Recap: The Amazing Race 17, Episode 4 – “It feels like needles are sticking into my buttcheeks.”

Episode 17.04: We Should Have Brought Gloves and Butt Pads

After the teams spend some time helping to renovate the school in Ghana, teams are ready to set off on the 4th leg of the Race.

The clue tells them to fly from “the furnace to the freezer” and head to the Arctic Circle.  Teams will fly to Kiruna, Sweden then make their way to the nearby town of Jukkasjärvi and the location of the Icehotel where they will find their next clue.

Because of limited flights, teams are all given the same tickets from Ghana to Kiruna through Frankfurt, but are not obligated to use them.  On the way, Kevin uses the taxi driver’s cell phone to call ahead and finds a flight that leaves Frankfurt almost 2 hours before the given flights.  At the airport, while the other teams hang out in line, Michael & Kevin are trying to find a way to book the early tickets and decide to confide in fellow father-child team Gary & Mallory.  They work together and Mallory is able to charm a Lufthansa employee into booking their tickets for them.  

Meanwhile, Nat & Kat have the same idea and find the early flight for themselves on the internet.  Brook & Claire go looking for the doctors and end up finding the internet café and Nat & Kat.  The doctors confide in the friends and they also are able to book the early tickets.

Connor & Jonathan realize the other teams are moving so they and Katie & Rachel go to find out about any early flights but are shot down when they are told the earlier flight is fully booked.

The nine teams board the flight to Frankfurt.  Once in Germany, the four teams make a mad dash across the terminal to make their connection.  Those sneaky TAR editors try to make us believe Michael & Kevin don’t make the flight, but all four teams easily make the connection and arrive in Sweden almost two hours ahead.  The other teams realize they are all tied for last place now.

In Sweden, the four teams head to the Icehotel where they find their next clue engraved on a big block of ice.  Written in Swedish, teams must figure out that they have to make their way to Fjellborg’s Lodge in a nearby town for their next clue.

While Brook & Claire and Gary & Mallory decide to follow Nat & Kat who got directions, Michael & Kevin encounter their Speed Bump. 

For their Speed Bump, they must sit on a chair made of ice for 10 minutes before moving on.  Sounds simple enough, but Kevin’s wearing soccer shorts.  Though uncomfortable, they finish and move on and actually end up arriving at the Lodge first where they find the Road Block.

In this Road Block teams will use a summer training sled and guide sled dogs through a practice course where they must gather five different flags along the way.  They will then trade the flags for fur pelts from the hunter and return to the Lodge to exchange the pelts for the next clue.  For each flag they may miss, they must take one penalty lap around the hunter’s camp.

Michael decides to do the Road Block and has a blast doing it, even passing a fake, animated bear along the way.  He exchanges the flags for pelts and heads back as Mallory, Kat, and Claire begin the Road Block. 

Meanwhile, the other teams arrive in Sweden and head to the Icehotel where they all end up following each other to the Road Block.  However, Thomas has trouble carrying his block of ice for some reason and they fall behind.

After some passing on the track, they get their pelts, Claire kisses the hunter and they head back too.  They get their next clue telling them to go to the Vassijuare Train Station.  There, they find the Detour.

In this Detour, teams will chose between Sleds or Beds.
In Sleds, teams will use a Tech Sled to make their way down a difficult course to try and beat a time of 1:58.  If they don’t beat the time, they’ll have to go back up the mountain and try it again.
In Beds, teams will have to build a traditional Sami dwelling known as a goahti and then furnish the inside like the example to get their next clue.

Michael & Kevin, currently in first, choose the beds, Kevin unsure his father can do the sleds.  The other three teams choose sleds, but they aren’t as easy as they look.  Kat flies over the edge while Gary & Mallory miss the time by one second.

Nat & Kat get it on their 2nd try and get their clue telling them to go to the Pit Stop, the Norwegian Border.  The hurry and claim 1st Place and a trip to Belize.  Gary & Mallory get it on their second try right after Brook & Claire get it on their first, but the father and daughter edge them to officially check in Team #2.  Brook & Claire take 3rd.

