So far this season, it’s been nice that there has been very little trollish or toolish behavior. Nothing kills my good mood faster than some disgruntled alpha male berating his sobbing girlfriend about her inability to read maps, perform challenges, or what have you. Seriously, you’d think by now they’d have noticed that a camera guy follows them everywhere they go! Who wants to look like a douchebag on prime-time? But anyway, apart from a few outbursts from Chad and Nick, it’s been relatively peaceful. Hope it continues.

The last two legs have involved a lot of running about under the hot African sun, and it had a deleterious effect on Michael (the elder half of father/son seam Michael/Kevin), and as a result, they came in last. Happily, they picked the right leg to be last in, and though a Speed Bump lies in wait for them – and only them – they remain hopeful. A change of scenery is also imminent, since TAR never spends three legs in the same country. But before we go, we see the nine remaining teams returning to the school that was a part of their last challenge, giving the place a fresh coat of paint and doing some general clean-up. Which, as I said last week, is really nice.

However, there is a still a race to run, and Team Glee is first off the mat at 10:15 am. Their first clue tells them then need to break out their winter woolies, because they are on their way to Kiruna, Sweden. From there, they’ll drive to the town of Jukkasjärvi and find their famous Icehotel. There are only a limited number of flights out of Ghana, so they’ve all been given tickets on the same flight in advance. Team Glee reaffirms their commitment to the race, telling us that they forewent their college graduation ceremony to do it. Hope their moms are okay with that.

Kevin, not satisfied with being handed the same itinerary as everyone else, makes the smart move of finding out that there is an earlier connecting flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Kiruna. Which brings me to TARC #8: Be industrious. Sometimes when you are told that there’s only one flight, it’s the truth. But it never hurts to ask, and to keep on asking. Spaces on flights open up at the last minute all the time, and if you’re wily about it, you could knock a few hours off your travel time. Kevin relays this info to only Gary/Mallory, with whom they’ve bonded, being their only two parent/child teams left. However, this does not go unnoticed for long, as Nat/Kat make the same arrangements, and so do Brook/Claire. Chad/Stephanie and Team Glee try to do the same, but the flight is now full. Bummer. And though it required a brisk jog through Frankfurt airport, all four teams make the earlier flight. This is going to prove to be a very significant advantage on this leg.

Sweden. Brook/Claire are the first to arrive at the Icehotel, whose frozen contents are kept in storage during the warmer months. Their next clue – awesomely written in Swedish on blocks of ice – tells them to make their way to Fjellborg’s Lodge in the town of Poikkijärvi. Nat/Kat and Gary/Mallory follow suit, and Michael/Kevin are now presented with their Speed Bump: namely, to sit on chairs made of ice for ten minutes without standing up. And though it’s slightly uncomfortable, they manage to do it without much difficulty. Good for them.

And even better: though they leave the Icehotel in fourth, they are the first to find the Lodge. The next clue is a Road Block, which tells them that one team member must choose a sled dog team, hitch them to a training sled, and run a sled course whilst collecting five flags along the way. They then trade the flags for pelts and return to where they started, and they can pick up their next clue. Michael, looking much more chipper than last week, volunteers to do it. Kat, Mallory and Claire follow hot on Michael’s heels. Meanwhile, the second flight from Frankfurt lands in Kiruna.

Michael is the first to finish the sledding, and their next clue tells them to drive to the town of Riksgränsen and find the Vassijaure Train Station. (If you can pronounce the place names, you’re way ahead of me.) He and Kevin leave, and so do the other three teams. The five other teams, having already visited the Icehotel, arrive one quit edit later and start their sledding. No way of knowing just how far back they are at the moment. Connor, Nick, Katie and Stephanie mount up and head off, but Jill/Thomas seem to have taken the wrong foot path into the woods. Uh-oh.

