TORONTO - A season of missteps finally caught up to decorated ballet star Rex Harrington and his fiance Bob Hope — an improving, ever-quotable pair who were nevertheless the fifth team eliminated from "The Amazing Race Canada" on Tuesday.
Fleet of feet and wit, Harrington and his partner had become the show's droll breakout stars after initially looking like one of its weakest squads, but a whisk through Winnipeg ended their hopes of continuing on.
First, the pair made a dawdling Detour decision to pack perogies — a much more time-consuming task than the alternative — before the typically loquacious Harrington forgot the words in a goofy rock-star challenge, meaning the season's most irreverently tart-tongued duo finally fell short of the barre.
Even in defeat, a sanguine Hope called the race "the most amazing experience of our lives."
Lockstep twins Pierre and Michel Forget won the leg (and a trip to Los Cabos, Mexico) simply because the Francophone fraternity bypassed the English-intensive Road Block entirely. For that, they utilized their Express Pass, a gift from Canadian Olympians Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson — whose journey to the centre of Canada, by the way, proved deeply humbling.
Before that, all the teams loaded on the same flight from the Yukon to Winnipeg (via Vancouver) and zoomed to the Royal Canadian Mint, where the day's first challenge required competitors to match international coins with their respective national flags. It stymied no one.
So the episode's first signs of drama came with the Detour, which offered two choices: "Pinch It," requiring teams to carefully assemble 74 perogies in the untelegenic basement of the St Ivan Suchavsky Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral; or "Puck It," tasking teams with navigating the MTS Centre ice and scoring five goals in five distinct parts of the net.
(Montreal couple Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice bravely opted for the episode's Fast Forward option — which required locating seven faded "ghost signs" — and rocketed to a second-place finish as a result.)
Everyone understandably presumed the hockey challenge provided an unfair advantage for the gold medallists Natalie and Meaghan, including Natalie and Meaghan.
"They're going to sneeze and they're going to be out," Bob crowed with an implied roll of his eyes.
Indeed, the typically stone-faced hockey players laced up their skates with a palpable giddiness.
"It's kind of a challenge made for us," enthused Natalie.
"I want to wear this all day," smiled Meaghan as she strapped on her helmet.
Well, she would almost get her wish. As expected, the hockey stars initially glided smoothly about the ice, effortlessly hitting their first four out of five targets.
When it came to the notorious "five hole," though, they struggled. And struggled. Then struggled some more.
"It's the stick. I'm blaming the stick," lamented Natalie.
Eager to provide contrast, there was the reliably frantic Terrace, B.C., sibling duo of Sukhi and Jinder Atwal, who immediately compared their non-existent experience level to that of the Olympians.
"Do you know how to skate, Sukh?" Jinder queried.
"No. How hard could it be?" replied Sukhi.
"Do you know if you're left-handed or right-handed?" he asked.
"Who cares?" she responded.
Her dismissive confidence was, at least relatively speaking, well-founded.
On the other hand, two seasoned professionals in Natalie and Meaghan floundered to the point of real frustration, failing again and again to slide the puck through the five hole.
"This is just a little embarrassing," acknowledged Natalie, her initial enthusiasm gone.
Cheery Ontario forest dudes Mickey Henry and Pete Schmalz nailed the challenge on nine shots total. It took Pierre and Michel 11. Sukhi and Jinder, complete on-ice neophytes, required 39 tries before moving on.
And then there were Natalie and Meaghan, who finally advanced after snapping a grand total of — wait for it — 57 shots.
Their competitors scarcely tried to conceal their schadenfreude, likely amplified by the Olympians' race-spanning dominance.
"It's just the most epic thing ever to watch gold medal Olympians keep missing," grinned Jinder.
"Dude, we just beat Olympians! We ARE Olympians!" shouted Mickey and Pete upon departure.
Humiliated as they understandably were, the hockey stars were offered no respite from embarrassment at their next stop: the Winnipeg club Whiskey Dix for a Road Block singalong.
