From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30.7.8

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The Amazing Race, Season 30, Episode 6: "All's Fair In Love & War" #TeamExtreme Recap

Woohooo we went to Zimbabwe!! Kristi and I have still not finished below 3rd place AS A TEAM after 8 legs of this race. Our consistency is something that not even Kristi and I can fully understand, but we feel very fortunate to have continued to perform well. Neither of us has been to Southern Africa at all and if my face didn't give it away at the start of the episode, we were so excited! I LOVE animals, so I was thrilled to be heading to a wildlife conservation.

How long did it take to get from Prague to Zimbabwe?

After we ripped our clue at Letna Park in Prague, we had to make our way to a travel agency to pick up our tickets. Yes, once again we were all on the same flight. Understandable considering how much of a venture it would be. We walked from the park to the travel agency since we had plenty of time. From the city, we took the metro to a bus to the airport. Then we had a sequence of three flights, including a 12-hour overnight flight from Zurich to South Africa. Once we landed in Zimbabwe, we had to take a taxi to a train station to a shuttle bus to a safari vehicle before arriving at bushcamp. All-in-all, it was about a 32-hour travel day, so we were fried when it came time to assemble that tent.

Aren't you and Kristi supposed to be good at setting up tents?

Hahaha!!! Yes, we've both spent a fair amount of time in the outdoors. I camp a ton with my husband, though thanks to Escapod, we don't camp in tents any more. That said, I've assembled many a tent.  From the train it was full on taxi race to Imire. The first 3 teams managed to stay together and cruise down a super sketchy road. Indy Car's suspension went out during the drive and they veered off the road right in front of us. We knew we were behind the other teams quite a ways, but rolled with it considering the potential outcome. We managed to assemble the tent pretty quickly, but we started about 7 minutes behind the first three teams (Yale, BB & Firefighters). Ocean Rescue impressed me more than anyone. They finished that challenge in 2nd despite arriving there last (10 mins behind the first three teams).

What did you think of the partner swap?

Besides potentially messing with Kristi and I never finishing below 3rd place, we're alright with it. (I still stand by the fact that we have all top-3 finishes to this point as we weren't racing together on leg 7 - have I said that yet?).

We are fully accepting that the Amazing Race creators can do anything they want. However, there was very minimal information provided at the time of the announcement. We didn’t know how long we would be racing for, what would happen to the last team to arrive at the pit stop, and when or IF we would be reunited with our partners. It was pretty stressful. Kristi and I had been racing really well together, so we weren’t thrilled to have something potentially disrupt our momentum.

Were you surprised that Jody picked you?

Kind of. We had been getting along with Jess & Cody really well on the race, but I don’t think Kristi and I quite realized how much teams were paying attention to our performance. Especially being athletes, we’re always looking for ways to improve our performance. We knew we had the best finishes of all the teams, but didn’t necessarily think of ourselves as the “team to beat” until this moment.

How did you decided which partner would switch with whom?

We were very much put on the spot. Since Cody & Jess chose us, Phil asked them who would race with whom. Cody pretty quickly said that he’d race with me and Jess with Kristi. At this point, Kristi leaned over to me and said, “I think your strengths would better match up with Jess and mine with Cody.”

In hindsight it’s always easy to play the “if-only” game, but Kristi is a better paddler than me, so on the rafts, I think it was good to have Kristi with Jess.

Did teams have to do opposite sides of the detour?

No, teams were allowed to do the same side of the detour. There were only 3 stations on each side, so if you arrived early, like we did, you could go choose the same detour. That might’ve been a game-changer for this leg. Or, it might not have made a difference, given how much the Firefighters struggled with the singing later on.

For the record, Kristi does know how to drive stick. However, should she and Jess have gotten stuck, Jess would have been the one doing the winching... they'd still be stuck in that mud puddle.

Then why didn't you switch detours to go with Jess & Kristi?

When the girls switched, it was my initial instinct to go with them. My thought was that 4 brains are better than two. We could potentially work together to get through it really quickly. Cody said that Jess is good at puzzles, so I let it go. That’s not to say that Kristi isn’t, but memory & puzzles are more my thing, physical is more her thing. Had we switched, that would have forced Evan and Daniel to do the 4x4, which could have been interesting… If Daniel were driving, Evan would have had to winch. Evan took stick driving lessons before coming on the race, but these trucks were really difficult to drive. (Hence why I switched with Cody at the water crossing).

