Amazing Race ramps things up with a voice-over penalty, a car accident, cold, and mud

The Amazing Race 18 started to find its groove last night, thanks to a bunch of unexpected things: a delayed flight, a car accident, an accidental theft, medical attention for hypothermia, and the chaos of Tokyo traffic. These sorts of moments have been less common as the race has gotten more controlled (pre-selected flights, relatively simple clues and challenges), so in many ways, it felt like an older episode.

Perhaps the most dramatic and unexpected event was the Globetrotters picking up Ron and Christina’s fanny pack. It was clearly an accident, and they left it in plain sight in the men’s dressing room, where Ron eventually found it (there was not an illuminated, neon arrow pointing at it, so it took him a while). At the mat, Christina was in tears, telling Phil that the Globetrotters removing their bag “delayed us significantly.” And she was right. Although it was an accident, with no information, Ron and Christina spent considerable time searching where they’d actually left it; they had no reason to think it’d be somewhere else, and I’m sure they started doubting their own memory.

Thus, I have no issue with a time penalty for the Globetrotters, however accidental it was. The weirdest part was that the penalty clearly wasn’t assessed on the mat even though it was made to look that way. “So I’m going to give the Globetrotters a 30-minute penalty,” Phil said in an obvious post-production voice-over. The show does adjust times and give credits during the pit stops, and it makes sense that either Christina continued to argue her case or the producers just decided on the penalty after everyone was checked in. It’ll be interesting to see the start times next episode, if they’re shown.

Other highlights from the episode:

  • At the start of the episode, Christina told us she’s engaged to Azaria, who she met on season 12. She said the race “is extra special because I know that once I get married, we won’t have this chance again.” Uh, why not? Does she expect to be shackled to the stove except when she’s squeezing out babies? Please.
  • “We need a cool nickname,” Zev said. “I guess we’re the special kid and his friend.” And we’ve just found the name for their spin-off reality show and/or cartoon.
  • Five teams ended up taking a flight that would arrive 15 minutes earlier but involved a connection. I’m not the biggest fan of airport intrigue, especially when all the teams would end up on the same flight anyway, but this was an interesting dilemma. To me, adding an extra variable–another flight, plus the connection–wasn’t worth the 15 minutes, because it just increases the odds of something going wrong. But maybe it was a worthwhile gamble. While Justin asked, “What is 15 minutes, really, in the long haul?” it is a lot: Notice that the teams all started within a half-hour of each other, meaning they checked in within 30 minutes of one another.
  • However, it was obvious that the flight would be delayed, because the Orchestra of Subtlety kept telling us with gongs and other cartoon noises every time someone said something about something possibly going wrong. “It makes me nervous taking a connecting flight,” Margie said. Cut to the pilot telling them “we do apologize for this delay” because a mechanical problem delayed them by 90 minutes.
  • Once in Tokyo, teams had to retrieve their cars from an automated parking garage that rotated cars around and deposited them at the door. Mallory asked, “Are their chips in there, too?”
  • The Globetrotters had to squeeze into their car; one of them said, “Too small. We big.”
  • I could spend all day watching footage of Jet and Cord navigating cities with a map.
  • The Roadblock involved learning how to shoot an arrow from a horse at a target. “This requires precision and I don’t have the best eyesight,” Ron said. Then again, every possible task requires something Ron doesn’t have.
  • “You’re getting awfully close on the left side to the other cars,” Cara told Jaime, who proceeded to hit another car’s mirror. Because she’s awful, she asked the man, “Is it okay?” even though it was obviously smashed. Of course, she was horrified that the man wanted to call the police instead of taking her bribe. She also threw in some stuff about not being able to communicate with him, the first real reoccurrance of her xenophobia. “I think he made it a lot more dramatic than it needed to be when it was just a mirror,” she said. Something tells me that if that mirror had been the one she uses to apply her makeup every morning, it would have been a much bigger deal.
  • For the Detour, teams either had to perform a ritual and stand in 45 degree waterfall from Mt. Fuji, or strip down to their underwear and search for a plastic frog in mud while getting splattered with mud. How Big Brother!
  • “Where are my goggles?” Zev asked, and they were, you know, on his face.
  • “You got your fanny pack, right?” Ron asked Christina, a kind of random question. But that foreshadowed the Globetrotters picking it up.
  • Mallory was having fun with the men throwing mud at her during the challenge, saying things such as, “You look like a frog. I’m going to grab you. You’re a rat.” I’m not sure what any of it meant, and she seems to have gone from naive last season to just crazy.
  • “I want my mama right now,” Big Easy said after his time under the freezing waterfall, which ended with him falling over.
  • Justin didn’t bother to get dressed after the Detour, but that didn’t create any problems when they needed directions. “If a guy gets out of his car in his underwear and asks for directions in the States, you run the other way. Here, they don’t even bat an eye,” he said.
  • “I give you a big muddy hug,” Kent said to the poor guy giving out clues at the mud pit, who got chest-bumped by Justin and hugged by others. But Kent also fluttered his tongue, lizard like, and kind of grinded against the guy, apparently part of his mission to grope every local the race has employed.
  • Mike and Mel, shivering violently, were left behind in an ambulance at the Detour and were eventually eliminated. Nice guys, but not a strong team at all, so oh well. Jaime and Cara, though, basically gave up, and at the mat, Cara said “…and you have been eliminated from the race” for Phil. She should know better than to do Phil’s job for him, as Phil then said, “You are incorrect; you are still in the race, and you are team number nine.” I’m sure Jaime would have been excited if she’d been able to understand Phil’s crazy accent.

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.