Well, here we are again. Or here I am; I’m not sure if anyone is actually watching this besides me. But I am watching, and I’ve got the recap to prove it.

Last week was our non-elimination leg; no one went home but the Cootes came into a lovely Hollywood vacation through a bit of “creative” gameplay. Also there was banjo-pickin, Branson, and Yakov Smirnoff. If you missed it, I weep for you.

This week we’re trekking even farther into the heartland. First up, Kansas. Silvio DiSalvatore expresses apprehension at the thought of entering Kansas because “they got flying hoses dat land on people.” Way to make me laugh with and not at you for once, Silvio! So everyone’s going to Independence, KS, site of Little House on the Prairie, and not to be confused with the awesome Independence, MO, site of the start of the Oregon Trail. So don’t worry; no one is going to die of dysentery or a snake bite on this trip. The helpful guidebook commands the families to sing “Home on the Range,” Amy Di obliges with GUSTO, but no one else seems too into it. Ricardo Rico tells his adorable children about Laura Ingalls Wilder; Amie Pollard gets mixed up and tells her children about The Waltons. The Depression: just like pioneer living.

Once in Kansas, they talk some more about tornadoes and visit the LIW homestead museum. After a little haranguing from her parents, the experience compels Danielle Rico to admit that teenagers today have it much easier. Also, the show again enjoys having random people suddenly shooting guns, this time in pursuit of wild possum. And again, I thank the show for that.

Moving on! We’re back in the recreational vehicles. Lenny Faverey is sharing stories about his past working on a farm in Louisiana and about the fiancé he left behind there. Dee Faverey does not want to hear it. Amy and Silvio continue to be CHAMPION CONVERSATIONALISTS as they DISCUSS whether or not they should pull over and gas up. Erica and Ricardo Rico bond and hold hands because of the beautiful experience of eating crackers and being on the open American road. Sweet. And then we’re at the next stop – the Red Buffalo Ranch.

Barbecue University

King of the Road challenge. Each family’s father will have 30 minutes to whip up a burger that will be blind-tested by the wimmens and chil’ren. The best burger will win a golden grill. The bottom three burgers will drive their families into the End of the Road challenge.

Silvio is incapable of doing anything, ever, so Blake offers to cook their family’s burger. But much to the DiSalvatore’s dismay, Reno informs them that only dads may handle the grill. Because that’s how Great Americans do it. Mamas, y’all have to wait for the pie-making challenge. Kids are unimportant in general.

Now we get a montage of burger making madness: Darius Montgomery looks extremely purposeful. Lenny Faverey dubs himself “El Jefe, King of the Barbecue.” Silvio is more concerned with eating red delicious apples than anything else, and I feel him on that one. Those apples look showroom new. Lenny Favery is flipping meat and chopping vegetables like a Masterchef, Ron Pollard is cool, calm, and certain of victory with The Pollard Burger, a masterpiece complete with mustard, Italian dressing, and garlic powder. Lenny Faverey is just trying to make sure his kids don’t say “yucky.” I really feel for Lenny Faverey in general. Meanwhile, Ricardo Rico has made his patties as big as his own head, and has only 5 minutes left in which to cook them. Whoops. We don’t see anything from the Cootes, but at least there’s no way they can cheat in this challenge. Unless they drugged all their burgers with Coote cooties.

Now it’s time for the judging, and each family gets to try out the burgers. They all look disgusting from here, but the tasters are finding them only mildly inedible. The biggest surprise is that Silvio’s kids (and little RickyRico) end up loving Silvio’s burger. Alecia Montgomery hopes, but in vain, that the under-seasoned burger doesn’t belong to Darius. Ricardo Rico’s is of course totally raw. Jen Coote tries to figure out which burger Keith made, and she finds the signal in the form of an extraordinarily burnt bun. I stand corrected. There is always a way for the Cootes to cheat. Dee actually spits out her husband’s burger onto the ground, which is completely uncalled for. Also unnecessary for me to see on TV, because it’s gross. That’s what napkins are for, Dee!

Anyway, results. The DiSalvatores, the Favereys, and the Ricos in the bottom three. The Cootes, of course, win. They celebrate – maybe a little overzealously – while everyone else looks jealous in varying degrees. Amie Pollard admits to the camera that some families are getting a little tired of the Cootes, who are apparently gloat buckets and poor sports. Also this, from Jen: “People totally hate us, but I don’t care.” Well, you know. People probably wouldn’t hate you, if they didn’t hate you. Just something to think about.

Ooooooooooo-klahoma!

