|Posted on May 11, 2014 11:00pm|
DÉJÀ VU FOR THE AFGHANIMALS
Four teams raced through Liverpool, England and into Wales where Brenchel made a mistake that nearly cost them everything. But in the end, the Afghanimals fell short of the final three again, while Dave & Connor won their third leg in a row.
OFF TO ENGLAND
Departing the Pit Stop in first place at 10:39am, father and son Dave & Connor ripped open their clue instructing them to travel by train and plane to London, England. Once there, they had to drive a Ford Focus to Liverpool and find Anfield Stadium, the hallowed grounds of the Liverpool FC. After lacing up, each team member had to score two penalty kicks against a professional goalkeeper to receive their next clue. With all four teams taking the same train and plane to London, thoughts turned to making it into the final three. While Dave set his sights on being the oldest winner ever, Rachel was proud that she hadn’t freaked out yet as she and Brendon overcame all obstacles in recent legs. After being eliminated last Race in the eleventh leg, cousins Leo & Jamal sought redemption and didn’t want a repeat performance this time, but Jamal did have concerns about his injured knee from the previous leg. After escaping two non-elimination legs, country singers Caroline & Jennifer still maintained a positive attitude about their chances to win. Jennifer said, “I feel like it’s anyone’s game at this point and why not it be our game?” Landing in London, Dave & Connor took the early lead out of Heathrow Airport, but quickly got lost and fell into last place. Brenchel made a point of ditching other teams, who, according to Rachel were “mooching off of all of our amazingness.” However, the newlyweds soon found themselves at a standstill on the expressway wondering if anyone else found a faster route. Someone did. The Afghanimals took a detour to avoid the traffic jam caused by an accident and jumped into the lead over the other three teams.
JUST FOR KICKS
Running into the locker rooms at Anfield Stadium to put on their signature red Liverpool FC jerseys and cleats, soccer enthusiasts Leo & Jamal knew they were about to experience something truly special. Thinking about his injured knee, Jamal joked, “This could heal any wounded man.” Exiting the tunnel that emerged onto the hallowed field, the Afghanimals met Mighty Red, the Liverpool FC mascot, who led the cousins onto the grass where they carefully selected which of the two goalkeepers they wanted to face. Feeling incredibly confident in his soccer abilities, Jamal took the first attempt but, with an injured knee on his left plant foot, he couldn’t muster any power to score a goal and even winced in pain. After several more misses from both cousins, some wide right, some wide left, and most directly into the goalkeeper’s arms, Jamal kicked one into the high, right corner that sailed into the back of the net. To celebrate, Jamal ran around midfield shouting, “Gooaaalll!!!” Leo soon joined his cousin in celebration after kicking a low shot in the left corner that also zipped past the goalkeeper. Still with no other teams on the pitch, Leo & Jamal kicked a pair of nearly identical shots in the high right corner that the goalkeeper only got his fingertips on, but couldn’t prevent from going into the net. After more celebration with Mighty Red, the Afghanimals opened their next clue instructing them to drive to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a 200-year old aqueduct known as “the stream in the sky.”
GETTING THE GOAL
Caroline & Jennifer ran onto the pitch at Anfield Stadium in second place just ahead of third place Brendon & Rachel. The country singers selected the goal at one end of the stadium leaving the other end for the newlyweds who felt very comfortable on a soccer field. Conversely, with no soccer experience at all, Caroline & Jennifer struggled to even kick the ball much less score a goal. With only two misses between them, Brenchel quickly scored the four goals they needed as a shocked Caroline asked, “How did Rachel get them in?” After a little more practice, the country singers each managed to get a kick past their goalkeeper as last place Dave & Connor took to the field. Although Caroline continued to call the goalkeeper “mean” for blocking her kicks, eventually the pair scored another two goals and gave the defender a big hug afterwards. Arriving at Anfield Stadium in last place, Dave & Connor already felt the pressure and once they started kicking the ball, their anxiety only increased. Although a professional athlete in cycling, Connor exhibited absolutely no aptitude for soccer, admitting, “I’m so uncoordinated.” Even the nearly 60-year old Dave, who joked that his grandchildren could defend against him, managed to score both penalty kicks as Connor continued to kick slow grounders directly to the goalkeeper. After even more attempts, Connor finally snuck one of his weak grounders into the left corner just inside the goalpost and followed that up with a kick in the right corner to earn the clue. Afterwards, Connor commented, “It humbled me to have my dad beat me.”
