people, what a brilliant idea! [/sarcasm]
TallShort car. Oz is looking through a large foldable map. He identifies Torino and guesses the building is a famous church or museum. They agree to find the nearest gas station or shop so they can ask directions.
AAbot pull into a 24 hour convenience store. April cheerfully goes up to the cashier and naturally asks Andrew for the coin. Andrew reaches into his pocket and pulls out all manner of coins. He looks sheepish as he confesses that he PUT THE COIN IN WITH HIS OTHER COINS. And now he can't remember which one it is. Really, this team doesn't deserve to be on the Race.
All they remember is that it's small, which applies to all coins on the planet earth (well, except the chocolate coins we get at Easter) so the ScreechPrincess, StupidBoy and Not!Seven-Eleven employee examine all the coins that are now scattered on the counter and ask each other questions in languages neither party understand. This is just great, god, my good mood just took a swan dive into oblivion.
Principals ask the cashier at a road toll about the coin, she shakes her head. They ask some more, she shakes her head again and tells them to move along. Space clutterers.
Establishing shot of Torino night sky, with the Mole prominent in the foreground. Team Efficiency negotiate the narrow streets trying to reach it but there are random cars abandoned in the middle of the street, bumper to bumper, side to front, whatever way you can imagine. Robin wonders how they get out of those tight spaces and snarks that no wonder Fiat makes these insanely teeny cars.
The Goldies are the first to arrive, Riley impresses me by making up the 46 minute difference between him and Robin, who parks his team's car shortly after.
I was afraid of more bunching cos the Mole opens at 9am. Thankfully the cluebox is outside and teams can retrieve their clue without needing to enter the museum. They are to drive 240 miles to Strà near Venice and find the Villa Pisani.
But they can't leave yet. Each team must start a clock located in a small tented reststop and leave only when 45 minutes is up. Refreshments and freshen up facilities are provided but they cannot leave the immediate area. This is new, we've never had a mandatory stop like this. I mean, they just drove 3-4 hours and now another 240 miles? It's just TPTB making sure they don't get sued if someone causes an accident by falling asleep at the wheels.
Pirates, TallShort, R.Randy and Lovebirds arrive in short succession, get the clue and join the others. Xander asks Anya if she'll be alright with the driving and he can take over for a while. That's the first time I've seen them acting like they care about the other, well about time.
Now we get to see some team dynamics we don't get to see. The two tallest guys, Adam and Riley, strike up a conversation. Oz and the testosterone half of the YDCs, Xander and Robin seem to be comfortable with each other, and they're even joined by Willow, guess we now know who wears the pants in that relationship. Buffy and Faith look like sportswear models as they enjoy a coffee, in terms of fitness Faith is on par with Buffy, even though one is a famous athlete and the other, well, isn't. It's also quite obvious that Randy has a crush on Buffy, the way he appears to eye her up and tries to edge near her. Someone better tell the spiky haired one that he's invading the territory of a world record breaking athlete who can probably crush his windpipe with just one squeeze of those large hands. Plus which, you know what they say about large hands.
The Moms and Principals arrive in the meantime, to the relief of Rupert, probably out of place surrounded by younger folks.
Buffy & Riley and Faith & Robin's time is up and they get going. The mini-bunch of Xander & Anya, Adam & Oz, Willow & Tara and Randy & Rupert also leave when their time is up.
AAbot finally arrive, to find the Moms and Principals getting ready to leave.
Morning has broken. A parade of cars make their merry way across Italy's shoulders.
TallShort pull into a gas station. "Check the type of gas," Oz reminds his teammate. Just as well, cos they have a diesel car. Now why do I think the Amazing Editors showed me that clip?
Other teams fill up also. We're treated to an exhilarating shot of a large sign that says "DIESEL". Anya does a some stretching exercises while Xander works the pump, I notice the color of the nozzle, it's black.
Finally I get to see the Lovebirds' attire for today. Oh, no rojak. They're wearing something…normal looking, long sleeved T-shirts in pastel colors and jeans. They look nice, but I'm kinda disappointed. Willow gets some drinks from the vending machine while Tara fills up, yep, the nozzle's black.
