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The Amazing Race episode 10 recap, November 27, 2011.

Andy and Tommy find out that the Amazing Race can be a barrel of fun! (photos courtesy CBS)

Welcome to the tenth episode of The Amazing Race! Last week ended with a continuing Race with no eliminations as five teams remain in the Race around the world.

After they finish in first place and win a travel prize, Marcus & Amani find out from Phil that “the next leg of the Race starts right now!” Marcus looks surprised to find out that it’s only halftime. Hah! They’ll drive to the Ford Proving Ground in Lammel, Belgium for their next task.

Ernie & Cindy reach the mat in second place and get a “however…” from Phil. No, it’s not about the missing train tickets to Brussels, so they dodged that bullet. Instead, Phil just tells them that the next leg has already begun. Ernie & Cindy stop to get directions; so do Amani & Marcus. Meanwhile, Jeremy & Sandy are the third team to arrive at the mat. Andy & Tommy and Bill & Cathi are still doing the body building judging task and Andy & Tommy finish it first, putting them in fourth place.

At the Ford Proving Grounds, one member of each team will get to test drive a Ford Mustang in the “Master Your Mustang” series of challenges. First, they must speed the Mustang up to 100 miles per hour along a straightaway and then bring it to a quick stop. Then they must navigate a slalom course in 15 seconds or less and finally do a double “victory donut” spin something like you see NASCAR racers do when they win a race. To give them a feel of the car as a passenger, a test driver drives the car around the speed circuit at full speed. Ernie almost looks terrified! “This car’s got power!” Ernie completes the straightaway speed and braking task, looking like he’s thoroughly enjoying it. At the end, though, the test driver has to tell him to keep braking.

Meanwhile, Bill & Cathi arrive last to the mat, already thinking they’re out of the Race. They’re pleasantly surprised to find out that they’re still racing through another leg.

Back at the Proving Grounds, Ernie tries the slalom and takes it a little too fast going wide on the turns to finish in 16.9 seconds. Having to do this in 15.0 seconds or less, he gets the thumbs down. He tries it a second time and bumps into a test car (actually a large car-shaped balloon) after waiting to brake after the slalom run. “Be safe, please,” the test driver tells him. Apparently, he doesn’t heed this advice as he says “I must have completed this challenge 15 times” as he keeps bumping into the test balloon after several runs.

Jeremy & Sandy are the next to arrive there while Marcus & Amani seem to have gotten lost and are still asking for directions. Jeremy has no problem doing the speed run and now joins Ernie in the slalom run, where only one car can go at a time. Jeremy does a lot better job of it than Ernie, taking narrower sweeps around the cones, but he finishes his first run in 15.1 second and taps into the test balloon. Ernie (apparently seeing the line Jeremy took) does a much better job in the next run and barely completes the slalom course in time. He does the double donut and gets the next clue. Jeremy completes the slalom course on the second try right behind Ernie and also does the double donut. From the Proving Grounds, teams must then drive to Gent, Belgium to the Hoofdburg bridge there.

Just as Marcus & Amani reach the Proving Grounds, Andy & Tommy wheel into the parking lot right behind them. Marcus completes the speed challenge with Tommy completing it right behind him. After one failed try, Marcus gets the best time of the day on the slalom course at 13.8 seconds. The instructor tells him to floor it and release the brakes and go full throttle when doing the donuts. No problem, and Marcus & Amani head to Gent in third place, just as last-place team Bill & Cathi arrive.

Bill hops in the car and gets a “very nice” comment from his test driving on the straightaway speed challenge. Tommy has just finished the course and they’re off to Gent in fourth place. Andy admits to feeling jealous about Tommy having fun driving the car and comments that he “had to ask for forgiveness through Christ and Christ just took that from me and the burden was lifted.” With the other teams already gone ahead of them, Bill says “I love it!” as he completes the Proven Grounds test driving.

Ernie & Cindy reach the Hoofdburg bridge in Gent, where the next clue is found inside a barrel. It’s a Detour, “Water” or “Waffle”. The Water task requires teams to assemble a barrel raft and search for the two halves of their next clue along the waterway. The Waffle task requires teams to assemble a waffle stand and bake and prepare 18 Belgian-style waffles, complete with chocolate and strawberries. Yummy!

Ernie & Cindy opt for the Waffle task, as do Jeremy & Sandy. Cindy says she’s too short when they try to assemble the roof to the stand. She has to climb up to help Ernie, who’s holding the roof up while she gets the pillars under the roof. Then they start making waffle mix after watching another guy at a stand do it. Ernie also takes notes of the different kinds of waffles that were made. Jeremy & Sandy complete building their stand pretty quickly and Cindy asks Ernie how they did it so fast. Ernie replies, “I don’t know… because they’re tall, we’re not.”

