Race to the Altar Ep. 6 Recap 9/6/03: The Amazing Race to the Altar
This week the competition kicks into high gear as the race starts in earnest for the three remaining couples: the commitment trifecta of Susan & Coyt, Carolyn & Ethan, Tonya & Andree. Not only is the pressure higher, all the rules have changed too. Tonight, instead of 3 challenges, the couples will have to complete 4 in order to become the sole Power Couple allowed to determine the fates of their fellow fiancés. Also, now that the commitment is obsolete, it’s “understood that everyone’s out for their own,” as Carolyn explained.
Who will be eliminated tonight? Read on…and be warned that for the first time the program ended with a surprise that genuinely caught me off-guard.
Darwin, Lose, or Draw
Now that things are down to the wire, it’s become ever more apparent that the name of the game is survival of the fittest (how many more clichés can I possibly fit in one sentence?). As this episode opens, it’s morning in Coyt & Susan’s room, who are apparently as annoyed with themselves as everyone else is, because they are arguing with each other about their behavior during the game. Even Susan calls Coyt out, saying, “It’s not even about winning…it’s about the way you play the game…you’re so conniving!”
Tonya & Andree are in their room silently preparing for “battle”. “It’s now or never,” Andree declares later on, “We basically smell blood.” Meanwhile, Ethan & Carolyn decide over breakfast that there is no more time for strategy, now they “just have to win”. Carolyn talks about how the commitment is officially over, and it’s tacitly and respectfully understood by all the couples that from this point on, “everybody is going for their own win.”
Lisa Dergan greets the couples on the piazza outside of the (sing it with me, folks!) luxurious Venetian Hotel & Casino to brief the couples on the challenges that lie ahead. She explains that their “Race to the Altar will begin now.” So what exactly have we been watching the past 5 weeks? Today’s race will consist of 4 legs to be completed in 24 hours; the winner of the most legs will be the only Power Couple to decide which of the other couples will be eliminated.
1st Leg: “Get Me to the Church on Time”
Lisa describes the first challenge of the day. Each couple, equipped with a backpack containing one Polaroid camera, film, an envelope for the pictures, and $100, must get complete strangers to take pictures of them in front of as many wedding chapels as they possibly can (1 picture per wedding chapel). They have only 90 minutes to complete the mission and get to the Graceland Chapel, where Lisa will be waiting for them to collect their envelope of photos. The couple with the most photos wins.
At Lisa’s signal the couples rush off. Ethan & Caroline get off to a head start, and quickly grab a taxi. “Run these people over if you have to, time is important,” Carolyn orders the driver, and it doesn’t sound like she’s kidding either. Coyt’s strategy, to Susan’s displeasure, is simply to take off on foot, reasoning that while the other couples were busy waiting to get a cab, they’ll already be in front of their first chapel getting their picture taken (Coyt also mentions later that he never planned on running the entire way, but thought he’d like to conserve the $100 they were given). However, it doesn’t seem that long for Tonya & Andree to get a cab also; though they mention with some uncertainty that their success is dependent upon the driver knowing where he’s going.
Ethan & Carolyn are rolling off, looking confident and in control of this competition. A mere 8 minutes into the challenge Susan is already getting tired of Coyt’s decision to run and stops at a rental car agency to get a map. Meanwhile, Tonya & Andree are in the car fumbling with their Polaroid, and can’t seem to figure out how to read the camera’s instructions much less put the film in. Back in full sprint on the street, Susan catches her breath enough to snipe at Coyt that “This is silly. Everybody’s already in a car.” Just as Coyt assures Susan that “They’re probably all still in line,” we see Carolyn & Ethan standing in front of their first chapel, getting their picture taken. Tonya & Andree also stop off for their first picture. They notice with some irritation that overly helpful strangers tend to take up time by trying to get them to smile or compose the picture perfectly. As Ethan & Carolyn attempt to pull out from their first chapel a big Pepsi truck (Accident? Or canny product placement? YOU be the judge) blocks the driveway, causing Carolyn to throw a Sugar-Honey-Ice-Tea fit. Ethan tries to soothe the savage breast, but to no avail; “Just don’t kill and eat anybody yet,” he says to a livid Carolyn.