The families cross the KS/OK border and drive through the tall grass prairie reserve; they find many buffalo running free across the plain. Amie says she’ll run up on one. Ron quips that she should just throw a rope around her mother’s neck if she wants to catch a buffalo. Ron is all right. He starts talking about buffalo meat though, and Lenny Faverey feels his tummy rumbling, so it’s time for the group to descend on a conveniently placed Applebee’s, which we see looking majestic and pristine against the Oklahoma sky, while the beef for dinner song plays. That’s their money’s worth, right there. Everybody’s excited according to Dee Faverey because they haven’t eaten in 70 miles (so like, an hour?), except young Ashley Faverey who chews her mother out for waking her up without notice. I agree with her; she should’ve just been let to go hungry.

At table, the families split into two different camps: the Faverey, Montgomery Coote Crew vs. the Pollard/DiSalvatore/Rico Wreckers. I’m waiting for them to bust out the break dancing moves, but really all they do is talk and eat. Some rivalry. Post-meal, adorable little Ricky Rico is adorable some more talking to the camera about how he wants to stay on the trip because he’s finally getting the big brother he always wanted out of Aaron Pollard. Cue footage of them horsing around in the grassy knoll near Applebee’s lot. Aw.

Mess with Texas

And now we’re done with Oklahoma for big loud Texas. Silvio an’em should be feeling more at home. Ha ha. I’m from Louisiana. They’re in the panhandle, headed for Amarillo where they will convene at some sort of steak house. The loser families are discussing how they hope not to lose the upcoming challenge. Silvio is determined to make up for his sucktacular showing at the grill. Lenny is worried because poor little Ashley Faverey has sprained her thumb and might be out of commission. Yikes, how’d that happen? My theory is that her thumb tried to make a break for it to get away from her whining but didn’t quite make it. Poor thumb. Hang in there.

Meanwhile, Amie Pollard is opining on how messed up it would be for the Ricos to be eliminated in their home state. The Pollards of course are pulling for the Ricos and the DiSalvatores to stay in the game, because apparently blood was exchanged at that Applebee’s table and they are now BFFL. The Pollard children are enthusiastic about showing their support, but Amie cautions then not to get ugly. The way she says that makes me so instantly homesick it’s ridiculous. Also, Amie’s helping Aaron make a t-shirt rooting for the Ricos and DiSalvatores only. That’s kind of tacky to just blatantly wish one family home. This isn’t the Road Rules Challenge.

It’s the End of the Road Challenge! Which this week consists of stacking a bunch of great big Texas-sized stuff onto a map of Texas and then standing on it themselves. The slowest family bites the dust. The Ricos are up first; Erica points out the slight disadvantage of having tiny Ricky on their team, but they go for it anyway. Ricardo moves the big stuff and then stands by at the map to do the stacking while the rest of the family picks up the smaller stuff. Tragedy strikes when he lunges for a prop and twists his ankle. Reno’s response? "Oh, it looks like Mr. Rico’s hurt.” He is worthless. Post-commercials, there are some fairly gruesome shots of Ricardo’s injured ankle but even as Ricardo grimaces in pain the Ricos plow through and finish the challenge anyway in 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

The Favereys are up next. Jen Coote says she doesn’t care who goes as long as they stay. I am loving the family spirit. In a sarcastic, not at all true kind of way. They get their stuff piled up pretty methodically and position themselves on the map, but look confused when Reno doesn’t call time. Then Ashley validates her existence by spotting a longhorn prop they overlooked and dragging it to the map. Three minutes, 49 seconds. Dee, in her joy at finally triumphing, goes to hug and speak to the rest of the families. Amie Pollard makes it known that she would rather not have that happen. Dee says she wants to be all friends, but Amie says “Don’t push it, sister,” because she thinks Dee is teasing her. I don’t know where that makes sense, but it does qualify as ugly. Teach the children, Amie!

The DiSalvatores are up last, and they race through the process with a lot of ENCOURAGEMENT from Amy to her family. They whipped through in only 2:46, which means the Ricos are toast. Aw.

The other families applaud and cheer for them, very prettily I must say. And then everyone crowds around a seated Ricardo Rico like this is a Joad family circle, and he says some sweet stuff about family and love and whatnot like they’re about to set off for a new life in California, when really they’re just going home. I got love for the Ricos anyway though. I’ll miss their good-natured family-ness and earnest enthusiasm, and especially their adorable little boy. They express gratitude for the trip and the making of new friends. Little Ricky hopes the Pollards go all the way because Aaron deserves it. And then they’re out.