The Sports Page

The Sports Page: The Amazing Race 6, Leg 5

Not that any of that matters, as the teams reach the now traditional first-clue-of-the-leg hours of operation bunch and are forced to cool their heels until 8:30 the next morning.
Another Prick and the Wall

The leg begins in the middle of the night. Kris and Jon, almost 90 minutes in the lead, are sent to a slave house on the Ile de Gorée. After them, separated by less than five minutes, are Jonathan and Victoria, Lori and Bolo, Hayden and Aaron, Freddy and Kendra, and Adam and Rebecca. Gus and Hera trail slightly, twenty minutes behind the pack, and Don and Mary Jean — as usual — bring up the rear, over 90 minutes later. Not that any of that matters, as the teams reach the now traditional first-clue-of-the-leg hours of operation bunch and are forced to cool their heels until 8:30 the next morning.

When the Slave House opens, teams are directed to enter one at a time and place a single rose at the Gate of No Return, through which countless captured Africans passed on their way to a lifetime of slavery. All the teams manage to show the appropriate respect, and the Race takes a back seat for a little while.

The next clue continues this week’s theme of oppression, sending racers to one of the last remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, in Germany. First, they need to get to Dakar airport and that means taking a ferry back to the mainland. Lori and Bolo and Jonathan and Victoria try to seize an advantage by catching an earlier boat, but by the time they get to the dock, that boat has sailed, leaving all teams waiting for the 9:30 ferry. Don and Mary Jean take advantage of the lull to try and fill their recently emptied wallets. Unable to bring themselves to beg from the clearly impoverished local population, they decide to hit up their fellow racers instead. Perhaps due to some residual feelings of Slave House guilt, this works so well that they end up with more money than some of the other teams. Nice move.

Once across the water in Dakar proper, half the teams head straight to the airport while the others stop at a travel agent first. At the airport, we see our first real Linegate of the race, with Bolo taking exception to Hayden’s attempt to buy tickets both for her team and for Freddy and Kendra, who aren’t even at the airport yet. Even after they arrive, Bolo is adamant that they should have to wait, to the point of shutting them out of the ticket office. Recognizing that it’s not best to provoke an angry wrestler — and probably realizing that there are plenty of tickets — Hayden backs down and leaves Freddy and Kendra to get their own tickets. Again, it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing, as all teams end up on the same flight, via Paris, to Berlin, leaving at 7:15 that evening.

The leg begins in earnest the next morning in Berlin, as teams sprint out of the airport and try to find the best train to the Berlin Wall. The S-Bahn is the way to go, apparently, and the fast-moving Jonathan and Victoria, Freddy and Kendra, and Adam and Rebecca are on the first ones out of the airport. Kris and Jon, who were actually second to arrive at the station, are left behind following a bum steer to the U-Bahn. They hook up with Hayden and Aaron and Gus and Hera on train number two. Lori and Bolo follow on the third train and then, at the back of the pack, following a casual stroll through the airport and a cab ride to the station, are Don and Mary Jean. Someone’s hustle seems to have been lost in transit.

The section of the Wall holding the next clue seems to run parallel to a road, and it looks pretty clear that the way to go is to just walk along it until the clue appears. This is the path taken by Jonathan and Victoria, who are rewarded with first place. Their companions from Train One decide that it just can’t be that easy, and end up walking around, behind, and at one point under the Wall in search of a clue. Without much success. By the time they figure out their mistake, all the Train Two teams have arrived and found the clue. This clue requires teams to travel to a monument of broken chains, symbolizing victory over oppression, located next to a ruined church. Bringing up the rear at the wall are Lori and Bolo, and — still — Don and Mary Jean. I think I see a pattern developing here.

Jonathan and Victoria are first to the church and the chains, and first to find this week’s Detour, a choice between Beers and Brats. In Beers, teams travel to a beer hall and carry large steins of beer to customers, looking for coasters with their team picture on them. They can trade two beers for one coaster, and must collect five coasters to complete the detour. In Brats, teams travel to a sausage factory, where they must stuff five links of bratwurst. Each one must be at least seven inches long. Yes, it’s a detour option for the twelve-year-old boy in all of us.
Steins are big mugs. No, mugs. Those things you already have are called jugs, and they don’t count.
Jonathan and Victoria opt for the sausage. Next to the church are Kris and Jon, Gus and Hera, and Hayden and Aaron, all of whom choose the beer. While the other teams hop in cabs, Kris and Jon — not having learned from their U-Bahn misadventure — take the train. Wonder when we’ll see them again? Lori and Bolo arrive next and take the meat, as do Adam and Rebecca. Freddy and Kendra, losing ground between the Wall and the Church, arrive seventh and, after some confusion over what the task might involve (Hint: Steins are big mugs. No, mugs. Those things you already have are called jugs, and they don’t count.) opt for beers. And in last place, guess who? Don and Mary Jean. They seem to be having a lot of trouble finding the church but not seeing the monument and the clue box. It seems that their powers of observation were packed in the same bag that holds their hustle, currently stranded somewhere in Charles de Gaulle Airport. They finally find the clue and take Brats.