After 15 minutes of running and fighting with no chapel in sight, Coyt & Susan finally flag down a cab, and offer the guy a flat $100 to take them to as many chapels as he can and back to Graceland in the remaining time. Ethan & Carolyn are finally back on the road, and apparently doing an efficient job. They’re working well with the driver to get from chapel to chapel speedily. Coyt & Susan finally get their first picture taken, with Susan explaining to the would-be photographer that “We’re trying to win the wedding of our dreams, we just need as many pictures as possible”. What follows is a frantic montage of the couples getting their photos taken by a diverse cross-section of Las Vegas’s colorful denizens, from straight-laced suit ‘n’ ties to toothless homeless guys (hey, where are the hookers?). I can’t help but notice that even though they’re in a hurry, the couples are unfailingly polite—it’s the longest litany of “Thank you’s” I’ve ever heard. Kudos to they Mama’s for teaching them good manners!
Before long, all the couples are turning onto “Elvis Drive” to turn in their pictures at the Graceland Chapel. Carolyn & Ethan arrive first, with less than 5 minutes of time left on the clock. They’re followed soon after by Susan & Coyt. Squeezing in just under gun, Tonya & Andree hand their envelope to Lisa a mere 2 seconds before the deadline. All three couples feel confident about their efforts, but we will not learn the results of this competition until the evening’s Altar Ceremony. In fact, Lisa tells the couples, there is only one challenge in which the couples will be competing head-to-head and for which anyone will know the winner, and that is the next leg of the race.
2nd Leg: “With This Ring”
The couples are all given Hummers (Ethan & Caroline-Yellow, Susan & Coyt-Red, Tonya & Andree-Silver) and drive to Lake Mead, 50 miles from Vegas. Ethan confesses that the uncertainty of what’s to come is making him and Carolyn nervous. Tonya declares the competition is now “Do or die.” Susan ruminates that “We’re not here to form friendships. No matter what happens, only one person can winthis wedding.”
At 11:20, we see Lisa Dergan carving across the water in a slick SeaDoo, with the couples on one SeaDoo each, behind her. The second challenge, “With This Ring,” requires each of the couples to ride as fast as they can down a 1 mile course to a red buoy at the end, along the way picking up 2 rings from buoys along the way. They must turn and come back to get to the finish line, but not without first placing both rings on a “Race to the Altar” flag on the way back. As Lisa counts down to take-off, Carolyn states that she’s psyched about being on a SeaDoo, feeling comfortable on them, though what she doesn’t know is that Ethan has never been on one his entire life.
Coyt & Susan take an early lead. Carolyn points out their advantage: “They weigh probably one full person less than we do.” Susan & Coyt get the first ring with no problem, followed by Carolyn, who appears to struggle a bit with getting it off the buoy. Andree said that he had difficulty slowing down to get near the buoy, and overshoots the first ring, but is able to come back so that Tonya can snatch it.
Coyt & Susan look again to be back in their old form, as Susan gets the second ring with complete ease, and they speed off, further widening the gap between them and Ethan & Carolyn. This time Ethan overshoots, and must back up for Carolyn to get the ring, causing them to lose valuable time. Andree & Tonya get their second ring, but by that time Susan & Coyt have long rounded the course marker and are heading towards the finish.
Susan & Coyt, however, fail their first attempt to get the ring over the flag. Tonya spots this and urges Andree on, even though they are a distance third. As Coyt & Susan struggle to get their ring on, Ethan & Carolyn, plus Tonya & Andree have also since caught up to their respective flags. But the other couples also find themselves having a difficult time. Ethan and Carolyn circle the flag repeatedly, unable to get close enough. By the time they finally do, they see Susan just getting hers on too. Now it’s an all-out race to the finish line.
Coyt & Susan make it over the finish line first, with Coyt doing a triumphant back-flip into the water. They’re followed soon after by Caroline & Ethan, with Tonya & Andree coming in last. “You only weigh 150 pounds!” Ethan hollers good-naturedly at the light & lissome pair. Still, Ethan & Carolyn, in a later interview, seem pretty steamed about what they feel is an unfair advantage. Tonya & Andree are also disappointed, but Andree expresses great hope that they got the other legs in hand, but does say, in regard to Coyt & Susan’s big comeback, “Damn! Can they lose? Are they human?” No, Andree, they’re robots here to test you.