Marcus & Amani arrive at the bridge in third place. It seems Marcus is still woozy from the test drive at the Proving Grounds as he haphazardly parks the car on top of the curb. They pick up their clue and wave to Andy & Tommy just as they arrive. Marcus & Amani see Jeremy & Sandy at their waffle stand and decide to do the Water task with the barrels instead. Andy & Tommy also decide to do the water barrels. Andy & Tommy make quick work of assembling their barrel raft while Marcus is trash talking them. Andy & Tommy hit the water and their raft holds up. They find the first of the two halves of the next clue alongside the canal.

Ernie & Cindy finish preparing their waffles, but get a “No” for quality control. After they inspect their waffle tray, the find out that the only thing wrong is that one strawberry fell off of a waffle into the tray. They put the strawberry in place and get their next clue, running in first place. Having finished the barrel task, Andy & Tommy are not far behind. They walk away from Marcus & Amani, who are still assembling their barrel raft. Jeremy & Sandy don’t have it quite right upon first inspection of their waffle stand. They also fail a second quality control inspection and are considering whether to switch tasks after all the work of setting up the waffle stand. Sandy suddenly realizes that two waffles are in the wrong order and then they pass inspection. Bill & Cathi arrive, see the waffle stands and decide to try the barrel task instead.

Following the Water or Waffles Detour, the next stop is De Muur Van Geraardsbergen. Ernie & Cindy are the first to get there and find out what they must do next. Teams will assist a pigeon trainer in releasing a flock of pigeons. Then they will follow the flock of pigeons to where they go to pick up their next clue. They’re given a card that reads “Steenweg op Ukkel 75, Beersel” as the destination. After Ernie & Cindy drive off, Andy & Tommy arrive and do the same thing and their card has a different address, “Stoofstraat 52, Beersel”. Marcus & Amani and Jeremy & Sandy arrive next at the same time. Their addresses are one each of the first two that were handed out.

Andy & Tommy reach their pigeons’ location first. Attached to a pigeon’s leg is a stamp-sized picture of the Atomium. a huge structure representing the atomic structure of the iron atom located in Brussels. This is the location of the Pit Stop for this leg of the race. Phil tells us that “the last team to check in here will be eliminated.”

Jeremy & Sandy are the second team to reach the address where their pigeons have flown. They’re on their way back to Brussels as Ernie & Cindy can’t seem to find their way and start getting tense about it. They ask for directions and realize they’ve lost quite a bit of time, at least half an hour, as it begins to get dark outside.

Meanwhile, Andy & Tommy reach the Atomium and finish in first place, each winning a Ford Mustang! Wow, now they can both go racing around in their own car. Somebody upstairs must have heard Andy’s request for forgiveness in being jealous about Tommy being the one to do the driving at the Proving Grounds. Not only that, they can go online and customize their Mustangs to their own taste. Nice prize, best of the season.

Meanwhile, Bill & Cathi are looking for the pigeon release location and seem to get some very convoluted directions. Ernie & Cindy get to where their pigeons have flown, but don’t recognize the picture of the Atomium. They ask someone who tells them that they’ll need to take the highway to Brussels. It’s almost dark when Amani & Marcus reach the same location where their pigeons have flown. Bill & Cathi are still finding their way (or getting lost) somewhere.

Jeremy and Sandy arrive to the Pit Stop in second place. They look both surprised and glad and share a hug. It’s already dark when Ernie & Cindy arrive in third. He’s glad, she looks exhausted and can’t even smile. Marcus & Amani stroll into fourth place. Marcus likens to Race to an NFL conference championship, knocking other teams out of the Race and “it’s on to the Super Bowl.”

The remaining team Bill & Cathi are still a long way away, 24 kilometers from Brussels. They know they’re in last place and will be eliminated, so they already talk about how they’ve enjoyed the race and they’re not ashamed of themselves. “It’s been a hoot,” he says, “and it’s improved Cathi’s and my relationship totally.” They finally arrive to the mat where Phil tells them that they’re the last team to arrive. They smile, taking it gracefully. Phil tells them that they’ve proven that “age is nothing that will stop you from doing well in the Race.” Bill says they’d do it all over again, “same person, same way.”

Kudos to Bill & Cathi, who no doubt were a favorite of many viewers this season. Here’s a tip of the hat to you two!

