The two lead teams arrive at the burj (from the Arabic for "tower," although this is more of a tower in the medieval sense) to find it bathed in colorful light. They soon find their host on the grounds, who hands each team an ingot reading "07:30." Looks like they're camping out for the night. Let's hope no one oversleeps in these luxurious conditions.
Thomas calls his cabdriver "Speed Racer." "Yes," the driver agrees politely, a sure sign he never saw the movie. Jill and Thomas arrive at the burj and get ingots reading 07:45. And the three remaining teams arrive close enough together that Chad and Stephanie are in fact the next team to get their time, which is also 7:45. You know how you have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat some teams? Yeah, that's not really the case here. Gary/Mallory and Nick/Vicki both get a time of 8:00. Stephanie interviews, "Chad and I made a mistake, and we're moving on from it, and I think that we just need to wipe the slate clean and move forward." Well, what else are bunchings for?
Must be a short night for the racers, sleeping on a tile sidewalk against a low seawall. The sun comes up, and by 6:00 AM, Brook's doing her makeup, Claire's putting her hair up (don't forget to leave that big limp hunk hanging down the left side of your face), Nick looks hung over (actually, I'm just now realizing that he always looks hung over), Team @ does a little light yoga, and Chad invites Stephanie, all casual-like, "Let's go for a walk." In a solo interview, Chad reminds us that he wants to propose to Stephanie. He also tells us that his mother died during his freshman year of college, and his stepdad gave him his mom's ring, which he's been carrying for the whole race. After they've walked along the water a short way, Chad starts making his big speech about how awesome she is, which is the first time we've ever heard him say anything of the kind. Stephanie smiles and leans in for a kiss, but he drops to one knee. And...okay, I know this show likes to go to commercial breaks on scary moments, but this is the most frightening one ever.
After the ads, all the other racers are watching from a distance (mind you, the camera is watching from RIGHTHERE) as Chad presents Stephanie with the ring and pops the question. She says yes without even thinking about it, which, really, is the only way I can see it being done. The other racers applaud happily. Stephanie interviews that she wasn't expecting it (we could tell by how she's dressed for the occasion like she's about to paint the spare bedroom), but it was awesome and romantic. "Perfect, really." Plus he didn't yell at her once. They walk back to everyone else together arm in arm, to a big round of applause and a one-armed bro-hug between Thomas and Chad. They're all impressed, and Chad says he thinks his mom would be happy. No word on what Stephanie's mom thinks.
Okay, it's 7:30 AM. Can we start racing again? The two all-female teams head up the steps to the fort first, and open their clue instructing them to drive themselves to Jebel Shams, "the tallest mountain in Oman." It certainly looks that way from up top, where an establishing shot looks down into rugged canyons that look like they could eat a person alive (though not an Amazing Racer, who would never get near it without being shrouded in three layers of bubble wrap). When they get to the base of the mountain, a "safety driver" will take over because apparently the winding dirt roads up the mountain are too dangerous to entrust racers with rental cars on (not to mention Amazing Camera and Sound Guys). Their next clue will be at the peak. Both teams head over to the far side of the fort, where a small fleet of Toyota SUVs is parked, and get going. And then they start trying to figure out where they're headed. Yes, that seemed backwards to me too.
Jill/Thomas and Chad/Stephanie head up the stairs at 7:45, as scheduled. As they start driving, Chad and Stephanie's onscreen subtitle has already changed from "Newly Dating" to "Engaged." Wow, the Amazing Subtitle Writers were really on the ball there. Both teams decide to stop to ask for directions, although Thomas rudely condescends, "Clearly, honey," when Jill suggests it. She tells him to lose the attitude. Seriously, why don't any of the dudes on this season know how to treat their girlfriends? Jill and Thomas get not only directions but also a hand-drawn map from a guy in a convenience store parking lot, who also favors them with a friendly chuckle. Back on the road, Thomas remarks on how nice the people are, "Even though we're right up in their face." I think a lot of Arab cultures are close-talkers anyway, but I could be wrong about that. I just wish Thomas would take their niceness as an example.
The last two teams (Gary/Mallory and Nick/Vicki) get their clues at 8:00 AM. Once they're all in their vehicles, Mallory unfolds a giant map that's big enough for Vicki to spot from the backseat of her and Nick's car behind them. She suggests following the team with the map, but Nick doesn't think that's any faster than getting directions from a local "that for sure knows where to tell you to go." I'd translate this as Nick not knowing how to read a map, but we'll soon find out that he made the right call here. They pull over so she can ask directions at a gas station. This happens to be the same station where Team QVC is just now pulling in for directions of their own, which means their half-hour lead from the burj is already gone. Spotting Brook near the pump islands, Vicki tells her, "Dude, he said going that way, we're going the right way." As Vicki walks back to the car, Nick tells her,"Babe? Shut up. Dude, I'm so serious about that. "Shut up." Vicki responds to this mature and respectful feedback by actually apologizing to him, and he continues to berate her, saying, "You have no common sense in your whole body. I'm gonna go home the next time you give anybody any advice." And what a shame that would be. He adds, "They're probably laughing at your dumb ass right now." Right on cue, here's a shot of Brook and Claire in their car, laughing at Vicki's dumb ass. Or, more likely, something else entirely, and given what we know about their sense of humor, probably something that isn't even all that funny.
Chad and Stephanie get flagged down by a safety driver, and Chad hops in the back so the local can take the wheel. They're pretty happy to be the first team, as you might imagine. "You'll get us up there nice and quick and safe?" Chad asks the driver. "God willing," the driver says. Probably just as well he said it in Arabic, because that probably wouldn't sound all that reassuring to a couple of Americans.
Mallory's still navigating while Gary drives, and he doesn't seem to have as much faith in her map as she does. She continues to insist it's right. We'll find out one way or another.
Chad and Stephanie get chauffeured to the top of the mountain, where they get out and run past a wooly mountain goat or two to get to the clue box. "Who wants to add a little magic to their life?" Chad reads. And over spectacular shots of the mountain, Phil tells us, "Rising over 10,000 feet above the desert floor, Jebel Shams is the tallest mountain in Oman." And one team member will rappel one-twentieth of that distance, down a 500-foot cliff to an allegedly "narrow" ledge below (although I've been on narrower freeways). There, scattered among the rocks, are hundreds of Arabian-style oil lamps, some of which have what Phil claims is "Aladdin's magic ring" hidden