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Amazing Race 34 heads to Austria for three very similar challenges

Amazing Race 34 heads to Austria for three very similar challenges
Rex attempts yodeling on The Amazing Race 34 episode 2 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

CBS filled its three hours with its two best reality TV shows: Survivor and The Amazing Race. Alas, I don’t think either episode was the best candidate for a 90-minute episode.

For The Amazing Race, that’s because the teams had three extremely similar tasks to complete:

  1. Learn and sing three yodels (or is yodel three songs?)
  2. Learn and perform a song with bells
  3. Learn and perform a dance

Individually, these tasks were fine, and the dancing and yodeling were in beautiful spaces. But together they were extremely repetitive—the same kind of thing, over and over, team after team, no, try again, no, try again, okay, yay, let’s go, rinse, repeat.

I wonder if this leg was planned as a 90-minute leg, or if the editing had to stretch the episode to 90 minutes whenever CBS decided to split the evening. (Next week, The Amazing Race moves to 10 p.m., ugh, with its Love Island knock-off sandwiched between Survivor and TAR.)

There was no scramble this episode, so the tasks were performed in order: a Roadblock for the yodeling, and a Detour choice between the other two.

There were no route markers, but the teams did self-drive, leading to some chaos, like Luis and Michelle driving the wrong way to Innsbruck and Abby and Will following them.

Sharik said, “I don’t think I’ve ever navigated without a phone,” which is amazing to think about because when The Amazing Race started in 2001, we just didn’t even have phones with maps and GPS.

Amazing Race 34 David Hernandez and Aubrey Ares dance in Innsbruck, Austria
Amazing Race 34 David Hernandez and Aubrey Ares dance in Innsbruck, Austria. (Photo by Kit Karzen/CBS)

Just like last season, the teams departed in groups based on their arrival time, in 15-minute increments. The third group of four teams was 15 minutes behind the second group, and 30 minutes behind the first.

Claire and Derek left first and arrived at the Roadblock first—and then left as the second-to-last team because Claire just couldn’t get it.

When Dom finished, Claire told them, “good work!” and then gave a hilarious annoyed look at the camera.

The yodeling challenge seemed simultaneously challenging and yet easier than comparative versions: they got cue cards! But combing that style of singing and actions turned out to be very challenging, especially for Claire.

Quinton and Mattie were so far behind the entire episode that it seemed certain they’d be eliminated. Phil played with that, making them think they were out until he said, “I’m pleased to tell you you are not last.”

Tim and Rex were the ones who were ultimately eliminated. They left the yodeling Roadblock in sixth place, but dropped to the back of the pack because of their bell-ringing failures. That was a bit of an out-of-left field last-place for me, but also the winds were picking up here and maybe I was distracted and missed a key moment.

Rich and Dom arrived to Phil Keoghan’s mat in eighth place, but did not have Dom’s hat. The editing throughout the episode was not subtle reminding us that the teams needed to bring their costumes with them.

Phil’s instructions were hilariously unhelpful. “Go back and check,” he told Dom, and I was like, WHERE, PHIL, WHERE?! In all of Germany and Austria?!

Thankfully, Dom suspected she’d just left it in their car, and they went back to the garage, found it, and returned in time to only drop one position: they were ninth.

Overall, the leg had some interesting movement and lack thereof.

The top three did not have any movement after the Roadblock: Michael and Marcus left the Roadblock first and placed first, winning a trip to Peru. Glenda and Lumumba left second and placed second, and Linton and Sharik left third and placed third.

But Emily and Molly left fourth but placed seventh. And Derek and Claire started in the first group, arrived first to the Roadblock, left second to last, but caught up and placed fourth.

So despite the repetitiveness, it was not simply checking boxes and moving on, as happened a lot last season. While I’d like a more varied group of challenges, I’m glad The Amazing Race 34’s teams have the opportunity to catch up, fall behind, and/or change places.

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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!

Heather Rich

Friday 30th of September 2022

Anyone else curious the exact wording on the clue? Because if it said "you must wear the costume for the remainder, realistically, she should have had the hat on to perform the bell task. I don't know if it would have made a difference, but generally, if you didn't follow instructions, there is a time penalty or they would have had to go back after they performed to get the hat and do it again.