Next week, it’s a battle for a spot to make the Final Three. Sandy has to face her fear of heights, there are cryptic clues, and Ernie & Cindy find themselves in last place during the leg.

Stay tuned!

The Amazing Race episode 9 recap, November 20, 2011.

Phil Keoghan shows his stuff on tonight's episode of the Amazing Race! (photos courtesy CBS)

Welcome to the ninth episode of The Amazing Race! With the elimination of Laurence & Zac last week, only five teams remain in the Race around the world.

Ernie & Cindy, as the winners of the last leg, are the first to depart at 9:01 in the morning. They read the clue and find out that they and the other teams will proceed to the Hans Christian Anderson statue to pick up their next clue. It’s a Roadblock where one team member must memorize a short Hans Christian Anderson poem inscribed on the bottom of the statue. Then they pick one of several bicycles with a map on the hub of the wheel to get to their next destination. There, they must recite the poem on a stage to a drama critic. They must not only recite it correctly, but also with some dramatic flair!

The poem is very appropriate for the Amazing Race as it reads:

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.

It’s a tough memory test. If they fail to remember it on stage, they’ll have to return back to the statue to re-memorize it. Cindy does the task with flair, getting it correct the first time. Ernie & Cindy get their next clue, which takes them to Legoland Park.

Meanwhile, Bill & Cathi leave the Pit Stop at 10:34, with Andy & Tommy five minutes behind them. They reach the statue and practice reciting the poem several times before going to the theater. Cathi, however, can’t find the theater on the map and has to ask for directions. Tommy also has trouble finding his way and finds out he is “off the map”. Meanwhile, Marcus & Amani depart the pit stop at 11:43, more than hour behind the second and third place teams. Surprisingly, Amani easily finds her way to the theater and gets there ahead of Cathi and Tommy. She also does it with flair and now she & Marcus have just moved up into second place! As Marcus put it, “We just took the opening kickoff and ran it for a touchdown. That is unreal.”

Cathi is the third person to reach the theater. Will she remember the lines after wandering around for so long on the bike? It goes well until she says “lands untold” instead of “lands remote”. Oops. It’s time to go back to square one. About this time, Jeremy & Sandy depart the Pit Stop at 12:08, already running well behind some of the other teams. They reach the statue with Bill and Andy still waiting for their partners and decide that Sandy will be reciting the poetry.

Cathi makes it back to the theater and recites the poem correctly the second time (and gets a kiss on the hand!), just as Tommy parks his bike on the same bike stand that Cathi did. Cathi departs and very soon thereafter Sandy arrives as Tommy is doing his recitation. He recites it correctly, but with no flair at all! “More drama, please,” the critic asks Tommy. Tommy walks out to his bike to go back to the statue. “Drama for your mama,” Tommy flippantly says to the camera man, “they want more drama.” Sandy also doesn’t give enough drama and she goes back to the statue too! Tommy practiced it a bit more for Andy while Sandy just rode by the statue to go back to the theater. Tommy gets it right, barely saving himself as he stumbled on remembering the “lands remote” bit. Still, he gets a pass and he leaves the theater just as Sandy arrives. She also gets it with the right amount of dramatic flair in the second try.

Ernie & Cindy, meanwhile, have already reached the Legoland Park. Here they find out that teams will have to assemble a lego puzzle while spinning around in a theme park pirate perch ride a lot like the spinning cups in Disneyland. The assembled pieces will reveal the next clue. Cindy is already saying that she is feeling sick from all of the spinning around. Even with one piece missing, they manage to put together the puzzle, which looks like the train station “Hamburg Hbf”. From the Legoland park, the teams will have to drive across the border into Germany to reach the Hamburg train station.

Marcus & Amani reach Legoland second. After a few spins on the ride, Amani is about to throw up. We get a shot of a barf bag on the floor of the ride. After a few stopped rides, during which time they can’t work on the puzzle and have to hold their hands up, they manage to piece together the puzzle. Meanwhile, Bill & Cathi are still on the way, stopping by a pizza parlor to get directions to Legoland. Andy & Tommy reach the park just as Amani & Marcus leave, meeting them in the parking lot. Jeremy & Sandy reach the park a few minutes later while Bill & Cathi still on the road somewhere.

