Nick and Vicki actually left behind in water-treading, tension-free episode of Amazing Race

The Amazing Race has its final three teams, and they do not include Nick and Vicki, who were left behind and out of the running once they missed a flight. Instead, Jill and Thomas, Brook and Claire, and Nat and Kat are racing for $1 million next Sunday, when Phil Keoghan teased that he’d have an “exciting announcement about next season of The Amazing Race,” but we already know that it’s this or this–or both.

Along with others, I assumed there would be an equalizer, probably a flight, that would erase the consequence for Nick quitting. But I was wrong: Nick and Vicki departed (at a suspiciously unannounced time) and arrived at the airport just as the other teams were boarding a plane to South Korea. I was convinced that this was just another bit of editing trickery, and then when the show returned from the break they’d get tickets and get on the plane. But no! “I’m afraid Korean Airline is leave already,” a ticket agent told Nick and Vicki, putting them on the next available flight, which was nine hours later.

They were out of the race and actually did “face a tough road ahead,” as Phil Keoghan said, although from what we saw of their speed bump task–washing mud off a tank–it wasn’t a road filled with tough challenges. Once they got to South Korea and agreed to follow some guy to their first destination, they fell even further behind because he had no idea where he was going. While Nick was apologetic about his behavior (“I was totally out of line; I treated her like scum,” he said) and also had a new attitude (“stay positive, have as much fun as possible, and hope for the best”), his old self resurfaced when the man they were following flirted with Vicki. “He wants you. I knew you were good for something,” Nick said. Better than being good for nothing, Nick. Good riddance.

Because they were so far behind–and bravo to the producers for letting this happen because they easily could have, say, released all the teams at a time that would have forced them to be on the same flight–the episode had very little tension; we knew who the final three were in the first 15 minutes.

In South Korea, the remaining teams faced two challenges that were okay: amusing to watch but didn’t appear to be that challenging. After finding a clue in the DMZ, they rafted through rapids to a US military base, where the Roadblock had one team member search through a group of “tae kwon do soldiers,” Phil explained, to find the one with a matching headband. It was a nice twist to the search-for-something task, especially since, as Phil said, they were “trying not to get hit.” Alas, no one got kicked in the face, nor did they even seem like that would be possible, though Brook might have tempted someone to bump her when she yelled, “I’m surrounded by ninjas!”

Later, the teams had a choice between 24 laps of speed skating and carrying items to a store; everyone chose speed skating. And then everyone made their way to the finish line. Mostly, the episode was treading water on our way to the finale, as the only mystery was the order the teams would check in, and how far behind they’d be (of course, there’s likely to be a flight equalizer, as there almost always is, at the start of the final US leg).

Brook–who reminds me more and more of Ivanka Trump–and Claire incurred a 30-minute penalty for taking a cab when they weren’t supposed to, and that provided the only real race drama. Brook and Claire didn’t seem phased by their penalty–Brook screamed, but she screams at everything. I wonder if it wasn’t a strategic decision on their part, if not from the very beginning, then after they realized they’d made the mistake.

We head into next week’s finale of The Amazing Race 17 with two female teams, and I’d bet we end up with our first female winners, because Brook and Claire, and Nat and Kat, are strong; Nat and Kat have tied Jill and Thomas for the most first-place check-ins. Even though this season has been rather hit or miss, it could redeem itself with a win from a strong, positive team rather than an annoying and typical dating couple team.

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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.