Cody & Jen flew through the 4 x 4 challenge. How did they do that?

Cody & I worked really well as a team. The only "mistake" we made was not switching to help Kristi & Jess, but hindsight is 20/20. Originally, I started out driving with Cody in the back, so if we got stuck, he could do the winching. But when we got to the water crossing, I got a bit nervous about me doing the driving. The vehicles they provided were VERY difficult to drive. I kept accidentally starting in 3rd instead of 1st and it made for a very jerky ride... So, I switched with Cody at the water, which was the best decision I could have made.

The second water crossing was intended to get you stuck. We found a good route across and Cody knew a secret about this kind of the driving. Apparently you need to keep wiggling the steering wheel left and right so that you don't dig a giant rut. Welp, it worked! We nearly beat Phil to the mat. LOL. Production was scrambling when they saw us get our pit stop clue.

How did Jess & Kristi get so stuck on that puzzle?

There were a few factors that went into this. Partly, not fully understanding what was expected of them. The clue doesn’t explicitly state “remember the location and order in which you find the evidence.” Some teams read between the lines on this and realized it before getting to the puzzle. Regardless, Jess & Kristi got the first 5 correct and just scrambled the final 3 on their first attempt. Let me tell you one thing about getting a puzzle wrong on The Amazing Race. IT SUCKS! You very quickly start overthinking it, which I think they did.

They thought that they path may have been in a crisscross pattern instead of in a circle. Also, not knowing your new partners strengths and weaknesses makes it very difficult to know when to sit back or assert yourself. Once Evan & Daniel came through and got it on the first try, they realized it must be simpler than they were making it out to be. That's when it all came together for them.

Why didn't anyone U-Turn #TeamExtreme?

Though it sucked to finish at the back of the pack in Leg 7, we were very fortunate that Ocean Rescue and IndyCar were the two teams to finish about 20 minutes before us. Had it been Yale, we would have been U-Turned 100%. Because, according to Evan, that would have been the "strategic calculation" to make. And, she's right. If you were looking at the U-Turn as an opportunity to get the best team out of the race, we would have been it. However, Kristi and I were very close with Indy & Ocean Rescue. We were racing the same way and had a lot of respect for one another.

How did you and Kristi make up so much time through that Detour?

When we were in the cab from Imire Wildlife Conservation to Harare, we weren't able to exactly locate the haberdashery. We knew the street, but not the exact address. I asked our driver which end of the street the "fabric district" was on and he led us there. We made a left when a lot of other teams went right to arrive at the U-Turn board in 3rd place.

Rolling those tires through that marketplace was no easy task. It was about 92 degrees outside and we had to put those suits on over our clothes. Not to mention, we were instructed to "roll the tires like the locals do." The dirt roads had giant holes and rocks everywhere and the surface was extremely uneven. I just knew that the crux of the task would be locating the hardware store, so I kept my eyes peeled. That's ultimately what allowed us to jump in front of Indy & Ocean. We sprinted back to our cab to make our way to the garden.

Why was Kristi mad at you for helping #TeamYale?

Kristi wasn't really mad at me for helping Yale, but it wasn't the smartest race move. If you're going to help a team, it should be a team that will reciprocate that down the line. Henry & Evan gave us no reason to believe that they'd ever help us. They absolutely 100% would not. And I don't blame them. Kristi completely understood why Evan didn't help with puzzle in the previous leg. You can see that she moves past it quickly and shifts attention back to solving the puzzle. But it wasn't absurd for her to ask. If you don't ask for help, you generally don't get it (unless your Yale, and you pass me...oops). So, she was razing me a little bit. Especially because we had strong working relationships and loose alliances with some other teams at the time (Ocean, Indy & BB).

How long did it take you to get the singing challenge?

Kristi and I handily arrived in first place to the singing challenge. We were there for about 15-20 minutes before Ocean Rescue showed up and had already made 1 or 2 attempts on stage at that point. Every time we got up there, they'd tell us we had to another little thing different. First it was pronunciation, then it was keeping pace, then it was not using the paper, then we needed be dancing and grooving more, then my mic got unplugged, then they couldn't hear me well enough... It was like, seriously guys?!

The edit made it seem like we were all more stacked up than we were. The only other team we saw get on stage was Ocean Rescue. Brittany & Lucas very quickly realized it was more about putting on a show than nailing the pronunciation or pacing. Once they got it, we hopped back up and did our best to play to the crowd. We got it immediately after Ocean Rescue got theirs correct. At this point, the other teams were there and learning from our failings, so IMHO it helped them move through after fewer attempts.

