Luke banned from hang gliding in Bavaria as teams make it difficult for us to mock them

I’m convinced whoever schedules The Amazing Race must secretly hate the show and be trying to kill it. Not only is its start regularly pushed back because of sporting events, but last night, they aired an original episode opposite the Oscars. Of course, it is the era of DVRs, and the show’s full episodes are finally online (finally!), and the first half was just against ABC’s absurd red carpet half-hour of time-wasting.

It’s still unfortunate because this season is stronger than any in recent memory, from the teams to the way it’s being edited. Once again, there was just a tiny bit of airport time, which was great, although it did seem to be replaced by contestants making phone calls in their cabs to book tickets. (Most frustrating editing of the episode: Having to watch nearly every team ask their driver to borrow their phone. Yes, we get it.) The editing allowed for plenty of time to actually see the locations, and also provided useful information, like how much time had elapsed that day.

I started making fun of the ridiculous things team members said during the show’s eighth season, the awful family season, which was funny even when it was preempted and I had to make stuff up. The show never quite returned to the high it had reached before that waste of a season, but this season is proving itself to be a contender after just two episodes, although all of that seems to be making it difficult to mock.

Perhaps I was just exhausted after watching four hours of the Oscars, but the contestants seem to be mocking themselves, which takes the fun out of my Monday mornings. Normally there’s too much material to make fun of; these past two weeks, not much at all. For example, Amanda fumbled with the name of the country and said “Australian” instead of “Austrian,” but Kris corrected her, as he did when she said, “This is like the funnest thing ever. This is the first task I’ve gotten to done.” These teams are surprisingly self-aware.

Christie and Jodi’s stupidity is appalling, but at least they recognize it. Once again, they wandered around looking for a task that every other team seemed to find without trouble; I think they don’t actually read the additional information that comes in their clue envelopes, because there’s no explanation beyond that to explain why they’re so dumb. But they know that. “I’ve never felt like such a dumb blonde in my entire life,” one said, blaming it on the way they’re “being so literal” with the clues.

The best example of not being able to ridicule something that’s ripe for ridicule came at the mat, when Steve and Linda were eliminated. Steve started sobbing, crying through the cake and frosting in his mustache. That image would have been funny except he was so deeply genuine it was hard to find anything to mock. They were such a surprising team, even though they weren’t competitors at all. When Linda got lost, she cried, “Oh, God, he’s gonna hate me now.” Earlier, Steve apologized for being mean during the first leg, and told us, “Linda’s had a hard life.” They even had witty banter, such as when Linda said, “thank you for being so kind” about her screw-up, and Steve joked, “it’s not over.”

Mel and Mike are funny (“This is a treat of a lifetime. … I could stay up here all day if I had a sanwhich,” Mel said while hang gliding), and they had one of the best moments of the night as they struggled to open a gate, prompting an eyebrow raise from Phil before a local simply and effortlessly pulled it open for them. Phil, by the way, was in high form, asking frosting-covered Tammy and Victor, “Have you guys taken a look at how ridiculous you look?” and then saying, “It’s quite becoming.” He introduced the cake-in-the-face challenge–another great, comic task–by saying, “teams that don’t move quick enough could find themselves getting creamed.” Oh, Phil.

On another note, Luke, who has provided a significant amount of entertainment with his eye rolling and bitchy facial expressions alone, even when covered with frosting, was actually prohibited from participating in the first challenge because he’s deaf.

That wasn’t explicitly acknowledged, but there was a brief close-up on the card with the Roadblock task’s brief description. It said, “Important Note: For safety reasons, the person performing this task MUST be able to hear verbal cues.”

I suppose it’s possible one of the older contestants has trouble hearing, but really, it should have just said, “Luke, you are not allowed to hang glide, but we are going to pretend as if you have the option to choose which teammate performs this task.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.