8 hours into the race, and we see the trio of Hummers speeding along a desolate desert highway to the dauntingly named Valley of Fire. This allows the couples some private time to ruminate and of course gripe over the game thus far. Carolyn states her opinion that she & Ethan are the strongest and most mature couple left on the show (I don’t hear anyone disagreeing), and she hopes the winner reflects that. Discussing whom they would keep should they become Power Couple, they decide that they have a better chance to win against Tonya & Andree. I feel a sudden gust of wind—what could it be? Oh, perhaps hands being thrown up into the air by millions of collective viewers who have been begging the Power Couples to get rid of Susan & Coyt for weeks?
Meanwhile, in Coyt & Susan’s vehicle, Coyt says that he really likes both the remaining couples, to which Susan replies, “It’s kind of a ‘mute’ point right now, there’s no point even talking about it because we’re not in the situation where we get to make the decision.” She might not be bright enough to distinguish the word “mute” from “moot”, but even Susan’s smart enough to know that if someone other than them becomes power couple tonight, “We’re going home.”
Andree wins tonight’s Wishful Thinking Award when he says of the next competition that: “I don’t think it’s going to be anything too strenuous or hard.” They also agree that the only strategy from here on out is to win the challenges and secure the Power Couple position.
3rd Leg: “Bridal Shower”
The couples finally arrive at their destination, and walk out into the sweltering 105 degree heat of the desert. Lisa Dergan, looking like a blonde Lara Croft in cami short-shorts and perky ponytail, describes the next stunt, which if you ask me, verges on sadistic. Each couple must stand in a tank filled with water and ice (water temperature approx. 38 degrees). Not only that, a freezing cold shower will start to rain down upon their heads. Isn’t that what they call Chinese Water Torture? The couples will all be going separately for privacy and to also ensure that they don’t know each other’s times.
Carolyn and Ethan are the lucky couple to go first. Ethan very gallantly gives Carolyn his t-shirt, and she wears her hair down, in an attempt to get as much coverage as possible in order to keep warm. A topless Ethan uses his index fingers to cover his nipples (not sure how effective that will be). They step in the tank and close their eyes in anticipation of the cold water shower, which the producers cruelly delay until 15 seconds in. Carolyn describes the water shower as being like “a hatchet drilling into your head until you can no longer tolerate it or get brain freeze…But nothing prepares you for how it feels to have ice-cold, rock-hard water hit you in the head, it’s really pretty painful.” Ethan says that his head went numb, started to ache, and both he and Carolyn appeared to have trouble breathing. Though both pretty stoic, they appear to each bow out fairly quickly.
Andree & Tonya go next. Tonya says that before she went in, she thought the ice water couldn’t be so bad, and that the challenge would be “more mental than physical.” Famous last words, if I ever heard any. Of course the second she gets in, she’s immediately cursing, moaning and groaning the whole time, which Andree said was really destroying his focus. I am shocked at my sudden violent urge to slap her sane. When she starts screaming, I wonder if there is anything this woman won’t freak out about. She doesn’t like heights, she doesn’t like water, she doesn’t like strange women rubbing lotion all over her fiancé. Do the histrionics ever end with Tonya? And once again, it’s Andree’s job to take up her slack. He finally tells her to just get out. With Tonya gone, Andree relaxes, still as stone, into what looks like a Zen meditative state. He says he was trying to concentrate and think warm thoughts. Still, Andree says that he doesn’t think he could have been in there more than 1 minute to 1 minute and a half, describing it as “unbearable”.
Lastly, Coyt & Susan climb into the tank. Coyt says the anticipation factor was “brutal”. As the shower comes down, Susan stands completely still, withstanding it bravely, but she says that it’s not the cold that is as painful as the “pounding” on the head from the shower, and she goes out after only a few seconds. Coyt stays in longer, but appears in terrible pain, body shaking and gasping for breath wildly. He gets out, saying that he feels he could have gone longer except that he started to feel he was going to pass out.
4th leg: Something Old, Something New…
For the final challenge of the day, Lisa informs the couples that there is an envelope back in their cars that contains written information, and an audio CD with instructions. The CD contains a message from Lisa, detailing the challenge, called “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.” It’s basically a scavenger hunt sending them around Las Vegas to find something old in suite 207 at the Viva Las Vegas Hotel, purchase something new at Bonanza, the “World’s Largest Gift Shop,” from a man named Clay, go to the Liberace museum to borrow rice for their wedding, and find a pair of blue suede shoes among the 14,000 seats at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV. They are allowed to go in any order and by any route, the only rule being that the first couple to make it back to the Venetian with all four items wins the leg.
