Team stupidity continues to rescue The Amazing Race

Say what you will about returning cast members on The Amazing Race, and I sure have said a lot, but the teams this season have basically rescued the past two episodes from being dreary because they act so stupidly.

This episode should have started with everyone taking the same flight from Japan to China (the show aired a PSA with Phil Keoghan to acknowledge the earthquake and encourage donations, though that kind of seemed buried in a commercial break). There, they participated in two mediocre challenges. The Roadblock, the find some things in a lot of things challenge, looked easy for everyone except Zev, and we’ve seen so many variations of this that it’s getting tired. The Detour tasks appeared far less challenging and got relatively little screen time.

But the episode was still pretty great. That’s because teams screwed their way up from start to finish, leaving an otherwise mediocre leg to be pretty entertaining. Kent and Vyxsin had a spectacular meltdown and drove the wrong way, navigated by a compass and someone who couldn’t navigate, and they ended up leaving on a flight almost six hours later. Then they caught up. Later they lost their passports. Meanwhile, Ron stopped for snacks and hurled rocks at a bus to get it to stop. Zev nearly gave up during a challenge. Best of all, they were all surprised to learn that there was yet another pit stop fake-out; after not having these for quite some time, I’m glad to see them back.

Highlights from the episode:

  • Justin said “Zev’s had a couple rocking chair legs so far, where he basically had to do very little but sit in a backseat of a car and cruise around.” “But I’m good at it,” he said. Funny, but also true for all the teams: The level of difficulty has been low, at least for the actual tasks.
  • Recalling the last time they were in China on the race, Jen said, “We had a bad leg where I called a deaf guy a bitch. I do apologize for that.” She did not, alas, call anyone a bitch this time, nor get into a cluebox shoving match.
  • “It’s a fresh new start,” Jaime said about China, where of course she was awful the last time she was there on the race. Then again, in which country has Jaime not been awful to people?
  • “Our theme for the day is PMA,” Kent said, and Vyxsin explained that meant, “Positive Mental Attitude.” But it should have stood for Pretty Motherfreakin’ Awful, because we immediately were treated to an extended sequence about their inability to find and open their car while sniping at each other. “This is the most stupid day ever,” Vyxsin said and then had a breakdown while trying to navigate to the airport.
  • “We’ve been going the wrong way,” Vyxsin finally realized after hours of driving. “Bye, bye, Amazing Race.” Kent said, “Things might be okay,” but after missing the required flight–for which they may still receive a penalty–they got on a flight at 3:30 p.m., nearly six hours after the first left at 9:50 a.m.
  • Ron had to stop for food, and then stood outside their car and ate and explained flavors to us. “No, that didn’t take long,” he said. He’s like a cartoon character.
  • “Vyxsin, I’m going to shoot you,” Kent said three times after she left her passport on the ticket counter. That was about his biggest reaction to her behavior, although since he later left their passports on a gondola, he might be talking about shooting himself next episode.
  • Riding the yak sounded more dramatic than it actually was, but with the misty mountains in the background and the incredible rocks in the river, it was fun to watch in HD.
  • At the Roadblock, Mallory was nice and offered Luke the chance to copy her zodiac symbols, which they had to put in order after finding them all. “Look at mine!” she said, but her communication with Luke quickly became super-awkward as she said “Order! Order!” with just held her mouth in an o-shape.
  • Zev was struggling, and even the man in charge of giving clues looked exhausted and exasperated. But he managed to realize that, as Justin asked later, “You had two goats instead of a horse?” when Kent and Vyxsin arrived and all hope didn’t seem gone. Meanwhile, Kent lied to Justin and said he had car trouble instead of teammate navigator trouble.
  • Ron and Christina got on the wrong bus and Ron basically turned into a three-year old and started crying. “Now we’re going to get screwed!” he said. When their shuttle stopped and they spotted the right bus, he threw rocks at it to try to get it to stop. Perhaps as penance for what the Globetrotters did last week, Flight Time had the driver stop the bus so Ron and Christina could get on. This was very nice and, in a race for $1 million, very stupid.
  • To get their next clue, teams had to write a wish and deposit it in a slot based on their actual Chinese zodiac sign. This led to some comedy as Flight Time and Big Easy had no idea what their signs were. “I’m a rooster?” “I’m a dragon?”
  • “I’ve never thought of myself as a stupid person until this race,” Vyxsin cried while searching for Chinese zodiac symbols. “I don’t understand what I’m doing ever because I’m dumb.” This low self-esteem moment did a good job of making us feel sorry for her instead of just making us think she was, you know, stupid.
  • When Margie and Luke checked in first, Phil gave them their prize and then said, “right now you’re still racing. Rip and read it.” Margie said, “You don’t know what I want to say right now.” Oh yes we do!
  • While there was a quick montage of teams checking in to the fake pit stop, Kent and Vyxsin realized they didn’t have their passports or fanny pack. “Stop the bus! You have to go back,” Vyxsin yelled to the bus driver, who didn’t respond, perhaps because he was unable to, you know, turn around for a screaming woman in crazy makeup whose partner had left their critical travel documents behind. If they are able to recover from their string of stupid mistakes next week because of an equalizer, I’m going to throw away all my eyeliner in protest.

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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.