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'The Amazing Race': Baguettes and doughboys

March 14, 2010 |  9:00 pm

98733_D0528 War is, as they say, hell. But apparently so too is Morse Code.

On this week's episode of "The Amazing Race," the teams were transported from Hamburg, Germany, to a secret, undisclosed location within the French countryside, where they participated in numerous activities including shopping for baguettes, bicycling and deciphering encoded messages amid a re-created WWI battlefield, complete with artillery fire, trenches and the Red Baron himself swooping overhead as they were drafted into the role of American doughboys.

But while the scene attempted to re-create the pressures of WWI battles, it was the teams' own inner stresses that supplied the drama this week, in an installment that featured a Blind U-Turn, a speedbump, a penalty ... and a general lack of direction from several teams.

The "Big Brother" team of Jeff and Jordan would have to make up a huge amount of time and complete that speedbump -- an extra activity that only they had to participate in -- if they had any chance of remaining in the race. It's a big ask of a last-place team with an enormous amount of ground to cover after a non-elimination leg. I do think that had no one implemented the aforementioned U-Turn, these two would have been heading to Elimination Station rather than to Le Pit Stop.

Arriving in France, the teams had to make their way to the charming village of St. Menehould, where they searched for a boulangerie to receive their clue, which was hidden beneath the crusty exterior of a freshly baked baguette. Every single team was able to figure out after a few milliseconds that the clue was inside the bread ... everyone, that is, except for Jordan and Jeff.

I'll admit I've grown strangely fond of these two, perhaps because they bring a hell of a lot of unintentional comedy to the table. While they were perplexed by what to do with the baguette, it was the subtitling of Jordan's mumbling (depicted on-screen as "????") that had me rolling on the floor. And if I'm being honest, they're much more amusing than models Caite and Brent, who at times make me want to rip off my own ears when they're on screen. 

This week, Caite continued her trend of making bizarre and often head-scratching pronouncements. On this episode, she uttered several gems: "I'm gonna eat the crap out of it, shove it down my throat" (re: the baguette) and "I'm really hoping it doesn't have any crazy crap in it." Beside her favorite use of the scatological, just what the hell is she talking about really? What would be in the baguette? What "crazy crap" do French boulangeries normally bake inside their bread? But the best was on the battlefield when Caite bemoaned that they would have to wear "out-of-style army clothes" while crawling around on the re-created battlefield. What was she expecting exactly? Vintage Chanel?

And that's saying nothing about Brent continuing to make me question whether he understands the concept of directions. Tasked with walking south, they ignored a signpost that indicated north and south and instead used his watch to walk ... north. After which Brent still continued to wonder whether the clue meant "the direction south" or "going in the direction of south." Um ... It was no wonder that they bypassed the U-Turn and headed to the bicycles, applying fake mustaches and then cycling 4 miles to the pit stop, at which time they were told they'd have to go back. (Best Brent line? "They're up in some sort of flying things," upon seeing the Red Baron above the battlefield.)

Which meant that Brent and Caite cycled 12 miles to come in sixth place, while all this time, Joe and Heidi -- who had been U-Turned by the first-place Louie and Michael -- were attempting to decipher the Morse Code message at the battlefield Detour. Despite being in second place, they quickly fell into last as team after team completed the Detour and headed to the Pit Stop while they continued to try to use the field manual to decipher the message before eventually just giving up altogether. Which is exactly what you should never do on the race: give up. There are so many things that can and often do go wrong that it's beyond foolish to just throw in the towel. People get lost, they make mistakes, and they often go off track when nearing the end of the leg. But these two -- who really did annoy me as much as they did Louie and Michael -- did just that as they gave up and waited for Phil to arrive. Au revoir!

As for the cops, they held on to first place this week and proved that they are not only the team to beat but they're willing to do anything to hold onto the position, including U-Turning an injured team to knock out a major competitor. Or as Michael put it, "There's sheeps and there's wolves; we're wolves." Touche.

Meanwhile, father and daughter Steve and Allie got about 30 seconds of screen time this week, making me wonder if they're just not doing anything provocative, controversial or exciting enough to focus on. The same can't be said about Brandy and Carol, who made a cutting remark about "stupid people" not doing the Morse Code challenge in the Detour, even though they all chose the more physical task, themselves included... and then whined about being forced to do physical activities on the race.

All in all, a tense and fun episode that proved that there are only a handful of teams worth watching and rooting for this season. 

What did you think of this week's episode? Were the cops right or wrong to U-Turn Joe and Heidi? Are you glad that Jeff and Jordan are sticking around to fight another week? Sad to see Joe and Heidi go? Head to the comments section to discuss.

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

Photo: Models Brent and Caite pose for the camera and look south on "The Amazing Race." Credit: CBS / Monty Brinton.

Related:
'The Amazing Race': Zeroes to heroes
'The Amazing Race': Horsing around in Argentina
Complete 'Amazing Race' coverage on Showtracker

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