Argentina hosts an impossibly weak episode of The Amazing Race

And that was the worst episode of The Amazing Race in more than a year. A series of weak challenges and tasks strung together by lame attempts to create drama out of nothing. There wasn’t really much to make fun of, which is even worse.

It’s this kind of episode that makes me wish the show had been cancelled in its prime, and suggests that season 14’s greatness was a complete fluke. Sure, Argentina and the Andes are beautiful, and I’m sure it took a lot of impressive effort to put together, as usual. But that did not pay off at all.

The best part was the pre-episode PSA featuring Phil Keoghan acknowledging the earthquake that devastated the very place where last week’s episode took place, and where this week’s winners won a trip to visit. The show’s timing, however unpredictable, just sucks, just as it did when Jeff and Jordan won a trip to the Olympic venue where an athlete was killed days earlier.

  • The first signs of trouble came when there was an obvious equalizer in a six-hour bus ride to the next location, Argentina. “We don’t have to run like scalded dogs,” one of the cowboys said, and while I have no idea what the “scalded dogs” part meant, he was right: they didn’t have to run, and that’s a problem in a race.
  • Caite and Brent had food poisoning, which sucked for them, and while Caite said, “I really hope it doesn’t stop us in this race,” it was obvious from the very start that they were in no danger: they went to the hospital in the early morning hours, and easily caught up by the time the bus left at 8:30.
  • The editors pathetically tried to manufacture drama–something we’ve seen before–between the lesbians and the cowboys when the women asked the men about their success on the previous leg. One of the cowboys said, “I didn’t get that warm, fuzzy vibe,” but the women’s questions were anything but an inquisition, and instead seemed more flattering. The editors tried this again later with the Roadblock task, but again it seemed like nothing.
  • Upon arrival in Argentina, teams drove themselves, and one of the cowboys said, “the red team is behind us, and the lesbian team is behind us.” I think he was identifying the color of Asian married couple Joe and Heidi’s clothing, but that’s still super-awkward.
  • Phil explained that teams had to “play a game of five-card stud against a Travelocity roaming gnome,” and that product placement is now officially out of control, because it was an excuse to have the lamest challenge imaginable. A dealer simply placed five cards in front of the team and the gnome, and did that until the team had the better hand. I suppose shots of the gnome’s poker face were supposed to be amusing, but I couldn’t get over how pathetic the task was.
  • At one of the Detour tasks, Jeff had problems reading the clue. He said “that’s you” to the gunslinger, identifying him as the “lead bandit,” even though the clue said to go to the train station to find the bandit. I’d make fun of him, but he did get his reality show training on a show whose challenges are designed by a drug-addled monkey.
  • Allie and Steve showed up for .5 seconds for Steve to trip, fall, and roll through the mud, after which Allie said, “you just totally fell.” Yes, yes he did.
  • There was some mild conflict: Carol and Brandy argued during the Detour, and Caite and Brent had issues with directions, causing Caite to say that she’d rather handle directions, “but unfortunately Brent can’t drive a freaking stick shift so I have to.” That was probably the most awesome thing she’s said all season. As a bonus, it made sense.
  • Acknowledging their screw-up with the gunslinger and bandit, Jeff said in an interview, “If those guns were real, I probably would have shot myself with it.” He also said, “It’s frustrating. We’re stupid,” and admitted that they didn’t even read the clue. “We shouldn’t reproduce.” Hey, Jeff and I agree about something.
  • Monique and Shawne fell behind, but Shawne said, “there’s so many twists and turns, you never know.” Well, maybe on another show.
  • There was so much time to kill that Phil actually asked the cowboys, who checked in first again, about their belt buckles, and one said that they needed them to keep their pants up, because “we’d be slower with our pants around our ankles.” Somewhere, a producer scrambled to change next week’s Roadblock: run across an Argentinian field with your pants around your ankles.
  • After Jeff and Jordan checked in fifth, Jordan told Phil, “I couldn’t even read you. You scared me. I was trying to read your face, and you were just, like, blank.” Phil, it seemed, tried hard to not say “ditto.”
  • Shortly before Phil eliminated Shawne and Monique, Monique said she wanted to be an “example” and said, “as long as my children know I didn’t give up, that’s what’s important to me.” Too bad the producers of this show gave up two seasons ago.

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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.