“To be continued…” are not my favorite words on The Amazing Race, because that means waiting a week not just for an outcome that’d normally come after a commercial break, but to see what happens at the end of the leg.
But I’ll forgive this one because it started with a truly great challenge.
Just five teams are left on The Amazing Race 34, and there will still be five teams next week, as the episode only covered half of the megaleg leg. Yes, when the teams arrived in Malaga, Spain, they faced their second megaleg: two cities, two Detours, two Roadblocks—and two episodes for us.
Megalegs really should be two-hour episodes.
This first leg of the megaleg had so much content we got the short version of the theme song. (Occasional condensing of the title sequence is far preferable to what Survivor has done: just dumping its title sequence and theme song altogether.)
The editors needed the extra time for Derek to list all of the vehicles he’s crashed, including a moped, bike, and scooter. “I have, like, trauma,” he said, as he and Claire started biking. Michael, too, had real bike-related trauma that he shared: he was hit by a car while on a bike, causing a cerebral hemorrhage so bad he had to be airlifted to a hospital.
Horrific past trauma aside, the real tension of the leg so far is not the 1+2+1+2 challenges (or is it 1+2+2+1?), but whether Emily and Molly can survive Emily’s injury.
“We need to really pace ourselves because of my knee,” Emily said, adding “hopefully we make it past this leg.”
She pointed out that their strategy was “to get ahead in the challenges,” but at the first Roadblock, Molly was in tears just watching Emily hobble. “I just don’t want her to feel like if we go out today that it’s her fault,” she said.
While Emily and Molly finished ahead of Michael and Marcus after the Roadblock, they then got lost on their bikes, once again facing navigation trouble, and ending up at the Detour with Marcus and Michael.
If Emily and Molly do get eliminated, and I am still holding out hope that they don’t, it will not be because of Emily’s knee, but because of their other screw-ups.
The first Roadblock was essentially a puzzle, but it was so much more than that. Looking at the design of the challenge, from the elaborate frames to the slots that the giant pieces of glass slid into, I laughed thinking about the childish puzzles The Challenge USA gave us, like pieces of half-painted plywood.
The Amazing Race team members had to assemble a version of a Picasso painting, “Three Musicians,” which had been turned into a multi-layer puzzle with different parts painted on different pieces of glass.
I loved this challenge as a variation on something we’ve seen a thousand times (a puzzle), as it became both a physical and mental challenge. While they had assistants to help pick up and move the huge pieces of glass, that didn’t make it super easy.
Could we have seen more of their individual strategy, and/or what the individual panes looked like? Definitely! Claire, for example, laid some pieces together on the ground, which seemed so smart I was curious why not everyone was doing that.
The first two teams chose the stations farthest from the demo, and with the heat, gave themselves an extra challenge—though Derek and Claire finished first, followed by Aubrey and David, who moved themselves from the back of the pack to the front.
Marcus kept getting it wrong, so he started over. “When I saw it, my heart dropped,” he said realizing it was just one panel flipped the wrong way.
Overall, just a great challenge that provided movement among the teams and a visually interesting twist on the familiar.
The first Detour was a choice between grilling 18 fish over an open flame, or use a stand-up paddleboard to deliver a cooler and life vests. Phil introduced this while on a stand-up paddleboard, and somehow he still does not have an Emmy for hosting this show. Get your shit together, Television Academy!
Anyway, everyone except Luis and Michelle chose fish, and they had a blast navigating the waves.
“Always go back to the example,” Claire said when Derek’s fish started falling off while Claire, a vegan who previously never cooked fish, watched. Derek joked he was doing all the work but that was truth comedy in that it was pretty much the case.
Derek also did work for Aubrey and David. “Today, he saved us,” David said said, after Derek told him that they forgot to salt the fish. Claire said, “We are willing to help you up until it’s not helpful for us.”
While I appreciate the strategy, it makes for dull TV to watch teams give each other the answers. Thankfully, it’s not as it was two seasons ago.
And the preview for next week showed a challenge that teams can’t exactly help each other with: heights. Will that bring down one of the two early teams? Can Emily and Molly pull ahead? Will Phil Keoghan host in his bathing suit again next week? I’m ready to find out.