After commercial, Jill/Thomas finally find the Lodge, and Jill sets off in last place. Up in front, Michael/Kevin have found Vassijaure, and the next clue they open is a Detour. Their choice: Sleds or Beds. In Sleds, the teams have to run down a mountain on something called a TechSled, but they both have to finish in less than 1:58 or they’ll be forced to repeat it until they do. In Beds, the teams have to build a traditional Sami (Lapp) dwelling called a goahti, and furnish the inside with furs and a fire pit. Michael/Kevein opt for Beds, while Nat/Kat choose Sleds. Meanwhile, all the back teams finishing their dog sledding, and Jill/Thomas, now firmly in last place, contemplate using the Express Pass they won in the first leg. Gary/Mallory and Brook/Claire also choose Sleds.

Neither option, it would seem, is that easy. The goahti is a big, ramshackle tepee-shaped deal, and Michael/Kevin’s attempts to build one incur a few giggles from the locals. At Sleds, Kat wipes out on her first attempt and has to be helped back up. Gary/Mallory look like they have it, but Gary finishes in exactly 1:58, which is one second too slow. Oh, man, that’s gotta suck. Nat/Kat rock it on their second try, and the next clue tells them to make a run for the border… in this case, the border between Sweden and Norway. They head off, and Gary/Mallory and Brook/Claire are right behind them.

Nat/Kat find the border marker, locate Phil and hit the mat in first place. Eighth to first in one leg, that’s a heck of a turnaround! And I’m so jealous, because they’ve both won a trip to Belize. Sweet. The five remaining teams arrive at the train station, and they all choose Sleds. And finally, Michael/Kevin finish their goahti and receive their final clue. Gary/Mallory finish second, with Brook/Claire mere seconds behind them.

So that leaves five teams left, and all are doing the same task. Team Glee’s attempts to sled are comical at best, only missing the silly sound effects. Stephanie is also unsuccessful, being petrified of high speeds, which elicits a chorus of yells from Chad. Damn, I figured it was too good to last. Jill/Thomas, not liking their options, elect to use their Express Pass, which means they can skip the task and head for the Pit Stop. Excellent timing, guys, you don’t want to be eliminated with that in your back pocket.

Stephanie’s breakdown has reached the teary part, and Chad just throws up his hands in frustration as they head for the Beds option. Meanwhile, Jonathan’s luck on the sled course is not improving, as we watch him wipe out several times. Nick/Vicki, on the other hand, being avid motorcyclists, have no problems at all. Katie/Rachel have difficulties of their own, and they decide to switch to Beds. Team Glee do the same. Michael/Kevin finish in fourth, and I’m happy for them. Jill/Thomas finish in fifth, though I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to see how big a gap exists between fourth and fifth place. Nick/Vicki takes sixth.

Chad/Stephanie, halfway through Beds, are emboldened when they see that Katie/Rachel and Team Glee were unable to complete the Sled course. They finish not long after, and they run to the mat and finish in seventh place. And this seems like a good time for TARC #9: NEVER give up. No matter how bad things are going for you, there is an equal chance that misfortune has befallen others. Until Phil tells you you’re out, compete like you’re in. It’s happened many times before in this show’s history.

So the RTAE (Race To Avoid Elimination) comes down to a goahti-building contest between Katie/Rachel and Team Glee. Katie/Rachel finish first and run to their vehicles, and because this show is always edited for drama, we are made to believe that Team Glee finishes seconds later. Which they may have done, but there’s no way to know for sure. They intersperse both teams looking for, and finding, the Pit Stop, but it is predictably Katie/Rachel who finish first. They nab eighth place which, sadly, means that Team Glee is Phil-iminated.

So Nat/Kat move from eighth to first, Michael/Kevin survive a Speed Bump and still finish fourth, and Team Glee goes, in one leg, from leading the pack to on a plane trip home. Which sucks, because their pretty lovable nerds. And because they just told us that they missed their graduation from Princeton to do TAR makes me even sadder. But with a smile, they harmonize “Pomp And Circumstance” as they hit the mat, and sing Phil a special little ditty when they make their exit. Darn, I’m gonna miss them.

Next week: It’s on to Norway, and it looks like the season’s first GEC (Gross Eating Challenge) is on tap. Yay.

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