Andy & Tommy are assembling one piece at a time, leaving most of the pieces in the box with one of them handing a piece over. Jeremy & Sandy don’t seem to be making any progress even after a few rounds, with at least one piece having flown out of the ride on to the platform. Sandy is the next one about to throw up. And it gets worse after they found out the piece is missing. Andy & Tommy finish the puzzle and then start mocking Jeremy & Sandy, showing them the puzzle and then doing some throwing up sounds and spinning their ride around. Jeremy & Sandy realize a piece is missing and look for it. They find it and eventually get the puzzle put together, leaving the park in fourth place. Bill & Cathi arrive after Jeremy & Sandy have already left, so they’re pretty far behind the pack at this point.

Ernie & Cindy, meanwhile, have finished the drive to Hamburg train station where they pick up their clue. Teams will ride a train to Brussels, Belgium and then make their way to the European Parliament Building to look for their next clue. Ernie & Cindy find out the next train is at 12:30 a.m. and… did Cindy just drop their tickets on the floor? Yup. They realize they’ve lost their tickets and can’t seem to find them after retracing their steps. They check a ticket machine and determine that they don’t have the 77 Euros to buy new ones. For some reason, they don’t go to a manned ticket counter to get some help to replace them. Meanwhile, the other teams arrive one by one and it looks they’ll all be on the same sleeper train.

The train conductor comes around checking tickets. Ernie tells the conductor that he and Cindy lost their tickets. Cindy looks sick. The conductor asks them if they have receipts or anything else and they don’t. The conductor says she can’t help them. “This could be a game ender,” Ernie remarks. “We blew it big time.”

The train ride transits at Cologne and Tommy says, “all aboard.” Indeed they are, as Ernie & Cindy are also on the train. They’re hoping that there won’t be a conductor to check for tickets on this route. Sure enough, nobody checks for tickets and Ernie & Cindy seem to have dodged the bullet.

It’s an equal race now with everyone rushing out of the train station and looking for a taxi. The taxi line is very long (and in Europe, don’t even think of cutting the line!). So the teams decide to hoof it out onto the streets, hoping for an available taxi somewhere else. They all manage to find taxis and make their way to the Parliament Building. The clues are tucked into a bag attached to a bike.

The next task is a body building routine. Everyone must put on a body building uniform and do some routines which will be judged. Once they get judged with a high enough score, a total of 12 or more from three judges, they will be able to move on. Cathi says, “I was pretty mortified. I’m not sure I have ever worn a bikini that was so small.” Most of them weren’t comfortable with the attire at all. “Horrendous,” Marcus puts it simply. Yikes, Cindy looks like she has a big bruise on her left hip.

Not only do they wear speedos and bikinis, but they also get their whole body smeared up in gobs of tanning oil. After that, they’re shown the muscle flexing routines they’re supposed to do. Ernie & Cindy are the first to appear on stage in front of the judges. They get a 3, 2 and 4, not quite enough, as the judges explain to them what they need to do to score higher. Andy & Tommy do worse with a 1, 2 and a 1.

Amani & Marcus do a lot of practice before hitting the stage and they put on a pretty good show. The small audience is whistling at them and the judges award them with a 4, 4, and 4 score, allowing them to move on in first place. They get the Route Info and from here, teams go to a gazebo in Parc Elisabeth as the next Pit Stop. “The last team to check in here may be eliminated,” Phil tells us.

On their second try, Andy & Tommy again get failing marks, being told that there was no improvement. Ernie & Cindy are next up again and they’re working on pleasing the small crowd watching along with the judges. They figure if they smile enough and attract some applause, the judges will up the score a bit. Sure enough, they get a 4, 4 and 4 and are the second team to finish the routine.

Bill & Cathi give it their first try and score 1, 1, and 1. Yikes. They might be here a while. Jeremy & Sandy, though, go up and nail it with a 5, 4 and 4. The crowd loved them. They’re the third team to leave the building.

Meanwhile, Amani & Marcus reach the Pit Stop first. Phil greets them with his trademark raised eyebrow and tells them they are team number one! Amani & Marcus are high-fiving it as they learn they’ve won a trip to Panama. They’re also told…

“The next leg of the Race starts right now.” Oh, a super leg. No rest for the teams today.

Next week: Building barrels boats and auto racing on the speed circuit!

Stay tuned!

The X Factor episode 18 recap, Final 9 results show, November 23, 2011

The Final Nine are dressed up for tonight's results show (photos courtesy Fox)

Welcome to The X Factor Final 9 results show! Tonight, not one, but two acts will be going home. By the end of the night, we will know who the final seven acts are that make it through to next week’s show.

