The (Un)Amazing Race

From teams acting like schoolyard bullies (and then playing the victim in the same breath), to forming alliances and the easily predictable outcomes. This has been the worst season of The Amazing Race in its 32-season history.

The CBS reality show featured the usual bunch of two-person teams racing around the world for a $1 million prize. Along the way stood the familiar slew of challenges for the teams to complete at each destination in order to move on in the race. Nothing really out of the ordinary in that regard.

However, something was different with this season. The show’s 32nd iteration brought the idea of alliances to the forefront and it was frustratingly dominated by it. Each episode becoming more and more monotonous as the alliance members openly picked on a new team outside of their regime to eliminate. Even when it made no sense to do so.

The monotony turned to infuriation when three teams in the weirdly-named “Mine Five” alliance broke apart to form a new alliance that I call “Easy Way Out.” The infuriation hit a fever pitch during the final challenge on Wednesday’s episode and it could very well change the show moving forward.

Teams were tasked to listen to a series of songs played by a rock band, with each song having made an appearance in a previous leg of the race. Teams then had to correctly identify which country the song came from and put band gear cases with corresponding flags in order of the legs in the race the songs appeared in. This was certainly no small task for any team and each struggled mightily, at first.

But then, the “Easy Way Out” alliance chose to gang up on the odd team out – who had been in the previous alliance – by working together on the challenge to get the team eliminated. And I’m not just talking about giving little hints here and there. I mean, a full fledged, systematic effort. Down to the first team to complete the challenge running to the others to give them the answer as the fourth team continued completing the challenge the right way. Surprising to absolutely no one, it worked, and the fourth team – as well as numerous TAR fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouths.

The concept of an alliance is not new on shows like Survivor and Big Brother. But save it for those shows. TAR is supposed to be a competition to see how well team members can work with each other. Not with other teams. What I witnessed in this episode went beyond that. It was bending the rules at best, cheating at worst.

Let’s not kid ourselves. This was allowed by the producers for ratings as well as to generate clicks and views on social media. I mean, it led me to write this blog post, didn’t it? But it makes zero sense to penalize teams when a teammate helps his or her counterpart during a Roadblock and not with what happened on Wednesday’s episode. How is it any different?

The bottom line is it’s truly sad that the producers let a once-brilliant show go down the drain this season, for the sake of ratings. I, for one, will not watch the finale next Wednesday nor future seasons of the show if alliances are going to be the norm.

A member of a team that dictated the course of the entire season defended his team’s actions on Twitter, saying that TAR is a “G-A-M-E.” No, it’s a R-A-C-E. Act like it and don’t take the easy way out to reach your desired outcome.

Photo Courtesy: AJ Colores via Unsplash

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