Sometimes a season of reality-competition television is so determined to be drama-free, it resists even the producers’ most blatant attempts at manufacturing a shake-up. When Survivor introduced Redemption Island last season, it had almost no discernible effect as Boston Rob steamrolled to victory. Or take this season of The Amazing Race, which finally resorted to the Double U-Turn this week in hopes of injecting a little bad blood into the proceedings. The U-Turns have always been controversial among Race purists, who insist that they taint the competition by adding an unnecessary element of Survivor-like scheming. But love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the Double U-Turn can add an element of uncertainty to the outcome of a leg. That is, unless the teams either decline to use it, or botch their attempt at using it as badly as Laurence and Zac did tonight.
If ever an episode needed a shake-up, this was it. From early on, it was clear that Justin and Jennifer were toast unless something drastic happened. At the Roadblock, one member of each team had to drive a bicycle taxi with a passenger and a fish to a particular address, then return to the starting point to reconnect with the other team member. For some reason, Jennifer didn’t have the clue with her when she arrived at her destination and was uncertain what she was supposed to do next. Her solution to this dilemma was to wait around and see if another team showed up, when all she had to do was ride the bike back to where she started. This was very frustrating to watch, as Justin stood helplessly at the finish line wondering what had happened to his sister, who was simply paralyzed with indecision.
At the Detour, teams had to choose between paddling a heavy and awkward canoe to a checkpoint out in Lake Malawi and back, or unloading a selection of heavy items from a ferry. Most teams choose the canoe, which snowboarders Andy and Tommy quickly master, while others, notably Ernie and Cindy, struggle. The latter team decides to cash in their Express Pass and bypass the task, which may not have been the best strategic move. Since the Dudez were the only other team around, it’s not as if Ernie and Cindy were in immediate danger of elimination, and they might have been better off simply switching tasks if they were unable to get the paddling down. After all, they’d already completed the Roadblock, so using the Express Pass now wasn’t going to allow them to skip an entire leg’s worth of tasks. I know this is Monday morning racing on my part, but hey, that’s why I’m here.
As it turns out, using the pass doesn’t even ensure Ernie and Cindy a first place victory. In a bizarrely edited sequence, Tommy and Andy are able to pass Ernie and Cindy at the last second and take first place once again. (I’m not suggesting any shenanigans here; just wondering if the camera teams didn’t get the right footage to make the final sprint flow a little more smoothly.) With that out of the way, the only potential drama remaining concerns whether or not one or more teams will get U-Turned. Predictably, only Laurence is keen on using the U-Turn, and proceeds to completely screw it up by U-Turning Marcus and Amani, who have already passed the checkpoint. Not only that, but before arriving at the U-Turn, Laurence and Zac had actually passed Marcus and Amani heading the other way! Shouldn’t it have occurred to Laurence that it might actually be too late to U-Turn them? In any case, none of the other teams use the U-Turn, so it ends up having no effect at all on the outcome.
And yes, the outcome that seemed obvious for about 45 minutes finally comes to pass when Justin and Jennifer are the last to arrive at the Pit Stop. I have to say, they annoyed me at first with their propensity to argue about nothing in particular, but they did get better as the Race went along, and Justin wasn’t anywhere near as angry at Jennifer’s big brain-fart as he could have been.
- Bill and Cathi, still kicking ass. Bickering young lovebirds Jeremy and Sandy are getting a little tired of watching this serene older couple glide past them at every turn. This amuses me.
- “You have one dollar for this leg of the race.” So how did they pay for those bus tickets?
- I rolled my eyes when I saw that the Speed Bump for Marcus and Amani was a simple slide puzzle. Then I rolled them again when they had so much trouble solving it.
- Why, oh why couldn’t Phil have been sporting the same firecracker-fuse hairdo as his fellow greeter at the mat? That in itself would have redeemed the whole episode.
- Next week: The Double U-Turn fizzled out so badly, they’re doing it again.