Right from the start, Kelly Clarkson begins the show with her new hit What Doesn’t Kill You from her new album Stronger. We don’t get any close ups of her in her gold dress at first. She is on stage with “STRONGER” showing up with a fist in vivid lights in the background. At last we get a close up as we listen to her performance. Both the crowd and the judges like it with a long round of applause.

In a backstage clip, we see Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid still feuding (and fuming) over L.A.’s comments about Drew’s performance of Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper. Simon tells L.A. that he’s really annoyed and then shoos the camera away. L.A. might be looking for a new job next season if they don’t make up soon!

Up next is the the group performance, otherwise known as the Pepsi Choice Performance. Fans of The X Factor got to select choreography and outfits for each of the contestants with rather bizarre results. Lesson learned — don’t leave decisions up to the voting American public.

The group sang a mix of Pink’s Raise Your Glass, actually raising their glasses while sitting around a swirly rotating table, along with So What with a circus arrangement. All of the flashing lights and lasers dancing around is migraine inducing. It’s so distracting that we completely miss the vocals in the performance.

Without delay, we get to the first round of the results. Lakoda Rayne and Drew are called up to find out which of the two will be the first to be eliminated. This seems obvious (Drew? Are you kidding us?), but you can never trust the voters. Steve tells us that Lakoda Rayne is the first act of two acts to go out tonight and they’re quickly sent packing. Thus goes the last of Paula’s acts in the Groups category.

Tonight’s second guest performer is Bruno Mars with his latest hit, It Will Rain. There’s a large red neon-lit broken-heart throbbing along with the bass drum in the background as he sings. He remains behind the microphone during the entire performance as rather extreme visual lighting effects flash throughout. Not bad, and the crowd loves it.

“Okay, back to the results,” Steve reminds us. Based on the votes, five of the seven remaining acts are automatically sent through to next week. “In no particular order” (as usual), Chris Rene, Rachel Crow, and Josh Krajcik make it through before the commercial break. After the return back to the show, Steve Jones tells us Melanie Amaro is the fifth act to make it through. Will Astro make it after last week’s debacle? Steve gives us a run down of the judges’ comments last night and… yes, Astro the sixth one to be called safe for next week.

This leaves two guys who have never been in the bottom two before, Marcus Canty and Leroy Bell. Steve Jones calls it “unfamiliar territory” for both of them (with ‘territory’ pronounced in his characteristic accent) . Steve asks Marcus how he feels. “I’m feeling kind of funny, I’ve never been down here before,” Marcus replies. When Steve asks how Leroy is feeling, Leroy responds with a single word: “Scared.”

The first to sing for his survival is Marcus with Christina Aguilera’s You Lost Me. With the first line of the song being “I am done…”, we have to question his song choice for the occasion. Yikes, it’s almost as if he is actually singing his swan song. Nonetheless, he gives a fairly good performance that showcases his vocal abilities. Scorecard: B for a fairly good performance, although it may have not been the best of song choices given where he’s at.

Leroy is up next with the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down. It’s a fairly good song choice that fits in with his style and vocals. He keeps it simple, stepping up close to the judges’ table as he sings with passion and conviction. The crowd is clapping along with the beat as he approaches the edge of the stage. Oh, oh, don’t let me down. Scorecard: B+ for a nice rendition of the original.

Now it’s time for the judges to decide between these two guys. It looks like it could go either way.

L.A. says, “It’s a funny thing, I happen to really like both of these guys.” He says Marcus has been consistent while Leroy has the “sizzle factor”. In the end, he thinks Marcus has the “star factor” and he votes to send Leroy home. As Leroy’s mentor, Nicole stands by him and sends Marcus home. After a brief explanation of how she liked Leroy’s performance better, Paula also chooses LeRoy for to stay and to send Marcus home. It’s now 2-1 for Leroy to stay and Marcus to go home and Simon will cast the deciding or tying vote.

Simon realizes that if he votes for Leroy to stay, Marcus is out. If he votes the other way, it’s a tie which will be decided based on the actual votes. Simon decides, “I’m gonna let the public decide tonight” by voting against Leroy and setting up the 2-2 tie. And the guy with the lowest votes is… Leroy Bell! Steve congratulates Marcus for making it through.

Leroy accepts the result gracefully. “I’m actually feeling okay,” he says. “It was a great ride. It was a wonderful journey. I learned a lot. I gave it my all tonight and, um, I’m okay.” He gets hugged on stage as a send off. He also gets a chance for some last words, with which he thanks everybody. It’s very likely we haven’t heard the last of him.

And so ends tonight’s double elimination results show, folks. Seven acts remain to vie for the final five, which means two more acts will be sent home next week! Stay tuned!