Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic
April 26, 2010 12:00 AM

We started with eleven teams and are now down to the final four. Teams are exhausted. Stress is high. Nerves are frayed. That’s probably because teammates have been shackled to each other for nearly a month! The finish line represents both the chance to share in a million dollars and to escape from each other. But before they can get there, the four teams have to first leave Singapore and travel to Zhu Jia Jiao and Shanghai, China. Fans know that this leg is almost always non-elimination, so the objective is not avoiding elimination but positioning for the push to final three.

And in terms of positioning, the team best poised for a good run seems to be Team Cowboy. The four pairs start even on the same flight to China and learn from a giddy Caite about Carol and Brandy’s elimination. Jordan is not happy, though, and mutters that Team Cowboy is the scariest team remaining and that everyone may “regret” not eliminating them. Though there are two chances to U-Turn the Cowboys, emotion trumps strategy. Once the flight lands, Jordan’s words prove prescient. Team Cowboy immediately takes over first place as Dan and Jordan and Louie and Michael slip further and further behind with confused taxi drivers and poor language skills.

Even though no team faces elimination, I loved the tasks on this leg! Personally, I think this is probably the best set of tasks on a leg in any season of the Amazing Race. For the first time ever, there are two roadblocks on the same leg, requiring each team member to step up and perform. One team member must learn how the Chinese make noodles by hand. The other must solve a 96-piece giant puzzle in order to find the clue in the middle of a soccer stadium. Team members must also work together to dress a model according to a detailed picture. The tasks test one’s ability to learn quickly, patience in the face of adversity, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills, with a bit of luck thrown in.

And the teams also get to meet Ping Ping, the world’s smallest man. Caite wants to take Ping Ping home with her, while Jet remarks that if Ping Ping jumped out of a trash can, he’d scare the bleep out of you. (Sadly, this leg is dedicated to the memory of Ping Ping, who died of heart complications on March 3, 2010.)

The challenges on this leg prove that the Cowboys are the favorites. Jet rocked the noodle-making task when he quickly figured out how to use flour to separate the noodles. Cord rocked the puzzle task by staying calm after gale-force winds undid much of his work. As Jet put it, what Cord lacks in talent he more than makes up for in “try.” That’s truly an apt description for the team.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Louie and Michael make the biggest mistakes of the leg. Not only do they struggle with their taxicab driver, Louie (despite his Italian grandmother) also struggles to make pasta, the cops (despite their police background) walk right past the fashion store, and Michael (despite his investigative background) wrestles with the puzzle. The mistake-laden leg puts them in last place. While not eliminated, they do enter the next leg saddled with an extra “speed bump” task.

If I had to bet money, I sadly suspect Louie and Michael are the next to go and most I talk to think Jet and Cord are the favorites to win. But that said, this season is all about surprises. Who would have thought Caite would be the last woman standing (congratulations!) with Brent? And Dan and Jordan’s teamwork is only getting stronger. Nothing is a certainty, which is all the more reason to keep watching! — Victor Jih

Tell us: Can Louie and Michael overcome the speed bump? Will Jet and Cord run away with it all? And is Dan the best brother in the world?

Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

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