Purple Rock Watch-Along: The Amazing Race 7 Episodes 10-12

Time to finish our summer coverage of aracearoundtheworld with a controversial finale. I have thoughts.

A reminder: these recaps are by a Survivor fan who started watching The Amazing Race with this season and hung on for another ten before giving it up.

Hoisted By His Own Petahd

In the very first post of this series, I wrote of Rob, “he wants every edge he can get, both to hopefully try enough things that the edges he gets will help counteract the heavy hand that luck plays in the Race and because he’s just a hyper-competitive dude who can’t help himself”. Well, the first of this set of episodes showed the downside to his constant pushing when he needled Gretchen about a (not so mythical) earlier flight.

The ironing is delicious.

He explains that he did this for two reasons, 1) to see if they had found an earlier flight (looking for an edge!) and 2) to mess with her (can’t help himself!) And let’s be clear, it’s waaaaay more 2 than 1 (he could’ve just straight up asked her what flight she’s on). Rob was a cat playing with the mouse it just caught, and it blew up in his face as Meredith & Gretchen and Uchenna & Joyce go out and find that better flight rather than settling for the one they had.

The show leaned into Rob’s comeuppance (as they should!) by having him talk about how Uchenna & Joyce have been coasting all game and letting other people decide travel for them… which is kinda true. And it could’ve stayed true if he didn’t go and motivate them to do something for themselves. Rob’s ego and drive to keep pushing giveth and taketh away. (And then it went back to giving in the next leg when he DOES find the better flight, then buying tickets to a lesser one just to lull his competition back into their sense of security. So at least he’s capable of learning from his mistakes).

That said, it’s a good thing that Rob DID mess things up for he and Amber, because if not, that entire leg would’ve been worthless from an entertainment perspective (unless you’re really into Travelocity gnomes). The Turkey leg (heh) was completely straightforward with nothing particularly challenging, provided you’re not a women in her 60s trying to climb up a ladder. Uchenna & Joyce were done before 11:00. I think it took them three hours. (Meredith & Gretchen, on the other hand, lost an hour and a half of their lead to Rob & Amber). At least it was all rendered meaningless with a Non-Elimination!

How excited do you think Ron & Kelly were to learn that they wouldn’t HAVE to vacation together?

Caution: Yield Ahead

As promised, it’s time to discuss optimal Yield strategy now that one was actually used in the Race. It was not used correctly.

I support this level of petty. Especially when you have time to kill.

The goal of any leg in The Amazing Race besides the final leg is “don’t be last”. Rob actually mentions this in the bonus scenes on the recap episode, then seemingly forgets it frequently throughout the Race as his competitiveness focuses on winning each leg instead of not-losing them (which fits with his seeming plan of “get CBS to fund as much of my life as possible”, a plan I fully endorse). Thus, the use of the Yield should be to ensure one does not finish last place.

Rob (and I say Rob because Amber advocated for the correct decision) instead wanted to use the Yield to take a crack at their most dangerous competition, yielding Ron & Kelly. The problem was that Ron & Kelly weren’t that far behind them, having reached London on the same flight (but were delayed when they, like every other team not named Rob & Amber, stupidly chose to take taxis in London freaking England rather than their legendary Underground system). They did this despite KNOWING what time the second flight came in.

Why is this an issue? Because the optimal use of the Yield is to use it on the team you most suspect to be near last place, thereby helping ensure a team that isn’t you should finish in last place. Why put Ron & Kelly 35 minutes behind you when you could put Meredith & Gretchen 2 hours behind you? This shouldn’t be viewed as attempt to gain a slight edge. It should be viewed as insurance in case something goes wrong for you.

Now, I understand wanting to keep M&G in the Race as possible finals opponents, which made Uchenna & Joyce the optimal choice for Yielding in this case. This puts a threatening team (albeit the second most threatening) in a strong position to be eliminated while giving you a large cushion to ensure your survival. If you eliminate U&J, that’s a nice win. If M&G still fail, that means they were so bad that yielding R&K wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe you at least get Uchenna to burn his last Roadblock in a desperate attempt to stay alive. But the main thing Rob and Amber would have done was all but guaranteed that they wouldn’t have been the final team eliminated from the Race. The Yield is tool to keep you in the Race. Not to win it.

Listen to Amber. She clearly has strong deductive reasoning skills.

What Kind of Bullshittery is This?

Alright, I’ve delayed talking about this long enough: it’s time to skip to the end.

They pulled back a freaking plane. The gate was closed. The walkway had already moved. The Race was over.

I mean, come on.

It will not surprise you to learn that this moment has inspired some conspiracy theories. And frankly, I get it. That plane was seconds away from taxiing away. Can you imagine getting that level of service from an airline? Particularly when they’ve ALREADY got your money (Uchenna & Joyce actually never bought tickets to the flight they got on; the airline accepted the tickets they had for the next flight). The thinking behind the conspiracy isn’t that CBS or Jerry Bruckheimer Television wanted Uchenna & Joyce to win (or Romber not to win), but that they wanted a competitive final act to their season. And… that’s definitely plausible right? I have no trouble believing that if production could, they would do everything possible to ensure a competitive finish (for example, refer to every other element of the finale).

However, I also don’t believe that a low-rated reality show has enough power to make an airline pull back a flight in Puerto Rico in a matter of minutes. So, it probably wasn’t a conspiracy. Just crazy, crazy luck. Possibly in part inspired by the fact that Uchenna & Joyce had a TV crew with them (thereby  making the people working the gate to want to seem more helpful). In fact, I actually do think there WAS a control put in place to ensure a closer finish… but Rob & Amber broke it.

I listened to the DVD commentary for this scene, and apparently the teams were told to buy their tickets from a specific ticketing counter (which is a thing that happens frequently – if you see a Race marker flag at a counter at the airport, it’s been reserved for the Race). And the woman who worked that counter WOULD NOT sell tickets to the earlier flight to Rob & Amber OR Uchenna & Joyce. Rob & Amber followed the letter of that rule by buying tickets from her, and then proceeded to buy other tickets from someone else to get on the earlier flight. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that woman’s job was the funnel the teams (including Ron & Kelly) unto the same later flight. Although… if you want to continue the conspiracy, apparently that woman was ALSO at the gate when the earlier flight was closed (according to Uchenna & Joyce)… so maybe she DID get the flight pulled back after learning Rob & Amber had circumvented her. Holy shit. I may have just talked myself back into it.

