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Last week, ten teams plowed their way through Argentina. Army vet Dave and his wife Rachel forged a friendship with Border Patrol agents Art and J.J., and worked to their mutual benefit on the Roadblock. Dave and Rachel finished in first for the second straight leg, while Big Brother alums Brendon and Rachel faltered a bit. After having some automotive trouble, it was married clowns Dave and Cherie that were eliminated. Nine teams remain.
Starting Line - The El Gomero rubber tree that served as the Finish Line in Leg Two. Clue #1 directed all teams to buy plane tickets to Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay; they would then take a taxi to an equipment and supply store called the Metalúrgica Punta de Rieles, where they would find their next clue.
The earliest flight to Asuncion was just before 9 a.m., and it was mostly full, so all the teams got their names on a stand-by list, but only four teams (Rachel/Dave, Art/J.J., Bopper/Mark, Nary/Jamie) were able to get on it. The next flight didn’t depart until two hours later, and I figured this would automatically make them the top four in this leg, but I was wrong… because one team made a humongous gaffe later in the leg.
Clue # 2 was a Detour, and the choices were Stacked Up and Strung Out. In the former, Teams had to travel to the Mercado Central de Abasato, the largest fruit market in the nation, and construct a 10x10 pyramid of watermelons (385 total); once completed, the fruit monger would give them their next clue. In the latter, teams had to find the auditorium of a local university, where they would have to properly string a harp (which is Paraguay’s national instrument… didn’t know that!); once properly strung, teams would receive their next clue from the conductor.
Not sure which I would choose; probably the harps, because if the pyramid tumbled down, I’d have to start over again. This happened to pretty much every team that opted for the melon-stacking except for Art/J.J. and the Jersey boys.
Clue #3, which was located at Asuncion’s Plaza de la Democracia, was this leg’s Roadblock. In it, one team member had to learn a choreographed dance routine, which they had to perform while balancing a tall, thin-necked bottle – which was still FULL - on their heads. If the bottle fell off and broke, they would have to start over. And then there was the kicker: teams were only allotted a specific number of bottles, and if they ran out before completing the routine, they would incur a two-hour penalty. And with all the teams pretty close to each other, that’s a brutal penalty.
The Pit Stop for Leg Three was the Escalinata de Antequera, an angelic statue that is apparently a “renowned monument” of some Paraguayan import.
Below is the order the contestants finished in, along with some of their more interesting moments.
1. Art and J.J. - The Border Agents were understandably delighted to travel to another Spanish-speaking country (a language in which it is a job requirement to be fluent in), and they continued to stick by Rachel/Dave and no one else, which is a good plan. They weren’t joined at the hip or anything, but that’s pretty much how you want to run the race. They kicked ass at the watermelon-stacking, and Art’s big head was instrumental during the dance routine. They each won a trip to the Bahamas for their victory, which is awesome. They continue to be one of my favorite teams, and I can see them going all the way to the end.
2. Brendon and Rachel - Team Big Brother got second place less because of their skill but more because of other team’s screwups. Okay, to be fair, they were very proficient at the harp-stringing challenge. Damn good, in fact. But there seems to be an ugly rivalry brewing between them and Vanessa/Ralph, and it ain’t going to go away until one team goes bye-bye. Don’t care much which team that is.
3. Joey “Fitness” and Danny - What a comeback for Jersey! Despite being on the second plane, they were the only team besides the Border Agents to start out on the watermelons and actually finish. Making a pyramid is more complex than it looks, apparently. Joey nailed the routine, and God help me, I am hopping on the bandwagon for this team. Go, Jersey!
4. Mark and Bopper - Watching this team try to pronounce the place names on this show is like listening to Larry the Cable Guy order off an all-Italian menu, if you catch my drift. They may not have a clue in regards to foreign cultures, but they are pretty savvy in most other respects, as they demonstrated when they hoodwinked Kerri and Stacy out of their cab. They could go far unless they run into a culture clash they can’t overcome.
5. Nary and Jamie - Not much time spent with this team, though they continue to maintain to the other teams that they are schoolteachers rather than Feds. Whatevs. They finished in the middle of the pack again, and until they make a move, I will remain unimpressed by them.
6. Rachel and Dave - This team has kept a pretty even keel up until this leg, but the wheels came off a little bit. They got frustrated both with the tasks and each other. And then disaster struck: not knowing that they were still at the front of the pack when they switched from the melons to the harps, they elected to use the Express Pass they won on Leg One; then, Dave was the only one of the Roadblock-doers to not be able to complete the routine before they ran out of bottles. They incurred a two-hour penalty, which dropped them from a potential second place all the way to sixth. Hopefully they can recover in the next leg, even with their safety net now gone.
7. Kerri and Stacy - I do like the Mississippi girls, but they need to find their groove or they will be going home soon. Stacy’s frizzy ‘do made balancing the bottle very difficult, but lucky for her she was able to do the routine before they ran out of bottles, or they would surely have been eliminated. It’s a very tough field, to be sure, and I’m not yet convinced they’re tough enough to truly compete.
8. Vanessa and Ralph - I didn’t know much about this team prior to this episode, but now I can safely say I don’t care for them. Vanessa spent a lot of time bad-mouthing (Brendon’s) Rachel, which is just not called for, even if they are jerks. Stooping to someone else’s level says a lot about character, and while the jury is still out on Ralph, Vanessa showed a distinct lack of class. Despite numerous mishaps stacking the melons, they admirably stuck to their guns and finished it. They should have been out - the stars had come out by the time their pyramid was complete - but one team was just a little bit unluckier than they were this leg.
The following team was eliminated:
9. Elliott and Andrew - I expect so much more from this team of alpha males. I mean, a rock star and a soccer star? They were the first team to get to the harp-stringing task, ahead of several other teams that switched over from the watermelons, and Elliott was sure that stringing a harp is not all that different from stringing a guitar. So what went wrong? Well, turns out a harp is MUCH different from a guitar, and finding this out led to a bevy of brotherly bickering.
I’ve never strung a harp before, and I’m sure it’s not easy, but neither is it brain surgery, and there’s no way it should have taken them as many hours to finish the task. They actually beat Vanessa and Ralph to the Plaza, but once again, they proved unequal to the task. What a shame. Just goes to show that you can never assume any team will excel or fail based on appearances alone.
Next week: the teams move on to Italy. Both Rachels get frustrated as hell, but I’ll let you guess on which one breaks down crying like a toddler.