Amazing Race’s stupid U-turn eliminates the right team, but it’s still stupid

The Amazing Race has its final four, including two female teams, after a super-intense episode.

That dick Chad and his now-fiancee Stephanie were eliminated, thankfully, having gotten lost and falling behind. I will not miss them, not Chad’s abusiveness, nor his stupidity (“How’s that PhD helping you?” he mocked Nat, and she pointed out later that as a doctor, she has an MD; later, he said, “touche to them,” an apparent make-nice concession toward the team that U-turned them, although one that made no sense). But had they not been U-turned, they might still be in the race, and that’s not okay, as much as I dislike them. (I suspect the editors agree with the dislike, as they mocked Chad and Stephanie by showing them eating fast food while Jill and Thomas got a better flight. I’d guess most teams eat at the airport, but showing that was a nice way to ridicule them.)

Had both Nat and Kat and Brook and Claire been U-turned and then eliminated, I was prepared to rail against the U-turn, a twist I’ve never liked, so I still have to rail against it. Besides severely handicapping a team just because another team doesn’t like them, it makes the race something it never really was. The double U-turn, though, was slightly better, in that it didn’t handicap one team. As it was, the two last-place teams were both U-turned, and that made it fair, but it’s still a stupid twist.

Nat or Kat said they U-turned Chad and Stephanie (after Vicki opted not to) “just to help us survive,” Nat said, and one of them said, “that might be our saving grace, not being U-turned.” That’s lame. Also, it’s worth noting that Phil Keoghan introduced it saying that two teams could be U-turned, “potentially causing a major shift in the standings of the race.” How about making sure the legs are complicated and interesting enough to let that happen on its own? You know, like the race used to do before it got all soft?

The U-turn added a lot of drama and suspense–which of course just validates the producers’ decision to add the twist–though Jill and Thomas were about three months ahead of everyone else since they got an earlier flight, so it was essentially a three-way race. Teams flew to Bangladesh in what Phil pointed out is the most densely populated city anywhere, which made things even more challenging. Nick and Vicki were mostly challenged by the smell, but they worked together and did okay, and I’d much rather have them in the final four than Chad and Stephanie.

The actual challenges were okay: carting bricks was physically challenging, while carting meal containers was tricky. Nat and Kat brilliantly used straps they’d packed to make the job more efficient. Later, Nat compared the rickshaw-building Roadblock to constructing furniture from Ikea, which is exactly what I thought. It ultimately didn’t seem that difficult, but the editing made it look challenging. Likewise, drinking sugar cane juice they’d squeezed was something everyone did pretty quickly. It did, however, give my third-grade brain some awesome material to work with when Thomas exclaimed, “it shoots everywhere” including “right in my eye,” and then he swallowed it all. That’s some delicious television.

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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.