There are challenges on The Amazing Race, and then there are CHALLENGES: the kind so over-the-top in their design, so weird in practice, and so absolutely nottied to "local culture" despite Phil's protestations that you can't help but cheer and say YES, this is what competition-based reality programming should be.
Last night's leg featured precisely one of those challenges. And it needs a direct quote:
"Teams will don gumboots, put on a pair of shorts -- called stubbies -- and wear a burlap sack. After choosing a shepherd and his farm dog, teams must run an obstacle course covered in molasses and jumping through feathers collected in a 20-foot tube as they collect a series of eggs and slide into a manure pond filled with dogs."
I started paraphrasing toward the end. But still -- chicken feathers? Dog-filled manure ponds? BURLAP SACKS? This challenge had everything short of a keg stand at the end, and honestly that wouldn't have felt out of place. Keep your stick-shift driving challenges, van Munster, I never want to see anything again but the Shemozzle Race. Oh, by the way it's called the Shemozzle Race. New Zealand just doesn't care.
Much earlier in the episode, teams departed beautiful Bora Bora for beautiful Christchurch, NZ. Question: has anyone ever traveled to New Zealand and not commented, out loud, on the stunning majesty of nature all around them? (My guess is no, because I'm pretty sure this is actually illegal.) Anyway, drink every time someone gasps, sighs, or uses the word magnificent. Finish your beer every time someone makes a Lord of the Ringsreference. Are you in the hospital yet?
Cancer-beating Agents of Positivity Dave and Connor were forced to contend with maybe not the best news ever when they learned (at a Tahitian clinique) that Dad had torn his Achilles on the previous leg. And while it's easy to poke fun at the tears welling in Dave's eyes 10 seconds into every interview…these guys really toughed it out. Who before has ever finished a leg of the Race, let alone wonit, hobbling* on crutches? It's no bold claim to suggest they're probably not long for this Race. But on a season where three teams literally gave up on a challenge and at least two others threatened to do so, tenacity is all the more impressive and worth noting.
*or Capoiera fighting, as Dave appeared to be doing
Jessica and John spent a few minutes telling us all about their prospective "alliances" on the Race that would aim to "get other teams out" and all I can think is buddy -- you're on the wrong show. Not to suggest that "alliances" (a word that, come on, means nothing given this show's format) haven't been utilized or discussed in the past. Just that at the end of the day, who wins or loses so often comes down to factors well beyond any other team's control. Someone makes a bad call with connecting flights. Someone can't get it together in a Road Block. Someone lost their passport (YOU'RE STILL KILLING ME, ABBA!). I don't believe -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- that anyone has ever lost the race by someone else's hand. It's not that kind of show.
The Detour offered a choice between driving stick and fishing, and wouldn't you know it -- people hate fishing! I'd be hesitant myself to embark on a challenge that demanded your fish be a certain size. Chuck & Wynonna, naturally, did not let this stop them. Aided by "hillbillies at the square dance" music probably concocted by a friend of mine in Los Angeles, they quickly reeled theirs in.
Everyone else drove. And mostly not very well! Stickshift is hard (certainly I can't do it) and teams struggled to adjust to a setup they may have had little experience with before. Not to mention the cars they were driving, which offered a composite image of every stereotypical Eurasian countryside car you've ever seen and/or imagined. Bet that FORD FOCUS looks good now, huh, teams? "I just love New Zealand!" said Caroline. Drink!
Taking a break from the majesty of the New Zealand countryside (DRINK) for a second, I'd like to submit my pick for quote of the episode and maybe Sunday night, as I haven't yet watched Girls: "I'm 24, I have my doctorate and I'm a pharmacist, so I'm pretty much always right." That's Katie, new wife of Max and just all-around peach. To be fair she was commenting on Max driving them a ways from the Road Block location, but still -- if you're upset that Weekend Update hasn't featured "Girl You Wish You Hadn't Talked to at a Party" in a few weeks, there's an easy remedy in Katie. Keep shining, you beautiful diamond.
And then: TO BE CONTINUED. Again?! I'm no Racehistorian, but this two-parter business feels like a recent trend. Financial woes at the von Munster homestead? Trying to stretch a dollar as far as it will go? We know Dave and Connor won…but nothing else. And so we play a little game my parents called "The Waiting Game" and try our hardest not to pass out from holding our breaths.
Thoughts? Feelings? Sound off below!
[Image Credit: Robert Voets/CBS]