Time to talk about three episodes of The Amazing Race season 7. And a grand total of one elimination.
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.
Remember when these used to be a thing? They weren’t that much on The Amazing Race, as this was only the second (and final) recap episode in series history. But they very much were a thing on Survivor, and network television in general. What an odd relic of a time when “we have this spot in our TV line-up to fill, so slap together some content” was a thing. For you kids today, the recap episode is the aggregated blog post of a bygone era.
I didn’t mind this one, particularly from a nostalgia standpoint, as it gave us about 40% new content to get to know these teams and a bit more detail on how the Race works. Probably most revealing was how teams will beg for money basically always, so it’s not just when they’ve been penalized by the show. Most fun was when Rob & Amber stumbled upon a magazine with themselves on the cover while in Africa (which serves as a reminder of a time when Survivor was a much bigger deal than it is now, culturally. Frankly, this was probably the last moment of that era).
Welcome to India
Last week, I wrote about how Killer Fatigue will get to teams throughout the Race. India is where the show MAKES it happen. In a country of over a billion people, the cities of India can be an assault on the senses for normal travellers (in ways both positive and negative). So imagine what it would do to people competing on a race for television.
Think of what this leg put the teams through: it took over a day to get to Lucknow from Botswana, with a long layover in Mumbai. Once there, they had to hustle to the Roadblock with the fear of the Yield in play. The Roadblock was a needle in the haystack task, which is mostly about luck and can get very frustrating as time passes (especially since the task gets progressively harder as more clues are found). The show goosed this frustration by having dudes randomly bang on metal in the background while they hunted for the clue.
The Detour was a frustrating visit through a Kafka-esque office building. The teams get through all of that just for the show to fuck with them with a non-pit stop and instructions to keep racing. Sending them to a train station that will bunch them all for the night, making everything that came before it meaningless other than the stress endured.
The train ride takes 24 hours, and they make sure to randomly wake them up at 1:00 in the morning to give them instructions. The Detour is a manic race down a busy street pushing a heavy object. The Roadblock involves unruly animals. The entire leg involved three cities (not including the stopover), two continents, and probably took at least three days to complete. This was brutal, but in the end, it all came down to a taxi going to the wrong palace.
Uchenna & Joyce
While I await an opportunity to say more about Uchenna & Joyce than “they seem nice”, allow me to go into greater depth about how nice they seem. Because this was the section of the season when most people went from “I like them” to “they are the most lovely couple ever and I hope they win”.
All credit to Joyce for not dithering around and just jumping into her decision to consent to having her head shaved. To be clear, dithering would have been understandable. I’m guessing had Rob & Amber gone for the Fast Forward and learned what it was, they may have been eliminated from the Race rather than being bald for their wedding on network TV. But she made her choice, and dove into it, and then allowed herself to feel the regret as it was happening.
Uchenna gets all the partner points for supporting her throughout, recognizing that she’s the only one taking this for the team. Can you imagine if Ray was in this situation? (Luckily, he never could have been, since they already had used a FFW, but still). This was about her, and he recognized it and was there for her and… goddammit, that shows how good he would have been in the delivery room and now I wish I hadn’t thought of that and I’m really fucking bummed right now.
So, yeah… maybe there ISN’T much else to Uchenna & Joyce other than “they seem nice”, but they seem REALLY, REALLY nice, don’t they?
Ron & Kelly
You know, for a leg designed to break people, was this Ron & Kelly’s most functional leg yet? They stayed in second place the whole way and didn’t fight significantly (mostly just about a transportation decision). Interestingly, this was also the leg when they broke away from the bitter Bettys of the season and hung out with Rob & Amber. Although, I think it may have had more to do with getting to hang out with people that weren’t just each other that probably helped them more than Rob & Amber specifically did.
Rob & Amber
Another leg, another example of how Romber are easily the best, most interesting team out there. Admittedly, I am pretty biased, so feel free to challenge me on that and be wrong.
Sure, they finished in third place once everything was over (behind Ron & Kelly by a second and Uchenna & Joyce due to the Fast Forward), but they outmanoeuvred Lynn & Alex coming out of Africa, stayed ahead throughout the first half of the leg only to be sent away by Phil at the non-Pit Stop, and stayed comfortably ahead of Lynn & Alex and Meredith & Gretchen due to Rob arranging a guide while other teams were resting over night. Everybody makes mistakes on the Race, but these two minimize mistakes by cooperating with each other, finding edges when they can, and, most importantly, carefully reading their clues.
For all the talk at the time about Rob & Amber bringing Survivor-type tactics to The Amazing Race or how much they benefit from their celebrity or whatever, it seems to me that they’re deploying tried-and-true techniques: work the travel arrangements, seek help from locals, support each other, and READ YOUR FREAKING CLUE. Frankly, I’d say their biggest advantage (besides just being really good at this shit) is that they’re already comfortable with the pressures of television. Which is an advantage that’s impossible to quantify, but could be genuine.
Meredith & Gretchen
What in the blue hell was Gretchen doing up on that freaking elephant? Sure, a guy in the crowd told her to do it, but… he wasn’t a Race official or anything. READ THE CLUE. Failing that, have a look at what the other teams are doing and get the fuck off of it. I get that it’s a race. I get that it can be stressful. Especially in India. But there’s time to take a breath and stop doing something actively harmful to one’s chances of competing. The time they would have lost by stopping and having her climb out of the elephant was probably less than the time it cost them by having to push more weight with one less person. But, hey, at least it gave us a chance to hear her scream at people.
