Amazing Race time penalties and credits explained

In the wake of the error on an The Amazing Race task that affected multiple teams and led to the elimination of a speed bump task for the team saved by the non-elimination leg, some viewers noticed the disclaimer that appears at the very end of the credits.

It says, “Some teams may have received time penalties or credits in accordance with the rules,” but it is not new. It has been there for years, perhaps since season one.

It’s interesting, however, how complicated and complex time credits actually are. The excellent but no longer updated TARflies’ FAQ about the show explores this over several questions that address the issues of time credits. Assuming the rules haven’t changed since then–and they may have–here’s some relevant background.

The FAQ says that credits and penalties are calculated “between legs” and a “team’s departure time from the pit stop is adjusted according to the time credits and penalties accrued from the last leg.” Former racers told the site that “time adjustments happen all the time. We only hear about it if it noticeably affects the game in some way, such as altering the order in which teams leave the pit stop.”

TARflies says that “Time credits are given whenever a team is slowed down by the production crew, for some reason. For example, if a team misses a train because their cameraman had to stop and change the batteries in his camera, the team gets a time credit for the time lost” and “Teams are credited for production-related delays, such as if a camera operator has to use the bathroom.”

Although time credits are calculated between legs, each two-person camera crew presumably has to keep track of this, or at least communicate it to someone else. And don’t forget that Phil has to know when checking a team in that they’ve broken the rules, and the only production people to know about it are the sound engineer and camera operator with the team–and they are busy filming that team, of course. That’s just another aspect of the production that’s pretty amazing, and the camera crews have exceedingly important yet difficult jobs.

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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.