After meeting Leo & Jamal at a gas station and them ditching them on the expressway, causing them to miss the exit ramp, Brendon & Rachel arrived at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. However, they arrived only moments after the surprising Caroline & Jennifer, who successfully navigated to Wales in first place. Opening their clue along the banks of the Trevor Basin, the two teams found a Roadblock. In it, one team member had to learn and perform a verse of traditional Welsh poetry. After choosing a canal boat, they would work with an instructor during the fifteen minutes it took to cross the aqueduct. When they got to the other side, they had to perform the verse correctly for a Welsh linguist. Jumping into the first two canal boats, Caroline and Brendon met their instructors and began the daunting task of learning the tongue twisting Welsh language as they glided along the aqueduct. While the first line of the poem, entitled Y Sipsi, proved manageable (“Hei ho Heidi ho”), the second line began incorporating all of the odd rules of the language making it very different from English. Among the rules, the letter F is pronounced as a V and a double L is pronounced with a near hissing sound formed with the back of the tongue. Just seeing words on the page like “eilddydd” and “rhwng”, the two racers knew they had a lot of learning to do before reaching the end of the aqueduct.
BACK TO SCHOOL
Arriving at the Trevor Basin only seconds apart, Jamal and Connor took the third and fourth canal boats along the aqueduct. Jamal was instantly reminded of learning a German song in Vienna the previous season and felt confident he could repeat his linguistic success here. Meanwhile, a less confident Connor felt he was “back at school and back at memorizing.” After a few minutes tackling the language of the poem, Connor didn’t feel any more comfortable and believed he wouldn’t be able to memorize it. After more memorizing, rehearsing, and fixing incorrect pronunciations, the four racers reached the end of the aqueduct where a Welsh linguist stood patiently waiting in the blustery weather. Brendon was the first to emerge from his canal boat and made it to the third line of the poem before forgetting a word forcing him to return for more practice. Caroline’s first attempt was even worse as she couldn’t make it through the second line before asking, “May I start over?” Jamal and Connor proved no better in their first attempt with each mispronouncing several words as they lumbered through their awkward recitations. The only person surprised by the failure was Connor who said, “I thought I nailed that.”
With more wind and now a light mist sprinkling down, Brendon returned to the linguist for a second attempt at Y Sipsi. This time he carefully spoke each word with feeling and passion as the linguist looking on with smiling approval. When Brendon finished, the linguist offered him a Welsh congratulations and handed him the clue. After waiting for Brendon, it was Caroline’s turn for a second try and she knocked it out of the park too, giving the linguist a big hug when she got her clue. After returning to their partners, the two teams opened their clue instructing them to drive to Bolesworth Estate. Now battling to avoid last place, Jamal and Connor each returned for their second attempts and again failed. Out of frustration, Connor snapped at the linguist, “What am I missing?” While Leo worried because the Roadblock in Leg 11 ended their Race last time, Jamal said after another dismal recitation, “I’m just under pressure and I’m just messing it up.” As the rain came down harder, the performances only got worse. Jamal forgot entire phrases on his fourth try and Connor needed more “oomph” on his third according to the linguist. Knowing what was at stake, Jamal made sure not to choke on his fifth try and finally gave a performance that made the linguist proud. Seeing Jamal run back to his canal boat with the clue, Connor knew he had to nail his fourth attempt or risk falling even further behind. And he did, finally breaking into a smile when the linguist handed him the clue. But, riding in the canal boat back to his dad, Connor worried, “We’re still in last place. It’s not looking bright for us right now.”
