In the past, the U-turn was an underused device on "The Amazing Race."
It was deemed too cruel, a thing used only under imminent threat.
But that barrier has been broken.
Margie & Luke aren't as sweet as they look. More on that later.
After leaving the pitstop near Vlad the Impaler's house in Transylvania, the 8 teams are headed for Siberia by way of Moscow. They get a monetary note with the clue -- they are to head to a hydroelectric dam depicted on the note.
Mel & Mike, the gay dad and son, are the first to leave. Mike describes his dad as "part Woody Allen, part Billy Graham with a splash of Judy Garland," which he sees as a formula for success. I'm not sure how intimidating a neurotic Jewish evangelical druggie torch singer can be, but it's a great image, no?
The loveydovey couple Kris and Amanda talk about how they are young and strong and they think they can win. It's the kind of line that can only mean calamity is on the way. The Race chews up and humbles the confident for breakfast.
While in the cab, the tiny stuntmen brothers try to call the airport with their cabbie's cell but he connects them to another cabbie's cell, so they end up talking to the identically hair colored NFL cheerleaders. One of the cheerleaders pretends to be a airline agent and gives the tiny stuntmen bad flight info. The brothers note the American accent but keep talking and apparently would fall for the trick if the cheerleaders, about to succumb to their laughter, hang up the line.
As it turns out, all the teams met up in Moscow, but only three make it on a the first flight to Siberia: the tiny stuntmen, the blonde flight attendants and the black athlete sisters Kisha and Jen.
The next clue takes them to a church and a detour. Stack requires going to a riverbank where teams must use a traditional method to stack firewood. Construct requires walking on foot to a work shed where teams build shutters and then install them on a house.
All 3 teams choose stack. It seems a poor choice for the tiny stuntmen because when the stack is finished, it's taller than they are.
The blondes and the athletic sisters are stacking well. The tiny stuntmen are doing OK too. And then they knockdown the sample stack. Now they have to rebuild that one AND their own too. Bummer. They decide to cut their loses and do Construct instead.
The black athletic sisters finish first and get to the next clue, which leads them to a U-Turn. The U-turn is a feature in the race where you can basically slow another team down by making them have to do both detour tasks. And there's a new feature -- it's a blind u-turn meaning no one has to know it was you.
The sisters don't U-turn anyone and get to the next roadblock. In it, a team member must ride a bob sled at 55 mph and complete the track under 4 minutes. While they whizz by they must watch for letters, and then at race's end unscramble them to spell the name of famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov.
Let's take a step back. If you're doing an American game show and you a game that involves unscrambling a Russian writer's name, I'd say you're going to use one of these three: Dostoevsky, Nabokov or Chekhov. If you're playing said game, and you know Russian writers, you can eliminate Dostoevsky because you can't show that many letters in 4 minutes. And if you're on the bobsled and a 'c' comes up, well you don't even need 7 letters.
But of course, that's assuming that you have even a passing knowledge of Russian lit and you know how to spell Chekhov.
The blonds and the black athletic sisters don't have a passing knowledge of Russian lit and thus, can't spell Chekhov. Indeed, black athletic sister Kisha goes all Hattie McDaniel uttering " I don't know nothing about no Russian literature."
Meanwhile, the other five teams are stacking. gay father and son Mel & Mike, the cheerleaders and the loveydovey couple's stacks all fall down. Margie & Luke aka the show's first deaf contestant, and the overachieving siblings Tammy and Victor have better luck. Victor attributes their success to "Asian engineering."
Margie & Luke decide they should U-turn the loveydovey couple. And they do it for the right reasons: the loveydovey couple are young and strong and they are a threat. In other words, they strategize as though this was a competition for $1 million. As a bonus, the move helps out their friends, the cheerleaders. There seems no way the loveydoveys can rebound from this.
Black athletic sister Kisha finally stumbles upon the correct spelling of Chekhov only because she's familiar with Russian last name endings. That success is quickly followed by the blondes who also guess. Says one blonde: "I wanted to look brilliant, but I didn't." Nope, but in this group, you didn't look too dumb either.
Kisha & Jen get to the pit stop -- a theater of musical comedy first -- but go to the wrong entrance, allowing the blondes to claim first place. They win motorcycles.
Tammy & Victor head to the bobsled and you just know that Victor knows who Chekhov is. He went to Harvard, for crying out loud. Sure enough, he says: "Who doesn't know who Chekhov is?" Dang arrogant Ivy Leaguer!
Margie & Luke arrive and deaf Luke does the bobsledding. But he has no idea who Chekhov is. And as his mother notes, English is a second language for him, so American lit was hard enough. It's the first time his deafness has really been an issue on the Race and he gets really frustrated. Eventually though he tries enough combinations and lands on the right answer. They end up in 4th place.
Meanwhile, the three falling stack teams head to the construct task, joining the tiny stuntmen who can neither build the shutters nor find the house they must be placed on. They end up all working together; Mel & Mike easily put together the shutters and then they all head out looking like "a caravan of idiots holding their ladders" by Mike's description.
They can't find the house even though it's about 10 feet away, so the idiot tag isn't all that harsh. Finally dad Mel finds it and the teams are on their way. The loveydovey couple finds out they've been U-turned. They can't believe it; they've been nothing but nice to everyone! This is a typical Race attitude. We're not here to be nice, people!
They suspect black athletic sisters Kisha and Jen or the blondes. They bet that Margie & Luke felt sorry for them when they saw the U-turn. Nope, but they claimed to feel real bad right after they did it.
The tiny stuntmen are the next to the last team but when they get to the pitstop they don't have enough for the cab fare. They offer the drive the money they have and a watch, but the cabbie, for whom this must be a side job, has a Rolex. I guess since he can afford a Rolex, he lets them off for the full fare.
The loveydovey couple is eliminated. Margie & Luke's cruel and yet smart move has gotten some tough competition eliminated.
I can't wait till they turn on the cheerleaders.