And then we cut to April & Andrew. I spy with my own little eye Andrew's using a green nozzle. Yikes. It's dieselgate again. Don't they ever learn? A prerequisite for any team entering TAR should be to watch old programs and note down important To-do or Not-to-do, like if a car runs on diesel, don't put unleaded in it.
Lo and behold, their car splutters to a halt on the highway. They totally freak out, screaming at each other, at the car, at anything. Andrew slams the door, grabs the hood and shakes it, it's no good boy. He looks like he's on the verge of tears. April is already blubbering.
Eventually Andrew gathers enough sense and says they need to get to a garage, they walk back in the direction they come from. Not looking good, man. I have a very bad feeling this. First the mistake with the coin, then the mistake with the diesel. I don't think they will last long.
Elsewhere the sun is well up in the sky when the first of the teams arrive in Veneto. Phil explains that the Villa Pisani is one of the grand villas dotted along the banks of the Rivera del Brenta that flows between Padua and Venice. Finished in 1760, it was modeled after Versailles and bankrupted its owners when completed. It has one of the largest hedge mazes in the world with paths totaling over 4 miles and a distinctive tower in the middle. Phil has shred his Outback jacket and has a brown V-neck sweater that's a little too tight for him. Somehow I feel like squirming when I see that sweater, it wigs me out, I prefer my Phil in loose-fit shirts thank you.
Buffy & Riley are the first to arrive, they must be fast and aggressive drivers to have consistently beaten Faith & Robin on the road. They find out the next task is a Roadblock that, not surprisingly, involves going through the maze. Riley plunges in.
Adam & Oz arrive next and Adam takes the Roadblock. I dunno, his height may be an advantage here. Faith & Robin park their car, Faith takes the Roadblock, that makes three in a row for her. Yes I've been keeping track, it's my job. Also, I want more shots of her running. I'm a pervert, so sue me.
Xander & Anya arrive, looking a tad worse for wear, the drive is exhausting. I have the feeling that because of Xander's eye, Anya does more of the driving. Xander lets his wife rest and goes into the maze. He decides to try the "keep turning left" rule and promptly find a dead end. Uh-oh, not so smart my Pirate.
Willow & Tara. Following a pattern that the person who doesn't drive to the Villa takes the Roadblock, it's Tara who will go a-mazing [*groan*, watty, can't you come up with anything better?].
Rupert & Randy, Rupert takes the Roadblock with a satisfied smile. He interviews that he is a big fan of puzzles and mazes, recognized the name of the Villa and speculated that it's a task. Randy slides over to Buffy and tries to speak to her, but she's too tense to give him more than a cursory glance. I want her kick his ass up where the sun don't shine. Piss off, Randy.
Somewhere many many miles away, a mechanic tows the helpless AAbot car and with broken English and an assortment of hand gestures, tells them that the fuel tank needs to be drained. The color drains from their face. The extent of their screw up hits them full in the face.
Back at the Roadblock Adam takes one last turn and finds himself at the center. He smiles a small smile of self-congratulation, runs up the stairs on the outside of the tower and gets the clue.
Faith comes through and she yells at Robin that she's found the tower. He high fives himself and beams at how wonderful his girlfriend is. Hot too, I know. Damn it.
The shadows are very short when Snyder & Flutie drive up. Smartass Snyder decides he's the one to do the task. I groan as I realize he's staying on my screen. Copious amount of beeping as we follow him to one dead-end after another.
Riley finds the tower, he three-steps up, grabs the clue and is down in a fraction of a second. I can tell he is enjoying the race, I'm happy for him. Like I said, he and Buffy could have come into the race all stuck up and riding on their fame. I was all prepared to hate them, and though I'm up to meh now, I think if I have to pick the last 6 teams, they'll be in.
TallShort read the clue, they are to drive 22 miles to Venice, park their car at the Tronchetto carpark and find the church of Santa Maria del Giglio where they will get their next clue.
In other news, Sheila starts on the maze just as Rupert finds the tower. Man, the Professor manages to leapfrog a couple of spots. He's impressive, that man.
Xander and Tara meet somewhere in the maze and team together. They find the tower soon after, a sign that their co-operation is working. They run back out to their partners.
Sheila gets the clue. Snyder lets loose a whoop! as he finds the tower. How despicably little I care.
