There are two types of people in the world: People who grew up reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, and people who grew up reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. Written and illustrated by an adorably Euro-perfect husband/wife team (he was a German with Swiss citizenship, she was a Norwegian who studied in France), both books blended freakish illustrations with child-friendly descriptions of old gods, superhuman heroes, and ancient magic. There is one major difference between the books, though. Greek mythology is full of colorfully eccentric characters, oversexed demi-gods, and videogame-ready visuals like winged horses and golden fleece. Norse mythology is similar…except for the minor fact that it is utterly and completely bananas insane.
In the cosmology of the Northmen, there are nine worlds circling around a cosmic tree, and the gods aren’t fun because their deaths have been foretold, and heroes bathe in the blood of murdered dragons. Greek myth has mysterious, sun-dappled islands. Norse myth has dark, snow-covered forests. (You could argue that Lord of the Rings is basically Norse myth with easier-to-pronounce names.) It’s for this reason that people who grew up reading the Book of Greek Myths are vagrant hedonists who enjoy the beach, and the people who grew up reading the Book of Norse Myths are manic pessimists who stay inside until winter comes.
Rachel and Katie would appear to be classic Book of Greek Myth fans. After all, they’re Beach Volleyball players, and Beach Volleyball is definitely the most Dionysian professional sport on earth. But their personalities – dismissive, businesslike, justifiably narcissistic – clearly mark them as Book of Norse Myth enthusiasts. (Also, they both appear to be descended from 7-foot tall Vikings. It must be hard to be so ugly.) Starting out at the back of the pack on last night’s episode, Katie had a brutally straightforward summation of their circumstances: “This is not Amazing Friend, it’s Amazing Race.” Rachel said, “Well, we’re Amazing Friends.” Katie shot her a blank, deadly stare. (You just know that Rachel is totally the Valkyrie who ends up falling for the mortal man, and Katie is the enforcer who gives the mortal man a cursed ring as a wedding present.)
In this leisurely paced episode, we got some insight into the other teams’ particular relationships. Nat and Kat are more like sisters than friends, which ranks a mere 7 on the “Adorability Meter” next to the mighty 9 that Gary earns for being a die-hard Amazing Race fan. (This may explain why he has been the best at everything so far this season.) Brook gifted us with an outline of Team QVC’s complex inner workings: “I am the most hyper, energetic, dedicated, passionate person anyone’s probably ever met. Claire’s this calm storm, I’m this crazy animal, and if we could just wsshhh together, we’d be the perfect creature.” Pause to visualize a calm storm raining quietly onto an insane animal.
The first clue sent teams to Narvik, Norway. Continuing the general Roger Moore trend in this season, teams had to ride a gondola up to the top of a mountain. “Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of gondolas,” said the Prince of Darkness, biting on an apple. Oh, Prince of Darkness, I can’t help but giggle a little bit whenever we circle back around to the central dynamic of your relationship: Will you ever be able to truly love a woman who didn’t go to college?
NEXT: Meat, it’s what’s for dinner. Too bad Kat hasn’t eaten any in two decades, eh?