Pretty poetic that this time Rob & Amber were the ones forced to see someone get on their flight at the last moment.

But frankly, the airplane drama isn’t even the most bullshit thing about the finale. Basically, all of it was. First off, they save their final NEL for the two-hour finale, making the first hour a pointless exercise. THEN they set up a final leg heavy on taxis, KNOWING that they’ll already have taken a team’s money away from them. THEN they re-bunch the teams after the onion chopping task and subsequent travel, making that pointless as well. THEN they make the entire Miami portion of the finals completely dependent on taxi luck. It’s been 12 years and it still frustrates the hell out of me what a terribly designed leg this was.

And what’s truly annoying is that practically everything that’s wrong with it could have been eliminated with one simple fix: give the teams cars to drive instead of making them take taxis. We would’ve been spared seeing Uchenna & Joyce helplessly beg throughout the final hour (when they discontinued the practice of stripping teams of money in season 10, I hope part of the thinking was “hey, remember that time our lovable black couple was forced to offer to dance a jig for money on TV? That was uncomfortable, right?”), and the teams would have had to actually solve the final clue that contained the season’s only riddle. Plus, you know, navigating the world is a big part of the skill of The Amazing Race, and this finale did its best to eliminate that (the one time they did have them drive, it lead to one of the only moments that actually mattered: Ron & Kelly missing a shot at the earlier flight because of a wrong turn).

And way to choose the wrong toll booth lane, RON.

So back in the day when the Romber Wars were fought on TWoP, the haters waited all season long to pounce on a chance to explain how Rob actually sucks at competing. And you can bet your ass that they weren’t going let them losing by a miracle stop them from jumping at this opportunity. So the thing they held their hats on was that Rob & Amber were too stupid to solve the riddle that OF COURSE they should’ve been looking for a Spanish-named store in Little Havana. HE’S SO STUPID! That’s why he lost. Planes come back after the jetway is pulled back all the time.

Except… that Rob & Amber were the only team that we saw actually solve the riddle (we have no idea how Ron & Kelly found the shop, or if they were just sent to the final pit stop). It took them a long ass time, but they finally saw the sign of the store and clued in. Uchenna & Joyce, on the other hand, just happened to have a taxi driver who was more comfortable speaking Spanish than English, who happened to ask someone who also spoke Spanish (which isn’t an unusual circumstance given where they were, but still a matter of luck). Their cab driver translated HIS question for directions into Spanish, not because anyone figured out the riddle, but because that was his language of choice.

The italics denote that the question is being asked in Spanish by someone who did not win a million dollars this season. In fact, he was stiffed $5 from his fare and a tip.

The entire finale came down to two things and two things only: who got on what flight (and its possible it was never supposed to come down to that either) and who got what cab. You can’t even give U&J credit for beating Romber to the cab: they got theirs second (7 minutes after Romber, according to commentary). Just plain ol’ cab luck. Now of course, cab luck is a big part of The Amazing Race (just ask Lynn & Alex), but you don’t have to make it the dominant feature of your final act. Make the racers race rather than passively sit back and hope.

And, once again because it needs to be said, don’t make people you’ve recently stripped of money take a 30 minute cab ride. I don’t need dramatic begging in my competitive TV shows.

But at least we got a lecture from a guy whose vote was definitely driven by “economic anxiety”.

May the Best Team Win?

Gotta preface this, as I regularly do with Survivor, with the obvious: the team that deserves to win The Amazing Race is the team that wins The Amazing Race. Only even more so, as a result doesn’t get more objective than “be the team that crosses the final finish line first”. Moreover, the Race isn’t even one big race. It’s a series of 12 single elimination races (three of which aren’t even elimination-based), culminating in one final winner-takes-all race. Uchenna & Joyce won that final race. They are the winners. That’s all that really matters.

Ball game. Scoreboard.

But if we want to talk about who was the best team, I think we can extend that past “who won the final leg”. It’s why I’m not really a fan of single elimination formats in sports. It’s the way that it has to be in football due to the violent nature of the sport, but despite the excitement, I don’t really care for it with NCAA basketball. Because I prefer it when champions are the best their sport has to offer. And the question of who is the best is best proven over a series of contests, not just one. And when you look at the season as a whole, I think it’s pretty clear that Rob & Amber were this season’s best team, and I’m confident that it’s not just my homerism that makes me think that.

Let’s look at the stats. If you count the results from the end of 8th episode (which wasn’t officially a leg, but had all the hallmarks of a leg thus making it useful for comparative purposes), Rob & Amber greeted Phil as the first team 5 out of 13 times, with an average finishing position of 2.3, and were the only team in the entire Race to never come in last. Uchenna & Joyce came in first three times, for an average of 3.15, and of course came in last that one time due to a flat tire. Ron & Kelly came in first twice, for an average finish of 3.07, while coming in last twice.

If you want an even better picture of their average performance, take away each team’s worst and best leg (i.e., one of each team’s first place finishes, along with Romber at the meat block, and U&J and R&K’s first leg). The average finishing positions then become 2.18 for R&A, 2.9 for U&J, and 2.64 for R&K. It’s pretty clear that throughout the entire Race, Rob & Amber were the best team. In fact, it’s fair to question whether or not Uchenna & Joyce were even the second best team.


Final Impressions

Meredith & Gretchen

The oldest team ever to make the final four, Meredith & Gretchen were inspiring for their persever… waitasec DID THEY REALLY CHOOSE THE MOST PHYSICAL TASK AGAIN?!?

You know they did!

It was so befuddling that it forced me to try and make sense of it. Then, when juxtaposed with what they had done in the earlier episode, it hit me: as much as a physical task should be difficult for older competitors, maybe the thinking ones were worse. Maybe the stress of the Race addled the brain more than it tired the body, so they chose the tasks that they could at least bear down and finish at their pace over the ones that would require them to be focused. Think of how difficult it is for them to find the clue box in Turkey and it begins to make sense. Sure, the physical tasks were going to be hard, but they probably wouldn’t kill them (note: it almost killed them).

That said, if you’re competing with Uchenna & Joyce to stay alive in the Race, maybe don’t choose the same Detour as them. Even if you think you might be able to do the boats, you have to realize that you’re not going to do it faster than Uchenna. Especially since he’s not allowed to help you (no matter how badly he wants to).

