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Amazing Race Recap: U-Turned

The Frankfurt Airport, site of the Amazing Race's version of the Breakfast Club

Strangely enough, browsing on the Frankfurt, Germany, tourism site, there isn't any mention of its supporting role in this season of the Amazing Race. After all, for a city where exactly zero legs have taken place, it certainly has left its mark on the season, although probably not in a way that's going to have Martin Lawrence or Ruben Studdard singing its praises in a "Visit Frankfurt!" commercial.

Teams departed their Pitstop in Moscow with just a flag as a clue: get to the capital of this country. The flag was the horizontal red, white and blue stripes of the Netherlands, which most of the teams confused with France. Not Abbie, though. The girl knows her flags.

Along the way, we got a little touchy-feely with some of the teams. Jaymes is racing for his cancer-stricken father, hoping to win the $1 million prize so that his dad will be able to quit his job and focus on getting better. Nadiya and Natalie are driven more by revenge: they're itching for a double U-Turn so they can knock Abbie and Ryan down a few notches. They're so amped up about it that they devise a plan with their buddies Jaymes and James and Trey and Lexi: the first team to the U-Turn uses it on Abbie and Ryan. The second team uses it on the first team, thereby completely taking another U-Turn out of the equation. Props to the girls - that is kind of a genius plan, as long as you have complete support of your alliancemates (FORESHADOWING).

There is much confusion in the airport as nobody winds up on the same flight. Nadiya and Natalie luck out with a plan that lands at 11:30 a.m., although they have to whine and barter in order to get tickets because of the short layover. Jaymes and James get a direct flight that lands a half hour later. Trey and Lexi's flight lands about an hour after that.

The divorcees are faced with a difficult situation: their best bet is a flight that connects through Frankfurt, the same dreaded city that had them miss their short layover a couple legs ago and caused them to be this far behind in the first place. They try to play as cautiously as possible by buying tickets to not one but TWO flights from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, just in case they miss their first one. And that's precisely what happens. They miss their first flight, and their second gets delayed and then switched when the plane has mechanical difficulties. They wind up catching up at the Amsterdam airport with their buddies Josh and Brent, who are practically racing on a different day than the other teams, they're so far behind. Reunions are fun.

In Amsterdam, with a good half-hour lead on the other teams, Nadiya and Natalie embrace the Fast Forward, which involves eating eight raw herrings in the seven minutes it takes for their Amsterdam version of a duck boat to cross the river. Watching the twins do disgusting or weird challenges should be a reality show in its own right, when you have them yelling at each other for chewing or gagging or feeding the fish to themselves like a Sea World trainer would feed an orca. They just finish the challenge in time, earning the No. 1 spot in the leg and winning $5,000 each for their troubles.

The rest of the teams have to take a picturesque boat ride through the Amsterdam canals and eat a tasty powdered-sugar-covered treat before they get their next clue, I'm sure another way for the producers to make up for them having to compete so long in Bangladesh. Eventually, they wind up at a detour where they either have to organ grind (perform as an organ grinder to raise 30 Euros from passersby) or go back in time (set up actors in a live-action recreation of a Rembrandt painting).

The first two teams that arrive - the Chippendales and the Texas couple, performers all - opt for the organ grind. It was more difficult for Jaymes and James than you would guess, considering soliciting donations $1 at a time is kind of their thing, and after get a handful of money, they break out the big guns, aka their trademark Chippendales cuffs and bowties. The showmanship works (how could it not with those abs?) and they move past.

Former cheerleader Lexi doesn't need props, relying more on her ear-piercing YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY when people gave her money, presumably in order to shut her up.

Hours later, the divorcees and the goat farmers select the Rembrandt challenge, and get the joy of dressing in funny hats and fake facial hair. They both finish around the same time with limited difficulty.

From there, the dreaded double U-Turn. Since the twins got the Fast Forward, they skipped right over it, making Jaymes and James the first team to arrive. You can actually see Jaymes' brain fighting itself as his urge to win for his dad waged war on his need to be liked by everybody. Eventually, Dad won and the Chippendales stuck with the plan to U-Turn Abbie and Ryan. Lexi and Ryan held up their end of the bargain by U-Turning the long-since-past Jaymes and James, meaning Abbie and Ryan were on their own.

In my opinion, the U-Turn is one of the most fascinating and annoying parts of the Amazing Race. There is certainly strategy to it: is the chance of eliminating stiff competition worth the possible repercussions? But what gets me is how personally so many teams take it. Abbie and Ryan reacted as though Jaymes and James had stolen their passports or let the air out of their cab's tires or lied to them about the location of a clue. They didn't do any of that stuff; they used an available rule of the game that they're encouraged to do. They didn't "screw" Abbie and Ryan out of $2 million any more than Abbie and Ryan's winning would have "screwed" Jaymes and James out of $1 million. In short, stop complaining! It's a TV show, for goodness sake!

Even more complicated was Josh and Brent's reaction. Lexi and Trey's elimination of the second U-Turn really saved the goat farmers from themselves, as they seemed ready and willing to have Abbie and Ryan U-Turn them so they could complete the tasks with them. As it stood, Josh was ready to help them with the organ grind. Thankfully, Brent's reasonableness won out and they continued forth, albeit far poutier than two people handed a gift-wrapped spot in the final four should be.

The Road Block was a regurgitation of a challenge from previous seasons, where one person has to pole-vault over a ditch. The clip they showed was of grandfather Donald, who stripped down to his skivvies in his multiple attempts in the mud, but I'll always remember Kynt, splashing through the mud in his goth boots. God, I love this challenge.

Sadly, this version was somewhat anticlimactic. James - bum ankle and all - and Trey both finished like they've been taking the ditch-vault/Zumba class at their local Y, while Josh hurt himself stumbling through the field before he even got to the ditch. Surprisingly, the only person that really struggled was the athletic Ryan, but then he's had kind of a rough day.

So yes, Operation Divorce the Divorcees went off exactly as the twins, the Chippendales and the Texas couple planned it, squashing Ryan and Abbie's pride as well as their chances to win the race and thereby eliminating them completely. And really, considering that the goat farmers now have Josh's bum ankle to deal with on top of being a good four hours behind everybody else, we're down to three. Who are you rooting for? And who do you think will pull it out?

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