Clue-reading fail for Amazing Race 16 teams

Yet again, an episode of The Amazing Race was delayed by sports games, affording us this week the opportunity to watch former Mole host Anderson Cooper shirtless and putting on a wetsuit before swimming with great white sharks–and coincidentally foreshadow race host Phil Keoghan jumping off a boat to introduce a challenge. Of course, there was also our old friend Andy Rooney, who babbled about the comics he used to read in the 18th century, coincidentally the last time anyone gave a shit about something he had to say.

This episode was pretty good/saved thanks to a) the members of this season’s cast who are stupid and overrepresented this season, and b) the way exhaustion has caused even the good teams to do things stupidly. And anyone who may be harassing your friends about my harassment of the show, I only criticize because I care. It’s painful to watch a series that I love and was once so surprising and creative show signs of age and weakness, and basically take the easy route.

While the race visited Seychelles, a new location for the race, and that was quite welcome, the challenges were yet again weak. Animals can usually be relied upon to cause problems, but here, all the problems were caused by teams. Even the oxen didn’t have much of an impact, despite leading to one of the series’ iconic moments, when The Amazing Race 5‘s Colin screamed, “My ox is broken!” If it wasn’t for the teams’ misreading of clues and mistakes, there would have been zero drama this leg.

  • “This stinks,” Mike said, upon learning that the leg was starting with an equalizer: everyone was on the same flight. That did stink, because the only part of the leg that actually ended up mattering was how fast they got from the plane to a stand with numbers on it; the order teams arrived there was pretty much the order they checked in, thanks to the fact that the last three teams were separated from the first three teams by an hour. Lame.
  • “This is close as you can get to being in a World Series,” Steve explained, before going on to say, “we might not be the strongest team.” I really thought he was foreshadowing his elimination (as was Allie with her prayers and God talk, which seemed to come from nowhere), but no, he was just foreshadowing how much this leg was left to chance, because they ended up checking in first.
  • On the helicopter, Jordan looked out the window and said, “Rainbow! We got a rainbow following us!” Yes, and also a streak of flame.
  • “You’re a freakin’ idiot,” Brent and Caite said to each other. Hey, they’re finally both right about something.
  • At the Detour, Steve and Allie chose to lead a tortoise across a field, and after the 100-year-old animal dutifully followed a banana that Allie tempted it with, she threw her hands up in victory after they completed the task, keeping the banana away from the poor creature. “Should I give him the banana?” she finally asked her dad. No, go ahead and eat it: You deserve it.
  • Jet and Cord, and eventually every other team, chose to load an ox-led cart. Jet explained that this was very similar to his work back home of “loading feed instead of whatever these things are.” That rare, odd, and unrecognizable cargo? Coconuts.
  • Three of the five teams who chose that Detour task failed to read directions and/or be careful, because they had to return to pick up a single coconut they’d left behind. The first team to discover this was Brent and Caite, and they had a temper-tantrum. “Oh, I quit then,” Brent said, throwing off his backpack. “I quit, whatever.” Caite said, “I don’t even want to play anymore,” crying, “This is so unfair.” Yes, boo hoo, RULES.
  • On board a boat to the roadblock task, Steve realized that “our backpacks are gone.” They left their gear by the tortoise, and Allie contemplated returning to find it because her backpack has her makeup and clothes in it. Don’t worry, Allie: You get so little screen time that no one will ever notice.
  • The best part about the weak-ass Roadblock–swim and retrieve a bottle from under water while wearing a mask!–was Phil Kepoghan’s introduction, which he did partially from a boat, and partially underwater. That part was subtitled since he was, of course, incomprehensible. “One team member must find a case of submerged bottles,” he said, but I think the subtitle was incorrect, because “find” really overstated the cast: there was a buoy marking them.
  • “Did you notice there was a bit of a seven theme?” Phil asked Steve and Allie when they checked in. While they pretended that they did, I did not. But it was 7-Up product placement for this seventh leg of the race, and Steve and Allie won all kinds of things related to the number seven and 7-Up, like seven seconds of screen time.
  • Allie said that they checked in first because “God has a plan.” I normally can’t stand reality show contestants who credit a higher power with helping out on a stupid game show, but since that plan has involved keeping Allie’s babble out of most of the episodes so far, I’m all for it.
  • I love the cowboys, but Jet’s comment upon learning that they didn’t have enough coconuts was unsettling: “I wanted to grab him by the collar and show him that cart up close and convince him we had enough coconuts. I think that’s against the rules,” he said. Yes, physically assaulting someone for telling you that you’d broken the rules surprisingly isn’t okay.
  • Brent said, “We keep making these mistakes and if we keep staying in the game, that just shows, one of these days, maybe something right will happen.” But not something that makes sense.
  • Caite and Brent are lesbian team-haters, perhaps because the women are competent and the two dumbass 20-somethings are not. “They’re so rude. They don’t deserve to be here,” Caite said, which is so third-grade stupid that it barely deserves the pixels I just used to type it. But Brent quickly topped her with stupidity, telling Phil that no one likes the lesbians, and “from what I heard, it’s pretty anonymous.” It’s also anonymous among all of us watching that you two should not be permitted to reproduce or drive motor vehicles.
  • “We just kinda got that feeling,” Jet said when Phil asked how they found the pit stop. Again, they’d failed to read directions, actually leaving their directions to the pit stop behind in the boat. Phil said they had to go back, and thus they went from “the fifth team to arrive” to last place.
  • Though there was some masterfully tense editing at the end, as Jet and Cord swam out to the boat, and Carol and Brandy swam in and tried to figure out where the pit stop was, they beat the cowboys to the mat–easily, I’m sure. But Jet and Cord were saved by a non-elimination leg, thankfully. They’ll need to pull it together next week to stick around, and they should probably start by reading their clues.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

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.