Sonja Flemming/CBS
Lanford Beard
October 03, 2011 AT 06:25 AM EDT

Man, TAR really shuffled the deck this week. In addition to the always-equalizing effect of destinations with no late-night flights available, there was a sneaky little sign that eluded eight of the 11 teams and caused them to circle back and lose their places in the Pit Stop queue. Improbably, Teams Olympian (Andy and Tommy), Sailor (Laurence and Zac), and Showgirls (Kaylani and Lisa) were the ones who actually paid attention to the rules and were not turned back. That left some lovely folks going home. I won’t lie, it gave me a little bit of the weepies. When Team Flight Attendants’ Bill said, “We can take it, Phil. We’re strong,” didn’t that tug at your heart strings? And for Ethan to be eliminated in a round all about charity. Cruel fate!

On a much happier note, Team NFL’s Marcus has officially become my favorite player by leaps and bounds. The man dances like Michael Jackson and talks to trees! Wonderful. Also, anyone who says things like, “We got the kind [of money] that jingles, we need the kind that folds” is aces in my book. A natural busker is that Marcus Pollard.

Elsewhere, two teams saw an inevitable implosion — albeit extremely early in the game. Team Sibling Rivalry (Justin and Jennifer) did just that — squawk and yell at one another throughout the episode: first because Justin wanted to explore other transportation options than the train that all the other Racers were taking, then because Jennifer wasn’t able to keep up with her brother’s pace. Over on Team OCD (Cindy and Ernie), Cindy had a meltdown when they learned they would be denied the power couple status they (or at least she) were so desperately were seeking. Yes, they arrived first at the Pit Stop, but they didn’t read the sign telling them to give all the money in their possession to the orphans, so they ended up much farther behind than they otherwise would have been.

Personally, I’m always a big fan of the eating challenges on TAR because they’re so very excessive, but this week’s spelunking task was pretty amazing. Most delightfully, no one had a crippling fear of heights that prompted him or her to indulge in histrionics. All in all, it was exhilarating, and you could see it on the Racers’ faces and hear it coming out of their mouths. This is TAR at its best, when the teams get a moment to take in the natural beauty of the far-flung destinations they’ve been thrown into, instead of just hurtling a watermelon in some random stadium, then operating an exhausting rickshaw, and finally collapsing in Phil’s arms. The moments when they actually realize how — pardon the term — amazing what they’re doing is, those are the moments when you can’t be too sore about the Emmy dominance. What you can be sore about is Jeff Probst’s Emmy dominance. Browsie is poised for the gold, y’all.

NEXT: An impressionistic retelling of the night’s events… 

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