The Amazing Race Ep. 21.11, “Take Down That Million”: The unthinkable actually happens

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The Amazing Race Review, Season 21, Episode 11,
“Take Down That Million”
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

What truly makes a strong team on The Amazing Race? The obvious answer is athleticism, but plenty of powerful young pairs have left early. Scanning through the winners, most are capable at physical challenges but don’t always stand out as the team to beat. Two weeks ago, Abbie and Ryan were eliminated purposely by the others due to their status as a threat. This felt like the right move because Josh and Brent have struggled at many tasks. Even so, their ease at handling mental challenges made them a deceptive choice to keep afloat. Unlike a show like Survivor, it’s problematic to try and manipulate who sticks around because future legs are unknown. There’s no jury at the end to choose the most worthy player. Instead, all it takes is a mix of luck and the right final challenge to reward a surprise winner. After barely surviving the penultimate leg, a confident Josh and Brent get the right opportunity and actually win the million dollars. Not since Eric and Danielle in the all-star season has a more random team won the race. While it’s a strange conclusion, there’s a certain poetic justice towards the other teams, who keep forgetting the high stakes of this competition.

This two-hour episode begins with four teams remaining, and Josh and Brent are the outsiders. While it’s understandable to want to compete with friends, Natalie and Nadiya’s utter dismissal of the goat farmers’ chances is confounding. The teams fly to France and are bunched as everyone catches a train to the Loire Valley. When they arrive, the “amazing” Ford Escape commercial begins as everyone marvels at the hands-free lift gate. This type of product placement is par for the course these days, but it’s still painful to watch. After locating the stone dog at the Chateau de Villandry, they head to Leonardo da Vinci’s final resting place. Josh and Brent wow the other teams because they know French, continuing the theme of the entire finale. The twins must first complete their Speed Bump, which involves assisting a woman with lacing her corset. While hardly the silliest example, it still feels like such a trivial penalty.

The Detour choices are Chow and Plow, and both options are time-consuming. The first is putting together a large spread of meat and dry food for a large group of hungry dogs. Josh and Brent wisely pick this one and compete directly with the antsy twins. They do an excellent job and gain a significant lead over Natalie and Nadiya. The other teams choose Plow, a more intense physical task but also quicker. Trey and Lexi and the Chippendales grab the top spots and head for the Roadblock inside a subterranean mushroom farm. Players must navigate the dark and confusing passageways to find three types of mushrooms. Lexi finishes just ahead of Jaymes, but the Chippendales pass them to take first. And for their prize, they win two Ford Escapes. Brilliant! With one spot remaining, the twins seem to have it locked up after Natalie passes Brent. After some tense editing with wrong moves by both teams, the surprise third-place team is Josh and Brent. Don’t worry Natalie and Nadiya; if anyone from this season comes back for an all-star season, it will be you.

New York City! The remaining teams head for the final destination city and go to Coney Island, which looks tackier than it might sound. The clue is hidden in a wall of advertisements, and it takes a very long time for everyone to locate it. Josh and Brent arrive third but end up discovering it right behind Trey and Lexi. While Jaymes and James look at everything but the right sign, the others head to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the leg’s first Roadblock. The competitors must imitate Harry Houdini and escape a strait jacket while hanging 15 stories above the ground. To add more fun to the mix, they get a surprise bungee fall after completing the task. This looks very hard and frightening, but Trey extends their lead. Jaymes arrives and blows through the task to keep their hopes alive. Their next destination is Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in New York City. Instead of having to eat large quantities of food, the challenge is delivering 10 pizzas to three different addresses. The trick is memorizing which items go to each location, and this causes problems for Josh and Brent. They remain in second place but lose a lot of time on Trey and Lexi. The Chippendales try to stay positive as everyone heads to the United Nations for the final obstacle.

A common part of later Amazing Race seasons is a complex final challenge that just keeps getting harder each season. Teams have started taking much better notes about their destinations, so this version throws them a serious loop. The player who didn’t compete in the Houdini Roadblock must select the hello and goodbye greetings for each of the nine countries they visited. France and Spain are easy, but the others are something else entirely. This task lasts several hours and into the evening, and Lexi’s lead disappears quickly. If the difficulties aren’t enough, she also gets smacked in the face by a flagpole. It comes down to Brent and James both needing one country before heading to the Finish Line. Brent’s calm approach gives him the slight edge to grab the lead. Despite some false editing, there’s no last-minute shift this time. Their fellow teams cheer raucously as the underdogs take the win. Abbie and Ryan are really excited at seeing their pals win, and Gary and Will look strangely angry. Meanwhile, Rob decides that homosexuality is okay, and other forgotten teams are just happy to get invited. Overall, it’s a fast-paced finale that’s entertaining despite the odd final task. Trey and Lexi lead throughout the leg and fall prey to an extremely difficult challenge. It’s another reminder that anyone can win this race, and there’s no guarantee what will be needed to take the prize. Until next season!

Dan Heaton

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