The Amazing Race Review, Season 20, Episode 7,
“I Didn’t Make Her Cry”
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
During its early seasons, The Amazing Race was known as the antidote to other reality series because its cast felt like regular people. The teams generally got along, and even the fights were typically over a race infraction. As this series has evolved over the years, more bombastic players have enhanced the tension and built a more combative atmosphere. The producers have added tasks like Yields and U-Turns that encourage negative behavior and rile up the teams. Those devices haven’t played a role yet this season, but that hasn’t kept some teams from resorting to personal attacks. The main recipients are Brendon and Rachel, who have an immediate target on them because of their Big Brother past. Rob and Amber faced an equally cold reaction during their first appearance, but they seemed to win over most of the players. That acceptance doesn’t seem to be possible for this polarizing duo.
“I Didn’t Make Her Cry” spends its first 20 minutes almost entirely on the drama between the teams. Before they even reach Tanzania, the bickering ranks among the nastiest in show history. There were hints in the past that both Art and JJ and Ralph and Vanessa didn’t care for Brendon and Rachel. This leg begins at night, so the fatigue only adds to the ugliness. When Brendon apparently bumps Ralph and then flips him off, the argument quickly escalates into personal attacks between Rachel and Vanessa. This is no good. It’s not even worth discussing who technically “wins” the argument because it’s so petty. Most teams are embarrassed by the exchange, though the Border Patrol agents gleefully stir the pot. They also call out Nary and Jamie on their lie about being kindergarten teachers. Jamie slipped up by throwing out some police terms, which raises the suspicions. Like the original deception, this isn’t very interesting and doesn’t give either team much edge in the race.
The teams finally arrive in Kilimanjaro and head to the Arusha Airstrip to sign up for three charter flights each separated by 15 minutes. Predictably, Art and JJ snag the first one and join Brendon and Rachel. The Kentucky guys join Dave and Rachel as the middle teams. This puts Nary and Jamie and Ralph and Vanessa in their familiar spot at the back of the pack. There’s a noticeable gap between the leaders and the also-rans this season, and the standings have been fairly consistent. Thankfully, the stunning African scenery and wildlife puts teams in a better mood. This sequence is one of the best uses of HD since The Amazing Race made the transition. Everyone takes a break from the competition and just enjoys the natural beauty. A note to the producers for future seasons: More amazement, less pettiness.
This week’s Detour offers the obvious choice between a task of skill and another that anyone can do. The easy choice is jumping up and down for one minute. That’s it. The clues usually give less information than Phil provides, so the fact that four teams choose the harder option is more understandable. “Marksmanship” involves throwing a rungu, a Masai weapon that resembles a wooden club. It’s not impossible, but it definitely takes longer than jumping. It’s no surprise that the Border Patrol agents, the DEA agents, and Dave (over Rachel’s objections) all choose to show off their marksmanship.
Brendon and Rachel wisely choose “Courtship”, which Phil oversells as being exhausting. They pass along the tip to Mark and Bopper, which is interesting to see. The best chance the second-tier teams have to overthrow the leaders is working together, so that type of combination could pay dividends later. The main difficulty of this Detour is getting there by riding a bicycle with a very high seat. This causes serious problems for the shorter contestants, especially Vanessa, who crashes repeatedly. Considering her earlier behavior, this sequence is pretty comical. They end up in last place heading into the final task, which doesn’t bode well for their ultimate survival.
The final task sends teams to the Simba A Campsite (sigh) to build a difficult campsite that even includes a shower. While it’s strange that the leg doesn’t include a Roadblock, this is a good challenge. Everyone seems to struggle, and Dave and Rachel continue their bickering. They’re not communicating well, but they still overcome the hurdles and take first place for the fourth time. After seven legs, only two teams have taken the top spot. Can anything prevent both from making the finals? It doesn’t seem likely at this point, but weirder things have happened. A solid team like Mark and Bopper or even Brendon and Rachel might surprise them. The Kentucky guys actually pass the navigationally challenged Border Patrol agents and grab second place. At the mat, Art tells Phil they want to stay out of the drama, which is laughable. Since they want to create fireworks, it’s better just to own it.
Although Ralph and Vanessa seem destined to finish last, they pull it together and slide past Nary and Jamie during the final task. Although they’re a likable team, the DEA agents don’t appear to possess the sense of urgency needed to reach the end. The episode opens with Jamie talking about a serious injury she overcame before the race, which signals they’re likely to finish last. The editing is getting too predictable; Kerri and Stacy received similar treatment before their exit. Nary and Jamie are saved this week by a non-elimination leg, but it will be surprising if they survive past the top five. With the exception of Ralph and Vanessa, the remaining teams are consistent and won’t fall easily. Despite the irritating drama, there’s still potential here for plenty of excitement going forward. A final three of Art and JJ, Dave and Rachel, and Mark and Bopper (the most likely scenario) would provide a tight and hard-fought finish.