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'The Amazing Race' recap: It tastes like money!

October 24, 2010 |  8:58 pm

"Two Large Cod and a Chainsaw.”  If that sounds like a Monty Python still life, then welcome to the slightly surreal world of Episode 5, which featured, among other oddities, bodies swinging over a fjord, fish dragged up a hill, a medieval knight straight out of “The Seventh Seal” and, for good measure, a decapitated farm animal.

This last item formed a kind of Satan’s Passover for doctor Kat, whose attempts to eat a sheep’s head (as part of what the Land of the Midnight Sun likes to call “a traditional Christmas ritual”) ran up against three serious obstacles.  1) Kat hasn’t eaten meat in 22 years.  2) Her meal was staring at her the entire time.  3) The ghost of Bernard Herrmann was cranking up the accompanying music to “Psycho”-like distress levels.  But Kat stayed cool.  “Crunchy romaine lettuce,” she murmured in a trance of denial.  “Calamari.  Cucumbers.”  Until at last she hit on the winning formula: “It tastes like money!”

Or at least victory.  By dint of their gustatory valor, Kat and fellow doc Nat vaulted straight to the finish line, where presumably some vomit bucket was waiting just offscreen.  Not so lucky were the beach-volleyball Amazons, who were eliminated just as I was beginning to tell them apart.  While undeniably lovely, Katie and Rachel have remained stubbornly undeveloped as characters, and in this final outing they were reduced to uttering Lombardi-isms like “We don’t lose” and “This is not ‘Amazing Friend,’ it’s ‘Amazing Race,’ ” which served to only underscore how amazingly far behind they were. 

You won’t find this, probably, in any contestant briefing, but “The Amazing Race” is really two races: one for bucks, one for hearts and minds.  And it’s the latter competition that is most definitely heating up.  Michael’s nutcracker mouth and fractured English grow more winning with each passing week.  (When informed that one challenge would require “strength, stamina and guts,” he proudly cackled: “I don’t have none!”)  Brook, with her verve and gumption, has accomplished the extraordinary feat of making me revisit my feelings about the Home Shopping Network.  I didn’t even mind when she invoked dead relations to get Claire up that rope of doom.  “Pray to your grandma!” shouted Brook.  “She’ll get you through this.  Just think of your grandma and how strong she was.  She’d be encouraging you the whole way.”  Personally, I think Grandma would be saying, “Why the hell are you dangling hundreds of feet over a Norwegian fjord?” but then again, the only thing my grandmother ever got dirty was her martini. 

And now, please, a moment of celebration for Vicki the Tattooed Lady, who is quietly exposing boyfriend Nick for the sack of bluster he is.  Despite “riding dirt bikes competitively” since he was 12, Nick was left gasping in Vicki’s wake as she pedaled toward the next clue.  And this was just after she’d hoisted herself up and down a rappelling line with nary a whine or grimace.  As Vicki herself explained: “I’m the one who has the guts in this relationship.”  Testify, sister.  And if you ever end up in a women’s penitentiary — as occasionally seems possible — the queenship of Cell Block H is yours for the taking. 

— Louis Bayard

Photo: Nat and Kat faced with the Norwegian delicacy of a sheep's head. Credit: CBS.