Another week, another episode, a lot more walking. And I think the show officially has three big concerns it must overcome for staying power – it MUST do something about the pacing, it needs to do something about its equalizer policy, and rethink the amount of people cast to do the show.
Pacing. I understand that this show is difficult. Just think about what they had to do this week – walk 1.5 miles. For some, walk another 3.8 miles with the others on camels. Paddle a tiny raft a pretty long distance, and then paddle another mile before a break in a camp, which did NOT look very conducive to sleep. The next day, walk 3.5 miles to do a task, and then walk 4.1 miles through cold water, or 3.3 miles over very rocky terrain. This is grueling, hard stuff to do.
However, the problem is that ALL of these types of shows are grueling and hard to do. Survivor just wrecks havoc on the bodies of anyone who plays. It is a brutal game both physically, and psychologically. The Amazing Race is brutal as well – the lack of sleep coupled with jet lag alone is devastating, before you even include tasks. Try cooking or designing clothes under the kind of pressure and lack of sleep that the chefs and designers on Top Chef and Project Runway deal with.
So, yes, EI is up there in difficulty. But all of those other show bring their drama with a LOT more flair than EI has been doing. They have made their show come across like a leisurely stroll, when it should be a kick in the gut. That is the biggest mystery that has emerged in the first three episodes of EI – how did they manage to make the show slow? With the exception of showing Mackenzie’s scraped up feet – and that was partially her doing, since she chose not to switch her shoes from water to hiking with socks before the final hike in the first half of the show – none of them have shown signs that the show is hard. All we have gotten is a few grimaces, a few of them breathing heavy, and a lot of talk about how hard it is, but no visual evidence. The show really needs to fix this problem.
Equalizers. These shows need them, so before we complain too much about EI and The Amazing Race’s forced equalizers, let’s remember the very first Amazing Race. The Lawyers and Angry Frank had a full day lead over the Guidos and Frat Boys for the final few episodes. That season gets a lot of credit for being one of the best seasons of reality TV, but that is the big flaw in retrospect. At the time, we held out hope that those trailing teams, especially the Frats, could mount a comeback. Today, we know how impossible that was to accomplish. So, you need equalizers to keep the race interesting.
The question is – how do you do it? TAR puts them on the course – flights, trains, buses, hours of operation, etc. Occasionally they use sign up sheets that separate the teams by times. That’s the best kind, in my opinion, and I only complain when the time segments are too small. There should be some reward attached to doing well in the part of the race leading up to the equalizer.
EI has now built their equalizers into the course AND artificially in between legs. The campsite at the midpoint of this episode would have been fine, except for the artificial equalizer attached. While the first place team gets a head start – it is only five minutes. That’s it! You accomplish all of the grueling challenges throughout the previous leg, and you get only five minutes of a head start. It takes five minutes to switch your footwear – unless you are Mackenzie when it takes no minutes. That is no reward for winning.
And even more egregious to me is the massive bunching that takes place among the trailing teams. Teams 2-4 leave together, teams 5-8 leave together, etc. What if Team 4 arrived an hour behind Team 3? How is that fair? What if the last place team arrived two hours behind everyone else and now is even up with more than one team? How fair is that? That’s a trick question – it is not fair. The show needs more consequences attached to performance.