And then there were four. Eleven teams set off from Los Angeles, CA at the start of this 22nd season of The Amazing Race and now, ten episodes later, we’re down to eight remaining racers. I say this like it’s some remarkable new development, teams being sent home, but this season has felt especially long. Was it that extended batch of tropical episodes? Or maybe Chuck & Wynona being saved from elimination what felt like five times? “Good” or “bad” seasons are predicated almost entirely on casting, but while this one has fallen somewhere in the middle on that count, editorial decisions feel like they’ve contributed just as much to a disjointed run of episodes. There have been no…surprises. Finishes and eliminations have been totally predictable. Really, each episode has felt over by about the 30 minute mark.
I’d never suggest that Race is somehow “starting to show its age” or there’s no magic left in a very tried-and-true formula. It’s international travel! It will always be magical and exciting! Just maybe that there’s not much oomph left in this season, one stocked for two more weeks with some nice guys (Bates & Anthony) some cute girls (Caroline & Jennifer) some tough but forgettable moms (Mona & Beth) and a young couple that’s caustic, but only sort of (Max & Katie). Even Meghan and Joey’s shtick, so grating in early episodes, eventually subsided into mild whimpering and a stray “yay!” or two. There is no one to love or hate!
Last night’s leg moved in predictable beats across Edinburgh, Scotland, where teams 1) played bagpipes 2) rolled barrels of whiskey and 3) prepared haggis, all in the name of cultural awareness. It should be said, though, that flights out of Berlin really set the stage for the competitive breakdown to follow. Hockey players, singers, and newlyweds all made it out on a 6:45am flight; Roller Derby and YouTube were left to struggle with a 2 hour delay, all but insuring they’d both land on the U-Turn board. And they did! True to their promise, the top three teams left each other alone and concentrated their U-Turn firepower on the two stragglers.
By the time Mona & Beth and Meghan & Joey even got to the U-Turn board to see their sad faces staring back, they were already at least a few hours behind the other teams. All they could do, really, was attempt to eke out a small lead in their last Detour: pushing eight big whiskey barrels up a cobblestone street. So brute strength is what it came down to, and brute strength is what Mona & Beth definitely had over their comparably weak competitors. In all likelihood, Meghan and Joey would have finished last regardless of the final challenge of the day. Meghan struggled through the bagpipe Road Block, for starters, and the way they were moving through the haggis challenge — just slowly, without the urgency needed throughout the race but especially this late in the game. Editing tried to suggest it would be a race to the Pit Stop, but we’re educated viewers. We knew how things would end.
What else can we talk about? Caroline and Jennifer had a ball cracking double entendres during the bagpipe challenge. Caroline, on Jennifer’s professional advantage: “she’s a singer, so she knows how to blow.” Jennifer, on the importance of moisturizing: “my lips are so dry I can’t keep them wrapped around this thing.” Jennifer, en route to the haggis challenge: “I blew something hard all day; now let’s just eat it.” And so on, each That’s What She Said more overt than the last. A man imitating 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns hung out at the haggis road block to recite some verse, which offered a deep well of translation problems. A man dressed as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde awaited teams at the Pit Stop. No man dressed as Sean Connery — or even just Sean Connery — showed up, but then we can’t have everything.
All in all: it was an episode of The Amazing Race. Two more to go! Here’s hoping the producers kick things up as we near the finish line.
Follow Henning on Twitter @HenningFog