Bad Reality Night for H'Town
Tears of a clown for Team Houston in The Amazing Race
We must warn CultureMap readers that during episode seven of The Amazing Race there is much foul language. . .yelled at our television.
In Saint Petersburg, Russia, Team Houston begins only 10 minutes behind the first team and are ordered to go join the circus, the Avtovo circus to be precise. Once Michael and Kevin Wu arrive, the early teams are kept waiting until the gates open, so their lead time is wiped out.
Avtovo circus has the honor of bringing us the second fake bear of the season, as he rides around the racers on a motorcycle. We hope Michael won’t become paranoid that fake bears are following him around Europe.
Avtovo Circus also gives them the detour of the leg, Circus Band or Circus Clown. Circus Band has teams taking accordion lessons until they are able to play a Russian folk song. For two weeks in a row, Team Houston shuns the musical challenge, and this time chooses clowns, which is appropriate.
They head into the big top where they’re greeted by dancing clowns and circus music, to provide a tranquil and serene atmosphere for their detour challenge to simultaneously spin ten plates on poles.
Michael appears to get the hang of plate spinning quickly, but keeping 10 going proves to be difficult. Kevin explains, in a later interview, that they would manage to get nine when they would all come crashing down. The plates appear to be clairvoyant about the rest of the episode.
Team Houston finishes the task fifth but arrive at their next destination, Bank Bridge, in fourth place. This will be their last good break of the episode.
When the first team arrives at the bridge, Phil Keoghan narrates the next clue’s instructions, explaining that teams must walk to Vladimirskiy Prospekt Tower. They may ask for directions but are not allowed to get taxi help. Whenever Phil tells the audience the fine print of a clue, that usually means one team is not going to read instructions carefully, and in this leg that team is Michael and Kevin, who follow their cabbie on foot as he drives to the tower.
Viewers familiar with the show know that means Team Houston is going to be penalized time at the end, but just how much we’ll have to wait and see.
Our guys arrive at the tower close to Team Home Shopping Hosts. Kevin and Claire climb to the top and together realize that the miniature of a church left there means that they have to go find that church, which they can see from the tower. That church, by the way, is named The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, because the Russians don’t fool around when they’re naming churches.
And at this point Team Houston makes their second taxi mistake of the leg, as they hop back into their waiting cab, though their previous clue required them to walk to the church. Team Home Shopping Hosts make the same mistake.
Once at the church, they receive instructions to find where Peter the Great is buried. Michael and Kevin go to their taxi driver for help and set off for Peter and Paul Fortress. In their own cab, Team HSH take a moment to reread the clue and realize their mistake. They order their taxi driver to head back to the tower. By going back and then walking to the church, they'll avoid a penalty.
As they speed through St. Petersburg, Kevin looks behind and wonders where Team HSH’s taxi went, but he doesn’t bother to reread his own clue. This is an appropriate place for those playing along at home to scream at Kevin through their screens.
They arrive at the fortress in second place and learn their next task is a roadblock, playing a game of Gorodki. Phil compares it to bowling, as players have two chances to knock pins out of a square zone in each round, but in this game, a bat in thrown instead of a ball. The five pins are arranged in different formations and the team member must play through three different ones.
Michael takes this challenge and has trouble. He throws repeatedly, knocking down the pins, but he can’t seem to get them all out of the zone. On the sidelines Kevin grows frustrated as teams arrive and play through, while Michael struggles.
The scene is doubly tense for viewers, as we know what Kevin doesn’t, that they’re going to have to deal with those penalties. All teams but Chad and Stephanie pass Team Houston, but Michael suddenly finds his groove. He knocks out the first formation and then gets through the second and third ones quickly.
The pit stop is at the fortress, but they run to pay their still-waiting cabbie first, and then burn through precious minutes as their friendly driver now wants more money. Stephanie also finishes the task and Chad decides they should run to the pit stop without going back to pay their taxi. They make it in first, but Phil orders them to pay their driver.
Team Houston slides in to the Amazing mat, thinking they just made it. Phil delivers his bad news. They violated taxi rules twice and thus receive an hour penalty. Chad and Stephanie also violated a taxi rule earlier, but only one, and so they're only penalized a half hour.
The Amazing Phil officially eliminates Team Houston. Kevin looks exhausted and devastated, but Michael gives a quick smile. It became apparent during their fine seven legs that while Kevin raced for fun and to win, Michael raced to have an amazing adventure with his son. In their final interview, Michael’s last words to viewers are for Kevin: “I’m very proud of him.”
Goodbye, Team Houston. Though you were never the strongest team in either muscle or, sadly, reading comprehension, you did have youth and wisdom going for you. And while there were times when youth should have listened a little closer to wisdom, you definitely had heart. Whenever we see a fake bear, we’ll think of you and smile.
Team Houston, we’re very proud of you.