Amazing Race Recap: Russia Part 2

It's hard to believe that the finale for this season's Amazing Race is just an episode away. Which could be why the show's producers tried to cram three times the action of a normal episode last night into the teams' second run in Moscow. It was the most complex, challenging, and potentially mania-inducing leg of the race yet this season.

Teams traveled to a Russian nuclear submarine located in town to retrieve a clue from an actor who appeared in the film The Hunt for Red October. This was a charming but short bit of fun as teams (with Nick and Starr in an early lead) then headed to a local park called the Graveyard of the Fallen Monuments to tackle their next Roadblock. They were to identify and count the number of statues dedicated to Stalin and Lenin, whose names in the Russian Cyrillic spelling were listed for each player, and then create single double-digit numerals which they then had to tell a shop-owner in order to get their next clue.

Nick breezed through the challenge, of course, with Tina close behind. Poor Dallas (cute, but ... not so bright), though, struggled not only to count the statues but create a number. Ultimately, Tina took pity on him at the shop -- the number was 62 -- and he was on his way to meet his mom. Unfortunately, he left all his money and their passports in a cab and arrived to meet his mother in a panic. Andrew and Dan somehow, again, caught up to the pack and were soon in third place as Dallas and Toni braced themselves to start begging for money.

Teams were to travel to the city's Sokol'niky Park where they would receive details about their next Detour: "Ride the Rails" or "Ride the Lines." In the former, they would navigate the confusing but reliable subway system to retrieve clues, or in "Ride the Lines," they would do the same above ground on Moscow buses, but run the risk of getting stuck in the city's gnarly traffic. Confident in his subway know-how, Nick said they would do "Ride the Rails" ("Being a New Yorker has finally paid off," he declared smugly), and the two easily trucked through the Detour. Ken and Tina tackled the bus system and had their share of mishaps (buses and trolleys are not the same thing, after all). Dallas and Toni begged their way through Moscow -- encountering some truly generous individuals -- and then tried their luck with "Riding the Lines."

Meanwhile, Andrew and Dan were subjected to a Speed Bump for having been spared elimination last week. If you recall Dan's aptitude for marching last week, you probably weren't surprised to see these skills on equal display during a traditional Russian dance, which they had to perform to a teacher's specification. Shockingly, she only made them do it three times (it was pretty bad) before letting them go on their way.

Landing at the Metro's VNDKh Park Station, Nick and Starr retrieved their final clue and ran to the nearby Pit Stop at VNDKh Park where Phil and another first-place win awaited them. Ken and Tina were close behind as, once again, Andrew and Dan somehow survived another leg of the race. Toni and Dallas didn't even make it to the Pit Stop as Phil found them wandering forlornly and told them the final three teams were already in place. I was a little broken up seeing Toni cry and extol the virtues of her son, while he did the same for her.

Next week marks this season's finale and I'm inclined to say Nick and Starr have it in the bag. But seeing as Andrew and Dan are still around, defying all sense and logic, I'd say it's still anyone's game.