First to arrive at the Detour are Jonathan and Victoria, who get down to business in a hurry. Meanwhile Hayden and Aaron get to the beer hall and start serving, followed shortly by Freddy and Kendra, who seem to have got an extra-zippy cab. The Detour proceeds uneventfully for all three teams and they finish one-two-three, as they started. Their next clue sends them to the Teufelsberg, a hill in a city park. All three teams take cabs and take off.

Lori and Bolo arrive next at the sausage factory. Following some ill-advised on-job snacking by Bolo, they discover that some of their links are a little too short. Off to the side, a production assistant wonders if they might have to impose some doping control on the racers. Back at the beer hall, Gus and Hera are carrying out their task. Gus too decides to sample some of his own wares, which I’m willing to bet is considerably more enjoyable than the sausage. Both teams are still at work when they are joined by Adam and Rebecca, at the sausage works, and Kris and Jon, at the beer hall. That’s right, Kris and Jon, sliding from second to seventh place due to a poorly chosen train ride. Sometimes, it’s worth the extra money for cab fare.

Making up for lost time, they sling beer like maniacs and eventually overtake Guzzling Gus and his teammate, the increasingly hot-under-the-collar Hera. Both teams finish up before those who are still back at the sausage works, where Adam is almost overtaken by the giggles. Lori and Bolo’s second string of wieners is deemed acceptable and they take off. In another example of how the locals don’t always know best, they are told to take a train to Teufelsberg. The wrong train, as it turns out, and as they do not discover until they are speeding down the track. Oops.

Adam and Rebecca finish the Detour in seventh and cab it to Teufelsberg. Don and Mary Jean, continuing their dismal leg one dismal step at a time, arrive and complete the sausage Detour without too much difficulty — apart from the whole “still in last place” thing.

At Teufelsberg, teams are confronted with this week’s Roadblock. One team member must climb the hill and race down in a soapbox car, completing the course in less than 37 seconds. Jonathan takes it for his team and zips down in thirty-five. Their next clue directs them to drive themselves to the Unter den Linden and then proceed on foot to the Brandenburg Gate, this week’s Pit Stop. Jonathan and Victoria head out as second-place Freddy and Kendra are arriving. Freddy gets behind the wheel and soon enough they too are Pit Stop bound, followed shortly by Hayden and Aaron.
Lori and Bolo, meanwhile, eventually find their way off the train and into the woods. Stymied by the lack of a breadcrumb trail, they begin to wonder if this was such a good idea.
Next to arrive, are Kris and Jon and Gus and Hera., giving us our only head-to-head race of this Roadblock. It’s a dead heat, and as they drive away to the Pit Stop, both teams agree to share the cost of hiring a cab to lead them there. Adam and Rebecca are next, and Rebecca — finally — steps up and takes a Roadblock for her team. She completes it with no trouble and they drive off. Lori and Bolo, meanwhile, eventually find their way off the train and into the woods. Stymied by the lack of a breadcrumb trail, they begin to wonder if this was such a good idea. While they wander, last place Don and Mary Jean are in a cab en route to Teufelsberg.

In central Berlin, things are heating up for the leading teams. Jonathan and Victoria, riding a very strong leg into the finish, start to show some cracks when Victoria has a bit of trouble with the map. In very quick succession Jonathan orders her to drive, gets upset when she has trouble with the pedals, and then orders her back into the back seat again. This gives Freddy and Kendra all the opportunity they need to slip into the lead. As both teams dismount, we have a real footrace to the finish. Jonathan immediately gets into difficulty, finding his pack too heavy to carry. As he attempts to ditch his bag, Victoria insists that he bring it along. Freddy and Kendra are soon outpacing them. Jonathan steps aside for a moment and drops his pack behind a fence. Victoria, clearly concerned that it will get stolen, stops, picks it up, and carries on running. Freddy, noticing this, figures out that the lagging Kendra only has to beat Victoria for them to come in first. He takes her bag and they sprint to the finish. Victoria busts her ass hauling all her team’s luggage, but it isn’t enough, and Jonathan, furious at the delay, has to turn back and take his own bag again.

Freddy and Kendra make it to the mat first. As Phil congratulates, the still-seething Jonathan delivers a push to Victoria’s pack that very nearly knocks her off her feet. A less happy second-place team has probably never checked in. Victoria holds it together just long enough to be congratulated, and then walks away, weeping. Jonathan coldly informs Phil that, basically, it’s her own damn fault.

In writing these pieces, I really try to concentrate on the racing aspect of the game — the sport — and not on all the interpersonal stuff. And when it comes to racing, I have to say that Jonathan and Victoria have been doing really, really, well. They kicked ass on this leg, leading most of the way. But their Achilles heel is their inability to work well together, to support each other. If Jonathan were a more supportive partner, and less self-centered, they could probably have won this leg. But he didn’t, and they didn’t, and I expect that sooner or later his lack of respect for his partner is going to get them eliminated. At least, I really hope it does. Because good racer or no, this guy sucks.

