The Amazing Race Review, Season 20, Episode 2, “You Know I’m Not as Smart as You”
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
During its early years, The Amazing Race thrived on unpredictable moments that no producer could plan in advance. The first season included an airport strike in Rome that caused delays and serious chaos for the teams. It also produced a classic moment when Team Guido tried a strange blocking maneuver to delay the other teams at the airport. In the third season, a 24-hour bus ride was derailed by a blown tire that slowed down a large group of players. These moments happen regularly during the race, but they’ve been less frequent during recent installments. Part of this trend is luck, but it also relates to the overall design of each leg. The teams need to compete in unpredictable environments where anything can happen. The results aren’t always fair, but they avoid predictable finishes and force the racers to adapt and scramble to survive.
“You Know I’m Not as Smart as You” has its weaker moments, but it stays interesting because it sidesteps the expected formula. It’s true that the exit from clowns Dave and Cherie is no surprise; it just comes at the end of an entertaining leg. Beyond the tasks, the pivotal moment is a strange bus accident on the way to Buenos Aires that shatters one of the windows. The four teams sitting in the middle of the pack jump to the back and are forced to battle for elimination. It’s refreshing to watch them focus and take on the Roadblock. The final outcome comes down to the players’ ability to do math or work together, and Dave (the clown, not the Iraq War vet) isn’t very good at either of these things. The cattle market task involves counting the number of cows and figuring out their average weight, which is fairly straightforward. In the chaos of an Argentinean market, however, performing division is a lot more difficult. If it wasn’t for help from Mark, Big Brother Rachel might still be there.
The key factor in setting up the unpredictable event is placing the teams on the bus for 18 hours. Crazy things can happen when they move outside the confines of the city tasks. The leg starts with an overnight bunching as teams waited for a mounted postman to arrive with their clues. This type of equalizer is acceptable at the beginning of a leg, especially this early in the race. The Detour gives them a choice between putting together a solar panel and heating water with the sun (“Boil My Water”) or walking a mule down the beach with firewood and clay (“Light my Fire”). Every team but Art and J.J. chooses to boil the water, which is actually the slower choice. The border patrol agents struggle mightily to find the location yet still plow through the task. These guys are competent racers, but their grating approach to adversity makes it hard to root for them. On the surface, most teams make the right choice with the Detour, but it’s impossible to predict how long the boiling with take. While Nary and Jamie watch helplessly, the other teams take the lead and send them into last. It’s not a thrilling challenge but forces teams to work together and handle a deceptively intricate task.
This episode also includes the first meltdown from Big Brother Rachel, which comes from a disagreement with Brendon about their taxi. The issue seems pretty trivial, but it comes right after she struggled with the math challenge, so it’s more understandable. Thus far, this stunt casting hasn’t been too rough, and they’ve competed pretty well. The downside is that more outbursts are likely, possibly next week based on the previews. When the killer fatigue starts hitting the racers, it will only increase the drama, especially from off-kilter players like Rachel. The Big Brother duo remains in the top pack and finishes fourth, so they’ll likely be around for a while. The surprise team was Mark and Bopper, who blew through the challenges after struggling last week. Mark’s deliberate approach to the math showed his mettle, and they had no problem with the solar panel. Although Bopper is still ridiculous, they have more talent than expected. Now that the clowns are out, there is no obvious cannon fodder remaining among the cast.
This week’s Pit Stop is the rubber tree El Gomero, and Dave and Rachel take their second straight leg. They’re the obvious front runners at this point, but relationship tensions could rise up and create problems down the road. After only two legs, it’s far too early to declare them the team to beat. The stellar Art and JJ grab second and finish near the top of the pack once again. Following the top four, the two beneficiaries of the bus crash (Nary/Jamie and Kerry/Stacy) roll into fifth and sixth. There is major tension near the end with all four teams at the cattle task doing the Roadblock. When the twins start working together with Danny and Joey, it pretty much ends the clowns’ chances. They seem like nice people, but it was clear right away they were heading for a quick exit. Falling to the trailing group due to bad luck, Dave and Cherie eventually meet Phil well after the others. The cattle auction had ended by the time Dave finished, which is a sad way to close out their brief race. After two well-designed legs, this is shaping up to be a solid season if the positive trends continue over the long run.