Last week, seven teams traveled from Bangladesh to Turkey. They trekked through some of the largest open marketplaces in the world, delivered bagels, sold soft drinks, and even treated themselves to a genuine Turkish bath. Team Texas, Trey/Lexi, nudged out Abbie & Ryan for their first leg win. Last place came down to Team Capricorn and Team Monster Truck, and Rob/Kelley were eliminated. Six teams remain. BOMP.

Once per season they seem to do this… they have that one episode that they figure is so pivotal, they have to stretch it out over two episodes. I don’t know why it’s necessary… I know they are contracted to show an exact number of episodes, but instead of doing a two-episode leg, why not just add one additional non-elimination leg, throw in a twist where they bring an eliminated team back, or heck, just add an additional team to the cast at the start of the season? Just sayin’.

Anyway, because only half of the teams checked in at the end of this leg, and the fate of the other half were left up in the air, I’ll do this week’s recap in a more linear format than usual. Hope that’s okay.

Starting Line - The luxury yacht Saravona in Istanbul. Teams’ first clue told them to fly to Moscow, Russia, and locate the Zurab Tsereteli Sculpture Park. Tsereteli, who was born in the Republic of Georgia, is a world-renowned painter, architect and, of course, sculptor, who is currently the President of the Russian Academy of Arts. (Who says recaps can’t be educational?)

There’s also always at least one instance per season where one particular airport decision becomes critical, especially on a lengthy flight. The object is always to arrive at your destination as early as possible, but when there are connecting flights to consider, it can really complicate matters. Do you take the earlier flight and risk missing your connection, or do you take the surer bet and risk arriving hours after the other teams?

Case in point, Teams Rockstar and Magic Mike flew to Moscow through Amsterdam; Teams Texas and the twins connected through Munich; however, Abbie/Ryan and Team Capricorn chose to connect through Frankfurt, which proved costly. Their flight was delayed before takeoff, which meant there was no way they could make their connection. This left them stuck in Germany with no way out until morning. They ended up connecting through Warsaw, which put them a full six hours behind the leading teams.

The clue the teams found in the sculpture park directed them to Moskvoretsky Most, where two guards in full Cossack dress would give them their next clue. Team Rockstar was the first to find them, and it was this leg’s Roadblock, and the choices were Synchronized and Alphabetized. In the former, teams had to team up with Russia’s gold-medal-winning synchronized swimming team, and learn and execute a choreographed routine. In the latter, teams had to go to a huge library (housing over 24 million books), and locate four books by using an immense card-catalog, with all of the information written in Cyrillic, and from there locate the books themselves. Hmm… swimming with babes in bathing suits or combing through dusty card catalogs… which one to choose…

After the Detour came the Roadblock , which was located at the Luzhkov Most, near the manmade “Trees of Love”. These “trees” were a basic tree structure festooned with decorative padlocks, which were hung on the trees to symbolize the love of those who placed them there. Awww. Anyway, hanging on several of these trees is a long ribbon of red and gold (the official TAR colors), and, after using a huge set of keys to unlock the ribbon, would find a bill of local currency within it.
The bill in question had a very prominent building on it, and it was none other than the Bolshoi Theater, home to arguably the most famous and renowned ballet company in all of Asia. This was the Pit Stop for Leg Seven.

Below is the order the contestants finished in, along with some of their more interesting moments.

#1. Trey and Lexi - Team Texas got back on my good side by ditching the Twins, who seemed content to be hangers-on. They were the only team to choose – and complete – the library task – and because of this, they won their second leg in a row, and with it a trip for two to Maui, Hawaii. I still like them, but they need to disassociate themselves with the twins, because the road to Hell seems to be alongside Natalie and Nadiya.

#2. Jaymes and James - FINALLY, team Magic Mike had a leg where they fired on all cylinders. They got on a good flight, saw a tough swimming routine through to its conclusion, and just plowed through the Roadblock. Picture them in swim trunks, floral swimming caps and their trademark Chippendale bowtie-callers, and you can’t help but smile. They are the only team left that has not only not pissed me off but seems to have the stamina to win. They are kind, supportive, friendly and fun-loving, and they are peaking at the right time. I am now rooting for them to take this whole thing.

#3. Natalie and Nadiya - Karma came back around on the thieving twins when, to their amazement, every car they tried to flag down in Moscow just kept on driving. During the swimming challenge, they actually upbraided the instructor for not talking to them in English. I mean, the nerve. They contemplated giving up and using their Express Pass, but Team Magic Mike talked them out of it, bringing up the salient point that there are two teams way behind them.

As the episode ended, the following teams had not finished:

James and Abba - Not a good leg for Team Rockstar. Because of Abba’s leg injury, they opted for the library challenge, but were unequal to the task of deciphering the Russian alphabet, so they switched to the swimming task, with which they were equally unsuited. I don’t know how many hours they lost, but it was significant. And then things got much, much worse: they arrived at the Roadblock thinking they would do it and get back in their cab, so they left their money and passports in the back… and the driver promptly drove off. Wow. I mean, in the last leg they left their money on a counter, and the twins stole it, but this, they only have themselves to blame. I don’t know if they can recover from this.

Abbie and Ryan; Josh and Brent - There’s got to be no worse feeling then when you are stuck in an airport knowing that you are so far behind everyone else that you realize that catching up is going to be nearly impossible. The good news is, there are two teams and you know you can’t both be eliminated. But the four racers did something I didn’t expect, and that was to do the rest of the leg side-by-side. Eventually, there has to be a footrace to the mat to avoid elimination, but that will be in next week’s episode, I’m sure. I am fully expecting that this will be yet another non-elimination leg, and there will be yet another huge equalizer that will allow Abbie/Ryan and Team Capricorn to catch up. We’ll see.

Next week: More Russia. Someone will probably be eliminated, but if Team Rockstar can’t find a needle in a haystack, how the rest of the teams do will be a moot point.

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