Let me say right off the bat that I love the Switchback. As a fan of the show and one who fondly remembers an unhealthy amount of trivia from the earlier races, I am all for bringing back some of the most memorable moments. Short of a true All-Stars (not the half-assed one done during Season 11 where most of the great teams from the past were not involved) it is the best way to achieve true Race nostalgia.
For those with a mind that doesn’t operate on obscure and useless pop culture trivia, the hay bale task was from the third episode of Season 6. It was when what could have been one of the strongest all-female teams – , the gorgeous Mormon sisters – arrived early at the Roadblock and about 10 hours later were eliminated on the course by Phil himself.
The task is simple. Unroll a very large and heavy hay bale – after ripping open the ties that bind it with your hands – and find the clue hidden inside. The catch? There are very few hidden in the 200 or so bales. In Season 6 it was 10, this season, it was 7. This task broke Lena and Kristy, what would it do to our Final Five?
Well, not that much to be honest. There was no Lena-like Greek tragedy unfolding. Sure, Sam and Dan turned into every bickering couple the Race has ever seen compounded with sibling rivalry. Meghan and Cheyne turned into a milder form of Aaron and Hayden. Brian and the Trotters got lucky, while Gary, knowing he was in last place and hoping for a non-elimination, slogged on for about three hours before finding his flag.
My only critique? The Switchback, like the Yield, loses its bite a bit when it is paired with a non-elimination. What made the Lena ordeal so grueling to watch was not just the physical pain she endured and the immense sympathy portrayed by Kristy, but the fact that it cost them the race. Anyone who has watched the show before knew going in to this episode that it was likely a non-elimination. Or at worst a superleg. I say if you are going to bring back the baddest of the badass Roadblocks for the Switchback, then give it some real peril for the teams. All Gary and Matt have to worry about now is the Speed Bump, and judging by the previews, the word “candelabra.” Apparently, Matt is quite unfamiliar with this guy.
For the record, I would love to see the return of Season 7’s Argentinean Meatblock, although Rob’s strategy may undercut its value unless used late in the season. Speaking of eating challenges, Season 5’s ostrich egg is another good one. Season 13’s India spray painting that stymied the Divorces was a good one. Feel free to respond with any other great past Roadblocks that would be welcome Switchbacks.
Other than the Switchback, the episode really didn’t produce that much. An amusement park. This coming two episodes after a water slide. Next time, we go to Wally World. Also, it looks like a couple of endgame plot threads beginning – the rivalry between the brothers and the Trotters, Meghan’s high strung nature and, for me, the uneasy marginalization of Gary and Matt. Seriously, have they really gotten much attention this year? Never a good sign for a Final Five.
Before I move on to the Route Markers, one more thing. And it is just a small thing. But why have only one team member ride the scary amusement park ride? Isn’t a task that can only be performed by one team member called a Roadblock? Wouldn’t it make this a Roadblock? I’m just saying, it just seemed strange to have a Fauxblock in the episode.