What is the name of the song?

For your convenience, I've added the lyrics below. For now, you can watch this YouTube video of the song. Haven't been able to find it on iTunes or elsewhere.

Jen:      E’yay yoi-ye e’yay Ho-ye ba-bá

Pasi pã-no ka’ni pa-ne zee-edzo

Kristi:   E’yay yoi-ye e’yay Ho-ye ba-bá

E’yay yoi-ye e’yay ini n’do-da kwen-da

Jen:      Mwari’uyu akasika wo zwee-no tapira

Dokosi-kawo zeenovava

Kristi:   Musika akasika zweeno-fadza

Dokosi-kawo zweeno-su-weeza

Next week:

We're off to Baharain for the first time in Amazing Race history! We'll do some heavy lifting, make a splash, get up-close-and-personal with multiple mammalian creatures, eat some bugs and more. This is going to be an insanely action-packed two hours of adrenaline pumping RACING! Join us from 8-10 pm MT & CT (9-11 pm PT & ET) or DVR this sh*t and watch it later!!! Preferably both :)

 

From the Cutting Room Floor - Tar 30.6

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The Amazing Race, Season 30, Episode 6: "The Claws Are Out" #TeamExtreme Recap

And so, the adventure continues! **SPOILER ALERT*** Once again, and with honor, Kristi & I landed on the podium. This time we were back in FIRST place. We're the first team of the season to win two legs and are feeling stronger and more confident as we work out our strategies for this race. Prague is a gorgeous city and close to my heart as my great grandparents were from this area. I've always wanted to visit and am more compelled than ever to go back!

When we signed up for the Amazing Race, we did so because of the incredible opportunity the race presented - a potential trip around the world, being tested in all different realms, a prize of $1,000,000 - not because we were going to be on TV. The cameras, the producers, the sound guys/gal, were all secondary to the competition. We almost forgot that there was a TV show being produced at times, we were simply there to compete. The aftermath of the show has been an incredible gift and given us the chance to relive one of the most [amazing] experiences of our lives.

Why didn't you plot against a strong team in the back of the pack and eliminate someone with the W-Turn?

For those of you who don't know the rules of the race, once you've used a u-turn, you can't use it again in the race. [After speaking to some other races from TAR30, I may have been wrong about this]. Regardless, Kristi and I were feeling really strong about how we were racing and with an hour lead on 3 other teams, we felt like we would be wiser to let them battle it out among themselves. Though the "social" game of TAR isn't quite as mission critical as in say Survivor, it is still a crucial element. Being a good team isn't the only reason you get u-turned. You can have a target on your back for being a strong team, for being untrustworthy, for being annoying...

To risk u-turning a team that we were likely to beat to the mat that day regardless, wasn't worth it. Even had we used the "burn" tactic, wherein, the first team to arrive u-turns a team in the back of the pack, and then the second team to arrive u-turns the first team, thus making it void and leaving only one team u-turned, there was still a chance that team would survive. Well-Strung nearly did. Then we'd be left in a race with a pissed off team and we would have a target on our back for not only being "good" but being "untrustworthy." The U-Turn was an unnecessary weapon for us to use in this scenario.

That said, Jess & Cody absolutely made the right decision in U-Turning Well-Strung. Though all of us were sad to see them go.

Why did you decide to keep your cab in Prague?

We let our cab go at the Roadblock in Belgium and then got super lost finding the printing press. We said we'd NEVER let our cab go again. But then had a terrible cab in Morocco, so we abandoned ship! Haha! See, learning from past mistakes...

On the flight to Prague we asked a local an overwhelming number of questions about their taxis. There are a lot of fraudulent taxis in Prague, as well as only certain ones that travel in certain places. We made sure to learn the trustworthy taxi companies (AAA was one of them). We also knew that cabs were difficult to track down in the city, but were informed that any restaurant would happily call one for you. The Firefighters did that! But, waiting for a cab during the Amazing Race is a form of torture.

So, without giving away too many secrets, we found a way to communicate with our cab driver that we were in a very important race and that we wanted/needed him to wait for us. We also learned how to say "thank you very much" in Czech (děkuji mnohokrát - pronounced djay-qwee-A moots-graat), which goes a long way while traveling.

Why didn't others do the same?

