The Amazing Race Review, Season 21, Episode 2
“Long Hair, Don’t Care”
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
When it comes to analyzing episodes of The Amazing Race, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between poor game design and an undesirable result. The producers are blamed when they make it too easy for a likable team, but they face criticism when bad luck dooms that pair. It’s true that a bad taxi driver is the reason for Amy and Daniel’s surprise exit. However, plenty of other teams did locate the destination, so the task isn’t unfairly challenging. Chance has been a part of the game since the first season and has doomed plenty of capable teams. The ones who survive this type of obstacle are quick to recognize the situation early before it’s too late. Their fate also offers a clear reminder of how important luck is to this competition. Amy and Daniel are good competitors and seem nice, but they’re too passive to realize they’re being driven right out of the race. Several other teams have similar issues and keep it interesting, but it isn’t enough to change the sad result.
“Long Hair, Don’t Care” begins with teams bidding farewell to China and flying to Surabaya, Indonesia. Monster truckers Rob and Kelly decide the best move is to grab their tickets and not ask about better flights. When all the other teams decide to take a different route, they aren’t concerned. They’re apparently “running their own race”, which only works when a team does excessive research. The laid-back approach is usually not the right way to go, especially when you don’t realize you’re going to spend a long time at the Hong Kong airport. Rockers James and Abba snag an earlier flight and arrive an hour before the pack, but it only gets them a slight advantage. Everyone snags numbered tags for the next day’s task, and even Rob and Kelly manage to arrive in time to participate. Their first challenge is Karapan Sapi, which involves cows racing at extreme speeds around a track. While it seems they’ll actually be riding behind the animals at first, that act seems really dangerous. Instead, the racers board motorcycles alongside the cows.
This is one of those tasks that doesn’t require any skill but is likely an amazing experience for the players. It’s a challenge that’s easy to criticize because it’s just a cultural event, not an obstacle. While those complaints are understandable, it’s refreshing to see the contestants enjoying themselves. On the other hand, the Roadblock leaves something to be desired. The player must put together balloon animals while operating a pedal-powered amusement ride. It’s a silly challenge, but there has to be something more exciting to do. The highlight is getting everyone to read the clue “Who likes to party?” and then say (mostly in a monotone voice) “I like to party.” The writers were probably high-fiving in the editing room about that choice. Most players don’t have a huge problem with the task, with the exception of Will. He struggles to put together even one animal while Gary stands next to him and grimaces. They’re super fans but seem completely unprepared for this competition. The image of a very tall and short guy is goofy, but they lack the charisma to become fan favorites. Gary in particular just seems like an unpleasant guy who’d rather be doing anything than running the race.
This episode’s superstars are twins Natalie and Nadiya, who are quickly becoming favorites. They are tough competitors and are the only team to choose the more complicated Detour. They may snipe at each other during the challenges, but it’s clear they get along well and are true contenders. The Detour options this week are “Ice by the Pound” and “Fish by the Barrel”, and it’s clear the former is the easier choice. It’s more a straight-up physical task that involves lugging around 65-pound chunks of ice and transporting them to Pasar Pabean Market. The other choice involves sorting through thousands of fish and breaking ice to reach them. Natalie and Nadiya rock that challenge and just pass by Texans Trey and Lexi to take first. This win is important because the twins receive the Express Pass. While its importance is emphasized way too much by Phil and the racers, even a slight edge is always helpful. These teams are both friendly and seem to get along well, which is always nice to see at the top. They’re followed to the Pit Stop by the resurgent Chippendales Jaymes and James, Abbie and Ryan, and goat farmers Josh and Brent.
Even though Gary and Will struggle at the Roadblock, it becomes clear they’ll probably survive because several teams are struggling with their taxi drivers. Rob and Kelley continue their rough leg and look ready to start tearing the car apart when their driver can’t locate Wijaya Motor. The trick is that Wijaya is a common name in that town and not very recognizable. When the rockers and Caitlyn and Brittany reach the end, it becomes a three-team race. While two of them are weaker, it’s surprising to see Amy and Daniel in the back. Her strength as a double amputee and their humble attitudes make them an easy favorite. Unfortunately, even Gary’s casual stroll to the Pit Stop isn’t enough to change their fate. It’s a frustrating end to an episode that brought a lot of luck into the mix. While it’s tough to place too much blame on the game designers, they need to be careful to avoid this trend in the future. Watching a popular team leave early is common on The Amazing Race, yet it still feels unfortunate. The teams that barely survived don’t seem likely to pull themselves back from the brink next time. However, this week provides a reminder that nothing is certain in such an unpredictable competition.