The Amazing Race Ep. 21.9, “Fishy Kiss”: Time to switch to a Triple U-Turn

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The Amazing Race Review, Season 21, Episode 9, “Fishy Kiss”
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

When did The Amazing Race become Survivor? The leading teams basically voted Abbie and Ryan out by removing the “double” part of the Double U-Turn. While losing an arrogant team usually is refreshing, they still get a raw deal. Even without the flight delays, there is little chance that Abbie and Ryan could survive. Jaymes and James do the official U-Turn on them, but it’s really Trey and Lexi that seal the deal. Instead of picking the goat farmers or skipping it, they purposely choose a team ahead of them. It’s a smart plan that removes a strong team, yet it still leaves a hollow feeling. Blaming the players isn’t fair since they’re just using the devices put in place by the producers. They want to create inter-team drama and aren’t willing to let the excitement of racing around the world run its course. This reluctance is understandable because the show has become more popular in recent seasons. Old-school fans like me don’t enjoy these methods, particularly when they remove the drama. Instead of having Abbie and Ryan battle Josh and Brent for the last spot, there’s an anticlimactic finish that leaves the survivors questioning whether they want to stay in the game.

The leg begins with teams receiving the flag of their next destination, which is that country’s capital. The previews hinted that someone would choose the wrong city, but that mistake is very brief. The leaders realize they’re heading for Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. A risky flight choice puts Natalie and Nadiya in the lead, which serves them well because there’s a Fast Forward. They board a canal bus at the Van Gogh Café and must eat five herring each to win the prize. The Flying Dutchman is a pretty cool vehicle and looks like something out of Universal Studios. The task is icky but not very difficult, and the twins are heading for the Pit Stop. They’re going to have a pretty big lead over the other teams next week. Jaymes and James arrive next and head for the Detour options of “Back in Time” or “Organ Grind”. They pick the second choice, which has one guy collecting tips while the other runs the street organ. Struggling to get attention, the Chippendales decide it’s time to get serious and don their costumes. They probably didn’t need much adversity to make that move. After getting a big tip from an older woman, they head to the U-Turn for the key decision.

It’s interesting to note how Jaymes and James end up having to decide Abbie and Ryan’s fate. They’re clearly friends yet are forced to think in terms of the game. It isn’t an easy decision, but the Chippendales’ logic makes sense. Jaymes’ dad has cancer, and thoughts of family trump his new friends. They’re less understanding, and Ryan even utters the ridiculous phrase “the Chippendales cost me $2 million dollars”. Who knew that the race ended after this leg! Every time he starts to seem like a good guy, Ryan makes sure to clearly show his arrogant side. And that’s it for talking about Abbie and Ryan! Trey and Lexi arrive at the Detour next and choose Organ Grind. Lexi is a master at the selling tasks and makes easy work of it to send them to the Roadblock. This Switchback challenge brings back the Fierljeppen (aka ditch vaulting) that originally appeared in Season 12. Some players struggled with it back then, but it’s a breeze for everyone this time. James and Lexi have no problems and bring their teams into second and third, respectively.

The other teams arrive in Amsterdam at the same time and continue to work together. Abbie and Ryan have terrible luck this week and are burned by plane delays that send back with Josh and Brent. Why would these duos continue to stick together? It’s clear that both are exhausted and don’t have the competitive drive to battle the other. Seeing them form a bond is refreshing, but it doesn’t seem wise from a race perspective. After Abbie and Ryan are U-Turned, it’s incredible to see the goat farmers trying to decide if they should wait for them. They even seem disappointed when Phil tells them about their fourth-place finish. Going back to the Detour, they both choose Back in Time and head there together. This inspired option requires teams to use live extras to recreate the Rembrandt painting Night Watch. It’s a fun task that even has an impersonator of the famous artist handing them the clue. These historical tasks are a lot of fun even if they aren’t very challenging.

Looking at the final four teams, Josh and Brent seem like the obvious choice to face the next elimination. The finale is two weeks away, so we’re getting close to an exciting finish. All the remaining teams are likable, and any of the top three has a legitimate chance to win. Even if Josh and Brent sneak into the final three, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll win it all. They’ve done well to survive and have had some luck along the way to stay in contention. This messy episode isn’t going to stand out as one of the season’s best. Combining the Fast Forward and the Double U-Turn seems like a gimmick and doesn’t allow the drama to just happen. That artificial feeling permeates this episode and leaves a sour taste despite the satisfying exit.

Dan Heaton

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