The Amazing Race 19.09 “It’s Speedo Time” Review

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews this week, my computer was down for a while, hence no Amazing Race reviews for the past two weeks. Apologies for all that, but I’m here now. And just in time, apparently…

The Amazing Race It's Speedo TimeSeason 19 of The Amazing Race has been lacking one key element that could raise it from being the humdrum disappointment that it’s been for nine episodes (spoiler alert), one thing that earlier seasons of the show possessed in spades that has been noticeably absent for at least the past several years. The thing that’s missing?

Stakes.

It feels like nothing on the show matters in the least, as there will no doubt be a non-elimination, a two-part leg, or a time equalizing bit of transportation that will undo any sort of progress that an episode can be making. Teams are tethered together like ill behaved children at the local mall, getting out of reach just enough before the powers that be yank them back with the rest of their cohorts for some reason or another. No lead is safe on The Amazing Race and very rarely is a team 100% out of a leg, but that goes from wild and unpredictable to predictably unpredictable when we can’t go one episode without negating everything that happened in the previous 41 minutes and change.

“It’s Speedo Time” continued season 19’s absurd clinginess to its teams, as we got the first two part leg on a season that has already seen three non-elimination legs. I knew it was going to happen (my sixth sense is detecting BS on reality TV shows), but when Amani and Marcus were finished celebrating their trip to Panama for winning tonight’s leg and Phil told them it wasn’t over, I nearly threw my cup of apple juice at the screen in disgust. Really? It’s bad enough that the episode threw in the now token equalizing train ride, which Ernie and Cindy lost a ticket for (these people, you guys…); the revelation that all teams would be on the same train leaving an obscene amount of time later made the pretty decent first half of the show mean absolutely nothing, but the non-non-elimination was the arrow to the heart of “It’s Speedo Time” and killed any sort of good will that may have accumulated.

There wasn’t a whole lot, though, considering how poor the challenges were. To me, the best episodes of The Amazing Race combine the two areas you need to excel in in order to excel in The Amazing Race; you have to be mentally limber enough to work out tough puzzles and you have to be physically able to handle grueling tasks and long bouts of traveling. “Speedo Time” turned in two highly subjective challenges that may have seemed legitimate, though it felt like each’s real purpose was to embarrass contestants for the “delight” of the home audience. I have no shame in reveling in other people’s craziness on reality TV, but it cheapened the leg to see two of the three tasks amounted to nothing more than “teehee, so-and-so is acting silly” or shots of 10 people in their underwear on national television. The only remotely decent thing about the activities of “Speedo Time” was the Legoland puzzle, which teams had to assemble while riding a dizzying carnival ride. It may have been along the same lines of the other two in terms of cheap thrills, but the result of the puzzle was not in the hands of a missing extra from A Christmas Carol or three tough bodybuilding judges; it was with the teams themselves and that’s something that The Amazing Race tends to overlook sometimes.

I mean, it’s okay to allow the teams taking control of this show once in a while, otherwise the show becomes too big of an entity and the teams become less important. I’ve had a hard time finding a team to root for in season 19, likely because of the fact that we don’t get to see the teams just race. We see The Amazing Race toy with them for an hour and then it tosses out the one that has lost its shine that week, which isn’t the most compelling sort of television.

It may be speedo time (it’s always speedo time for me, for the record), but it’s also time for this season of The Amazing Race to kick it into high gear. We’re down to the final five and there’s zero urgency about things, mostly due to the show’s continued meddling and refusal to let things happen as they will. I can never get into an episode and let myself worry for a team’s chances because I know that before the next commercial break, there will be some knight-in-shining-plane-tickets to swoop in and “save the day”. He may save the day, but he knocks the wind out of every episode and season 19’s lack of episodic flow can be blamed on this fact. The Amazing Race may have a truckload of Emmys for its work, but at the moment, it’s flexing all the wrong muscles.

Thoughts, Quotes, & Observations:

  • “Hands in the air. Lord Jesus.”
  • “I’d hate to throw up on any kids, though.”
  • “You know what they say about people with big maps…a lot of places to go.”
  • “I hope my coffin’s bigger than this.”
  • Historical fact of the episode: Copenhagen has the cleanest urban waterfront in the world. Also, Legoland produces 50 million pieces per day.
  • I have to ask: who do you think looked best in their speedo? My vote: Ernie, as goofy-cute as he can be.
  • Can Marcus, like, stop with the constant stream of football references/analogies/metaphors? He may not want to let the other teams know of his past profession, but he won’t let the audience forget.
  • Up next on The Peter Griffin Side-Boob Hour: Amani, whose eensy orange bikini gave way to blurring at least once.
  • Next week: Marcus talks some trash and everybody drives fast cars. Whee.

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