Sunday night means it’s time to check in with Team Houston, The Amazing Race’s Michael and Kevin Wu from Sugar Land. They’ve run quite literally hot and cold the past four weeks, landing in fourth place last week in the stark, but beautiful, Swedish Lapland.
Episode five begins on the border of Sweden and Norway, with teams instructed to cross the border and head for Narvik, Norway. Team Houston begins about a half hour behind the first place team, doctors Nat and Kat.
In this episode’s opening interview, Kevin explains that, since he’s away at college now and will be leaving home once he graduates, this is a chance to spend time and travel with his father. This interview is a good example of why the team is so endearing, as Michael makes a funny face of triumph when Kevin talks about moving out and Kevin makes an equally hilarious face of “Eww” as Michael explains this is their last chance to “eat together, sleep together, and pee together.” Fans of Kevin's YouTube Videos will know that Michael will make sure that pee is clear.
At the top of the mountain they find their next clue, instructions drive to Skjombrua bridge. They also find the offer of a fast forward, but decide against it, figuring an earlier team was probably already on their way.
The fast forward is a task any team can perform, but the first team, and only the first team, to complete it gets to head straight to the pit stop. The doctors take it since the Nat half of the team is afraid of heights. Unfortunately, the Kat half of Team Doctor has been a vegetarian for 22 years and their fast forward task is to eat an entire sheep's head. They accomplish this fairly quickly and are sent to the pit stop and out of the episode mid-way through.
At Skjombrua bridge, the roadblock requires one team member to have “strength, stamina, and guts.” Kevin takes this, as Michael self-deprecating jokes he has none of those qualities.
In their interview with CultureMap before the season began, Michael admitted he is afraid of heights, so any high roadblock challenges will probably always go to Kevin.
Using a mechanical ascender, Kevin rappels from the bridge down to the water, sets down on a waiting boat to get the next clue and then ascends 130 feet back up to the bridge deck. The trip down is accomplished by most racers, including Kevin, swiftly but the ascend back up requires both upper and lower body strength. Kevin makes it up first and the team leaves the bridge in second place, since elsewhere Team Doctor has already devoured their sheep’s head.
Team Houston next drives to what The Amazing Race route designers simply call a “remote field” in Harvika, Norway for their detour challenge: Bike or Boat.
For Bike, the teams must ride mountain bikes along a mountain course and back. The scenery is beautiful, but the course is not difficult enough to jostle racer placement, nor is it funny.
Team Houston picks Boat instead, because Kevin is worried that the bike course might be too much for Michael. This is not a good choice for race placement, since it will take longer than Bike, but it is much more entertaining for viewers. Once on a trawler, they have to use a map to navigate for the captain until they find a marked spot on shore. There our team climbs a slippery embankment and up a fairly steep hill to a summer lodge. The catch is they have to carry two 20 pound cods and a chainsaw. If they’re replicating some kind of summertime Norwegian cod/chainsaw ritual with this task, Phil Keoghan never says. It does allow Michael ample opportunity to tease his son about his fishy smell.
Though they arrived at the detour first, the two other teams who chose Bike complete their task faster, so Team Houston falls behind by choosing Boat, but they seem to have a good time. They also get a little lost on the way to the pit stop, Ankenes Marina. They arrive in fourth place, ending exactly as they began this leg.
This Norwegian leg didn’t provide much drama, unless viewers find a vegetarian eating sheep eyes particularly Shakespearean, but it did reenforce Team Houston as one of several fun, good-natured teams. With the exception of the interchangeable bickering-couple teams, who blur together now, the Amazing casting department did a terrific job this season.
Next week, Russia, and it looks like someone gets to wear a babushka. We hope it’s Michael.