Colossal screw-up erased by Amazing Race, but U-turn and express pass twists fizzle

This season of The Amazing Race should have been called Incompetent Whiners, because there’s sure a lot of both this season. Calling this season all-stars definitely gives the teams too much credit, but at least last night’s episode–delayed by 20 minutes and thus cut off from my DVR because there was too much competition at 9 p.m. to record an extra hour or two–got rid of one of the more annoying teams.

Although Kent and Vyxsin’s phenomenal series of massive screw-ups last week was entirely erased by an equalizer, I was okay with the results, because Jaime and Cara went home. Had a team I really like–pretty much only Jen and Kisha–been eliminated instead, I would have been apoplectic. Jaime pretty much gave up on the Roadblock, although despite being U-turned earlier, they were on a level playing field once she started assembling her dinosaur. “This team isn’t a quitting team,” Cara said, apparently unaware of who her partner actually is.

Still, it is ridiculous that Kent and Vyxsin were able to survive. They only received a 30-minute penalty for taking the wrong flight, and forgetting their passports and doing everything else wrong didn’t affect them at all thanks to the train trip equalizer. Equalizers are sometimes necessary to make the race and production possible, but as the show has aged, they have gotten more and more egregious in the ways that they impact the results.

Another way the race changed a few years ago was making it possible for other teams to penalize one another, instead of just allowing each team to run their own race against themselves and the world, which is one of the primary reasons The Amazing Race worked so well to begin with. Kent and Vyxsin U-turned Jaime and Cara, so they U-turned the Globetrotters, who were ecstatic about eventually passing by the team that U-turned them because ultimately the U-turn made no real difference. Its only semi-dramatic moment came as Kent U-turned Jaime and Cara right in front of them, saying, “Sorry, it’s the only way we’re going to survive.”

Gary and Mallory used their express pass but weren’t even able to check in first because their cab went missing, meaning that for the second time in its two seasons, the express pass has been a worthless twist. Meanwhile, Justin and Zev’s strategy was to follow other teams and not do anything on their own, and Vyxsin lied repeatedly about not having a time penalty for their screw-up, though she eventually came clean (I’m ambivalent about whether or not it made sense to tell other teams; do you want them to be over-confident or do you want them to get so frustrated they screw up?).

As to the challenges, the dinosaur-assembling Roadblock was by far the best, both difficult and physically demanding, but the Detour tasks were both pretty easy, which is why Flight Time and Big Easy, and Jaime and Cara, were able to do both and get to the Roadblock when others were still there.

This was one of those episodes that wasn’t very quotable or unintentionally funny (especially compared to The Celebrity Apprentice, which was on fire last night), but I did enjoy Jaime humping her dinosaur, and there was a nice moment when Margie choked up thinking about her grandson.

And although it’s absurd the teams had a crazy amount of downtime on the Kent and Vyxsin-saving equalizer, and though it gave the editors another chance to drive me insane with that damn Globetrotters music, I really liked that moment of the teams unwinding and playing basketball. It was reminiscent of the brief but great footage we used to get of the teams mingling at the pit stops, which has gone away with a lot of other stuff that used to make the race actually amazing.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

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.