April & Andrew finally arrive. Andrew does the Roadblock, perhaps to atone for his mistake. I have a feeling it's too little too late.
TallShort, Goldies and Team Efficiency park their cars at the Venice carpark and try to figure out how to get into the city. They get onto the bus, which, it being Venice, is a boat rather than a vehicle on wheels.
The tentative alliance of Pirates and Lovebirds arrive, park and head for the bus stop. What do they do next? They go to the counter and ask directions to the church, another sign of good racing skills. No prizes for guessing whose idea that is. My adoration for them cements another block.
They learn that they can take the No. 82 waterbus, but the stop serves buses going both sides and they need to check the sign on the boat.
Music of impending doom greets us as we cut to the earlier boat. Why oh why do I know this was going to happen? It's almost clichéd, that someone'd rush onto the first bus along and it's the wrong one. Robin and Riley puzzle over the route map and they show the others. They look annoyed.
R.Randy arrive at the car park and line up for their bus.
Pirates and Lovebirds waterbus. Xander interviews that they're on the way to Santa Maria del Gigolo [sic], and that he and Anya and Willow and Tara have decided to work together on this part of the leg. It's Giglio, Xander, please don't confuse a saint with a male prostitute.
They disembark at a busy square, spy the routemarker and run straight into the church in search of the clue. Ah, in a small twist, the cluebox is actually outside the church so we see them walking briskly (cos, we never run inside churches, remember children), peering down pews, looking everywhere, but not finding a clue. Anya opens the door of a confession chamber and comes face to face to a rather irate priest. "Bless me father for I have sinned. I'm looking for a clue," she actually has the temerity to say. She's incorrigible, that one, she's going straight to hell.
R.Randy's waterbus arrives, they help a woman with a child and bags get on. How chivalrous.
The accidental tourists get off their wrong waterbus and wait impatiently for the right one. "We've just lost our lead," Buffy sulks. "It's only 4 stops, don't think we lost too much time," Riley comforts her. Suck you lips back in, Golden Girl, it looks very unpretty. Continue like that and the lucrative modeling contract will disappear, you'll have to resort to hawking unfashionable cosmetics like Maybelline.
Meanwhile the Principals drive up at the carpark. The Moms are almost there too. The Principals get on the bus to see the accidental tourists. Disbelief all around. Snyder mutters "Go, go, go" to no one in particular. The Moms park. Snyder stamps his little foot impatiently for the waterbus to leave, but it's waiting for some crates to be loaded. The Moms park, see the waterbus and run. Snyder looks like he will murder the driver any minute soon. The Moms squeeze on and exchange hugs with the Goldies and Team Efficiency. The Principals ignore everyone else.
Back at the church the Pirate and his cohorts discover the cluebox is nowhere inside the church. "May be it's outside?" speculates Tara. Ding! goes the lightbulb and they troop outside and find the clue almost straightaway.
It's a Detour. Teams have to choose between Barca or Bauta. In Barca, teams have to go to a nearby camera shop, pick up a digital camera and take photos of themselves on 3 forms of popular Venetian transportation – a gondola, a vaporetto and a traghetto. In Bauta, they go to the same camera shop, equip themselves with a camera, and take photos of themselves in a full bauta outfit. When they finish, they have to return to the camera shop and make printed copies of the digital photos to get the next clue.
They are not told what any of these terms stand for, and I continue to be vaguely impressed with the Amazing Producers for not spoon-feeding the tasks. Phil tells me what these are though, yay! A gondola is of course the mode de choice for romantics, a vaporetto is the waterbus the teams just came from, and a traghetto is an old gondola that is used to transport people across the canals at set points. A bauta is the outfit of white creepy mask, black robe and trihorn hat that so epitomizes the Venice Carnevale, they can rent one at most mask shops. The boats are better known, but teams have to run around to get 3 photos. They may need to ask about the bauta, but once they figure out what it is, renting one for a photo is easy as mask shops are found at almost every street corner.
The alliance choose the familiar and go for Barca. "The square we got off the waterbus is full of different means of boat transport. We know for certain what vaporetto and gondola are, and we think we know what a traghetto is, we saw a small sign over at the side," Willow explains.
Meanwhile R.Randy, who are out on their own, arrive at the church and spot the cluebox. They go for Barca also.