Andree considers stopping at a gas station to ask where the places are, but Tonya tells him it would be better to head directly to at least one of the locations and then ask for directions from there. Ethan & Carolyn do decide to stop off at a gas station, where Carolyn pays the clerk $20 for a beat-up Clark County Yellow Pages phone book (you know that clerk’s going to be smoking that Andrew Jackson after his shift). Coyt & Susan simply don’t know where any of the locations are.
13 hours into the race, and Tonya & Andree spot the Viva Las Vegas Hotel. Tonya virtually leaps out of the car and runs down the street and through the property to get to suite 207 to rummage around for something old. Coyt & Susan, meanwhile, have found a nice man who’s giving them directions in a parking lot, but then argue with each other over who’s wasting time. Tonya doesn’t know what it is she’s supposed to get from 207, so she tears the room apart in an attempt to find a specific something old. She finally just grabs a towel, and thus becomes the first to complete 1 of 4 tasks. Wow, Tonya actually accomplished something!
Ethan & Carolyn pull in to the UNLV Thomas & Mack center and enter the arena. There they face the overwhelming task of finding a pair of blue suede shoes, 3 of which are hidden among the 14,000 seats of the stadium. They decide to “divide and conquer” and each stake out separate areas to search. Which they do. They search. Row after row after row…to no avail. Coyt & Susan suddenly come into the arena and, with seemingly minimal effort, find a pair of blue suede shoes and bolt out like lightning, leaving Ethan & Carolyn behind in a cloud of bleeped-out expletives of frustration. “Did it look like he pulled it out of seats?” Ethan asks, to which Carolyn eloquently and aptly replies, “I don’t know where he pulled them out of…his ASS, that’s where he pulls everything else out of, I don’t know.”
Tonya & Andree are pulling into the Bonanza Gift Shop, just about to get their 2nd task out of the way. While she runs in to ask Clay where she can get her “something new”, Tonya tells Andree to find out where the “LA-BRIS” museum is. So Andree runs around asking person after person after person (5 or 6 according to Andree) where the “LI-BUR-ACE” museum is…to no avail. He’s stunned at the ignorance of the locals until, back in the car, a laughing taxi driver corrects their pronunciation of “Liberace” (LI-BER-ACHI, just in case you didn’t know). “In high school we talked about Liberace and how he was a musician, I think he was a composer or something,” Andree says later, as if Liberace were someone on the level of Mozart (though to be honest he is more along the level of a Richard Simmons who dresses like Liz Taylor and can play the piano). The directions mishap unfortunately eats up some of their lead-time.
Ethan & Carolyn spot Coyt & Susan’s red Hummer ahead of them. Carolyn finally explodes in frustration, “Damn it, I’m sick of being beat by Coyt & Susan. It’s [bleep bleep].” As if God finally answered Ethan & Carolyn’s prayers, Coyt & Susan, who are themselves arguing in the car, pass up the Liberace museum, leaving Carolyn & Ethan to get there first. While they’re at the wrong place, Carolyn runs in while Ethan stays in the car. Carolyn, however, can’t find the rice, and just as she’s yelling for Ethan to come in and help her, Susan arrives, followed close behind by Coyt. Ethan comes in after Coyt, just in time to witness Coyt pulling out a 25 lb. bag of rice from under one of Liberace’s classic cars, igniting another expletive explosion from a beleaguered Carolyn. Long after Coyt & Susan have split, Ethan does eventually find the other bag, leaving him & Carolyn, with 2 out of 4 tasks completed.
Back in the car, however, Ethan & Carolyn are still awash in frustration over having Coyt & Susan beat them to not only the blue suede shoes, but also the rice. They have a conversation that is comprised almost entirely of bleeps and even requires pixellating their mouths out! The cleanest sentence that emerges from the car is Carolyn, declaiming in sheer disgust, “Mother[bleep]er, I hate this game so much!”
