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In Iceland, Amazing Race proffers penalties and product placement

In Iceland, Amazing Race proffers penalties and product placement
Phil Keoghan in Iceland for Amazing Race 34 episode 11 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

The Amazing Race has never shied away from product integration, as anyone who’s seen an episode where teams had to carry a Travelocity roaming gnome around with them.

Yet somehow The Amazing Race 34 episode 11—its penultimate episode, and Phil Keoghan actually said “penultimate, which is my second-favorite word after “defenestrate”—was somehow less subtle than having to rappel alongside a harnessed gnome.

From teams having to read “It’s time for an Expedia Experience!” on a clue to the actual Expedia logo being next to names of Icelandic volcanoes, the company was everywhere. You’d think Expedia owned Iceland.

If it keeps The Amazing Race on the air, okay, and it also fills me with a tinge of nostalgia for the very early 2000s, back when Expedia seemed like something worth using.

Derek and Molly climb the side of a glacier during The Amazing Race 34 episode 11's opening Route Info challenge
Derek and Molly climb the side of a glacier during The Amazing Race 34 episode 11’s opening Route Info challenge (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

And as discordant as the product integration could be, the final-four teams’ time in Iceland was pretty spectacular visually, experientially, and in terms of the race’s challenges.

Teams flew from Spain to Iceland, and then will be heading back to the United States in the finale, so the route is basically a tight little circle in western Europe, with trips to Jordan, Iceland, and Tennessee.

To get their first route marker in Iceland, teams first flew on helicopters, which was just a really nice time to see them appreciating the landscape and experience. It’s the kind of thing that can get lost on The Amazing Race as teams are, you know, racing (I guess it is a race, after all), so despite all the Expedia mentions, the cold open was a nice change.

Once they landed—in two groups—each team member had to climb a glacier, and then drive themselves in vehicles that were both stick shifts and had extra pedals and sticks.

Actual navigation didn’t seem to be an issue for anyone, but swimming and anxiety did.

The Roadblock looked absolutely thrilling: dropping into a hole in the ground that opened into a cave with a waterfall and fast-moving water. Then they jumped into a river, slid down a rock waterfall, and swam through water.

Derek finished first, and then Luis passed David, and then Molly basically caught up to David, too. That’s because David doesn’t know how to swim, and was really struggling to not freak out.

Alas, the second challenge—technically a Route Info challenge and not a Detour since there was no option—also involved swimming.

In frigid water at Silfra, the tectonic boundary between North America and Eurasia, teams had to snorkle and memorize a list of volcano names and years of eruption.

They were tested on a board with the aforementioned Expedia logos, but which had a fun design: it was glass with layers of sand behind it, and when a team got all the answers correct, the proctor pulled out a stop and the sand spilled out, revealing their next destination.

A TAR34 team takes a penalty

Aubrey and David took a penalty instead of completing a challenge, effectively knocking them out of The Amazing Race 34
Aubrey and David took a penalty instead of completing a challenge, effectively knocking them out of The Amazing Race 34 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

Aubrey and David really struggled there, not just with David’s swimming and possible panic attack, but with the memorization. They had so many wrong on both their first and second tries, and decided not to try a third time.

“I don’t want to give up,” Aubrey said, adding that “it wasn’t worth it for us to do it again.”

They opted to take a two-hour penalty, knocking themselves out of the race. I’d guess they knew they were done, since Emily and Molly had already left before they returned from their second swim.

While Emily was yet struggling with pain, and even crying while Molly did the Roadblock, they were well ahead of Aubrey and David even without the penalty.

There have been no villains this season, but Aubrey and David bickered the most, and seemed to be trying to work things out while racing. In moments of stress, David tended to blame Aubrey, and then Aubrey seemed willing to take the blame, and I hope they figure that out.

Amazing Race 34’s terrific final three teams

Emily and Molly hug after learning they're one of the final three teams on The Amazing Race 34
Emily and Molly check in and learn they’re one of the final three teams on The Amazing Race 34. (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

To put that another way, I’m really thrilled with these final three teams.

Derek and Claire have been extremely resourceful and clever (Claire and her strategies especially), and for a reality TV couple, not at all obnoxious; Emily and Molly are impossible not to love, and have both struggled and thrived as they’ve bonded; and Luis and Michelle started the season at the bottom of the pack but have had an absolute blast throughout the race, and their enthusiasm and cheerfulness is infectuous.

As Michelle and Luis pulled into the pit stop’s parking area, Michelle stuck her head out the window and yelled, “We’re here” and then “We made it!” Now all that’s left is to see who makes it to the finish line first.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    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!


Saturday 3rd of December 2022

And yet you’re forgetting the biggest placement of all. The one you don’t pay attention to: 66 north beanies.


Friday 2nd of December 2022

I'm always surprised when teams go on the show and aren't prepared for certain tasks like driving stick or swimming.

I don't think they should be experts but for $1 million being able to doggie paddle would be a great asset.


Friday 2nd of December 2022

Michelle and Luis are so fun to watch - they seem to be so playful, encouraging of each other, and up for anything. I also really like Claire. When she freaked out on the challenge last episode and then apologized to the handler "Sorry for all my drama" it felt so honest. Which is exactly what I've felt from her this whole show.


Thursday 1st of December 2022

For being a season lacking my favorite aspects of the game (booking plane tickets and playing 'close connection roulette') it was certainly one of my favorites. All likable teams who formed partnerships that made sense, great locations (although some of the challenges were lacking) and just an overall enjoyable watch.

It was like the British Baking Show version of TAR, before BBS got all strangely racist and campy.

Andy Dehnart

Friday 2nd of December 2022

@kim, I think that's exactly why I've enjoyed these past two seasons so much. They're infused with a new kind of energy, and though it's definitely not old-school TAR, I'm glad to have this version.