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'Amazing Race' recap: The biggest wiener

April 18, 2011 |  7:10 am

Ah, Vienna.  Meine Wien.  Grand dowager of European metropolises.  Revered by aesthetes through the ages for your operettas and waltzes, your schnitzel and Sachertorte, your Art Nouveau and your fin-de-siècle decadence, your….

Chimney sweeps?  Really?

Somehow or other, in the midst of scattered allusions to “The Third Man” and “The Sound of Music” and “The Interpretation of Dreams,” Episode 8 of “Amazing Race” managed to splice in a retake from “Mary Poppins.”  And if you were conjuring up fantasies of Kent and Vixsyn stepping in time across steeply pitched tile roofs, well, you just had to make do with the sight of Big Easy in a tight-fitting black frock coat.  “When I grew up,” he mused, “we didn’t have a chimney.  Santa Claus came through the window.”

There, there. Tell Dr. Freud all about it. But first carry one of Dr. Freud’s couches a freakin’ mile, would you? Up cobblestone streets and over vast plains of snow and up endless flights of stairs, there’s a pal. In the midst of all the huffing and puffing, it was Jet who wittily proposed lying on one of the couches and telling Cord about his feelings. In fact, Grandpa Sigmund would have found plenty of neurasthenic fodder just watching the Goths negotiate Austria’s roads.  (Top Vixsyn line of the night: “I need you to quit acting like a chick!”)  And then there was Jen, pausing on the way to her lunch-by-Ferris-wheel ordeal to murmur: “Bet that’ll be the biggest wiener I’ll ever eat.”  And Mallory, failing the same ordeal and sweetly turning her face up to Gary’s: “I can throw up and try again, Dad.”  (Who says beauty-queen training doesn’t come in handy?)  Mallory again, spared elimination despite her last-place finish: “When you get something that big, you gotta do something with it.” 

Yes, once Freud is in the house, nothing is quite safe.  Consider those brand-new Ford Focuses with which the show’s contestants were outfitted.  Was it an accident that they were shown, like the American auto industry, moving backward?  As for dreams … let’s just say that mine included Kisha and Jen stripping down for a Gustav Klimt portrait, Gary warbling Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder,” and Kent and Vixsyn subjecting the Von Trapp children to an Addams family curse that renders them forever silent.  Adieu … adieu … to yeu and yeu and yeu.

But let me conclude on a note of grudging gemütlichkeit.  “The Amazing Race,” generally speaking, is a primer in how Americans go about greeting the world.  We rush into some public space; we demand that our needs be met; and we expect our English expostulations to be answered in English.  (About the only thing that’s endeared me to Vixsyn is her habit of saying “thank you” in the native tongue.)  May I now propose that the cowboys represent the very finest in the American character?  Modest, resourceful, generous, determined.  Never whining, always persevering.  And with an undercurrent of sly, plainspoken humor.  (“No more cowboys and Indians,” exhaled Jet, upon leaving Varanasi.)  I would be proud to invite them to my gay wedding.  And I suspect that if they accidentally wandered into such an occasion, they might even doff their hats.  And I would feel better about my tan lines.

-- Louis Bayard