The mini-bunch arrive on the waterbus (or should I call it a vaporetto now that I know what it's called) and search for the clue. All go for the Barca. That makes it 8 for 8 for the boats. Somewhere, a mask shop owner weeps tears of rejection.
I love the way a traghetto operates. These black gondolas ferry people between the banks of the canal for a small fee, and it's standing room only. Looks kinda rickety and unstable to be standing, but that's just me.
The Pirates/Lovebirds alliance finish their Detour and head back to the camera shop.
The mini-bunch sends Buffy as the rep to ask a vaporetto conductor about the traghetto, and she gets the answer. They all run off to the pick up point. Needless to say, they jostle cos the old gondola is only that big and can take 6 or so people per crossing. The fitter teams get on first, meaning Team Efficiency, Goldies and TallShort finish first. Adam and Riley on that traghetto gave me a bit of a heart attack, I was so afraid they'd fall into the canal.
The Principals and Moms draw the short straw and have to wait, barely fuming, at the side. R.Randy arrive.
Eyepatch and his cohorts print their photos at the 2 terminals at the shop and receive their next clue, which tells them to return to their cars and drive 230 miles to Bellinzona, Switzerland. Once there they are to find the Castello di Montebello, the Pitstop for this leg of the race. I cannot believe it, it's more driving. Do they get car miles the same way they get airmiles?
They get back to the carpark without much problem and drive off happily. "We think we're at the front, or near the front. Hopefully we can keep our position," Willow smiles. I hate clips like this, it gives me wiggy feelings that the Editors are trying to tell me something. My heartstrings are so easily pulled.
Teams Efficiency, Goldies and Tallshort head for the camera shop. Only 2 terminals, and Goldies draw the short straw this time. It takes around 10 minutes for the photos to print, soon the shop is full of obnoxious American racers, taking up space but not purchasing anything. I hope CBS paid an appreciation fee, for loss of business during that time.
Just as the Goldies get their clue, the Moms walk in through the door, followed by R.Randy. The Principals seem to be having a spot of trouble finding the shop.
In an absolutely fantastic bit of camera work, we have a shot of the Efficientmobile leaving the carpark just as the AAbot car arrive. Oh shit, I've totally forgotten about those two, at the back of my mind I've written them off.
April & Andrew park their car. April & Andrew get on the vaporetto. April & Andrew get their clue at the church. April & Andrew go for the Bauta Detour! "I know what a bauta outfit is, I've seen people wear it at Horror Cons, it's a mask, bat cape and executioner's hat, it should be easily found in a costume or mask shop," he says as they run off. That's one thing the boy's done right today.
Phil at a medieval castle that is…kinda bare. When I think about castles, I think about Windsor, Neuschwanstein, Beauty & the Beast, the grand ones with intact structures and some still in use. Why am I surprised there are castles in the world that have fallen into ruin? I didn't fail history at school, honest, miss. So that's what the Castello di Montebello is like, I have to use my imagination to "see" where the grand rooms are, cos ultimately all I have to work with are some walls and parts of a roof.
There are three UNESCO listed castles in Bellinzona, Phil is at the largest, our Pitstop, and he points out the other two to us, remarking that they are all perched at strategic points on the hillsides surrounding the town.
To reach Bellinzona, teams have to drive through Italy into Switzerland.
Now is time for a little social economics and geography lesson. Switzerland, despite being right smack in the middle of Continental Europe, isn't part of the European Union. It doesn't use the Euro and is staunchly neutral, the last war it fought was over 600 years ago. Centuries of peace means one thing, that a nation's riches have not been diverted to war efforts, freeing up the good Swiss people to concentrate on making watches and of course, making money. Having the most beautiful scenery on Earth is also fairly conducive for its tourism industry.
Going back to the not being in the European Union business, crossing into Switzerland isn't like driving from France to Italy, where the border is just this little sign at the side of the road that says "Welcome to Italy" in 4 languages. The border crossing into Switzerland is really a border, with immigration checks and customs.
Why am I telling you this? Because that's where our racers are at. The first few teams are waved through by the friendly looking Swiss officials, but then they start noticing our intrepid teams. First Team Efficiency have to stop at the side and have their passports examined. Then the Goldies, of all people, are stopped and questioned.