This was the first leg where you really needed a cab, so I don't think the "keep your cab" mentality was quite front-of-mind. The driving time between the detour & roadblock was probably about 15-20 minutes without traffic. And from the roadblock back to the city center about the same. To be without a cab would have been horrendous. You couldn't do it. Hence why so many teams spent so much time trying to find a cab, versus trekking on foot. I don't think many teams thought about keeping their cab at the Rudolfinum and then some others had issues retaining them.

Why did you choose "This" over "That?"

Since we had no information about either detour, we decided that we would go to the closest one. Our cabbie told us that "This" was closer, which apparently wasn't true, but it worked out. The most important thing was that he knew where it was. We got there about 15 minutes before Yale, as they were taking public transportation. I think Kristi and I would have been able to get through "That" pretty quickly as well, but "This" was way more fun.

"This" had some elements that made it very tricky. For example, the "perfect pour." (If the photo of the perfect pour was double-sided, we're total idiots...) I knew we needed some foam, but the area to which we needed to take it for approval was quite a ways away. By the time we got down there, our foam had deflated almost to nothing. On round 2, we brought our mug of beer and another mug full of foam, and refilled our foam right around the corner from the brew master.

What was so difficult about finding the party boat?

This is actually so freaking funny... After we rearranged the kegs, tapped the full-keg, and delivered a perfect pour to the brewmaster, we had to deliver 2 kegs to "Fidelio at Naplavka Smichov." That was ALL the information we had. We first went to our cabbie who was waiting for us, and showed him where we needed to go. He offered to drive us, but we had to go on foot and we're not allowed to have someone lead us. We tried to follow his directions, but apparently our concept of 200 meters is wayyyy off.

This was approximately the route that Kristi & I took, maybe a little shy on the back & forths:

We asked so many other people for directions. Everyone just kept saying, it's at the river, which we thought meant it was a restaurant or brewery on the river. Mind you, the river is long, as rivers are... There was no indication of Fidelio being a boat. However, if any of us had slowed down enough to use someone's phone to look up each individual element of this, we would have learned that Naplavka means "embankment," Smichov is a district in Prague, and Fidelio...yeah, nothing about Fidelio. We were too fixated on this last element, Fidelio, to realize that Naplavka Smichov is a very specific embankment. Not the river itself...

If you did it right, the brewery was merely a 5 minute walk to Fidelio if you went directly there... But Fidelio was tucked behind the wall of the embankment, so you didn't see it while you were walking past it. We past it two or three times before actually finding it. Don't worry, we got it right the second time!

Jen, how did you solve the Roadblock?

The Roadblock was a memory challenge, which I happen to LOVE! Yay! I hadn't seen this episode with Flight Time & Big Easy (though I watched their season, so not sure how I missed it). This was allllll new. As soon as I walked in, the ringing was overwhelming. It was deafening. I just decided right away that I had to be extremely methodical about listening to the phones. I think I was also the only one who plugged their other ear... As I was hearing the words, I'd put them into small individual phrases so that it would be easier to remember.

I made a whole lap around the room, listened to every single phone, but still only had 6 words. At first I was stressing but, it was still only Daniel and I in the room. So, I just started at the beginning and SLOWED DOWN.

The phones weren't real, meaning that picking up the handle didn't trigger the recording. I'm fairly certain that the recording of the words was on a loop, so if you picked it up right after the word played, you'd hear silence for long enough that you'd think there wasn't a recording. But, if you picked it up right before it played, it would seem like the words played quickly. In a nutshell, if you went too quickly, you'd miss words.

I finally got all 8 words and went into the room to solve the puzzle. This was around the time that Evan arrived. The form had a bunch of random questions you had to answer (to confuse you) and then had one section to write the 8 words in, line-by-line. I'm a very visual person, so I immediately went to write the words down on the margin so that I could visualize how they should go together. Apparently that was not allowed. So I started over. I first tried: "It is the meaning of life that stops," which is completely morose...

The real Kafka quote, however, is beautiful: "The meaning of life is that it stops." A little less than 3 years ago, I held my father's hand as he took his final breath. His death taught me to appreciate every moment for what it is. So, that's what Kristi and I have tried to do on this race. "Life has meaning and purpose because it's finite. And our experience on this race is finite as well, whether or not we win, or go home next leg," I say, as Kristi finishes my thought, "we want to enjoy every moment."

Why didn't you work with Daniel?

