The penultimate episode of CBS’s The Amazing Race 35 was yet another strong episode, and not just because Phil Keoghan and team members said “penultimate,” my second-favorite word.
This season of The Amazing Race started slowly for me, with two episodes that couldn’t really fill their 90 minutes.
Starting with its legs in Vietnam, though, it recovered, finding its way not only into a better use of the 90 minutes, but back to its old self.
Commercial airline travel hasn’t done much besides introduced the dreaded but logistically necessary equalizers. Navigating cities on public transit, by foot, and by car? Those have all offered Amazing Race-worthy challenges.
And the challenges set up by the production have been excellent: serving dinner to Nobel laureates, scraping barnacles from fish farm floats, learning and performing 30 seconds from Riverdance, building an apiary, going for a frigid swim at the Forty Foot.
A single optional challenge—retrieving the Express Pass by climbing approximately six trillion stairs up a ski hill—was some of the best reality TV I’ve seen this year:
Todd and Ashlie running past the entrance, Rob and Corey racing up the stairs; Todd and Ashlie finding the stairs and then bailing; Greg and John in hot pursuit of Rob and Corey, only to give up, not realizing that there were even more stairs; Anna Leigh dragging her dad’s body up all the stairs only to realize they’d run right past the sign that said the Express Pass had already been claimed.
That trend continued through India, and into the most-recent episodes, which visited Slovenia, Sweden, and Ireland.
Okay, sure, the Ireland episode had an inauspicious start as the teams acted as if they were using the Expedia app to book their flights and hotel rooms, though they had fun with pretending to book the most-expensive room possible.
Once in Dublin, though, teams faced two Roadblocks and three tasks, one of which (rappelling into the Croke Park) was edited out.
Those tasks emphasized memorization and coordination. If only the producers had the teams drink a pint of Guinness or three before they had to memorize their passages from Ulysses. (How much fun were those pub-goers having mocking the teams for getting it wrong?)
The leg design has allowed for considerable movement all season (well, except for Greg and John’s four first place finishes in a row).
The Roadblock and Detour challenges have contributed to that, but the challenge of self-driving and navigation in cities has really helped, too. In Ireland, teams had cars with manual transmissions, and had the extra challenge of using a stick shifts that was on their left.
All of this has really reminded me of early Amazing Race seasons, where the stress of travel on relationships provided most of the drama as they visited places around the world.
It’s also shown how the the show and reality TV itself has changed, with Rob’s deafness just being an attribute that is there, not the defining characteristic of his personality nor his relationship with Corey.
And we’ve now built up to a TAR 35 finale where I’d be happy to see any of the three teams win, and that seems like it will be pretty competitive.
Three strong teams will compete for the TAR 35 win
Going into a finale with six men and zero women isn’t ideal, and I wish Jocelyn and Victor were still here, and that Morgan and Lena had made it farther.
But Greg and John, Joel and Garrett, and Rob and Corey are three very strong teams and great television characters. Three of them are in their 20s, and three in their 40s.
The two 20-something brothers, Greg and John, seem like they “are an unstoppable force,” as John said.
But the other two teams have each placed first once. As Joel said, “We’ve beat them both before.”
All six are really lovely people and functional partners—at least from what we’ve seen on the race—approaching the challenge with good cheer. As Joel said, when he and Garrett thought they were last, “we chose to laugh about it instead of whine about it.” SHADE
I mean, just read what they said during the penultimate leg:
- Joel: “The thing that I’ve learned, not just in this race, but in life—is that it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
- Corey: “This race gave us a really strong opportunity to connect on a deeper level as adults.”
- John: “We’re really driven by just showing off what we think is a really great brother relationship, one that is rooted in understanding and compassion.”
- Greg: “Our relationship blossom out of this”
All of that is so preferable to HURRY UP DAD CHRIST ON A BIKE STOP BREATHING AND START RUNNING FASTER YOU ROTTING TURTLE
Yes, Steve and Anna Leigh’s elimination at the end of the episode was a relief.
That’s mostly because I’ve been quite anxious that Steve might to collapse into the pavement while Anna COME ON DAD Leigh is screaming at him.
I appreciate her competitiveness; I don’t need to hear them yell at each other anymore.
By the way, Steve and Anna Leigh had a watch party for their final episode, where someone turned “come on Dad” into a drinking game. I hope everyone enjoyed having their stomachs pumped.
Enough about the past. For Wednesday’s finale and final leg in Seattle, I hope whatever The Amazing Race 35 puts in front of the final three teams continues to deliver what the previous legs have. I hope they can all remain competitive and win or lose not based on a bad cab driver, but based on their own adroit navigation and/or perseverance in the tasks.