The official asks Buffy & Riley the obvious question, "So, you're Americans?" Riley is like, dude, do you ever watch TV? Like, my girlfriend and I are famous gold medal winners at the Olympics, we're in a hurry and don't want to talk to you. He should have just say yes, and lose the attitude. The official asks where they come from and where they are going.
Now if Rob & Amber were on this race, I'd bet $1 that Rob has spun some sort of tale and asked the border officials to detain and delay teams behind him. No, not bribe, cos Swiss Immigration Officials are not South American bus drivers, attempts to bribe them will have fairly dire consequences. But thankfully (or not, as the case may be), Boston Rob and his pretty bride are not here, so I guess the official is putting the Goldies through the wringer cos, well, cos he can. May be there's a Q&A quota, that so many questions have to be asked per day, and that guy is running low. May be it's the time honored border official mantra, pick an unsuspecting tourist at random and treat them like they're drug smugglers.
Anyway, Riley just wants to get going and tells the uniformed guy they're on a race and they really have to go now. The official is so impressed that…he tells Riley to pop the trunk. He really is unfazed, this Swiss guy. Riley is getting furious, "you can't treat us like this, we're Americans," he protests.
"Then you should understand the need to check people going through our borders carefully. In America, the entry formalities are even more strict," the official explains. "In Switzerland we don't fingerprint people for no good reason." You know what? Guy has a point. Why does our government insist on always over-reacting? Most people who come into the US just want to get on with their business, visit family, attend meetings, go sightseeing, whatever. The way they are treated, like they are all potential terrorists, smacks of small-mindedness and ignorance.
Okay, I'm stepping off my soapbox now.
It's been a long day, very early start and an intense amount of driving. Xander & Anya arrive at Bellinzona, park their car at the castle and land on the Amazing Bathmat, totally exhausted. They're team number one but they have just about enough energy to give each other a weak hug. Anya says that she's never done so much driving in her life and doesn't want to repeat it soon, she looks completely clapped out. I'm happy for them, they haven't yelled at each other all day, and Anya's stepped up and taken up more of the responsibility, and for that she has my respect.
I expect the Lovebirds to be arriving any minute, but all the minor forshadowing is coming back to kick me in the ass. Tara, who is in the car furiously trying to map-read, tells us that they took a wrong turn in Italy and entered Switzerland via a different route, ending up on a smaller and more windy road, with no cut-throughs to the main highway. They're just going to have to follow the road to the next junction. Shit, shit, shit.
April & Andrew drive into Switzerland. They're waved through, no delays.
Adam & Oz arrive at the Pitstop, looking a little fresher than the Pirates, but not that much better. They're team number two.
Faith & Robin park and manage to run around the car park in the wrong direction, before Faith shouts and they get back on track. Welcome, team number three. Phil asks them if it's been tiring, man he is the master of understatement today isn't he. Robin smiles thinly and says it's been very demanding, mentally and physically.
Buffy & Riley are team number four. Looks like the border guard let them through at the end. Rupert & Randy and Joyce & Sheila arrive one after the other, they're teams numbers five and six respectively. They collapse in a heap at the Amazing Bathmat, to the amusement, and slight concern, of Phil.
Where are Willow & Tara? I'm beside myself with anxiety.
Snyder & Flutie arrive, team number seven. They say something, but I simply can't listen, all I can hear are my teeth grinding.
It's getting dark, the Lovebirds find a roadsign that says Bellinzona, and a picture sign that indicates a castle. Whoopee! They drive up a steep winding hill and arrive at a deserted car park of an medieval castle. No Phil, no routemarker, nothing. They get out of their car to look for an information board.
AAbot car turns off the exit into Bellinzona. This is going to be close.
"Honey I think we have the wrong castle," an anxious looking Tara says to an equally anxious looking Willow. They whip out their map and realize they have indeed gone to the wrong castle.
"Let's hope for the best anyway," Willow tries to smile but she looks close to cracking. Tara leans in and gives her a small encouraging kiss, they take comfort in each other. And I want to kiss and punch Jerry Bruckheimer at the same time, cos I've been clamoring for Lovebird smoochies and he's given me the perfect one at the perfect time, no big buildup, no gratuitous publicity. Just two people who have the utmost respect and love for each other trying to get through a tense situation. And for that I'm grateful. But why does it feel like it's the last chance?