Okay, back to the race. Lori and Bolo eventually find the Roadblock, and Lori takes it for her team. As they head for the Pit Stop, here comes Don and Mary Jean. Don’t work up too much of a sweat there folks. MJ takes the detour and travels faster than she has all leg, to the point where she actually forgets to slow down and is only stopped by the crash barrier at the bottom of the run. Fortunately she is unhurt; it would be a shame to have them taken out of the Race for medical reasons. That’s Phil’s job after all.

Back at the Gate, Hayden and Aaron, who had a bit of a spotty start, finish up in third place, back on their usual form. Kris and Jon and Gus and Hera are next to the mat, with Gus and Hera graciously giving up fourth to the team whose idea it was to follow a cab in the first place. Adam and Rebecca cruise in to sixth place. The last two teams are still out on the course, and as Lori and Bolo stop for directions, it looks like it could still be anyone’s leg… well, no, not really. Lori and Bolo are team number seven, leaving Phil to phinish off what he started last week by sending home the last place Don and Mary Jean. Last place, by the way, being where they spent the entire leg. Bunching won’t save you if you run out of gas, folks.

And now, this week’s winners…
Nice recovery kids, but the real pros stay out of trouble to begin with.
This wasn’t really a leg that featured very many stellar moves. It was more about teams recovering from near disaster. In that spirit, I’m giving Play of the Week to Kris and Jon. After a precipitous slide into seventh place starting the Detour, they managed to haul ass as well as beer, finishing it in fourth, where they stayed for the rest of the leg. Nice recovery kids, but the real pros stay out of trouble to begin with.

This week’s Smooth Move has to go to one of the many teams that suffered train trauma. In this case, it’s Bolo and Lori who take the honours, for adding quite a bit of unnecessary walking to either end of their unnecessary train travel. The numbers tell the story: fourth place starting the Detour, sixth place finishing it, seventh at the end of the leg. You may be able to get away with that when there are 10 teams in the Race, but next week, seventh place equals Sequesterville. Buck up, WWF.

It’s hard to say Where the wheels came off the bus for Don and Mary Jean this week. From start to finish, they just didn’t seem to have the fire in the belly, and ultimately it is that that cost them the race. Still, if I have to pick one spot, I’d say it was the time spent wandering around the church in Berlin looking for the clue box. Any momentum they might have had was pretty much sapped right then and there, and the rest of the leg was an inevitable slide into Philimination.

That’s not my bag, baby!

Never underestimate the importance of good packing. Teams need to bring along enough gear for the Race, but not so much that it slows them down. Several teams from previous Races have reported over-packing, followed by dumping of gear, followed sometimes by borrowing gear from other teams to make up a shortfall — hence Chip’s Café Nostra shirt last season.

Having filled the pack, racers then have to be able to carry it. In the past, we have seen teams drop their bags at certain points in the Race — prior to bungee jumps or zip lines, or in some cases during the final run to the mat. In these cases, all teams have done it suggesting that there was some designated area for that purpose. This is the first time we have seen a racer try to just dump his bag on the sidewalk, in the middle of a bustling city. Not something I would choose to do, nor, clearly, something his partner would do.
Dude, it’s your bag. You pack it, you hump it.
Which led to the spectacle of Victoria, busting her hump with two bags, racing for the finish. I have to give her full points for that; she was clearly doing her absolute best. Which is more than can be said for her partner, who in quick succession whined about the weight of his pack, tried to get out of carrying it, berated his partner for carrying it for him, and blamed her for their second-place finish because she carried it. Dude, it’s your bag. You pack it, you hump it.

Lies, damn lies, and…

Not much to add in the statistics this week, as our top three teams continue to dominate. The only fact of note is that Don and Mary Jean actually finished out the Race with a lower weighted average than not one but two previously eliminated teams - both Lena and Kristy and Meredith and Maria had better records. Sometimes non-elimination legs save the worthy from one bad leg, but at other times, they just forestall the inevitable.


Next Week

Looking at their performance so far, I would have to put Adam and Rebecca or Lori and Bolo on the chopping block next week. Both teams are pretty consistent sixth- and seventh-place finishers, which is no longer good enough. The only thing that could save them is more meltdown from Jonathan and Victoria. I have said in the past that some teams make the bickering work for them, but this week we saw it lead to some serious mental errors at a key point in the Race. If that keeps up, it could finish them off.

Leg 6-5 At a Glance
Start pointIle de Gorée, Dakar, Senegal
End pointBrandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany
Distance traveled5200 kilometers
Time elapsedTwo days, one night
Distance to date21,600 kilometers

Don/Mary Jean80.9100

Start OrderTimeFinish OrderTime
8Don/MaryJean0428Don/Mary JeanTBD

Travel to a brauhaus and serve beer, collection coasters with your team's picture.Travel to a sausage factory and make five links of bratwurst, each at least seven inches long.
Kris/Jon74Don/Mary Jean88

Soap Box
Pilot a soap box race car down the Teufelsberg
TeamTaken byRecordInOut
Don/Mary JeanMary Jean(2/4)88


Don/Mary Jean97888