WILD WELLY TOSSING
Arriving at Bolesworth Estate in first place, newlyweds Brendon & Rachel ran across the well-manicured lawn to find their clue, a Detour having the choice of Boot It or Shoot It. Shoot It required teams to shoot down 16 clay pigeons with a 12-gauge shotgun. Boot It required teams to take part in the unique sport of Welly Tossing. Teams had to choose a pair of size 9 or 11 wellington boots, filly them with water, and step up to the starting line. They had to keep throwing their water filled Wellys along the marked course until they crossed the finish line. After dressing up in the finest early 20th Century clothing that would make them blend in perfectly at Downton Abbey, Brenchel chose to toss Wellys because they worried that high winds would affect the accuracy of shooting. Running down a hill that led to an expansive field, Brenchel saw the Welly course and made their way to the bright red start sign next to a large pile of Welly boots. After carefully reading their clue out loud to choose a pair of 9 or 11 boots, Rachel confused herself and Brendon as she pilfered through the pile. When she spotted a pair of 10 boots, she suddenly and incorrectly said they needed to find a pair of 10 or 11 boots and settled on a matching pair of 10s. Once they each filled their boot with water at a nearby trough, the newlyweds alternated their tosses beginning from the start line. From the point where Rachel’s boot landed, Brendon threw his boot and marked the spot where it landed before both refilled their boots to toss them again. Brenchel continued this pattern, continuing towards a hay bale in the distance that signaled the halfway point of the course. With a crowd of revelers around them, the newlyweds felt confident about their speed in tossing and refilling the boots, entirely oblivious to the huge mistake they made in selecting the pair.
TAKING A SHOT
Arriving at Bolesworth Estate within moments of each other, Caroline & Jennifer and Dave & Connor both opted to test their sharpshooting skills. With Daniel Boone and John Wayne in their respective lineages, Caroline & Jennifer initially wanted to show off their Annie Oakley skills, but they grew concerned when the instructor told them they would need to shoot sixteen clay pigeons in order to earn their clue. However, Caroline’s fear dissipated just as quickly as it arose when she hit her first target, making the clay pigeon explode in the air. Meanwhile, Connor, who held a Boy Scout sharpshooting merit badge, and Dave got off to a slightly slower start missing their first clay pigeons, but Connor kept positive, telling his dad, “We’ll get this.” With three teams at the Detour, last place cousins Leo & Jamal struggled to find Bolesworth Estate. After they stopped to ask a local the first time and came away with no answers, Jamal said, “I hope the other teams are lost.” Stopping a second time to ask a couple of workers who never heard of the estate, Jamal noted the irony of how great they’ve been at directions and navigation until now when they needed it most. Finally, after pulling over a third time, the Afghanimals found a local who gave them directions to the estate as Jamal said, “One team, that’s all we need.”
SHOOTING FOR THE TOP
While Brenchel continued around the Welly course using the wrong sized boots, Caroline & Jennifer and Dave & Connor slowly inched towards sixteen shot targets. Connor later remarked that taking out the stress and anxiety of the day on the clay pigeons was exactly what he and his dad needed. With Caroline taking control for her team, the Country singers kept a two or three pigeon lead on the father and son as both teams neared sixteen. On her last shot to reach the number, Caroline shouted, “Take that clay pigeon!” Ripping their clue open in first place, Caroline & Jennifer now had to drive to the Pit Stop at Peckforton Castle. As the Country singers ran off, Connor hit the sixteenth shot for his team giving him and his father a chance to chase down Caroline & Jennifer. Leaving Bolesworth Estate, teams had to make a choice, turn left or turn right. Caroline & Jennifer turned right while Dave & Connor chose left, in part because they knew the Country singers turned right. As each team drove further down the road in the direction they chose, they wondered if they made the correct decision. Caroline said, “Please let us be right, just this once.” They weren’t. After stopping for directions, the country singers discovered they drove the wrong way giving first place to Dave & Connor, who won a trip for two from Travelocity to Fiji along with a spot in the final three. Dave now turned his focus to becoming the oldest racer ever to win, a potentially remarkable achievement after tearing his Achilles tendon one year earlier. Arriving at Peckforton Castle in second place, Caroline & Jennifer officially secured their spot in the final three and now visualized winning the Race in the next leg, which would be their first leg win ever.