Toni

Friday 30th of September 2022

@Heather Rich, I thought the same exact thing.

AK

Friday 30th of September 2022

So your raves about the last season of "The Amazing Race" finally got me to check out the show again. I was an obsessive fan for many years but had fallen off more than a decade ago as the race increasingly became an exercise in checking a few boxes each leg.

Unfortunately, I'm not totally sold yet. This episode was significantly better than the premiere, which felt like a day at a tailgate. We got some stunning locations this week and the tasks were far more entertaining than I expected, even if they were somewhat repetitive. I also am really enjoying this cast overall; no villains (so far!) and charm for days.

The thing I'm struggling with is how small the race has come to feel. Your incredible oral history of the first season got me to revisit the show last fall and I've been rewatching some old seasons. Coincidentally, I just happened to watch an episode a few weeks ago where the teams go to Munich and Innsbruck as well. It really laid out a perfect contrast for how much the scope and scale of the show has shrunk. Legs once stretched for days at a time across multiple cities and countries; now they seem to last for barely a few hours. The challenges also strike me as a bit more basic and kitschy. And I'm skeptical of these staggered group starts, which cause too much bunching for my liking, though I suppose it's the only way to get any movement in these short legs.

The other element I'm really missing from "The Amazing Race" of yore is the actual travel. That was often far more of the intrigue in early seasons than the tasks (airplane drama could take up half an episode!). Now we have a team that was almost eliminated because they got so lost driving, but we saw almost nothing about what went wrong. It honestly left me extremely confused watching the episode about how far behind they really were. Did the roadblock go so quickly that a few minutes on one wrong turn made all the difference or were they hopeless lost for hours? Surely there was a bit of time in the episode to help us understand that.

It's not that show is bad now. I was certainly entertained. But what was once this, ahem, amazing competition travelogue is now more like a cute game show set against a gorgeous international backdrop. I can feel the budget cuts to the production in a way that "Survivor" has managed to hide (though obviously that show has the advantage of being driven by interpersonal relationships). I acknowledge that I only have a sample size of two episodes at this point and I'll keep watching. But this is a shell of "The Amazing Race" I fell in love with.

AK

Monday 3rd of October 2022

@Andy Dehnart

"there was more of a focus on the teams just enjoying the experience of traveling together"

This is something I really enjoyed about the new iteration! It's a very lighthearted and fun watch. So I'll keep with it for now.

Andy Dehnart

Friday 30th of September 2022

I'm glad you've given it another chance, but also regret to say your critique is 100 percent accurate! I think I've finally come to terms with how early Amazing Race is a thing of the past. I think that's largely a function of budget cuts: the more sprawl, the more expense. A short, tight leg in one place is far more manageable from a production perspective.

What changed for me last year was that the charter plane eliminated the pre-booked flights, while the staggered starts eliminated the equalizers and actually rewarded teams for their progress on previous legs. Plus, they cut out most of the social elements, and there was more of a focus on the teams just enjoying the experience of traveling together. Again, is it the same as those early seasons? Nope. But for me, it's improved over what the show became over the last decade or so.

Patrick

Friday 30th of September 2022

@AK, COVID and the alliance brought about the bunched start and lack of airplane drama (they flew private planes between cities) among other changes. I think once we are past Covid the airplane drama will come back

Pyjama Stanwyck

Thursday 29th of September 2022

Andy? I have loved you since you started this site and helped me to better understand Survivor and introduce me to all of the other reality shows, but you left us hanging at the end here: "So despite the repetitiveness, it was not simply checking boxes and moving on, as happened a lot last season. While I’d like a more varied group of challenges, I’m glad The Amazing Race 34’s teams have"... ???

And I was excited to see a 90 minute episode of The Amazing Race, but yes, redundant attempts at annoying challenges means I fast forwarded through half of this episode.

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 29th of September 2022

Thanks—and how strange! I definitely wrote an end to that sentence, but it disappeared. It's back now!