Bopper yodels! Bopper cackles like a witch! Bopper wheezes like a 90-year-old man having a massive coronary! Is there no sound Bopper can’t make? Besides the sound of silence, I mean?
Yes, he can be more than a bit much at times, but isn’t it a relief to have a genuinely enthusiastic and supportive pair of teammates like Bopper and Mark on this race, especially given some of the downright detestable participants this season? At the top of that list, this week at least, were Ralph and Vanessa, a match made in Hell if ever there was one. I don’t recall if he’d mentioned this before, but this week, Ralph informed us that he’s already been married three times. Ralph is 36 years old. I’m pretty sure he’s doing it wrong, especially if he thinks the fourth time is going to be the charm. And that’s the only time I’ll ever use the word “charm” in connection with Vanessa, who appears to be a miserable ball of hate despite her insistence that she can fight with Ralph and still love him.
Of course, their arch-enemies Brendon and Rachel are no prizes either, but at least their screen time was kept to a minimum this week. (I believe Rachel only cried once.) Even sweet country cousins Kerri and Stacy got pissy with each other this week over their navigational issues. But even starting in last place and having to complete the Speed Bump (in lederhosen, no less), Bopper and Mark kept a positive attitude and managed to stave off elimination, despite Bopper’s physical breakdown on the long trek up to Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
That’s not to say they didn’t get a little assist along the way from some timely bottlenecking. Art and JJ, who finished nearly three hours before any other team last week, got off to a strong head start that they never really relinquished. But train departure times resulted in bunching at the bottom of the pack, allowing Team Holler to keep pace with some of the weaker teams. They may have also been aided by their choice of Detour task, which entailed collecting pieces of gingerbread and using them to build the roof of a gingerbread house. The other task, in which teams had to style the beards of Bavarian men into various wacky shapes, might have tripped the teams up if only because of its random element. Some of the beard patterns appeared much more intricate and difficult to replicate than others, which struck me as slightly unfair. (Despite their experience with hair gel, the Jersey boys were slowed down considerably by the elaborate construction of their beard pattern.)
A visit to Sleeping Beauty’s castle threw several teams for a loop, as the abundance of castles in the area proved confusing. The Roadblock brought the return of the ever-controversial Travelocity gnome, as teams used the little fellow as a puck in a giant game of ice-shuffleboard. (The actual name of the game, Eisstock-Scheissen, sounds like a rare digestive disorder.) As I’ve said before, despite my annoyance with product placement in general, I don’t really have a problem with the gnome. He’s so well-established by now that I just think of him as the show’s mascot and ignore his corporate connection.
Art and JJ cruise to their third straight first-place finish, and deservedly so. They won me over a bit last week, with their unexpected decision to share their prize money with Bopper and Mark, and at least for now, they’ve toned down the arrogance a touch. Last place comes down to two all-female teams, the Feds-posing-as-teachers, who I keep forgetting are on this show, and the cute country cousins, who finish the gnome-sliding task first, but are undone by their navigational difficulties and are eliminated from the race. I’m kind of sorry to see them go, as they were pleasant company for most of the way, but I can’t say I ever saw them as serious contenders for the million dollars.
- Thanks to Phil Dyess-Nugent for filling in for me last week while I was immersed in SXSW. And by SXSW, I mean beer.
- Brendon: “Are you able to style a beard?” Rachel: “I don’t even know what a beard is.” Uh...what?
- Another thing Rachel doesn’t know: the difference between Bavaria and Bolivia.
- Next week: extreme hair removal.