Amazing Race
Panama

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Two Men, a Bad Plan, A Canal, Panama
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Phil tells us, "Belgium has hosted the World's Fair ten times." Which makes me think that Belgium is pretty much the only country still keeping it afloat, like the one still-childless couple in a big group of friends who are so desperate to maintain the annual Oscar party tradition that they have it at their house every year now. Sad, really. Phil's standing under the Atomium, a giant model of an iron atom that failed to melt after the shindig like a proper ice sculpture of an Academy Award statuette, and now it's here to serve as the start of the eleventh leg. It was also the overnight digs for the teams, who bedded down in large spherical shells somewhere inside the structure while Andy and Tommy, who won the last leg, got online and customized the Mustangs they won at the end of the last leg. They're going to miss that sleep tomorrow, I'm thinking.

Worse yet, it's barely even tomorrow at all, as they start their leg at 3:46 AM. For some reason, Andy's holding the clue envelope while Tommy holds a big cardboard box. When Andy opens the former, it tells them to put on the contents of the latter: the costumes of "two favorite comic strip characters." Uh, whose favorite?

Cue shots of public art all over Brussels depicting the inexplicably popular Belgian comic character Tintin, which Phil says has sold more than 350 million books and been published in 80 languages. And I'm sure it's a total coincidence that there's a Tintin movie coming out soon. Anyway, the costumes are for a pair of detectives who look like a cross between the Men in Black and Hercule Poirot. In the books, these characters are apparently known by one of three names: Dupont & Dupond, Jonson & Johnson, or Thomson & Thompson. What, the author couldn't make up his mind? He got sued and lost the rights -- twice? I'd look into it, but if Tintin were really as popular as Phil seems to think he is, I'd already know these things.

Anyway, after figuring out who they're supposed to be, the racers then have to find an outdoor, multi-story Tintin mural, in front of which a guy in a Tintin costume (complete with a sandy, towering forelock) is holding a dog (given the books' apparent affinity for repetitive names, it's probably named something like Pup-Pup). He'll hand the racers their next clue in exchange for hearing what they've learned. As the snowboarders hurry into their suits, hats, bowlers and false mustaches (Andy's has been thoughtfully equipped with a strap that goes around his head so he doesn't have to glue it to his real mustache), they interview that they just have one leg left to make it to the finals. In a cab into town, they puzzle over the clue they've been given, which is simply a photo of the Tintin guy in front of the Tintin mural. "Sweet hair," Tommy points out. "Three o'clock in the morning and we gotta solve a riddle," Andy says. "Comics were never my specialty." They hop out of their cab downtown, looking jaunty enough with their canes and bowlers, but their only resources for solving the riddle is the kind of people who are out on the streets of Brussels at four in the morning, which does not appear to be a demographic that overlaps a great deal with Tintin fans. Some guy thinks they're dressed up as Charlie Chaplin, so they figure they'd better write that down. Uh-oh.

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Amazing Race

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