Puzzling Roadblock made meaningless by another non-elimination leg

After a two-week break, The Amazing Race 16 returned with all kinds of changes in Shanghai: an equalized start that found all four teams on the same plane, Brent and Caite being stupid, Jet and Cord checking in first, and yet another non-elimination leg. It was just all so completely different! Sigh.

I’m grouchy about the non-elimination leg because: 1) the Speedbump tasks have been easy and not made much of a difference, and 2) the fact that Mike and Louie checked in significantly later than everyone else will probably be meaningless considering how many legs have started with an immediate equalizer.

However, this leg did have the addition of a second Roadblock for the first time ever, and it was a pretty great one, especially because someone in heaven was pissed at Brent and blew all over his puzzle pieces.

The episode, by the way, was dedicated to the memory of He Pingping, the smallest man in the world; he gave out the clues at the first Roadblock, but died in March.

  • Caite is the only remaining woman on the race, and told us, “It shows all them haters out there what I’m capable of.” Clearly, that doesn’t include grammar.
  • Brent compared a Chinese town that had to be navigated by waterways not to Venice, but to the island of Sicily. Now we know what drew him to Caite: Their love of inaccurate geography.
  • Ping Ping gave teams their clue after the noodle-making Roadblock. Caite said “he was so adorable” and asked, “Can I take him home with me?” I’d criticize her for treating a human being like a sideshow, but I suppose that’s the way she’s treated in America and even by me, although that is a result of her actions, not the way she was born.
  • Mike and Louie, and Dan and Jordan, had bad cabs, and Mike explained, “One bad cab driver could cost you a million dollars.” Yes, but another non-elimination leg can mean none of it matters.
  • Dan said to Jordan, “Let’s go, you little noodle master.” I’m not touching that one, especially after his bro had a meltdown, started crying, and needed a hug mid-noodle pull.
  • “Brent, shut up, seriously, I’m doing perfectly fine,” Caite said when she wasn’t doing fine, creating mangled noodles.
  • To get a clue, teams had to select clothing from piles based on a sketch, and give that to a model to wear. Jet and Cord had difficulties with this, though Cord joked he “might be a natural” at fashion design.
  • Caite reminded us that she and Brent are models, and said, “It’s so funny because we’re actually the ones being put in the clothes, we’re not the one dressing.” That’s not funny or comprehensible.
  • Phil appeared to shock us: “For the first time ever, Teams are facing two Roadblocks in the same leg of the race. But what they could never have predicted is that the person that sat out the first Roadblock must do this one,” he said, overstating the case just a bit. I liked the twist and the Roadblock a lot, especially since it involved assembling a 96-piece puzzle and distributing it to spectators in a stadium who’d flip their puzzle pieces to reveal a clue. If only the task, you know, mattered.
  • Mike and Louie were struggling with the clothing task, prompting Mike to say, “Can we have a shooting challenge, please?” He also wanted a challenge that would ask them to “kick a door in” or “chase a crackhead.” Dan and Jordan showed up, and although they, too, struggled, Mike told us, “Being the gay male that [Jordan] was, he was in heaven, he loved it. He was right in their shopping.” And you’re right there in the stereotypes, Mike, and it’s not pretty, like a baby reaching into its diaper and then touching its face.
  • At the puzzle Roadblock, the wind picked up and blew Cord and Brent’s pieces everywhere. “Throwing a fit and kicking and screaming wasn’t going to get my puzzle done,” Cord said, smartly grabbing chairs to hold down his puzzle. Brent, however, yelled at his puzzle pieces, “STOP!” Surprisingly, that was not an effective strategy, but I certainly didn’t expect anything else.
  • Jet and Cord checked in first again and won their third trip, and Cord explained, “We ain’t going with each other.”
  • When Jordan and Dan checked in third, Phil said, “You don’t know whether to high five or hug or…” Stop right there, Phil, stop right there.
  • Sad music and comments (Louie: “I was sad because I didn’t want this race to end”) seemed to indicate the end for Mike and Louie, but it was also too heavy-handed, which meant another non-elimination leg. “I’m sorry to tell you that you are out. Out in the cold!” Phil said, giddy. “I had you two times in a row, man!” Settle down, Phil, settle down.

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Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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.