Just as the Afghanimals arrived at Bolesworth Estate and chose to shoot clay pigeons, Brendon launched the final toss of his Welly that sailed past the finish line. Stepping up to the Welly official, Brendon & Rachel expected to receive their clue, but, after the official checked the boots, he told them they would have to do it again with the correct sized boots. A defensive Rachel insisted she and Brendon had a correct matching pair of boots as growing panic crept into her voice. As Brendon took the clue from his pocket to reread, Rachel began to crumble and the tears began. When the newlyweds realized they needed a size 9 or 11, Rachel cried, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Returning to the pile of boots, Brendon asked why she got a pair of 10s and Rachel replied through the sobs and tears, “I didn’t know!” Trying to refocus Rachel’s panic, Brendon shouted for her to stop crying, telling her, “No excuses.” As Brenchel began tossing a pair of 11s around the Welly course, cousins Leo & Jamal picked up their shotguns and hit two clay pigeons with their first two shots. While the Afghanimals’ pigeon count inched up to seven, Brenchel continued to hurl their water-filled boots around the course, clearing the halfway point. Tossing her boot, Rachel prayed, “God, please give me strength.” Brendon encouraged his wife, telling her, “We can’t give up now.” As Brenchel neared the finish line for a second time, the Afghanimals hit their eleventh clay pigeon. After Brendon hurled his Welly past the finish line and received their next clue, he and Rachel ran back to their car as she apologized for misreading the last clue. He replied, “We’ll make it up by winning the million dollars.” Shooting the sixteenth clay pigeon moments later, the Afghanimals returned to their car hoping that another team got lost heading to the Pit Stop.
Although Brenchel stopped for directions and worried about being in last place, Brendon felt that he and Rachel still deserved to race in the final three. After arriving at Peckforton Castle in third place, Rachel broke down in tears of relief as the newlyweds earned their second appearance in the final three. Remembering that in the last final leg she misread the clue and finished third, Rachel said, “We need to read our clue and not just freak out. We have to race a perfect final leg.” Stepping on the mat in last place at Peckforton Castle, cousins Leo & Jamal once again fell just short of the final three. Jamal said, “Déjà vu all over again.” Leo noted that in back to back Races, no team took them out with a U-Turn, but instead their own mistakes did them in. Jamal ended by saying, “We’re going to stay strong. We’re going to stay positive. The experience is something that Leo and I will cherish forever.”
2411 ROUTE MARKERS
Roadblock: In this Roadblock, one team member had to learn and perform a verse of traditional Welsh poetry. After choosing a canal boat, they would work with an instructor during the fifteen minutes it took to cross the aqueduct. When they got to the other side, they had to perform the verse correctly for a Welsh linguist.
Performed Roadblock: Caroline, Brendon, Jamal, Connor
Detour: In this Detour, teams had to choose between Boot It and Shoot It. Shoot It required teams to shoot down 16 clay pigeons with a 12-gauge shotgun. Boot It required teams to take part in the unique sport of Welly Tossing. Teams had to choose a pair of size 9 or 11 Wellington boots, filly them with water, and step up to the starting line. They had to keep throwing their water filled Wellys along the marked course until they crossed the finish line.
Boot It: Brendon/Rachel Shoot It: Dave/Connor, Caroline/Jennifer, Leo/Jamal
Order of Finish: 1. Dave & Connor 2. Caroline & Jennifer 3. Brendon & Rachel 4. Leo & Jamal