Ron & Kelly

So… that was uncomfortable, right? We got to watch a couple break up in real time, but were still forced to be together afterward and talk about it on camera. And most uncomfortably, at the finish line. Think of any breakup you’ve ever had. Now think about what it would be like to still be with them 24/7, always within camera shot from one another. Shit like that might be so uncomfortable that it would make you say something insane like “you got out of your army commitment by being a P.O.W.”

Team Blue, indeed

And also, fuck you Ron. Fuck you for acting like respecting someone’s feeling is wimpy girl shit. Fuck you for “teaching a woman how to drive”. And fuck you for getting captured.

Ahhhhh… shit. I went too far, didn’t I? Stupid girly emotions.

Rob & Amber

This is going to shock you but… I’ve run out of things to say about Rob & Amber. I know. I can’t believe it either. Instead, I’m interested in what you have to say. This whole rewatch came about because I wrote this a month ago:

I think a key to being a Boston Rob fan is having seen him both on Survivor AND The Amazing Race. Because it was his appearance on the latter that clinched my high opinion of him. I hadn’t watched the show before and was blown away by how his ingenuity, creative athleticism, and devil-may-care attitude allowed him to dominate there as well. Plus, having Amber with him full-time really helps take the edge off his domineering personality. Their relationship (despite what many a hater believed at the time) is legit and charming.

So now that you’ve seen it, or rewatched it, what do you think? Did your opinion of Rob and Amber change? Do you see what I’ve been getting at?


Uchenna & Joyce

Obviously, these posts exist because of Rob & Amber’s success in this season. This is a Survivor website after all. But besides them, the next thing I was excited to experience again was Uchenna & Joyce. I remember really liking them and thinking that if Romber couldn’t win (something that became obvious wasn’t going to happen once Lynn & Alex mentioned in their exit interviews that they were very pleased with the outcome of the season), I’d be pretty happy with Uchenna & Joyce doing so (although, frankly, that isn’t saying much given the other options).

So I gotta say, I was kind of surprised by how little they interested me the second time around. They’re still a very sweet couple, with a fun enthusiasm for the adventure they’re on, who frequently beasted tasks (Uchenna more than Joyce, but she did her share). But… they weren’t particularly impressive at all. I feel like I’ve been short-changing them with every write-up (and encourage anyone who has more to say about them to fill in the gaps I’m leaving in comments), but there’s never been much to say about them other than “they seem nice”.

They really do though. Which I’m sure had nothing at all to do with a winner’s edit.

At least this episode showed the first bit of creative thinking from them after Rob goaded them into it. And, to be frank, they didn’t NEED to be creative thinkers to win. Keeping their heads down, focusing on the task at hand, and staying alive to keep competing was exactly what they needed to do. But once you remove the drama of who is going to win (as a re-watch does necessarily), there’s not much more to get excited about with them. They remind me of a standard issue, good natured competitor on Survivor who is good at challenges and/or camp life. Which is exactly the type of player we tend to ignore in our analysis, because there isn’t much else to say other than what’s on screen. They are the Woo of this season.

I will say, back in the day in the Good vs Evil struggle that was the debate about Romber vs everyone, Uchenna scored a lot of points on the boards over two actions in these episodes: trying to help Meredith & Gretchen push their boat and insisting on paying the cab driver rather than going to the finish mat to win the Race. Watching them this time, my reaction to the boat pushing was “oh fuck off Saint Uchenna”.

Playing games to win is the devil’s work.

Like, it genuinely offended me that he did it. You’re competing to stay in the Race at the final elimination leg. Meredith & Gretchen didn’t flip their car over or some shit. They’re doing a physical task that they had every option to not do. The other two teams were on an earlier flight. Cut the shit and beat them in a game show, Uchenna. Moreover, read your fucking clue that tells you that teams aren’t allowed to get help.

As for the cabbie, Uchenna & Joyce weren’t trying to pay him out of the goodness of their hearts. THEY HAD TO DO IT. If they had skipped ahead to the mat, Phil would’ve sent their asses back for failing to complete their task. A rule of The Amazing Race is that you’re not allowed to break any laws while racing. Stealing a cab ride is against the law. You either have to pay them everything they’re owed, or negotiate a price they will accept (which ultimately the dude did for $5 less because waiting around there was also costing him money). In fact, a way that some teams have been able to manage cab fares has been to pre-negotiate a price instead of relying on the meter. I’ve even heard that you can negotiate a per-person price to force the camera and sound person to pay their share (as they would in any other mode of travel). So no extra credit for obeying the law and the rules of the game, please.

That’ll teach you for going above and beyond.

But still, good for them. Can you imagine how much worse it would have been if Ron & Kelly had won? Yeesh.

The Finish Line

And that’s all folks. I’m interested in hearing what you thought of this little experiment, both in taking a little Survivor break and slightly expanding the mission statement of the site, and also my style of SUPER long write-ups. Not sure we’ll ever do either again, but feedback is always appreciated.

You’re now free to discuss anything involving this season without spoiler warnings. However, if you want to discuss the events of any other Amazing Race seasons, including the other one featuring Rob & Amber, I ask that you DO put those between spoiler tags:

Bonus Coverage

It’s happening y’all:

Purple Rock Emma and I are going to watch Rob & Amber Get Married and share our thoughts with you next week. Be there.

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Co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast and the Canadian of the group, Andy has been watching Survivor continuously since the very beginning and likes to treat that as some kind of virtue to lord over others.

Favourite seasons: Heroes vs Villains, Cook Islands, Palau, The Amazon, Cagayan
Favourite players: Boston Rob, Kim Spradlin, Tony Vlachos, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Rob Cesternino
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119 thoughts on “Purple Rock Watch-Along: The Amazing Race 7 Episodes 10-12

  1. Didn’t have time to actually watch unfortunately but the write ups were a nice trip down memory lane. I have to say it was a great season overall. Like you, it was enough to get me to watch the Race again for years afterwards.

    As much as I am a big Rob fan I take just as much joy in his comeuppances as I do in his victories because they’re great “TV character” moments. That kerfuffle over the earlier flight was a delightful bit. Too smart for his own good sometimes.