It didn't even cross my mind to work with Daniel. The twins are the nicest people on earth and their dad jokes are out of this world. Evan had been calling them the "plaid dads," which I think would have been a more appropriate hashtag, but maybe it didn't fit with the theme of the season.

Anyway, my decision to not work with Daniel was simply because I didn't need to. The Firefighters and us were the first two teams there. The edit made it look like Kristi and I somehow arrived long before them, but we weren't there more than a minute before they arrived. We were still at the clue-box when they got there.

At this point we knew Well-Strung had been U-turned because Indy told us when we saw them as we were leaving the detour. So, we knew we didn't have a ton of time pressure. In the same way we didn't need to U-turn, we didn't need to collaborate.

Did Jess sabotage Brittany & Alex?

Before you read on, please remember that behind the "characters" that you see on this show are real people with real feelings and real lives. Be kind. It's fine to be critical of race decisions, but let's not make it personal. All of these people are in a race for $1MM. No one knows who or what to believe or when you're being lied to. As a racer, there are things you don't know until the show airs. Yet, all our opinions on scenarios are filmed BEFORE THE SHOW AIRS. You have to be on your toes, looking over your shoulder, questioning every decision, conversation, interaction, to see what it may tell you about a team's trustworthiness.

I don't think Jess sabotaged Brittany & Alex, but she was uncomfortably sneaky, and intentionally so: "The last thing I wanted was to give everyone all of my hard-work and then see them leaving the roadblock before me. I didn't feel comfortable sharing the actual answer until I was heading out that door with the clue in my hand." This is completely fair, but there was probably a better way to go about it.

In the context of the race, I give her props for thinking on her toes so quickly. I couldn't have come up with that plan on the spot. Might not be the same game Kristi and I are playing, but this girl is in this game to win it. I also completely understand why Brittany is expressing reservations about trusting Jessica moving forward. Don't forget she's also in a race for $1,000,000.

What We See:

Jess asks Brittany, "How many words do you have? I have 5, but I'm missing 3."

Brittany responds, "Which ones do you have? I'll tell you if I have the one that you're missing. Ha!"

Jess says, "This, Is, It, and then Stops," then states, "let me know if you find another word."

We then see Brittany & Alex hand in their sheets, while Jess changes "this" to "life." After B & A get it wrong, she turns her in form, gets it right and gets her clue.

What We Don't See:

I've typed out the scenario, word for word, but we are still missing so much information. For example, we don't see when Alex got in the mix. We don't hear anyone explicitly say "let's work together". And we don't see who did what when they were solving the puzzle... In other words, we don't have all the facts, so how can we judge?

So, what should Jess have done?

By telling them the word before she left, Jess prevented an all out war. Had she not done that, she would have guaranteed that she and Cody would be racing with a target on their back. Jess could have gotten the same results without potentially burning bridges by negotiating the collaboration. She was in a power position because she had more words than Brittany & Alex combined. By saying, I'll give you my words if you let me get the clue first when we solve the puzzle, she would have preserved some relationships. Easy for me to say in hindsight though. All said and done, it's a race.

Next WEEK:

Off to Zimbabwe next week! When we left Morocco we were worried that would be our only African experience. Morocco feels more middle-eastern and Mediterranean than African. We are over the moon excited to go to Zimbabwe! My face says it all! Next week shifts to two-hour time slot from 9-11 pm ET & PT and 8-10 pm MT & CT, only on CBS :)

 

 

From The Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30.4 & 30.5

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The Amazing Race, Season 30, Episodes 4 & 5: "Gotta Put Your Sole Into It" #TeamExtreme Recap

My, oh, my! I think people are finally starting to understand why they're calling this season the "most competitive" season yet. Out of 30 seasons, that's quite the statement, but in the first 5 legs of this race, we haven't seen a repeat leg winner! ***Spoiler Alert*** Kristi and I did technically arrive at the mat first, but grrrrr... those head-to-heads. Guess we needed to have spent more time playing yard games like bocce ball instead of doing cool sh*t like skiing, mountain biking and wakeboarding (#NoteToSelf).

Read on to learn a few behind the scenes details about legs 4 & 5 of the Amazing Race. There were quite a few details missed in these episodes like a fender bender (our cab driver hit a car), a skipped active route info clue, half of a detour, a close call with our sound guy, and a few injuries.

Leg 4: St. Tropez, France

Why was every team on the same flight leaving Morocco, AGAIN?!

