There's a zero percent chance this episode is going to have an elimination, right? Okay, just making sure I have a handle on things here. So from Dubrovnik, the teams bunch up in heading to Ancona, Italy, from which they go to an airfield in the Tuscan town of Empoli. Everyone is either told or decides on their own to go via Bologna except for Nate and Jen, whose guy tells him that's the dud way and they should go through Forli, and TK and Rachel, who are apparently instructed to head in the direction of Rome. However, TK and Rachel also manage to leave their clue behind, but at least make the correct decision to head back and retrieve it. Turns out Nate and Jen's route is in fact the shortest, and while it does involve windy mountain roads, the Bologna teams encounter massive delays, so Nate and Jen snag the pole position. TK and Rachel's directions prove superior as well, so they're the only two teams at the field when it opens for the Roadblock, which involves finding their next destination from high up in an Ultralight. The only Fast Forward in the entire race is given at this juncture, but these teams decline to pursue it, which might be just as well, since it involves both team members getting a permanent "FF" tattoo. Nick and Don, however, head for it, while Vixen almost has a nervous breakdown trying to locate the airfield. Nate eventually sees "VINCI" in big letters on the ground, but TK doesn't catch it, and Chris passes him; meanwhile, Nick and Don flinch, literally and figuratively, at getting the tattoo, but they go through with it and win the leg, and I sure as hell would hope so.
Nate and Jen make it to the Detour, which involves either assembling a crane or learning a traditional flag routine. TK has psyched himself out so much that the Goths catch up, and he goes 0 for 3 while Vixen gets the job done. Nate and Jen come in an easy second when Jen guides Nate through the flag routine with some actual patience and compassion, and what can I say? I just work here. On his fourth try, TK finds the Vinci location, so it's down to them and the Goths, as Ron and Chris do the flags and come in third. Rachel and TK stay strong and supportive emotionally in the face of a really rough leg in which they both made almost inexcusable mistakes, while the Goths, admittedly also having a strain-filled leg, get super-snippy and nasty to each other, and it looks like they have no shot until TK and Rachel blow a tire on their way to the pit stop. It's actually a really tense, well-designed leg, with no time wasted at the airport and a couple of acts of God thrown in, and TK is totally the self-redeeming man when he gets the tire changed and gets himself and Rachel to the mat in fourth. The Goths kind of look something like actual Goths by the time they finish the leg, and although it is in fact a non-elim (one of only two in the race), there's a nasty twist -- next time they'll have to complete a Speed Bump, which is a task that may be sprung on them at any point and that only they will have to complete. That'll turn your worldview negative in a hurry!
Miss Alli is taking a well-deserved little break after almost being put into a coma by the last few episodes of Survivor, so after eleven and a half seasons, Phil, you are mine. At this rate, I'll be subbing in again somewhere around the twenty-third season finale. I can't wait for that one!
So last time, you'll remember, the "no paying for business class" rule reared its ugly head, and everyone (well, at least everyone who thought a non-elim was due, which included me) was doubly surprised that Azaria and Hendekea were bounced. So this time, it's got to be a non-elim, right? I mean, on top of everything else, it's Christmas! And just to tie everything together, one of the nicest Christmas gifts I got was not having to repeatedly type, "Azaria and Hendekea." Sorry, kids, but your loss is my Carpal Tunnel's...loss. Onward!
Oh, we're also reminded that Ron and Christina's relationship "continued to flourish" while Nate and Jen's "completely disintegrated." It's beginning to look a lot like irony!
I can't get over how Kynt and Vyxsin are holding hands and practically skipping through the graveyard. In daylight. "We’re Goths! Yaaaaaaaaay!"
With the usual dramatic musical flourish, Phil reminds us that we're at the Stone Cross Overlook in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and that this "towering icon" was the sixth pit stop in the race. Phil wonders whether the Ron/Christina and Nate/Jen trends we've seen lately will continue...
...and it's time to find out, as at 2:19 AM, Ron and Chris rip their clue, which Chris tells us orders them to go to Ancona, Italy. Phil VOs that the teams must travel by bus to the port city of Split, from which they'll take a ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Ancona, "where their next clue awaits." I'm not sure it's a good idea to anthropomorphize the clues, mostly because it makes me feel sorry for them. I mean, how bitter would you be if, say, Danny and Oswald passed you up and you ended up in Wil's grubby hands? Chris reiterates the bit about traveling by bus, just to get the speculation going about if anyone's going to be dumb enough to take a taxi. At least Nate and Jen are safe from that one. Ron and Chris get a taxi to the bus depot. In an interview, Christina talks about how, with the competition heating up, it's "key" that their relationship remain "cohesive and strong." Ron's silence suggests that she plied him with a few "I love you, Daddy"s before the camera started rolling. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone clam up the way he does when those words are spoken? She's genius for having figured out the most effective way to shut him up, and the only thing I could want further is "I love you, Ron" buttons in the TARcon goodie bags. In the cab, Ron says he doesn't speak any Italian, and thinks "prego" means "please." Not exactly, but I won't belabor the point. Prego, Ron.