    Also while I do agree that they were the best team I was actually hoping they didn’t win. Maybe because I felt they came in with an unfair “celebrity” advantage? Maybe because I knew they were already sitting on a cool million back home? Maybe I was just looking for a feel good TV story in U&J? Does that make me as bad as Lynn & Alex? All good questions. But who cares.

    That being said I was sad when it was over because I was pretty sure this was the end of the road for Romber on TV, I figured they had stretched their fame out just about as much as they could before backlash pushed them out, and that with the wedding they would sail off into the sunset and we’d never see them again. Yeah we all know how THAT played out…

    Also this: A video I accidentally stumbled on while reading up on this season, prompted by your rewatch. This fits squarely in the “Rob and Amber are just SUCH big jerks” category:

    (or I guess in this case “Ron and Amber” but who’s reviewing copy at a major news network anyway?)

    1. Oh, it’s perfectly fine to have different reasons to cheer for people. I personally don’t give a shit about who wins the money in these shows, just like I don’t get excited for the winning team in sports getting a bigger cheque. But that’s just me. It’s not necessarily the superior way to view it.

      1. Yeah I’ve always been the type to have a horse or two to back on a show like this or Survivor while it’s on but usually once it’s over I can put it aside and look at it objectively. It’s not like I riot if they don’t make it or anything. I honestly think it’s because I picked Tina in a pool after the second episode of AO so my first Survivor viewing experience was tied to wanting someone to win. I think it would be really hard for me to watch a season without backing somebody. WA was a miserable viewing experience for me because I had a hard time getting behind ANYBODY towards the end.

        1. Whereas I avoid even playing in our fantasy games because I don’t want my opinions and interest driven by anything other than “I want the best, most interesting player/team to win”. I may be weird in this respect.

          EDIT: However, my rooting interests are often ALSO influenced by “I don’t want this person to win because I want certain other people to be wrong”. Which is wicked petty.

          1. You’re still backing someone in a way though, right? You’re just changing as the season goes on?

            I’ve never been the type to stick with one person all season that I root for. I might start to get invested in a different person as the season goes on, particularly if I see good strategic moves, but I admit to being a sucker for a good story/edit too even if they’re not the most strategic player…

            Honestly I’m looking forward to the podcast this season to hear how you guys do this thing, I jumped in very late in the game during Game Changers so I haven’t had the full experience yet.

          2. You’re still backing someone in a way though, right? You’re just changing as the season goes on?

            Absolutely. But it’s generally subject to change. I’m a horrible frontrunner.

        2. I really need someone to root for to enjoy a show, and not just reality competitions. I can’t get into Breaking Bad because there aren’t any characters I want good things for.

          1. TBF I did not watch much and don’t remember who that is, but I did not experience feelings of caring about anyone soon enough to suck me in.

          2. Yeah if you don’t remember who Jesse is, you clearly didn’t watch much. He’s the biggest character after Walt (though wasn’t originally meant to be).

  2. I really, really hated that finale. My God, it was some bullshit. The bunching at the ranch is what really got me. I mean, come on. You aren’t going to create a photo finish no matter what you do. Its the last leg, let the teams race and if one gets way out in front and kicks ass, let it happen. Ugh. I also really thought there should have at least been another challenge of some kind in Miami. I distinctly remember a challenge (possibly from TAR Canada) where the very last thing they do before leaving for the last pit stop was put pictures of everywhere they’ve been on a map. That kind of challenge should happen AFTER a last flight, especially if you are going to bunch them at the airport.

    I’m with you on Yield strategy. I was screaming at Romber to Yield U&J. Though I’m not sure I agree entirely with your reasoning. My thought was this: knock them out of the race if you can. You aren’t going to take out R&K and you know that they’re just going to bunch you again next leg. So its not so much about not finishing last in this case, its about taking out a competitive team and keeping M&G around for the finale.

    This was a fun experiment to get us talking about other reality shows, which we kind of do anyway. I certainly agree this season is vital to understanding BRob, and was probably more so for pre-HvV Rob, seeing him as a gamer, not a prick. Fully support the lengthy write-ups. If we wanted to do it again, we could do whatever season got the Twinnies cast for SJDS.

    Also, fuck Lynn and Alex. I can’t remember which one of them made the “you’re good people” remark to U&J at the finish line, but it was obnoxious.

    1. Lynn and Alex were horrible people. The finish line was so sour grapes about Rob and Amber that it would have been hilarious to see them finish first.

      1. They’ve done several picture /order you visited places/leg placement tasks as the final task in recent seasons.

    2. I’d rather see less artificial bunching and more movie magic to create suspense. I’d be OK with fucking with the timeline more as we get close to the finish line, showing everyone working on the same thing with no regard for when it’s happening, and then doing some Genius-like reveals when we see the winners. Each team running toward the finish, Phil’s face, and here are the winners! Oh look, here’s where the other teams actually are at the moment.

      1. The one issue with that is the sun. Hard to match teams doing tasks during the day with teams doing the same task at night.

        1. Ohhh very true, very true. I guess you could try to game the timing for maximum daylight, but yeah that would limit the timeline manipulation.

      2. Exactly. I get what Andy is saying below but you could certainly play with it to keep suspense up. I mean, I think they did here to an extent even, I feel like Romber were a bit further behind than we are lead to believe. But even if they can’t, they can still play with suspense a bit with “challenge struggles” and the like. But sometimes you lose and a team gets way out ahead and, to me, that’s okay

      3. They’ve done exactly that in the final legs on recent seasons, but the angle of the shadows gives it away.

        ETA: Dammit, I really should read threads all the way to the end before commenting.

      4. This is what I was thinking too – the teams don’t actually have to be that close for the editing to make it suspenseful. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if they’d bunched them a bit on the way to Miami and then had them do a series of challenges. That way they can always use the magic of editing to obscure exactly how far apart the teams were. When they’re at the airport we always see exactly when each flight leaves so we know that X team leaves at 9 and Y team leaves at 10, for example, but there’s a lot more flexibility when they’re running around one city all day.

  3. I am fairly certain that in the seasons I was a committed Race-watcher (1-15 or so), they never allowed the teams to drive in the final episode, and certainly not in the final city. There’s just too much incentive for unsafe behavior and lawbreaking at that point, and some mix of taxi and public transportation (Season 1, I’m looking at you!) is ideal.

