Amazing Race: Did Vyxsin Cheat During the Chocolate Gnome Incident?

Who’d have thought that an extended product placement segment starring the Travelocity gnome and some mellow Swiss chocolate makers could yield a bubbling cauldron of intrigue, drama, and hurt feelings? But that’s exactly what went down on Sunday night’s installment of The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business.

The incident occurred during a Roadblock in which a member of each team was tasked with creating a chocolate replica of Travelocity’s sprightly, bearded mascot. It was a classic case of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” as Zev put it, and at one point, Vyxsin removed from the freezer a painted “gnome mold” that Flight Time insisted belonged to him. It wasn’t completely clear who was in the wrong, but Vyxsin didn’t seem to defend her position very vigorously, and Flight Time seemed completely indignant that a switcheroo had occurred. Personally, I think some of the blame falls on the show’s producers: Sure, the possible mixup created plenty of tension and a few minutes of good television, but ultimately, it’s their responsibility to ensure that the race is conducted as fairly and honestly as possible. Without a baseline integrity, it’s hard as a viewer to get wrapped up in caring about the outcome. Couldn’t someone on staff have played back some camera footage to determine the facts? Why wasn’t there a system in place to ensure this kind of mixup didn’t occur in the first place? (How about a color-coded mark or symbol on each mold?)

Even though my gut feeling is that Vyxsin messed up, I’m pretty confident she didn’t intentionally cheat. It’s more likely that her partner’s yapping-animal antics (“Keep it fast, Vyxsin, keep it fast. Fast, fast, honey!”) distracted her enough to prompt the error. Later on, I felt a little uncomfortable watching Kent’s reaction to Big Easy’s loud and defiant protests on behalf of Flight Time. “The Globetrotters, when they don’t get their way, what do they do?” asked Kent, as he made the international symbol for cuckoo behind his rival’s back. “They start yellin’, they start hoopin’, they start holla!”

Of course, karma is always the silent participant in the race of life, and on their way from the chocolate shop to the Pit Stop, Kent and Vyxsin failed to read the directions carefully, taking a cab to the finish line instead of traveling on foot. The snafu resulted in a half-hour penalty, and a temper tantrum from Kent, who huffed and whined and blamed his fuchsia-haired girlfriend. “At least I always stay positive no matter what,” huffed the deluded Kent, who would have no competition in the vote for the season’s most negative player. Vyxsin’s retort summed it up best: “Yeah, but your version of being positive is to attack me, and that’s not very encouraging or positive. It sucks.”

Thankfully, trailing Zev and Justin arrived at the pit stop before Kent and Vyxsin’s time penalty had expired, and the Goths were ousted from the competition.

Other highlights from the episode:

* Kent, in classing Kent style, declared his intention to start off each leg of the race in a happier mood, then promptly started having a mini meltdown when Gary and Mallory made up an 18-minute deficit to pass them on their way to the air-rescue helicopter port.

* Anyone else get a case of the warm fuzzies after finding out Justin’s 12-year-old sister knitted matching hats for him and Zev?

* This tongue-in-cheek quote from Zev: “The Matterhorn was named after the Disneyland ride. Pretty mind-boggling to me.”

* Who’d have thought the “Search” portion of the Detour would turn out to be more challenging than the “Rescue”? The Goths, the Globetrotters, and Kisha/Jen all chose the latter challenge, and zipped through the process of rappelling into an icy crevice, “rescuing” a stranded hiker, and bringing him to the surface. The sole drama in the task came courtesy of Kent (pictured), who went into stream-of-chihuahua barking (“Stop, Vyxsin, stop! Stop! Stop!) when his partner lowered him too far into the pit. (For a moment, I wondered if she was planning to drop him to his icy demise, cut the cord, and walk away.)

Over at “Search,” though, Justin/Zev and Gary/Mallory were faced with brute labor in extreme winds and high-altitudes that left Gary gasping, and me worried that the season’s oldest player was about to experience heart failure. Justin, meanwhile, did all the digging for his team while trying to motivate a supine, barely present Zev. If the latter duo is going to stand any chance to take home the top prize, Zev is going to have to improve his work ethic and sense of fire. When it was all said and done, though, the image of both teams accidentally severing their rescue dummies’ legs from their torsos was the comedic highlight of the episode. “He’s alive!” howled Gary. “I think he’s gonna make it!”

Final order of finish for the leg: Flight Time/Big Easy; Kisha/Jen; Gary/Mallory; Zev/Justin; Kent/Vyxsin (eliminated).

What did you think of this week’s episode? Who was most in the wrong during Gnomegate? The Goths? The Globetrotters? The show’s producers? And will you miss Kent and Vyxsin’s bickering faces next week?  Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!