Amazing Race Canada: Romance and rancour in the city of lights
Nick Patch, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 27, 2014 6:26AM EDT
TORONTO -- A malevolent move doomed mischievous twins in the City of Love, as Pierre and Michel Forget were surprisingly ousted from "The Amazing Race Canada" during a sojourn to Paris in which the air was filled with romance and rancour in equal measure.
The scrappy siblings fell in a flurry of Mentos candy after going back on their word by vindictively utilizing the U-Turn, one of two teams to make use of the spiteful tactic and inject some welcome animosity into a race that has been otherwise genteel thus far.
The target of the twins' failed powerplay, Montreal couple Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice, not only survived the leg, they ended it on bended knee -- with Chanoine cementing their two-year relationship with an impromptu Pit Stop wedding proposal that had his now-fiancee spilling tears of joy.
If it seemed like this was an episode in which everything was changing, clockwork-consistent Olympian duo Meaghan Mikkelson and Natalie Spooner were there to provide a dose of steely-eyed stasis. Once again, the no-nonsense teammates coasted to a first-place finish.
"Is that the fifth time?" Natalie queried in a post-victory interview.
"Sixth," corrected Meaghan.
"Sixth time!" squealed Natalie. "We're in first place for the sixth time!"
"We're not counting, though," Meaghan concluded sternly.
Other than the continued dominance of the gold medallist hockey players, however, little in Tuesday's winding instalment felt predictable.
Much of that was due to the season's first U-Turn opportunity. For those uninitiated, the competitive device allows teams to force one pair behind them to complete both Detour challenges rather than the customary one.
As the teams gathered a train station in Normandy, France to await their rail trip to Paris -- apparently the first-ever train ride for the blond-locked Mickey Henry -- the potential pitfall was already top-of-mind for some teams.
"We want to talk to Pierre and Michel," said Alain. "We're thinking we're from Quebec, they're from Quebec -- we should stick together."
And initially, the twins seemed receptive.
"We are not the U-turning type of people," one of the brothers told Alain and Audrey in French. "If we kick out some Quebec team, we're all gonna look stupid. So we have to stick together."
In actuality, the devious duo secretly planned a U-Turn on their U-Turn stance.
"U-Turning is part of this game," Pierre reasoned. "We love Quebec but we came here to win."
First, teams had to complete the Detour, of course. One of this week's options forced a fevered sprint through the historic Marais district in search of three marked cafe chalkboards. Teams had to order each of the trio of menu items then jog them all back to waiting diners, who then needed to hear the selections read back verbatim.
The other option (which almost no one opted to complete by choice) injected a little "Project Runway" into the race, requiring teams to visit the prestigious fashion school Ecoles de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and pin pieces of fabric to a mannequin (apparently known as a "Judy") to mimic a new runway look.
After Mickey and best pal Pete Henry took an impromptu whisk through the French countryside care of a clueless taxi driver, the teams got down to work, mostly finding the tasks fairly straightforward. Helpfully, the cafes were located within a tight cluster and the phrases -- including "fromage charcuterie" -- were simple even for French neophytes.
Though it didn't stop Sukhi Atwal from brainstorming a mnemonic device to the mild irritation of brother Jinder.
"Like 'char' is our neighbour, put a Q in it, and put a tree in it," she relayed breathlessly. "Can you listen to me for a minute?"
"I need my own method!" he snapped back.
Sukhi again displayed her flair for French as they found their second of three menu items.
"One more. Uno," she announced. Once they successfully served the grateful diners, she replied -- again with a randomly placed French flourish -- "No problemo."
Before Sukhi and Jinder reached that point, though, they instigated the episode's other major element of drama by lying openly to Vancouver bartenders Ryan Steele and Rob Goddard about their progress.
After this understandable lapse in manners, both teams for whatever reason were suddenly resolved to U-Turning the other. As it happened, the Terrace, B.C., siblings reached the board first.
"We don't know what's coming forward so we have to U-Turn them just so we cover our bases," reasoned Jinder.
"I hate them," replied Ryan in a talking-head later.
So Alain and Audrey and Ryan and Rob were thus relegated to completing both halves of the Detour, a chore they mutually accomplished seemingly buoyed by a wave of resentment.
"As we're pinning the dress on this Judy," said Ryan, needle in hand, "I wish I was actually pinning it onto Sukhi's skin."
The only teams untouched by the suddenly acrimonious atmosphere were Natalie and Meaghan -- simply too fast for everyone -- and Mickey and Pete, so blissfully unstressed that they sometimes seem to be running their race in cheerful isolation.