    As for the bullshittery of the airport gate, I’m on Team Linda Holmes: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and I absolutely don’t believe that anybody at the show ever favors one team over another — I just don’t believe it, and I’ve never heard a convincing argument for why they’d do it. But a convincing argument in favor of intervening to avoid a team winning by an hour? Yeah, that’s very easy to come up with. Do I believe producers have the ability to fix this kind of thing? No. Do I believe they have the ability to pull strings with American Airlines? Probably not. Do I believe that it would have? Oh, my, yes. I don’t think the show favors teams over other teams, but I do believe it favors two-team finishes over one-team finishes, which is why the insistent bunching appears over and over and over again throughout the final leg. There is no way they want a one-team finish where nobody’s within an hour of the lead team, and I believe that all possible efforts would have been made to avoid it. We’ll never know. But it’s highly suspicious to me, and it certainly is the biggest and unlikeliest single stroke of luck of the entire race. “

    1. Yeah, I tend to agree with you and Linda. Would they? Possibly. Did they here? I don’t think so. I think Andy’s right, the airline basically did it because there were cameras there and they thought it might make them look good to do it (or look bad if they didn’t)

      1. I just watched an earlier season in a different country where they absolutely refused to do the same thing. Perhaps being in an American country truly helped in this instance.

    2. I considered the safety issues of not wanting them to drive when they’re so close to the end… except that they DID let them drive in Puerto Rico to the airport. So I’m not sure I see much of a difference. In fact, in the commentary, Uchenna & Joyce said that their producer kept telling them that they had to go the speed limit, so controls do exist (they were wondering how Rob & Amber caught up to them if they had to go the speed limit, until Rob pointed out that it was mostly just lane choice).

      1. Except I have very distinct memories of Colin and Christie in TAR5 specifically requesting the fasted town car driver in all of Dallas for that finale and demanding that he completely floor the pedal as much as possible.

        1. Which kinda shows that having them not drive doesn’t necessarily guarantee “safer”. Maybe it cuts down their liability?

          1. I just watched a season where a team was speeding and flipped their car 360 degrees. Thankfully they weren’t killed and continued to drive on minutes afterwards. This was before this season so I suspect controls got more and more tightened as the years went by.

    3. Oh that’s a good point about unsafe driving. I kind of worry about that in all the legs where they drive, and also all the legs where they shout “rapido! rapido!” at their cab drivers, but I suppose driving yourself at the very end would be the worst.

  4. So I guess I didn’t do a summary of the season as a whole, since I was spent after 3800 words. Basically, I still really like this season, which shows what a fun show this can be. But I’m not sure it was ever this fun again, which may be as much about it being my first time seeing it as Romber being in it.

        1. Yeah in all honesty I never enjoyed the race more than I did this season. The winners of that All Stars season were not my favorite team in the slightest…

        2. The TAR All-Stars (S11) is probably the best returnee edition of any RTV show. Aside from the newly-created team, all other teams deserved their spot (even if fans had other first-picks). It also fun rivalry storylines and epic conclusion to Romber’s time on TAR.

    1. I think Boston Rob and Amber are a huge reason why this season is fun. One of my issues with TAR was always that I’m not that invested in the people or the outcome. Other than a couple people this season I didn’t particularly like, I couldn’t care less who won. The only other pair that might have been that fun were the brothers.

    2. I love this season, but my opinion is definitely influenced by the Romber factor. I’d imagine a non-Survivor-fan probably wouldn’t think too highly of it since Romber eat up a lot of screen time, most of the other teams are uninteresting/annoying and the race route itself is wonky. On that last point: I normally don’t even notice the route one way or another, but man is it terrible this season. Way too much time in South America at the beginning, they barely spent any time in Europe and they never even went to East Asia. I’m sure they were trying to change things up after 6 seasons, but they technically didn’t even go ~around~ the world. They went as far east as India and then essentially turned around and went back.

      1. And I would say that the last two seasons’ routes before season 7 were FANTASTIC, so it did felt pretty jarring that we immediately got a not so good one after the previous ones. But still not as bad as season 8 route.

      2. Agreed. I can’t really speak to the full history of TAR, but there are approximately 1,000 ways to circumnavigate the globe while hitting some of the larger cultural geographies. My guess was that they were avoid some of the more ‘typical’ places they usually go, but in doing so made a kinda weird route.

  5. Alright, fine, I love Rob and Amber! I liked Rob on Marquesas and Heroes vs Villains, but found Romber’s romance boring to watch on All Stars and was just irritated on Redemption Island. I didn’t really think much of Amber, even though I found her likable. But they’re great. I didn’t really know who I wanted to win in the finale. Romber would have been good, Uchenna and Joyce are lovable, and I would have loved to see Ron and Kelly breaking up and winning at the same time.

    As for The Amazing Race in general, I’m not sure I’ll be watching again. I liked it more than I thought I would and it got me pretty excited at times, but it’s not really up my alley and there’s enough TV for me to watch without it. I might watch the season with the Twinnies at some point though.

    1. I basically stopped watching not because it wasn’t good anymore (although I do think it’s lost a few things that made it better), but simply because I had more things better than it to watch. But it’s a good show and a really fun competition. I’d love to be on it.

      1. I’d watched a few seasons before but lost interest because I find them more same-y than seasons of Survivor. I think it’s a show I’d like to watch a season of every five years.

        1. Yeah, after 10 seasons, I felt like I had seen all the show had to offer. So when it would pile on my DVR because other shows interested me more, I realized it was time to move on.

          The difference with Survivor is that the players control much of what happens on a season of Survivor, so they bring a lot of variety with them. The Race is the Race and after awhile, there isn’t much left other than hoping for charismatic personalities in the cast.

          1. And as we know from SJDS, it’s harder to cast good pairs.

            I do think they could probably get more creative with the tasks, and a little reduction in artificial bunching would probably be fun if a logistical nightmare, but they’ve got a reasonably fun if repetitive formula. And it looks like it would be the most fun CBS reality show to compete on.

          2. Seasons 26 and 29 paired up singletons, and the results were mostly fantastic. Of course there were some dreadfully mismatched teams, but on the whole you got teams where both persons were charismatic and good at the game. I imagine that’s in part because casting must have a stack of applications from pairs they only like one of.