The challenge required one member of each team to memorize the lyrics to an unknown glam-metal tune called "When the Sun Goes Down" (composed by Imaginary Cities' Rusty Matyas), and perform to a packed crowd while clad in a "rock-star" getup — including silly pants, a silly shirt and an extra silly wig, along with three accessories.
"Of course I'm going booty shorts," concluded Mickey, who also selected a Slash-redolent mane of bountiful curly black hair and a fake mustache that kept falling off.
"The second I put the outfit on, I just lost a nut," enthused Jinder.
Aside from the language barrier-blocked Forgets, the teams didn't struggle much with the challenge. Jinder, Natalie and Mickey all moved on after fewer than a half-dozen run-throughs apiece, mostly allowing themselves a moment to soak up a little adulation as they exited.
"I had to kiss a few babes on the way out," explained Mickey. "And then I was like, 'Not now babes. I have to go see my boyfriend Jon Montgomery.'"
Ultimately, then, it came down to a showdown between Rex and Bob and Vancouver bartenders Ryan Steele and Rob Goddard, mutually slowed by the rather dull perogy-packing challenge.
Rex finished the challenge in six tries, but couldn't have predicted that Rob possessed an inner Sunset Strip just waiting to beam out.
"I got right into character," said Rob as he donned a hot pink wig. "New me!"
He nailed the challenge on his first try, and thus relegated the show's celebrity pair to elimination.
As they jogged on to the Pit Stop, Rex and Bob actually misjudged the field and arrived believing they were in third place.
"Delusional," muttered Rex as he found out the truth.
And so, the pair's final pithy barb was self-directed. But Rex and Bob — seemingly so vulnerable in the show's early going, when they at one point abandoned two challenges in the same episode — in fact departed having proven their mettle, surviving to the series' halfway point.
Accordingly, they seemed undaunted by their ouster. Host Montgomery was appropriately joined at the Pit Stop by a ballet dancer, and on Rex's way out, he playfully embraced and dipped the woman.
"We got to see Canada and do some amazing stuff," he said later. "So we're really happy."
Next week, the racers scurry off to Normandy, France. First, Rex and Bob took time Wednesday to discuss their ouster with The Canadian Press.
CP: So, perogies. How much do you regret the perogies? It seemed much more time-consuming than the alternative.
Rex: It was, but I can barely stand up on skates.
Bob: After having seen Sukhi and Jinder struggle with it, and then still get through it, and faster obviously than we did with the perogies, I think it would have been an easier challenge. Plus when the other teams are all there, it makes you really go hard. We were the only ones initially in that basement and with all those grannies we got all comfy and cozy and we actually stopped racing-racing. We completely forgot we were racing. Then when Rob and Ryan came we were all just kind of hanging out with the girls. It was hysterical.
CP: Did you forge any friendships here?
Bob: For sure. We're really, really tight and close with Shawn and Jen. They've come to visit and stay with us twice already. We love love love love them. We did during the race start to form a good relationship with Cormac and Nicole and Audrey and Alain. Those three teams, we became really close.
CP: How did it feel watching yourselves on TV?
Rex: Umm... I need to go on Jenny Craig. Not happy about that.
CP: Let's talk the leg where you did quit on two challenges. I saw a fair bit of vitriol online directed your way. What did you make of the reaction, and do you regret it?
Bob: We regretted it like that evening. And it was really humbling and eating a lot of humble pie. We knew that we would get a lot of negative backlash. We're just so glad we got it out of the way early. We all have a bad day at the office. Unfortunately ours played itself out in front of the whole country.
CP: You told me before the race you'd spend your winnings on a wedding. You didn't win, but will you still get married?
Rex: We'll be like Star Jones and get everything donated.
Bob: Ultimate goal was to have Cher at the wedding. Now we have to figure out how we're going to get Cher. I do not want an impersonator. I want Cher.
CP: Most people have those dreams where they're back in school and late for an exam they didn't study for. What element of "Amazing Race Canada" will haunt you?
Rex: And surf boards.
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