A car arrives at the Castello di Montebello carpark.
Drunken careening cameramen running up to Phil and the bathmat. Who is it? Who? Who? Who?
Oh my god. It's April & Andrew. This means…OH NO!
Willow & Tara run up to Phil hand in hand, fully prepared for the consequences.
Phil goes "you're the last team to arrive and I'm…" he pauses. Willow & Tara have cute little frowns on them. And it's Non-elim! I let out the breath I don't know I'm holding. It takes them a second to realize that too and they finally let the tension out. Phil tells them that they're still in the race but of course have to suffer the penalties.
"I've never been so happy to hand over all my money before," says a grinning Willow.
"We won't get any money to start next round, but we'll figure out what to do. We've grown so close since we started the race, we're not going to let that bother us," Tara agrees.
It's my job to recap the episodes, but nowhere in my contract does it state that I have to be impartial. I can't stand Snyder & Flutie. Buffy & Riley started to get into my good books but Riley's antics at the border was so typical of an ugly American it puts me to shame. I have a grudging admiration for Faith & Robin, if they win I'll have no complaints. I applaud Joyce, Sheila and Rupert for coming so far. But I'll make myself clear, in case it isn't already, my favorite team this Race is Willow & Tara, apart from off-the-scale cuteness, they're smart and show a lot of respect for people around them. A couple of unfortunate navigational errors almost cost them, I hope that they will learn from it, cos I, for one, want to see them in the final run-in to the finish line. And I'm not ashamed to say this.
Teaser for Episode 5
Driving through an extremely dark tunnel. "Watch out for that truck! You're too close to the line!" screams Rupert.
Teams argue about who is the best James Bond.
"This is stuff that dreams are made of," Andrew says with a grin as wide as the hellmouth.
"I can't see my fingers," says Robin.
The Moms break down. "It's too much," they plead.
Useful links & information
As soon as the director shouted "cut!" Tara collapsed into Willow's arms and sobbed uncontrollably.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she blubbered.
"Hey, honey" Willow said, as she lifted Tara's chin. "Why the sorries?"
"I got us lost and nearly out of the Race," Tara whimpered.
"Of course not, we're in this Race as a team, so whatever we do, we do together. No blaming anyone, is that clear?" Willow soothed her girlfriend. "Which of course means if I do something wrong, you're not allowed to blame me."
Tara managed to smile at Willow's attempts to cheer her up. It was working.
Phil Keogan came over to them. "Are you alright?" he asked with genuine concern.
Tara managed to wipe a tear off her face. "We will be, thanks Phil."
"You must have seen your fair share of weepiness by now," said Willow.
"It doesn't take the impact away. I've been doing this season after season, but for the contestants, it's the chance of a lifetime and it's understandable if they get emotional. I'm glad you're still in the race, take care and I'll see you at dinner?" said Phil as his assistant came to usher him off.
The crew's work didn't end after the cameras stopped rolling. Moving the entire production to hotels, loading the equipment to storage trucks and liaising with local officials required degrees in logistics, hospitality and communication.
Teams were put up at a local farm that also offered B&B facilities, they were thrilled to be sleeping in converted barns and stables. "To sample the local life," as Sheila described it.
After settling into their quarters, they met the line producers for the customary interviews followed by the debrief with all teams present.
"Hope everyone is not too tired. I know it's been a long day, you did very well with drive across 3 countries," said Elise, the senior executive producer who ran the show while it was on the road. "As you gathered, it was an non-elimination round so we have 9 teams intact. I'm going to turn over to Ashley to go over the Pitstop logistics. I'll see you all at dinner."
Ashley was the staff member the racers were closest to, she was the one they went to with any problems and she stayed with them during the Pitstop. As usual, she started with the arrival times, signing each team's time card that served as proof of their progress in the race. She also confirmed there were no time penalties this leg and went through the departure times.
"Now I have some good news and some better news. This is going to be a 36 hour pitstop, we're leaving the day after tomorrow. The even better news is, you'll be able to go out into town, they don't get TAR here so a decision was made to allow you to venture out. There are some conditions: 1) you are not allowed to talk about the Race, that's a given under any circumstances anyway; 2) you can't bring any race equipment with you; 3) you should consider yourselves in the same situation as a pitstop, ie no contacting friends and family; and finally 4) you will be chaperoned. Any questions?" she said, to rapturous cheers from the teams.
