Paint-by-numbers episode of Amazing Race only surprises in its last few moments

In the middle of the Detour task Nat and Kat selected, Nat said “it’s like painting by numbers but with accordions.” This episode of The Amazing Race was similar: familiar elements, lots of screw-ups, nothing special.

The best part was the suspenseful ending: Chad and Stephanie checked in before Michael and Kevin, but were told by Phil they had to go get their bags and pay their cab driver first. Kevin and Michael showed up, but they got a 60-minute penalty for failing to follow directions twice, something that was foreshadowed when Michael said, “Don’t miss a word.” When Chad and Stephanie finally checked in, they got a 30-minute penalty, which meant they were in and Michael and Kevin were out. And with them go some of KevJumba’s fans who showed up for the race for the first time and are now throwing tantrums because they don’t understand how the show works.

Kevin’s optimism, enthusiasm, and encouragement had waned a bit by the end, but they were still a great team–excluding, of course, the fact that Michael could barely complete any physical challenges. Chad and Stephanie remain awful; at the end, Stephanie said the race “progressed us as a couple,” but Chad still treats her like shit and she still takes it.

The circus-themed Detour tasks were okay–plate-spinning and accordion-playing, but along with the Roadblock, they were all tasks in which someone had to learn how to do something, and those are challenging (good) but inherently less interesting to watch than last week’s great tasks. The quasi-bowling roadblock, which involved a game that replaced a bowling a ball with a stick, was by far the most fun. Alas, the best visual was included in the preview: host Phil Keoghan standing on a tiny makeshift table, which had its legs taken out by a stick thrown at them. Phil fell, but recovered well. And I can’t believe they didn’t make team members stand on similar tables just so we could watch them fall on their asses.

Maybe I’m overtired because of the late start (although the time change meant it started just past the usual time!), but the episode just seemed familiar. Not terrible, just typical. There was a ridiculous equalizer at the start of the episode, even though teams stayed in the same city, and we didn’t see the times they left the mat. (All of that plays into the missing speed bump controversy.) Later, teams didn’t read clues carefully and went in cabs when they were supposed to walk, even though it seemed like the whole leg didn’t cover much territory in the city at all.

Most of the teams struggled to find one clue, which wasn’t as ridiculous as the editing made it seem. So many previous seasons have had teams search for a race flag or other marker from atop a tower of some kind, but this clue was a small statue resting on a ledge at the top of a tower, and most teams initially missed that. Eh.

They also gave each other misinformation to be clever, and there was even the inexplicable resuscitation of cab drivers demanding more money than the teams had or were willing to pay, which is always uncomfortable. (Hurry, I’m in a race for $1 million, so stop demanding money.)

Perhaps the biggest news is that Nick and Vicki checked in third despite having been in way behind and in last place on the previous leg, and there was no speed bump task. Here’s why that is, and it’s not because it was even lamer than the previous speed bumps we’ve seen. Compared to last week’s grade-A episode, I think the speed bump may have made a wise choice skipping out on this episode.

Review: Married at First Sight

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.