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'Amazing Race' recap: Welcome to Icehotel

October 17, 2010 |  8:10 pm

            How to explain this?  During the previous three episodes, the sound of Connor and Jonathan harmonizing has triggered gag reflexes in me so profound that I was afraid my stomach might actually emerge through my lips.  And yet tonight, when the Princeton boyz staggered to their pit stop on the Swedish-Norwegian border, their a cappella rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” was doubly touching.  First, because they were (as they well knew) headed home.  And second, because in coming here they had forsaken their own college graduation.  And why?  So they could be tossed like wet kindling along an ice-coated sledding chute.

             Under the circumstances, one might expect a fusillade of bitterness, but breeding tells.  “We graduated from Princeton,” declared Connor, “and we graduated from the race too.  All in one day.”  Upon which they tossed their caps, mortarboard style, into the air.  Tiger tiger tiger!  Sis sis sis!  Boom boom boom!  Ba! Connor and Jonathan, you will do well in your chosen Wall Street brokerages.  And I pay you this final compliment: Of all the Nassoons I have known (the number is high), you seem by far the best-adjusted.

            The comic summit of Episode 4 arrived early, when Noxious Nick jumped into a Ghanaian cab and demanded that the driver take him to the Arctic Circle.  His error was gently explained to him by his companion, Vicki the Tattooed Lady, who was even gentler in describing the nature of their relationship: “We’re more a physical couple than mental.”  Nick and Vicki do have a way of sticking around, and yet the Darwinian shadows appear to be closing around them.  Unless there’s a competition for, say, contracting hepatitis, we may soon see the last of our illustrated duo.

            By contrast, the father-son team of Michael and Kevin, after flirting with elimination in the last round, appear to have risen from their own ashes.  They were the first team to figure out that an earlier flight from Accra could be had, and dad Michael, who has previously shouldered his race obligations in the manner of Sisyphus rolling up another rock, now looks like he’s innit to winnit.  Swept downwind by a team of sled dogs, he was even moved to cry: “I am enjoying!”  A sentiment echoed by every team that followed him down the trail.  It’s not often that a challenge sends waves of joy radiating through the contestants, but at the close of this particular segment, I was ready to buy a pack of huskies and hit the road to Lapland. 

            In other developments: Mallory went all blond on an Accra airport official; Brook revealed that her fiancé calls her “an ice princess”; Jill and Thomas took a wrong turn amid the Swedish wilderness (much as I do every time I go to an Ikea store) but saved themselves with their express card.  For me, the episode’s true highlight was its least animate: the eerily immaculate Icehotel, billed as the world’s largest hotel made of ice and snow.  It suggests how “The Shining” might have ended if, say, those creepy twin girls in the hallway had decided to usher in a new era of global cooling.  And so, to frontrunners Nat and Kat, I say only: Redrum.

— Louis Bayard