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Paddle for Your Life

As is the case every season, the closer the teams get to the end of The Amazing Race, the more circumstances are designed to keep them within reach of each other. On tonight's first leg, from India to Japan, the final four teams were all on the same flight to Hiroshima, but then Brendon and Rachel missed the bus (that would take them to the train that would take them to the ferry landing). They passed the other three at the train station, and all teams were together again -- until, that is, Rachel and Dave missed the last ferry to Miyajima Island and had to wait overnight.

Fortunately for them, the next clue wasn't available on the island until the next morning anyway, and all four teams were on their way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, where they finally got a clue that would separate them. Their destination was a TV studio, and they took different modes of transportation and got there at different times and took different amounts of time to complete the Road Block, a Japanese game show called Bring That Chicken Home.

Due to the ankle that Vanessa turned on the last leg, she and Ralph fell behind at the game show and never really recovered. The other three teams made it through the Detour to the Pit Stop, and Vanessa and Ralph (known to Art and JJ as "Conan and Khardashian") were eliminated just short of the race to the finish line.

Rachel and Dave won that penultimate leg, their seventh win on the race, followed by Art and JJ and then Brendon and Rachel. All were on equal footing again, since they were on the same plane to Honolulu. After Art and JJ (or their taxi driver, anyway) drove all over Oahu looking for the twin towers (two tall buildings, not statues of a guy on a boogie board and a seal), Brendon and Rachel took over second place for most of the final leg.

They stayed in the same order through climbing the first of two final Road Blocks (this one involving shaving a block of ice). That's when Art and JJ had their best chance to steal the race from the front runners, but not before Brendon and Rachel took themselves out of the running by misreading a clue.

They were to go on foot to the baseball field near the Road Block and take a helicopter to their next task. Brendon and Rachel not only didn't go on foot, but they drove miles in the wrong direction before rereading the clue and doubling back. They were deep into third place now, but they completed the swimmer rescue and even took over second place briefly at the final Road Block. That's because Rachel beat Art at sledding down the mountain. But Art beat Rachel at the other half of the task, rolling a rock into a goal. Art and JJ took second place here and that's how they finished. Brendon and Rachel got what they deserved, third place.

To be honest, neither of the two teams who finished behind Rachel and Dave deserved to win the race. Both gave up, or checked out, at different times during the final leg. That's not unusual for Big Brother Rachel, who quits on her partner whenever things get difficult, then blames him for making her do things she doesn't want to do (like run, for example).

Art seemed to want to give up when he fell off that sled so many times, and he assumed that they were out of the running. But he kept at it until he completed the task, always a good idea since a team never knows what lies ahead until they see the whites of Phil's eyes.

By the time Art and Big Brother Rachel had finished the last Road Block, Army Wife Rachel and Dave had already been to the Finish Line, only to be turned back by Phil because they had somehow missed the Road Block entirely. They lost their lead, but not their edge, and here's where Rachel won the race for herself and Dave. She was the only person who rode the sled to the bottom of the hill without having to go up and down a dozen or more times. That's what put them back in first place, and since they'd been to the Finish Line once already, they knew they didn't even have to rush. Their win was convincing and well deserved.

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