Before I get into this, I just need to tell you a little story... Leaving the palace in Morocco, there was a line of cabs along the driveway waiting for teams as we started this leg. You could hop in any old cab that you chose, so Kristi and I found one that looked a bit newer and hopped right in. Our cabby started to pull out and WHAM! Smashed into another car driving by... But, we're in a race, so we can't wait for them to get sorted. We just hop out, run to the cab in the very front of the line and tell him where we're headed. At this point we still think there's a chance of getting on an earlier flight so catching Yale & Indy was priority numero uno.

We were told we could book a more advantageous flight if we found one. Unfortunately, upon arrival at the travel agency, we learned that there were no other flights. The airlines that you can fly and the countries through which you can travel are limited. I think there are logistical and security reasons for this and in the end there were no other available flights. We asked at the travel agent for quite a while and then double checked availability on a computer later. We even discussed trying to take a ferry to Spain (only 8 miles across the sea) to catch a flight from there, but we weren't allowed. So, once again we were all bunched up.

Why couldn't #TheFirefighters figure out how to reverse their car in France?

The stick shift had a ring that you had to pull up on in order to move it into the reverse position. If you didn't know it was there, I'm sure it would be confusing. And maybe the driver's manual wasn't in english?? I had driven a stick shift like that previously, so it didn't trip me up. But they figured it out by the Les Beaux leg. I'm just glad that they didn't get t-boned while pushing their vehicle into position!

Kristi seemed to do really well at the Roadblock. Has she sailed before?

Kristi has not sailed before. She did grow up on water, but this activity was not intuitive. She understood what she was supposed to do right away, but the wind was blowing straight into the shore. They didn't show much of it, but she paddled most of the way out to the first buoy. Fortunately, she was able to catch the wind and tack all the way back into shore.

How did some teams get so lost leaving the detour?

The edit on this episode was cut somewhat short because they needed to allot more time for the head-to-head. One major detail that was missed was the second half of the detour. There was a second half, you ask?!?! Yes. After we finished making sandals (or baking bread), you had to deliver a finished pair (or baked loaf of bread) to a person in a restaurant in St. Tropez. This meant, we had another location to which we needed to find before arriving at the Place de Lices.

*There was also an additional route info clue, leaving the roadblock, that was edited out of the show. I suppose it didn't change the order at all, so they eliminated it.

What are your thoughts on the Head-To-Head now?

Ugh. The head-to-head. Blah. Well, this was a frustrating one, as you can imagine. To have run a really strong race leg and then have a few rounds of bocce (pétanque) determine your entire day, really sucks. Our thoughts remain consistent with what we said after the Belgium leg: we would be fine with the head-to-head if there was an opportunity to pick up time after it.

Kristi and I were waiting for about 25-30 minutes before IndyCar showed up. But our start times for the next day show us starting about 20 minutes after IndyCar. Had the head-to-head been upon arrival at the Roadblock, we would have had to play the same two teams, in the same order. Even with the same results (a loss to Indy & Jody) we may have been able to overcome it and still win the leg... Make sense? Another alternative would be to leave the head-to-head where it is, but if you're there for more than [xx] amount of time (say 10-15 minutes) before another team arrives, then you can check in. If there is a team right on your heels, you have to play them in a head-to-head.

Ultimately, I like the head-to-head, but think that there are better ways to implement it as to not nullify virtually everything else that had happened in the leg.

Leg 5: Les Beaux, France (Pronounced 'Lay Bow', not 'Lesbo')

Did you have any issues finding the castle during your drive from St. Tropez?

We had a great map of France, but it was of ALL of France. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite zoomed in enough to provide a comfortable level of detail to Les Beaux. Kristi did a great job navigating and found a route there, but it was not the most direct. We decided to take it anyway because the more direct route had road junctions that we couldn't clearly identify because of the scale. KRISTI & I DIDN'T WANT TO GET MAJORLY LOST. We arrived in 2nd, about 35 minutes behind Indy. So we lost a little bit of time, but still jumped in front of Jess & Cody. Guess they should have continued following us after they followed us to the highway ;).

What did you do when you arrived at the castle at 5 a.m., but it didn't open until 8:30?

When we arrived and found the IndyCar guys, we tried to hunker down and sleep on the cobblestone. That lasted for about an hour. It was FREEZING! Chomp arrived, then Well-Strung, then Jody (something like that)... we all discussed the idea of going to sleep in our cars for a couple hours and honor our arrival positions. It was very broken sleep as we kept waking up when other teams would arrive. Finally, around 8 am, we noticed that Yale was just arriving and decided to walk toward the gate. Holy bananas, they got REALLY lost. But they seemed to maintain their composure through all this adversity (frites race, chipped tooth, lost for 3+ hours...). Props.

