Quitting has no consequence on Amazing Race

With two episodes to go, I should have seen the non-elimination leg coming on last night’s super-frustrating but also rather good episode of The Amazing Race. There was no question–no question!–that a team wasn’t going to be eliminated. Maybe I just hoped for a mid-leg check in so we’d have one super-long leg again. But those seem long gone.

And then I hoped Nick’s constant threats to quit–which included him actually lying down and perhaps even sleeping during the middle of their detour task–would result in him actually quitting. But no. He and Vicki accepted a six-hour penalty and have a speed bump to face in the next episode, but they remain in the race.

Although he’s an ass, I think Nick just smartly exploited a structural problem with the race. In the reality of the race this season, though, one of three things will happen next week, and the most likely one will negate the penalty:

  1. There will be an equalizer before the teams get to South Korea, making only the speed bump the consequence for Nick’s behavior. And since the speed bumps have been so lame and easy this season, that basically means no consequence at all.
  2. The six hour penalty deficit, plus the amount of time Nick and Vicki were behind to begin with, will make it impossible for them to catch up, so they’ll be behind the entire episode, even though the editing will likely suggest otherwise so that it’s not a boring episode.
  3. One of the other three teams, who’ve been exceptionally competent all season, will fall significantly behind, giving Nick and Vicki a chance.

I’d bet at least 27 cents that the first one will happen. And that sucks because Nick sucks. His teary “she’s a blessing” speech about Vicki at the beginning was nice except it doesn’t match the reality of what we’re seeing. Sometime after telling Vicki to “quit crying” after her asthma kicked in and forced her to stop running, Nick actually suggested quitting and taking the penalty twice; during the detour, he said, “I don’t care if you don’t like to quit; it’s over. I’m done.”

“Physically, mentally tired,” he said later, and took a nap on the boat while Vicki kept looking for another boat, which is either a testament to her perseverance or an example of exactly what’s wrong in their relationship. The fact that Nick couldn’t even appreciate this effort made me wish he’d fall off the boat into the water and wake up. “Still wasting your time? You’re the hardest-headed person in the world,” he said.

There’s interesting contrast between them and Brook and Claire, who get into minor arguments sometimes. Brook seems to be the driving force of their team, and gets frustrated when Claire doesn’t give the same extra effort. But they always quickly resolve their conflict after it arises; they don’t get dragged down by it. And although Claire may not be as strong, she steps it up, as she did during the buffet roadblock, a pretty awesome challenge that combined two classic race challenges in one. While Claire hurled in the bathroom from eating so much, channeling “The Exorcist,” she told us, Brook told her, “just keep puking–that’s how they did it in renaissance times.”

Meanwhile, we saw a hint of Brook and Claire versus Thomas and Jill, as Thomas tried to explain why they U-turned their team instead of the doctors, which he couldn’t really explain after Brook pointed out that the doctors have won more legs. They won again last night, after finding a cab before Thomas and Jill, so it seems to be anyone’s game with two episodes to go. Well, anyone except Nick and Vicki’s, let’s hope.

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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.