          3. How awkward for the people who applied with their mom or their boyfriend or whatever and were cast alone! Maybe I’ll check out one of those seasons if I want to watch more TAR.

          4. There are some similarities between Survivor and TAR, but fundamentally they scratch different itches. I think I watch Survivor primarily for the gamesmanship, and on TAR that really exists only on the periphery of the game, if only because the teams are physically separated from each other most of the time. On the other hand I think I watch TAR primarily for the travel porn, and of course on Survivor that doesn’t exist at all except for B-roll between scenes and coming out of commercial.

            ETA: Also, I’m not nearly as outcome-oriented about TAR as I am about Survivor, because a) Survivor is chess and TAR is checkers, and b) TAR has unavoidable flaws as a game (the cabbie problem, the bunching problem, and in recent seasons the smartphone problem).

          5. Yes to the chess checkers comparison. I guess that makes Big Brother ‘Connect Four’
            I have a vague memory of a team in an early season nearly having a full day’s lead. It always seems a little lame when all the teams regroup on a plane, but without those constraints, I think the race would often end up with one or two teams impossibly far ahead.
            The biggest flaw to me is the cabbie problem, always seems unfair when a team loses because they got in the wrong cab.

          6. Big Brother is a more sophisticated game than Survivor, it just has worse casting. Big Brother is chess played by untrained children.

          7. In theory I like Big Brother, but there is just so much yelling. The other thing that bugs me is the confessionals during the challenge, “I need to win Power of Veto, so I can pull myself off the block” ad nauseam.

            Big Brother would probably be better if it wasnt on 5 days a week too.

          8. You’ve really hit on what I love (and it’s clear PRAndy doesn’t) about TAR. I love the unavoidable flaws because that is life at its most frustrating and watching people deal with the psychological toil of it allows for a level of catharsis that is deeply compelling.

            I’m constantly putting myself in their shoes and wondering what I would do and recognizing I would utterly suck at 95% of it. I also could only hope to be as supportive and caring as Uchenna and Joyce were with one another.

            My honey and I love watching even though we know we would be the worse since stress + travelling= our relationship kryptonite. I can only aspire to the level of joyful excitement of last year’s Team Fun, for instance.

          9. That’s an underrated aspect of what makes both TAR and Survivor so damn addicting–it’s so easy to imagine yourself on the show and wonder how you’d do. When I watch I’m constantly asking myself if I could pull off a blindside, jump 30 feet into the water without hesitating, win over a jury, etc. With TAR, at least, there’s plenty of real-life evidence that I be just terrible (flipping out when I’m late for a flight is my specialty).

            Speaking of Season 29, that has to be one of the strangest winner’s edits of all time, no?

          10. TAR has always looked the most doable to me. Mandatory rest periods with food and showers! Being stuck with a loved on and getting on each others’ nerves, but at least you’re not isolated with strangers who are out to get you. I don’t know if I’d be any good though — I’m a pretty chill traveler and I’m not sure I could gin up the level of panic you need to always go fast fast fast.

          11. I think TAR is the more doable to me too. There’s tons and tons of downtime in Survivor, of course, but you’re never physically comfortable and psychologically the game is never on pause. I think what would break me is that while I’m fairly strong I’m not much of an endurance athlete. There are plenty of physically difficult challenges on Survivor, but they’ve kind of backed off on the sheer endurance ones like the one where the two tribes chase each other around an oval track in the water. On the other hand, running around a city for an hour collecting stuff or climbing stairs for a hour would do me in.

          12. Imagining yourself on the show is a really fun part of TAR in particular for me. My roommate, who I sucked into watching this with me, and I spent a good half hour talking about who our ideal race partners would be (it would not be each other, our skill sets are too similar) and how we would do, what tasks we would be good at, etc.

          13. Definetely a type of winners that seems very rare. I think it just comes down to that since Brooke & Scott were butting heads so much, they couldn’t NOT show them, since a) it was impossible to cut these moments out, and b) they were GREAT moments. But I’m going to be a bit of a humble-brag right now, and say that I had them as one of the top contenders since the beginning of the season. There was no particular reasoning behind it though, it was mostly just gut, and I have to say that I’m very happy with them winning.

          14. I truly think the level of schadenfreude I reach watching people go through hellish personal scenarios means I’m a horrible human! I love pretending for even a second that I would be better at any of this than the contestants.

            Season 29: So much so that I completely forgot who won and just had to look it up! 😂😂😂

    2. Watching this made me appreciate Amber herself and what good partners they are even more. Perhaps not at the time, but with Rob’s two subsequent Survivor appearances I think All Stars Rob and Amber gets forgotten as one of the great effective duos whose skill balance each other.

      1. Amber had a lot of my favourite moments in this set of episodes. From her goofy Sherlock Holmes get up, to “I’m probably the only one who will enjoy it” with the three naked men clue, to her telling Rob “I’m just trying to make you happy on the Race. Then when we get back home, it’ll be time for you to make ME happy”. And, again, she was right about the Yield.

        1. YES I loved Amber’s enthusiasm for the naked men. Who were, frankly, disappointing when we got there.

      2. One thing I think Amber doesn’t get enough credit for is selling Lex and Kathy on keeping her in All Stars. Does it happen without, “You take care uh huh, Uh’ll take care uh you?” No. Does it happen without Amber making deals with them back at camp? Also no.

      3. I agree! She’s smart, she’s capable and people really seem to be drawn to her. I never totally thought she popped on Survivor, but she’s a sweetheart on TAR and I liked seeing Romber’s slightly more mature relationship better than watching their puppy love on Survivor.

        1. I think she comes across as really charming on the Race because she’s so obviously enjoying both the adventure and the competition. She might be too quiet to compete with the people who get cast on Survivor, but she can be pretty fun to watch.

    3. If you like Natalie, you are better off not watching their season of TAR. They were intensely annoying on that season.

      1. Yeah, but I thought maybe since I’m going into it already invested in Natalie I would have a different reaction.

  6. Bonus coverage: I watched the “Reliving the Race” featurette on the DVD and one thing REALLY bothered me. The did a segment on the car crash, as they would have to, and producer Bertram van Munster condemns Rob & Amber for their response.

    One the one hand, I condemned them for it, so I get it. On the other hand, the producers of this show are the LAST people who get to condemn them for it. Because you know who else’s actions reflected Rob’s attitude of “you don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but, c’mon… it’s still a competition”? THE PRODUCERS OF THIS FUCKING SHOW.