This roadblock seemed cool, how did Kristi get it right on the first attempt?

This was a fun roadblock. Kristi joked on twitter that she "trained" for the Amazing Race by assembling IKEA furniture. It certainly wasn't intentional, but it probably did serve as excellent practice. There were no instructions, just a pile of parts and one complete trebuchet that you had to replicate. Kristi was thorough in examining the finished product before she started assembling it. Not just looking at what parts needed to go where, but in what particular order.

She also made a smart move with the big basket thingy (see photo)... Kristi anchored the long arm down with chains before trying to slide it on. She appeared to be neck-and-neck with some of the other teams at this point, but jumped way ahead with this move. I think we actually got out of there in 2nd, but I can't be certain.

Was it difficult to find the bull Arena? How cool was that place?

It was a bit challenging to find the Arena. The clue that we received from Cafe de la Fontaine only said the name of the arena and the town. According to google maps, it was about a 25 minute drive if you navigated directly there.

We found the general area quickly, but we wasted about 15 minutes just looking for the marked parking area... Turns out, the marked parking is easier to find when there are teams in front of you. Ocean Rescue saw us park and then the 4 of us started running through the town to find the arena.

The trickiest part was that the main staircase drew you straight up, but all the arches were gated closed. We ran all the way to the back of the building before realizing we weren't getting any closer to finding the entrance. At that point, I figured we should go back toward the main entrance to see what we missed. On the side of the stairs, there was a marked entrance, but it was quite hidden.

*This part of town was mainly a walking village but some of the roads would alternate between walking & driving paths. When cars were allowed in or out, these cylindrical barriers would get lowered into the earth. Then when it was back to a walking path, would pop up out of the ground. One of these popped up right in front of our sound guy, Mickey, and totally took him out! These guys are the most badass people I know. Mickey just got right back up and kept on running.

Were you in front of OceanRescue after the detour?

Once we completed the challenge at the Arena in Arles, it was a footrace back to the parking lot. Kristi and I went out a different exit and got in front of Lucas & Brittany. But we made the ultimate Amazing Race error and didn't fully read our clue. We were so used to being given very little information about where we were going, that we stopped to ask someone for directions. You can see it happen in this BTS video here. I guess we don't have compasses in our hearts, Brittany!

Brittany & Lucas realized that they had directions all the way to the pit stop, so they cruised on by and got themselves a well-deserved W. It was only upon getting back in our car after asking directions that we realized we had all the information in our clue. Our bad! Won't be making that mistake again...

What do you think about Brittany & Lucas' engagement?? Jen, why did you ruin the moment?!?!

Kristi and I are so happy for Lucas & Brittany. I love how clever Lucas was with his hiding spot for the ring and that he asked for his headphones at such an awkward time. Haha! I still want to know why Brittany thought this meant he must be cold?! They had a tough few legs leading up to this, and it was great to see their strengths shine.

I don't know why, but I knew as soon as Lucas opened his mouth that was about to propose. Brittany didn't even register what was happening. She was just gazing at Lucas in awe. That's when I realized that I shouldn't be gasping out loud and tried to hide my face by turning toward Kristi. Ooops! Too late :) Selfishly, it was an honor to be there to witness this. It was a beautiful moment. And even if Brittany wasn't fully listening, the words Lucas had to say about her truly melted hearts. I'm glad they have it on tape!

Quick Summary of Legs 4 & 5

Overall, legs 4 & 5 of The Amazing Race were incredible. The South of France is one of the most stunning places I've ever been and I hope to return to explore the mountains at greater length. We've still managed to stay in the top 3 for 5 legs (the only team to do so) and are feeling stronger with each step. We know that there is only one #1 that we need and that's where we're focusing our attention. We made one major mistake in Leg 5 that likely cost us the win (e.x.- not reading the entirety of our clue, which gave us exact directions to Hotel Benvengudo), though we have no regrets considering how that leg turned out!!

On To The Next!

Next week, The Amazing Race heads of to Prague, Czech Republic (my great-grandparents moved to the US from here), so I couldn't be more excited to see this country up close and personal. There will be a lot of beer references and a throwback to a legendary roadblock from season 15. Tune in 8/7 c on CBS!