"Do we have to stay around Bellinzona or can we go a bit further?" asked Rupert.
"Within reason, you can go anywhere you want, when in doubt, check with your chaperone," she answered.
"Can we borrow the cars we came in?" asked Adam.
"No, they're being returned. You'll have to rely on public transport," Ashley said.
"What about money?" asked Anya.
"Good point, Anya. Each team will be given a per diem of 20 francs, if you have any left over, you can keep it," Ashley explained. "Any more? Okay, dinner will be served in the main hall in 30 minutes, I think you deserve a good meal."
Teams dispersed back to their rooms or to walk around the farm. Willow & Tara came up to Ashley.
"We have a question we didn't want to pose in front of the others. We have to get money for the next leg, can we do that during the Pitstop?" asked Tara.
"I don't see why not, as long as you don't tell people what it's for. The normal rules apply," Ashley answered. "What are you going to do?"
"Probably the usual groveling," said Willow.
"Tell you what. I'm going to approve this, provided a cameraman and a soundman come with you, okay?" Ashley offered.
Willow and Tara exchanged a quick look.
"Sure," they said in unison.
"What happened?" Anya asked when they joined each other at dinner. "One minute you're in my rearview mirror, the next minute you're gone."
"We got off the wrong turning, ended up on the wrong side of the Alps," Tara explained.
"We were so happy to find Bellinzona we went straight to the first castle we could see, and it was the wrong one," Willow added.
"That's not like you," Xander interjected.
"Yeah well, it's been a long day," Willow replied.
"I can't believe they made us drive all day," Anya agreed.
They were interrupted by the arrival of the food. Trays of salad, pasta, sausages, roast chicken, fries, breadrolls and fresh fruit greeted the famished racers and they attacked everything like they had not eaten for a whole day. Which in most cases were true.
At the buffet table Flutie was asking the chef where they get their sausage meat from.
"This sausage is very good, I want to try making some of this at my farm. What is it called, do you have the recipe?" he asked.
The chef shrugged his shoulders. "It's bratwurst and we get it from the suppliers," he said.
"It's pork isn't it?" Flutie followed on.
"It's veal," said the chef.
"Oh. That's no good then, veal import into the US is strictly controlled," Flutie said, disappointed.
Xander, Anya, Willow and Tara were joined by Faith and Robin. "Look, I think Randy is heading for a lot of trouble," Faith remarked.
"What does he think he's doing?" Xander wondered out loud.
"He's not being subtle about it, is he?" Willow added.
"That guy's got as much subtlety as a bull in a china shop," Anya chimed in.
"I think someone better steps in before – uh oh, too late," Robin said as he jumped up to stop the fight rapidly developing between Randy and Riley. Riley got first punch in, which landed Randy on the floor. With a snarl Randy sprung back up on his feet again immediately. Both men were swearing profanities at each other at that point.
Robin managed to get to Randy while Adam put a restraining hold on Riley. Rupert stepped in and forcefully dragged his son away.
"You better watch out, I'm onto you now, you son of a bitch," Riley shouted at the retreating Randy.
They were at the bus-stop early next morning.
"Are you girls going into town?" Sheila asked.
"Oh yes, we need to find some money for the next leg. Luckily we're in a touristy area," Tara answered.
"Here, take this, to help you out," Joyce handed over $10 to Tara.
Tara smiled the sweetest smile Joyce had ever seen. "Thanks, Joyce. We really appreciate this, you didn't have to."
Willow crossed the road and greeted her girlfriend with a peck on the cheek. She gave Joyce and Sheila a hug when Tara told her about the gift.
They parted ways when they got into town.
"We have the $10 the Moms gave us, plus the $10 from Anya and Xander. How much do you think we need?" asked Willow.
"I dunno. We may be staying in Switzerland so it'll be expensive if we need to get taxis and trains. At least $100, may be more," Tara replied.
"Oh boy, this is going to be humiliating," Willow sighed.