So, again, I repeat my opinion that while I probably SHOULD give them some credit for being in their sixties and making the final four, it’s so hard to be impressed by a single thing they’ve done other than “not die” (and frankly, that one was touch and go a couple of times this season). These episodes marked the second time they reached Phil in last place only for it not to count. They leaned on Lynn & Alex to arrange all their transportation. They screw up the details, whether it’s climbing on elephants or bringing too many cups of tea up into the building (just like in past legs where they missed clue boxes – twice, followed Ray & Deana PAST the location of the clue they were supposed to be hunting for, or blindly searched the wrong pile of sand). But they’re still here. They’re the Mr. Magoo of The Amazing Race, blindly bumbling along while things hilariously fall into place to just barely keep them alive.
So, sure. Good on them for being out there and competing with people forty years their junior. That they can get up each day and keep it going is an achievement in its own right. But for me, Meredith & Gretchen’s ultimate contribution is to reveal just how much luck dictates outcomes on this show.
Caution: Yield Ahead
One of the best moments from these two episodes was Alex being utterly dumbfounded when Rob & Amber didn’t Yield them. It was The Amazing Race equivalent of this:
Now, the recap episode showed us that Rob actually DID want to Yield Lynn & Alex at one point in the Race, supposedly because he thought they were the biggest competition, but I’m guessing mostly because they annoyed him. But, it’s important to note he had two opportunities to do so, and each time decided they weren’t worth the trouble.
The other thing he did was provide a solid distraction to prevent Ron & Kelly from Yielding them. Except… I don’t believe that Ron & Kelly had any intention of doing so, nor should they have. I’ll talk more about optimal Yield strategy next week, but for now, I’ll just say that you’d need straight ice water in your veins to Yield someone to their face. Despite his bravado, I don’t believe for a second that Rob & Amber would’ve Yielded them if they’d arrived there seconds earlier.
Best Move of the Episodes
Rob using the downtime in Jodhpur to secure a guide for the next day. When watching, it was tough to say how much an advantage this gave him, as there didn’t seem to be a particular spot where Sanjay helped them more than normal. Except that R&A and R&K were ahead of Lynn & Alex and Meredith & Gretchen the entire time (with Uchenna & Joyce using the FFWD), and L&A were eliminated when their cabbie screwed up. So, it probably helped.
It’s also emblematic of the difference between Rob & Amber and every other team. He’s always looking for an edge, even during downtime. Which isn’t to take anything away from Lynn & Alex creating lifelong memories dancing with the locals in a wedding (a legit cool and joyous moment), but it shows what Rob brings to the Race and reality competition in general. And it didn’t seem like his celebrity had anything to do with it.
Runner-up: Joyce shaving her head was the moment of the episodes, but as far as moves go, it ultimately was just about sitting there. Also… they only finished two minutes ahead of Ron & Kelly and Rob & Amber. They are so bad at finding places.
Worst Move of the Episodes
Lynn & Alex’s continued insistence on helping Meredith & Gretchen and Uchenna & Joyce, to the detriment of their own Race. They’d have you believe this is because they’re people first, racers second, but I think L&A were trying to herd goats to the finale. Between that, alliance-making, and targeting of threats (first Romber, then R&K), I think it was actually L&A who brought Survivor-style tactics to the Race, only to find them ill-suited to the show. Because they were so determined to find a flight for themselves and their co-horts, they had to take the word of someone on the phone, unlike Rob who found the better flight by looking at the screen. Then, when they get to Lucknow, Lynn is trying to find cabs for he and Alex AND Meredith & Gretchen. Fuck that. Run your race.
Runner-up: Gretchen on that damned wooden elephant.
Lynn & Alex
First, some positives: throughout the entire Race, they were nothing but supportive of one another. Think of how Lynn gently encouraged Alex through the driving Roadblock compared to how Kelly and Gretchen hectored their men. They were also fairly good racers (when they weren’t being needlessly distracted) who had some incredibly bad luck throughout (broken boat, two broken cars, the cabbie).
With that out of the way, fuck these guys and good riddance. There must be something to the fact that several of Rob’s TV haters have proven themselves to be massive hypocrites. I’ve pointed out in past posts how that related to Lynn & Alex during the Race. Now let’s examine post-Race.
So Lynn & Alex, scourge of fame whores everywhere, defenders of the purity of those who get only one chance to be on TV, followed up The Amazing Race by getting married (yay!) in a ceremony sponsored by a Canadian Radio Station (so… nothing like Romber televising their wedding, right?). They regularly appeared on a Fox Reality Network show called Reality Remix to talk about TAR (while Romber had their own show on that network). They also appeared on a Dr. Phil episode to discuss problems in their relationship, which I’m sure was only for therapeutic purposes and not a desperate attempt to cling to any form of continued relevance.
Also, these fuckers basically spoiled the end of the season in their exit interviews. Fuck them.
Alright, it’s your turn to sound off on the episodes. As a reminder, we’re keeping these spoiler-free for people who may be watching for the first time. If you want to discuss future events, do so between spoiler tags:
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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