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'The Amazing Race': A Kafkaesque evening in Prague


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

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Comments () | Archives (28)

Seems all of you, including the writer of this article, forget that it's a competition. No offense, but all bets are off. Call Sam and Dan out on it but you'd all be stupid to be telling anyone you wouldn't be doing the exact same thing to win a million dollars. Get over yourselves. You're just jealous. Go, Sam and Dan!

It was rediculous that they let the broken golem arm pass. What was the point of checking it? Would they have let other teams through with a clearly broken arm. Seems rigged.
I'm done with this show.

Flight Time & Big Easy were great competitors, and fun to watch. But to be honest, they're jocks. As soon as I saw that the road block was a mental, rather than a physical task I knew they were done. Remember them trying to open that brief case?

Yeah, I agree. Flight Time and Big Easy should have figured it out!
There are only 125 possibilities for rearranging the letters, and given that the first letter was F, there's only 24 possible arrangements. Four hours is more than enough to do them all.

Also, I just lost all my respect for Sam and Dan. They are backstabbers, and should not be trusted. Really ironic that they stole a taxi last episode, and then told Meghan and Cheyne to "back off" their's.

And, I can't wait for the season finale! :)

Couldn't agree more about Sam and Dan. Those two could fall into a dry well never to be seen or heard from again, and I wouldn't care. They represent what can only be considered as the OPPOSITE of good sportsmanship and decency.

Brian does well to tolerate Ericka's hissy fits. I know that the tasks can be difficult at times, but she needs to stop whining and start trying! Meghan and Cheyne have come way farther than I thought they would and I wish them well. Are they overly cute? Yes. Is that annoying? Yes. But I hope they carry on.

Flight Time and Big Easy. Not sure what happened there. Looked to be exhaustion, frustration, and the inability to do the math. Another few tries could have seen them get the task done, and be on their way. The penalty comes into effect from the moment you decide to take it, NOT from the moment that you arrived at the task. They effectively lost the moment they gave up. And it was sad, because I think they could have made the final three, and possibly won.

If there is an all-star/favorite contestants show in the future, I hope they will be back.

I love how Sam and Dan played the game. Hope they will win the million dollars. Go Sam and Dan!

Big Easy screwed up, plain and simple. He's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but it was gut wrenching to see him take the four hour time penalty, and throw in the towel.

I just watch this episode and damn is Nathanial aint the biggest fool in the world. After learning that the first letter was F, check this out...





Those r all the possibilities. It got to be one of them. aint take me 2 1/2 hours to get that. I don't care if you do have to fill out that form 24 times, you fill it out until Phil comes out and mocks you for acting like you fool ass got taught in Harlem public school!

And yea, Nathanial is Big Easy's real name. Guess his dead dad telling him to win the race dont matter to him the way he said it did, else u dont give up on a stupid word puzzle.

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