‘The Amazing Race’ recap: This is cow poop!


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If we’re to be honest, the most daunting and terrifying challenge on “The Amazing Race” is undertaken not by any of the show’s contestants but by the show’s editors. Those squinting, unseen wretches who have to sift through hundreds of hours of raw footage and then shape it all into a coherent melodrama, complete with story arcs and heroes and villains and, of course, those breathless climactic dashes, so artfully cross-cut that teams an hour apart look as though they’re hip to hip, clawing and elbowing and gouging to the finish.

By now it’s clear that the job of assembling “The Amazing Race” is not for sissies. And so I couldn’t help but welcome that meta-moment in Episode 6 when the contestants were set to work in St. Petersburg’s Lenfilm Studio (and if any of them knew who “Len” was, they weren’t telling) sifting through a mountain of celluloid to find images that would match the film they were watching. The film, appropriately, was “October,” directed by that master of montage, Sergei Eisenstein. I swear I could almost hear the “Amazing Race” producers snarling: “You think competing in this show is tough? Try putting it together.”


Still, that particular challenge was nothing next to the task of isolating three classical ditties amidst a roomful of clanging Russian pianists. Somewhere, I think, John Cage was smiling. One by one, our plucky Americans bent their ears to the pianos, like Indians listening for the next train, and each time, they came away more befuddled than before. “It’s Mussorgsky. It’s Tchaikovsky. Never mind, let’s go see about Len and his film.”

All in all, this was an unusually high level of sophistication for “The Amazing Race,” so we can’t blame the producers for leavening things with transvestitism and dung jokes.

To wit, a “drag race,” in which the women—and, wait for it, the men, too—don peasant dresses and plant a row of 50 potatoes with the help of—God, it’s killing me—manure. “My Lord have mercy!” cried Mallory. “This is cow poop!” The Kentucky beauty queen has never been one to sidestep ugly truths, but she seemed a bit foggy as to why two Russian geezers would want her to come inside “for a little vodka.” Eisenstein would have played the scene for all it was worth, but Mallory didn’t have time for that. “Where is Duck’s End?” she wailed up and down the alleys of Alexandrovskaya. Where indeed, Mallory? Where indeed? If only she could have followed the example of home-shopping priestess Brook, who, more and more, seems to come with her own soundtrack. “I’m a babushka! That’s some stinky manure! Augghh, I just stepped in poo!” It raises the question of whether she actually goes through life like this. “Wow, that’s some granola! Here I am, walking out the door! Yikes, the bus is here!”

After placing a decisive last—and no amount of editing could make that outcome suspenseful—Nick the Swine and Vicki the Tattooed Lady won a reprieve, which, although it constitutes an offense against goodness, does leave the Alpha Male Futility Sprint wide open. Last week, I thought Thomas had edged in front by continuing to lord his Notre Dame education over his cosmetician girlfriend. But this time, the baton was seized by pink-cheeked Chad the Jock for badgering Stephanie to the brink of despair during their Name that Tune ordeal. In the post-mortem interview, Chad confessed how difficult it was “sitting back and letting someone take the lead, especially my girlfriend. I’m going to try very hard to remember these lessons.” “Don’t worry,” cut in Stephanie, her voice as cold as a St. Petersburg winter. “I’ll make sure you do.” As Mallory would say: Jesus, please help us.

-- Louis Bayard