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'The Amazing Race': A Kafkaesque evening in Prague

November 30, 2009 |  6:31 am

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Rule No. 1 on "The Amazing Race": Don't ever give up.

This week's episode of "The Amazing Race," the season's penultimate, found the four remaining teams navigating the streets of Prague at night as the producers threw all manner of bizarre tasks at the contestants, forcing them to build golems, drink absinthe, answer ringing telephones, plunge into frigidly cold rooms and deliver beer, all while avoiding drunken Prague tourists and soccer hooligans.

If there was one leg that required 110% (save, obviously, the final leg), it was this one as it would determine which three teams would advance for the chance to race for $1 million and a congratulatory eyebrow-raise from host Phil Keoghan.

Was it a physically and mentally taxing portion of the race? Sure, but the best ones are. What it was at the end of the day (or, rather, at the end of the night) was a tricky and complex series of intricate challenges. Which Franz Kafka himself would have been proud of. If only the contestants had been able to spell his first name ...

I mentioned the point about not giving up because the Globetrotters failed to persevere when faced with this week's Roadblock, where the contestants had to answer dozens of ringing telephones to receive five letters, which unscrambled would spell Franz. As in Franz Kafka, author of "The Metamorphosis." Meghan completed the Roadblock way ahead of everyone else and managed to get Franz on the second try, after realizing that she'd have to unscramble the letters. The others weren't quite so lucky or, perhaps, clever.

It is, after all, Meghan and Cheyne's game to lose at this point, and they managed to breeze through this leg while leaving everyone else in their dust, speeding through Roadblocks, Detours and subzero challenges with aplomb and jaw-dropping speed. But the very intentionally Kafkaesque Roadblock (the contestants had to fill out meaningless forms every time they submitted their answers) tripped up the other teams. 

Poor Big Easy got stuck there trying to unscramble those letters for 2 1/2 hours ... and his luck didn't improve when Dan agreed to work with Big Easy to find the answer, only to turn around and tell him that it began with the letter F rather than provide him with the answer, as they had agreed. Poorly done, once again, Dan. (Not helping matters, Dan refused to let their taxi pick up Cheyne and Meghan, even though they stole Brian and Ericka's taxi last week.) 

Rather than attempt to work out the only possible and plausible solution to the puzzle, Big Easy chose to incur a four-hour penalty. Which made zero sense to me as it would have been less time-consuming to try to work out the answer, given that he now knew that it began with an F. So why sit around for four hours and likely be eliminated instead of continuing to fight? That's one riddle I just can't solve.

For their part, Brian and Ericka managed to squeak by the Globetrotters, despite having to perform a speed-bump task that required them to prepare a shot of absinthe and down it (that's one task I'd happily have taken on), and Brian had no problem unscrambling the letters at the Kafkaesque task. They did, however, run into some issues at the Detour, opting to deliver beers through the streets of Prague rather than build a clay golem and deliver it to a synagogue. To say that their path through the alleys and streets of nighttime Prague was difficult is an understatement; they were harassed and insulted, and one woman even went so far as to steal a beer right off of Brian's tray. But they managed to finish as the sun came up and walked away with the third spot in the final leg. (And Ericka only had one minor freak-out this week, as she dropped her entire tray of beers.)

Flight Time and Big Easy were, of course, eliminated. There was no way that they could stay in the race after incurring such a huge penalty. Though I would have liked to have seen them race in the final leg, I have to say that I'm disappointed they chose to sit out the Roadblock rather than struggle through it. Especially as the final three now includes Sam and Dan, easily the most annoying contestants on "The Amazing Race" in recent memory. Their squabbling, complaining and general whining while carrying the golem reminded me this week of just what I dislike most about them. In fact, I'd be quite happy if any of the other teams won the grand prize ... so long as the brothers go home empty-handed.

What did you think of this week's episode? Should Big Easy have continued to rearrange those letters instead of taking the penalty? Who are you rooting for to win? Who will fall by the wayside? And who do you think will take home the million dollars? Head to the comments section to discuss.

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

Photo: Brothers Sam and Dan get along beautifully ... that is, when they're not attempting to do anything competitive on "The Amazing Race." Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS

Related:
'The Amazing Race': Playing dirty
'The Amazing Race': Slip and Slide

Complete 'Amazing Race' coverage on Showtracker 

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