You always know you're in for a good episode of The Amazing Race
when Phil's opening narration officially declares that one team will
be eliminated, not just may. No trudging on the ambiguity of what ifs, each team knew what was on the line when they kicked, shot and poeticized their way across England for a spot in the final three.
But alas, the audience favorite Afghanimals ended up being eliminated after several misdirections, doing well in the challenges themselves but helpless in their commuting efforts. Should Leo and Jamal have chosen to U-Turn Brenchel instead of the Cowboys in the last leg, ensuring the couple's last place finish and a possible chance at survival this round? Maybe. But even if it were the Cowboys taking over instead of Brenchel, the Afghanimals would still have inevitably driven down the wrong side of the race road to their own defeat.
Dave and Connor depart first, with directions to fly to London, England. From there, they have to travel to the Liverpool MC soccer club stadium, Anfield, to complete a goal kicking challenge. Brenchel start shortly after, followed by the Afghanimals and the Singers. Jamal is wearing a brace after suffering an injury from the Ballz challenge back in Spain. He seems optimistic about his injury, but that brace serves as foreshadowing that the Afghanimals will be on their knees throughout this leg.
Everyone is on the same train to Madrid and the same flight to London. As they land, the Afghanimals find their car first, while Caroline gets in on the wrong side of hers, since people drive on the opposite side in England. Brenchel and Dave and Connor suffer traffic conditions, with the couple stuck on the freeway, and Dave and Connor helplessly lost while trying to navigate the dark city streets.
The Afghanimals get to the Anfield first, and are starstruck to be in such a legendary soccer presence. The eccentric Liverpool mascot named Mighty Red greets the duo, flapping his wings hectically while amping up their energy. Soccer is huge in Afghanistan, and Leo and Jamal are about to prove themselves to be Pele's Middle Eastern nephews. They opt for the smaller of the two goalies and start kicking. Jamal feels tension in his knee after his first kick, but fights through the pain to score his first goal, running around with arms held triumphantly, bowing to the rambunctious cheers of imaginary fans.
Leo hits his goal and follows suit, screaming loudly as if he just won Afghanistan the world cup. Dave and Connor are still lost, but Leo and Jamal have their eyes set on the game, with Jamal getting a nail-biting goal right off of the keeper's hand, and Leo finally getting his second to complete the challenge. They're then instructed to head to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. As they relish living their childhood soccer dreams, Leo and Jamal discuss how they hope Dave and Connor end up going home on this leg.
Caroline and Jennifer, then Brenchel, arrive. In typical Brenchel fashion, the couple declares that they have some soccer knowledge, seemingly having experience in every sort of challenge that's been thrown at them on this race. While they still are in the top four, it's more good fortune that kicked them through the final team goalposts.
But Brenchel knock out their goals pretty quickly, surprising Caroline and Jennifer and getting into second place. Dave and Connor finally show up, and the father/son duo prove themselves to be remarkably unathletic. Connor has absolutely no foot coordination, while Dave finally gets his first after several attempts. Caroline and Jennifer finish, finally followed by Dave and Connor. Dave and Connor just dropped from first in the world race standings to last.
"I've Got Plenty of Oomph!"
Leo and Jamal and Brenchel are neck and neck, but still need directions to get themselves to the aqueduct. The Afghanimals pull over to a gas station and ask nearby patrons on where their destination may be, but they only get confused and unhelpful replies. Brenchel asks the gas station employees themselves, noticing that the Afghanimals are at their same location. They try to slither out of sight without the Afghanimals spotting them, but Leo and Jamal quickly recognize the bright green coated couple and tailgate their car to their destination.
Caroline and Jennifer, though, have no issues driving to the Aqueduct, using Brenchel and the Afghanimals' Detour to slingshot ahead into first. While following team Brenchel, Leo and Jamal accidentally go down a wrong turn, putting them even farther behind than when they started. They've been in this position before, with poor directions guiding them to an early defeat. The Singers arrive first at the aqueduct, where they're required to ride a train car across while learning to recite a classic Welsh poem from a native literary enthusiast. Brendon has trouble pronouncing the words, while Connor looks like a frustrated college student studying with a well-meaning but equally frustrated tutor.
Brendon tries reciting the poem first, but screws up on the third verse. Caroline too shows promise but stumbles over the words and is sent to study again. Jamal's attempt at the poem is hilarious, like he is performing in some sort of Yiddish rap battle, flailing his arms and invoking fear in the heart of his examiner. Brendon then Caroline get their poems done first and hop back in their cars to head to the next challenge.
The non-competing Detour members are all very friendly with each other, with Leo and Jennifer hugging and Dave smiling at everyone's newfound friendship. They all act like attendees at a high school reunion, reminiscing about those olden days in the race where everyone was rude and bitter but now more mature and welcoming.
