Christmas came early for Kynt Cothron and Vyxsin Fiala, as the "Dating Goths" were the last team to arrive at the seventh leg's Pit Stop only to discover it was The Amazing Race's first of two twelfth season non-elimination legs.

Instead of going home or being "marked for elimination" -- a non-elimination leg penalty used during the show's last two seasons -- Kynt and Vyxsin will now face a special upcoming Speed Bump task.

"Sometime during the next leg of the race, you're going to encounter a new twist in the race, and it's called a Speed Bump," explained host Phil Keoghan to Kynt and Vyxsin.  "A Speed Bump is a task that only you have to complete -- all the other teams keep racing.  You won't know when it's coming, and as a result of doing the Speed Bump you may find yourselves behind, which means you may have to do a lot of work to catch up if you want to stay in the race."

The Amazing Race 12's seventh episode began with the five remaining teams leaving the Stone Cross Overlook in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which served as the sixth leg's Pit Stop and required the teams take a mandatory rest period.

"Father/Daughter" team Ronald and Christina Hsu -- the first team to reach the race's sixth Pit Stop -- were the first to depart at 2:19AM.  Ron and Christina opened their clue and learned they needed to travel by bus to the port city of Split, Croatia, where they would take a ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Ancona, Italy, where their next clue awaited.

Kynt and Vyxsin were the next to depart the Pit Stop at 2:55AM, followed by "Dating Couple" Jennifer Parker and Nathan Hagstrom at 3:45AM.  All three teams arrived at the bus station and learned the first bus of the day didn't depart until 5AM.

"Those other people will not make it to that bus," correctly commented Kynt, as "Newly Dating Couple" Rachel Rosales and TK Erwin left the Pit Stop at 5:37AM and "Grandfather/Grandson" team Donald Jerousek and Nicolas Fulks didn't depart until 7:06AM.

"We have to hope that we bunch up some place," opined Don.

That's exactly what happened, as all five teams got on the same ferry to Ancona, Italy, which arrived at 9:40PM. 

The teams opened their next clue and discovered  they needed to drive deep into Tuscany to the town of Empoli and find an airfield for their next clue. Along with their clue, teams were also given a Blackberry handheld device. At some point during the 200-mile drive, they would be receiving a message. However teams could not attempt to use their Blackberry for any other reason.

Nathan and Jen were the first to depart for Tuscany, followed by Nick and Don, TK and Rachel, Kynt and Vyxsin and Ron and Christina.  Nathan and Jen immediately decided to ask for directions and learned from a local that it wouldn't be wise if they attempted to reach Empoli via Bologna, instead traveling through Forli en route to Florence.  Unfortunately for Nick and Don, Kynt and Vyxsin and Ron and Christina, they didn't receive the same advice and headed for Bologna. 

Locals also told TK and Rachel not to travel through Bologna and suggested they go through Rome instead, advice that would have worked wonders except they forgot their clue on the table of the restaurant in which they stopped.  They stopped at a gas station and frantically searched their vehicle for it with no luck.

"We don't even know where we're going in Empoli," said TK.  "If we don't find it, we may be completely out of the race."
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After describing it as "the worst thing that's happened yet" and adding it was "really disappointing" as they continued to waste time by rifling through their vehicle, the two decided to go back to Ancona to retrieve their clue.

"This is too much," said TK once they got their clue back.  "I'm too mellow to handle this."

All of the teams received a text message on their Blackberry from family members.  As soon as Ron and Christina, Kynt and Vyxsin and Nick and Don reached Bologna they hit awful traffic that required them to take a detour off the main road.  Rather than take the detour and get off the beaten path, Nick and Don decided to sleep in their vehicle and wait for the road to reopen at 6AM.

With Vyxsin behind the wheel of the vehicle -- because Kynt apparently doesn't know how to drive a stick shift -- the "Dating Goths" quickly found themselves lost after they took the detour.

"It's completely frustrating," said Vyxsin.  "It's going to be like hours before we even get there."

Nathan and Jen were the first team to arrive in Empoli -- amazed they were the only ones there -- and learned the airfield didn't open until 7AM.  TK and Rachel arrived shortly thereafter, and were even more amazed to learn their forgetfulness with the clue wouldn't hurt them.  Once the airfield opened, the two teams opened their next clue and were met by a Roadblock, "Search from Ultralight."

In this Roadblock, one team member had to soar through the skies over Tuscany in an ultra light. While aloft, they had to scan a 10-kilometer radius of the countryside below for the name of their next destination: Vinci. When they thought they spotted the hint, they had to signal their pilot, who would then bring them back down. Once on the ground, they would tell the instructor the word and, if correct, the pilot would hand them their next clue. There was a 30-minute time limit per flight. Once the half hour was up, team members had to make a mandatory landing for refueling before continuing their search.

In addition, teams could opt to instead complete a Fast Forward -- the only one on the entire race -- rather than the Roadblock. In this Fast Forward, teams had to travel to Fabio Studios to take part in a local seafaring tradition. What they didn't know was that the tradition is the art of tattoo. When they arrived, they would learn that they had to have a permanent tattoo drawn on their bodies -- the letters "FF" for Fast Forward. 

Nathan and TK both took to the air for the Roadblock, deciding against the "risky" Fast Forward.  Ron and Christina then arrived at the airfield and also decided to do the Roadblock, with Christina going up in the air.  Rachel and Jennifer overheard Ron barking orders at mocking Christina, causing Rachel to comment she has "no forgiveness or respect" for the way Ron speaks to his daughter.

As Vyxsin continued to have an emotional breakdown as she tried to find Empoli -- Nick and Don were apparently feeling lucky -- as they reached the airfield and decided to head towards the studio for the Fast Forward.

