Although I hate to admit it, I gained a little bit of optimism about The Amazing Race after last week’s entertaining-but-still-flawed double elimination episode. However, while it was an improvement over the premiere, it had enough beautiful location shots and mid-race flailing by the teams to where I could (mostly) overlook the easy challenges and generally static positioning. By now, the season would have had a chance to settle in and find its groove, so the third episode would be pivotal in terms of establishing how the remaining legs would be.
If “Don’t Lay Down on Me Now” is any indication, we’re in for a confusing, frustrating, moderately entertaining finish to The Amazing Race, as it was another weak episode that wiped out whatever sense of optimism I had after episode two. For one, the ambiguity of the clues has to be reigned in a little bit. I actively encourage the race to challenge the teams and to provide tasks that require some sense of mental fortitude, but instead of upping the difficulty of the detours and roadblocks, the race has decided not to share all information in the clues and see how the teams react. Last week, they intentionally left out the fact that each team was to donate all of the money in their possession and this week, there was a clue that didn’t quite measure up.
The road block clue was way too vague and open to interpretation, which led to a traffic jam of teams that had to form a temporary alliance in order to make it out of the temple. I wouldn’t have had any problems if the task itself was difficult enough to hold back a majority of the teams (I think the show needs more mental tasks), but for a good while, a majority of the teams there simply had no idea what was asked of them and that’s not fair (or good TV). There’s a difference between a team misreading a clue and making the clue intentionally nonspecific as to manufacture drama, but that’s such a cheap way to go about trying to inject some excitement in the race. The episode would have been better had the opening task of (slowly) riding the bikes been amped up a little bit and the road block brought down to earth, because in a way, it felt like they were overcompensating by throwing whatever they could at the end of the episode to make for a foot race finish.
Aside from the frustrating clues, an ugly part of season 18 popped up in the potential alliances. I have no issue with teams working together in a particular task (I know I couldn’t have done the Buddha challenge myself), but this whole issue of sharing answers has come up again with Andy/Tommy helping Marcus/Amani. Granted, they didn’t really remember what Team Snowboarders, who lucked into another first place finish, had told them, but the issue remains that this shouldn’t be allowed in the race. It turns what should be a game of skill and intelligence into a popularity contest and while the race has always had a social element to it, it shouldn’t be a prominent as it is on, say, Big Brother. If this is a trend that continues going forward, with more and more teams sharing answers and dragging people they like along, I’ll be disappointed in The Amazing Race and I’d get ready for a second straight underwhelming winner.
“Don’t Lay Down on Me Now” was yet another disheartening episode to open The Amazing Race‘s 19th season and I don’t know if it’ll get better from here. The show has so much that it does right (the historical factoids sprinkled in each episode, the location shots, the exposure to other cultures) that it makes it that much more annoying that the stuff they don’t do well hasn’t been cleaned up yet. This wasn’t a completely awful episode, as we got a little more insight into who some of these teams are, but this season has been so far below the standards of past Amazing Races that I’m worried it won’t have enough time to pick itself back up.
Thoughts, Quotes, & Observations:
- “We can’t pronounce it. Let’s go!”
- “At our age, we’re going to die soon anyway, so it’s all good.”
- Final Order: (1) Andy/Tommy (-), (2) Laurence/Zac (-), (3) Jeremy/Sandy (+3), (4) Justin/Jennifer (+4), (5) Ernie/Cindy (-1), (6) Amani/Marcus (+3), (7) Bill/Cathi (-), (8) Liz/Marie (-3), (9) Kaylani/Lisa (-6)
- I felt bad for the sheep. They were obviously not feeling the detour as much as I was.
- I don’t think there’s a frontrunner yet, which is a good thing. I’d rather watch an open race than see another team just demolish everybody on route to a win.
- Props to Bill and Cathi for still being here. I thought they would be gone in each episode and they’re actually doing quite well for themselves.
- Even more props to Cindy and Ernie for actually preparing for the race. Season after season, we see teams who don’t know how to drive a stick, don’t know a foreign language aside from really broken Spanish, or don’t know how to read a map, so good for them for actually taking this thing seriously.
- In honor of the departure of Team Showgirls, a clip from Showgirls.
- Next week: Boat trips, rock walls, and more umbrellas.