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On Amazing Race’s first mega leg, the alliance kneecaps one of its own

On Amazing Race’s first mega leg, the alliance kneecaps one of its own

The Amazing Race 32’s debut of the “Mega Leg” had, as Phil Keoghan explained, “Double the detours, double the roadblocks, double the distance”—and double the fun, if I may quote the Doublemint commercial that I couldn’t stop singing every time Phil said that.

There was certainly double fun for Kaylynn and Haley, who were incredibly, impressively joyful and upbeat even while being double yielded and ultimately eliminated from the race.

Travel can be stressful. Competing for $1 million only adds to that stress, and over 32 seasons, Amazing Race teams have responded to that with everything from annoyance to actual physical violence. Rarely have we seen a team respond to every setback, every bad cab driver, with cheerfulness and good humor. That’s an almost impossible ask.

But Kaylynn and Haley laughed their way off the final mat after being eliminated. They were Yielded twice in the same leg, and watching them wait out their 20-minute penalties, you might have guessed they were just out for a walk and sitting down to rest. They laughed about how their second Yield was “not payback” from another team but “karma” because they’d yielded Leo and Alana on the previous leg. One of them even said, “We’re bitter,” but said so with a wide smile.

Haley Williams and Kaylynn Williams discovering they'd been Yielded for the second time in the same Amazing Race 32 leg, and yet still smiling
Haley Williams and Kaylynn Williams discovering they’d been Yielded for the second time in the same Amazing Race 32 leg, and yet still smiling. (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

I can’t overstate how delightful it is to watch people having fun, and how much that made me want to root for them. I also want to learn their ways and be so exuberant and effervescent even when things aren’t going well.

I also can’t overstate how much I want to see them return to race again, and want The Amazing Race to make a concerted effort to find teams who will approach the race with the same good good humor.

All of the teams this season have been pleasant and fun to watch. While they’ve had highs and lows, there are certainly no hateful villains. But there was a strain of ugliness that ran through this episode, and it wasn’t just the alliance targeting Kaylynn and Haley.

Instead, it was the way members of the alliance turned on each other without actually communicating that. This manifested mostly as Will and James, and Riley and Maddison, pretending to help Gary and DeAngelo but actually withholding information, like when Riley told Gary that the table settings had to be detailed but didn’t mention the actual measurements that he shared with James. He also did not share how he measured the distance from the edge of the table to the plate with his finger while also in possession of a ruler, which he might be surprised to learn is for measuring things.

Anyway, the core alliance says they’re upset that Gary and DeAngelo weren’t reciprocating, which is a refrain we’ve heard frequently. This week, it was one of the beards—I cannot tell them apart—saying, “they’ve been a lot of take take take take take.”

Yes, the popular kids decided to share answers on the tests and then got mad that some of them were getting As without studying. The Mine Five alliance was named for an actual underground space, but its name also because there’s a strain of selfishness running through it.

By the way, this is the second time this year on a CBS reality competition that a dominant, majority alliance has picked off everyone else and frustrated me. It’s less annoying than it was on Big Brother, because The Amazing Race allows for more agency, but less annoying is still annoying.

I’m sure the producers and/or network are thrilled, though their desperation is showing. One clue literally said: “Do not miss the opportunity to use the power of the Yield.” I’m surprised it didn’t also say, Please also tell your friends to watch and subscribe to our OnlyFans!

The Mega Leg’s four tough challenges

The Mega Leg took place in India, and though it had twice the challenges, it actually just seemed like regular leg from early Amazing Race— there was just a lot more to do, and the tasks were more challenging. I’m not sure how long modern TAR legs actually take in real life, but it sometimes seems like it’s over in just a couple hours.

These two episodes didn’t seem intended to run back to back, because they were just two separate episodes, complete with a “To be continued…” mid-Roadblock. By the end of the second episode, it felt like the editors just ran out of time and ended it: Kaylynn and Haley went from the Yield to the place-setting Roadblock to the mat with Phil in less than 15 seconds of on-screen time.

At the start of the leg, the teams were, of course, equalized on their way to India, which the producers Route Info described as “Exotic” India (don’t do that).

Like nearly all challenges this season, the tasks were mostly detail-oriented instead of physical, and in these episodes that included creating meticulous place settings and finding specific bracelets in a pile of them.

The most physical challenge was the Detour that had teams delivering food for Swiggy. That was a really well-designed challenge: it required teams to communicate, over the phone, with a Swiggy employee who could give them directions but couldn’t tell where they were, and then navigate, by foot, to find a restaurant and then three delivery locations.

Aparna and Eswar had more screen time than usual at the start of the first episode, because the first few challenges aligned with their strengths: they were born in India before moving to the U.S. as toddlers, so they knew how to call over the “autos” for emissions testing. And then, when given a code written in binary, Aparna said, “this challenge was meant for us” because they’re both software engineers. Then they disappeared for most of the rest of the two episodes.

This or That, the blind Detour, returns to Amazing Race

The second Detour wasn’t just a second Detour, it was a “This or That” blind detour, the focus of one of Amazing Race’s best GIFs:

Phil Keoghan This or That Amazing Race GIF

Hung and Chee were the only team to basically look at both options, which was very clever: They read the “This” clue, and then Hung said they were “switching” detours, and then they read the “That” clue. And I suppose they could have switched back if they didn’t like what “That” had to offer.

I did not like “That.”

I’ve been uncomfortable with the way some of the challenges this season have used human beings as nonspeaking pawns for the teams, like the Roadblock where one team member had to find a person wearing a turban and place the person in the right place. I assume/hope that these locals are cast as extras and paid for their time, but it is still awkward to watch Americans competing in a race using a person like they would a giant puzzle piece.

Then came the dental challenge, which was the second Detour option. Teams had to take dental impressions and then fit dentures into someone’s mouth. Neither of these seemed like they were actually being done for real, but even if they were, this was not okay, and a really terrible choice on the producers’ part. Someone else’s medical needs should not be fodder for a competition, even if it is based in reality.

It’s one thing to ask for directions, or to flag down a vehicle to pull over for free emissions testing, and a completely different thing to awkwardly jam a pair of dentures into a person’s mouth just to get a clue.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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