"Let's just go for it.  What the hell?" said Nick.  "You've got to take a risk."

Nathan was the first to spot the word "Vinci," which was located along the river, and had his pilot take him back to the airfield. He and Jen learned they had to drive to the town of Vinci and find the birth home of famed Italian artist and inventor, Leonardo da Vinci.  TK wasn't as lucky, as he had to touch down to refuel, allowing Christina to catch-up.

Once Nick and Don arrived at Fabio Studios they learned what the Fast Forward entailed.  Don was a little indecisive about getting his first tattoo at his age, but eventually relented and agreed.  Nick and Don finished the Fast Forward -- proudly flashing "FF" on their left arms -- and opened their clue, instructing them to skip all tasks and drive to the seventh leg's Pit Stop at Boboli Gardens in Florence.  Nick and Don were the first team to reach the Pit Stop.

As TK continued to struggled to locate the clue from above, Christina spotted it along the river.  Ron and Christina then left for Vinci just as Kynt and Vyxsin arrived at the airfield and TK landed a second time to refuel.

"I can't believe they're still here!" commented Vyxsin, who immediately spotted the word "Vinci" once she was up in the air while TK refueled for a third time.

"I don't know what to do.  I don't get what I'm missing," openly wondered TK.  "I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to finish this.  I think I'm done."

Mercifully, TK located the word on his next trip into the air.

"I hope because of that we don't get eliminated," commented TK as he and Rachel drove to Vinci.

Nathan and Jen arrived at da Vinci's birth house and were met by a Detour challenge, and had to choose between "Invention" or "Tradition."

In "Invention," teams had to make their way to a nearby courtyard and chose a replica of a centuries-old crane designed by da Vinci. They had to first assemble the crane, and use it to lift one large stone a foot off the ground. Then they had to place a mirror underneath and read a clue printed on the bottom of the rock. In "Tradition," teams had to make their way to Piazza Guido Masi. Once there, they had to learn a traditional local flag routine. When they executed the routine correctly the lead flagman would hand them a flag displaying the name of their next destination.

Nathan and Jen chose "Tradition" and watched a few flag routine demonstrations before giving it a shot.  Jen mastered it while Nathan struggled.  Ron and Christina arrived at the "Tradition" Detour challenge just as Nathan and Jen were finishing, with Jen impressed that Nathan listened to her and they completed it with teamwork.  Ron and Christina also finished the Detour.

Nathan and Jen were the second team to reach the seventh leg's Pit Stop, followed by Ron and Christina.

Kynt and Vyxsin then arrived at the Detour and chose "Invention" -- but once they saw what it entailed -- they immediately changed their minds, deciding it was "too hard" and opting for "Tradition."  TK and Rachel also arrived at the Detour and chose "Invention," with Rachel confident she'd be able to complete it in a timely manner.

As Kynt and Vyxsin drove to Piazza Guido Masi, they once again became lost.  Kynt pleaded with Vyxsin to stop the car so he could drive, which she did only after he threatened to jump out of it while it was moving.

"You can't be throwing your little temper tantrums in moments like this," Kynt told Vyxsin, who moaned and groaned from the backseat.

"This day has had a trend -- and it's going to continue until the end of it -- and [TK and Rachel] are going to be there when we get there and we're not going to win," she said.

Vyxsin then took a different approach and started to criticize Kynt for being unable to drive a stick shift and accused him of damaging the vehicle's gears when it wouldn't shift.  The two stopped -- with Kynt repeatedly asking Vyxsin to "shut up" -- left their car, and proceeded on foot to Piazza Guido Masi, expecting a replacement car when they returned.

TK and Rachel calmly finished the "Invention" Detour challenge and were ready to complete what they described as the "leg from hell" as they embarked for the Pit Stop.  As Kynt and Vyxsin worked on the "Tradition" Detour, TK and Rachel received a flat tire on their way to Florence.

TK changed the tire and the "Dating Goths" finished the Detour, returned to their replacement car and headed towards Boboli Gardens (with Vyxsin behind the wheel).

TK and Rachel were the fourth team to reach the seventh leg's Pit Stop.  Kynt and Vyxsin arrived fully expecting to be booted from the competition, however Phil informed them this was the first of two non-elimination legs and they were still in the race before explaining the Speed Bump to them.

The inclusion of two non-elimination legs in The Amazing Race 12 contradicts what executive producer Jonathan Littman told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.  He said non-elimination legs -- which have been part of The Amazing Race since it first premiered in Fall 2001 -- were being dropped to "create more excitement."

In addition, The Amazing Race co-creator and executive producer Bertram van Munster confirmed Littman's comments during an interview with Reality TV World prior to the show's twelfth-season premiere.

"The audience and ourselves, we're not crazy about non-eliminations," said van Munster.  "It's exciting to see people eliminated at the end of every episode."

Van Munster added the absence of non-elimination legs would mean no more penalties, a statement that also proved to be incorrect.

"Penalties just make it murky," he explained.  "This is just such a clean-cut concept, it's not about finding more penalties and hurdles for people.  That's not what this thing is about.  I think the audience and our fans like eliminations from what we understand."

But instead of doing away with penalties, producers apparently decided to create a new one -- the Speed Bump -- for the twelfth season.

"Vyxsin and I finished our leg beaten, downtrodden... more so than we've ever been on this race," said Kynt.  "Next leg we have to tackle something called the Speed Bump... We'll give it everything we can."

CBS did not immediately respond to a message requesting an explanation of Littman and van Munster's earlier comments.

The Amazing Race 12's next episode will air Sunday, December 30 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.