Connor, though, must have been held back from their graduating class, as he's becoming increasingly abrasive to his tutor and examiner's guidance. The woman tells Connor to show more oomph in his presentation, which Connor replies that he's got plenty of it. If Dave saw how he was acting right now, this might be the first time he'd ever be disappointed in him, if that's even possible. Brendon and Caroline arrive back, putting Brenchel in first and the Singers in second place.
On his fourth attempt, Jamal is feeling the pressure. He knows that it's challenges like this that squander race hopes, with no possible way for a team to redeem themselves. With big stakes on the line, Jamal performs his more audience friendly Welsh rap, and earns a thumbs-up from the examiner. Connor too rises to the occasion and earns flying colors on his final poetry exam. He may have Hollywood looks, but Connor wouldn't be a good cast member in Dead Poets Society
"Stop Crying and Get Into the Game!"
Brenchel arrive at the Detour first called Boot It or Shoot It. Shoot It requires teams to shoot 16 clay pigeons with a 12-gauge shotgun, while Boot It tests teams throwing skills as they toss a heavy, water-laden boot alongside an outdoor course. After dressing up in stylish vintage English attire, the couple chooses Boot It.
The Afghanimals are tied with Dave and Connor for third but get lost once again. Brendon is throwing his boot all over the place, as it lands dangerously close to the cheering Victorian crowd alongside the course. The Singers and Dave and Connor opt for the Shoot It challenge, with Connor bragging about his shooting merit badge and Caroline boasting about her family ties to Daniel Boone. But Caroline's claims are no joke, as she is a natural sniper with a 12-gauge, knocking out far away clay pigeons like they're right in front of her. Dave and Connor are doing all right, but they start catching up on the Singers gun-powdered trail.
Back at the boot challenge, Brenchel are near finished, and it looks like a first-place finish is destined to be theirs. But as the boot crosses the judge at the finish line, he examines and refutes their throwing endeavors. Apparently, Brenchel picked out a size 10 pair of boots, whereas the clue specifically stated that the shoes had to be either size 9 or 11, a minute detail definitely intentioned to throw teams off.
After hearing that her hard throws were for nothing, Rachel completely breaks down, sobbing hysterically, while Brendon tries to get her back to the start. Piercing cries of "I didn't know, Brendon, I didn't know!" echo throughout England, while Brendon is fuming over Rachel's immature emotional display. "Stop crying and get into the game!" he yells at his fiance like a frustrated pee wee football coach, knowing that his romantic muse is much too fragile for any insults or verbal attacks he'd love to throw her way. Amidst the sobbing, the Afghanimals finally arrive, with the rare opportunity to get back into the game.
Dave and Connor complete the challenge and head to Peckforton Castle, arriving in first. They're dressed up like a gangly Sherlock Holmes and Watson, wearing tattered English clothes covered in sweat. The two win another romantic vacation together for coming in first, this time a seven-night trip to Fiji. Dave talks about the milestones that him and Connor would make if they make it to first in the final leg. They'd be the first parent/child team to win the race, and Dave would be the oldest person to win the race. But like an Amazing Race Pavlov's dog reaction, Dave gives his atypical "But the biggest accomplishment would be winning with my son." Yawn.
Caroline and Jennifer finish in second, which is pretty impressive considering they had either trailed or were in the middle most of the race. Much of the Singers' success can be owed to the Express Pass given to them by the Cowboys during the teams' time in China, which ensured they wouldn't finish in last. The Singers capitalized upon that good will, and even though their muses the Cowboys may be gone, Caroline and Jennifer have enough country pride to bring a race win back home to the prairie.
By this time, Brendon has entered no BS mode. He doesn't have the patience for Rachel's crying, he's here to win. So they grab the correct pair of boots and start tossing again, this time with Brendon looking like an Olympic shot put competitor. Leo and Jamal notice Brenchel in the distance still competing and realize they still have a chance. They knock off clay pigeons one by one as Brenchel toss and toss as if their lives were on the line.
Brenchel finish with the Afghanimals shortly behind them. Brenchel get lost once again, giving the audience more hope that the Afghanimals might be able to pull through. But at the Peckforton Castle square, Brenchel arrives first, getting third place. "We need to read our clue, not just freak out," Rachel says about her boot experience, while Brendon shows an impressive sense of patience and resolve over the incident.
The Afghanimals finally arrive and are informed they've been defeated. "Deja vu all over again," Jamal states, clearly feeling gypped that his team came in last and under such similar circumstances to their last race. Perhaps they would have been able to survive if they U-Turned Brenchel instead of the Cowboys in the last leg. But even though the Afghanimals had a lot of heart and passion, their lack of direction caused their race car to finally run out of gas.
The Amazing Race: All-Stars
airs Sundays at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)