"We're not U-Turned!" enthused Mickey as they reached the board to see that they had been spared. "Holy baloney!"
All these malignant machinations made for an awkward scene when the teams became bunched up at the week's nefarious Road Block.
The challenge required the methodical reconstruction of a work by French street artist Bastek using only Mentos candy, to be carefully judged by the artist himself.
"Oh my goodness," lamented Natalie upon arrival. "This looks impossible."
She then completed the task with her usual effortless efficiency, but others struggled. Michel in particular laboured and laboured on his candy creation, to the point where all teams but the hockey players were working simultaneously.
"Now it's time for payback," announced Alain with gleeful venom as he and his partner finally arrived, turning his attention to Pierre. "Are you still here? Damn, you guys are so slow."
Ryan and Rob arrived eventually too -- a feat considering the pair also had to complete an accordion-themed Speed Bump after finishing at the back of the pack in last week's non-elimination round -- although Jinder didn't immediately seem to experience any remorse.
"Not going to lie, U-Turning Rob and Ryan was the best thing I did of all time," he declared with typical aplomb.
"Don't even look at me," Ryan spat upon arrival.
If Jinder was untouched by regret, it was tempting to wonder whether Michel felt the same.
He laboured over the Mentos task for hour after hour, staring in disbelief at his apparently flawed sugar creation. While other teams helped each other out -- Pete and Audrey loaned one another fresh eyes to spot flaws in their works -- Michel was left alone to fruitlessly ponder where he had gone wrong.
Ultimately, the Atwals followed the hockey players to the Pit Stop and Mickey and Pete soon joined them for a third-place finish.
Alain and Audrey, boosted by Pete's advice, arrived next, and -- bathed in the euphoria of their feisty survival and the romance of their postcard-pretty surroundings -- Alain shocked his partner by falling to one knee.
"Right now, you're teaching me how to love, you're teaching me compassion, and the one mistake I don't want to do is to spend the rest of my life without you," he said.
Flustered, Audrey accepted the proposal by first shouting "You're crazy!" in French.
"I said yes," she added. "I'm shaking! I said yes!"
While one team agreed to spend their lives together, Michel toiled for what only felt like a lifetime on his Mentos masterpiece.
Though he arrived hours later, a determined Rob ultimately won Bastek's elusive approval first, and the friends sprinted off to one of the more impressive second-last-place finishes you're likely to see.
"We worked really hard today," Rob said. "We fought our hardest."
Meantime, Michel took roughly eight hours before finally assembling something worthy of the master's approval.
The pair -- former competitive skiiers who now co-run a meat-packing plant -- jogged in upbeat unison to their elimination.
"You guys probably haven't spent this much time together since you were in the womb," host Jon Montgomery marvelled in a chipper tone.
"It's the first time that we spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week together for a month since college," agreed Pierre. "It's just unbelievable."
Until this week, the inseparable siblings had looked to pose a formidable challenge to the rest of the field, perhaps second only to the hockey players. They were athletic, clever and capable, not to mention imbued with a competitive edge that won them few friends but seemed to position them for a lengthy run.
Still, they were positive upon defeat.
"When you're twins, anything can happen, but you're never going to be alone," said Michel.
Added Pierre: "It's sad, but life goes on. It's so much fun. It was just a blast."
Later, the Forgets discussed their controversial run and ouster with The Canadian Press.
CP: Watching the show, how did you feel you were represented?
Pierre: I mean, we already knew that ... (there was) kind of a script. Not that it's already wrote -- but some teams would have been seen like the funny teams, some team would be the racer team, some team would be the villain. And I was very surprised that we ended up being the villain, which we're not. It's all editing. And it's OK. It's their show. I thought we'd be more of the funny duo, than what they showed. But it's their show, you know.
CP: Do you feel like you were treated unfairly?
Pierre: How could we say that? It's OK. We weren't there to make friends.
Michel: It's half a million dollars on the table. So you're not there to make polite decisions.
CP: Some teams accused you of running a dirty race because you intentionally misled them.
Michel: It's a race. You don't help anybody.
Pierre: It's "Amazing Help Canada." Everybody's helping each other. The thing is, me and Michel we went into it as a racer ... we were not expecting to be helped and we were not thinking about helping anyone else. People were struggling with a formula or the name of the street or whatever -- they're not dying. They're not drowning. They're just having a hard time to find the solution.
I don't understand why this help thing is going on. It's their call. I would be very, very pissed off by getting beat by a team I helped three shows before.
CP: Michel, I'm guessing you haven't reached for a pack of Mentos since the show ended.
Michel (laughing): You know, I hate candy.