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Are Amazing Race 33’s start groups actually a ‘brick wall’?

Are Amazing Race 33’s start groups actually a ‘brick wall’?
Kim, Penn, Cayla and (off-camera) Raquel worked together to memorize fake fish on The Amazing Race 33, episode 7 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

The Amazing Race 33 ended its first episode in Corsica with Ryan and Dusty’s riverbank striptease, and followed that with a preview with “scenes from our next episode,” in which we saw their kayak capsize and heard Phil Keoghan saying, “Ryan and Dusty take on the Mediterranean.”

So were Ryan and Dusty in trouble for real this time? Nope: they came in third, just like last episode.

The first two teams to depart—Kim and Penn, and Raquel and Cayla—were the first two teams to arrive, and in that order. The only change in order was Lulu and Lala placing fourth, and Arun and Natalia placing fifth, and they basically arrived together. The difference was just a walk/run up a hill.

Having nearly the same order the last two episodes may just be a freak occurrence, and a consequence of the leg design. But since the restart, the same teams have been in the top and the same teams been in the bottom.

In other words, the group start times plus the leg design are keeping the teams in a kind of stasis, as much as the editing and teasers try to convince us otherwise.

I appreciate having those starting groups instead of just an equalizer every episode, and realize they’re a solution developed for this very weird season, but I’m not sure they’re working.

Penn described Ryan and Dusty’s first- and second-place finishes as a “brick-wall feeling,” but it’s almost like there’s a brick wall between the departure groups is the real obstacle now.

Ryan and Dusty take their kayak out to sink it
Ryan and Dusty take their kayak out to sink it (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

“Desperate times here on The Amazing Race,” Phil said on the mat. He was referring to the race between the two last teams, but he could have also been referring to the production, which gave us the second non-elimination leg in three episodes.

It ended up saving Arun and Natalia—again, which prompted Phil to wonder if, “in Amazing Race history, one team has been given so many chances.”

There was a hint of a possibility for shuffling to occur this leg, which began on the riverbank, where the teams had spent the night in tents. Kim and Penn, and Raquel and Kayla, left at 8 a.m., with everyone else leaving at 8:15. They all drove themselves 1.5 hours south, without camera operators in their convertibles.

To get their clue, they had to eat some cheese. I’m not really fond of what I used to refer to as “gross eating challenges,” because what’s gross to one person is a “local delicacy” to another, as Phil described the cheese. And the challenge is because the producers assume this will be a challenge because of how gross it is, rather than just different from what we’re used to. There’s a lot of American food I’d gag on.

That said, I was fascinated by cazu marzu, which Phil described as cheese with “these little cheesemakers: live maggots.”

It’s basically pecorino, which I learned when I read all about it on Wikipedia. The process is fascinating, including the fact that, when the maggots die, the cheese is no longer eaten. But this was my favorite detail:

Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres (6 in) when disturbed, diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping.

Kim and Penn try casu marzu on bread in Corsica on The Amazing Race 33 episode 7
Kim and Penn try casu marzu on bread in Corsica on The Amazing Race 33 episode 7 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

The teams ate the cheese spread on a piece of bread, and the biggest complaint seemed to be that it was dry—which, fair, considering Wikipedia says it’s usually eaten with red wine.

Before a Roadblock that didn’t seem to be much of anything—just tying a few knots to repair one hole in one fishing net—the teams faced a Detour choice between kayaking in transparent kayaks and fetching fake fish, or taking a 15-minute cruise looking for fish to “identify the exact sequence of fish.”

While the kayaking was physical, I was surprised that every team except Ryan and Dusty chose the submarine/memorization task. As Ryan said, the choice was a “no-brainer,” because of the 15 minute teams would have to wait to re-ride the submarine—or even board it—if they got the order wrong.

Had Arun and Natalia, and Lulu and Lala had the correct fish after their first submarine ride, they might have passed Ryan and Dusty—though they all probably would have lost in a foot race, considering how we saw Ryan and Dusty run past other teams to the cheese.

By the way, Emmy for the PA or local who had to stand there in the dive suit.

A few other snarky and spicy thoughts:

  • Cayla “lose our jobs, move in with our moms”
  • “We’re driving in this gorgeous island in France with our top down,” Raquel said—and CBS showed it.
  • Dusty explained that, to improve their standing, “We just need to get back to what we know how to do, and that’s sticking together and breaking our foot off in people.” Any volunteers?
  • I appreciated Kim eating the cheese and saying, “I may get some and bring it with me to go” while Penn gagged in the background.
  • I would like Ryan to show me—uh, I mean, teach me how to be so positive and optimistic. “That cheese is alive, but it wasn’t really anything worse than you get in prison,” he joked. “Better view, same food.”
  • “Do we wait for them? That’s the question,” Cayla asked as Raquel drove away. But they actually ended up stopping and waiting for Penn and Kim, who described Cayla and Raquel as “our competition in this race.” Working together made sense because, as Raquel said, “four minds would be better than two.” I suppose that depends upon the minds in question.
  • As Ryan and Dusty’s boat sank, the subtitles did all of the work for me:
    Ryan: “Oh boy”
    Dusty: “Oh my god”
    Ryan: “One, two, three, push”
  • At the Roadblock, Penn put on his glasses and said, “activate nerd glasses!” Later he explained, “I feel like every time Ryan and Dusty take their shirt off, I counter by putting on these glasses.” Whatever you need to do to see them better!
  • I hope someone has turned Penn’s happy dance into a GIF. On second thought, I wonder if Penn, social media creator, did a happy dance to become a GIF.
  • Phil Keoghan said that the last team at the pit stop “may be eliminated,” which I immediately flagged as a non-elimination leg. I think he changes up his language now, using “may be” even for non-elimination legs, but it brought me back to the early years when that was basically secret code. I do miss those Amazing Race days.

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About the author

  • 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.


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Happy discussing!


Thursday 10th of February 2022

What's up with the Raquel boob fest?


Monday 14th of February 2022

@bobby, can't become an influencer without a fanbase.


Thursday 10th of February 2022

This was funny: "Later he explained, “I feel like every time Ryan and Dusty take their shirt off, I counter by putting on these glasses.” Whatever you need to do to see them better!"

You know, this is like a water downed version of The Amazing Race. I still like it but I kind of miss the contestants having to book their own flights, arguments breaking out over who was in line or who was first at the airline counter, contestants being stranded at the airport, running through airports, racing for taxis, the stress contestants go through when their taxi driver gets lost or doesn't know where he or she is going....

The pandemic version of the Amazing Race is very tame. It's very polite. I'm glad it's on but the show is certainly different.