‘The Amazing Race’: Champagne wishes


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Joan of Arc or Noah’s Ark?

If there was ever a leg of ‘The Amazing Race’ that was somehow made for me, it was this one as the teams found themselves in the Champagne region of France, the birthplace and source of all true champagne.The seven remaining teams embarked this week on a route that included the towns of Reims and Epernay and pointed out some major issues with the local tourism board, which repeatedly send teams to the wrong location.

But that’s not the only reason why it wasn’t quite champagne dreams this week for the contestants, as one team nearly wrecked its car, another headed to the wrong location twice, and one couple spent the entire leg bickering. (One guess on who that would be.)


Throw in confusion about the difference between Joan of Arc and Noah’s Ark, some language barriers, and blatant naivete, and you have the makings of a fantastic episode filled with thrills, spills and chills.

I thought this episode definitely played up the drama not just because of the picturesque location but also because it underpinned that adage that anything is possible on the race.

This was especially true with this week’s leg, from the detectives holding onto their first place to Jet and Cord ending up in the wrong place twice, though the cowboys made up for it by finishing the Detour in record time. They still managed to land in the middle of the pack, but I’ll admit I was a little concerned that these two would end up eliminated this week. Which would just be absolutely heartbreaking, especially if airhead models Brent and Caite were still in the running for a million dollars.

This week’s installment featured one of the coolest Road Blocks ever on the race, when the participants had to rappel down into a champagne cave beneath LeClerc Briant in Epernay to search among racks of bottles to find a marked cuvee and then use a traditional saber to open the bottle. (How amazingly fun would that be?)

But before they could get to that point, the teams had to search for a statue of Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc as she’s known in France). Given that she’s such a famous historical figure, I had assumed that the teams would know who she was, but both Caite and Jordan seemed to have trouble keeping her separate from Noah. You know, the one with the ark. (‘He carried all the animals,’ wondered Jordan when thinking aloud.) Caite also referred to St. Joan as ‘he’ and then pointed to a statue and said, ‘oh, the animals.’ Um ... not quite.

While brothers Jordan and Dan were told to head towards a ‘Cathy Drone’ (read: cathedral) to find the statue, Jet and Cord managed to find the statue of Joan of Arc on their own. But the cowboys then made a crucial error by heading to Chalons-en-Champagne, nowhere near where they needed to be heading. At which point, they had to then turn around and head back.


Teams that successfully completed the Road Block were directed to Taittinger but there’s where the nightmare truly began for several teams as they were directed to Taittinger headquarters in Reims rather than the Taittinger chateau in the little town of Marquetterie, an important distinction that was lost on the faux-helpful official at the tourism office, as she told several teams to head to the wrong locale.

Steve and Allie, who managed to push themselves toward the top of the pack, fell prey to this mistake and smashed up their car when they arrived at Taittinger HQ in Reims. In one of the first storylines this entire season to focus at all on the father-daughter team, Steve managed to keep their car on the road by temporarily fixing it with duct tape, proving once again that any problem can really be solved with the judicious application of duct tape.

Once teams arrived at the right location, they had the choice between Tower or Terra (or, as it should have been called, ‘terroir’). The detectives headed out to the vines for Terra, where they had to search among the barren vines for a marked bunch of grapes. Proving that perhaps they were properly trained to conduct a grid search, they found their target and landed another first-place finish, their third in a row. Best line of the evening goes to Michael, who chalked up their success here to the following: ‘If I can find crack in someone’s rear end ...’

While searching challenges such as this one are typically time-consuming, exhausting and frustrating, this one was far easier than the alternative: Tower, in which the teams had to construct a 15-level champagne tower and then slowly pour a magnum of champagne into the glasses without smashing them.

Dan and Jordan were the only team to successfully complete this challenge, even after they stacked three single glasses at the very apogee of the pyramid. I have to give them credit for being creative, and their claim that they’ve seen enough of these at bar and bat mitzvahs was perhaps the most amusing thing they’ve said this entire race. But Caite and Brent, bickering as always, weren’t so successful. After giving up on the Terra challenge, they attempted to construct a wobbly tower and, not surprisingly, it crashed to the ground. (I’ll admit to cheering and laughing at Caite’s shocked expression.)

I was really hoping that Brent and Caite would get eliminated this week, especially after they rather blindly followed Carol and Brandy to the pit stop -- the second time they’ve gotten there without following all of the clues -- even though they knew that they had skipped a step. They’re just irritating, vapid, and not even amusing, given the amount of time they squabble.

Plus, I’ve grown to like Jeff and Jordan, who continued to amuse me this week, despite their confusion. (Let’s chalk it up to their naivete being adorable rather than offensive.) Sadly, these two ended up searching in the dark for their marked bunch of grapes after toppling a champagne tower and were the last team to check in. And there was no 11th-hour respite for them this time as Phil told them that they were the last team to check in ... though I do wish he could have found a way to mime that. Alas, it was the end of the road for this ‘Big Brother’ team, and I’m actually sad to see them go.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Sad to see the backs of Jeff and Jordan? Wondering just what it takes for Caite and Brent to implode next week? Wish you could have participated in this leg? Wondering whether the cowboys can ever regain their lead again? Head to the comments section to discuss.

-- Jace Lacob (Follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

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