Ethan & Carolyn’s yellow Hummer remains a rolling bleep-mobile. Carolyn says she can’t deal with the stress of the game, and even suggests that they quit. Ethan points out that, as doctors, they deal with more stress than this everyday, but Carolyn says that even life and death decisions don’t stress her out as much as this game has. “I don’t want to lose this game,” Ethan tells her, “But I don’t want you to start losing your mind because of it.”
Tonya & Andree finally make it to the LA-BRIS museum, and Tonya runs in all confused, and the producers give us a perfect shot of her expression of utter cluelessness. Andree finally comes in to help her and finds the bag quickly. Yet again, Andree must carry Tonya’s dead weight, like that 25 lb. sack of rice he’s got slung over his shoulder. Nevertheless, they are the first to complete 3 out of 4 tasks. They head out to the Thomas & Mack for their final mission.
Ethan & Carolyn finally make it to Bonanza, and track down the now-infamous Clay, and pick up a souvenir. Now their last task is to find the Viva Las Vegas Hotel. Ethan asks Carolyn what it said in the Yellow Pages. Carolyn found a listing for just a plain Viva Las Vegas, not one that specified Hotel or Casino. Carolyn gets down and talks to some people, but finds little help. They call the number in the phone book, and are told to go across the street from the Aladdin. Carolyn gets down and goes into the Desert Passage, a shopping mall on the strip, and asks people if they know where Viva Las Vegas is. By the time she finds it, they discover that they’ve been looking for the wrong Viva Las Vegas. This is a small gift boutique that’s not even open. Task 4 for them is incomplete.
Coyt & Susan squabble profusely in their red Hummer, even as they pull up to the actual Viva Las Vegas hotel for their “something old”. Quick cut to Andree at the Thomas & Mack, running along the seats, juxtaposed with Tonya just standing there, hand on her hip, whining as usual, “Man, I don’t know where they put them shoes.” Try looking with your eyes, Tonya, not your mouth! Back to Coyt, who’s sprinting up the steps to suite 207, grabs a towel, and throws it down to Susan.
Ethan & Carolyn are still trying to find Viva Las Vegas, and learn that the only Viva Las Vegas is a Chapel and Villa hotel on South Las Vegas Blvd. It’s actually Downtown, further off the Strip than they had anticipated. Carolyn says that she is sick of losing at things she knows they’re better at (which of course begs the question that if they’re so good at these things why aren’t they winning?). She’s totally sick of the game, saying she’s “too old for this”. Ethan remains positive, saying that they still have a shot.
In the meantime, Andree has found the blue suede shoes, and they are already on their way back the Venetian. Coyt & Susan have just snapped up their souvenir at Bonanza, and are on their way back to the Venetian as well. Carolyn & Ethan finally get to Viva Las Vegas and Ethan inexplicably picks up a chair.
The couples must park across the street and carry all their items across the finish line in front of the Venetian. Tonya & Andree appear to get there first, but they’re followed close behind by Coyt & Susan. Tonya again incites violent urges within me by repeatedly yelling “PUSH IT, PUSH IT, PUSH IT!” in the shrillest voice imaginable to poor Andree, who’s lugging the rice sack around on his head. When he tells her the bag is heavy, she dismisses him with an unsympathetic “It ain’t heavy, suck it up. It’s all in the mind.” I wonder how she would feel if Andree said that to her the last umpteen times she’s blown a challenge with her hysterics.
Finally, Ethan & Carolyn get to the parking lot and exit their car. They make their way across the street looking exhausted, with Ethan holding the rice sack and backpack, and Carolyn helping out with the folding chair.
And now that you’re dying to know who wins this thing…
Andree & Tonya appear to be in a tight race with Susan & Coyt, both couples running up to the Venetian as crowds look on and cheer. As we wait breathlessly to see who makes it across the finish line first, three cruel words emblazon themselves on the screen: “To Be Continued”. As the credits run, I’m cursing the producers, and everyone involved in the making of the show for such inhuman treatment of audiences. I feel like Carolyn, sick of playing by their rules and getting dicked around week after week!
Ah, but should I have expected anything else? I should know better by now that Reality TV, she is a harsh mistress that treats me cruelly yet I return again and again for more sweet abuse. [Sigh]
I’m steaming mad that I have to wait until next week to find out who won this competition. Email me at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com if you’d like to comfort me. Or if, you know, you’ve got questions or comments and stuff.