Michael & Kevin finally finish setting up the goahti and officially finish 4th.

The other teams get to the Detour and they all choose Sleds.  Jill & Thomas, still far behind decide to go for Beds, but immediately choose to use their Express Pass.  They think it is a good decision and end up arriving at the Mat in 5th.  What they don’t know is teams are having a lot of trouble over on the Sleds.  Chad & Stephanie are the first to bail when Stephanie gives up after the first try.  To Chad’s annoyance, they switch Detours, thinking they’re done.

Jonathan miserably can’t keep his Sled upright and neither can Katie & Rachel who let their Sled slide right over the edge of an embankment.  They also decide to switch Detours, but not before Nick & Vicki easily complete the task to move ahead and officially finish 6th.

Chad & Stephanie are shocked to see the two teams join them at the Beds and they hurry and finish and head to the Mat to finish 7th.

Down to two teams and eventually it is Katie & Rachel that escapes elimination in 8th while Jonathan & Connor, on their Princeton graduation day, get eliminated.  But not before more song!

Episode Thoughts
This was an interesting episode.  Mainly because it was a tale of two halves for me.  I greatly enjoyed the first half of the episode more than the second.  And not coincidentally, the first half mainly focused on the four teams that got the early flight who just so happen to be my top four teams personally.  It was much more enjoyable watching them Race than watching the rest of them in the latter part of the episode.

It is good for the Race to challenge the teams with harsh climate changes leg-to-leg.  And great in visiting the Arctic Circle for the first time.  The Road Block was awesome and must have been an amazingly fun experience.  The Detour was also a good balance, both equally challenging tasks. 

The Speed Bump however very underwhelming.  While TAR won’t and probably can’t set up something very complicated, it would be more interesting to see the teams actually have to do something rather than the Speed Bump serve as a different version of the Yield.  Still, there have been far worse Speed Bumps.  TAR 15’s sitting in a sauna Speed Bump was definitely less difficult than sitting on ice.  And let’s not forget the 2-second run through fireworks Speed Bump that TK & Rachel in TAR12 were treated to.

You can tell which teams have never watched The Amazing Race before by the things they don’t do on the Race.  For example, in this leg, calling ahead to the airport to check on the possibility of earlier flights.  If not, then doing it at the airport.  Only three teams thought to check.  Gary & Mallory have Michael & Kevin to thank for getting the early flight.  But seeing the teams just standing around is horrible.

What about that random bear creeping on Michael during the Road Block?  Was that just a fun random moment or will that somehow play a part later on in the Race.  Maybe the final task perhaps? 

And fun fact, Jonathan’s travel itinerary shows the teams traveling from Ghana to Sweden on May 31st and June 1st. 

Leg Four Itinerary
Home of Awusa Ntso
Dodowa, Accra, Ghana


Frankfurt, Germany

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Fjellborg’s Lodge
Poikkijärvi , Sweden

Vassijaure Train Station
Riksgränsen, Sweden

Norwegian Border
Riksgränsen, Sweden

Departure Times

Home of Awusa Ntso
Dodowa, Accra, Ghana

Connor & Jonathan 10:15am
Gary & Mallory 11:19am
Chad & Stephanie 11:29am
Katie & Rachel 12:12pm
Nick & Vicki 12:23pm
Brook & Claire 12:24pm
Jill & Thomas 12:29pm
Nat & Kat 1:12pm
Michael & Kevin 1:26pm

Who Did the Detour?
In order of completion




>>Jill & Thomas used their Express Pass.
*Several teams switched from Sleds to Beds

Road Block Count
In order of completion; Italics indicate who did this week’s Road Block

Who’s feeling kind of mushy?
2 Michael Kevin 2
2 Brook Claire 2
2 Gary Mallory 2
2 Nat Kat 2
4 Connor Jonathan 0
1 Katie Rachel 2
3 Chad Stephanie 1
3 Nick Vicki 1
2 Jill Thomas 2