    They could’ve stopped the Race. Bertram and Elise Doganieri are on site throughout the entire Race communicating with production teams. But they didn’t. Their instinct was “the show must go on”. So they made the exact same call Rob did. They could have granted Alex & Lynn a time credit for stopping after the fact. But they didn’t. So spare me the sanctimony, Bertram. If Rob had this attitude, it’s in part because of the way you operate your show. Survivor would’ve stopped any challenge dead if something anywhere near that bad happened. You didn’t even re-bunch the teams the next day to give the brothers a chance.

    This hypocrisy was underlined by the featurette when the next segment was about Meredith & Gretchen, and they talk about how bad they felt about having to take away all their stuff as Gretchen is covered in blood before them. Because, you know, sure they felt bad for her as a person, but their creative decisions were more important than compassion.

    1. That bothered me so much even just watching the episode. They similarly skirt their responsibility and the reality of the situation when telling the U&J cab story. Look at them responsibly fixing their mistakes! the story says, while the show has created this whole situation and the cab driver is still getting ripped off.

    2. Right. I said it at the time, but if there was a real problem they would have and could have stopped the race. It was their call, not Rombers

      1. And further, think if you are Rob and Amber, super used to TV crews and producer decisions from 2 seasons of Survivor. They may have made the assumption that, IF this was a serious emergency situation the producers would have stopped filming. And since they hadn’t, things MUST be under control, and thus the race is still on, no need to stop. Not a great defense of Romber, but it makes it seem a little less unforgivable when you understand that they are both, by comparison, seasoned reality TV veterans.

  7. The breakup of Ron and Kelly was pretty awkward, but for my money the most awkward pairing on the show in the early seasons was Chuck and Millie (Dating – Virgins), and their trials and tribulations and how everything felt like some sort of innuendo whenever they said anything (“Feeling tight, Millie! Hot and tight!”).

    I enjoyed this as a fun off-season venture. Thanks, Andy!

    1. I remembered not liking Ron and Kelly but couldn’t remember why. I had totally forgotten about the whole awkward break-up on TV thing and now I remember why I didn’t like them. But its actually a lot her I don’t like, though he said some pretty cringy things

      1. Huh, I thought he was easily the worse of the two, although it’s hard to determine where they’re being awful as individuals, where it’s the toxicity of the relationship, and where it’s the stress of the race. But in general, as long as there aren’t children, I’m a pretty strong advocate for the Dan Savage DTMFA philosophy. Kelly in particular seemed trapped by the sunk-cost fallacy.

        1. Yeah, some of his comments indicated to me that there are more issues with him than were really seen on TV. But in terms of the show, from what I read, he seemed like a guy in over his head in a relationship he clearly was done with but was stuck with on a TV show, and made some biting remarks, where she was being intentionally cruel to him because she was mad about the breaking up

          1. Yeah, I he could have potentially had some serious PTSD from being a POW and all. Did they ever mention how long he had been back before going on the race?Couldn’t have been more than a couple years, if my thinking is correct. I’m sure being exhausted and having a constant adrenaline rush can’t have been good for his recovery either.

          2. I never even thought about that, but it certainly could not have been more than like 3 years. This season must have been 05/06 and Iraq started in 2003. It likely did have an impact on him

          3. (palm to forehead) I really hated how he kept framing getting married to Kelly as being trapped or in captivity (sometimes using those exact words), but OF COURSE he would frame it like that if he was having reservations.

          4. Yeeeah that was really revealing about how he felt about the relationship. Ron is saying he doesn’t want to get married yet because he wants to have adventures, all while they’re competing in a race around the world together. Meanwhile Rob and Amber are like LOOK AT THE ELEPHANTS WHEEEEEEEEEE!

  8. I am a huge Boston Rob fan, personally I think he is the greatest reality TV star of all time. On his 6 tours of duty, 4 Survivor 2 Races, his biggest mistake came at the Yield. If he Yielded Uchenna and Joyce, they get eliminated Meradith and Gretchen go to the finals. And in this season, each person could only do 6 Road Blocks which Rob and Amber encountered, Amber had to do both Road Blocks. Meradith used his 6 so Gretchen would of had to Limbo and jump off the structure into the water. This would of given Rob and Amber more time and both teams would of missed the early flight to Miami, giving them the victory. However if they win this season, theres a good chance Rob and Amber dont come back for TAR All-Stars, and Rob doesnt come back for Survivor Heroes vs. Villains, so i guess in the end it all works out

  9. In Gretchen’s defense, it wasn’t just a ladder, it was a rope ladder. They’re way harder! They wiggle!

    1. Oh, I wasn’t taking a crack at her for struggling on the ladder. It’s perfectly understandable. I’m just saying that it was basically the only challenging thing on that leg, and mostly just challenging for her.

  10. Yeah, why on earth didn’t they have them drive? They’re in the U.S., so there can’t be some country-specific reason, and they weren’t in a place where it created a cab-vs.-train dilemma. Jeez. I watched it pretty uncritically but now you’ve got me all mad.

    1. Or, if driving is verboten because liability issues, set it up so they have to take public transit or something. Anything but “take an expensive cab ride that will completely determine the outcome of our season”.

      1. Some cities are more designed for public transport than others. But there’s always going to be the issue that the final mat needs to be sufficiently remote to protect the secrecy of the results.

        1. Sure. So maybe avoid those cities. The remote finale thing often lead to frustrating finales for me as many end U.S. legs were rendered dull.

          1. I agree, but I think a good amount of that taxi-based randomness was alleviated once they started adding the comprehensive final tasks, though — put the flags/surfboards/animals in order, etc.

      2. The ‘expensive cab rides’ mess also made the outcome potentially upsetting to every kind of viewer. Most probably don’t want to watch U&J beg, but also, if U&J had lost because they couldn’t pay their cab, then all the Romber haters would have waved that around as the ‘only reason’ they lost. It just wasn’t a good setup to make the final leg entirely reliant upon money, then give 1 team none. Props to them for overcoming that though.

  11. Ron: The army wasn’t like this!
    Me, practically spitting at the screen: That’s because it’s a hierarchical organization whose goal is something other than to be personally fulfilling for everyone involved! Unlike a relationship! Good lord.

