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,
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.
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