|If last week was Chad and Stephanie’s Hollywood ending, this week was their Everybody Else Ending. And my favorite episode of Season 17.
First of all, it was chock full of airport and travel drama – which was the first thing that ever hooked me on The Amazing Race in the first place. In fact, this episode had a total early 2000s feel to it and made me wistful for the early seasons. Tons of drama in the airport –and comedy – and some interesting local navigation issues as well.
Secondly, the Race continues to tinker with its features, especially the much-maligned U-Turn. Like the Yield before it, the U-Turn was a very good strategic idea by producers (halt a competing team in their tracks) which took on some strange morality play in practice. I have said it many times in the past, I despise it when teams take a U-Turning personally. Nine times out of ten it is done because a) The U-Turned team is a major threat, or b) the U-Turning team is trying to stay out of last place. Which are, of course, the two reasons to do it in the first place.
The few exceptions to this rule include the U-Turning of Crandy by Brent/Caite because Crandy was repeatedly mean to Caite (and the multiple Yielding of The Weavers, too), the revenge Yields/U-Turns that have happened from time to time (see Freddy/Kendra paying back Adam/Rebecca), or other bizarre reasons (BJ/Tyler’s inexplicable feud with Mojo led to a dumb Yielding).
Inevitably, teams forced to endure a Yield or a U-Turn have quickly, and often bitterly, turned on their adversaries. Name calling, obscene gestures, and other anti-social behavior have resulted. The list is endless – Colin/Christie losing their composure and almost imploding, the revenge Yield from Freddy/Kendra and Kendra’s short jokes, the Weaver kids insulting remarks about the Paolos, Danielle’s insults about Lake’s intelligence, Bama’s righteous indignation against the Beauty Queens, Eric flipping the bird to Cha Cha Cha, Crandy’s bitterness at the Finish Line, etc.
The best Yields/U-Turns – Chip/Kim against Colin/Christie, the BQ’s against Bama (even if it backfired, still the correct move), both against Eric/Danielle (again, backfired, but correct moves), TK/Rachel taking out Lorena/Jason, Margie/Luke taking out Amanda/Kris, Louie/Michael taking out Joe/Heidi. I still believe the best usage of the U-Turn/Yield is to throw it on a team you know is behind you, preferably a strong one, to ensure they have a greater chance of elimination rather than you.
That gets me to this week’s new twist – the Double U-Turn. Now, two teams are able to U-Turn two different teams. Of course, a Double U-Turn in reality just puts you exactly where you started, so, strange choice of terminology, but anyway…
I think one team made a great U-Turn, and another made an ok U-Turn. Jill/Thomas were far ahead so they didn’t need to U-Turn to stay alive, they chose to target a threat. The U-Turn of QVC was ok, but the Doctors have had a better record and were a stronger target. Of course, Thomas could also see it as helpful to target another guy to gain a better physical advantage. They chose instead to target the lesser of the two all-female threats. Smart to use the U-Turn, but I think an error as to the target (we’ll see if that is proven correct or not down the stretch).
Meanwhile, KNat stepped to the Mat after the Tattoo Two strangely chose to pass on the U-Turn, and was presented with the choice of taking a pass as well, or creating a competition for last place. Another fascinating choice – do you pass and allow one threat to be buried as the sole U-Turned team, or U-Turn a different threat and let them fight it out. They chose to let them fight it out – I think it was the right call, and in the end, it is really win-win for KNat.
I was a tad disappointed with QVC’s remark about Thomas being lame (I think the line about them being idiots was edited out of context), or Chad’s ridiculous attempt at trash talking Nat during the Roadblock. Although in both cases, the righteous indignation seemed to be half-hearted at best, I think QVC and Chad/Steph knew they were just playing the game.
In such a rich episode there was also the airport stuff to talk about. I am sure I am not alone when I say that I fully expected there to be a giant bunching at the Oman airport. But thank goodness for Jill/Thomas, the erstwhile Bigfoot felt a jolt, as if the spirit of the early Racers got a hold of them, shook them and said, “YOU CAN GET EARLIER FLIGHTS!” And they did – and it resulted in a seven-hour lead. Their move actually prompts the Tattoo Two and QVC to try to get an earlier flight, with the Two successfully doing so.