    1. And the thing is, it could’ve been a perfectly reasonable explanation for the disconnect, if he framed it as his own personal failing rather than Kelly’s.

      1. Oh you have a wedding stuff job? Like a lady in a rom com! I’m imagining it as either very glamorous or a stress nightmare.

  12. I thought messing with M&G and U&J was SOO stupid. The problem I had with it was that it didn’t have any real upside, and the slight upside that it DID have, could’ve been done with a much easier, and safer route. And I actually haven’t paid much attention to Rob’s yield decision when I watched, but I do agree that looking back, it wasn’t that great either.

    Overall, I really liked this season when I first watched, while it’s still before TAR3, TAR5, AND TAR29 in my rankings of the seasons that I’ve watched so far. And I did really enjoy Rob & Amber in this season. The may not be necessarily my all-time favourites, but they were a major reason why this season was as good as it was.

    And I really liked the coverage! I wouldn’t be at all opposed to having something similar down the road, maybe even with some other reality TV shows that there are.

    Ashley Underwood, we’re forever grateful for what you’ve brought to the game. We are not worthy of the joy you bring us.

    1. Rob plays this season in a very Tony way, making a hundred different moves and figuring out if they work later.

      1. And similar to Tony, he has the earned confidence of thinking he can dig his way out of the holes he digs for himself.

  13. I agree that the final leg is poorly designed, and it’s a shame because I love the last portion of the route they take starting more or less in London. I just thought after they left Istanbul there’s way too much flying and not enough time spent in each location. The fact that all they had to do in Miami was basically take a cab to the finish line was super lame for me. Given what we know about Romber’s particular skill sets, it would have been really fun to see them do the type of challenges they usually have in finales nowadays where they have to, like, put the mat greeters from each leg in the correct order or something.
    As a longtime watcher of TAR, I have to say that Uchenna and Joyce just being nice people still probably puts them in the top half (or even top third) of winners lol
    Watching U&J struggle to pay the cabbie stresses me the eff out. I haaaaate money troubles on the race. I’m really glad they stopped using money as a penalty for NELs, and it also seems like they just tend to make sure the teams have enough money for cabs, etc. In fact, some teams are smart enough to save their money so they can wave hundos at their cabbie in the final leg for incentive.
    Maybe I’m a terrible person, but I find Ron and Kelly’s season long arc to be hilarious! They start off seeming like your typical All American cute couple, then it quickly becomes clear that they hate each other, culminating with the breakup that happens well before the finish line. Good times.
    Fun fact: R&K were not even the first couple to break up on the race XD

    1. I would qualify U&J as a ‘narrative’ winner if putting it in Survivor terms. They are the winner where you describe their journey as a couple, how they were always positive and grew together and made personal sacrifices. They are not the team you describe as being ‘masterminds’ or running the game.

  14. Also, I thought the point about TAR being a series of self-contained mini-races was a really interesting one. Essentially the way to win is: never come in last, and make sure to come in first on the final leg. This is more akin to a talent-based competition reality show (like Top Chef or Project Runway) where the judges constantly remind us that they are only judging the current challenge and not making cumulative decisions.
    The social element and jury system by their very nature make Survivor cumulative, but there is still a self-contained element from week to week because once your torch is snuffed you lose, and it might have nothing to do with what you’ve done up to that point (see: Fields, Cirie). To me this added layer of complexity is the heart of why Survivor is the superior reality competition show.

    1. One of the great things about TAR being self-contained mini-races is that it makes each episode watchable as a standalone. Like, most of my TAR experience is watching random one off episodes when there is nothing else on. Which is something that is much harder to do than Survivor. (I know that’s unrelated to your point, but it struck me as I read your comment)

  15. A little behind, I was at a conference, then out of town over the weekend, and sick today.

    But, I agree with most of what you said Andy. The bunching was as frustrating as ever, and the more I read about it, the more frustrating the final episode feels. Plane flights and cabs decided the finale. The first half featured this long and elaborate cab ride through Jamaica which really didn’t matter at all, because it was non-elimination. And so much of the episode was uncomfortable, particularly given it was dominated by U&J begging for money and R&K entering the ultimate stage of their impending break up.

    In the end, I was clued in that Romber wouldn’t win, and thus wasn’t super excited about the very last leg. I’m not upset by U&J winning, and I’d rather them than a lot of others. Comparing to Survivor (that’s what we are always supposed to do right), this season feels very much like KR or Amazon or Marquesas to me. A lot of fun, interesting, and enjoyable stuff going on, that all culminates in the clear ‘best’ player losing out at the last hurdle. We can’t be too mad the U&J for winning, but they aren’t who we want, and so there is at least a bit of bitterness (though not as much in TAR as any season of Survivor).

    Overall, I enjoyed the watch-along a lot. Getting to talk and read about it made me more interested in watching the show and keeping up. And I think this is a great season for a watch-along because almost all the ‘boring’ teams lose early on. As annoying or uncomfortable some of the final teams may be, they certainly are very entertaining, which makes for a great season, if not a great final taste.

  16. Also, while I admire your defense of Meredith and Gretchen’s challenge choices, they clearly must be two of the work challenge picker’s in TAR history right? Every time Phil is describing the two challenges, you know M&G will pick whichever is least suited for them. Right down to the amazing: “who should climb this building? Oh, definitely the woman who already proved her climbing prowess by falling in a cave”

    1. To be fair to them, they were trying to save Meredith’s last Roadblock. Which he did terribly with the bus.

      1. Why are we being fair?

        I get their logic, but it was the result of poorer logic and/or (mostly or) lack of logic prior that put them in this position. Particularly in the previous handful of episodes. However, reviewing the detours and roadblocks, I will admit that their choices seem to deteriorate. Early on, they make generally smart decisions on which to do and who should do what.

        But later, particularly after they come in last on the NEL and lose their stuff, their choices become awful. Most of the time they seem to be following the leader and picking the same challenges as those directly in front of them. Which, if you are mentally exhausted, it’s probably easier to just have someone else pick and have someone nearby doing the same thing. Also, when they lose their money, maybe they were hoping that being around the others teams with nothing may inspire sympathy and they could get some help or bum a ride or something. But from a race perspective, they were never going to complete many of these challenges faster than others.

        I will give it to Gretchen, she did climb on top of that rolling elephant for no reason.

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