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Amazing Race teams: Please stop helping each other!

Amazing Race teams: Please stop helping each other!
Claire and Derek driving in Spain during The Amazing Race 34 episode 10 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

My cold heart warms when people help one another, whether that’s in a small, simple way, such as letting someone pull into traffic ahead of you, or a far more involved and complex act, such as racing into disaster areas to feed people.

As a competition reality TV show fan, I love alliances, seeing people band together to do things that are in their individual and collective self-interest, especially when those people might not have things in common outside of the game, or even outside of one vote.

But as an Amazing Race fan, I get so annoyed when teams work together—even when it makes perfectly logical sense for them.

Dear Amazing Race teams, for the love of Phil Keoghan’s hat, please stop helping each other!

Phil Keoghan at the pit stop following The Amazing Race 34's second megaleg
Phil Keoghan at the pit stop following The Amazing Race 34’s second megaleg (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

The Amazing Race 34’s second Detour of the second megaleg offered a choice between finding all the accessories on a flamenco dancer’s outfit, or building a brick arch.

After reading those options, Derek asked David and Aubrey what Detour they wanted to do. Derek! You are not here to make friends!

Then David and Aubrey just helped Derek and Claire shop, pointing out which accessories they should get, which David said was “our way of returning the favor” because, in the first Detour, Derek told them they did something wrong.

After the second Detour, they helped each other find their way as they ran through the streets. “This way, guys!” Michelle yelled.

Navigation is one thing, but helping in a Detour is the equivalent of a student giving the answers to someone else during a test—well, except that this isn’t considered cheating, and is perfectly legal.

On The Amazing Race, there are fewer opportunities for movement during legs in these more-recent seasons, because the legs are much more compact than the early-season legs. So the challenges and navigation are really the ways to catch up or fall behind.

Might Derek and Claire failed to find the right accessories? Could David and Michelle have gotten lost trying to find the pit stop? Maybe not! But just sharing information deprived us of the opportunity for either to maybe happen.

Also, it just drains the challenge of its complexity. I loved that the teams had to go to an actual store to find the items they’d seen on a dancer, because there were so many slightly similar options. But that didn’t matter when Derek and Claire just grabbed what they were told to grab.

The Amazing Race 32 had a very frustrating, answer-sharing alliance, and after the season ended, I talked to Amazing Race co-creator Elise Doginieri, who told me they might “have to put a rule” in place to prevent that. Here was her thought about it:

“It does take the thrill out of it a little bit for me because these are not group challenges for 11 teams to participate in [as] a group. Others might disagree with what I’m saying, because it does create a different sort of drama, it does create a different sort of tension…

You can read that entire interview for more.

Alas, there’s no such rule now, perhaps because those who like that different drama made a more-compelling case. But I hope that, in the future, there will be some guidelines. Navigating together? Okay, sure. Copying answers, no way.

What’s really fun about watching The Amazing Race is watching how teams handle the tasks on their own. And this episode’s Roadblock was an excellent example.

Michelle has a blast walking high above a ravine during the second Roadblock on The Amazing Race 34
Michelle has a blast walking high above a ravine during the second Roadblock on The Amazing Race 34 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

Just seeing the very different ways individual team members approached the challenge, and reacted to it, was so fascinating.

Michelle opened the envelope for the Roadblock and was immediately thrilled: “I love heights! I’m so excited!” she said. While walking the tightrope, she said, “this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!” and you could see that she was genuinely bubbling with happiness.

Contrast that with Aubrey shaking (“you’re okay, Aubrey, you’re okay”; “I’m really scared right now, but I’m not even going to look”) and Claire staring straight ahead (“Don’t talk to me”; “I hate this. I hate it I hate it.”), and the way both of them broke down at the end.

Aubrey’s tears of relief when she found she’d selected the right flag during the Roadblock were an emotional moment that was earned by her effort on the challenge.

But Aubrey also just gave away the answer: “Claire, I think it’s the green one,” she said when Claire asked her which one she was choosing, meaning that all the drama of whether Claire would have to return to the tightrope or not was gone.

I want to find the good in this. Strategically, it makes sense! Help each other, stay in the race, make bad TV.

Luis and Michelle accessorize a flamenco dancer during the megaleg's second Detour
Luis and Michelle accessorize a flamenco dancer during the megaleg’s second Detour (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

Teams had to drive themselves to Ronda, Spain—in convertibles, which was particularly fun because they were not being filmed by a camera operator, but by small, locked-off cameras in the car, so they were able to sit in the driver’s seat and passenger seat.

There was a wrong turn or two (oh Emily and Molly!), and the editors really threw some major shade at Derek for his Y-turn with a “5 minutes later” title card. But the real navigation effect was Luis and Michelle leaving in third place but arriving first.

The leg came down to Emily and Molly, who missed some flamenco dancer accessories on their first try, and Michael and Marcus, who were the only team who chose to build the arch and missed spacer rocks.

Considering Michael and Marcus left the first Detour last, and also were nowhere to be seen at the Roadblock, it seemed like they were just behind the whole time, despite Emily’s knee injury and Emily and Molly’s navigation issues.

And the editing didn’t even try to make us think there was a footrace between the two teams; Emily and Molly arrived far ahead, and got some major shade from Phil Keoghan, who told them they’d “beat out one of the strongest teams,” as if they aren’t one of the strongest teams!

They’re now in the final four, and there are just two legs left in The Amazing Race 34. Let’s hope it’s every team for themselves from here on out.

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Monday 28th of November 2022

“beat out one of the strongest teams”

Not sure how you interpreted this as shade… You’re a writer, so I probably shouldn’t have to tell you that “one of the” implies there are multiple strong teams. Also are we pretending that the brothers weren’t the odds on favorites before this season started?


Wednesday 30th of November 2022

@Andy Dehnart, Again I don't think there was even the slightest implication in that statement that Emily/Molly were not a strong team - that a grand canyon sized leap of an interpretation there

Andy Dehnart

Monday 28th of November 2022

The shade is that the implication is they're not a strong team!

Also, while Marcus and Michael certainly were a strong team, and did place first three times, they were in the top 3 teams five times, while Emily and Molly have been in the top 3 four times. So it's not a massive gap.


Thursday 24th of November 2022

The USA Amazing Race and Survivor has lost me last few seasons compared to Australia versions as the contestants are alot more interesting.

Also this seas of AU Amazing Race had a great concept of two different 11 teams racing then coming together. The drama as the they came together was great.