0 Andie Jenna 2
1 Ron Tony 0

Order of Finish
1st Nat & Kat (+7)
2nd Gary & Mallory (=)
3rd Brook & Claire (+3)
4th Michael & Kevin (+5)
5th Jill & Thomas (+2) express pass
6th NIck & Vicki (-1)
7th Chad & Stephanie (-4)
8th Katie & Rachel (-4)
Eliminated Connor & Jonathan (-8)
My Subjective Team Rankings for Leg 4
Michael & Kevin Michael & Kevin – They recovered very, very nicely after their close call last week.  Huge props to Kevin for actually thinking of calling ahead to the airport to check on flights.  That should be one of the cardinal rules on TAR really.  That big move is what kept them in the Race.  They maintained that lead throughout the leg and were only slowed down by the Detour, though it was probably a good choice for them to choose Beds anyway.  Still, in future legs, I do want to see Michael prove Kevin wrong when he thinks his father might not be able to do something.  Michael just could surprise and be capable of big things.  Hope they stay on track though.  They are in good position.
Gary & Mallory Gary & Mallory – Another great leg for the father and daughter.  While they can thank Michael & Kevin for giving them the heads up and ultimately grabbing 2nd place, Mallory did have a hand in booking the flight for them.  Plus, they performed very well at the Road Block and Detour and again even when things aren’t going their way or they make a mistake, they are calm and ready to push forward.  And again, that is an important quality to have if you want to stay in the Race.
Nat & Kat Nat & Kat – A resurgence!  The Nat & Kat of the first leg  are back.  A strong leg from them this week.  Again huge props to thinking about looking for other flights and after two legs of lackluster performances, they pretty much sailed through the challenges this week.  The win seems to have boosted their morale as well and both are having much more fun.  They are certainly great candidates to be the first American All-Female TAR Winners.
Brook & Claire Brook & Claire – They ran another great leg and are quickly proving to be a viable candidate for the First American All-Female Winners title.  They have been performing very well for four legs now and that is great momentum to have.  They are having fun and enjoying themselves and if they keep it up, they can go to the end.
Connor & Jonathan Connor & Jonathan -Their performance last leg almost looks like a fluke now.  Though they realized what other teams were doing far too late, they still could have stayed at the top of the bottom half, but they dropped the ball and made the poor decision to stick with a task they were literally crashing in instead of switching Detours.  That after they were very quick to switch Detours in the past.  Too bad for them.  But at least no more singing on TAR!  And wow at Jonathan not doing a single Road Block!
Chad & Stephanie Chad & Stephanie – Definitely was rolling my eyes at Stephanie’s mini-breakdown on the mountain.  Does she hate snow that much?  Unlike Jonathan, Stephanie was resigned to the fact that she could not do the task even before they got there.  I almost shared Chad’s frustration because they probably could have easily finished it if she actually tried.  But then the odd part, they perk up at the Beds Detour (and seeing the other teams) and it was as if they didn’t just yell at each other on the side of the mountain.  Nate & Jen-lite indeed.
Katie & Rachel Katie & Rachel – Another mediocre performance from them.  Unlike the other two female teams, Katie & Rachel have not proven themselves worthy of the title.  While they haven’t made poor decisions, they’ve pretty much sucked at tasks which is not a good sign moving forward.  That and their less than stellar attitude.
Nick & Vicki Nick & Vicki – A better leg for them.  No negative vibes and they had a clean leg.  They are still very underwhelming though and the clock still seems to be ticking on their departure for Elmination Station.
Jill & Thomas Jill & Thomas – Some big stumbles for them in this leg.  And if it wasn’t for the Express Pass, they might have just collapsed.  While they would have probably been safe even if they completed the Detour, their attitude was pretty defeatist the entire leg and they were very sloppy.  Not a particularly good leg for them, but now they don’t have the Express Pass to save them.  
Quotes from Episode 17.04

Nick (to Ghanaian taxi driver):  “Arctic Circle… you know?”

Mallory: “I’m so glad I have blonde hair.”

Brook: “You know, my fiancé calls me an ice princess, so I might have to borrow that (crown) later.”

Kevin: “It feels like needles are sticking into my buttcheeks.”

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