"We're in this together, Sweetie, we'll always have each other," Tara smiled and gave Willow a long, hard kiss. They had since the cherry orchard gotten used to showing their feelings freely in front of the crew.
They hadn't talked about the "always" yet. But it was becoming increasingly clear that this was the relationship they were both waiting for all their lives and they weren't going to let it go easily.
After an hour of pleading and begging they had about CHF 30, mostly in spare change. They decided to take a break and headed towards the town square.
"Water?" Willow offered.
"Thanks," Tara distractedly took the water bottle they filled up at the Pitstop, she was looking at a group of teenagers with a pensive expression.
"What?" asked Willow.
"Look," Tara nodded at the group she was observing. "They're setting up some easels. Come on, I want to talk to them."
A few minutes later Tara had negotiated the use of a sketch pad and some pieces of charcoal. It took her a few minutes to outline a portrait of one of the teenagers, who couldn't take his eyes off it.
"Wow," Willow said. "You know, honey, you can-"
"Yes I know," Tara smiled knowingly. Turning to the boy whose portrait she had just drawn, "This is for you, what's your name?"
"Claude," he replied.
"Well Claude, can I buy this sketch pad and a few pieces of chalk from you?" asked Tara.
"No, no, it's okay. It's un regalo, um, gift," Claude smiled. The other children crowded around too and Tara ended up sketching portraits of all of them.
By that time she had attracted attention from passers-by and tourists. She was kept busy all morning doing sketches while Willow, with Claude's help, managed to find a shop to buy some refreshments for everyone waiting in line.
Tara didn't charge a fixed price for the portraits, when people asked she would say as much or as little as they thought it was worth. They called it a day just after lunchtime and retired to a small pizzeria where they treated themselves to a vegetarian pizza and large glasses of soda.
"You were great, I'm so proud of you," Willow beamed.
"You know how much I love drawing, it was enjoyable. How much did we make?" Tara smiled back.
"CHF 200 and change, I almost fainted when that couple gave us a 50 franc note," Willow said excitedly.
"You think we have enough?"
"I think so, are you tired?"
"Let's take it easy, do a little sightseeing, get our dinner and have an early night."
"I'm so proud of you today, I just want to tell you again."
Tara's heart felt like it would burst, she looked at the redhead by her side, her redhead, with the most sincere and loving expression on her face, and every uncertainty, every frustration, simply melted away.
"Let's go back now. I need to hold you, feel you around me, all of you. Right now," she said thickly. They had been waiting, taking things slow. But it was time to take the next step.
Willow nodded, paid the waitress and they headed back to the farm.
They sat facing each other on the bed. Outside were the sounds of a working farm – cowbells ringing, horses trotting in the distance, a tractor hauling hay bales. Inside their room, none of it mattered. They knew in about 12 hours' time they would be back in the race. But right now, none of it mattered.
Tara reached out with her left hand and gently stroked the side of Willow's cheek, feeling her love sigh and lean into the caress. With her other hand, she traced a path along Willow's neck and the first button on her shirt. Her left hand joined her right and she slowly undid the buttons, one by one, she wasn't about to rush things, the slowness of her actions a sign of her desire to prolong the pleasure.
Just looking at Willow was pleasure enough.
Every button she eased off opened up an expanse of skin that, every time she saw it, always felt like the first time.
Willow sat very still, barely breathing, her eyes wide with the wonderment that was Tara. Her heart singing her love and devotion to the woman in front of her. A woman who she found, and was never letting go.
When all her buttons were undone, and while Tara was gently sliding her warm hands inside to undo her bra, she tugged at the bottom of Tara's T-shirt and softly rolled it up until it bunched at Tara's neck, then her hands found their way to Tara's back and mimicked her love's action there.
She shrugged her shirt and bra off and helped Tara out of her clothes.
Pants were removed with equal reverence and celebration. But they kept the last small piece of clothing on, today was a day for simple pleasures.
Looking at each other was pleasure enough.
They were lying face to face now, arms and legs in an unorderly but comforting embrace.
Light, feathery brushes that caused goose pimples to spring up and breaths to shorten.
Tiny kisses that grew more intense. Lips and tongues and teeth smashed together.
Bodies in contact, the shared warmth a conduit for a closeness they thought they felt before, but was becoming fully manifested.
It was just them, tonight.
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